Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy November!

I am beyond ready for November, and hopefully it will bring with it some cooler temperatures in the afternoons! Not freezing, but you know, FALL. We also anticipate a house full again this Thanksgiving, though I am having another procedure on my back the Friday before the holiday, so I plan to shop early and pre-make some items for the freezer!

I know I promised a post on legitimate earning opportunities on the web, but some stuff came up. So, I have my month end wrap up post almost complete (the final numbers should be ready tomorrow) and I hope to be able to tie that all in together;)

Finally, I have a new giveaway post coming tomorrow as well. One you won't want to miss;) I am going to leave it up for the entire month of November, and you can enter once per day!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Tour: Costly Grace

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship is a 90 day devotional that will knock you out of your comfort zone. I have had my copy just a few days, and it already has made in impact. My favorite thing is that each of the 28 chapters in this book are titled "Becoming Like Jesus in ....". Since I have been talking to some people recently about issues they are having, and offering suggestions for ways to help people in need, I skipped ahead and started with the chapter on Forgiving Enemies. My second favorite thing about this book is costs listed at the end of each chapter. One comparison I will share here is this:

Fallen Thinking: "I will love others when they deserve it, appreciate it, respond well to it, etc."
Kingdom Thinking: "I will lover others because they need it."

There are several more just like that for this, and every other chapter. This devotional is not for people who are not open to change, because it will certainly rock your world. The only complaint I could say is that it is called a 90 day devotional, but is written into 28 chapters, not numbered by days, as in Day 1: Devotion. However, I do see how it could take 90 days to work through this. Taking the time to read and absorb the message as you go through it. I have included the press release also for you to enjoy.

***While B&B Media was kind enough to send me a complementary copy of this book for review purposes only, they did not require a positive review, and all opinions expressed are 100% mine. If you'd like to purchase your own copy of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship it is available now at Amazon and other retailers.***

An Examination of the High Cost of Grace
A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship

Add to cartIn 1937, on the threshold of Nazi Germany’s war on the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote what turned out to be one of the most influential books of the century, The Cost of Discipleship. In it, he challenged the flabby faith and compromises of German Christians, famously writing, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.”

Now, seventy-three years after the book was first published, Jon Walker has written Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Although Bonhoeffer’s book still has a loyal readership, it has not been adequately viewed through the eyes of the twenty-first century. Walker brings to a new generation the timeless message of Bonhoeffer against the background of today’s political upheaval and societal change and what it means to those who claim to follow Christ’s teachings, challenging contemporary teachings and lifestyles.

Grace is a foundational doctrine for Christians, yet it is one of the most misunderstood. Bonhoeffer watched as many used the doctrine of grace as an excuse to do whatever they wanted, and in response, he wrote his classic work on what it truly means to follow Jesus. We cheapen grace, he declared, when we use it to compromise our behavior or to lower the standards of God’s Word. In a modern retelling of this Christian classic, Walker explains what Bonhoeffer meant when he taught that grace is free but will cost us everything.

“Bonhoeffer called for a return to ‘costly grace,’ to a recognition that God’s grace comes at the cost of Christ’s passion. Grace is free, but it demands a disciple’s whole life, not just partial obedience to the commands of Christ. Bonhoeffer’s message resonates with our time of instability and insecurity,” Walker explains. “We’re tempted to compromise in order to keep things as they have been, but the cost of discipleship requires that our loyalty be only to Christ and Christ alone. Where our behavior is at odds with our belief, God requires we be ruthless in letting go of the things that entangle us and keep us from becoming just like Jesus.”

Costly Grace is a clear call to discipleship, reminding us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and makes the doctrine of grace understandable and practical. Following Bonhoeffer’s example, Walker has anchored this book around an expository study of Matthew 5–7, including the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. As such, Costly Grace is an excellent resource for small group curriculum or congregation-wide study.

Also set to release in October is the Costly Grace 90-Day Devotional. The companion devotional is dedicated to bringing home to the heart of every Christian the vital call that Bonhoeffer made in his book and that Walker now makes in his. What decisions do we need to act on to walk the road Jesus shows us? Who is it we are called to love and forgive? And why is it imperative that the Beatitudes become our way of life? These are just some of the challenges that Walker helps us tackle in his valuable guide.

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship by Jon Walker
ISBN 978-0-89112-676-8/224 pages/softcover/$15.99
Costly Grace 90-Day Devotional
Publish Post
ISBN 978-0-89112-677-5/224 pages/softcover/$13.99
Leafwood Publishers, October 2010 ~

Friday, October 29, 2010

Give Yourself A Gift

I think that we all probably know many people who suffer from depression. You may not realize they are suffering as severely as they are though, because depression is an illness that carries so much with it. Many people who suffer from this illness are embarrassed and ashamed, they don't want to let people in to help them, yet that is sometimes the help they need to get past it. Why are they embarrassed? Because of the stigmas attached to it, and the anxiety over what people will think of them, how and whom they will discuss it with behind their backs, or that they will be treated differently.

Sometimes tragic or stressful events take place in our lives, and people expect a certain amount of depression to come with that. It's kind of the "socially acceptable" period for depression. There aren't any written guideline for how long you are "allowed" to be depressed over the situation before people start to think you have a problem, but there definitely is a point where people sometimes think you need to just suck it up and get over it.

I read a post at Hope Despite Depression, where the author talks about how her depression was so debilitating that she has needed to get disability benefits as she battles to fight her illness. She and many other people that suffer from this illness do not need the added stress of worry over what other people think of them, as they fight their battle. This is a major point of irritation with me when I hear people judging the depressed and mentally ill. They did not choose this illness, but hopefully they have accepted it's presence and are able to fight it. What people need is love and support.

With the 30 Day Giving Challenge approaching, I hope you will choose to give your gift of love and support to at least one person in your life that is battling depression. It could be a gift, a handwritten note of encouragement and love, a hot meal at dinner time, a hug or a phone conversation, anything that lets them know that they have your non-judgmental support. If you are suffering from depression and someone offers you support, give yourself a gift of allowance to accept it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Great Uses for Vaseline

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly is a very versatile product that we have used in our home in many different ways over the years. You would be surprised how many times we have a problem and search the internet for solutions, and Vaseline turns up to be a key ingredient. In celebration of Vaseline's 140th Anniversary, I thought I would join with TwitterMoms to share with you 10 of the ways that we use Vaseline in our home. I would be thrilled if you posted additional ways that your family uses Vaseline in the comments section, you never know when we might need them!

