Thursday, March 29, 2012

A month of food

I just finished planning a month's worth of meals for our family.  My plan is to use it for a month and then repeat.  We'll throw in some new things every once in a while, but I want to have a good basic idea of what we're going to have, and I don't want to feel like I need to spend time thinking hard about this every week.

In a typical month we have 1 dinner with the Crum family, and 1 dinner with the Billey family.  I used 4 weeks as a "month" - so there are 26 meals on my list.  Some repeat themselves.  I only am writing down the main dish, the sides will vary depending on what's available.

This is a vegetarian menu for the month, most recipes are vegan.  I hope to fill in recipes later on.

1 - Bean Pie
2 - Egg Rolls
3- Meatless Burgers
4 - Chili
5 - Stir Fry
6 - Nachos
7 - Crum Family dinner
8 - Raw Fruits & Veggies
9 - Lasagna
10 - Tacos
11 - Veggie Soup
12 - Curry
13 - Pizza
14 - Sandwich Wraps
15 - Taco Salad
16 - Stir Fry
17 - Chili
18 - Nachos
19 - Egg Rolls
20 - Billey Family Dinner
21 - Red Beans & Rice
22 - Raw Fruits & Veggies
23 - Tacos
24 - Vegan Chicken Patties on Salad
25 - Tortilla Soup
26 - Meatless Burgers
27 - Pizza
28 - Lasagna

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And once again...

My artist has appeared silently during nap time. 
Orange nail polish today.

Wordless Wednesday: Before

Monday, March 26, 2012

The rest of the story

I just realized that I didn't finish the story about Monkey's concern for the man that needed food.

As we pulled away from the library, Monkey became increasingly agitated.  He insisted that we needed to go to the bank so we could get money to help that man so he could buy food.  Mr. Crum informed me that he did have a bit of cash in his wallet.  We decided that we would help Monkey show compassion today.  We circled the block, pulled up in front of the library.  Unbuckled Monkey and handed him the cash. 

Monkey walked around the van, directly to the man that was hungry and handed him the money, stating, "Jesus loves you".  The man grabbed his hand and shook it and thanked him, and hugged him, and shook his hand and thanked him, then he thanked him some more.

Monkey was a blessing to that man today because he showed compassion.  He made that man's day by giving.  My boy learned today that he can bless others.    

Compassion is Costly

You read that right.  True compassion can be expensive.  I'm pretty sure that I have 1 little boy that's going to help us learn that lesson.

Compassion is one of the words that I want my oldest son to remember about himself as he grows.  I wrote about that just over a year ago and was trying to figure out how I could teach a young child to learn how to practice it.  

Today, this lad made me proud as he practiced compassion, without being prompted.  He overheard a conversation that his mama had with one of the homeless men outside of the library - as I threw away an empty pizza box that was in the van, the man asked if he could have the pizza.  The man was kind and polite, but obviously disappointed that the box was empty.  When I got back in the van, Monkey was concerned.  "Why that man want pizza?"  "Why he don't have money for food?"  "We need to give him money... we need to go to the bank and get money so he can have food."  


This little boy is going to be expensive, because he loves people, even strangers, deeply enough to share his resources.  (If you remember, this is the little boy that sleeps with a handful of change because he loves money).  


A few things about compassion:
- If I have compassion, but don't act on it, what I really have is pity.  Pity does not make change happen.
- Compassion can be costly.  Sometimes acting out of compassion means buying a meal for a stranger.  Sometimes the "cost" of compassion is your time - maybe a listening ear for a friend who has lost a loved one.  
- Compassion happens when we learn to love others enough to put their needs ahead of our own.
- Compassion can be taught.  We teach our children in everything we do.  By practicing compassion myself, I am teaching my children to treat other people with love and respect.  (I might also be teaching someone else about compassion without realizing it).


