February 12, 2016

Take a picture, it'll last longer. ( hopefully)

Thanks to the invention of the  iPhone combined with having 3 children we have an abundance of digital pictures. In fact, just this time last year I shared my love of pictures-particularly displaying them and putting them in books....in fact, it seems like it is a theme to the beginning of my year-how to get a handle on all the pictures!!!

Sure, I print them out and I put them in awesome photo books-but what to do with them after that!?! I mean, you can't delete them. Heaven's no!!! If there is one thing I can be accused of being, it is a hoarder of pictures. ( In fact, ask my husband, it is the ONLY thing I can be accused of hoarding. hahaha!). The problem lies in the fact that there is just not unlimited hard drive memory space in the world to fill up with all my pictures! I also have this OCD need to have ALL my pictures in ONE PLACE....last year I started having trouble with iPhoto ( it crashed continually) and so I started transferring all my pictures into folders on my computer that I would then use Photo Mechanic to look at them and sort through them. It was a task, and I'm not going to lie there are STILL pictures over in iPhoto yet to be transferred. It stresses me out. It keeps me up at night.

AND THEN...I realized I was fast running out of space on my computer ( thanks adorable children for making me take so many pictures of you!)...and that is when I discovered my new photo organizational savior: The Amazon Cloud.

Now, I have stated many many times before that Amazon Prime is worth EVER. PENNY. of its yearly cost. Mostly because of the free two day shipping-which pays for itself in one week during the Christmas season. And then this happy perk of having almost instantaneous shipping plus subscribing to their monthly savings means boxes of much cheaper diapers and wipes arriving at my door every month just like magic...Then having Amazon Instant video that can entertain my kids with hours of Daniel Tiger PLUS the fact that they now allow you to DOWNLOAD video content on to my devices-meaning we can now TRAVEL with the joys of Amazon Instant....well, I'm already sold.
 But THEN I discovered Amazon Music which allows you access to ALL the music in the Prime Library to once again stream OR download...meaning Abigail can jam to all the praise music her heart can desire. Oh. And Adele and old school Coldplay...seriously the library options are pretty amazing.
 SoOOOOOooo, when I discovered the Cloud it was icing on the already giant cake that Amazon was providing me. Sure, Amazon now knows EVERYTHING about me....what I order, what I watch, what I listen to...so it only made sense that they now have pictures to go along with it. ( kidding. sort of.)*

So, first off, go sign up for Amazon Prime IMMEDIATELY

And then start uploading your pictures into the UNLIMITED photo storage...the joy is, once I'm finished uploading all the pictures on my computer, I've been able to download the app onto my phone and it AUTOMATICALLY downloads my current photo library so that I immediately have it backed up. NO LOST PHOTOS EVER AGAIN! Hooray!
The double( or triple) bonus is I can now look at baby pictures of all three of my kids from the comfort of any of my devices at any time, as well as share entire albums of pictures with family for them to print and do what they want with....Another Hooray! (  all my babies look the same, P.S. my children are like clones. no lie.)

Ok, so there you have it: My new way of taking care of all my pictures. This is a very dear and near issue for me because I'm currently in possession of a giant external hard drive that I have NO WAY of getting into because the technology is so ancient ( read: 15 years old). It stores ALL my pictures and videos from my years at University in New Zealand, plus all of my-no doubt genius-papers that I wrote in my English Lit. classes.....sigh. I still hold onto it in the hopes that one day I will be able to some how get into this hard drive...I have hope. But seriously, it makes me so sad! And I don't want this problem to ever happen again! So friends take it from me- print your pictures, make photo books...and seriously put them in a cloud of some sort!

*Sure, your pictures really aren't private in a cloud. They could be hacked. But, honestly, we all live in such an online world now that we have to know that nothing is really private anyway...so lets live above-board and hope for the best-that's my blasé thought...please do not use my comment section to tell me otherwise. I'm happy in my bubble, thanks.)

Alright, so now that I've shared my Amazon secret with you, I need your help: during my picture moving project...I've been thinking a lot about all the little mini videos I've taken over the last 5 years: first steps, first words, silly dances, birthday songs and morning giggles....does anyone know of an awesome service that would take all these little files and make them into a cohesive DVD or Blu-Ray for me?! I know i could do it myself...but come on, who's got the time!?! Has anyone done this?! Thoughts and suggestions appreciated!

February 11, 2016


Jehovah Rapha: "The Lord who heals." 

As I type this my cousin Ryan's son Rapha is being born. Like right now. My cousin Ryan and I were best buds growing up and it makes me so happy to think that Justice is getting a built in best bud just 3 months after he was born...these two boys are going to have so much fun together I can feel it.....and really, just by name alone they are already tied, for we have seen first had that Rapha's namesake is true to His word....

A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook a picture of Justice and I making funny faces with the caption that our gastroenterologist appointment was going really well...well it did, in fact, in the last few weeks we'd dropped one of his medicines down to once a day ( we had started off with four times a day and then dropped down to three and then two over the last few months-we've been highly motivated to drop this medicine because it has some nasty side-effects), and his thickened bottle feedings down to just three times ( the evening and nighttime feedings). We've taken away these various steps slowly, understandably so, and yet with each one Justice's condition has barely changed. The kid is just not spitting up.  