  1. When the boys were little, we used Vaseline on their little bottoms because diaper rash was a real issue, and one of them seemed to have an allergy to other commercial diaper rash products. One of them still has some tummy issues from time to time, and I still keep some handy in their bathroom for those times.
  2. During cold and flu season, they also get raw little noses, so I use a cotton swab to dab a bit on the sensitive areas to help keep them dry and clean. One of Aaron's little tics is to constantly lick his lips which makes his entire mouth area red, so I use it around there as well.
  3. I use it on my feet at night. Since I tend to go barefoot in the summer, and were flip flops and sandals everywhere, I found that my feet were not looking great anymore. I had been using Vapor Rub on them in the winter to stop all night coughing, at that was making them softer, but didn't need the Mentholatum when I wasn't sick. One day it dawned on me to try Vaseline. I did, and it made them noticeably softer. Since the birth of Logan, I am allergic to so many things, so I have to be careful with certain commercial products, but Vaseline hasn't caused me any problems. (It also works on my elbows. Use tops of old socks to cover them when you sleep.) Put the Vaseline on, then socks before sleeping.
  4. Along those same lines, I was searching around for homemade recipes for bath products since I couldn't use my other commercial products. I found that mixing Vaseline and Sea Salt together in a jar would make a bath scrub. I tried it and loved it, and had no allergic reaction!
  5. I also remember hearing once that beauty contestants put it on their teeth to help them keep smiling. I was at a competition in high school where we had to smile for an extended time period and we tried it and it did work. That wasn't my favorite thing to do, but you have to remember that a little goes a long way!
  6. Since I have used Vaseline on my feet and elbows on a regular basis, another bonus affect that I found was softer cuticles. If I rub any remaining Vaseline into the cuticles on either my fingers or toes, and wait a bit before washing up, it helps them to stay soft and healthy!
  7. I don't remember this event happening, and apparently it happened more than once when I was a child, but if gum gets stuck in hair, you can apply Vaseline and it comes right out. This actually came up last year when Logan stuck Peanut Butter in my hair, and it didn't come out in the shower. I didn't want to cut a huge section of my hair out, so I had to scour the internet for help. I read that tip and it worked. Later I mentioned it to a lifelong friend and she laughed and told me they used to have to do that to my hair all the time when I was a kid. I guess somethings are better forgotten;)
  8. Also on that note, Aaron's little eyes are super sensitive, even to No Tear Shampoo. I also found that dabbing a tiny line of Vaseline across his forehead before he showers keeps the water and shampoo from running into his eyes. It stops it and makes it run around the edges and down his cheeks by his ears. When you have a child with these sensitivities, you spend a lot of time searching the internet for solutions to problems!
  9. We also use Vaseline in the boys bathroom on the shower curtain rod to keep the rings sliding smoothly. With three little boys, they were constantly pulling and tugging on the curtain and it kept falling. We got the rod installed more securely, but then they would rip the curtain trying to open and close it. My dear friend (Internet searches) once again came to the rescue. I found this tip, and it solved the problem. I have to reapply just a bit on the top of the rod monthly, but it slides open and closed with ease now!
  10. My husband uses Vaseline when he does maintenance on our cars. He dabs some around the battery connector things to protect them from erosion. He checks the amount when he checks the oil to make sure there is still clean Vaseline there.
I hope some of these tips help you in the everyday parenting of your children, and raising the family. Some of them I hope you never have to use (gum in the hair, haha!) but others I hope you are able to incorporate into your everyday routine. Substituting an affordable and versatile product such as Vaseline for commercial products may prove to be a healthier and more cost effective treatment for your family;)

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Vaseline blogging program, making me eligible to get a $25 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” All opinions expressed are mine.

About Vaseline:
Vaseline products are manufactured by Unilever [NYSE: UL, UN], one of the world’s largest consumer products companies. With a 140-year heritage as America’s most trusted healthy skin expert and more than 30 years as a leading hand and body lotion, the Vaseline brand delivers products that meet the specific needs of consumers, no matter their life stage or lifestyle. The Vaseline Aloe Fresh line includes Vaseline Aloe Fresh Hydrating Lotion, Vaseline Aloe Fresh Protecting Lotion with SPF, and Vaseline Aloe Fresh Moisturizing Gel. All products in the line are designed to be light and leave skin feeling hydrated and refreshed. In addition to the Vaseline Lotions, the Vaseline family of products also features a complete line of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and lip balm products. All Vaseline products can be purchased at drug stores nationwide. For more information, visit

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Treasure Your Chest

October is one of my favorite months of the year. I always look forward to the temperature finally getting cooler, football season!, and the leaves changing colors. It is such a beautiful and gorgeous time of year. However, as I have previously mentioned, it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I do love to see all the pink filling up the grocery store.

I came across a video at MomSelect, where they have chosen to help spread the word about how one of my favorite women, Giuliana Rancic, has teamed up with Lindsay Avner to help encourage moms everywhere to "bond with their breasts!" Lindsay Avner is the founder of the non-profit organization Bright Pink, and she and Giuliana made a live webcast entitled 'Treasure Your Chest'  to fight breast cancer. They demonstrated for women how to do in an exam, in a way that only Giuliana could get away with on a webcast, lol. It was hosted by Orbit White Bubblemint gum.  

Time is running out to see the video, as it is only available online through October at I encourage you to stop by and "watch as Giuliana and Lindsay share (and show) tips for how young women can be proactive about their breast health, including bonding with their breasts regularly."


"MomSelect and I think this video is a must-watch for every female! That's why we're spreading the word to increase views. If you're interested in sharing this video with your readers, we encourage you to embed it on your site. As we all know, early detection is the best prevention!" I'd also encourage you to forward this post to the women in your email address book that you care enough about to want to help them remember to perform their self-exam.

Also, as a proud sponsor of this campaign, Orbit White is donating 10 percent of every pack of Orbit White Bubblemint gum sold in September and October, up to $75,000, to Bright Pink. ***By helping promote this video, I am entering myself into a contest to win a year's supply of Orbit White Bubblemint Gum***

As a busy mom myself, who is also quite modest, I know this is a topic that many women are still uncomfortable talking about, and it can be hard to remember to do your exams. However, I have seen what happens to women affected by Breast Cancer, and I care enough to get over my modesty issues to ask that you please all select a day of the month to mark on your calendar to remind you to perform your monthly examination. Early detection is key to winning the battle!

