Black Friday Game Plan

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(Those are all the presents I have already wrapped this year.)

Happy Black Friday!  Yes, I am one of those crazy Black Friday shoppers (except I actually don't get too crazy).  Shopping on Black Friday something I have been doing for several years, and I just like the hustle and bustle.  Plus it's a good way to cut down on my Christmas costs!  Which is helpful this year, because the Christmas budget is not what it usually is.  I usually save up for Christmas throughout the year, but I wasn't able to save anything for the first six months of 2014 between saving for Clyde's birth and maternity leave.

Despite my love of Black Friday shopping, I actually don't have too much to get this year.  Most of our Christmas gifts are already bought!  There are a few things I'll look for today though.

Toys For Clyde.  He's only seven months old, so I know he won't know the difference, but I feel like it's a matter of principle - I still have to give him some presents!  I'm trying to think of little toys that we might not have received for the other two.  One I was thinking of is one of those little switch/pop-up toys, that has like four or five different switches to pull - that sounds really confusing.  Like this:

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I'm open to any other suggestions.  Babies are so hard to shop for.

Movies.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas if we don't have a few new movies to watch.  Growing up, we always got movies, and we'd enjoy them during the week between Christmas and New Year's.  It felt like an extension of the Christmas fun.  You can get a lot of great movies on Amazon for cheap anyway, and I'm hoping for even better Amazon deals on Black Friday.  "Here Comes The Boom" and "Draft Day" are on my list of possibilities…

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A Game.  We kind of have a tradition of getting a new game for Christmas, but this year I might get two - one we can play with the kids, and one for Derek and me.  I'm thinking "Chutes and Ladders" for the kids, but I'm not sure what else.  Favorite family games, anyone?
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That is pretty much it.  It's a short list this year.  I will probably do mostly online shopping, but I'll also head to Target on Black Friday for Clyde's toys, because going out on Black Friday is just fun to me.  Plus I think they are having a 50% off deal on Baby Einstein toys.  I'll keep you posted on Instagram and Twitter.

Do you shop on Black Friday?  Are you hardcore, or do you just shop for fun?  What is your game plan?


I am also over on TommyNelson.com today, talking about ways to make Black Friday a blessing (because it is notorious for the opposite).  Head on over there to check it out (and leave me a comment, if you are so inclined)!


5 Thing I Want My Kids To Be Thankful For

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With Thanksgiving coming up (tomorrow!), I've been thinking about how I want to teach my kids to be thankful to God for their blessings.  There are so many creative ways to do that, and maybe I'll compile a list of ideas at a future time, but today I just wanted to write about some things that I want my kids to be thankful for.  I think when we consistently demonstrate gratitude and talk to kids about specific blessings, they are more likely to be thankful for those things as they grow.

I want them to be thankful for Jesus, and what He did on the cross for us.  I think it is so fitting that a holiday all about being thankful to God falls right before the season where we celebrate the birth of His Son.  It is so important to me that I teach my kids about Jesus's sacrifice in coming to earth and dying for our sins (and rising again!), and I think Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to refocus on that right before the Christmas craziness!

I want my kids to be thankful for living in America.  I still believe that America is the greatest nation on earth, with more opportunities and freedoms than any other place in the world.  It is an extraordinary blessing to be born and raised in such a country, that recognizes our God-given rights and has a rich heritage and history of being founded on biblical principles.  They also have the opportunity to control their own government, and not very many people can say that.  Only a small percentage of people in the world have what we have in this country, and I want my kids to know and appreciate that.

I want them to be thankful for their family, including their extended family.  For some it may be hard to be grateful for family, because although family members can be a source of some of the greatest blessings, they can also be involved in some of the deepest pains.  But God placed us in families for a reason, and it is a blessing to have living family and good family relationships.  Families are messy, but they are also priceless, and I want my kids to know how blessed they are to have a family that loves them.

I want my kids to be thankful for material blessings.  This is probably one of the most common categories of things that people might be thankful for on Thanksgiving, but it's important.  I heard a statistic that if you make more than $34,000 a year, you are in the top 1% of wage earners in the world. That is for individuals, not families, but it still puts things into perspective.  I want my kids to know what a blessing it is just to be warm and filled, because so many don't have even that.  Gratitude also promotes generosity, so I hope knowing how blessed they are in material ways will prompt them to also give to others.

