Music City

As you all know, I started writing for the Tommy Nelson blog earlier this year - and last week Tommy Nelson flew all of the ladies who write for their blog out for a meet up!  I have never done anything like this before, and it was so exciting!  Here are some of the things we did.

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On Thursday they flew us in, and we got to meet Tommy Nelson's amazing marketing team - the ladies we work with regularly, and who planned this wonderful trip!  

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(They had these goodie bags waiting for us in our rooms - I felt like a VIP!)

We settled in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort - and I just have to say, it was beautiful.  The rooms were spacious, and out room had a balcony that overlooked one of their three gardens!

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Before dinner, we took a boat ride through the river system that runs through the gardens - it was so cool.  Then we went out to eat and it was so neat to meet the other bloggers in person!

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On Friday we went to the Thomas Nelson offices and had meetings, and we got to meet so many people from the Tommy Nelson team.  I was just so impressed and encouraged to hear everyone's heart for reaching kids for Jesus through the books they publish, and it left me even more honored to be able to work with this company.

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(All of us with the Tommy Nelson team!)

We went out to Puckett's Grocery for dinner that night.

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(Me with my roommate, Whitney from Rambles Of A SAHM.)

Then we walked around Broadway - we did not go into any of the honky tonks, but as we were walking past I could hear the live music in each one.  It was quite the experience!  Then we went to a boot place that had an amazing deal on cowboy boots.  Derek has been wanting a new pair for a long time, so I got him a pair, and I couldn't resist getting myself some too.

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(See, the turquoise on my boots?  I couldn't pass that up.)

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(Gorgeous night in Nashville.)

On Saturday we went out to breakfast at the Loveless Cafe!  The biscuits were so good.  I don't think I've ever tasted a biscuit like that.  I'm serious.

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(They had these custom Tommy Mommy Meetup t-shirts made for us!  That is my Twitter and Instagram handle on the back!)

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(All of us at breakfast.)

We went shopping at the Opryland Mills that afternoon, and then Johnny Rocket's for dinner!

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(Sporting my new boots.)

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After dinner we went to the Grand Ole Opry to see a show!  I am definitely a country music fan, so I really enjoyed the artists!

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At intermission a lady came up to our rows and had us follow her, and we found out that we were getting a backstage tour!  We got to see the back entrance where the stars enter, the dressing rooms, and the green room.  

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(That guy on the left in this picture is Jonathan Jackson, one of the stars of the show "Nashville".)

We watched a song from the side of the stage - it was so cool!

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Then we got back to our seats, and Vince Gill came on!  It was so cool to see him perform!

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The whole Grand Ole Opry experience was so cool, a once in a lifetime thing!  

We went back to the hotel and I had to get a picture with my roomy, Whitney.  She was so fun to hang out with on this trip, and we actually have a lot in common!  We stayed up way too late on Saturday night talking - I was so glad I got to room with her!

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The next day we flew back home.  I was excited about getting to see my kiddos again, but sorry to see the trip end - everyone at Tommy Nelson made us feel so special and planned everything so well!  I am proud to be a part of this group!

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Check out the Tommy Nelson blog to read more from all these ladies!

To see more pics, follow me on Instagram!

God Is Always Good Review


The other week I had one of the worst nights of sleep I have had in a while.  I was up eight times with the kids.  Eight separate times!  In one night.  Needless to say, we were all exhausted the next morning.

The main reason the older two kept waking up was because it was a stormy night, and because I suspect there may be squirrels in our attic.  If it wasn't the thunder waking Gwen up (she hates thunderstorms), it was Wyatt wondering if the noises he was hearing were Ralphie ( I skirted the question because I didn't think telling him there were squirrels in the attic would be helpful).

I hadn't yet received God Is Always Good in the mail at that point, but when I did read through it with the kids later, it made me think of that night.  I especially think the section on sometimes being scared would have been great for reminding the kids that God is always with them!  I did remind them of that at the time as well, but it's always nice when you can read a book together and reinforce something that you are trying to teach your kids.

I think this book is perfect for explaining to kids why they don't have to be afraid or worried - because God is always with them, and He is always good.