Dannon: Give Hope With Every Cup

I am sure that most every woman in America is aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When I am at the store, I think it is great to see so many different brands embracing this important cause that affects both women and men, although just under 300,000 women get diagnosed every year! I would also venture to guess that almost all of us know or have known a close friend or family member that has been affected by it. I really wanted to walk in our local walk this year with my next door neighbor and her family to show her my support, but with my back injury, I was unable. She is the nicest woman who has fought hard to get her breast cancer into remission, and we just adore her. I am pleased to know that Dannon has pledged to donate a minimum $500,000 dollars to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, but will increase that donation amount to $1.5 million dollars depending upon how many lid codes are entered online by Nov. 30. So ladies, eat some Dannon yogurt, and don't forget to enter your codes because honestly, they do have some yummy yogurt that is healthy for you too!

"Under the lid of specially-marked Dannon products you will find a unique code. With each code entered at by November 30, 2010, 10 cents will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. ® (NBCF). The money raised will go to the NBCF, to provide women free mammograms and support breast cancer research nationwide."

"I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by  Mom Central on behalf of Dannon. In addition, I received a gift certificate and products to thank me for taking the time to participate."

Book Tour: The Miracle of Mercy Land.

I have long been a fan of historical fiction. I just adore the way people engaged one another during those long ago eras. The politeness, the formality, all of it. When it is set in the south and some mystery is added in, such as in The Miracle of Mercy Land: A Novel it is right up my alley. This is the fourth book published by River Jordan, though the first I have had the blessing to read. I love how detailed she writes. It makes it so easy to transport yourself into the time period and become ensconced in the story. I adore the way the primary characters in this story interacted, and while I could not wait to get to the end to see what would happen, I didn't want the story to end! I have added her other three books to my wish list, and I am certain that if you are familiar with her work you would agree. If you'd like to purchase your own copy of The Miracle of Mercy Land: A Novel it is available now at Amazon.


 Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensible to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mysterious stranger shows up, Mercy begins to understand she may have to choose between love and loneliness . . . or good and evil . . . for the rest of her life.

Author Bio:
RIVER JORDAN began her writing career as a playwright with the Loblolly Theatre group. She teaches and speaks nationwide on ‘The Power of Story’, is a monthly contributor to the southern authors’ collective A Good Blog is Hard To Find, and produces and hosts the weekly radio program CLEARSTORY with River Jordan, in Nashville, where she and her husband live. She is the author of Saints in Limbo and this is her fourth novel. 

***I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes only. All opinions expressed are true and 100% mine.***

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

5 Tips for making benefit planning simpler

We just finished completing our benefits enrollment package offered through my husbands employer last week. They are switching to a new company, so we had to look over all of the options carefully, and choose what would best meet our family's unique needs. We have a special needs son, so we know that he will require multiple specialist visits, and weekly therapies.

First, we looked at the total cost of the premiums between the packages offered to us. There was a significant difference, so we knew right away that we would have to look carefully at the differences in the plans. We are fortunate that his company offers premium reductions to non-smokers (which we are) and another discount for completing a wellness program. We completed the required surveys and have enrolled in those programs, thus completing all available discount options.
Second, we looked at how much we spent on health-care this over the past few years, how many visits we made (and what type i.e. to specialists, tests, etc) and anticipated how many we would need this upcoming year, to the best of our ability. We knew that we would all need at least one well check, probably 1-2 sick visits, and then listed the specialists visits we know we will make. Since my back is causing me problems, we included visits for that.

Third, we matched the copay amounts under each option to the visits we anticipate. One plan covers 80% post deductible, the other 90%. The 90% has a slightly higher deductible and premium as well. However, with our anticipated costs, it looks to be the most cost effective plan for us. This will differ for every family.

Fourth, we looked at how much we anticipate our out of pocket costs to be on the plan we chose. Then we started over making the same lists of our prescription costs in the recent past. We know that the copay's for our maintenance drugs will be the same, so we calculated those costs. Some we can put on mail order to save money, others we cannot.

Finally, we added up all of these amounts, and decided upon the amount to put in our FSA account. While over the counter drugs will not be covered next year, we made sure to put in enough to cover what we expect to pay, without putting in so much that we will worry about losing anything we don't use. It is a careful calculation!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Aetna blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 Target gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tips for Those Wanting to Help People In Need

  • Donate unused or unneeded clothing, coats, or blankets to your church clothes closet or non-profit organization.
  • Donate food and/or toiletry items to your church food pantry or local food bank.
  • VOLUNTEER your time and services to these agencies to keep things organized, fill bags, or deliver items to those who cannot drive to pick them up.
  • Shop the sales and coupon match up deals, and pick up the free or low cost items, and donate your excess to these agencies.
  • Mail expired coupons overseas to military families who can still use them!
  • Consider anonymous donations of food, clothes, gift cards to those you might know who are in need.
  • Contact your local Angel Food pick up location and see if they will allow you to "purchase" meals on behalf of families in need.
  • Contact your local school guidance counselor to see if they have requests for items you can donate to families.
  • Add dollars to your local utility companies program for those in need, or contact the agencies they use and offer to sponsor a family who perhaps needs help but doesn't qualify. I know someone who has done this. A customer of mine when I worked sponsored a family they knew anonymously via a non-profit organization. Due to privacy they could not get an exact amount due, so they wrote checks to the utility company with the address of the family whose bill they wanted to pay on it, and the non-profit made sure it was credited properly. The family got a letter stating they had a credit of X amount of dollars on their bill, and it carried them through the extreme seasons.
Look for ways to help in everyday life.

Twice at the pharmacy I have seen people in tears unable to pay for their medications, and pharmacists counting out how many days medicine they could afford, when someone in line anonymously offered to cover the bill to another store employee. The look of thankfulness and relief on the faces of the recipients cannot be described.

I have also seen people at the checkout of the supermarket having the cashier remove items from their bags to get the total down to the amount that they can afford to pay, when someone in another line has given cash to an employee to take over and cover the bill.

