Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sharing our blessings this season


Last year around this time, we worked with our boys to raise funds for Heifer International.  Our goal was to buy some bees and a goat for people around the world that are in need.  We didn't quite make that goal, but were able to purchase a goat and some chickens.  My boys learned just a little bit about what it means to love people as Christ did.

This summer we met Mr. Baxter at our garage sale.  He had stopped by to look at something and began to share with us about the ministry he heads.  This local ministry reaches out to children and families in Jamaica who are in need.  They work with 3 local "Basic Schools" as well as churches and individuals to improve the lives of Jamaicans through Christ-like relationships.  Mr. Baxter travels regularly to Jamaica to continue these spiritual ties.

We loved talking with Mr. Baxter about Jamaica UpRiver Outreach.  As we spoke, he shared that it only costs about $35 a month to feed one of their basic schools.  That's 28 kids from ages 3-6.  We brainstormed about ways that we could connect with these schools and how our children could be in touch with some of the people there.  It has been great to begin learning about Jamaican culture with the boys.  
Manasseh, our 5 year old, has fallen in love with the people, the music, and the culture.  He is extremely enthusiastic about working to raise money to help the children at one of the schools - Fustic Grove Basic School.  I asked him the other day what kind of goal we should make regarding how many days to try and feed the students, his answer? 100,000.  I figured out that would cost about $117,000.  That's do-able, but I'm not certain it's within our reach this year.

Our goal this year is to raise $420.  This would feed the children at Fustic Grove for an entire year.  That's 1 meal per child, 28 children per month, for 12 months.  It breaks down to about $1.17 per day - less than most people in the United States spend on a hamburger or a coffee.  

Our plan is to sell crafts and baked goods at our church sale this weekend.  We will have handmade felt masks, felt crowns, some Christmas ornaments, banana bread, a variety of cookies, and someone is even donating a diaper cake.  There will be a variety of other items available at the sale for donations to this project.

The boys and I are also available to help with yard work such as raking, picking up sticks and nuts, etc.  We would love to bake or cook in exchange for donation, or even do a little light cleaning around the house.

Will you consider helping us feed these precious children in 2014?  $420 is all it will take - can you give up a soda this week to feed an entire class in Jamaica?  You won't only be filling their bellies.  Feeding these children will help them learn better, they will be more successful as adults, and have an opportunity to know Christ's love in a new way.

If you're interested in helping the students at Fustic Grove this season, feel free to contact me through my personal email address - - or on Facebook.  I will be glad to answer questions for you.  We are also able to mail some of the craft products in exchange for donation.  ALL proceeds will be donated to the children at Fustic Grove Basic School.

Many blessings to you and yours as we enter this season.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tummy Stuffers - A great gift for a 2 year old (sponsored post)

My two year old loves to fill things and dump them out and fill them again... and dump them again... It seems to be a common stage that many two year olds experience.  As Azariah approached his second birthday, we were presented with the opportunity to check out Tummy Stuffers.  I have to admit, I thought they were kind of silly at first.  I also knew that my boys would love them.

Tummy Stuffers - Logo

Guess what: Azariah (and the other boys) love this alligator! In fact, it was one of the few toys I packed to keep my boys entertained during a youth convention while I worked as a vendor.  This little guy held all of their toys and scrunched up to fit inside their special toy trunk!

The boy's play trunk, ready to go to youth convention.
He gobbled up toys and spit them back out.  He chased little boys around to gobble them up.  He even worked as a hat!

Azariah, wearing the Tummy Stuffer as a hat!
Our alligator was out last week when Azariah's therapist was over to work on speech.  She adored him and used him with Azariah to prompt some words!  I never thought that our Tummy Stuffer would also work for therapy, how excellent!

Whit considers fleeing the scene

While our kitten is not so much a fan of the Tummy Stuffer, I think it's a fantastic gift option for toddlers and preschoolers!  Christmas is coming, who is on your list?  I'm positive that my 3 and 5 year olds would love to have Tummy Stuffers of their own (in fact, they've already told me which ones they wish for)!  Tummy Stuffers sell for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.  13" seat pets come with a free 8" buddy (for a limited time)

More Than You Can Take

I just heard a song on the radio that stopped me in my tracks.  I've seen a blog post that so many people have shared about the lie that "God won't give you more than you can take."
This is Selah.

I've been there.  You see, yesterday marked the due date of our 5th baby.  Selah would be in our arms now, had we not lost babies 4 & 5 in the last year.  Talk about an overwhelming feeling.  It sure feels at times like "more than we can take".

The truth is just that - God won't give us more than we can take... but we forget this next part, we leave it off ALL THE TIME.  Listen closely because this is important and when you forget about it, people leave feeling weak, inadequate, unloved by God - because why would he dish it out to them and not others. 

So here it is: God won't give you more than you can take WITH HIS STRENGTH.

That's right.  Sometimes we get knocked down and the ONLY way up is through Him.  His strength is certainly the only way we made it through the last year. In His strength, we continue to stand, to fight, to live.

As I washed dishes and listened to the song about God not giving us more than we can take, I thought of the verse, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

WHAT?!!!  Honestly, I can't figure out what that means when I look around and see the hurt and brokenness in the world.  I do, however, know that because of my faith in the good, holy, perfect God - I was able to make it through the last year.  I know that if it hadn't been for His strength, my burden would have felt much more desperate, lonlier, harder. 

Are you there?  Are you in the dark times?  His burden is light.  Spend time in prayer and discovery.  Let him pull you through.  Turn up the worship music.  Cry on his shoulder.  His strength will pull you through.  God is a BIG God. 

Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power! (Eph 6:10)

I urge you to do some study in Ephesians 6.  Learn how to suit up in a way that will make you strong in the face of a powerful enemy.

Blessings as you walk through each day and trust in Him.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"No Way" (Two Year Olds, Tantrums, and Power: 9 things to remember)

We have a two year old.  In fact, he's 2 years and 10 days old now.  He seems to be very aware of the stereo-type "terrible two".

Okay, okay.  In truth, he's not ALL that bad.  He has learned "No Way" and especially loves using it at bed time.  Dear Randy had an hour long show down with him the other night, it was a special treat.

