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Friday, December 17, 2010

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.




Even during a 1,000 mile road trip that spanned 3 states and hardly left any time
for him to run and stretch his legs, he still managed to smile and melt my heart all over again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Baking

I love baking cookies, although they don't always come out perfect. Sometimes the bottom is too crispy or, out of fear of burning them, I under cook them.

It seems that everyone is doing some sort of Christmas cookie baking over the holidays, so I thought I'd point you in the direction of this article that was on Yahoo! yesterday.

If you are a amateur baker like me, then these tips are sure to have your cookies looking and tasting great. If you are an avid baker, than you probably already know these things.  Feel free to share some of your tips that aren't listed in the article.

photo by flickr user scubadive67

photo by flickr user kern_justin

photo by flickr user Stephanie Kilgast

Did you read the article? What tips do you have for baking great holiday cookies?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift Idea (and Sponsor Highlight)

Are you still looking for Christmas gifts? Is there someone on your list who seems impossible to shop for? I've found that hard-to-shop-for people (especially women) tend to love handmade gifts, which are personal and made with love.

Joyeful Art on Etsy sells a collection of watercolor prints, greeting cards, and earrings.


These handmade greeting cards are a perfect gift that the recipient can use throughout the year for any occasion.


These earrings are awesome! 

(From her site:) Painting loose, colorful watercolors of flowers is a passion of mine. This piece, "Blue and Orange" was a blast to paint! I have this wonderful watercolor showcased in a set of earrings made from fine silver. There is a small dangling lapis and a sweet flower on the back.

Be sure to visit Joyeful Art for any last minute Christmas shopping. Her watercolor paintings are beautiful and the earrings are so unique-they are bound to make someone on your Christmas list smile.  I'd love a set of the greeting cards for Christmas!

How is your Christmas shopping going? Do you have everything bought and wrapped
or are you still making your shopping list and getting up the courage 
to brave the crowds? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Flash Mob-Sign Me Up

Have you gotten a chance to see this flash mob that happened in a Canadian mall last month?



I would love to be a part of one of these...or witness one.

Do you ever watch Modern Family?  I just started watching it this season and it's easily one of my favorite shows now.

This flash mob scene with Cam and Mitchell cracks me up.



Mitchell just might be my favorite character on the show.

Anyone want to organize a flash mob with me? :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Notre Dame Christmas Spirit (and a Sponsor Highlight)

Whimsical Winston on Etsy is a collection of handmade hats, Christmas decorations, hair accessories, and home decor made by Ruth and Deborah.

I was thrilled when Ruth told me she wanted to send me a snowman of my choice.  Ruth and Deborah make customizable snowmen.  When I saw that they make team-themed snowmen, I knew that I needed to request a Notre Dame football snowman for my husband.  He is a huge fan (he's converted me as well).





Isn't he adorable? I know he will make a great addition to our Christmas decorations for years to come.  I was very impressed with how quickly they made the snowman and shipped him.  He was made and arrived on my doorstep just a week after placing my order! 

If you need some Christmas decorations or want to buy a gift for a friend, you still have time to order and receive it before Christmas.  

They also sell a variety of couch pillows, scarves, and hair accessories. 






Make sure to visit Whimsical Winston to find the perfect Christmas gift.  And if you are in the market for some handmade Christmas decorations, they have a bunch of cute ornaments to choose from.  

Thank you Ruth and Deborah for sending me this cute snowman!
I love it and know it will be on display in our home 
for many Christmases to come. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.




'The Walk' by Shaun Alexander: A book review

(*From the Book Tour)
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:

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shaun Alexander was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks after a standout football career at the University of Alabama. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, in 2005 he set an NFL record by scoring twenty-eight touchdowns. In the same season, he set a team record by gaining 1,880 rushing yards and leading his team to the Super Bowl. Today, Shaun travels the country speaking to business and military audiences, at sports camps, and at churches and Christian conferences—appearing in front of thousands of people. He is a gifted communicator and Bible teacher who points listeners toward exceptional achievement by aligning their lives with God’s perfect will.




Product Details:

List Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307459519
ISBN-13: 978-0307459510

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


All through history, people have asked,

“Is there anything not possible?”

—SHAUN ALEXANDER

Sweat drips from my nose as I lean over, hands on my knees, and gasp for breath. I look across the huddle at the left tackle. He’s a high school all-state pick; he’s a college all-American; he’s an all-pro offensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL). Our eyes meet, and I grin at him. He nods back as if to say, “Follow me.”

To my right is the fullback. Blood trickles down his forearm, and mud covers his jersey, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s my running mate and my protector. He leads the way, opening holes in the line and throwing his body against linebackers, safeties, and defensive ends who try to stop me. He catches my eye and winks as if to say, “Let’s do it.”

Moments later the quarterback leans into the huddle. “All right. We need two yards for a first down. Green, power right, check, shift right, F left, ninety-seven OT on two.” This is a play where I follow the fullback to the right through a hole between the right guard and the right tackle.

As we break the huddle, I see the crowd stand to its feet. At the far end of the field, the American flag flaps in the breeze. The crowd is cheering, watching, hoping. Seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, knees bent, cleats digging into the turf, I ease into position.

And then everything slows down—the American flag on its pole, the crowd, the players on the field. As if in slow motion, linemen settle into their stance, planting their hands in the grass. Tension fills the air. Something big is about to happen. The quarterback barks the signals, firm and decisive. “Set. Hut!”

