Monday, May 30, 2011

To Win Her Heart

It's book review time! A few weeks ago I grabbed up Karen Witemeyer's first book, A Tailor-Made Bride, for free from Amazon (for Kindle). I read it in about a day or so and LOVED it! Shortly after that Bethany House sent me an email about doing another book review and Karen's new book, To Win Her Heart, was one of the options. I'm so glad I picked it! I started it yesterday and finished it this afternoon! SO GOOD! (oops...does that spoil my review?!)

To Win Her Heart is the story of Levi, a man who turns from his violent past and embraces Christ. He makes a fresh start as a blacksmith when he meets Eden, the town's single librarian. His interest is piqued. He begins spending time each day visiting her small library, showing her that his love for and dependence on books is genuine.

Eden's initial impression of Levi is not a good one. She thinks he's simple-minded and is pretending to show interest in books in order to spend time with her. She learns that a speech impediment prevents him from speaking as easily and that his love for books is genuine. This love they share for literature forges a bond of friendship that grows stronger each day.

Will his past catch up with him and ruin what he has with Eden? Oh,'ve got to read to find out!

I really don't have anything negative to say about this book! It was sweet, romantic, exciting, and the climax at the end of the story was great! I couldn't put the book down. I could just picture this big hulk of a man named Levi, whose heart had been softened by the Lord. There were times when I was like...hello...Eden...he's awesome! lol But honestly, I liked Eden's character, too. She had been betrayed by a man in the past, so her hesitation was understandable. The Lord softens her heart as well and helps her to see Levi through His eyes. There's also a nasty sheriff in this story that helps throw a little conflict into the mix. You just never know what he's going to do to antagonize Levi and Eden.

So if you like a nice, romantic western that's filled with Biblical truths, you'll enjoy this one! I know I tired eyes can testify!

*I received this book free from Bethany House for review. My critique is unbiased.
Happy reading...and Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Diaper Deals

One of the biggest unexpected expenses for us as new parents was diapers (well...I won't go into buying formula...but anyway...). We knew we had to buy diapers, but for some reason I didn't really think about how much all those packs of diapers would cost. I cringe to think how much we've spent on them since Sophie was born! I suppose you could do the cloth diaper thing, save the planet, and save money all in one. But let's face it...I'm not super mom and I really just want to whip that diaper off and not have to deal with it after it's filled with a lot of yucky stuff. Don't get me wrong, though. I have considered it for money's sake. I even thought it was kind of cool. As of now, though, the only cloth diapers I have are used as cleaning cloths.

The dilemma. How can I, a wife and mom who is trying to save money, is on a limited budget, and is trying to meet our needs on one income, buy diapers without going broke? Well, you can clip those diaper coupons. That helps knock off a few bucks per pack. That's how I started. I would go to Walmart, which I felt was the cheapest place to buy diapers, and use a coupon and not pay quite as much. Then I learned a few tricks that have helped ease the diaper buying blues. Or, in our case, the diaper AND pull-up buying blues (don't get me started on our potty training experiences!).

This is my new method...and much cheaper method...of diaper buying. I'm not attached to one particular brand. As long as it holds up and doesn't cause bad rashes, I'm cool with it. So I'll start with CVS. I love me some CVS. In the past couple of years, I've learned a lot about shopping there. They have this great little thing called Extra Care Bucks (ECBs). Every week they'll have certain items on sale and you can get back a varying amount of "ECB's". Many people do not take advantage of this because you don't realize that you can actually use this CVS "money" to buy other things with. Let me give you an example. This week I needed diapers. So, I went over to CVS and saw that this week a pack of gum was 99 cents, and then you got 99 cents worth of ECBs back. So, I bought the gum and got my little paper ECB. I concluded that transaction. I also saw that milk was $3.69 at CVS this week, and you would get $1 ECB back. So I got the 99 cent paper, gave the cashier the milk, used the ECB, paid a total of about $2.70 for the milk and then got another ECB for $1 back. That makes 2 transactions so far. Then I set a pack of CVS brand nighttime pull-ups on the counter, which were about $6 this week. I used my $1 ECB and paid a total of about $5 and then got $2 in ECBs back. That was transaction #3. Then I saw that a pack of Pampers were marked down to $8 and change, I had a Pampers coupon for $1.50 off so I gave the cashier that, along with my $2 worth of ECBs and paid about $5 for a pack of Pampers. It may sound complicated, but it was worth all the money I saved! 4 transactions in all. Yes, you can do that! : )

