Why I am a Pastor, in 10 Words


We hiked through the woods on a perfect fall day, our whole family and another family, whom we love spending time with.

My wife and I were talking about my potential as a small business owner. I told her how much I’d love being at the helm of a startup.

But what kind of startup to start?

I: What does the world need that it doesn’t have?

She: Jesus.

I: Exactly! That’s why I’m a pastor.

The startup can wait for me, at least for now.

Alpha: The NATO Alphabet for Kids (and Their Parents)



With Isabelle Arsenault’s Alpha, I finally have a tool to keep the NATO phonetic alphabet in my head. That’s more useful to me than you might think, not least of which is because I really do have to spell both my first and last name quite often when talking to various phone reps. (A… B as in Bravo… R… A… M as in Mike.)

It’s first and foremost a children’s book–though also a good visual aid for learning what is also known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet.

The book’s cover is actually a fine way to judge its contents in this case: It is the clever illustration–a paper airplane–for Delta.




The next spread, Echo, has a child at school throwing such an airplane at the child sitting in front of him.

Each letter of the alphabet receives a two-page spread: the word at left and an illustration at right. Some illustrations you might have guessed–like the couple dancing the Foxtrot. Others are more subtle and creative–like Hotel, which is the Monopoly hotel piece. Romeo and Juliet share a ghostly motif that ties the two images together, separated they are by some pages (and… uh… other impediments).

The letter under consideration has its own color, so that with even younger children you could focus just on A, B, C, D, and so on. Of course, my eight-year-old can appreciate that this section of his Dangerous Book for Boys now has some visual reminders to help him with his NATO alphabet.

There’s no storyline to follow, of course. But it’s been an interesting (and visually pleasing) read for each of my three kids, from three up to eight years old.

The sewn binding and high-quality paper will find approval with parents who want a book that will withstand a few throws across the room. (From the kids, not the parents.)

Alpha is a smart, nice-looking, and useful take on the classic children’s abecedarian.

Find Alpha at Amazon here, or at Candlewick Press’s page here. See Isabelle Arsenault’s page (with lots of images) here.



Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

Children’s Book Review: The Little Snowplow

The Little Snowplow


We need the little snowplow in our neighborhood. Last winter we saw more than 100 inches of snow pile up. The kids loved it, and we parents sort of did, but it made getting around a challenge. And it got old fast.

Enter the little snowplow:

On the Mighty Mountain Road Crew, the trucks came in one size: BIG.

That is, until a new snowplow joined the crew.

“You’re such a little snowplow,” the big trucks said.
“Leave the heavy lifting to us.”
And off they roared.

My five-year-old was enraptured at this point. And what young child wouldn’t identify with the little guy in the story? Each night he does his “reps” (raising and lowering his plow ten times). He pulls blocks of concrete. “Just in case.” Had he been training for 2015 in Massachusetts, he would have been oh-so-glad for all the hours he put in.

Then a blizzard hits–more than the little snowplow can handle, and the plow driver has to call for backup. In the end, against the odds, the little snowplow turns out to be a real hero, with his place secured among the Mighty Mountain Road Crew.

Most grown-ups will see the story coming–the motifs are familiar ones. One thinks of the setting and improbability of Katy and the Big Snow, with echoes of The Little Engine That Could, and a scene reminiscent of Little Blue Truck. The story ends with the little snowplow ready to bed down, though the “He could hardly wait for sleep” ending felt a little less satisfying than expected.

Still, The Little Snowplow is engaging. It’s an important idea that one can succeed even though small or dismissed by others. The message of the book is a good one, and the story moves along nicely. My three kids are all fans of the book.

The Little Snowplow is Lora Koehler’s first children’s picture book. Jake Parker illustrates the story. And the illustrations are great. They’re colorful, clear, and absorbing. They really make the book. There are enough of them, too, that a non-reader can easily enough make his or her way through the story. (See a few more illustrations here.)

I don’t even want to think about winter coming soon, but I’m sure we’ll continue to reach for this book when the snow comes–and we are reading it now, even with potential blizzards months away.

Find The Little Snowplow at Amazon here, or at Candlewick Press’s page here.



Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

The Family Bathroom: An Ode

Parent: Do you need to go poop or pee? I’m about to go to the bathroom.

Child: No.

Parent: Are you SUUURE? I’m going to take a shower.

Child: I don’t need to go poop or pee.

Parent: (Goes to bathroom, starts water, dares to relax)


Parenting Pro Tip: Vegetables are “Power Food”

"Tomato je" by Softeis - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Tomato je” by Softeis – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


If AC/DC was too much for you, here’s another small victory in parenting in the K-J house recently: we now call vegetables “power food.” (I.e., they make you more powerful, which of course is totally true.)

Not only that, but “power food” goes on the plate first, and the kids sit down to eat it before they eat the rest of the meal. An appetizer of sorts.

So far this lovely idea my wife had has been working like a charm. (Finally! They eat their veggies… mostly.) I raise my carrot stick to her in appreciation and celebration.

Parenting Pro Tip: Use AC/DC to Help With Brushing Teeth

AC_DC logo


Here’s a free parenting pro tip: sing the chorus of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck antiphonally with your child to help them keep their mouth open. Then you can brush their teeth and gums the way the dentist tells you to.

You say: “Thunder!”

Your child responds: “Ah-ah-ah-ahhhh-ah-ah!”

You say: “Thunder!”

Your child responds: “Ah-ah-ah-ahhhh-ah-ah!”

Repeat ad infinitum, or until your child’s teeth are clean.

It’s been working like a charm here in the K-J house all week. Here’s the song if you need a refresher.