Category Archives: Book Reviews

Making Decisions {some thoughts and a book review}

There is no manual for parenting a child with special needs. And the Bible is clear on many topics, but there is no chapter and verse outlining how to do this thing. There are so many gray areas. I have more questions than answers. I struggle with decision-making and am constantly battling the inner critic that says: you don’t know the right thing for Adelaide.

I just recently read Andy Stanley’s Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions.* It was a quick, yet thorough, read about this very dilemma. How do you make the best decision? How do you not mess things up? The answer was simple. Use wisdom. Ask yourself and others, “Is this wise?” He then elaborated on how we do that in practical ways based on our circumstances. A fantastic book. And funny.

It made me realize that I am always nervous about making a choice for Adelaide. Fearful that I will wreck her future. But the truth is that we make decisions based on what we think is best for her. And God understands that. We can’t possibly make perfect choices. We are two humans raising another human in a very fallen world. And we aren’t held accountable for more than that. We seek the Lord about every decision, but most times, we just keep moving forward. He doesn’t always impress on our hearts exactly what needs to be done. But he always grants wisdom.

We have some intense decisions to make soon. We have been praying, doing research, going through pros and cons, but there is no definitive answer. We are either choosing between seemingly morally neutral options or between two good things or two tough things. But every decision that we make for Adelaide affects our entire family. We have a family mission and are attempting to make choices that honor God, Adelaide, and our other children.

We have a genetics consult next week. We have been praying for wisdom and clarity, but a time will come when we will make some seriously life-changing decisions about Adelaide’s genes. When that time comes, we will just make the wisest decision we can make based on our circumstances. And that really is the best we can do. And I keep telling the inner critic to shush, as I use wisdom at every fork in the road. And I will be rereading all those pages I earmarked…


*The legal beagles want you to know that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my thoughts. But I highly recommend it. I really do.

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My Favorite Reads From 2014

In 2014, I made it a personal goal to read more for enjoyment. I was tired of every book containing crinkle pages and fewer sentences than a Mark Whalberg research paper.

I am a bookworm, but pretty picky. If I don’t like a book after 50 pages, I abandon it. I ditched Divergent and never looked back. Unless I am reviewing a book…which requires me to finish it like a plate of nasty meatloaf and just keep.moving.forward until I can write the review…I have no issues dropping stuff into the library return and moving on. I have deleted many unfinished books from my Kindle app. No shame.

Last year, I read quite a few books that didn’t have chew marks on them. Here are the ones I recommend.

Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Surprised By Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being A Mom by Lisa-Jo Baker

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters {caveat: there is a lot of language and other grown-up stuff…he’s a detective for goodness’ sake}

Say Goodbye To Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, & Restore Your Passion For Life by Crystal Paine

The Club of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton

How To Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have. It’s What You Do With What You Have by Andy Stanley

More or Less: Choosing A Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinaburger

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Paradise War: Book One in the Song of Albion Trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead

A Sense of the Resurrection: An Easter Experience for Families by Amanda White

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith



So, in the words of Ignacio, “Go! Read some books!”


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So Many Colors {finding your season and a free ebook}

Right around Adelaide’s first birthday, I overhauled my closet. I was back down to my wedding weight, but I hated how I looked. Not my actual body, but how I looked in clothes. I had figured out my body shape and rid my wardrobe of anything that didn’t fit well…minus a very small box of stuff I was just pounds away from fitting into again. I donated and sold more than half of my closet. Low-rise jeans. Super flared trousers. Plunging necklines. My closet went from looking like an overcrowded clearance rack to looking like clothes that actually belonged to one person. It was amazing. But even the clothes that fit really well still sometimes looked horrible on me. I had followed all the body shape fits, but couldn’t figure out why I still looked like I was wearing borrowed clothes. And then my friend, Rachael, told me I was wearing the wrong colors.

When I was younger, I went to a color consultation with my mom. The woman draped fabric and scarves all over me and looked at charts. And she told a 13-year-old girl all the colors that would make her look fabulous. Unfortunately, she told me all the wrong colors. I have no idea where she was trained, but I didn’t know until 15+ years later that she was misinformed.

Dave took photos of me in natural light and we sent them to Rachael. Immediately, she told me the name of my correct season. Rachael sent me color charts and told me to try them out and get back to her. Dave and I went into my closet and realized all the clothes that still looked bad were not in my season! I donated and sold 75% of what I had left in my closet. And the remaining items were perfect. They were from my season and sister season. They looked gorgeous with my skin tone, hair color, and eyes. It all made sense. I now had a list of colors that actually looked great on me. She also gave me some tips about other colors…like black and white…and where to wear certain colors on my body.

