Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Treasury of Christmas Quotes



 
 
Joys of the Incarnation
 
“Most sensible people say that adults cannot be expected to appreciate Christmas as much as children appreciate it. But I am not sure that even sensible people are always right; and this has been my principle reason for deciding to be silly — a decision that is now irrevocable. It may be because I am silly, but I rather think that, relatively to the rest of the year, I enjoy Christmas more than I did when I was a child. My faith demands that such be the case. The more mature I become the more I need to embrace the joys of the incarnation. The more mature I become, the more I need to be but a child”.

~ G.K. Chesterton
 
 
For the full treasury, head on over to The Marathon Mom.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Creating an Advent Tradition

Advent candles 2008
Photo Source

One of our favorite things to do this time of year is to celebrate the Advent season.


What is Advent?


The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  (The Voice)
 
For the past decade or so, our family has been reading three wonderful Advent books that have become our family tradition, and have been permanently imprinted on our children’s heart.

Read the full article at The Marathon Mom.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Balancing Hormones Naturally {for Moms}

Women’s Hormonal Detoxification and Balancing Program
Photo Source

When I was a youngin', pregnant with our first child, I remember teasing my husband one day, quipping that 'wasn't he glad that I didn't cry at the drop of a hat like those other pregnant women?'

I didn't experience hormonal issues back then. In fact, I didn't until my sixth pregnancy.  Near the end of that pregnancy, I began feeling angry for no apparent reason.  I realized then that I was experiencing the dreaded hormonal shifts that I had only heard other women talk about.  Even still, it wasn't too bad, and it was usually short lived.

Each pregnancy following, I would experience those irritable and angry feelings a little sooner in the pregnancy than the one before.  It was getting worse.  Those shifts were so unpredictable in my third trimesters that I knew I needed to do something about them or else my poor family would suffer.  Or tie me up and throw me in the closet.

Read the full article at The Marathon Mom.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

How to Make Sourdough Starter

sourdough starter: blogged
Photo Source

Have you ever wanted to make Sourdough bread, only to realize that you need a starter?  The starter is what gives your bread that classic sourdough taste.  Mmm!

It's easy, but does requires a little patience.  It's worth the wait!

Sourdough Starter


In a large bowl, dissolve 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 pkg) active dry yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water.

Then stir in:

2 cups warm water
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey

Whisk until smooth and cover with a cloth, napkin, or coffee filter.  Let sit at room temperature for 7-10 days.  I told you it required patience. ; )  I usually go for the whole 10 days.  Be sure to stir your mixture 2-3 times a day.  Oh, did I forget to mention you have to babysit your starter?

After the 10 days, transfer your starter to a jar and cover with cheesecloth, napkin, or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band around the jar.  Do not cover tightly with a metal lid.

Up Close Side Shot of Sourdough Starter
Photo Source

To use your starter

Bring desired amount to room temperature.  Use in favorite recipe.


Replenish your starter each time you use it by adding:

3/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar or honey

Stir well.  Let stand at room temp for just one day, and then store in refrigerator until next use.  It's a good idea to "feed" your starter once a week by adding equal parts flour and water.  If you're not using the starter often enough, you may need to discard some of it each time you feed it just so you don't end up with an enormous amount of starter.

I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it's really not.  And the yummy taste of homemade sourdough is well worth it.  If you really want to be adventurous, and improve the health benefits of your sourdough (by pulling yeast from the air), find out more here.

*Troubleshooting:  If after 5-7 days your starter is no longer bubbly, or it has a layer of water on top (hooch), don't worry...you haven't killed your starter yet.  Simply feed it by transferring about a cup and a half of your starter to a clean bowl, and add to it a cup and a half of flour, and 2/3 to 3/4 cup of water.  Mix and let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours.  You'll have a revived starter!

Do you make your own starter?  What is your favorite sourdough recipe?  Please share a link in the comments.


Friday, October 04, 2013

The Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit



I am so excited about the upcoming Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit.  Last year, I won a ticket to the conference in Oklahoma and was looking forward to attending.  I even had a ride lined up with my friend Lisa from The Pennington Point, but I wasn't able to attend.  It turned out, my daughter had a very important piano competition that happened to be the same weekend.  I had to give up my ticket, that I pray blessed another mom.  Oklahoma is a long way from San Antonio, TX.  But I'm SO excited to announce.......

The Summit is expanding to Texas! 

The Texas Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit will be in San Marcos, Texas at the beautiful Embassy Suites on January 24-25, 2014.  Woot!

And to kick off The Summit's maiden voyage in Texas, we are having a giveaway for fellow bloggers to help spread the word!

We would like to give away a Summit pass PLUS your hotel stay.

