Monday, May 25, 2015

American Sniper Blu-Ray/DVD combo MEMORIAL DAY GIVEAWAY

Today we remember those who have served so bravely in our armed forces to protect our freedom throughout the years. My dad served in the Navy, my sister currently serves in the Air Force. Another of those soldiers was Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL, who served four tours of duty in Iraq before coming home and finding his way back to his family. I'm sure you have heard of him.

Kyle is portrayed by Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper." My husband and I had the opportunity to watch this movie together in our home. I don't want to give a lot away in the plot, but this was a really powerful movie for me. Seeing circumstances portrayed from Iraq in the years after 9/11 were more than I expected. Kyle's service and how that service to our country (and ultimately us as US citizens) affected him mentally was heartbreaking. Imagining how his wife and children handled his service was really impacting to me as a mother.
image via Grace Hill Media

We really enjoyed watching this movie, sharing in this man's life, and crying over his untimely death. The only part I didn't enjoy was the cursing throughout, but I've come to realize war movies will have that. It doesn't take away from the movie itself or the life of Kyle.

From now until 12/31/15, $1 from the purchase of every movie (perhaps of the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital copy) will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project (up to $1,000,000. Void in AL, HI, IL, MA, MS, and SC). This organization helps soldiers who have been wounded as they transition back to civilian life. What a neat opportunity we have to help those who have sacrificially given to our freedoms.
image via Grace Hill Media

Grace Hill Media, my partners in this giveaway, have given me two extra copies to give to my dad and my sister to thank them for their service to our country. I'm excited to get these to them. In addition, one of you will be lucky enough to win a copy of your own of "American Sniper" on Blu-Ray/DVD.

GIVEAWAY:

TO ENTER (MANDATORY ENTRY): Please leave the name of a service man or woman that you are close to (family or friend). Please leave their name(s) in a comment along with a valid email address.

OTHER ENTRIES (ONE COMMENT PER ENTRY): Leave a comment with how you are spending your Memorial Day (around here, we're cleaning and organizing closets and bedrooms).

Spread the word about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Leave the URL in the comment section.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and others may have other opinions. Giveaway void where prohibited. Must be 18 or over to enter. If you don't win the giveaway, feel free to purchase this DVD on Amazon.com.  Giveaway ends Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 11:59pm (CST). Winner will be chosen randomly on Random.org.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore (cookbook review)

Reviewing "Food52 Genius Recipes" by Kristen Miglore was really intriguing to me. I'm a new cook. I have taught myself everything I know about cooking in the last 5 years, I'd say. I'm not great but I've learned to bake bread and make pies and I throw together one heck of a pan of ham sammies. So the subtitle of this cookbook was really exciting for me: "100 recipes that will change the way you cook." I don't have one certain "way" so if these can make me a better cook, why not try? 
image via Food52 website

It took me awhile to work in a recipe from this cookbook due to time obligations and ingredients on hand. I don't have wine vinegar, muscovado sugar, steel-cut oats, hulled raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds, red quinoa (or any other kind), pistachios, scallions, a waffle maker (really need to get one, though), nuts of any variety other than peanuts, tahini (have tried to find it in a few stores with no luck), fava beans, fleur de sel (what is that?)...OK you get the idea! We are simple meat and potatoes kind of people and we live in a rural area so sometimes this stuff is hard to find or expensive. 

However, I did find a wonderful recipe to try that I had everything on hand for: Crepes from Kenny Shopsin. I describe these as french toast with tortillas instead of bread. The book calls these "lazy crepes" but considering I've never had a real crepe, these were delicious. And SOOO easy! The creator of these cheater crepes said "Not one person has ever figured out that I wasn't making crepes in the traditional way (of course, I would tell anyone who asked)." They must taste the same as real ones, but I think real ones are much more difficult (hence why I've never attempted).

I had the eggs, heavy cream, vanilla extract, flour tortillas, and butter on hand. I even warmed some frozen strawberries and blueberries up for a compote. My youngest did not like the blueberries, so I made him a savory crepe with cheese. He liked that better but it just wasn't his cup of tea. Which was fine by me because I ate his up. 

I'm excited to try a few other recipes in this cookbook like the Fried Eggs with Wine Vinegar, Touch-of-Grace Biscuits, No-Knead Bread, Garlic Green Beans, and Marie-Helene's Apple Cake (are you hungry yet?). There are a few that will never grace my table, too, like the Kale Salad (I just cannot get on board with kale), Shrimp Grits, Tomato Water Bloody Mary, Cauliflower Soup, or Grilled Favas. Not every recipe is for every family, right? The recipe I'll try next will probably be the Poached Scrambled Eggs - sounds quick and easy! Who doesn't love that in a recipe as long as it's delicious in the end?!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from my own.

