Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review (because all the cool kids are doing it)

Here's our year in review along with my favorite Instagram picture of the month. :)  There are links throughout so click away!

In January I officially became a Key Spouse for our squadron (but I didn't write about it until April) and we celebrated my husband's birthday with a date to Joe's Crab Shack.

In February we decided to create a separate blog for our family updates.

In March we started our gratitude wall.

In April we started our summer produce challenge to eat more seasonally.

In May I read my favorite book of 2013 and fell in love with Shauna Niequist's writing (I received Bittersweet for Christmas this year and can't wait to dig in).

In June I was a bridesmaid (brides-matron?) for my friend's wedding and we traveled 2,217 miles in 11 days to see family and friends all over the place.  We hope we never have to do that road trip again!  During June I also wrote about about a post about feminism and the Church.  I'm not incredible proud of the writing or the depth because I know I could do better on both of those.  But I am very proud that I overcame my 'fear of man' just a little bit by pressing "publish" on that post.

In July Hadden learned to walk and hasn't slowed down since!  I wrote a second post about our favorite baby items which was a follow up post to this one from last September.

In August we celebrated Hadden's first birthday, I was named as one of the top 10 military mom bloggers and my blog had a much needed makeover!

In September we started our first Whole30 (we'll be doing another in January!)

In October we celebrate Halloween and I reviewed our commissary's pick up system (one word: awesome!).

In November my sister's family came for Thanksgiving which was the best ever!

And finally, in December we traveled to Ohio so my husband could have corrective eye surgery (more on that in upcoming posts).

**This post contains Amazon Associates links

Monday, December 30, 2013

currently reading (my LAST book review of 2013): A Star for Mrs. Blake

While we were away for my husband's surgery, I was contacted about reviewing the book A Star for Mrs. Blake

 by April Smith.  I read the summary and it caught my interest so I agreed.  When we got home from the trip, I was TIRED.  It had been a long two weeks of chasing a toddler around, helping with my husband post-op and I needed a mental break.  This book was waiting for me when we got home and I thought I'd just read a couple chapters to see what I thought.  Things didn't exactly go as planned because soon I was swept away into Mrs. Blake's world and reading non-stop.  In less than 24 hours I had read the entire 334 pages!  If you want to read a little more about the book, check out my review below or look for it on sale on January 14th!

(Image from Amazon)

 is a historical fiction book set in 1931, thirteen years after the end of World War I.  The story follows Cora Blake's journey from her small town in the United States to visit the grave of her son, Sammy, in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery with a group of Gold Star Mothers (referring to the gold star that hung on their service flags after a family member had died).

Cora Blake, a volunteer librarian, lives on Deer Isle, Maine where she cares for her three nieces, and keeps tabs on her trouble-making brother-in-law.  Living the midst of the Great Depression, Cora makes ends meet by working in the cannery and a frugal lifestyle.  When a letter comes from the US government, Cora has a flashback to the letter she received 13 years ago telling her that her only son, who had lied about his age to enlist in the Army, had been killed in action.  This letter, however, was an invitation to join other Gold Star Mothers to visit their sons final resting places in France, paid for by the United States.

With little hesitation, Cora decides she will join the pilgrimage.  She travels to New York City where she meets the group with whom she'll be traveling - four other Gold Star Mothers, a young nurse and a newly commissioned Army officer.  The women are all unique, coming from different religions, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels, which adds drama to an already emotional journey.  Once in France, Cora meets an American journalist, Griffin Reed, who was injured during the war and is now forced to wear a metal mask to cover his wounds.  When Cora tells Griffin the story of her pilgrimage, including a secret she's kept for years, he writes an article about her that brings with it a surprise ending.

A Star for Mrs. Blake is based on the stories of deceased Army Colonel Thomas West Hammond, "whose first assignment as a graduate of West Point Academy was to accompany a party of Gold Star Mothers...on the pilgrimage to France."  After I finished the book, I did some researching of my own and found that April Smith had done an excellent job of weaving historical fact within her fictional story.  The characters quickly grew dear to my heart and I was moved to tears many times throughout the book.  As I read about mothers crying over their sons graves, I found myself stopping the book for a moment to scoop my son into my arms and tell him about much I love him.  This book gave me a greater appreciation for the sacrifice of our veterans and their families and a great appreciation for my own family.

My Rating: 5 Stars

**I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

**This post contains Amazon Associates links

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!

"Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

My throat clenched and my eyes filled with tears as we sang those bolded lines in Church on Sunday.  My son in my arms, a chorus of voices around me all and I was instantly overcome by this Truth we believe: that God became Man that He might die in my place so that I might live with Him forever.

Glory to the newborn King, indeed.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's not Christmas until...

Since we were away for the past two weeks, I've been going overboard on everything Christmas for the past few days to make up for the lost time.  While we were gone, we tried to keep up on our Advent reading, but that was about it!  So I have a checklist in my head of things that we MUST do in order for it to feel like Christmas.  Starting with the tree farm...

It's not Christmas until you freeze your tail off at a tree farm and walk around in circles for an hour trying to find the right one.

It's not Christmas until you sing along to Point of Grace 'A Christmas Story' album (preferably while doing something else on the list)

It's not Christmas until you've spent an afternoon (or two or three) baking.

It's not Christmas until you've collected a pile brown paper packages from your doorstep.

It's not Christmas until you spend an evening driving around town to admire lights.

It's not Christmas until you sing carols (bonus points if you know the harmony).

It's not Christmas until you go to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

Your turn!  It's not Christmas until you...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Purgatory Exists - It's Driving Through Iowa (a recap of our trip)

We spent the last two weeks at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio where my husband was having surgery.  Since we just got home, I'm still catching up on emails and trying frantically to get things ready for Christmas.  I can't wait to tell you more about the Fisher House where we stayed and show you the pictures - it was gorgeous!