Here's how you can enter to win a trip to The Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit:
  • Write an awesome blog post about The Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit by Friday, Oct. 11th. Be sure to mention the date and place of the Texas Summit!
  • Include the button above.
  • Include links to The Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit website and registration page, and the Facebook page.
  • Encourage comments BECAUSE ONE COMMENTER WILL WIN A SUMMIT PASS, TOO!
  • Link back to this post so others can enter too!
When you have published your post, come back here and submit your link. The Summit team will choose one blogger to win a room and a Summit pass based on the following criteria:
  • Creativity of post
  • Number of comments

See you on January 24-25 at The Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit in San Marcos, Texas!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Message to the Weary Homeschooling Mom



Recently, I've had the opportunity to talk with other homeschooling moms who are struggling in some way or another.  As rewarding as homeschooling may be, it's also one of the hardest things a mom will do.  And oftentimes, we wonder if we're doing enough for our children.

As a veteran home school mom, I've encountered seasons of success; when my days are full of learning, we're keeping to our schedule, and I can see visible progress.  But I've also encountered seasons of wilderness, when we've barely gotten by, and when the school days seemed more frustrating than joyful.

Many circumstances contribute to the wilderness seasons:  New baby, illness, many littles, husband's unpredictable schedule, morning sickness, the list goes on.

But in order to keep our minds and hearts focused on this very important and rewarding task......

Read the full article here.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Surviving the Government Furlough: Finding Additional Income



Previous articles in the series:  Intro, Slashing the Budget, and God's Provisions


Now that we have slashed the budget, it's time to look for ways to bring in extra money to supplement what is lost during the furlough.  There are so many ways to bring in extra cash, it just requires a little creativity and willingness!  Some of these suggestions are obvious, but others may spark an idea.  I hope this serves as a valuable resource for you.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to find additional income


Pray

As I mentioned in my previous post, begin with prayer.  Ask God to open up opportunities to earn extra money and be ready for Him to answer.  Ask Him to provide during this time, and trust that He will.  Never underestimate the power of prayer!

Family meeting

I know I mentioned this before as well, but come together as a family and brainstorm ways everyone can help out.  Perhaps the kids can pull weeds for the neighbors, or sell ice cream or lemonade to the community.  Older kids can bake and sell their creations.  Again, including the whole family gets everyone on board and makes it a team effort.

Spread the word

If you're looking for work, let people know.  Tell your church family, your community, your family that you're looking to earn extra money to make ends meet.  You'll be amazed by what comes up simply by spreading the word. 

Our neighborhood has a wonderful email loop, so I let our neighbors know that we were looking for work.  God provided, and continues to provide for us right here in our neighborhood.  My husband and oldest son have been providing lawn care services and staining fences.  My daughter and I have been baking and selling bread.  The convenience of staying in the neighborhood has been a blessing! 


Be humble.  No job is too small

My husband is a well respected Fire Inspector.  He has a great job.  He could easily have an arrogant attitude about what jobs he will and will not do.  But thankfully, my husband is more concerned about providing for his family than he is about pride.  All these small jobs have added up to making ends meet.  If we had just sat around waiting for "something better" to come around, we would have missed out on the blessings that have come from the work God has provided, not to mention the income. 


Here are some practical ways to bring in more income


Get a second job

This is a no-brainer, but sometimes people just aren't willing to work longer hours and relax less.  But in hard financial times, it's just necessary!  If your schedule allows, look for a part-time job to supplement your income.  Here are some possibilities...

Freelance writing - writergal.com and textbroker.com are good places to start
Proofreading - freelancer.com offers proofreading jobs
Pizza delivery
Newspaper delivery
Tutoring
Cleaning houses

Become a consultant

If there is a salesperson in you, try your hand at these jobs.  These are feasible jobs for stay-at-home-moms who want to host fun parties while bringing in additional income.

Pampered Chef
Mary Kay
Silpada - sell artisan-made fine sterling silver 
Young Living Essential Oils

Reduce bill payments

If you've got credit card bills, loans, or medial bills, ask to temporarily reduce your payments just until furlough (or your situation) is over.  If you have the money, then make the full payment.  But reducing outgoing money gives you some leeway, and allows for extra income when it's really needed.

Blogging

I'm so amazed at what bloggers can make these days.  If you have a love for writing, or have a special skill or talent, blogging may be a fun way to bring in extra cash.  When we were planning my daughter's wedding, I blogged full force to bring in extra wedding money.  Since then, I've cut way back due to time and other priorities, but I still manage to bring in a little extra money from the blogging I'm able to do.

Here are some resources to help you get started:
Escalate Network-Product or company advertising....earn money per conversions.
Amazon Affiliate-Earn commission on products people buy through your Amazon links or widgets.
Google AdSense-Monetize your blog with ads
Social Spark-Write blog posts for a particular company or product and earn money

Refinance your home

Depending on your current rate, this could add income by lowering your mortgage payment.  We were able to refinance when the rates dropped, helping to reduce our payments by a couple hundred bucks. 

Sell stuff

Anything.  School curriculum, book, clothes, furniture, toys, baby items, extra vehicles, etc.  Look around and find what you don't need or want.  Sell items on Craigslist, Ebay, yard sales, FB yard sale community pages, homeschool co-ops, classifieds, anywhere!  We love to take our gently used clothing to resale shops for store credit or cash.  Try places like Kid to Kid, Uptown Cheapskate, Clothes Mentor, or Plato's Closet.  Check your local area to find out if these, or places similar, exist in your area. 

