February Favorites

The last hints of snow are melting, along with our little Olaf, in the front yard.  This month I will steal away for a women’s retreat, refresh my soul with Glimpses of Grace, and watch a beautiful couple get married on Valentine’s Day.  I am very blessed.  Not because my life is perfect, because it isn’t.  Not because I have everything I want, because I don’t.  Not because contentment comes easily for me, because it doesn’t.  I am blessed because today, and always, Christ has not given up on me!  And He has not given up on you.  Hope you enjoy some of my February picks.


ACTIVITY: DIY Magnetic Dolls
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Well, I crossed one of the activities off my indoor bucket list.  Using this adorable template as a guide, I drew paper doll lookalikes of my daughter and her best friend, stuck them to adhesive magnetic strips, laminated and cut them out.  Voilà!  (You can get everything you need for this craft at Wal Mart).  My favorite part of the project was teaming up with my 4-year-old to “design” all the outfits.  She has plans for me to make more friends, and a daddy (no mommy?), but we’ll see how that pans out.  I should add that I was going to make a set for my 2-year-old, but when she ripped one of the legs off her sister’s set, I figured we’d wait.  Lots of fun if you have the time and a little fashionista to assist!

ARTICLE: The Dance of Complementarity by Mary Kassian
2820721_300Someone recently wrote in to ask me about biblical womanhood.  I’ve been thinking about it all week.  As I slowly put my own thoughts together, here’s an article that answers the question “Why not function as though we’re exactly the same in marriage?”  The article paints a beautiful picture of how complementarity fosters mutuality and unity within a marriage.  To the reader who wrote me–I’m working on a response to the article you asked about!  I am so touched that you would even ask for my opinion.  I tried to email but my messages returned undeliverable.  Stay tuned!

PRODUCT: I Love My Husband Shirts v neck love 1 white
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, here’s a product for you and your husband.  Call me dorky, but I think these shirts from Unveiled Wife are really sweet!  I saw them while surfing the site, and bought one to surprise my husband on date night.  I wondered if he would think it was cheesy, but he loved it.  Hmm…a gift for him that you get to wear–not too shabby!  Click on the link above to check out different styles and colors.  Shirts range from $21-24 depending on the style.

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MOVIE: My Five Favorite Chick Flicks!
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This is probably the one time of year when husbands are most likely to forego war and carnage in favor of watching Will Smith and Eva Mendes fall in love.  These five movies are my all-time favorite romantic comedies–love the actors, love the storylines, love snuggling on the sofa with popcorn and a cute guy who’s guaranteed to roll his eyes at least ten times.

BOOK: Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God by CJ Mahaney SexRomanceandtheGloryofGod
Here’s a recommendation from my husband to yours.  Although Carolyn Mahaney writes one chapter for women, the rest of this book was intended for men.  For some reason, CJ was able to help my husband understand women and romance in a way I’ve never been able to!  He explains how and why men must continue to date and pursue their wives long after the wedding is over.  Best of all, he grounds everything in the power and hope of the gospel.  Perhaps an early Valentine’s Day gift for the Mister?

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January Favorites
January Favorites
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January Favorites

January 1.  The buttermilk pancakes are gone.  Little girl giggles and screams are at fever pitch, which means only one thing–Daddy is home!  Earlier this morning I asked my husband for his opinion about an article I’m working on and he said, “I’m so excited you’re getting back to blogging!” 🙂 Me too, honey.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all this family time, and I thank God for the kind of refreshment that gears us up to face a new year.  Here are some of my January picks.

ACTIVITY: Handprint Art
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When my kids brought home these crafts from MMO, I was smitten.  Not only is hand (or foot) print art adorable, it’s a way to capture a moment in time.  The moment when their hand was this small!  Turns out the sky’s the limit when it comes to handprint art.  Check out this  link for dozens of ideas.

I especially like this one using an adult's hand and a child's hand!
I especially like this one using an adult’s hand and a child’s hand!

ARTICLE: Dear Kids: What You Need to Know About Duck Dynasty, Justine Sacco, and Christmas by Ann Voskamp
TV-Duck Dynasty

Voskamp uses current hot topics to teach her children about the power of the tongue and the grace of Christ.

