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Friday, May 29, 2015

S.O.S. Update

My S.O.S. Challenge (Sick of Stuff) has continued. My goal? 5 things out of this house daily. I've met, if not exceeded that goal.

Today I will be working on my clothing. I have a box half full waiting for donation and hope to top it off and drop it off today.

I noticed when putting my laundry away that the drawers are so stuffed that sometimes I just pile the excess on top of the trunk at the end of our bed. Sometimes that pile ends up getting knocked down and then I end up rewashing it all whether it was worn or not.  Extra work for no reason.

Another item has been toys. A mothering book, which one I can't remember at the moment, gave me the freedom to purge toys whether they were sentimental or not by stating, "Think of toys as expendable. Like a movie or a day out at the park. Fun for awhile but not having to be hoarded." Or something like that, I'm paraphrasing here.

The point is, I can buy the kids a bag of 25 cent plastic farm animals at the thrift store and know that by the end of the week they will be forgotten and spread around the house. I can then bag them up and send them back to the thrift store (or even sweep them up and toss them) and still consider that 25 cents well spent. Because even if it's just an hour or two - they were played with. That doesn't mean they have to be kept. The freedom to look at toys (or books, or movies) in that sense is an immense help in pairing down our belongings.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I think I'll snap a photo of my gardens (both flowers and vegetables) periodically throughout the summer to document how it grows it changes.

The flower bed out front is already starting to bloom on the border. I love seeing the bees and butterflys stopping by for a visit. 
My garden grew almost overnight with the rain we received the past few days. The peas are starting to climb so I just put the trellis out.
This year I am using grass clippings as mulch around the plants. It keeps the soil moist, cuts back on weeds, and adds nutrients to the dirt and plants. 
New to our gardening routine this year is our rain barrel. It comes in the nick of time as I just saw that our sewer and water prices are going up.

The barrel is filled with even a light rain and then can be used for watering the plants around the yard. The bonus, besides saving money, is that the plants enjoy rain water much more than city water (kind of scary when you think about it...we are drinking the stuff that the plants don't like!!).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Clearly Lead

Do you ever have something fall into place so perfectly, so planned out, that you know it's not a coincidence?

You all read a few weeks ago that hubby's work place was having even more cutbacks. Even a reader (Hi, Jess!) mentioned maybe it was time for him to start looking for another job.

That's a scary thing, after nine years of being employed at the same place. Having a decent job, with decent people, but having money worries because of cut backs. It takes a leap of faith to jump out of your comfort zone.

I started praying immediately after hearing about the cut back. I received peace about the situation. He seemed fairly content to stay where he was for awhile yet. What we didn't realize is that God was already working on our next path.

A few days after the above post, I went to Bible Study. A member there was asking about the fall Bible Study and so another member went out into the hall and brought in several bulletins (newsletters) so that we could all have the details about that next Bible Study. On the same page was a notice about a maintenance/custodian job at the church and school which I have never noticed before (apparently it's been in the bulletin for awhile!). I mumbled something to my mom about "maybe Ben should look into this" when the woman next to me, who works in the office, spoke up to say "if he is interested he better apply soon as they already did interviews this week."  She gave me the church e-mail so hubby could send his resume in. 

The next day he had an interview.

The day afterwards he was offered the job.

It was all so seamless. He didn't have to take a pay cut by accepting the job. It is a very Christian environment, which means he won't be treated just as another employee, but as a fellow soul. The job description is much of the same of what he did previously, but with less stress (no on call, few if any weekends). 

Sometimes it's quite clear where God wants you to be.   

Monday, May 25, 2015

Kids Being Kids

"Along with milk and vegetables, kids need a steady diet of rocks and worms.
Rocks need skipping.
Holes need digging.
Water needs splashing.
Bugs and frogs and slimy stuff need finding."



This rainy, dreary weekend was apparently a "two book" one. I was able to escape to Centralia (a town in Pennsylvania) by Mike Dellosso. 