I recently learned that you can sell scrap metal.  Seriously!  You can take your old appliances and a whole host of other metal items and sell them to recycling centers.  Check your local listings for recycling centers near you.

Sell homemade breads or other goodies

If you enjoy baking bread or other goodies, ask to sell them at church, work, or a co-op group.  When we were raising money for my daughter's mission trip to Africa, our church and homeschool co-op group allowed us to sell bread.  We made a few hundred dollars.  Currently, my daughter and I are selling bread to our neighborhood.  We may offer freezer meals soon. Maybe.

One of my friends, who is also in the midst of furlough, is selling breakfast tacos and freezer meals to her husband's co-workers.  They have brought in quit a bit of money, thus surviving the furlough.  Get creative and don't be shy!

Offer a class

Whether you sew, bake incredible bread, or you're a talented artist, offer classes in your home.  Choose a day of the week and come up with a price (which includes supplies) and spread the word via the Web or flyers.  If you have a special skill, there are others out there willing to pay to learn it!

Mow lawns

Amazingly, this has been our biggest source of additional income during the furlough.  I simply advertised to our neighborhood, and another close by, that my husband was available for lawn care services.  We received multiple calls, three with ongoing weekly service.  My husband and son have enjoyed working together, building their relationship while helping to provide for our family. 

Child care

This is always a good source of additional income.  If you want to provide childcare long term, you may need to check into licensing laws in your state.  But if you want to offer temporary services, give a shout out to your friends and neighbors!

Trade for services

My good friend, Kim, reminded me that trading for services has helped them while her husband is looking for work.  When I was preparing for my second home birth, my wonderful midwife allowed me to do some office work for her to reduce the out-of-pocket expense of a home birth.  This is an area where you can really be creative.  If there is something you want or need, offer a service in return.  You can offer a piano teacher with small children childcare in exchange for lessons, if you have a friend who works on cars, trade house cleaning for car repairs.  Really, sky's the limit on this one.  If you have a talent or skill, offer it in exchange for something you need.

Clinical Trials

Each person will need to decide for themselves whether or not this is an option.  But I do know that you can make a lot of money by participating in clinical trials.  Just be sure they are second round trials or beyond.  Meaning, they have already done at least one round of testing so that you're not a first round guinea pig.  Just Google "clinical trials in (name of city)" to find out if there are any studies in your area.  Here is a sample of studies and money to be made in our area.


Final thoughts to keep in mind


Accept help

Sometimes it's hard to let others know about our struggles.  Trust your friends, family, and church family to help in your time of need.  Graciously accept help when it's offered.  Don't be stubborn or embarrassed.  A true community is one that reaches out and helps one another.  It's the way it's supposed to be.  Sometimes we lose sight of that in our pride and desire to do things in our own strength.

Don't incur new debt 

This bears repeating.  Opening up new credit accounts or maxing out the credit card does not count as additional income.  It's just more debt!  Sometimes it's easier to just charge for your needs rather than working a little harder to earn the money.  I understand that sometimes life just doesn't allow one to go out and earn extra money, but exhaust every other resource before resorting to adding new debt.


Has this been helpful?  If so, please consider sharing on FB, Twitter, or Google+.  What ways have you made additional income?  Please share!

*This post contains affiliate links

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Spinach and Artichoke Salad



Skip the oven heat and whip up this beautiful summer salad.

It's healthy.  It's fresh.  And it's absolutely delicious!  It has become one of our family's favorite meals.  It's also a perfect dish for entertaining or taking to a Sunday potluck.  Your family and friends will love it.

It's versatile, so feel free to change up ingredients and make it you own!

Grab the recipe over at The Marathon Mom.  Be sure to print it or Pin It!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Surviving the Government Furlough: God's Provisions Already


We're a couple of weeks into the furlough, and I am bursting at the seams to tell you how God has already been providing for our family.  My next furlough article will talk about some of these things below individually, but as I was thinking about all the ways God has provided already, it needed to be its own post!

Earnings from odd jobs we've completed (no job is too small):

  • Fence staining - $200
  • Yard work for neighbors - $100, plus two ongoing contracts.
  • Baking and selling homemade bread - $10 (so far...more to come)

Savings:

  • Grocery savings - $100 - I was able to shave off $100 this shopping trip (I shop twice a month).  If I do it again, I will meet my monthly savings goal of $200.

  • Airplane ticket - $100 - I will need to fly back home after dropping my daughter off in TN for school.  A one-way ticket was pretty pricey, so I watched it for several weeks, hoping it would drop.  It did drop finally about $40.  Later that evening, I decided to go ahead and purchase the ticket at the $40 less price.  To my astonishment, it had dropped again.....by $100 from the original price.  I bought that ticket faster than a hummingbird's wings can flap!

