First Day of School 2015!

We did it! We made it through the first day of school outside of our home!

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If you ask the boys how it went, you will hear the same thing from both of them: AWESOME.

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Getting ready in the morning went pretty well. Actually getting to school was a little hairy since I had no idea what traffic would be like! They were at school on time (barely), but we left earlier and took a different route this morning and that will be our go-to plan.

The boys talked pretty much nonstop from the time I picked them up and these were a few of my favorite quotes:

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Little J (very first thing he said to me): “My first day of school was AWESOME!”

First Day of School 2015 Big J

Big J: “I played kickball at recess for the first time!”

Me: “Did you eat your lunch?” Little J: “I could only finish my cheese and half my sandwich.” (That eating lunch quickly thing is going to take some practice!)

Big J: “My favorite part of the day was interviewing my teacher!”

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Double J: “Let’s go on a date to the children’s museum!”

I only cried once, right after we dropped them off. I blame The Hubby for making me emotional. But he made up for it by taking the little guy and I to Caribou Coffee to celebrate!

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It was a day of new things for all of us and I’m incredibly thankful it went so well. I thought I would be annoyed by the driving time there and back, but we’re making the best of it by praying, singing, and sharing our days. I kind of love it already. And I got some pretty big hugs when the day was over. I cherished every second.

I’m sure I will have many more thoughts on this whole going-to-school adventure, but today I just want to celebrate surviving and thriving on the first day!

How is back-to-school going for all of you? Any good stories to share?

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Changes at Home + School

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Change has abounded for us this year. Big change and little change, making life more complicated, but also better in so many ways. I’m reading a fabulous book by my friend Kristen right now called Girl Meets Change and it could not be more timely. I’ll be sharing a full review when I finish it up, but I remember this quote from her from a blog post a while back that goes perfectly with the book as well as my life circumstances:

“The old thing may be familiar, but the new thing may be fantastic.” – Kristen Strong

That’s what I’m holding on to this week because this is happening:

School Change 1

After four years of homeschool, our older boys are going to school for the first time (other than preschool). It is a big time of transition, but I am so thankful to say God has our whole family on the same page and we’re very excited for this new season! How big and handsome do they look in this pic?! This was taken at the school open house when they met their teachers and brought in all of their school supplies and I got a million papers to deal with!

There was a time when The Hubby and I knew God wanted us to move in this direction and the kids were less than excited about the idea. But God… He led us to a school we all fell in love with and we are so grateful. I know every school decision comes with its own challenges, but it also comes with new opportunities for adventure. Shopping for school supplies and planning lunches both count as adventures for Mom, right?!

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As we get ready for the first day on Wednesday of this week, I’m focusing on the joy of a God doing a new thing in our family! And it could not be more perfect that I have a post up today over on the Tommy Nelson blog about embracing the joy of back-to-school. It’s for anyone and everyone starting up the school year – homeschool, public school, private school. I hope it will be a blessing to you and your family! I know I will be praying these verses with and for my kids throughout the year.

The little guy, Double J, is only three and will still be home with me. He says we’re going to go on dates to the children’s museum when the boys are at school. He also says he is going to marry me. Cue the heart melting. I haven’t been home with just one kid since the summers when I was a teacher and Big J was super little, so this will be very interesting! I know we will have tons of fun.

And now I’m diving back in to figuring out schedules and lunches and all the things…pray for me.

Talk to me about your kids and school! When did/do they start? What grades? How can I pray for them and you this school year?

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These Kids Are Runners!

I’ve been a runner for just over three years now. The Hubby started running a few months before me. Running has changed so many things about our lives for the better and our boys have taken notice.

This spring, our nine-year-old, Big J, mentioned he would like to do a 5K. We looked at the calendar and picked out a race in our area for the end of July. Big J and I sat down with the Couch to 5K plan and made a training plan for him to check off for eight weeks.

He amazed us during those eight weeks. If you don’t know about the Couch to 5K plan, it starts with long intervals of walking and short intervals of running. As the weeks progress, you walk less and run more. Big J did some runs with The Hubby or I outside, but many of them were on the treadmill. He was so dedicated and got through every single training run, even during the week he went to camp.

Along the way, Little J, our seven-year-old, decided he wanted to try the one-mile race on the same morning. He did some treadmill walking and a few spontaneous runs during his big brother’s baseball practice, but no formal training.

On race day, the one-mile race was first and Little J had Daddy by his side. We really had no idea what to expect from him, but when they took off, I thought it might be a while before they made their way back.

