Side by Side: A Review and Giveaway!

side by side mainJournals for two are all the rage these days. I’ve seen plenty of cute journals for couples to share, for parents to share with young children, and for grandparents to share with grandchildren. But when I looked at them, often they are of such a secular mind that I find it difficult to want to buy one. But now, Ave Maria Press and Lori and Ava Ubowski have come to the rescue for mothers and their tween daughters! Side by Side: A Catholic Mother-Daughter Journal is exactly the kind of journal I would have loved to have used when my daughters were younger. (I now am the proud mother of a 20 year-old and a high school senior.) And while this journal is no longer for me, I can definitely tell you why I wish I could have used it about 8 or 9 years ago!

But first, let me give a little background on what a shared journal is, in case you haven’t seen them. Basically, it’s a way to write in answer to a prompt and leave it for the other person who’s sharing the journal to read and respond. When I was in marriage prep with my husband, we did something similar to a shared journal. We were given blank notebooks, then the moderators would give us a prompt from a list of questions geared to help foster conversation between us. We’d go to separate places, write for ten minutes, then have five to read each other’s thoughts and more time to discuss what had been written down. It was a really good way to have a discussion about topics that could be tricky. We each were able to really have our say about the topic, and then we had a chance to move from there to an in-depth discussion. The rules for the journal was that we needed to be completely honest, and we needed to be respectful during discussions.

The new shared journals you can find in many bookstores are similar. There’s a prompt for people to write about, and the other person using the journal can read it later. Often, the idea is that honesty is important, and it’s not a place to vent about what needs to change about the other person. It’s a safe place, and a way to express yourself.

While I have a few letters and emails that I have saved for years from my daughters, a journal like Side by Side would have been a real boon to our relationships. One thing I really liked about the book is that there are prompts (and personal stories to help understand the prompts), but it’s not alway Mom who goes first. And this means that either mother or daughter can pick up the journal, write inside, and then leave it in a place for the other to find it.

Another thing I really loved about this journal is that it’s realistic. So many secular messages geared towards empowerment are all about “You can do anything!” and “Follow your heart!” I really hate these messages because they are, in the long run, destructive. My 5′ 2 1/2″ 20 year-old is not going to be a WNBA star, no matter how good she was in middle school. There are actual limitations to what we’re able to do. And “follow your heart” is terrible advice, for emotions are fleeting, and sometimes your heart is wrong. Reason is important. God’s plan for you is important. And sometimes what your heart wants is ultimately bad for you or for your soul. Side by Side is geared towards understanding what God has planned for your life and following Him.

And that brings me to another thing I love about the book: examples from the Communion of Saints. Virtues are discussed, and saints are given as examples of how those virtues are tested and lived out.

But not everything about Side by Side is serious. There are silly quizzes and questionnaires. There are places to interpret each other’s dreams. There are suggestions to leave notes for each other around the house with silly or lovey-dovey messages. There are even suggestions for sending random loving text messages.

Not only that, but there is also space for some deep reflection on what mother and daughter want for each other. Every so often, within the pages of the book is a space for “My Prayer for You Today.” I think this is important. Somewhere in our heads, we know that our mothers or daughters are praying for us. But this is a tangible reminder that it’s true. I feel like this is an especially powerful prompt, and it’s one that I’m sure both mother and daughter will look back on years later with fondness.

I highly recommend Side by Side if you’ve got young daughters. It’s meant for pre-teens and tweens, and I think the beautiful illustrations are appealing for that age group. As a mother, I’ve always wished for better communication with my children, and this is the kind of communication that can really help. With this kind of set-up, you can begin a life-long campaign of writing back and forth with your children, which is a treasure in itself.

Because my girls are too old to do this journal with me, I’m going to give away my copy of Side by Side in a week! To enter, leave a comment here or follow my author Instagram page and leave a comment there. If you tag a friend, you’ll get another entry. I’ll assign numbers to each entry and will randomly choose a number on November 23 (Black Friday). Once I’ve selected a winner, I’ll announce it and notify the winner!

Side by Side: A Catholic Mother-Daughter Journal is available from Ave Maria Press. If you’re not the winner, I really do recommend the book very highly! (This could be a great Christmas gift, moms!)

Side by Side Cover

Please see my extra notes below for more information about the authors.



Lori and Ava Ubowski have a story of their own, as well. Lori is the music director for her parish and is a speaker who, with her husband Adam, leads worship and speaks are parish retreats, conferences, and other events through their music ministry, Out of Darkness. Ava is the oldest of three children and is an honor roll student who is also in band and student government, as well as playing on the volleyball team. She sings and dances, plays piano and violin.

The Ubowskis are also parishioners at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Panama City, which was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. Both their home and parish sustained damage in the hurricane. The family’s friend, Sarah Hart, has set up a Go Fund Me page to assist the family:

The Ubowski family evacuated, but their home and church both sustained massive damage. Currently they are living in a hotel with their three children, as their residence is non-livable. The school their children attend will also not be able to reopen doors for at least 90 days, and the church they have loved and prayed in will likely not reopen for sometime.

Please pray for the Ubowskis, as well as everyone who has been affected by the latest hurricane season.


Text and photos ©2018, Christine Johnson. All rights reserved.

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