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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


She looked at the envelope sitting on the end table.
She couldn't do it. Not without him.

"I can't believe you're not going to open it!"

She listened to her best friend become more and more annoyed with her. She wasn't opening the letter. Period. No amount of begging or pleading was going to change her mind. She just couldn't do it alone. 

It actually wasn't that hard to resist. A big part of her didn't even want to open the stupid letter.

"I have to go. I'll call you later.", and she hung up.

The thought that one piece of paper held the answer to a question that had put her life on hold made her angry. How could the last year be defined with one stupid piece of paper? How could everything she had been through be summed up inside of one envelope? How could this letter give her what she wanted?

The truth was, she knew it couldn't. 

Inside the envelope she would find certainty. 

Certainty was something she hadn't had in so long, she wasn't sure if she was ready for it. She wasn't sure if she even remembered what that felt like, or what it meant. 

All of the wishing, praying, and fantasizing was going to be made real. One way or the other. It was easy to let it sit there on the end table. As long as the letter remained sealed, she could still hope. 

She could still hope that being with the man she loved wasn't going to be complicated. 

She could still hope that her son would have the father he deserved. 

She could still hope that all of the memories they had made in last 6 months weren't going to be erased. 

She could still hope that this fantasy she was living might just be reality. 

She could still hope that when she looked at her son and saw him that it wasn't her heart playing tricks on her. 

Even though it was easy to leave the envelope sitting there, she wished he was home. When she talked to him on the phone a few hours before, she told him the letter had arrived. When she told him she wasn't opening it he didn't persist. It was as if he was hanging onto the uncertainty too. 

After all, it was all they had ever known. What was it going to be like once they had answers?

It was too much to think about. 

They talked for little while about his trip. He told her about the mountains and weather. He was having a great time, and she was glad. He would be back in three days. 

Until then the results to the DNA test remained sealed.
You can read this series in order below.
#1 Exhale
#2 Rehab
#3 Lost
#4 Afraid
#5 Breathe
#6 Alone
#7 Held


Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Tips for Homeschooling with an Age Gap

One of the biggest challenges I have as a homeschooling parent is the age difference between my boys. I have one in 7th and one in 1st. Switching hats during the day from one thing to the next is just plain hard!

2 boys.

2 different grades.

2 different learning styles.

2 different just.about.everything.

Some days I feel exhausted from juggling the day and all of the differences. Sometimes it feels like a swirling tornado here and I'm in the eye of it, just trying to catch my breath. One son with some special needs and another with enough energy to power the city, leaves me with a daunting task of creating a positive learning environment for two very different students.

Although, it's hard. I'm up for the task! I've gotta be. I rest in knowing that God will equip me for this! (Hebrews 13:21)

There are a few things that I do that help keep my sanity in the midst of the chaos.

1. Shifts!
When I began homeschooling I had visions of all the Duggar children sitting around their dining room table and schooling together with a smile on all of their faces. Um? notsomuch. My boys are so different, that unless we're doing a science experiment, or something that they both really enjoy, sitting together and learning doesn't really go well together for every subject. My oldest is easily distracted and my youngest is a busy bee. Not a great combo for either one of them. Or me. I have  found that schooling in shifts works well.

I plan the day so my oldest does most of his independent work in the morning. During this time chunk, which is usually a good 3 hours, he doesn't need me much. That frees me up for my 1st grader, who needs me for just about all of his schoolwork. My older son understands he needs to let me give my morning time to his younger brother, and I block my afternoons for teacher instructed lessons with him. I can usually get all of my little guy's school completed before lunch. Then we all get a breather and round 2 begins. That way each child gets the one-on-one they need and deserve.

2. Have Back up! 
Plan for back up. You're gonna need it! With an active 7 year old, who is easily distracted, I need a plan B and C and D.  I have a bin designated for back up. It's filled with lots of fun busy work like pre-printed worksheets, puzzles, play-doh, markers, crayons, paper, flashcards, manipulatives, books, and all sorts of goodies. It's my bag of tricks. I even put together something I call "practice packs" for him. They're file folders filled with a hodge-podge of review activities. This back up stuff is more for me than it is for him. He doesn't necessarily need the busy work, but I need to keep him busy!

