Community Fellowship Reminder- June 9th

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ETHAN Project

Have you started thinking about summer with your children yet?

The temperatures here are near 90 this week. It’s a reminder that spring is coming to a quick close and summer is arriving.

I’ve been thinking about the last few years. I always had plans for summer fun. I wanted the children to go into fall with memories of exciting events and lots of laughter. My desire was that we spark imagination and create new memories.

Each summer seems to come and go. It’s easy to become lost in the everyday life (something always seems to need my attention). In the end, those “what I did with my summer” essays aren’t sounding so exciting.

This year I wanted things to be different.

I was THRILLED to find the ETHAN Project (ENJOY the HERE and NOW Project).

The Ethan Project is a 10 week summer blogger challenge.

You can take a peak at each weekly challenge HERE as well as read through an example of how a weekly challenge would work for you.

When you sign up, you will receive an easy to use, well-organized kit that will contain a folder for each week. Each week has a theme with writing prompts, beautiful graphics, and tips for your blogging and social media.

You are also given access to a Facebook group just for other bloggers participating in the challenge. You can find support, get ideas and share your own stories!

My favorite part of the challenge is that while you are creating memories for your children, you will also look back to see some personal growth. Reconnecting with friends, trying new things, and appreciating what is already around you.

I’m going to be making memories with my children while also improving my blogging and social media skills.

The Lord willing, this year, I’m making plans and we are having an intentional summer.

It’s going to be an exciting summer!

How about you? Do you have special plans for the summer?

Do you (like me), have Pinterest boards full of activities for your children but just never seem to fit it in?

Let’s plan together. I would love to hear what you have planned for your children and your summer.

Grounded and Surrounded is running a Refer 5/Save $5 program that ends TOMORROW. You can find details HERE. If you refer 5 friends, you can score a GREAT deal! Hurry!

*I received an invitation to try the summer blogger challenge free in exchange for my review. I was not required to leave a positive review.

Book Review and Giveaway: Daddy Loves You So Much


My husband has been traveling a lot during this season of life.

His work usually has him running in the cooler months, but this year his schedule hasn’t slowed a bit.

It’s hard to balance family life and a travel schedule. We have learned/are learning to be very intentional about how we use our time when he’s away and when he’s home.

Daddies are crucial to a growing little person.

Having not grown up with a loving daddy, I’m especially sensitive to making sure my littles have important time with their father. I know first-hand how that relationship will affect every single relationship they have for the rest of their lives. (…and I am thankful that in Psalm 68 the Lord promises to be the father of the fatherless!)

I’m amazed to watch my man tenderly teach and train my children. They come to him with their exciting stories and with their broken hearts. He has stood by them when they have received awards and held their hands when they were hurt and had to have stitches or broken an arm.

I remember nights of him praying with them as they first started seeking the Lord’s direction for their lives.

I guess it’s always been an amazing relationship for me to watch since I didn’t have that in my own home growing up.

It’s beautiful. I’m thankful for the way he loves our children.

Here are some ways we try to make the most of our time with Daddy, (even while he is away!):

  • Prerecord favorite books or Bible passages to be played before bed or during quiet times
  • Make the most of video chatting- we have had family devotions across webcams and story times. Their papa asks about their day and our webcam program allows him to place himself in a rocket, wear sunglasses, have funny hairstyles, etc. The littles think it is hilarious. He also shares funny stories from his work day, or just something he’s seen which makes the littles feel closer to him.
  • Follow Daddy on a map. It’s been fun to learn geography just by following Paul on his journeys across a map. Paul has traveled to all but I think, 4 states. The children (even most of the little ones) have learned the names and locations of major cities, as well. Many years ago, Jessica made Paul a little wooden man. Paul will pose him from time to time in front of places where he is working or visiting, and send a photo.
  • Have the children write to dad and include their notes in his suitcase. It’s hard for them to be away from their family so much. Everyone likes to feel remembered and important to those they love. The little notes are good reminders to a hard-working man that they are appreciated and loved.
  • Keep a calendar of travel dates on a calendar posted some place in your house. We keep a large calendar on the fridge in our kitchen for our little ones and a Google calendar online for our older children. We write in/post it online, the dates when Paul is leaving and when he is to return home. Then everyone knows exactly when he is leaving and exactly when he is going to return home.
  • Paul also posts his flight information so the older children can use a program like Flight Aware to track his flights themselves.

