Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: 100 Read and Sing Devotions by Stephen Elkins

100 Read and Sing Devotions by Stephen Elkins is a fun devotional book for children. The messages are short and sweet, great for short attention spans. The book is full of wonderful pictures that capture a child's imagination, and this book comes with two CD's that contain tons of Christian, children's songs. The best part of this book are the simple messages which are Scripturally-based. Instead of reading that, if you just love God and do what He says, everything will go well for you; there are messages that say that life sometimes isn't fair, that bad things happen to good people, for example.

My children and I enjoy this book. I've been looking for a devotional book to use with my children, and this one fits the bill. My older two children are five and three, and this book is perfectly suited for them. However, older children will be bored. The songs are okay; there are a few hymns included but most of the songs are the little ditties that I sang in Sunday school: not much theology, but fun to sing.

I want to thank BookSneeze for a copy of this book to review, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Learning Where Things are in the Grocery Store

As you may (or may not) remember, I used to know exactly where everything was in my old grocery store. I knew that bread was on aisle one and that flour was on aisle 7. I made my list accordingly and rarely did I have to backtrack because I forgot something. I have to admit that my old grocery store had a pamphlet that had everything already listed according to aisle, and I used that until I learned.

But we moved. And I have a new grocery store. And I don't know where anything is anymore. And I hate not knowing. Because I end up wandering. So what did I do?

Last week, when I made my grocery list, I did the best I could. I do remember that milk and apple juice are on aisle one. (Is it just me, or is that a little weird?) And I kept a pen handy as we roamed the aisles, and I wrote down what aisle everything on my list was on.

Yes, it took a little bit longer to negotiate the grocery store aisles as I had to stop, look for my pen, and write down the aisle number, but I think -- I know! -- it will pay off in the future. Taking three children (and soon four) to the grocery store isn't easy, but knowing where things are will help immensely. And after "Baby Sister" arrives, when John does the grocery shopping, I'm sure he will appreciate being able to walk down just the aisles he needs to.

Yesterday, I started a "master list" of where things are in the store. I took my grocery list from last week and wrote down where I had found things in the store. There are things on my list for today that I'm not sure where they are, so I'll just write it down on my grocery list and then transfer it to my "master list" probably on Office Day next week.

Do you know where things are in your grocery store? Have you done something similar? Or am I just weird that way?

Monday, August 29, 2011

My New Routine

When I started reading Large Family Logistics by Kim Brennemen, I figured that I would pick up a few pointers to help my daily routine flow a little better. I didn't think that her wonderful book would inspire me to create a completely new routine. But as I said before, it seems like a good time for a new routine after a move. Brenneman suggests grouping like tasks together in a day which sounds like a great idea, so that's what I did! I've only followed this new routine for two weeks, but I've enjoyed it so far. I'll try to update you on how it's going in a few months to see if it's still working for me. Here is our new weekly routine:

Monday is my Office Day. During Office Day, I do office-type things such as making phone calls (the ones that can wait), paying bills, making the menu for the week, and writing out the grocery list. If there is extra research that I want to do on the internet and haven't been able to fit in during the previous week, Monday is the day for that as well. It would also be a good day to write a letter.

Tuesday is my Town Day, also known as errand day. It's my day to get out of the house to do things, although we don't tend to do much more than go to the grocery store. With three little ones (and another one on the way) and temperatures in the upper 90's, I don't want to be out much. I may also try to schedule appointments on this day, and as the weather cools off, we'll be able to do some things in the afternoon, too, after Rachel's nap.

Wednesday is my Cleaning Day. While I try to do most of my cleaning on Wednesday, there is, of course, cleaning that needs to be done the other days of the week. Some things can't wait...and we don't really want them to.

Thursday is my Kitchen Day. When I look at my week, this day seems like the most fun. We have been eating a lot of Cheerios lately, and I'm using this day to prepare more healthful breakfasts and snacks for us. Last week, I made two dozen Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins, and I put together mixes for pancakes. This week, I plan to make more muffins and maybe some cookies. I would like to make some Spiced Carrot Zucchini Bread, but I killed my little food processor (that I spent $4 for), and I'm too lazy to grate enough for three or four loaves by hand.