3. Combine what curriculum you can. 
Although we can't do everything together, we can do some things. One group activity that's sure to please here is science! They both love it! I generally plan science experiments to be done together in the afternoons. Even though they are both learning different topics, they can come together and learn from each other over an experiment. It gives both boys a chance to put what they're learning about into their own words, and allows for some great teamwork building skills. We also have Bible Time together, and sometimes my youngest might be done with his required schoolwork, but just wants to be a part of what my oldest is doing. I always try to include him somehow if he's interested. For example, my oldest is studying the Holocaust. To keep my little guy busy during the reading and discussion with my oldest, I prepared ahead of time for him to make a Star of David craft. He sat and worked on that while he listened to the history reading. I love that.
Also, I love Apologia Science, as it enables you to teach multiple ages with one curriculum. Spelling Power is also a favorite here. I can use the same teacher's guide for both kids! LOVE.

4. Preparation. 
Awww...the P word. If dinner is my number enemy, than school preparation is next! Preparation (or lack thereof) can either make you or break you. It's imperative that I set aside time each week to gather supplies, lesson plan, and sit down with our calendar. I need to do this each week to prepare for the upcoming week.    If I don't make time for this, it's a guarantee that I'm going to be scrambling during the school day. When I'm scrambling around trying to find this or that, or remember what lesson each child is on, or  have too many periods of dead time, then the kids get restless, unfocused, and off track. My preparation has everything to do with the mood of our day. If I'm not prepared, I'm stressed. If I'm stressed, than the kids are too. I sit down on Thursdays afternoons to prepare for the upcoming week. This allows me to make a list of supplies I may need from the store or around the house, and it gives me the weekend to gather them up. I have separate planners for each child. Once I have the lessons in order, I can sit down with our calendar and see how I will block out the time slots for out of the home activities and how I can best use the time in the home for each child. Just getting a mental picture of the week helps me to stay focused.

5. Organization. 
Everything needs a home. Supplies such as paper, pencils, crayons, etc. need to be kept in the same place at all times. The boys always know where to find what they need, and they can help put things away too. When I have to get everything and put everything away it takes a lot of time away from teaching. Encourage the kids to help out with organization, by keeping things put away and knowing where to find the things they need.  Each child needs the freedom to work alone. My oldest has a desk in his room, and my youngest with usually sit at the dining room table. Get creative with small spaces by using portable and hidden storage, such as behind the door hanging storage and utility bins with handles. I do not have an extra room for school, so I have to be very smart with our school storage. Next Monday, I'm sharing 5 tips for making the most of small homeschool spaces. Be sure to come back! You can also subscribe by RSS feed or email to be sure not miss a thing!

Do you have a large age gap between your kiddos? How do you manage the differences?

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let the day lead you!

Sometimes we learn the most when we close the books. After fighting colds, and being cooped up for days, we needed some vitamin D and fresh air. A simple nature walk near the coast lead to so much more. We found these...
horseshoe crabs...

...and an armadillo!

After our walk, we decided to do some research.
Gotta love the local library!

We got busy with some crafts too!

We found an easy horseshoe crab craft and did a little clicking around about them. Interesting little suckers! They're not even really crabs. Who knew?

We couldn't leave our armadillo out of the fun, so we attempted to make this cute armadillo craft we found.

You can find the complete instructions and patterns for the armadillo at Danielle's Place.

Learning can happen anywhere.

It's nice to let the day lead us sometimes. 

Shibley Smiles

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kids and Sports: When your child is the underdog.

My youngest just completed his first season of basketball. The season didn't go completely as expected, and I wish I could have done some things differently to make his first time playing more positive. He really enjoyed the first practices and the first few games, but then he started getting extremely upset before games, and refused to play.

The first time it happened I figured, no big deal. The second time? Kind of embarrassing, as he was crying because he was nervous, and we had several family members make the trip to watch him play. But, what are you gonna do? Make a child who is otherwise pretty laid back go out on the court crying? No thanks. We cheered our team on from the sidelines.

The third time (and last game of the season)? C'mon kid! What's the deal?

At this point? I'm the mom with the cry baby. To be honest, I really didn't care what other parents thought. I was more concerned with how to parent the situation, and I was really wondering why the heck he was acting like this. It just isn't like him. We've played two seasons of T-Ball with no problems, and he's usually not one to be nervous. He's pretty outgoing and free-spirited, so I was stumped.

I mean, we're talking about the kid who sports a hot a pink t-ball bat like it's nobody's business, and could care less what anyone thinks about it! He's my business shark who can walk into the bank like he owns the place and open his own account like I'm not even there!

The more I thought about, the more I realized this behavior was so out of character for him. The season had sort of been pretty hard on him for reasons that are so obvious now. I just wish they had been obvious then, and that I could have made it different.