Rachael had saved me before I went out and bought more stuff that fit, but wasn’t the right color. Because the last thing I needed was more stuff. I had worked so hard to clear things out.

I had a problem with buying things that were a good deal. If it didn’t fit right and was the wrong colors, I still bought it if the price was right. I had to retrain my brain that it’s not a good deal If I never wear it. I know this is a duh for everyone but me. I am almost embarrassed to admit that it took me to the very end of my twenties to actually own the right clothing. And to understand that a 90% off shirt that is too short for me and is the wrong green is actually a bad deal.

Even though I ended up pregnant with a surprise blessing just a few weeks after my closet redo, finding the right colors allowed me to go through my maternity clothes and only wear what made me feel beautiful. I ended up with just a few pieces and accessorized. It was freeing to open up my closet, grab anything, and look great.

I have never looked back at having a small wardrobe and only buying pieces that meet my new guidelines: looks great {fit and color}, meets a need {a piece I was lacking or replaces something}, and quality {determined by the amount of wear}. As I continue to shift weight around…I lost 75 pounds last year…and even change shape (I am somewhere between an apple and hourglass), my colors stay the same.

Recently, I went to a consignment clearance sale. There was a very large rack of size small shirts, but I quickly skipped over entire sections of colors I don’t wear and zeroed in on the exact colors that pop on me! I took six pieces to the fitting room and three didn’t fit the way they should for my shape. I ended up with three tops for $10, and all three filled a wardrobe hole. And I look fantastic in them. A few years back, I would have ended up just buying the tops that were the best buy. A hodgepodge of stuff that didn’t meet any needs.

You may be thinking, “Well, that’s great for you! I have no idea what colors I should be wearing!” Good news. Rachael wrote an e-book about finding the colors that work for you. She wants you to have it for free. Did you hear me? FREE!

Just click here and subscribe to her email list.

spirit love


Oh, and Rachael texted me one day and said she had an awesome blue {from my season} top that would look great on me. This top from Spirit Love is one of my faves! I wore it all summer, layered it with a cardigan in fall, and just now had to pack it away in my too-big-but-just-in-case-we-have-another-baby box.



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When I Came Unglued In A Parking Lot

It is no secret that I am a Lysa TerKeurst fan. I probably retweet or share a facebook nugget at least once a day. I don’t have tv, but I watched her clip in the Today Show and literally cheered for her. She is my people. I feel like 90% of what she writes/says/thinks shoots straight to my heart. Anyway, I checked this little treasure out from our local library. It has been out a couple of years, but I am reading it for the first time.


I had to request it from another branch, because our library has 177 Max Lucado books and calls that the Faith Section. When my book arrived, I didn’t get to pick it up. Because my kids were sick and I was without a vehicle for that cold week. Then, the librarian {media specialist? library scientist? book expert?} returned it to its home the morning I finally went to pick it up. “Hi, I am here to pick up Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued.” “I need your name, not the author’s, but we sent it back. We can request it again.”  She requested it again. And I was completely embarrassed. Because nothing screams, “I am a WINNER!” like not being able to check out something from the library on time. I left and said, to the air around me, “I can’t even pick up a stupid book on time! I am such an *awesome* mom! I hope I can homeschool better than this! Jeeeeeeez!”

It took several days to get back in, and a few more for me to get out of the house. Finally, after a month since my first time requesting it, I walked into that library, walked up to the desk, and said, “Book for Ballew! B-A-L-L-E-W.” And handed her my debit card. Yep. I had the wrong card. Seriously. As I was digging for my library card, she said, “I actually need the author’s name, not yours.” Are you kidding? A policy change in two weeks’ time? In a building where nothing freaking changes? There are two racks of VHS tapes upstairs! Which I appreciate, because we have a VHS player. But, still… I was about to let the PG expletives fly. Crap. Darn. Shoooooot. I wasn’t upset with her. I just looked like an idiot. I have a college degree. I have been using libraries since birth. I pulled a sock out of my coat pocket. A SOCK. Then, an Aldi receipt. Where the heckkkkk was my library card? And the irony that I was about to lose it while checking out a book about not becoming unglued was not lost on me. And then I remembered the parking lot tantrum earlier in the month when I came unglued and made exclamations toward clouds and minivans with more homeschooling stickers than a Tim Hawkins show.

But then I joked, “This is one of the few places that doesn’t take my debit card.” and thought, “At least I am checking out the right book. Because I obviously need it.” I also checked out a VHS tape.

I am just a few chapters in and loving it. Truly loving it. Lysa is good people. And I know she understands my struggle. And has probably also found a dirty sock in her coat pocket. And maybe more than once.

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I Love You So… {a book recommendation}

I often read “I Love You So…” by Marianne Richmond to my children. It is lovely. It is especially fitting for parents raising strong-willed kids.