Suddenly there’s a loud pop as our linemen collide with players on the defensive line. Up and down the line of scrimmage, groaning and growling, players wrestle like gladiators. As the quarterback drops back, I step to the right. In the next instant I feel the ball slap against my stomach. I clutch it with both arms. My legs are moving, my mind racing. Read it. Read it. Hit the hole or cut back. “Cut!” I plant my foot and explode through the line.

Ahead of me, the fullback crashes into a linebacker. The slot receiver sprints toward the safety. As they collide, the safety flips into the air.

The crowd gasps.

With the safety out of the way, I move to the left toward the sideline. From the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the crowd on its feet. Fans are waving their arms and screaming, but all I hear is the whoow, whoow, whoow of my breath as I sprint down the field.

By then the cornerback has taken an angle on me and is closing fast. He cuts into my lead with every step. I run harder and harder, calling on every ounce of strength in my body, past the forty-yard line, then the thirty, and the twenty. The cornerback is closing the gap as my foot crosses the ten-yard line. I can hear him behind me and just to the right. I can feel his eyes boring in on me and know that every muscle in his body is pushing to knock me down.

At the five-yard line he dives, reaching with both hands to make the tackle. His arms brush my cleats. I stumble, put my hand on the ground, then stumble again. All the while I tell myself, Pick up your head. As I stagger to the right, I lift my chin. My feet come under me, and I sweep into the end zone for a touchdown. A sixty-yard run on third-and-two. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

The roar of the crowd echoes in my helmet as I turn to celebrate with my teammates. Then up the field I see the trainer and members of my team running toward the thirty-yard line. A player is lying on the ground, writhing in pain. I jog up the field and join the players who are gathered around him. I can see that his leg is broken, twisted at a sickening angle.

“Get the cart,” someone orders. Others sigh with resignation, knowing an injury like that could take a player out of the game for the remainder of the season, perhaps even for good. Then, without hesitation, some of us kneel beside our injured teammate.

We lay our hands on his leg and begin to pray, invoking God’s healing presence and power. We agree together, just as Scripture says, “Lord, let Your will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. There are no broken bones in heaven” (see Matthew 6:9–10). As we pray, the player’s shattered bone moves back into place, perfectly aligned and as strong as before. Our teammate looks up at us, his eyes wide with wonder.

How would you express the feeling of having your broken leg repaired by God while you’re lying on a football field?

By then the crowd is silent, many standing with their hands to their faces in a look of amazement. They start to murmur, and the look on their faces says they have never seen anything like this. Even those of us who prayed for our teammate to be healed watch in awe as he trots toward the sideline. I turn to the others, look at them, and point to—

Just then my eyes popped open, and I stared at the ceiling. My heart was pounding. “It was just a dream,” I whispered. I glanced at the alarm clock and rubbed my eyes. “But couldn’t it really happen, just like that?”

I have dreamed that dream many times, wearing the different uniforms of the teams I’ve been a part of in high school, college, and the NFL, and I have realized that I’m not really me in that dream. I represent a Christian who believes in God’s power and lives in such a way that God is free to work through his life. The dream illustrates what God can do through a life that is fully yielded and obedient to Him.

Still, I ask myself, is it possible? Can God do today what He did long ago through men like Moses, Elijah, and the first-century apostles? Is it possible for us to experience His miraculous presence to the same extent they did? I think it is. Scripture certainly suggests that it’s possible. But how?



LIVING YOUR DREAM

Football has been more than a dream for me. I began playing as a young boy, back in Florence, Kentucky. With the help of coaches, my parents, and many others, I developed skills as a player and earned a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. There, I played for Coach Gene Stallings and Mike Dubose with the Crimson Tide. After college I was drafted in the first round (nineteenth overall) to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

My sixth season with the Seahawks was my breakout year. I set a number of team and NFL records and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. At the conclusion of that season, we won the National Football Conference championship and went to the Super Bowl. Although we lost to Pittsburgh, that season was one of my best ever.

As I began my seventh season in 2006, I looked forward to building on what we’d accomplished the prior year. I trained hard and came to the season’s first game with great expectations. We opened that year against the Detroit Lions.

Sometimes life-changing events come to you with a sign written in huge letters that spell out “Your Life Is About to Change.” Other times the moment slips by with little or no recognition. That game against Detroit was one of the latter. I didn’t realize its significance until months afterward.

During that game a defensive lineman fell on my foot, pinning it in place between his body and the ground. He had shot through the line toward me, and as I cut left to escape his grasp, one of his teammates met me face to face. All three of us fell to the ground. This seemed like a normal play: you get the ball, you run, you get tackled. Pads crash, bodies hit the turf, the whistle blows, everybody gets up and tries it again. That’s football. That’s normal.

But on this play my left foot got sandwiched between the ground and the lineman’s three-hundred-pound body. As I trotted back to the huddle, I could feel the pain.

For a football player, physical pain is a way of life. Since I began playing organized football as a young boy, I have taken the field while nursing sprains, strains, and aches in almost every part of my body. That day against Detroit I didn’t think about the pain. But the pain in my foot never went away. I continued to play that day and carried the ball nineteen times for fifty-one yards. The pain was a distraction, and I failed to gain the yardage that I expected of myself, but I wasn’t too concerned.