Some practical ways to help children learn compassion:
1.  Make a loaf's worth of peanut butter sandwiches and hand them out at the park in the summer. 
2.  Read stories about children who don't have as much resource as your own children.  Make a plan to do something that will help them.  Follow through with it.
3.  Think of ways to earn money as a family so you can buy a flock of chickens for a village in need. 
4.  Be available for the people around you to help with childcare, construction projects, raking, baking - fill needs for others as you see them.
5.  Let your children see it when other people are compassionate and generous of their time and resources in your life.
6.  Visit friends and family in the hospital or nursing home.
7.  Take meals to families with new babies, or who are recovering from surgeries, deaths in the family, loss of job, etc.
8.  Teach stories about Jesus.

What ideas do you have about teaching compassion to your children?  What does compassion mean to you?

This might be silly

Or - maybe it's just mama talk...

But I am convinced that as this little man grows, he will be a very gifted communicator.

If you know Monkey and if you've ever had the opportunity to talk with him, you are aware that he is often very difficult to understand.  He knows a lot of words, but has a hard time with a lot of letter sounds, and that makes life a guessing game much of the time as we have converstations.

Very rarely, however, does he get frustrated when it is obvious that people cannot understand him.  At 3 1/2 he has figured out that if someone can't understand him, he can gesture to help them figure out words - if he can't figure out how to gesture a word, he will describe an item or take you to it, or sometimes just come up with another word.

Last night, he surprised us.  He made his mama laugh and feel pride in his growing communication abilities.  The conversation went like this:

Mama, did you get wasss?
Did I get lost? No.


Did you get wass?
Buddy, I don't know, I can't understand what you're asking me.

(singing) If you like to talk to tomatoes...

OHHH.. did I get SQUASH!

Yes. Did you get wass?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

SimplyFun Leap Forward Set: Review & Giveaway

This is our favorite game out of the Leap Forward set - Tangrams.  Monkey decided to try making his own game out of the shapes while I was in the office one day.  He had a great time building a... whatever this thing is.  Tangrams are fantastic because of their LARGE size.  They are easy for preschoolers to handle, and the game itself is easy to understand.  Did you ever play Tangrams in school?  I remember them!

Here, my niece, Little Lou, is showing the boys how to put the shapes together to make a picture.  There are 2 sets of large foam shapes in this package, that makes it easier to play together, or as a competition.  There are so many ways to play with Tangrams that it has entertained my boys for hours!
A finished picture - I think this is a dog.  It was Little Lou's first experience with Tangrams and she needed just a little bit of help after she had finished so the picture came out looking like the one in the book.

Ice Hop is an incredibly cute game where the kids work to get their penguins to safety by hopping from ice burg to ice burg!  It is helping my boys practice counting - and in a sneaky way, helping them practice addition!  This was especially fun for Little Lou (6), Bugsy (4), and Monkey (3) to play together!

See those cute little sheep?
I have never seen another game like Clover Leap.  It truly is unique.  It's a bit difficult to begin playing with Monkey right now, but as soon as he starts to get a better mastery on word recognition, we will begin helping him understand it.  Mr. Crum and I played it together (he won).  When we were finished, he was ready to start again.  It is a fun game of silly sentences!  I can't wait until we're back at my sister's house so I can share this one with Little Lou.
Mr. Crum is proud of his sentence "I see hairy bikes".  (He's also proud that he won Clover Leap).

You too can own this set!  You can buy it online from SimplyFun
You can win it right here on Life With My Boys!  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below!
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Monkey's Photos

Monkey got his own camera this weekend.  He loves taking pictures and now he can do it whenever he wants. I've started a blog page for him so he can share his budding skills.  If you're interested in watching also, feel free to spy on his pictures.

Busy Bag Activity #6: SimplyFun Review & Giveaway

Have you heard about SimplyFun Board Games?  If you're a homeschooler, you want to know about them.  If you're a parent, you want to know about them.  If you're an educator, you want to know about them.  Pretty much - you want to know about SimplyFun Games!
Make Time To Grow
This is the "Make Time To Grow" set.  It comes with the 3 games described below.

Not only are these great games, several of them are perfect for busy bags.  My boys are 2 and 3 - still learning how to play "by the rules" - and these games are perfect!