It happens that Tommy Nelson sent me a copy of Daddy Loves You So Much  this month for review:

Like a few of the other books I have reviewed in recent months, Daddy Loves You So Much is illustrated by Jo Parry. I adore the soft illustrations of animals with their babies.

It’s a soft covered, 20 page board book with rounded edges.

Each two-page spread has a rhyme about the different things daddies do to show their babies love.

My one year old likes to sit and flip through the pages but my five year old has also enjoyed looking through this sweet book.

We have already read through it a few times, but I thought it would be a fun book for my husband to read to the children across Skype one night while he is away.

I would love to gift one of you a copy of this sweet book! Please leave a comment below (and be sure to enter through Rafflecopter.). We’ll be drawing a random winner on May 25th. (This giveaway is only open to US residents. Thank you for your understanding.!)

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to post a positive opinion. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today I’m Thankful For (1000 Gifts)

  • A perfectly, lovely Mother’s Day
  • Time with my husband who arrived home yesterday after a week in Louisiana
  • Preparations being made in my home for community fellowship tomorrow
  • Lunch out with Jacob yesterday
  • Watching Jackson- what a blessing it is to listen to his observations about life from his 2 year old little mind. I will miss him being TWO!
  • One more…Owen is walking! It’s always sweet to witness these “firsts” with my babies.

Today I’m Thankful For (1000 Gifts)

  • Beehive boxes and frames being assembled in my living room. Painting is next!
  • The progress we’ve made in the little boy room- the walls are almost painted. Next is to finish the trim and floor. Then it’s time for the fun part!
  • New walls Jacob has been hanging that will frame out the bedrooms downstairs. He is doing such a great job! This will create a hall between the bedrooms downstairs and the stairs that lead upstairs.
  • Courtney who is my daughter, but has become one of my most trusted, true friends.
  • My study in Leviticus (This book has always been a challenge to me but I’ve enjoyed what the Lord has revealed to me through those pages in recent weeks. I’m truly thankful for Jesus.)

Texas 2015 (Part 3- Fort Worth/Dallas)

Texas is beautiful.

 

(Paul and I eating at an Italian diner and watching the rain fall across from our hotel.)

The wildflowers are blooming. The bluebonnets especially, have come to life- they are magnificent.

Our last stop on our Texas trip was Fort Worth.

The very best thing I did when arriving in Fort Worth was walk to the nearest visitor’s center. The gentleman working the desk spent his time helping me plan points of interest and sharing some lesser known activities and places I might like to stop.

I spent my first day working my way through the city streets to see what was around me.

I liked being in the middle of the city. This location is unusual for Paul’s business trips. He usually about 20-30 minutes outside of the city when he travels.

Fort Worth was the home of my first city bus trip, and my first kale smoothie!

The visitor’s center had given me information on taking the city bus to see a local cattle drive at The Stockyard. The morning I was planning to visit, I finished our laundry, straightened the room and then went on my way toward the bus stop.

I had left early thinking it might take me a while and I didn’t want to miss the cattle drive at 10. Walking to the bus stop didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. I bought my ticket and my bus was already waiting. The bus drive was only about 25 minutes.

It would have taken less time but once everyone but me was off of the bus, my bus driver decided to stop for coffee.

There was lots of “new” for me. First time riding the city bus. First time sitting on the city bus alone in the middle of the city. Sigh. Not the most comfortable experience for me.

When I arrived at the Stock Yard, the bus driver told me I would need to walk over a block. Then he told me I might be waiting a while since the cattle drive didn’t happen until 11 and that is also when most stores open. As I stepped off the bus, I KNEW I needed to have waited a little while longer to take my bus ride.

It almost felt like some joke as the whole area seemed more like a ghost town than anything else. It was only about 8:30. I had a long wait ahead.

I sat outside on a bench for a long time. The great-tailed grackles are fun to watch, but most fun to hear. They sound like they chatter all through the day. They were having quite the conversation that morning while I waited. It was hard not to feel like I was living out a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. :/

Thankfully, the visitor center opened at 9. The folks there gave me some ideas of things I could see while I was there and did share until things opened, I could go visit the long horns across the street, which I did.