After the game team doctors told me I had a bone bruise. That’s a medically nonspecific term for “You got hit hard, and the pain goes to the bone.” I spent time with the trainer but continued to play. Two weeks later, in a game against the New York Giants, the bruise became a fracture, and I was out most of the season.

Doctors told me to stay off my foot, so I spent a lot of time reading. One of the books I read goes deep into the reality of spiritual warfare. While reading The Call by Rick Joyner, I realized that God works in an orderly fashion; He is a God of order. And as I listened to God, I saw that some things in my life were out of order.



MEETING THE GOD OF ORDER

I’ve been a Christian since I was ten years old. Loving Jesus has been the center of my life. As important as football has been, it has always been second to following the Lord and allowing Him to work His will through me. As I read Joyner’s book, God spoke to me about how He uses order to bring about His will.

Through the remainder of the NFL season, I continued to do exercises to rehab my injured foot, preparing to return to the game. All the while God was speaking to me about the importance of His order. He doesn’t do things haphazardly. As the Scriptures tell us, God is not a God of confusion or disorder (see 1 Corinthians 14:33). And much more than simply an interesting idea, God’s order became something I felt compelled to apply to my life.

With the Holy Spirit as my Guide, I allowed God to review my friends and relationships, and I started to put people—and especially business relationships—into their proper places. I stopped associating with some of the people I had considered friends and began associating with others I had been neglecting. I discontinued some of the business deals I’d been involved in. At the same time I began to pay closer attention to the things I said, particularly the half truths I would sometimes say in casual conversation or in encouraging others.

I finished that NFL season well. My second game back I had a forty-carry, 200-yard game on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks won the division and were headed to the play-offs. We lost in the divisional playoff game against the Chicago Bears in overtime. I gained 120 yards combined and scored two touchdowns in our losing effort. After missing several games and coming back to finish the season, I was excited about the next year.

The following year my foot was healed, and I looked forward to playing a full season. I performed well through training camp and the preseason games. Then, in the first game of the regular season, I bobbled a pass. As I dove to catch it, I fell on my arm and broke my left wrist. Team doctors put my wrist and hand in a cast, and I continued to play, but the cast did little to protect my broken wrist. The weight of it actually caused additional pain, and I struggled to get past that injury. Additional injuries nagged at me for the remainder of the season.

For the fifth year in a row the Seahawks went to the play-offs. We won the division title for the fourth consecutive year. I was happy for the team, but personally I had a year that fell well short of what I expected. The bruises, strains, and broken bones were adding up, and I wondered if they were a signal. Was God using the pain in my body to prepare me mentally and emotionally for a shift to a new stage in my life?

As the following spring approached, I sensed something was going on with the team. Changes were in the wind, but I didn’t know what the changes might bring. Then, as the time for spring conditioning camp approached, the Seahawks’ managers called me. “We’re making changes. We want to take a different direction. We’re releasing you from the team.” And just like that, I was out of the NFL.

Aside from my desire to love and serve God, football had been the primary focus of my life. It was the means God had used to lift me from the small town of Florence, Kentucky, to a life that few athletes ever experience. But I never lost sight of the fact that God—and not the Seattle Seahawks or the University of Alabama or Boone County High School back home—was the One who was blessing me. God is the Source of all goodness and beauty, all truth and love, and it was His favor that took me to the places I’d gone, even to the discouraging day when the Seahawks let me go. I had things I still wanted to do as a football player, but I said, “God’s will be done,” and went home to find out what that would mean.



A NEW WAY OF WALKING

Over the next few months, I wrestled with a new direction for my career and my life. During that time God challenged me. “Meet Me at five in the morning. Let’s talk for an hour, every day.” That was a wonderful invitation. The Creator of the universe wanted to spend an hour with me every day. I was excited about it, but there was a problem. He wanted to meet me in the morning. At five o’clock.

Reading the Bible has always been important to me. When I was younger, I read because that was what I was told to do. Later I realized Scripture was a powerful tool God could use in my life. Once I understood that, I began to read and study every day. I prayed every day, too, some days almost constantly, but I heard the voice of God speaking to me more when I read the Scriptures. So I was eager to meet with Him every day, even though I am not a morning person. “See Me at nine; see Me at ten”—that would be easy. But at five in the morning, I’m usually sound asleep. Yet this was God issuing an invitation, and I had to respond.

The first ten days were tough. They were like two-a-days at training camp in July or August. I set the alarm, pushed myself out of bed when it rang, and found my way to a quiet spot in the house. Although I was excited about the new venture, it was rough.

Days eleven through fifteen were better, but I still was grinding it out. And then, about day sixteen, things began to click. I found myself praying, “God, I want You to be in me and on me.” I didn’t know where that prayer came from; it just rose up within me. Later that week I found a verse in the gospel of John that said,



And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (14:16–17)



Jesus was asking His Father to send us a Gift, and none of us could have imagined a bigger, more life-changing gift. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who will live “with you and will be in you.” I began to get excited, not just about the idea of the Holy Spirit living in me and on me, but by the fact that a prayer, consistent with what Jesus had already said, had come from deep within my spirit. The reference in the gospel of John, “with you and…in you,” isn’t an exact match to the words I had been praying, but it was very close. “With you and in you; in me and on me.” After I saw that verse, getting up early in the morning to spend time with God wasn’t such a chore.