PRODUCT: The Mint App
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Here’s something free after the toll of December.  Once you synch the Mint App with your banking accounts, it tracks and organizes your spending for you.  The app provides graphs to help you see where your money is going, creates a budget for you (which you can edit), and emails you when you’re in the red.  For security sake, I suggest installing it on an iPad, not an iPhone.

MOVIE: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
If you’ve ever daydreamed about courage and adventure and telling your boss what you really think, you’ll love Walter Mitty.  And here’s my favorite part–the movie comes full circle, reminding us that all along, the boring, mundane, faithful plodding is beautiful too.  Thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly clean.  I cannot wait to watch it again–especially the “Ground Control to Major Tom” karaoke scene.  Go Mitty!

BOOK: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
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All you moms of 10-15 year olds, this was my favorite book to teach in middle school.  Sixteen strangers gather for the reading of eccentric millionaire Sam Westing’s will, only to learn that whoever can solve the mystery of his death will be granted his entire fortune.  The novel is hilarious, and a great case study in personalities and family dynamics.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  May you find joy in His presence, strength when you are weary, and hope when you need it the most.

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November Favorites

ACTIVITY: Make a Gratitude Wreath
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There are lots of variations on this time-honored Thanksgiving tradition, but they all have one thing in common–you need to start now!  Throughout the month of November, let every member of the family write one thing they’re grateful for on a leaf and tape it to the wreath.  If you’re artistic, you could make an entire Thankfulness Tree that covers your wall or try this banner idea from my talented friend Gina.

ARTICLE: 26, Unmarried, and Childless by Amanda Bast
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This article ran rampant about two months ago so you may have already seen it.  But if you haven’t, it’s a great read.  I especially loved it because it gave me a personal glimpse into life “on the other side.”  Quite frankly I often envy my single friends (especially on Saturday mornings when I imagine them snuggled in bed with a great novel, a hot cup of coffee, and an empty agenda.)  But of course I don’t know what it’s actually like to walk a mile in their shoes…until now.

PRODUCT: Tan Towel
No educational toys this month, this is a product just for Mom!  I’m a big fan of not dying of skin cancer, so I’ve never been to a tanning bed and rarely lie in the sun without sunscreen.  Of course this means I’m also the girl who sports a farmer’s tan at weddings.  Which is probably why a dear relative of mine introduced me to Tan Towel.  Each pad is like a giant wet wipe–an easy way to even those tan lines before a special event.

MOVIE: Epic
A fun family night movie–think Avatar in cartoon version with a sweet Daddy-daughter side plot.

BOOK: What did you expect? By Paul David Tripp
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Why read another marriage book?  Well, if you’re anything like me, you probably need it.  Or as Paul David Tripp would say, “Somehow, someway, every marriage becomes a struggle.”  I find that gospel-centered books about marriage are one of the best ways to ground my flighty heart.  So…why read this marriage book?  Because here’s what Tripp is going to do: he’s going to rip your heart apart with conviction (by showing you what TRUE love actually looks like) and then just when you want to bury your head in the sand, he’s going to throw you upon the beauty and grace of the gospel as the ONLY hope for loving your spouse like Christ.  And, he’ll do it all through the lens of six practical commitments for biblical marriages.

See you in December with more favorites!

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October Favorites

Activity: Make a Toy Mansion
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This is one of my kids’ favorite boring-day projects.  We start with a large cardboard box (if it’s got images on it–like a diaper box–turn it inside out).  I use the bottom of the box for the roof and the open top flaps as the “grassy lawn.”  Cut off the back flap of the “lawn” and use it to enclose the top of the roof (see the purple strip on the very top of our model).  Once you’ve constructed the house, let the kids paint it, add whatever details you want, and then after it’s dry invite the stuffed animals (and perhaps small toddlers) to come on in!

