Thursday, December 23, 2010


Ever since the "Greater Things" campaign our church did, God has greatly, richly blessed my life with a renewed heart and perspective on thankfulness. I won't be able to do it justice here, but I'll try my best.

For months - almost a year, really - I felt discontent, mostly materialistically. I'm ashamed to say it, but I had that "bigger is better" mindset for a while, and though I didn't want to feel that way and didn't like it that I did, it still cropped up regularly. Michael and I batted back and forth (I submit and clarify here that it was me doing the batting, and Michael doing the patient listening, wondering what had me on edge this time), talking about plans for the future: more kids? a van? bigger house? On and on, and I had a hard time feeling thankful for what I had (ugly, I know, but I'm keeping it real, here). Somehow, for the first time in my life, I got caught up in the "American Dream" mindset, and it really squashed my contentment in the blessings God has given our family.

God has miraculously changed my heart and renewed my spirit of thankfulness. God really does reward and bless those who give, and those who choose to put Him first. Michael and I recently read a book called The Blessed Life by Robert Morris, and we both highly recommend this book. Awesome perspective on sacrificing and giving to God and the way it can change your life and your perspective.

My refreshed outlook began really simply and subtly, when I was at the grocery store with Jasper one morning. I'd already decided to make a gingerbread house with the boys this year, and when I saw a pre-made kit with everything included, I knew it would be quicker and easier than making it all from scratch and buying our own candy and frosting. So I plunked it down in the basket and off we went to pay for the stuff in our cart. As I went up to the register and started laying out our items on the belt, it struck me harder than ever before: I am blessed. My family is so blessed. On any given day, I can make a trip to the store and buy just about anything and everything we need/want, and not think twice about it, including the gingerbread kit.

This thought process continued as Bennett and I were decorating the Drippy Gingerbread House a day or two later, and I felt even more convicted. Cliche as it may sound, it's absolute truth that there are children around the world who don't have the "luxury" of shoes or food, let alone a closet full of toys and the gift of celebrating Christmas extravagantly.

There are completely different cultures right down the street from my neighborhood and some of my friends' neighborhoods, that are poverty-stricken, or dirty, or uneducated, and I so rarely come into contact with them, and my reality had slowly turned into something that isn't reality at all. A reality where everyone should be able to afford a $200,000+ house, and a beautifully landscaped lawn and a flawlessly decorated interior. Where people should have two nice, newer cars, rooms full of toys and gadgets to keep us entertained, the ability to come and go as we please, perfectly groomed children, and essentially whatever our materialistic hearts desire.

But the truth is, there are people (our neighbors on our street included), whose children wear clothes with holes and stains in them, who don't have the time or energy to even hang Christmas lights (a. because they can't afford them and b. because they work two or three jobs, and the last thing they're thinking about is hanging little lights outside in the cold).

There are families who are split apart by divorce, by the lies of the enemy, by financial ruin, etc. etc., as our own little family thrives and grows.

There are people, like the woman who was in front of me at the check-out line in Target the other day, who have to count up their food stamps or whatever government help they receive, to get food, or presents for their children for Christmas. I watched this woman as she had to return two items to the cashier when several of her stamps didn't work for some reason. She was angry and embarrassed and started yelling at her son to hide the sting of her emotions, and I felt so sad for both of them. I've never known that kind of humiliation and dependence, and I most likely never will.

The truth is, there are people who are hurting because they don't have enough, and also people who have far less than I do and are far more content and happy than I am (and their children, too), because they have learned what it truly means to live with the joy of the Lord, and to live well within their means.

Because of the circumstances God has placed me in recently, and the things He has shown me, I am more thankful and glad for our cozy little home than I have ever been in our six years of living here, where our family of four is closely knit together, where our run-down little neighborhood has turned out to be a gold mine of witnessing for Christ and ministering to children from broken homes, and where we can fill it with the joy and laughter of the Lord because we are living well within our means in a way that honors God with where we are in life.

I am counting my blessings that Michael and I are able to go on dates when the urge strikes, that we can help others when God tells us to, that Bennett can go to the school he is at, that we can buy Christmas presents for our loved ones without stress or worry, and yes, that I can make a spur of the moment gingerbread house purchase at the grocery store.

How blessed our family is. Thank you, God, for your faithfulness and the way you have cared for me and mine. And thank you, thank you, for softening, changing and enlightening my heart about what is truly important, about what really matters, and about what is real and lasting.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Some recents:
Christmas outfits


You know it's winter in our neck of the woods when we've taken the annual "Trash Can Leaves" pictures. Oy vey. (Scrubby baths had by all!)