Big N Little is a matching game.  It is designed to help children identify animals and letters that go together.  For a better understanding about how it works, watch the video below.  My boys are using it to learn how to identify animals that go together, they also enjoy looking at the letters and seeing how many they can identify.  It's pretty complicated for Crackers (2), but Monkey (3) picked up on it pretty quickly and enjoys sliding the covers around to find matching animals.

Telling Time is absolutely a favorite for the boys.  They love the number puzzle on the outside of the clock.  They're not quite grasping the part about "telling time", but enjoy trying to identify the numbers while we do the puzzle.

My Monster is cute, I think it's my favorite.  You work to build monsters by placing shapes in the right place.  They've got a good command over shapes already, and Crackers is learning colors.  This game is cute and fun for the boys.  It is smaller than the other games and fits very nicely into my to go bag for appointments!

Each of these games is perfect for some quiet activity time at home, school, the doctor's office - wherever!

SimplyFun has a great variety of board games that are fun and educational.  Make sure you are familiar with their products, what a great way to help your children grow as they master new skills!

SimplyFun products are available online, or through a consultant.  That's right, you can host a SimplyFun party!  Make sure to check their website to find a consultant near you!

Great News: One of my readers will win this set!  Please enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below!

The best field trip

A little over a week ago, some of our friends invited us to go on a field trip with them.  The river at their parent's house had been drained a bit for some work upstream and there was a wealth of nature to explore on the uncovered muddy banks.  I think this has probably been our favorite field trip so far this month.  Thanks to the Clifton family for inviting us to stomp in the mud with you!  Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Clifton for letting us use your amazing land, and allowing the boys to play in the yard!

Mr. Crum gives cranky Crackers a little pep talk.  No nap makes it hard to start out on a fun adventure.

Look at all of these mussels!  (we did not keep any, Mr. Crum made sure we knew it was illegal to even take the shells home).  I was bummed - I had a fun project to work on.

Mama Clifton and the boys.

2 sweet boys digging in the mud.

Jo was eager to save the mussels, he was digging them up and racing them (as fast as he could through the mud) to the river.

This is a side stream that developed when the river was drained.  Beautiful late winter scenery.

Baby stayed in his car seat - crazy mama didn't bring a carrier - next adventure he will be worn, carrying a car seat through the woods is ridiculous.

Monkey thought it was great to catch things in his net - mostly he caught a lot of mud.

Crackers and his friend threw a lot of mud into the river.  What a great game for them.

Just before we left, Mr. Crum found this guy nicely hiding in the mud.  We enjoyed checking him out!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Steps to healthy living

The Crums are taking steps toward better health, both literally and figuratively.
As I face my disease, diabetes, head on with a change in our eating habits as well as a dramatic shift in exercise, I am teaching my children to live a healthier life.


We are also taking steps alongside my sister, Elizabeth of  My This N That Life, to help her and others like her, battle MS.  Do you know anyone with MS?  It can be a nasty struggle and does not always end up nicely.

In just over a month, we will be joining a small mob, storming Indianapolis in a fight against MS.
I have set a goal, to raise $150 to help those who, like my sister, are battling MS.  I want to do a very small part to help these individuals live a healthy life.

Please help me by donating $5, $10, $150...
0 percent of goal achieved.

I have 36 days to reach my goal as part of our team: MS. Understood.

Thanks for doing your part to help us defeat MS.


My Messy Monkey...

And he's at it again - finding the things that are for mommy to help with - and trying them on his own.  Yes, I know, it's normal - he wants to be a big boy.  So today's adventure?  "Look, Mommy, I found the gel".

See how wet his hair is?  That is ALL gel.  

Oh, and it's bed time - he did this while daddy was doing the good night routine...
mean mommy is making him sleep with it, he can have a bath in the morning, after I see his crazy rise'n'shine hair.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mother of the year

I'm pretty sure I just won the mother of the year award in my 2 & 3 year old's eyes... 

I dared to utter the words

"I think this needs more chocolate"

How have you made your child's day today?