 "Peter Ryan wakes up on a typical morning only to find his house empty, his wife and daughter nowhere to be found. His world is shattered after a phone call to a friend confirms the impossible: his wife and daughter died in a car accident he does not remember. Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn't right and begins to question reality." 

This book left me on the edge of my seat and I just had to know how it ended. Which means from start to finish I read. That to me means a good book. 

While the ending was a bit confusing, the suspense and action in this book keep you reading. It's a bit more violent than books I typically read, but then again it's something you expect from a suspense genre. There is some religious overtones, though not so much so that it would bother someone not religious. Actually, it seemed sort of thrown in here and there, that it didn't exactly fit with the story. So I wouldn't consider this book "Christian genre".
 With the action in this book and the characters I foresee many men enjoying Dellosso's writing.

It kept me entertained the whole way through.

This book was given to me by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

U.S. Cellular Summer Help

Memorial day is typically thought of as "the unofficial start to summer". 

School will soon be out.

Vacations will be taken.

Weather will be variable. 

U.S. Cellular can help your plans become a bit easier. Organized a bit quicker. With my iPhone 5s I do have information at the tips of my fingers, which make on the go information attainable anywhere!

Some fun apps for the summer are:

*Hipmunk, which can help you find the best hotel and flight prices. 

*Yahoo Weather Map which can keep you up to date on the weather in your area, but also makes it easy to search the location which you plan on traveling to. That will help with packing for your trip, along with organizing which activities to do which days.

*If you are a big sports fan (sorry, I'm not, so this doesn't excite me!) you can keep up to date on "your team" with The Score app. Spend time with your family without being glued to a screen or radio and still know the score at the end (or middle!) of the game.

*If you truly want your schedule in your pocket (or purse) try using Google Calendar to stay organized and paper free. 

*Once you are home from your vacation (or just local staycation activities), get all your photos together and use Snapseed to perfect your photos on your phone and then share them on social media!

While the point of vacations, family time, togetherness is often to unplug, having your smartphone with you can enhance your memories and fun with just a quick check, snap, or search. 1 minute of checking the weather can mean a fun day spent inside a museum instead of a soggy hike you may have planned. :)

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade. All opinions are my own. 

When Mockingbirds Sing

Why did it take me so long while reading When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey to realize it was the prequel to In the Heart of the Dark Wood? It could have prepared me for this crazy ride and the disappointing ending.

"What marks the boundary between a miracle of God and the imagination of a child?
Nine-year-old Leah’s invisible friend seems harmless enough until he aids her in upsetting the tranquility of her new town, a place where her parents desperately hoped she’d finally be able to make friends and fit in. Hidden within a picture she paints for a failed toymaker are numbers that win the toymaker millions. Suddenly, townspeople are divided between those who see Leah as a prophet and those who are afraid of the danger she represents. Caught in the middle is Leah’s agnostic father, who clashes with a powerful town pastor over Leah’s prophecies and what to do about them."

This book is a religious supernatural one, yet once again with Coffey's writing, I didn't not find the ending very religious. The spiritual being in this book doesn't seem very good at all.

With that said, this book was read all in one afternoon. Once I picked it up, I had to finish it. And then it takes a weird turn about three chapters from the end and comes to a disappointing end. Which then happens all over again in the sequel. 

Which leaves me to question What is a great book? Is it one that you get completely immersed in? Is it only if you agree with how the book ends? I'm not sure. What I do know is that Coffey's books so far have pulled me in, and while I may be disappointed in the end destination, I did enjoy the ride.

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. 


Friday, May 22, 2015

Life, Lately

*Today my husband works his last day at the job he has held for 9 years. Next week he will be on to bigger and better things. More on that later!

*Becca took her end of year CAT tests. She scored pretty good, except in math. Which just reiterates that we will be continuing math through the summer. One of the many benefits of homeschooling.

I made violet jelly this year. The color is so beautiful. Unfortunately, I think I added too much liquid, which means it didn't jell as much as jelly should. Never fear though, it will be used as a simple syrup in drinks and on ice cream and pancakes. And I'll know to follow directions better next year.   

