Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Rewards of Parenting

The word of the week is REWARD.
: something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc.
As a parent of two children, sometimes I ask myself why I continue to do the things I do for them. I think this most often when:
  • I’m showing my kids vacation pictures from 3 or 4 years ago, and they don’t remember most of it.
  • They can’t seem to do a math problem they were doing quite well just a few weeks ago, so we have to start all over again.
  • They can’t seem to remember to feed the cat, unload the dishwasher, or take the garbage out without being reminded.

When these things continually happen, I get frustrated and wonder, “Am I the only one with kids who have such short-term memories?” I know I’m not, but sometimes I can't help but wonder why I should even bother teaching them things, or giving them opportunities to see things they wouldn’t normally see if they are just going to forget about it all! What's the point in trying!?

The truth is, your kids might not remember everything you did with them, or everything you’ve tried to teach them; but they will remember that you cared about them. They will look back on old pictures and listen to you telling the stories of when those events and special trips took place. They will love you for loving them, and for showing your love by spending time with them. And, with consistency and time, they will (by God's grace) eventually grow up to be mature, responsible adults who will finally remember to take the garbage out. It just takes time.

My sister (who has two adult children) recently reminded me, “Being a parent is the hardest yet most rewarding job ever.”  So, keep plodding along, Moms and Dads. Enjoy your children while you have them in your care. Enjoy the hugs, kisses, smiles and laughter. If you allow God to help you through the challenging times, you will be rewarded for your time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

REVIEW: Live Fearless (An Adult Coloring Book)

Coloring and being creative isn't just for kids. Live Fearless, by Margaret Feinberg, is an adult
coloring book that provides an opportunity for you to mentally step away from the busyness of life in order to color, pray, doodle, reflect, and journal. At the same time, you get to focus on a Bible verse that will help you rediscover the goodness and faithfulness of God, no matter what you are facing.

I love this idea! There are 20 verses, with 20 coloring pages, and 20 journaling pages that can all be used to help you reflect on God's Word and deepen your faith in Him. Then, you can also encourage others by taking a photo of a finished page and posting it on social media sites with the hashtag #livefree.

The only thing I think the book could use is maybe some more pages.

For a peek of the inside, check it out here on

NOTE:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, and I have shared my own opinion.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Meals Our Moms Made and What We Still Eat Today

The word of the week is MEAL 
:  the food eaten or prepared for eating at one time :  the act or time of eating

When I was growing up, my family usually ate our main meal of the day sitting at a table, talking about life events or sharing about our day. David's family did the same; and this is something we have tried to continue with our own family as much as possible. Eating is something we all must do in order to survive, but it is also a good way to socialize, fellowship, celebrate special events, and  connect as a family.

Most of the meals our moms made for us were home cooked, and I thought it would be fun to reminisce about the meals our moms made, and to see what meals I am still making today for our own family.

Meals My Mom Made
My mom used her Crock-pot quite a bit. She made things like:
  • Pork chops and sour kraut (Yep, I still make this occasionally, but the kids don't like the sour kraut)
  • Chicken (Yes. I have several different chicken recipes for the crockpot)
  • Roast, potatoes and carrots (I have tried to make this a few times, but the roast never turned out good, so I quit making it)
She also made:
  • Fried Chicken and Fried Pork Chops (This was probably my favorite meal she made. I don’t fry meats for my family because of the mess it makes, but we like to go out and get it once in awhile.)
  • Meatloaf (Mom always put onions in her meatloaf, which I didn’t care for. These days, I make Italian meatloaf for my crew, which doesn't have onions)
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce, all mixed together with the pasta (Who doesn’t make spaghetti? I make mine with the sauce separate from the pasta most of the time, and often have meatballs in the sauce instead of ground beef) 
  • Lasagna (I love lasagna. I make it a couple times each year)
  • Creamed beef gravy on toast (Yep. It’s a cheap meal to feed a family)
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (I still make this. But, I like to use sour dough bread)
  • Chopped steaks in ketchup gravy (I don’t make this. My family is not a fan of ketchup gravy)
  • Shepherds pie on a plate - made by putting down a homemade hamburger patty, mashed potatoes on top of that, then peas, and topped with brown gravy. (I don’t make this. David thinks it’s the grossest thing on the planet.)
  • Chili (Oh, yes! With lots of shredded cheese and corn chips - and no onions! But, I have to make a pot with beans and a pot without, since beans do not agree with my husband)
  • Ham and Beans with cornbread (I do not make this - again, because of the beans.)
  • Cowboy Beans (I always liked this meal, and it is cheap. But, once again, I can’t make it because of the beans.)
  • Beans-n-Franks (Nope. It has beans)
  • Homemade pizza (Yes, we made this in our early years of marriage. But, now it’s a lot easier to just go get a frozen pizza, or order it from Little Ceasar’s)           
  • Tacos - soft shell or hard shell (I LOVE tacos! Definitely still make this, as well as Taco Casserole or Taco Salad)
  • Liver and Onions (Are you kidding me? No way would I ever make this!)
  • Salmon patties (I’ve made these a few times. Not often. Its not a favorite of ours)
  • Spam in a can (Nope. Never made it. I ate it back then, but don't care for it now)
  • Biscuits and Sausage Gravy (Yes. This is a favorite, especially of my husband)
  • Ham on holidays (Yes)
  • Dad would grill meats on occasion (Yes, I love to grill)
  • Chicken and Beef pot pie (I make a version of it with stuffing instead of crust)
  • Chicken and Dumplings (Yes, I make this. Good stuff!)
  • Beef Stew (I make it occasionally. Its not a favorite for my crew. When I make it, I leave out the cabbage and the onions my mom always added)