But I wanted to write a little first about our road trip there.  It is an 11 hour drive, which we split into two days by stopping at my parents' house each way.  Our time at my parents' was short, but we did have time to take Hadden sledding for the first time!  We requested a toddler sled for a Christmas gift, and my mom found this one at Target.  Hadden had such a good time!  We don't usually post videos of him on my blog, but I had to share this one.  So here's a video of him going down the little hill by himself.  :)

Now about Iowa.  Have you ever driven through it?  Man.  I'll tell you.  I grew up doing road trips and I usually love them!  But there's something about driving through Iowa to get home that seems ENDLESS.  It's the same view the whole time (flat farmland) and there aren't great options to eat along the way.  I told my husband that I will only drive through Iowa once more in my life and that will be when we're moving away from Nebraska!  Of course, that won't be true - we'll probably be doing that drive this spring.  But I'm trying to not think about it right now.

Other than Iowa's dullness (and our son throwing up on the way home - another thing I'm trying to forget), the road trip was good.  My husband and I have great conversations along the way and I love that uninterrupted time to talk and pick his brain.  The best times are when the baby falls asleep and it's just the two of us passing ideas back and forth, planning for the future and learning more about each other.  

It seems like most people I know fall into one of two camps: love road trips or hate road trips.  I've also noticed that the people who love them usually grew up road tripping with their family and have good memories of it.  Which camp do you fall into?

Sorry for this scattered post - we're off to look at Christmas lights and I don't have time to edit (as usual)!

Friday, December 13, 2013

{good reads} december 13th edition

Like I said before, I'm away for an extended amount of time, so forgive these posts that are light on the writing side.  But I often find articles I want to pass on so I thought I'd share a few today.

In which this is also about the men {Sarah Bessey}
I love Sarah Bessey's writing and recently began reading her new book Jesus Feminist - I'm just a chapter or two in and it's already blowing me away!  She has great things to say about women, but this post is about men.

"Part of the reason I am so passionate about women’s issues in the world today is because I am also passionate about men. I’m the mother of a strong little boy. I’m the wife of a strong man. I’m the daughter of a strong man.  And the men in my life are Jesus feminists.  I cannot fathom my life without my men...Feminism is not matriarchy. I don’t know any one who would like to replace the system of patriarchy with the system of matriarchy.  Feminism is simply equality..In the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to choose between lifting up men or lifting up women, it’s not one or the other: it’s both together, it’s the sacred union, the created purpose as co-image bearers of God."

So You're Feeling Too Fat to be Photographed {Teresa Porter) 
"Seeing myself in pictures actually produces the faintest sick feeling in my stomach. Isn’t it amazing we can see the beauty in our best friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts without the slightest thought to their flaws . . . but can obsess for hours on our own imperfections? We fixate on our flaws to the point we shirk at any documentation that our round faces and curvy bodies ever walked the earth. No pictures to show how we LOVE, how we laugh, how we are treasured by our families. How is it possible that a double chin can overpower the beauty of a mother cuddling her child? How does arm fat distract from the perfect shot of a spontaneous hug? I swear y’all . . . how is it that we can put more value on a TUMMY ROLL than the captivating way you throw yourself into a roar of laughter during a shoot?

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out {Brynn Harrington}
"I’ll never talk to my daughter about fitting into THAT DRESS.  But I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot.  I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency.  I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it.  And I’ll leave the rest up to her."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flash Mob, Air Force style!

Last week the USAF band did a flash mob at the National Air and Space Museum in DC.  It would be been incredible to see live, but the video is still wonderful.  My one year old was mesmerized!

Friday, December 6, 2013

alma mater

Today we took a trip back to our alma mater.  We were meeting my friend for lunch and introducing her to Hadden.  And we talked about all the change that had happened since we had left.

Of course, every university changes over time.  I used to always roll my eyes a bit at alumni who thought things should be the exact same as when they were there (i.e.  "We had to suffer through wearing skirts all winter long so you should too!").

But this is a completely different kind of change.  There was a huge turnover in faculty and staff, including many who were forced out.  And with the newcomers, came some key changes in beliefs and practices.

This is all more complicated by the fact that it is supposed to be a school run by Christians.

There are many different versions of what happened and whether the changes are good or bad.  I could go into a lot of detail about my concerns, but I'll leave it at this: many people I love are no longer welcome there.  

I'd never say that the school was perfect when I attended.  But I do know that I had faculty and staff who mentored me, who challenged me, who changed the way I thought.  Some of those people are the reason that I am still a Christian today.  And to this day, I think back to their teaching whether it was in the classroom, a one-on-one conversation or simply how they lived out what they believed.

My alma mater.  My nourishing, bountiful mother.  You claim to be "Christ-centered", yet what I've seen lately is not very Christ-like.  You've scarred my friends.  You've turned into a place of conflict.  My happy memories of you have been tainted by reports of injustice.

The past few years have been a struggle as I've tried to reconcile what I've seen of Christianity with what I know about Christ.  Unfortunately, my alma mater isn't helping.

**post script - I'm on an extended trip, so if posting is sporadic or I don't respond to comments right away, that's why!  I'll do my best to catch up quickly!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Whole30 Challenge -- TAKE TWO

Back in September, my husband and I completed Whole30a 30 day challenge of eating real food and eliminating addictions to sugar, wheat, etc.  It was hard, but GREAT!  I had far fewer migraines, hardly any fibromyalgia pain, lots of energy, cut out my sugar addiction, and ended up losing 20 pounds in the process.

We've decided to do another Whole30 in January!  We totally splurged on Thanksgiving and I've been paying for it the past few days with very achy joints.  So now I'm back to collecting recipes that are FREE of sugar, dairy, gluten, corn and legumes.  Can you say "Hello, Pinterest"?