They were thrilled to have me drop by and visit.

The cattle drive was beautiful. Those animals are amazing.

I also stopped by The Stockyard Hotel where Bonnie and Clyde staked out a bank across the street. They still have Bonnie’s gun encased in a cabinet on the wall of that hotel room.

On the same street is a saloon where many scenes from the TV show, Walker Texas Ranger was filmed.

I took a tour through The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. (Probably not something I would do again, but seeing the wagons and all their uses was very interesting to me- especially since we’ve just finished The Long Winter.)

I also toured Billy Bob’s, the world’s BIGGEST honky tonk. That was an experience. I don’t even know how many pool tables and video games I saw while I was there. They were setting up for a concert that morning and there were already folks arriving for the “tour”, but really squatting their seats for the evening concert.

Billy Bob’s has an indoor bull riding rink, a mechanical bull, a restaurant, with a second kitchen, a gift shop, and concrete squares along all the walls where all the famous people who have performed there embedded their hand prints. They hang on the long walls.

Billy Bob’s made me sad. It was glitzy- but all I could see was the atmosphere and lifestyle. I wondered how much brokenness comes out of a place like this, and I was just sad.

The Live Stock Exchange was also an interesting place to visit. I would have love to have seen it in action:

The Stock Yard had lots of little shops and it was relaxing just walking down the street.

I tried to talk Paul into this cowboy hat, but he wasn’t on board. Maybe next time.

Each day, I spent a great deal of time in Sundance Square.

Just down a block or so from our hotel, I adore Sundance Square in Fort Worth.

Of all the places I had the privilege to visit, it was my favorite.

This area of town is a fairly recent addition to this city. It is surrounded by upscale dining and stores.

It hosts outdoor concerts each week and I’ve read you can take a yoga class early each morning.

The water fountains are full of children playing and laughing through the day. By night, couples are literally lining up with their photographers to have wedding and engagement photos made.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people strolling through the square each day, while a good many (like me!) just pull up a chair and soak up some sun (I came home with a sunburn!) while I watched the people and worked on some writing projects.

I saw at least three television crews within a half hour. I imagine this place is the perfect backdrop for all sorts of happenings.

The office of a local country station shares the space of Sundance Square.

The city streets of full of Texas culture. The aroma of barbeque drifts through the air along with the music you hear pretty much every place you visit..

On the last Sunday morning I was there, there were old men in their cowboy hats and boots- their Sunday best, no doubt, sitting in the square with their wives having lunch.

The women of Texas have a natural glamor. Their leather purses, turquoise jewelry and high heels are only complimented by perfect nails and perfect hair. Their faces are all kissed by the Texas sun and most are friendly and relaxed.

When I first arrived here, I just thought the whole city normally looks like this- I can’t even explain. It really did look like a Hollywood set. I found out later the country music awards were the same week we were there. As soon as it was over, it went to looking like every other city, full of normal, (and lovely) people living normal lives. I actually felt a little relieved. I’ve never felt so plain in my life…though I did get “Texas nails” while I was here. Paul was saying “ooh-la-la!” :D

Paul’s work was located at the local convention center. Just on the other side was the city water gardens.

They have quiet pools and louder pools. The children run through the water and you can see people talking and walking everywhere you look.

I visited the first time the night of a local school prom. The teens were all lining up down at the foot of the garden for photos. I still can’t figure out how those girls were walking down the platforms in heels!

My visit to the Bass Performance Hall was unexpected. The man at the visitor center had told me that though they don’t advertise, you can go at 10 each Saturday morning for a free tour. I didn’t quite know what to expect but I decided that was a tour I would enjoy.

When I arrived, I was shocked to find they have volunteers come in just for these tours and I was actually given a private tour! They never have many folks show up so they literally have one volunteer for every visiting group- that was me. : )

I was able to ask lots of questions and wouldn’t you know, my tour guide had been a homeschooling momma. She knew me before we met. She pointed out lots and lots of little details.