Side Dishes included things like:
  • Fried potatoes (I love these, but rarely make them because of the mess)
  • Potato cakes (I’ve made these occasionally)
  • Cooked apples (Yes, I’ve made these. A good way to use up apples that are getting soft)
  • Vegetables - corn, green beans, peas, Brussel sprouts, carrots (Yes, I make most of these - no peas or Brussel sprouts)
  • Macaroni and cheese from a box (Yep!)
  • Salad (Yes, but I don’t mix it all together like Mom did. I put the fixings in separate bowls and let everyone add what they want. David's mom taught me that)
  • Pork-n-Beans / Baked Beans (I make these sometimes because EL and I like these, but the boys don’t eat them)
  • Mashed potatoes with brown gravy or white gravy (Oh, yes.)
And, don't forget the sweet treats:
  • Cake with homemade powdered sugar frosting (I get my frosting from a can)
  • Fudge (Yum! But, I don’t make it very often anymore.)
  • Divinity (I have prize-winning Divinity at the IL State Fair, by using my mom’s recipe!)
  • Rock Candy (This was a cheap treat for us around the holidays. I have made it a couple times)
  • Pie crust cookies (I have never made these because I never take the time to make homemade pie crust, but I LOVED these! Maybe I should make them with store-bought crusts sometime!)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (Oh, yum! Yes, I still make these)

Meals David’s Mom Made
According to David, his mom made a lot of the same things my mom made (Roast, Stew, Chili, Spaghetti, lasagna, pot pie, grilled cheese, hamburgers, and Spam), but she also made a lot of casseroles such as:
  • Ham and Cheese Casserole (Yes, I make this today with her recipe)
  • Pizza Casserole (I haven’t made this in a long time, but I used to make it a lot)
  • Tater Tot Casserole (I like it, but David hates it, so I don’t make it)
She also made things like:
  • Pizza Burgers (Yes, I make)
  • Pancakes for supper (Yes, I make)
  • Fried Fish (We eat a lot of Tilapia, but I bake it more than fry it)
  • Baked Chicken (I usually put chicken in my crockpot instead of the oven)
  • Stuffed peppers (No, I don’t make this)
  • Reuben sandwiches (Yes, at least once per year. David and I love it!)
  • Occasionally, they would go out to eat for Gyros (We have never done this)
  • Salsbury Steak (Yes, I have made this)
Side Dishes and Desserts include:
  • Party mashed potatoes (Yes, I have made these, especially on holidays)
  • Corn casserole (Yes, definitely! This is a favorite of ours)
  • Orange fluff salad (Yes, another favorite on holidays)
  • Asparagus (I was never able to make this come out right)
  • Angel food cake with chocolate frosting (I have rarely made this)
  • Jello Cake (I have made it a few times, but usually use strawberry Jell-o instead of lemon-lime) 
Do you remember what your mom or grandma made for your family meal table?What was your favorite dish that you still make today?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GIVEAWAY: The League & The Lantern by Brian Wells [CLOSED]

The League and the Lantern by Brian Wells is a great book for middle-school aged readers, especially boys! It is the first book in a new adventure series, and starts when a dangerous organization invades Jake Herndon’s seventh-grade sleepover at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL. This is a place my family is familiar with, so it was fun to read about the exhibits we have seen and experienced at the museum, such as the giant man-made tornado.

As the story progresses, Jake and his two new friends unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War era, and discover an incredible secret about Jake’s family. They eventually leave Chicago and spend a lot of time in Springfield, IL, where they have adventures at the IL State Fairgrounds, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and Lincoln's Tomb. These are also locations our family has been to and are very familiar with. 

I have been reading the book aloud with my kids, and it has been hard for us to put it down. The funny scenes and the adventure have kept our interest. Plus, I love how it incorporates things that interest kids of middle school age, such as Captain America, the Avengers, Star Wars, The Princess Bride, Super Mario, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Besides that, the history based around the events of the Civil War is an added educational bonus.