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Imagine my surprise when we saw Little J headed towards the finish line less than ten minutes later!

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The Hubby was surprised as well because Little J ran the whole time and finished with a time of 9:50! He came in second!

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Little J says he can’t wait to do his next race to get better and get another medal. I love it.

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Big J’s 5K race started a half hour later and I had the privilege of running with him. We said a little prayer before we started – for strength, endurance, and a fun experience!

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Summer races in Nebraska are not my favorite. Even with an early start, the humidity was no fun and the sun was shining down pretty bright. All of this just makes it even more impressive that Big J only walked for a few seconds a couple times the whole race. And he’s just like his mama – talking most of the time.

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I peeled off at the end of the race to let him finish on his own, sprinting those last few minutes with cheers and pictures and an announcer calling his name, telling everyone a nine-year-old was coming in at 34:53!

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Yes, I cried. When both kids crossed the finish line. The perseverance and determination they showed through training and the race left us incredibly proud. We saw a new side of them. Running means so much to us and we could see how much our boys enjoyed this running experience. These kids are runners and are already thinking about what races they want to do next, maybe when it is a little cooler!

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Our boys also know the best way to celebrate after a great race. We teach them well.

Are your kids interested in running? Have they ever run a race?

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The Baseball Experiment

Our boys tried out several different sports and many of them have been through our local YMCA. They have an excellent fundamental program for many sports that allows kids to learn the basics of a particular sport before trying it in a team and game setting.

Big J has tried out soccer and basketball in this fundamental format and went on to play on a rec basketball team this year. We love the low-pressure opportunity to try out a sport before they commit a lot of time to it  – and it keeps them active!

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This summer, Big J decided to give baseball a try. For eight weeks, he has gone to clinic-style practices every Saturday morning, practicing the proper form for throwing and hitting and learning all about the fundamentals of America’s pastime.

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This past Saturday, they wrapped up the program with a scrimmage game that was both great for practice and hilarious to watch. When you have about twenty boys ranging from first grade to sixth grade who are just learning the game of baseball, the first time they play a real game is full of chaos and excitement. I loved it.

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This scrimmage game was also the first time the boys tried to hit a thrown pitch from the coach. Big J got a single on the second pitch and ran the bases hard each time a teammate got a hit! He also had some good fielding plays in the outfield.

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He really enjoyed his time playing baseball, so this experiment was a success! I think he makes a pretty handsome baseball player, don’t you?!

What sports do your kids play in the summer? Did they try any new ones this year?

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Your Ears Will Love These Headphones!

I received these items to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with headphones and running. This pair hurt my ears, that pair wouldn’t stay in my ears, the other pair started shorting out and shocking me while I tried to run…yeah, not so good luck with headphones and running.

Whenever someone tells me I should try a certain pair of headphones because they love them, I usually pass. I just don’t believe there is one magical pair that works for every runner…but maybe I’m wrong. Panasonic recently sent me two new pairs of headphones for our active family to try out and we’re loving both of them!

Panasonic Headphones

All of the headphones I’ve tried for running in the past have been in-ear headphones. Most of them either hurt or fell out. I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t the case with the Panasonic Sport Clip Headphones!

Sport Clip Headphones

They are very lightweight and fit perfectly over and in my ears, holding snuggling but not with too much pressure. The sound quality is exceptional and they also work with your smartphone so you can answer calls while running! I don’t do that very often, but it is a nice feature to have!

Bone Conduction Headphones

While I loved the sport clip style, it was another pair of headphones that really blew all of us away. Panasonic Open Ear Bone Conduction Headphones are like nothing else I have ever tried. They don’t go IN your ears, they sit on the bone right in front of your ear. You hear the music through vibrations in your skull. It sounds crazy, but it totally works and everyone in the family had to try them!

Big J Headphones

The nice thing about using these headphones for running is they don’t plug up your ears completely, so you would be able to hear a car coming or a biker passing you on the trail AND hear your music with great clarity. This is a really valuable safety feature for outdoor runners. And that makes these water-resistant headphones the perfect choice as you’re training for your summer and fall races!

Speaking of races, we’re adding another race runner to the family this weekend as our oldest (nine years old) has been training for his first 5K! We have been so impressed by his dedication to sticking to a training plan, doing three runs a week, some outside and some on the treadmill. He followed the Couch to 5K program for eight weeks and the big race is this Saturday!

