Wednesday, May 30, 2012


It’d been a long day.  The kind that’s filled with good and happy activity but leaves you exhausted by nightfall. 

Once the three girls were resting soundly in bed I needed some mindless activity.  So, I pulled out a beautiful pink ribbon that I’d saved off a gift and an old wrought iron frame that was doing nothing but collecting dust in the laundry room to create a simple, but powerful visual for Ava’s room.
When we took her newborn pictures we got this awesome shot of my husband’s hands framing a heart shape around her chubby, precious feet

And our wedding rings around her big toes.  Because the photo captured God’s beautiful familial design and answered prayer so powerfully, it instantly became a favorite.  But, I’d failed to do anything with it.  Don’t judge, time is hard to come by for a busy mama.  Hannah’s baby book has been updated since she was eight weeks old. Adios scrapbooking, hello Shutterfly…but I digress J  Anyhoo, knowing my love for the picture, my mother in law had it made into a stunning block print for Ava’s first birthday.
I imagined marrying it with 1 Samuel 1:27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him” would make for the perfect wall.  After all, it was a verse I prayed thanksgiving over with each of my children after sitting in a doctor’s office and wondering if we’d ever be able to have them.

My hands worked to weave the ribbon through the frame as I soaked in God’s presence in the silence.  My printer spit out verse on the scrapbook paper I hand selected and font I’d carefully thought through.

And I stood pretty impressed with myself, admiring my little DIY project for a few minutes, before allowing my hubby to bring it into the Noah’s Ark nursery and match it with the print.

When I finally fell under the covers, I was ready for a full night sleep.  But shortly after falling into the much anticipated deep slumber

Popped my eyes open.
Was that? No. Couldn’t be….

I closed my eyes again hoping against all hope that the cries would stop.  No dice.

As I walked to her room, I had only one question….
Why, God? I REALLY could use a full night sleep. What kind of mama can I be if I’m running on empty?

I reached her bed and Ava’s adorable cheeky grin greeted me.  God was brilliant in how he created kids because only a cute little baby can make an overly exhausted parent smile in the mid night hours.
I gently picked her up and snuggled her chubby cheek up to mine while gently rocking her in a circle.

“Shhh, sweetheart, you’re gonna be okay.”
And I soaked in the images as I turned.

A cross

The animals

A quilt my mom made for us

Along with her hand stitching

All reminders of a biblical story that hits home for tired mamas.  Noah had be strung out and exhausted.  Forty days of literally having his boat rocked (like we figuratively do so often in life) but choosing to trust God through it all had to be taxing, but he had faith his Lord would provide calm, rested days, filled with blessing, ahead.

And then, as my eye caught the wall decorated by the new block print and my night's project

my mind stilled and I could hear God whisper into my overly tired soul,
“Shhh, sweetheart, you’re gonna be okay.  Remember?  I am faithful..always.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Strike Up the Grill: Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

Memorial Day is just around the corner and people everywhere will be striking up the grill for a family meal.  However, with the news reporting tonight that the average person consumes in one barbeque meal what they should in an entire day, I thought it was time to share a (healthy) recipe.  It's been a while, right?

We call my hubby the grill master because he's A-MA-ZING and this new Grilled Bruschetta Chicken recipe I found on The Girl Who Ate Everything's blog (thank you pinterest) has quickly become a family favorite.  Even the kids love it.

First things first.  I don't totally understand why it is called grilled bruschetta chicken.  There is no bread involved.  But, it does have the mozzerella cheese and tomato and stuff to give it a bruschetta flavoring.  Second, I often think grilled chicken has the potential to be dry.  This is super moist and succulent, though. Each bite is filled with eye rolling goodness that leaves you yearning for more.

AND, it apparently only has 200 calories, which means you have calories left over for dessert :)

So let's get on to the recipe:

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup KRAFT Sun-Dried Tomato vinaigrette dressing, divided
2 tomato, finely chopped (we used one large one)
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil leaves (we used dried sweet leaf basil)

To get started, cover half the grill grate with heavy-duty foil. Heat your grill to a medium heat.  While it's heating, put all four chicken breasts and 1/4 cup of the dressing into a resealable plastic bag. Turn the bag over and shake it all around to get your chicken covered good and even and then put it in the refrigerator for atleast 10 minutes.  Then you can take the chicken out of the bag and throw away the bag and marinade.

Grill your chicken breasts on uncovered side of grill for about 6 minutes. As it cooks, combine the remaining 1/4 cup dressing, your diced fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil.  Once your six minutes are up, move your chicken to the foil covered part of the gril and flip the chicken over (placing the cooked side up).  Top it with your tomato mixture and close the lid.  Grill for another 8 minutes or until chicken is done.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Indulge :)

We'll be making this OFTEN this summer.  It's by far my favorite pinned main course to date.

