Friday, April 28, 2017

Baby Bible Books

I received these books from WorthyKids/Ideals for free in exchange for an honest review. I have included affiliate links, so that if you choose to purchase something I will receive a small commission.
We have been unpacking lots of stuff in our new house. Much of what we're unpacking has been in storage for 6-8 months, so it has been an eternal Christmas for my kids, who are opening boxes and finding forgotten loves. My favorite was when I asked them to put some books on the shelf and it took an hour. They kept exclaiming over long-forgotten pictures books and sitting down to re-read them.
My kids have mostly graduated from picture books, but I still remember the days of snuggles on laps, in a big cozy chair, reading picture books and board books to my kids. They have their favorites and I have mine. All for different reasons. There are still some I refuse to get rid of because of those wonderful memories.

I recently got a set of books to review, and while they are too young for my kids, they are quality books that I think your little ones would love to hear, snuggled up in a cozy chair.
In the Beginning and Noah's Ark are familiar stories for many kids, but these copies are special because they are the collaborative effort of a mother and son. Susana Gay and her seven-year-old son, Owen worked together to retell these comforting stories and illustrate them for their young audience.

Each book is 16 cardboard pages, fully illustrated. You can find them on Amazon through the links above. You can also enter to win the set from me:
 Baby Bible Books

Friday, April 21, 2017

Awakening to God

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. 
One of the things I wanted to do for Lent was to make prayer more of a daily habit for myself. Now that Lent is over, I don't want to give up that drive. Luckily I was offered the chance to try out an app that helps!

ATG (Awakening to God) Today was created to help others in their daily walk with God. The app functions as a devotional journal that allows users to reflect on a scripture reading for each day. There are morning prompts to reflect on and evening prompts. The app keeps a record of your responses so that you can look back over time and see how your journey has evolved. Users are able to set reminders and add pictures as further ways of staying connected.

The app also has a share button so you can share your thoughts with your friends through social media when appropriate.

Life gets chaotic in different ways throughout the various seasons we pass through. In my case it seems the times that I most need God are the times when I find myself feeling "too busy" to seek him out. This app gives me gentle reminders of the best way to start and end each day. Can you spend 8 minutes twice a day with God? How would that impact your life?

You can download the app here for $3.99. All profits from this app go toward providing aid to the poor and suffering in India. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter 2017

 Easter this year was nice. We are in a new house, just in time for a holiday, and I managed to find the boxes we needed! *PLOT TWIST** Henry stepped on his Easter basket on Saturday, so I had to go out and get new ones anyway. It's all good. I like the new ones better and they should last longer than the plastic ones they did have.

We had a Saturday Easter Egg hunt with church and then the boys and I headed home while Frances went with Julie to get a pedicure. We hid eggs in the yard a few times (which is how Henry broke his basket) and mostly took it easy for the day.
 Sunday morning the kids woke up and checked out their haul from the Easter Bunny. It's always funny to hear them mention all the things the "Easter Bunny always does" even though they aren't things I consciously make an effort to replicate. Henry had been asking about the Resurrection Eggs, so he was excited to see them and he went through the whole set with Benjamin and described all the pieces.

Mass was a mess because even though I had doubled checked the Mass schedule, I still ended up taking us at the wrong time. Frances got asked to serve since no other servers showed up and she ended up soaked from Fr. Silvio's liberal use of Holy Water in his blessings! It all ended up okay and we headed out (late) to Easter lunch at Natural Bridge.

 Apparently, despite eating lunch here for the past 5 years at least, my parents had never actually visited the bridge, so we made it a point to do so this year. Now that's it a State Park, we can get discounted prices!

 I couldn't help but do a bit of Pokemon hunting while there. Frances was only slightly accommodating when I requested "jazz hands" for this picture!

 We took a number of pictures with their photo cutout. Benjamin took the one of me and my brothers and then fell over from laughing so hard!
After we got home, we took a walk around the Arboretum near our house. It's a beautiful place to spend time and I"m excited to have it so close to us!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Starting Fresh: Tips and Thoughts on Moving

I'm gonna write this post and hope I don't jinx myself in the process. We are 95% moved and I really can't see a way things could go wrong, but...

Moving is such a life-impacting event. In fact, it is often cited as one of the most stressful events a family can go through, along with death and job loss. I'm sure there are times when moving can be 100% fun and exciting, but I'd wager a guess that most moves are at least somewhat stressful. Here are some things from our recent moves that I've learned and found to be helpful.

1. Expect the unexpected. We had a buyer back out AND a seller back out. We managed to end up in one of the slowest markets our area has recently seen. Hopefully, your move doesn't go as haywire as ours did, but you should still expect a few hiccups. Expect to spend more time, money, and sanity than you've planned for. Have a buffer in your budget and your calendar in case things don't go as smoothly as you'd like.

2. If you end up putting things in storage before or during your move, keep good records of what you've got. After 6 months of not seeing my own furniture, I was shocked by how many bookshelves we have, and totally unprepared for where to put them. You likely won't need to put things in storage for so long, but it's still a good idea to keep a list, just in case.

