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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Year in Review {Blog Post Style}

A year of some of my favorite blog posts from 2011! Enjoy. 


This was actually really fun to look back on the year and see how God has worked in our lives. He is SO good! He has good plans for me and good plans for you! (Jeremiah 29:11)

I loved this post because it was honest. Looking back almost a year later I am so happy to say things are so much different for us now. Praise God! The reason I love this post so much? The support you all sent my way. It really blessed me. 

2011 was a monumental year in diagnosing and treating my son. It's been a long journey. This post seems like light years ago. Hard to believe it's only been a year since I started thinking about re-evaluating his needs. 

Oh I love this post! First of all, I love it because you loved it too. 38 comments are a milestone around The Shoebox. Second, I love it because it captures my son's amazing attitude about life, people, and a lesson about being yourself!

April: My SITS day! Need I say more? 

This post is one of my faves because it marks a turning point for my oldest. We finally began to get some answers. The post I wrote in February sparked some comment love that motivated me to seek professional opinions again. We got some answers! Praise God! Once again, the blogsphere has shown how it can be such a positive outlet for mothers. 

This post really makes me LOL. It's such a picture of my life. 

A special day in the journey of treatment for my son. A day I realized that we are the one in the driver's seat, and no one knows what he needs better than me! I am his mother and his teacher! I realized I am strong and no Dr. is going to tell me otherwise!

Sometimes we have to admit our weaknesses to be strong again. It felt good to admit mine. 

I may or may not be a hoarder? You decide. 

2010 put my marriage to the test. This time last year I was in a really dark place with my marriage. But, God brought us through it! I praise Him in knowing He's stronger than me. 

November: Breathe 
Breathe, is post #5 in a series I began writing this year about my past. They are hard to write. But so therapeutic. Every time I hit publish on one of these posts, I feel a weight immediately release. This one was especially hard to write. 

December: Finally Free! 
I've let go of a lot of insecurities! It feels good to be me.

Well, there you have it. My 2011 cocktail. 
It's no wonder I can't find my niche in the blogosphere! 


Mommy of Monster

Mama's Losin' It
Mama Kat

Blogging shouldn't make you feel bad!

If I can't get to email replies, regular scheduled posts, visiting others, and so forth I tend to let that make me feel guilty. Silly, huh?

I know you all have felt this way at some point in your blogging journey. You see those other famous bloggers "doing it all", right? Well, the truth is we have no idea what really goes on behind our computer screens. 

Blogging is something I love to do when I have time to do it. I enjoy every aspect of it, and I'm just not going to let it make me feel bad. It's something that is supposed to make me feel good!

Meeting all of you has been a fabulous journey, and I know we all make time for each other as much as we can. I've truly enjoyed meeting all of you! However, there are times, just like IRL, when we just don't get to it. Why?

Because we have to live life in order to write about it! We have families, husbands, children, jobs, responsibilities...Don't let the pressures of the blogosphere get to you. Stay true to yourself, your writing, your voice, and share what you can when it's the right time. 

Don't worry about the numbers! Which BTW word on the street says GFC is going away for many non-blogger blogs, and I kinda like that idea. I'm tired of looking at numbers. Aren't you?

So just a word of encouragement. Blogging is an outlet and an expression of our lives. It's doesn't lead us, we lead it! Enjoy it for what it is. Not for what you wish it was or what you hope it's going to grow into. Love yourself for your writing and don't constantly compare every post to those "bigger" blogs. 

Sure, learn from those successful bloggers, they are awesome, and can teach us plenty! BUT be sure to keep your voice!

I truly believe that when we write from the heart people will read it, relate to it, and come back!

So feel good! Be encouraged! <3
http://www.thingsicantsay.com


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Monday, December 26, 2011

When Facebook can be good.

Oh Facebook, I just can't decide to love you or hate you.

Facebook can be too much for me sometimes. It's a lot of garbage, gossip, and a whole lot of things I don't want to know about. I mean really, some of the stuff people post on there is outrageous and crosses the line. I've deleted my page in the past, but then later made a new one to continue to connect with the people I do want to connect with. But the magic of Facebook is that those select few only stay a "few" for like three hours before the whole technology of it takes over. I will admit I am amazed by  that. 

Sometimes it's wonderful to connect with someone you may not otherwise had the chance to without FB, and other times, well...notsomuch. But, just when I thought I'd had enough and told hubs I was going to delete my personal page. Facebook gets it right, and I realize our society isn't just a bunch of trash talking losers. 

