Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Game Time is Family Time

I really love the game reviews that are featured at Callapidder Days a few Saturdays a month. Katrina shares games that she and Camden (9) enjoy playing as well as games that are good for she and her husband to play in lieu of watching TV, or a great game that she enjoys to play with a crowd. Well, I'm no Katrina, but she has inspired me. She reminds me that game time is family time. If I consent to playing a game with the kids, I'm proving to them that I'm willing to participate in their interests. So lately Kyle and I play a lot of All Aboard Thomas as a matching game or the Go Fish option (or "No Gold-fish" as he calls it). Hi-Ho Cherrio has made a comeback, and isn't mind-numbingly tortuous for me and is great for his counting skills and fine motor skills.

Amanda's fun now, because she's firmly in that 8 to adult camp, opening up many new doors of gameplaying. When we were at Target recently, I picked up Cinqo (inspired by Katrina's cool description of another take-along kind of game). I like this game. It is indeed portable (and the hard case and dice entertain Kyle when the need arises as well). On each turn, a player is trying to get the most points by either rolling the lowest possible or the highest possible (you add your dice and use that blue scorecard). On each roll, you must save one die. You can also bank other dice which you can save on the next turn if you have no dice worth saving. One tricky element is that there's a die that has an up arrow, meaning you are rolling for a high score, and a down arrow meaning that you are rolling for low score. It also has options of 1, 2, or 3, which also correlates to the amount of points you will earn (that number multiplied by the score on the card). So, if I roll a couple of sixes on the first roll, I'm going to try to go for the high score. However, if the die is a 1 up, I might decide to risk it, to get a 2 or a 3 up. But occasionally that greed leads you to only down arrows as an option, at which point, you have no hope, because once a die is saved or banked, you cannot remove it. For people like me who do not always have other willing game players handy, you can also play solitaire by seeing how many turns it takes you to get to 100.

Do you have fun game time memories or are you making your own? The Toy Industry Association (TIA) is sponsoring an exciting “Play Is Forever” Sweepstakes that combines several of my favorite things--amazon.com, gift certificates, and games.

This is an opportunity for contest lovers to share their favorite memory of play – and be entered into a random drawing to win one of 20 $250 certificates redeemable for toys and games on amazon.com. Both kids (age 13+) and grown-ups are invited to enter at www.playisforever.com.

This website offers fun facts and play tips, emphasizing that whether you’re six or sixty, play is a great way to learn about yourself and the world around you. Research shows that play enriches your social skills, supports brain development, and enhances your physical and emotional well-being.

So, click on over to enter to win, but before you do, share one of your favorite family games or adult games, or a favorite game from your childhood.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Slaying the Fashion Victim

I went shopping this weekend. I ended up going alone due to a change in my friend's plans, but since Amanda had a three hour church rehearsal, and I had my husband's blessing, I tried to take advantage of the alone time. As I walked around the mall, I felt decidedly like one of the poor souls that Stacy and Clinton feature on What Not to Wear, who end up near tears in their frustrated states. I am not a shopper. Although I have a fairly good idea of what I was looking for, finding it was an entirely different matter. I tried on some things, and I even ventured into Ann Taylor--a place where I have never shopped, but women whose style I admire, do. I tried on several items there, but nothing wowed me enough to pay the price. I'm trying to get over my sticker shock, and if I love something, I'm going to buy it, but it should wow me.

After becoming despondent after an hour in the mall, I took refuge in a familiar store--Waldenbooks. I went to the Food Court, bought a Diet Coke, and found a bench, thinking I might just wait out my time reading. I read for a little while, and decided to leave and make a practical stop at the grocery store before picking Amanda up. I had entered through Macy's and that had been my first frustrating stop. However, I exited via a different way, and found clothes that I had not found when I first got there. Clothes I had looked for but didn't know where to find them. Casual clothes, but not T-shirts. So, I tried on several pair of jeans and several tops. I ended up buying a short-sleeved shirt on clearance, two pairs of jeans (one of which I've decided to take back), and three sweaters. I am not suited up to walk the runway, but I'm happy with my purchases.

I am not finished yet.

Related posts:
The Superficial Change

Monday, October 29, 2007

Deceptively Delicious

It's time for Shannon's fun giveaway carnival. I am offering a new copy of Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious cookbook.

Have you ever tried to get your children to eat more vegetables? Maybe they eat green beans, but would never think of ingesting a beet or piece of cauliflower, or a deep orange winter squash. Jessica Seinfeld noticed the same problem and was determined to fix it. One day as she was pureeing some butternut squash for her baby, and simultaneously making some macaroni and cheese for her older children, she noticed that the colors were the same and simply stirred some into the mac and cheese, and no one was the wiser.

All of these recipes employ these simple purees (that you can make in large batches early in the week). By reading the recipes, I'm sure that you could figure out some ways to deceptively add some nutrition into other favorite recipes. For example, when I was growing up my mom always added tomato sauce instead of water to the ground beef with the store-bought taco seasonings. It wasn't done for nutrition. We liked the taste and texture better, but the added benefit is something I've recognized as I made the dish the same way for my family.

These recipes are not simply kid-fare. All of the recipes are kid-tested and she claims that they are winners in her family, but if you have a problem eating the number of veggies you would like, or your husband is a complete carnivore, these would definitely work for you as well. My one problem is that I would not like to see parents rely completely on this method, nor is this what Jessica Seinfeld advocates. She continues dishing up the vegetables, but if they are refused, she knows that they will at least get some additional vitamins and fiber from the hidden purees.