I was pretty excited about our follow-up Swallow study and Upper GI, not because I didn't already know what the study would show but mostly because those were the studies that first diagnosed Justice with severe GERD and the radiologist who did those studies was so effected by the results that he called our pediatrician and urged her to put us into the hospital-something he said he had never done before with a baby. He also put Justice in the top ten cases of reflux he had EVER SEEN. All that to say, such severe GERD sticks around....sure you can treat it, something that a week in the hospital trying to figure out treatment was able to accomplish...but for the most part something that terrible? Babies  usually struggle all the way until they are around 1 year old.  It doesn't just go away.  

But it did. 

The same radiologist who did the first Upper GI was able to see with his own two eyes that Justice does not have GERD anymore. 

Here is a quote from Justice's follow up Upper GI that was done last week:
 " Substantial interval improvement. minimal reflux..." 

In fact, during the 10 minute study Justice only refluxed once...which, well, he's a baby and all babies spit up! 

When we went yesterday to the Specialist to receive our results in writing ( it wasn't worth the $50 co-pay...but whatever. live and learn) the doctor walked into the room and said, "Good Job Mama! Whatever you did! It worked!!" 

To which I responded. "No. Definitely not. Good Job, Jesus!" 
Because let's be honest here, no amount of "good mothering" fixes a sick kid. I know this all too well by watching and learning from plenty of amazing Mamas who's babies are sick....if we could wish it away, or do it away you know we'd have hardly any sick kids running around today! No, Justice was healed by something much greater than a Mother's love. And that's saying something!
No, once again we have seen first hand the gracious hand of healing. 

Thank you for all those who prayed for Justice's healing. I am humbled by how many prayed for him and cared for us, I am equally humbled that the Lord would heal Justice is such a clear and remarkable way. I realize how blessed we are in that regard and I hardly know what to do with such a blessing minus to shout it from the roof tops. Yes, Justice is a now the happiest 3 month old you could ask for and is developing some substantial rolls of fat. Sure he spits up a little bit, but most babies do...and I'm happy to say that he is now a completely from the source breastfed baby...no more pumped feedings for us!!! Let's just say the extra 15 minutes of sleep I get at night is really just as amazing as I thought it would be. 

February 02, 2016

Abigail's Whole30 in detail

Mostly for myself ( because I rarely used an actual recipe. Ever) but also for those who have asked...here is my reference on how I ate Whole30. Of course, it should be noted that I am NOT the expert and CLEARLY there are better ways to do Whole30 ( see: Abigail's grocery bill. ouch.)  But, I'm going to edit this to tell you what I WISH I had done. Ok, let's do this.

Shopping Lists: 

Whole Foods: 
( these foods are NOT essentials. They were mostly just helpful the first two weeks when I was much more "snacky" and had periodic cravings. Wish I hadn't had to buy these things because they were pricey... But I also made it because of these things...so? 

Sugar free bacon. It will cost you a fortune. So, if you're like us you'll buy four packages of bacon and ration it to once a week. I know this seems like we shouldn't spend $7.99 on a package of bacon. But you're not me. I looooove bacon.

The Bulk Bins.... I found these Almonds that are seasoned with sea salt and Apple cider vinegar. It sounds gross but Oh. My. Word. They were amazing.

Tessemae Sauces: I'm sure this is another thing one could do without. But I love sauces. And this made life so much easier to have these on hand without having to make my own. I really liked the Whole30 approved BBQ sauce as a marinade and their Whole30 Ketchup for potato dipping.
 ( Remember: Abigail had a 2 month old so I wasn't about making my own sauces this time. )

Freeze dried veggies. Not sure what these are called actually, but they're made by Whole Foods and they have the consistency of chips and are the perfect snack food.

Trader Joes: 
Trader Joes Mayonnaise is Whole30 compliant. I bought this stuff in bulk ( you'll see why later) because I did not have the time to make my own Mayo. Once again. 2 month old.

Coconut oil- they have the best.

Salsa ( no preservatives or added sugar!) 
Salsa verde ( so good)


Veggies and Fruit- we went through SO MUCH romaine lettuce, spinach and apples.
Lara Bars ( they were the cheapest here)
Eggs-by the case
Meat ( particularly the Chicken Apple Sausages and the Pork Butt Roast)
GIANT bucket of Dates to last a life time

other Store of your choice: 

Coconut Milk
La Croix ( this is at many different stores but they all seem to carry different flavors-go figure)

Meal Plan: 

Brett ate ALL THE EGGS. I only ate eggs the last two weeks because my doctors hadn't approved it for Justice's diet till then. But honestly I'm glad, because I don't really like eggs that much and two weeks of eggs every day was MORE than enough.

SO, Abigail's breakfast's were either leftovers from previous meals or:

Sweet potato plus either ground turkey or ground beef. Avocado. Seasonings. Any veggies I had in the fridge. All in a bowl. 

Baked Apples with cinnamon . ( I hear Apples in Almond butter is awesome but I don't keep Almond butter around because of Tabitha's tree but allergy...) 

