Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Years Ago...

... people everywhere were freaking out and wondering if the world was going to end because of Y2K.      (Now they are worried because of 2012!)

... Big Guy was only 2 years old and Little Guy was still a future dream!

... We had just spent our entire Christmas moving from our little tiny house to our new house.     We were so excited about being only five minutes from hubs' work and having more than one bathroom.    

... The best friends we have ever had still hadn't moved in next door to us.    

... We were still driving 35 minutes one way back and forth to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.     

... We loved watching "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

... Was wondering what we would be doing 10 years from now!!

New Year's Eve Reflections

(In)Courage has these 20 questions on their blog.      It gave me a lot to think about and I am sure it will for you too!

 1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?     Our decision to homeschool.     I have never seen our boys happier when it comes to learning.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?    Our decision to homeschool.     Our boys have a love of learning and I want to challenge them.     This definitely challenges me on a day to day basis.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?      The arrival of my precious twin nieces

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?    The constant day to day stress of hubs' job.   Will he still have one tomorrow?    So many pay cuts, changes and layoffs.     We enter the New Year grateful for his job, but praying for God's guidance.

5. Pick three words to describe 2009.    blessed, thankful, family

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2009 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).    determined, busy, focused

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2009 (again, without asking).   blessed, stress, grateful

8. What were the best books you read this year?      That is a tall order considering how many books I have read.     At the top of the list are definitely the two books by Patti Lacy, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw.      I also loved the book Michal from the Wives of King David series.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?     Without a doubt:   God, Donald, Todd and Tanner

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?     A total lifestyle change.    Going from involved PTO mom to stay at home homeschooling mom was quite a transition.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?    The saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you strong." feels true in my life.     A year ago, I felt like I was dying emotionally.      However, God showed me that wasn't true.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?     So many.     God showed me that I had been reserving pieces of my heart hoping for things that are never going to happen.     Once I turned those pieces of my heart over, He filled it with His love and healing.    

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?      That is the problem... I grew physically!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?      I learned a lot about who my friends are and who they are not.     I stepped outside my comfort zone and got to know some people this year... meeting for lunch, coffee and just a coke.     

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?     I love cooking for my boys.     I love doing things that spoil them in little ways:   putting clean sheets on their bed very regularly,  warming their towels in the dryer,  making hot cocoa to tempt them out of bed in the morning and leaving notes on their pillows.  

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?     I get frustrated when my physical limitations get in the way of all I want to get done around my house.   

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?     Facebook.     I didn't truly comprehend how much time I was wasting on Facebook until I gave it up for our 40 day fast.     

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?      Being a wife and mom

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?     No matter who walks out on you... God never will.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2009 for you.    "No matter what.    No matter where.   It is always home if love is there."  

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Addicted to Blogging Tech



See this button?
I am addicted to it.   
I find a blog I love and I click this button and have it fed directly to my Microsoft Outlook.     I am telling you that it is email "crack"!    I get updates from my favorite cooking sites, crafting sites, and art blogs.


What about Google Alerts?
Oh my heavens!    When I was looking for a certain Christmas gift for Big Guy, I created a Google Alert with the gift item and the word "sale".    Anytime that item went on sale, it sent me an email!    Like my own personal shopper in my email.       Right now I have a new Google alert created to help me find elementary art projects for our homeschool Terrific Tuesday class.   

"Create Rule"...
Don't you love this button in Microsoft Outlook?
I get emails on a regular basis from several homeschool groups.      I clicked the "create rule" button and designated all emails from those groups to be sent to their own file folder.    Love it!   Love it!   Love it!    It organizes my email for me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Painting For Humanity

Little Guy's best friend called early this morning. His dad is the project coordinator for our local Habitat for Humanity house. They were heading to the project site to get some more work done since we are expecting rain tomorrow. They invited Little Guy to go with them. It was a very cold day so he bundled up and borrowed a pair of work boots from his friend since the house site is very muddy.

When Little Guy got home his face was beaming. Mr. G told me "anytime that Little Guy can go help me I can use him. He works hard and is good at what he does." Mr. G had put Little Guy to work doing the "cutting in" around all the windows and wiring.

My sweet guy has a heart for others. Whether it is painting a Habitat House or raising money for orphans in South Africa, he is ready to help.

New Year's Tradition Part 2

New Year's Eve may mean partying to a lot of people, but for me it always makes me think of how God has been with me during the previous year.      My hubs and I have become even more grounded in our faith during the past 17 months.     We have learned through the test of fire that God will never leave us or forsake us no matter who else does.    