Have a fun, safe Memorial Day friends!
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If you are finding me from Kelly's Korner, know that I'm giving away one free copy of Dannah Gresh & her husband's new book "8 Great Dates: Talking to Your Girls about Understanding Boys" here & these handmade dance necklaces for the little dancer in your life can be shipped to you for just $10.  Ours arrived today and I'm dying over their cuteness!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Keystrokes Kill

Her big blue eyes and sweet smile drew me into the screen.  A seventh grade school picture of a make-up free, youthful face that appeared at peace.  Below the surface, however, was intense pain, torturing her soul.

And it caused Rachel Ehmke to take her life.
According to new sources, this middle school girl who had never so much as kissed a boy started enduring the wrath of mean girls last fall when the word “slut” was written across her gym locker.  The relentless bullying escalated at school and on social media to the point that she hid in the locker room during lunch and ultimately escaped it all by hanging herself in her own Minnesota home.  
Her parents were left with this suicide note

Which sends a shiver down every parents spine because who of us hasn’t heard "I'm fine?"

Later her dad would warn "They've got to realize that keyboard - that little finger movement from your computer has the power to kill." 
Cyberbullying demands a new awareness of parents in this technological age.  Unlike face-to-face bullying that necessitates a certain amount of courage, cyberbullying allows the offender(s) to hide privately in the comforts of their own home and punch out a text or key in a message on Twitter, MySpace, and/or Facebook that will be seen by the multitudes and balloon in a matter of seconds. 
And, as the victim watches the words spread like wildfire, their confidence shrivels.
How do you fight back against such consuming hate?

Sadly, the masses share this pain...
Finish reading my post here on ModSquad
Photo Credit. Originally seen on a My Fox 9 news video

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Summer Boredom Buster Box

Summer is here and with all the fun list ideas to do with the kids flying around pinterest and potential to hear (insert whiney voice here) "I'm bored," I'm making an attempt at proactive spontaneous fun in a homemade summer boredom buster box.

Kids love surprises and the ideas I selected will make for easy, inexpensive, somewhat educational enjoyment.

If I did my math correctly we have 68 weekdays between this academic year ending and 2012/2013 year beginning.  So, I looked at some blogs and pins with home ideas and this is my list.  I didn't include the zoo, parks, library, etc because we will be doing a lot of that anyway. 

When I hear the two dreaded words, I'll let them draw one paper out of the boredom buster box.  Hopefully I won't have to use it often but if I do atleast I'll be prepared. I'm sharing my list with you incase you could use ideas as well.  We moms gotta stick together! :)

1.       Make bubbles
2.       Make play doh
3.  Make no bake reeces pieces cookies

4.       Write great nama M
5.       Write great nama D & D
6.       Write great nama H
7.       Write our world vision child
8.       Draw a picture for cousins J & H
12.   Write/draw a book
13.   Write a play to do for daddy when he gets home from work
16.   Alphabet scavenger hunt – one item for every letter
17.   Paint rocks to put by birdhouses
18.   Write 10 things they love about dad in sidewalk chalk to surprise him when he gets home
19.   Do a puppet show
20.   Make special K bars
21.   Paint nails
22.   Write last year’s teachers
23.   Tell stories in the dark
25.   Make puffy paint
26.   Make frozen yogurt bites (Spoon yogurt onto wax paper & freeze. This would be great to take along on zoo & park trips)
27.   Make milk jug ball tosses
29.   Play with sponge balls
30.   Scavenger hunt for numbers 1-10 (1 object for the number one, 2 of the same objects for number two, etc…)
31.   Make fruit popsicles
33.   Draw a word picture for each letter of the alphabet
34.   Make cookie dough balls (We've already made these & they are GOOD!)
36.   Sidewalk chalk numbers
37.   Lowercase/uppercase letter match
38.   Play freeze tag
39.   Make silly hats
41.   Go for a walk and point out the things we think are most pretty that God made
42.   Curl hair with the curling iron
43.   Play telephone
44.   Hula hoop
45.   Write the ABCs with licorice strings
46.   Pick an animal to research and then tell daddy about it when he gets home
48.   Make fruit loop pictures
49.   Play H-O-R-S-E (basketball)
50.   Play dance recital
52.   Make LEGO houses
53.   Play card games
54.   Put puzzles together
55.   Send Nama & Hampa N mail
56.   Send Nama & Hampa O mail
57.   Match the unmatched socks game: who can find the most matches?
58. Make monster Cookie Dough Dip
58. Play bat & ball  
60.   Kick the soccer ball
61.   Home swimming pool
62.   “Paint” the deck with water
63.   Make dried strawberries
64.   Make sidewalk chalk spray
65.   Prepare an Angry Birds pizza for supper
66.   Draw & mail dance pictures for Miss J & Miss A
67.   Read the entire storybook Bible
68.   Make fabric tie flip flops
A review of the food on this list isn't looking good for the waist line, but I'm calling it good since I'll be doing lots of walking around the zoo and to & from the park.  Besides, I'm preparing future homemakers.  :) 
What are some of your favorite things to do with the kids in the summer? 
Anything special on your "must try" list?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank you, Teachers!