Believe it or not, he's our first one to really challenge us quite this way.  Yes, each of our three boys has gone (and continues to go) through periods that they want to test us a little more than normal.  This little guy though - he's fiesty.
"No Way Bed"
Azariah has a strong will.  It's not JUST about bed time, but that is frequently when we see it the loudest.  Do you have those days?  Whether your child is 2, 5, or 16 - we all struggle with how to deal with "tantrums".  Yes, they change as children get older.  (Just look at our recent political stand-off - adult tantrums).  So how, as parents, do we help children through those difficult times?

1) First off we have to recognize what is behind the tantrum.  Tantrums come when there is a struggle for power.  Two year olds are just learning that they have power.  They can do things on their own now that they couldn't do just a few days or weeks ago.  Life is exciting and they want to experience the power of being in control.

Unfortunately, quite often older children and adults experience the same feelings.  Be honest, you have those days too (that's why we even have power struggles with our kids - we want control).  Have you had a tantrum this week?  Not a full out kicking and screaming tantrum - maybe one just inside your head.  What injustice have you experienced that made you so mad you had to drink some coffee, or take a walk, or write a congressman?

2) Next we've got to legitimize the need for power.  We all have this basic need for power.  It makes us feel good to know we have control over a situation.  When I can pay my bills on time, I feel in control, powerful.  When my children behave in a certain way, I am pleased - because they have given me the power of influence over their lives.

Our children feel the same way.  They need opportunities to express and explore their power in the world.  Having power over their situations in life helps to feed a child's self-esteem.

3) We have to stop mid-tantrum and think about whether this is an important struggle.  I mean when my 4 year old throws himself down in on the floor in the middle of the store, because he wants to hold the left side of the cart and not the right.  (Yep, happened this week).  I have to stop myself from reacting  out of my need for power.  I have to remember that he is frustrated, his need for power is being thwarted.  Is it really important for safety reasons that he be on the right side of the shopping cart?  Maybe.  If it is not, however - I need to give up control.

Sometimes this means we have to apologize to our kids.  Talk about giving up power!  Yes, we actually need to humble ourselves and repent in front of them!  Believe it or not this is not only healthy for our kids, it is a healthy experience for us.  It is also VERY hard - remember, we believe we need to be in control.

I'm not talking about giving in to your child's every desire.  Children MUST also learn things like patience, self-control, delayed gratification, and humility.  My children don't get everything they want by throwing fits.  In fact, sometimes I sit back and let them throw fits - even in the store.  It really doesn't bother me if my child is having a full blown tantrum in the middle of Wal-mart.  If he wants a candy bar and that's not on my shopping list, we're probably not going to get one.  (Those are rarely on my list).

4) Seeking opportunities to give our children power is important.  We really struggled with this for a while with our 5 year old.  He was showing us through his actions that he wanted to express his power.  Things like chasing the cat, arguing with his brothers, and so forth.  They seem like minor infractions, but are definite expressions of this need. 

So how do I find these opportunities?  Some ideas include things like: Go on a walk and let your child be the leader, ask your child what they would like for lunch, let your child help with menu planning, give him a chance to rearrange his bedroom.  Letting him cut apples with a KNIFE (yes, even our 2 year old can do this with some help).  These things don't sound like big, mighty, powerful acts - they do, however allow your child new chances to be in control of the world around him.

5) During a fit, look for alternatives.  Manasseh is throwing a fit because he can't have cookie for snack.  I know that we don't have cookies... or they aren't healthy... or he's allergic to something in them.  As the parent I get to make the final decision about what he is allowed to eat.  He is 5 and does not fully understand all of my reasoning.  I can sit down and try to rationally explain things to him - he might understand sometimes.  The reality is, in the middle of a tantrum, no one really can think objectively.  Just think back to your last tantrum - what did you have to do to cool off?

I might let him know that a cookie is not an option today, but the next time we go to the store we can look at cookies that are up to my standards.  I could give him a few options for his snack (thus giving him power to choose).  I can ask him to come up with some ideas for next week's snacks so we can plan for things he likes better.  In looking for alternatives we empower our children.

Sometimes there are no alternatives.  We must help our children learn to accept disappointment and understand that they will not always have power to make all of their own decisions.  Even as adults, we must answer to other people who have power over us.

6) Use consequences that leave the weight on the child's decision, not consequences that burden the parent.  This is hard sometimes.  We often allow ourselves to be stressed by our children's decisions.  Instead of getting frustrated that my children are wrestling at nap time, I can let them carry that stress.  See, I can grumble and growl and make threats and let my blood boil because I am frustrated by their actions.  It really means that I'm letting them threaten my sense of control.

If we give them control of the situation, and define consequences ahead of time, then let them make their own choices - we don't need to be stressed.  The children may choose poorly, we may need to give a consequence - but we have given up our control of the situation.  Children can learn so much be connecting consequences with their choices.

How does this play out?  If you tell Sally and Joe that it is bed time, here are your expectations, these are the consequences for not following them.  Sally and Joe might decide not to meet your standards.  If they don't, you simply follow through with the consequences.  Sally and Joe learn that you really mean it and are ultimately in control of the house - but still have given them power to choose their actions at bed time.  You are able to focus on other things.  This works better with older children (my two year old doesn't yet understand consequences).

7) Emotion coaching is helpful!  Helping children understand why they feel how they feel at different times is extremely helpful in combating power struggles.  Once we begin to really grasp how our emotions effect our actions we can take control over our behaviors!  it's true - emotion coaching leads to self-control (read: power over self).  A great resource for learning about emotion coaching is Mary Sheedy Kurchinka's book, Kid's, Parents, and Power Struggles.

8) It is not healthy for children to have all the power all the time.  It seems like it would be easier to just let our kids make all of the decisions.  Then we have no reason for power struggles.  However, our children must learn that there will always be people they need to answer to.  There will be a boss, a love, a government, etc.  As I stated before, children need to learn things like patience, delayed gratification, humility, and self control.  These make a healthier, happier child.  Children with boundaries know they are loved.

9) Remember, you are the parent and you have the final say.  Even when you give your child options - you control the options.  As the parent, you control the situations in which your child expresses power.  It is easy to get stressed about our children's behaviors.  They are learning and growing, just like we are.  Take a deep breath.  Remember that you are the boss, even when Sam throws a tantrum.  You can help him through this.