Friday is my Laundry/Catch Up Day. I've actually been doing laundry two days a week, but I think I'm going to try to stretch it out to once a week. I know that John has enough clothes, and Daniel and Sarah Beth and Rachel; I'm just not sure that I do! We'll see. Of course, I'll do the occasional load during the week: towels, cleaning rags, sheets, etc.. Since there isn't much work to be done while the washer and dryer work, I also use Friday to catch up on things that I haven't had time for earlier in the week. And it's a great day for another errand or two, if necessary.

Like I said, I've just started this routine, but I like it so far. I can't believe how productive I've been since moving into our new, rental house. (Of course, I was extremely unproductive during the transitional period while John was in Florida and I was in Georgia.) Meanwhile, there is still time in the day for homeschooling Sarah Beth and playing with all three of my children.

What kind of schedule or routine do you have? Do you group like activities together or spread them out over the week? Do you have any suggestions for tweaking my routine?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recipe Fun Friday: Slow-Cooked White Chili

It has been a long time since I've done this, hasn't it?

I bought a new cookbook Taste of Home Slow Cooker last week, and I'm so excited about trying some new recipes from it. Wednesday night, we tried Slow-Cooked White Chili, and it was a hit with everyone, even my picky eaters. We hadn't had a white chili before, so I wasn't sure how this would turn out, but we will definitely have it again. As a matter of fact, it was so filling that my older two children were unable to finish their cornbread muffins.

I didn't bother browning the chicken before tossing it in the crock pot; I figured it really didn't need it. And I didn't realize that I didn't have any cumin until I was putting it all together. Since I was too lazy to load all three children into my car and drive to the grocery store just for cumin (and I don't even know what cumin tastes like), I just threw in some Tony Chachere's, and that was good enough.

Have you tried a new recipe lately? How did it go?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Being Neighborly

Yesterday morning, as my children played outside and I rested after cleaning a few windows, one of our neighbors dropped by. She had been out walking and saw us, so she walked over to meet us -- again. Apparently, we had met at one of the churches we've visited recently, but I didn't remember her. Anyway, my neighbor had the foresight to write down her and her husband's names along with their phone number. That relieved my concern over remembering her name.

We have now met neighbors from two of the houses near us, and we really appreciate that. Both sets are retirees and seem to enjoy having a family with young children move in near them. We enjoy knowing our least a little bit.

At our old house, whenever new people moved in near us, we tried to make an effort to meet them. It's hard moving into a new neighborhood; it's even harder when it's a new town. And no one wants to go around, knocking on doors trying to meet people. I also try to take some kind of baked good, just because it seems so "neighborly."

While we may never do more than smile and nod at our new neighbors, we really appreciate the effort they have taken to meet us.

Do you try to meet the new people in your neighborhood when they move in? Do you take a treat along with you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: The Chocolate Diaries by Karen Linamen

The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life by Karen Linamen is an inspirational book about how to make the best out of bad or hard circumstances. Along with the author's own life stories, there are encouraging stories of people who overcame difficulties. Also, included are delicious-sounding chocolate recipes.

I have to admit that I was disappointed in this book. I thought it would have more about God and how He helps us through the hard times. God was scarcely mentioned in this book, so I felt like I wasted my time reading this book. However, if you don't care, and if the rest of the information included in this book sounds interesting to you, you ought to give this book a try.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my Kindle copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Wearing Gloves for Cleaning

Do you like to wear gloves when you clean? Usually, I don't care, although I really hate sticking my hand into the toilet. Yuck! (That's why I use a toilet brush.) Anyway, when we moved into our rental house, I knew that parts of it would need a good, deep cleaning; and for that, I would want to wear gloves. So I bought a pair of gloves that I wore all day while cleaning. The problem was that my hands sweated inside the gloves. The gloves kept my hands from the yuckiness I was cleaning, but my hands made the inside of the gloves nasty. And I didn't want to wear them again.

My mother showed up and gave me a great suggestion: use disposable gloves. They keep your hands just as clean as reusable gloves, but when you get done with them, you just throw them away. What a great idea! My mother uses these gloves for all kinds of things, like picking dead flowers, weeding her garden, planting flowers, anything where her hands can get dirty.

Now I have a box of disposable gloves under my kitchen sink for those tough, nasty jobs when I really want to wear gloves and keep my hands from nastiness. For most jobs, again, I don't really care, but when I do, I have what I need.

Do you use gloves when you clean and/or garden? What kind?

Monday, August 22, 2011

School Starts Today!