Hats. We all wear them. They indicate roles we play in life.

When Grace started kindergarten last fall, I happily added a new "hat" to life's wardrobe - room mom volunteer. In doing so, I gained incredible admiration for the "hats" our childrens teachers wear.

From day one, we've loved Mrs. M.  As we entered her classroom she entered our hearts.  In fact, when Grace hands this sweet garden focussed teacher appreciation gift to her tomorrow for the final day of school

she wanted this specific phrase :)

I will probably shed a few tears along with her.  This won't be a "good-bye," but a "so long." :)

Because our elementary school actively invites parents into the learning process, I've experienced the role of a teacher in a whole new way.  This BusyTeacher printable poster makes a great attempt at capturing the many hats a teacher wears,

Although I'm not sure it's possible to summarize it all.  Descriptions fail in a profession that fully befriends, directs, instructs, loves, and inspires.

Through Mrs. M, I've seen one person's capability to demonstrate an acute awareness of (a room full of) childrens feelings, and respond in love.  I've witnessed a definitive knowledge of each child's personality and tailor learning for each one in a way that will help them be their best.  I've observed admirable creative skill to balance work with fun and schedule with flexibility.  She has awareness of medical situations and how to care for them, family situations, childrens joys and challenges...and handles it all with a calm finess.

Teaching is truly a special calling - that few can fill well. So, to all my teacher readers, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for listening to God's call. Thank you for investing in our children. Thank you for planting the seeds that inspire tomorrow's adults.

YOU are changing the world & I stand in awe of your profession.

So, "hats off" to you for all you do.  Take some time to simply rest and have a blessed summer, knowing that we parents are indebted with gratitude for all you do.

*poster used with permission via BusyTeacher*

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mother Necklace

Lately mother necklaces have become quite trendy.  Although I don't wear necklaces often (because baby fingers are pulling on them), I knew having a necklace with my children's names on it would easily be one of my most treasured possessions.

Last year Ava was born a few days before Mother's Day, completing our family.  At Christmas I received this gorgeous custom, hand-stamped Say Anything sterling silver Mother's necklace and I LOVE it so I had to share it with all of you!  You might want to keep it in mind for yourself or a loved one down the road. :) 

The open circle design allows for their hanging birthstones to share more of the story, not to mention added beauty and a unique feminine touch.  Every detail down to fonts and chains are chosen by the costumer and I hear Stephanie is awesome to work with.

I can't wait to wear it to church this morning because being a mom to these three girls

Is the Best. Job. Ever!

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lunch Box Love Notes

Nine months ago I looked at a lunch box on my table and cried.  Of all the things we purchased to send Grace off to kindergarten, that one hit the strongest.  It symbolized of a new phase in life.  A bittersweet phase for a full time mommy.

When I wrote "The Lunch Box" I had no idea how much joy would fill her academic year.  And now, ironically, I find myself teary as I prepare her final kindergarten cold lunch.

I was inspired to do something special because lunch box love notes have been our "connection" when we've been apart during the day.  Every time she brought her lunch we'd leave a note for her to find and know we're thinking of her.

She loved them.  In fact, when I went to have lunch with her I would find a surprise treat as well.

They make me a smile.

The calendar shows a frown face on Friday, which means she's not impressed with what the school has to offer and will bring her own cuisine.  In preparation for the day, I finished her special bag and wrote the final kindergarten lunch box note. 

We will be keeping the lunch box love notes tradition for many years to come.  And, I'll definitely be making a big deal of each year's final cold lunch because these kids deserve to know how impressive we believe their academic success to be.

Congrats on completing your first year of elementary school, Grace.  We're proud of you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Fear Spreads Like Hives

I noticed the first spot when I changed her diaper.  Minimizing it to diaper rash, I put Ava down for her nap and got Hannah ready for dance.