EEK! I L-O-V-E this picture of my Jasper John!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


If you've been reading my blog over the past several months, you know I've developed a crafty-type itch lately. This itch manifested itself into a burning desire to make our own gingerbread house this year...from scratch. BaHAHAHAHA!! How quickly we lay our best intentions aside for more convenient and cost effective plans! :) Enter in the Walmart pre-made gingerbread houses, candy, frosting and base included. A brilliant idea (or so I thought)!

I've never claimed to be an artist, and it's a good thing, because this was the first gingerbread house I've ever decorated (Bennett has been BEGGING for one), and it turned out RUFF. So ruff, I can't even bring myself to spell the word properly. R-U-F-F. The candy kept sagging and pulling down the sides of the house, the icing dripped all over the place, and the poor little reindeer kept falling over. Bennett accidentally snapped off Santa's head (hee) and he had to be glued back together with a little frosting. And the whole time I worked (took a while), two little fellas who shall remain nameless, shamelessly pleaded for the candy pieces I was supposed to be using to decorate, and planting their grubby little fingers in the middle of the icing.

Originally I had every intention of adopting "The Night of Gingerbread House Decorating" as a yearly Christmas tradition...think hot chocolate, Christmas music playing in the background, frosted little noses, laughter, a beautiful gingerbread house to gaze upon for the remainder of the Christmas season, etc. etc....again I say, BaHAHAHAHA!!

I'm now rethinking that idea, although I'm glad we have another new experience under our belts (good for the brain synapses and all, ya know). I've included a few of the drippy gingerbread pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Happy faces all around...before I knew what I was getting myself into. :)

Giving the "Mommy Look" after being asked a baJILLION times for "Just one more M&M, mom, pleeeease?" He was quite intimidated and frightened by my fierce, animalistic wrath.

The Pitiful Drippy Gingerbread House

So there you have it, another Christmas tradition flushed down the toilet before it even really began. If anyone has good tips on how to make one of these things actually look pretty, I'd love to hear them, just in case I attempt the craziness again next year.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

94.9 KLTY

I might not be winning myself any fans posting this about a Christian radio station in our area, but it's been bugging me for over a year now, and it's time to use the ole' opinion section of my blog. :) (And if you're not from this area, you won't know what I'm talking about unless you have this same station in your neck of the woods - also highly possible since this is the largest, most popular Christian music station in the country).

To be objective, I'll start with the pros of the radio station, because there definitely are great things about it, and things I appreciate.

The Pros:
1) It plays Christian music all the time.
2) Their logo says, "It's safe and fun for the whole family." They often have people come on the air and talk about how they don't have to worry about their children hearing bad words, inappropriate lyrics, etc. True, and greatly appreciated.
3) It sounds like they do in fact donate to charities, Christian organizations, etc., and they help people in need, especially around the Christmas season, helping pay bills, find jobs, buy Christmas presents for little kiddos, etc. This is a great help in the community, and a great example to my kids.

The Cons: (i.e. my beef with the station)
1) The BIGGEST problem I have with the station is their advertisements. In the past couple of years, this Christian station has taken on sponsors that I believe are highly inappropriate and completely contradictory to the Christian message. One of their largest sponsors (I'm assuming, since commercials about them are on ALL the time), is a place called SonaMed Spa. Every commercial is about hair removal, waxing, wrinkles and weight loss. The djs are constantly talking about how we all want to look our best (especially targeted toward women), and how we can get rid of the imperfections we don't like about ourselves. They use wording that insinuates we all need physical improvement and aren't at our best unless we pay for these treatments. And like I said, these particular advertisements are on ALL the time, as well as others promoting other specific weight loss programs and powders.

In the past several months, they've also begun network TV advertisements, and many times, the shows that are promoted are morally bankrupt and even trashy in nature.

The real beef I have with these is that a) CHILDREN, little girls in particular, are hearing these advertisements (subliminal messages, *cough cough*) and are subsequently hearing "I'm not good enough,"; "if only I looked like this"; "I need to do ____ to look/feel better about myself"; "The way God made me isn't good enough." BIG PROBLEM. b) Why are we advertising shows that Jesus himself would NOT promote, would not watch, and would not have his name tied to?? c) The last thing our society of women needs is a station who claims to lead in the workings of God Himself, to tell them they aren't good enough and are found lacking. SHAME SHAME on you, KLTY for choosing and promoting such a thing!!

2) Jesus Christ is never mentioned on air, unless it's by a listener. The station itself, the djs, the advertisers, etc. etc. never claim Him directly, and smooth over any mention of Him. There's no talk of His power, of His death and resurrection, of Him being the Way, the Truth and the Life, etc. They do play songs about Him, but the station itself doesn't seem to claim Him in any way, which really bothers me. My question is, why?? Afraid of losing listeners? Afraid of being constrictive, confining and narrow minded? Again, I'm not sure, but this has ALWAYS bugged me. He should be the one we're talking about ALL the time!