*ps whole30 is not the friend of those with a tree nut allergy. They should work on that. 

*whole30 specifically says to NOT DO what I'm about to tell you. But I'm a rebel and they don't own me. Plus life is too short. 

Full fat coconut milk in the can is actually quite amazing. Keep it in a Tupperware in your fridge. Put it in your coffee and feel instantly better about life.

Make date syrup by boiling dates in water and then straining out leftover date bits, put some in your coffee as well. It will not make your coffee "sweet" but it WILL take the bitter edge off. This was VITAL to my sanity. You can't take that away from me, Whole30!!! 

I kept grilled chicken pieces in my freezer. When I was inevitably starving and needed food fast ( read: every. day.)  I would microwave some grilled chicken which I would eat in a salad with avocado  and pumpkin seeds ( any time you read pumpkin seed you can feel free to substitute some other nut because you probably don't live with a toddler with a tree allergy) and dried cranberries or some other dried fruit. 

I also would make chicken salad with my trader joes mayo plus pumpkin seeds and raisins, throw in some paprika, some curry powder and some cinnamon and whoa. Tasty. Eat on a crunchy crunchy lettuce leaf . I am STILL eating this for lunch AFTER whole30. Sometimes I mix up the seasonings or change up the fruit (apples are good too). So good. 

Throw things in the crockpot.

Seriously! Do it!

Pork shoulder with my whole30 approved BBQ sauce. Amaze.

Chicken pieces, olives, dates, dried apricots, garlic, dried plums. Awesome.

Chicken legs, onion, bell pepper, Mexican seasoning (check label for sneaky sugar!) 

Chicken, can of tomatoes, trader joes salsa, raisins, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, bell pepper. 

Then eat these meals with my standby sides of: baked sweet potato
roasted potatoes ( cut up, shake in a bag of olive oil and salt, put on foiled baking sheet on 400) 
Cauliflower "rice": ( I found after making this several ways,that to insure a nonsoggy caulflower (ew) the best thing to do was to take flutes of cauliflower chop up into rice size pieces in my vitamix ( or food processor), spread on oiled oven sheet and bake till it starts to brown a little on top.

We also ate a lot of sautéed spinach, steamed broccoli, asparagus and salads. 

Other than the stuff I picked up at Whole Foods for tons of money I also had the following as snacks...

La croix water.  (I know, carbonated water as a snack?! Yes. This is whole30) 
Get the coconut flavor it's amazing.

Lara bars ( cashew cookie was my favorite)

Dates, coconut milk, banana in a blender (yes, I'm told you shouldn't do smoothies while on whole30, but I was also breastfeeding, so several times when felt like my milk supply was going down this is what I made myself. It was amazing. I also made it for brett that one time he wanted to quit and eat ice cream) 

Dates wrapped in bacon. This is the best thing I've ever tasted both on or off of a diet. DO THIS. 

So there you have it!!! Now hand over $900 because that's how much all of that costs apparently. Sigh. Here's to every meal being beans and rice in February ;-) 

January 29, 2016

"If you don't take a picture, did it really happen?!"

This past month Brett and I participated in something called January Whole30. You can find all sorts of people doing this challenge on instagram by looking up the hashtag #whole30...I've had friends do this particular challenge before and from what I could tell the major part of the challenge was taking pictures of your meals. In a very similar way that people take selfies of themselves at the gym.

But being the little rebel that I was, I refused to do this food picture taking business. In fact, I really tried to keep my talk about this challenge to a minimal. I've had a long history of food-issues and I did NOT want be consumed by food or thoughts of food for a month.
However, the month has past and I thought maybe you, like myself have considered this challenge for yourself and so I will now share my take aways.

And so, without further ado....What I learned about Whole30 ( and about myself).

First off, my reason for doing this particular "diet" was to jump start healthy eating habits for the new year. Having a baby + the holidays had left me with one of the worst sugar habits I think I've ever had. It only got worse when I had to give up dairy because of Justice's reflux. Basically any time I I wanted a piece of cheese I'd eat a cookie instead ( makes super sense, right?! ha!)

Secondly, I like a challenge...I wanted to see if I could do it.

Here's what I learned:

1. Eating "healthy" is EXPENSIVE. By the halfway point ( day 15) I had spent the WHOLE MONTHS grocery budget.  This challenge ended up putting my January budget in the Red. This did NOT make me a happy camper. Turns out eating only fresh fruits, veggies, meat, eggs and nuts for a month is basically the MOST expensive way to eat...add in the fact that I was having to "fill up" my husband who was doing this challenge with me-meant that we were going through a trillion million apples and eggs and pounds of meat a week.  In the future I would probably only do this challenge one person in the family at a time. I was also having to feed three other people- my kids and my brother-in-law who lives with us, were obviously not eating under any restrictions...I'm not sure if that helped or hurt my budget.

2. Meal categories are not necessary.
This turned out to be a good thing, particularly since I was having a really hard time eating breakfast in the morning before I started this challenge. I just couldn't seem to find the time or figure out what I should eat. ( something both filling and fast!?! seemed impossible). I learned from this challenge that I have no problem eating lunch and dinner foods for breakfast and thus I have begun eating leftovers mixed with eggs for my breakfast. Weird? yes. Filling and healthier? also yes.

