Saturday, November 22, 2014

S Club Kart - Wee!

This year Moose has become obsessed with Mario Kart Wii. He talks about it, looks at pictures, thinks about it (constantly), draws the tracks. At school, at home. It's all over. His Mario clothing has never gotten so much wearing.


When the kids had a 6 day break from school in October, Big A found something awesome:
a go-kart track.


We packed up as a family (so loved having Big A take a day off to spend with us), and headed about an hour away with a big surprise for the kids.


The best part was Moose was able to race all by himself!


We started off racing doubles: Me and Squirt vs. Big A & Moose. They won. Squirt insists when I'm "smarter" I'll beat Daddy. Wow, thanks for that confidence booster. And it was hilarious because he just kept saying how smart Big A was and that I needed to be smarter. Oh boys. 


I think we all had so much fun watching Moose race. And he did awesome. I think he ran into the sides once at the very start and then not again. I didn't even drive that well. It was so cool. He loved it as you can tell by the pictures.


We had a blast together but next time, I'll let Big A drive Squirt so he can be "smarter." Squirt keeps saying he wants to go back when he's 7 so he can race by himself. I think he'll be tall enough before then, but ok. 


WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

Well, I only had one entrant for Miss Kay Robertson's Christmas novella, "A Robertson Family Christmas." Which means either my audience 1) doesn't read this anymore, 2) doesn't like Duck Dynasty, or 3) doesn't read. Hmmm all are a little disconcerting.

Anyway, the winner is actually my mom. It may look like I won but she just used my email address because she hates signing up for things like a Google account. I'll take her the book on Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

GIVEAWAY! A Robertson Family Christmas by Miss Kay Robertson (book review)

Moose was so sweet when he saw me reading "A Robertson Family Christmas" by Miss Kay Robertson. He thought Miss Kay had given me the book herself and so he wanted to write her a thank you note. So he did and I dug up her address and sent it to her. I hope she enjoys the sweetness of my boy (and Squirt saw Moose do this so he decided to write to Uncle Si - sent that one too; those post office people probably think I'm nuts). My kids also ask frequently to go to the Robertson's house/West Munroe/Louisiana. They think if we go, we'll go to their house. I tried to tell them we didn't know the Robertsons but they insist we do (because we watch the show). Sweet boys.


I wasn't sure what to expect with Miss Kay's book. She's a little nutty on the show (love her dearly!). I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. It's a fiction piece (realistic fiction if you asked my son who is all into knowing specific genres) where a kid, Hunter, is picked to spend Christmas with the Robertson family. If you all live under a rock, the Robertsons are the family that make Duck Commander duck calls and have really made themselves a household name (not to mention, sharing their faith in Jesus Christ on national television) through their reality tv show, Duck Dynasty. I would be psyched to get to spend any time with them, let alone the holidays. I think the kid in this book hit the jackpot. He doesn't think so - he knows nothing of the family or life outside the city.

What an interesting premise to think about: a kid from a broken home goes to spend time with this tight-knit family that is super famous. He thinks they'll be hicks, but something about their authentic attitudes and genuine faith begins to break at his inner wall he's built up. Will the Robertsons be able to show Hunter the real meaning of Christmas? I guess you'll have to read to find out!

I was super pleased with the writing style in this book. Miss Kay did use an underwriter/ghost writer/co-author, Travis Thrasher, so maybe that's why it's so good. I've never read any of his other work. I am telling you though, this book was like watching an episode of Duck Dynasty. I could see it all in my head! The dialogue sounded perfect out of each character.

The thing that struck me most in this book was that, although it's written by Miss Kay, she's not the dominant Robertson character in this book. Her daughter-in-law Korie is (that's Willie's wife). And to have Miss Kay shine such a wonderful look on her DIL is so meaningful to me, who has had such a rough relationship with her mother-in-law. It's so sweet to me that she would write so wonderfully about Korie. Just shows me a real loving relationship could be possible in a daughter-in-law/mother-in-law relationship.

I have some great news to share! I get to GIVE AWAY one (1) copy of A Robertson Family Christmas by Miss Kay Robertson!