Here were some of the factors:
1. The age split. The teams were split by 5/6 yrs. and 7/8 yrs. When we signed up for the season he was 6 going on 7. He would actually turn 7 before his first game. So, we had a decision to make. Should we put him on the 5/6 yr. old team or 7/8? We went with 7/8. 1. Because he didn't want to be with the "little kids", 2. I thought he'd learn faster with more experienced players., and 3. I thought it was the honest thing to do, as he was going to be 7 during all of the games. Turns out? It seems everyone else does the opposite. He ended up playing with a lot of kids that were WAY bigger, and I swear there was no way some of those kids were 8. So he ended up being the underdog. I think it was a little discouraging for him.

2. The team organization and coach placement.
I'm sure you all know the drill. Some coaches are out there b/c they missed their window on the NBA, and coaching at the Y helps them relive their dreams. Other coaches are just parents who got suckered into the position b/c Johnny really wants to play and they didn't have enough coaches. Thank God for these poor parents. They are saints. But, let's face it. They're not out there to teach your kid how to play. They may not even know how to play themselves. That was our coach. Although, I'm sure he knew how to play and he was so nice, he wasn't much help on the court for the kids. His direction was never clear and the kids remained clueless for most of the season, and for someone like my son, who had never played, this was frustrating. But, it's about having fun, right? And he was having fun. So, we were happy.

3. But, then? I found out that we had been playing on the wrong team for half the season. That's right. You heard me. After a mix up about practice times, that lead me to make a phone call to confirm the time, I was told we were actually supposed to be on a totally different team! Say what?! After hubs and I had been frustrated with the coaching, or lack thereof, and resolved to make the best of it, we weren't even supposed to be on this team? Really? And worse? We were supposed to be on the team of a coach we had already noticed was much more clear with his directions and teaching of the game. Come to find out, we were placed on the wrong team due to disorganization at the very first practice. Argh! But, it had already been half way through the season. We didn't think switching things up on my son would be wise, and we liked our coach. He was really nice, and the kids already got to know each other. It isn't the NBA after all, so we decided to go ahead and stay on the team we were on. We never even mentioned any of this mix up to my son. Because, he was having fun, and none of this really matters anyway. He's 7. We felt he was still getting at least an introduction to the sport, and we'd give it another try again. We continued to cheer him on and praise him for a job well done, even if he didn't know what direction to run and never even touched the ball. He seemed to be all smiles and all was good.

4. But then? He stopped having fun. He started getting really nervous before games to the point of crying, and began going to the bathroom like 400 3 or 4 times during games, and becoming visibly nervous on the court. It was always painfully obvious he never had any idea what the heck he was supposed to be doing out there, and I think he just started to not have fun.

At this point I began second guessing the whole season, and the decisions we had made along the way...
the age group we picked, the other team we were supposed to be on, and perhaps I should have talked to the coach about my frustrations. It was obvious other parents were aggravated about some of the same issues. But, I didn't. Prat of me felt like we were supposed to be out there to have fun and learn. And like I said, I think the coach was doing the best he could. I let the season play out until my baby boy couldn't handle it anymore. I feel awful that it started going south when maybe I could have avoided some of these issues for him had I been more proactive.

It was hard to see him getting upset, and part of me wanted to be tough and force him to play, but the other part of me couldn't blame him for being so frustrated. I honestly don't think he knew how to deal with the emotions he was having. Maybe a little embarrassed, confused on the court, smallest kid who never gets a basket...We ended up bench warming the last three games. Sigh...

I took the opportunity to teach the importance of being there for his team even if he didn't want to play, and we got up and went to every game. He watched every game and cheered his team mates on with a smile. Then at the last game he got down from the stands and walked with his team to shake the other teams' hands. He still felt very much a part of his team (even of the other kids didn't think so), he was just terrified of getting out there again.

Our season ended with a photo and a trophy. Yes, I still let him get his trophy. After all, he did participate and he cheered his team mates on until the end even after the embarrassment of being the kid that cries. That's worth a trophy!
I love him!
I really hope he'll give basketball another try! It's a super fun sport, and had things been a little different I think he would have really liked it. I won't lie, I was bummed. But, I just hope his memories aren't that terrible and he gives it another go next time.

On the way home from the last game he said, "I think I'll try soccer next time."

Bless his heart.

This post is linked up with Shell at Things I Can't Say. She lets us all pour our hearts out once a week.
Hey, and thanks for reading this one. I know it was long. You all are THE BEST!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Google.