Unexpected money:

  • Additional scholarship money - $500 - I received an email letting me know that Celeste's school was able to secure $500 more in scholarship money for her.

That's a grand total of $1010 in savings, earnings, and unexpected provision in two weeks! 


Praise God, from Whom ALL blessings Flow!
How has God been providing for your family (whether furloughed or not)?  Please share!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Surviving the Government Furlough: Slashing the Budget


Read Part 1 here.

The first step in surviving the furlough is to take a look at your budget and see where you can reduce spending.  Our budget is already fairly tight, so this will require even more sacrifice on our part.

Thankfully, the Lord prepared us a bit in advance.  We knew the furlough would eventually catch up to us, so we worked hard to pay off debt.  Currently, we have no car payments and no credit card debt.  Other than our mortgage and typical expenses (food, utilities, gas, insurance, etc.) we only have two fairly large medical bills that we are slowly paying off (portion insurance didn't cover). 

Compared to the average family, we're in pretty good shape I think.  But we're a large family living on one income, so this monthly loss will hit us hard.  In addition, our daughter is leaving for college, so we will have ongoing tuition payments to make.  I realize this will hit other families harder than ours.  Some have lost jobs completely, and some may lose their homes.  My heart aches for them, and we are continually praying for all those affected. 

Every family will face different challenges and have different priorities during the furlough.  Our priority is keeping up with our mortgage, feeding our family, keeping the lights on, and getting Celeste off to school.  Everything else is negotiable. 

Here are the things we have already implemented:

Pray

Pray for God to show you areas in which to cut back.  Some things that we think are necessities really are not.  Depending on your financial position, you may need to dig deep to cut back.  Ask God to show you what is truly needed and what is not.  Ask Him to provide extra work if that is what it will take to stay afloat.

Have a family meeting

Our kids love family meetings.  It's a great way to get all family members on the same page.  Discuss ways that everyone can pitch in to reduce spending.  Perhaps a little one can be in charge of making sure lights have not been left on.  A family meeting also lets the children know that life may look different for a while.  Less activities, less eating out, and whatever else you will need to cut back on.  Including your children will make them feel like they can make a difference, and prepare them for changes.

Get rid of cable

Contrary to what most of the world thinks, cable is not a necessity.  You may think that getting rid of it won't help, but every little bit helps.  We only have basic cable for $19 a month.  However, by the time you add the taxes and fees, and the second box rental fee, $19 has turned into $40.  We will keep Internet, but cable is going bye bye!  We do have Netflix, and plan to keep that for the time being.

If you have one of those deluxe cable plans, you could save big in this area!

Cell phones

Making changes here will depend on whether or not you have a contract.  We have a TracFone, so we only spend about $30 every 2-3 months.  We only turn on our cell phone when we're out of the house, and we don't carry on long conversations on the cell phones.  If you have an expensive plan, try to reduce the plan if possible.  Usually, companies are willing to work with you if you explain your situation.  It's worth a try...you may be able to save here.

Turn up the thermostat two or three degrees

We are already pretty conservative when it comes to the air conditioner.  We are a 78 degree family in the summer.  But due to the furlough, we've cranked it up two more degrees.  Sometimes we feel a little warm, but that's okay.  We can feel a little uncomfortable to reduce our energy bill.  But when you think about it, if it's 95-100 degrees outside (we live in south Texas), 80 degrees inside is not bad.  We're good

If you need to conserve energy in the winter, obviously you would want to turn down your thermostat.

Trim the grocery budget

You can really save in this area if you tend to buy a lot of convenience foods or name brand items.  Even though it takes more time, making meals from scratch will save hundreds of dollarsCreate a menu plan and grocery list and stick to it.  Seriously, the amount of pre-made, pre-packaged food I see in people's carts makes me want to take them by the hand and tell them there's a better, less expensive way.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging at all!  I buy my kids corn dogs and potato chips.  If you can afford it, have at it.  But so often, folks can't afford it, but just aren't willing to do the leg work required to save money.  If you struggle to get meals on the table, and resort to convenience foods, maybe these tips can help.

If you're a bulk food buyer, be sure you're comparing unit prices.  Sometimes, buying name brand bulk items can be more expensive than buying the generic non-bulk items.  Just because an item is sold in bulk, doesn't mean it will be cheaper.  Check unit prices always!

We spend about $1000 a month on groceries for the 11 of us.  This includes paper products, toiletries, and diapers.  I think I can reduce this by $200 a month.  We have a small emergency stockpile of food that we can pull from, and I can easily cut out some things we don't need.  In fact, I just did our shopping for this two week pay period, and I shaved $100 off the bill.  I shopped from the stockpile first and came up with some of our least expensive meals, and created a new menu.  And then I just passed on some frivolous grocery items that I usually get but don't need. 

