Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope by Amber C. Haines and Seth Haines (book review & mother letter)

Dear Mother,

One thing I've noticed since becoming a mother almost 9 (?!) years ago is the call to be authentic. I think in the very recent past, mothers have felt this immense pressure (inward and outward) to be perfect - to balance it all, have it all together. This still exists, especially the internal struggle. I struggle with this but I have also noticed a shift.

WE ARE TIRED!

I am tired of having it all together, of looking picture perfect but feeling like a mess, of hiding my laundry or dishes or struggles, of not balancing anything and of letting some things just fall. I hear this from friends over and over again of how exhausting this facade is. I've heard plenty of my friend moms say that they are over it.

No longer will we be fake. No more plastic smiles and "I'm fine" when it's not true. No more acting like our kids don't throw tantrums and drive us up the wall sometimes. It's time for us to stop putting dirty dishes in the oven and hiding the laundry when company comes. Quit worrying about the dust - no one is looking (and if they are, hand them a microfiber cloth and let them dust)!

This life is super hard but the pressures to be Super Mom make it harder. Your kids already think you're Super Mom! And you are! If you are in there changing diapers, wiping boogers and tears, fixing toys and broken hearts, feeding them, clothing them, disciplining them, and shepherding them toward Jesus - you are. You are Super Mom!

So let the dishes soak (or get a dishwasher if you can; it's amazing) and allow the clothes to get wrinkly in the basket. It's ok. As I sit and watch my boys who aren't babies any longer it's really clear to me that this childhood business is short. As I rock our new baby girl to sleep day in and day out, I'm thankful for this perspective. I missed out on that when the boys were young but I won't any more. I won't waste time being fake and pretending to have it all together. I'm still figuring this motherhood stuff out and that's ok. I'll learn and God will cover what I mess up.

Be gentle to yourself (and forgive me if this is a babbling mess; the kids stole my brain!).

Randi

image via Amazon.com

Read more encouraging letters like this one in the new book "The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope" by Amber C. Haines and Seth Haines. This book has really encouraged me this last week of reading it. There were so many things I wanted to write down so I wouldn't forget them. To enjoy motherhood, to slow things down, to remember and not worry, to be kind to others and myself. So much in this book! Get a copy for yourself or a friend (or both) for Mother's Day.

I really appreciated how beautiful the book is aesthetically and how it's not a huge chunk of anything to read so even super overwhelmed moms can read some and be encouraged. This is real advice and reminders from real moms just like me and probably you. I don't know if it always takes a village to raise a kid but it definitely takes a village to live in this world. I'm so thankful for the technology that allows mothers to be connected through books and blogs while deep in the trenches of motherhood.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ and that's ok. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson (book review)

I've always wanted the home where people hang out, where the kids come to play. So far I don't have that home (although I do have the home where people use the bathroom, living right across from the park, so I'm of some service). Maybe I won't ever have that home but my family seems to enjoy it when we're home (although watching our six-year-old leave other houses, you wouldn't think so...). However, I want to cultivate my home intentionally to be a loving place, safe and comfortable. I decided to read "The Lifegiving Home" by Sally and Sarah Clarkson under this premise - to learn.
image via amazon.com
I like the set-up of the book with a mom and daughter writing it - to see a home from a mom's perspective and from a daughter's. The daughter has yet to make a family home but she has a clear idea of what her home should be like. And the writing itself is superb!

I really liked how the book was organized into the different months of the year. January was about routines, February was about relationships, March was about beauty, April about heritage, and so on. I like that you could take this book and read it in a year, so it's not so overwhelming. I say overwhelming because there are so many ideas in this. I do appreciate that neither Clarkson says "this is how we do it so you have to, too" because their life is far more sophisticated than mine will ever be. I don't mean this in any way other than we're different people. I have a more laid-back fashion and a casualness to my home; theirs seems fancier. To each their own. And for their family, they home schooled so had more time to do some of this they talk about.