This book also tackles tougher subjects, like bullying, death, and why bad things happen, in ways that are understandable and comforting for young kids.  The illustrations are so cute and colorful, and I also loved that each page contains a Bible verse!  I'm adding several of the verses mentioned to my list of verses to help Wyatt memorize.

If you are looking for a book to help your child when they are scared or anxious, I'd definitely recommend this book.  Each page is such a good reminder that God is good, His plans are good, and He is always there to help us.

Preview the book here!

Note: I received this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

Going To Nashville


As you are reading this, I am probably on my way to the airport to fly to Nashville!

It kind of makes me want to burst out in song, but I don't know a Nashville-related song off the top of my head.  Let's see…

"Goooing to Nashville, and I'm, gonnnna meet Tommy Mommies . . ."

(You know, to the tune of Going To The Chapel?  I know, it doesn't really work.)

Lack of a soundtrack notwithstanding, I am very excited!  This week is the Tommy Mommy meet up - Tommy Nelson is flying out all of the moms who write for their blog, and they've got a bunch of fun stuff planned for us.  I am excited to see a new place and meet some of the amazing ladies who also write for the Tommy Nelson blog!

I also admit that I am eagerly anticipating getting a couple nights of uninterrupted sleep.  That hasn't happened in . . . I'm not sure how long.  But it's been a while.

I was thinking yesterday as I was packing that I think this is the first time that I have traveled totally by myself - and I think this will be the longest that I will be away from any of my babies since they've been born.  It makes me a little anxious, leaving them, even though I am sure they are going to have a ton of fun spending the night at Grandma's house, and then hanging out the rest of the time with Derek when he gets home.

Sometimes it can be good as a mom to get away for a little bit and refresh, but I find for me, it's not really the time away that does me the most good.  It's the time leading up to leaving my family.  I realize that I am not going to see them for a little while, so I enjoy every little thing a bit more.  Suddenly it doesn't bother me as much when one of them gets pumpkin all over my pants with little sticky fingers, or when one of them needs to be snuggled a little longer before going to sleep for the night, or when one of them wakes up and asks me to "sleep on my pillow" for a little while.

It's good to realize I am leaving them for a few days, because I remember that I don't really want to, not for long.

It's good to get away and rest up and get inspired, so I'm ready to come back and give them all my energy again.

And it's good to come back, because I missed them, and I remember how much I love this mom gig.
I love it even when everyone is crying all at once, and there are cheerios all over the floor, and I still haven't had a chance to shower this week, much less finish packing.

It's just fun being their mom.


I have a couple posts scheduled for early next week, but I'll get a recap of my trip up as soon as I can!  If you want a sneak peek, you can always keep up with me on Instagram!

Man Stuff by Josh Turner - Giveaway!


I think I have mentioned before that Derek and I are country music fans.  I am a fan because I grew up listening to country music, and appropriately, I happened to live in the country.  Everyone listened to country music where I grew up, but I think I would have liked it regardless.  I love how a lot of the music is family focused, and I like songs I can sing along to!

Derek and I have been Josh Turner fans for a long time - he sings one of my favorite songs.  When I saw that he wrote a devotional for men called "Man Stuff", I asked Derek if he would read it if I requested it, and he said he definitely would!

This is a book that is geared toward husbands and fathers, and it is filled with practical encouragement.  Derek has been enjoying the book so far!  I told him I needed a quote from him for my review, and he said:

"He shares a lot of stories from his life and his walk with the Lord.  I wouldn't necessarily call it a devotional, but I think it's an encouraging book, and it can help you to focus on godly priorities."

There you go, straight from my man.

Even though I requested this book for my husband, I have been enjoying it too!   Each chapter is a different story from Josh Turner's life, including a corresponding Bible verse, with wisdom on how to be a godly man, husband, and father (Turner has three kids).  I think I tend to have a different idea of what constitutes a "devotional", and both Derek and I agreed that we wouldn't necessarily categorize this as a devotional book - more just an encouraging book with stories on Christian living, which we also appreciate.

I think it is really interesting to read more about Turner and his family since we are fans of his music!  I like the simple truths that Turner shares in each chapter.  I haven't read through the entire book yet, but I think lot of the stories he shares are things that men would resonate with.  The book lives up to it's name, "Man Stuff".

I think this book would make a great gift, especially for men that like Josh Turner's music, since a lot of the content is autobiographical.   Something to keep in mind since Christmas is right around the corner!