Although you can start Whole30 at any time, they have three "scheduled" starts throughout the year including January 1st.  But since my husband's birthday is in January, we'll be waiting until after his birthday to start meaning we'll finish mid-late February.

I'm already excited (and scared) to do another Whole30!  But one thing that is giving me extra motivation is that we have friends doing it with us this time!  We might not all start on the same date, but as of right now, we have four friends who are doing Whole30 in January!  My goal is to encourage 10 people to do Whole30.  It really did help me and I think it could do the same for you.  Do you want to join us??

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#GivingTuesday - Join the Holiday Salute to Military Families!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walmart for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Today I’m excited to be collaborating with Walmart as part of their Holiday Salute to Military Families.  This year, Walmart is giving way $2 million in grants to assist military members and their families through a partnership with Operation Homefront and Fisher House.  So much of the holidays revolve around spending time with loved ones.  For military families who are separated, it’s often the hardest part of the season so I’m grateful that Walmart is recognizing these families and their sacrifices! 

Last year, about a week before Christmas, we delivered cookies to families who were alone due to deployment.  One family had just been told that their husband/father would arrive home in time for Christmas – they were elated and were anxious to get the flight information that would give them the exact time that they would be reunited.  In the next house we visited, a woman shared how her neighbor had come over to hang the Christmas lights since he knew she was pregnant and had a toddler.  Another person talked about the inevitable “Murphy’s Law “ of deployments.  In his case, within a week of his wife deploying, his daughter’s school called him in the middle of the day with an emergency.  At each house, the families were making the best of the situation.  They mentioned celebrating holidays ahead of time or that they planned to open gifts over video chat.  But that didn’t take away from the disappointment of not having their loved ones present during this special time of the year.

Walmart is donating gifts, toys, meals and lodging to military families by working with Operation Homefront and Fisher House.  This is especially close to my heart this year as my family will be staying in a Fisher House later this month.  Additionally, Operation Homefront will be flying home more than 500 service members so that they can spend the holidays with their families!  I cannot think of a better gift you could give a military family!!


Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving, which was closely followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  But today is #GivingTuesday – a campaign encouraging people to give during the holiday season.  Here are two easy ways you can give right now!

1)   Partner with Walmart to raise money for Operation Homefront and Fisher House.  These organizations are a blessing to many military families, mine included.  Click on the links provided to give online.

2)   Join in our Holiday Salute to Military Families by thanking a military member and/or their family.  Leave a comment here telling me about your hero and then share this post on social media.  Remember to tag the military member you are thankful for so they can see your appreciation!

I’ll start:  In addition to my husband who serves in the Air Force, I’m grateful for my friends who are military spouses.  I’ve seen you in laughter and in tears. I’ve watched your families endure deployments and I’ve seen your excitement over homecomings.  You serve silently and without much appreciation, but today I want you to know that I am so grateful for each of you!  Thank you!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, December 2, 2013

hello to new readers!

  • Wear skinny jeans.
  • Have a baby within a year of getting married.
  • Advertise my blog.

Add this to the list of things I said I'd never do only to eat my words later.  :)

Hello to those of you who came via Jessica's blog!  I've been reading Jessica Lynn Writes for a couple of years now.  I love her writing and, since she was having a sale on ads, I decided to take advantage of it!

If you're new to my blog, check out the headers above to learn a little more about me and my family or my most popular posts (on the right sidebar about halfway down).

Also, I'd love for you to leave a comment, especially if you have a blog of your own that I could check out.  Yay for delurking! ;)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

happy thanksgiving!

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
-John Milton

happy thanksgiving from my family to yours!

We hope you are surrounded by those you love and that you fall asleep counting your blessings.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

thanksgiving feast

{my mom's famous cinnamon rolls, which are technically sticky buns but we didn't know that until we were older so we call them cinnamon rolls}

My sister and her family are visiting us for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait!  It's going to be great for many reasons, but one thing I'm looking forward to is cooking together.  My entire family likes to cook and try new recipes, but Thanksgiving is about the classics.  When my sister and I talk on the phone, we've planned all of our family favorites.  I don't cook these foods normally (especially not since Whole30!) so I'm looking forward to eating my childhood favorites.

My only concern is how we're going to cook all the food in my kitchen!  Most of it needs to be in the oven at the same time, so I'm getting creative about alternate heating sources like the crockpot.  It's going to be a juggling act to get all of our dishes cooked and serve them warm, but hopefully I'm up for the challenge.  :)

I've made some things ahead of time, like the cinnamon rolls pictured above.  But I'm excited to have a full kitchen on Thanksgiving, even if it's hectic.  I love having my family around and making memories in the kitchen and around the table.  

What's your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?  I'm looking forward to Kentucky spoon bread which I haven't had in YEARS!

Monday, November 25, 2013

repost: gratitude wall

Note: I wrote about our gratitude wall back in April, but thought that re-posting it again (with a few changes) would be a good way to begin Thanksgiving week on the blog.  My apologizes about the iPhone pictures...I was too tired to grab the real camera today and fuss with getting the perfect picture.

{our gratitude wall, complete with a quote from Spurgeon who just so happens to share a name with my son}

For a few years, I kept a gratitude journal.  It was a spiritual disciple as I trained myself to see beauty in discouraging circumstances and identify God's good gifts on a daily basis.  My list lengthened.  Soon I had listed over 1000 things that I was grateful for.  Slowly I fell out of the habit of writing them down.  Life got busy and my writing time grew slimmer.

Then I started noticing how much I was bothered by negative people who couldn't find anything nice to say, but instead focused on criticisms.  Let's be honest:  it's a slippery slope before we're all there.  When I said that gratitude was a spiritual discipline for me, I really meant it.  I have to practice it or I'll never learn.