The cookbook is spiral-bound, which is always handy when trying to consult a cookbook while actually cooking.

If you'd like to win, please leave a comment (U.S. shipping addresses only). Make sure that your comment is either linked to a blog or your email address is included in your google profile, or you leave your address in the comment. I will draw the winner on November 4. If I have no way to contact you, I will draw another winner.

Be sure to check out my reviews (and giveaways) at 5 Minutes for Mom this week too. I have a great parenting book, ScreamFree Parenting, and a practical guide to cancer, Any Day with Hair is a Good Hair Day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

October Showers Bring . . . .

At 5:15 pm last night, the wailing coming from my home was heard through the streets of my town.

Amanda has just found out that her father-daughter hayride and campfire was called on account of rain. Kyle, not to be outdone in the drama department, mourned equally loudly over the fact that I would not let him have a Saltine cracker twenty minutes before dinner.

The mayhem continued for the entire twenty minutes until Dad got home. Kyle was quelled with his pasta and meatballs, but Amanda was still disappointed (even though the event will still take place next weekend). Terry and I decided that we'd create a new event: Family Movie Night. We ate a quick dinner, and Amanda and I went to rent a movie and buy some ice cream, while Terry got Kyle ready for bed, because what's a special family night without ice cream?

In the car, we talked. We talked about movies, teen superstars (most of whom my sweet Innocent doesn't even know), peer pressure, and why Parental Guidance (PG) is a factor in entertainment. It was one of those conversations that you can't contrive. A successful one simply emerges out of the moment.

We really enjoyed our movie. The fact that we enjoyed the ice cream goes without saying. I wouldn't have traded that conversation in the car for anything. I think I've learned to look for unexpected blessings in the midst of my disappointments.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Free or Better Than Free

iMommies is giving away a free ipod shuffle if you sign up for their feed. I did this a few weeks ago, and I've reaped so many benefits. I'm currently participating in an online internet usage survey for which I will be paid when I'm finished. I also learned of a way to get a free Redbox rental each week (Redbox is cool, if you are unfamiliar with the $1 video rentals. You can sign up for that promotion on their site). There are also job opportunities posted, free sample offers, and more. Check it out!

I'm sure I don't have to tell you about 5 Minutes for Mom. There are several new giveaways posted each week--some of them with values well over $100.

Shannon's Bloggy Giveaways site has been going strong. She also posts a new giveaway each day, and Monday she is hosting her second Bloggy Giveaway Carnival at that site. Her Dog Days of Summer was so fun--both to host and to enter. And how can we resist yet another cute button:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Saying Goodbye

A little more than three years ago, Terry and I decided to make the big move from Houston to Connecticut. Just to frame things for you, Kyle was born at the end of May, the first glimpse of the possibility of this job came sometime in early July, and then Terry and I (and little Kyle) made two weekend trips to Connecticut in July and August in order to find a home. By the third week in August, we were on the road in order to make it to Connecticut in time for Amanda to start school.

There were good-byes to be said, details like withdrawing Amanda's enrollment from school, resigning from our positions at church and other ministries, and getting our house ready to sell. We had only about a month once things were all set with the job to make all of these changes. I was certain that God was orchestrating this life change, and we were just plain busy, so I was all business. Tying up all the loose ends took time and mental and emotional energy which didn't leave much for gut-wrenching farewells to friends and family. I've always been more rational than emotional, and I knew realistically that I'd be back to Houston to visit family and see friends, and that all of my loved ones were simply a few keystrokes or digits away.

The night before we left, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant with our closest friends. Afterwards we had one last visit to our frozen custard stand. As we sat outside eating dessert, I saw my friend cuddling my newborn. I watched her children laugh and interact with Amanda. Even though I knew that Tammy and I would still keep in touch, and I would likely see her a couple of times a year, it just wasn't going to be the same.

My friend Andrea just moved away from Connecticut, and I saw her going through the motions in the same way. In fact, just like me, she was leaving but would be coming back a few weeks later to meet the movers at her old house. So, the first goodbye was just "au revoir." When she left for good after that quick trip back, I had a little let-down, but then I remembered that she was just an email or phone call away, just as she was when she lived here. However, it hit me that while I would receive frequent updates about how her children were doing, and I would receive Christmas card pictures, I wouldn't really know. I wouldn't hear her daughter's sweet high voice or see her son as he matured and grew in the area of self-control.

Leaving friends and family behind isn't too hard in this world of technology. Face to face encounters can be arranged and life can be shared over the wire in the meantime. While my friends' and family's hairstyles or hair color or weight might be altered, in all reality, they aren't going to change that much. But give a kid six months, braces, confidence, and a growth spurt and after a couple of years, I won't even recognize him.

I haven't had much problem saying goodbye to friends. But one thing is certain: I'll miss the kids.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No Speech Nor Words

Upon reading that title I can imagine that most of you did a doubletake, "Am I in the right place? Jennifer--no speech nor words--doesn't compute."

Yes, you're in the right place. I'm learning. Changing. Making changes--superficial and otherwise. Read more about it today at Faithlifts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Superficial Change!

Y'all cracked me up with your interest in my forthcoming superficial change. So since you really really wanted to know, now's the time to tell you.