So here's to Facebook-when Facebook can be good! 

This conversation really made me smile. Read on. There were many many many more responses offering to help this family in need. So many that I could not figure out how to get the whole convo in a screen shot. But you get the idea. Good people, using FB for something good. LOVE! A family was richly blessed this Christmas through Facebook. I think that's awesome!

Here's just a few of the items that were collected. It's nice to know that people can still come together to help those in need. That's what Christmas is really about. The giving, not the getting. 


Friday, December 23, 2011

It's snowing in Florida!

paper snowflakes hung with fishing line

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making snowflakes with the boys. Living in Florida, we have to do all we can to bring winter to life here. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be 80 degrees and sunny on Christmas day. Geesh! 

That's ok, though. A few dozen paper snowflakes later and we're good! We hung these yesterday, and it's an instant winter wonderland! 

Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I will be whiter than snow. 
~ Psalm 51:7

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Photobucket
Christmas Traditions with JDaniel4's Mom

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Memories Free Software Giveaway!!









What better way to preserve your Christmas memories than with a FREE Digital Scrabooking Album?

www.mymemories.com will give one of you a free copy of their digital scrapbooking software (a $40 value!). This user friendly software has been rated #1 by Amazon Top Ten reviews, and it's so easy to create albums, cards, calendars, gifts and more.

I love scrapbooking! I was an addict for awhile, but when we started homeschooling I wasn't left with much time for it. Let me tell you-this is way faster! This software is easy to install and easy to use. I loved it! It gave me the ability to creatively capture memories without the mess or fuss of traditional scrapping.

(I made this!)
Me and My sweet boys at the T-Rex Cafe in Orlando.

Mandatory Entry:
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***Help me spread the word! Tweets and FB post can be done once daily throughout the contest deadline! The contest will run through next Friday, December 30th. 


You can also use PROMO CODE: STMMMS83144 to save $10 on any order!


*I was provided a free copy of the My Memories Suite software in exchange for my honest review of the product. All opinion are 100% my own. 


Hip Homeschool Moms

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

I'm not that talented. I just can't keep up with Christmas and blogging. I'll be wrapping presents, baking some cookies, and snuggling with my boys as much as they'll let me. 

I hope that you and your families have a blessed week! Merry Christmas my bloggy friends! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Inspiring Mom!

I got an email a few weeks ago from Heather. She shared her story of surviving cancer, parenting, and her heart to share her story with other moms. Heather is currently cancer free, and she wants to "turn her pain into purpose". Beautiful!

One of the reasons I fell in love with blogging was because of the amazing opportunity we all have to encourage one another. Heather inspired me. She's a fighter. She has an amazing attitude and outlook on parenting. Whether our trials are the same or different, we can all learn from each other. We can all be inspired!

I think it will be easy to see why I fell in love with Heather. Please read her post and then visit her blog.
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heather and lily

During my pregnancy I chose to do everything “right” in order to prepare for giving birth to a healthy baby and being the best mother possible. I kept a healthy diet. I went to every doctor’s appointment. I read all the parenting books that I could get my hands on. I was determined to be prepared for motherhood. I was not prepared, however, for the diagnosis that came shortly after I became a mother.

When my daughter, Lily, was three months old I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs. My husband and I decided that I would
have to have surgery 1,200 miles away from my home. It was a hard decision but we both knew it was the right one. I would also face chemotherapy and radiation as a part of the treatment. All of this, and I still had an infant to care for.

No books, no level of preparation, can ready you to face a cancer diagnosis. I just decided to do what I thought was best for my daughter. When I had my surgery, she was living with my parents. I wanted her to have consistency and familiarity. She could have that with them. After the surgery I surrounded myself with people who could help me with Lily. I was not capable of fulfilling all of Lily’s needs and I needed help.

Lily’s first year of life consisted of me undergoing constant treatments. There were days I felt good, and I would do everything I could possibly do to make life normal. We went out for play dates, trips to the park, shopping at the mall, and sometimes just to the backyard to play. There were other days where we would spend time together inside. I just wanted to make sure she knew that no matter what happened she was the thing that mattered most to me. She truly was the reason I continue breathing, continue living.

A mother wants to do everything for a child but a cancer patient has to consider her own health first and foremost. A mother who is a cancer patient will find that balancing these two aspects of life is difficult. My husband was amazing at helping to fill in where I could not. When I was sick he did everything that I could not. Lily never knew anything different.

