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Friday, June 26, 2015

Links I'm Loving

While I've never read, nor watched Joel Osteen, this article is a good one showing why people need to understand grief better, especially those who should be tending to the grieving.

With my husband's blood pressure being quite high recently, I've been wanting to see if we can get it down naturally before resorting to pharmaceuticals. In just three weeks time, with supplements such as garlic, magnesium, and potassium his systolic number has dropped by 20 points and his diastolic number by over 20. It's getting down there. It's still high though, so I was happy to run across this article which mentions a natural supplement for heart health that has rave reviews. I researched it and he will be trying it.

This is my sister's book blog...and I found this article so funny!

If you have a little girl who loves Star Wars, you need to buy her this bow. Amy's arrived last week and you should have heard her scream "Boba Fett" when she opened it up!! So sturdy and well made too!

I'm not a Duggar fan. I don't watch their show, read their books, or keep up with their life. But found this article interesting. The media loves to see Christians fall. But guess what...all Christians fall from time to time. I'm not condoning his behavior, but TLC pulled their reality show because of this coming to light...but still showcases a show of a man with four wives, fetish shows, etc? Sounds about right.

John Schlimm, author of Five Years in Heaven, sent me this beautiful signed copy after my mom told him about how hummingbirds are special to me. What a treasure!

What are links you are loving this week?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dear Jacob

Dear Jacob,

   A few weeks ago, while folding laundry, I ran across this shirt.
It's the shirt that you wore a lot in the summer of 2013. The summer you were sick. The last summer we had with you.
It was hot and you enjoyed the thin cotton. You also wore them a lot in 2012 when you got your hickman line in, because these undershirts kept the tubes from bumping around as you ran and played.

I bent to pull the shirt from the basket and silently said your name. I wanted it to still be your shirt. Clean from the line after you dirtied it with little boy play. Except you wouldn't be little anymore. You would be a ten year old boy today.

The shirts are your little brother's now. Half the clothing in his drawers are ones that you wore. Joe often asks, "Was this one Jacob's?" and loves to wear his big brother's clothing. My heart still aches when I wash and fold clothing because I'm folding clothing that was yours but no longer is. I haven't had to scramble to buy some jeans when you had a growth spurt or start looking at pre-teen boys clothing because you aren't here. I never got to mother the pre-teen Jacob. Piles of clothes - daddy's, mommy's, Becca's, Joe's, and Amy's litter the bed as I fold. That space, that glaringly empty space is where your pile should be. 

Becca tries to pretend that she's strong but I know she misses her little brother, her best friend. She's had you in her life since she was 11 months old, when you were in my tummy and she used to poke and play with "baby", she was age 21 months when your presence was in every minute of her life. From piling stuffed animals on you to playing birds in the yard with you to going to Bible Camp together. You guys were buddies. Constants in each others life. And then gone. She misses you terribly. I catch glimpses of you in her face, especially when she's sleeping is when she looks so much like you.
Joe reminds me of you at times. Hearing him play I hear the noises and sounds you used to make. When he puts on your Army hat or the Boba Fett costume my heart hurts. Sometimes his movements are like yours were.  He wants to be like you. I hate that he doesn't get to grow old with his big brother.

Amy points at your pictures and says "Jacob". She brings you flowers at the cemetery, rearranges your graveside decorations, and then kisses your picture goodbye on the headstone, along with the Boba Fett helmet on the other side. She was only 4 months old the last time she saw you, she couldn't remember you. That will be a heartache as well...never truly knowing how magical you were. But she's following in your footsteps. She loves Star Wars, and super heroes. Probably because she had the greatest super hero as a brother. I know that she will recognize you within blessings throughout her life. And without a doubt she will know you and your light when she meets you in Heaven someday.

You'd be excited about today. Looking forward to it for weeks and planning what you wanted, what you wanted to do, where you would want to eat, what type of cake you want. It's a day that you would have been enthusiastic about.

I've dreaded it all month. It's a blessing that you were born 10 years ago. It's a blessing that we had you in our life for 8 of those years. Look at that smile...how can it NOT be a blessing?!   
Your smile was like no other. You were lit from within...your sweet soul shone for everyone to see. 

I wonder if you all celebrate birthdays up there? Or are the angelversarys the ones that are celebrated? The day you were born into eternity more important than the day you were born on earth?