Foodie Friday: This Season's Commitment

I have resolved to do something a little different with my family this year.
We did this a few times last year... but this year we are totally going to take advantage of the warm season.  My commitment is to serve dinner outside every night we possibly can.  Maybe it's silly, but it's so nice to enjoy the air, watch the neighbors, enjoy our time together.  Oh, and a bonus is that when Crackers drops half of his meal on the ground, we have super easy clean up!

Here's to several months of eating out (side)!

Foodie Friday: Breakfast for Lunch

I think this had to be my boy's favorite lunch all week.  I loved it too because it was simple and so much fun to prepare!

I started off with silver dollar sized pancakes.  Did you know these are super easy to make?  I'm kind of a dork, I guess, because I never knew!  I've never had any good reason to try making them.  Now, I've got toddlers and they like pancakes.  I figure, if I give them one big pancake they will want more, but if I give them 5 tiny ones, they'll be satisfied.  Something about the visual effect of it all.  (It totally worked).

I can't take complete credit for this idea.  It came from a book we borrowed from the library.  I wish I could tell you what it was, but I got a bunch of cooking books one day and now they're all back.  I think they stacked kiwi, strawberry, and blueberry on their skewers.

By the way, lunch on a stick - it doesn't matter what it is - is fun.

I served the leftover fruit in bowls - the boys put them on their skewers, it's more fun that way.

What's the most fun lunch you made this week?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's in your head?

Is your brain sabotaging you? 
Yep.  That's the obvious answer to the question in my title.  Everyone has a brain in their head.

I guess the real question is this:  What are you filling your brain with?  What are you taking the time to really think about.  What are you telling yourself ABOUT YOU?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 
Philippians 4:8

I like to think.  I like to plan.  I like to daydream.  Most of the time, my thoughts fall into the above categories.  Sometimes, though, I worry.  Worry is not an approved godly activity.  It fills our minds with fear and doubt instead of faith and hope.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeb?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34
So there it is, I need to fill my head with things that are noble, right, pure, lovely... you get the picture?  I shouldn't be filling my mind with how terrible life is and that everyone hates me and I can't do anything right.
When I listen to the world, to the messages I get all around me, every day... I get words like "thin", "wealthy", "ugly", "sexy", "smart", "powerful"...
A lot of messages - I have to filter out which things are honorable.  Which things will help me to be a healthy, whole person.  What messages are honoring to God.

Here's the problem.  
I often pick the WRONG messages.  It's true.  It is hard sometimes to convince myself that what LOOKS good, is not always what IS good.  In fact, I love the way a McDonalds Cheeseburger LOOKS on my tray, I even like the way it FEELS in my hand.  I love it that it FILLS my belly.  When I eat a cheeseburger, I also have to recognize what it DOES to my body.  It can look, feel, smell, and taste great, but if it contributes to a growing waist line, it is not good for my body and I should not be spending my time filling my mind and gut with the "benefits" of such a treat.

Okay, I didn't set out to write about McDonalds, or Cheeseburgers.  In fact, I wanted to talk about what I am saying to myself about myself.  When I eat that cheeseburger, I am giving myself a message.  Because I know it is not good for my body, what I am telling myself is, "one time won't hurt".  Or "I deserve a special treat", or "I'll make things better tomorrow."  "Today's choice doesn't matter".

I'm sure I've heard so many of those exact same statements, when being trained about abuse - how people position others to make them ready for receiving abuse.  Am I positioning myself in a manner that will allow me to abuse my own body?  Yep.  In fact, I am.

So how do I change those messages?
If I truly don't want harm my own body, I have to change the words I say to myself.
Here it is.  I'm working on putting the following phrases into my mind:
"I am healthy and athletic"
"I enjoy exercising"
"The choices I make today are more important than the choices I might decide to make tomorrow."

I didn't just decide that I was going to make those the messages I need to hear.  I carefully chose my messages and I remind myself regularly.  I especially remind myself when I am getting ready to make a decision I might regret.  Am I slim and trim, making all healthy choices all the time?  Not yet.  But I'm getting there.  I'm making better choices every day.