I also made strawberry rhubarb jam. That turned out perfectly and I can't wait to pull it out this winter and have a taste of spring in my mouth. I'm using our huge excess of rhubarb to make deserts and yumminess. A new favorite is this strawberry rhubarb crisp. We go through a whole dish of it for a snack! 

Joe has been practicing on his new skate board that he received for his 7th birthday. I imagine soon enough he will be doing tricks and turns and ready for the skate park down the street. 

I haven't bought a package of disposable diapers for over two months. Except for a few day trips, she has been solely wearing cloth diapers. It's saving loads of money, is better on her skin, and just makes the clothesline look pretty. I'm so glad for the sunny weather again, too, to catch up on all the laundry. My electric bill is happy as well, going down by $20-$30 now with the clothesline usage. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Food For Thought

A friend shared this thought provoking article on Facebook  yesterday. 

How many of you cringed while reading it, seeing a bit (or a whole lot!) of yourself in the article? 

There does seem to be a double standard for women in relationships. If a man were to belittle a woman for her mistakes it would be considered emotional abuse. If a woman does it we just deem it "nagging" or "that time of the month".

If a man were to slap his wife during a moment of intense disagreement it would be physical abuse. If a woman were to do it to her husband, it would probably be justifiable. 

Nope, Nope, NOPE. Being rude, mean, physical, or just a general unpleasant person goes for both genders. 

The article made me stop and think. It reviled something in my personality that I don't like. I'm off to apologize to my husband. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekend Wrap-Up

Our weekend started off with a prediction of rain. Which then turned into a prediction of severe storms. Thankfully, we ended up with neither.

Because of that, my cousin's outdoor wedding ended up being a beautiful, dry wedding! I didn't get a photo of the happy bride and groom (such a sweet couple!) but did snap some dance floor photos!
When your uncle asks you to dance...
Our bedroom smells divine with this bouquet of flowers on the dresser. All from around the yard! The first spring flowers are the best!
We have TONS of rhubarb, so Joe set up a little table on the lawn, selling rhubarb for $1 a bag. He made a little money, learned some life lessons (cleaning up the leaves of the rhubarb, setting up his table, taking the money, meeting new people) and had fun on a sunny afternoon. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What Keeps You Up At Night?

What Keeps You Up At Night by Pete Wilson gives us a clue on "how to find peace while chasing your dreams". 

Courage to do what we were meant to do. We all need that. This book will show us how to trust in God to lead us through our dreams. Because doing what we want/need/dream to do isn't always easy. As a matter of fact, the Bible shows that when we do what God wants is usually when we will face the most opposition in life.

That's scary. 

This book encouraged me to keep chasing my dreams. Whether they are big or small, they are important. God presses certain desires in our heart and we should listen. Trust. Follow. 

Wilson shows us verses on why we should chase our dreams. And then gives us ways to do so with a little more strength and courage than we currently possess. He does so in an interesting and non-preachy way, even though he himself is a preacher. :)

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


The day started off overcast and windy, not to mention quite chilly for the middle of May. So I brought some sunshine indoors with a bouquet of lilacs, the first spring flowers in my yard.
My Grandma had dug three lilac plants from her own yard 8 years ago. For three years they grew, yet wouldn't bloom. The spring after she passed away all three bloomed brilliantly and have prospered since. So having the sight and scent of these lilacs in my living room, as well as the tree (are they lilac trees or bushes?!) outside my kitchen window always remind me of Grandma. 
I received a call this morning from a local greenhouse saying that we had a gift from my mother-in-law for our anniversary. I arrived to find a generous gift certificate. How fitting as Ben and I had just talked about making an "English garden" by our porch. It's all planted now and will look glorious once everything is in full bloom! I went with a purple color scheme so can't wait to see how the different shades pop.

Daddy filled up the kids sandbox. Which makes them very happy!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Five Years in Heaven

Five Years in Heaven by John Schlimm was like spending five hours in heaven.

