Friday, July 22, 2016

Cave Tools brand BBQ Brush (review)

When most people think of grilling, they think of summertime. Not me. If it's nice enough outside, I don't care the season, I like to grill. Doesn't matter what's being grilled either: burgers, chicken, pork chops, hot dogs (oh I love me a good hot dog). It just tastes better! I even tried to grill bacon once...I about killed our grill on that one. But wouldn't it have tasted awesome?! Hard to improve on bacon but I think grilling could!
see? all shiny!
I digress. With grilling so much, our grill gets dirty. We've tried cheap brushes from the store and they work ok; nothing fancy. Then I got to try Cave Tools BBQ Brush and I love it! It was shiny when I got it but now it's dirty from all the hard work it does. I don't have to push super hard like with the cheap ones to get my grill clean. I just liked that pretty much with one swipe, I was done cleaning that section. I don't waste a lot of time on grill maintenance like that so it's nice to get to the grilling. 

rust proof in snow? that's good news in the Midwest!
image via

100% rust proof design, stainless steel bristles (safe on porcelain even), and a lifetime satisfaction guarantee makes this BBQ brush a really great deal.

image via Amazon although it may as well be my grill
Go get your own brush on Amazon or through their website and try it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. You can use the code: V9BW7SDN for 15% off the BBQ Brush. I know your grill is already dirty from this summer but get it ready for Labor Day with the Cave Tools BBQ Brush. They have other products, too: rib roast rack, tongs, burger press, grill light, grill spatula. Those are probably very useful, too! 

Disclaimer: I received this tool in order to try it out and write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from yours.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wild and Free by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan (book review)

"A hope filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough" was enough to catch my attention (and a hearty thumbs up from Jennie Allen helped) to jump at the chance to read "Wild and Free" by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. Who hasn't ever felt like they were too much and also not enough? I raise my hand real high in answer to this one.

image via
I really love how this book is crafted. Connolly will write a chapter, followed by a prayer, and a response from Morgan. Then Morgan will write a chapter, followed by a prayer, and a response from Connolly. However, I will admit, it took me several days (week?) to really get into this book. I don't know exactly what it is, but it felt like drudgery. Truly.

And then, I cannot tell you what happened, but then it didn't feel like that. I kept reading and finding jewels. These pearls of wisdom. I could get through the book faster the more I got into it. And I want to share some of those things I learned or liked in the book.

Morgan wrote, "I believed I should be small because quiet and small girls are the most loved." I have believe the same for far too long! I am not small nor quiet - I talk, too much most often, but I believe God made me to be a talker, an over-sharer. I need to embrace that identity and, of course, work on the things about my identity that are not of Him but don't destroy or look down upon who He made. He didn't make a mistake. She went on to explain that meekness doesn't mean quiet and small but rather "a harnessing of God-given strength." I'd like that.

Along those same lines, Connolly later wrote:
"When we critique ourselves or discount ourselves, we are doing the very opposite of worship. When we pinch our thighs in disgust, when we shake our heads at how awkward we feel, when we stand in the mirror and look on in frustration, when we look to the right or the left and assume that everything would be better if we just had that one person's life, gift, beauty, talent, family, or home, we are not in agreement with our Father, who has made us, appointed us, and called it all good.
We are flat-out telling God He is wrong."

Deep breath, sister. I've done it too. But all hope is not lost - "When our eyes are on God and His goodness, we can rightly worship. When our eyes are on ourselves, we see only our own insufficiencies." Point those eyes to Him.

One more. "That word in Genesis used by the Creator to describe all that He'd made, including us? Tob. It means so many wonderful things: 'good, better, best.' But it also means 'at ease.' ... Our Savior paid the ultimate price so we could live the way we were intended to - underneath the banner of the gospel, at ease. ... You can stop running, stop striving, stop hoping that one day you'll be the better or best version of yourself. You can walk away from comparison, throw shame in the trash, and stop skipping around worrying whose toes you step on. Because of Jesus, we don't have to try so hard."