Article: Is Public School An Option? by Al Mohler
kid-on-busPeople frequently ask me where I plan to send my kids (now 4 and 2) to school.  The answer is, I have no idea.  I’ve taken no strong stance on public schooling, private schooling, or homeschooling, simply because I haven’t needed to think about it.  But that luxury is rapidly evaporating, and I find myself wondering, how am I going to school my kids?  For any parent asking the same question, I think this article is worth reading.  Al Mohler examines the historical influences that impacted the changing ideology behind public schooling, and why he believes public schools are becoming less of an option for Christians.  I’ll warn you, the article takes a strong stance on an already heated issue, but in my opinion it never hurts to learn the facts–in fact, it may hurt not to.

Product: “Baking Everyday Better” Homemade Treats
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With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, these tasty made-from-scratch (affordable) treats are a great idea for local folks hosting parties.  I can personally vouch for the A-MAZING cinnamon rolls and Oreo Grasshopper Cake, and I hear the Lemon-Raspberry Cake is divine!  Although this has nothing to do with the treats themselves, I can also vouch for the incredible heart of the baker, Destiny.  Check out the Baking Everyday Better Facebook page to place an order.

Movie: Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The Butler (2013) Forest Whitaker (Screengrab)

While I’ve heard this movie was very loosely based on the true story, the sheer life span of this one butler is remarkable.  The character Cecil Gaines (based on Eugene Allen) lived to serve eight American presidents through the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights movement.  To me, the most fascinating aspect of the movie was the way it showed two different African American men’s approaches to surviving and thriving during an evil and oppressive era in our history.  While Gaines’s son fights for equality, his father chooses to serve the very men shaping the future of the United States.  This movie opened my eyes in a new and meaningful way, leaving me in tears as I watched a man who was born into oppression live to see an African American elected president of the United States.

Book: The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan
red seaHave you ever felt like you were in an impossible place–a scary, painful, “where is God” kind of place, and you just longed to sit down with a cup of coffee and a really wise somebody who could give you some advice?  If so, you need to sit down with Robert Morgan.   In his book, The Red Sea Rules, Morgan uses the Red Sea account in Exodus to draw out ten practical principles for difficult seasons of life.  The book is short and to the point, built around the truth that “The same God who led you in will lead you out.”  This book comforted me at a time when I felt abandoned by God and needed perspective on how to face suffering as a believer.

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September Favorites

Hello, September!  I’ve been waiting for you.  May cooler days and autumn shades be close on your heels!  Here are some fresh favorites to start the month.

ACTIVITY: Stir Up Some Imaginary Soup

P1060060 A great outdoor activity for a boring afternoon!  Gather one big bowl per child, a handful of creative kitchen utensils, all your old spices and whatever other pantry items you don’t mind “wasting.”  (I filled coffee filters with things like oatmeal, coffee grounds, and flour so after we made a big mess we could just throw it all away.)  Remember grass, dirt, flowers, and rocks also make great ingredients for imaginary soup.  More details at One Perfect Day.
soup collage

ARTICLE: What is the Purpose of the Home? 
Screen-shot-2010-04-15-at-2.33.23-PMRecently I stumbled upon this article, published several months ago by Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking.  (In February of this year Lindsay took an indefinite sabbatical from blogging, but you can still peruse her site, linked above).  I’ll be honest–this article was exciting, inspiring, and painfully convicting for me.  In order to determine the purpose of the home, Lindsay read every Bible reference related to “home,” coming up with 7 purposes for a home.  Saturated in Scripture, this article is an excellent guide for any woman in need of some fresh encouragement regarding the incredible calling to be a “keeper of the home” (Titus 2:5).

PRODUCT: Cranium Hullabaloo
CraniumHullabalooWhen Aubrey’s best friend brought this game over for a play date, it took me two seconds to realize it was brilliant.  The game comes with a stack of brightly colored felt pads in different shapes, featuring different images of animals, instruments, and food.  After the kids scatter the felt pads on the floor, the Hullabaloo tape player bursts into song telling them to hop to a yellow patch…twirl to a square…put their elbow on an animal…  It’s a great way for squealing toddlers to practice their shapes, colors, and gross motor skills, not to mention get giddy with friends and family members.

BOOK: When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
when_crickets_cry_jacketA great fiction novel about a world-renowned heart transplant surgeon who goes into hiding after a mysterious loss, only to cross paths with the one little girl who can give him a second chance at everything.