As God and I continued our morning visits, He began to break that concept down for me. “In you”—the knowing, inner sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit that says, “Go this way; say these words.” The Holy Spirit living inside us guides our life and affects what we do and say on the outside.

“On you”—the miraculous, powerful presence of God made obvious and tangible to others through signs and wonders. As we follow Christ and learn to obey Him, God works in us and uses us in the lives of other people.

During the next few days alone with God, I came to a fresh realization that Jesus really lived and walked on earth. He actually died on the cross, rose again, and sent the Holy Spirit to us. In the process my prayer life took on new energy and importance. When I prayed, the same Spirit whom Jesus sent to His followers was in me and on me. To say I felt a tingling sensation all over sounds a little over the top, but that’s the best way I can describe how I felt. Every cell in my body seemed alive and awake, an experience I’d never had before. My spirit was quickened to the freshness of Scripture.

That new sense of being alive in Christ wasn’t confined only to my prayer time early in the mornings. When I prayed for others in meetings or in private, I began to “know” things and “see” things about them. I would picture the person I was praying for, and I’d see some great things and sometimes awful things. At times I would see some very intimate things about the person, but always it would be an insight into what that person needed at the moment. God was giving me these insights, and I was compelled to act. One moment it would be a word or scripture that seemed appropriate and fitting. The next it would be something that had just happened to the person I was praying for, something I had no way of knowing about. And at times it would be something so obvious that it sounded trite. But regardless of how it sounded to me, I did my best to obey God and deliver His message to the person.

At a meeting one night a woman asked me to pray for her. As I touched her hands, I knew in my heart I was supposed to tell her, “Jesus loves you.” That sounds like such a cliché, you could easily say, “Very profound, Shaun. The Holy Spirit had to tell you that? Everybody knows Jesus loves us.”

Yet I knew in my heart the issue wasn’t about theology or slogans or how perceptive it made me appear. The issue was whether I would say those words at that moment to that woman. Would I obey the leading of the Holy Spirit—that still, small voice speaking to me inside—and trust that God knew what He was doing?

It seemed a little awkward, but I smiled at her and said, “You know, I think I’m supposed to tell you, ‘Jesus loves you.’” As I said those words, tears came rolling down her cheeks, and she received a tremendous release of the Lord’s presence in her life. I don’t know anything else about her, and I said nothing else to her that night. But God knew exactly what she needed. For her, hearing those words opened a door inside that allowed God to minister to her. That’s the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and on you.

Another time, my cousin Ben had some friends over. I told them about the prayer time I’d been having and about how real God’s presence was, not only during morning prayer time, but throughout the day. Later in the evening Ben and his friends and I gathered and began to pray. As we did that, I felt led to go around the group and pray for each person individually.

The first one I prayed for was a guy named Cory. Then I moved to Ben. After him I came to a guy I had never met before that night. As I started to pray, I felt certain I should touch his eyes. When I touched him, I knew the Holy Spirit wanted me to tell him, “You will sleep again.”

I knew nothing about him, and I had no idea what those words meant, but I said them just the same. I admit that was strange, but I went on praying for his life and future.

When I finished praying for each person, I asked Cory to stand up. I laid my hand on the top of his head and prayed for God to touch him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Cory smiled and sat back down. We laughed a little about it, and then I asked Cory what he felt. He said, “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. But when you touched my head and started praying for me, my feet felt like they were on fire.”

Afterward, as everyone was leaving, the young man in his early twenties whom I’d never met before that night—the one I had told, “You will sleep again”—took me aside and said, “You were right-on with that prayer about sleep. I haven’t been able to sleep much in weeks.”



THE SPIRIT IN YOU AND ON YOU

When I was a young boy, I saw a movie called The Last Dragon. You probably can still find it in a rental store or on the discount shelf at a big box retailer. The star of the movie was Leroy Green, a man who never fully believed in himself as a kung fu master. But one day he had to defend the love of his life against a man named Sho’nuf. One of the catch lines from the movie is “Who’s the master?” As they fought, Sho’nuf kept asking Leroy, “Who’s the master?” With Leroy backed into a corner, Sho’nuf moved in to deliver the knockout punch. As he did, he asked again, “Who’s the master?” At that moment Leroy reached up and caught Sho’nuf’s fist. Holding it there a moment, he replied, “I am.” And with that a glow came over him. He began to kick and punch with more power. He won the fight and the love of the girl. He became the master that was always inside him. It took his being involved in that fight for him to find it.

The Last Dragon is fiction, but there’s truth in its message. God offers each of us an anointing in Christ. That anointing is available to every Believer once we find out who we really are in Christ.

My early morning prayer regimen continued for about sixty days. Each day I awakened at five and spent at least an hour with God. During that time the Holy Spirit brought to mind the ideas about God’s order that had occurred to me when I read The Call. I realized that my new experiences with the power and majesty of God’s presence in me and on me had to do with the order God follows when He works in our lives. I marveled at how God had begun a conversation with me two years earlier, then had come back to finish it as if the conversation had never been interrupted.

I heard the Holy Spirit say, “This is what happens when you walk the Walk. Not perfection. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for order.”