Here are some additional grocery saving tips:
Feeding a Large Family on A Budget


Potty train the toddler

This of course will not apply to everyone, but I added it because I had been putting off potty training Amelia.  She's been ready for a while now, but I pretty much just didn't feel like doing it.  Nothing like a furlough to light a fire under me.  And voila!  She's potty trained.  That's 30 bucks a month back in our pockets.  Okay, so maybe our mortgage lender's pocket, but having a roof over our head is sort of important.  Who knew potty training could be so life-changing! ; )

Make less trips in the car

This is another area in which we can really save considering we drive two large, gas-guzzling vehicles.  We try not make frivolous trips as a rule, but now we're more cautious about where we choose to go.  Aside from my husband going to work, piano lessons, and or bi-monthly shopping trips, we're pretty much sticking around the house.  There's plenty to do around here, plus we have a neighborhood pool, so it's all good. 

The best thing you can do is figure out what you're spending on any given trip.  You may be surprised to find you're spending more than the trip is worth.  You can calculate the cost of your drive here.

Reduce payments if possible

As I mentioned above, we have two fairly large medical bills on which we make monthly payments.  My husband contacted the billing departments, told them of our situation, and they reduced our payments by half until furlough is over.  If we are able to make our regular payments, we will.  But this gives us some flexibility if we fall short.

Whatever your bills are, call the companies and tell them your situation.  In most cases they will work with you as long as you are sending something.  Just be aware of your credit card interest rates, making sure they don't increase with that smaller payment.

Don't incur new debt

It's tempting to open up new credit accounts or take on new loans as a means to survive.  Don't do it!  It may save you now, but could put you in a worse position later down the road.  Years ago, we took on a Deed for Contract home.  It sounded like a good thing at first, but we quickly learned it was nothing more than glorified renting with all the responsibilities of home ownership.  So when our house payment skyrocketed and the air conditioning until went out in the brutal heat of August while I was 7 months pregnant, we turned to accepting credit card offers to survive.  It took us YEARS to pay off all that debt.  The blessing was, however, that we have never taken on credit card debt since!

Here are more ways to reduce the budget.  Come on back soon for the next post in the series: Finding Extra Income.

How have you reduced your budget?  Please share any additional tips you may have!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Surviving the Government Furlough and How To Do It

 
Last month, my husband was given his official furlough notice at work.  As you may know, approximately 800,000 government employees have been or will be affected by a 20% reduction in pay or job loss due to budget failures issues.  For the average forty-hours-a-week person, this means a four-day work week.  (Which would be really nice if one could afford that.)
 
Since my husband works a sixty hour work week, we were nervous about losing 20% of pay.  That's quite a chunk of change!  Thankfully, it was decided that even the sixty hour employees would  also be cut 8 hours a week instead of 12.  It was still a blow, but not quite as big as we had anticipated. 
 
Eight hours of pay loss is still pretty steep for our large family already living frugally on ONE income.  And the timing of this is quite interesting.  Our daughter is due to leave for college in August.  She will be attending a classical Christian school that does not mingle with the government.  No government scholarships, no grants.  Celeste was granted a small scholarship, but the majority of tuition will be our responsibility.  And early on, we made a commitment NOT to take on student loan debt.  
 
Our mission?
 
To do whatever we can to make up the $800+ per month loss AND get our daughter off to college!
 
Follow along with us as we purpose to reduce the overall (already tight) budget, find ways to bring in additional income, and faithfully trust God to provide over the next three (or so) months in my Surviving the Government Furlough series. 
 
Stay tuned for my next post in the series:  Slashing the Budget
 
Will you please consider sharing this series on Facebook (or other social media)?  Not only could it encourage others struggling to make ends meet, but more traffic around here is potential income for our family.  Also consider shopping Amazon through my Amazon widget on the right.  I make a small commission on each sale.  Thank you so much!
 
Have you or someone you know been affected by the Government Furlough?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Standing for Life in Texas: SB1, HB2, a Car Accident, and a Rally


Sunday night, my friend Donna and I (and Grace) traveled to Austin, Texas to be a part of the historical bill, Senate Bill 1, also called The Fetal Pain Bill.  This bill proposes that abortions cannot be performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy due to the pain the baby would feel during the procedure.  Texas law currently prohibits abortion past 24 weeks unless the life of the mother is in danger (though, we all know how loose that term can be).  The bill also states that abortion clinics must come up to ambulatory surgical center standards, thus making them safer places for women.  Finally, the bill mandates that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.  Again, making it safer for women who may be involved in a botched abortion.  This bill not only protects the lives of the unborn, but also protects women....something the pro-choice folks are supposedly fighting for, yet oppose this bill vehemently! 


This photo of Grace and I landed on the Texas Right to Life Facebook page.  I don't usually post unflattering pictures of myself, but the reason behind the photo is more important than my vanity.  My friends Donna, Charity, Lenee, and Grace and I were up early to be in line by 7am so that we could register to testify before Senate, as well as register our position on Senate Bill 1.  We stood in line for two hours before registration began.  This was taken by Texas Right to Life while waiting in line.