TO ENTER:
TWO ENTRIES PER PERSON (please leave a valid email address in your comment)

1) tell me what you are most excited about GIVING this holiday season.
2) share about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Leave URL in the comments.
  Copy & Tweet: Enter to win a copy of Miss Kay Robertson's new Christmas novella:  …  

Disclaimer: I received this book (and copy to give away) in order to write an honest review. Others may or may not have the same opinion(s) about the book and/or author(s). Must be 18 and over to enter. Void where prohibited.

Giveaway will end Friday, November 21st at 11:59pm. Winner will be notified via email (thus the need for an email) and will have 48 hours to email back with mailing address. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

trick or treat Star Wars style

ignore my pistol. It's a painted squirt gun 

just thought this was the perfect Jedi pose

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn

love the whiskers
Halloween is always a fun time of the year. We don't go for the gruesome and ghoulish around here but the fun and exciting. A day to be someone else (not that our normal selves are bad but just...normal). This year we opted for a Star Wars theme (how long will I be able to keep the themes up?). I (with the assistance of friends) turned a few panels of brown curtains into Jedi cloaks. And a couple of sheets into a Princess Leia dress. Big A's cousin made me hair buns/hat. Even Big A got in on the fun and spray painted my pistol. My mom tried so hard to turn a bunny costume into Chewbacca but costumes don't dye well.
 In the end it was fun. We ended up losing the costume contest to twin tornadoes. Next year!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Beautiful Mess: Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman (book review)

As I've just repainted the boys' bedroom, I really want to do more DIY and painting in our home to make it more "us." Not 100% sure how "us" looks but beige walls aren't what I'm thinking. I was more than happy to review "A Beautiful Mess: Happy Handmade Home" by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. They are bloggers at A Beautiful Mess and really have crafted their homes into "them."

The book itself is beautiful - full of bright, colorful pictures, a few recipes, DIY tips. It's just a book that screams "fun!" However, the content was less than I was hoping for.
image via Random House
A few of the DIY (do it yourself, for those not up on acronyms) projects are completely do-able - the quotable wall art, hanging plants, flower faces 9 ways, update your old refrigerator. OK so most of the DIY are do-able but then there's a few that are out there (mostly in the time realm): yarn throw pillows (making your own loom), DIY kitchen rug, DIY dream house recipe box, DIY cross-stitch stool. I don't have the time nor the skills (cross stitch?) to do these. But maybe someone does!

The one DIY I really want to try is to make a bubble bath shelf. I love taking a bath but am always getting stuff wet because I'm putting it on the floor outside the tub. I love the idea of making a shelf to lay my stuff on. It doesn't look terribly difficult either: some thin wood, paint or stain, some screws.

What I really got out of this book was inspired - and I think that was their whole goal. At the start, they say that these are just a stepping stone. I don't want my house to look like their house but like my house. Some of the ideas that I've been inspired to try (over many years):
- wallpaper the wall behind our bed vs. a headboard (some crazy pattern or something)
- wallpaper the North wall in the hallway by our bedrooms
- shelves in our closet (for shoes, purses, baskets of scarves)
- big giant bookshelf...not sure where this would go
- swing chair (2 would be nice, in the toy room and in our bedroom to read in)
- hammock outside (I really really really want this)
- outside lights strung over our patio/porch area
- metal chairs spray painted yellow or a variety of colors (outside)
- paint dining room furniture (not sure of color)
- kids' wall of art (a friend has one strung up in their toy room and in this book they have multiple strung in their playroom - not sure where to have this)
- paint the trim white in the toy room (love the wall color but it needs some brightening up)
- paint the front of my dresser (or whole thing)
- paint our room light gray with a slightly darker gray in this alcove my dresser is in
- highlight above room with yellow - spray paint the fan (even ceiling fan?), full-length mirror, Big A's clothes shelf
- living room: do one really big current picture of our family and then outline that with several other pictures of our family of different sizes

Maybe my ideas will be shot down by others in the household or maybe we'll have to collaborate or maybe this really will take years to do, but I just want to end up in a place where I LOVE my house. I love every room in it. I really do love it now, there's just some things I don't love (like brown everywhere; it's just not my color). 