This is not a faith-based book, but is definitely family friendly - a book your entire family would enjoy. You can download the first 6 chapters here to see what you think of it:  THE LEAGUE & THE LANTERN SNEAK PEAK

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book, fill out the entry form below. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, May 14, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Mom

The word of the week is MOTHER (Of course! What else would it be on Mother's Day!)
: a term of address for a female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent.
Not everyone has had the privilege of being raised by a great mom - I know that - and, I'm truly sorry if this is a hard day for you for whatever reason. But, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my mom, because she is a huge part of what made me the person I am today. She is not perfect but she has been (and always will be) the perfect mom for me; and I am sure my brother and sister would say the same. Let me tell you about our mom....
  • She was born a beautiful, natural red head.
  • She was number 3 out of 5 children.
  • She was born premature and nearly died as an infant.
  • She married my dad at the age of 16, and has been married to him for 54 years!
  • She raised three children (one of them is me) and, along with Dad, did her best to train us in the way we should go (Proverbs 22:6).
  • She was a stay at home mom and homemaker.
  • She was always organized and liked things neat and tidy.
  • She had a set day of each week when she cleaned the house - Mondays.
  • She made home cooked meals, and was a good cook. (I'll probably cover that more in an upcoming blog post.)
  • She was almost always home for us when we got home from school.
  • She often had baked treats for us when we got home from school.
  • She accepted Christ at the age of 21, and her love for Him is evident.
  • She taught me and my siblings about the Lord and had us memorize verses.
  • She keeps a prayer journal and has prayed faithfully for her family over the years.
  • She loves to laugh and have a good time.
  • She has been known to throw a few temper tantrums, but always apologized and didn’t stay mad for long.
  • Her favorite meat is pork chops.
  • Her favorite dessert is blackberry pie.
  • Her favorite verse is Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV)
  • Her favorite song is Gentle Shepherd.
  • She is honest and loving.
  • She is a generous and giving person.
  • She is a great listener, and a great encourager.
If you know her and have her in your life as a family member or friend, I hope you know how blessed you are. I know I am blessed.

Friday, May 6, 2016

REVIEW: Veggie Tales Puppies and Guppies DVD (+ $5.00 Coupon)

Veggie Tales has been a favorite of my kids (especially my daughter) since they were old enough to sit in front of a TV and watch a DVD. I always enjoyed them as well. I loved the great animation, the humor, the catchy songs, and the Biblical messages each story shared.

More recently, Big Idea Entertainment has released a new version of the lovable veggies in a Netflix original series called Veggie Tales in the House, and I was sent a copy of Veggie Tales in the House: Puppies and Guppies from Fish Flix in order to give my honest opinion of it. Honestly, I guess I'm stuck in the past because I don't really care as much for the new version. The animation is different, the voices of some of the characters are different, and the songs are not as catchy. But, regardless of my personal opinions, I am thankful the stories are wholesome, family friendly, and include Biblical messages because my special needs daughter was captivated by them (as she is with most cartoons that have lots of colors, action, and music). Family friendly and Biblical are always good things, as far as I'm concerned. So, I appreciate the work Big Idea Entertainment has done to bring these types of shows to our kids. I will not object to my daughter watching these videos again if she chooses.

Whether you like the old version of Veggie Tales, or the new version, Fish Flix has many to choose from on their website. They also have a large selection of other family friendly and Christian Movies at very reasonable prices. When you purchase from them, you are helping to support a Christian family-owned company that believes "God is honored by hard work, good service and quality products." If you are ready to give them a try for your next DVD purchase, you can sign up for their weekly e-mail newsletter and receive a $5.00 off coupon. 
Go here to sign up:  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

REVIEW: "Jesus Inspires Me" Coloring Book

Do you have a child in your life who loves to draw, color, or design, and you want them to be able to do that while still learning about God? If so, then this is the book for you.

Jesus Inspires Me is a coloring and activity book featuring the familiar faces of Graham Blanchard’s “Knowing My God” board book series. The book is full of cute illustrations with lots of detail, and the characters encourage little artists to draw, color, reflect, solve, decorate, and imagine. The best part is how the pages include Scripture verses, so it is a good way for kids to create and have fun, while also learning God's Word.

One thing that would be fun is for kids to color one of the pages from the book, carefully tear it out, and either frame it to put on their bedroom wall or give it away to family or friends.What a neat way to teach kids about encouraging others with Scripture!

Here's an example of one of the coloring pages.

NOTE:  I was given a copy of this coloring book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

An Evening with Casting Crowns

The word of the week is BUCKET LIST
:  a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying
Last weekend, my husband and I accomplished one of our "bucket list" items (at least it was on my list, but I know he was thrilled to be able to go, too). We went to a Casting Crowns concert, and it was amazing! Casting Crowns is my favorite musical group, and I had never seen them in person before this. When I found out they were going to be playing at Olivet Nazarene University, not too far from family, we jumped at the chance. (An early birthday present for me - Yay!)