Grace's First Pro-Life Event 
It was quite an experience testifying before Senate.  And what a privilege to be heard by the people who have the power to change state law.  We did a LOT of waiting, but when it was finally my turn, I challenged the senators to watch a video I saw years ago called The Silent Scream.  It's an ultrasound video of an abortion being performed on a 12 week baby.  It is the most horrific video you will ever watch.  I won't go into detail here, but as soon as the suction instrument hits the baby, his mouth opens wide to indicate a scream.  The Silent Scream!  This baby was experiencing the pain that so many argue is not possible.  My heart is breaking at this very moment just thinking about it. 

*You can watch the video here, but let me warn you, it is graphic and NOT to be watched by children.  It will change you for sure (especially if you are post-abortive), so proceed with caution!*

You should have heard some of the testimonies from the people who are against this bill.  If you've ever doubted our human depravity, just sit in on an abortion hearing.  Friends, WE. NEED. JESUS!  One young man said that the "sovereignty of his own body was more important than the pain a baby would feel during an abortion."  WE. NEED. JESUS!  Another young woman said that she was thankful that her mother aborted her sibling, because had her mother not done that, she wouldn't be here.  Though I believe this young woman's life certainly has value, how can she possibly believe that HER life was more valuable than the sibling who was aborted?  WE. NEED. JESUS! 

We also heard wonderful testimonies of redemption and grace, and testimonies about how the abortion industry (and it is an industry) hurt women and families.  We heard experts argue the reality that babies can in fact feel pain during an abortion procedure.  Senator Donna Campbell, who is also an ER physician gave powerful evidence to this fact. 

It was wonderful, and heartbreaking, to be involved in the legislative process.

Once we testified, we left the Capitol to head back to the hotel and to grab lunch.  As we were making our way back to the Capitol for the big #Stand4Life Rally, we were involved in a car accident.  Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it did shake us up a bit.  At that point, we had a lot to do to figure things out since we were out of town, and we missed the rally.  Donna's daughter came to pick us up, and we headed home.


Although we missed the rally, we were grateful to have been there to participate in an important aspect of passing this bill.  We heard the rally was a huge success and we're so thankful for the thousands of people who came out to support life.

 
 
House Bill 2 PASSED last night after 10 hours of debate and amendments.  To God be the Glory!  Tomorrow, Thursday, July 11th, it will go before Texas Senate.  Please pray that eyes would be opened and hearts would be softened.  Pray that Senate will pass SB1!

 
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..."
Jeremiah 1:5
 
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:13-16

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Our Exciting Announcement


We are so thrilled to announce that we will be welcoming our first grand baby in March of 2014.  We are so excited, and so thankful to God for His good gifts!

We found out during Celeste's "Happy 18th" birthday party.  It was quite humorous.  Cheyenne called me into our powder bath to ask me if I could see a line!  Indeed I did.  So one by one, family members and close friends filed into the bathroom to "quietly" hear the news.  It was a hoot.  We were all celebrating in this tiny bathroom, and laughing about the humor of the situation, all while the party was going on.  It was a great day!  And Celeste couldn't think of a better birthday gift to receive than the news of becoming an auntie!  We are so excited!


 
 
Praise God, from Whom all Blessings Flow!!!
 
 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Celeste's Graduation


On June 1st, we had the privilege of celebrating the graduation of our sweet daughter, Celeste.  This was our second home school graduation, which looked much differently than the first, but was just as special and lovely.  Our oldest daughter is a pianist, so we celebrated her graduation in conjunction with her senior recital.  Therefore, it was a bit more formal.

Celeste wanted something more simple and relaxed at home.  Since missions were her focus over the last two years, we incorporated a slide show into the program so that she could share her travels to Africa with friends and family.  It was a lovely day, and it was so special to honor Celeste and all her hard work.

(Most of the photos were taken before the graduation began, so we don't have many pics of all the fun.  We got sorta busy then.)


Celeste made a collage of her favorite childhood photos and quotes.  Our oldest daughter, Cheyenne, set up this lovely table for guests to peruse as they walked in.



We enjoyed fresh fruit with a delicious fruit dip, mini quiches, and Spicy Texas Hummus with Blue Corn Tortilla chips.



The Sweet and Savory Meatballs were delish!  Celeste made the cute food signs for an added fun, decorative touch .


You can't go wrong with a lovely relish tray full of fresh veggies.





My friend Lisa from The Pennington Point posted these cute Graduation Cap Pops on her blog some time ago.  We just knew we had to make them.  Ours didn't turn out quite as clean and tidy as hers, but they were still cute and the kids loved them!



Celeste saw this cake in a cake magazine, and had complete confidence in her mama that I could make one just like it.  : )  I always enjoy making my babies special cakes.  She loved this one!


The Fruit Water was both pretty and refreshing.  Everyone seemed to like it.


I ordered these super cute graduation water bottle labels, along with some other fun graduation decorations, from Oriental Trading.  Aren't they great?


A few of Celeste's sweet friends.


 
My wonderful, sappy husband just can't get through a presentation with his girls without getting weepy.  I love this man!
 

Our 2013 graduate!