I did glean some ideas for celebrating occasions.  I really like how they had afternoon tea in their home; I'd love to incorporate that but I don't believe this is my season for it. I truly love their love of books because that's something I share. I did pick up a few I'd like to share with my family.

Overall, I don't believe I will use a ton out of this book but I do think I got out of it that I need to be intentional in how I plan my home, plan our routines, help our relationships grow, welcome guests and loved ones, host, decorate. That intentional living seems to be a theme of mine for some time now. I plan to put it into practice. If you're interested, Ann Voskamp also reviewed this book.

You can find resources for this book on lifegivinghome.com

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. My opinions may differ from others' and that's ok. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

God's Not Dead 2 Giveaway WINNER

My giveaways may not generate the most entries but we still have a winner for the God's Not Dead 2 package!

Congratulations to chickie717. I will email you to get your mailing information.

Thanks for entering!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March family update

Seizure update: no seizures since Moose's hospital stay in mid-February. Not sure what that means but we met with his neuro doctors last week and they had a conference and talked about his situation. The decision was made to move ahead with surgery to take out the lesion (which they now think to be a low-grade tumor...no, I'm not sure what exactly that means). We do not have a date for the surgery but go next week to have a consult with the neurosurgeon.

I've been asked how I feel about this and I have processed all of the "what ifs" I can think of, so I'm doing fine with it right now. I know there are days where it hits me and days where I don't think about it. I think it will continue to be a rollercoaster. However, if the surgery is successful (and the doctors believe it will be), Moose will continue on his meds for a year and then be weaned off as long as he stays seizure free. Whoa! Isn't that miraculous sounding?!

The boys had their cub scout banquet and pinewood derby! For Squirt, it was his first. He was so cute when he'd race. Even when he lost, he would search for me in the crowd and give me a thumbs up. He did win one race but Moose did not. He took it well. I was a little disappointed the kids didn't really get to race their cars after the actual racing was over. That's what Moose likes to do the best, just racing it over and over and over and over, not really caring if he wins or loses. But the tracks got picked up right away. Hm.



Princess has been learning to sit up all by herself! She babbles quite a bit "bababa papapa mmmm" but no real words. I'm ready for her to say "mama"!!!! She can get up on her hands and knees to rock and sometimes scoot backwards but hasn't quite figured out how to move forward. That doesn't stop her from "swimming" to get anything she wants. I just started to feed her oatmeal with cinnamon and some fruit puree in the morning so she gets breakfast, lunch, and supper. Our girl is growing! She's been such a relief to have this year; she's always so happy so it's lovely to have her on a stressful day.

love when they sleep with their butts in the air!


I've had a hard time leaving her for Moose's various appointments. Next week I will leave her for the neurosurgeon consult and then again when Squirt gets his 4th set of tubes in and adenoids out. Poor guy. He's not loving the idea of it and to be honest, the idea of him being intubated is almost more than I can handle. Of course, I will handle it because I'm the mama. I have had people ask me or tell me a lot "I don't know how you handle it" and such. But you just do. It's like when you have two kids or three kids, "how do you handle it?" but you just do. What else are you supposed to do? I am just so thankful to have the friends and family I do who are so supportive whether it's baby-sitting or picking kids up from school.

My parents came down to help me out and watch the kids so Big A and I could attend some weddings and TobyMac (read more in the next paragraph). Here are some pictures from Going Bonkers, a kid play place and arcade.
he never tires of the ride on toys...

I think she likes his hat

Squirt wanted a picture with the clown

so nice to have help with her 

so I could play games! oh yeah!

My 30th birthday was last week. Big A told me awhile ago he was taking me to the TobyMac concert. He wanted to surprise me with it but needed my mom to baby-sit and didn't think to call her to ask. Weird. Anyway, the concert was AWESOME! And made even more AWESOME because two of our best friends got the tickets WITH us so we could all go together for my and her 30th birthdays. It was a blast with Hollyn, Capitol Kings, Colton Dixon, Britt Nichole, Finding Favour, and TobyMac. The music was amazing. I just had the best time. Then we ate at this place called BRGR nearby after - so yummy! And then when we came home the next day after a night away (always awesome), Big A had arranged a surprise party for me with most of my nearest and dearest. Later he was like 'oh I should have invited this person and this person' so if you weren't invited, it wasn't out of anything other than good natured oversight. It was amazing and my sisters were there, which is always such a treat. That was the first time Amber got to meet Princess. Just all around the best birthday ever. I am now enjoying my 30s.

