Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: One Thousand Gifts

Ann Voskamp is a blogger, Canadian farmer's wife, and mother of 6, and one of the most anointed Christan writers I've ever read.  This is her first book, but it is one of the most honest, bold, and life-changing explorations in the the journey of a Christian life that I have ever read.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp, 2010
It would be absolutely impossible to summarize this book well, or even list favorite quotes, because the entire thing was riveting, touching, convicting, and life-changing.  Just read it, ok?

If I HAVE to give you more than that, though, I'll just say that the basic premise of the book is an exploration of the word eucharisteo, which is the Greek word for "gave thanks" used in Matthew 26:26 (and other places) - "Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it..."  What does that word mean, and what does it mean for our lives today?  Our hard, messy, confusing, and unexplainable lives today.  The title of the book comes from a challenge a friend gave to the author to write down a thousand ways God showed His love to her, and in recording those blessings, gifts large and small, she learned that this very act may be the secret to contentment, joy, peace in a life that we don't always understand.  Gratitude.  For all things.  Because ALL things God gives are an extension of His grace.

Wow, this is such a deep thing, and difficult to shift to that way of thinking.  It took me a few months to finish this book because I'd get distracted by circumstances.  I didn't FEEL like viewing all things as a gift.  But I believe there's grace even in that - this is a journey, not a one-time choice.  It's about every day, making a choice to give thanks, accept God's gifts as expressions of His unending love.  So I'm keeping my own gratitude journal...  I don't write in it every day, but I am definitely already seeing the difference the choice to give thanks can make in my attitude, my intimacy with God, the way I feel about life.

So I really encourage you to read it.  It will change you if you let it.  Here's the author's video introduction to the book:

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Just had to post these pics of my handsome boy in his Easter clothes on the way to church!

You may note that this is the same sweater vest he wore for Easter last year!  He fills it out much better now!  I didn't intend to reuse it, but I wasn't planning on cold & rainy weather when I bought his adorable shorts set for this year.  Soooo, that will have to wait until it's warmer!
You'll also note the hotel room in the background.  Since Justin was off school Friday, we jetted down to Branson for the weekend and had a good time in spite of the rain & storms!  I didn't take many pics, but I'll probably do a separate post, so stay tuned for that.  I will take this moment to say, though, that my big boy did not have one single accident the entire time we were gone, but used the potty every time!  Very proud of that big guy!!!

Since we were on the road this morning, we decided to visit the local megachurch that's about an hour from our house, but on the way from Branson to here.  We hadn't made the trip before, so it was the perfect time to visit.  It was a very well-done operation, although a bit showy for my tastes.  However, the message was sound, the worship was sincere, and the visual media was mind-blowing.  Can't ask for more than that!  Elias, though, was in heaven!  They had a full McDonald's style play gym with a ball pit, and for Easter they brought in a truckload of live baby chicks that the kids were able to pet!  Ha!  Then they sent him home with a HUGE bag of candy-filled eggs - not sure if they gave one to everybody or just visitors.  Anyway, I'm very glad we were able to visit while we're still in the area, and Easter was probably the best time to do it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break, Part 4 - Cincinnati

Elias and I also spent a couple days in Cincinnati with my family, and I barely took any photos while we were there...  I guess we were just having too much fun!  We did visit a place called EnterTRAINment Junction, which is a huge hands-on train-themed center for families.  Whoa!  Elias' dream!  There was a HUGE walk-through model train setup that, once again, Elias enjoyed watching the trains go around, and especially over bridges and through tunnels.  They also had a large play center for the little kids, and we spent quite a while in there.  They had a big play train the kids could climb in, and Elias loved being able to get so close to it.
Really close to it!
They also had a little kid-controlled Thomas display like the one in Paducah, but Elias had a hard time with the concept that you had to press and HOLD the button to keep Thomas moving.  He just wanted to push it once and have Thomas keep going.  I still had to literally drag him away from this, kicking and screaming, to go eat lunch.
Other than that, I don't have many other mementos of our visit.  My sister and her family also came in from Atlanta, so it was neat for Elias to be able to play with his cousins.  They weren't exceptionally cooperative, though, when we told them to all sit on the bench and smile for a picture when we were waiting for a table at dinnertime.
Ah well, at least they are all sitting together!

There was a HILARIOUS moment when we were all in the car together.  The only way we could all fit was to put the two littlest boys in the far back in their boosters - an adult couldn't fit back there.  So Elias and Azlan were back there together, which went fine.  Azlan was playing a game on his mom's iPhone - I don't know what he was playing, but Elias thought it was HILARIOUS!!!  I had to capture the moment as best I could from the front seat:

I apologized to my sister because Elias was all up in her son's space, and she said it was probably a good lesson for Azlan to be on the receiving end, since he does the same thing to Patriot all the time.  Ha!  Glad to be of service.

