Books Coming in 2020

I went online last night to look for a particular book I know is coming out this spring. Somehow I ended up doing a search for books Coming Soon on Amazon and was excited to see so many awesome books scheduled for release!


On Death comes out March 3, 2020. One of three titles in Tim Keller’s How to Find God series, this book looks at how we deal with and face death, from a biblical perspective.

Anne Bogel, author of Reading People and I’d Rather Be Reading, has a new book coming out March 3, 2020. Don’t Overthink It is about overthinking, indecision, and making good decisions.

In Epic:An Around-the-World Journey Through Christian History, due out March 31, 2020, Pastor Tim Challies explores Christian history through thirty-three relics.


Just Between Us, due out April 7, 2020, is a shared, guided journal for mothes and sons. We have the Just Between Us for mothers and daughters, and so I’m pretty excited for this one as well.

A new Marie Kondo book? Yes, please! Joy at Work comes out April 7, 2020.

David Sibley’s What’s It Like to Be a Bird comes out April 14, 2020. This looks to be a fascinating exploration of what birds are doing, and why.

For fans of S.D. Smith and The Green Ember series – the fourth installment, Ember’s End, is released April 14, 2020.

In Uncommon Ground, coming out April 14, 2020, Tim Keller and John Inazu explore what it means to live as a Christian in a pluralistic world.

Have you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey? A special anniversary edition is coming out April 21, 2020.

The newest installment in the Everything You Need to Ace… series – Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook comes out April 28, 2020. We have several titles in this series and love them, so this will be our newest addition.

If you are a fan of the Julia Rothman Anatomy series, this is the latest installment. Ocean Anatomy, releasing April 28, 2020, joins Nature Anatomy, Farm Anatomy, and Food Anatomy.


Here is the sequel to the award winning The One and Only Ivan. The One and Only Bob is released May 5, 2020.

Native: Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering God will be released May 5, 2020. This book caught my eye as I was scrolling. The author, a member of the Potawatomi Nation and a Christian, explores how her native identity impacts her faith.

Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood comes out May 5, 2020. This book , is a response and critique of the biblical manhood and womanhood movement, explores the tension between men and women in the evangelical church, and the roles that each are expected to play.

The newest offering from Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds (which I loved!) – The Bird Way comes out May 5, 2020.

If you are a Hunger Games fan, this prequel – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – will arrive May 19, 2020.


From the author of The Law’s Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (scroll through my IG feed for some page samples) and The Law’s Guide to Drawing Birds comes a new book – How to Teach Nature Journaling. This book will be released June 23, 2020.

Review: Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families

I recently finished Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families by Gary Chapman and Jolene Philo. My review, shared on Goodreads, is below.

Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with DisabilitiesSharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities by Gary Chapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful new addition to Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages books.

This book gives a brief introduction to the 5 Love Languages – Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Briefly, people tend to respond more to love expressed in a particular language. But we also tend to express love to others in “our” love language – without realizing why the recipient doesn’t respond how we expect them to. Chapman, in his books, stresses the importance of determining our loved ones’ love languages and then expressing love in the best way THEY can receive it.

I appreciated his honesty in acknowledging that while he had been asked before to write a book geared toward special needs children (he has The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers), he said he hadn’t until now because he felt inadequate, not being a parent of a special needs child. Chapman wrote this book with Jolene Philo, who has written books for the special needs community, is herself the parent of a special needs child, and who uses the 5 languages concept in her home and as an educator.

The book covers ways parents (and educators) can figure out their children’s love languages, and deals with some of the challenges parents may face given a child being nonverbal, or having limited physical or intellectual abilities. Philo recounts several examples of children responding to their particular love language and how their parents make it a point to use their love languages.

This is a wonderful book and I recommend it for parents of special needs children. It is a great addition to our parenting tool box, helping us be more intentional in how we express love to our children in ways that they will be able to respond to.

View all my reviews

Managing Family Finances

As 2019 winds down, it’s time to file paperwork and get ready for the new year.

I am not, by nature, an organized person, and so it is essential that I have systems in place if I hope to stay on top of things. Family finances are one of those areas where you can’t fall behind or forget things, so managing incoming bills and financial accounts is one area where I have established a system that keeps our household finances running smoothly.

When determining what my Family Finances system required, I considered several areas – incoming bills, account balances, due dates, and tracking bills payed. I also needed a plan for tax season prep, which I will cover separately.