Another great way I've found to save money on diapers is by using I love Amazon, too. You can join their Amazon Mom program and it will give you discounts and (I'm pretty sure) free shipping on a lot of items. I try to find any way I can to earn Amazon gift cards. One way is by using swagbucks. There's a swagbucks button at the bottom of my blog to the right. Basically it's a search engine that you can earn points as you search. As the points add up you can spend them on Amazon gift cards! I also, when I can, do product reviews for a website called viewpoints. Sometimes they offer a $5 or $10 Amazon gift card if you do certain product reviews. When that's the case, I do it! When I build up some Amazon cards, I go online and look up what's available in the diaper section. I then discovered something called ship and save. If you sign up for ship and save (which is a program where they'll automatically ship a product to you at certain time intervals), they'll give you 15% off. Then if you're signed up for Amazon Mom, you'll get another 15% off. Once your item is shipped, you can go into Amazon and cancel your ship and save subscription. I've done this three times already...and I haven't had any problems! Yesterday I paid a total of $13 for a box of 100 diapers! I think that's a great deal! I've even paid as little as $4! It's made a huge difference in our money saving efforts!

I hope this helps those of you who are diaper buying!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shining light into the cave

This week I was reminded of those days just after my kids were born and what that was like. What prompted this little trip down memory lane was a hopital visit to a girl in our Sunday School class who just had a baby. Every time we visit a new mom, the memories come flooding back. I had two very different experiences with our little ones.

It's funny how you have everything all planned out when you get ready to have a baby. My plan was to try natural childbirth with our first. I know, crazy right?! But I was going to try. Well, little Sophie just didn't want to come. I hit my due date and was not even close to labor. We went in to be induced and after a day of that, she wasn't showing any signs of coming...still. On Day 2 of being induced she still wasn't coming, but my water broke. I was hopeful...maybe this would move things along! didn't. I was drugged up and all of the sudden Sophie's heart rate dropped and I had to have an emergency c-section. Things definitely didn't go according to plan! After a week in the NICU, Sophie got to come home. It was a tough week for all of us. But, praise the Lord, we had a healthy baby girl!

The weeks following Sophie's birth were pretty tough for me. I don't know if it was post-pardum issues or just realizing that everything I thought about having a child was different than I expected. I had so many expectations for the birth and life with a newborn...and none of them were met! Just about every day I would sit with the baby, watch her, look at her beautiful face, meet her needs...then cry because I was so thankful for her but felt like things weren't going according to "plan". I would pop in Pride and Prejudice and sit in my "cave"...blinds closed, curtains closed, and just go through the motions. A few weeks after we got home, my Mom came to stay with me and help me out. It took a long time for me to recover from the c-section and I was so glad for the help...and companionship! I had worked right up until the birth, and afterwards I was left at home...just the baby and I...when my husband went back to work. It was a big change! I felt guilty for struggling with all of it. Anyway, Mom came and she would cook meals and open up the blinds and curtains. She would encourage me and tell me I was doing a good job. She helped me not to feel so overwhelmed. There was physical light shining into the little cave I was living in, but there was also a light shining into my heart.

