Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring break fun: Carlo's Bake Shop Dallas

We had spring break the week before Easter
and it's always a great time to explore and try something new!!
Our family has always enjoyed watching TLC's "Cake Boss,"
so when we heard that they were opening a shop not 30 minutes from our house,
we thought it would be fun to go visit.

We made a mistake though.
We went only 3 days after their massive grand opening.

I thought that by that day the lines wouldn't be crazy and their good customer
service would be back on track.

Well, it wasn't exactly like that!  
The lines didn't seem too long when we first arrived and I prepped
my children that we would plan on waiting no longer than two hours.

One hour in and we were all still excited and in good spirits.
All of the other folks in line were jovial and having a blast.
But we quickly realized the line was going no where and the
store was shorthanded and line management was extraordinarily poor.
After waiting an hour and a half, not moving one inch, and realizing there
would be a minimum wait of another hour before even getting in the store
to the next line, we bailed.

Right around the corner is another famous cupcake shop that I've always wanted to try.

We walked over a block and had the best cupcakes I've ever tasted!!!
They aren't famous for nothin'!!

Each of my kids had a delicious cupcake and we decided we would come back
to Carlo's Bake Shop in a couple months when all the hype had died down
and they had a better handle on customer service!
A stop at McDonald's on the way home for lunch capped off a fun morning
and everyone was happy!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Intentionality: Making time for some fun in your marriage

Several years ago, my husband and I wanted something fun to do together
away from our daily routine and without children.
With six homeschooled children, that seemed like an impossible task.
But we decided to try something we had never done before,
and that was to pack up for 3 days and head over to a neighboring
state and attend the couples retreat at our favorite Christian Camp.
We felt like we were going on a bit of an adventure that first time
because we really had no idea what to expect.
You can peek into that trip and all the subsequent trips here.

After that first initial adventure, we were hooked!
We have tried to go every year since, and now we're taking other couples with us!!

The journey itself to the camp has become an adventure!!
Making fun stops along the way adds even more fun!!!

The quiet time together to just talk about inconsequential things as well as the 
important things is priceless.

Hanging out with friends and meeting new friends refreshes
our hearts and spirits!!

Time spent in God's Word together always challenges us in areas of our lives personally
as well as the tone of our family that needs attention.
This year's speaker was Morris Gleiser with his wife, Lynn.

Several of his challenges really spoke to my heart: 

"God's intention:  A holy, healthy, heavenly home"
"Our home should have such a heavenly atmosphere to it that the angels of God
would feel comfortable being there.  Not the other ones."
The Husband = Servant Leader
The Wife = Servant Completer (NOT complainer or competer!)
Team mates assisting one another!!"

"Our homes should be filled with an ambiance of grace!
We need grace words in our home "seasoned with salt. 
As you give grace to others you leave behind an "odor" of grace."

 Being silly together helps to break through the ice that can build up over time unknowingly
because of busy schedules, little time to talk, the needs of many children,
household tasks, and ministry responsibilities!
Make time to have fun....on purpose!!

The trip home had its own set of adventures enjoying some of God's
incredibly beautiful creations as well as lunch at a new place!!!

We try to get away alone on "date nights" as often as we can.
Sometimes those times seem few and far between because of work/sleep schedules,
family activities, illness, or lack of extra finances.
This retreat has become a concrete spot on our calendar because we've found that being
intentional about it is the only way it can happen.
It is always scheduled in the spring, just after our income tax refund hits the bank.
We look at this as a priceless investment in our marriage and we always use a little
of that money to fund this trip!
This year it seemed like several things happened that were going to derail 
our ability to go to the retreat.
The week prior there had been torential rain that flooded the area, washing away
roads and submerging the highways.
20 inches of rain in one week seemed like an impossible thing to recover from.
Just as it looked like the water would be receding, I started feeling yucky.
Like I hadn't in years.
Hot flashes of fever and sore throat.
When the waves of nausea and white stripes on my tonsils showed up,
I knew I needed to move quick.
Sure enough, it was strep throat.
3 days before we were to leave town.
On this occasion, I eagerly went to an urgent care clinic, got the diagnosis
and antibiotic, and stayed down for 2 days.
The Lord is good!!!
He answered prayer and removed all the obstacles and we were able to leave
right on schedule!!
What a blessing it was!!

We have never been disappointed and always come home refreshed, encouraged,
and looking forward to next year's retreat!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Resurrection Sunday 2016

My goodness, these last couple weeks have been a blur!
Just after my last post, I came down with strep throat which knocked me down 
for several days.
I had only a few days to recover from that before my husband and I
left for our very favorite Couples Retreat (which is for another post!)

Last week our family had spring break from our homeschooling
and we were very busy with some other activities (for another post as well!)
Most of our time was spent preparing for my favorite "Holy Day" of the year....
Resurrection Sunday!!!

In previous years, when my children were smaller and we were home the
majority of the time, I spent lots of time with them doing crafts
and activities with a spiritual message to them.
Easter can easily be confused with bunnies, chocolate, and egg hunts,
but it is so much richer and special than that!!
It is the most important event for believers because it gives validity to our
faith in Jesus Christ!!

To see some of the things we have done in past years to prepare
our hearts for rejoicing and celebrating the resurrection of Christ, 
click here.