My Family Finances system is simple and low-tech. I’m a pen and paper kind of gal, and I know what I will and won’t use with any regularity, which is why online or software-based systems tend not to work for me. Note that I am speaking specifically of my organization plan, and not online banking and bill pay.

The system I use has three components – the hanging file folder box, the monthly folders and the Record sheets. In addition, I have a “routine” for handling receipts, end-of-year organizing, and preparing for tax season.

File Folder Box

Like most people, I do have a file drawer or file cabinet for all the documents that collect over the years. But I know that if I want to stay on top of our finances, I need to have my current financial documents separate and on hand. So I have a smaller hanging file folder box that I keep near my work area and computer. I want this box to stay neat and not get overwhelmed with STUFF so I only keep current financial document folders (monthly folders mentioned below), a tax folder, and the rare folder for an ongoing issue, such as property taxes or home warranty. I also keep a folder for receipts for the year.

Monthly Folders

I start my year with twelve folders, labelled with the twelve months. While I’ve used regular manilla folders for years and they certainly do the job, this past year I discovered file folders with a clear plastic cover, which I love and recommend. I use hanging folders in a file folder box to organize for the year.

In the front of the folder, in the clear cover, I keep my Record sheet, where I track financial info and due bills throughout the month. More on the Record sheet below.

As statements come in the mail, I put directly into the current month. For some items that aren’t monthly, I put them into the month that they are due.

All bill statements stay in their monthly folder throughout the year. On occasion, when I’ve had to look for a particular statement, I know I can go back to the month in question and retrieve it. In my file folder box, once a month ends, I move that folder to the back of the box so that the current month is in the front.

Record Sheet

Account Balances

Each month has a Record sheet where I track account balances, and all due bill information.

At the top of the page,, I track my account balances – checking, savings, HSA account, as well as credit card accounts. I check my balances weekly, so I have four columns for updating my Record sheet throughout the month.

Due Bills

The remainder of the Record sheet is for Due Bills. For recurring accounts, such as mortgage and utilities, I have the names prefilled on my printed forms,  and I fill in due dates at the beginning of the month, since the due dates typically are the same each month. For other bills, I list the account, and due date as they come in the mail.

Each week I check my balances and update the Account Balances at the top of the Record sheet. I then pay any upcoming bills using either Bill Pay through my online banking website or on the individual account website. It is rare for me to write paper checks, but for some things, like magazine subscriptions, I still use them.

When I pay a bill, I record the Date Payed, Amount Payed, and the Confirmation number after the payment is processed. If I am sending a paper check, I record the check number. And while most bills are payed from my checking account, there are some items that are payed with other accounts, such as medical bills payed from the HSA account. For these cases, I make a note in the confirmation column which account it was payed from.


Some accounts I have set up to do Auto Pay. I still track these payments on my sheet. I list the account and due date, include an (A) next to their name. When I check my accounts each week, I take note of any auto payments that have cleared and record the date it cleared and any confirmation number listed.

Rolling Over Payments

Not all payments have a firm due date – subscription renewals and property taxes are good examples. I will put bills into the current month, but if I don’t pay something by the end of the month, I move to the next month and record the bill on my new Record sheet.

Front page of the Record Sheet I use. I record account balances througout the month at the top, and track due bills the rest of the sheet. There is additional Due Bills columns on the page of the page (not shown).


I have a bad habit of collecting receipts until they overwhelm me. But I’m working on the problem!

I keep all of our receipts in the short-term, and check them for items that might need to be returned in the future or have some warranty value. Receipts for groceries and things I am sure won’t need returning get shredded and tossed. Receipts I want to hang on to go into a small folder in my file box for general receipts. I also have a small folder for all medical receipts – this includes pharmacy and payments for services where receipts were obtained, like dentist or optometrist.

End-of-Year Organizing

At the end of each December, after the final bills have been payed, it’s time to reset my folders for the new year. I take my folders and separate the statements by account – all mortgage statements, credit card statements, etc are collated and clipped together. The Record sheets are compiled and clipped together as well. Finally, all of the statements and Record sheets for the year are put into a single folder labeled for the year and moved to my main file drawer. Now if I need to find a particular statement, I can first search by year and then by account.

I also go through any receipts I’ve kept – major purchases like electronics or appliances go into an envelope and then into the Year folder. Medical receipts for the year are put into a separate envelope and into the folder.