The Berenstain Bears' God Bless Our Country by Mike Berenstain (book review)

The Berenstain Bears have provided my generation and my kids' generation with some of the best social stories available. They have helped us with teaching our children respect, contentedness (the Gimmes), the dentist, and doctor, among other things. I have really enjoyed the newer Living Lights stories, helping to teach faith to our children.

I was excited for an Independence Day story, "The Berenstain Bears' God Bless Our Country" by Mike Berenstain, for my children. We don't have many for the 4th of July (if any?) so I thought this would be great. I liked how they told about the Revolutionary War and why it was fought. I loved the "Li-bear-ty Bell," just cute and cleaver.

image via BookLook
However, I did not like that the book quoted the Old Testament when talking about America. It called this country a land flowing with milk and honey. While this is the Land of Opportunity, that Scripture specifically is referring to the Promised Land/Israel. It's irritating when Scripture is taken out of context and while I love this country, it is not the Promise Land that God promised the Israelites. It's a wonderful country but let's not mix things up, Mr. Berenstain.

Other than that error, I did enjoy this book. However, that error was enough that I did not keep this book for our collection. I want my children to have factual books about our country and that error made this an inaccurate book.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not share my opinion(s).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture by Kevin Harvey (book review)

I love pop culture. I grew up in the Saved by the Bell, N'Sync vs. BSB, Rugrats, Daria, MTV era. In my family, we watched tv all the time; I hardly remember it being turned off. Now, not saying that's right or wrong, but it's definitely influenced my life.

I've had many influences between childhood and college and adulthood, but pop culture really does intertwine still with my life. I love movies and watching tv, although I'm finding it harder to find things that I deem appropriate for me.
image via BookLook
The Bible and God have changed my life drastically, but I still enjoy pop culture. I enjoy watching the tv show Bones, Marvel and DC comic movies, reading to my kiddos about Star Wars. Of course, "The Bible in Pop Culture" by Kevin Harvey caught my attention. I've read books and articles about how Christ is reflected in Superman and Star Wars, so I thought I'd enjoy reading more about that phenomenon.

Turns out a lot more than superheroes are influenced by the Word of God. This book starts out talking about superheroes that (imperfectly) reflect Christ. He talks more about the movie-versions than comic book versions, but still applicable.

Harvey goes on to talk about finding snippets of Christ and God in imperfect movies like Bruce Almighty, The Book of Eli (one of my favorites), and Signs. I really like how he says that non-believers are seeing these movies and maybe want to have a dialogue about them, but if we as believers aren't seeing these movies, how can we have that dialogue? Not saying we need to see every single movie out there but we shouldn't be closed off to movies because they are Hollywood.

I really enjoyed the section of the book where Harvey talks about kid movies like The Lego Movie, Frozen, The Croods. I read some of these sections to my kids to open their eyes to the wonder that God is truly in everything. He permeates our world in ways unimaginable to us. Harvey writes about Despicable Me and how there are the true orphans in the movie but Gru is also an emotional orphan and God welcomes such orphans into His family, just like Gru eventually opens his heart to Agnes, Edith, and Margo. Small things I hadn't seen in these movies that my kids love that I can share with them about Christ and God's overarching plan of sacrifice and love.

Harvey goes on to write about The Mindy Project, Lost (which has a lot of Christ symbolism in it), The Big Bang Theory, the movie Saved!, The Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, and then songs about heaven and love. His basic point is that these are starting points where we can talk about Christ with others who may not know Him.

I really enjoyed the Bible quizzes and who said it first (there's a whole chapter on sayings that are popular today that originated in the Bible), and the mazes and puzzles at the end of the book.

This book is not for everyone. I live in an area where there's a group of people who don't watch any tv. Great for them. I limit and prohibit a lot from my children's lives, too, but they still watch some things. I want what they watch to nourish them in some way: educationally, spiritually. I love watching superhero things with them (NOT the grown up movies which are for GROWN UPS), but I love to point out how super so-and-so used his power to help others or this is what kindness looks like. Things like that than can be used by God to further their growth with Him.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. Others may or may not share my opinions. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

a meme just because I'm tired


A college friend had this up and I haven't written anything much past book reviews and doctor appointment stuff lately so I thought this would be brain candy for me.