3. Eating healthier foods is time consuming.
Having to prepare fresh foods for every single meal ( unless there were any leftovers...but see the above comment about my husband being "starving" for most of the month...there were rarely leftovers) is beyond time consuming. Add in three kids plus often breastfeeding or pumping and feeding and...yeah. I'm not sure how there was time to do much else this month. I will be SO SO glad to go back to some simpler meals.

4. Eating healthier foods wasn't so hard.
I really really thought that I was going to struggle giving up some of my most favorite things: sugar, bread, rice ( and dairy, but I'd already had to give that one up so I guess that made this easier)....but once I figured out I could make date syrup for my morning coffee...life was pretty much about the same. I actually enjoyed eating this way! If it wasn't for the time and money sucking elements of this whole business I would probably just keep going....oh, and also the chocolate cake. I can't wait to eat some chocolate cake.

5. I have more willpower than I thought.
I've really never kept a diet well before this, I always cheated or obsessed about food the whole time. Maybe it was because I was eating such good foods and not really starving myself of anything ( at least anything GOOD that is!), but I didn't even think about the challenge much. I also found that I could watch my kids eat donuts and not loose my mind. Sure, it was hard, but it didn't kill me. I probably should remember that lesson for the future ;-)

6. Pre-pregnancy weight is a nice bonus.
I did loose something like 15 pounds this month. Which is, well, kind of substantial! Of course, I'm also breastfeeding so that helps a lot and I probably would have lost some weight even without this diet. That said, its nice to have such a kick start in getting back into my old pants ( incidentally I STILL can't fit in my old pants even though I'm back to the old weight...thanks, body, for changing after every kids! My hips, I fear,  will never. ever. be. the. same...sigh)

Final thought:
My hope is that I will implement some of the rules of Whole30 into my normal life. Particularly for breakfast and lunches. I've picked up a couple of recipes that I've really enjoyed that I will probably use in our normal rotation. I am MUCH more aware of all the added sugar in things like salad dressings and pre-packaged foods. Even things like crackers or a lot of meats ( sausages and bacon) have added sugar. I feel much more equipped in making good decisions to keep our family healthy.
And yes, I will probably do Whole30 again in the future...but first I need to save up money for the grocery budget. ;-)

January 25, 2016

A lot to love: Usborne Books

So, I'm getting ready for Valentine's Day. When I was growing up-particularly in high school-while I never had any "romantic" love to speak of...Papa would often surprise us with a little treat. One year I got the Titanic Soundtrack ( awwww...the late 90s!) and sour cherry candies, and another year I got earrings! Papa never fails to make me feel loved and I kind of like the thought of steering clear of the "romantic" aspect of Valentine's Day for my kids.... So I've landed on one of my favorite things as the perfect Valentine's tradition! BOOKS!

And I'm here today to tell you about one of my newest obsessions. Have YOU heard of Usborne books!? I hadn't until my cousin-in-law messaged me about them the same week I was invited to an Usborne party...and then after some research it turns out I already KNEW about Usborne books I just didn't realize it! They are a great company that publish some incredible quality interactive books for kids. While they don't major on the "plot" aspect like a lot of my favorite picture books- many of which I talked about recently, instead they are heavy on the interactive elements of a hands-on book experience and they add a certain diversity to our library that I love. And sure, sure, I've made it clear how I feel about "house party" type companies in the past...but this is different! This is BOOKS! ;-)

Tabitha is obsessed with the Thousand Things to Spot books- They are PERFECT for nonreaders because they show you what you need to look for, but the great part?! It is really developing her counting skills because usually it also shows that she has to find 5 pirates or 3 shoes or 7 backpacks. The pictures are fascinating all on their own and Tabitha will sit in the car for HOURS ( car trips to prove this) looking at just ONE of these books ( Tabitha Trott gave us the Pirate one) ! *side note* they are also kind of the perfect potty training book because a little one can sit and look at one of these books by themselves for ages while they "work things out" on the potty. haha!

The very first Osborne Books that I had, are these amazing "Not my ____" board books. They have now gone through two kids and are still in PERFECT condition for Justice's future use- and they are hands down some of our favorite board books. The touch and feel aspect is wonderful, and each of the pages holds something eye catching for the tiny tots. ( Tabitha loved with touching all the birds and mice on each page in the train book). We have three of these books ( the puppy, the train and the bunny) and you really can't go wrong with any of them!

Lastly, as we've headed into Homeschooling land this year, I've found that while I tend to major on the "fiction" books-its important to throw in some good nonfiction. Here is where Usborne has REALLY shown brightly for us! Ransom got this Rainforest book for Christmas, and while it tells you about the Rainforest and the creatures that live there, it ALSO has a hidden creature on each page that you can only see when you shine a flashlight on the page! How cool is THAT!?!  ( and there are a  BUNCH of these in the series: secrets of the seashore, secrets of an apple tree, secrets of a vegetable garden...the homeschool themes are just WRITING THEMSELVES)

So, I bet you're curious what I'm planning on getting my kids for Valentine's Day, aren't you?!!

