Monday, September 30, 2013

Austin Stone Worship

(*Disclaimer, I called in the big guns for this post! My ever-talented, gracious husband weighed in with an experienced voice on this subject matter.)

We love worship music in this home. My husband, being a worship leader, immerses himself in it daily. I immerse myself in it to keep me focused and to sometimes lighten my load throughout the day. I find that when I have music playing, it encourages me to pray more often and leads me into more of a worship-full attitude.

However, we try to be mindful of the types of worship music we play. All worship songs are not created equal. I have sung along with some songs, only to wonder 5 minutes later "What was I just singing?!"  We try to be mindful of the music that fills our minds. So, when we do sing along, our mouths aren't proclaiming un-truths. We want to be sure that the worship music we listen to is theologically sound.

Several years ago, we discovered Austin Stone Worship. The purchases we have made have not been made in vain. Our minds are filled with great music, our hearts are stirred with great affection, and our voices sing along to great Truth!

So, when Austin Stone Worship announced their new live worship record, King of Love, we were STOKED!

I was honored to receive the album and to test-drive it before it hits the world's ears with full-force!

Here I am, being pretty excited, texting a picture to the Hubs!

This past week has been a joy to dive into the music from Austin Stone Worship on the new King of Love record. From the very first track on the record, the music is full of intense guitar riffs backed with heart-pounding drums. Throughout the rest of the album, there is a blessed melding of the melodic voices to the wonderfully mixed instruments. From original tracks to classic hymns, this record is filled with a great mix of high-energy songs accompanied by a mix of slower-paced songs. No matter the pace of the song, they are all Gospel saturated and Christ exalting.  They have spurred my heart into an attitude of worship.

The songs stuck in my head, even when they weren't playing over the speakers. I found myself humming the lyrics and melodies of King of Love all throughout the week. Even better, my husband has full access to SO MANY resources from Austin Stone Worship to encourage him in leading our body of believers through some of the songs. So, now I can listen to the CD in the car, and I can sing along in our own live-worship experience on Sundays.

Bless yourself, or a friend, when this album comes out on October 22! (Available on iTunes or Amazon.) And if you're musically talented, like my husband, check out their website for their AMAZING resources!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dating My Husband

Last week was an extremely busy and a somewhat difficult week in our household. Between the two of us grown-up Brantner's, we had 6 ministry meetings. Oh, and my 2 year old son decided it was a great time for him to be potty-trained. 

While we both love serving in the church and loving the Church, it is a week I hope we don't soon repeat. 

After spending most of the week in my house looking down-right frumpy, I was ready to break down the walls. So, I did what any desperate potty-training mother would do and called for the most fool-proof plan that came to mind. I texted The Grandmothers. Having not only my mom but my wonderful mother-in-law live and work so close to us is such a blessing. Not only that, but they genuinely love us and spending time with us!

The key to texting The Grandmothers is to not come off so desperate... and to totally play The Grandchildren card. My text went a little something like this, "Are either of you in need of a cute-blonde-people fix? I know two especially cute little people who have been dying to see their KK and Grandma!" (**Now, let the record show, that I genuinely love The Grandmothers and would have liked to see them regardless of my desperation. However, dire circumstances call for drastic measures. Hence, the reference to The Grandchildren.) When texting The Grandmothers, you can NEVER over-emphasize their little people's cuteness, sweetness, or all-around awesomeness. They soak that stuff up like a prune-sized sponge in the middle of the Sahara. 

As an added bonus, you can also word the text in such a way that they don't know if you're referring to a lunch date with them or a night away with your husband. This particular text was pure GOLD as it afforded me both! My precious mother-in-law rescued me from the confines of our half-bath for a delicious lunch date with said little blondies. And my Mom was all sorts of confused by the text, that she inadvertently offered up a night of free babysitting! What-what?!?!

So, after a week full of a full calendar and potty-training tension in our home, Matt and I cashed in on that free babysitting like a Groupon burning a hole in our pocket. I love dating my husband. He is such a wonderful gift to me, and I couldn't think of a better way to wind down our hectic week. We went to dinner, and savored every bit of conversation that transposed. What a comfort it is to be able to talk through everything with my best friend, who lovingly encourages me and keeps me accountable!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Puddle Patrol

Nothing strikes fear into a mother's heart quite like potty training! Well, at least, this mother's heart.