Even now during the Christmas season, they don't say things like, "Jesus is the reason for the season." No, their slogan is, "KLTY, the real Christmas station." Wha-?? What does that even mean??

3) The music actually played has become fewer and farther between over the past year or two. On Sunday mornings, they used to play Christian music non-stop all morning long, but now most trips to church are spent listening to more of the same SonaMed Spa advertisements. Yuck. So we turn it off instead of worshipping and being uplifted the way we were hoping. This goes on every day of the week. I get really frustrated trying to get some music in the car the kids can listen to that will build them up and teach them about God, only to find I can't do that when it's so interspersed with false, worldly messages from their inappropriate, far too frequent advertising.

I submit that this station is not "safe and fun for the whole family." And even if it was, where are the hard lessons, the moral lessons, the challenges, that go along with carrying the name of Jesus? We rarely listen to this station anymore. I usually plug in a CD or turn to a different station, either another Christian station, or one that may not be quite as "safe," (I have to screen it myself), but at least it's authentic, eh, rather than pretending to be what it's not.

I plan on writing KLTY an e-mail over Christmas Break. What I'd really like to know is if ownership or management has changed hands over the past 2-3 years, because in my mind, it seems like someone must have come on board and decided the money was worth more than the message. I'd also like to know why on earth they think these things (particularly the advertising) are okay.

In closing, may I recommend 90.9 as an alternative if you're in my area? There's great music, and instead of the ridiculous advertisements that directly contradict the Christian message, there are speakers and inspirational topics. This is the station our family turns to a lot of times when we choose to have the radio on.

My apologies if I've stomped on the toes of anyone who adores the station, but I just don't, and if I'm gonna blog about Oprah, I figure I should blog about this, too. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


After his little family party when Bennett turned three, he asked me where all his friends were, and informed me that he wanted a LOT of friends at his four year old party the following year. I'd planned on waiting until he turned five to throw a big bash, but he requested it repeatedly throughout the year, and he loves playing and partying with friends so much anyway, Michael and I decided to go ahead and have a big friend party this year, but keep it as low key (aka. easy on us) as possible.

So Michael booked one of the gymnasiums at the school where he teaches, and requested to use a bunch of their P.E. supplies, as well as the giant blow-up tunnel that all the high school football players run through at the beginning of every home game. We set it all up and planned a sports theme, and off we went. Everybody wore their favorite team jersey or shirt, the kids had a blast running around like crazy people and playing on all the equipment, and a lot of the adults had fun playing too :). Enjoy the pictures!

The Birthday Boy.
Oh, Benito, what a joy and a mess you are!

Some of our favorite people:

Deacon, Bennett's best buddy from school,
and his daddy, Mr. Jake.

Sweet babies! Jordyn and Brinley

Joelle and Jasper.

More best buds: Cason, Bennett and Haven.

Sage, Deacon and Ava. Love them!

Cousin Rylie.

Family and friends.

(And a shout out to two of my long time, closest friends, LB and Molly, who somehow managed to avoid being in ANY pictures!!)

Play time:

Caught in the act!

Cake and presents:

The M&M sports cakes I made at Birthday Boy's request. VERY easy to make, also VERY time consuming to make four of them (which was my idea, being the overachiever that I am).

Someone else being sneaky :).
(except J kept coming back again and again, not stopping until we finally wrapped the cakes up and packed them in the car when the party was over!)

More play time:

One of my very best friends, Terri, pulling the train. :)

Thanks to all who made Bennett's party such a wonderful celebration! He felt so loved and had so much fun celebrating his 4th!


Coming soon to a blog near you:

1. Bennett's birthday party
2. 94.9 KLTY
3. Drippy Gingerbread House
4. Thankfulness

Monday, December 6, 2010


I FINALLY FINISHED my BFHP (Big Fat Hairy Project)!!

The table and chairs, Before and After...


And after sanding, wood filling, sanding again, priming, painting, painting again, and poly-coating ALL six chairs, the table, the table legs and the three leaves, and re-covering the seat cushions and scotch guarding them (makes my eye start twitching just thinking about really did twitch for four days straight in the midst of this project), it's DONE!!


Six painted chairs waiting for newly covered cushions.

The first completed chair. Whew!

The finished product!!!
(sixth chair is off to the side, and the table is shown minus the three leaves)

I ended up spending $170 total, but after selling our old table and chairs on craigslist for $100, the grand total OOP comes to $70!!! FABULOUS!! However, I must say that there really was quite a massive amount of blood, sweat and tears involved in this project. This BFHP was certainly not for the faint of heart, and probably wasn't the wisest choice for my first really big thing to tackle. By the end I was SOOOO ready to be finished and SOOOO sick of painting. But we have a beautiful new dining set to show for it, which turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself!