For Ransom I'm looking at this super cool Encyclopedia for Children that has direct links that you can scan to take you to videos and websites set up for kids with even more information.

For Tabitha, I absolutely HAVE TO have this "All Better" book in our lives! It has reusable bandaids that you put on the different animals "boo-boos"-considering her ongoing obsession with bandaids-this book will probably save me money. ;-)

For Justice, probably "Panda in the park" or another one of the look-through books. You know-where you slide the slider and it reveals something hidden on each page. We're lacking in these types of books-even though my kids arguably have loved them, because they just don't LAST-inevitibly someone pulls the little slider too hard and the books get broken. However, I have a feeling with the Usborne quality-this one will last longer.

So, the problem? I can't order these books on Amazon like I do everything else ( I mean, you CAN, but it takes forever to reach you because it goes through individual sellers etc.)-instead you can find some at your local book store ( though, I sadly rarely have time to make it to those any more *tears from heaven*) OR at a house party...or today, for a limited time only you can buy them here! I'm having a virtual Usborne Sale! HOORAY!  I contacted my cousin-in-law and told her I wanted to blog about these awesome books, but that I wanted my readers to be able to have EASY access to purchasing them and BOOM! Just like that she whipped up a link for me! So, you're in luck! If you'd like to discover some of these books for yourself than you can easily buy them online! ( *it should be noted, I'll probably get some sort of kick back for throwing this party-though, being the person that I am, I have NO IDEA how all that works...but just wanted you to know*)

So, let me know, do you already know about Usborne books?!  I want to know your favorites! Just browsing the website is fun but also kind of overwhelming ( and I end up wanting one of everything!) and I love a good recommendation!

P.S. My "virtual Usborne Party" will be going on until Jan. 30 so that you can get your books by Valentine's Day xoxo

January 19, 2016

The Best Friends ever: book people.

I have so many wonderful friends, I really do, but today I'd like to single out two of them. Miranda and Tabitha are two of my dearest friends and only one small part of that friendship has to do with what I'm going to talk about today-so please do not think less of me for what I'm about to say....Miranda and Tabitha know how to buy my children's love. Heck, they know how to buy my love! And it is by regularly giving my kids wonderful gifts- and usually those gifts will include books.

And not just ANY ol' book. But really really excellent books. And as I have recently come to admit to myself that I have sadly entered a season of life where getting to go and browse a book store is a distant memory- it is REALLY important to me that I have two such wonderful friends who have REALLY GOOD taste in children's books. And not only that, they share my LOVE for children's books. And like me, they know that it is not necessarily important to HAVE a child to spend hours in a children's section of a book store. In fact, now that I have children I have come to realize that its really better if you DONT have children...but I digress. And so over the years I've come to rely on both of them heavily in keeping our Children's library happy, healthy and continually growing.

And recently when I was picking out a book to read to Tabitha before her nap time, I realized that I've been very stingy with you, my dear readers, YOU TOO should benefit from my dear friends! So, today I'm going to share with you the totally GREAT books that they have given us over the years. So, get out your pen and paper, or get your fingers ready to pin or save or share....or whatever else you need to do so that you can use this post as a fail-safe reference of awesome children's books.

I will start with those that are also a series, but that either Miranda or Tabitha introduced us to and now we're obsessed with all of them....

( best read with a thick accent) 

(we now have two of the Snowmen books and they are hilarious and awesome) 

( the first book is so very accurate about children, as a parent I laughed out loud-and by the third book, you will seriously be bawling your eyes out. And your kid will look at you like you are crazy. It will be amazing. ) 

And then here are some books that I found so touching and wonderful that I can't stop gushing about them, go get them and you will see what I mean: 

Or books that make you feel special and great after reading them ( or listening to them!) 
This one is totally a favorite! 

This one is also pretty hilarious which brings me to....

Books that make me and my kids laugh...usually for different reasons ;-) 

Always up for a good pun...

Also, these last two are just fascinating and original and some of my favorites as well...

So there we go! Some
Truly great choices!! 

And now I'm curious- have you been given a treasure of a book recently? Or found one at your library or book store that is making your reading times that much better? I'd love to hear about it!! 

January 14, 2016

Teaching a 5 year old...

One of the biggest gifts to homeschool Ransom this year- other than Pinterest (ha!) has been Ransom's piano teacher. 

When we first set about having Ransom start piano this year, my goal was to feed his natural musical talent without quenching any enjoyment. 

Well, from watching Ms Sharon in his lessons as well as following her instructions for me for his practice time- I have learned some great ideas that... Duh! I can carry over into other areas of learning! It just clinked that feeding the brain without quenching enjoyment was actually the goal of ALL my teaching! 

So, here are some of the little technices I've learned. 

1. "Don't worry about how long the concentration time is, as long as it is GOOD concentration." 

If I notice that Ransom is starting to get frustrated with a particular lesson, then I stave it off by telling him that the "next thing we are going to do" ( as though it was the plan all along) is do jumping jacks, or run three times around the house, or hop on one foot till we fall.  This helps break the frustration, it also switches his brain to another challenge and helps it return fresh when we return to the piano challenge. Also. Boys. They are physical. Period. 