We stepped outside and she pointed out the apartment (town home…I’m not sure what to call it!) where the architect lives on the top two floors.

She told me the artist who designed the angels actually made the bodies in a local warehouse but the wings had to be added to the building on site.

The murals on the ceilings are hand-painted with birds native to Texas. (Two brothers actually did all of the beautiful murals in the building.)

Touring the green room was impressive and sitting in the box seats with their private waiting areas was amazing.

The performance center was built for a specific piano competition. My tour guide shared a story of an Italian marble cutter who was visiting Texas for this competition. He was told that the original intent of the architect was to create a marble floor based on the Fibonacci sequence. They had decided not to go through with those plans because of budget issues. When the marble cutter heard these plans, he decided to donate his labor to cut the floors which lowered the price to an affordable 70 MILLION DOLLARS.

They are beautiful.

One of my favorite parts of the Bass Performance Hall were the bathrooms (I know, don’t judge me for taking photos of the bathroom, lol!).

The tile work in the bathroom is unbelievable. It’s REAL music (the treble line of a piece performed in the building by the Metropolitan Opera) in the women’s restroom. The men’s bathroom has the bass line. Because of the tile work and mirrors, the volunteer told me they have to post someone in the bathrooms during performances because the ladies don’t realize there are so many stalls. The mirrors make the restroom look rather small. Women will stand in line thinking what they see is a wall.  It almost reminded me of a house of mirrors.

As it happened, the Metro Opera performs there three weeks out of the year- that happened to be one of the weeks! There were stage hands and actresses on stage.

They were busy moving equipment, testing lights and practicing.

It was an amazing tour and I would love to do it again, should I find myself in Fort Worth.

One of my last stops was The Texas Hotel is where John Kennedy, Jr. spent his last night before moving on to Dallas the next day, the day of his death. The hotel is opulent and busy. On the second floor, they have a couple of displays with photos and news articles from that event.

We stopped in Dallas on the way home to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. That was an amazing tour.

We walked the halls that outlined the life of John Kennedy, Jr. In the end, we stood in the room where a shooter aimed his gun and killed a president in the street below. It was somber.

Paul and I have spoken several times since about this tour. I think we both enjoyed it very much and I learned a great deal. I would like to return again some day. It was very crowded and difficult to find the exhibits in order, but certainly worth trying again when there is a little more time.

Of course, there was that one night. Texas was expecting tornadoes. I was on an upper floor of the hotel and the power was flickering. I went down to the lobby to wait out the worst of it- NOW THAT was an adventure.

A few folks had trickled in to the bar area in the lobby of our hotel to wait out the heavy rain falling. I happened to be sitting in front of two men and a woman while they were waiting at the bar (of course, drinking). The woman was beautiful. She actually looked like a Barbie doll but what was coming from her mouth was not beautiful, at all. The woman was almost yelling (the more alcohol she consumed, the louder she became).

She was first talking about her children and then she started talking about her neighbor. She was telling these other men she and her husband just couldn’t bring themselves to talk to her anymore. She was just “disgusting” because she was expecting her TWELFTH child. She said she really wish she would just stop- the whole thing was just wrong.

I would LOVE to know what the chances are I would be there to hear that conversation.

I guess 100%.

*I stopped and prayed for that neighboring woman and her family. I was also reminded of why Paul and I have decided alcohol will not be part of our home. We have seen NOTHING good from it and this experience was a reminder of the destruction we have witnessed within our own families.*

We HAD to stop at Cane’s on the way home. They are Paul’s favorite chicken fingers. I’m not sure why they don’t have these back where we live, but it’s probably for the best where our dieting is concerned.

I know I will never remember all I was able to experience on this trip which is very sad to me!

I was so glad to get home to my babies. They had held Owen down when he tried to walk across the floor a few times. They knew I would want to be there for his first steps. (I’ve got the best kids!) They ALL looked much bigger.

It was nice to sleep in my bed.

I very much enjoyed the time with my husband. We have not had that kind of time together since before we had our children. It was good for both of us. I’m thankful to the Lord for many things- especially my husband who desired for me to be with him, for the memories we made, and for my children who stayed safe at home.

Community Fellowship Reminder- May 12th

We would love to have you! Message me for details.