1. What we're eating this week...

I am needing to review a cookbook so this weekend I'm trying out cheater crepes made with tortillas. Yum! Tonight I'm making my boys' favorite meal - ham sammies!

2. What I'm reminiscing about...

When days weren't so full or when I wasn't so needing quiet to recharge. When did I become so hermit-ish?

3. What I'm loving...

I love this weather. So warm. And I love that I found TWO pairs of comfy maternity pants!! Yay!

4. What we've been up to. 

Doctor appointments. One with a PT (Moose has functional scoliosis, no biggie it sounds like) and an MRI. Next week: follow ups. We've also been trying to get outside to the park more.

5. What I'm dreading...

This month with something almost every day planned. I have tried to cancel the things I can but most everything is a must. Boo.

6. What I'm working on...

I'm working on a really great cross stitch that I planned. But I keep having to tear out parts because apparently I can't count. UGH! BUT it will be beautiful and colorful when I'm finished.

7. What I'm excited about...

LAST TRIMESTER!! I cannot WAIT to meet this girl! Someone gave me a BONNET today for her. Oh I love bonnets!!

8. What I'm watching/reading...

I am at this moment watching Teaching Mrs. Tingle (don't judge; it's hilarious). I am reading one of the best books I've ever read - "Love Does" by Bob Goff. Get yourself and your best friend a copy. I love how he talks about Scripture without quoting it with chapter:verse. It makes it more real.

9. What I'm listening to...

"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien. Loving it! Still wish every audio book was read by the guy who read the Harry Potter books.

10. What I'm wearing...

I have on a black t-shirt and comfy sweats today. I'll have to change in a bit because it's warmer outside than it is in my house.

11. What I'm doing this weekend...

I am going to cheer my husband on in his half marathon! I am so excited! I cannot wait but am nervous about navigating the city. He's always been such a support so I'm so anxious to be the best cheerleader for him!

12. What I'm looking forward to next month...

Nothing planned except summer reading activities. Lots of park time. Lots of rest time. Lots of boy time.

13. What else is new...

I don't think anything else is new. We've had enough new lately, which I'm thankful for because it really has lead me closer to God and made me rely fully on Him and I love that, but I'm ready for not new for a few months and then totally new with baby girl. ha!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dear Mama with the special needs kiddo(s) who thinks life is hard

Dear mama,
 Life is hard, isn't it? All those phone calls, medical terms (followed by insanely scary Google searches - stop it), doctor appointments, no-sleep nights because of the "what ifs" drifting in. It's overwhelming. To top it off, you actually have to be a mother and love, discipline, nurture, make food, take them places, socialize, eat (please eat), shower.
  I was lucky. Life was relatively normal for about 2 years into motherhood. I mean, it was hard but I thought that hard was normal (and to an extent, it is normal. ALL mothering is hard, special needs or not!). And then we got the diagnosis that made some of the hard better explained. Didn't make it harder or easier, but explained so we could do something about it.
  Then added on top of normal mothering stuff, we had the doctor appointments, therapies, trying out diets (that didn't work), fishing through quack doctors vs. real doctors. And we came to our new normal.
  It was hard. I am coming to the conclusion that it gets more difficult every year. When they're babies, you just do everything for them. Feed, change, feed, change, rock, feed, feed, change, play, read. But as they get older, they have their own ideas, their own attitudes, their own sins (which look an awful lot like your own, right?). Meltdowns, tantrums. And again, that's just the normal stuff! If you have a special needs kid, there is the "is this a meltdown or is this _________ (autism, medication, depression/anger from being different, blah blah blah)?"
  We just got our second diagnosis for our son, Moose. I was not expecting a second label on his life. Now, I love our neurologist because he told me (and I knew from his autism already) that the diagnosis doesn't change the kid. He is no different today than he was yesterday. The same is true for your kid. He or she has not changed with a diagnosis. To paraphrase Popeye, "they ares what they ares and that's all that they ares." And it does not change the key factor: you love them and God loves them even more. Even more!
  Sometimes it seems like we just want to question God in these circumstances. Why? Why? I understand and I don't think it's wrong to ask why because we are rational people and we want answers. That's why there is science and research and history and -ologies of all sorts! We are a people who long for answers. I don't have most of those for you (sorry, I don't even have them for myself). I do have ONE answer: Jesus Christ.
  Some days I wake up and am drowning in my doubts and my questions and my fear. Just breathing is hard (not to mention this baby that grows daily making breathing always more difficult LOL). Just surviving is hard. I am a mess. And then, I read His Word, speaking encouragement into my mess. Speaking beauty from these seemingly dense ashes. Speaking hope into our future. God is FOR us. God LOVES us. God LOVES my son (and my son and my daughter). God FIGHTS for us. God does allow hard things; this is a world that is broken with sin - that is a fact. He does NOT bring the sin or temptation on to us, but He is there to help us cope with it, fight it, flee from it, and to have victory over it. VICTORY! We are not called to have spirits of fear. We are not called to drown. We are called to take up His Word, His Sword, His Spirit and fight for freedom, for love, for hope, for charity, for justice, for faith.
  Pray to him. It's not hard, there's no formula, no right or wrong way to pray. Just talk to Him. He's listening and He wants to hear you. He wants to help you. Comfort you, encourage you.
  So I know it's hard and if you EVER need a shoulder to cry on, I have two. I'm happy to listen and share our experiences. But I do not have most answers, just one. Jesus. Lean in, lean hard, listen, love. He will guide your ways. He is the light on the path. He's our flashlight in the darkest of days. He loves you and your children.
 Love,
Randi