2. Make repetition fun.
Before the beginning of each lesson I have Ransom pick out 3 jelly beans for his lesson. He then places them in a bowl and then as we start to practice he knows that most things I will have him play over at least 3 times. If so then with each repetition he will use his "pinchers" to move one jelly bean to each cup. When all the cups are full we dump them back into the larger bowl to start on a new repetition. This does several things: using the tongs focuses on a different muscle group for his fingers and brain. Getting up and crossing the room to move the jelly bean defuses any frustration, and the whole "game" makes having to do the same little practice over and over more fun. 

Another repetition game is I have a certain number of Lego men next to me, and each time he plays the piece or the segment, he gets a Lego man to "line up"
Next to him. He loves this particular method of practicing.

And lastly, I draw a circle/face on a piece of paper and every time he does a command as I have asked he gets to draw a new feature on the face- a nose, an ear, some hair, or maybe an arm! If you think about it and depending on how creative we get, I can get a LOT of work out of him by the time the face is complete! 

3. Lower my expectations.
My expectations on how long a practice session can be ( we're doing about 20 minutes with a LOT of interruption) and just how engaged in the discipline of music Ransom is are things that I have had to adjust as we go. I continually return to my goal of "learning plus enjoyment" and even if we only get a little learning and a lot of enjoyment in then I call it a win. 

January 06, 2016

Prayersolutions part 2

So, a few years ago I told you about my prayer cards that I make each year that, in a lot of ways, take the place of "resolutions". Mostly because the things that I pray for regarding myself and our family are usually kind of "resolution-y" and yet really I have a FAR better chance of having success in those areas if I'm going to the Lord in prayer about them.
THEN I realized that, when I thought hard about it, there were a LOT of things in our lives that we really have NO control over at all, and yet we'd really like the Lord to do some pretty exciting and wonderful things.

And so my prayer card. It is reserved for the BIG things, the MIRACLE sized things. The I'm-gonna-need-365-days-to-pray-about-this things.

So here's how I start: I get myself some pretty pens ( not necessary, but if you're going to look at something for a whole year....) and then I get a note card...something with a little weight behind it, because, like I said I want it to last a whole year! ( I've thought about laminating it, but throughout the year I will often add really big prayers that I may not have known about on January 1st...)

After I get my card, I write the year at the top ( because you're gonna want to keep this card!)

( Minnie Mouse book as table not necessary to process) 

And then we get started...

First I write "Up"
There is a really cool illustration that we like to share with people that explains our life "philosophy" so to speak: check it out here ) and my little titles stem from that illustration.

Up, basically is me pointing up to the Father in heaven and talking to Him about the things that have to do with me and my family, our lives, and our relationship with him.
I then have written all the things that are on my heart for the year regarding where I want to see our family grow and be more in line for what it looks like to be His Followers.

Then I wrote "In"
This, if you've watched the video you know is talking about those that are In the kingdom of God already, those who know Jesus and who are following Him already. This is where I put my prayer requests for those who we know and love who have some really huge prayer requests.  Of course there are too many to count of these types of prayer requests, but some just "stick" and you know that those are things you are suppose to pray for...To be honest, this is my favorite part of my card. I've got some prayer requests that have been on there for years and I do not plan on taking them off till we see an answer-and I BELIEVE that we will have answer one day!! And how excited I will be to get to write the date next to that prayer request, saying that finally it was answered with a "yes"!

Then I have my "out"

This is for those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior-A lot of these prayers have to do with Brett and my personal ministry, things that we know that WE can't do...but that we know the Holy Spirit most definitely can ( see this answered prayer here. where I got to baptize someone). Once again, I try to make these BIG prayers! Bigger than anything WE could ever do!

So there you have it! My BIG prayer card!

Another thing that is always fun when it comes to "fresh starts" is getting to start a new Bible. It just so happens that I finished up a Bible just at the end of last year so the new year coincided with a new Bible for me! Hooray! I am not one who holds to the "no writing in your Bible" rule, so all the more fun to get a "fresh and clean" Bible! Basically, about 10 years ago I realized that while I had read the Bible through a handful of times at that point, I had NEVER read the Bible in anything other than New American Standard ( the Bible version of Choice in my household growing up). It is still one of my favorite, most comfortable to read versions but I decided I needed to branch out. And so, ever since, I have pushed myself to buy a new Bible every time I finish reading my Bible through* and always buying one in a version I have not read before ( or haven't read in a long time...). This year, however, I did something even MORE different- which I already told you about in my last post). This Bible only has the New Testament-which works out for me right now because I can always pick up some Old Testament reading on my iPhone App while I'm feeding Justice. BUT this particular New Testament is set up pretty cool and I'm already getting a lot out of it. I'll show you the worst picture ever of what the pages look like:

Kinda crazy at first, but you learn to just read the part in bold ( its the part that is possibly repeated between the gospels) and then it starts to read rather smoothly.