Dear Google,

I've noticed that many of the pictures on my blog have been replaced with this image.
Me no likey
Well, this just won't work. I installed this great widget to attract people with my fabulous posts and eye catching thumbnails. This exclamation mark is really cramping my style, and making me want to click away. How will it make others want to stay longer? Oh, Google. I'm sure you can help me, though.

Of course, I had no idea why this was happening, so I did the only thing I could do. I went straight to you...

You're so awesome that all I had to do was ask, "Why are my pictures missing from my blog?", and ya know what? You told me. Amazing.

Hmmmm....It looks like you told a lot of other people too. My search for answers has left me with only one.
I'm not getting my pictures back.
Say what?!

This can't be true. I mean, you're Google. You can do anything.

Your discussion boards told me it's my fault I didn't know you have control of everything on the Internet, and when I deleted my pictures from Google+, I should have known that you would take them away from my blog too. Well, sure. I'm paraphrasing, but that was pretty much the sum of it. In addition to being expected to know this tidbit, apparently I should also know that you will never put my photos back on my blog.

Today's task of making my blog more fabulous has actually only brought it to my attention that is is less than fabulous with lots of ugly picture has-beens. Hmmm...

So then I got really mad at you and tweeted that hated you. Yeah. I did. SO not cool. I know. 

But then? I got scared. Aside from being out of character and unprofessional of me. I was really second guessing my decision to tweet bash you. I got all worried you might take me out. I mean, I'm just some lowly mom who writes on Blogger. But, doesn't that pretty much mean you own me? So perhaps tweeting that I hate you wasn't the best move. SO? I deleted my tweet like a coward with no shame. I told myself all was well. I mean, how much damage could a tweet have done with it's 3 seconds on the timeline?

But, I couldn't get this image out of my mind. I was all Holy S, Google is going to go all Sandra Bullock on me like in that movie The Net.

This poor girl was so screwed. 

Or what about poor Will Smith in that movie Enemy of the State?

They really messed this boy up!

Can you do stuff like this, Google? Can you take people out?
I bet you can.

And you know what? That kind of power is awesome!

You have the power to take over the web. I mean look at you. You're on fire! Picnik, Google+, Picasa, and Blogger. You've proclaimed that you are the King of the Internet by announcing you won't share anymore. Google Friend Connect isn't for the masses, I know. I know. I get it.

But someone wise once told me, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Ok, so it was Peter Parker's uncle. So what.
You're missing the point.

How will you handle your power, Google? And in exchange, your responsibility?

Perhaps you could start with putting my pictures back on my blog?

God Bless,


A few helpful articles in regards to this issue:
Google plus, Picasa and Blogger Missing Photos by Blogger Sentral
Missing Photos on Blogger Blogs and Google+ by The Flirty Blog

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Monday, February 20, 2012

5 Tips for Getting Your Family to the Table!

Dinner: my nemesis.

If I am screwing anything up as a parent, it's dinnertime. I have to try really, really, really hard to get everyone to the table together. Some moms seem to dance through this part of the day with grace and poise. Me? I usually time all the cooking wrong, get stressed out, and ruin the mood before we can even say grace. Sigh...

I have resolved to make this part of our family time more enjoyable and purposeful. I think we are wasting precious time with our loved ones if we're not taking full advantage of sitting down for a meal together at least once a day.

So I've put some thought into how I can bring my dinner fantasies to reality. Now, I'm telling you. I'm challenged in this area. Really challenged. I will never win an award for getting my kids to eat their vegetables or organic cooking. It's important to me that I don't set myself up for failure. I want to be realistic. The truth is, my kids are super picky. Partly because God made them that way, and partly because I've allowed them to be. I know. My bad. 

If this is an area that you struggle with too, it's important to remember that we're trying to improve the situation. NOT change it overnight. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? So stay focused on what you really want out of the time you have together. For me? These 5 tips are coming from a heart that wants to take advantage of the time. This really isn't about the menu for me.

So here they are...

1. It's not about the food. It's about the experience. 
So often I've gotten this wild hair to be the best housewife, cook gourmet meals, and have a magical dinner. But, what I've learned is that it's more important to gather together and eat macaroni and cheese and canned green beans than it is to make something only my husband and I will eat, cause me to become frustrated with picky eaters, and makes it impossible to enjoy the 30 minutes I really want to just make a memory with my kids. So, let go of trying to make something fancy, new, and different. Getting to the table is more important than what you are eating. What do your kids eat? Can your meal be easily modified to accommodate picky eaters? For example: I might make baked BBQ chicken breasts, but I will bake one breast without sauce for my oldest. It's a simple modification that goes a long way.