Isn't that the best breath of fresh air ever?! Trying is so hard. And I get so tired from it. And so I will live "Wild and Free" and understand that doesn't mean what the world may think, but it means living in freedom with a Wild God.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hillsong - Let Hope Rise movie trailer

I enjoy worship music and I am drawn to music by Hillsong UNITED. They are coming out with a new movie and I wanted to share this trailer with you. You're welcome. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Free State of Jones (movie trailer)

I so wish we lived closer to a bigger city so I could go see a screening of this movie! "Free State of Jones" stars Matthew McConaughey. Based on a true story, Newt Knight (McConaughey) is a Southern farmer during the Civil War who rallied those who believed that "no man ought to tell another man what he's got to live for - or what he's got to die for." He and his group of men fought for freedom, equality, and the ideal that no one can own a child of God.

Here's a link to a really nice clip. Here's a trailer from YouTube:

I can't wait to see the movie myself. I don't know much more about it, ratings or anything, but it looks good. I enjoy historical films and Matthew McConaughey.

Disclaimer: I am sharing this because it looks good. I got the trailer from a media group I resource through. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

May update, into June, and Happy Father's Day

May was crazy! June is crazy! July is birthdays so I'm looking forward to August. I think.

I think the biggest update is on Moose. His surgery went fantastic. It was June 1. It's like he's had no recovery, seriously. He came out of the operating room in no pain and hasn't complained of pain since (that's 2 weeks of no pain, amazing, miraculous. Thank You, Great Physician). The procedure was a success - they took out the tissue/tumor they were hoping to obtain. He's had no seizures since (which is not an indication one way or another since he is still on his anti-seizure meds).
waiting in the hospital - looking at something not-so-serious, I'm sure

my sister and I coloring while we wait
Big A took him for his two week follow-up yesterday (I was home sick). They said only 4 more weeks of no swimming (versus 6 weeks). Everything seems to be healing fine (despite his picking at the scabs on his head). He will have another MRI December 20 and if that looks good, they will start to take him off of his medicine. What a Christmas gift that is to look forward to!

he said, "I thought I was going to die, but I didn't!" and we're so thankful!

he enjoyed this red nose from my parents

a little big "swoll" (as he said)

he loved playing Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U
 Thank you to everyone who prayed for our family and the gifts and meals. It's amazing how taken care of we are here. My family was fantastic in coming to sit with us during the operation, my parents coming home with me to get settled with the younger two. Thank you guys; you're truly the best.

a little bit swollen and sad to leave Mario Kart but we were so thankful to hit the road for home!

The rest of May went well, as I recall. It feels like a lifetime ago, truly. The boys ended school well. Squirt is on to second grade, Moose is on to fourth. I think that will be a big adjustment for him as they move rooms for different classes in fourth grade, but I think he'll adjust well. He has an amazing team of support behind him at school and at home.
me at home with the littles - Pop Tarts and early morning walks

she loves ice packs

Princess is growing so fast! Already she can fit into some of her 12 month clothing (and 6 month clothing at the same time, so girls' clothing is no better than women's). I love seeing her in dresses, although they obstruct her crawling a bit. She'll eat just about anything you put in her mouth (not saying she CAN eat it, but she'll try). She's a big mooch if you're eating anything and throws quite the fit if you do not share. She can walk holding on to things, so pretty soon she'll be ready to run. She can free stand for a few seconds at a time (I have yet to witness it myself but I've heard). She mimics sounds you make, calls Big A "mama" (so annoying), says "uh-oh" or an approximation of it when she drops something, perhaps says "ba-ba" for bye but not sure. Hard to say at this age what they can say and what is just coincidental babbling. She's still pretty fun to hang out with, but has been waking at night (I can't complain because night shift is her mama's job...Big A).

Oh yeah! The weekend before the surgery, we found out about the Richard Petty Experience! The boys each got to ride around the Kansas City Speedway for 6 laps at about 120 MPH!! How sweet is that?! The boys had such a great time!!

Moose going around the track

Squirt going across the finish line!

Squirt just finished art camp which I think he loved! I haven't had a ton of time to talk to him about it because I was really sick this week so I just haven't sat down to work it out with him. He did love going to see Finding Dory last night (we all did). What a cute movie!

And he's joined the swim team! He tries so hard at practice and has fun. He does his best at meets and has already improved! Last meet (yesterday) he almost made it the whole way without stopping!! It was great to see such a marked improvement already. I know he's hoping for a ribbon yet this year but we've been calling this his practice year since it's his first.