In the following chapters we will explore that order—the order of life, the stages through which we grow on the way to spiritual maturity in Christ. God can and does use anyone for anything at any time. But in the broader sense of where He begins with us and where He is taking each of us, there is a divinely appointed order, and there is a progression to the way He works in our lives. God meets us when we are Unbelievers. He speaks to us and reveals Himself, and we become Believers. As we grow in Christ, we become Examples, and then Teachers. And in the lives of many of Christ’s followers, God calls them to do the work of Imparters. They do the miraculous work of Christ on earth, just as the first disciples did.

The five stages and their sequence are important: Unbeliever, Believer, Example, Teacher, Imparter. Skip a stage in the maturity process, and error will creep in. Get ahead of God, and things will start to go wrong. But follow His order in your life, and you will see amazing things happen.


*Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for sharing this information with you. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's the Simple Things...

Sometimes it is hard to keep a toddler entertained. Lack of a long-attention span can be blamed. At times, it seems that all those gadgets and gizmos designed to occupy a toddler just aren't doing their job. 


But sometimes it isn't the battery-operated toys that entertain a toddler.


Sometimes it isn't Mom or Dad that need to keep him occupied.


Sometimes he just wants to look at pictures and point to Mama and Dada 
and Baby.


Sometimes toddlers are entertained by the simplest of things. 

What simple things entertain your toddler?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Link Around

I hope everyone had a nice, refreshing, turkey-stuffed Thanksgiving. Now that all the cooking and shopping is over with, and all of the college football games, I thought I'd share a few articles that were posted this week that are worth reading.

  • Here is a cute DIY gift idea for the holidays from Design Mom: DIY monogram mugs. I think these are adorable.  I can always use a new coffee mug. This craft is kid-friendly and fixable if you mess up the first time around. 
  • Traveling with a baby during the Christmas Season? Jessica from Life as Mom gives some very helpful advice. 
  • Do your kids have too many toys? Read these tips for getting your kids to part with toys before the holidays. 

Just a side note, but Notre Dame beat USC today, 20-16, which makes us a very happy family. 

What team does your family follow? 
Any big wins or losses this weekend? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Thanksgiving

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.-- 1 Chronicles 16:34


Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.-- Oprah Winfrey


When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.-- Willie Nelson


am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.--Woody Allen

Thank you to my husband for continually being the man of my dreams. 
You are my best friend and a great father.
Thank you to my family and friends. You all are awesome.
Thank YOU for taking the time to stop by and read this blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!
 I hope you have a great day with your loved ones.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Storytelling on Thanksgiving

I love taking time to remember an event. My husband says I have the memory of a trap door. What goes in never comes out. Little memories become etched in my brain and I often find myself thinking about a random night two years ago spent watching TLC, or the time we drove from central California all the way to Seattle in one day with a 6 month old in tow, or that first time Nate actually seemed aware of the TV. It was last Thanksgiving and the Macy's Day parade was on. It's hard to believe he was only a little over 2 months old at the time, but we was enthralled by the movement and colors on the screen.

Anyway, it's nice to bring certain memories up every once in a while, even if they don't seem important or incredibly significant.

November is National Storytelling Month, which can fit in nicely with Thanksgiving. Many family traditions consists of sitting at the dinner table, smelling the warm, freshly baked food, while each person quickly takes turns recounting what they are thankful for before diving into the turkey and fixin's.


But instead of rushing through this part of they day, why not incorporate National Storytelling Month into the mix? By recounting family memories, each family member will have the chance to also talk about what they are thankful for.

Storytelling helps children activate their thinking process, encourages communication, and creates a sense of connection and community between those who share the story. (source)

Here are some tips to help you incorporate National Storytelling Month into Thanksgiving Day.

1). Break out the albums.  As everyone looks through old pictures, stories will naturally emerge. And as the stories emerge, hopefully everyone will remember to include what they are thankful for.

2). Initiate conversation. Begin bringing up stories. Funny stories are always guaranteed to get everyone talking and sharing. Encourage everyone to share.  Ask them what they remember about the moment. Even the little ones might chime in, which is always (ok, usually) endearing.

3). Showcase family heirlooms. Anything that has special sentimental value to your family can be displayed on Thanksgiving. These things usually spark ideas for conversations and story telling moments.

4). Create a "Thankful Tablecloth." My mother-in-law created a tablecloth where everyone, grandchildren and children, wives and husbands, write their name, year, and what they are thankful for. This tablecloth has been around for many more years than I have been a part of their family, but the history it contains is obvious. Each year, the progress of the childrens' handwriting is evident. New children are added to the mix. Each person figures out something new to be thankful for, while remembering what they were thankful for the year before. I have seen family members begin recounting stories after taking a look at the tablecloth.

5). Choose an appropriate time to reminisce. It seems that most families want take time to reflect before eating.  The food is on the table.  Steam rises from the turkey and that green bean casserole smells delish. Everyone's stomach is growling. Instead of truly reflecting, most just ramble something quickly, hoping that everyone else is just as quick.


What Thanksgiving traditions does your family maintain? 
Do any of them involve storytelling?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Year With God: A Review


I have been taking my time reading through a devotional called, A Year With God, by R.P. Nettelhorst. It has been nice having a new way to spend time in devotions each day.

From the back: Are there any words more powerful than God's? Through his words, the world came into creation and all life into being. God spoke to his first people, Adam and Eve, and he spoke to Noah and Abraham, to Moses, to the kings of Judah and Israel, and to the prophets. 

And he speaks to you today.