Our littlest mister has been intrigued with going "potty" on the potty for a while now. But, I've been stubborn and unwilling to really invest any time into the training. We've all been fine and dandy with diapers, and I wasn't looking forward to living in a bathroom for any amount of time.

So. Here are my tips for Potty Training Like a Pro!

#1. Let your kids let you know when they're ready. I feel like I may have either pushed my girls a bit into potty training, and not really picked up on their clues. Or, I was delusional at how the whole potty training thing goes and wasn't all that patient with them. I knew Josiah was ready when he screamed like a wild banchee at me when I tried putting a diaper on him. (He also may or may not have told me on several occasions when he needed to "go.")

#2. Be prepared. Sure, big boy/girl undies are not disposable. But sometimes they are. It can take a while for a kid to learn to go #2 in the potty. And sometimes its not worth the pro-longed vomiting in cleaning the undies out! Also, the first couple of days are filled with either full-blown puddle style accidents or what I like to call half-accidents. (Half accidents occur when your child starts going in the undies, realizes whats happening and then finishes on the potty!) You can never have too many pairs of underwear for the first few days!

#2a. Be prepared. Make sure you keep not only plenty of undies nearby, but also paper towels and some kind of disinfecting wipes. (Our downstairs primarily consists of hard floor surfaces. If we had carpet, I would have also pictured a few towels and Resolve. If we did have carpet, I would try to spend as much time as possible in the kitchen or a dining area with lots of hard floors. Cleaning up tee-tee out of carpet can be a real pain. Plus there's all the germs and bacteria that can trapped in the carpet. And now we digress into my clean-a-phobia.) The first couple of days, no matter how ready your kid is, are filled with the inevitable accidents. If you've got several children in the household or animals, you don't want them traipsing through the mess. Have your towels and disinfecting wipes handy to clean up the mess speedily before it spreads!

#3. Become a hermit. Potty training requires LOTS of consistency and dedication. Seeing as how I've started a couch-to-5k program about 6 different times without completing any of them, you can see how much dedication and commitment I have to stuff. Potty training, however, is the perfect amount of time for me to be dedicated to something. Be prepared to spend a good 3-4 days at home, lounging in your pajamas looking half homeless. Get those crock-pot meals all on stand-by for that week, and make sure that your household expectations are low. Potty-training is time consuming and it REALLY is so much less stressful when you aren't worrying over the dishes, or laundry, or looking like you don't belong in a mental institution.

#4. Encourage your kiddo to go sit on the potty about every 30 minutes to a hour. You be the judge of how often they need to go. The first few days you will literally live in the bathroom! Make it comfy for you. Bring in a cushioned stool to sit on, a book or a phone to help occupy your time, anything to help you keep your patience. Our boy drinks A LOT! So, he needed to go A LOT! (*Sidenote: My genius of a mother in law encouraged me to have our boy sit backwards on the potty, facing the tank of the toilet. The natural instinct when facing this way is to lean forward. So, he wasn't drenching our bathroom with urine. It was a very practical, helpful tip! He's too little for me to trust standing up. But having him face backward I think will help him when he needs to stand, as he'll already be used to facing that way.) Praise your kiddo everytime they go, and don't be afraid to cheese it up a bit! The more excited you are, the more excited they get. By day 3-4 your kiddo will most likely start telling you when they need to go. This is also the time that I gently reprimand my kids for not going on the potty. I make sure not to be harsh, but to lovingly let them know that they need to go in the potty. I also milk the characters on the underwear for all their worth. "Spiderman is so sad that you went tee-tee on him! Yuck! Let's put tee-tee in the potty!! YAY!"

And there you have it. Go and potty-train like a Pro now! Or, if you're like me... let your toddler tell you when he's ready and be completely baffled when he breezes right through it. But also don't be too surprised when he has an epic accident when you're trying to type a blog post. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Let's Rally Together

If there's one thing my kids do well, it's rallying together. In each other, they find vast amounts of encouragement and love.

Oh, don't get me wrong. They're still stingy little boogers who have a hard time not sharing occasionally. Then, there's the case of feelings. Feelings. Someone hurt someone else's or this person spoke in an unloving tone which made that one go all kinds of batcrazy on the other one.

