Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Colbie Caillat Christmas in the Sand CD Review and Giveaway

Colbie Caillat just came out with her new Christmas album called Christmas in the Sand. It just was released October 23rd. She wanted this album to be special with a song on it for those that don't live in the cold.

I love the song that she wrote that has the same name as the album. It has very playful lyrics and a catchy tune. She also has Every Day Is Christmas, Mistletoe and Happy Christmas that are also written by her and her co-writers on this album and these were songs that were new to me too. Although not all the songs on the album are about Christmas in a warmer place, it has the best of both worlds: cold and snowy & warm and sandy. She draws on well-known favorites as well as some of her own material and has guest singers singing with her on some of the songs. I love the way she slipped in country and Hawaii in Silver Bells. She also did a photo shoot for the cover and insert photos on the beach of Malibu California, the city she is from. She looks like she had a lot of fun posing for them.

Here is the Christmas in the Sand Trailer:

 Here you can sing along to my favorite song on the CD:

Tracklist:
01 – Merry Christmas Baby (Feat. Brad Paisley)
02 – Santa Baby
03 – Christmas In The Sand
04 – Baby It’s Cold Outside (Feat. Gavin DeGraw)
05 – The Christmas Song (Feat. Justin Young)
06 – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
07 – Every Day Is Christmas (Feat. Jason Reeves)
08 – Silver Bells
09 – Winter Wonderland
10 – Mistletoe
11 – Happy Christmas
12 – Auld Lang Syne

Follow her:
Facebook
Website
YouTube
Twitter

BUY IT
Great for a stocking stuffer or holiday gift! You can purchase the Colbie Caillat Christmas in the Sand CD on Amazon.com for $9.99.

WIN IT
Prize: Win a copy of the Colbie Caillat Christmas in the Sand CD.

I am trying out Rafflecopter on my blog. Please click on this post link if you do not see the script for it below. Also, if there is anything that is wrong with it let me know by emailing me: finamoon AT gmail DOT com I will try my best at fixing it. Thanks for being awesome readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to review and one to giveaway. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Taylor Swift Red CD Review

I love Taylor Swift. She is a great role model for girls. She has a very sweet modest style which I think is rare in an artist of her stature. I admire this very much in her and I hope she never looses her innocence like so many other artists have before her.

Red is her fourth studio album. It was released on October 22, 2012 through Big Machine Records. The album features collaborations with new producers and guest artists such as Gary Lightbody and Ed Sheeran, and sees Swift experimenting with new musical genres. The Red Tour is scheduled to begin in March 2013. The insert to the album has all the words so you can sing along if you want to and each song has a different picture of Taylor.

State of Grace, Treacherous and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together are my favorites on the album. The songs Red, 22 and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together are very pop, they remind me a little of Avril Lavigne. I love Avril too, so they work well for me. The Last Time features Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and has a wonderful orchestra in the background and is a gorgeous duet. Holy Ground is upbeat and fast at first then slows and gets upbeat and fast again...great to dance to. Sad Beautiful Tragic is slow and melancholy. The Lucky One is about fame and fortune and where it actually gets you...kinda sad, but true, I guess. Everything Has Changed features Ed Sheeran. Most the songs in Red are about relationships, good and bad. Red is the color of intense emotions at both ends of the spectrum:  love and anger.  The whole album is apparently about her experiences with love..."Swift" and crazy at times. It is definitely one of her most dynamic albums to date, but I believe she pulls it off well.

Red Music Video:


Track List:
1. State Of Grace
2. Red
3. Treacherous
4. I Knew You Were Trouble
5. All Too Well
6. 22
7. I Almost Do
8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
9. Stay Stay Stay
10. The Last Time
11. Holy Ground
12. Sad Beautiful Tragic
13. The Lucky One
14. Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)
15. Starlight
16. Begin Again

 BUY IT
You can purchase Taylor Swift Red on Amazon.com for $13.99.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free and reviewed this album because I wanted to. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Dollar General Diapers Review

My littlest who just turned 2 is still in diapers. We have done cloth diapering before, but with the move to our farm house looming before us and everything kinda up in the air we have been using store bought ones to cut down on time until she is potty trained. We like to shop around and find the most affordable and yet still leak free option.

We usually get Cuddle Ups diapers because they are more affordable than name brand ones and do the job well, but you can only find them at WinCo Foods stores which are only in select areas of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. I live in Oregon, but I love to know about other places you can get affordable diapers that work too just in case I am not near a WinCo Foods. If I happen to be out of town with my child and have a Dollar General around instead of a WinCo I will definitely get Dollar General's new line of Premium Diapers!

Dollar General has a new line of Premium Diapers that have gone through a major transformation and are now better than ever. They are more affordable than name brand diapers and are just as efficient or better depending upon the brand. I received a convenience pack (24 diapers) of their size 3 diapers to review for free along with a coupon booklet. I don't have a Dollar General around where I live, so the coupons of over $10 in savings for baby stuff are worthless to me, but If you have a DG near you and can use these coupons for baby stuff please let me know in the comment section. The first person that comments and tells me they can use these coupons from Dollar General for baby stuff gets them sent to them in the mail.

I like how the Dollar General diapers fit snugly, but not too snug they cut off circulation. These diapers are cottony soft and seem to be comfortable for my daughter to wear. My daughter is fairly active so I am glad these diapers move and flex with her. These also have very good tabs that grip well to the diaper. I also like how they are hypoallergenic with vitamin E and Aloe to help protect baby's skin. These diapers do not smell like baby powder and do not have any other scent to them. The soft, stretchy side panels hold leaks in well for both day and night. They absorb very well and lock the wetness away from the skin. We did not have any blowouts or leaks while using these diapers. They are very slim for less bulk in the diaper bag and on the tush :) The size is also printed on every diaper so that you don't get mixed up if you have more than one little one in diapers at a time. They also have cute zoo animals on them that are great for both boys and girls. They seem to work as well as WinCo diapers and better than other brands I have tried. If you don't like them after you've tried them they also have a 100% happy (money back) guaranteed on every package!

BUY IT
Here is the prices on size 3 DG diapers. Other sizes can be seen on their website. DG Baby Diapers Mega Pack Size 3 - 60ct $10.00 each or $30.00 3-unit case, DG Baby Diapers Big Pack Size 3 - 86ct $13.50 each, DG Baby Jumbo Diaper Size 3 - 36ct $6.00 each or $24.00 4-unit case, DG Baby Diapers Convenience Package- Size 3 - 24ct $4.50 each or $18.00 4-unit case. Like Dollar General on FB and get updates on coupons and savings. Get $5 off an order of $25 or more with coupon code SAVENOW

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Mom Bloggers Club and DG for sending me product for free to review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chris Mann Roads CD Review

Chris Mann is a very talented singer and song writer. He has a swoon worthy voice that melts hearts. If you don't know him you should at least check him out. I first heard about him back in April through ONE2ONE Network. He was a newbie back then trying his wings out on the The Voice, an American reality talent competition show on prime-time NBC. Now he has a new album called Roads coming out October 30th.