Sunday, April 19, 2015

His faithfulness in the hard

A month ago when Moose had his first seizure, it was a "normal" one. One we all think of - tremors, eyes rolled back - when we think of seizures. Over the past few weeks as we've learned more about seizures, we have wondered (at least I have) if we've been missing smaller seizures for a long while now.

Moose is a spacey kid. Moose is a sloth-y kid. What if those spacing out moments, those lolligagging moments aren't being spacey or sloth-like? What if they are seizures so small you don't notice? Or after affects of seizures (the fatigue)? Now, we don't (and aren't) want to beat ourselves up over this because we're only human and only so observant ourselves. But an observation nonetheless.

Yesterday Moose had a seizure around 2pm. I still see God's handling of this because I was not home from 10-1 and Big A was tending to the yard and garden at those times. We were all in the living room at 2pm when our son became unresponsive. Totally unresponsive. The moment was so unexpected, so benign, that I thought he was just ignoring me (I was asking him to match his socks). I threw a paper towel roll at him! And then I started to take it seriously. No response, no response, no response. Time is an interesting thing that can make mere minutes seem endless and terrifying.

We started for the ER. He could kind of walk but was just not....there. By the time we got in the ER, he was responsive and I think the nurses thought we were nuts at first because he seemed fine, if just a little sleepy. The doctor came and checked him out and confirmed our suspicions. He called it an absence seizure which makes perfect sense; our son was absent for those few minutes.

He slept for awhile and we took him home where he slept more. He was acting like himself so we decided to go for a drive and ended up at a really neat park at a neighboring town. Big A was pushing him on a merry-go-round while I was helping Squirt find little items in a nature hunt. And it happened again. Unresponsive, unresponsive. He wasn't as responsive even when he came out of this second episode. Had a harder time answering questions; seemed more lethargic. I called the hospital, which directed me to the doctor who I called who called another hospital and spoke with the pediatric neurologist we saw a few weeks ago.

It was decided to start Moose on anti-seizure medicine. Back to the hospital (what are the statistics of children getting sick on the weekends when pharmacies aren't open?). We started on the most benign, the one no one is allergic to, the one with seemingly small side effects (lethargy, possible mood alterations). We learned that pudding with a smashed pill in it feels/tastes like coconut pudding to Moose (he got it down but was not happy about it). We learned seizures make him so tired he's not even interested in eating (although his brother decided to have a growth spurt yesterday - I'm so hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry - while we visited the hospital).

We declined on him being observed in the hospital and played musical beds so I could observe Moose myself overnight (nothing to report except he talks in his sleep sometimes like I do). At 6:00 this morning, he woke up, his talkative self. Thank God! I may take his talkativeness and repeating for granted and get annoyed with it again, but for now I'm so thankful. He's here. He's responding. He took a big ol' pill this morning without complaint (better than coconut pudding, I think).

This episode made me think about all of the books about autism I've read and how a lot of those kids (some? most?) are "locked" in their own world. For some parents, this is their life with their child. I'm so sorry if this fits your life; it's scary and sad and I pray you find the hope of the Lord in this situation.

I know I'm very thankful for Moose's "big" seizure at school last month. Without it, would we have noticed (as readily) these "small" seizures? How long have they been going on? How long will they continue? Questions we face without easy answers, or any answers. But not questions we face alone. God allowed Moose's big seizure which made us aware. God has not allowed him to be harmed by these seizures (no head injuries or such). God has allowed us to see His hand at work in Moose's life and even in Squirt's (as he prayed for his brother on the first ER trip, he suggested something about maybe Satan has him and later I thanked him for praying, he said that he told Satan to "get behind me so he [Moose] could flee." Whether this is a medical or spiritual or both situation, it encouraged me to know that our son at 5 knows about spiritual warfare without us really teaching it to him and that he's aware that Satan has no power of followers of Christ.).