One of our New Year's Eve traditions since we were married is to purchase a new devotional book to use for the following year.     When our boys were born we began buying devotional books for them as well.      We want to emphasize to them how important daily time with God is so that when the trials of life comes they are standing on the Solid Rock.

Because I review books for publishers, two of my devotional books were sent to me for preview for free this year.   

The book my hubs and I will be using...


The Love Dare challenged individuals to love their spouse more. Closer shows wives and husbands how to grow that love together. Introduced with Scripture verses and engaging stories, these 52 devotionals will inspire couples to draw closer through faith conversations--those quiet talks so vital for emotional and spiritual intimacy in a marriage. Guided, practical action steps round out each reading. 
 
 
The devotional book for Little Guy...
 

What's the name of the first car Henry Ford built? Why do we say "o'clock"? Which American candy was named after somebody's daughter? Pairing fun facts with Scripture verses and biblical truths, this delightful daily devotional will entertain, teach, and keep your kids growing in the Lord.

Big Guy is starting the year out with a combo...


You may never have to make the ultimate sacrifice, but you are called to daily give up something of this earthly existence to pursue the amazing life Jesus promises to His followers. Ryan Dobson shatters common misconceptions about dying to self, spelling out the realities of the deadly spiritual battle we all face, providing clear guidelines for making life-and-death choices daily and dealing with how to overcome the emotional struggles that accompany both failure and success.

and


Bite-sized Bible readings for time-starved teens! Here are 366 faith-building meditations to help your kids connect with God's Word every day. Through selections from the readable HCSB translation, they'll cover the central themes of Scripture in one year. Includes thoughtful quotes, biographical sketches of major Bible characters, "One-Minute Memory" verses, and a topical index.


Have you found a great devotional?    Let me know!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Tradition Part 1

How do I choose?    Every year I go out the days after Christmas and browse through all the boxed calendars trying to decide which one to buy the boys.       It is part of our New Year's tradition.    The boys get a day by day boxed calendar on New Year's day.    

I normally make my choice based on their current interest or hobby.     A paper airplane, sticker-a-day and Boggle calendars for Little Guy.     Baby Blues, Trivial Pursuit and Hangman calendars for Big Guy.

Then I go to my favorite bookstore to look and there about 247 choices!     So many fun, fun choices.    Well, most of them are fun... some of them are just crazy or out of the question. 

However, I think I finally settled on some calendars which the boys will enjoy.     They are both really hooked on games and especially word games so I chose the following calendars for them:










I also picked up this calendar.    It won't really serve as a calendar per se, but I am going to put it in our car travel box.   It will be a lot of fun when we are in the car or in restaurants.



  
Although I don't normally buy a calendar for myself, I picked up this one because it has features that really mean something to me now that I am homeschooling.      Every day it has a new quote, new word, new joke, and new events in history.       PLUS, it has a section where I can list my "to do's".          I have a feeling this calendar is going to be one of my favorites for this year.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why People Diet In January

January has always been associated with resolutions. Traditionally, the most commonly adopted resolution is dieting. Want to know why? It is all the comfort food eating you have to do to survive the holidays!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eternity Falls

Kirk Outerbridge developed a passion for storytelling at an early age. Through years of reading Fantasy and Science Fiction novels, comics, table top gaming and watching endless hours Japanese anime, he developed a keen sense for what made stories enjoyable and more importantly—what didn’t.

While pursuing an engineering degree in college, Kirk endeavored to tell his own stories, choosing writing as the easiest and cheapest medium to master—or so he thought. Several years and several hundred thousand words later, he produced a Sci-fi trilogy that shall never (God willing) see the light of day, but that did teach him much needed lessons about the craft of writing fiction.

After college Kirk returned to his homeland of Bermuda where he reunited with his childhood friend and future wife, Ria. But before marrying his lovely wife, Kirk entered an even greater marriage and devoted his life to Christ in 2002.

With a new found direction in life, writing fell by the wayside but the urge to tell futuristic stories never left. After much prayer and contemplation, Kirk purposed his writing for God’s Will, seeking to draw to Christ those who shared his passions for all things futuristic and Sci-fi.

Kirk currently lives with his wife Ria and 18 month old son Miles in beautiful Bermuda. He is a faithful member of the Church of Christ and is a professional engineer employed by the government.



ABOUT THE BOOK

In the future, death is only a problem if you can’t afford the price. Such is the promise of Gentec Corporation’s “Miracle Treatment”, a genetic anti-aging elixir that grants eternal life—or does it?

When a Gentec client suddenly dies of natural causes, the powers that be will stop at nothing to ensure their version of eternity remains unchallenged; even if it means concocting a religious sabotage conspiracy to cover a lie.