Headphones Warm Weather Pack

It’s going to be a warm morning, so we’re packing a great water bottle and cooling towel for after the race. Not a big fan of the heat and humidity, but it comes with living in Nebraska!

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I’ll be running with Big J for the 5K and probably crying when he finishes. Yes, I’m that mom. Our seven-year-old will also be doing his first one-mile race with The Hubby that morning! This running lifestyle has become quite the adventure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I LOVE sharing it with our whole family!

What’s your experience with headphones for exercise? Do you have a pair you love?

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Books for Kids: Jack Staples

I was given this book to review, but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All opinions are 100% my own or my son’s! This post contains affiliate links.

My kids are voracious readers. They devour chapter books, asking for more reading time, carrying books they’re engrossed in with them wherever we go. I absolutely love it.

I’m always on the lookout for quality chapter books to throw their way next, so I was thrilled to learn of a new young adult series from author Mark Batterson, best known for writing The Circle Maker. When I read the plot summary, I knew our nine-year-old, Big J, would be all about the Jack Staples series and I was right!

Jack Staples Book 1

I interviewed Big J after he finished the first book in the series, Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, and here were a few of his answers:

What is the story about?
“It’s about Jack and his adventures as one of the Awakened who sees life with different eyes than the rest of the world.”

What did you like about this book?
“I really liked the sword-fighting! It was like our world, but there were no guns, only swords and other primary weapons. The story was exciting, scary, and intense!”

Who were your favorite characters?
“Jack Staples and Alexia Dreager are the main characters and I liked them best. Alexia was really cool because she has the gift of climbing. I also like that God is called the Author and Satan is called the Assassin.”

What were your favorite parts of the story?
“I like when Jack defeated the enemy and the lion helped save him!”

What lessons did you learn from this book?
“Mrs. Dumphry (a character in the book) said something I really liked: ‘A true leader does not need to be asked to do the right thing; he does it.’ I think that’s the most important lesson I learned.”

I loved his answers, but more than that, I loved his enthusiasm about this book and the series as a whole. Immediately after finishing the first Jack Staples book, he asked when we could order the second and third!

Jack Staples Reading

The first piece of good news is the second book in the series, Jack Staples and the City of Shadows, as well as the third, Jack Staples and the Poet’s Storm, are both available now. My bookworm is thrilled he doesn’t have to wait for them to be released. I totally know how he feels!

The second piece of good news is that I’m giving away a copy of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time for your child today, along with a copy of Mark Batterson’s book, Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children, just for you!

To enter, just leave a comment telling me who in your life would love to read the Jack Staples series! I will pick one random winner Wednesday night, July 15th at 9PM CST!

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Summer is for S’mores!

I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’Gosh. I received an OshKosh B’Gosh gift card to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Can I be honest with you? I’ve kind of always dreaded the arrival of summer. There have been parts of summer I’ve enjoyed – swimming, family vacations, no school – but I just wasn’t crazy about the heat and humidity and being out in it at all.

All of that has been changing this year. Maybe it’s me, but I think it has to do more with my kids. They’re growing up and we’re able to take off on adventures as a family more easily. We’ve been playing outside, exploring our city, staying up later, and I’m starting to think summer can be quite glorious.

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I think the most wonderful of all are the summer nights.
We’ve enjoyed have family play dates with friends in the evening so we can share the joy that is…

OshKosh Smores Supplies

S’MORES.

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We are blessed to have a beautiful fire pit and seating area in our backyard, the perfect location for the perfect yummy summer activity for a play date or sleepover!

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The combination of a warm fire, gooey treats, and kids is magical.

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It’s fun to have variety available when we make s’mores with guests! We mix it up with different chocolates – dark chocolate is my favorite, Big J loves peanut butter cups, and I’ll let you take a guess at the top choice of Little J…

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With all of the fun chocolate options, every kid can have a custom treat they will enjoy! We somehow ended up with one kiddo who just wants the roasted marshmallow by itself and one who wants all the parts of a s’more, but wants to eat them separately. I just don’t understand.

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S’mores and summer fun go hand-in-hand at our house and we love them both even more when we get to share them with friends!

We are also totally loving the new summer play clothes the boys picked out at our local OshKosh B’Gosh store this past week!

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I’ve always thought of overalls and denim when OshKosh B’Gosh was mentioned, but they are quickly becoming my go-to store for bright, fun summer looks for my boys. The boys were actually EXCITED to be shopping in the OshKosh B’Gosh store and that is a BIG DEAL!