I want them to be thankful for God's Word.  I wrote about this earlier this week, but the Bible is such a gift.  God's written word is what allows us to know about Him and to know Him personally.  I can't imagine not having it, and I want my kids to grow to love and be thankful for God's Word.

The first step in helping kids become grateful for the things that matter is to show that you are grateful for them.   It is so important to give thanksgiving to God for the things He has given us throughout the year, not just on Thanksgiving.  When we give thanks to God for our blessings in front of our kids, that genuine gratitude will rub off on them as well.


What are some things you are thankful for, and what do you want to pass on to your kids?

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Thankful For The Bible


It is Thanksgiving week, and like everyone else, I want to focus on being thankful for all the things God has given me!  I have a couple more posts coming on the topic of being thankful, but one thing I wanted to focus on today is God's written word - the Bible.

I believe the Bible is God's Word, written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Every word of Scripture is directly from God.  I feel like sometimes Christians can even get confused on the inerrancy and all-sufficiency of the Bible (which is another topic, for another post).  But over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about the Bible, and what a blessing it is.  God gave us this manual for our lives, and everything we need to know for life is in there.  It is also through the Bible that we are able to know about Jesus and come to know Him personally!  All are reasons why this book is precious.

One thing that amazes me about God's Word is how deep it is - I could study it for a hundred years and still learn new things.  I've been learning that lately as I am continuing to study and memorize Hebrews.  I never realized how much about Hebrews I didn't know, and it makes me wonder what I'm missing in other books of the Bible as well!

All that to say, a love and thankfulness for God's Word is something that I want to impress upon my kids.  I think there are a few keys to doing that.

1.  You have to read it yourself, and let them see you reading the Bible.  This is something I need to get better at, because my kids are not going to realize the Bible is important if they don't see me reading it!

2.  Read the Bible to them regularly.  We have mostly been doing storybook Bibles with our kids, but I want to start reading them chapters.  I think it will be good practice for them at listening, and once again, I want them to realize how important God's word is.

3. Talk about how blessed we are to have God's Word any time we need it.  God really did think of everything.  We don't need to sit around, wondering what God thinks, or waiting for some mysterious new revelation.  If we want to hear from God, all we have to do is crack open the pages of the Bible.

4.  Memorize Scripture.  We've been doing much better at this lately - I have memory verses I help Wyatt with, and then I've been working on memorizing Scripture myself.

For the rest of this post I wanted to focus on that last one, because I feel like a great way to teach young children to appreciate the Bible is memorizing Scripture.  As they commit verses to memory, it is easier for them to see how these words apply to their everyday lives.

Even as an adult, as I have been trying to get back into memorizing Bible verses, I have been re-discovering how beneficial it is.  I think about God's Word much more throughout the day when I am actively memorizing a portion of it.  (Which reminds me, I am up to chapter 5 of Hebrews - I will try to do another verse-reciting vlog soon!)

Tommy Nelson has provided a great resource for finding verses to help your kids memorize - a book called I Can Learn The Bible, which is the kid's version of The Joshua Code.  I had never heard of The Joshua Code, but I have started reading through it, and I love the concept.  It is based on Joshua 1:8, which talks about keeping God's Word in our mouths and meditating on it.  We can't do that if we don't memorize Scripture.

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Both of these books take a single verse per week to memorize and think about, over the course of one year.  I have only read part way through the books, but so far the commentary on each of these verses seems accurate, and provides some good insights (if I find anything that concerns me in either book I'll update this post, but so far so good).

I Can Learn The Bible includes a verse for each week, taken from the International Children's Bible version.  I have never read through this whole version, but the language of the verses is easy for kids to understand.  I am rather traditional, so I'll probably have my kids memorize the verses in the NIV or NKJV since that is what I usually read, but so far the ICB seems like it would be a good supplement for explaining some of the more difficult verses.  I like that the gospel is explained clearly through these pages.

We've been skipping around in the book a bit, and this week I wanted to find a section that would be appropriate for Thanksgiving - then I realized that children are encouraged to thank God throughout this book, which I love!

One chapter I thought was good for the concept of thanksgiving was the chapter on being filled with the Holy Spirit, whom every believer receives when they trust in Jesus.   John MacAruthur has said that being filled with the Spirit is "living every moment as if you are standing in the presence of Jesus Christ".  I like that.  If we are filled with the Spirit we will be continuously praising God and thanking Him for all things (Ephesians 5:18-21).

Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about?  The Thanksgiving holiday is about thanking God for Who He is, what He has done for us, and what He continues to do in our lives.  His Word is one of the most wonderful things He has given us, and I want to talk to my kids about that this week.