Six years later, we still continue on with the same parenting style. We take turns and we compromise; when I am unable to fulfill Lily’s needs, my husband steps in. We do not hide the cancer diagnosis from Lily because it is such a significant part of her history. We have an open and honest relationship. She is in first grade now. I know that the first year of her life, no matter how hectic, helped to make her the bright and happy girl she is today.

If I were given the chance to go back in time and change things, I don’t know if I would. Cancer, no matter how bad, can bring good. The ideas that we choose to dwell on and the mood that we choose to have help to shape our lives.

***********************
See what I mean? Pretty amazing mom.
Heather Von St. James is a guest blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.
Please see more of Heather's writing HERE and leave her some comment love! You can also find her on twitter and facebook.  

The Nativity


When November hits we start to bring those storage bins into the garage. They wait their until Thanksgiving has past and then on that Friday after we're stuffed and lazy, we break out all of our favorite Christmas goodies.


I think it might be one of my most cherished memories watching my boys go through the bins and declare, "Oh! I missed this!" or "I remember this!" and "I love this!" as they unpack memories and traditions from years past.


Our simple store bought nativity sets is one of my all time favorite Christmas traditions.

I got the set a few years ago after someone recommended it to me, and I just love it! The set includes a nativity scene (of course, each character in the Christmas story, and a book to teach the story of Christmas. It includes Bible verses and devotions to use in anyway that fits your family. Some use the set as a countdown. I just let my kids play with it, and pretty much do whatever they want with it. My little one loves to rearrange the people over and over. There should be no rules with a Nativity set. That's why I love this one. It's not fragile. I think it cost $14. 

The best part? Those little presents you see in the fist picture! Each character is found inside one box. The companion book focuses on each character one present at a time.

The kids love the anticipation of the presents, and there's a sweet surprise ending in box # 7. It's an empty box with only a mirror. The book leads you through the Christmas story and God's heart for us. Then on the last day (or box) you open the box to find something very special...yourself.

What does God wants for Christmas? YOU!


LOVE!

What God wants for Christmas

Mama's Losin' It

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finally Free!

People only have as much power over you as you let them.

The wrong people can interrupt your day, your thoughts, or your actions if you let them.

But...when we let go of insecurity, co-dependency, and worry about what others think we let go of the power they have over us. We're released from the chains those relationships represent.

People have been a stronghold in my life that I've had to learn to break free from. God has taught me how boundaries are important, that true friendships can be refined by fire, and that being yourself is so much better that being the person you think others want you to be. He's blessed me with friendships based on total transparency, and showed me how sweet that is. He's showed me that I hold a responsibility in my relationships. That sometimes my own insecurities allowed wrong actions. That others aren't always to blame.

He's showed me that putting people above Him is idolatry, and anything in my life that consumes more of me than I let Him have is out of balance.

When we seek God's approval above man's, put your family first, and make decisions based on those two principles than life becomes simpler. All of a sudden worry and regret have no power in your life. You have peace and contentment.

Sometimes the old insecurities creep up, and you have to beat them back down. But, you can! Because you are stronger. Wiser. When the wrong thoughts come into your mind you can recognize them. You switch to healthier thoughts and move forward.

Things that used to consume you simply don't anymore. You think to yourself, "I don't care about that." and you really don't.

All of sudden the people that used to have power over you have no power at all.

And it feels good!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galations 5:1


Link up!




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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Farm Rich Review and Giveaway


Can you say "Yum!"

Cheese sticks are a big hit with my oldest! When Farm Rich asked me to review their products I was happy to do it, because Farm Rich is the only brand of cheese sticks my son will eat. Really! He's pretty picky, and the fresh ingredients make a difference!

When I was a kid, cheese sticks were a restaurant only treat. But, not anymore!

Farm Rich cheese sticks are a great addition to your freezer, and perfect for a quick snack!

*Made with 100% real mozzarella cheese
*Breaded and seasoned to perfection
*Good source of calcium and protein
*zero grams trans fat per serving

Wanna try some for yourself?

Farm Rich is giving one of my readers 2 free appetizers! To enter visit Farm Rich and tell me which appetizer your family would enjoy. 

Additional Entries:
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Ends Dec. 17th @ 11PM. Winner will be chosen using random.org. Farm Rich provided me with a free appetizer in exchance for my honest review of the their product. All opinions are 100% mine. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 gifts I won't be buying my teen son!