***Again, I welcome comments on additional ways to help!***

5 Practical Tips for People In Need.

I have come into contact with a handful of people over the past week who are in dire financial circumstances, and are looking for legitimate ways to make money online. Due to their specific situations, they are in homes where either no one is able to work, able to find work, or they are working yet not making enough to pay just their necessities. While my advice has differed according to the situation, I thought I would share some general information here for them and others, to use as a reference point. The most important thing I can stress, is that pride has to take a back seat. If you are in a situation where you need help, you have to be proactive in asking for it, and accepting the options offered to you. You can make money online, but it takes time, and most of the people I talked with do not have that.

First, if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay your mortgage or rent, you need to contact the person or company you pay, and make them aware of your circumstances. This is the most important thing that must be paid, and you need to be aware of what your options are. If you can, work out a new or temporary arrangement. If you cannot, you need to begin looking for a new housing situation sooner, rather than later.

Second, transportation. If you have a vehicle that you rely on for transportation, and you owe money on it, but can't afford to pay, you need to contact them to make an arrangement. If you cannot, I would suggest contacting a bankruptcy type attorney (many will offer 1st visits or phone calls for free to see if they can be of help). Sometimes they can help make you aware of what your options are, or help get a new arrangement worked out. In a worse case scenario if you lose your vehicle (or own one outright that isn't running) you will have to rely on public transportation to get to work, or need to ask a friend, family member, or co-worker to carpool. If you are working, getting to and from your job is critical to keeping your income, make sure you have an alternate arrangement in place. In many larger cities, there are services available to help you get to Dr. appointments and such, just check with your doctor's office or social services for information!

Third, medication. If you cannot afford your medication, you need to talk to your doctor. I personally know people who have been able to get additional samples from their doctors through drug reps, or been able to enroll in special programs through drug companies to get their medication at a more affordable price.

Fourth, food. If you do not have enough food to eat, even if you're on food stamps and they aren't stretching far enough, you need to contact social services in your area. They should be able to direct you to any food banks or churches in your area that can assist you. I know one church near us offers Angel Food Ministries, and any items not picked up go into their food bank. If you do not have transportation to pick up food they can offer you, LET THEM KNOW. They may have a volunteer who could bring it to you, but they won't know you need that option unless you let them know. Some churches also offer Clothes Closets. They may be able to assist you in getting clothes for yourself and your family, including coats and blankets to help stay warm over the winter!

Also, I have not used Food Stamps, but I believe that in our area the people I have seen using this service have a debit type card. You should be able to use coupons to help curb costs and stretch your dollars further. Start searching for coupon/sales matching blogs for the stores that you shop in your area. Read them and start getting familiar with what items are on special. Plan your menus around what is on sale. There are also blogs that feature entire meals on $5 or less, and many other low cost tips.

Finally, utilities. If you cannot pay your entire bill, there is usually a number you can call to make payment arrangements, or apply for assistance on the bill. I believe some United Way agencies are involved in helping people get assistance, at least in our area. There is typically a newsletter in our statement each month with tips on how to reduce energy costs, and around this time of the year we get United Way pamphlets asking for donations to help people keep their heat on, so if you see an organization asking for donations, they should be an organization you can call to request assistance if you need it.

Since I corresponded with a few people on these matters over the weekend, I wanted to post them first. I will try and get a post up by tomorrow on ways to start the online earning process, but since I know at least one of the people I chatted with has no utility service on, and had run out of food, I wanted to post these suggestions first.

I urge anyone in these circumstances to please call your local Social Services Dept and at least one church and explain your situation to them. I know these places offer help. Please do not go hungry or allow family members to go without food when there are places available that can help you now!

 ***If anyone has any additional tips, please leave them in the comments section!***

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Read My Feed Saturday

Book Review: Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-weiner

A couple of months ago, when I asked for book suggestions for young readers,  I was informed of a monthly book giveaway from the Penguin Young Readers Group. Once a month you can enter your mailing information to be eligible to win a copy of the book selection for the month. The first month I entered, we were sent this Dragonbreath book, which is apparently number 3 in the series (though I didn't realize until today when I was doing research for this post that it was a series!).

My boys loved this book! They found it hilarious, and though some other readers thought it might be a tad scary, my boys did not find it scary at all. They laughed through the entire book. Aaron was delighted at the illustrations, and as some of you know, he loves to draw and re-create them. I liked the dialogue between the two friends, and that the boys asked to eat some of the foods mentioned in the book that they previously "didn't like". After they heard a funny story mentioning these foods, they now love them!

Book Description from Amazon:
Danny Dragonbreath and his best friend Wendell thought the hot dog from the school cafeteria looked a little . . . off. Then things got weird when the hot dog bit Wendell, and weirder still when Wendell started to sprout back hair. Could Wendell be morphing into a . . . (cue ominous music) were-wiener? All evidence points to yes. And unless he and Danny can get past the lunch ladies and slay the alpha-wurst, the whole school could be infected.
Written in Ursula VernonÕs trademark hybrid style of comic-book panels and text, this is the thrilling third book in the series. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews said Dragonbreath Ówill leave readers in stichesÑ and on tenterhooks waiting for the next one.Ó Curse of the Were-Wiener will make kids everywhere laugh, shriek, and take a closer look at their lunches.

***I received a complementary copy of this book as part of a random monthly giveaway from the Penguin Young Readers Group on their website. There was no request or mention of a review necessary to win, I posted this because my kids enjoyed it, and I thought other kids might like it as well, and because I am grateful to this company for giving away children's books!***

Book Review: Without A Word

Football legend Jim Kelly and his wife Jill Kelly have bravely released a memoir of their life, in the book Without a Word: How a Boy's Unspoken Love Changed Everything. In this book, Jill Kelly reveals very personal and private information about their life. Sometimes I think the public automatically assumes that celebrities, such as sports superstars, are living fabulous lives void of major struggles that plague many non-celebrity families. However, that is not true. Money and fame do not guarantee problem free lives.

Jim and Jill were blessed to become the parents of a special needs child, Hunter, who was severely disabled and terminally ill . Although the battles that Hunter fought during his short life are battles that the rest of us cannot imagine, he did show his parents the greatest quality of all, and that is love. Through pain and sacrifice that I cannot imagine, Jill cared for her son, and was ignited by the loved that he shared. Through this love, she came to know Christ, and experience His love. Although she was enduring many hardships, once she was ensconced in God's love, she was able to forgive Jim from some actions that haunted her. In turn, it was this love and forgiveness that eventually allowed Jim to come to love the Lord as well.