A peek inside Centennial Chapel. It seats 3000 people, and the concert was SOLD OUT!

It wasn't a specific album tour, but was sponsored by Shine FM and was labeled as "An Evening with Casting Crowns." The group sang a mix of songs from ALL of their albums, and the opening song was Lifesong (from the album Lifesong). Here's a short clip of it:

When they came out on stage, I was so excited to be able to see and hear them up close - the people who have musically touched my life in so many ways. I was overwhelmed with emotions. 

After Lifesong, they launched into several songs from the Thrive album. Mark Hall (the lead singer/songwriter), spoke about a huge tree he visited with the youth from his church and how the roots of the tree were just as long and deep as the far-reaching branches. He used this illustration to share how we need to be rooted in God, like a tree firmly planted by the water.

Jeremiah 17:8 - They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Another song from the Thrive album was "Just Be Held." We didn't get a clip of that one, but I am mentioning it because it really touched me. Mark sang this song after talking about his journey with cancer. He wrote the song a couple of years before he was diagnosed, but said God knew what He was doing by giving him that song ahead of time. Praise the Lord, Mark kicked cancer in the butt, and so did I.

During intermission, David and I took a "selfie" of us sitting in our seats.  

There were way too many songs sung to list them all. Some of them were shortened, due to time constraints, and I didn't like that part; but, they sang plenty of full-length songs also, many of my favorites. One of David's favorites was the updated hymn At Calvary from their Live Worship album.

We also got a clip of the well-known song, Praise You in This Storm. In this clip, you can see the worship that was taking place during this song - not worship of the band, but worship of our Heavenly Father, the God who made Heaven and Earth.

I don't remember what the final song of the night was but, after the final song, there was a lot of clapping and carrying on by the crowd until the group came back out for an encore and did two more songs. I think (my memory is getting bad) the final encore song was Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me), from the album Until the Whole World Hears. It was the perfect song to end with because we were reminded that "one day the trumpet will sound for His coming, one day the skies with His glory will shine." One day, the Lord will be coming back to take us home and, oh, what a glorious day that will be.

I wish we had gotten a clip of how they ended the concert and left the stage for good. We were nearing the end of the final song when they all exited the stage, leaving the audience to finish singing the song out on our own - no one on the stage, no music, no lights - just the audience singing and worshiping together a cappella. Then, the lights came on and we were done. Awesome.

I did have just one major disappointment about this concert... I wished it could have lasted longer...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Nichole Nordeman - "Slow Down"

Nichole Nordeman, a contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, has released a brand new lyric video for her song “Slow Down” which features footage from the members of FlyBy Promotions (that includes me!). I’m excited to share this new music video with you, because....

#1 - It's a touching video that shows key life moments of children across the country and highlights the desire of every mother and father today, that time would “slow down” so we could breathe in and celebrate these milestones in our children's lives.

#2 - Our son, JJ, is in it! Watch closely and you will see two short clips of him near the end of the video, one at 3:31 and the other at 3:46. He is on his bike both times. The first one is when he first learned to ride a bike. The second one was several years later (during the Summer of 2015), when he was riding his bike in a much different way.

Check out the video here. I think you will like it...

And, if you are interested, here's a link to Nichole's album on iTunes: THE UNMAKING

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

REVIEW: After the Boxes Are Unpacked

A few months ago, due to my husband's new job, I was certain we were going to have to uproot our family and move to a new town. So, I became interested in doing a review of this revised book, After the Boxes Are Unpacked, by Susan Miller

As of now, we haven't made a final decision on whether or not we will be moving. I am hoping things will work out that we won't have to move because the to-do list of re-locating is incredibly overwhelming, and the adjustment process is stressful on the entire family. But, if we do end up moving, I will be using some of the tips/advice given in this book to unpack my "survival box." To be more clear, the "survival box" is a list of suggestions given at the end of a chapter that can help you alleviate loneliness, express your love for your husband, be more organized, help your children through the adjustment process, and put your focus in the right place... just to name a few.

It's really hard to pinpoint the most helpful tip I learned from this book, because there are so many; but I love the Scripture references that are included, and the encouraging tone of the book. I like how the author stresses the point on page 39, "A life change like moving is not easy. But God doesn't always want to make it easy for us, for it's in those stressful times that we grow closer to Him. Sometimes God allows us to go through an experience for the powerful lessons we could learn no other way." 

So, for those of you who have recently moved, or are planning on moving soon, this would be a good book for you to get. The advice the author gives is given out of her own experiences of moving, and it can help lead you in the step by step process of (1) letting go, (2) starting over, and (3) moving forward.
Deuteronomy 31:8 - It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (ESV)

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, and I have expressed my own opinion.