James 1:2-4 "Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." 

I asked God to help grow my character more like His and this wasn't what I had in mind, but I will take the opportunity. I know He loves my child more than I. I know He is sovereign over all. I know He has a plan. I will trust and wait to see it unfold.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook by Mike Berenstain (book review)

We love the Berenstain Bear books around here. I've been reading them since I was a child and I love reading them to my children. They are some of the most helpful social stories, in my opinion.

I was excited to get to read "The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook (Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult)" by Mike Berenstain because I love when my boys help me in the kitchen. They do not do so with as much enthusiasm as when they were just a few years younger. Moose was still hesitant to help me but Squirt was VERY excited about this cookbook. He flipped through it and decided on a few dishes to make. I didn't have the ingredients for all of them so we had to pick and choose.

image via BookSneeze

We ended up making a Shepherd's Pie first. It was really good and very easy. Squirt helped me put the ingredients together and in no time, we sat down to a delicious kid and mom made meal. It was just fun to make something simple with him. I would use this recipe for a new baby meal, too. Very filling. I did add frozen peas to the recipe, which the book didn't call for, but I like to make things a little more nutritious when I can.

The next time we used the cookbook, we made Sub Sandwiches. I didn't have sub buns so I made some small french loaves. We mostly didn't follow this recipe, I guess - not using tomato (on the kids') or green peppers, but I did add bacon (so much for that nutritious stuff, right?). But the idea came from this book!

When I decide to take birthday treats to school for the boys, I would like to make the Race Car Cookies, which are chocolate covered wafers with chocolate covered caramels with Sprees as the wheels and fruit roll-up type things cut up for decoration. I know Moose would get a kick out of them, and maybe even agree to help me make them!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may or may not be the same.

The Legacy by Dan Walsh & Gary Smalley (book review)

Awhile ago I reviewed "The Desire" by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley and loved the characters and plot in the story - Christina being pregnant and not knowing what to do, Marilyn taking her under her wing, Michele wanting a baby so badly and not being physically able to carry one. I loved how the authors tied their stories together with exactly what God ties our stories together with: love, grace, forgiveness, and more love.
image via amazon.com

When the opportunity to read "The Legacy" by Walsh and Smalley came up, I was very excited. This story revolves around Marilyn's youngest child, Doug, and how his life has been very far from the God his parents have found relationships with. Christina is involved, heavily, in this story, and we also get to see the adoption story with Michele play out fully in this.

As often with novels, this plot wasn't hard to follow or figure out the ending to. However, that doesn't detract from the tale. Who doesn't love a happy ending, regardless of if you see it coming or not?

Walsh and Smalley have found a sweet spot in their writing, sharing the love of God with their readers. Just beautifully written dialogue and character development. I really enjoy reading them and would like to go back and read the first two books in this Restoration Series.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may or may not share my opinions. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

neurologist, EKG, EEG

This past Tuesday is when we took Moose to see a pediatric neurologist. We really liked Dr. K; thought he had a great bedside manner, especially with Moose. It takes some patience and persistence to have a conversation with this kiddo, but the doc did.

Very observant guy, too. He noticed a slight curvature in Moose's back and that one leg is longer than another. We'll have that PT appointment to look forward to in the near future. Dr. K also said I would not make it to my due date; so we'll see on that one, too.

Moose did so well behaviorally. It was kind of amazing. He not only did well in the appointment with Dr. K but also endured an EKG and EEG that same day. I was talking to his teacher this morning and she observed (and I agree) that Moose holds it together really well during school and sometimes on Fridays you can see him coming apart at the seams. I'm sure it takes great energy from him to seem so "normal" so often, but he does a wonderful job of it.

We did get results back from the EEG and are going to go have an MRI done after some wave activity was seen in the first test. This could mean seizures or it could not; I hate to jump to conclusions before having all of our ducks in a row. I guess now it's a waiting game for this new test and results.

Whatever may happen, we know God is in control. He made Moose just how He wanted to make him, seizures or not. I trust in that hope, always.

I'll leave you with pictures of the boys. I haven't shared any in awhile on here.

Faces painted like Lego Ninjago characters - Cole and Kai

a nice day in January (I need to take more pics of them!)

Also in January...

in case you missed something