An hour passed and it was time to leave, so I woke my little princess up to discover approximately ten spots on her upper leg

and a very inflammed outer ear. 

Grace and Hannah piled in the van and off we went.  When I got to the studio, I asked a nurse friend if she thought it was hives.  She said yes and I immediately put in a call to the pediatrician for benadryl dosing.

As the night progressed, more spots appeared.  Her belly, other leg, and arms would become a spotted, polka-dotted mess. 

And I panicked. 

Although I was looking at the little girl in front of me my mind was in an ER room looking at my oldest.  After reacting to a medicine she broke out in hives, became feverish, and swollen.  Barely two at the time, her tiny little body lay on the hospital bed helped by oxygen, epinephrine, steroids, and a host of other meds.

And memories of that anaphylactic shock seemingly brought on anaphylactic fear.

What was causing this?  How would Ava respond?

Just like the hives spreading across her body hives of fear spread over my mind.

I did my best to stay in the moment and could hear my dear friend saying, "Take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5), but I was failing.  Miserably.

Shortly after putting my sweet princess to bed I snuck in her room with a flashlight.  I wanted to make sure her symptoms hadn't changed,  And, when I did, she opened her eyes and sat up. 

I swooped her into my arms and brought her in our room.

"I just need to hear her breathe."

The clock struck midnight so I sang her happy birthday and I stroked her hair.  I studied every inch of her body and I smiled at my beautiful one year old.

By morning the spots were in her arm pits and on her face.  The pediatrician pulled us right in and strarted the birthday girl on steroids - maybe the best gift that my girl received that day.  The spots quickly started to disappear.  She quit itching at her ear.  She wanted to eat ice cream and we laughed as she went from person to person snatching treats from family members at DQ.

Five days have passed.  Her meds are done and her skin is cleared.  She's happy and healthy...and none of my worst fears happened.
Sometimes in life I am guilty of being paralyzed by the "what ifs" instead of dealing with and resting in "what is."

I don't want to be this way because it steals individual moments of their joy and places seeds of doubt in my mind about the future.

Am I alone or do you get me?

So today I'm choosing to rest.  To be conscientious of really trying to take my thoughts captive and live in the moment because, friends, God already knows what lies around the next bend and He will meet us there so why not relax in that goodness? 

Rest... Stay in the moment... Trust...

Life is so much more enjoyable if we do.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our Little Scoop of Heaven is One! {Ice Cream Theme Party}

It seems like just yesterday that my husband pumped his first in the air saying, "I was right. It's a girl!," but a whole year has flown by and today we celebrated our little scoop of heaven with an ice creme theme birthday party.

SHE LOVES her ice cream.

When I saw the cutest ever ice cream cone cupcakes cake, I decided to give it a try myself.

Pretty cute, right?!

That got the creative juices flowing and I made her this waffle cone hat that I taped to a headband. 

It lasted on her head all of two seconds, but long enough to capture the moment and that's all that matters. :)

I also filled waffle cones with ice cream toppings for people's sundaes

And Grace and Hannah helped me make these adorable treat bags for the kids.

I emphasized her age with the yellow "one" cupcake cake between two ice cream cones.

It made for a beautiful centerpiece.

But, it wasn't nearly as beautiful as the birthday girl herself.

She is an answer to prayer and having our family and nearest and dearest friends present to celebrate our good and perfect gift from above made for one very special day.

Her birthday supper was an ice cream cone meal.

Ours was made of a chocolate chip waffle cone, bananas, and, of course, a cherry on top.  All perfectly mashable foods that make for a one year old's delight.

Happy first birthday, sweet Ava,WE LOVE YOU!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Can Do All Things

She came into my life when we were caboodle carrying, N’Sync lovin’ teens. 
Assigned roommates on a church trip, we shared sleeping quarters during a busy week of service work and youth events.

Time would pass before I would see her sitting between her parents at church. A good kid who that let her guard down, her belly was swollen with new life. Although I couldn’t fully grasp the enormity of her situation or how her life would soon change, I admired her for courageously attending services, and something inside said invite her to ice cream. One ice cream date turned into two, then three, then four… and a deep friendship formed.

I’ll never forget the phone call with her mom. “She had the baby this morning.” I rushed up to the hospital room to find my beautiful friend holding a God-planned life swaddled in pink. On her wall hung a poster of verses she’d made – the top one:

“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

When she left the hospital as a teen mom, the statistical odds were stacked against her.

But she graduated on time with top marks. And, her desire to provide on her own would lead to a work/parenting balance most adults strive to attain even in their mature years.