Roads have their ups and downs and forks you have to decide whether to take. They are a journey and so is life. This album is aptly named because of its being the consummation of an extensive and demanding journey for this talented and committed young artist, who’d been pressing onward against what had appeared to be staggering odds.

Roads covers an eclectic mix of music, mostly of classically based pop. Chris Mann co-wrote two songs, “Cuore,” based on Bach’s “Air on a G String,” and the contemporary ballad “Falling”. Cuore is Italian for heart and this song is named rightly so because it definitely stole mine. Falling is a gorgeous song about falling in love. The other songs on this album range from Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” to “Ave Maria” and Damien Rice’s “The Blowers’ Daughter,” with the latter featuring a special guest appearance from Aguilera. Paul Anka even reworked “My Way” so that instead of being about being about a guy looking back, the new lyrics for Chris Mann are from the point of view of a young man looking hopefully ahead. The album ends with Coldplay’s anthem “Viva La Vida” sung by Chris.

I love the whole album. Chris has a rich passionate voice and is backed with an orchestra that makes the music full and beautiful. The arrangements are perfect and breathtaking. I will be watching for more albums from him and seeing where this road leads him next.

Tracklist:
01. Roads
02. Need You Now (by Lady Antebellum)
03. Cuore (based on Bach's "Air on a G String")
04. The Blower's Daughter (feat. Christina Aguilera)
05. My Way
06. Unless You Mean It
07. Always On My Mind (by Willy Nelson)
08. On a Night Like This
09. Ave Maria
10. Falling
11. Viva La Vida

Follow Him
Like Chris Mann on Facebook. Follow Chris Mann on Twitter. Subscribe to Chris Mann on You Tube.

BUY IT
You can purchase the album on iTunes for $7.99 or Amazon.com for $9.99. This would be great for a stocking stuffer or gift for the upcoming holidays.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to One2One Network for sending me product for free to review. By posting early I am entered to win prizes. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Purex Plus Oxi Review and Giveaway

I'm reporting to you as your friendly Purex Insider. Purex Plus Oxi is a new stain-fighting liquid detergent from Purex. It has Oxi AND Zout stain removers. This is the most powerful Purex detergent available with 3 stain-fighting enzymes that work against 101 different stains! It, like all Purex liquid detergents, works in both high efficiency washers and traditional washing machines.

I received a 43.5 fl oz bottle of the Purex Plus Oxi in Fresh Morning Burst Scent to try out for free. I found it to be an excellent stain pretreatment. Just pour a little of it onto the stain, rub stained fabric together and let sit for about 5 minutes before putting into the wash load. Then you can also add the same laundry detergent to the washer too. It also gets clothes super bright, white and clean! I tried it and I don't usually like detergents with a scent, but this one is mild and nice and is still hypoallergenic. My son got his pants all dirty with dirt and grass stains (boys will be boys). This got the stains and dirt out and left the clothes fresh smelling and clean.

PUREX SWEEPSTAKES
Scare Away Stains with Purex plus Oxi
Runs through 10/15-11/16
There will be one (1) Prize. The Prize winner will receive $1,000 in the form of a check or gift card and a (1) year supply of Purex plus Oxi detergent in the form of 10 “Free Coupons” valued at up to $6.00 per coupon.

Save Big on Appliances + Win a Whirlpool Washer & Dryer from Purex
Runs from 10/15-11/9
The promotion allows users to sign up for special savings on Whirlpool appliances.  There will be one (1) Prize. The Prize winner will receive a 4.3 cu. ft. Whirlpool Duet® Steam Front Load Washer with Precision Dispense Ultra, a 7.4 cu. ft. Whirlpool Duet® Steam Electric Dryer with Advanced Moisture Sensing and pedestals. Prize includes delivery and set in place only. Installation and removal of old appliances are not included. The sweepstakes is hosted as a Facebook fangate.  Participants are asked to "Like" Purex before they can enter.
Purex plus Oxi Sweepstakes
Runs from 10/15-11/30
There will be one (1) Prize. The Prize winner will receive $1,000 in the form of a check or gift card and There will also be 250 2nd place winners that will each win $25.

Have you tried Purex yet? If not, go HERE to get a free sample and try it for yourself!

WIN IT
Prize: 1 winner will win 3 coupons for a FREE bottle of new Purex plus OXI Detergent.

I am trying out Rafflecopter on my blog. Please click on this post link if you do not see the script for it below. Also, if there is anything that is wrong with it let me know by emailing me: finamoon AT gmail DOT com I will try my best at fixing it. Thanks for being awesome readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Purex for sending me product for free and promotion information to facilitate my review and free coupons for this giveaway. By posting I will be entered to win prizes. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting this promo.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Friday Dinner in a Pumpkin

Dinner In A Pumpkin
This recipe has been a tradition around the time of Halloween or Thanksgiving for my family since I was a very little girl. I love squash in the fall and autumn. Pumpkin is a autumn/winter gourd-like squash and is perfect for this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 large pumpkin (however, needs to be small enough to fit in your oven)
1lb hamburger (ground beef)
1 medium onion chopped
3-4 stalks celery chopped
1 green pepper chopped (you can also do a mix of equal value green, red and yellow peppers if you have them for extra color)
1 container chopped mushrooms
spoonful minced garlic
spoonful mined ginger
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups cooked rice (can use white, brown or mixed)
basil for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out seeds. Save the seeds for yummy roasted pumpkin seed recipes. In a large skillet brown hamburger and add onions, celery, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and ginger. Mix and saute. Add cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, brown sugar and rice to other ingredients. Mix well. Add all ingredients to the inside of the prepared pumpkin. Place stem top back on the pumpkin. Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and and put the whole pumpkin on it. Bake for about an hour or until the pumpkin is soft on the inside.

*if you want to make it a Jack O' Lantern as we did for a festive table you can by carving only the top layer of pumpkin skin off in your design and then pealing it off to show the face.

Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex by Josh and Dottie McDowell FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Josh McDowell has been reaching the spiritually skeptical for more than five decades. Since beginning ministry in 1961, Josh has delivered more than 24,000 talks to over 10 million young people in 118 countries. He is the author or coauthor of 130 books, with over 51 million copies distributed worldwide, including Experience Your Bible, The Unshakable Truth®, Evidence for the Historical Jesus, More Than a Carpenter (over 15 million copies printed in 85 languages), and The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, recognized by World magazine as one of the twentieth century's top 40 books. Josh continues to travel throughout the United States and countries around the world, helping young people and adults strengthen their faith and understanding of Scripture. Josh will tell you that his family is his ministry. He and his wife, Dottie, have been married for over 40 years and have four children and five grandchildren.

Dottie McDowell has been married to Josh for over 40 years. She has written several children’s books with her husband, and she and Josh are enjoying their four adult children and numerous grandchildren as he continues to travel worldwide in his ministry. Dottie and Josh live in Southern California.