Take a deep breath.  Your kids are going to grow to be healthy, loving adults. You can make it through those tough times and come out better on the other side!

How do you help your child through tantrums?  What do you do to soothe yourself when you're having that mental tantrum about something that seems unjust to you?  Do you have other tips to share?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where Have We Been?

Wow, it has been 4 months since I last wrote on my blog.  Why?  Oh so many reasons.

Did you know that I have a seasonal job?  If you've followed me closely, or are close to me for real - you certainly have seen it.  I am the program director at an amazing camp in northern Indiana.  We moved back to camp at the start of April and spent our summer living on campus full time.  The boys LOVE it there.  I have loved it since I was a child and am so blessed to be back at the camp.  More about the camp another day - I have plenty to share.

We came home to Fort Wayne officially on September 11.  Why this date?  It was the first night of Awana and the boys couldn't miss it.  We love Awana for so many reasons.  Poor Azariah can hardly wait until it's his turn to stay for the evening. 

We started kindergarten this fall.  Manasseh loves learning.  He really likes worksheets.  I love it that when we do school at home we have such a great wealth of resources and can do tons of outdoor education that can't happen in a public school. We have already had tons of fun, hands on learning experiences as a family.

We're keeping busy - on top of these things I am auditing a discipleship class at Anderson University School of Theology.  This is rocking my brain with ideas about how to improve the camp ministry.  I can hardly wait to start putting some of these new ideas into practice.

I have also begun a little bit of volunteer work with Silent Blessings, a ministry to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, bringing the gospel to life in a new way.  Their television show, Dr. Wonder's Workshop, is going to be the base for a new Vacation Bible School curriculum - Dr. Wonder's Sign Lab.  I get to do a little bit of behind the scenes helping with some things.  How fun!

The boys go to daycare on Thursday mornings while I'm in class, they absolutely love spending time with new friends - the oldest 2 are especially little socialites.  Since they're going to the daycare, I get to help with some things around there on Thursday afternoons.

Whew.  That's where we are, and where we've been in a nutshell.  I'll share about a few of these things in some more detail over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm Fat and I Don't Want to Die

As we pulled into the lot of a local burger and ice cream joint, my five year old son groaned in the back seat.  You see - we had already eaten a lot (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and yes, second dinner).  This is not our custom but that is what happened tonight.

Manasseh whined, "Are we eating, again?" Seriously, I don't know where this boy came from, we may have taken the wrong child home from Vacation Bible School, he loves food.. usually.

I told him, "Yes, we are going to have a snack and talk with some friends for a little while."  Again, he sighed as he proclaimed, "I'm fat and I don't want to die!"


My 5 year old son is hearing the message that he's fat!?  He's never heard it from his parents - it's not truth at all.  We really don't talk about weight in front of him.  We do talk about health and making healthy food choices, treating our bodies well, etc.  This "I'm fat and I don't want to die" thing kind of rocked me.

I'm still pondering what to do with that.  You see - he tells me that he heard it from a friend.  She told him that all kids say that.  He believes it to be true now.  Yikes!  Even though my kid isn't getting these messages from school and mainstream media, his friends are.  His friend, by the way, is not fat either.

My heart breaks for the 5 and 6 year old children that are hearing that they are too fat - 5 and 6 year olds!  Truth? Some children are too fat, they are obese.  These kids don't need to hear it in those words either - I'm sure they do though, far too often.

As you go to bed tonight, say a prayer that your children be protected from the lies that they are going to hear from friends, family, media, and even school.  As you wake up in the morning, find a child and encourage them.  Tell them how beautiful they are, point out something they do well, love on the children around you.  Most of all, listen to them.  Hear the messages that they are getting (they'll tell you if you listen).
I did tell Manasseh very plainly tonight, "You are not fat - and we are all going to die."  I want him to know the truth.  I hope he's learned to trust me.  I want him to know that I won't give him an ice cream cone if I think it's going to kill him.  I want him to grow to be strong, healthy, and wise.

How do you help your children balance the messages of our culture with truth?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I know I'm not the only one #mamavation

It's 12:50 am in Indiana.  I'm awake.  I have a VERY full time job and 3 VERY full time children.  I want a sweet, yummy snack but I have mostly health food in my house.  I'm a little irritated about my lack of junk.

I know I'm not alone.  Thank you to the ladies who are part of Mamavation and remind me I'm "normal".

More than my midnight snack desires, I really appreciate knowing that I am not alone in my struggle to improve my health and the health of my family.  You may know that we've been on a LONG journey to healing for things like diabetes, arthritis, and allergies.  We are still working on it and some times the process seems so very slow.  We're not good at making fast changes in behavior at our house - but we continue to make steps in the right direction.

I would love some feedback, advice, encouragement, etc from others who have been there, made it through, and are living healthier, stronger lives.

Here's my story:
I have been a type 2 diabetic for AT LEAST 8 years (longer than that, but not diagnosed earlier).  I am overweight.  I struggle to find time in my schedule to really exercise.  Here's why:  as I said, I work VERY full time in the summer as a camp program director - in fact, I live at work.  I work from sun up to well, it's after midnight and I've still been doing some work.  I am also a "stay at home" mom to my boys who are 1, 3, and 4.  We eat simple foods, mostly vegetarian, mostly plant based - but not entirely either of those.. sometimes we cheat on that and I'm pretty much okay with it.  I mean - my kids have been asking me for salad at breakfast this week, I think we're doing pretty well on the diet thing.

I have had 2 miscarriage in the last 8 months or so, after miscarriage number 1 I gained 20 pounds - in a month!  I didn't change my diet at all, just had crazy hormones or something ridiculous like that - also had a switch in meds.

I want to be healthy, I want to kick diabetes in the butt.  I want to be able to run and play with my boys for the next 30 years - my grandchildren too by then.

HELP!  How can I get my crazy schedule in order and find a way that I can get good exercise and nutrition when I am insanely ridiculously busy most of the time?/??