I decided to transform my gratitude journal into a gratitude wall.  This was it was visible and communal.  We set aside a little wall in our kitchen where we write down our "grateful for's" (as we call them) on sticky notes and are working on covering the wall.  As we fill the space, we are making a visible testimony to God's goodness and reminding ourselves of what He's done.  I can't wait until our son is older and he can participate too.  My husband is the one responsible for writing on the chalkboard.  He doesn't change it often, so it's a bit of a surprise to walk downstairs one morning as see a new quote, note or picture.  

As you can see from the pictures, we've added quite a few since we began.  As our son gets taller, we've had to stop adding them to the bottom because he's learned to pull them off.  Recently we've failed at writing down our thanks.  I still think them in my head and sometimes I even stop in the kitchen to read our old notes hanging there.  I'm sure we won't keep this up forever - after all, we're a military family so we'll probably be moving in the next couple of years.  But perhaps we'll pull the sticky notes out each November as a way to ground our hearts in gratitude. 

{February 2013}                                                {April 2013}

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

how to make a {base} house a home

When I rejoined Facebook last month I was kicking and screaming (figuratively, of course).  I've been able to connect with other military wives in our squadron, which was the only reason I joined.  My friend, Ashley, also told me about a FB group for families stationed at Offutt AFB so I joined that as well.  She explained that it was a good way to get information and connect with people and she was right!

One topic that gets revisited frequently on the thread is about base housing.  Choosing a home for your family is such a big decision so it's nice to see people giving information to newcomers and helping them make a good decision.  I've written about our experience with base housing here and here.

Today I thought I'd share a few ideas of how to turn your base house into a home.

Cover the Walls
When we first walked into our home, all we saw was beige.  The walls, doors and moldings were all the exact same shade of flat paint.  And the carpet was only a shade or two different.  It reminded me of an old, ugly hospital ward.

I was disappointed that our housing office doesn't allow painting, so instead we've covered the walls with other things.  Downstairs I have family pictures hanging.  And in our son's nursery I hung a pennant that my mom made.  In our dining room, I hung twine between two nails and used clothespins to hang 4x6 pictures.  If you're decorating on a tight budget, try looking for cheap frames at Goodwill and spray painting them to match.

We have two tall bookshelves (and will need another soon) that add height to the room.  And yes, putting up bookshelves definitely count as decorating.  :)

I love walking into a home and seeing lots of family pictures and a tasteful amount of decorations.  Decorations are tricky though because they often look cheap/tacky or they're expensive.

If you are lucky enough to live in a base house that allows painting, I would paint accent walls.  That way you get the pop of color, but when you move out, you only have to repaint one wall of each room!  Livia from All Things Life and Air Force Wife talks more about that here.

Keep It Clean
Magic Erasers are THE BEST for our walls.  Since our paint is so flat, it shows dirt very quickly and is a pain to keep clean.  I use Magic Erasers regularly and am amazed at how much better my walls and baseboard each time.  (fyi, I am not being paid to say this...it's my honest opinion)

The same is true of our carpets - they show everything!  We vacuum regularly, but let's be honest: having a toddler in the house means that we have many spills on our carpet.  Several of our friends own their own carpet cleaner and use it on a regular basis.  Since we're planning to live in base housing for awhile, I'd love to own one as well to keep the carpets from getting stained.

Decorate The Outside
Since our houses all look similar, you really need to add your touch to the outside to make it your own.  When we first moved into our home, we didn't have a lot of extra money so we focused all of our decorating on the inside where we would enjoy it.  I'll never forget the time that we saw neighborhood kids in our backyard using our water spigot because they thought our house was empty!  This was after we'd lived there for several months!  We're trying to do better about decorating outside our home and making it look lived in, but our neighborhood puts us to shame!  So many people put up elaborate decorations for holidays and take meticulous care of their yard during the summer.  We love taking walks and seeing how the exact same house can look different depending on the owners' personal style.

What suggestions do you have about turning a house into a home?

Monday, November 18, 2013

who do you read?

Who do you read when you're trying to find the right words?

Which authors make you murmur "yes!" aloud as though you're sitting there having a conversation?  Or cause you to underline ferociously and annotate in the margins?

This summer I read Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine and I still haven't recovered.  I felt understood.  And the way she strung words together was magical.

Lately I've been struggling to write.  When I do get the time to sit in front of my computer, the words don't come out.  So I'm going back to the basics, going back to reading.  When I know I'm not writing well, I can at least be reading well.

So I'm going to my bookshelf and pulling out the authors I love.

Am I crazy?  Who do you read when you need inspiration?

Monday, November 11, 2013

currently reading: The Beauty of Broken

"There is no such thing as a perfect family".  

This is the premise for Elisa Morgan's new book The Beauty of Broken.  Morgan is the former CEO of MOPS International and a well-known speaker in addition to authoring several books.  In this book, Morgan shares deeply personal stories from her own life.

I was attracted to the cover of this book and the fact that Morgan, being in charge of MOPS International, was writing honestly about her life.  It's easy to assume that leaders (especially Christian leaders) have everything under control, but it is encouraging to see how they will make an impact with "messy" lives.  In the book, Morgan covers a wide range of issues she's gone through in life including marriage, adoption, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, drug addiction, infertility, alcoholism, divorce, sibling relationships and death.  

Morgan writes that Christians often make family values into a formula, acting as thought if you do A, B and C, your children will turn out to be perfect, beautiful, godly adults.  From her own life experience, Morgan shows that it's usually not that easy.  Life, and especially parenting, is messy and complicated.  