So we had great times with both sides of our family this Spring Break, and we continue to be so thankful for them!

Spring Break, Part 3 - Enjoying Kentucky

We explored some while we were in Kentucky, and had some fun adventures!  There's a really great public playground in the small town where Nana & Granddad live.  (Remember a previous visit here.)  The notable thing about this trip was that Elias did the big kid slide. All. By. Himself.  Daddy's the one who encouraged him to do it, and Mommy didn't know whether to be proud or have a panic attack.  Proud won, but only by a hair. This can't be my BABY doing big things like this?!

The other big thing we did in Western Kentucky was visit the Paducah Railroad Museum.  We figured our little train-fanatic would find something he loved there!  And he did.  They had a really nice working model train display that we watched for a long time.

Elias loved to watch the trains go through tunnels and come out the other end!  THEN we discovered a little model of Thomas!!! 
It was a brand new display that we actually had to wait for them to hook up, but then it had a little switch that Elias could control Thomas' movement.  Oh yeah.  He could've stood there all day!

You'll note that Elias is walking around the train museum with his little toy Thomas - it was the only way to keep him from grabbing all the other things he couldn't touch!

Spring Break, Part 2 - Nana & Granddad's House

Our first stop for Spring Break was Nana & Granddad's house in Western Kentucky.  We always have fun playing at their lakeside house!  The weather was PERFECT for us while we were there, so we spent a lot of time outside.  Apparently Elias' new favorite thing to do is collect gumballs and throw them in the water.  (Gumballs are the spiky seed pods that come from the Sweetgum tree.  See picture at right.  I didn't know about them until this trip!)  There was no lack of gumballs in the backyard, and we would carry around a big bucket to collect our gumballs, and then go down to throw them in the water.  Big times!

Riding on Granddad's four wheeler was another of this visit's high points.  Here's a video of Elias riding first with Daddy, then with Granddad.

Note the difference in speed between the drivers!  Ha!  Granddad goes more my speed.  :)  And it looks like Elias is very serious, but really he's having fun - he's just concentrating!

Both sides of our family really enjoy fishing, and so we're looking forward to the day when Elias will be able to fish with us.  Justin tried pulling out Granddad's cane poles and teaching Elias how to fish, but he didn't get the concept.  At least he had fun with the pole!

I'm so terrible at taking pictures of Elias with the people we love, but Elias did great with his grandparents this trip.  I was pleased that he remembered them and enjoyed spending time with them.  Justin snapped a quick picture of Elias pausing to give Nana a hug as he ran by.
Thanks for the fun, Nana & Granddad!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Break, Part 1 - In the Car

Spring Break was a month ago, and honestly I just forgot to get the pics and videos posted!  I got distracted with potty training, and pretty much everything else went out the window!  But this week Justin asked me if I ever got the pics up...  Oops!  So here they are, better late than never!  :)

To start us off, I'm posting a picture of Elias in the car:

This picture is significant for 2 reasons.  First of all, we moved Elias to a big-boy booster seat!  He's well within the weight/height range for them, but the recommendation is not to transition them until they're 4.  Although Elias is not yet 3, and he hadn't outgrown the height/weight specs for his car seat, he had outgrown it by the definition of his shoulders being higher than the top setting for the shoulder straps.  Soooo, since he's so big, and so good in the car, and so HEAVY to be lifting in & out of the car seat, and since we were going on a long car trip for Spring Break, we decided to give it a try.  And it was marvelous!  He does so well in it!  He's obviously more comfortable, and it's so much easier for him to just climb in & out himself!  It's also convenient that I can just keep a bin of toys next to him that he can just reach in and entertain himself.  Score!  So, I'm really glad we plunged in and made the switch.

The second thing that is great about this picture is the way he's sitting.  See how he's sitting cross-legged with one foot on top, instead of the traditional cross-legged posture where both feet are under the knees?  This is absolutely hilarious because Justin has always sat like this, and still does.  As long as I've known him, people have commented about the strange way he sits with one foot on top like that.  So when we saw Elias sitting like this, we absolutely cracked up!!!  Elias is definitely his father's son!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Best Walgreens Trip Ever!

It's been a while since I've shared a good Walgreens trip on here, and this week was incredible!  So I'll post it on here...  It's not too late for you to go snag some of these deals yourself this week!