OH one more super super exciting thing! Moose got invited to a birthday party! I cannot tell you what an answer to prayer this is for me. Squirt's been invited to at least 5 parties this year. And each time, Moose says "when will I get invited to a birthday party?" and I can't answer that. Broke my heart so when I got an invite for him, I was about in tears. I know that sounds so silly to some of you, but when making friends is so hard for him, this means so much. Life with a kid with autism is different and I'm just thankful for people who accept Moose and love him and I'm so thankful the kids in his class are that way too. It speaks so much for the parents of these kids.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

God's Not Dead 2 giveaway!

I went to the movie theater this weekend and let me tell you, there are a ton of good movies coming out, but none got me as excited as God's Not Dead 2! I literally got goosebumps thinking about how many people saw even just the theatrical trailer! Maybe that will lead them to see the movie and lead them to personally knowing Christ as their Savior. You don't know! But it's an exciting possibility!



Today I get to bring to your attention a giveaway right here on this very little blog. If you don't know God's Not Dead was about a college student standing up for his faith in a college course - basically if he didn't prove God was real, he'd fail the course. I think the courage shown in this film is amazing. God's Not Dead 2 surrounds a trial in a court of law after a high school teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) answers a student's question. I'm not sure of the exact question but she answered using her faith. Obviously, she gets sued and then must decide if she'll stand up for her faith or back down to the world's standards.

I think this is something we all must decide. My husband and I have stood up for our faith and belief in Jesus Christ at the cost of familial relationships. For most of us relationships and status is about all we have to fear losing or changing, but who knows, sometimes it may be more. The Bible says we must love God above all else. We all have to weigh that out in our own lives but "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

God's Not Dead 2 is directed by Harold Cronk and stars Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, David A.R. White, Pat Boonie, Hayley Orrantia, Benjamin Oyango, Paul Kwo, Ray Wise, Sadie Robertson, and Robin Givens. There are cameo appearances by Governor Mike Huckabee, Lee Strobel, and The Newsboys.

GIVEAWAY:
One gift pack for God's Not Dead includes:

· The book “Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question” by Rice Broocks, bestselling author of God’s Not Dead writer http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010R8615W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1· Postcard· Mini-poster· GND2 bag· Pen

TO ENTER: Tell me about a time when you've stood up for your faith. If you don't have a time like this, do you think that you would stand under the pressure of a lawsuit in order to claim your faith?

ONE ENTRY per person. Must be 18 years or older to enter. Please leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you win (you will be contacted upon your winning and if I fail to hear from you in 48 hours, I will choose another winner). Winners will be chosen by random.org. Good luck and thanks for entering. Giveaway will be open until Friday, April 8, 2016 at 11:59pm (CST). 

Disclaimer: Must be 18 or over to enter. Giveaway is void where prohibited. I will receive a gift pack of my own in return for hosting this giveaway. All opinions of the movie(s) are my own.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (book review)

The subtitle for "My Fringe Hours" by Jessica N. Turner is "discovering a more creative and fulfilled life" made this book sound amazing! I'd love a more creative and fulfilled life. Who wouldn't?!

The book is separated into three segments: Explore, Discover, and Live Well. In those are three "fringe principles" each: belief statements. Each belief statement is a chapter with several questions about what you like to do with your spare time, how you spend your time, how you balance life, what you would do if you had more time. A real self-evaluation.
image via Amazon.com

While I believe these are good to do once in awhile, this book wasn't for me. I believe this book is for the woman who honestly spends no time on herself and has zero time for the hobbies she does enjoy. I spend 4+ hours on exercise (something I enjoy) each week, read when I find the time, and try to embroider or something. Once a month or so I get together with girl friends, too. I have "me" time (although I'd take a little more time with my embroidery without stopping every 5 minutes for child-related problems, but I do have time to do it at all).