New Record sheets are printed and the monthly folders are reset for the new year!


I know that tax documents start rolling in at the beginning of January, so I prepare a Tax folder and keep handy at the front of the file folder box. I make a checklist on a post it note of what documents I am expecting – any W2s, 1099s, things I know come every year. I check off items as they arrive and when I am sure I’ve gotten everything, usually by end of February, I sit down to do our taxes.

After our taxes are calculated and filed (I always e-file) I print our final tax forms and into the Tax folder they go. I keep all the documents, as well as the printed tax forms that were filed together, and the folder gets filed away. 

And even though I am low-tech, I do use my computer! I keep a tax folder for each year  on my computer. For those tax forms I receive as emails, I copy to the Tax folder, and then print a hard copy for my file folder. After I e-file, I save the pdf of my tax forms in that year’s file, and put a hard copy in the file folder.

Since realizing that low-tech and pen-and-paper is what works best for me, I’ve been able to fine tune my current system so that I don’t miss payments and have all of our financial information organized and available when needed.

I’ve tried several ways to stay on top of finances through the years, and what I have discovered is this – the system that works best is the system that works for you.

In Common – December 1st, 2019

This weekend I finished reading How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer Adler. As a follow-up to How to Read a Book, this book didn’t disappoint. It focused on speaking and listening and the various types of exchanges involving the two – exchanges that are predominantly one-sided such as lectures and speeches and those involving both, such as forums, seminars and of course, conversations.

Without continued learning throughout all the years of one’s adult life, no one can become a truly educated person, no matter how good the individual’s schooling has been. (How to Speak, How to Listen, p. 197)

Adler, while detailing the most effective forms of intellectual exchanges, also offered practical advice – advice that is very much applicable today.

Most important of all,  never engage in the discussion of a problem with someone you know in advance has a closed mind on that subject. When you know that someone is unpersuadable, don’t try to persuade him. When you know that someone is incorrigibly convinced about the truth of this or that position, don’t try to change his mind by discussing the question or issue on which he has resolutely and irremediably committed himself to one answer or taken one side. He will remain deaf to all arguments for another answer to the question or another side of the issue. (How to Speak, How to Listen, p. 142)

I also finished Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull. Recommended by Sally and Clay Clarkson in Educating the Whole-Hearted Child, this has been an excellent reading. Thirty short chapters address a variety of parenting topics, from such as honoring a child’s individuality, training a child’s faith  and the place of sympathy in child training. Originally published in 1890, one might expect this book to be dated, but the issues the author addresses regarding children are timeless. Near the end of the book, Trumbull addresses the importance of the home atmosphere:

In view of the importance of the home atmosphere, parents ought to recognize their responsibility for the atmosphere of the home they make and control. It is not enough for parents to have a lofty ideal for their children, and to instruct and train those children in the direction of that ideal. They must see to it that the atmosphere of their home is such as to foster and develop in their children those traits of character which their loftiest ideal embodies. (Hints on Child Training, p. 157)

I’ve spent the weekend wrapping up several books, trying to get to the end of 2019 meeting my goal of 60 books read. Some of my longer-term reads may have to go into 2020, the remainder of my Current Reads stacks I am planning to tackle over the next couple of weeks. I’ve made the tough decision to not add any new books to my pile so I can clear my stack and be ready for the new year. And putting together my reading plan for the new year is so much fun!

Current Reads

Southern Style Biscuits

Southern Style Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Earth Balance butter
2 Tbsp shortening*
1 cup almond or other non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 450 °F.

In standup mixer, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Add Earth Balance and shortening by spoonfuls and mix well.

Add milk and mix until well-combined.

Pour out dough onto well-floured surface. Knead slightly to flour the dough surface so it’s less sticky and easier to handle. Press into a rectangle and fold in half – repeat several times, alternating folding from left to right and from top to bottom. The folding is what makes the biscuits pull apart after baking.

After dough has been pressed into a 1/2 inch-thick rectangle (you can also use rolling pin for final step), use a biscuit cutter or a floured Mason jar to cut out biscuits, arranging on a baking dish. It’s not necessary to space the biscuits, they will expand during baking but pull apart easily.

Bake at 450 °F for 18 – 20 minutes** until tops start to turn golden brown.

*Use coconut oil in place of shortening if needed.

** Heavier baking dishes, such as stoneware, will most likely need the full 20 minutes bake time.