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! ;)

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