I may not use many of the ideas in this book but I think it was worth reading to get my inventive, creative juices flowing. I also may need to learn woodworking.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

thankful challenge Day #2

You're not missing Day #1 of this gratitude challenge (hosted by my good friend, Evi); I just didn't post anything. I did get out my handy dandy gifts notebook to begin (again) logging the blessings poured upon me in a day.

Day 2 Challenge: 
  • Stop, actually stop, somehow "pull over" in your day, even if it's for 30 seconds to notice a gift.  Find a way to give back to the giver (whether that's a person or the big G Giver).
Today I was given a reprieve. A reprieve from my boys' growing. 
Squirt wanted to walk in himself today. I reminded him if he did so, he'd have to go in the (very loud) gym with all the other kids. Well, that didn't sit with him and so I got a reprieve.

I got to walk my baby to class today. 
Not sure when he'll stop being my baby, but for today he is. 
My baby.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Dr. Kara E. Powell (book review)

Last Christmas, Big A gave me a gift that I loved: a book. Not just any book but one I'd wanted to read called "Sticky Faith" by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark. He had heard her talk at a conference and knew I'd wanted the book (thanks to my wish list on Pinterest), so that's the one he got. In "Sticky Faith," Dr. Powell told of her study through the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) about why kids are leaving the church and their faith after high school. It was a real eye-opener for me who found Christ AFTER high school to know that kids really go the other way.

When I had the chance to read "The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family" by Dr. Kara E. Powell, I was really excited to get some real-life ideas and insights into how to help my children grow their faith and keep it later on.
image via BookLook
A lot of our faith talks with the kids are organic. Squirt and I talked a lot about Christ and the resurrection at a funeral visitation. In the past year, we've talked a lot about death and heaven and how to get their through the death of my great-grandmother. And then other times our talks are not spontaneous. When we memorize a catechism or Scripture verses, that's well-thought out by me. I know the verses helped me get through a lot of hard things prior to really following Christ. We attend church regularly, we read the Bible, we pray. Moose knows that I like to read my Bible in the mornings and so he'll come cuddle with me (if I'm still in bed) and read his book alongside.

None of that will save my children. None of that will make sure they stay on the narrow path of Christ. But I believe it will help. That's exactly what "The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family" is about; giving readers a LOT of ideas on how to help cultivate a lasting faith for your kids.

By a LOT, I mean a LOT of ideas. Powell really stresses making no more than five (5) changes at a time. Less is more in this sense so you don't get overwhelmed. The five that I chose for our family will be:
 1. Birthday Dates. One of us parents taking a kid out monthly on their birth day. So for Moose it's be the 1st of the month. For Squirt, it'd be the 10th of the month. I like the idea of one-on-one dates and in the past, we've done this as a reward for good behavior but I really like this idea of not having to earn this time. That it's just a special thing because we love them.

 2. High School Bible. In "Sticky Faith Guide" a family bought a Bible for their children when they entered high school but instead of giving it to them, they prayed through it and highlighted things pertaining to their kids. Then when they graduated, they gave them that Bible that had been prayed over specifically for them for 4 years. I love this idea and don't want to wait 6 years to start. I'd like to get Bibles for the kids now and start praying through them for each kid.

 3. What Would Happen Next? A friend recently told me how her family dinner conversations have been centered around pre-deciding choices for different circumstances. You know, what would you do if someone asked to be your girlfriend. What would you do if someone says a bad word at recess? This 'sticky faith' activity is along those lines. Parents giving their kids a challenging ethical situation that they would have to decide how they would respond. Then they ask and then say 'ok, what would happen next?' Our kids do well when they think through situations so why not help them out?

4. Christmas Card Dinner Prayers. Keeping Christmas cards to pray over people as a visual guide. I love this idea. We have prayer sticks we use to pray but I like the visual idea. We keep missionary prayer cards on a wall by where we normally eat so we (hopefully) remember to pray over them. I like the idea to do this with our friends and family, too. And then if you don't get a card from someone (like neither of our parents send out cards), just snap a picture of their family next time you're together to add to the pile.