What are your favorite resources for inspiration to memorize Bible verses (and for getting your kids to memorize Scripture as well)?  I'd love to hear any other recommendations below!

If you are interested in checking out either of these books, I have good news - Tommy Nelson is offering one of my readers a chance to win I Can Learn The Bible and The Joshua Code!  I think it would be fun to read these books side by side, and do a study together with your kids each week (in fact, I'm not sure why we haven't been doing that already).

Enter below for a chance to win!  I'll keep this giveaway open (to U.S. residents) through Black Friday!

Note: I received copies of "I Can Learn The Bible" and "The Joshua Code" for free in exchange for a review.  The above paragraphs about the books are my honest opinion.


A Gracefully Aging November


Every year during the month of November I think to myself that I want to share this quote.  And every year I forget until well into December.  I almost didn't share it this year, because for the most part this November has been of the fretting variety, not the growing old gracefully variety.  But I thought I'd share it anyway, rather than waiting another year.  November never feels like it's fretting to me, it always feels like the year is growing old gracefully, so I think this quote is perfect.  If you have never read the Anne Of Green Gables series, you are missing out.



Gwendolyn At 21 Months


Gwendolyn is 21 months old now, and I thought it was time for a quick update.

I feel like Gwen's speech has just exploded since I last wrote an update.  She says so many words, I have lost count, and she'll even combine two-word sentences now.  My favorite words from her are "more" (sounds like "mar"), "ice water" ("ICE! wah-er"), "pop-tart" ("pah-tert"), "Bible story" ("bie-bull sto-wee"), Wyatt (sounds about right, except super-cute - I can't explain it), and "Baby Clyde" ("bebe" *pause* "Ckg-lyde" - think German accent).  I also love how she answers questions with "yep".  I'm not sure where she learned that, but it's adorable.

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Gwen is in mostly 24 month/2T clothes now, though most of the pants are big around the waist - story of our lives.  I've been looking for the pants with the elastic and the buttons because then I can tighten them up for her.  She is really getting interested in her clothes, and she is particularly fond of leggings and shoes.  She desperately needs new shoes, so I think a shopping trip is in our future.  She also loves her hair bows, and sometimes she asks for one if I forget to put one in her hair.  I think she feels extra-pretty when she has a bow in her hair, because she always parades around the room after I put one in.

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She still plays with cars (the other day she had a car, and I picked her up to take her to her room, and she "drove" the car up and down my arm and head - complete with car sound effects), but she also likes playing with her baby dolls.  I can also tell she is gravitating toward pink things, so while I think she could be described as a tom boy in a lot of ways, she definitely has a girly side too.

She is such a little ham - she loves attention, and she hams it up whenever she knows people are watching her!  She knows how to steal the show.  I think this is a really good thing, since she is a middle child.  The other day, Derek was "wrestling" with Wyatt in the living room, and Wyatt was giggling and having fun - so Gwen goes over and tries to nudge Wyatt aside and says "my turn".  It was so cute, and I was glad she let us know when she needed a little more attention!  I try to make sure the kids each get equal time, but Wyatt and Clyde generally need more from me right now, so I think it's good that she can start to speak up for herself too.

She does so many cute things that I don't think I am going to remember them all, but favorites lately:
Spinning.  She'll just randomly spin in place, and it's so girly and cute.

Her blanket.  It must go with us everywhere, and she gets upset when I have to take it away to wash it.  She also gets upset if I try to spread her blanket over her in her crib - she likes it bunched up in a ball.

Her praying face.  When I say it's time to pray she slaps her hands together, gives this huge grin, tilts her chin up, and squints her eyes so they are not quite closed.  It is the cutest thing!  She also reminds us to pray when we forget, which I love.

Her singing.  She has started "singing" Jesus Loves Me with us.  Her word still sound a little gibberish-y, so the most noticeable parts are the  "me-e-e-e" and "so-o-o-o".  She looks so proud of herself when she sings with us, and it just makes me smile every time!

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Her "happy dance".  When she gets really excited or happy, she'll stomp her feet really fast and giggle, and it makes me laugh every time!

She is such a sweet girl, and I am so glad she is mine!