Total value of things I purchased: $48.41
What I paid out of pocket after discounts, sales, & coupons: $11.72

But then I received back $10 in Register Rewards, plus 2 free Redbox movie codes worth $2.  So that means I got $12 back - all that I spent plus some!  Very good week, especially since it was all things we'll definitely use.  Score!

I'm using the site Hip2Save for all my Walgreens planning now, so head here for her tips on what to get at Walgreens this week and how!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: Ravenous

I downloaded the Kindle version of this book because they were briefly giving it away free - sorry that deal isn't still available!  However, I read it and it turned out to be great!

Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom by Dayna Macy

It is exactly what the subtitle describes it to be...  She's a food addict that is trying to find a solution for her food issues.  Most of her exploration is learning about where food comes from and how it's made, but also dealing with issues from her past and what drives her to overeat.  I really enjoyed her journey, and it was also very interesting to me to read about someone who comes from such a different culture from me.  She's from California and non-religious, so her life experience and even what she thinks about and wants are VERY different from mine.  However, we shared a lot of common thread when it comes to WHY we eat, and many of her lessons were very applicable for me.  Great "food" for thought...  Pun intended.  ;)

Not to give away too much of her journey, but my favorite quotes come from the end when she's recapping what she learned.  I've marked in purple the parts that I connected with the most.
I see that my body, with its generous curves and flesh, is not perfect.  But it is still beautiful and I am grateful to it.  With it, I gave birth to our children and hold my husband in my arms.  With it, I cook the food that nourishes us, do yoga, sing, and write these words.

Weight can be gained or lost.  Our judgments about our bodies are much harder to lose.  I see that my body is strong.  It lets me do things both beautiful and practical.  I am grateful to have found a practice that is helping me find balance and lose weight.  But the scale is a witness to my journey, not the measure of my worth.  It is with gratitude and humility that I am learning to take care of my body, because it is the embodiment of my spirit and the vehicle with which I make my way through this complicated, magnificent world...
I did all this to free myself, to wake up, because the world needs whatever I can give back to it.  Because this is not a dress rehearsal and there is no time to waste.  And if I still need to be reminded of some of these things, if I am still a work in progress, it's because I'm a life in progress.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our Potty Process

To give our Potty Process a bit of a lighter tone than yesterday's post, I thought I'd post some pics and record how it all went down!  We began with the intention of using Potty Scotty and the One Day Training concept.  So on the morning of our big day, Elias received a wrapped present, which he opened and found his new friend Scotty.  I wasn't sure whether he'd like Scotty or not, since he's never had a human-like doll before, and I thought he could be a little creepy.  Thankfully, Elias LOVED Scotty and took to him right away.  Notice in the pic that Elias is fingering his hair - he loves to play with hair, so I think Scotty's pretty blond hair is why E took to him so well.
What's interesting is that right away Elias started calling him "Baby Scotty," so it was pretty easy to take that and run with it, since the first part of our day was teaching Scotty how to be a big boy and use the potty.  (For those who don't click the links to read about him, Scotty is an anatomically correct doll who can actually wet, so he demonstrates to little boys exactly how to go to the potty.)  So Scotty put on his big boy underwear and learned how to go to the potty, and then Elias got his big boy underwear and started learning how to go to the potty.  This didn't happen as quickly as I had expected it to, but we've already talked enough about that.  We had a little chart on the wall for both Scotty and Elias, and we put stickers on them for each achievement.  This is what they looked like at the end of the second day.  (We stopped putting stickers on Scotty's after the first day.)  Elias really liked that I put their pictures on the charts to know whose was whose!
Elias did a great job of just being willing to hang out and play in his big boy underwear!  We had the whole living room waterproofed because we knew there would be a lot of accidents at first!
I had also bought a lot of underwear because we expected to go through a lot of those at first too!  We just kept them in a stack on the bathroom counter so we could easily access dry ones whenever we needed to!  You'll notice below that Scotty is also in his big boy underwear, and he had a few extra pair in case of accidents too.  (I put Thomas stickers on Scotty's undies so that they would match Elias' Thomas undies.  Elias didn't care as much as I expected he would that Thomas was on his underwear.  But they sure are cute anyway!)
Elias also enjoyed putting stickers on Scotty's belly instead of Scotty's chart.  Whatever you're happy about, bud!  Through the learning process, we discovered a few things that Elias needs in order to be able to use the potty.  First, we learned that he likes demands to be left alone in the bathroom instead of us sitting with him.  So we would just leave him in there with a stack of books he could look at, and he'd go sometimes.  However, most of the time he still just seemed too stressed out to be able/willing to go, so I tried to think of something that would help him relax enough to let it go.  So I pulled out our portable DVD player and put in the Big Kid Central Potty Training Video that Huggies Pull-Ups gives for free*, and I let him watch it when he's on the potty.
He LOVES watching the little songs and activities, and almost every time it will let him relax enough to go.  So that's where we are at the moment!  He's doing GREAT with going on the potty, and he's actually learning a lot by watching the Potty DVD over and over again.  So we're making good progress on becoming a BIG BOY!

