Thursday, January 31, 2013

One Month Into 2013

So, we are one month into 2013, and I've got to say, I'm loving the way this year feels.  So fresh and full of joy and hope.  Good things are going to happen this year.

Bad things will happen too.  That's just the way life is.  But I have realized that when life is really crummy or a day is just bad-awful, God is still there, and He is oh so good to Victoria Keen.

My goal for 2013 is not to have 365 amazing days where everything goes my way.  That won't happen.  My goal is to be able to recall all God has done for me.  To remember that His blessings never cease.  To find the amazing in every day, even if most of it really stunk.

2013, you rock.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review of Little Passports


I was really excited to try out Little Passports.



From their website,

"Every month, our globetrotting characters Sam and Sofia visit a new country and send your 
child an exciting package in the mail including a letter, fun and unique souvenirs, stickers, 
photos, access to online games/activities in our Boarding Zone and more! A total of 24 different adventures available."

Plans start at $11 a month (if you sign up for a year in advance and pay up front) and go up to $14 a month.

I was so pumped when it arrived.  I was planning to write a unit study each month around each package,
and had already checked out library books and videos, and created some lessons to go along with the first country (Brazil).

I was so disappointed.

First of all, this is a difficult item to have kids share.  There is one letter, one souvenier, one passport, etc.  So if you want each kid to really experience the kit, you will have to order more than one.

Second, for about $140 a year, this was just too simple and plain.  I could print up a neat letter and make passports with the kids, which would not only be cheaper but also involve them more than the kit does.  The kit provides about 5 minutes of entertainment before it is discarded, and my kids are the kind of kids who can spend hours making fun out of a cardboard box and empty wrapping paper tube.

My recommendation would be to skip the Little Passports program.  You will be able to do so much more in learning about other countries in ways that are much more fun with the money you'll save.

 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Glorification Of Busy

How many times have you asked someone how they are doing, and they respond "Busy!"

I understand busy.  Most people do.  Especially us Moms- we are expected to do it all (and with a smile, and in skinny jeans and a face full of makeup).

But what if we STOPPED being so busy?  Would everything collapse around us?  I don't think so.

Taking on too much leads to stress and frustration which leads to feeling tired and sick and strained relationships.

I have found that the less I do, the more I am able to relax and enjoy my kids and my home.  I am not talking about sitting here in my yoga pants (which I never do yoga in) seven days a week, I am talking about choosing NOT being away from home five nights a week, eating dinner on the run, going to 3 birthday parties each weekend, etc.  It's too much for us and it is too much for the kids!

I try to take commitments on a 'quality not quantity' basis.  This way I can give more of myself to whatever it is I am doing and the stress level goes way down.  I have found myself looking forward to going to things instead of the dread I used to feel when I had spread myself too thin.

If you find yourself feeling too busy, look for something you can eliminate.  You'll probably find yourself heaving a sigh of relief!

What keeps you busy that isn't adding to your life?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Room Is My Stage

It is difficult to accurately describe the moment of sheer panic one has when during a complicated dance routine done in the privacy of your bedroom as you get ready to go somewhere, you find yourself flinging your body into a position it might not leave without serious injury and you think "I didn't know until now that I was too old and out of shape for this. And it is too late."


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sometimes

When you have been in darkness, you know when it is finally light. When you have found something genuine, sometimes you realize that what you've had all along was counterfeit. Light and truth are beautiful things.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bad Band Names #3

So, we are not big ham eaters. We ordered a supreme pizza the other day and asked for no Canadian bacon. When I bit into it I thought I tasted it and I went "Ugh, ham!" Upon closer inspection it was a pepperoni. Philip yelled "FALSE HAM!"  We decided that would be a great bad band name.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Light and Love


Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

                                             -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let's be light and love.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

How do you achieve a warm, cozy home?

I have an idea of how I want my home to feel.  Warm, cozy and homey are the top descriptors I want and for whatever reason, I can't seem to accomplish it.

What about your childhood home or favorite retreat made it feel warm and cozy to you?  What have you done to your home to make it feel cozy?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Simple Money Saving Tip- Shop Around and Leverage Your Deals

Here is a tip so simple, I can't believe I just tried it for the first time.

A few weeks ago, someone suggested on a money saving forum that you should always be shopping around for the best deals.  I thought "Yes, I should.  Why don't I?"