2. Screen-free 30 minutes prior to mealtime.
Usually when I'm cooking dinner, I don't mind if my kids entertain themselves with TV or video games. Gives me time to cook, right? Well, what I found was that turning screens off a little before dinner helps things calm down around the house. It gives the evening a chance to settle in, and it allows my kids to look forward to the family time instead of feeling like I've asked them to stop doing something they enjoy to eat dinner. It makes for a more positive transition to the table.

3. Let the kids get involved. 
Have them help you with the menu plan. Ask them for suggestions of things they like to eat, or something they would like to learn to cook. Have them help you in the cooking or preparations. Let them set the table. Get them in the kitchen! It doubles or triples the time you spend together. It gives picky eaters a chance to be a part of the meal before it's time to actually eat the food.

4. Let go of perfection!
Now some of you will gasp at this next one. But, I've done a lot of damage in the meal department, and again, I care more about the time together than actually eating the food. The other night? My youngest played with his Legos at the table, and I let him have dessert without eating his dinner. I know. Shutter! But, ya know what? He said his blessing, we all laughed and enjoyed the time together, and we have to take baby steps.

5. It doesn't have to be dinner. 
Why not breakfast or lunch? Perhaps your family doesn't have a traditional schedule? Maybe Dad isn't home at night? Whatever the case, eat one meal a day together. I realized how much more I could be taking advantage of breakfast with my boys. Even if I have coffee, one has waffles, and the other has cereal. I don't care! I just want to sit down with them. Why? Because I can. Breakfast makes for a great Bible time too.

These days we have so many distractions. Mealtime is something that everyone has to do. Why not make the effort to do it together?

How about you? What tricks of the trade do you have for making mealtimes an enjoyable experience in your home?

This post is linked up with Courtney at

Come back every Monday for my new series, 5 Tips! Simple ways to make big changes!

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Fishers of Men" Bible Craft

I love to have some kind of craft or activity to go with our Bible time. In my own quiet time I've been drawn to the book of Mark, and began reading. I love how it's written. It's straightforward and easy for me to understand for the kids.

We read from Mark 1 last week, and made this craft. I thought I'd share. When I new I wanted to make something fun, I went straight to Pinterest, and found a few ideas, and was inspired by this one

I figured we could come up with something similar using supplies we had on hand. Craft time is so much better when you don't have to buy stuff!

Here's what we used...
Jumbo Popsicle sticks
gingerbread cookie cutters
constructions paper (or card stock would be best)
and then of course...
and whatever else you wish

We used the gingerbread cutters as stencils to make the men (and women). Then, we "dressed" them up a bit.

Cut them out and glue onto construction paper.

For the net? I glued the strands of yarn like this...

Let dry. Then I weaved yarn through and tied at each end to make a "net".

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Organization? Yes, please.

I am loving the website I found thanks to Social Sparks!

How often do you find yourself printing that yummy recipe you found online, only to misplace it.


You forget to jot down that web address for the craft that would be perfect for your kiddos. When it's time to gather your supply list, you cannot  find that darn page you were on!

Well, the free service that clipix provides will change all of that! It's an online organization tool that helps you save all of the stuff you love in one place! Yes, please. 

I always say creativity is dependent upon resourcefulness. These days we have access to every smart idea ever thought of. Now we have a way to organize all the wonderful ideas with clipix

I found this adorable reusable/dry erase calendar idea. I'm SO doing this!!

Honestly? I would have NEVER thought of this on my own. But, how smart!

You'll never have to buy a calendar again. LOVE IT!

I'm just opened my clipix account, and I like what I'm seeing. It's simple and easy to use. Search for stuff I'm interested in, "clip" things I like, and save to my clipboards. 

I'm just getting started! 

I love to save recipes, craft ideas, home organizational tips, and fashion ideas. What are some of your favorite things you find online? Wouldn't it be great to keep them all in one place?

*Vacation destinations

*baby stuff


*party planning

*health resources

*kids activities

The site is jammed packed. And what's not on the site? You can "clip" yourself from around the web!

Here's how to get started. How would you use clipix?

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When I'm feeling needy...

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

I admit. Sometimes I'm needy.

I need my husband to tell me something sweet, or praise me for a job well done.

I need physical affection. I need him to sneak up behind me and hold me.

I need him to listen attentively to my story about our day even if he doesn't care.

Sometimes I just need him to be on the same page with me.