And here is a weird photo I took with my camera.


The flash makes everything cold. It looks like The Blair Witch Project all.the.time. I never saw the movie, but I have seen many a parody. And with three sick kids, we have more snot than they ever did.

Bess didn’t want to sleep last night. Here is a cold photo of her.


Also looking like she is afraid of whatever is scaring those people in that movie. Ghosts? A serial killer? Sasquatch? No idea..

Anyway, this book always chokes me up. And it is such a cute reminder that we love our children even when we can’t love their behavior. A fitting bedtime choice on a rough, tough day.

“I love you as steady as the moon and the sun, though some of our days are not full of fun.”

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A Sense of the Resurrection {and a strong-willed child}



Graham made it abundantly clear that he was no longer interested in finishing our craft. I have no idea what went wrong.

Oh, now I remember. I told him he couldn’t stack three glass baby food jars on top of one another and then he told me he wasn’t going to listen to me because he doesn’t love me and then I told him he needed a time-out and then he told me that my face was scary and he wanted a new mom with better smelly paints. So, it’s pretty hard to recover from that.

Anyway, here is what we were able to accomplish before my child {who did sit in time-out and who did apologize to me and ask for my forgiveness} ran into his bedroom and used his K’Nex to build a weapon to kill a ‘Giant Monster Mom’…sigh.




If you are also training up a strong-willed child in the way he {or she} should go, just remember that you are not alone! And that Jesus died for our little ones…and their Mamas with scary faces.


Want to try it with your own kiddos? There is still plenty of time for A Sense of the Resurrection: An Easter Experience for Families! {It is really easy to condense the experiences into one week by matching each day this week with one of the five senses.}

PS: This post contains affiliate links, but we never promote things here at Little House in the City that we don’t love with all our little hearts…and don’t let Graham’s Bad Day sway you from the awesomeness that is this ebook.

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Blog at Home Mom: Balancing Blogging and Motherhood {Book Review}

<a href="" target="ejejcsingle">Click here to visit Christin Slade.</a>

This book could have easily been called Do Anything at Home Mom: Balancing Anything and Motherhood because it is about so much more than blogging. It is about priorities. Organization. Schedules. Goals. Your relationships with God, your husband, your children, your community.

I was just a few pages into the forward of Christin Slade’s new ebook, Blog at Home Mom: Balancing Blogging and Motherhood and was in love. Earlier this year, Dave and I decided that we (I, he was being nice) need some major help learning to balance the responsibilities of marriage, children, home, blogging, and the new eBay business. It was like God said, “Here you go! A friend wrote this book to help YOU. And to raise money for her adoption. Be blessed!” Honestly, the blogging was pretty far down on the list of things I needed to get in order. But, I was amazed at how much I learned about this new adventure of writing for the world to see.

Dave and I went to a wedding in Miami the morning after we learned we were having another baby. A complete surprise. An amazing surprise. But, it meant a serious heart-to-heart about how we were going to become a more organized family. We spent the drive discussing all we knew God wanted us to do. But how? Graham is starting homeschool preschool in the Fall. Adelaide has physical therapy once a week, with Mommy-led therapy 1 hour a day. She also has speech and occupational therapy evaluations in December. The eBay store is getting bigger every week, as we follow God’s call to bring in extra income for Adelaide’s needs and continue to follow His calling on my life to be a stay-at-home mom. And now, we have a  another Ballew blessing arriving in September. We really could not be more thrilled about it. Even though the timing was not what we expected, we knew there would be another little one in our home. {And possibly a fourth…who may be birthed in our hearts, but not from my womb. That is a subject for a post way into the future. And still something we are seeking the Lord about…}

Each chapter of Blog at Home Mom: Balancing Blogging and Motherhood provided me more of the wisdom I was craving. The information I knew I needed. The help I coveted from women who are ahead of me in this mothering race. We run always keeping our eyes on the prize, but need encouragement from those ahead of us. The ones who have already been on our hills. I cried through several chapters, as I realized I am not alone. I am not the only mom who thinks I can spend the entire day getting absolutely nothing done, only to feel I have wasted our day. My children didn’t get the mama they needed or deserved. They got a tired, weary one. My house was neglected. I just turned and turned my wheels in the mud, which sloshed all over this little house. I started my day without a plan. I wasn’t sitting around eating bon-bons watching soap operas, but I wasn’t being intentional. I wasn’t carving out time to teach my children about God. His Love. His Son. His Word. Well, not every day. I had no goals for being a mom. I just expected things to happen while we were surviving our days. I wasn’t getting many chores done, because I didn’t even know where to start. I added some stuff to my blog when I found a few minutes to write. {This review was really supposed to be up days ago, but my head was either in a toilet all week. Or cleaning it off after Graham was done trying to use it.} I was giving myself grace in this season, but realizing this season of 24/7 nausea will be done soon. And I need a plan. A combination of Grace & Goals.