So, I tackled my closet last week in order to get ready to get serious about fashion! Okay, not too serious, but I am finally to the point where I am willing to concede that perhaps I should change my consideration about the clothes I buy. Formerly my chief concerns have been that the clothes were
  • wash-and-wear
  • no ironing required
  • comfortable
  • cheap
As you can see, a little change will go a long way. What spurred this change? For several years I've had friends who were more fashion-conscious than me. Some of them were more fashionable because they shopped more and spent more, but others simply bought better--better quality, better fit, better style. Big Mama and BooMama started talking fashion on their podcasts, and then Big Mama started Fashion Friday. That helped too. At Big Mama's recommendation, I began watching Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (a slightly classier version of What Not to Wear). Most recently I got a review copy of Nina Garcia's Little Black Book of Style.

It's all just finally converged. It's time. I'm ready.

To give you a bit more personal information that I did not include in my 5 Minutes for Mom Tackle post, here are the pictures of things that I finally purged from closet. I was talking with a friend on the phone while I was doing it, and I said, "I have this dress that I wore when I worked. It's nice and simple--" Andrea interrupted me and said with contempt, "You wore it when you worked?" (i.e. 10 years ago) "Throw it out!!" So, I did. I also tossed my sleeveless denim button-up dress. I got rid of this spice colored shirt that is great, but it just does not fit well, but I keep wearing it because I like the color, but I tossed it so that I would stop wearing it and find something that is more flattering. It's tossed on the top, because it wasn't originally in the pile.



As an extension of my birth-week celebration, I'm going out with some girlfriends this weekend, and I requested a shopping trip, so I'm hoping to buy a couple of shirts (of the non-knit, I might actually have to iron variety), maybe a new pair of jeans, and perhaps a new boot. Last week, I bought a classic pair of dress pants (in dark brown, and tossed out my ill-fitting brown pair), but I'd love a pair of black ones as well.

So, talk back--is there one new item you've purchased for your wardrobe (or maybe something you got rid of for good) that's made you feel better about your sense of style?

For before and after closet pics, check out my Tackle it Tuesday.

See my full review of Little Black Book of Style, and leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Queen for the Day

Yesterday was my birthday. Amanda has been telling me that I would be "Queen for the Day." She told me NOT to get up in the morning. I knew she was hatching something up, but since we were planning to go out to brunch after church, I also knew that I didn't need some sort of grand spread. Without letting her know that I was on to her, I set the coffepot up and told her that when she woke up, she could just press start. She did that, and sure enough, shortly after I heard the beans grinding, my coffee was delivered by a little servant wearing a purple bathrobe. She was so cheerful and perky. When she left, she said, "I'll check back later to see if you need anything else!" And she did. I got a refill, and also told her that Kyle was calling and was ready to get up. Terry got him ready for church, so I was able to read in bed while sipping my coffee.

After church we ate at my favorite restaurant. The sun was nice and warm, so in spite of a fairly long wait (anything over fifteen minutes is long with kids), we maintained our composure as we waited for our table. Breakfast did not disappoint.

Amanda presented me with her project--a card printed with all of her new fancy computer techniques (she loves to use fonts, WordArt, colors and clipart in Word). There were some graphics on the right side, but down the left side was an acrostic:

J -- Jazzy mommy!!!!

E -- Every day I love you.

N -- Never be mean to my mom!

N -- Never stops loving!

I -- Interestingly sweet.

F -- Family Person

E -- Every day you help me.

R -- Really, you're a great mom!! !! !!


Really, it's my pleasure.

It reminds me of the Mother's Day which fell a couple of weeks before Kyle was born. I woke up early that morning, and Terry wasn't in bed with me. Apparently I was sleeping the sleep of a woman in her third trimester (when she is actually able to sleep), and never heard Amanda come into our room after she had thrown up. I didn't hear all of the sheet changing and toilet flushing either. Now there are a lot of things that my husband does, but sick duty is not normally one of them. He didn't want me and the baby to catch it, so he gladly took over.

I found him on the sofa in the TV room outside her bedroom, where he ended up resting after it was obvious that this was going to keep happening every hour or so. I convinced him to go back to bed, since he hadn't really slept, and took his post on the sofa. By that time the worst had passed. When he went to church the next morning so that he could teach his Sunday School class, I gladly stayed home and cuddled the creature who helped me earn the title of Mother. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate the day.

One of the ways I invoked my Queen for the Day title yesterday was by playing a round of the All Aboard Thomas Game (Go Fish with Engines) with Terry, Kyle, and Amanda. Not necessarily the most pampering or self-indulgent way to spend a day, but it seemed a fitting way to celebrate.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What My Husband Does

Earlier this week, I wrote about What I Don't Do, after being inspired by copying Rachelle. Today I was inspired by am copying Veronica's post at Toddled Dredge called Household Tasks My Husband Does Without Being Asked.

What My Husband Does:

Irons his own shirts.

Throws a load of underwear into the washing machine when he starts to run low.

Cleans the bathrooms if he thinks that they are disgusting, instead of just complaining that they are disgusting.

Fills my car up with gas when he's driving it. (I truly love this since I am a "drive it until it's on E and the light is on" kind of girl which sometimes leaves me in dire straights).

And one of Veronica's that I liked was "finding his own shoes/keys/wallet." Yes, I married a big boy who doesn't need a mother to take care of him, and I think that's good for both of us.