Through the experience, I watched God begin an incredible work in her life. My friend’s faith would transition from something that was a part of her life to the very pulse of her being. Choices were made out of love for His will. Relationships were born with new perspective on Godly love.

Shortly after standing up for me while I said “I do” to my high school sweetheart, a man of God would enter her life. He would love not only her but her daughter and it was my honor to play a role in their special day as they formed a family.

Over the years, she added more princesses to their brood. Working from home, she would make their house a kind of sanctuary. You walk in and can feel the love she has for her husband. The four girls are God-fearing, confident, modest, and involved in activities. And, God’s Word is both displayed and felt as you visit.

A couple years back, however, He gave her a new dream. To be a nurse. Many with a house full would say, “no way.” But not her. She applied and was (of course) accepted. My husband and I celebrated her accomplishment with a medical meal. :)  Each item represented a system – chicken legs for the skeletal system, better than sex cake for the reproductive system…you get the idea.

It seems like just yesterday. But today we are celebrating her graduation and I could think of no better gift than this beautiful KraftyKash necklace. It is a personalized pendant necklace with your verse

Because H, you are a living example of this biblical promise. From the most difficult of moments to the happiest of times, you have laid your confidence in God and trusted that with Him you can do all things. And, to top it off, you’ve accomplished this all the while working, volunteering, giving of yourself to your family, and staying in tune with your friends. Most amazingly, you've never appeared frazzled. You get your energy from Him and a special peace and grace outflows from that.

What a witness you are to the world!

You're nursing school diploma is more than a piece of paper.  It represents defying odds, believing in yourself, and living life to the fullest.

I’m so thankful for the way God chose to weave our lives together because in addition to the simple joy of friendship and the gift of being Godparents to each other's children your perseverance has motivated me to chase my own dreams.

Today may we all take our cue from you.

No mountain is ever too high to climb.
With a God-given dream, all things ARE possible.

YOU are living proof. Love you, friend!
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Championing our Children: An "Oh The Places You'll Go" Tradition

Yesterday I volunteered in Grace's classroom for the last "regular" school day this year - just a field trip and big end of the year party left.

We are blessed to have her in a school that not only welcomes but encourages parents to play an active role in the children's learning experience. In fact, Grace's class had a parent in the classroom each day. Being a "room mom" has made me so appreciative of the incredible creativity teachers have in presenting concepts and the patience and love shown by every staff member in the building.

All of these individuals champion our kids. They help inspire and encourage them, leaving a lasting imprint on their lives.

And I am thankful.

So, I started a gift that excites me beyond belief.

I've often given the book "Oh The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss to high school graduates with a special note in the front cover. It's a great book for all ages with a message relevant to everyone.

However, when I saw this free printable by Lisa's Workshop on pinterest

I jumped on board.

When I went to volunteer yesterday, I pulled out the book after the kids went to gym for Grace's school teacher to sign. I've personally decided to also include principals, office staff, counselors, etc. because they are invaluable to a positive school experience. Thankfully, Hannah is going to have the same preschool teacher Grace did so I will go back for hers.

While the principal (who is a young mother herself) signed, she repeatedly commented that she loved the idea and wanted to do it for her own kids. That got me thinking that not everyone is on pinterest and even for those of us that are we don't always happen across everything that we'd like to do, but many of you have children and might want to start the tradition I'm passing along someone else's brilliance for you today. :)

I can't imagine a more special gift for my girls when they graduate than opening a book cover to find love from all the teachers and school staff they've so dearly loved along the way.

In this case, pinterest has made me a better mom. True story.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy May Day! {Wheelbarrow Baskets}

Happy May Day y'all! 

As a child, I always loved making May Day baskets, sneaking up to the neighbors houses, ringing the doorbell, and running away.  The mischevious thrill combined with the element of mystery about who the candy came from made for so much fun!

I've yet to make May Day baskets with my kids.  I wasn't really sure what age to begin but apparently the age is now and when my girls went to hang out at grandpa and grandma's yesterday they came back with these wheelbarrow baskets.

To make them, they simply used tin cupcake liners & a folded straw with a paper wheel in the front.  Then they filled the liner with candy.

Aren't they adorable?!

Thanks for getting the May Day basket fun rolling {punny, huh?} in our house, "Nama" & "Hampa."  The excitement level to give them away today is through. the. roof! 

Grace already started the delivery delight with her teacher.  She,  of course, picked with one with a blue straw since that's her teacher's favorite color. 

So, pretend that I'm leaving one of these at all of your doorsteps as thank you fun for coming back here to read post after post.  Or make some with the kids in your life.  They are too cute not to pass on!  

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