Tommy Nelson is offering a copy of this book to one of you!  Fill out the form below for a chance to win!

Note: I received this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review - this is my honest opinion.

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That Time I Gave Facebook Another Chance

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If you missed part one of my giving-up-Facebook story, you can check it out here!

My break from Facebook was really healthy for me.  I honestly don't remember much about it, except that it felt like a really easy detox.  There were times when I missed Facebook a little bit, but I honestly didn't think much about it.

But there were things happening in my heart.

I know there were hurts that I was holding on to, and having a break from Facebook allowed me to let those go.

I know I learned a lot about pride through the process.  I realized one of my main reasons for resisting the break from Facebook was my pride.  I wanted to show off my life, especially to those who had hurt me in the past.  While that may be a natural desire, it was boasting, pure and simple.  I was trying to prove something to people, prove that I was worth knowing.  I was putting the opinion of people ahead of the opinion of the Lord.

Scripture tells us we shouldn't boast, except in the cross of Christ, and I knew that my desire to impress everyone on Facebook did not fit with that.  Giving up Facebook gave me the chance to get out of that habit, and it took away my avenue to keep failing in that area.

Mostly, it felt like a breath of fresh air to be off it.  I didn't have to think about what everyone else was doing.  I didn't have to feel frustrated every time I got on Facebook.  I could do my own things, develop the relationships that were important to me in person, and it surprised me how little I thought about it.

However, there did come a day when I realized that maybe it was time to give Facebook another chance.  I had been off of Facebook for almost a year, and something big happened in my life.

I got pregnant with Gwen.

That little blessing made it abundantly clear to me that Facebook did have some benefits, such as being able to announce our new addition to everyone I loved at the same time.  So after careful consideration, I created a new Facebook account.

When I decided to get back on Facebook, I created a few boundaries for myself.

For one thing, I decided not to be friends with any guys, except for those who were in my family.  It's not that there were any problems with any of the males I was friends with before, but I wondered why I had never instituted that rule for myself when I was on Facebook the first time.  The stories of marriages breaking up because of connections made on Facebook are rampant, and though I never expect that to happen to me, I wondered why I should even take the chance.  Now, most of my Facebook friends are women, and the few men that I am friends with are relatives.

For the first several months I was very strict with who I decided to add as Facebook friends.  I mainly wanted to be friends with people who I actually saw regularly in my real life, or people who I would like to be closer friends with.  I didn't see the benefit of giving a closer glimpse of my life to people who I never actually heard from outside of Facebook.  My friend list was probably about 50-60 people, and that was how I liked it.

If I felt like I was starting to get annoyed with someone's posts, or if someone was just being a little too negative or controversial for me, I just blocked their posts from my newsfeed - sometimes for just a little while, and sometimes permanently.  I knew if I was going to come back to Facebook this needed to be a safe place, and something that was going to improve my real-life relationships, not hurt them in any way.  So if blocking someone's posts would contribute to that goal, that was what I did.

When I knew that my posts would only be going out to those whom I already knew and loved, and vice versa, it was much less tempting to try to show off.  I thought more carefully about what I wanted to share.  I didn't write posts to brag so much as to just share a little bit of my daily life with people who were already close to me.  It was a much healthier way for me to do Facebook.

I was also on Facebook much less because I was out of the habit of checking it so often.

I rejoined Facebook almost two years ago, and I feel like it has stayed on a pretty even, healthy level since then.  My friend list has grown to 115 people.  I have loosened my standards a bit on accepting friend requests from people I don't know very well, mainly because I was reminded of a few people who I would not be friends with at all if it weren't for a connection that was originally strengthened by Facebook.  There are some benefits to Facebook, and this is one of them - I think if used properly, Facebook can not only enhance and strengthen existing friendships, but it can also cause friendships with certain people to form when they may never have otherwise.

My goal continues to be to keep Facebook a safe place for myself.  I have recognized that I don't have to leave my feelings at the mercy of posts on Facebook, and I give myself permission to limit it where I need to without feeling guilty (such as when I block certain posts).  Facebook can be a very useful tool, or it can cause problems in my life, and I think I am the one who decides where on that spectrum it is going to fall.

Within my boundaries, I have found there are things that I love about Facebook.