This is the first year I have absolutely.no.idea. what to get my 13 year old son for Christmas. NO IDEA! He's no help, either. He has a terrible time making decisions, there's nothing he needs or wants, and he has absolutely no suggestions. So I've resorted to searching the Internet for some spark of an idea.

Although I think it's super cool that he's happy and can't think of anything he wants, I still want to get him something special. So once I'm done being glad I have a grateful boy, I'm frustrated I have no clue what to get him.

So where do I head for the answers to all of life's questions? Google, of course. 

I began clicking around for some fabulous gift ideas. I was quickly sucked into to the vortex of gift ideas I had no idea existed, and then proceeded to waste all of my day looking at things I will not only never buy for him, but will probably never buy for anyone else for that matter either! 

I decided the only way to make myself feel as though my time online of fake shopping wasn't totally wasted was to write a post telling you about it.

So, here's my list of things I'm not getting my son.

#1: One Acre of Land on the Moon 
image credit: gifts.com












No joke. For $29.99 you too can be the proud owner of one acre of moon. Really? My mind began to wonder...who owns the moon? Does the government own the moon? Who gets paid this $29.99? Do you get a deed? What if this is some awesome investment (as the website says it is) that I'm missing out on? Hmmm...Probably not. 

#2 The World's Largest Gummy Bear

World's Largest Gummi Bear
image credit: perpetualkid.com












5 lbs. of gummy! What would one do with 5 lbs. of gummy? You would have to invite others over to share in this giant treat. Slice it up? I love gummy bears, but seriously...

#3 Beer of the month club. Obviously.
beer
image credit: amazingbeer.com 












I had no idea such a thing existed. For around $400/yr (Say what?) you can have beer from around the world delivered to your door. Although hubs might dream about this delivery, it's now on the list of things I've wasted time looking at and still not closer to a gift for my son.

#4 The Smart Ass board game
Smart Ass
image credit: amazon.com












Once I told hubs about the beer of the month club, he was interested in my online quest. This board game is actually something he thought our son would like. Yes, I'm serious. Although hubs might be right, and my son would probably think this is hilarious, it's also on the list of things I won't be buying him. Thanks for nothing, sweetheart. 

And last but not least...

#5 A Macbook Pro
images credit: google












Can you say "get a job"? He wants one of these. At least he knows it's something he has to save for, and there's no way he's getting this thing for Christmas. So expensive! He's gonna have to mow a lot of lawns for this baby!

So, here I am searching the web for answers. Got any? What does a 13 yr. old boy want for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Held

I'm linking up with Shell today in an attempt to continue a series I've been working on.

I try to write these in some sort of routine, but it just never seems to work that way for me. I write the posts as they come to me. It's a visit to the past, and it's not always a fun trip, so sometimes I ignore the thought. I've mentioned before that I write in third person because it's just easier for me that way.

If you'd like, you can read the series in order.
#1 Exhale
#2 Rehab
#3 Lost 
#4 Afraid
#6 Alone
Today I'm sharing #7, Held.
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He put one hand on her growing belly and just stopped. He looked up at her with eyes that spoke a thousand words, but he didn't utter a breath. He gently placed the other hand on the other side of her, and she watched his throat swallow hard in deep thought. He looked at her, smiled, and leaned over and kissed her belly.

Her heart felt like it was going to explode.

They both wanted something that would never be. A relationship would be too complicated. This baby wasn't his, and no amount of wishing and praying was going to change that. Two months ago she told him it would never work. She freed him of any responsibility. When her mind  got passed what her heart wanted she knew this baby wasn't his. She hated that it wasn't, but she couldn't change it, and there was no need to complicate her life any more than it already was.

He never listened to her, and she was glad he didn't. He kept coming around and everyday that passed she fell more and more in love with him.

They didn't talk about the future, the complications of their relationship, or the fact that they were setting themselves up for a huge heartbreak. Any day without him passed too slowly. She began to look forward to moment he would walk through her front door. She had never been in a relationship like this. This was different. It was passionate. It was tender. It was everything she needed and nothing she needed all at the same time. It just was, and she couldn't explain it.

They just were everyday.

He just was when she needed him to be there.

He just was when she need to cry.

He just was when she needed to laugh, be silly, be herself.

He just was when she needed to feel sexy.

He just was when she needed to feel loved.