But, if something is going on, they can always count on each other. It makes my Mommy-heart swell with pride and love to hear their sweet little voices offer words of tenderness and "go-get-um" to each other.

It astounds me how the Holy Spirit works in my heart towards sanctification and how He uses my kids to accomplish that. I find myself no longer taking moments for their face value. While recalling moments of our day, I find myself digging deeper into the situation. How is God trying to speak to me from this today?

When I see my kids offer loving encouragement to one another it encourages me. It teaches me.  When they use not only words, but actions to build one-another up and not tear each other down, it gives me hope to lovingly encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love how the Word of God has a wealth of informative truth for me to learn about encouraging those around me.

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

What power there can be in our words! To show those around us not only encouragement, but also grace! Grace, completely undeserved, completely overwhelming, and a completely lavish response to those who hold no favor for it! How good it is for our words to encourage and to lift one another up... even the ones who are most undeserving of the good words!

Proverbs 10: 11-13 " The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. 13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense." 

May the words we use, show the love we have within... may they show wisdom and be a fountain of life!

I encourage you today.. dig deeper... keep your eyes open and your heart softened. May we be ready for the Spirit to work in us, and may we be readily teachable!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School daze

Today, our highly independent sweetheart, Bella, started Pre-K. The excitement in our home this morning was palpable. I woke several times throughout the night, fearing I would miss my alarm. Dropping your kids off in car-pool line in pajamas and glasses is all kinds of cool, just not on the first day of school.  The excitement even played throughout our girls subconsciousness throughout the night. They were restless in their dreams, eager for morning to come.

Everyone was SO EXCITED for Bella to start school!

It is a rare thing when the ebb and flow of a household getting ready in the morning is completely uninterrupted. Today was one of those rare gifts of a morning. Bella, so eager, got ready in the blink of an eye. And Jade, ever the helpful one, made her own lunch before I even had time to gather the peanut butter and jelly. Our sweet Jojo, completely unfazed by the excitement, slept right through everything.

Precious Bella, just when exactly did you grow up enough to be so ready for Pre-k?

In a near miraculous turn of events, we left the house with a few minutes to spare!

Just enough time for Mommy to snap a few more pics than I normally would have, which is good. And thanks to ios7, I now snap about 5 million pictures each time I open my camera app!

Notice my "Junior Mommy" in the background filling the class Sponsor/teacher in on all things Bella in the background?

Our school district has this pretty amazing program for upper-classmen. Students interested in pursuing a teaching degree, or a career path into early childhood education, are given the opportunity to run a pre-k, with the supervision and guidance of an actual Teacher. The high school students are in the class for 2 periods of their day, and then another set of students are in the class for an additional 2 periods. It's a great environment for Bella to learn in and the student to "teacher" ratio is almost 2 to 1. We are so excited for our girl to interact with a few peers just a few hours a day for a couple of days out of the week! And I'm excited to build relationships with her teachers, classmates and the other parents.

And this little guy is excited to have Mommy all to himself for a few hours! He's also pretty excited to not have to share any toys and to not be bossed around by a couple of over-bearing, while always good-natured, sisters! What fun he and I will have getting to spend just a bit of time each week hanging out!

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Fall, Y'all!

I'm a routine-lover. I don't like surprises. And I could be happy eating the same thing 5 days a week for lunch, if I had to. I'm not too big on change.

Except for the seasons. Oh, how I love the changing of seasons. There is just something so refreshing about changing of temperatures and the changing of colors.

Here in H-town, its rumored that we only get 2 seasons. But, I know for a fact that we actually get all 4. And sometimes, they're all in 1 day! (Our weather is a bit temperamental. Sometimes we need the heat on through the night, and the AC blasting through the day.)

Yesterday, we welcomed Autumn with wide-open and anxious arms. The weather finally dipped below 90, and we excitedly spent the ENTIRE DAY outside marveling in the wonderfulness of 0% humidity and no sweat.  If I had any sense, I would have even indulged in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. However, my absolute giddiness over the weather prevented me from doing anything slightly productive.

Instead, I spent the day taking about 1000 mental pictures much like this one. 

When we finally did come inside, I made a big 'ol pot of beef stew. Sure, by the afternoon it had reached the mid-80's, but this is Houston, folks! The mid-80's in mid-September is almost downright chilly!