I do fight guilt about some of these things--seeing as how I am at home, with one child at school all day and a three year old who is in preschool twice a week and still naps daily, but I'm learning to see things differently. Housekeeping is not one of my strengths. I try to keep things neat, because I know he appreciates it (picking up toys before he comes home, keeping the pile of books beside my bed somewhat contained, and making sure the dishes are in or out of the dishwasher as needed), but it is not the driving motivating force of my existence. The fact that he is willing to do them is a quiet affirmation to me that I am not just a maid or a mom or a cook. I'm a part of a family that he and I are running together.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Solitude

Amanda's bus drops her off at the end of the driveway. The driver always honks to let me know she's arrived, and I can look out the window and see that she's coming in, or getting the mail. A couple of weeks ago, several minutes had gone by, and she hadn't come in, so I looked out again. She was in the hammock, book in hand. Twenty minutes later, she was gone. I looked out the back window and she was sitting on the swing, still reading. It was a nice day and she was wrapped up in a good book.

She likes periods of solitude. When she's not quite sure what to do with her emotions that she's having trouble controlling, she'll wisely retreat to the privacy of her room explaining, "I just want to be alone." There are times she is watching TV and I'm on the computer or the phone and she'll ask, "Can you go in your room so I can be alone?" Earlier this week she came home and went straight to the hammock again. I called out to her from the porch, and she said, "Can you just not see me like you did that other time?"

I like solitude, too. I've always ended up firmly straddling the wall in personality testing in the area of how I get energized and recharged--either by people (extrovert) or by retreating alone (introvert). They are both quite appealing to me in many ways. I wonder if my more introverted tendencies lately are due to my stage of life, where finding peace and quiet alone is truly a luxury, as I am constantly bombarded with a very sweet little voice urging me to "Watch, Mommy" or asking me, "Why, Mommy?"

I find that in times of stress or confusion, I often do go to friends, and while I don't have to be face to face, I do like knowing that there is another human being with whom I can share. Amanda's that way too, but like me, she often enjoys a solitary retreat, and unlike me much of the time, she actually has the option to assert that desire.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Amy Grant Mosaic Winners

I am so glad that so many of you were interested in this book. I hope that if you didn't win, you'll consider buying the book if you are still curious. It's a very well-written and touching account that women everywhere will appreciate.

The random numbers generated were
20--Coach J
5--Jenni
1--Carrie K.

Congratulations!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interview with Nicholas Sparks

I asked you what questions you might like to ask Nicholas Sparks, and two weeks ago Thursday, I participated in the first-ever conference call event from Hachette Book Group. There were about eight or nine of us who asked questions, and I think that there were a fair number of people on the call who just listened in. Having others on the call who brought in questions from their own perspectives made it even more interesting. What really thrills me is that Gina Holmes and Ane Mulligan at Novel Journey have posted the entire interview as a podcast on their site. When I was trying to take notes on the interview, I really tried to get some of Sparks' interesting fillers down like, "Hmmmm, blu, blu, blu. . . " but now you can hear it all yourself. So don't delay, click over to Novel Journey right now to not only hear one of the bestselling novelists of this decade (and don't forget me).

I took Katrina's question about his favorite sites on the internet (at 14:47), and her suggestion led me to his website, which is where I came up with my other question about who his favorite character is (3:26). The whole thing is less than 30 minutes, but if you just want to catch my moments of fame, you can find them at the time markers I listed. One of my favorite answers was about ideas that he has that hasn't been able to make work out (18:08).

This was such a unique experience, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate. The Choice is a great book. I know that I've read a book or two that he wrote, but that was many years ago, so I was glad to revisit his work. You can read my full review (and comment to win one of 5 books and 5 audiobooks) at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Functional Fall Fun

This is my first truly Wordless Wednesday, so I'll just stop with the words and bring on the pictures:



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Don't You Do?

Rachelle at Seek First His Kingdom recently posted A Lot of Things I Don't Do. I loved reading this post because she isn't beating herself up for not doing them, she's just sharing them matter-of-factly. She's trying to help ease that perceived pressure of being the perfect wife and mom.

I think it's similar to the notion that in order to focus on the best, we are going to have to give up some good things.

Some of the "best" for me right now includes:
  • Friends--giving of myself and taking from them when needed to both of our mutual edification
  • Ministry--learning and leading in BSF, taking my daughter with me so that she is getting a strong foundation as well
  • Marriage--talking, dating, sharing and thinking of his needs takes time and conscious effort
Good things I don't do (and don't feel too guilty about):
  • Iron my husband's shirts--we send some out to the cleaners, and others he does himself
  • Assume the task of Room Mom, PTA Mom, or Soccer Mom
  • Keep a super-clean house (this isn't really a conscious choice, but more of a personality defect, but I'm going to put it here as if I'm sacrificing this)
  • Craft (this may be a personality defect as well)
Good things that might be moving up to the "best" list soon:
  • Focusing more on having nutritionally balanced meals and snacks available for the family and me, which is hard when at least one of us is on the go at some part during the week
  • Reaching out to others in friendship
What about you? What are some of the things on your "best" list, and some of the "good things" that you let go?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Amy Grant -- Mosaic

I recently read Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant (in about two sittings, to be exact). It's not a biography, so don't expect a year by year account of her life. It's a series of vignettes, funny and sad memories, and those deep thoughts that living seems to evoke, especially living as a mother. She shares experiences with her first born, her last born, and the love of her family and friends, the place in her heart that some physical places hold, and even ruminates on how a conversation with a homeless stranger affected her outlook. As a songwriter, she often expresses herself poetically, and some of her lyrics are included throughout the book where they fit. It adds depth to the songs you probably know by heart, and it doesn't take many pages to see that her prose is no less dramatic:

Just hearing the word vacation now conjures up memories of those overnight drives. I can still hear the sound of my mother's unscrewing of the thermos lid and pouring Dad another cup, the comforting smell of black coffee wafting through the car. The quiet of the lonesome highway.