And a happy Father's Day to my dad and my husband. You guys rock!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae (book review)

Long ago, a woman decided to become a stay-at-home mom. She had zero domestic skill and very little (and hard-earned) mothering instincts. She struggled through learning how to clean toilets and change sheets (anyone else with a short wing-span find this exhausting?!), how to play with baby read stories over and over and over because playing is boring (don't judge).

Slowly she learned to love the mothering thing - singing baby songs and preschool songs and reading books over and over and over. She caught onto their love of Superheroes and made them love Star Wars. She loved to play outside with them, pushing them on swings, watching them run through sprinklers or slip and slides. She hung up works of art (some questionable) and kissed boo-boos (and put band-aids on everything because apparently they don't just stop blood but make life all butterflies and rainbows again) and picked up cars and trains and capes.

Yet the household thing was still a mystery. Forgetting to vacuum, laundry piles, cleaning the microwave and stovetop, scrubbing floors and toilets - what a drudgery. Then this woman read a little e-book called "31 Days to Clean" by one of her favorite bloggers, Sarah Mae. This little book walked her through Martha and Mary Challenges that dug at the heart and dirt in her house. I'm not sure she made it through every challenge but she definitely made her way to having a semi-routine to cleaning her home.

This woman currently has chore charts for herself and her children (although her own have taken a hit thanks to a new baby!), she meal plans, and vacuums the floors (sometimes). She loves when her house is clean (although any mother knows that's a short-lived thing with children home). However, she has trouble (this is not due to the new baby...or, mostly due to her...but some - this kid destroys so much LOL) keeping the house clean. Baseboards? Ceiling fans? Dusting? Where's the maid?

If you can't tell, that woman is me. I love being a mom and I have come to love staying home. I don't feel like my walls are crawling in on me (most of the time). However, I am just not naturally inclined to be a housewife. Someone put a little picture on Facebook that sums it up:

Just truth, sisters. Anyway, since I am such a bad housewife in the traditional sense of the word, I enlisted some help in the form of "Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: 31 Days to a clean house and a satisfied soul" by Sarah Mae. Wait a second?! Haven't I read this already? Well, yes and no. This is most of the same stuff but laid out nicer in a real book format (sorry, I'm not a huge fan of e-books; love the layout and feel of pages). I also have not compared and contrasted the two books side-by-side (nor do I plan to) so I don't know exactly what all is different.

I do know right now, I don't have time for a 31 day cleaning challenge. With our son's surgery next week, it may not be until July or August or September until I'm ready for this. But I'm trying to enlist another friend who doesn't love to clean to do the book along with me. I'm excited for it. I even had my son clean the kitchen counter yesterday (and plan to today) - one thing Sarah Mae says is to clean your kitchen counters & sink daily.

Little by little, I will get better at housewife stuff just like I have mothering stuff and wife stuff and friend stuff (I think). And if not, God loves me anyway!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to give it an honest review. These thoughts and ramblings are my own.

Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler (book review)

Countdown to Moose's surgery is 5 days. In 5 days he will be tumor-free. We will not know for another year if he is completely seizure free - unless he has one within that time. This past year has been hard and we have been so thankful to have our hope not put into doctors or medicine or well-wishes but in our Heavenly Father. He loves Moose so much more and completely than we do. He knows the best for him; has plans made out for his life. He knows the outcome of this surgery and every step we will take during this waiting period and the waiting period to come. I don't know about you, but His Sovereignty (a fancy way of saying, all-power) gives me great comfort.

When I had a chance to read "Steadfast Love" by Lauren Chandler, I knew I was in for a treat. In 2009, her husband Matt (pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas) was just finishing feeding their baby daughter when he had a grand mal seizure (big, convulsing). They quickly found out that he had a malignant brain tumor. He had surgery and went through recovery but was given 2-3 years to live; he's still alive in 2016! Isn't our God wonderful?! And the thing is, had Matt only had those few years to live, He still would be wonderful. I know that's difficult to understand but that's what I loved about Chandler's book; she so gracefully explained how that's possible.

image via
In this life, we have the chance to put our trust in many things. In money, in people's opinions, in material items, in family members, in our spouse or children, in our jobs, but throughout Steadfast Love, Chandler points back to Psalm 107 to really show us that our only anchor, our only trustworthy anchor is Christ. I have been living with this reality even closer than before since March 2015 with Moose's first seizure. Even before then, through autism and financial struggles and learning to be a mom and wife (which does NOT come naturally to this selfish gal), God has proved to me over and over that He is my only source of hope.