God's words are real, and they are full of his love, wisdom, and direction.  A Year With God is a 365-day revelation of God's divine character through his actual words, along with reflections and insights to increase your understanding. You'll discover the context of God's words spoken in the Old Testament--and what they mean for you and your life.

The pros: 
- Each devotion is numbered instead of being arranged by date. This allows the reader to begin at any time and not feel distracted or tied to the date on the page. If I skip a day, I don't worry about it because I don't feel behind. 
-Each devotion is one page long. About half of that page is scripture. This is nice because many devotionals only tend to give one or two scriptures. Sometimes I feel that I am not getting the verse in its full context. However, Nettlehorst's devotional puts the scripture into context and I feel that I am getting to the meat of the scripture. 
-The devotions are organized into juxtaposed categories. These categories include hope and fear, love and hate, perseverance and quitting, faith and doubt, loyalty and betrayal, and many more. Each category has more than 20 devotions in it. By the end of the section, a clear picture of each category has been portrayed and I really get a glimpse of how these traits are portrayed in the Bible.

The cons:
-There isn't an author bio. When I read a book, especially a book that is giving advice of any sort, I want to know credentials. The book contains no author bio. When I googled him, there wasn't much information on him either. 
-Sometimes the devotions end abruptly. Perhaps I am supposed to spend more time in reflection, but more than once I have found myself saying, "huh?" 
-He is not consistent with his choice of scripture translation. Although he makes it clear which translation is being used, the lack of consistency bugs me. Sometimes he uses NLT, then the next day he uses MSG, then NRSV, and then MSG again. If I understood why he chose each translation, perhaps I wouldn't be so critical of it. 

Overall, despite its quirks, I am enjoying this devotional. It has caused me to think about a few things differently. It has a lot of substance and really delves into the Old Testament, which is a section of scripture that is sometimes ignored or just used as a history lesson.

I give it 3.5 stars. 



I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

Friday, November 19, 2010

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toddler Shrieking and How-To Deal

Now that Nate is 14 months old, he has begun this annoying little habit of shrieking/yelling when he wants something. He isn't upset when he does it, but he is definitely trying to get our attention. Imagine a squealing pig combined with squawking parrot and you've got Nate's shrieks.

When we are at home, we can deal with it, but it's when we are at a restaurant that it becomes really frustrating, even a tad embarrassing. It is so tempting to just give him what he wants. But that just perpetuates the problem.

I've been doing a little online research(as well as reading a book called, Charismatic Kid: A New Breed of Superhero) to educate myself in ways to deal with it. With him only being 14 months old, he's a little young for some of the methods that are commonly referred to, but with a bit of modification, I'm hoping that we can curve this little habit of his.


1). Ignore the bad and reward the good.  As the saying goes, "easier to do than say." However, it is something that we are really trying to push ourselves to do. Instead of focusing on the negative behavior, we need to remember to focus on and reward the positive. When he indicates that he wants something without shrieking, then he can have it. Reversely, instead of calling attention to the negative behavior, we need to ignore it.

2). Teach him to sign. Not only is sign language a great way for toddlers to communicate, but it is silent. Signing results in no noise, which is definitely a welcomed break. My husband began signing the word, "eat" to Nate a few months ago and it has been successful. Now, I am beginning to teach him to sign, "please" when he wants something.

3). Baby time outs. This is usually a last resort for me, but if he continues to shriek, we place him in time out.  We have an exersaucer in our living room that is perfect for baby time outs. These do not last longer than a few minutes.

4). Consistency is key. My husband often reminds me of the importance of consistency in life.  This rule especially applies in parenting. If I am going to ignore the bad and reward the good, then I need to do it every time

5). Just breathe. Repeat this mantra: "This is only a phase. It too shall pass."

Do you have any tips for encouraging positive behavior?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea (and Sponsor Highlight)

As a mom and a blogger, I spend a lot of time with my camera. Never wanting to miss a precious moment, messy face, or this-moment-might-never-happen-again shot, I try to remember our camera when we go to restaurants, parks, and of course, when we go on trips.

When I don't have the camera, something very picture-worthy is bound to happen. Then I am stuck taking the photo with my cell phone, which just isn't the same.

If you are a cameraholic like I am, then you need to check out Eclectic Whatnot.  Ruthanne makes adorable camera straps for dSLR cameras.

Like this one:


And this one:



If you are going to carry something around with you all the time, why not make it cute?

Treat yourself (early Christmas present?) or get one for a friend who is into photography.  Ruthanne has a variety of patterns and styles available, so you are bound to find something perfect.

They range in price from $18 to $35.




Check out her site: www.etsy.com/shop/EclecticWhatnot
Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EclecticWhatnot

Charismatic Kid: A Review

Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to read Anthony Recenello's e-book, titled Charismatic Kid: A New Breed of Superhero.  If you've had the chance to watch one of Anthony's vlogs, you know he is about as charismatic as they get. His videos are full of energy, ideas, and inspiration.  I definitely enjoy them.

Onto the book:


Charismatic Kid is divided into 5 sections.

Leadership
-Learn how to become your child's leader.
-Focus on ignoring bad behavior, while rewarding good behavior.
Inner confidence 
-Learn how to wipe away insecurities.
-Tame the ego.
Outer confidence
-Communication tactics.
Creative activities and games
-Improv games that foster creativity.
-Games designed to help parents as well.
Examples and situations. 
-Real life examples with real life solutions.