Maybe June 24th is when you remember the day that started your journey and you celebrate August 19th as the day your mission was completed. 
Matthew 25:23:  
"His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

I can only imagine how much heaven celebrated as you entered the gates. What was it like to see Jesus face to face? To reunite with Grandpa and Great Grandma? To see all the children that you now get to play with forever? Now each and every moment for you is a cause for celebration. Filled with joy. I'm so glad that you are better now. No more sickness or pain for you. 

It seems hard to believe that the last birthday we got to celebrate with you was two years ago. And yet it seems like forever ago.
 I can only imagine your hugs now. Try to remember our conversations together. Everything around us reminds us of you.

Star Wars

Root Beer

Doodling elaborate scenes on paper.

Full House (It's been Amy's favorite show as well. She watches it constantly.)

White "fuzzy" donuts, as Great-Grandma called them (you know, the Grandma you called "the Grandma with the mean kitty".) :) I haven't been able to eat them since you left. Though Becca, Joe, and Amy often choose them for their treat at the store.

You are everywhere.

But a piece of our hearts went with you the day you left to go home. A piece of us is missing because you are missing. 

You would have hit the double digits this year. TEN just sounds so old. 


It's not fair. I want you here on your tenth birthday. I remember 10 years ago...you coming into this world. How gentle and peaceful your birth was. How gentle and peaceful you were growing up. My sweet little pudgy baby boy.

My arms ache to hold you. It's your birthday and you aren't here. 

We will still celebrate. Celebrate the fact that we were chosen to be your parents 10 years ago. Celebrate getting to have you in our life for 8 years. Celebrate the fact that you are happy, healthy, and WHOLE now. 

Happy 10th Birthday our sweet Jacob.   

Monday, June 22, 2015

Create Porch Decor

When I bought a mirror with a pretty blue frame at a garage sale for 50 cents I had plans to put it up in the girl's room. It would match the yellow one already in there quite well.

Plans change when the mirror got broken (shhhh...don't tell Joe about the seven years of bad luck!). I decided to re-purpose it into a craft for the porch.  
After buying the letter F at Wal-Mart for $1.95 I had Ben paint it grey with paint that we already had. Then I used yellow washi tape that I already had to make stripes. We Hubby then hung them separately on the siding. A very quick (less than an hour) and inexpensive (total was about $3) project!

Instead of throwing something away, look at the item in a different way to see what it could be turned into instead. You know, when life gives you lemons...make lemonade. Or when children brake mirrors, get creative... 
Edited to add: a close up of the letter for Gill who asked in the comments. Excuse the raindrops on the letter...we had a huge thunderstorm right before I snapped the photo.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Until the Harvest

I picked up Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas because of the beautiful cover, much like I did for her previous book

"When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips's college studies, he's left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but unusual pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.
Unfortunately, Mayfair's older sister, Margaret, with the freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she's his grandmother's housekeeper and helper, so she's always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn't care about his loss, before beginning to understand she's facing her own struggles. Mayfair's health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry's future and Mayfair's life are put at risk."

Yes, it's a romance, but not overly so. It wasn't eye-roll inducing so I was able to stand it. :)

My issue with it is that much like Thomas' first book, there was paranormal (or is it supernatural) activity that is never explained, never really even questioned. "A healer" who can just heal by touching seems a bit far fetched. Also, without giving away too much, there is a "situation" in the book that the big question is never answered. It's an important enough question that both Henry or Margaret should have asked it.

With those two issues aside, it was a good book. I'd recommend it for someone who wants an easy summer read. 

This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Paid in Full

Years ago, when reading about someone paying their mortgage off quickly I always assumed that they must have a large income. After all, you need the additional funds to pay additional payments, right?

Then I read The Tightwad Gazette and realized that by being thrifty you could save money for additional items, instead of making money.

Nine years ago we bought a house within our price range. So it's no McMansion, but is a cute little house with a cute little yard and fits our needs. It was built in 1880, so has character, which means a bit of a fixer-upper. But it's solid. We've torn out carpets, replaced the fixtures in the bathroom, put on a new roof, painted, etc. We've made it ours.  

Yesterday we totally made it ours. We took a 30 year mortgage and paid it off in 9 years. How, on such a little income, you ask?