At the end of each chapter Morgan includes a "breakthrough" section.  One of these wrote about going to "Church" with her husband and son.  As you read on, you realize that she's actually talking about AA.  I loved her description of AA as Church because I got the same feeling when I visited a few AA meetings - there was something holy and sacred about people being vulnerable and holding each other up even when they know the worst about you.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I fought against it.  In a forward, Morgan writes that this is her story and asks that we "don't judge" her family members based on what she wrote.  But it's not just her story.  And sometimes even though you are involved in someone else's story, it's still not yours to tell.  I truly hope that each family member read this before it was published and signed off on the sections pertaining to them.

More than that, however, was Morgan's endless need to put a positive (read: spiritual) spin on everything.  I understand that Christians want to see God's hand in everything, but I felt she took it too far.  {SPOILER ALERT} One example is when Morgan's grandbaby is born far too early.  She writes, "Tissue-paper skin.  Sunken lungs. Delicate limbs.  There was no way he could have lived in this world.  He was not made for it.  He was made for another world."  It made me angry - it is an overly romanticized, spiritualized view of death.  The baby wasn't "made for another world"; he just wasn't made to leave his mother's womb that early.  

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It was distasteful to read Morgan "[putting] a bow on everything' (something her daughter accuses her of in the book) by trying to force there to be beauty in everything or to write a good ending to a story that perhaps hasn't resolved yet.  But it was an easy read and could be an encouragement when family struggles and parenting seem overwhelming.

**I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest opinion.

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you to everyone who has served and sacrificed for our country, especially military members and their spouses.  Happy Veteran's Day from my family to yours!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

when being a good mother means making a fool of myself in public

I thought that marrying a nerd would ensure that I didn't have huge technology fails.

Well, I was wrong.

I know I was wrong because on Friday evening we found ourselves driving 40 minutes away with my jacked-up phone in tow.  H had skipped his second nap that day, but finally fell asleep when we were pulling into the shopping center.  And then he woke up as soon as we parked the car.  Of course.

We made our way into the store only to learn that a new device had been released that very day so they were extremely limited on technicians.  Of course.  And I had completely forgotten that you can book appointments online instead of standing in line.  Of course.  See a trend here?

Thankfully my gracious husband decided to make the best of it.  He should, after all, considering his nerd skills had failed me!  We found a Mexican restaurant next door and soon settled in with a quesadilla, a burrito and a plain tortilla for Baby.  We only had an hour to wait until our scheduled appointment to fix my phone.  Our bellies full and our hearts happy, we watched as a storm swelled outside and enjoyed being warm and dry on the wet, cold, windy night.  Hadden had fun standing in our booth and screeching at other customers.  He was so perfectly a toddler that night.  Busy, yet captivated by the simplest things, like the nearby ice machine that rumbled as customers filled their cups.

Our hour was over and we made our way back to the store.  10 minutes past our appointment time in a busy shop was not boding well with our usually-happy son.  There were so many shiny things and he wanted to touch them all!  My husband and I did a quick back-and-forth about what we should do and ended up agreeing that I should take him outside since there was no telling how long it would be.

Pushing open the huge, heavy glass door, I saw that the rain had stopped, leaving puddles to dodge and a damp, cool breeze.  The shopping area had wide sidewalks and piped in music.  We had adjusted Hadden's stroller seat so that he was facing me as I pushed - I love it that way.  Love seeing his little eyes dart from one thing to the next and being able to talk to him.

Soon, however, Hadden was getting fussy.  It had been a long day, after all, and he was ready to be done in his stroller.


I suddenly swerved the stroller to the left, making an airplane noise to accompany it.  Then I dodged back to the right again.

His eyes lit up and a smile quickly followed.  I knew that I had his attention and that we'd gone from simply wasting time to having fun.


The stroller came to a sudden halt and then jerked back to a start a moment later.  Hadden laughed uproariously.

All around the shopping area I was swerving and shifting and stopping.  And my son could not stop giggling.  He knew I was being silly and he was loving it.  I tried a few times, to stop in a store and look around, but he soon made it be known that he was tired of shopping.  There are times when he needs to learn to be content with what we are doing.  But I knew this was different.  This was a time when we'd already asked a lot of him and he had been patient for over an hour already.

The shopping center wasn't very busy, so we weren't in other people's way.  But I did get self-conscious a few times as people walked by us.  Man, I'd give anything to be browsing the racks at The Loft right now, but instead I'm doing a ridiculous dance routine with a hefty stroller and a chortling one-year-old.

I think and then over-think my parenting.  I spent a long while thinking through the pros and cons of whether or not my child should own things with characters on them.  I have an arsenal of books, articles and blog posts stored up that deal with protecting your child from abuse and teaching them basic consent about their bodies.  I make sure he is surrounded by books and nature and loving people and sturdy, intentional, well-made toys.  I have Strong Feelings about almost everything in regards to parenting.

All of that boils down to: I really, really, really want to be a good mom.

But pushing my son around that shopping center and hearing his belly laughs as I jerked his stroller back and forth made me think.  I still think of those things are important.  I still want to study and learn and practice to be a better parent.

But sometimes being a good mother is letting go of my self-image.  It is climbing the playground and racing down the slide.  It is getting on all fours and growling like mad as my giggling son hides behind the couch.  And it is making a fool of myself at a shopping outlet to bring a smile to his sweet face.

My son will be grown up one day and I'm sure he'll have a list a mile long of what I did wrong.  Maybe he'll see and appreciate my intentional actions and recognize that I was doing the best I could for him.  Even if he appreciates it, I don't think it will be a memory.

Sometimes being a good mom means letting go of all of my good intentions and ideas to simply be.  To be present.  To be silly.  To be myself.  To let my son see that, in addition to wanting to do well at raising him, I enjoy him!

While all the intentional parts of parenting are important, I'm thinking that the best gift we can give our child is our delight in their personhood.