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With sizes 0-12, we were able to shop for all three boys in one store and we had piles of tops and shorts they all loved. The deals at OshKosh B’Gosh were so great that we were able to get everything they wanted – ten tops and four pairs of shorts – for under $100!

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I can’t get the boys to wear anything excet their new OshKosh B’Gosh clothes and that’s fine with me! I love their bright colors, hand-drawn original designs, and great quality.

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I think these outfits match their personalities quite well, don’t you?! And Little J’s dino shirt (top right) glows in the dark, which is so perfect for an evening play date!

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I should probably mention that if you’re going to do s’mores for a play date, please allow some “burning off all that sugar” time. They’ll need it. Trust me.

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See what I mean?!

I love my boys. I love spending summer with them. And I know you will love the new summer styles from OshKosh B’Gosh as much as we do, especially with this great discount through July 13th!

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Find your local OshKosh B’Gosh store here, grab your kids, and enjoy finding them some fun new summer clothes together with 25% off your purchase of $30 or more! You can also use this deal online with the code SUMMER25 at checkout.

You can join in on the #HelloSummerFun action and be inspired with OshKosh B’Gosh on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

 

Your turn: talk to me about your favorite s’mores combination! We are always looking for new ideas!


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Hands-on-Prints Books: Engaging Kids in Reading!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Hands-on-Prints books. I received books to facilitate my review. This post contains affiliate links.

We are a book-loving household. We have books of all kinds coming out of our ears. I’ve really tried to trim down our selection over the years, but I can’t seem to stop adding to our collection when I find something that looks good!

The introduction of Kindles in to our home has helped slow the rapid growth of our stacks and stacks of books, but there is still nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, especially when it comes to children’s books.

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I’m thrilled to introduce a new series to you that will really engage your children in books through great content, wonderful illustrations, and their senses!

Hands On Prints Books

Christinia Cheung earned a Masters in Early Childhood Education and established a Montessori school that celebrates differences in personality, learning preferences and cultural backgrounds. Through these experiences, she was compelled to write her Hands-on-Prints books.

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This series of five books inspires simple and complex learning about the world, especially incorporating sight and touch to create an interactive visual experience for children. Hands-On-Prints books really are a unique set that my children and I are greatly enjoying!

Our family favorite is Around the World from A to Z!

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Around the World from A to Z takes kids on a journey to explore the activities, famous landmarks, and cultures of countries. Rock climbing at Mt. Rushmore, martial arts at Mount Fuji, and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef are just a few of the fun adventures highlighted in Around the World. My boys loved seeing what activity would be on the next page and finding the location on the map in the upper right corner of each page!

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Each page also features a raised, textured cursive letter of the alphabet for little hands to trace! Our oldest showed his younger brothers how to trace them correctly and I’ve caught them doing it over and over again. This book has so many things to get kids involved in learning! We are big fans!

Hands On Prints Chartres

Several years ago, The Hubby and I visited Europe and one of our stops along the way was in Chartres, France. We explored the gorgeous and incredibly unique cathedral in this town and were fascinated by the story of its construction. Because of that visit, this next book is a sentimental favorites. Geometry through Architecture: The Chartres Cathedral details all the ways shapes were used in the building, particularly as symbolism in the stained glass windows. I loved looking through this book with Big J and showing him our own pictures of the cathedral from our visit. He is his mother’s son – very interested in reading and history – so this was a great connection point for us!

Hands On Prints Coconuts

Other books in the Hands-On-Prints series include Nuts for Coconuts, A Persistent Vine, and Do I Have To? What If I Don’t Want To?

Hands-On-Prints books take children on adventures that develop their knowledge and a sense of discovery! I love how these books encourage kids to think outside of themselves and their normal circumstances. They truly do inspire the best in young learners!

Which Hands-On-Prints book would be most interesting to your child?

Leave a comment with your favorite to be entered to win! Giveaway ends Tuesday, May 26th at 9PM CST!

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Prayer + Motherhood

I’ve been on my knees a lot to start this new year. It seems that when one declares a word for the year, that very thing may be the thing you for which you have to fight the hardest.

I believe that also goes for anything to which we are truly dedicated. Our marriage, our children, our ministry. The enemy doesn’t want us focused on these good things. And so the most important things in our lives are also often the most challenging.

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Motherhood is one of those for me – something I’ve always wanted, something I treasure, something I want to do well. And yet it is also more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

As I’ve tried to proceed in 2015 with JOY, I’ve grasped new glimpses where I didn’t see it before, but I’ve also been met with much discouragement in the form of distraction and arguing and disobedience. I often feel beat down by the end of the day.