Savings. Scrimping. 

My best advice is to pay at least one extra house payment (applied solely to the principal) each year. That alone would cut 7 years off a 30 year mortgage. That is what we started off doing from year one.

Then, even if it was just an additional $25 or $50 a month, apply that extra to the principal when you pay the mortgage each month. It adds up.

Our biggest was when we received tax returns...to apply a big amount to the mortgage. Because we didn't have other debt (car payments, credit cards) we were able to use that to pay extra towards our only debt.

And now we are totally debt free. It's exciting! It made doing without some fun extras totally worth it and just takes a huge weight off your shoulders. To know that every single thing you own is truly owned by you, debt free. 

It's not impossible. Though there will be step backs (when Jacob was sick we didn't have any extra to work on paying off the mortgage...every extra penny went towards gas, food, medical, etc.), stay the course when you do have a little extra. Forgo the vacation, the big screen tv, upgrading your car. It will be worth it in the end!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I'm Happy for You

 "Excessive comparison and competition sap our energy and steal our joy. Our friends become our audience and judges, and our kids become part of our brand. Add social media’s constant invitation to post and peruse, and it’s no wonder that we’re left exhausted, discontent, and lonely. Thankfully, there is another way!"

I'm Happy for You(Sort Of...Not Really) by Kay Wills Wyma is the perfect book on how to find contentment in a culture of comparison.

First, I love how Wyma doesn't tell us how to do so, but rather how she is trying to be content in her life circumstances. She uses so many real life stories that show that she is just a human, who messes up time and time again, but is working towards happiness for others. I think anyone can relate to her examples and nod their head in agreement with so much of what she writes.

Face it, we all have that little green envy monster within us. Before reading the book I probably would have said that I'm not much of a jealous person. After reading it I realize there are many areas of which I can improve. While I know (as a blogger myself) not to get all worked up about how "perfect" people's lives can be based on their online presence alone, I did love this quote:

But I have found myself thinking:

"I would love that type of house."

"It's not fair that they have all their kids and no health worries.
(Not that I would wish the opposite on anyone.)

"They just inherited all that?!" 

The list goes on. The book gives us many sound ways to look at these thoughts in completely different light. It felt more like a chat with a friend over a cup of coffee than a book. I got a lot of it and plan to apply many things Wyma discussed in my own day to day thinking (and lusting).

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

By the Book

This summer I've seemed to hit the jackpot on books at thrift stores.

This pile will nurture my art and soul. ;) A perfect find on a gloomy day. 
And this pile of workbooks was bought for only $2.50 and will get us through the summer and beyond. 
As a homeschooling family, curriculum purchases fall on the parents. Both the financial burden, as well as the burden of choosing a complete year's worth of educational materials. Some families buy sets of books, others pick and choose workbooks and materials, and others put together their own system. Whatever works for their families.

It can get expensive though. Especially when you are teaching several grades. All materials, such as art supplies, science experiments, etc. also come out of the parent's pockets.

So far I've done the complete school curriculum sets. I've done the mix and match of curriculum. The latter works for our family better than the former. I'm thinking this summer, as I organize all our school materials, I may realize that I have enough to put together our own curriculum for the year, supplemented with books from the library. I have some fun books (like a history book based solely on the Little House Series books). I have a home economics book that is popular among homeschoolers. Both bought at thrift stores for under $1. I have Alice and Jerry readers. Piles of workbooks. Plenty of chapter books. Art supplies. School supplies. I'm excited to set aside a day or two to go through our school items and come up with a lesson plan to meet our needs for the year...and possibly save hundreds of dollars in the process as well as use up the items we have on hand.

I'll highlight what I've come up with later this summer, but given that the beginning of the school year starts just a little over two months from now I need to get on it, because if I do need to order a few pieces to complete the year then they will need to be ordered soon.

A homeschooling mama's work is never done! 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

U.S. Cellular Internet Safety Month

June is internet safety month and as a mother I feel it is a very important issue.

Whether it be mobile phones, home computers, or public computers, the access that our children have to the world wide web is scary. There are people out there you don't want your children to connect to, websites that you don't want them to see, and information out there that isn't appropriate for adults, much less children!