Almost exactly two years later, little Isaac was born. Another c-section...this time scheduled...and a much better experience. I still struggled with learning how to handle a newborn and a two year old. Our new baby had chronic ear infections and for quite a while I didn't get more than 5 hours of sleep every night. Let's just say it was a long year. But right after he was born, Mom came again. She cooked and encouraged. Opened those blinds and curtains. I know it was hard for me when she left. I tear up now just thinking about it! : )

I wanted to share all of this to encourage those of you reading (including myself) to be the light in the cave to new moms. I would guess that most women aren't going to feel like sharing their insecurities and struggles as a new mom with just anyone, unless it's a close friend. But we can still be a light. We can take meals, offer to watch older childen for the afternoon, wash a load of clothes, bring over a "survival basket"--a good movie, some popcorn, a book--or just go hang out. For me, after having a second c-section I couldn't lift Sophie for 6 weeks. So I had a two year old that I couldn't put in the car by myself. We were stuck at home unless I had help. Other moms may be experiencing this and would love a helping hand. There are so many opportunities to minister! Let's be the shining light of God's love!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why I love homeschooling

I'll begin this post by saying...I never thought I would be a homeschooling mom! I know every family is not able to do it. When I was working on my education degree in college, my plan was to work in the public school system or possibly in a private school. God had a better plan! He led me to be a teacher to missionary kids in Khon Kaen, Thailand. That experience really changed the way I thought about education and how I wanted my future children to be educated.

In Thailand, we had a small house that we transformed into a school. When I started, we had three children that were in two age groups. They were so close in age, though, we were able to do a lot of things together. Then we had two more students join us for kindergarten, and a few years later, we had another kindergartener. We did so many fun things together. We studied God's Word, did art projects, musical performances, and with the help of the internet we even held a mock trial. I had the privilege of teaching these kids for almost 4 years. One of the things I saw was not only how much they learned, but also how they grew in their knowledge of the Lord, how God was integrated into their studies, and how they grew closer as siblings and friends.

When I knew I was having our first child, I started thinking about homeschooling. I began gathering materials, thinking, and praying if this was what God wanted for our family. I didn't know how God was going to work it out. I knew we wouldn't have a lot of money to work with and I also wanted to homeschool with at least one other family. As our daughter got a little older, I could see that we needed some structure in our daily routine. She was learning so much already and I wasn't eager to push her too hard, but I wanted to help her slowly continue to learn and grow. God provided! Last school year my daughter, her friend down the street and I started our first year of homeschooling! We kept it very casual because they are a little young, but still studied things every week. A few weeks ago we started learning to read a few words. The girls have done great! The excitement on their faces after they read a word is priceless! I have also seen them grow spiritually. They are not Christians yet, but we've had some very sweet times of prayer and discussion concerning God, Jesus, and God's Word. It's been neat to see God answer our prayers!

Is homeschooling something we'll do through all of my children's school years? I don't know. I'd like's definitely my heart's desire. So far, God has provided everything we need at minimal cost. He's even provided care for my 2 year old while I do school with the girls. Praise the Lord! Yesterday I heard my daughter telling our two year old son, "Isaac, st-all. Stall. That's how you read it. St-all." I have no idea if that was the right word, but she was sounding it out just the way I taught her! I was so proud of her! She's not only learning, but she's trying to teach her brother. I could see how learning together in our home will bring us all closer together. More than the educational side of it...I love homeschooling because it nurtures spiritual growth and family bonding. What a blessing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who Loves Free Books?

Who Loves Free Books? Ok...*raise my hand* I LOVE free books! Ever since Tamera Alexander posted on her blog how to get Kindle for the PC (because I don't have one of those handy little Kindles of my own...but I DO have a laptop...praise the Lord!), I have been seeking out as many kindle "freebies" as possible! Honestly, I think I'm hooked on just getting something for free : ). But I HAVE been reading the books, too. In fact, this week I read three wonderful books that I got for free (and probably spent too much time reading them). I have no idea how many pages they were, but let's just say that my eyes have been a little tired the past day or so!