Is anyone else in my shoes?  What do you do?  What have you done?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Loss & the Older Sibling

I love surprises.  My boys know it, and they enjoy being surprised.  It was so much fun to share with our friends and family that we were expecting again!  This is our pregnancy announcement from November.  I adore it!  We had fun telling the boys what it meant.  Manasseh, our 4 year old was super excited about being a big brother again.  He really wants a little sister named Annie.  (Even if he has a little sister some day, her name will not be Annie).

How do you tell a 4 year old that the baby he is so excited about welcoming will not be coming after all?  I'll admit, I had shed a lot of tears.  It took a few days to come to a place we could share with the boys that we would not be having a baby.  When we did tell him, he was crushed.  He snuggled in my arms and cried with me.  "But I wanted a baby," he told me.  I cried too.  "Why did the doctors say we can't have it?"  I asked the same questions, only in more complex ways.  I love the simplicity, the clear thinking that my children bring.

So how do you talk to the older sibling about losing a baby?  How do you keep that sibling from fearing that he'll be lost as well?  In our case, Manasseh already struggled with issues of loss, how can you help them through it?

1.  Be Honest - Kids thrive on truth.  They want to understand the world around them.  They want to make sense of this reality just as much as we do.  Truth is really hard sometimes, it's hard to get the words out of our mouths.  Our kids learn honesty from us.  They respect us when we show them how to be true.

2. Use Ideas They Can Handle - My 4 year old is not ready to handle the mechanics of why a woman's body might not be able to carry a baby to term.  He is, however, ready to know that sometimes baby's die.  Know your child's ability to handle information.  Keep it simple.  If you aren't sure how much she can handle, give her a little bit if she seems ready and asks for more, fill in more detail.

3. Express Emotions - Truth?  I have a really hard time expressing emotions in front of people - especially negative emotions.  My kids need to see that I do have emotions and they will learn from me how they should handle their own emotions.  "I am sad because..." is an excellent start to showing emotions.

4. Allow Self-Expression - Make sure your child knows it's okay for him to have feelings.  Give him space to grieve with you.  You have lost a baby, he has lost a sibling.  He may be just as grieved, upset, and depressed as you are.  If he is not great at expression, help him draw pictures about feelings, paint, or find another creative way to express feelings.

5. Be Patient - Know that you are likely on edge emotionally, hormonally, spiritually, phsyically.  Some days every little thing your child does may be frustrating.  Know she does not want to upset you.  She is struggling too.  Practice patience.  Go to another room and take a deep breath before dealing with a frustration.  Think about what might be causing her behavior.

6. Call on Friends - It's okay to ask for help.  Your child needs some special attention right now too.  Friends and family can be a great source of comfort for your child and a stress relief for everyone.  Set up a play date or two that will allow you to have time alone and your child to get special attention.

7. Address Fear of Loss - When Manasseh is feeling insecure, he starts asking questions about our former foster sons.  He often recounts when the puppy ran away (over 2 years ago), he talks about the cat that died.  Those are cues to me that he is concerned about being left.  He's a sensitive guy.  We regularly have to reassure him that he will stay with us and we will continue to protect him.

8. Pray With Your Child - Take time to pray and thank God for your family.  Name each person by name. Thank God for your pregnancy and pray that God keep your baby safe while it waits for you to join it some day in Heaven.

9. Give the Baby a Name - Naming the baby helps (me) with grief.  I know this was a baby, I can remember the baby and talk about it.  My boys can know that they won't be forgotten either.  If the baby that we never met has a name and stays in our hearts, they certainly always will.  (Our lost babies are Shalom and Selah).

10. Join a Support Group - This can be an especially good idea with older children.  My boys are young enough that they are able to be open with us and ask honest questions.  Some children are more comfortable talking to other children or adults outside of the family.  If your child is really struggling with their loss, ask your doctor or school counselor about a support group.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Setback

36 weeks pregnant with Azariah, who is now a healthy 19 month old.
"Consider it a setback."  The doctor said it as though I had broken an arm, or was being diagnosed with an ear infection.

A setback.  Really?  This is what you call it when you lose a baby?  Casually he stated, "You're likely to have more miscarriages, but I see no reason you can't have another healthy baby some time in the future."

What?!  This was not my regular OB.  It didn't matter.  Once again, someone of the medical profession tried to explain away a miscarriage, as if it really shouldn't hurt.

Have you been there?  We have.  Twice this year.  It's a painful place to be, it's lonely, scary, and extremely sad.  I recognize that the OB, and the doctor at the ER (who saw me in November) see patients who are having miscarriages very regularly.  What I think they failed to recognize was this:  I am a mother who is losing a child.  This does not happen to me every day, or even once a week.  I'm not disappointed, I'm GRIEVING.  I have lost a baby - yes it IS a BABY.

Over the next few weeks, as I continue my own healing process, I will be sharing advice to medical professionals, words of love to mamas, and ways to support friends through miscarriage.

Please join me in my journey.  Learn what it means to lose a baby, and how to begin your own process of recovery.  Learn how to help a friend during a very dark and difficult time.  Hear some things NOT to say.

Understand, it is a healing process.  It takes time.  I'm not sure that I've fully emotionally healed from our loss in November, I know we haven't recovered from the one in April.

Have you experienced the loss of a baby?  What wisdom would you share with others about this very sensitive topic?

Grab button for Wellness Wednesday

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautifying the Camp with Birdfeeders! (sponsored post)

** This is a sponsored post.  I was given a product or products in exchange for review.  All opinions are my own.**
 It is spring at Yellow Creek Lake Camp, where I work.  Come to think of it, it's quite possibly spring wherever you are.  One of my favorite things to do in the spring is watch the birds.  For this reason, I love having a good relationship with Perky Pets!

I currently have 6 bird feeders hanging around campus.  Yes, I know that may seem a bit excessive, but I want other people to enjoy the beautiful birds that we have visiting us every day!

This is one of my favorites, it sits on the lake side of the cottage we stay in while I work.  As you can see, it is in need of a refill.  I love the look of this feeder, and the fact that it holds a LARGE amount of seed!  It's called the Squirrel Be Gone II Country Style Wild Bird Feeder.  Pictured above is a Finch Feeder from Perky Pet.  My boys really enjoy identifying "Mr. and Mrs. Finch" that often visit us (we have at least 2 ladies) and now we appear to have a pair of Pine Siskin visiting this feeder!