This year, the week and days before Sunday were just so busy
as I was directing our church's Easter drama and last minute details
and rehearsals just swallowed up my time.
So I fell back on store-bought items for our Easter breakfast table!!

My bigger girls basically shopped for something fresh and new
for themselves for Sunday morning worship, and I shopped my house for
the younger girls!!  
I love hand-me-downs!!

My husband had spent the last month-and-a-half growing out his hair and beard
for his part in our Easter drama at church that evening!

We couldn't have asked for a more glorious day and had such fun celebrating
our Risen Savior together!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fun sewing project #4: Baby burp cloths and donating them all

During February, my sewing class completed two baby projects.
You can read about our baby blankets here.

I wanted another project that would teach the girls some new skills
as well as add to the stack of items that we could donate
to the local homeless shelter for pregnant women where I

I actually found this project last summer and stashed it away to use for this class.
You can read the tutorial and watch a video on how to quickly assemble these
super cute baby burp cloths right here.

Some new skills acquired with this project included:

Cutting and sewing "mass" projects
Trimming and clipping around curves
Sewing on terry cloth/toweling fabric
More turning inside out and machine stitching outer edges

We ended up with 3 baby blankets (a couple of the girls couldn't part with the blanket they had made)
and over 20 burp cloths!!

We were able to take them to Bridges Safehouse and donate them for Mama's in need!!

I was so proud of how hard these girls worked and for how amazing their projects turned out!!
Great job, girls!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Women's Wellness Wednesday: Zevia

Let me state from the get-go here:
I'm not an advocate for drinking soda or pop (as I grew up calling it.)

I don't know if you have ever read the ingredients label on a can
of your favorite soft drink, but it's not good!!

Waaaaay too much sugar.
Caramel color.
Artificial colors.
The list goes on.

There are a zillion articles on the worldwide web with a plethora of information
about how detrimental these drinks are for your health.
People continue to chug them though.
I know they are super cheap.
$1 for a 2-liter?
Come on!

We have not had soda or pop in our house on a regular basis for years now
and we don't miss them.
Neither does our well-being!!

With all that being said though, I wanted to share a brand that we've recently tried
as a "treat" once in a while!

I think some people have the mind-set that a diet soda would be better for them
than the regular (sugar laden) variety.
Artificial sweeteners (splenda, sucralose, and aspartame) cause even more health problems and are worse for your body than sugar!!!
Again, you can research that anywhere on the internet!

But Zevia has mastered a great tasting soda without the sugar, caramel color, and caffeine!!
It's sweetened with stevia and erythritol and has no colors in it!

My family has tried several flavors and we really love this "root beer" the best.
It's sweet, but not medicinal or bitter to us.

The cherry cola and cola flavors tasted like cough syrup to us, so not our favorites.
The "sprite" version wasn't a big hit either.
We enjoyed taste testing all the new flavors, and came to rest on this as our favorite.
Because it isn't loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and caramel color,
I love offering this for special family nights or day-trips instead of the mainstream sodas!
Be aware that it is  much pricier than your top-brand soda/pop.
This case of 10 is normally about $7 at our local health food store (Sprout's.)
But I snagged a couple cases on a sale day of buy one, get one free!
You can find these at some local grocery story chains as well!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When you wonder where the time is going?

Some days I wonder if I have my priorities straight?
If I spend too much time on the things that are "seen."

You know.....the house cleaning.
The laundry.
The dishes.
The church ministries.
The school activities.

Some days I wonder if my children will ever grow up.
Like, into adults.
Some days, I feel like I'm still training and washing and picking up
and looking at the same piles I've looked at for 18 years.

But time marches on.
I can see it in these pictures.
These sentimental reminders of little hands, and diapers, and lost shoes,
and crazy hair, and poopy clothes, and crumby strollers,
and scattered toys, and knotted socks,
and big dreams, and endless storybooks, and hugs around the neck. 

Busy, hard days that blurred into a week leaving me stumbling into Sunday School half awake.
Wondering how I was going to get everyone home and fed and napped
and re-dressed and back out again.

But I'm beginning to see a glimmer of light from the end of the tunnel.
Things are getting slightly easier.
Not as many back-breaking endless chores.
But now the mental work.
Of planning for college.
Driver's training.
High school transcripts for the homeschooler?
First jobs.

And I wonder if I've done enough?
I'm starting to run out-of-time.
There is still so much more they need to know!!

When I stop and look back for a minute, I can see we've come such a long way.
But I wonder if it's enough?

Time is actually marching on and now our focus is starting to close in.
To get razor sharp.

I need to focus even more on those "unseen" things.
Those moments late at night when teenagers are most available and willing
to talk your ear off about what's going on in their lives.

Slowing down.  To listen.

The younger ones who still enjoy having a book read to them.
The middle ones who are starting to take the initiative to complete school work
or household chores simply because it pleases you.
They need my praise.
I need to recognize their effort.

 Most of all, prayer.
My time may be more free from the constant awareness, the hyper-focus required 
to supervise multiple young children, but I need to channel that time right back
into quiet, fervent prayer for my kids.
I don't see them every minute of the day anymore.
They are making more decisions on their own now.
They need Divine protection and wisdom.
Especially as they are growing and moving up and out.

I need to slow down time.

"Redeeming (making the most of your time) the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:16