Hadden was laughing in joy last night, but he wasn't the only one.  I was giggling along with him.  We made a memory that night, which I won't soon forget.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Click2Go eCommissary - review

A few months ago I was thinking about deployments and how we could make it easier on the parents who are at home with children.  I told my husband that it would be great if we could find a local grocery store that lets you order online.  About a week later, I learned that the commissary (grocery store on military bases) was doing the exact same thing as a trial program AND that Offutt AFB (where we are stationed) was going to be one of the test locations!

I was excited to try it, but the timing wasn't great - about a week after the trial started, the commissary was furloughed due to the government shutdown!  This week, however, everything was back to normal and it was the perfect time to try it out as my family was sick and I didn't really feel like taking a sick toddler in for groceries.

One night after our son went to bed, I sat down at the computer with my grocery list and started clicking away.  Click2Go was easy to use, but I'm sure the more often I used it, the faster I'd become at finding things.  Items are well organized within sections (Produce, Fruit, etc), but sometimes it took a try or two before I found what I was looking for.  There is a search bar at the top and that made it a lot easier to find a specific item - just type in the product name like Horizon Organic Milk.  I submitted my list online and chose a pickup window (e.g. 11:30-12pm) between 11am-6pm.  About 30 minutes after I "checked out", I realized I had forgotten a few things so I signed back in and added those things to my cart.

The next morning, I pulled up to the side of the commissary and pressed a button to talk with the person working Click2Go.  They asked for my last name and told me to pull ahead into a spot.  When they brought out my groceries, they checked my ID, ran my credit card and loaded everything in my car.  It was great!!  There is no charge to use Click2Go and you're not allowed to tip the commissary employees so I only paid for the things I bought.

What I Liked:
Click2Go was easy and convenient!  The website allows you to "favorite" items so if you knew you were going to be buying the same items often, you could save time that way.

You have the option to "allow for substitutions" which means that if the commissary is out of a particular item, they will call you and ask if they can substitute a similar item for your order (e.g. Organic Valley Skim Milk instead of Horizon Organic Skim Milk).  I didn't check this option, which meant they were missing a few things I need (I was informed of this ahead of time by email).  Next time I'll allow substitutions to make sure I get everything on my list.

What I Didn't Like:
I was a little unsure of having someone else pick out my produce, so I didn't buy a lot.  What I received was in good condition so I would trust them again for a few things.  If I knew I was buying a lot of fruits and vegetables though, I would probably prefer to pick them out myself.  Also, you have to pay attention on the website when ordering produce and be specific (there's a notes section on each item so you can explain what you want).  I heard from someone else that when you put bananas in your virtual cart and request 1, they will give you one banana, not one bunch! :)  I had the same problem with onions - the website asked for the number and weight of onions I wanted.

At this point, we can only pick up groceries on three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday).  It's a great start, but it would definitely be nice to have it available on more days.

Assuming that Click2Go grows to other bases, I can see myself using and recommending it to others.  It will be great during deployments (especially if you have several children) or when you're sick and don't want to expend extra energy.  Last winter I cooked two months of meals at a time (which meant one biiiiig trip to the commissary).  I definitely would have used Click2Go had it been an option at that time to save hunting around for various items.  I also like the option of having my husband pick up our groceries on his way home from work without it taking up his time or having to send him a list of what I need - I can get exactly what I need and it would be very easy for him to pick up.  That being said, I don't plan to use Click2Go on a weekly basis because I still like to go in to the commissary and pick out a lot of my own things.

If Click2Go was available at your commissary/grocery store, would you give it a try?

Monday, October 14, 2013

trophy or teacher?

I'll be posting a review of this book in a few days, but wanted to share this quote tonight.

the quarantine has been lifted!

Last week, the day before I was hosting an event, Hadden seemed to be getting sick.  We kept a close eye on him and thought he was doing better, so Caleb took him out for the evening during my party.  Sometime between when we all went to bed and when the sun rose the next morning, Hadden and I got horribly sick!

We spent the last five days or so recovering, but I think we might be over it!  Hopefully I'll get back to posting soon.  We've been doing the bare minimum each day to save energy so blogging wasn't even on my mind!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Government Shutdown Day 5 - How You Can Get and Give Help

Everyone is full of doom and gloom about the government shutdown.  While I can't necessarily blame them, I don't really care to add my voice to that mix.  Instead, here are a couple of things to be aware of, especially if you are a military member or dependent.

1.  No Commissary?  Try Sam's Club
Since all stateside commissaries are closed during the shutdown, Sam's Club has gracious offered a free (temporary) membership to anyone with a military ID.  We don't have a Sam's Club membership, but are planning on taking them up on this offer! 

2.  USAA Loan
According to their website, USAA is "ready to offer a zero-interest, 0% APR payroll advance loan to affected members if the next federal budget issue — the debt ceiling — disrupts pay to active-duty service personnel."  Keep this in your back pocket, in case you end up needing help.

3.  Give.
This would be an awesome time to donate to a local food pantry.  Go through your cupboards and pick up a few extra things at the grocery store.  Since government programs (including WIC) are shutdown/delayed, people may be going hungry.  Not sure where one is?  Use this handy website to find one close by!

And now let me just hop up on a soapbox for a moment: I have often heard Christians complain about government programs.  When questioned about all the verses in the the Scriptures about helping the poor, they say that it should be the Church's job, not the government's.  Well, right now is that time for all those people to step up and live out what they said.

How are you dealing with the shutdown?  Have you felt the effects?

Monday, September 30, 2013

whole30 meals and more!