There are more days than not that my man meets all of my needs. However, there are those times when I'm so needy, that it would be impossible to make me happy. In fact, at these times, I'm restless and I really have no idea what I need.

There are times in marriage when you feel in tune with your spouse, and then there are times when no matter what you do, you're just missing the mark. It's not his fault (or yours). It's a restless spirit that can only be calmed with one thing.

I think these restless moments in our hearts are God's way of telling us all we need is Him. It's a way of drawing us near. There is a reason why our husbands can't meet all of our needs. There is a reason why we feel unsettled and misunderstood at times.

Our Heavenly Father wants to be the one to meet us where no one else can. He wants to shower us with grace and understanding. He wants to listen. He wants us to need him.

When we feel like no one in the world gets it. Remember He always does!

I realized that I was feeling a bit whiny, anxious, and hard to please. This is also known as PMS. Whatever the cause, it's an opportunity for me to realize that sometimes? No one here on earth can meet my needs. I cannot look to man to fulfill me in only ways God can. Not only can I not expect my husband to read my mind and meet every single need I have, I cannot rely on friends, family members, or even you to fill my heart with something only God can give me.

I think sometimes our expectations of our spouse, friends, or other relationships end in disappointment because we put too much weight on them. People are people. Imperfect, messed up, maybe dysfunctional?, people!

People can only do so much.

God can do so much more.

When you're feeling restless, seek Him. I promise He will fill your heart.

My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. ~Psalm 62: 1-2
Things I Can't Say


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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making Time for Me

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

One weekend with the flu and mama realizes...

It has become painfully obvious that I'm lacking in the personal care I need to be the wife and mother my heart desires. I don't know how it happens. I've made myself a priority in the past. But, then I start to feel good. Refreshed and rejuvenated. Then? I begin to forget why I feel so great. Because, of course, I had been taking care of me.

I don't get sick often, but when I do it's usually because God is forcing me to lay in bed! I think I needed a good reason to do nothing. I still feel like crap, but it's wearing off. I think. 

So, this week? I'm making some small changes to make sure I get this much needed "me" treatment in somehow.

*Daily runs
*cutting back on caffeine
*Lots of water
*Time with my Savior
*And something of luxury each day.

Each day. Now, luxury to me is free. It comes in the package of silence and often happens with my door shut. Perhaps spending 30 minutes to read that novel, or paint my toes, or better yet? Get a professional pedicure. Not free, but I do have that gift card from Christmas...Mainly, I just need to recognize that not making time for me is taking it's toll.

Now that I'm aware of it, it's up to me to do something about it. Luckily, my husband is pretty supportive about me taking the time to be healthy. He knows I make a much nicer wife and mother when I take care of myself.

How about you?

What do you do to make sure you get the refresher you need?

Be sure to check out my Lakeshore Learning software giveaway and enter!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lakeshore Learning software review and giveaway!

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

Lakeshore Learning recently gave me the opportunity to review their software products. We love Lakeshore! They always have such fun products for teaching, and I've often used their Teacher's Corner site for some of the free printables they offer. If you're not familiar with Lakeshore, you must check it out!

There's so many great resources for teachers, parents, and the kiddos! I jumped at the chance to review the software, because it's so nice to have educational game options! My kids love video games, computer, and all things technology, so I knew this software was going to be a hit with my youngest.

After browsing the selections, I went with Kooky Carnival: An interactive context clues game.

Children use context clues to determine the meanings of words—as they speed around a kooky carnival & collect tickets to win! Our action-packed, interactive game is played just like a regular board game—only with lively animation and sound effects that get the whole class super-excited about learning…plus pop-up hazards & surprise bonuses that add to the fun. To play, students simply read short, level-appropriate passages on the screen, then use context clues to answer questions about what they’ve read. Each correct answer earns players a carnival ticket—but they’ll have to give it back if they get stuck in long lines or soaked on the log ride! For Mac/Win.

Targets standards in these areas:
• Understanding & analyzing text
• Using context clues to determine meaning
• Recalling details from text

The outcome? My son loved this game! He liked the having the option to "read" something other than his regular books, and I liked having the option to give him! It is great way to pump up vocabulary skills and master context clues. We highly recommend!

I love watching him read. It's the best feeling in the world!

Can you tell he got it right? 
So the good news? Lakeshore is offering one of you a downloadable copy of the software of your choice!

Mandatory entry:
Visit and leave me a comment telling me which software item you would like. 
Be sure to include your email address in your comment. 