I brand myself every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror. You're puffy. . .not puffy. . . Getting older . . . I see gray hairs. I've decided it's time to start reminding myself of some other words that are true: "You are made in the image of God. You are the salt of the earth."

I enjoy any passing conversation that starts with, "You don't know me, but I knew your. . ." because sometimes it takes a total stranger to fill in the missing pieces of your family puzzle.

As he pushed me under the surface of the river, all the weight of grief and pain washed downstream. The prayer I didn't even realize I had been desperately praying for such a long time was now answered. I was awestruck with the newness. Amazed. Loved. Clean.

When I was asked to participate in the blog tour for Amy Grant's book, I had to think about it. Did I want to read this book and share my opinions about it? I was pretty sure that I wanted to read it, but could I post honestly, yet with grace, regarding my feelings, knowing that I have some preconceived notions? In the end, I decided that I was ready to move past some hard feelings I've held about some of the choices she's made (regarding divorce and remarriage). I thought that reading her own words would help me to let go of the judgment I've carried. It is not my right to judge her. This is not a tell-all book, but her divorce and remarriage are an integral part of her life, so it is mentioned. Aside from the fact that her choices did not personally affect me or anyone I know, I think that the log in my eye is a reminder that I should be careful trying to remove the speck from hers. I do continue to worry that someone else who is in a less-than-happy marriage would be tempted to leave that marriage in order to find the storybook ending that Amy Grant has found with Vince Gill, but that was only a little bit of what I took away from reading this book. As I read veiled references to this time in her life, I saw a deep understanding of God's perfect love and forgiveness, for as Jesus Himself said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Sin is serious, and the way we treat sin is equally serious, but in the Christian life, grace abounds from God, so should it not be equally extended from one Christian sister to another? It's a lesson that I've needed to learn, and I'm glad that I was able to read this book with an open heart so that I could begin to let go of some bitterness.

The fact that her life has caused so many people to react in some way towards her (myself included) is a testimony to her influence. She is the best-selling Christian artist of all time. You can go to her website, and get free downloads of two of the songs featured in Mosaic. I also have three copies of the book to give away. Tell me why you would like to read this book, based on this review or any other personal reasons, and I'll select three names at random on Thursday, October 18 (U.S. only this time).

Janice has reviewed this book as well at 5 Minutes for Books at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend Rambling This and That

But first, a winner--three to be exact, for books 3 through 7 in the The Fairy Chronicles series. If you won, I would recommend buying the first in the series, Marigold and the Feather of Hope, because it explains the world of the girl fairies that J.H. Sweet has created. If you didn't win, of course you can check out book one as well. The link will take you to amazon, and I've seen these at bookstores everywhere.

Lauren at Baseballs and Bows
Sisterlisa at Apples of Gold
Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Laura, I have your address, since you won the Beth Moore bag (that I still haven't mailed), but if Lauren and Sisterlisa could send your addresses to me at jennifer (DOT) snapshot (AT) yahoo (DOT) com that would be great.

&%&%&%&%

I am in the midst of trying to make a big change in myself (a very superficial external change, but I'll give more info when the time is right). I used to think that I liked change and accepted it well. I've decided that I'm actually somewhat resistant. I find myself saying things like, "I liked it better before." For example, when I first heard about the new ipod nano with video, I thought that although the price is great, and the video is great, I like the feel of mine 2nd generation nano (not as wide). However, now I'm okay with it, although I don't think I'll be getting a new one anytime soon, since Terry surprised me with mine at Christmas.

When Terry got his new Explorer, the turn signal is way high (at 2pm on the steering wheel). I thought, "That's just not right," even though it actually makes much more sense than having it in the middle. A change yes, but a change for the better (just like the ipod).

Coming from someone who has criss-crossed the United States and lived in five homes, four cities, and three states in fifteen years, it sounds a bit odd to say that I find change hard. I think it's like a lot of things in my life. I'm okay with making big changes. It's the small things that I fight.

Anyway, this superficial change is something that I've felt coming on for a while, but it will take some effort to execute and to maintain.

&%&%&%&%

Fall is finally here in Connecticut (this week anyway), and I've enjoyed curling up with a good book or three (I'm always reading more than one). I was happy to take Amanda to a birthday party across down and sit at Starbucks and read for the hour and a half. It was a great break--almost like a mini-retreat. Good reviews to come here and at 5 Minutes for Books.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Learn from my Experience

If you happen to be watching three extra children, who are playing outside. . . .

And if your three-old-son comes in crying and says he wants to take a nap. . . .

When all of the older children come in, and you ask where your son is, before everyone looks outside and in the basement, it might be helpful if you remember that half an hour ago you put him in his room for that nap.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Are You Walking?

Kyle doesn't walk much. He climbs, runs, trots, and meanders, but just plain ol' walking is just too ordinary for my active three-year-old boy. Sometimes the running gets him from point A to point B more quickly, but more often than not he either stumbles and falls in his hurry or gets distracted and sidetracked with the climbing or meandering and ends up at point D instead.

I can't help but compare his methods of movement to those in my spiritual life. I don't maintain a steady gait there either. Sometimes I run as fast as I can, getting ahead of myself (and getting ahead of God's plans for me perhaps) which might cause me to stumble and fall. Other times I meander, stagnant in my spiritual growth and relationship. I always thought that the term "Christian walk" was one of those modern terms that falls into Christianese (a word that doesn't really mean much to someone unfamiliar with the culture). However I recently heard a sermon (on my trusty ipod--I think it was Breakaway) that pointed out that the term is used in the Bible as well, so I looked into it.