With the media about to blow the story wide open, the credibility of Gentec and the lives of millions of clients rest on one man’s ability to uncover the truth.
Enter detective Rick Macey, religious counterterrorist expert and Gentec executive Sheila Dunn’s last hope for salvation.

Now with the clock ticking and the corporate brass seeking their own solution at any cost, Macey must track down a religious zealot out to destroy the Miracle Treatment for good.

But when Macey finds himself not only falling for his client, but confronted with the possibility that the culprit could hold a connection to his shaded past, the truth suddenly becomes a dangerous thing.

Only through a test of faith can he stop the crisis before it’s all too late and eternity falls.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Eternity Falls, go HERE

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homemade Christmas

**spoiler alert... If you are in our family you will be seeing "gifts" in this post!**

Like so many, our finances are very tight this year.       Hubs' job has taken some major hits.    However, as always, God is so good to us.       The boys and I have always enjoyed doing crafts together and being able to make crafts for our family is even more fun.    

While we were cleaning out for our garage sale I found a stash of ornaments I bought last year to try to decorate for our family for this year.      We have had a blast painting and decorating ornaments for our family.


an iPod snowman for my iPod crazy Big Guy


a chef ornament for my cooking crazy Little Guy



a baseball cap wearing snowman for my sweet little nephew, L
(Yes.  It drives me crazy that there is a brush bristle in the paint,
but it is dry now so I can't do anything about it!)


Just one of the snowgirls I painted for my twin nieces.

Speaking of my nieces and nephew.   Earlier this summer, I was browsing the clearance section of Michaels.
Clearance sections... be still my heart.   They had animal alphabet cards.    One of the sets looked like this.   I loved the fact that the animals were unusual instead of your usual d is for dog.




They said they were for scrapbooking, but I immediately had an idea.    Why not make books for my sweet babies?    A little laminating, some binder rings and some ribbon and here is what I will be giving my sweeties  Christmas...




 
I hope they enjoy them as much as I do.     I wish I had had something like this for Big Guy and Little Guy when we were little.    I think it would have been fun to have books like these to tuck into their car seat or the diaper bag.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Gingerbread Dream Houses

Making gingerbread houses is one of our favorite things during the Christmas season.   This year our friends were here from Atlanta and they got to make one too.    They had never made gingerbread houses before, but they said they would definitely be making them again!   

Because we use our houses as part of our Christmas display, we hot glue them together so that they will be sturdy.    Don't worry.... there is PLENTY of candy to eat.



After the houses are assembled, the kids went to work.     All four kids had their own approach and their own ideas.    Personalities were definitely apparent!







After several hours of icing, decorating and creating, they finally proclaimed their houses finished.   






Our friends loved making these gingerbread houses, but they were REALLY excited when we told them about our New Year's Eve tradition with the gingerbread houses.       We stuff them full of fireworks and blow them up!      

I am not sure if it was all the sugar they had eaten or just the thought of using explosives to destroy something... but all the kids were giddy at the promise of New Year's Eve!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Am A HUGE Fan of Acapella!

Did you watch The Sing-Off? No? I loved it. These groups showed that they can REALLY sing!

My two favorite groups from the beginning made it to the finals: Nota and Beelzebubs. They were AWESOME! I will definitely be buying their albums.








Congratulations, Nota! You did a GREAT job!!!

What Is Your Linus "Security Blanket"?

In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus, as always, can be seen with his blue security blanket.
But do you notice that when he recites “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” from Luke 2:10, he lets it go?

What is your “security blanket”? Share about a time when it was hard to trust God to feel safe or strong.

Another Special Friendship


Doesn't Little Guy And Star look cozy with their feet up to the fire?    That kind of describes their friendship.   Cozy and comfortable.    Despite their age and gender difference, they have always gotten along so well.   




Star loves to cook just like Little Guy.     Can you say winner/winner chicken dinner?



Look how gorgeous Star is?    I'm just thinking that arranged marriages might not be such a bad thing!     Getting Star for a daughter-in-law.....


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Behind The Angel Tree

Our family has made The Angel Tree part of our Christmas tradition for several years; however, this is the first year that we have had the opportunity to be a part of volunteering behind the scenes.

All I can say is.... WOW! The Angel Tree Toy Distribution Center works with an efficiency that would impress Santa and his elves. Organization and efficiency is the name of the game when you are trying to make sure that 14,040 children receive gifts for Christmas.

Your first stop is the check in table where you sign in as a volunteer. If you are a first timer, you receive a tour through the process. Otherwise, you go get started.