Annnnyway, over the years I've read English Standard Version ( my favorite and would probably be my standby if I had a pick), The Message ( ew), New Internation Version, NrSV ( which I honestly can't remember what that stood for! ha!) and The Living Bible that I can remember. I'm probably running out of versions that I'd consider reading...so I'll probably cycle back through. The perk to this method has been that often just a few word changes have made a verse stick out in a new way and make me stop and take a deeper look ( often looking it up in other versions to see just why it stuck out to me this time.). It really has been so helpful in digging deeper into the Word of God!

So there you have it!! My new year is starting off Fresh and I'm already excited about what the Lord is going to do!

I'd looove to hear your own quiet time techniques or methods that help you get Closer to the Lord!

* I've read the Bible straight through, random book order, a mixture of old and New Testament, chronologically... There are tons of ways! 

December 31, 2015

Taking Root in the New Year.

Happy New Year's Eve, friends! I'm sitting on my bed-with a sweet 2 month old asleep next me. I just gave him a bath so he's smelling fresh and looking extra cuddly. I will refrain from squeezing him. Instead, I will take advantage of this moment of calm..my other two kiddos are watching Madagascar for the trillionth time and belly laughing in the other room. It was my NYE gift to them...and to me. Movies. The crack of toddlers everywhere.

So, I took a second to re-read my 2015 New Years Post and it was, as I suspected, pretty self-fulfilling prophecy. I said our year would be full of change and so it was. I also said at the every end of the post that I wasn't pregnant-and yet within three weeks I would be. Wowzers. Not only did we buy a car, buy a house, "sorta kinda" changed careers we also added a brand new person into our family.
When I look at my prayersolutions card for 2015 I'm struck by how many of our personal prayer requests were answered. God even gave us "someone to live with us" which was on my card right next to "a house that we could fill up with people". We've had my brother-in-law in our back bedroom for 5 months, almost as long as we've been in the house ( a house that we can definitely fill up with people!). It was a prayer that I'd added to my card not knowing at all how it would look- in the end it looked like my kids getting to play with their uncle almost every day. Go figure.

Sure the year had its challenges-most of which I've written about here or on other social media ( I'm all about outsourcing my prayer requests!), some that I haven written about at all-yet when I think about them right now, they all seem to pale in comparison to the many many answered prayers, the many many blessings.

To be honest, the last few months of the year have been a whirl-wind, as they always inevitably are, and yet made SO much more so with the addition of Justice. I'm really looking forward to slowing down and taking root-spending more time with the Lord in prayer and in Bible Study. I admit the stresses and business of life have left me thirsty for more time sitting at Jesus' feet.  I finally completed reading my last Bible through ( granted I'd read the New Testament 3 times through by the time I was completely done-but still! It took 2 years!), and as is my tradition I bought a new Bible-however this time I got JUST the New Testament, The Harmony of the Gospels, to be exact. It basically smashes all four gospels together so that you can see how they are the same, and how they add or subtract various aspects of the Gospel. I'm excited to use it in looking at some cool topics this year. I think its going to be enlightening.

I'm also looking forward to my new prayer card, as always I'll take some time to see what God wants me to put on there-it's for the BIG God-sized prayers after all! I can HARDLY wait to see what He wants me to pray about this year! I have a certain "method" to my prayer card that I realized I didn't go into detail in my last post about it, so I'll hopefully fill you in on it in a few days time. Actually, I've got SO many blog posts bumping around in my brain right now...three kids is definitely an adjustment. I don't know where "eating, sleeping, dressing oneself" are fitting into my day much less writing.

All that said, I know this post is disjointed-but I know that by the end of 2016 I'll have a one year-old, an almost 4 year old (!!) and a 6 year old...and no matter what else, things will be different. I'll be able to laugh at my disjointed ways as a thing of the past ( hopefully!) and my hope is that as much as this year was about "change"-this next year will be about taking "root" into that change and growing and nourishing it. Seeing our home, our ministry, our children all grow and-Lord willing-flourish.

So here's to 2016...I was hoping the word for the year would be "sleep"...but I'm guessing that's just wishful thinking.

December 15, 2015

Favorite things: free +bible+ my kid

 Today I would like to share one of my new favorite things- or rather one of Ransom's favorite things. Of course in doing so I'll also be admitting something to you... Ransom has been getting regular screen time for about 45 minutes during Tabitha and Justice's afternoon naps. This would normally be the perfect time to do some school with Ransom but the last few weeks I've found that it's also the only time I have to work on Christmas prep and get any to all my house work done... Or even more likely sit on the couch and star into space. So when Ransom comes begging for the iPad I tend to cave. Sigh. 
HOWEVER, as luck would have it, I downloaded a new app from the makers of YouVersion Bible App. It is the Kids Bible App, and it's great!
Ransom spends pretty much ALL his iPad time on this ONE app!

First off, it is has about 20 or so Bible stories that the app reads out loud, along with graphics that will move and do different things as you click on them that correspond with the story.  Then with each story there are three different questions to gauge comprehension, that pop up throughout the stories that you can click on and answer. If you get the question right you get a "star" on the story badge. Apparently this simple act of gathering stars plus some basic graphics are enough to keep Ransom very very happy! 