Here's a break down of supplies:
Got the upholstery fabric for the chairs from Joanne's, on sale for 50% off. (around $30)
Got scotch guard for the chairs from Wal-mart (around $10)
Wood filler, sand paper, primer, paint, poly and painting supplies from Lowe's (around $30)

Would I recommend doing this yourself? If you have three weeks, an incredibly patient, helpful, supportive husband, and a STRONG desire for a new table and chairs, absolutely, go for it. If not, no way, Jose. But really? $70? Who can argue with that?! And thus ends the saga of my first Big Fat Hairy Project.


We've had four years with my crazy, lovable, fun-spirited, talk-a-mile-a-minute Bennett James, and I feel so blessed to be his mommy.

We started the day with cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then hit his favorite jump house. Tonight when Daddy gets home, we'll eat Sonic for dinner (birthday boy's choice), have blue sprinkle cookies, and open presents. This weekend we'll have his friend party and the M&Ms sports cake he's requested (that boy knows exactly what he likes!).

My Benito is becoming such a big boy. I've felt like crying several times today just watching him and wondering where on earth the past four years have gone.

He loves his family and his buddies dearly and talks about who he wants to see and play with all the time. His favorite color has always been blue and it still is by a long shot. He's still average height and weight, but I think he has the build and stockiness of a football player. His throwing arm and coordination still amaze our family, as do his thought patterns and conversation skills. Bennett inherited the unbelievable energy level of his daddy, and he uses it now to make up all kinds of pretend games. His imagination has really taken off in the last few months. He's still an amazing sleeper, getting around 11 hours at night and taking a 2 hour nap during the day (I know, I'm one lucky lady!). His favorite places continue to be Mimi's house, the jump place, the playscape and the water park (which he continues to talk about through the winter time). Bennett doesn't really have any favorite toys. He moves from one to another so quickly and is rarely still. He loves to be on the go and to have a purpose and schedule to his day. It drives both of us crazy to stay home all day long :) His very best friends are Deacon and Anna from school, and Cason and Sage from play dates and mommy's friends. "Snow globes" (the huge blow up things people put in their yards for Christmas) are his latest obsession, and we go on walks or drives to see them several times every day. His favorite foods these days are chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs and waffles (chalk full of nutrients, I know), but he still eats everything else I put in front of him with little complaining. He can trace his name and we're working on writing it independently. He knows all of his letters and sounds and can draw a face and a stick person (although he really doesn't like coloring/drawing and is rarely still long enough to do it). His favorite holidays are Halloween and Christmas, hands down. Bennett loves his brother fiercely and often translates, telling me what Jasper wants when I have no idea (this warms my heart because I used to do the same for my brother).

Several things that I've realized about my buddy in the past year is that a) he is a problem solver, and will work, argue, debate, and logic his way through all kinds of "dilemmas." b) he craves and needs attention more than just about any other kid I know, which can sometimes make life hard for both of us, but is in his nature and a part of who he is, and I love him for it. c) he truly is a strong-willed child, and we love him and discipline him as such d) he has the energy and ability and smarts to do just about whatever he decides to do in life, which is a great blessing. e) he has a gift for learning, remembering and retaining information, which makes teaching him new things super easy. f) he has a strong sense of right and wrong, which I also believe will serve him well.

Bennett loves to learn new things, loves to collect information, loves to read, loves to make messes :), loves to swim, loves to do things independently, loves to wrestle and hide with Daddy, loves to play outside, loves to show us how fast he is when he runs, loves to play with friends, loves to drink Mommy's DDPs, loves tater tots from Sonic, loves to watch Disney movies, loves to give his offering in the plate at church, loves the praise and worship time for kids at our church, loves to help cook, and loves birthdays and birthday parties in general (which makes today a FANTASTIC day for him! :) ).

I adore this boy, and I adore being his mama. Thank you, Lord for sending our family this first born baby boy. His name means "Little Blessing," and I pray that as he grows, You will bless Him in even bigger and mightier ways, that He might bless and glorify Your Holy Name.

Happy Birthday, Bennett, our special boy! We love you so much!

Cinnamon rolls in the morning.

Sonic with Mimi that night (Poppy was out of town).

Putting the candles in his blue sprinkle cookie.

Opening presents.

Jasper enjoying the spoils of the day.

Toy Story!!!

Bennett got these "snow globes" for his birthday from Uncle Joe Joe, and he decided he needed to share them with all our neighbors, so he set them out on the front porch for all to enjoy. You wouldn't believe how loud the music on the little snow globe plays. I thought putting it outside was a FANTASTIC idea. :)

I took some pictures of our time at the jump house too, but I'm having a hard time downloading them from my phone. If I figure it out, I'll post those above later.