Visit the authors' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Utilizing up-to-the-minute research from Josh’s “The Bare Facts” resources and their experience with four children, the McDowells give readers encouragement and solid information in the sometimes-awkward process of guiding their child into a healthy understanding of God’s gift of sex and sexuality—within a biblical context of relationship to Him.


Product Details:
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736949925
ISBN-13: 978-0736949927


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Just One Click Away

Sex. To some people it’s a dirty word, to others a beautiful one. And to still others it’s a provocative word…something they’re not comfortable talking about. Whatever your attitude, sex is a sensitive yet immensely important issue. For those who believe it’s a marvelous but powerful force that should not be misused, such as parents or leaders working with youth, the idea of sex—sexual activity—among young people is loaded with plenty of concern.

So how concerned would you be if a stranger was slipping into your child’s bedroom every day? What if this intruder was systematically teaching your child a distorted and perverted concept of sex? And what if this “sex education” your child was receiving led them down a path to immoral sex? You would no doubt be frightened and infuriated that the mind and heart of your child was being violated by this menacing intruder.

But before we go on to explain this danger, let us say this. We (Josh and Dottie), as parents who have raised four children of our own, are not here just to alarm you, although you have reason to be alarmed. We also want to equip you with a clear strategy to counter what your kids are facing. Even more at the heart of what we want to do, we hope to supply you with effective tools to raise your kids with a healthy (godly) understanding of sex.

After all, sex is great. It’s marvelous. It’s so wonderful that it can’t be put into words—because God has made it that way. You no doubt want your children to grow up understanding and embracing his design for their sexuality so they can delight in sex as he meant it to be delighted in. And if an immoral intruder were to cause your kids to misuse God’s wonderful gift, you would be angry and heartbroken.

Studies have shown that the number-one fear among Christian parents and Christian leaders is that a secular worldview and sexual immorality will somehow capture the hearts and minds of their kids. We certainly had that fear for our own children. To address that fear, many parents have helped open and develop more Christian schools. They have formed more networks to homeschool their children than ever before. Many have sent their kids off to Christian summer camps. Families have started attending megachurches with top-rated youth programs in unprecedented numbers. The hope of these parents has been to counteract the negative influences of a destructive culture in the lives of their children.

However, these positive steps may have actually caused many parents and educators to drop their guard. It’s natural to assume that kids are largely insulated from the influences of a corrupt culture if they live in a Christian home, are involved in a good church, are getting a solid Christian education, and are participating in monitored activities.

Actually, though, our kids are far more exposed to destructive cultural influences today than kids were even ten years ago. The reason for this is because right now we are in the midst of a social-media revolution that is allowing a corrupt and twisted morality to have direct access to our children at much earlier ages than ever before, even in the privacy of our own homes and in their bedrooms. This is the intruder we have been talking about.

The Social-Media Revolution

The culture influenced the previous generation through various media such as radio, TV, videos, magazines, and so on. If a parent monitored what his or her child listened to, watched, and read, there was somewhat of an assurance that a child could be insulated from the negative effects of a destructive culture. However, today’s social-media revolution has changed everything. Our culture intrudes upon your children through channels that barely existed a decade ago. For example, compare media growth (based on the general U.S. population) over the last decade.


In 2000

In 2010–2011

2.7 hours per week spent online by the average person

18 hours per week spent online by the average person

100 million daily Google searches

2 billion daily Google searches

12 billion e-mails sent daily

247 billion e-mails sent daily

12,000 active blogs

141 million active blogs

0 iTunes downloads

10 billion iTunes downloads

0 tweets on Twitter

25 billion tweets on Twitter

0 YouTube videos seen daily

4 billion YouTube videos seen daily

0 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute

60 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute

0 people on Facebook

845 million active users on Facebook

0 articles on Wikipedia

20 million articles on Wikipedia



More than 250 million new people were added to Facebook in 2010, with 30 billion pieces of content shared each month. If Facebook were a country, it would have the world’s third-largest population.

Approximately 20 million minors are on Facebook. Of those, 7.5 million are younger than 13 years old, and 5 million are younger than 10 years old. It is estimated that Facebook will soon reach 90 percent of all social-network users and 57.1 percent of all U.S. Internet users. By 2013, 62 percent of Internet users and half of the U.S. population are expected to be on Facebook.

In regard to video content, eMarketer estimates that of the 50 million U.S. children under 12, nearly 12 million—about 25 percent—“were online video viewers in 2011.” The estimate skyrockets to 70 percent by 2015. According to Harris Interactive, in 2010, the number of children under 12 years old who spent at least one hour a day online increased from 61 percent to 76 percent.

The Internet has surpassed TV as kids’ media of choice. A study by the U.S. Department of Education shows that 27 percent of all four- to six-year olds are on the Internet. Today kindergarteners are learning on iPads, not chalkboards.

The social-media revolution is connecting us in positive ways never before imagined 10 or 20 years ago. Yet all this ability to connect and have people connect to your children may cause you to feel uncomfortable. And it should. There is an alarming downside to the instant accessibility this culture has to your children.

Intrusive Immorality

As parents and Christian leaders, we want our young people to embrace a biblical sexual morality. We want them to enjoy sex as God designed them to enjoy it within the context of marriage. And just 10 or 15 years ago, we as parents, pastors, or Christian educators had a good measure of control over what type of things our young people saw or heard that shaped their view of sex. We could say, “We don’t watch those kinds of TV programs in our home; nor do we read those types of books.” There were certain controls we could put in place to insulate our children from damaging influences. When our children wanted to visit neighbors or friends, we tried to limit it to people with our same convictions.
But today we have, by and large, lost control of the controls. That is because a perverted morality is just one click away from our children. With just one keystroke on a smartphone, iPad, or laptop, your child can open up some of the worst pornography and sexually graphic content you can imagine. Just a few decades ago pornographic magazines were sold behind store counters and placed in paper bags. Most adult men didn’t even want to be seen carrying such a magazine out of a store. Today pornography is available to anyone, including your kids and teenagers.
Immoral sexual content is reaching many, if not the majority, of our children. According to research from Family Safe Media, the average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is nine years old.12 And there are plenty of sites to be exposed to. There are over 5 million pornographic sites available today with over 68 million search requests daily. More than 2.5 billion porn e-mails are circulated every day.
A 2009 survey of 29,000 North American university students confirmed that 51 percent of males and 32 percent of females first viewed pornography before their teenage years. A journal article, “The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth,” reports that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn before they are 18 years old. Eighty-three percent of boys and 57 percent of girls have seen group sex. Sixty-nine percent of boys and 55 percent of girls have viewed homosexual or lesbian acts. Thirty-nine percent of boys and 23 percent of girls have been exposed to sexual acts depicting bondage.

According to a study cited in the Washington Post, more than 11 million teenagers view Internet porn on a regular basis. A Focus on the Family poll revealed that 47 percent of families said that pornography is a problem in their home. These were largely Christian families responding to the poll.