Can you tell I LOVE to read? Not only have I mentioned it on here a few times...ok, a lot of's one of my favorite ways to wind down. Escape into another world. And...confession time...I have also been reading to see the different techniques author's use as I am trying to begin writing myself. Yes, I've written my first draft of my first novel. I'm learning a lot...and I'm loving it...a lot! It's been a big learning experience for me, and I'm in the process of furthering my education. So far, I've seen God provide many ways to do this through critiques, advice from a lovely Christian author, and helpful articles that have targeted my weaknesses. I need prayer, friends. To be a published author would be dream come true...but I know it takes hard work, time, dedication to the craft, and good timing. I'm just taking it one step at a time and I'm going to see what God does. If He closes the door, I'm totally cool with that. For now, I'm loving every step of the way! I'll be grateful for whatever direction He takes this.

So...enough about me. Here's something for YOU! I'm too poor to do book giveaways, but I can give you a nice long list of FREE kindle books. You don't even have to search for them : ). So basically I'm going to give you the title/author of 13 books that are currently of NO COST on Go there and look up the Kindle Store on the search bar. If you don't have a Kindle, but you have a computer/Ipad/Iphone you'd like to put the Kindle on, then look down to your right. There are several options there and it's very easy to load.

By the way, these are also Christian fiction novels. There are several other freebies on Kindle that are not Christian fiction...and most of them I would not personally recommend. So, without further you go! (Sorry there's no cover art!) Get them fast...there's no telling how long they'll be free!

Daughter of Joy by Kathleen Morgan *

Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry *

Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson

Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith

Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart *

Disaster Status by Candace Calvert

Making Waves: A Novel by Lorna Seilstad

A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer

A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher

Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason

It Happens Every Spring by Gary Chapman/Catherine Palmer


How to Sew: Basics by Various

The Guilt Free 3 by Lisa Lillian (cookbook)

*=ones I've read already and liked : )

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our t-ball Sophie

Hi! I'm Sophie. Here is my team...the Cubs. We're lined up to go give high fives to the other team. I'm smiling right now because I really like all of my teammates. A lot of them are my friends from church. I'm glad I knew a lot of people on my team, but I'm also glad that I got to make some new friends.
It took me a few times to figure out this high five thing, but now I've got it down!

Mr. Daryl helped coach our team some. After each game, he said a prayer with us.

Mr. Daryl shook my hand last night before he gave me a trophy! My first one!

This trophy was worth it all. You see, I had a hard time going out in the field and hitting the ball by myself. I really liked it if Mommy or Daddy could go out there with me. Sometimes I was tired, or hot, or my parents had to encourage me to keep trying and not to give up...even though I wanted to! Now I'm glad that I stuck it out!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The big 4-0

Today is a big day. I want to rejoice in it, because things could change over the weekend. It's not my birthday. It's something I've worked towards for about a year and half now.

Today I stepped on the scales...and I've reached my first goal of losing 40 pounds!! I honestly can't believe it. Usually my weight does change over the weekend, so that's why I'm going to go ahead and write about it today. My "official" weigh-in day is Monday, but I weighed this morning anyway just to see my progress. I'm so glad I did!

It's not only a large amount of weight lost, it also means that I've lost the weight I've gained with my second pregnancy. Wow. He's 2 1/2 years old now!

Here we are...the night before I went into have a c-section. Mamacita! I can't believe my body was able to stretch that much!

And here we are...a few weeks ago. My, how we've changed! : )

My next lose 50 pounds...and be at the weight I was before I got pregnant with my first baby! I never did get those last 10 pounds off after I had I'd love to get there! That would be a huge accomplishment!! Pray for me.

And thanks for all the prayers and support! God bless!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Celebrating Motherhood

This weekend has been great! It's been a Mother's Day extravaganza! We knew we would be pretty busy on Sunday, so several of my family members came down to Eastman on Friday night to spend time together. We watched Sophie play t-ball, had a picnic by the playground, and then let the kids play their little hearts out! The weather was perfect and I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night.