It so happens that it was time for us to pay our 6 month car insurance premium.  Stuff like this I plan and save for, but as we all know- things come up.  I wasn't looking forward to paying it, and started wondering if I was getting a good deal or not.  I had shopped car insurance before, but it had been a while.  So, I did it again- and found a great deal.  Then I thought, "My company probably doesn't want to lose me.  Maybe they'll match it."

I called my car insurance company, told them what I'd been quoted, and asked them to match the price if they wanted to keep me.  Not only did they match it, they offered me a MUCH lower price- for the same coverage.  A few minutes online and on the phone saved me more than 25% of my premium.

I was feeling good.  Saving money is invigorating.  So I started shopping around for an internet quote.  I got a great one and called my home internet provider.  Not only did they chop about 20% off of my bill, but they gave me a faster internet speed.  BAM!

I called my cell phone company and said "I need a deal."  They looked over my usage and my previous bills and found ways to save me money.  Then they recommended that I see if my husband's company offered a discount.  THEY DID.

All I had to do was ask and do a little grunt work online.  And I saved a bundle.  I had to share!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What I Know About Parenting (Today)

Parenting is hard and beautiful and thankless and exhausting and exhilarating and so much more that I don't fully understand.

Sometimes I realize that I know nothing about parenting except that I love them and God loves me and them and because of that, it's okay that I don't know something or get it right all the time.  I will learn.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth

The other day, Gracie and Philip were bickering.  Gracie was the one in the wrong this time, but I was practicing a new technique called 'letting them work it out'.  I have a tendency to jump in and try to solve everything for them, which won't teach them skills they will need in problem solving and communication.

Philip threw out 1 Peter 3:8 at Gracie.  I don't remember exactly how he phrased it or which version he used but here's the gist:  "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble."

Gracie groaned and said "Philip, I don't like it when you use memory verses like that!  I only like memory verses sometimes!!"  Like when they make her feel warm and fuzzy, or are used to teach her brother something, perhaps?

I suppressed a giggle.  Isn't that like all of us?  We are going along on our way and suddenly, the truth about ourselves comes and hits us in the face.  Then everything changes.  Sometimes we don't like this new found enlightenment, because it means we will have to be stretched or change.  We liked the truth when it was for someone else, or when it meant something good for us.

But in the end, it does usually mean something good for us.  I've come to the place where I love correction.  I love truth.  It might take me a while, at first I might groan and say "UGH, I don't like the truth right now!  I only like it when it serves me!"  But correction given in love and yes, truth, does serve me.  I will become a better person.  A better mother and friend and spouse.

I'm on a truth-finding, truth living mission.  I will live an authentic life.  This might mean some 'tough truths' are unearthed for me to work through.  But it is all for the better and in the end, it will be grand.

What are some 'hard' truths that changed your life?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Homeschool Moments #1

Homeschool Nerd Moment of the day...(Or, "Why don't my kids always think my jokes are funny?")

Philip is doing a unit study on planets.  (Have I mentioned that it is VERY confusing when some materials list Pluto and some do not?  I do not understand the Pluto hate.  I almost feel like including it so it won't get its feelings hurt.  One can't help being dwarfy.)

Philip was wanting the heavens to answer his questions for him instead of doing his research.  Looking up to the sky, Philip gestured upward and yelled "WHICH PLANET HAS RINGS?"  Immediately, I was struck with an amazing quip.  I just needed Philip to figure out the answer.

A few minutes later, he exclaimed "SATURN!" and I pounced on the moment and squealed with much glee, "God liked Saturn so much, He put a ring on it!"  Then I laughed and laughed and Philip did not.

Whatever. I am super funny.  My sense of humor would probably be very much appreciated on Pluto.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pretty

I first saw this video a few weeks ago and have not been able to get it out of my mind.  I long to successfully teach my children that their value is not in the exterior.  I catch myself telling Gracie she is pretty more often than I'd like.  Yes, she is cute and yes I think she is pretty but more than that, she is kind and gentle and sweet.  I want to do everything in my power to reinforce the qualities in her that make her beautiful in an eternally lasting way.  

More mornings than not growing up, my appearance was dissected- 
"Why aren't you wearing mascara?  Your eyes disappear into your face without it." 
"Why do you wear those pants?  They add twenty pounds.  It's like you don't want to look good."  
"You can't dress like other kids and teenagers, you are classically pretty in an adult way and you should dress like it."  
"Don't put your hands in your pockets.  It makes you look wide."
"Your hair color doesn't flatter your skin tone."
"Every time you put that skirt on, we go through this, it does not look good on you." 
"DON'T WEAR HORIZONTAL STRIPES."