Who Is Concerned About This?

In contrast to the situation several decades ago, most of our young people see little or no problem with viewing pornography. Overall, studies show that 67 percent of young men and 49 percent of young women 18 to 26 years of age consider viewing pornography as acceptable behavior.

Of course, as a concerned parent, you no doubt warn your children and teens to stay away from “sex sites.” As a responsible and proactive parent, you may even install Internet filtering and monitoring software on your computers, as you should.

Yet what happens when your children visit their friends and they turn on their cell phones? Do the parents of your children’s friends have sexually explicit material blocked from all their electronic devices? The problem is that sexually oriented and perverted material through cyberspace is everywhere, and it is difficult to avoid, even when you try to block it.

Further, more than 1.5 billion pornographic peer-to-peer downloads occur each month, and most are not detected by “family filters.” (Peer-to-peer is from one computer directly to another computer.) An entire pornographic video can be downloaded by a child, often without detection by parents.

Because of the massive amount of sexually perverted material available today, the sheer overexposure, no matter how infrequent, tends to desensitize a young person. Rather than gaining an understanding of what sex is really for, why it comes with boundaries, and how it can bring intimacy and joy in a committed marriage relationship, young people tend to think everyone is doing whatever they want sexually without consequences. This is clearly the impression given through cyberspace.

Most young people have been so desensitized to sexually explicit material that they see no problem with joking, posting, or texting about provocative sex. Do you realize that 4 out of 10 teens are posting sexually suggestive messages? And another 39 percent of teen boys and 38 percent of teen girls say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or e-mails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them.

No doubt, it seems to our kids that the entire world around them, including their peers, is into premarital sex. We, of course, know that not everyone is “doing it;” yet our kids’ perception becomes their reality. The irony is, many Christian adults tend to think none of their kids are involved sexually, while their own kids think everyone else is “doing it.” These contradictory viewpoints are widespread.

Recently, I (Josh) did a two-hour seminar on “The Bare Facts: The Truth Bbout Sex, Love, and Relationships” at the staff conference of an evangelical organization. At an afternoon session, 1800 people showed up with their kids. In the next three days, ten different staff members told me that one of their children (all under the age of 14) had confessed to them that they were addicted to pornography on the Internet. Each parent expressed amazement and had never suspected a thing.

During a recent pastor’s conference I was addressing the same topic, and five pastors approached me after a session with their stories:

• Pastor #1: “I just found out that my two sons (ages 14 and 18) are struggling with pornography on the Internet.” Then he confessed that he had been addicted to pornography himself for 11 years.

• Pastor #2: “I learned last week that my 17-year-old son just got his girlfriend pregnant and my 15-year-old daughter is also pregnant. What do I do? I’m going to have two grandchildren soon!” He shared that his son regularly viewed pornography.

• Pastor #3 (a youth pastor): “My 14-year-old daughter has been giving oral sex to the boys at her [Christian] school.”

• Pastor #4: “I just found my 8-year-old son watching pornography on my office computer.”

• Pastor #5: “My 5-year-old son has been looking at pornography since he was 4 years old.” The pastor was crushed.

These five conversations happened in the 20-minute time span it took me to get from the podium to my car.

Before I could get into the car, a desperate teenager gripped my arm and said, “Dr. McDowell, would you please pray for me? I’ve been struggling with pornography for three years and it is destroying me!”

Several years ago, I was invited to speak on sex and relationships at one of the largest and most prestigious evangelical Christian schools in North America. The administration appreciated that I came to speak on that subject, but they made the following request: “We don’t want you to mention anything about oral sex,” they said, “because we don’t have that problem here. If you mention it, our kids will simply start thinking about it and want to do it.”

I thought their request was absurd and naive, but out of respect, I honored it. The moment I finished speaking, dozens of kids crowded around me to ask questions. Nearly every question was about oral sex. “Is it sex?” “Is it wrong?” “Can you get an STD from doing it?” and so on.

I wished the school headmaster had been standing there to hear his students. As I walked outside, three guys and two girls, all sophomores, approached me and asked, “Why didn’t you talk about oral sex?”

I avoided telling them that I had been asked not to talk on the subject. Instead, I asked them, “Why? Is oral sex a problem here?” And they said, “No, not really.” I replied, “That’s good,” to which they responded, “No, it’s not a problem for kids to do, because everyone is doing it.” (This was an exaggeration.)

I asked them to explain. “Well,” they stated, “at our school when a guy wants oral sex, he walks up to a girl and says, “Would you like a taco?” That was their code word for oral sex. They went on to explain, “If she agrees, they go into some room right here at school and perform oral sex. But then the boy is obligated after school to take the girl to Taco Bell to buy her a taco.”

According to these kids, oral sex was commonplace. According to the school leadership, “We don’t have that kind of problem here.” The disconnect between what many parents and Christian leaders believe their young people are doing, and what kids are actually doing, is vast. Sure, we don’t want to think our sons and daughters are involved in sexual activity of any kind and are being brainwashed with a distorted view of sex. But the truth is, if we are not proactive to counter what our kids are exposed to, chances are they will be captured by a destructive culture.

So What Can You Do?

It seems that it would be ideal if we could reverse the social-media explosion. But we can’t, nor should we even try. In fact, in the last 12 months, some estimate more than 200 million people were confronted with the claims of Christ on the Internet. Social media themselves are not the real culprit here. They are simply the vehicle that can bring either positive or destructive influences into the lives of our kids.

Escaping to a remote island where only committed Christians live might seem like a definitive solution. Then we could raise our kids where no secular culture could influence them. But that isn’t a realistic alternative any more than reversing the media revolution we are experiencing. So what can we do?

1. We must acknowledge the reality that kids are being negatively influenced with a distorted view of sex by the culture. We can’t live in denial of what is really happening. It is like one young mother said, “It feels as if we are trying to raise our kids in the center of Las Vegas.” So the first step to a solution is seeing the problem as it truly exists.

2. We need to counter the distorted and perverted views about sex our kids are hearing and seeing with the correct and healthy understanding of sex. Let’s say you are among those parents who have one or more children over the age of seven. And let’s say you are just now getting around to talking to them about sex. By now your kids have already got their sex education from the outside culture. And in all probability their understanding of sex is distorted and quite different than what you had hoped.