Additional entries:
Please leave a comment for each additional entry. 
*Like Lakeshore on Facebook.
*Follow Lakeshore on Twitter
*Subscribe to Stories from the Shoebox by RSS or email
*Follow me on Twitter.
*Like Stories from the Shoebox on Facebook
*Tweet or Share this giveaway on your page and leave me a link back in the comments. 

For the entire month of February Lakeshore is also offering a special promotion: Buy one software title, get one at 50% off. Customers may just enter coupon code 7349 at checkout or print the coupon and bring it to our store.

I was provided a complimentary of the software described in this post in exchange for my honest feedback. All opinions are 100% mine. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When your parenting isn't working...

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

The boys are steamrolling me!

No one realizes how fantastic they have it. I mean really. They sleep until 7:30 every morning while other kids are rushing to catch the bus or already at school! They get hot meals three times a day, go on a zillion field trips, and have nearly half the work load of public school kids, and all they do is complain!

This is SO hard...

Why did you give me so much work?

What!? I can't play video games all day?

Why do we have to play outside? It's hot out there. 

I don't like that.

You didn't tell me to.

I'm hungry.

I'm tired. 

Um. No. I think you're spoiled. 


What happened to the good old days when kids helped out, played outside, and respected their parents?

For my kids?

Clean clothes magically appear in the drawers, food magically appears on the table, bedrooms never get dirty, and the toilets must swish themselves, because there's never anything growing in them.

What's that? You don't like what we're eating?

That's ok, sweetheart. I will make you something different. 

I've made some parenting mistakes. Who hasn't? 

SO perhaps my kids are spoiled? Maybe they have it too good? Maybe they need a reality check?

I recently read a great post over at Kludgy Mom about how reward systems don't work for her, and she's right! They don't work for me either. They are more work for me. Um, no thanks. And they never seem to help. My kids just figure out how to manipulate the system to make it easier for them.

So, here's to good old fashioned parenting.

Get the things you like when you do the things you don't!


I'm not making any announcements. I'm not calling a family meeting to bring this new mentality to their attention. I think they'll just figure it out.

They're smart.

There's not going to be any stickers, charts, or money.

It's so simple. Why didn't I think of this before?

When your schoolwork is done, you can play.

When your room is clean, you can use your ipod.

Help me and I'll help you.


When what you're doing isn't working.

Be meaner!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Just when I think I'm failing as a mom...

...I get a sticker!

This sticker is not just for any mom. It's for the "World's Best Mom"!

So there you have it. I'm the World's Best Mom.

My little guy declared me as such, and then pinned me with this badge of glory: a Skylanders sticker that came with his figures.

After being "crowned" I wore my sticker all day. When hubs got home, he inquired about my badge.

He was all "nice sticker." (insert sarcasm)

I was all "don't be a hater."
Jealous. Phew. 

Now, I don't want any of you feeling bad about yourselves.
There's always next year.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Walgreens Prescription Savings Club

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walgreens for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The cost of prescriptions is outrageous! Unfortunately, even with health insurance, the cost of medication can really break the bank. I've posted in the past about how much I prefer Walgreens over other retailers for my family's prescription needs, and today I want to make sure you know about Walgreens Prescription Savings Club

For $35/yr., a family membership covers everyone in your immediate family! Spouse, kiddos, and, get this! Pets! Say what?! That's awesome. I know that when we had a dog it was so expensive  to get her medicine. I cringe at the thought even now. 

Some of the benefits of the membership include:
-discounts on over 8,000 brand-name and ALL generic meds. 
-discounts on flu shots, pet prescriptions, nebulizers, and diabetic supplies.
-bonuses when you purchase Walgreens brand products and photo services. 

Ask your pharmacist about this plan, and see if it's something that makes sense for your family. For $35, it's certainly worth checking out! I'm sure that the cost of the membership would pay for itself very quickly!

Be sure to stay up-to-date on special offers, discounts, and other news by connecting with Walgreens on Twitter and Walgreens on Facebook
Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sibu Beauty Review and Giveaway!

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

Have you heard of Sibu Beauty? I hadn't until I received an email inquiring about partnering with me for a review of their products. When I took a look at the site, I found that they offer skin care products made from sea buckthorn

had also never heard of sea buckthorn. Am I the only one?

Sea buckthorn berry, also known as the “beauty berry” across Europe and Asia, contains over 190 bioactive compounds that restore, revitalize, and protect youthful beauty. These berries help nourish skin, hair, and nails with powerful antioxidants and essential fatty acids, including the rare Omega 7 – a key building block to healthy skin, hair, and nails, and also aids digestion and may help you maintain a healthier weight. 