Sarah Beth and I are starting school today. It will be a new experience for both of us because, although we have done school-type things before, we haven't sat down at the kitchen table and called it school. I ordered all of our materials last weekend, so most of them haven't come in yet. I don't think that's a problem. Actually, I think it's an asset -- we can start with one or two subjects and add the rest as they arrive. It sounds like a good idea to me; what do you think?

In case you are curious, here is what we plan to use this year:
I said that my primary goal for kindergarten is for Sarah Beth to learn how to read, but I plan to start our day with Bible because the most important thing for her (and my other children) to learn is about God. However, the only resources we have right now are the phonics and writing programs, so that's what we will actually start with for now. As soon as the other things arrive, though, we'll start those as well.

When does school start for your children? What will they be learning?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guess What!

Yesterday, I had my first OB appointment here in Florida. I like my new doctor, but I did not get a chance to meet the midwife. I'm hoping for a midwife delivery, but I guess it doesn't matter. As I expected, everything was normal and fine. I thank God for my uncomplicated pregnancies. I certainly wasn't expecting an ultrasound, but they fit me in. And I am so excited to know what we are having!

IT'S A GIRL! We're having another girl! How exciting is that?! Poor John and Daniel will be outnumbered, but then they already are. Poor John! He's got two daddy's girls, and I'm sure this one will be, too. He's running out of lap! And since I still have everything from Sarah Beth's and, more importantly (because it's the same season), Rachel's infanthood, we shouldn't need much at all. Besides, there's not much you need anymore by the time baby number four comes along.

I've had a feeling all along that this baby was a girl. This pregnancy is similar to the ones I had with Sarah Beth and Rachel. John had a suspicion that this baby was a girl, too. And everytime we asked her, Sarah Beth said this baby was a girl. I guess we were all right!

So we're excited today about our new "baby sister," and we look forward to welcoming her home...but not for a while!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Large Family Logistics

I have been reading Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman along with Connie at Smockity Frocks. I have not been able to join in the weekly reviews because of our move, but this week I can! And this book is wonderful! (However, I have discovered that we do not have a large family. Three children with a fourth on the way is just the beginning for large families.)

I cannot say enough about how jam-packed this book is with practical information on everything you think you should know (and a few things you probably haven't even thought of). And there is so much Scripture on every, single page that you could almost use it as a devotional. From honoring your husband to teaching your children, from doing laundry to cleaning the bathrooms, from doing things yourself to delegating to children, this book has it all in it.

Whether you have a large family or not, you should read this book if you think you have any room at all for improvement in your home management...even if you are just starting your family.

To read what Connie has to say about this book, and to read what others think, head over to Smockity Frocks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New House Equals New Routine

As you may remember, I haven't been doing much around the house lately...before the move. I had a maid keeping the house clean for all the showings; John wasn't home so I didn't need to cook; since I didn't need to cook, grocery shopping was just for bare essentials (especially since I was trying to use up some of our stock before the move). Now that we have moved, and things are getting back into some kind of routine, I think it's time to step back up to the plate, so to speak.

Monday, I sat down and wrote out a menu plan for the week for the first time in months. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping* for more than just staples. This week, we will have home-cooked meals every night (unless we take my mother out to eat one evening). And I feel pretty good about these steps. (But I think I spent too much at the grocery store. I need to start shopping sales and clipping coupons again.)

Of course, I cleaned the house before we moved in, but now I need to come up with a schedule for keeping it clean. I have to admit that having a smaller house is a good thing right now. Cleaning a smaller house takes less time, obviously, than a larger one. And since I have no maid to fall back on, it's all up to me.

Adding to my new (but in actuality old) daily and weekly routines is school. Sarah Beth is five, so we're going to start kindergarten. I ordered her curriculum this past weekend, and I think we're going to start each subject as the books appear. We've enjoyed five years of playing and learning without any sort of plan, and I think it may be a little difficult when we have to actually sit down and study.

Have you started any new routines lately? Does this time of year, back-to-school, seem like a good time to start them? What about right after a move?

*I know that I haven't done much grocery shopping lately, but I cannot believe how much the prices have increased lately. Goodness!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Going out With Friends

A couple of weeks ago, before we moved, two of my good friends and I went out for dessert one night. We had so much fun together, just talking and laughing...and of course, eating dessert! I wished we had planned times like this more often. We did try to go out for each other's birthdays, but that's still only three times a year. Now I hope and pray for new friends to spend time like this with.