It's important to have a frank discussion with your children on why you will monitor their internet usage. The first step is making sure the family computer is in an area of the house that is a heavily used  area. With people passing back and forth the computer and web page is viewable to everyone. There are several programs that can password lock any questionable websites. 

According to a recent U.S. Cellular survey, 47% of parents say that their children have their own cellphones, starting at the average age of 12 years old. With cellphones it can be hard to know how much freedom to give your children. With Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and many more social media outlets, your children need to know how to stay safe online.

You can start with the Parent/Child Agreement. It is a way to broach the subject of safety, along with the rules that you set for their phone. 

The U.S.Cellular® Family Protector service provides safety and security by monitoring your children's location and mobile usage. Review your child's calls, block websites, restrict apps, and more. Your child can even send an alert to you with the simple press of a button. Available on select Smartphone devices.

Discuss how to share photos appropriately. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when "sexting" and provocative photos are a common theme in teenage life. While you may think your child is above this, having a heart to heart talk with your teen on why this is a bad thing is a very good subject to touch upon. Because one photo can then be shared with thousands of people, and will have a lifelong presence on the internet. The dangers of pornography can then also be broached.  

That goes hand and hand with information sharing. Social media should be private accounts only accessible to close friend and family. Remind your teen not to answer unsolicited requests or texts. 

Children can be smart about the internet but it takes a parent to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to monitoring them. Which kind of corresponds to all areas of parenting. :)

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular Brigade, all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 8, 2015


This weekend seemed like a good time to purge excess clutter around the house. I was in a grouchy mood and felt like I was walking around, as well as tripping on, piles of stuff.

So I took everything out of the dining room (besides the furniture, that is), and then slowly brought it back in. By doing that I was able to see what items I didn't want in there. What items I didn't love. What items were just stuff, instead of needed/wanted things.
Therefore, I was left with a very basic, minimalistic dining room that feels more open, more light, more useful. 
(Why this picture is slanted I do not know.)

It contains my little corner shelf. My dining table. And my buffet which holds the kid's school items. That's it. 


One bag of stuff ready to be donated. One room down. A million left to go!

On a side note, we also cleaned out part of the garage and got rid of a pile of stuff on the curb. I'm glad someone else is able to make use of the items and glad we have some cleared space.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dikkon Eberhart

"He was destined from birth for literary greatness."If only his father hadn't stolen all the words."As the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet laureate Richard Eberhart, Dikkon Eberhart grew up surrounded by literary giants. Frequent dinner guests included, among others, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath."

I admit that I picked up The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner, and I heard the Greatest Story ever told by Dikkon Eberhart because of the cover. It was too interesting, too poetic not to read it.

Unfortunately, I only made it half way through before I realized that I didn't care about the story. Had I been a fan of, or even had heard of the poet Richard Eberhart, I think I would have enjoyed this memoir more. I would have known more of where Dikkon Eberhart was coming from.

Instead, all I felt through the first half of this book was name dropping. Frost this, Ginsberg that, and so on. Yet none of these encounters, none of these memories seem to hold substance. Yes, Eberhart met and grew up around literary geniuses, but the meetings within the book are so fleeting and seem so insubstantial. I felt like every page dropped a new name but there was no story behind it. 

Granted, I am not a big reader of poetry. So I may have been prejudiced even before I began reading.  Again, I feel like those who are poetry lovers would have felt more immersed in the reading of the book. Besides the well known poets listed, I didn't recognize the other people mentioned, so their name dropping meant nothing to me. 

Eberhart did have an interesting upbringing. His memoir does impart some wisdom and fun stories. But for the most part it didn't interest me enough to continue reading it. A poetry lover would probably feel completely different and would probably recognize each and every person that Eberhart mentions in the book. That could make all the difference for a reader!

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Nature Heals

The past few months my face has broken out horribly, especially on the chin area. I don't know if it's stress, hormones, bad eating, the heat, or a combination of it all. But it was bad. 

I tried everything in my cabinets. Acne spot cream, the generic form of ProActive, face masks, and more. Nothing worked. My face just got dry and peeled, along with more acne and more redness. This is embarrassing at the age of 32! All those products used to work for me but not this time.