We placed a photo and matting on the table so that guests could sign it for Celeste.  A sweet memento from this special day.

 
Our awesome friend, Geoff, provided us with a huge screen and projector for Celeste's slide show.  It was perfect.  She narrated each photo and shared stories about favorite moments from her missions trip. 
 

On a funny note, about an hour before guests were due to arrive, our beloved family table came crashing to the floor.  As we were moving the table, the legs buckled.  They just don't make things like they used to, huh?  Thankfully, nothing was on the table at the time, but we did have to rig it so that we could still use it.  Notice in the pic above that we have a long sheet draped to the floor.  This was to cover the broken legs underneath.  lol  We were SO grateful to find out that we could order new legs from the vendor.  Table is now good as new! 
 
 
It was a wonderful day, and we look forward to what God has planned for Celeste's future.  We are so blessed to be the parents of this incredible young lady, and know that with God's strength and grace, she will be a light wherever He leads her!
 
*Many thanks to our wonderful neighbor, Kari, for taking the photos.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Training Children in Worship

child praying
Photo Source


After posting the article, Dear Parents with Young Children in Church, to my Facebook page, there was some discussion as to how to begin training your little ones to sit still during a worship service.  There was also some discussion about children's church, and how that may be more age appropriate and beneficial for young ones.

There is not much more I can add to encourage parents to include their children in worship, as the author did a beautiful job explaining the importance of having your children in the worship service, and encouraging moms who are already doing this. 

Read the full article, along with training tips, at His Rib.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

9 Tips for Successful Running

Mom running 4

Running is quite an amazing sport.  All-encompassing in nature, it nourishes the body, mind, and soul.  But as much as I love running, some days prove more difficult to overcome obstacles.  Fatigue, time constraints, and our mental strength can derail our plans to achieve success in running.

As I've meditated on what helps me on a run and what hinders me on a run, I've come up with what I feel to be helpful tips to keep you hitting the pavement!

Read the full article over at The Marathon Mom or 42 Days to Fit.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Make Unbelievably Easy Artisan Bread



Our family has been going nuts over this easy Artisan bread.  We make up batches regularly so that we can have quick bread for dinner.  Sometimes we'll bake a couple loaves for lunch and make Artisan Grilled Cheese sandwiches.  I'm telling you...DA BOMB!

We also made a boat load of these loaves when we were raising money for my daughter's mission trip to Africa.  We even made specialty loaves; Rosemary, Asiago, and Chocolate Coconut.  YUM!!Simply knead in whatever you'd like.  Easy and delicious!


Basic Artisan Bread Recipe

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt (or kosher)
3 cups warm water
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, or one of these handy dandy food storage buckets*, combine yeast, salt, and water.  Add in all the flour and mix just until dough comes together.  Loosely cover bowl with plastic, or place lid* on bucket, and set out on counter for two hours.  Then place in fridge for up to two weeks.  Easy, right?  Takes all of 5 minutes to mix up the dough.


To Bake

Turn a baking sheet upside down and place a piece of parchment paper over the top.  If you don't have parchment, you can use foil, but spray a light layer of non-stick spay over it so your bread won't stick.  (The original directions say to preheat a stone and use cornmeal, and some other steps that were just too high maintenance for me.  So I pressed the easy button on this one, and got the same results.  Or at least close, anyway. ; )

Grab about a third of the dough gently out of the bowl/bucket.  You may need to dust a bit of flour over the portion you're grabbing.  Once you have a nice blob, gently shape it into a round or an oval shape.  I like an oval loaf.  Cut two or three slits on top, and let rise for 40 minutes.

After about 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 450*.  Place a pan of water on the bottom rack (it helps to keep the loaf moist).  After the 40 minutes of rising*, place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Allow loaf to cool about 10 minutes and slice up!  We slather ours with melted butter.  Enjoy your easy homemade artisan bread!

Makes 3 loaves.


*I purchased my buckets from Sams Club in the restaurant section.  But you can also find these at a restaurant supply store, or order them online from the link above.

*If you use the bucket and lid, you'll need to drill a few small holes in the top of the lid so the dough can breathe.  I had my 11 yr old son drill two of my lids.  But honestly, with my first lid, I just stabbed through it with a phillips screwdriver.  It was a great tension reliever. ; )

*Don't worry if your bread didn't rise all that much.  It doesn't.

*If you're kneading in a flavor, you'll want to do that as soon as you take your blob out of the bowl, and then shape loaf, and rise as normal.  If you want your whole batch to be herbed, you can mix that in when you first make your dough.

*If you make bread on a regular basis, especially Artisan bread, I would recommend investing in one of these super awesome Danish Dough Whisks. They are perfect for mixing in flour. And it's long enough to mix right in the bucket when mixing up Artisan dough.

*If you find that you have a doughy center, add about five minutes to the cooking time.  Remember, ovens vary.  It's also important to allow cold dough to rest the full 40 minutes.  That helps with the baking process.  I've also found that the oval shape seems more foolproof.  Sometimes the round loaf needs that extra baking time.