If you’ve rolled your eyes at Christian fiction before, assuming it’s all trite and watery, give this one a chance!  The only thing watery will be your tear ducts.  (Okay, that was cheesy, but the book really isn’t!  He’s a much better writer than I am 🙂 ).

Happy September!

P.S. As I re-vamp my monthly favorites section, previous favorites will be temporarily MIA.  

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May Favorites

BOOK: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
mary-heart[1]This is the kind of book I could (and probably should) read every year.  Rather than give you my synopsis, listen to this excerpt: “The life of a woman today isn’t really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament.  Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord’s feet…but the daily demands of a busy world just won’t leave you alone.  Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him…yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.  Then comes Jesus, into the midst of your busy life, to extend the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters from Bethany.  Tenderly, he invites you to choose ‘the better part’–a joyful life of intimacy with him that flows naturally into loving service.”

I first read this book as a newlywed, struggling to see Jesus in the midst of all the tasks before me.  Now, as a mother, the challenge is even greater.  This book is eye-opening, encouraging, and well worth your precious time!

MOVIE: Life of Pi

Life-of-Pi-Ending-Explained[1]At least when Tom Hanks was shipwrecked and floating around on a raft, he had a volleyball for a companion…not an adult Bengal tiger.  Based on the best-selling novel, Life of Pi is the story of Piscine Patel–his embarrassing name, his quest for God, and his heroing fight for survival at sea in the company of Richard Parker.  Beneath the fascinating plot and breathtaking cinematography, this movie poses deep theological questions about skeptism versus faith.  While I don’t agree with all of Pi’s conclusions, I like that this movie asks the questions.

PRODUCT: See & Spell Letter Board by Melissa & Doug
This toy was a cousin hand-me-down and we love it!  It’s perfect for 3-4 year olds learning about letters, phonics, and forming words, not to mention a great quiet time activity.  Buy it on Amazon for $17.
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ACTIVITY: Host a Homemade Pizza Party
This is an easy, inexpensive way to feed a lot of people, and have a lot of laughs and make a big mess doing it!  All you have to do is buy the ingredients and set up a few pizza making stations.  I bought the dough from the Publix bakery, but you could also make it from scratch.  This is an especially fun idea for a kid’s party since toddlers love to “cook”!
031044See you in June with more favorites!

April Favorites

BOOK: EAST by Edith Pattou 
161887[1]If you have 9-13 year-olds, this is the kind of rainy-day, read-aloud novel they can lose themselves in.  It’s folklore, mythology, and adventure all woven together and impossible to put down!  In it, Ebba Rose, a young girl with a secret destiny (hidden from her by her parents) journeys to an enchanted castle to break an evil spell.  The story is beautifully told through the voices of multiple characters, and though it was written for children, I fell in love with it in my twenties.

MOVIE: Olympus Has Fallen 
I think I held my breath for 2 hours straight watching this movie!  Ex-special ops agent Michael olympus_has_fallen_ver10[1]Banning (played by Gerald Butler) has the opportunity to redeem himself when the White House comes under siege, and the President (Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage.  Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House, who is forced to serve as acting President during the crisis.  It’s Die Hard meets Executive Decision, with Morgan Freeman thrown in as a bonus!  On a negative note, the movie earns an R rating for language and violence (which is substantial).  In my opinion the trailer gives away too much, but if you’re one of those people who just has to see it before making a deicision, here it is:

PRODUCT: The LG Tone (HBS700)
WClgTone[1]Somehow my husband’s boss always manages to buy him better presents than I do.  I know virtually nothing about bluetooth technology, but I can tell you this–this headset has become my husband’s permanent man necklace.  He LOVES it!  So if you have a birthday or anniversary coming up and want to learn more about why many consider the LG Tone the best bluetooth headphones under $150, click here.

ACTIVITY: Making Eric Carle Prints 
This is the most fun craft I’ve done with the kids.  It’s a 2-day project, the result is stunning, everyone can participate (including baby), and you can read Eric Carle books alongside.  For full directions, click on the link (“Making Eric Carle Prints”) above.  Be sure to check out the blogger’s idea for cutting your child’s initials out of the finished prints and framing them.

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Click here to view more monthly favorites.  Happy April!