I love that it does let me keep up with friends that are not in my same state.

I love that it opens up opportunities to connect with some ladies on a more personal level, particularly when it gives me the chance to suggest a get-together that may not have otherwise happened.  It's a lot more natural to suggest getting together for coffee with someone through Facebook than through cold-calling or hunting down someone's e-mail.

I love that it allows me to share pictures with people who don't get to see my kids as often, because it has become apparent that I am ridiculously bad at sending out e-mail updates.

I love that I can announce happy news, like pregnancies, so that everyone who is important to me can know at roughly the same time.

My break allowed me to recognize the problems with my own heart that were being perpetuated by Facebook, work on them, and come back with a fresh perspective.  I feel like Facebook contributes much more positively to my life now.

So it took me 2+ years to share it, but that is the story of the time I gave up Facebook.

Have any of you ever struggled with your Facebook use?  Have any of you ever taken a break from Facebook?  What kind of boundaries do you have for yourself on Facebook?

That Time I Gave Up Facebook

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A couple of years ago I gave up Facebook for several months.

There were several reasons I decided to cut myself off from Facebook, and there were several reasons I decided later on to give Facebook another chance.  The whole experiment taught me a lot about other people, and a lot about myself.

I never really wrote about it, though I considered starting a post on my decision several times.  The words just never seemed quite right.  However, recently a current Facebook friend of mine posted on her decision to give up Facebook for a little while, and it made me think of when I did the same - so I thought that maybe the time had come for me to write about it here.

I went back and read a rough draft that I wrote at the time about all the reasons why I wanted to get off Facebook - and though reading that did refresh my memory about a lot of the things that I don't particularly like about Facebook, there is a general tone of exasperation to that post.  I was just done.

I think I first started to realize there was a problem when I would close my browser feeling dissatisfied or annoyed.  I was friends with a lot of people that I had known in years past.  You know the ones that I'm talking about - friends from high school, "friends" that had rejected me informally long ago, though thankfully without severing the relationship with a dramatic de-friending gesture.

But I was still connected with all these people - people who might have hurt me, or people who had always been competition to me, whether in reality or just in my own head.

I got to see their lives play out on cyberspace.  Graduations.  Marriages.  Pregnancy announcements.  Houses.

Sometimes it hurt because I was sad that these friendships ended.

Sometimes it was jealousy spurred by something that someone else had, and the frustration came because I wanted that thing, or thought I had worked much harder for that thing.  The whole comparison game that it is so hard not to play.

Then there was just the general negativity from people who always seem to want to air their gross laundry where everyone can see it.

I felt beat down.  I felt dissatisfied.  I felt I felt inadequate.  It left me wanting to post about everything fun I was doing to prove to everyone else that I was doing cool things too.  I was someone interesting, and they were missing out if they weren't friends with me.

As in real life friends.  Not Facebook friends, because "Facebook friends" can mean anything.

Looking back, I think these things were largely a heart issue, and I can't blame Facebook as much as I blame myself.  Pride was a huge factor here.  The bottom line is that I wanted to feel good enough, and I thought Facebook made me feel less than.

I just ran around in circles like this for years before I started to realize that maybe there was a problem here.  Ironically, the effect of Facebook on my own pride was just an afterthought at the time, though now I realize that pride was the biggest problem I needed to recognize with my Facebook use.  But that is not what made me give it up.

One day I realized that a lot of the girls who I really wanted to be friend with, but that I didn't really see outside of Facebook, actually thought that we were friends.  They thought that keeping up with me on Facebook meant we were friends, even though our interaction only consisted of an occasional "like" or comment on one of my posts.

I didn't want cyber-friendships with these people.  If we were going to be friends, I wanted to be real-life friends, and I started to wonder if Facebook's tendency to create a false sense of friendship was getting in the way of actually forming real friendships with these girls.

I started to hear stories of gossip and drama that people had experienced on Facebook.  I never experienced much of that personally, but I started to feel a bit convicted.  Even though I had never started an actual rumor based on information on Facebook, I would be lying if I said that I had never drawn incorrect conclusions or gossiped to my husband about something someone said on Facebook.  I may not have let anything escalate to the level of traditional, rumor-spreading gossip, but I did judge people's motives and invent narratives in my own head about situations I had no actual information about.