Our featured feeder today is this fantastic hummingbird feeder.  I am really pleased with the design of this particular feeder.  I've had a couple of other hummingbird feeders in the past, and this beats them all hands down!  Now - to see some hummingbirds would be fantastic!

This is the Perky Pet Funnel Fill 16oz. Glass Hummingbird Feeder.  It sells for just under $13 on the website.   It is incredibly easy to use!

This is the bottom of the feeder.  There is a stopper that unscrews to allow easy pouring, the hole is funnel-like and mess free!  Once filled, you screw the camp back on and quickly turn the feeder over.  That's it!

I really adore the site of this feeder outside my window!  The only improvement I might make on it (if I were the designer) would be to include some type of rope or thread for hanging it.  We were fortunate to find a good thin rope in the cottage that holds it up quite nicely.

Overall, I give this a 5 star rating for quality, price, innovation and functionality!  Great job on this feeder Perky Pets!

Follow Perky Pet on Facebook and Twitter.

What is your favorite bird to watch?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Most Important Lesson I Learned at Church Camp

I started attending camp at Yellow Creek Lake about 27 years ago.  As a young camper I was impressed by all the great, fun activities.  I especially loved crafts and swimming.  I enjoyed the relationships that I built with other campers and with volunteers over the years.  I could not imagine a summer without YCL.  In fact, during high school I began volunteering at the camp as much as I was allowed.  I even spent 6 of my 8 summers during college in ministry at the camp.  I never imagined that as an adult I would end up back in this same place that has so touched my life.  I can see though how God has been working on me for this place and this time at Yellow Creek.

Through the many years as a camper and a staff, I was learning something again and again - and it only hit me about a month ago.  I just realized that all of that time I had been learning the same lesson: Spiritual Retreat.

Just over a year ago, I began working at YCL as the program director.  This was not a part of my plan as a happy stay at home mama with 3 little boys.  I knew, however that God was leading me back to the camp, and that was confirmed after I chose to do the things I felt as though he had urged me to do.

During those first weeks, as I talked with a children's minister, who I highly respect, she asked me to, "explain why church camp is relevant in today's culture."  I was stumped.  I mean, I know it's valuable - but how do I explain what makes it "culturally relevant"?  I spent most of a year trying to figure this out.  Then, one morning as I was preparing to share with a church about the camp - I realized that our kids are in DIRE need of spiritual retreat.

Do you know that there are preschoolers involved in 3 or 4 activities a week?  I don't condemn their parents for wanting to have active, involved children.  Those kids are learning things my kids won't ever understand.  By high school many parents become chauffeurs, only spending time with their children as they shuttle them from one activity to the next.  Our kids are busy all the time.  When they are not busy - they are watching television, using the internet, talking on the phone.

Kids don't know what it is to have quiet in their lives.  They don't know what it is to "rest in the Lord".  It is hard to hear God's voice in a world that is constantly moving.

Church camp is culturally relevant because it helps kids learn spiritual retreat.  It gives busy students a chance to have a break from their constant movement.  It slows life down.  There is a unique opportunity to bond with spiritual leaders in a new way as students participate in small group devotions away from home.  Often it's easier to be open and honest when they are not afraid of who might be listening.

Church camp is relevant to our culture because it teaches healthy relationships with others (and without a computer or cell phone in the way).  It offers community in a very real way.  The relationships that children build at church camp can grow over the years and allow for life-long friendships that encourage spiritual growth beyond the school days.

Church camp is important in our culture because it allows students to step out of their comfort zone without fear of condemnation.  Kids can try new things, take risks, and have a supportive family behind them when they fall down.

It allows students to ask difficult questions of adults who are trained to help them search for answers.

Camps get kids that are media saturated outside, breathing natural air, chasing kick balls, fishing, shooting arrows, and so much more.  Camp is active in a world of inactivity.  Many children feel lost without a screen in front of their faces.  This is an opportunity to put the screen away and really interact, really live.

Many churches are failing to present the Gospel message in a meaningful way to children.  Many do a great job at presenting the message, but neglect to invite children into a relationship with God.  Church camp tells the story and invites the relationship.  Camps like Yellow Creek Lake even report back to the churches when life changing decisions have been made so that church leaders can follow up on them.

Have you considered sending a child to church camp?  If you're in or near northern Indiana, I highly recommend Yellow Creek Lake Camp Ministries.  If you are not, I recommend searching for local church camps that offer activities your child enjoys.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

40 Free Things to do with Preschoolers on a Cold or Rainy Saturday at Home (without electronics)

Photo: Puzzling behavior on Saturday morning!It is Saturday morning in mid-April and it is COLD in Indiana.  In fact, there has been some snow today. YIKES!  The zoo in Fort Wayne opens this morning.  It is also the Maple Syrup Festival in Wakarusa.  A lot of people had outside plans for the morning.  So now that plans are changing, my dear sweet cousin just asked on Facebook, "What should I do this morning?"  she has a 1 and a 3 year old and does not want to roam the really fun festival in the cold.

So I got to thinking about what kinds of fun things we like to do when we feel like we are not ready to spend our day outside.  I thought I would share for her benefit (and as a reminder to ourselves on the next too cold Saturday).

1. Pull out the puzzles!  Not old enough to do them alone?  Help your child do puzzles - what a great learning and bonding activity with the family.

2. Grab clean sheets (or some that need to get cleaned today) and build a tent.  Get flashlights, sleeping bags, and marshmellows.  Go camping together in the bedroom or living room.

3. Snuggle up and read favorite books.  They might be even willing to read chapter books - try it out.

4. Play Dough is a favorite at our house.  Don't have any?  Look up recipes - it is super cheap and extremely easy to make.  Want play dough toys?  Use popsicle sticks, cookie cutters, dough rollers, forks, plastic knives, scissors.  Let them go wild with their imaginations.  *Watch the little ones mouths* Show them how to make simple shapes - a ball, a snake, a pancake... then get more complex and marvel them.

5. Make pancakes together.  They can help pour and mix.  Add in food coloring for fun designs or chocolate chips, blueberries - use your imaginations.  Have fun making pancakes together.

6. Bring outdoor toys inside.  We have a small house, but 1 or 2 outdoor toys in the house really livens things up.  They really love the little plastic pool filled with balls for "swimming" when it's cold.