What this shows us, is that actions can both damage and heal us. Words need not be spoken to be hurt or healed, yet God's love can save us from all of that. While we as Christians do have to endure hardships in our lives, through grace, we are able to have Christ bear the burden for us. Being a Christian does not keep you from making mistakes or hurting others, but it does give you the foundation for healing those wounds and seeking and accepting forgiveness. I love that Jim and Jill were strong enough to bare their souls to the world in this book in order to allow Hunter to continue to show his love and God's love.

While I received a copy of Without a Word: How a Boy's Unspoken Love Changed Everything from Hatchette Book Group for review purposes, all opinions expressed are completely mine. I hope that you would also want to read Hunter's story, and you may do so by purchasing a copy of Jill's book via Amazon by clicking the link above
Publish Post

Friday, October 22, 2010


Yesterday, our middle son Joshua turned 7! My parents are in town for the weekend for his birthday, and I have some errands to run, so I will be popping in and out over the weekend joining in some hops. I hope everyone has a great Friday!

Book Review: The Church Awakening

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal
I am a long time fan of Charles Swindoll, so when I saw that his book The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal was available for review, I jumped at the opportunity! Charles Swindoll has such a way of addressing urgent needs in our lives, and the lives of churches, and offering us solutions that are practical.

In The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, he points out to us that many modern day churches are struggling because we have become in my opinion, too de-sensitized to many issues and challenges that we face in every day life. Mr Swindoll points out very directly that the solution to this problem is returning to biblical teaching. Sometimes the messages that we need to hear are not messages that leave us feeling happy and good about things. Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable in order to make life altering changes that are for our own good.

I received a complementary copy of The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal from the Hatchette Book Group for review purposes only. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and were not influenced by the offering of this book. I highly recommend this book to all Christians, especially church leaders!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

Last month after I reviewed a DVD for Booksneeze, I chose a book to review for this month. The book I selected is Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back I was so excited to read this book based on the book description alone! This book is a true story. It is the story of a four year old boy, Colton, who went in and out of consciousness during an emergency surgery, and WENT TO HEAVEN. He was able to see his family and the doctor's in the operating room at the same time. He could see what was happening to his physical body. When he came out of surgery, he was full of stories to share with his family. Stories about meeting his miscarried sister (that he had no knowledge of), and his great grandfather who passes several decades before Colton was born. He told his family about how Jesus really does love little children, and details about the second coming.

The message that I got from this book is that people can in fact visit Heaven and live to tell the rest of us about it. Children do not always tell fictitious stories, as adults we need to listen more and talk less. This is an example of how we can learn from our children. Jesus loves all of us, children and adults alike, and we should live our lives ready for Him to come and get us at any moment. This book did make me think about many things. With m,y own child needing a couple of surgeries in the upcoming months, it gives me peace of mind to know that while our children may be out of the safety of our hands during surgery, we can pray and know that God is in fact watching over them, and will take better care of them than we ever could. As a parent, it is sometimes hard to keep that forefront in our hearts and minds, but it is true!

I was excited because this book reminded me of another book I read by Don Piper. Additionally, one of the things this book made me think about is how it reminds me of Aaron. Most of you know that Aaron is a very special child. His special needs aside. For years, he has told us details about being in my womb, and specific details about his birth, visitors at the hospital, and other very specific details about when he was a baby. Details that can only be verified in pictures that he has not seen. Some of which were on undeveloped film that we had developed and discovered he was correct. To say the least it really freaks people out when he starts talking about these things. I say that because I can completely understand how brave Colton's father was to get his story out to the public and published in a book. It is definitely something I want to help spread the word about!

I received a complementary copy of this book through the Booksneeze program, but it in no way influenced my review or opinions expressed. If you would like to read Colton's story, you can purchase a copy of Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back from Amazon through that link! I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Product: Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce

I am pretty sure that I am not the only mother who has issues getting her kids to eat all of their vegetables. Part of our problem is that I don't like most of them either! Sometimes it's the taste, other times it is the texture. With Aaron and his issues, it is usually the texture. Because he has so many medical issues, including Failure to Thrive, and the fact that he has special dietary needs, it its critical to get nutrients in him. To combat our difficulties, I have been using my blender to puree vegetables and sneak them into sauces and recipes for quiet some time. Ragu has recognized that this is a common problem in families, so they have revamped their Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce and it is now thicker and has 2 servings of veggies in every half cup!  We use this as a base for our homemade spaghetti sauce, and I have to say that my kids eat well over a half a cup, so they will certainly getting some secret vegetables added to their diets! We use a tomato based sauce at least 2-3 times per week in our home. I checked at my local store this afternoon, and this wasn't available yet, but the manager said he was expecting the new product soon!

I found a delicious looking recipe on their page that I thought I would share with you as well:



  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 jar (1 lb 10 oz.) Ragu® Old World Style® Pasta Sauce
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 12 ounces pasta, cooked and drained


Preheat oven to 400°. Combine bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and garlic powder in shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg, then crumb mixture, turn to coat. Arrange chicken in 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bake 20 minutes. Pour Pasta Sauce over chicken; top with cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve with hot pasta.
Preparation time: 20 Minute(s)
Cook time: 30 Minute(s)
Servings: 6

When I went to I saw that they have a sweepstakes going on:
Upload a photo of your favorite meal made using Ragú® for a chance to win* a Ragú® "Meal Makeover" Kit!

"Disclosure: I was entered for a chance to win a Ragú® prize package in exchange for this post.  No monetary exchange took place."

Fun for the Whole Family Hour Pack

Sail Into God’s Great Love With Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour

Many times when you hear about Church activities, they are centered on the Youth Group, the Women's Dept, the Men's Dept, or a children's function. It is not often that I have seen FAMILY activities planned. This activity pack is based on the Chronicles of Narnia (which my kids love!) and pairs families into groups to go on expeditions. While working on your expedition, your family will learn more about and feel God's love for you! There is something in this pack for people of all ages to enjoy from the young to the elderly. (Many of the elderly that I know get so much joy watching children use their imaginations and learn to develop a love for God!). I hope you pass this along to recommend to your church leaders. This could be a great winter time activity in your recreation center, or plan now to utilize this in the Spring when everyone is anxious to get outdoors! 