Each section is divided into subsections that go into detail using hands-on methods for teaching your child to be charismatic.

Every parent wants to have a happy child. We want them to be confident and witty in their conversations, while also being creative, as well as problem solvers. Anthony's book teaches how to, not only model these behaviors for our children, but how to instill these qualities into them.

He includes activities, most of them being fun improv games, that are aimed to help children become obedient, friend magnets, and less prone to being bullied.

This book is not a waste of time. It's not one of those books that sounds good, but in reality, contains a bunch of fluff.  He provides activities that he has tested over and over again. What he says makes sense and I can't wait to put his ideas into action.

Ready to read Charismatic Kid for yourself? Click HERE to download for only $12.
If you want to follow a really funny and witty guy on Twitter, follow Anthony @CharismaticKid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

{This Moment}

In Soule Mama’s words:

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.


Curiosity

Thursday, November 11, 2010

#AmazonFail

Don't mess with Mama Bear and her cubs. 

While many people have voiced complaints about the downsides of social media, the mothers of Twitter have used it for a good cause.  They have banned together against the nation's leading online business.

Yesterday Amazon was selling an e-book titled, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover's Code of Conduct. For only $4.95, the e-book would be quickly and privately downloaded. Today, the book has been pulled from the listings because of blogger threats to boycott Amazon.  Catherine Conners, writer of the blog, Her Bad Mother. began a Twitter campaign yesterday, sending tweets to over 9,000 followers and also using the hashtag, #AmazonFail. 



Her original tweet, which was retweeted hundreds of times, read: "Please boycott @amazon until this (TRIGGER WARNING) pedophilia instruction manual gets removed http://amzn.to/9SKcJi #amazonfail."

Conners told ParentDish, "The abuse of children thrives on silence," she says. "The sexual abuse of children especially thrives on silence. I think that we need to be outspoken and unsilent on anything that supports or perpetuates the abuse of children."

Dr. Phil and Anderson Cooper chimed in on the topic this morning:  Click HERE to see the YouTube clip.

Amazon has removed the book, and while many are happy and relieved, others are still wondering when Amazon will release a public apology. 

This story gets even more shocking. Apparently the removal of the book has sparked some to say that this book should not be removed and doing so is a violation of the First Amendment.  Should we encourage book censorship?

My Take: 
Amazon needs to take steps to ensure that offensive materials that have the potential to harm innocent children are removed. Amazon is a private business. Just because they choose to not sell a book does not mean that the book has been censored from the entire population. It means that they are taking a stand against criminal behavior. There should be a screening process in effect to prevent this type of material from slipping through the Amazon cracks.

I believe that the first amendment was not enacted to protect the words and voices of criminals. 

With all of the recent attacks on social media (bullying, etc), I am happy to see a positive action as a result of many individuals making use of a very powerful network

Want to read more? Here are few links to get you caught up.

-Amazon's Statement
-OneNews: Amazon Pulls Book
-Fox News Report
-PopeHat: Amazon, Outrage, Pedophilia, and the Internet
-CNBC: Amazon in Violation of Masha's Law

Voice your opinion. How do you feel about Amazon's original decision to limit the censorship of reading material? Is an Amazon boycott necessary? Where do you stand on the issue? 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sweet Tooth Satisfying Brownies

Tell me if this ever happens to you.


You are sitting at home, you've just put the kid (or kids) to sleep, and you're relaxing, when all of a sudden it hits.


That sweet tooth craving.  


Maybe you crave candy, or apple pie, or ice cream (like my husband).


But if you are like me, you want brownies. And you want them now. But you know that you don't have any brownie mixes in the pantry and you're already in your comfy clothes. A trip to the grocery store is out of the question.  So you resort to something less satisfying, like a spoonful of peanut butter, or a soda, or maybe even some leftover Halloween candy. 


However, you probably have the ingredients in your pantry to make brownies without running to the store.  


Here's a fun recipe, but there are even simpler recipes available online. Search around until you find a recipe that consists of what you have in the pantry.  


 They are a little messy, but tasty!



 
 Ingredients:
  • 1-1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1-1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups broken walnut pieces, lightly toasted
  • ----
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cups plus milk
  •  
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 pan with tin foil. 

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Make sure to get those ingredients mixed well.  In a separate bowl, melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder.  Beat in the sugar and then the eggs.
This batter will be very light and fluffy-unlike anything that you get from a batter from a box.

Next, add in the vanilla and then the flour mixture.  Mix it until all the ingredients are well incorporated and free of clumps.

At this stage, feel free to add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, walnuts, or any other tasty treat your sweet tooth is calling for.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

While the brownies are baking, begin making the glaze for the top.

On the stove, melt the butter and mix in the cocoa powder. You can do this in a glass bowl over boiling water, or in a sauce pan, but you'll have to watch it really closely to make sure it doesn't burn.  Once the butter and cocoa powder mixture has melted, add the vanilla.  Then mix in enough milk and powdered sugar to make the glaze thicken up.  Just make sure that it is thin enough to spread on top of the brownies.

By the time you finish the glaze, your brownies will be about ready to come out of the oven.  After letting them sit for five minutes, pour or spread the glaze onto the brownies. Then let them sit for a half hour.

That's it! 