This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9).

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty ; walk before me and be blameless (Genesis 17:1).

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways (Psalm 128:1).

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Colossians 3:7-8).

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6).

I've been thinking of what it truly means to walk with God, and I've come up with a few things:

We have to learn to walk. Kyle didn't take his first steps until he was fifteen months old. Part of that is because he was a superfast crawler. He saw no advantage in pulling up, standing and cruising. I have to admit that my current mode of operation is not the best way, as I seek to learn how to more clearly align my life with God's plan.

We don't walk alone. We have three walking partners, in the form of God the Father, the author and perfecter of our faith; Jesus, our Savior and ultimate example; and the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. We can't do the Christian thing on our own.

Most importantly, walking implies movement. There are no treadmills in Christianity! If you aren't moving forward, you are actually falling behind. I should be able to look back over my recent past and see progress, and fortunately I can. There are areas of sin with which I still struggle, but seeing improvement is a reminder that I am not who I was. I also see movement in the change in my desires--seeking after things of God, and leaving behind some more useless pursuits.

Think about where your walk has been taking you. That's the final thought I came up with: We choose where we walk. I can choose to wake up early and read God's word, which will hopefully help me in my choices throughout the day. I can choose to attend church and Bible study with other believers. All of those things help me live up to God's command: "Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess (Deuteronomy 5:3)."

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Today I'm also exploring the The Reward of Work at Faithlifts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Just Another Unglamorous Mom

album_cover_imagepreview.jpgI had a great opportunity to do an interview with singer, songwriter, wife and mom Lori McKenna. Her latest project is called Unglamorous. That just made me smile and nod. There's nothing glamorous about mopping floors, wiping noses (or other body parts), losing your cool, or building train tracks.

JD: You’re a wife and a mother of 5. How do you find the balance with a blossoming singing career, and how do you manage all of this with your schedule?

LM: It's taken ten years to convince my family that I have a career! I may be home all day, but I've done 15 interviews on the phone. Working at home is hard! I get a lot done in the morning and when the kids go to bed. I recently hired some help, a nanny to help at home or on the road. Three of my five kids came with me on tour. My mother and mother-in-law are so helpful. The whole family is excited to help because they're excited about what I'm doing.

JD: While I'm sure that you are fueled creatively by your responsibilities and ups and downs of life, I also know that the busyness of my life tends to zap my ability to put two thoughts together. How do you deal with this?

If you are trying to work at home, you should have your own space. Take care of yourself, so you'll be a good mom. When I was younger, didn't believe it, but it rings so true now. My own space helps me to think about my work. I work instead of of sleeping.

JD: How does recording your own songs compare to having someone else make hits of songs you've written?

LM: I've been lucky. The songs have always been performed and interpreted well. I have never been disappointed with any of them. Fireflies by Faith Hill moved me to tears of joy the first time I heard it, because she got it.

See more of my interview (as well as enter to win one of five CD/DVD sets) at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I've Been Working on the Railroad

I did all of this without benefit of an engineering degree, although we could never quite get these results until we bought an expansion set.


Right now we're all about trains, but I'm going to be a Lego expert in the next few years, right? I see it in my future.

My friend thinks that Kyle is all flexible and squishy, and she calls him Elasti-boy. Look at his legs and feet in this pictures and you'll see why.

Just a note to those of you who have entered the Fairy Chronicles books giveaway, several of you did not leave an email address, so either email me with it and who you commented as, or be sure to check to back here when I announce the winner Saturday.

Believe it or not, I have a few thoughts rambling around in my head that involve more than pictures, or "Look, I wrote this review," or "free stuff," but it's just not coming together. I guess we all have those weeks, huh?

Free books!

I'm loving the interest in the Fairy Chronicles series giveaway. You can still enter (to win three sets of four books) through Friday.

With the Fall Into Reading Challenge, Katrina is once again doing weekly giveaways. Each Thursday a new book is announced, and you can enter for the week. This week's offering can be found here.

I have two new reviews up at 5 Minutes for Mom, both with giveaways:

A novel called Dangerous Admissions, and

An encouraging homemaking book called Queen of the Castle (for which I had posted an author interview here back in May).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Random Meme and a Random Winner

The winner of my Loving Well retreat bag (the bag only!) from the Beth Moore kit is


Speaking of Laura, last week she tagged me for 8 Random Things from My Kitchen. This fits here, because she won, I picked the winner from random.org, and it's a random meme, so what a perfect way to end this post.

8 Random Things from My Kitchen

1. I love my coffee pot. My dad bought it for us for Christmas about ten years ago (before he had grandkids to pamper at Christmas!). I love it. Anyone who loves coffee loves it. When it broke after we had it for four or five years, I found out that for a $25 processing fee, they would fix it or send a new one.



2. My kitchen is not organized (surprise, surprise). I have three drawers that contain tools and measuring cups and spoons, and though some things sort of have a home, they go randomly in whichever place they fit best at the time.

3. I got one of those glass-topped stoves when we re-did our kitchen counters last year, because I always thought that it would be so easy to clean. I was wrong! Whatever spills on it bakes on right away. I think it's better to have spills under the burner grate (where no one can see them anyway).