If you want to call this time together a Girls' Night Out, I guess you can. We didn't. And we scheduled it to be as unobtrusive and as easy for our husbands as we could. Like I said, we met for dessert. We didn't even try for dinner. (Wouldn't you rather have dessert anyway?) We met at 8:00 so that we could help our husbands put our children to bed. Then we left our husbands, hopefully, with a quiet house. We wanted to make this outing as easy as possible for our husbands so that it wouldn't impose on them and because we felt that it would be selfish for us just to walk out of our houses, leaving them with all of the work. We really didn't want them feeling resentful of this time with friends.

We had such a good time that night, and I hope that I will get to go out for dessert again soon with new friends. Here is my biggest tip for making this happen:
  • Check with your husband to find out when is convenient for him. Maybe Saturday afternoon for dessert would work better for him than after bedtime. (We did this once.) Maybe Saturday morning early before your children wake up.
You know you enjoy time with your friends, and I think it's an important thing to do occasionally. Of course, you don't want to overdo it; your family is your first priority.

Do you get out often with your friends without your children? How do you do it?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner

The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner tells an apocalyptic tale based very loosely on the book of Revelation in the Bible. The year is 2048, and the world is coming to an end, destroying itself. Most people foolishly think life will return to normal, but the wise few see that the end is near. The only problem left to solve, the only decision left to make, is whether the end will bring something better or something worse.

This book is supposed to be a Christian book, but I just can't see it. I think Jesus Christ is mentioned less than five times in it, the book of Revelation is equated with Mayan prophecies, and the outcome of the apocalypse is left in the hands of our hero Paul Binder. I just don't know where to start with the problems in this book. My biggest problem, though, is how small a role God plays in it. In Revelation, Christ returns as a conquering hero, and no one can stand before Him although many try. There is no ambiguity about Who will win the last battle, but The Seraph Seal throws all of that out the window and leaves the fate of humankind in the hands of a few people. Needless to say, don't waste your time reading this book unless you enjoy a good (and it is written fairly well) book about the end of times that has absolutely no basis in fact.

I want to thank BookSneeze for my copy of this book to review, but my opinion is (obviously) my own.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We're Here!

It's been over a week since I wrote a "real" post, and maybe you would like to know what we've been up to. Last week, the movers came on Wednesday and packed up about 85% of our house. On Thursday, they finished packing and loaded everything onto the truck. On Friday, we drove down to Florida. We went to the zoo on Saturday, and it was very hot. When we left at 1:00, it was 96 degrees. Ugh! But we had a good time anyway, especially since we had ice cream for lunch. On Sunday, we went to church. Afterwards, I worked at cleaning our rental house. I hate to do work like that on the Lord's Day, but I felt like my "ox was in the ditch" (Luke 14:5).

The movers delivered our stuff on Monday, and my mother came down to help unpack. We've just pretty much been unpacking all this week, but we got most of it done. I wouldn't have gotten a quarter of the boxes unpacked if my mother hadn't come to help. She left yesterday morning, and we miss her already. It was only God's providence that had our move came at this point in our pregnancy. Since I'm in the second trimester, I don't feel bad (most of the time), and I have more energy. But I'm also not as big as I will be so I can still breathe when I bend over to pick something up. Whew! This move would have been so much harder in either of the other two trimesters.

When I saw the house Saturday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised. John had led me to believe that it was smaller than it actually is (and that's how he remembered it, too). Our rental is much smaller than our home back in Georgia, but it will be okay for a few months. Sarah Beth and Daniel love sharing a room although they get a little boisterous sometimes when they should be settling down to sleep. My favorite part of this house is that there are no stairs. Yea!! My least favorite part of this house is that the dining room (the only place to put the kitchen table) has carpet. Yuck! And I dread the inevitable spills. (At least, it's just a rental! Isn't that bad?!)