In this case, you will need to reintroduce your kids to a whole new concept of what sex is and why God created it. In many respects you will need to deconstruct the distorted concepts of sex they have adopted and represent an understanding based on God’s design. If your children are much younger you may still have time to get to them before the culture does. But you must start with them at a very young age.
Teaching kids God’s idea of sex means that we as parents and Christian leaders must first clearly understand why he created us as sexual beings in the first place. We must know the real purpose of sex, what sexual purity actually means, why there are boundaries around sex, and how a loving relationship is the cornerstone in teaching God’s view of sex. With this type of foundational understanding you will have a biblical context for introducing or reintroducing your children to what sex is all about. This will give you the biblical basis to raise your family to embrace a healthy (godly) perspective of sex. And that is what we will address in part one of this book, “Sex Is God’s Design.”
3. We must actively guide, lead, and instruct our kids in God’s perspective of sex. And to do that we offer you valuable and practical tools in part two, “Tips and Ideas for Your Conversations.” These short chapters have insights, examples, answers, and ways to deal with so many issues that you either have encountered or soon will encounter. We will discover together the wonderful opportunities to introduce or reintroduce God’s wonderful gift of sex to your kids.
As parents we (Josh and Dottie) didn’t do it perfectly. Perfect parents don’t exist. But we are grateful for the wonderful opportunity we had to impart to our children God’s plan for sex. All four of our kids are married now and have children of their own. And it is thrilling to watch them successfully passing on a biblical view of sex to their own children—our grandchildren. Be encouraged—your biblical values on love and sex can be passed on to the next generation. And we hope the pages that follow will help you in your effort to do just that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My First Handy Bible, Text by Cecilie Olesen and Illustrations by Gustavo Mazali FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:

and illustrated by:
and the book:

Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

My First Handy Bible aims to communicate God's character and His love to the youngest of children, ages one to three. Beautifully illustrated in bright full color, My First Handy Bible has a cheerful padded hardcover with 61 child-friendly hardback pages and a handle and clasp that make it easy for small hands to tote and manipulate. The timeless stories are retold in simple sentences by author and artist Cecilie Olesen, illustrated by author and illustrator Gustavo Mazali and designed by Ben Alex, a C. S. Lewis Gold Medal winner author and designer.

Website for Book


Product Details:
List Price: $12.95
Hardcover: 61 pages
Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8772473045
ISBN-13: 978-8772473048


AND NOW...SOME SAMPLE PAGES (Click on images to enlarge):







Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oregon Zoo Participating in Boo At The Zoo: Eco-Friendly Halloween Celebrations Hosted By Zoos Nationwide


I just got word that the Oregon Zoo (which is one of my favorite places to hang out with my family) is participating in Boo At The Zoo, an Eco-Friendly Green Halloween Celebration, during their Howloween event. Other zoos are also participating in the Boo At The Zoo event. This is a nationwide initiative to make Halloween healthier and more eco-friendly.

The zoos hand out contributions from any number of these organic and healthy product partners Larabar, Cascadian Farms, Stretch Island Fruit, Unreal Candy, Honest Tea, Endangered Species Chocolate, Plum Kids, Applegate, Surf Sweets, Bitsy Brainfood, Brainard's Natural Remedies, Glee Gum, Kiwi Magazine, and CelebrateGreen.net. In addition, the Oregon Zoo is going one step further in being eco-friendly in having all of the prize bags be fully compostable!

Here is the Oregon Zoo lineup of events:
All this is free with Paid Admission.
Zoo admission runs $7.50 to $10.50 and is free for those 2 and younger.

If you do not have a participating zoo or aquarium in your area you could instead pass out eco-friendly things to trick-or-treaters.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Since I am in the Cascadia Connect group of bloggers I became aware of this event and was also emailed about this. I can receive free tickets if I am available to go. Thanks to the zoo and others involved for this opportunity. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting about this promotion. The above photo is provided by the Oregon Zoo Facebook page cover photo.

Imagination Movers Rock-O-Matic CD/DVD Giveaway

I did a review a while back for the Imagination Movers Rock-O-Matic CD/DVD. Now I am hosting a giveaway for a lucky reader to win it!

WIN IT
Prize: Win a copy of Imagination Movers Rock-O-Matic CD/DVD.

I am trying out Rafflecopter on my blog. Please click on this post link if you do not see the script for it below. Also, if there is anything that is wrong with it let me know by emailing me: finamoon AT gmail DOT com I will try my best at fixing it. Thanks for being awesome readers! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I was given the opportunity to host this giveaway for a free product. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Melissa & Doug Offer New Personalization


For the first time ever and just in time for the holidays, select Melissa & Doug products can now be personalized for only $1.99 additional per item! Available only at MelissaAndDoug.com, these unique gifts provide that extra “personal touch” on select products: from plush, to classic wooden toys, to costumes, and more. With these Personalized Gifts you can truly make your mark and give something truly one-of-a-kind to the special children in your life.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER:
For my participation in this Melissa & Doug Promotion I will receive a 20% discount.

Thanks to Melissa & Doug for providing me this promotion information and free product. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting this promo.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Oregon Zoo and Radio Disney's Madagascar 3 DVD Release Party Recap

It was my youngest daughter, Zari's birthday on Friday October 19th and we wanted it to be extra special. We had already celebrated it with her Babu and Papa (my parents) on Friday the 12th and then on Saturday the 13th we went to the screening of Secret of the Wings a new Tinker Bell movie. Then we were offered the chance to hang out at the Oregon Zoo for free to experience Oregon Zoo and Radio Disney's Madagascar 3 DVD Debut Release Party we all did the Afro Circus dance. It seemed like another perfect opportunity to celebrate Zari's 2nd birthday, especially since the zoo event was the day after her actual birthday.

The weather in Oregon this time of year is well, rainy. But since it is rainy a lot in Oregon it usually doesn't stop us from having fun. We packed for the weather, made some lunches and headed out for the zoo. Our drive to the zoo was very pleasant and we were greeted happily by some sunshine peeking through the clouds when we arrived. We got our tickets and made our way to the elephants where we were told that Radio Disney would be.


When we got there we saw that Radio Disney had three covered booths. One booth had their music speakers and bins of things to win, the other had swag bags that you could take and load with stuff from the table and another had coloring activities, crafts and a photo op where you could put your head through a hole in Melman's face. Also the zoo had placed their covered booth in the same square for getting your face painted.

We met my long time friend, Erin, and her family there. Erin has been my friend since about 1997. We met online and role played back and forth with each other. She lived in Maine at that time and I in Utah. It is really neat that we would end up both in Oregon.

Erin brought her family to the event and we all hung out at the beginning of the zoo day. Radio Disney provided us with a lot of fun activities, games, and prizes. My kids colored pictures, made zoo masks, danced with the music, played some hoops with inflatable balls and got rainbow colored wigs like Marty wore in the Madagascar 3 movie. My son Jaedan got his face painted like a tiger and both of my boys won Madagascar 3 t-shirts to take home with them.


After that we headed over to Pacific Shores in Steller Cove and it is a good thing we all did because it started pouring rain and then hailing. We all hung out and ate our lunches watching the sea lions swim. We waited for the rain to let up a bit and then Erin and her family parted ways with us.


Next we went to the Great Northwest because that is the area we missed last time we were at the zoo. At Black Bear Ridge we saw Black Bears and Bobcats. Then we went though Eagle Canyon and saw the magnificent Bald Eagles and different kinds of salmon. After that we went to Cascade Stream and saw beavers, river otters, waterfowl, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Then we went to Cougar Crossing and saw the cougars. They were going up and down a long log in their habitat. When we came out we saw goats and chickens on the Trillium creek Family Farm.