7. Play in the tub.  Make simple bath paints with flour, water, and food coloring.  Give them paint brushes, let them go wild.  Take some favorite toys to the tub, let them have a pool party.

8. Dance party.  Turn up the tunes and dance with your kids.

9. Break out the crayons and coloring books or printer paper.  Sit down and color together.

10. Practice responsibility.  It's a great day to clean the hamster cage, cat box, dog kennel, etc.  Help them learn how to be responsible for their pets.

11. Cut or tear paper.  This is a great skill for preschoolers and it will entertain them for quite a while. Get really daring and give them some glue as well.  They'll have a blast gluing paper pieces together.

12. Wash dishes together.  Need to get some chores done?  Invite your preschooler to stand on a chair and wash dishes with you.  Even if you have to rewash everything he has washed, he's learning a new skill and feels proud for helping you.  My 4 year old always tells me how much he loves to wash dishes together.

13. Dump out the bucket of mismatched socks.  Have preschoolers help you find matches and put pairs together.

14. Build with Duplos or Legos.  Encourage imagination by helping your child create a new design, or help her learn to follow written directions by putting together a lego set.

15. Paint. Finger paint, water color, or otherwise.  Give them freedom to make a special piece of art.

16. Make cards for grandma or friends.  Use construction paper, markers, stickers, stamps - whatever you've got.

17. Play soccer.  Yep.  Break the rules, kick the ball around in the bedroom or living room together.

18. Make a pizza.  Come on, you think breakfast is the only mean your preschooler wants to help with?  She can make peanut butter sandwiches, pizzas, noodles, soup, all kinds of foods with you - you just have to tolerate a little mess.  You'll help her gain confidence, independence and knowledge.

19. Practice writing his name together.

20. Make a simple pinecone bird feeder.  Tie yarn to the end of a pinecone spread peanut butter on it, roll it in bird seed.  Don't have a pinecone?  Use a toilet paper roll instead.

21. Play board games.  There is a huge market full of preschool games.  If you don't have any, head out to garage sales on the next warm, dry Saturday and pick up a few super cheap games.

22. Build a race track with recylclable materials.

23. Race cars (with or without a track).

24. Let her give you a makeover! This might take some courage.

25. Tell stories together. Take turns adding to a story about your preschooler.  Make sure to include his favorite things.

26. Have a picnic inside.  Bring in the little picnic table or spread a blanket out on the floor.  Serve your favorite picnic meals.

27. Go on a treasure hunt.  Hide something special in the house.  Make a map to find it - or give clues about where it is hidden.

28. Play Barbies together (or action figures - whatever).  She won't forget that you took time to do this.

29. Make smoothies!  Everyone loves smoothies when you throw in their favorite foods.  Not only do they taste great, they're fun to make and can be incredibly healthy.  Not sure about the mess of a smoothie?  Put the mix into a popsicle mold and give them special cold treats.

30. Get out circle shaped cereal and make necklaces for snack.  Use some yarn or string and help your preschooler lace the o's until they have a good amount.

31. Plant stuff.  Start a garden indoors.  Get seedlings ready for your summer veggie garden. (Walmart has seed packets starting at 20c).

32. Have a puppet show.  No puppets?  Make some with socks or paper bags!

33. String pasta.  Beading is fun even for little hands!

34. Bake cookies for a neighbor.

35. Have a jumping contest.  See who can jump the highest, longest, fastest, farthest, funniest.  Wear them out with lots of jumping fun.

36. Sort toys. Dump all the toys onto the floor and help him sort them into categories.

37. Take all of your cardboard boxes out of the recycle bin.  Let him have fun building with them, using the as boats, houses, cars, towers, etc. You may be amazed at the ways your child will use a few boxes.

38. Start a band. Do you have music toys? Take them out and sing together.  If you don't have music toys, look up simple free instrument designs on Pinterest.  You would be amazed how many things you can use around the house to make a drum or guitar!

39. Go fishing.  Get a stick from the yard and some string.  Put a paperclip on the end and see how many toys you can pick up with your pole.

40. Look at old pictures together.  Go through photo albums and look at pictures together.  They love seeing themselves and their families as they have grown and changed.

***What do you like to do with your preschoolers when you're stuck inside on a cold or rainy day?***

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Photo from
It seems only appropriate that today, on what would have been my grandfather's 92nd birthday, we were visited by our first tufted titmouse of the season.  

At the end of his life, when he was recovering from a stroke, grandpa and I sat in his room at the nursing home, looking through a bird identification book.  He would pause on occasion to tell me about one bird or another.  The Robin, "she's a nice one".  Then we got to the tufted titmouse.  He wanted me to remind him of the name, then tried to repeat it.  He could not get the sounds right and we laughed.  He laughed so hard there were tears in his eyes as he repeated again and again "piss mouth"... "piss mouth".  He couldn't convince his own mouth to form the right sounds.  I love that man still.  He's been an influence over my life from the time I was so very young.  I am thankful for the reminder of my grandpa, especially on this day of memory.

Above are my grandparents, surrounded by most of their grandchildren, a few great grandchildren, and some in-laws.  My grandfather was a family man.  He adored his big family.  He overflowed with joy at each opportunity to spend time loving on each individual, or (on rare occasion) the whole gang.  Grandpa was a musician as well.  He played a variety of stringed instruments, and repaired them for all string players in the county - and visitors to the county.  Because of this business, my grandparents hosted visitors from around the country.  

I learned so much from my grandpa.  I really hope my children will have the same admiration, adoration, and love of their grandparents that I had for mine.  My grandpa was a hero in my mind.  He was a leader in my faith.  He was someone I want to emulate as a parent and some day as a grandparent.

Happy Birthday Michael Billey!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Unexpected #Mamavation

Mamavation Mondays

Oh boy, this weekend (and start of the week) has been full of the unexpected!  I won't bore you with all of the crazy details - we'll leave it at this: We're "stuck" at my work for a few days while our van is in the shop.  Work is a little over an hour from home.  I'm so thankful that I have a place to stay while I'm working!

So anyway, I'm talking about unexpected as it relates to Mamavation.  Mamavation is a push for healthy mamas that are raising healthy kids.