Hopefully, our old house will sell soon so we can start looking for a new house. Of course, we still don't know where in the area we want to live so renting for a while looks like a really good idea for now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Booking it: August Edition

As my pregnancy has progressed into the second trimester, I have felt soooo much better. Can you tell? I'm reading a whole lot less! Of course, it also helps that we've been in the middle of a move, and there's always lots involved with that. But the ones I've read are good ones, and I have enjoyed them. The books I read this month:
  • To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston. This book was written in the early 1900's, and it takes place when Jamestown was just a small settlement here in the New World. Both of those facts make this book an interesting read. When Captain Percy decides to take a wife, he takes that decision seriously. The woman he marries, Jocelyn, does not make the best wife; she doesn't cook or clean or perform any other wifely duties. The marriage is in name only, and neither is happy with it. Then the protagonist enters, Lord Carnal. He followed Jocelyn all the way from England to Jamestown because he wants her so badly. Since he is the king's favorite, everyone assumes that Percy will just give her up. Nope. They are married, and even though it is a loveless marriage, he will not surrender his wife to someone she abhors. At this point, Percy and Jocelyn embark on a series of adventures with Indians, pirates, etc., during which time they do begin to love each other. I enjoyed this book, even though some of the action was a bit far-fetched. I especially liked seeing how devoted Percy was to his wife even when he did not love her. Amazing!
  • When You Rise up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul, Jr.. This book is jam-packed with information about homeschooling: why you should homeschool, what you should teach, how you are qualified to teach your children, the different things boys and girls should learn, etc.. If you homeschool or are thinking about it, you should really read this book. (You can read more of my thoughts on this book here.)
  • The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner. You can read my full review here.

The books I read with my children:
  • Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. This was the first time I had read this book, although I do usually like to "vet" books before reading them to my children. We enjoyed it, and it gave me an opportunity to introduce how bad things can happen sometimes when Pollyanna is hit by a car and loses the ability to walk.
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sarah Beth loves listening to stories about Laura and Mary. This book was a fun read about the Ingalls' journey in a covered wagon from the Big Woods to the prairie, how they built their house and barn, and made new friends. These books are a great introduction for my children to lives that are very different from ours.
  • The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald. This book was not my choice for our next chapter book, but Sarah Beth was determined. I'm not sure how much she understood about this boy (the Great Brain) and how he tricked and manipulated people, but I enjoyed it. This story takes place at the end of the 19th century, and it's fun to read about a different time and place. While the Great Brain is wily and crafty, he is usually caught, so I wasn't too worried about my children picking up bad habits.
To see what others have been reading, head over to Life as Mom: Booking It.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christmas in August: Christmas Meme

(This post was originally published December 13, 2010. It's the last in my Christmas in August series which I hope you enjoyed! And I also hope to be back posting new posts soon!)

Here is a fun Christmas meme I found at It's Almost Naptime. Feel free to play along!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate, definitely. Honestly, I've never even had egg nog. (It just sounds gross.)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa does not come to our house, so all the presents get wrapped.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
This dilemma was huge when John and I got married. I grew up with small, white lights, and he grew up with BIG, colored lights. We compromised with small, colored lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. Don't need to.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually, the week before Christmas, however, we bought and decorated our tree last Saturday.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
I don't really have a favorite, but I love that there is a great excuse this time of year to make cookies and pies. Yum!

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
I don't really have a favorite; they were all good but not spectacular. (I hope that doesn't sound like I'm complaining because I'm not.) However, my Granny used to make all kinds of candy when we came to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas: buckeyes (or peanut butter balls), turtles, Mississippi mud, etc.. It was wonderful to walk through the dining room and eat a piece or two without my parents saying I had had enough.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I never believed in Santa Claus. I have a brother and sister who are almost five years older than I am. They probably spoiled it for me, although I really don't know. I don't feel like I missed anything, though.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
What a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
We just put lights and ornaments on it. How do you do it?

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love, Love, Love it! Since we live in the Deep South, we never get it. It's always a holiday (literally!) when we get some.

Funny story: The only white Christmas I have ever had was in Jacksonville, Fl., visiting my grandparents. But it wasn't snow; it was ice.

12. Can you ice skate?
I doubt it since I've only tried once and that was in high school.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I'm not sure what my favorite was, but one of my favorites was a clock-radio (remember those?) that my parents gave me when I was about twelve. The neat thing about it was that it played tapes. Oh, I loved that present! As a matter of fact, I still have it. Thanks to my trusty (old!) clock-radio, I know what it is in the middle of the night and I'm never late to work or wherever else I'm heading for the day.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
The most important thing is that Jesus Christ gave up the splendors of heaven for us (for me!) and came down to earth as a lowly, poor baby. Isn't that amazing?!

Of course, I also enjoy spending time with family.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
I think I have a new favorite: Grasshopper Pie. Yum!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Opening presents. Is that bad? Maybe we need to start some traditions.