When I was being disciplined, my punishment was to dress me in clothing that was unattractive and my mascara and eyeliner were taken away.  To be unpretty was considered the biggest punishment and sin of all.  

I was wearing leather mini skirts and halter dresses by first grade.  By age 11, I put myself on a diet to get down to 95 pounds from 100.  (I accomplished this goal).  I was encouraged to date early and the biggest achievement coming home from school was not an A, but having been asked to the movies the next Friday night.  Sexy was who I should be.  Attractive was who I should be.

In reality I had no idea who I was or who I should be.

I'm almost 30 years old, and I know now- I am more than pretty.  I am kind and smart, and a loving wife and mother and child of God.  I'm also flawed, but just as pretty does not define me, neither do my shortcomings because I focus my efforts on who I am called to be and am on a constant journey to improve my heart.

To be ugly inside is the worst transgression.  Not horizontal stripes.  Sometimes I still have to tell myself this.  I hope Gracie won't.  

   A note before you watch: there is language around 2:40





Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Sugar cookies are a favorite around here.  I made them probably four times this past Christmas season and none turned out just right.  There were actually several cookie disasters this holiday season.  Finally, I found the recipe that I will use from now on.  I got it from All Recipes and altered it very slightly.  This makes two dozen cookies.


2 3/4 c all-purpose flour           1 1/2 c white sugar
1 tsp baking soda                    1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder             1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c butter, softened

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
3.  Beat in egg and vanilla.
4.  Add flour, baking soda and baking powder.
5.  Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls, and place onto cookie sheet.
6.  Bake 12-15 minutes.




A cookie disaster from earlier in the season.  

Another cookie disaster.  :(

Look how pretty!  And they tasted delicious too.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Swagbucks Makes Me Money

One of the reasons I write this blog is because I want to create a community of strong women who are able to do what they have been called to do.  I know many of us have been called to be stay at home moms- and doing that usually means major budgeting.  I need to find ways to save money, and when I do, I will pass those along.  I've recently found a way to make money though, which is really neat.  It is not major money but it adds up quickly.

I was introduced to Swagbucks about three weeks ago.   I started slowly but earned $15 in Amazon gift cards in the first two weeks.  As I am getting more familiar with it, the more I am able to make in a short period of time.  I have now hit $25 in Amazon gift cards.

Swagbucks lets you earn money for searching the web and doing other online activities.  The majority of my money is earned through SBTV, which I run on my mobile phone.  I run it while I wash clothes, make dinner, waste time on Facebook, etc.

The second most profitable way I earn is to search the web.  I am already doing this.  By setting up my browser to search via Swagbucks vs. Google, I earn money for the searches I was already doing.

There are also special offers, surveys and daily polls available.  You also get money for referrals (so if you sign up, please click on the link I gave above)!

Amazon gift cards are not the only prize available, but that is what I choose most often because I get a lot of great deals on Amazon and am a Prime member.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Ear To Hear

I read a quote recently by Maya Angelou.  "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and found yourself thinking about what you want to say next instead of truly listening to the person you're talking to?  I have found myself doing this on more occasions than I would like to count.

My personality tends to bubble over and if not tempered, can get a little overwhelming.  My Uncle Brian, someone I respect deeply, sent me the book How To Win Friends And Influence People after he noticed me begin my journey to adulthood without the people skills and communication skills I needed.  I learned so much from this book and recommend it highly.  Philip will be reading this book soon, and when Gracie is older, she will as well.  Things I learned then still come to mind.  I mess up a lot still, by talking too much or not listening enough, but I cannot imagine how much worse off I would be if I didn't have the building blocks I'd gotten then.

Something else we miss out on if we are constantly talking is the sound of God.  He is here, talking to us constantly.  Can we hear Him?  Are we even listening?

I've been encouraged to keep my home purposefully quiet for a period of time each day so that God and my kids and my husband all have no competition for my attention.  No radio, tv, nothing.  I'm available to listen.

What would we learn about our children if we listened more?  They're telling us what we need to know, with their actions and their words.

Oh, if we would really hear what God is saying to us. What our spouse is saying to us.

I want to improve my communication skills and fine tune them by listening when people talk, and when they don't.  Often what people don't say says so much.  By watching what people do.  Actions really do speak so loudly!

I'd love to hear about your favorite book, or a book that changed your life!  Please tell me about it below in the comments.