Then we headed back towards Pacific Shores to see the penguins and polar bears. One of the Polar bears yawned right when I took a picture and then he rolled over and I got a great shot of his gigantic paws. We also saw a leopard as we were heading out of the zoo and got pictures of the kids on the mountain goat sculpture.


As we left in our car and got home I got some more cute pictures of the kids. We had so much fun at this event!

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Since I am in the Cascadia Connect group of bloggers I became aware of this event and was given free tickets to go. Thanks to the zoo and others involved for this opportunity. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this promotion.

The Amish Family Cookbook by Jerry and Tina Eicher FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Tina Eicher was born and married in the Amish faith, surrounded by a mother and sisters who were great Amish cooks. At fellowship meals and family gatherings, Tina’s dishes receive high praise and usually return empty. She and her husband, Jerry Eicher, author of several bestselling Amish fiction titles, are the parents of four children and live in Virginia.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


From bestselling author Jerry Eicher (more than 350,000 books sold) and his wife, Tina, comes this warm and inviting peek into an Amish kitchen, complete with recipes, Amish proverbs, and a dash of Amish humor. Readers will laugh, pray, and eat robustly with The Amish Family Cookbook at their side.



Product Details:
List Price: $ 14.99
Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736943773
ISBN-13: 978-0736943772



AND NOW...A FEW RECIPES FOR YOU TO TRY (CLICK ON PICTURES TO SEE THEM LARGER):







Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rainier's 3rd Annual Harvest Festival

In my town of Rainier, Oregon the 3rd Annual Harvest Festival (previous years it was called the Pumpkin Festival) is happening at the City Park on Saturday, October 27th from noon until dark (around 6:30 pm). This is put on by the Rainier Chamber of Commerce and admission is FREE!

This event is family and kid friendly. Activities include: hay rides, carnival games (25 cents per game), crafts, food, venders, costume contest, pumpkin carving contest, Trunk or Treat and Willow Grove (a band from Longview, Washington) will be playing.

Bring a carved pumpkin for the contest. Really great prizes will be given away for the best pumpkin, costume and trunk or treat-er. There will also be a raffle for some neat stuff to win. At dark there will be a pumpkin lighting ceremony. Costume contest is for all ages including pets. If you are interested in being in the trunk or treat please stop by city hall to pick up an application. Game tickets are 5/$1.00 and raffle tickets will be 5/$1.00.

Like Rainier's Harvest Festival on Facebook for updates and more information.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ganz Tail Towns Friends Facebook Game Review

Tail Towns Friends by Ganz, the makers of Webkinz, is a new Facebook game for grownups. It has the feel of a soap opera with cute animal characters and is a very social game that you can play with your Facebook friends. It has adventures, tasks to complete and is rich with tales of intrigue, treachery and, dare I say it... forbidden love! The drama in this game is not really for little kids and the characters sometimes even swear...well they say "bleeping", but still...I thought it was very unnecessary. Unlike Webkinz, Tail Towns Friends was made for adults by Ganz. This game officially launched on October 9th.

The landscapes are semi-realistic and you can add to them, making your dream garden landscape, by completing tasks and buying items from the store to place on your property, thus developing it into something unique from how it started. There is a typical storyline that this game follows.

Then there are also hand painted figurines you can collect to create an exclusive even more elaborate storyline from the character your figurine unlocks that off shoots from the first and becomes part of the game. You can collect them all to unravel the storyline even more and give you an exclusive specialty virtual item per figurine. They retail for around $14 each. I received the Chef hand painted figurine from Ganz for the game experience. He came with a secret code that I registered in the game to unlock his exclusive storyline and “Secret Diary Goals,” which gave me more information about his life and more tasks to complete. The figurines are not only great for the codes, but they are also kinda cute and would be neat to display.

Here is my gaming experience: At first I had trouble with Tail Towns Friends. The first task to complete has you harvesting 5 crabby apple trees. The problem I was having was that the crabby apple trees were never on the Old Orchard so I couldn't harvest them (see the top picture of the above image). I cleared the dead trees and grass on the Old Orchard at the beginning thinking that would do something, but it didn't move any thing forward. I couldn't finish the quest on my own because the crabby apple trees were never there like they were supposed to be. There was also a mysterious dirt patch in front of the house and the logs in the corner weren't there either. I was thinking oh yeah I'll just buy some seeds to plant some crabby apple trees myself but there were no seeds to be bought either. The game started out very frustrating at first.

I got on a group on Facebook for Tail Towns and they couldn't help me, but were very nice and even showed me what the game should have looked like when I started out (see the bottom picture of the above image). I was told the TTF Crew were on Thanksgiving vacation since Oct. 5th (Oct. 8th is Canada's Thanksgiving and they were Canadians) and I should submit a ticket for customer support. I had already submitted a ticket on the 6th, but I waited some more. They got back to me on the 9th and fixed the glitch for me so that I could resume playing. They just completed the task of harvesting the crabby apple trees that didn't seem to exist for me and I was on my way. I guess since this is a new game they haven't ironed out all the glitches yet.

My first time on Facebook I had fallen into the Farmville trap and was spending way to much of my time on the game. I finally broke down and blocked all Facebook games, but I thought I would give this one a try. Like all games that I have found fun Tail Towns Friends also proved to be very addicting. After the glitch was fixed I set a time limit on how long I was to spend on the game to limit myself so that I could get other things done too.
In no time at all I was creating my own landscape from the Old Orchard and completing tasks from picking produce from my friend's gardens and orchards to bottling juice to making bouquets from flowers I had gathered. It was fun, but it did take up some of my precious time. I probably will play occasionally, but I don't see myself being so immersed in this game that I be on it every moment...I know better than to do that again...I hope :)

Follow and Join
The OFFICIAL Tail Towns Friends Group
Tail Towns Friends Group
Tail Towns Friends Facebook
Tail Towns Friends Twitter
Tail Towns Friends Pinterest 

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christmas at Holly Hill by Martha Rogers FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Realms (September 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Rogers’s novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Martha and her husband are active members of First Baptist Church.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Can Clayton Barlow prove he has changed his ways in time for Christmas?

It is October 1898, and Clayton Barlow has just returned home after serving time in prison for his part in a bank robbery. His family welcomes him, but the townspeople are skeptical. Bored with life in the small town but determined to make a new start, he goes to work with his father, hoping to regain the town’s trust.

Clayton recognizes the schoolteacher at the Prairie Grove School as his childhood friend, Merry Lee Warner, and old feelings surface. Still, he doubts that he could ever get a woman like Merry to love him.

As the townspeople prepare for Christmas, their suspicions about Clayton lead to trouble. Will the trusting heart of an unlikely new friend be enough to restore Clayton’s relationships with his neighbors and reunite him with God and Merry?



Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388374
ISBN-13: 978-1616388379



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prairie Grove, Kansas, October 1898

Home for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Clay’s heart pumped blood through his veins at a

frantic pace. After serving five years for his part in a bank robbery, he’d be home for his two favorite holidays. The question looming in his soul was whether he’d be welcomed by anyone other than his parents.