It also makes me happy to listen to Ransom as he plays the bible stories over and over again. So, since the app is FREE, you should download it as soon as possible! ( it's available on Apple, Google and Amazon products!) 
I, for one, will not be casting any screen time stones your way ;-) 

December 12, 2015

The new normal: The Christmas Season with 3 kids

So, I bet amidst your holiday hustle and bustle you are wondering how things are going over here at the Wilson house with a brand new baby and all....Well, I am here to take care of those wonderings:

First off, if you missed the blog post where I talked about God healing Justice then I think you should read it!

And if you're one of those motherly types who keeps track of these things feel free to read my Letter to Justice:Month One over on his very own blog ( it's just easier that way...)

But what about the rest of life?! Because we were at Chickfila last night ( as you do) and my kids befriended a little boy who's father then started chatting with me and he mentioned how with "a baby so young I must be canceling Christmas this year"...and I was all like

Because with a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old you CAN NOT CANCEL CHRISTMAS...besides I love Christmas trees. They are for reals in my top ten favorite things. So that's why even when I was sick with a stomach bug we were decorating the house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving.

There are soooo many things I should catch you up on- like homeschooling-which is back on fullish blast ( the ish is important there)....and yet it turns out while I have time to come up with fun activities like "Snowball Diagraphs" and "Christmas Tree Addition"...I do not have time to take pictures of said activities any more...sigh. Sorry.

But today I'd like to talk about Advent.
This year I knew that I wanted to do an every day Advent with my kids to make sure our focus remained where it "should" amongst the hustle of the season-and while I love all those great "activity" advent calendars where people have something Christmasy that they do each day- lets just say the 4 hour stretch of sleep I got last night was not preparing me for something like that...besides I really want our Advent to be about the coming of Jesus...so out came our trusty Jesus Storybook Bible  and this great little Advent plan...it worked out perfectly since we've been reading the Egermeier's Bible Story Book for a while now and it is nice to do something different.

Along with the bible story-which are beautiful by the way-I also know that my kids need a little "fun" so we also incorporated our other two "advents" into our time. It works out great because right now there are just two kids involved so they can take turns each day, going back and forth between the two activities...I suppose we'll have to add in something new in a few years when Justice starts to care...

The stockings each hold a teeny tiny Christmas ornament that the child gets to then put on our teeny tiny tree.

We also have this lovely Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar for the iPad that our sweet friend Judy has given us  as a gift every year since Ransom was born. It has gorgeous graphics and lovely music and each day there is a little video to watch or some interactive "game" for the kids to enjoy. They loooooove it. 

So there you have it! Our advent for 2015! I would love to hear any and all of your own advent traditions, reading material and activities!

My next blog post I hope to be a humble-brag session in regards to the DIY Christmas gifts I had to got to make for some of my nieces this year! We were trying something new where we drew names for the grandkids and hopefully added more of a 'giving' focus to Christmas this year...but somehow this turned into a "make your christmas gifts!" type deal...and we ALL know I'm not the craftiest! That said, I'm pretty happy with how the gifts turned out! I actually think the recipients may like ( important!) their gifts and at the same time my kids were involved in the making process which is nothing short of miraculous... So that post is coming soon! Stay tuned!

November 23, 2015

The Widow's oil.

One of the things that has been working to help Justice's severe reflux is "thickening" his feedings. Basically, I pump and then I mix what I pump with a little bit of formula (for some extra calories) and then a powder called "thik and clear" which mixed correctly makes my milk into a milkshake. 
We were lucky to have been given a weeks worth of Thik and Clear when we left the hospital however I knew that eventually that supply would run dry so I went to my standby-Amazon- halfway through last week to mail myself some more. 
I was not excited when I saw the hefty price tag on those little packets of thickener but I closed my eyes and pushed "order"... But then I had to open my eyes fast because my order was not eligible for Amazon Prime- 
I looked at our fast deminishing supply of thickener and had to swallow an even larger pill and pay even MORE money for expedited shipping. Now, for those of you keeping track my bill was over $100 at this point...but even though that wasn't my favorite way to spent $100  it was worth it for Justice to keep his food down, right?! 

But now that the order was made o started to not-so-patiently wait for my "shipping notification". Days passed and my order still said "waiting to be shipped" next to it. I started to panic! I started to pray that our packets of thickener would turn into a Widow's Oil Type ( Read 2 Kings chapter 4 for the story!)  situation as Thursday turned to Friday and I started calling pharmacies all over town to see if anyone had what I needed in stock with no luck! 
I started to get desperate over the weekend and tried calling the hospital to see if they could help... But I only got answering services. 

And so I prayed... I asked God to somehow work a miracle. 

Today I woke up to one packet left. I made one final call to the hospital and the lady we had worked with us when we had been there answered the phone. She told me of a random pharmacy on the south side and I immediately called. They had two cans left. 
We immediately drove, kids in PJs Info the ghetto and I walked into the pharmacy willing to pay just about any price for that can! 
So you can imagine my surprise when the checkout lady said, "that'll be $8.40."

And so that is how the Lord worked an unlooked for miracle this morning. It wasn't oil, but it was just as good.