*This post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

42 Days to Fit



You may remember when I went through the 42 Days to Fit program to help shed some of my post-partum weight.  It was just what I needed to jump start my body again after having our tenth child.  I ended up losing 10 pounds and a whole lotta inches by the end of the six weeks.

And since then, I've continued to stay "fit-minded", making healthy food choices (but still enjoying treats now and then) and exercising.  I'm currently training for my 3rd Half Marathon. 

42 Days to Fit is available on Kindle for just $4.99.  And did you know that you can get Kindle on your PC?  I didn't until a couple of months ago.  So if you're like and don't own a Kindle, simply click on the above links or graphic, and install Kindle for Your PC.  Takes like two seconds. 

People spend hundreds of dollars buying gym memberships and fitness programs that promise great results.  Well, we all know the success really comes from the commitment and effort WE put into it, so why not spend only $4.99 instead of the hundreds that others spend?

What makes this even better?  There is now a 42 Days to Fit website where you can gain encouragement and great tips to help you stay on track.

If this mom of TEN can do it!  So can you!


*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Letter From the Mission Field

UKPOYBWO Church Building taken 19/06/11


Today was a long, hard day. There is much work to be done here among the natives. Each day brings a little progress, but then some days, it feels like we’re getting nowhere.

I’m tired. And I’m trying not to grow weary in doing good. But the long, laborious days remind me that I can do none of this in my own strength. Things are messy here, and messes require cleaning up. And the cleaning up seems never-ending.

Read the rest of the letter over at The Marathon Mom.


Photo Credit

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Homemade Candy Bars (Sugar and Gluten Free)


Our family does not eat sugar or gluten free, but when I saw this recipe in a GMA recipe email, I was intrigued.  Ever since completing 42 Days to Fit, I have been trying to make a conscientious effort to watch my sugar intake, and use more natural sweeteners for my family.  I thought these looked absolutely delicious, and I saw that I had everything on hand except the coconut flour.  (By the way, coconut flour is pricey.  I paid like 6 bucks for one pound, but these are worth it.  You can buy it cheaper online here, or in bulk here.)

These are SO GOOD!  And anything that tastes this good and is full of healthy ingredients....
Sign. Me. Up!!!

You can find this recipe and other sugar, dairy, and gluten free recipes in this book.

Homemade Candy Bars

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups raw cashews (I had salted/roasted on hand)
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (60% or higher cocoa content)
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

Grind the cashews to a very fine meal in a food processor. Add the dates, almond butter, maple syrup, coconut flour, shredded coconut, and almond extract and pulse until you have a sticky ball of dough.

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper (I used foil) and press the cashew mixture into the pan. It helps if you put a drop of oil or water on your hands before doing this. *Refrigerate the mixture for 6 to 8 hours, until it's firm.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a stainless steel or glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the water doesn't touch the bowl). Stir the mixture until it's just melted, remove the bowl from the heat, and pour the chocolate mixture over the cold cashew mixture.

Return the bar to the fridge and let it cool until the chocolate coating is set, at least 1 hour. Using the parchment, lift the bar out of the pan and cut it into rectangles (or you can use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for kids!).

Serve at once, or store in an airtight container.  Makes 18 bars.

*I did not wait 6-8 hours before adding chocolate.  As soon as the melted chocolate was ready, I added it, then refrigerated for 6-8 (or 4) hours before cutting.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Fun, Easy, and Frugal Play Idea: Masking Tape Roads

 
My kids thought I was pretty great when I pulled out the masking tape and began creating roads that led to all their Little Peoples play sets.  We rummaged up all the cars we could find, made road lines on the tape, and created a little town.
 
 
I'm telling you, they played for HOURS!  Even better, their creative juices were flowing full force.  My basic infrastructure was not sophisticated enough, so they made more roads, added a CVS and Walgreens store out of paper, and drew up a "Welcome to" town sign (of course, after I put the camera away)!  Even some of the older kids thought it was fun enough to join in.
 
 
So go grab that old roll of masking tape that you threw out in the garage after your last move, or pick one up the next time you go to the store, and let the kids have at it! 

And for you moms who struggle to get dinner going while you've got a toddler strapped to your leg, this should do the trick! ; )

Monday, March 11, 2013

Amelia Turns Two

Happy Birthday, Amelia




Our sweet neighbor brings a Thankful Birthday Tree for each birthday.  Everyone writes something special about the birthday kid on the leaves, and then hangs the leaves on the tree.  Here is Amelia with our wonderful neighbor, Kari!



I made her a pink cake, and with the extra batter, made cupcakes.



Enjoying her new Peter Rabbit Touchy Feely book.  Lookin' good with her "hairband" hair.



Loving on her PeeWee Pillow Pet, while sporting her new Tutu and Wings.



Mommy got a sweet kiss from the birthday girl!



Blowing out the candles!

 
 
It was a special day celebrating Amelia's 2nd birthday with the family!  Amelia is such a gift and we're so thankful for her!
 
 
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