5. Seeing the World - Literally. This family bought a large world map to show their kids where missionaries live or where world events are taking place. Then you can pray over those places, even if you've never been there. I've loved this idea for a long time. I just need to find the best place to hang this map.

I believe these are the activities that really spoke to me. I realized that we do some of the things talked about in the book - we take vacations as a family, we pray about situations that come up (another idea I loved was praying over your calendar), we apologize to our kids when we make a mistake, etc. Not that any of those things, again, guarantee your child's salvation but I think it just helps!!

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

social norms

Last night, I was thinking back to Moose's parent-teacher conference. Really great (for both kids, actually). He's participating in class - raising his hand in math, focusing. He only leaves the inclusive classroom for a few sensory breaks as needed. It's really hard to believe how far he's come in the past 4-5 years. For those of you who didn't know him as a two-year-old, the young man he's becoming is incredible.

The only downside to his conference was talking about him socially. He is SUCH a friendly person. He says hi to everyone, is really nice, has a big ol' heart. BUT. He prefers to play by himself. And when he plays with other kids, it's always them playing what he wants to play. It's difficult as a mom to watch your son purposefully keep himself apart from others. Now, I don't want kids who just follow the crowd (who really does?) but I want them to have friends. And elementary school is a pivotal time to make those friends or at least learn those social skills of making friends.

He is obsessed (I don't use this word lightly) with Mario Kart Wii right now. He talks about it constantly - which cups he likes and which characters. He draws tracks all the time - chalk, marker, pencil. His papers from school are littered with tracks on the back (to this extent, Squirt's papers are littered with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). He "drives" everywhere and you can just tell he sees exactly the screen when he's doing it. It's gotten to the point of annoying even me. And so a few weeks ago we banned it until November. We don't own the game ourselves but I was taking the boys somewhere on Fridays to reward good behavior to play the game.

We and his teachers talked about how to limit this behavior. We hate to use labels like "normal" but seriously, it's not normal to "drive" in the hallways as a second grader (we have a sweet little friend from preschool last year who would "drive" like a tractor everywhere, so I know this isn't completely abnormal either but again, preschool vs. 2nd grade). We decided he could "drive" when he takes sensory breaks but when he's with other students, he needs to walk (part of it is also a distraction thing; it takes him longer to drive than walk). And we agreed that at one recess he could play Mario Kart by himself (although I've urged him to ask someone to play it with him) and at the second recess he needed to ask to play with another kid what that kid is playing.

God didn't make us to do this life on our own. He made us for community. So I want my kids to have friends!

So his teacher, who just LIT UP when she talked about him (how great does that make a mom feel??!), was telling us how she was prepping the class for this six day break they were having. She said she wouldn't see any of them for six days when a few little girls in the class chimed in that they would see the teacher at church on Sunday. Moose then threw in his two cents with, "Mrs. W, are you a follower of Christ?" She said all their little heads turned to wait for her answer. She told him yes, which she is (aren't we blessed? We got TWO believing teachers this year! I'm fairly certain all of my children's classroom teachers so far have been believers.). Then she asked him if he was. He replied something about going to church every Sunday (which we have discussed and he understands does not make or break a believer. Our faith is based upon our belief that Christ lived, was crucified, died and was buried, he rose from the dead, appeared, and ascended into heaven).

It's not the first time Moose has talked about Jesus at school. I love it. I just love how it doesn't even occur to him to be shy about his faith. I have very rarely seen him embarrassed about anything but never about his faith. He doesn't shy away from talking about it at all. Of course, that credit is all to God's glory because his mama too often shuts her mouth about faith when it should be talking.

So this faith of his, this beautiful child-like faith, got me to thinking about his social skills last night. And perhaps my duty to help him in this arena is to urge him to play with others but even more so, to pray that he will love God more. Because I've found the more I love God, the more I love His people. Perhaps that is the catalyst for Moose. He needs to grow in his love for God in order to grow in his love for God's people.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Legend of St. Nicholas by Dandi Daley Mackall

My family first fell in love with Dandi Daley Mackall when we read "God Loves Me More Than That." A great book to really emphasize Ephesians 3:17b-19. I was excited to see that she was the author of "The Legend of St. Nicholas: A story of Christmas giving." My family has also read "The Story of the Candy Cane" which is not by Mackall but illustrated by Richard Cowdrey (who also illustrates "St. Nicholas").
image via Amazon.com
This story of St. Nicholas portrays him as a young man who was at the store to buy his siblings Christmas gifts but was really thinking of buying himself a gift. He happened upon a Santa Claus telling a group of children the story about a boy named Nicholas.