If you're overwhelmed because you have zero free time - you're running around with your kids, your job takes up so much time, housework just floods you in your spare time - this book is for you!! I think it really could help you pinpoint time when you could do something for you: exercise, spa treatments, reading, writing, crafting.

I do think the book was a little misleading with the subtitle. Going through this book is not going to make you any more creative than you already are if you don't enjoy those things.

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

I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God by Diane Stortz (book review)

In my last post, I said I'd been looking for a good family or kid devotional forever. I believe I found my favorite one in "I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God" by Diane Stortz.

The illustrations by Diane Le Feyer are enough to shout about. They are just beautiful. Great colors, great art. You could frame these and put them on your walls, they are so pretty. I do love the cover a ton because it sparkles!
image via Amazon.com
Now, the content. No one reads a book entirely for the pictures, but luckily, the content is wonderful, too. This devotional centers on the names of God and it uses these names (among others): Creator, The Lord My Rock, I AM, Holy One, Jealous God, The Lord of Heaven's Armies, Immanuel, Teacher, Bread of Life, Christ, Friend, and King of Kings.

The format is telling the name of God (God All-Powerful/El Shaddai), then a verse. Followed by a paraphrased story from chapters in the Bible (El Shaddai is from Genesis 12-21) that's 2-4 pages long. I love the next part awesome - "What does it mean?" I love that it explains it, not in dumbed down language, but it explains it in a way that makes it easier to understand, to fit into our modern-day lives. It's excellent for children to read the Bible but even I don't understand much of it or how it applies to me, so I appreciate this portion in a devotion. The devotions end with a written prayer followed by "Learn More" and "What Happened Next?" segments that invite you to dig more and further along in the Bible.

Now, we haven't made it through this whole devotional together, but we will. Not every night. I'm still not that organized. However, my younger son ASKS me to read this to him. ASKS ME TO READ HIM A DEVOTIONAL! I think that's pretty impressive!

Pick up your own copy on Amazon or at a local retailer.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may not be the same as yours.

The Bible is My Best Friend Family Devotional by Shelia Walsh (book review)

I've been on the look out for a good family or kid devotional for many years. Some are plain bad. Some are too short and not deep enough. Some are over their heads! I was really feeling good about "The Bible is My Best Friend Family Devotional" because it's written by Sheila Walsh. I have heard Sheila talk and really believe her heart for Jesus.

We took a dive into this devotional. And we gave it a really good shot. Our problem was not the content. It's good stuff in here. It's a weekly devotion, so you'd think we could squeeze it in. And we can! I just don't know when. During the week is hard because when Big A comes home, it's supper, showers, bed. On weekends, we just are either busy or lazy. Sundays include church for all morning and naps or quiet times. Seriously, it's just a scheduling problem. But this post is about the book, not my lack of organization.
image via Amazon.com
"The Bible is My Best Friend Family Devotional" is a weekly study that includes a memory verse (isn't it great when families memorize Scripture together? We do it about three times a year...being honest here), a page-long devotion, questions to ask your kids and them to ask you, a dig deeper portion to look into Scripture further together, and a weekly challenge.

The last part is where we got tripped up. We weren't good at doing the weekly challenge. We could, don't let us trip you up because they weren't difficult by any means! They were like "memorize the books of the Bible," listing one way to recognize sin and keep it from sneaking into your life, memorize and obey ALL the 10 Commandments, raising your hands up for so long you get tired and getting help from your family (Exodus 17:8-13). Simple things. We just didn't remember to do them.