I enjoyed the format of this book. I was expecting more of a story-telling style but "Steadfast Love" is written more in a Bible study form, is how I would explain it. Not like a Beth Moore study format with questions but just a teaching-format, I guess. Chandler is not only vocally talented but also has a way with written words (which I guess if she writes her own songs, that shouldn't be surprising but they are differing genres).

One thing I really loved was when she was discussing Job and how "God loved Job enough to show him how He (God) alone can sustain." I was coincidentally reading through Job at the same time. I don't know why this sentence hit me because I tell my kids all the time when they are being disciplined - "I won't allow you to act this way/do this thing because I love you and it's not right by me or by God." Yet it's different because Job was righteous and in our earthly eyes, he didn't deserve to lose everything and to be ridiculed and scolded for sins he didn't commit. Yet God was teaching him that those things don't matter and even Job realized that in the end. Sometimes I wish this world would just be easier. Life can be so hard. And my life hasn't really been that hard; people have faced and overcome much more than I will ever have to endure, I know. But even just the mundane is hard; the never ending nature of hardship and struggle and toil. Yet it is in those times of trial that I have leaned in to God and He has not let me down; He has shown me who He is and proven Himself trustworthy. And so I wouldn't want to change the hardships that have brought me closer to Him.

I was reading in "My Utmost for His Highest" sometimes similar about a month ago. That we should not pray away others' troubles if that is what will bring them to Christ. Whoa! Here we want butterflies and rainbows for our friends but there are times when they need hardship and pain and struggle to reach the point of knowing Christ. That's a hard one to swallow but I see the truth in it and the grace in it.

I also was just contemplating while reading Job what the difference between lamenting and complaining. Chandler explained "Complaining is not the same thing as lamenting. To complain is to express dissatisfaction with something you feel that you deserve but don't necessarily need. To lament is to mourn the loss of something real, something you once had but enjoy no longer. You acknowledge the loss without demanding it back. You humbling desire its return while knowing there's no merit in you alone having it." While I'm still chewing on understanding that, it's good to know there is a difference and it is ok to lament. The Bible is full of them!

While talking about her father's heart surgery, Chandler said "we're never guaranteed to have it turn out like we think it will...I know He would have shown His power in sustaining us in the loss as much as He showed it in sustaining Daddy's life." I feel the same about Moose's surgery. It's completely scary, but I know the Lord will sustain us no matter the outcome.

This was such a lovely book to read at this time in my life. I appreciate the opportunity to have much of what I'm feeling and learning be put into book form - and I wasn't even the author (isn't it crazy how God crafts that out for us sometimes?!). Take some time to get this book because it has so much more inside than what I can tell you about here.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All ramblings and opinions are my own. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Contest Alert - FEELn Giving Away FREE Roku

If you’ve always wanted or been interested in a Roku, here’s your chance.  Feeln has a great giveaway contest that you can enter next week. 

WIN a Roku® Streaming Stick® and watch full episodes of the new heart-felt series ‘The Eleventh’ on Feeln!!!  To enter go to: 

Feeln premiered their heartfelt television series “The Eleventh” last week.  The series stars tv legends Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner, Florence Henderson, and newcomer Ren Harris.  I enjoyed the first episode of this wonderful series.   If you missed my review of the series, please check it out here (attach a link to your review)

And for those who may still be unfamiliar - Feeln is the leading streaming service that brings you heartfelt stories of love and togetherness, anytime, anywhere. All movies are handpicked so you spend less time searching and more time with the stories you love. Feeln brings home the exclusive library of Hallmark Hall of Fame features, Hollywood movies and TV series, and award-winning originals you won’t find anywhere else.