My kids LOVED the CD that was included, and have spent the majority of the week in the backyard using their binoculars and other expedition materials they had in their toy-boxes planning excursions. I LOVE activities that get their imaginations going for some productive creative play, and incorporating Christian principals and the love of the Lord is icing on the cake!
Here is more information from the Press Release: Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX – Group Publishing has set sail on a brand new expedition, where families will embark on an adventure to discover God’s love. In their very first Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour event, Group partners with Walden Media and 20th Century Fox, using scenes from the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour combines eye-opening discussions and upbeat music with the thrilling adventure of Narnia in an experience that connects all ages with each other and with God.  
Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour is one action-packed hour where participants will discuss never-before-seen clips from the movie, listen to music, watch a skit, and grow in their faith. Participants will divide into family groups of no more than five. Each group is given their own expedition pack, which contains an interactive expedition map that uses water to reveal hidden messages, guiding each family to look at God’s transforming love in a whole new way. It also includes a CD with all the music so families can continue their adventure at home. Clips from the Narnia movie will help them explore how God’s love changes us. Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour makes reaching families easier than ever.
Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour is flexible, easy to implement, and a great value. Everything you need to get started is in the Leader Pack, which includes:
·         Leader Guide
·         DVD containing a promotional video and clips from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
·         CD containing clip art, publicity helps, drama script, and PowerPoint song lyrics slides
·         Family Expedition Pack (sample)
·         Publicity Poster (sample)
Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour came out of a desire to let families share in simple, life-changing experiences like the ones kids explore at Group’s vacation Bible school. “In Group’s many years of ministry experience, we’ve seen families connect in unique ways during VBS,” according to Group’s FamilyHiResColorShannon Velasquez. “Fun-for-the-Whole-Family Hour brings families together for laughter, drama, and music, creating a starting point for family faith-building conversations.” 
Group has a reputation of being hands-on in growing children’s relationships with Christ, and this new product does not disappoint. Nothing fires you up like seeing kids “get it” as you teach…and seeing the children you serve grow closer to God.  This practical, time-saving resource makes that happen.  

For more product information, visit

***I received a complete Family Pack for review purposes only. I was not paid for my opinion, nor was I required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are truly 100% mine.***

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I am such a picky eater, that people often don't believe it. My pickiness extends to my candy preferences to the delight of my children and husband. My favorite two candies to eat are Kit Kat and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I will eat a few others, but typically just defer to the men in the family. I was intrigued to see that:

"According to a national survey conducted by The Hershey Company, personal candy preferences may provide insight into Halloween costume choices. According to the survey:
  • About 30 percent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Kit Kat Wafer Bar and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate lovers will do the monster mash this year as a vampire, witch or monster.
  • Fans of Twizzlers Twists may get the chance to show their dance moves as they twist the night away dressed in garb from the 1950s. More than 41 percent stated they plan to dress-up in period piece costumes from different eras of the 20th century.
  • Jolly Rancher lovers will most likely sport a cape on Halloween, as 23 percent expressed a desire to channel superhuman powers as their favorite superhero."

When it comes to Halloween, one of us takes the kids to a few houses on our street, and the other person stays behind to handout candy to trick or treaters. The whole family joins in when we all return. In the past we have gone to "Trunk or Treat" at the civic center and/or local churches hosting fall festivals, but recently they have gotten too crowded for Aaron to tolerate, so we have gone back to the old fashioned method. We still get hundreds of kids because we live in a neighborhood full of children.


Hershey's has set up at website to Celebrate With Hershey's and they have Halloween information there.  **Note: when I visited the website I also noticed a COUPON on the first page, so be sure to print one out while they last! It also has pumpkin stencils, recipes, craft and costume ideas, e-newsletter sign-up, products, classroom resources, and other fun stuff!**

I am also compelled to confess that while I did intend to publish these thoughts here, I hadn't planned to do so until closer to the end of the month. However, this afternoon I came across a contest for a Hershey’s Halloween prize pack as a member of the Mom Bloggers Club when you post about their Halloween website promotion. So, I am happy to share this information early in hopes of winning a candy prize pack!

5 ways to practically make personalized holiday cards

PurpleTrail is a print and online invitation service that allows users to create amazing invitations and cards.  With thousands of designs and the ability to fully personalize them, PurpleTrail offers a unique blend of creativity, inspiration and customer service that can’t be beat.

The Holidays are rapidly approaching, and I always forget to send out cards. It's not that I don't make them, I just never get around to sending them. Several times I have gone to the post office to mail them and gifts, and get so wrapped up in getting the gifts correctly sent that I get home and realize the cards are still in my purse. I wrote a post the other day about ways to make everyday activities fun, so I thought I'd also share with you 5 ways to practically make personalized holiday cards.

  1. Purchase construction paper and fold it in half. Vertical or Horizontal, depending on what you want the end result to be. If you have a holiday photo you want to attach, place it on the front. I use photo safe tape to adhere ours. (If you have small children, outline in pencil where the photo will go, and wait until they are done to attach it!). Use permanent marker to write a message inside and sign the adult names. Then, allow your children to decorate the cards with glitter, foam, stickers, crayons, markers, etc and also sign their own names. (These make great keepsakes!). I'd suggest mailing them in bubble envelopes with holiday candy or child-made ornaments from recent craft projects as well. (Note: Drug stores often run these on special near the holidays making them very affordable!).
  2. Write a holiday letter on holiday stationary and include a digital photo of your family. Include updates that have happened over the past year, and interesting things about each child. This helps family and friends you don't see very often to stay updated with what is going on with your family!
  3. For a more formal card that offers a handmade touch, create an idea on paper, and go to the craft store for supplies. I have a friend who makes hers with rubber stamps and scrapbooking supplies, and they look fabulous! She has had requests from people wanting her to make some they can buy from her, but she is too busy in this phase of her life, but they do look quite professional. She also decorates her house over Thanksgiving weekend, then has her family get dressed in their holiday attire for a photo she attaches to the front. She uses scrapbook materials to make a "frame" around the photo to help it look more professionally attached.
  4. Digital cards! Many companies will allow you to upload your own photos and create digital personalized holiday cards that you can send via email. As part of this tour, I visited Purple Trail and created a card using my children's Santa photo from last year:
           You can choose from several backgrounds, and change the text to anything you want. They will  allow you to put multiple photos on one card, and many other very interesting features. You can choose card size, if it is folded or not, postcard, traditional card, or digital card, backgrounds (and colors), text of your choice, frames, embellishments, shapes, and for e-cards Special Effects! They also allow video, voice, and music! This was my first time designing my own e-card and it was very simple to use. My only issue was correcting my mistakes, but then I saw the big UNDO button at the top, and it was magically easier to fix, lol;)
      5. Postcards and Printed cards. I LOVE the postcard and photo cards I get from family and friends. Since most of us are scattered around the country and don't get to see one another often, having a postcard photo to save helps us see how one another's children have grown over the past year. (I have another friend that kept these for years, and compiled them into a scrapbook gift for someone she knew at their wedding, chronicaling from their first Christmas to the most recent one!). The Digital Card I made above at Purple Trail can also be turned into a postcard. I put matching Snowflakes on the back of mine along with a message.