17. What tops your tree?
Honestly, we have an angel for the top of our tree, but I really need to replace it. Angels aren't pretty tree-topping things; they are scary creatures. Whenever they appeared to men, the first words they uttered were, "Don't be afraid."

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
While I enjoy both, I have to admit that I prefer receiving. It's my love language.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
"Joy to the World!"

20. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?

21 Favorite Christmas Show?
No doubt about it, my favorite show is A Christmas Story. "Don't shoot your eye out!"

22. Saddest Christmas Song?
Christmas should be a happy, joyful time because Christ came to be with us. Immanuel! If pressed, however, I guess I would have to say "Mary Did You Know?," but I don't much care for that song...probably because it's sad.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Christmas in August: My Favorite Christmas Hymn

(This post is part of my Christmas in August series since we are very busy right now with our move. I hope you enjoy!)

Joy to the w
orld! The Lord is Come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing, And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and flood, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love, And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

(words by Isaac Watts)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Christmas in August: Feeling (Un)Welcome

(This post was originally published December 8, 2010. I am republishing it as part of my Christmas in August series since we are very busy right now with our move. I hope you enjoy!)

Last night, our family went to a church Christmas party for dinner. My children and I got there a few minutes early, but I was still one of the last ones to arrive. John was coming, too, but he was later than I was. When I got there with my hands full (diaper bag, purse, Floppy Seat, Rachel), everyone was already seated, and there was just one place for me and the children - an empty table. That's where we sat, waiting for John. A few people smiled in welcome, but only one person came to greet us - our pastor. And no one thought to come help a mother with full hands.

Sarah Beth and Daniel climbed into their seats, and finally a waitress brought me a high chair for Rachel. As I sat there by myself, feeding Rachel her supper, I couldn't help but think, "I could be doing this at home." John finally arrived, and then another couple (who was later than we were) came and sat with us. They don't know it, but this couple redeemed the whole party for me.

I don't write this post looking for sympathy. I write it to remind you (and me!) that we need to be on the lookout this season (and always) for people who need some kindness. There are people in our churches and at our social functions who feel lonely and left out. As a family of believers, this should not be.

I am thankful that this happened to me last night because I hope that the next time I am in a similar situation, but on the other side, I remember what it's like to be alone. I want to remember so that I pick myself up out of my comfortable chair, my familiar setting, and my encouraging conversation, and go make someone else feel welcome. How hard is that? And yet how meaningful?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Finished Object Friday

I decided to make a blue blanket for one of my friends that's having a baby boy, and I tried so hard to find a good pattern, one that I liked. I looked through most of my crochet books (and I have a bunch!), but I couldn't find anything that I really liked. There were a couple of possibilities, but the more I looked at them, the less I liked them. What was I going to do? Then I walked by Daniel's room and saw this blanket. Of course! I'll just make that one again, but with more baby-ish colors! And that's what I did.

This blanket measures about 3 feet square, and I made it with Bernat Softee Baby yarn. The pattern came from Snuggle Squares. (I'm writing all of this stuff down so I'll have it for future reference. I really hate it when I want to remake a blanket but cannot find the pattern for it.)

For more Finished Object Friday, head over to Fresh from the Chari Tree.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Christmas Time Generosity: A Good Thing?

(This post was originally published December 1, 2010. I am republishing it as part of my Christmas in August series since we are very busy right now with our move. I hope you enjoy!)

What is it about this time of year that makes us feel more generous? Fishmama at
Life as Mom has a list of ways we can demonstrate God's love to to others during the Christmas season. Doesn't it make us feel good to do things for others?

While these random acts of kindness are great, why should we do them duringthis season? I mean, what is so special about Christmastime? If these acts of kindness and generosity are good at this time of year, aren't they good all year long? I've read through the Bible a few times, and I haven't come across any command to give more freely or to love one's neighbor more during a certain time of the year.

Of course, I do not want to discourage you from doing good this month. In fact, I want to encourage you to act upon these suggestions. However, I do want to challenge you to continue these good deeds into January and February and March get the idea. What's good in December is still good in July.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Christmas in August

The movers are coming today to start packing up our house. They plan to pack us up today and tomorrow and then load everything into the truck on Friday. I figure that I'm going to be super busy for the next week or so, and I don't know when I will "lose" our computer (via packing). I had planned all year to do a Christmas in July series, but the timing worked out better for a Christmas in August series. Basically, I plan to repost some things I wrote around Christmas last year because there are things that we try to do especially at that time of year that we should really try to do all year long. Also, it's a good time to start thinking about Christmas, especially if you plan to make any gifts. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Who I'm NOT Buying Christmas Gifts For

(This post was originally published December 20, 2010.)