*Click here to order your Pull-Ups Potty DVD.  It takes several weeks to arrive, so go ahead and order it even if you're not starting potty training yet!

An Open Apology to My Son

My Precious Boy,

We have had a difficult past few days because we've been working on potty training, and it hasn't been going well.  You're not old enough to understand what's been happening or why I need to apologize to you, so I'm recording my heart here for you.  I want you to know that I haven't acted rightly toward you in this process, and I'm sorry.  I came into this with expectations and a plan of how it would go, and I grew deeply stressed and frustrated when it didn't work that way.  I was impatient with you when you didn't respond the way the books said you would.  I didn't focus on how much I love you and how important you are to me, and I forgot that the precious relationship we have is so much more important than any behavior I want you to learn!!

After four increasingly miserable days, I came to the point of despair.  I hated how frustrated I was and how unhappy our home was, and I decided that I'd rather have you still in diapers in a happy and loving home than potty-trained in misery.  Coming to that realization completely changed how I felt about the potty-training process, and it reminded me of what was important.  Love is the most important thing to me, and I decided it's ok if you don't get this right now.  So I decided to give it one more day of training, but instead of focusing on the results, I was just going to focus on love, gentleness, patience, grace, and support.

What really broke my heart, though, is that you completely turned around, too, when I started treating you like the mother you know, the mother I should've been all along.  After I let go of my stress and frustration, you didn't have one single accident today - you went on the potty EVERY TIME.  I realized that the frustration that was growing over you not responding the way I wanted you to was the very thing that was keeping you from doing it in the first place!  You were so afraid of my stress and frustration that you weren't free to try learning something new.  When I let go of my unreasonable expectations and just lavished you with grace, you flourished and learned.  I'm so ashamed of myself for putting that pressure on you, and I'm so sorry.

The thing is, though, that I recognize this perfectionistic trait in myself - I've seen it before, and if I'm honest I can't promise that I'll always do better.  I can certainly promise that I'm learning and trying to overcome when I recognize myself behaving unreasonably because of unmet expectations.  I do believe that God is so loving and faithful that He will continue working in me to rid me of these ungodly characteristics, but it may be a lifetime before I can always be the loving, kind, gentle, and patient mother you deserve.  I want to always represent the character of God to you, yet I am still just a human and I will make mistakes.

The thing I really want to emphasize to you now, though, is that God is not like me!  God is ALWAYS patient, ALWAYS loving, ALWAYS compassionate, ALWAYS kind, ALWAYS forgiving.  He does not EVER look on His children with disappointment or frustration; He never grows impatient when we are slow to learn our lessons.  Although He is the only Perfect One, He loves us completely even with our imperfections.  So although I will let you down, Elias, He never will.  Please look to Him for all the truth, all the identity, all the knowledge and strength you need.  If I ever act or speak anything other than what the Word of God says, I am the one who is wrong, never Him.

I love you so much, my sweet son, but God will always love you more.  Please fix your eyes on Him, not on me.
With love and kisses,

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Alpha Pig ABC's

Elias loves the show Super Why on PBSKids.  We watch it almost every morning.  One of the characters is Alpha Pig, and often he'll sing his own version of the ABC song while hammering out the letters.  (To see Alpha Pig singing it, watch the first 40 seconds of this video.)  One day when Elias was playing with his toy tool set, he pulled out his hammer and started hammering and singing the same way Alpha Pig does!  How cute is that?!  You can't hear it well in the video because he's hammering so loudly, but he does sing the whole song!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Bake and Eat!

I love cooking and baking, and so I've always thought it would be fun to have a child who wanted to be in the kitchen with me.  I've tried before to get Elias interested in baking something with me, but he's never cared...  Until today!  I told him I was going to make some banana bread for him and he was definitely interested in that!  So I pulled in a kitchen chair and he stood on it and watched closely as I measured everything, poured it in, and mixed it all together!  He wasn't ready to participate yet, but just his watching intently filled this mama's heart with joy!  He kept saying "Bake and eat!!"  So he definitely got the concept that we were making something for him to eat later!  There was one part he was excited about participating in...
...the licking of the spoon and bowl!  ;)