***I am participating in a giveaway for and it makes me eligible for a PurpleTrail gift code that I plan to use to order our holiday cards. I am determined to get some in the mail this year! If you have a blog and would like to participate as well, here is the Contest Information Page;)***

Allergen Reduction

November brings up memories and anxiety for me after the assault my allergies took on me last year, and fall is my favorite season, so I DO NOT want my fall memories to become tainted. Starting on Halloween, Logan got sick and passed it on to each of his brothers and his father. The night after Thanksgiving, despite being exhausted, I decided to do a marathon gift shopping trip and I literally shopped all night in the freezing cold. The next day I was very sick. After that, I had some chest congestion that I couldn't get rid of. After months of antibiotics, prednisone, and other medications, along with x-rays and other lung performance tests, my doctor finally determined that I had developed adult onset allergy induced asthma. After that, I declared war on the allergens in our house. I took down and packed away all of my knick knacks, and any non-essential items from horizontal surfaces in our house. Researched home made household cleaners to avoid chemicals, and dusted daily. It was too much, and I was still wheezing even with my maintenance medication, so we decided to make some changes in other areas.

When we purchased our home, it had reusable air filters which we thought were great, but it turned out that they weren't really filtering very well, even though we had started cleaning them monthly. When we went to our local hardware store to research other options, we ended up purchasing some Filtrete Air Filters based on the claims on the packaging. They made a massive improvement in our air quality, and I was even able to taper off of my maintenance medication for the asthma over the summer. My physician has said that I will probably need to go back on it for the winter months, depending on how I am feeling when we turn the furnace back on, but I have high hopes of avoiding it after the success I had over the summer. Who knew such a simple thing could make such a difference? Now I know that works for some people will not work for everyone, but when I saw this tour opportunity come up, I really wanted to participate to share with you how these filters helped me. We now change our filters at the start of each season, that way it is easy to remember, and our air stays nice and fresh! The packaging states that they:

  • Captures 94 percent of large airborne particles such as pollen, smoke, dust mite debris and pet dander from the air as it passes through the filter
  • Captures up to 40 times more microscopic particles than ordinary fiberglass filters
  • Helps maintain airflow in heating and cooling systems, which may help prevent stress on the system and reduce the amount of energy needed to warm your home this Fall and Winter
While we don't smoke, and only have one short hair cat, we do tend to have excessive dust and pollen here in OK. When the wind comes sweeping down the plain, it brings dirty air with it, haha. I'd encourage you to stop by the Filtrete website where you can find information about the Clear Advantages program and sign up receive coupons, tips and seasonal e-newsletters. They have also sent me a download-able Rebate good for $3!

(Click through to download and print this rebate to save on Filtrete Air Filters!)

 “I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Filtrete and received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


This morning, I got Aaron started on his writing assignment, and came over to the computer to work on a couple of posts I have saved as drafts. About 5 minutes later the floor started shaking. Sometimes this happens when large delivery trucks, school buses, or trash trucks come down our road, so it wasn't out of the ordinary, but it was more noticeable than normal. Seconds after that, the house shook so hard it sounded and felt like a car had crashed into the house! I hurried to the front window but didn't see anything. The house was still shaking slightly, but there were no cars or trucks in sight. I called my husband at work, and they felt it too, so we knew it was an earthquake. So far, there have been no reports of injuries, but it was a 4.5 magnitude centered about 6 miles east of Norman, OK where the University of Oklahoma is located. I can't imagine how it felt to be closer because we are about 30 minutes away from there!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back Update

Because some of my readers are actually my real life friends and family, and because I have gotten a few emails wondering how my back situation was doing, I thought I'd share a quick update. I was at the specialist today for another visit, and she determined that due to my level of disc degeneration and some arthritis setting in, along with my herniated discs, that the next step in treatment is to do an epidural block in my spine. I am not excited about this, and was really hoping to avoid another procedure, but the pain level is increasing daily. I have declined any narcotic pain medicine because when I had it after my C-Sections, it made me feel out of sorts. With all that we have going on, I just can't risk that, and especially since I have to drive the kids around! So, I am sticking with the non-narcotic pain reliever and a muscle relaxer to keep the pain dulled enough that I can function minimally until the procedure next month. She also felt that I got a bit too worked up last time about the whole ordeal, so this time I have to take one valium the night before to calm me down, haha!

In other news, Aaron's weight was up to 44 pounds (YAY!) so we will keep aiming for a gain of 3 pounds per month. Joshua goes for his well check in a few weeks, and Logan has tonsillitis, so we are hoping he gets over it without a trip to the ENT!

Our School Needs!

I think that schools in most areas have faced stringent cutbacks this school year. Some schools in our area have cut back severely with reductions in teachers salaries, volunteer based or staff substitute teachers, drastic reductions in paper usage, and requiring teachers to provide their own ink for the printers in their classrooms. My youngest son is in kindergarten, and they are not using the computer lab as my older two children did, which I was told was due to a lack of computer access and instruction for each child. Several of my neighbors work in our local school district, and I know they were shopping for the extra school supplies they anticipated needing in their classrooms. Other mothers I know used their rebates and gift cards from local supply stores to donate to teachers to purchase ink and other more expensive supplies.