My Precious Gwendolyn,

You are growing so much, Baby Girl!  I am just loving this stage with you.  You are such an active toddler, but you have a little baby left in you. You have an independent side and you like to do things yourself, but sometimes when you are tired you just collapse into my lap and sit with me a while, and it reminds me that you still need me too.  You have so many special qualities, and I just love watching you grow and develop into the person that God made you to be.  I can't wait to see what He has planned for you!  You are amazing to me, Gwen-Girl, and I am so blessed to be your mama.

Love You Always, Baby Doll.



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Great Biblical Fiction Series

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I am a historical fiction fan.  I love when my "light" fiction reading can also teach me something, so historical fiction is right up my alley.  And if it's biblical historical fiction, that is even better!

I think someday I will have to do a post on my favorite historical fiction series, but one that would make my list is Lynn Austin's The Restorations Chronicles series.  I read the first book a couple years ago, and I was hoping she would write more - and I discovered recently that she has!


Keepers Of The Covenant opens with the Jewish people, exiled in Babylon, getting the decree from King Xerxes that all the Jews can be killed on the thirteenth of Adar (if this sounds familiar, it is from the story in the book of Esther).  It follows several families through the fear leading up to that day, and the triumph and tragedy of the aftermath.  It then dives into the story of Ezra, who petitioned King Artaxerxes to let the Jews return to their homeland, and it follows them back to the Jerusalem.

This whole story is told through the eyes of different characters, several in Babylon and one in Bethlehem.  The most fun part of the book is the last third, when all the characters are brought together in one place.  There are a couple different sweet romances in this book, which also made it fun to read.

One thing that bothered me initially in this book was the hatred the main character had toward the Gentiles.  It was mentioned so naturally in the first half of the book that I wasn't sure I liked it - I didn't remember reading anything in the Bible condoning hatred of the Babylonians and other Gentiles in Ezra's story.  I was going to mention that as something that I didn't like, but then the author addressed it in a really satisfactory way at the end of the book.  That is all I'll say.

Overall, I found the story to be really accurate to the facts while also adding enough of a story in the characters' relationships to keep the book interesting.  I would definitely recommend this series!

Note: I received digital copy of this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.


Blind As A Bat

I call the year I turned twelve the year that I fell apart.

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In a period of about six months my hair turned frizzy and I had to get braces.  Then I learned that I need something to correct my vision too!  All in the midst of middle school.  Even though I was homeschooled and didn't have to deal with traditional middle school culture (thank goodness), it was still a nightmare!

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Thankfully, I think my awkward phase only lasted a couple years (that's not too bad, right?).  By the time I was fourteen, I was starting to figure out my hair, my braces came off, and I was starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin.  My eyesight, on the other hand, never recovered.

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You wouldn't necessarily know, because I almost always wear contacts, but I am technically legally blind!  With astigmatism too.  I am told vision can get much worse.  I believe it, because I have compared prescriptions with a friend who was much worse eyesight than me, so I can't complain too much.  But I honestly can't imagine having worse vision than I do.  Without corrective lenses, I can just start to make out words when I am about three inches away from the paper.  And even then it is hard to focus, because my eyes don't focus together correctly (because of my astigmatism)!  I usually have to close one eye and squint to be able to see anything, even three inches away.  All I can say is thank goodness I live in an era where corrective lenses are available and affordable!

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I usually wear contacts because I never particularly liked how glasses looked on me, but recently Firmoo offered to send me a pair of prescription eye glasses, and I think I have changed my mind.  I had so much fun searching through the options on their site!  They have so many different frame styles.

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I stuck with the same shape that I have gotten before, but these glasses are a fun color, and they are a little bigger than my other glasses (bigger glasses are back in).  I feel so trendy, and I think these glasses make me look bookish, in a cute, funky way!  I actually wore them out the other day, and unlike with my other glasses, I felt confident being seen in these ones.

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Firmoo's prices are also very affordable - even cheaper than the cheapest place I have purchased glasses before.  And it was easy to enter all the specifics of my prescription.  The next time I need a new pair of glasses, I will definitely be ordering from Firmoo!

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Who else out there wears glasses or contacts?  Come on contact people, admit it.  There is no shame.  Your vision is most likely not worse than mine!


And because I know there will be comments on the snow - winter has come upon us with a vengeance!  Derek took these last week, and it was so cold.  At least it gave me a chance to wear my new coat.  It did the job nicely.

Yellow Coat: Target
Animal Print Scarf:  Walmart
Floral Tunic: Forever21
Pants: Forever21 
Taupe Boots: JustFab
Burgundy Glasses: Firmoo

Note: I received a standard pair of glasses from Firmoo for free in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

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