These brownies will be gooey, sticky, and delicious.  They will make you blow your diet and you'll want to work out extra hard the next day, but they will be worth every bite, and that darn sweet tooth will be satisfied.

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Tips For Clean(er) Toddler Meals

Photo Courtesy of flickr user Cavale

If your baby is in the infant stage and has yet to eat solids, enjoy it. If you day dream about blissful meals where you delicately feed your toddler all sorts of treats, while he accepts every bite of food and keeps all of his food in his mouth, well, all I have to say is...Enjoy that day dream, because the reality of feeding a toddler is quite different.

Don't get me wrong. I love to feed Nate. Watching his facial expressions as he tries out a new food is priceless. And there is a certain satisfaction that goes along with making your own child a meal and having them enjoy it.

But.

And this a big but, there are times that the dropped food, thrown sippys, stained shirts, and half-chewed food gets to be a bit frustrating.

Here are few tips to help alleviate that frustration and make meal time just a bit more manageable.

1). Never feed your child over carpet.  If your dining room has hardwood floors, than you are in luck. Cleanup will be relatively easy. However, if you are cursed with a carpeted dining area like I am or do not have a dining area and, instead, eat around the living room coffee table, then you need to invest in an Office Chair Mat (click the link for an example).  My husband came up with this brilliant idea. Nate's high chair always stays on the mat and any time most of the time, when he drops his food, it winds up on the mat instead of on the carpet leaving unsightly stains.

2). Keep bibs close.  In my old house, when Nate was much younger and rarely ate solids (with the exception of rice cereal), bibs and rags were stored in a drawer in the kitchen and quite a distance from the eating area. That was a convenient place for them then since I mostly used bibs to soak up his drool when we were out and about. Now, I have a three-drawer organizer hidden behind the dining room table. I keep it full of bibs, rags, and other must-have accessories for a toddler.

3). Keep wipes closer.  There are two containers of wipes in my house. One container is kept on the changing table for the obvious reason-diaper changes. The other is kept just behind the highchairs on the counter. The wipes are within arm's reach if Nate wipes a hand covered in peanut butter through his hair, spits sweet potato puree onto my shirt, or throws a peach beyond the limits of the office chair mat and onto the carpet. Having wipes close has alleviated many mini-disasters.

4). Feed only in confinement.  I'm not reciting some petting zoo rule, but rather giving some advice that will save you many headaches.  Handing your child a cookie or carrot to snack on while they are running around is not smart. This will lead to crumbs hidden in toy boxes, between the pages of books, and all over your newly-vacuumed floor. I know this from experience. Take the time to confine your child to the highchair, exersaucer, or some other restraining device (you get the idea) before giving them something to munch on.  Besides keeping your house cleaner, this also teaches good meal habits and reduces choking hazards.

5). Make meal time fun. Being engaged and present during meal time will cut down on messes. I have the habit of trying to get a few things done while Nate eats his breakfast or has a quick snack.  But since he doesn't have my attention, he will often begin throwing his food down on the ground with the infamous "uh-oh" or make a mess with his milk. Enjoying a meal with him or talking to him and having fun seems to drastically cut down on his messy-meal habits.

What works for you? Do you have a system for eliminating meal time stress and mess?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Toys: Disposable or Keepsakes? (and Sponsor Highlight)

Christmas is going to be different for me this year. Unlike last year, my son will actually play with the toys we get him, so there is a bit more pressure to get him good, sustainable (in the sense that they won't break after a month of use), and educational toys that will last through the toddler phase.

This is Nate last year on Christmas morning-just over 3 months old
and couldn't care less about his presents, except for the rattle,
which made a good chew toy.

Have you seen Toy Story 3 yet? Buzz and his friends get put into the dreaded Caterpillar room. Full of out-of-control toddlers, the toys are slammed on the ground, bitten, slobbered on, and basically abused. Poor toys. Anyway, we want toys that will last through this phase.

In addition to durability, we also hope his toys will mean something to him. My husband and I don't want him to have so many toys that they become disposable. It is our goal to have a child who grows up being thankful for what he has. We would prefer that he has a few nice toys that he values, rather than a room full of toys that he doesn't care about.  Instead of disposable toys-or toys that Nate won't even notice if they are thrown away-we want him to have toys he will remember when he's an adult-keepsakes.

It's tough right now because the thrill of ripping a page out of a book is so much greater to him than the thrill of keeping a book neat.

We know that limiting the amount of toys he has will be tough. We already want to buy him every little trinket and gadget available. We see the way his little eyes light up when he holds a new toy, but this is a goal that is important to us and we hope to be able to stick to it throughout his childhood.


Keeping in line with remaining accountable and making smart choices when shopping, I want to point you toward one of my November Sponsors- Natural Kids.  

They are a group of Etsy sellers who are committed to selling toys, utensils, clothing, and accessories for children that are made out of natural materials, such as wood, silk, cotton, and wool.  When shopping on Etsy, simply search for Naturalkids team and the results will contain items from Natural Kids or visit their online store: naturalkidsstore.com 

I think these little handmade ice cream cones are adorable:


Isn't this wool hoodie precious?


Here is an alternative to the typical plastic rings:


Keep Natural Kids in mind when Christmas shopping this year. There are many things to choose from including soft toys, wooden toys, arts and crafts, baby items, clothing, dolls and accessories, educational toys, and home decor.  These unique handmade materials are sure to become treasured keepsakes.