Disclaimer: I didn't receive anything in order to post this; hope I can win a Roku, too! I did review the Feeln original series "The Eleventh" in return for my honest review, which you can read here

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Eleventh (A Feeln Original series starring Cloris Leachman) is a steaming service (think Netflix, Amazon Prime) that brings you feel good stories, heartfelt stories, including Hallmark Hall of Fame, Hollywood films, tv series, and original series you won't find on other streaming sites.

Tomorrow on May 5th, Feeln is releasing it's new original series, The Eleventh. I had the opportunity to screen the first two episodes so I could share with you about them! My first applause is that the series' episodes are only 12-minutes long. And in those twelve minutes, they did a fantastic job of catching my attention. Granted, I love tv so maybe I'm just an easy target, but regardless, the end of the second episode left me in a cliffhanger and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

“The Eleventh” is a Feeln original drama series that focuses on a young girl’s journey to getting to know her estranged grandmother in order to bring closure to the past and unite her family.

The acting was really good. I'm used to seeing Cloris Leachman (who plays the grandma) perform comedy roles but this was a melodramatic role and she did an excellent job. I half expected it to be cheesier than Hallmark films but it wasn't cheesy. I can tell this is going to be a feel good series, but I like those!

Here is a trailer to the series.

Watch full episodes of 'The Eleventh' on Feeln.

Disclaimer: I received a link to watch the first two episodes in exchange for my honest review. This is it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Gift of Friendship: Stories that Celebrate the Beauty of Shared Moments edited by Dawn Camp (book review)

I am an introvert-extrovert. Sounds odd but my friend, Cari, is too. Following this oddness I have many friends (as an extrovert would) but I have a small band of close friends (as would an introvert). I love my girls very dearly and never have enough time with them.

"The Gift of Friendship" edited by Dawn Camp is a compilation of stories shared from many women (only a few names were familiar to me: Holley Gerth, Liz Curtis Higgs, Tsh Oxenreider, Crystal Paine, Myquillyn Smith, and Lysa TerKeurst) about their friendships. Each story was a grand reminder of how awesome it is to be loved and to love girl friends.
image via Amazon

I believe I read this book at just the right time. I have felt...not lonely necessarily but kind of a in a funk with a new baby. I just have very little energy to pour into friendships so I haven't reached out like I normally would (maybe this is my introvert self taking charge). However, I am so blessed with a few key friends who have reached out to me in this time. They get it. They know this last year has been trying and exhausting and maybe they don't know I need them, but they call at the right moments when I do. I'm so thankful.

One story in the book really put friendship into perspective for me. A mom was talking about her daughter's friendships. Now, I have a daughter. What kind of friend do I want her to be? Who do I want her friends to be? The latter is hard because she's small and I only know a handful of her would-be classmates, but the first question is universal. I want her to be a good friend. But this story pointed out that this is part of my responsibility- to teach her friendships. I had some messy friendships growing up and I'd like her to avoid that (don't we want them to avoid all icky things?!), but she won't. Some friend will treat her poorly (as she will some friend). I get the wonderful responsibility of walking through that with her.

I'll leave off my review with this sentiment from the book, "Friendship is a gift. I have learned that the hard way. Finding someone who will talk you back from the edge, encourage you to follow your dream, stay up talking until three in the morning, eat ice ream with you - straight from the container - hear your darkest confessions without flinching, and keep showing up anyway? A gift. No, a treasure."

So thank you to Stacey, Kim, Kim, and Kim, Rachel, Mary, Kara, Kaitlyn, Cari, Jenny, the Lindas, Susanna, all the Ginas, Maggi, Debbie, Sarah, Whitney, Jill, Lori, Marie, Laura, Evi, Tasha, Kathleen, Monica, Kate, Jessica, Shannon, Mandy, Shawna, Amber, Alyson, Rachelle, Brandy, Grace, Maggie, Mandi, Shari, Judi, Elly, Jessie, Amanda, Mari, Sarah (I have so many friends with the same name!), and all the others my scatterbrain has left out (sorry). You have each taught me so much about friendship, whether for a time or still. And to my first friend, my mom, Fonda. I love you.

Disclaimer: I received this book in return for my honest review. Others may have a different opinion of the book or of friendship but these are mine. Get this book for your friends.

in case you missed something