The train hissed and steamed its way into the station with a blast of the whistle as Clay peered through the window. When the cars came to a screeching stop, he remained in his seat, fear gripping his heart. The conductor stopped in the aisle.

“Son, this is your stop. Time to get off.”

Clay willed himself to stand and make his way down the aisle. No one would be here to greet him since no one knew he’d be on the train. He’d planned it all as a surprise, espe- cially for his mother. He stepped to the platform, gripping the handle of the small bag containing all his worldly possessions. Around him the trees wore their best fall colors in welcome, and as Clay made his way to the street in front of the depot, he drank in the sight he’d seen only in his dreams for the past five years.

The good citizens of Prairie Grove moved about on their way to one place or another, oblivious to his presence. The livery still stood close to the station with the post office nearby, and right next to it a new addition announced itself in gold letters. The telegraph office was now the Prairie Grove Telephone and Telegraph center. His hometown had grown more than he realized.

He spotted the hotel and the Red Garter Saloon a few blocks away, then he breathed deeply of the fresh smell of baking bread drifting from the bakery next to his father’s store. The green and yellow letters on the sign hanging in front welcomed customers to Barlow’s General Store, still the only mercantile in town. A slight breeze

sent the sign swinging with a creak he heard from his position near the depot. Dust whirls danced across the street where he’d once played with other boys his age.

By Christmas those streets would most likely be filled with snow, and snowball fights would be the game of the day at the school. His days at the red clapboard schoolhouse had been some of the happiest of life. He viewed the bell tower of the school at the end of the street and could almost hear the sound of it clanging in his memory.

Doubt lodged in Clay’s throat, but he kept walking to the store. When he stepped through the door, it could well have

been ten years ago when he helped Pa. He inhaled the familiar smells of coal oil, fresh ground coffee, fabric dye, and pepper- mint candy. Nothing had changed.

Then he spotted his ma. He observed her for a minute or two, savoring the sight of her graying hair and slight frame. She didn’t move as fast as she once had, and she stopped to catch her breath after placing some items on a shelf.

From the corner of his eye he saw his father coming from the storeroom. A good five inches shorter than Clay, Pa’s sturdy frame handled the box in his arms with ease. He turned to set the box on the counter, and Clay cringed the moment his father recognized him. The meeting he both dreaded and anticipated had come.

Pa didn’t move from behind the counter. He simply stared for what seemed an eternity but in reality amounted to only seconds. His words barely reached Clay’s ears. “Son, you’ve come home.”

At Clay’s nod his father stepped around the counter and called to Ma. “Cora, our boy is home.”

A can clattered to the floor, and his mother turned with hands to her mouth. She hurried toward him and hugged him. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing him home safe.” Tears glis- tened in her eyes. “I’ve waited and waited for this moment to come.” She reached up and placed her hands on each side of his face then kissed his cheeks.

Heat rose in his face, but Ma’s arms and kisses were the welcome he’d hoped for in the past few days of travel. His arms went around her thin frame. She’d lost a good deal of weight since the last time he’d seen her, and that bothered him more than his earlier observations.

He glanced up at his father. His graying hair had thinned some, and his eyes held both a welcome and uncertainty. Gaining Pa’s trust would take time.

His parents stood in front of him and shook their heads. Pa wrapped his arm around Ma. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. Thank God you made it home.”

Clay didn’t know what God had to do with anything, since it had been Pa who had turned Clay over to the authorities five years ago. The road back would be long and hard, but then that’s no more than he’d expected.

Ma grabbed his hands. “Are you planning on staying here in Prairie Grove with us? You’re not going to get mixed up with those . . . those . . . thieves again, are you?”

Before Clay could answer, Pa added his own sentiments. “If you do decide to stay, I expect you to stay away from them. If you don’t, you won’t be welcome here.”

Clay stiffened but kept his voice neutral. “I understand, Pa, but I’m not going to get mixed up with Karl’s gang again. I would like to stay as long as you’ll have me.”

Or until the townspeople ran him off. Two older women in the corner eyed him and whispered between themselves. The prodigal had returned, but not everyone welcomed him. He nodded to the ladies, who immediately turned their backs. So much for the town’s greeting.

“Of course we want you to live here with us,” Ma said, not even seeming to notice the ladies. “Now let’s go upstairs and get you settled in. I know you’re hungry. You always were, and I have supper almost ready.” She held onto his arm and led him to the stairway up to the living quarters above the store.

A voice calling his name stopped him at the bottom. He odded for his mother to go on up and turned to find an old riend, Jimmy Shanks, grinning from ear to ear. “It is you, Clay Barlow.” The blond-headed young man reached out to grasp Clay’s hand.

“Yeah, it’s me. I decided to come home, Jimmy.” He grasped the outstretched hand and blinked at the strength in the grasp.

“It’s James now, and I’m married to Grace Ann Higgins.” Clay had to chuckle at that revelation. Grace Ann had run

away from Jimmy every time he’d tried to get close.

“So, you finally got Grace Ann’s attention. I’m glad since you always liked her.”

“You’ll have to come out to the house for dinner some night so we can catch up on old times.”

“I’ll think on that, Jimmy . . . James.” Not much to catch up on from his side since he’d been behind prison bars for five years. “And you’d better check with Grace Ann. She might not cotton to having an ex-con at her dinner table.”

James blinked. “Don’t you worry none about that; we’ll always be friends.” He stepped back and picked up his pur- chase. “Had to pick up some coal oil. With the days getting shorter, we need more of it.”

Clay walked with him to the door and stepped outside with James, who shook Clay’s hand once again. “I’m so glad you’re home. This is one Christmas your parents will be glad to celebrate.” With a grin and a salute he stepped down to the street and mounted his horse. “See you around, Clay.”

If he’d stayed good friends with Jimmy instead of getting mixed up with Karl, things would have been much different. Still, the warm welcome from his old friend and the greeting from his parents lightened the load in Clay’s heart.

If Pa would have him, Clay wanted to work again in the tore. Being locked up with bad food, hard cots, little sunshine, and no privacy motivated him to stay out of trouble. He’d had a lot of time to think in prison, and one thing remained sure and steadfast. Clayton Barlow would not end up behind bars ever again.

Merry Warner stepped onto the boardwalk up the street from the school where she taught. The wonderful aroma of cin- namon stopped her in front of the bakery. Cinnamon buns for breakfast in the morning would make up for her being late this afternoon. She hurried up to the counter where Mr. Brooks placed fresh pies into the case. On second thought, two pecan pies for supper tonight would be even better.

She grinned at the baker, who reminded her of the pictures she’d seen of Santa Claus, right down to the white beard and rosy cheeks. “I’ll have two of those pecan pies. I’m sure Mama will appreciate them for supper tonight.”