Well, we are now on Day 23 of Whole30!  It has been a lot easier than I anticipated.  The first few days were hard, but now we don't have to think about it so much.  Additionally, I've noticed that I have more energy.  Some people talk about having "tiger blood" which means having boundless energy.  For me, I've noticed that I crash less often.  I used to go CRAZY waiting for Caleb to come home...I was so tired and could never have him get home soon enough to help with the baby.  Half of the time I had a migraine so I just needed to lay down.  My migraines have been so, so much better (I've only been having them if I haven't eaten or slept enough.  Totally a change from having them day after day).  I've spent more time outside being active with Hadden and haven't been on edge waiting for Caleb to get home.  Additionally, a pair of shorts that 23 days ago were tight can now (literally) fall off me.  I really need to find my belt!

This week I was preparing a meal for a friend, but since I couldn't taste what I was making (it wasn't Whole30), I asked another friend to come over and taste test some apple muffins for me.  Thankfully, she didn't mind that job. ;)  We got around to talking about Whole30 and what we ate so I thought I'd give a brief description.

Here is our official shopping list.  The first week or two I took this with me the store to make sure I was buying Whole30 approved foods.  Now that I have it in my head, I don't usually carry it because I already know what to buy.

This is what WE have been eating.  Sometimes on the different forums, I see people who have different opinions about what is allowed on Whole30 (e.g. one person says to drink only water, but most people agree that other drinks like tea are fine).  To the best of my knowledge, everything I've eaten has been compliant with Whole30, but if someone who is more advanced with Whole30 recognizes that I did something wrong, please don't rake me over the coals! ;)

  Egg casserole with compliant chicken sausage and spinach
  Omelets with peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes
  Fried or Scrambled Eggs

Main Dishes:
Grilled Chicken
Grilled Steak
Salads (including a modified version of this one)
Homemade Meatballs and Spaghetti Squash
Turkey or Chicken Burgers
Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Tuna Salad (with homemade mayo)

LARA bars (we've found about 5 flavors that are compliant)
Kale chips
Fruit (sometimes with a side of almond butter)
Vegetables (LOTS!)
Guacamole (we like it served over grilled chicken or tilapia)
Baked Apple Chips
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Homemade beef jerky

Eating Out*:
(*It's especially important if you're doing Whole30 that you are a compete pain in the butt for the restaurant staff double check how that location cooks their food...it might be different from place to place.)
Panera Bread: "Power" Mediterranean Turkey Salad (no pepperocini, add avocado)
                       "Power" Steak Wraps Salad (no pesto, add avocado)
5 Guys:           Burger (no cheese, no bun, lots of vegetables!)
Texas Roadhouse: Steak (no seasoning - just grilled), broccoli (no seasoning), house salad (no cheese, no croutons, oil and lemon as dressing)
Chipotle:           Bowl with carnitas, mild salsa, guac and lettuce)

Are you up for it??  Ready to start Whole30? (I'm hoping at least ONE person decides to do it after me...I have a few people considering it)

Friday, September 27, 2013

currently reading: Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl

This book review is long, long overdue.  Usually I review a book within a couple weeks of receiving it, but this one arrived over six weeks ago!  Yikes!

I am very conflicted about this book - I'll do my best to explain why.  When I read the summary, I thought I would love this book and I was thrilled to be reviewing it.  But when it came and I actually started reading, I really labored over it.  The first few chapters were mind-boggling.  Each time I picked up the book, I literally got a headache and had to put it down within a few minutes.  I was thrown off by Wilson's style and really struggled to keep reading.  It was the first time I seriously considered not finishing a book I was given to review.  For me personally, the first chapters felt like I *was* on a tilt-a-whirl.  Since I wasn't following the book clearly, it felt like I was being spun around and couldn't tell up from down.  

Then, about four or five chapters in, I started to catch on a little bit, like I finally learned to go with the rhythm of the ride.  Soon I was pausing to marvel at Wilson's insight.  He changed the way I thought about creation, heaven and hell.  Throughout my days, I found myself thinking back to the book and looking at the world around me differently.  And isn't that what a good book is?  Not only did it change my thinking, it stuck with me and changed how I viewed life.

Overall, the poetic style of this book was difficult for me to follow.  I wasn't expecting it and I usually prefer books to be more straight-forward.  However, Wilson wrote such profound things that I want to read it again sometime.  Since I'm prepared for the unusual style, I think I'll enjoy it better.

Now that I am (finally!) finished with that book, I can start on the next two books on my list: Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer (a gift from my sister) and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (a gift from my friend, Megan).  I'm taking a short break from reviewing books for publishers to read these two!

**A copy of this book was given to me through BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

brave words

It's been said that writing is easy.  "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed (Red Smith)."

Open your veins.

And bleed.

Oh yes.

Sometimes I sit in front of the computer and try to transcribe the words in my head.  Essays about the Church, feminism, parenting and all sorts of other things.  But the words don't come.  There is a language barrier between my brain and my fingers.  Can't. Get. The. Words. Out.

Is it fear?  Fear because I know people who won't agree and I don't want to hurt them?  Fear because I know I'm not skilled enough to express it perfectly?  Fear because I have so much learning left to do?

I've heard people say that all bloggers are narcissists.  That no one else would write a publish a record of their lives.  Perhaps they're right.  But at the same time, I think people get something confused.

I don't write because I want to be a writer.

I write because I AM a writer.

I don't say that in a pride or in grandiose dreams of being published.  That's not at all what I mean.  I mean that I have always written: journals, lists, blogs, papers.  It's how I think and how I process.  Calling myself a writer doesn't even mean that I think I'm skilled at writing.  It's just who I am.  I write.  As one of my dear girls in college would say, "I like words."

It is a fearful thing to hit 'publish'.  It is hard to find time to transpose my thoughts and to rework them to make sense on paper.

But I'm trying to do better - I write even though people might not like it.  I write even though I don't know it all or I'm still figuring things out.