I also realized through comments from extended family and friends how much information about my life people got from Facebook.  It seemed wrong to me somehow that these people got to know these things about my life without ever actually talking to me.

True friendships can't form without conversation, but on Facebook you don't have to have that.  People don't have to put out any actual effort to be friends with you, because all the things they might want to know about you are probably on Facebook.  I started to wonder if people might be more likely to reach out in real life if they didn't know everything that was going on with me already.  It made me feel a little "spied on", to be honest, but how could I blame anyone but me?  I was not only providing the information, I was encouraging the "spying".

The final straw came when someone who I rarely saw gathering a little bit too much information about me from Facebook.  It freaked me out a little, and all the other things that had been bothering me came rushing to my mind.  In that moment I made a decision that it was time to take a break.

I deleted my account that same week.

Click here to read the rest of my Facebook story!

Clyde At Five Months

Note: More pictures of Clyde on my photo blog - request to follow with the button in the sidebar!

(Cute little baby jeans and shoes.)

Clyde is five months old!  And I am horribly late on this monthly update.

We went to his four month checkup on the 28th, and I found out that Clyde is only in the 8% for weight!  I didn't realize he was so little!  He is about 58% for height, so he's long and skinny. 

I think the biggest development this month is that he is really into toys now!  He focuses on them and tries to grab at them.  He grabs his feet and stares at his hands sometimes, and when I put him down to play on his stomach he fails his arms and legs so hard, trying to figure out how to move!  He is really liking standing lately, and he is fairly stable, which really impresses us - Derek is also pretty sure he is even more strong than the other too at this age.  He's not close to sitting yet, but I think we are going to practice over the next month so I can get him ready for his next set of pictures.

He is a very happy baby, and his little baby giggle is hilarious - it just makes me smile every time.  I love the sound of it.  I feel like for a while Clyde was either smiling or crying at all times, but I feel like he has had more middle ground lately, where he'l just hang out. If I'm in sight though, he still fusses until I pick him up (he has me figured out).  Derek and I laugh because sometimes if we aren't holding him and he wants to be held, he'll cry, and make this "oh" sound and just give us this desperate face - like his little world will just be shattered if I don't pick him up right that second.  I can't even explain it, but it's funny and cute and sad all at the same time.  He has us figured out.

He has started giving me baby kisses this month!  He loves to gnaw on my chin, but this month he started grinning and then giving me big, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses all over my face.  I love it so much!  

It's been really cute watching the kids interact more as they get older, and Derek told me there was an evening when I was out when all three of them were just playing with each other and laughing so hard!  I've seen them making each other laugh and it's so cute.  I love that these sweet little ones fill our house with so much laughter!


My Sweet Clyde,

You are growing so much, Sweet Boy!  I feel like you have changed so much this month.  I love watching you play.  You are so interested in toys and trying to move, and I love watching you get so focused on your goal - it's adorable!  Another favorite thing is when you fall asleep in my arms in the afternoon - the other two kids are usually down for naps or quiet time, and you just snuggle in with me and fall asleep.  Then I study your little features, your eyelashes brushing your cheeks, your tiny nose, your perfect little lips.  It's our time together, and I love that we have that.  And finally, I am loving your slobbery, wonderful baby kisses this month!  I know you are really trying to give me a kiss because you just smile and press your open mouth against my cheek in a kiss, and I treasure every single one!
I love you so much Sweet Boy, and I hope you always know how special you are to me!



Tipping Point

(A watercolor painting experiment I did this summer of my older two kiddos.)

I've been having a hard time finding my balance this year.

I think each mother has her tipping point, when she goes from feeling like things are totally manageable to feeling totally overwhelmed.  For some it might be with with their first child - maybe when their baby is colicky, or when their child gives up naps.  I've heard from several friends that figuring out the balance with two kids was when they started to feel overwhelmed - maybe when they were pregnant with a toddler to run after, maybe after their second child was born.

For me - this was it.  This summer was my tipping point.

In all fairness, it wasn't just one thing.  It wasn't just adding a third baby to our family - it's been the fact that I also happened to sign up to help run our MOPS blog this year, I started writing for Tommy Nelson, Wyatt is starting preschool, and the times when all three kids are napping have been more rare.