Let me tell you something: being stuck at work unexpectedly does not always inspire healthy behaviors.  With a full kitchen, I tried to quickly scheme up some "healthy" meals that we could grab from a local store.  Since I've been kind of "down for the count" this weekend, I had difficulty thinking beyond convenience and comfort.

Ahh, we'll get there, we have several weeks of living at camp in the near future - we're working toward simplicity and health.  Real Foods, Plants.

Because of my physical issues I have also missed out on exercising - actually - on Saturday I strained and pushed my body to exhaustion - I shoveled rocks all morning and helped clear some brush out of the road in the afternoon.  I felt it in my arms and shoulders - hard work is good.  Sunday, however kicked me in the butt, knocked me flat on my back (well, as flat as a recliner goes - I had to stay close to the bathroom).

My boys have been able to run around and climb, jump, slide, and play outside for 3 full days now.  This is the healthy lifestyle I want for them.  I want them to learn to enjoy playing and living in nature.  I love it that when I am here, even when it's unexpected, they are so much more free to be outside than when we're at home in the city with some questionable neighbors.

The unexpected has hit our lives this week.  We've chosen not to let it knock us down, rather to roll with the punches and keep moving.  We are so blessed to be in this place.  In a few days our van will be fixed and the boys and I will go "home" until we're able to get back to this place more.  In another week or so I'll be back on track with fitness and have a good eating routine figured out between our 2 homes.

How do you adjust when the unexpected happens in your life?  Are you able to easily take the punches and move on, or do you need time to struggle through the changes?  Do you let yourself get stressed, or are you able to quickly retrain your mind to think of solutions?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Welcome Goldfinches! (sponsored post)

IMG_20130322_190736.jpgI love the Perky Pets review group!  This month we have been provided with a fantastic feeder for our favorite outdoor friends.  We have the privilege of enjoying and reviewing the "Select-A-Finch Tube Feeder".  Yes, I received the product in exchange for this review.  All opinions are honest, and my own.

This super cool feeder has 4 food ports that can be set right side up, or upside down.  When the ports are upside down, only goldfinches will eat from them!  It has nice, bright yellow flowers on each food port, to help attract finches, and should only be filled with thistle seed.

We put out feeder out about a week ago and waited... and waited.  It felt like we were never going to see any action from the finches!  This week we have a pair of goldfinches visiting our feeder!  They are neat to watch and seem much braver than the birds that visit our other feeders, they don't even get too jumpy when my boys pop their heads up into the window! We enjoy this great feeder.                  

If you're interested in watching finches in your yard, I highly recommend that you check out the selection of feeders from Perky Pets!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Faith & Health: Your Body the Temple (part 2)

I shared last week about the way I learned 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own."  This verse was taught as a reason for "taking care" of the outside of one's body by avoiding things like tattoos, piercings, and hair color.  This really rubbed me the wrong way for a long time.

Recently, I have begun really struggling to improve my health for personal reasons.  In that struggle I have revisited this verse and some others that have helped me to better understand my health challenges as a spiritual struggle as much as a mental/emotional struggle.  In this post I will share about a few of these scriptures and how they are forming me even now.

PhotoBefore I revisit the "temple-body" verse, I want to take a look at some other.  First off is Matthew 22:37-39.  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Okay - so I KNOW that it's important to love God with all that I am, but what does that really mean?  Well, if I'm loving God with all that I am (heart/soul/mind), then it is important to be mindful about the things I am putting in to my body.  Now there is also a second command here that I would be in fault if I skipped - "love your neighbor as yourself".  This means that I first have to love myself.  What does it really mean to love someone?  It means I choose to want what is best for that person.  I make decisions that will benefit the persons I love, in this case - me.  Wow.  I need to take care of me and then others.  This is part of loving God!

Now back to 1 Corinthians - "your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit".  My main beef was about the way it was presented.  As I am able to read it again in a different light, I can easily understand that this is not a verse about my outward appearance only.  (Yes, I said ONLY).  We DO need to take care of our outward appearance because as a person of faith, I am a representative of the God in whom I believe.  Does that mean I think tattoos are evil?  Nope.  Does that mean I think it's a sin to color my hair?  I better not, I do that fairly regularly.  It does mean this: It is important to be taking care of my body.  Taking care of myself, living a clean healthy life, is part of my testimony.  If the Holy Spirit is in me, and I believe it is, then I must choose to live in a manner that is honorable to God - WITH MY BODY.  

Here I sit, yep sit.  I am a leader in faith by trade.  I'm overweight and underhealthy.  I struggle EVERY DAY with making good healthy choices for my family.  I am diabetic.  I have 3 beautiful little boys and want them to learn to honor God with their bodies.  I also want to live to see them grow - and see them grow in healthy ways.  I realize (and this is a painful realization) that I am not always good at honoring God with my body.  When I am not honoring God with all that I am, I don't feel so good about myself.  I have some personal habits to address and some faith areas to work on growing in.  

How do you rectify your beliefs about what God desires of you, and your way of living?  Are you there?  How can you strive to new heights?

Wordless Wednesday: Caption This!

I laughed out loud when I found this among some shots a couple weeks ago.  Please leave comments below with your great captions!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Faith & Health:Your Body the Temple #Mamavation

Photo of Herod's Temple (model) found on
1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own."  

I cannot tell you how many times I heard this verse used as a child and youth in a manner that was not holy.  I heard people repeatedly use this scripture as an excuse to be intolerant about a variety of body modifications: tattoos, body piercings, even hair dye.  Here's the thing that really kills me:  I believed it.  I thought that these people, who I highly respected, certainly understood what the Bible was talking about.  Because I knew that they had my best interests at heart, and were much more knowledgeable than I, I never questioned it.

In fact, I was 28 years old before I finally allowed myself to be okay with coloring my hair.  Guess what - I don't think this was an unholy act.  I don't believe that this was a sin that destroyed my "temple".  I have a different understanding now about what this means.  I'm still working on forming my mind around the truth in the statement, and apply it to my life.

I plan to share more about what this means in my life over the next several weeks.  Please stay tuned, challenge yourself to think about your understanding of this verse.  Please share in the comment section.  What do you think this verse is about?  Is it a sin against the body to get a tattoo, color your hair, or pierce your body?  