I do really like this devotional. I thought it well-written and it really was deeper than most kid devotionals. It wasn't written in a dumbed down fashion. I appreciate that. Consider this with your family. Probably ages 5-12, maybe sooner or later depending on your family. I know we'll come back to this devotional!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may not be the same as yours.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

expectations, realities, and outcomes

What I was expecting this week during Moose's stay at the EMU (epilepsy monitoring unit):

- several seizures right away (big ones)
- Moose sleeping a LOT
- me sitting by him and petting his head as he slept
- going home before Friday evening (as would happen if things happened that quickly)
- strength to get through the hard seizures

What I got during this week:

- a few small seizures the first two days and nothing on Friday
- patience waiting for the seizures
- so.much.tv (I expected him to be exhausted and sleepy a lot)
- Big A having to stay Friday night through Sunday
- Big A experiencing his first of Moose's grand mal seizures (big, convulsing) - and his second
- a completed embroidery piece (haha)
- hardly sleeping

This week was very different from what I had in mind. But I learned to trust in God's strength and not my own and that I cannot go into these things with expectations or very little sleep.

I think Moose had the time of his life these past five days. Basically all the movies and Mario Kart Wii he wanted (although we did complete almost all of his homework!) and good food. He cried when we left.

Moose had 2 seizures the first two days, small ones. Nothing on Friday. Then Saturday two big ones. Saturday was hard. Hard for Big A there, seeing. Hard for me home, not being there. Sunday has been the best being home now.

Dr. P, our epilepsy specialist down there, said basically that Moose's seizures are coming from the same place, most likely the same malformation/lesion/birthmark on his brain that we saw in his MRIs.

He is going to meet with his team (to get a wider perspective than just his own) in the coming weeks about whether to go on toward a surgical route. He seemed fairly confident that is what would happen but he does want the neurosurgeon's opinion, too. After that, we aren't sure of a timeline but surgery to remove this lesion - so brain surgery.

I thought this would freak me out. I mean, that's dangerous and tricky and the brain is so delicate. But I really feel at peace, having a direction to go. None of this is set in stone, of course, but Big A and I are wanting a solution that would most likely end Moose's seizures and if surgery is that option, great. But we will be in prayer until that decision is made, looking for God's plans.

Thank you for all of your prayers this week. Thank you to everyone who helped us practically: Debbie, Kim, Joan, Denise, Mary, Cari, Annie, Kara, etc etc etc. I have the best friends!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Super kids



Our family is definitely known for our love of superheroes and Star Wars so when a friend and her husband were shopping for their daughter and happened upon this adorable Supergirl outfit, they got it for our Princess. Thank you Duane and Amanda! Obviously, her brothers love it, too.

The past two days I've been doing laundry like crazy and packing for everyone. Moose has a 5 day EEG from Wednesday - Sunday to determine where his seizures are coming from exactly (from his malformation/birthmark on his brain, from multiple places, from somewhere we haven't pinpointed yet). I am staying with him during the week and will switch off with Big A on Friday afternoon to come home to be with my littler two.

I have never been away from any of my children for 3 days so this will be odd. Moose has such a good attitude about all of this and doesn't seem stressed (doesn't probably know to be stressed). He prayed this morning for him to have seizures so they can do his test. What a testimony to his faith.

Our dear friends will take Squirt after school on Wednesday overnight; something fun for him to do. Princess will be loved and adored and spoiled by my friend Debbie during the 3 days with Big A taking off of work early to get Squirt from school and be with his Princess.

Friends have written cards, given gifts, texted me encouragement, made meals, and are praying for us. I thank God for each of you.

This community that has grown around us is such a testimony to the church as it should be - global church not just our home church. I know I have friends in Haiti praying for my family as well as here in Kansas. It's been humbling to have so many people offering their help and giving their help. Big A and I have talked a lot about not being too prideful to accept gifts; although it's hard because we are "self-sufficient" and can do it all. Which is, of course, a farce. We cannot do it all. We cannot be everywhere at all times or take care of our children 100% on our own. We cannot do this life alone. And yes, we have the Lord our God who is amazing. But He has given us community, too, to help care for us.

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 
1 Thessalonians 5:11

in case you missed something