(To be grammatically correct, the title of this post really should be: "For Whom I'm Not Buying Christmas Gifts. I know that, but it sounds kind of funny, don't you think?)

Buying gifts for people at Christmas can get expensive. It seems like you have to buy something for everyone, and it can be hard to find the perfect gift for each and every person on your list. We have a secret: we don't buy gifts for many people. It saves a lot (a lot) of time, money, and aggravation.

It is actually easier for me to list the people for whom I do buy gifts than those I don't. I buy gifts for John, and we buy gifts for our children and three of my in-town nieces and nephews. That's it. How do we get away with it? Why do we not buy gifts for my parents, siblings, and the rest of my nieces and nephews?
  • My parents do not need anything. They do not even want much, and what they do want, they buy for themselves. Since there is nothing they need or want, we make a donation to their choice of ministry in their names. This gift makes them happy, and it helps out a worthy ministry. (I do have a small gift for each of them to open, however. Shhh! Don't tell!) While it doesn't save us much money, it saves a lot of time and aggravation.
  • All of my siblings and our spouses used to buy gifts for everyone else, and that got expensive since I have two brothers and a sister. We decided to draw names, and that worked well...for a few years. One year when John and my brother-in-law exchanged gift cards to the same store, we decided it had gotten a little ridiculous. Then we started playing the "White Elephant" (aka "Dirty Santa") game. We just quit doing that a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure why...but it's kind of nice not to worry about it.
  • There are a bunch of nieces and nephews in our family (eleven to be exact), and again it's expensive to buy gifts for all of them. So we draw names. How does that work since John and I have three children but my younger brother has two? Well, you draw the number of names that you have children. We draw three, and my brother's family draws two. The children still get gifts, and we still have the fun of picking presents out, but it's limited. And let's be honest; they don't really need a toy from every aunt and uncle.
Do you do anything similar to cut costs for Christmas present-buying? What other methods do you use?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Business Cards

"Business cards?" I'm sure you're thinking. "Why do women who stay home with their children need business cards?" I heard about this idea a while ago, and I thought it was a great one. Whenever you meet someone new, someone that you would like to reconnect with later, you just hand them one of your cards instead of hunting for something to write with and something to write on. "What a great idea!" I thought. The only problem is that I rarely meet new people since the church to which we belong is rather small.

Now that we're moving, however, I thought it was time to revisit this idea. Instead of writing down my new Florida address umpteen times to give to people who want it (assuming that anybody does!), I can just hand them a card. After we move, and I start (hopefully!) meeting people at our new church, I can hand them a card with all of our contact information on it, too. How easy!

What information do I have on my "business" card? Here's my list:
  • All of our names -- just in case people forget
  • Our address -- mostly for our old friends who might want to send us some snail mail (hint, hint!)
  • My email address -- my email address seems to be the permanent one in our family. Also, email is my preferred method of communication, so this information will be good for our new friends (I hope!).
  • My blog address -- I included this information mostly for our old friends who may want to keep up with us after our move.
  • Our phone number -- obvious reasons
I don't plan to show you a picture of my card because I don't want most of this information posted out there on the internet...even though I know most of it already is. But I think you get the idea.

I got my cards from VistaPrint because they offered free business cards. Of course, I still had to pay for shipping and handling which was a little more than $5. But since I will receive absolutely nothing if you order your own from VistaPrint, I really don't care where you order yours from, if you order any.

So, if you have to write down your personal information very often, you may want to think about getting your own set of "business" cards.

What do you think?

I just discovered on MoneySavingMom that you can get 100 free black and white business cards at Staples. Here's the coupon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pregnancy Update

I am now 21 weeks along with this pregnancy which means that I am over halfway through. Hooray! I cannot believe that I'm wearing the same dress as I did in my fourteen week picture, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I've only got so many dresses that I can wear right now. I really don't look much bigger when I compare the pictures, but I definitely am. I can feel the baby moving now, and it's getting uncomfortable to sleep on my stomach. I just wish I knew whether this baby was a girl or a boy!