Then I remembered the homemade deodorant in the cupboard.
 Tea tree oil and coconut oil are both powerful antiseptics and healing oils as well. I started to apply this to my face in place of all the other creams and within just a few days I noticed a drastic difference. It's been close to two weeks now and I haven't had new breakouts and the old ones are healing and close to gone! I could do without the baking soda in it (my next batch, solely for the face, with be just the tea tree and coconut oils).

A simple, cost effective beauty routine! If you don't have a source for tea tree oil or coconut oil a good place for both is Swanson Vitamins. I just restocked my supplement and medicine cabinets with several items from there and have always been happy with my orders (as well as the prices!). Use this link for $5 off your first order!  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Finding Treasures

The kids and I headed off to another city wide garage sale and hit a few good treasures!

My favorite trinket find was this cute globe, which is actually a little bank. For some reason I seem attracted to globes for decorating and this is the second globe to be added to my "collection".
And that beautiful quilt underneath? It's a twin sized quilt and so original (those greens and reds just scream vintage summer to me!). The woman told me that her mother made it "forever ago". I questioned why she was getting rid of it and was told that she has too much stuff. I told her the quilt would be well loved in our house. 

I didn't even take it out of the package at the sale, as I had already fallen in love with the colors and knew I would buy it no matter the condition (for $5, how could I not?!). When I arrived home and pulled it out I about gasped at how sweet it is. Hand-stitched and in great condition with just one teeny tiny tear and a few small stains.

I hope the woman never regrets selling her mother's handmade quilt. I know I'll always treasure it - it's one of my favorite quilts to date!

The kiddos had fun too! Miss Amy with her new sunglasses and a little bag of Wizard of Oz dolls (her total came to 40 cents today!).

Joe had $12 in birthday money to spend and (surprisingly!) did not let it burn a hole in his pocket. He spent $2 on a giant pirate ship and $1 on a motorized train and has the rest saved for a rainy day.

Becca bought one tiny Littlest Pet Shop and two books for a grand total of 55 cents. 

They are learning the value of a dollar and what is/not worth spending their own money on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Love Your Neighbor

I thought that How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively meant the broader sense of "neighbor", as in everyone. But she really means neighbor as in location-wise, neighborhood, right in your own backyard type thing.

 "A Woman's Guide to Sharing Her Faith While Making New Friends
Many women are comfortable hanging out at church but also long for a spiritual connection to their community. Amy Lively shows you how to love those strangers next door even when you're fearful."

Which is good. Charity starts at home, right? But I didn't get out of this book what I had hoped. I do think it would be lovely to have deep friendships within the neighborhood. I think it would be amazing to have a "neighborhood cafe" within my home where the neighborhood women can connect. 

It sounds all so out of reach for a mother busy at home with children. If I invited an elderly neighbor over my children would be pestering us with questions. If I invited another mother and children here everyone would be running amok and we would be supervising them, not having a deep and meaningful conversation. This book seems to speak to the older woman, or at least one who has an empty nest or hours child-free throughout the day.

Not only that, but what if you don't live in a neighborhood safe enough to knock on doors and invite strangers into your home? This book seems to be excluding several sectors of the public.

That's not to say that it's not a good book. The ideas and the way Lively made her Neighborhood Cafe work sound ideal. I just had to stop about half way through as I didn't feel it was the book for me in my season of life.

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

The Day Is Waiting

Don Freeman, the creator of Corduroy, was one of the most beloved and popular author/illustrators of picture books for children. After Freeman s death in 1978, colleagues and his wife decided to use his never before published artwork and make a commemorative book using his wonderful illustrations.

I'm a big fan of the book Corduroy by Don Freeman. I loved it as a kid and I love reading it to my own children. When I saw that a new book was coming out with Freeman's illustrations I had to see it! The Day Is Waiting (words by Linda Zuckerman) is such an adorable little book.

It's a quick read but there are lots to look at in the pictures. That makes an excellent book for both my toddler as well as my 7 year old son.

All Freeman fans will want a copy of this book on their shelves!

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wall Art

A month ago I bought two cute little quilt blocks at a garage sale. I think I paid a whole 15 cents for the both of them.

I had plans to make pillows with them. 

But my plans quickly changed with I decided to make some wall art with them instead. I just taped them to the wall and added some washi tape as stems and leaves. They bloom next to Amy's toddler bed and add lots of whimsy and color to her corner of the world. :)


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