If you blog (or journal), I'm challenging you today:  Use brave words.  Write something bold.  And click 'publish'.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

oh, happy day!

To my love,
I'm so, so happy to be celebrating our anniversary today!  Love is complicated and marriage even more so, but I'm glad we're figuring this out together.  :)  This year I hope that we continue to learn to love each other more sacrificially.  Thank you for being so kind and patient.  Thank you for encouraging me to follow my passions and enabling me to serve others (and serving alongside me).  I'm thankful for each day I get to spend with you!  I'm glad that for our wedding we decided to memorize our vows and that we still remember them and can look into each other's eyes as we recite them.  Today I'm looking forward to a wonderful day with you and also looking ahead at another adventurous year!

"I would do it for you, for you
Baby, I'm not moving on
I'll love you long after you're gone
For you, for you
You will never sleep alone
I'll love you long after you're gone
And long after you're gone gone gone"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

the liebster award - a way to discover new blogs

A few months ago, I started reading the blog All Things Life & Air Force Wife.  I've never met Livia, the blogger, but she was a new Air Force wife and the more I read, the more I wanted to read.  Last week, Livia was nominated for the Liebster Award (more about that below) and then chose five nominees, including me!

The Liebster Award is a way to discover new blogs and to share the blogs that you read.  When nominated, you are given some questions to answer.  Then you write your own questions and nominate 3-5 bloggers (who have less than 3,000 readers).  This isn't an official award...just a way to find new blogs and share the ones you love.

Here are the questions that Livia posted for her nominees, along with my answers.

1. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?
   Finishing college on time, I suppose.  I got really sick my junior year and had a lot of talks with my parents and the doctors about staying home for a semester or two to figure out my health.  I chose not to and (with so, so much grace from people who made accommodations for me) I was able to go back that semester.

2.  What was your favorite item as a child?
   Hands down, my Cabbage Patch baby, Taylor.  Taylor now has a permanent place in our home among my son's toys (sitting right next to "Beary Bear" and "Little Baby").

3. Who do you consider to be your celebrity crush?
    Eh...I've never really considered it.  But after some thought and discussion with my husband, I've decided it probably a toss up between Brandi Carlile, Patrick Dempsey and Taye Diggs.

4. What is your favorite comfort food?
   Freshly baked anything (homemade) with a glass of cold milk.  Right now I'm dreaming about pumpkin cream cheese muffins and hand kneaded honey-wheat bread (but because of Whole30, I'm definitely not having anything like that for at least two weeks!).

5. If money was no object, what would you do?
   I would move my family to a different country every 2-3 years and settle down in a little town.  During the day, I would divide my time between exploring the city as a family, studying in beautiful libraries/taking seminary classes, volunteering in an orphanage and going to cooking school.  Along with about 30 other things.  ;)  I have big dreams!
6. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you and you would like to pass on?
  Oh man!  I have honestly considered doing a blog series about this subject!  I must just have a lot of awesome, inspiring friends/teachers/mentors because they've passed on so much wisdom.  Here's one of my favorites though, pertaining to Air Force life.

Marlena Graves was my RD in college, but she was much more than an RD to me.  She was a mentor and a friend.  She and her family are still so dear to me.  When Caleb and I got engaged, I was discussing the challenges of being married to someone in the military, especially when it came to moving often.  For instance, I really wanted to go to seminary (a GOOD seminary), but, of course, the Air Force isn't going to take that into consideration when they move us. :)

When Marlena and I talked about this, she said that it would be easy to use moving often as an excuse to not get involved.  Three years can seem like a short amount of time, but Marlena reminded me that Jesus' whole ministry was three years long.  Think of all that can happen in three years!!  I love that advice and, after living here for only a year and a half, we've gotten involved and gotten connected to people.  I'm glad that I had the encouragement to use our time wisely.

7.  What is the story behind your blog title and/or why did you start blogging?
   My blog title is a play on my last name (Glorioso-Mays) and the fact that sometimes you look back at your life and think about how you wouldn't have planned what happened, but sometimes that's a wonderful thing.  

I started blogging in college.  I was getting burned out writing papers all the time and just wanted somewhere to write for enjoyment.  Five years later, I'm still enjoying it although I wish I felt more free - I need to spend less time thinking about who isn't going to like my position on topics or how unqualified I am and just more time writing.  Analysis paralysis. 

8.  Are you a purse or shoe person?  Or neither?  Why?
   Shoes.  I guess.  If I had to pick one.  I definitely like shoes, but I am not the type of person who spends a lot of money on shoes or even has that many.  I just like them to be cute and practical (read: flats).
9.  Walmart or Target?  Why?
   Target, all the way!  Target is a suburban mom's paradise.  You can get food, household items and cute clothes all in the same place - AND THEY HAVE STARBUCKS!  Whoever thought of that was truly brilliant.

10.  Favorite vacation spot?
   That depends.  If we're going just to relax, I'd chose somewhere like my family's condo in Florida.  It's nice to have your own place, lay out on the beach and just enjoy your vacation.  On the other hand, I love to learn and see new places, so visiting a historical site or a city would also be fun (just more busy and stressful with a toddler in tow).

My nominees are:
Livia (tagback)

And here are my questions for them:

1.  Congratulations!  You're now the owner of a new puppy!  What breed is it and what is it's name?
2.  What's your favorite reality TV show?  (Project Runway?  Anyone??)
3.  It's cold outside so you grab a mug and make yourself a cup of your favorite warm drink.  What is it?
4. You've been banished from the United States and have to choose another country to live in for the rest of your life.  What country would you chose and why?
5.  You've been given $5000 with the stipulation that you must give it away to a charity/someone in need.  Who would you give it to and why?
6.  It's Friday night and it's the end of a very hard week.  What do you do to relax and refocus?

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