4. I miss cooking on the gas burners that I had in my last two homes, but we don't have gas in this house.

5. Things always in my pantry: canned tomatoes, canned beans (black, kidney, green), ketchup, cereal, pop tarts

6. Things that are always in my freezer: ice cream, blueberries (freshly picked from summer while they last), chicken

7. Things that are always in my fridge: vanilla soy milk (Kyle likes to drink it, and I like it on my raisin bran and shredded wheat mix of cereal), 1 % milk, yogurt, lettuce, cheese (shredded and sliced), lunch meat, fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea

8. Things that I can't have in my kitchen here in Connecticut that I wish I could: Wolf brand chili, Blue Bell ice cream, cheap Mexican food (I can buy the items like taco shells, flour tortillas, salsa and refried beans, but they sure cost a lot more than in Texas!)

Edited to add a picture and a link to my coffee pot, and also to say that I forgot to tag 8 people. I've been tagged for another 8's meme, so I think I'll do my tagging then, but if you want to snag this one for yourself, go ahead.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Fairy Chronicles

A couple of months ago, I reviewed the first two books in The Fairy Chronicles series. You can read my glowing review over at 5 Minutes for Mom. Amanda and I were both thrilled when we received the next four books in the series, each featuring a different one of the fairy girls. The adventures are just as exciting in the first two.

Three readers (U.S. or Canada addresses) will win a set of these four books. Please leave a comment to win. These books are not just for girly-girls, and appeal to a fairly wide age range (five, as a read aloud on up past ten). They are adventure-packed, and a boy who is interested in fantasy would probably even like them. Spread the word. I'll announce the winner on Saturday, October 13.




Edited to add: I don't know what's up with the neon on the bottom two books. They really are colored in the same nice tones as the top two. I love the illustrations in these books as well.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This and That--with Pictures!

As if this whole week hasn't been about this and that, here is more of the same, but with pictures!

As I alluded yesterday, I was greeted with a nice package when I came home yesterday. This is what I saw when I got home:



I had to put it together a bit, but then I got working. Oh my goodness gracious, this Dyson vacuum cleaner IS worth the money.



See the dog hair around it? Our old vacuum wasn't working well, and this is prime shedding season, which means we had to manually use the Sweepa to have any hope of a clean carpet. I think I might be in love. Feel free to ask me in six months if I'm still so impressed, but from what I understand from personal testimony, it will keep doing the job. I toyed with the idea of buying the even-more-expensive one meant specifically for pet hair, but this one is obviously working fine. See the area behind it that I vacuumed compared to what's in front of it that I didn't?


Speaking of dogs, isn't the phrase, "It's a dog's life" supposed to have a negative connotation? The cause of all that dog hair is living pretty well in our house. I offer this picture as evidence:



Wanna win some stuff?? I haven't posted links to my contests this week, but Amanda and I reviewed a great non-fiction book for kids on Monday at 5 Minutes for Books. It's called Smart-Opedia. You can win a copy by leaving a comment by Sunday, but you should click over to read what she has to say at any rate. She's a little bit, well, enthusiastic.


  • I've also posted a contest over there for some cute kits from LittleMissMatched perfect for your tween or teen daughter that is open through Sunday.
  • The opportunity to win a Beth Moore Loving Well retreat tote bag (just the bag) from her retreat kit is still open here through Saturday as well.
  • And whenever I get my act together (hopefully tomorrow), I'm going to post a contest four books in a series for kids that I love. There will be three winners!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not Exactly as Expected


Today I had all sorts of plans, which included a lot of mom-taxi-ing. It has not gone exactly as expected. I woke up early so that I could get Amanda up early so that I could take her to school early for her first meeting of the school newspaper staff. She was not one of the third-graders selected by lottery last year, but this year her number came up. She has been so excited since she found out! This will be a great opportunity for her, being taught by a real-live journalist, producing four newspapers a year that are printed up by our local paper on real newsprint, and using her creativity.

Since she had to be there at 8:00am, I debated whether or not to just come home or have a cup of coffee with Kyle (he likes his light and sweet) before he had to be at preschool at 9:00am. I decided that I would come home, try to clean out some more of the guest room closet and possibly load up the back of the Suburban with things to drop off at Goodwill. After I dropped him off I was going to treat myself to WIFI and coffee at Panera, finish my Bible study preparation, do some real writing and some blogging, and then possibly come home and do some more housework or not.

As soon as I dropped Kyle off, it occurred to me that I had not turned off the sprinkler (our lawn has recently been reseeded). So, I drove back home, since it probably didn't need a good three or four hours of sprinkling.

When I got home, the sprinkler was off.

I decided that it was providential that I was home, so I did thirty more minutes of work in the guest room, and then finally arrived at Panera. I had been there a little more than an hour, finished my Bible study and taken care of some email business when my phone rang.

Kyle had an accident at preschool.

The policy is that the parent has to come and change the child when this happens, so I trundled off to preschool. It was actually fun seeing him sitting in the circle and singing with his friends (good thing he doesn't mind being wet!). When we were in the bathroom they started singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider he said, "Awwww," in a disappointed way, because he was missing it.

Left with an hour and a half before he had to be picked up from the new extended-day program that allows me freedom him to be educationally stimulated from 9 - 1, I decided to return home where I could either write or clean.

You can try to guess which won out.

I'm writing this, and I got to have a nice chat on the phone with my dad. I also tried to put together a very lovely item that had been delivered while I was gone. I am quite excited about this, and I will share in a future post about the results. It will facilitate the cleaning that will continue later.