3. As you start to pack, make sure you label your boxes. Most people say to label the top and two sides, so that the labels are visible from many angles. We went one step further and used colored duct tape for our boxes. Each room had its own color. When we taped the boxes shut we ran a strip across the top in both directions, so that even if the box got placed upside down, you could quickly and easily identify which room it belongs in. If you do this, make a list, so you can keep track of which colors go where.

4. The other thing you should pack (and set aside) is your essentials box. It's up to you what's in this box, but think of the last things you need in the old house and the first things you need in the new one: toilet paper, paper towels, soap, bottled water, snacks, plastic utensils, paper plates and cups, a tool kit, etc. I think it's kind to leave behind a roll of toilet paper and a roll of paper towels for the new tenants in your former house, but that's up to you.

5. If you do decide to hire movers, shop around. Get a few estimates and talk to people in your area who have used movers, These people are going to be handling all your possessions, so you want to make sure you trust them. We had never hired movers before this move, and I was nervous about it, but the guys we picked were phenomenal. Valley Moving Solutions were prompt, courteous and fun. Remember when I mentioned that I wasn't sure where things were going? They were fine with that! And they even told me they'd come back in two weeks and move stuff around if I still wasn't happy with where things had ended up! I could not recommend them more.

6. Whether you've got professional movers or just some friends, people are going to need help getting things to the right places. I labelled all the rooms in the new house and put signs up near the top of the doorway. That way I could point in the general direction of the dining room and they'd see the sign to know they were in the right place. It was especially helpful upstairs because I couldn't be up there to point. I had a sign for the master bedroom, guest room, boys' room and Frances' room. Once they were at the top of the steps it was easy to see which room was which.

7. You'll be driving to your new house a lot and getting use to the directions. Now is a great time to really pay attention to street names and other landmarks. Not only do you need to know, you'll need to give people directions, so your friends and family can come visit your new home. Also, pay attention when you get lost, because other people might and if you've already gotten lost the same way, you'll have an easier time helping them out!

8. Once you're all moved in you'll start to meet the new neighbors. If you're anything like me, you'll be a bit overwhelmed with all the new information. In times like these, I like to download my brain! By that, I mean, I write it down!! Make a quick sketch of the new neighborhood. When you meet a neighbor, use their name a few times to get use to what it sounds like. Then when you get back to the house, pull out your sketch and label their house. Now you'll have an easier time associating names and houses. This is also a good place to write your address, phone number (if it's changed), the day for trash collection, and other neighborhood tidbits you pick up along the way. Keep this list on the side of your refrigerator so you can refer to it when needed. (Maybe cover it up when you have a housewarming party, so the neighbors don't think you're creepy).

9. After you've signed the papers and made the move, do yourself a favor and STOP LOOKING AT HOUSING LISTINGS! Buyers remorse is bad enough when a pair of shoes go on sale after you've already worn yours. There's no sense in second guessing yourself on a home. If you liked it enough to go through with the purchase, don't stress yourself out by looking at other houses. Turn off the email alerts, delete your bookmarks, and change your homepage (if you ever go so obsessed with Zillow that you made it your homepage). This is your new house; make it your home.

10. Go easy on yourself. Moving is stressful. Routines get messed up. Familiarity goes out the window. You, your spouse, your kids, your pets, everybody will seem off kilter. Eat more Slurpees, use more disposable plates, have a tickle fight in the new bedroom just for the heck of it. Give yourself and your loved ones a little more grace than usual until you get yourselves to your new normal.This last tip is really the most important for us. This move had a lot of hiccups. There were a lot of unknowns and we dealt with weeks of this conversation:
Kid: Where are we going?
Me: Home.
Kid: Which one?
It's not a bad thing; it just speaks to the uncertainty that kids deal with when a move is involved. We've had more behavior issues at school this year, more tears around the house, and a general unease that all seems to lead back to this uncertainty. This latest move is a good one. We're excited about it. We'll have lots of space and an open-ended lease, but there's still stress involved. I just can't wait until summer when we can be moved in and mostly unpacked and just have time to enjoy our new home.

**Bonus Tip:  This step is totally optional, but if you're moving from a home without a dishwasher to a home with a dishwasher, don't be ashamed to load up all the dirty dishes you've been putting off and take them over to the new house to run through the dishwasher. This only works for a local move, though, so watch out.

The theme for April's Blog With Friends Challenge is "Starting Fresh." Keep reading for others' take on the subject!

Karen of Baking in a Tornado has celebration waffles for a special occasion, or just for fun! 

Eileen of Eileen's Perpetually Busy has a fresh kitchen makeover for less than $100!

Dawn of Spatula's on Parade has a mouthwatering recipe for garlic honey rubbed pork tenderloin.

Minette has a Dollar Tree Wreath for Spring:

Tamara or Confession of a Part-time working Mom shares a humorous take on her weight loss journey

Kia of Think in English has some fresh ideas from the TESOL convention.

Kristin of Little Mama Jama has some tips for staring each day fresh with your autistic child.

Melissa of Heartfelt Sentiments shares a handmade gift bag tutorial.
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares a new app to start your day on the right foot.

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