I was trying to keep up the pace I have always kept, and in the midst of everything I repeatedly heard stories from others of times when the Lord asked them to give up something.  With every story, I felt a little nudge in my heart.  But I kept pushing it down, because I couldn't think of anything to give up, except one thing I really didn't want to give up - my blog.

When I thought about giving up my blog, I had mixed feelings.  Half of me felt like it might be time.  But the other half of me felt like the Lord was still opening doors, and I didn't think I should not blog at all.

Then one week, when deadlines were rushing up on me, and I was sleep deprived, and the house was a mess, I had a meltdown.  Like a complete, sobbing on the floor, Derek had to calm me down with a glass of water type meltdown.  When I settled down, I thought over that week and realized that I couldn't remember actually looking at the kids in a few days.  I mean really looking at them.  Noticing how the color of Clyde's eyes were changing.  Running Gwen's soft curls through my fingers. Talking to Wyatt about which Hot Wheels cars were his current favorites.

And I realized if something had to give (and something clearly did have to give), it couldn't be really looking at my kids.  I couldn't let their childhood slip by while I rushed around, keeping up this insane pace that I had set for myself.

I thought it through.  I finally saw that I needed to step back.  To just slow down.

So after that, I took the pressure off myself.  I'm keeping my commitments, but I'm not adding any new ones.  I still blog, but if a post doesn't go up one week, it's okay.

I'm giving my best, but my best goes to my kids and Derek first, because they are my only tasks that will last forever.  If I fail at everything else, but I succeed with my family, I will enter eternity satisfied.

I think that nudge I felt was the Holy Spirit - and He was trying to get me to give up something.  He was telling me to give up trying to do everything, and to focus on being the best at this one thing - being a good wife and mother to these people God has given me.  I'm still figuring out what I can and can't handle in this season of my life, but I have a better starting point now - give everything I can to serving the Lord by serving my family, and then I can split up whatever I have left among everything else.

And now I feel like the scales are back in balance.


Have you ever felt like you had gone over your tipping point?  How did you get everything back in balance?


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(Harvey and me.  I love him, even though he drives me crazy.)

Listening . . . I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately - I think my favorites at the moment are the "How They Blog" podcast (when I need blogging inspiration), the "A Way With Words" podcast (about the English language - does this make me sound like a nerd?), and "Grace To You" (which is John MacArthur's sermon podcast).

Eating . . . Watermelon!  I cannot get enough watermelon - even though it's supposed to be the start of fall, watermelon is still the thing that is hitting the spot.  This makes me sound like I'm pregnant, but I'm not.  I'm just really into watermelon.

Drinking . . .Lots and lots of coffee.  I don't know why, but we are going through a really rough sleeping patch with all of the kids in the last couple weeks, so coffee is keeping me sane.
Wearing . . . If I'm supposed to list what I'm wearing as I'm typing this, that would be a navy blue t-shirt and gray pajama sweatpants.  But that's not very interesting, so earlier today . . . I was wearing a white t-shirt with an aqua layering tank underneath, light wash jeans with a couple of holes in them, brown sandals with gold trim that I got at Target for $5, a brown belt, and my brown leather jacket that makes me feel like it really is fall.  You know, to offset the sandals and the watermelon I'm eating.

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(Me, just being a dork.)

Feeling . . . I'm feeling lonely and emotional.  Derek is gone again this week, and I miss him like crazy - found myself crying on the phone earlier just because I want him to be home.  I'm also watching the new episode of 19 Kids and Counting, and it's totally making me cry with all the talk of daughters getting married and such . . . I clearly have a lot of hormones wreaking havoc at the moment.  I feel like a big baby.

Weather . . . It's twilight right now, and it's still and cool outside.  Dogs are barking in the distance, and everything has that gray look to it.  It's pretty peaceful.

Wanting . . . I'm wanting a new bag!  I'm telling myself I need one for the Tommy Nelson meet up at the end of this month.  You know, to carry my laptop and . . . stuff . . . on the plane.  Okay, I really don't need a new bag, I just want one.  I'm eyeing these two from Target:

Crossbody bag with diamond print design.

Cognac tech tote.

Needing . . . Derek to be home.  To get more sleep.  To wake up early so I have some time to study my Bible since it is just not happening otherwise. Lasik eye surgery. More hours in the day.  Sleep (wait, I already mentioned that).