By the way, if any of you were paying attention (and are still actually reading), Kyle doesn't really drink coffee. I was trying to be funny. Since I don't blog funny, I feel that I should point this out. Maybe I should just add a laugh track or use the drum cue of bad humor: ba-dum-da-dum chsss.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Satisfied

Yesterday was a good day. It's rare to be able to say that as a mom (at least for me). In fact, I clearly remember one of my other "I might actually be a good mom" days, which proves how few and far between they are. Amanda was two. We had walked to the Starbucks in the shopping center near our home, getting fresh air and exercise. After stopping at the drug store where I ended up buying this cute Sesame Street activity set that was marked way down, she sat at Starbucks and played quietly while I drank coffee and worked on my Bible study lesson. Terry traveled frequently at that time, so often her dinner was whatever two year olds eat (pretzels? crackers? peanut butter and jelly?), but I had bought some kid TV dinners on sale, and that night I served her macaroni and cheese with a side of broccoli and she at it all. I felt like I had it all together.

Yesterday was no one big spectacular moment, but just a series of things like Kyle telling me, "Thank you for going on the bumpy roads," as we pulled up to preschool, coupled with the memory from the evening before when Amanda said, "I like that you said you think I'm more responsible."

After dropping Kyle off, I went to my very part-time job for a few hours, for which I've been very thankful since I am enjoying adding some sort of wage-earning into my mom-schedule. When I picked him up, he was absolutely beaming. We had a happy chat on the way home about his day, and he was already making plans for when we got home: "I don't want to take a nap yet. Wanna play a game? That red and yellow game?" (Don't ask me). We did play games--a few rounds of Lucky Ducks, which he won two out of three and this cute Go Fish fishing game, where I also got trounced.

While he napped, I sat outside on my front porch and blogged and emailed. It was a beautiful warmishly cool Fall afternoon. I was productive and refreshed.

When Amanda got home, I supervised her chore of cleaning the bathrooms. Afterwards when I said, "You did a great job, and I really appreciate it. It's not really worth complaining about, is it?" she actually said that it was fun.

While the siblings played nicely together, I worked on the laundry (washing, drying, and putting away two loads). The TV was barely on all day.

I greeted Terry with a smile and a kiss when he came home and I got a cheerful husband and a kiss in return.

This reads like a hodgepodge of "this is what we did today," but it's so much more to me. It's a written record that can stand in contrast to all those days when I feel (because I am) lazy, unmotivated, unproductive, and irritable. Doing it "right" isn't that much harder than making wrong choices all day.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Loving Well

Do you know this woman? If you've been to any church in the last ten years, it's a good chance you've attended one of her Bible studies, or read one of her books, or at least know someone who has. Beth Moore has encouraged many women to study God's word, to know Him intimately, and to let Him change her. As this next clip shows, she also knows how to have fun:



That clip is taken from a four-session kit that was produced to use at a Ladies' Retreat Weekend event. The talks are taken from a Living Proof Live that she recorded in Tennessee. I saw one of these events in New York, and she made reference to what she had taught there--"Loving Well," (even those who are unlovable). Although this is packaged as a "retreat in a box" there are many other ways that it could be used: for a girls' weekend for a small group of friends; for a short 4 week Bible study (perhaps an every-other week summer study); or for a series of ladies' events, where the video session was watched, one of the included ice-breaker games was played, and small-group discussion took place.

White Post Media sent me this kit in exchange for my honest feedback. There are many great things about this kit, and just a few things that I wish were different.

The strongest positive element is Beth Moore. At my church, if you say "Beth Moore," women will turn out to hear her teaching. She's entertaining and engaging, and the teaching is life-changing. If you are familiar with her, this series will not disappoint.

A small negative is that when I think of retreat teaching, I don't usually think of watching a video of someone teach an audience of 19,000 in an arena in Tennessee. She does interact with her audience there, but I'm not sure that translates to the home viewer. I also would have liked to see an outline for notetaking included on the CD-Rom that has other files that can be reproduced for the group.

However, she tries to counteract this by introducing the video segments on the DVD herself, and clowning around with her worship leader Travis Cottrell. I think that it works. Additionally, she and Travis explain the icebreaker or game that is suggested for each session. I would obviously suggest one of the leaders is familiar with the activity and knows how to explain it, but I would let the others in on the fun by letting them watch Beth and Travis (who are both avid gameplayers, which gives them a point in my book) explain.

Another helpful piece in this kit is the Leader's Guide. I have been a part of planning five ladies' retreats or weekend events, including the first time that our church put together their own retreat (after previously attending events planned by a retreat center). This thin booklet would have been very helpful, suggesting the types of leaders you should have, a schedule, and tips for leading small groups after the session.



The kit is packaged nicely in a box with a handle that can be transported easily and includes
  • 2 DVDs with 4 teaching sessions and icebreakers, games, and some other fun clips of Beth and Travis
  • 1 CD-Rom with further resources and information for leaders
  • Leader Guide
  • 28-Day Journal which can also be purchased separately for each attendee as a follow-up devotional, OR used after each session if the kit is used in a weekly Bible study format.
  • 48 Postcards to publicize the event
  • 2 Posters
  • 1 Tote Bag**, which can also be purchased separately as a giveaway to each guest.
The price is also fair--$99.95. You can buy it or simply find out more at www.lovingwell.tv.

**I'm giving away my black and green tote inscribed with Loving Well Retreat (pictured above). If you'd like a chance to win it, please leave a comment on this post. Tell me something interesting about yourself, your experiences with ladies' retreats, or games, or Beth Moore. Make it good!

I'll draw a name on Sunday. I'll ship to the U.S. or Canada.