What about you?  What are the messages you are telling yourself?  What messages do you want to tell yourself?  

Busy Bag Activity #5

This might be one of the mama's favorite busy bag activities.  It's not always quiet, and it really does not always entertain them for a long time span, but I LOVE watching my boys play with cars.  

It's super easy to stash a couple of cars in my bag as I get ready for the day.  In fact, I almost always have them in my purse already!  The boys drive them on walls, floors, paper "roads" - anywhere they can find space.

I am working on putting together a felt road map that they can easily carry their cars inside!  Some day, I'll get it complete and share it with all of my friends on Life With My Boys!

What do you keep in your purse for emergency quiet activities?

Free Educational Activity: The Big Tree

Last week we went on a walk in the 4H park with Grandma Crum.  The boys were excited to see a giant tree that had been cut down.  It was fun to examine the tree with them!  It gave us free education as well as nature exploration!

Mr. Crum explained to the boys that the rings help us know how old the tree is.  

He counted the rings, "1, 2, 3, 300"  I don't think he counted quite right.

The boys enjoyed climbing on many of the felled logs.  They also loved dancing on the large tree stump that was left over.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Daylight savings makes new opportunities

Do you know that  my daily routine stinks?
I mean it.  

On days I work, we get up, drive Mr. Crum to work, go to the church, go home, have lunch & naps, wake the boys up before they're ready.  Fight with them about getting socks & shoes on, then pick Mr. Crum up from work.

On days we stay home, we get up, usually by 7am.  Mama Crum spends the morning trying to catch up on house work, the boys are hungry by 10:30, so they have an early lunch and are down for nap by 11.  They usually wake up about the time Mr. Crum comes home from work.

Did you notice that there's not a lot of time scheduled for interaction with the boys?  I try to give them some fun activities while I clean - play doh, painting, bath play time.  I try to avoid videos (they don't ever watch TV anymore, only videos, it's easier to monitor when I'm doing things around the house).  I can't quite wrap my schedule around things the way I really want to.  


We just had a change in the clock and I am going to make a change in the schedule with it.  They might not even realize it if I push their lunches back to 11:30.  If I do that, it gives me an extra hour of time to spend with them.  I don't have a "schedule" in my mind yet, but I'll be working on it over the next week.  Refining it. Making a routine.

What about you?  How are you going to take advantage of the time change?  How do you schedule your day to make sure you spend quality time with your kids?

Monday, March 12, 2012

5 months old!

Baby is 5 months old today! I was just looking at him sleep and trying to figure out how he's changed so much in such a short time.  Picture #1 was on his first day, #2 was last Wednesday!  I don't remember the other boys changing so quickly!

Wanted: Cowboy Boots

Before Christmas I bought cowboy boots for Monkey and Crackers.  I found them at the local thrift store and was SUPER excited about giving them to my guys for the holiday because I knew they would really love them.

Somehow, before Christmas, they disappeared.  I have not been able to find them and I have been searching now for about 3 months.  They're gone.  I think somehow they ended up in a bag of clothes that I was sending to the thrift store for donation.  I am bummed.  The boys don't have a clue.

Last week I started searching for new cowboy boots and I'm having a difficult time finding any.  SO - I'm asking you, if you have toddler sized cowboy boots between sizes 8 and 12 that you want to get rid of, could you please take a picture and email it to me along with a price (including shipping) so I can find some new boots for my big guys?


Re-Play Dishes: Review & Giveaway

You know that healthy eating is an important part of life at the Crum house.  We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, very little dairy and even less meat.  Portion sizes are always on my mind as I serve my boys.  

I have also been on the look out for just the right dishes to use with the boys.  That sounds kind of silly, but with warnings about BPA and other chemical concerns - plastics tend to be out of the question.  With young boys, ceramic is out of the question (we lost 1 plate almost immediately after trying to switch to ceramic - and that wasn't even their fault).  What are we to do?
I recently learned about Re-play dishes.  They're BPA free and made of recycled milk jugs!  Bonus: they're recycled and recyclable!  They are super sturdy and dishwasher safe.  They feel like old style Tupperware to me.  I love the colors available and I love the prices even more!  The 3 pack of plates is perfect for our family - 1 color for each boy.  Baby doesn't need one yet, but it won't be long!