He just was. Always.
******

She didn't know why but he was there, and when he was she felt safe. Even though it was complicated, every part of her being wanted to share this pregnancy with him.

For whatever reason, he wanted to be there and she was relieved.

She needed a man to hold her. To hold both of them.
Link up your heart HERE

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Easy Homemade Peppermint Bark

Every year I try to do something with peppermint. I try to tie in the history of the candy cane with the boys and make some kind of peppermint treat for family and friends. This year I gave homemade peppermint bark a try. So simple!

You need:
white chocolate chips
candy canes
parchment paper
ziploc bag
treat bags
ribbon

1. Crush the candy canes in a Ziploc bag. Leave some chunky pieces. 
2. Melt the chips in a microwave safe dish for a couple minutes, stir, and pour onto parchment paper, and spread to desired thickness. 
3. sprinkle the crushed candy cane bits onto melted chocolate.

This is super easy for the kids to help.



The history of the candy cane is a sweet way to invite Jesus into your home this season. I LOVE the book, The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg! It's a Christmas must here!
Spread melted chocolate on parchment paper.
Sprinkle crushed candy canes.

Freeze and break apart

Christmas Candy Cane Poem 
Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

5 Minutes Just For Me
Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Lakeshore Learning Holiday Gifts Review and $25 Giftcard Giveaway!



I recently had the opportunity to review a holiday product from Lakeshore Learning. They have great educational gifts for kids! We went with the Volcano Kit. It was a hit!

The volcano was easy to make. Just add water! My kind of kit.
Dump in the paper mache mix. 












                                                                                                                                                                     
add water































mix together and shape your volcano 
Add some awesome "volcano detail" and WALAH!









































The kit also included reading material with facts about volcanoes. We read up on the subject while we waited a few days for the model to dry. Then, the real fun began!!



I cannot figure out how to flip this????
Sorry. But you MUST cock your head sideways to see how cute my son this volcano is!!

We loved the kit. Safe and easy! Perfect!

Lakeshore Learning is giving one of my readers a chance to win a $25 gift card to take take advantage of their holiday gift ideas. 

Mandatory Entries:
*Visit the Lakeshore website and leave a comment and tell me what product you'd buy with your GC!

Additional Entries:
*Follow Lakeshore on Twitter
*Follow Stories from the Shoebox with GCF
*Like my Facebook page
*Follow me on Twitter
*Tweet about this giveaway and leave me your twitter link.
*Post about this on FB and leave me a link to your post.

***Tweets and FB posts can be done once daily to increase your chances. Be sure to come back and comment for every tweet or FB post!!

Contest ends Saturday December 9, 2011 at 9pm Eastern time. The winner will be selected using random.org

I received the volcano kit for free in exchange for my honest review of the product. All opinions are 100% mine. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to make a Muffin Tin Advent Calendar

I am in LOVE with this Advent Calendar idea!!














What a super fabulous idea! Use a 24 count muffin tin to make a REUSABLE Advent calendar!

Of course, I did not come up with this idea on my own. I've been seeing them on Pinterest for weeks, and finally broke down. I always say that 99.9% of creativity is resourcefulness. Thank God for whoever came up with the idea for Pinterest!

What you need:
*mini muffin tin (Doesn't have to be new, and you will not ruin your muffin tin. Don't run out and buy new one! It does have to be magnetic, so check yours before you start.)
*scrapbook paper/cardstock
*adhesive magnetic strip
*scissors
*glue dots, photo splits, or glue stick
*various stickers (I had random numbers and foam stickers)
*Any other embellishments you have/want. 

How to make:
1. Cut cardstock into 2 1/4 inch squares
2. Decorate however you want!! 
I used a Stampin' Up! scallop punch to make the design in the center. I had old number stickers on hand. They weren't christmas-y at all, but I decided to just go with it. I used foam stickers, ribbon, star-shaped brads, and paperclips to embellish. 
3. cut 4 tiny magnets to the back of each corner of your squares.













4. Fill the muffin cups with a treat. Candy, quarters, a special Bible verse...



What I love MOST about this calendar idea is the fact that it's reusable! Since the covers are magnetic, I can save year after year. Simply wash my muffin tin, and put it away! LOVE!!!

Hope you enjoyed!!

****Linked up with Mama Kat! Writing Prompt #3: The first of December is upon us! Describe an Advent Calendar or a special way you count down days until Christmas (past or present). (Inspired by Classy Chaos)
Mama’s Losin’ It

5 Minutes Just For Me

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