My faith is a leading factor in my current desire to achieve better health.  I hope that as I share, you will also begin a journey toward self-improvement.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Conversation with Manasseh at dinner.  We were sharing the story of Jesus sharing Passover with his disciples.

Mama: Jesus had dinner with his disciples, the people that followed him.
Manasseh: Am I a disciple too?
Mama: Disciple means that you learn from someone like Jesus.
Manasseh: That's right, I told my Awana teacher I am a disciple, and she said "no".

Ah, yes - my 4 year old gets it.  I love hearing that he is discussing theology with his teachers.  This boy blesses me!  

Monday, March 4, 2013

My New Favorite Mobile App

You read it right, this week I have discovered my new favorite mobile app.  It's all because of this boy.  He's my nature lover, climber, adventurer.  He's my 4 year old with arthritis.  Yuck!  Nasa is on some pretty strong medicines and we have to have them refilled every couple of weeks.  We always use Walgreens pharmacy because they are half a mile away from our house, always very friendly and helpful, and we can find them anywhere we happen to be travelling.

Oh right - the app.  Walgreens has a mobile app.  Did you know that?  With their app you can order refills on medicines from your living room, dining room, office, or bathroom.  You can probably refill them a lot of other places too.  I'm pretty sure they don't limit your use of their application.

I already said it, but I'll say it again to make sure you know.  This app is excellent!  You can do so much more than medication refills with it.  You can order photo prints, schedule appointments with the pharmacist, clip coupons, check your Balance Rewards... just check it out.  You can see for yourself what all it does.

To refill my son's medicines I had to pull them out of the cupboard, click "Refill by Scan", and scan them.  It really is very easy.  Unfortunately, I had a little technical difficulty with my phone and my camera (which is not all that great) would not scan the barcode for me.  Not a big deal, I just had to check a couple of boxes telling Walgreens which medicines I wanted to refill for what person in my family.  See my whole shopping experience here.

It only took a few minutes to order Nasa's medicines from the comfort of my dining room.  I will use this app again and again.  It is MUCH easier than dialing the pharmacy and entering each script number individually, then trying to get the phone to understand when you want to pick up medications!  This really made a busy week a little easier, as we were able to just stop by the drive through and pick his medicines up on the way to his Awana class.

Walgreens Balance Rewards Card

Walgreens also offers a "Balance Rewards" program, that we have only recently begun using.  This program allows us to save money on products, earn points, and then redeem them for rewards.  We have been using the program for about 2 months now.  Recently I learned that we can earn more points toward our rewards simply by walking!  In fact, I can earn 10 points for every mile I walk - that means every time the boys and I walk to or from the public library (we do this a lot in the spring and fall) we can earn 30 points!  Make sure to check out the Walk with Walgreens part of Balance Rewards!

Thanks to Walgreeens Mobile App it was easy to get this guy to his Awana meeting on time!

Links of interest:

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Walgreens #cbias #SocialFabric  #HappyHealthy.

My Why #Mamavation

A few weeks ago my husband and I shared a meal with some friends.  During our conversations we shared a little about our push toward fitness.  The question that one of our friends asked was, "Why?" Why would we care about expanding our life?  Why not just enjoy what we've got now?  What has happened in our lives to create this change of attitude and desire to be fit?

So here it is, my WHY.

W - Wellness increases the quality of my life RIGHT NOW.  Living better, exercising more, eating healthier - all of it comes together to give me more energy.  Health makes me more able to chase my little boys around and enjoy them more every day.  When I have more energy I feel more productive, there is so much I want to fit in to my every day!  As I get stronger, my body is less prone to illness, which means I can spend more time with family and friends doing what I love best.  Wellness improves my quality of life all around - now and in the future.

H - Health means that I don't have to worry as much about how diabetes is going to damage my body.  I don't get as tired from ridiculous blood sugars.  I can give my mind other priorities - there is no need to be concerned about the possibility of losing sight, or limbs due to diabetes.  My organs will function properly, and I can spend time doing other things.  Health feels good.

Y - YoungOnes: I have 3 little boys and I want to be part of their lives as they grow.  I want to see them graduate from high school, get married, make babies.  I want to know my grandchildren.  I don't want my children to have memories of a sick mama that was laid up in bed because of diabetes, a mama that could not enjoy them and spend time with them.  I want to be active as my boys grow and continue to be active in their lives once they have grown into honorable men.

What's your WHY?  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Premama Vitamins

What's better than yummy snacks and drinks with the ladies?  Sharing a great product like PreMama prenatal vitamins.  They're for pregnant women, nursing women, and those who are trying to get pregnant.  I can't even count how many ladies in my women's group fall into one of those 3 categories (I can count how many don't - but I won't name them).  


I don't know about everyone else in my group, but I have always had a hard time with prenatal vitamins.  They're too big, or leave me feeling sick when I'm done taking them.  It's hard to find a vitamin that really works for my body.  Premama mixes into just about any drink to provide mamas with daily vitamins, and it's smartly packaged to easily be divided into 2 daily drinks instead of just one.

I loved sharing it with the ladies at my mom group and hope it's helpful to them as they prepare their bodies for baby!

By publishing this post, I received free products as part of a promotional program with MomSelect. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mama Madness Giveaway: NeoCell Beauty Products

Welcome to the Mama Madness Giveaway Hop!  
We have a great GRAND PRIZE that you should go enter.
Have fun entering this giveaway and make sure to check out all the others on the linky at the bottom of this post.  
All are themed for making the Mama in your life feel special!
I am a firm believer that mamas need to take care of themselves.  This does not mean we ignore the needs of our families.  We allow ourselves to continue nurturing others when we take some time to be healthy inside and out.  


NeoCell beauty products help mamas care for themselves!  I love the way their products make me feel as I take just a moment or two a day to make myself a healthier, happier person!  My husband doesn't know it, bu the likes it that I feel healthier too - my hair looks nicer, my body feels better - I am better able to function because I'm caring for ME!

NeoCell has offered to give a prize package of Beauty Bursts and Hair Volumizer to one of my readers!  To enter this giveaway, use the Rafflecopter form below.  This hop will be open from midnight March 1 through midnight March 20 EST.  The prize is available to residents of the US.