Although this book is specifically about blogging, and how to balance this calling with all our other God-given responsibilities, you could replace blogging with any other hobby or business or dream. I gleaned practical tips from every single page. Every contributor. Dave humored me as I quoted line after line to him. So excited to read another chapter. I didn’t feel condemnation, but conviction. Followed by freedom. I felt a new freedom to take control of my time and allow God to make me a better wife, mom, homemaker, and writer.

This book is a must-read for all moms. Blogging or not. If you are a mom whose children wear clothes and eat food, you will benefit from reading this book. Here is a sneak peek at the chapter titles. Every single chapter was a balance of practicality and spiritual morsels.

Chapter 1: Set Goals and Have a Plan
Know what to do and how to get there

Chapter 2: Organize Your Days
Know what to do and when to do it

Chapter 3: Prioritize Your Tasks
Put your most important duties and details in order

Chapter 4: The Power of a Schedule
Make the most of your time by giving it purpose

Chapter 5: Stay Consistent to Keep Balance
Knowing the needs is key to knowing balance

Chapter 6: Make the Most of Your Time
Learn to make the minutes count

Chapter 7: Care for Your Marriage
Be intentional about keeping your man in the loop

Chapter 8: Care for Your Spiritual Walk
Everything flows from this vital point

You can purchase the ebook here for only $4.99. It is worth every cent. You should buy it now for your Kindle. Or your Nook. Or as a PDF. You will read it, and then read it again. Then, you will tell your husband, your mom, and your best friend about everything you learned and loved. Be blessed!

*By the way, there are affiliate links in this review. I was given a free copy of this book by Christin. I would never recommend something I would not buy for myself. I will receive a small commission if you purchase this book through my review. 10% will go toward ministries we support (Compassion, WorldVision, Operation Christmas Child, Samaritans Purse, and others) while 90% goes toward Adelaide’s medical bills. Just a legal and ethical heads up… ; )

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100 Pound Loser {ebook Review}

At the end of 2012, Jessica Heights {from Muthering Heights and Other Senseless Sensibility} gave me a free copy of her new ebook, 100 Pound Loser: How I Ate What I Wanted, Had Four Babies, & Still Took Control Of My Weight – And You Can Too!, to review for my readers here at Little House in the City.

As a mom of half that number of babies, who has lost half that number of pounds, I was interested to discover how she did it…especially since Dave and I think we will have a couple more children and I know I am capable of gaining a couple more pounds.  Or a couple dozen. Times 2.

I collapsed into bed sat down and read 100 Pound Loser digital cover to digital cover. Then, I went back and reread several parts. It was a quick read, but full of information and encouragement that spoke to me like she had written it for me. {She must have forgotten to include my name in the dedication. For shame.}

I’m pretty sure no child has ever said, “Gosh, I wish my mom had lost that last ten pounds when I was five years old.” Jessica Heights in 100 Pound Loser

Blown.Away. That is getting space on my refrigerator. I am a recovering People Pleaser. I have, even though it hurts my core to admit it, done things to impress a toddler. I have totally missed the mark in both the priorities and motivation arenas. (Remember the Christmas Decorations?) I have actually exercised and thought, “Graham is going to have such a thin mom. He won’t ask me about my floppy tummy again. He is going to be so proud of me!” Graham was probably thinking, “I like VeggieTales. Where mine milk cup?”

Why do I want to lose weight? Why do I want to take care of my body? How does God view me?

Jessica answered those questions for herself, while encouraging me to be honest about my own answers. But, once I had the heart issues in check, the book showed me how to set my fitness goals, make small changes, and use a plethora of resources to achieve mini-successes. Practical advice from someone who has been there. I immediately logged back into My Fitness Pal to start implementing what I had read.

This is a witty book about losing weight. But, it is also a glimpse into someone’s story. I can read about the how-to in any magazine, but I enjoyed (coveted), sharing in a struggle. In a victory. In a reality.

You can also share in Jessica’s story by purchasing the book here. $4.99. Amazon also allows you to purchase it for a friend and send her the link to download and enjoy. Don’t you just LOVE technology? {cue the Napoleon Soundtrack}

By the way, my weight loss goal for this year is to shed another 20 pounds…even though Graham won’t even notice. ; )

After you read the book, please come back to share your thoughts!

*This post has affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you purchase the product using my link. I read this book and loved it. {Don’t worry…I would never endorse something I didn’t love!} 90% of the proceeds of my commission will go toward Adelaide’s medical bills, while 10% will be sent to various ministries. God Bless!

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