First stop.... pick up a family sheet with the name of "angels" on it. Each family has a code assigned to it.

Two.... Go to the section of the building with presents bought by community members and see if there is a bag with that code on it meaning that the child was adopted. If you find a bag, go to a station and open it to see what was purchased. If there is no bag, go to the shopping area to shop for the child.

Three... the family sheet tells you the child's requests. This helps you fill their requests. Because many families have more than one child it is important to make sure that the children get equal amounts. It is your job to see that this happens. The "store" allows you to shop to help even out gifts.

Four.... once you have rebagged, relabeled and tagged all the gifts, you put the bags back into the distribution slots and refile the family sheet with the word "complete" written across the sheet.

Did you know that Mississippi was named the most giving state last week? Standing in that distribution center last week I could see why.

As we stood at our stations, we were surrounded by other volunteers. Some were homeschool families like us. Some were Ridgeland Police officers on their lunch break. Some were Belhaven basketball players. All of us were there hoping to make Christmas better for some children.

Volunteering behind The Angel Tree... it is definitely going to be a new tradition at our house!

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Wish You Jesus

More Than Anything...
http://www.thechristofchristmas.com/

Share the gift! Post this on your blog too!

Best Buds







Sharkbait and Big Guy.      A lot of time has passed since these two guys met.      They weren't even in preschool yet and were playing Legos and Matchbox cars when Sharkbait's family moved nextdoor.     They were fast friends and have stayed that way ever since.     Not even a move has changed their friendship.  

They have changed a lot since they were three.     Now they are 12 and 13.      When they get together they play video games and hide in their "man cave" (below).       They wouldn't admit it, but they secretly love it when we deliver a tray of hot chocolate and popcorn to them.        We have to be more creative now in the ways we spoil them.      Respecting the young men they are becoming while trying to hold on to the little guys we want them to be.

But... always and forever these will be two special young men.     Smart beyond what I think even they understand.     A bright future that only God knows at this point.     A two sets of parents who love each of them as their own.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Mystery of the Christmas Cookie

Oh great! I am supposed to bake Christmas cookies, but during the night an "elf" snuck in and messed up my recipe. I called in my detectives to perform some experiments on the mess they left in our kitchen.



There are six bowls with six powders inside, but how do I know which is flour, sugar, baking powder, etc...?      The boys set to work testing them with samples of water, iodine, heat and vinegar.





Their favorite part was testing each sample over the heat (candle flame)...   What is it with boys and fire?



They carefully recorded their observations and results.    (Dr. Wifey would be SO proud!)




Thanks to the boys, we figured out which bowls had the right powders in it so that we were able to make cookies!    Case solved!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Man of His Word

(This book provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishing.)

Moriah's heart will only be safe with A Man of His Word

When Moriah Byler married Levi Miller, she thought they would share a long life together. She is astonished when one day he abruptly leaves the Order, and her along with it. She is hopeful that they'll reconcile, but Levi has a fatal accident. Unbeknownst to him, Moriah is pregnant.

Moriah finds herself alone and unsure where to turn. She’s reticent about trusting her heart to anyone. What Moriah doesn’t know is that Levi’s twin, Gabriel, has loved her for years, but has kept this to himself. Gabriel is a man of his word--and a man of God’s word. After another unexpected tragedy, Moriah must learn to unguard her heart and accept his love so she can be made whole again.



Book Review: The Amish community is very fascinating to me. Their lifestyle. Their culture. Their approach to the Bible. It is a study in contrasts to me. After reading so many books on the Amish culture, I was fascinated to know what would happen in a situation like this.

Of course, there are some situations that are faced in pretty much the same way no matter what religion or culture you are in. Imagine how your life would crumble if your husband leaves for another woman and then is killed in a car accident. To add to the horror, you are pregnant with your first child.

Although I found some situations which would not actually happen in an Amish community, I though this was a wonderful book!

The One Year Did You Know Devotionals 2


Kids ages 6-10 love trivia, and this devotional is chock-full of interesting and sometimes silly facts. Each fact is explained briefly; the theme of the fact is then used to share a biblical truth as well as a Bible verse. The Bible message and verses tie directly to the theme of the facts, providing a better opportunity for kids to remember and apply the biblical message. What car was the first car Henry Ford built? Why do we say o’clock? Which American candy was named after someone’s daughter? Find the answers to these questions and learn a biblical lesson by reading The One Year Did You Know Devotions 2.

(This book provided for review by Tyndale House Publishers.)