Bing has set up a contest to donate money to FOUR schools across America. They are donating $50,000 to three First Prize Winners, and $100,000 to one Grand Prize Winner. "Schools will be broken out into 3 categories, K-6, 7-9 and 10-12. The top-voted entry in each category will be awarded a first prize of $50,000. The entry that receives the largest number of overall votes during the voting phase will receive the grand prize of $100,000." Any teacher or student from any K-12 school can enter, though if the applicant is under age 18, the parent, teacher, or legal guardian must be the one to actually submit the entry. To enter, you need to do just a couple of things.
  1. Write an essay of 500-800 words on what your school needs and what how the money would be used if you won.
  2. Take between 3-5 pictures of your school, classroom, students and teacher, etc to show Bing who would be benefiting from the prize
  3. You are also allowed to make a video to send in. It is not required, but if you choose to make one, be sure that it doesn't go over 3 minutes in length!
A more comprehensive detail of how to enter can be found on the Bing website. They were also kind enough to make a Video to help explain the submission process. The website also offers a how to enter kit, and how to promote your entry kit for the next phase of the competition.

Time is also of the essence here! The LAST DAY TO ENTER IS OCTOBER 22, as the voting phase will begin on Oct 27. Please be sure to pass this along to your local school and any teachers that you might know!

"I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Bing and received a giving code and gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate."

DVD Review: The Way Home

After I completed my last book review for, I was browsing their available titles, and saw that they had a DVD copy of the movie The Way Home (Widescreen) available. I had heard about this movie from friends, because it is based on a true story about a family in Georgia. When their 2 year old son goes missing, the entire community joins together to help this family desperately search for the toddler. As a parent of young children, this was especially emotional to watch! I love the way this couple uses this horrific event to bring them closer together, and that they did not lose their face in the darkest of times. I know that some people are of the opinion that some Christian movies can be cheesy and predictable, but I did not find that to be the case with this movie.I was captivated from the beginning of the movie, and was truly touched at the reactions of the community. I would definitely recommend this movie to my friends and family.

The Way Home (Widescreen) is set to be released on October 26, and is available on, today's price is $17.99.

***Disclosure: I received this DVD free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”***

10 Ideas for making everday activities with kids FUN

 TwitterMoms has a campaign going, asking parents about how we incorporate fun and play into our everyday activities with our kids. As the mother of three boys under 8, this is daily life for me, so I decided to join in. I am sure most of the other mother's will agree with me when I say that if you don't make everyday activities fun, then you can reach the point of insanity very quickly. Here are ten of the most common things we do:

1. When making breakfast/packing lunches for school everyday, I let the boys "help" me hide surprises in their brothers lunch. For example, my kindergartner (Logan) has a "letter friend" of the week that they study in class. So one of his brothers will help me make the letter in ketchup, mustard, jelly, etc on the bread for his sandwich. Logan looks for this and finds it hilarious. We also try to make his snack/dessert be an item that starts with the letter of the week. For the 1st grader (Joshua), he is studying units of numbers in math. This week they are counting by tens, so we put 10 of each color of M&M in a small reusable container for his snack.

2.After breakfast, all three boys have to brush their teeth before we leave for carpool. We are usually in a hurry by this point, and they like to skimp here. Each boy has a favorite song they like to sing, so they each get a turn singing a song to a brother while he brushes his teeth. They know to make sure to brush the entire length of the song, and it is a race as the song ends to see if they can rinse before the song is done. (The singer usually picks up speed here too, LOL)

3) On the drive to school, we play the "Slug Bug" game when they spot VW Bugs. I have to say that we seem to have an abundance of these in our neighborhood. They have to yell out the color, and they do "pretend" slugs at one another since they can't actually reach one another. They keep score, and at the end of the week whomever has the highest count gets to be "KING" in the backyard when they are playing over the weekend. I also must admit that this is a game they devised and planned all on their own, and they are strict about following the rules!

4) Once home, I begin homeschool for my oldest son (Aaron). Incorporating "life skills" is an important goal for him, so we have a routine where we start laundry, make all the beds, and pick up any random items lying around the house. Having things neat and tidy helps him keep focus. To make it fun, we race to see who can be done with their chores first. Since writing is an especially hard skill for him, the winner determines how much writing he has to do for the day. He knows there is a minimum amount, but if he is the winner, he gets to verbalize some of the writing part of science, geography, etc. as his reward.

5) For lunch, if Aaron has done his schoolwork well all morning, we will bake something together for his stash of "secret snacks". He gets to help measure, stir, and pour the items into the pan. (He doesn't know measuring is an extension of math, haha!). Then he gets to write "words" with his fingers into the remaining mix in the bowl before we rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. (Sensory integration!)

6) For the afternoon, once all the kids are home, we will go outside if the weather is nice and do science experiments. We find most of them online for free! and try to select ideas that incorporate liquids and household ingredients on hand. We get more practice measuring, touching, and watching how things interact. We study leaves, cloud formation names, and keep a weather calendar of what the weather was like and what the temperature is. They have an increased awareness of nature, and love to keep their own weather logs.

7) If we have any errands to run, I will gather the kids before we head out and give them some supplies. They each make their own "map" of the stops we are making, and get a list of items they are responsible for making sure we get. They are much less likely to complain that its taking too long, or ask how much longer when they know these things ahead of time. They keep a close watch of their maps and lists. For the younger ones, we cut out store names from old circulars for them to put on their maps, and pictures of their items on their grocery list. Sometimes I think they know the stores and neighborhood better than I do!

8) Also when we are out running errands, we will practice our counting in the car. We live near a major interstate, so there are an abundance of tractor trailers. The kids will each keep count of how many we see. If we get to 100 without skipping any numbers, they get a special treat.

9) To encourage the kids to keep their rooms clean, we bring out the music again. If they get them picked up by the time the song is finished, they get extra time outside if the weather is nice, or Wii time if the weather isn't so nice. Children electing not to pick up get to sit in a chair by the backdoor and watch their sibling(s) play outside, or they may sit in their beds while the Wii is played. They don't often choose not to pick up.

10) For bedtime, we repeat the teeth brushing process, and then they put on their pj's and get into bed. I spend a few minutes talking to each child about their day, and they get to pick out a book for me to read to them, or in Joshua's case, he gets 20 minutes to read quietly before he goes to sleep. Once they are all settled, I add the books or number of chapters read to their respective reading lists, which they get rewards for. Our area offers programs from several stores, and they enjoy the rewards very much, so they are constantly asking to read or be read to.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful, and will be able to incorporate them in some fashion into your own house. While not everything works for everyone, these are some of the things that work for us. We try to take our normal daily routines and find some way to make them fun, so that they kids enjoy our family time as much as we do. I would love for you to share some of your ideas in the comment areas, we are always looking for ways to spice things up!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and The Hub blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”