Here's my sis, her little girl and boy, and Isaac
Ok..Mom...don't hate me for putting up this picture, but it's the only one I had of you that night! Besides...I think it's AWESOME! : D

Saturday we had some more fun. A couple of families in our church open their property up to all of the staff at our church for a fun day. The guys grilled hot dogs, sausage, and hamburgers, along with all types of snacks and goodies for us to enjoy. It was another great day! And above you see my little guy. I finally just caved and let him get in the water. I came prepared with extra clothes, so why not?! He loved it.

Here's Daddy and the kids hanging out at the dock. There was fishing, feet dipping, and tadpole catching going on. Sophie loved kicking off her shoes and cooling those feet off!

And this photo brings me to today...the big day. I feel so humbled that God has given me the privilege to experience motherhood. I had to wait until I was 29 to have my first, but I know there are many who wait much longer. I'm also thinking of all the little ones who are without a Mama and would love to have one. We're praying about being a forever family. We don't know God's timing or His plan yet, but we're definitely open to whatever He wants to do! Until then, I am so honored to have these two in my care. I'm also thankful for a wonderful husband who never fails to make me feel special and loved on Mother's Day! I am a blessed woman!

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seeing God in the highs and lows

I was sitting here thinking about what I could blog about today. The first thing that came to mind was--high/lows. This week has had its share of them. Honestly, I wish I handled the lows better. When something happens that is out of my control, I often feel overwhelmed, anxious, and just plain discouraged. The way I would like to respond is: take a moment to stop, pray, give it to God and trust in His promises...He will provide and meet our needs. It doesn't mean everything is going to be perfect, that it won't be hard, but He'll be with us.

This week I had the low of pushing the button my dishwasher, that was completely packed with dirty dishes, and not seeing any response. Immediate---ahhh! What are we going to do?! Neither my husband or I are very "handy". We don't know much about fuses, electrical problems, or how to fix broken appliances. We're totally helpless! We have to rely on the knowledge of professionals or good friends who are willing to help us out. I think a big part of my feeling overwhelmed was thinking about how long it was going to take me to wash all of those dishes...and keep up with the other dishes that would get dirty in the meantime. Ugh. How did God provide? In a BIG way! A friend came over and I told her the situation. She offered to stay and help me wash all of the dishes while I dried and put them away. We also got to fellowship in the process. How good is that?! I was so blessed I had to keep myself from tearing up. Then two other friends came by to try and figure out the problem and today it was fixed...just a breaker turned off! Praise the Lord! We think our little guy was the one who flipped it off without our realizing it. Ok, that's another blog post!

That was just one of my highs. The day after the dishwasher messed up, I received a free book and $5 Starbucks gift card that I won on a writing blog drawing! I honestly felt like it was God's timing for me to receive it that day, because I needed a pick me up. So encouraging!

Then we got a check in the mail that I was able to use to pay for some things we needed. Hello!

And the popcorn I just bought tastes really good...yay!

And someone told me I looked skinny this week--even though I gained a pound! Whoa!

Isaac scribbled on the carpet with a black marker (when will I learn to put those things under lock and key?!)--but we've got carpet cleaner that got it right up! Yay! This afternoon he got two cornbread muffins I had on the table, crumbled them up, and sprinkled them all over the dining room and living room floors--oh, yeah, people. He's so creative, isn't he? But...I have a hubby who swept it all up and I had not vacuumed yet (praise the Lord), so I just vacuumed and it was all good.

When I just look back at all of the lows we've had over the years...I can always see God provide a "high". I pray that He will help me to take that moment to stop and think before I react when the next low comes.

God bless!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

From the artist's mouth

Hey errybody (everybody)! It's me, Isaac. There's not too many things I love better than a good marker. It's the perfect tool for coloring. I've tried it out on a lot of different things...a couple of tables, the door frame, the tv, the carpet...but I think my favorite place is on me! Mom took this the other day and I think it turned out pretty nice. See my smile...I make marker look good! Mom was glad that most of it came off with a good scrubbing, but I'm sure I'll get a chance to try it again. Mom can't hide them forever. Until then, I'll just have to settle for any pens, pencils, or crayons my family forgets to put away. Being a two year old boy is pretty awesome!

Until next time...