Um. yes, please. 

I tried the facial cleanser. Because 1. I'm very picky about facial products, and 2. I would either love it or break out in hives because I have very sensitive skin. If I didn't have any kind of crazy reaction, than I knew I would be able to recommend the product to others. A bit risky? Yes, my husband thought so, too. 

However, I'm thrilled to report I actually loved the cleanser.
Facial Cleanser 
It's gentle enough for me to use, which says a lot! It has a clean refreshing scent, and exfoliating micro beads that leave your skin feeling clean, refreshed, and nourished. the cleansing gel is light and doesn't leave my skin feeling greasy after I rinse. I actually did not use moisturizer after washing, and it still left my face feeling balanced with the right amount of moisture. I liked that.

I also love that Sibu Beauty products have the following certifications!

So, guess what?
Sibu Beauty is offering one of you the chance to try the balancing facial cleanser too!

Mandatory Entry:
Please leave your email address in your comment. 
Visit, and tell me about some of the other products you might like to try.

Additional Entries: 
Please leave a separate comment for each entry.
*Like Sibu Beauty on Facebook.
*Follow @sibu_beauty on Twitter
*Subscribe to Stories from the Shoebox by RSS or email.
*Follow me on Twitter.
*Like Stories from the Shoebox on Facebook
*Tweet or Share this giveaway on your page and leave me a link back in the comments.

I was provided a complimentary sample of the balancing facial cleanser in exchange for my honest review of the product. All opinions are 100% mine. 
Giveaway ends Feb. 9th @ midnight/Eastern. Winner will be selected via  

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to get the most from your post!

If you're new here, Welcome! Stick around after reading today's post and get to know me. Be sure to subscribe by RSS or email to be sure not to miss a thing!

Adding fresh content is important. But, there's too much pressure to post everyday. Some personal blog evaluation in the last week has reminded me that good blog content is about quality not quantity. And, it's not all about me posting and looking at my own blog, it's about friendships and connecting with other bloggers.

Sometimes we write a great post and it gets lost in the shuffle simply because we wanted to get new content up the very next day. In the meantime, our home page post is mediocre and the great posts are hidden from the first impressions we hope to make. So, let's stop doing that and get the most from our posts!

5 6 Tips for getting the most from your post:

1. Leave it up! Don't be scared to leave a great post up for a few days. Don't short change yourself or your readers. Give people a chance to see it, read it, and share it. That leads me to my next tip...

2. Give people a way to share it. Make sure that you have working share buttons somewhere at the end of the post. You can easily install share buttons from a number of different sites for free. Make sure the buttons are visible and specific to that post. Sometimes I see share buttons on a home page but not in the post body. I'd rather share a specific post and direct people to what I read, rather than a generic link to the whole blog. But, before people share it, they have to read it, right? So...

3. Give people a way to read it. Seems simple enough, no? But, not everyone will come to your blog everyday to read your fabulousness. Shocking, I know. You have to make it easier than that. Make sure your readers have a way to stay up-to-date with your content. Set up RSS feeds and give readers the option to subscribe by email. And yes, even GFC keeps readers connected. If you have a Wordpress or other non-blogger site, I'm sure you already know that GFC is going away in March, so the other options are even more important now.

4. Leave the house! How do you expect to meet people if you stay at home all the time? If you stay in cleaning up, rearranging furniture, and decorating you're never going to meet anyone! The same applies to your blog. Quit fussing with your layout and reading your own posts over and over. Get out! Meet people. Read other blogs, leave comments, and share their great posts on social networking sites. Blog karma is real. Share the love, get the love!

5. Get your social network on! Give people other ways to find you outside of your blog. Create a Facebook fan page and give it some character with pagemodo. Twitter is a great way to connect with other bloggers. Get out there and don't be scared to talk to people. And, then there's that new and confusing Google+. Be a revolutionary, and figure that out for the rest of us. That would make a great post to leave up and circulate! Once you have other sites set up, you can easily direct others to your blog with a link back to your fabulous post.

6. Go green! So after reading this, perhaps you're kicking yourself for short changing a recent post that didn't get much traffic? You thought it was fabulous, but you heard crickets. No one even knows about it. So? Recycle it! Re-post it, recirculate it.Who cares if it's old. If it's good, people will want to read it. You can even go in and edit the publish date of your post to show today's date. That way it appears to be fresh content and know one even knows it's recycled.