Thinking . . . I'm thinking a lot about theology lately.  I've been reading some heavy-duty, exercise-my-brain books about theology, and it feels good to keep things that truly matter in the forefront of my mind more often.  It also inspires me to spend more time with the kids/be a better mother - when my mind is more focused on Jesus, I am constantly reminded that showing Him to my kids is my most important task - not just for right now, but for my whole life.  I want to be faithful in this.

Enjoying . . . My kids. Playing with watercolors.  Hot baths.  Pumpkin spice lattes and salted carmel mochas (because if I'm going to waste money on $4 cups of coffee, I'm getting something sweet!). Yankee candles.  Derek's scent on his pillow at night, even when he isn't home.  Doing preschool with Wyatt this year (he is so smart), watching him learn something new before my eyes.  Gwen's happy dance and sweet little girl twirls that remind me that her toddler days are numbered. Clyde's grin around the edges of his bottle, because he is constantly smiling, even when he is eating.   My life.

The Family Project Review


Clyde was just a few weeks old when Focus On The Family's documentary Irreplaceable came out in theaters, which was a prequel to The Family Project small group curricuum that was released this summer.  Needless to say, we didn't make it to the theaters to see it since we had a brand-new baby!  I was bummed, because it sounded really good, and I knew I probably wouldn't get a chance to see the full Family Project unless my church decided to do a study on it.   However, recently I realized that there is a Family Project book, so I jumped at the chance to review it!

This book is an overview of the theology of the family - God's purpose and plan for the family, specifically how family and individual members of a family, reflect God's image.  I wasn't expecting such a deep theological book when I first requested this - I thought it would be more about the scientific research about the family.  But even though it was different than what I was expecting, it was even better than I thought it was going to be!

I got so much out of this book.  I had never even thought about the theology behind God's plan for families, and this book made me appreciate how perfectly God has planned the family to reflect His image in the world.  I especially liked the sections on intimacy and children, because these sections brought up things that I had never thought about before.  I thought the book was very well thought-out and biblically sound.  All of the major themes in this book were spot-on, and there was just one minor point I wasn't sure I totally agreed with.*

There are many paintings described in the book, which you can also look up on the Family Project's website - warning, there is nudity in some of these pieces!  I didn't look up all the paintings, but I really appreciated reading the descriptions of the art in the book, and I felt like it added an extra impact to the points that were being made.  If you are an art enthusiast, I would say you would probably appreciate those sections of the book even more than I did!

I would highly recommend this book to any Christian - I think this is a neglected area of theological study, and I learned so much through reading this book.  It still makes me wish my church would do the Family Project small group study!  You never know, maybe they will.  If they do, I'm signing up!

Note: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

*The one minor point I didn't necessarily agree with was a comment about surrogacy being outside the ethical bounds of a married union - if we are talking about a type of surrogacy where the surrogate's genetic material is involved (i.e. when Hagar was a "surrogate" for Abraham and Sarah), then I would agree with that - but if we are talking about a gestational carrier carrying the biological baby of a married man and woman when the married woman is not able to carry her own child, I don't see a problem, because the baby is still conceived within the marital union.  That's just my personal opinion.  The comment in the book was made in passing, and was not a major point, so even if you disagree, I would say don't let it stop you from reading the book.  It's definitely worth reading.

5 Reasons To Read Aloud To Your Kids

When I was three or four years old, I had an entire Curious George book memorized. I used to sit down with the book, turn the pages, and recite the entire thing while my mom and dad listened (and chuckled to themselves about how adorable I was, I’m sure).
This is not a unique story – I have heard of many children memorizing the words of their favorite book and pretending to be able to read it themselves. As adults, we smile and chuckle at the fact that these little children, who technically can’t read, like to pretend that they can.
However, now when I hear those stories from the perspective of a parent, I also think about how the parents of those kids must be doing something right! If a child who can’t read has an entire storybook memorized, it must be because someone has read it to them, and read it to them many times. Those kids may not be able to actually read the words on the page, but they already have a head start with reading skills because someone is reading aloud to them.
I’m sure there are experts who could tell us about all the intricacies of the benefits of parents reading aloud to their kids, but these are few of the reasons that came to my mind…
Visit the Tommy Nelson blog to read the rest of my thoughts on why you should read aloud to your kids!