Winner: The Early Readers Bible

Congratulations, Brandy! I hope you enjoy your copy of NKJV Early Readers Bible: New King James Version””

I’ve emailed you with details on how to claim your book. :)

Two Long Years

Today has been two years since my mom passed. Two very long years.

Mother’s Day cards are filling stores. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about buying one for my mom. It’s almost like my brain forgets for a moment.

I would like to say it’s gotten easier. I guess in some ways it has, but the desire to pick up the phone and call her, the thought that I need to tell her something that has just happened, wanting to ask her questions about my grandmother, or just hear her voice remains. I’m guessing it always will.

I miss my mom.

I know she doesn’t hurt. I know she’s not sick and time for her isn’t the same as it is for me.

I’m glad no one can ever make her not my mother, even if she isn’t here. I am proud to be her daughter.

 

 

Slime

“WHAT are we making?”
EEWWWwwwww“, and then there were giggles all around.

Mix equal parts of liquid starch and clear glue. Add a FEW drops of food coloring and mix well. (You may have to mix it some with your fingers.)

*This slime will not stain your fingers after it has been mixed well! Also, the longer it’s worked, the more “slime-like” it becomes.

Unexpected Van Repairs

Are these not the two most smiling folks you have ever seen after having dealt with a car issue?

We couldn’t help but smile.

Our van roof has a rusty spot that has been leaking. We decided to sprinkle some carpet fresh into the carpet so that it might help with the musty odor of the van. I actually joked as Courtney opened the door that I had done her a favor by not sprinkling the powder into the driver’s seat for her drive down the street.

Of course, wanting the freshest possible result, I also used the ENTIRE box. (I did have a second but decided that would just be too much.)

I sent Courtney to the car wash to vacuum it all out…she phoned me some minutes later to say that the van was overheating and had no power. (I don’t think that is going to be a “good” car repair.) I called a tow truck and went down to meet them.

When Courtney stepped out of the car, there was carpet fresh sprinkled all over the ground around her feet.

Even after the truck pulled away with the van, you could STILL smell the GAIN FRESH SCENT in the air. :)

I’ve tried to imagine what our dear friend and mechanic’s garage smells. It makes me smile every time.

James 1:2-4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We have much to be thankful for these days!

I was supposed to be with Paul in Mississippi this weekend. We were expecting bad weather at home so it was decided that I would stay here. That meant I was home to help when Courtney needed me and to taxi folks back and forth to church on Sunday morning.

We are planning to take a trip in a couple of weeks. The van could have broken down on the side of the interstate but as it happened, it was just down the street.

Having sprinkled the carpet powder, we’ve given our mechanic free air freshening for his garage!

I’m thankful for my children and their good attitude. They know the Lord takes care of us. We actually had a great time while we waited on the tow truck.

This was the ?th time we’ve used this same tow guy. He has great service and I pray the Lord would allow us to plant seeds in his life. He thanked me for always using him before he pulled away (chuckling about the carpet powder, I might add).

The Lord is good…even when there are car repairs.

The Aroma of My Heart

I’ve been taken with our roses lately.

I find myself lingering over them- dreaming of a time when the entire rose bed might be full of blooms, watching the bees buzz as they do their daily work while we enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I cut several stems a few nights back. They are arranged in vases on the dining tables. Their scent drifts through our home. It’s funny how something so simple can bring such beauty.

My personal Bible study time the last two months has been one of the most rich, and meaningful I’ve had in a long time. Having studied through the entire book of Matthew with Paul leading up to Resurrection Sunday and now a good portion through Leviticus, I’ve overwhelmed with the Lord’s gracious hand in my life. To read how his blood was poured out so I might live is humbling. I am so grateful. I am so broken and yet, the Lord makes me whole.

I have prayed that my life might be a reflection of Him. – I pray that my life might be what He wants it to be- I want Him to cut away those dead and ugly parts. I pray that He search me and show me what is not what He desires.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

These roses have a sweet aroma. I desire to be an “aroma pleasing to Him”.

This season is a season of blessing (aren’t they all?). It’s been a season of learning to trust, and of stepping out of our normal routines to watch God work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Thank you Courtney, for the beautiful photos. <3