Book Review: Current studies are showing that one of the reasons kids are leaving church when they reach high school and college ages are because they don't see the relevance of the Bible in their every day life. It is our job as parents to plant those seeds of Scripture into their lives so that they see the relevance. This series of Bible devotionals called "Did You Know?" is a good way to do that. There are lots of pages with "I didn't know that!" facts for you and your children. It also provides a Biblical theme which ties into that fact. Not only would this make a great night time devotional, but would be a great book to keep in the car for casual reading.

Tasting Christmas


Christmas with one year olds is such an adventure. Everything is new to them. All the lights, sounds, books, and tastes. MM and LK found a cup full of candy canes so I put them in their chairs and let them have one to taste.

LK scrunched her nose up like she wasn't so sure...



but MM said, "MMMMM!" and loved it immediately!



Christmas through the eyes of a child. Don't you love it??

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who Is Better Than Santa?

Uncle Randy! That is who! Why? Well, for starters, Uncle Randy is real and Santa is... um... well, I won't go there.

But, anyway, let's just say when I hung up the phone and told the boys that Uncle Randy had just called to say he was going to be coming by the boys said, "How long?" They love it when he is here. So do I.

Little Guy wanted to do something special so he asked if he could make him a cake. How could I say no to that?    He got a little frustrated when he realized he was going to have to present it to him in the cake pan.    (He thought that was totally uncool.)


But, Uncle Randy was so sweet and appreciative that it didn't matter after a few minutes.


Besides.... after a few minutes a big chunk of it was gone.     It was yummy!

A Few of our Favorite Things

Just a few of our favorite Christmas traditions...

1. Putting out the nativity collections

2. Putting up trees in the boy's rooms and the living room

3. Family Game Nights (right now we are playing: Yamslam, Pentago, Stare Jr., Picturecka, Scrabble Slam)

4. Preparing boxes for Operation Christmas Child

5. Sending out Christmas Cards

6. Going to Canton to see Lights on the Square

7. Baking Cookies

8. Make a Gingerbread House

9. Sitting in front of the fire with all the lights out except for the tree

10. Drinking lots of hot chocolate

11. Watching Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3

12. Watch Frosty the Snowman and make popcorn

13. Going to our church Christmas choir program

14. Buying an ornament that represents something that we did during the year

15. Wrap Christmas Gifts

16. Take Christmas gifts to teachers

17. Breakfast for Dinner

18. Buy food for the food pantry

19. Decorate yard with Dad

20. Read Favorite Christmas Stories (Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, Mary's First Christmas, etc...)

21. New Christmas pajamas

22. Buy a new Christmas CD

23. Advent devotionals each night before bed and lighting the candles on the advent wreath

24. Put away all the baby Jesus figures from the nativity scenes until Christmas morning

25. Having a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas morning including birthday cake

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gloria!

It took my breath away. When I walked through the doors of the sanctuary yesterday morning, the presence of God was so strong... so electric... that it took my breath away. I felt my feet stutter in their steps and I searched our packed sanctuary for a place to sit. On the way down the steps to our seats, I passed our minister of music who was on his way up to talk to our sound team. I almost stopped him briefly to say, "Do you feel the electricity of God?" But I didn't. I didn't want him to think I was silly.

Under normal circumstances, sitting in a sanctuary that was as full as ours was yesterday would make me feel claustrophobic, but I was unaware of those around me. All I could think about was the blanket of God that seemed to settle down on me.

The orchestra began to play and I closed my eyes to just soak in His presence and allow myself to worship. All traces of makeup were washed away as I cried through the entire service.

I can only imagine the amount of work that went into preparing for yesterday's service. The hours of practice, prayer and work. All I know is that God was there and I was definitely standing on Holy Ground.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sheriff's Surrender

ABOUT THE BOOK


Gert Dooley can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards, but she wants Ethan Chapman to see she's more than a crack shot with a firearm. When the sheriff of Fergus, Idaho, is murdered and Ethan is named his replacement, Gert decides she has to do whatever she can to help him protect the citizenry. So she starts the Ladies Shooting Club. But when one of their numbers is murdered, these ladies are called on for more than target shooting and praying. Can Gert and the ladies of Fergus find the murderer before he strikes again?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sheriff’s Surrender , go HERE

Book Review: A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. And in the town of Fergus, the ladies have decided that what they have to do is protect themselves after their sheriff is murdered. That sounds reasonable doesn't it? Unfortunately, this decision steps on the toes of the men in the town. So while trying to soothe their ruffled feathers, someone commits a second murder. The "Ladies Shooting Club" becomes more of a want and now a necessity.

Such a great read about relationships between men and women. Those fine lines and finding someone who loves and respect you for you.

Mmmmm.... Yummy In My Tummy