52 Uncommon Dates Review

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I will be the first to admit that Derek and I are horrible about having "date night".  We don't get out very often (once every few months maybe?), and when we do we usually just go see a movie.  So when I had the opportunity to review 52 Uncommon Dates from Moody publishers, I decided to jump on it, hoping to get some inspiration for going on more unique dates.

This book did not disappoint!  The book starts with an introduction from Gary Chapman on the importance of continuing to date your spouse, and then it jumps right in to the date ideas.  Some of these dates are things that I might have thought of before, but most of them are things I don't think I would have ever come up with.

What I liked about each date idea was that they were each geared toward helping you connect with your spouse or significant other on a deeper level, emotionally and spiritually.  Discussion questions that have to do with the theme of each date are included, along with ideas for praying together before and after your date, ideas for incorporating your spouses love language into the date, and Bible verses you can look up related to the themes.  The book was very much geared toward Christian couples and strengthening not only your relationship with each other, but also pointing you both toward God through the process of dating.  That was pretty great, I thought.

I found that a lot of the dates were also flexible enough to adapt for a couple with young kids - which is nice, I think, because we can't always get a babysitter (which is probably why I can count on one hand the number of dates we have been on this year).  I liked that we could probably include the kids on a lot of these dates and still have a good time reconnecting with each other!  So Derek and I decided to do a jigsaw puzzle date over Labor Day weekend, inspired by the book.  Here we are:

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(Derek always makes these funny faces when I pull out the camera!  he cracks me up.)

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I think this is a fun book for any Christian married couple, and it will challenge you to date more creatively and think of ways to not just have fun together but also to include the Lord in your dating process.  Definitely check it out!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for this review - this is my honest opinion.

The Good News About Marriage Review


I'm sure you've heard the statistics that the divorce rate is 50%, and that this number is the same between Christians and non-Christians.  But what if that wasn't really true?

When I read The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Couples, this book, The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldham was referenced, and I was intrigued.  I put it on my to-read list next.
In this book, Felham evaluates existing studies to try to determine what the actual divorce rate is - and her findings are surprising and encouraging.

For one thing, she finds that the actual divorce rate is not 50%, and it never has been.  The actual numbers are probably closer to 30%.  And what about the argument that divorce rates are the same inside the church?  It turns out that much-quoted fact is actually based on a misunderstanding of some data - and that among those who attend church weekly, the divorce rate is 27% lower.

I found the numbers and statistics in this book really interesting.  I have never thought to myself "I have a 50% chance of not getting divorced", because I know Derek and I are both committed to being married until we die, so divorce has never been an option for us.  However, I'm sure there are a lot of couples out there that have been discouraged by the 50% statistic that is thrown about so carelessly, so I think this book would be really encouraging to many couples when they realize that number is not accurate!

I would say that I never internalized those faulty statistics in the past, so learning the new statistics wasn't necessarily life-changing to me personally - but, I was encouraged to hear those numbers in respect to defending and encouraging the institution of marriage!  It turns out that the divorce rate is much lower overall than people have said, and the majority of couples are happy in their marriages - and I found that really encouraging to me when I think of society as a whole.

I will say I was a little annoyed at the repeated mention of people who married at younger than 25 and baby boomers as being higher-risk groups for divorce.  I got married before age 25, as did most of my friends, and my parents happen to be baby boomers, so I guess I took those stats more personally.  I felt like focusing on and comparing the stats of the "higher risk" groups to "low risk" groups could actually be discouraging to people who are in the higher risk groups, and as a result I felt a little excluded from some of the "good news" that Feldham was trying to present.  Considering her main goal seemed to be to encourage people about their marriages, I was a little frustrated that her references to those who married young seemed to be more negative than positive.  Personally, I would like to see stats on how many of those young marriages ended before year five of marriage, and how the divorce rates of "high risk" groups are affected by things like church attendance, but my guess is that this kind of data isn't currently available.

Regardless, I'd say this book is worth a read, whether you are married or not.  It will make you think about divorce statistics in a  different way and look more critically at some of these statistics that are so often quoted.

Note: I received this book for free from Blogging For Books in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.
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