As told by this Santa Claus, Nicholas traveled the world with his rich parents and saw many children without toys or coats. When they visited the Holy Land his parents taught him about the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men "to honor and celebrate God's amazing gift" of his Son.

After his parents died, Nicholas had money but no purpose of life. His friends shared what they would do with the money: paying bills, buying a coat for a mom, paying dowry for marriages. And so Nicholas thought this to be his purpose and went through with it! His friends were so excited that God had answered their prayers and Nicholas was so pleased to have a purpose.

The boy the story (whose name is Nick) learned the lesson of being selfless and so bought gifts and gave money to charity. A fairly predictable story with really beautiful illustrations. The only thing I didn't like about the illustrations was that I don't think (and I'm not an expert so I could be wrong) that the time period and location were properly presented. The clothing of the third century (when Nicholas was said to have lived) is more Medieval while in the book it's portrayed as more 1930s or 1940s American. But they are beautiful and don't detract from the story (especially to children).

Overall a really great book to share with children why we give gifts at Christmas - to represent God's gift to all of humanity in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. We give because He first gave to us. We love because He first loved us.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. My review only reflects my opinions and does not reflect others' opinions.

Yes or No by Jeff Shinabarger (book review)

I have a problem.

I can't say "no."

"Hey do you want to pack more into your already packed schedule?"

"Sure!" (overwhelmed breathing beginning!)

"Want to add one more thing to your to-do list?"

"Yes!" (insert foot into mouth or add muzzle)

There is constantly too much on my plate. And then when something comes along I reaaaaaaalllly want to do, I can't because I am just too overwhelmed/busy. I hate that. When I had the opportunity to review "Yes or No" by Jeff Shinabarger, I was excited per the subtitle: "How your everyday decisions will forever shape your life." Plus it included a decision-making style assessment.

image via Amazon.com
I know the decisions we make will shape our lives and I thought a little more wisdom about this would be good. Shinabarger started the book by really challenging the readers to become decision makers and making our priority decisions go toward our calling or goal. A lot of this could be boiled down to something John C. Maxwell told Shinabarger: "Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best." Basically evaluating our actions in life and the decisions (yes or no) that takes us toward the best or away from.

The second part of the book really focused on finding "your philosophy of choice." Finding out what you love, really love, helps be the catalyst for decisions. Figuring out the wisdom you own and what you will be known for. The last part of this section was the decision-making assessment (found online) and more about the styles themselves: gut reaction, list checking, story living, data driven, spiritually guided, collective reasoning, and passive undecided.

I naturally fall into the list-checking category and passive undecided. I make pro and con lists for pretty much everything. I also have a hard time saying "no" (this must be a top category for women in general?). I think my husband is data driven. I'd also like to think we are spiritually guided because we do pray for most decisions (should be all) but I know sometimes we let our lists and data drive harder than our faith. This assessment was really interesting and I liked how Shinabarger really emphasized that while we naturally may fall under one or two categories, we should try to incorporate other styles into our decision-making styles to help us make better decisions. Sometimes the data really needs to be the informant while sometimes we need to work with our gut reaction.

The last part of the book was really interesting in taking the reader through the decision-making process. I felt kind of left out of it because, at the time, I wasn't making a big decision. I don't have a big idea that will change the world. It really felt like Shinabarger was reaching out to young entrepreneurs more than to every day decision-makers. Which is fine; it's just not really for me. I wish it was after reading this; Shinabarger really gets you hyped up on the idea that a little idea can really make a big difference. I know that to be true, I just don't know that God has implanted any big ideas like that into me (yet?).

Find out more about Jeff Shinabarger and "Yes or No" at plywoodpeople.com.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of others.  

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