I received the book in the mail today and immediately flipped it open to read the prelude. It sucked me in and before I knew it I had finished the book within five hours (I have children so was not able to read straight through...supper, bath time, and the like happened in between the chapters!). 

"FIVE YEARS IN HEAVEN is an inspirational memoir about a young man at a crossroads in his life who returns to his small hometown and forms an unlikely and mutually enriching friendship with an 87-year-old nun and artist."

I'm rarely ever as focused on a non-fiction book as I was with this one. I could not put it down. I almost wish I had, as I could have prolonged the "visits" with John and Sister Augustine and had something to look forward to reading tomorrow!

Sister Augustine reminds me so much of my Grandma who passed away 5 years ago. The wisdom, the truth, the goodness that she showered upon others. While it is obviously a very Christian book, it is not preachy at all and I feel that anyone, from any walk of faith, would find this sweet woman enduring and this friendship meant to be. So much wisdom can be gleaned from this book.

I wish I could have met Sister Augustine. Yet Schlimm makes it seem as though I have. He brings her whole personality, her whole soul, out through the pages. Sometimes while reading I felt as though I was actually observing their conversation from a corner of the room they were in.

This is a story of friendship. Of faith. Of love. Of hope. Of life. If only we could all be so lucky to have a Sister Augustine in our life.

This will be a book that I will read again, especially on a day that I need some encouragement and wisdom. Another book that makes it to my bookshelves (a rare occurrence, it must be a five star book for me to keep it!). 

This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

As I write this, 30 minutes before Mother's Day 2015, I settle down after a long day of festivities. My little Joe turned 7 today.
I recall his birth like it was yesterday. I remember that little toddler I called "the energizer bunny" because he never stopped moving. Climbing. Getting into things.

He's my still very, incredibly active boy. He has the energy of 10 rambunctious puppies all bundled together. I love him for it. He keeps me on my toes.

He is a wise old soul at times, saying things that you wouldn't expect to come out of a six seven year old's mouth. Other times he is a comedian. His little personality is shaping up to be a fun one. This boy is going to be filled with love and laughter as an adult, I can see it now.

Happy birthday to my sweet Joe! 

While we celebrated the birthday of my third child today, tomorrow I shall celebrate all four of my children. They made me a mother. They made my life complete. They make life worth it.

 “Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match

It can also be a sorrowful day. I will be missing Jacob greatly, as it's hard to be a mother to four when there are only three in your arms.
I know for others Mother's Day can be a difficult day when it is the one thing they long for, yet the one thing that remains elusive, if not impossible. That, too, is a great loss.

To my own mama, I love you, I love you, I love you. This had to have been written about you:

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of "overtime" when the angel appeared and said. "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And God said, "Have you read the specs on this order?" She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts...all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head slowly and said. "Six pairs of hands.... no way."

It's not the hands that are causing me problems," God remarked, "it's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have."

That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, 'What are you kids doing in there?' when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. 'I understand and I love you' without so much as uttering a word."

God," said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "Get some rest tomorrow...."

I can't," said God, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick...can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger...and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower."

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.

But tough!" said God excitedly. "You can imagine what this mother can do or endure."

Can it think?"

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise," said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model."

It's not a leak," said the Lord, "It's a tear."

What's it for?"

It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

You are a genius, " said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”
Erma Bombeck, When God Created Mothers


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What the Future Holds

14 years ago my husband I said "I Do". I look at pictures and think "We were only babies!" 
We had been married a little over a year in the above photo and I think I was pregnant with Becca. That is our cute little niece with us!
And this is one of my favorite pictures of Ben. I think he is pretty hot, if I do say so myself. :)

14 years of love and laughter.

Tears and pain.

Life and loss.

While going through photos and seeing myself and others 10, 15, 20 years ago I thought, "What if someone had told me what my life would be like at 32?" 

"One of your children is going to get cancer. And die."

"You are going to lose three people precious to you in the space of three years." 

Those would have been huge blows. What teen imagines that she is going to someday be the mother to a pediatric cancer patient? That she will have to watch her child die? Luckily, we DON'T know the future. It would taint our everyday life.

Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't do anything different, except appreciate the everyday just a bit more. 

I would still marry the same man. 

I would still give birth to my little Jacob and still love him for the 8 years I had him. I would just kiss him and hug him and hold him so much more.

This quote kind of sums up our 14 years together, especially the last five: 
"In your struggles you don't have to fight alone. Let God fight with you and fight for you. Together, you can never fail!"

Life. Love. Living. It's not easy. 

If someone were to tell you what your exact present circumstances would be 20 years ago would you have been happy? Surprised? Sad? What do you think you would have thought about who you are now? 

Sunday, May 3, 2015


As we turned the calendar page over to May we headed off to deliver some May day baskets.
Suddenly, it seems, the truth of "April showers bring May flowers" rang true. The view from my bedroom window is a glorious one. Though the first heavy rainfall will ultimately knock all these delicate petals to the ground, the fact that this view is a fleeting one makes me savor it all the more.
I've been preparing all my garden beds this week and have high hopes for Jacob's memorial garden. It's a shady spot behind the garage, but each year a few handfuls of wildflower seeds scattered on the ground produce enough flowers for us to bring a small handful to his graveside each week. Daily, even, during the peak of the flower production. 
I'm trying container gardening for my cucumbers and tomatoes this year. We had such bad luck with the plants growing so well, starting to bloom and produce, then shriveling up to a curled little dead mess. It must be something in the soil, as the rest of my plants grow quite well. So we shall see how they grow in containers this year.
We took this little bed, usually reserved for vegetables, and scattered wildflower seeds within it as well. Flowers make me happy, so filling our yard with them shall bring us a little extra joy.

As I look around at the beauty that Spring brings, my heart fills with hope, joy, and amazement. I've been brought to tears these past few days by the beauty of it all. Because if our earth can hold such beauty, I can only imagine Heaven. Only fantasize about the exquisiteness that Jacob sees daily in Heaven. 

1 Corinthians 2:9 - But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

What You Left Behind

Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

I recently read Samantha Hayes' Until You're Mine, which I loved, so was excited to read her newest book, What You Left Behind. 

This one started out a bit slower. Quite slow, in fact, to where I may have put it down had I not been reading it to review. I'm glad I didn't as it turned out to pick up about half way through the book and get back on track to being a thriller.

Looking back, I can see that the slow start allowed us to be introduced to the characters and get to know their story before getting to the real meat of the book. 

The twists and turns towards the ending brought back the writing that I loved in Until You're Mine. I had to finish it this afternoon to find out what happened. A nice weekend read...stick it out to the end!

This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cut Backs

Remember last year when I spoke about downsizing at my husband's work and a $1 an hour pay cut? We were finally getting our budget back on track close to 12 months later. 

Then BAM! He is told this week that they are no longer paying for the half hour lunch break starting the end of this month. So instead of getting paid for an 8 hour day he will be getting paid for 7 1/2 hours. It doesn't sound like much. But then when you figure it out that is over $1,500 a year that they are cutting out! That is a big, noticeable difference!

What do you do when you were getting paid MORE two years ago? When prices of food, housing, and over all everything has risen drastically in the past two years and your income is slowly quickly dwindling? When even before this recent cut back you are told, when filing taxes this year, that your family would qualify for $500 in food stamps?

We don't want to sign up for government assistance just because we "qualify". The first step is to...

Not panic.

My husband still has a job at least. 

We are still in the top 2% of the richest in the world's population, based on the Global Rich List (that's crazy when you think of it because in America we are probably close to the poverty line).

Guess what? Americans are spoiled. In most populations you would be considered rich to have a warm house, clothes, and enough food to eat. All the creature comforts of the world.

In America you aren't even considered comfortable unless you have the newest electronic gadget, the current popular clothing brands, money to get your hair and nails done, a newer car. All frivolous stuff. 

We will be able to have our house. Our clothing. Our food. Some creative budgeting will be set into place. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. 


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