“Good choice, Miss Warner. We had a good crop of pecans this year, so Mrs. Brooks is busy with recipes using the nuts.” Mr. Brooks placed each pie in a paper bag then tied the top closed with string. “There, that should make them easier to carry.”

She plunked several coins onto the counter and picked up her purchase. “I hope she makes some of that pumpkin bread for the holidays.”

Mr. Brooks laughed. “Oh, she will. I’m sure of that. You have a nice evening now, and tell your ma I said hello.”

Merry nodded and hurried out to be on her way. She

stopped short when she spotted a man standing in front of the eneral store next door. A gasp escaped her lips, and her heart skipped a beat. He looked just like Clay Barlow, but Clay was in prison. Surely she would have heard if he had come home.

He turned, and his gaze locked with hers. Recognition shot through her with streaks of delight that dissipated almost as soon as they began. No one but Clay had eyes so dark a brown that they penetrated to her very soul.

How could Clay be out of prison already? Then she counted and realized five years had indeed passed since he’d gone away. When Grandma Collins had said she needed Mama and Papa to come back and take care of the orphanage at Holly Hill, Merry’s heart had been torn apart. She loved Barton Creek and wanted to stay there, but the memory of her years in Prairie Grove beckoned for her to return. One of those memories included Clay Barlow and the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him before he got involved with Karl Laramie’s gang.

Shoving aside her misgivings, she gave in to her delight and ran up to hug Clay. “Clay Barlow, it’s been too many years.” Heat filled her face, and she jumped back. She was no longer a sixteen-year-old girl but a young woman who should practice better manners befitting her age.

Clay’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Merry?”

“Yes. We moved back to Holly Hill last summer after Grandpa died. I’m so glad you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be here too.” He stepped back. “It . . . it’s nice to see you. I . . . I . . . ” His voice trailed off, and he glanced over her shoulder. Without another word he bolted through the door to the store.

Merry stood with her mouth agape. How rude. Then she urned and saw three women staring at her with disapproval written all over them. Mrs. Pennyfeather, wife of the school superintendent, shook her head and frowned.

Heat rose in Merry’s face again. They’d seen her greeting Clay. No sense in trying to apologize. Mrs. Pennyfeather wouldn’t listen anyway. Merry gathered up her pies and fled up the hill toward Holly Hill Home for Children. Along the way her thoughts whirled. She had never expected to see Clay again, figuring that he’d be too ashamed to come back to his hometown. What could his return mean?

She burst through the door then closed it and braced her- self against the smooth wood. Her heart pounded not only from the long walk but also from seeing Clay again.

Imogene and Eileen raced over to grab her around the waist. The blonde-haired ten-year-old-twins wore matching blue-and-white striped dresses with white pinafores over them.

Eileen eyed the bags in Merry’s hands. “You went by the bakery. What did you bring?” She reached for one of the bags.

Merry held it high. “Not until after supper. Then we’ll have pecan pie.”

Imogene jumped up and down, her pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. “That’s my favorite. Oh, I love you, Merry.” The young girl wrapped her arms about Merry’s waist again.

Emmaline appeared with a stack of silverware in her hands. “It’s about time you got here. Mama Warner could use your help.”

Merry set the pie bags on a table near the door and unwound Imogene’s arms. “I’m sorry I’m late. I stayed at the school to prepare the lessons for tomorrow. Did you know we have ten different varieties of trees around our school building?”

Emmaline shook her head. “No, and I don’t care right now. Are you going to help me or not?”

“Yes, I’m on my way.” Merry removed her shawl and bonnet then hung them on a hook by the door in the entry hall. She picked up the pies and made her way to the kitchen. Emmaline plunked the silverware onto the table behind Merry. At thir- teen Emmaline had begun to rebel against doing so many chores around the home, but Mama could usually get her to cooperate.

Merry sighed and pushed open the swinging door into the kitchen. She kissed her mother’s plump cheek. “Sorry I’m late. I got detained at school.”

Mama ladled stew into bowls and set them on a tray. “I figured as much. Check the cornbread for me. Supper’s about ready.”

Grandma Collins opened up the bakery sacks. “Pecan pie—now that’s going to make for a good dessert. Thank you, Merry.”

“I figured since I was so late coming home, I might as well contribute something to the meal.” Merry opened the oven door and removed two pans of cornbread. She set them on the counter and reached up to the shelf to grab a plate for serving it. She turned one pan onto the counter then cut it into squares and arranged them on the plate.

“Mama, did you know Clay Barlow came home?”

The ladle stopped, dripping stew back into the pot. Mama stood still for a few seconds, as did Grandma. “No, I didn’t. Has it been five years already?” She shook her head. “Such promise that boy had before he got into so much trouble. Where did you see him?”

“Outside the store. I’m . . . I’m afraid I made a spectacle of myself. I ran up and hugged him because I was so glad to see him back. The problem is, Mrs. Pennyfeather and her friends saw the whole thing. They weren’t too happy about it either.”

Mama laid the spoon aside and reached over to pat Merry’s shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll get over it. How did he seem?”

“I don’t know. Embarrassed to see me, I guess. He didn’t say much.”

Mama nodded sagely. “It’s been seven years since we moved away from Holly Hill and went to Barton Creek. You were only sixteen when you thought you were so in love with him. Being in prison changes a man, so he won’t be that same boy you liked so much back then.”

“I know, Mama. It just seems strange that he would be released and come home not long after we moved back home.” Grandma shook her head. “I don’t know what

happened to that boy. I always liked him. Maybe he’s learned his lesson and will make something of himself yet.”

Papa chose that minute to swing open the back door and enter the kitchen with Henry and Kenny. The boys’ arms were filled with logs for the fire. Papa planted a kiss on Mama’s fore- head then motioned to the boys, who had unloaded their wood into the bin near the stove. “Let’s get washed up and have some of Mama’s stew.”

Merry finished piling the cornbread onto a plate and headed to the dining room with it. More talk with Mama and Grandma about Clay would have to wait until they were alone.

She settled in for dinner with her family. Although none of the children were actually her brothers or sisters, every one of them held that place in her heart after the few months she’d been back here with them. Emmaline and Henry had lived at the orphanage the longest, with Kenny and Robert next, but those two had been babies when her family had left. The rest were new to her, but she’d grown to love them quickly. Each one had their own tale of tragedy and loss.

Papa stood behind his chair and bowed his head to ask the blessing on the meal. Papa never varied his blessing, using the one his pa had taught him growing up. Merry only half listened to the familiar words until Papa took a new turn. “And Father, we ask thy blessings on young Clay Barlow. Guide him on the right path now that he’s served his time and come home. May we act and think kindly toward him. Amen.”

Merry swallowed hard and blinked her eyes. She lifted her gaze to her father’s and saw understanding in their blue depths. Around her the others clamored to know who Clay was and why Papa prayed for him. She bit her lip and bowed her head. No man or boy had claimed her heart like Clay. From the encounter this afternoon, she realized he still pos- sessed a piece of it, and she had no idea what to do with that revelation.