The boys always know which plate is theirs.  That is helpful when they have a babysitter and I make meals ahead of time.  Crackers has food allergies, so often their plates are slightly different.  

Did I mention the sippy cups?  We have 2 - yellow and blue.  Each of the big boys has one that he uses when we're in the car - they are virtually leak proof.  We did have a bit of difficulty one day when daddy got the stopper in the wrong way - poor Monkey couldn't get a drink!  I tried one out (yep, I really did) and found it a little difficult to suck the water out.  It might just be that my mouth is not used to that kind of work - the boys don't seem to have any trouble using them.

My completely honest opinion: I am in love with Re-play dishes.  They are absolutely, hands down, my favorite dishes for children and if they made them in a bigger size for adults, I would buy them for Mr. Crum and myself.  My only wish is that there were lids I could easily snap over the bowls and plates for transporting foods when we have picnics or babysitters.

BUY IT:  You'll thank yourself.  Re-play may be available at local retailers.  Make sure to check the map to see where you can buy these great dishes close to home!  If you can't buy them nearby, you CAN buy them online!

Good news for you:  You have the opportunity to win a plate and utensils!  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

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Where I draw the line

Monkey is watching Veggie Tales: Jonah right now.  A few minutes ago, as I was doing dishes, I heard Jonah singing, "Ninevah is where I draw the line."  He was telling God that he'll do anything for him - except go to Ninevah.  Why?  Those people are too bad for God to work in their lives.  (for real - Jonah is telling God who is too good or too bad).
This got me to thinking, "Where do I draw the line?"  I'm not talking about what people I've decided are too bad for God.  I'm pretty sure I that God is able to work in whomever he chooses.  BUT - I know that I do put limits on God's ability to work in and through me.  I suppose that is part of human nature - but that does not make it okay.  I HAVE to face those places that I don't let God do his thing because I am too smart.

So here it is.  Where I draw the line:  my health, my time and my finances.  Yep.  Those are the main areas that immediately pop into my mind.  I want control over those things.  I like to say I give them to God, but evidence shows that I have drawn a line.

My line for health: Exercise.  I don't like it, I don't want to do it.  I want to be healthy, but I want to control it through what I eat and skip out on the thing that I know will change my health.  Silly, huh?  I'm working on it.  I've got a friend that is helping me work on it.  We're trying to get together 3 times a week.  Even when we're not able to exercise together, we're checking in.  We both have big reasons to be healthier!

My line for time: well, that's fuzzy.  I'm a poor time manager.  I like to make lists and work through them to get tasks accomplished.  The problem with lists is that I seem to be good at getting side tracked.  You see, I have 3 kids and the oldest is 3.5.  It's easy and even important to let the lists be secondary.  My kids need to know that whatever else is going on in mommy's day, she is there for them.  This is a little tricky because I am working part time and I have to arrange my time in a way that I can accomplish tasks, sometimes while they're awake.  I'm working on how to make that happen, and will probably write a bit about that later.
My line for finances: $1000.  That's my comfort zone.  At the end of the month, when all of the bills have been paid, I want to see a minimum of $1000 left in my bank account.  We've been pushing it for about a year and a half now.  Every month it seems we're WAY below that when the bills have been paid.  It makes me nervous, I end up lacking in trust that we'll make it through the next week, month, year...  BUT, we have made it every month.  I need to start trusting that even when it's scary, we'll make it.  I recognize that "emergency savings" are important, but we're living off what we have for now.  Better times are coming.

Where do you draw the line?  What limits are you putting on God's ability to work in your life?  When I doubt or don't act in accordance with what I know to be truth, I am drawing a line.  Today is a new day.  I will step over some boundaries and live in blessing.