I’m not saying this is all my children’s fault. I’ve made plenty of negative choices, particularly in my role as mom, that have left me worn, losing my focus on joy. But I haven’t given up. I can’t ever give up because I’m mothering with an eye on eternity.

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Through it all, prayer has been my saving grace. Early morning prayers for wisdom and love. Midday prayers for a peaceful afternoon. Evening prayers asking for forgiveness and new mercies for the next day. Prayers all day long to find the joy in all of it.

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I don’t tend to write out my prayers, but the focus on the Tommy Nelson blog this month is on prayer and God just spilled these words out of me as I wrote my heart for moms of boys – and for me. I’m not writing + praying as a mom who has figured out this boy-raising thing, but as a mom who desperately wants God to show me what these boys – MY BOYS – need from their mother. I need His wisdom. I need His strength. I need His grace. And so do my boys.

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I used to think God was calling me to be a mother because I would be good at it. {insert my laughter here} Now I know motherhood is my calling because it is always refining me and keeping me dependent on my God. Motherhood draws me close to Him + prayer is our best form of communication.

Moms – join me in prayer this week, this month, this year? Whether you are a mom of boys, a single parent {or sometimes single}, a woman who longs to be a mom, or any mother – someone is praying the same prayer you are. And there are more motherhood prayers yet to come on Tommy Nelson this month, so stay tuned!

If you have a specific prayer request related to motherhood, share it in the comments or feel free to email it to me. It would be my joy to pray for you today!

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Great Gift Books for Your Guys!

I received some of these books to review. I was not compensated in any way for writing about them, and all opinions are 100% my own. I have also included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

As you know, I’m surrounded by guys. Add in grandpas and uncles and nephews…the number just keeps growing! I’m always looking for unique gifts to fit the interests and personalities of these guys and every year, books are a great option that don’t disappoint!

Gift Books

There are plenty of new great gift books for your guys this year and I wanted to share a few of my favorite with you! If you have Amazon Prime, you can order them today and still get them in time for Christmas with free two-day shipping! If you don’t have Amazon Prime, grab the free 30-day trial now and use it for your last-minute holiday shopping!  {Have I mentioned how much I adore Amazon Prime? So many reasons…}

And now for the books…

For the little guys

Diggit

Diggit Saves the Day and Tipper Tells a Lie are part of the brand new Building God’s Kingdom board book series by Andy Holmes. The stories center around a crew of construction vehicles who learn lessons about character and godliness. My little guy loves the trucks and I love what he is learning! I can’t wait for more book sin this series to share with him.

For the school-age boys

Action Bible

The Action Bible is a favorite in our home because it tells the stories of the Bible in comic-book style and my boys are totally enthralled by it. I’ve seen it capture their attention and, after reading it, they want to look up more about each story in their own Bibles. This is a definite winner with visual learners and comic book lovers alike!

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide is a brand new book about this new series on Disney XD. Our boys love the show, but they love reading about the characters and settings just as much as they do watching the show! They checked this book out at the library and were so sad when they had to return it, so I think they’ll be thrilled to find it under the tree this year!

Star Wars 100 Scenes

Star Wars in 100 Scenes is one of my favorite finds because it covers the whole Star Wars saga in one book. I’m a big fan of the original three movies and my guys like the new ones, so this is a book we can all enjoy!

For the comic book fan

Marvel

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art could be enjoyed by Marvel fans of any age thanks to the movies introducing a new generation to characters such as Captain America and Thor. I love that my guys can see the characters as they were originally imagined in this fabulous collection of cover art!

DC Comics

DC Comics: A Visual History is another great find along the same lines as the Marvel Comics book. Whether it’s a dad or uncle who has always loved Superman or your kids who are currently obsessed, this visual history is fascinating and a great gift!

For the athlete

Running & Being

Running & Being is known as the book that really got people running again. George Sheehan’s thoughts on running are applicable to newbies and veterans alike. The Hubby was so excited to receive this from his parents this year for Christmas!

For the traveler

Great Maps

Great Maps will captivate those who love to travel and those who have always dreamed of it. This book from the Smithsonian is not along informative, but also a fine work of art and a great conversation piece. The well-traveled man in your life would appreciate this handsome book.

What books do the guys in your life love? Are you gifting any books to the guys in your life this Christmas?

 

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