And because I just absolutely could NOT wait to try this trick out, I had quite a bit of garlic at my disposal. I chopped a couple of cloves up, and threw them into a pot with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Next, I threw in a couple pounds of beef stew meat. Amidst the stirring and tossing, I sprinkled in some salt, pepper, a dash or two of paprika, a pinch of allspice, and some all-purpose steak seasoning. Once the meat had browned just a bit, I added a couple of hard shots of Worcestershire sauce and a couple cups of water. I also added in small-medium-ish sliced yellow onion and a couple of bay leaves. My theory is, when boiling meat you can't ever have too much seasoning! It only makes the broth that much better!

I let that simmer for good LOOOONG while. And by LOOOONNNGG, I mean I had to restrain myself from sampling the concoction every 5 minutes. The next hour and half were spent trying everything possible to NOT GO INTO the kitchen!

But alas, I finally had to go back in! I added in a couple of chopped up potatoes, carrots and celery. Stirred it all up.. and had to wait AGAIN!

While all those yummy flavors and textures were melding together, I got some cornbread going in the oven.

My family has bought this brand of Corn Muffin mix for as long as I can remember. And it's what I buy for us! (Remember that part about not liking change so much?) I make it exactly like the box says... only, I also add 1/4c sugar to the batter. It is so stupid good, you won't believe it!

By this point, the littles were all in bed. My handsome hunk and I snuggled up on the couch with our beef stew, corn bread and sweet Tea, and settled in to watch Mr. Bohannon forge the railroad on another couple of miles.

What a great way to welcome Fall!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lifesong::: Church Adoption Funds

church 100Adoption Funds. Helping the church financially support couples as they bring home children into their forever families through adoption.

MEETING THE NEEDS // Adoption Funds
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We see Adoption Funds as a "Win-Win-Win" solution: the local church is actively involved on behalf of orphans, the financial roadblock for families is removed, the orphan child is adopted into a permanent Christian family...all with minimal administrative burden for the church.

Using the adoption matching grant and interest-free loan processes already established by Lifesong, churches can easily navigate through the details of adoption funding....all with no cost to the church.

Church Fund Children

ALWAYS WITH YOU // Adoption Fund Story
Cameron and Sarah experienced the love of their church family through their adoption journey. His Kids Our Homes Adoption Fund, at North County Christ the King Church have blessed this family and others as children are brought into forever families. Listen in on their journey...

mouse copySee how your church can benefit from establishing an Adoption Fund by visiting our website.

Read More
Bringing Churches Around Adoptive Families - Dave and Carrie, directors of His Kids - Our Homes (Lynden, WA) share how they have experienced the blessing of having a Lifesong Adoption Fund.  Watch Video

"God Worked to Bring Them Home" - Scott and Kathy bring two more children into their home through adoption with the help from TAMBA adoption fund. Read more

God's Revealing Love - Sam and Maria share how God continued to reveal His love for them and their 7 children, through their local church, North County Christ the King. Watch Video

Adoption Fund Testimonials - Hear what Adoption Fund partners have to say about their experience with Lifesong Adoption Funds.  Watch Video

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I love finding things that make life a little easier and a little simpler.

I remember learning the whole "smashing a clove of garlic" to peel it easier trick. But I think I may have just fallen a little in love with Martha Stewart over this trick!

The kitchen has kind of been my place. I like to wind down from our hectic day and have some "me-time" while cooking. Here lately, I've wanted to start incorporating our kids in the dinner-time process. I think this will be a perfect starting point for that! Thanks, Martha!

What do you let your kids in the kitchen? I'm always looking for ways to make "chores" fun for my kids!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Keep Calm

(I'm just a girl that loves Jesus who sometimes struggles with living this life following after my Savior.)

I saw this on the good 'ol interwebs today, and laughed for a good few minutes over it. This is so me lately.

Anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination.[2] It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over something unlikely to happen, such as the feeling of imminent death.[3] Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is felt about something realistically intimidating or dangerous and is an appropriate response to a perceived threat;[4] anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and uneasiness, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.[5] It is often accompanied by restlessness, fatigue, problems in concentration, and muscular tension. Anxiety is not considered to be a normal reaction to a perceived stressoralthough many feel it occasionally.

I am easily excited and can get pretty anxious. I don't necessarily fear imminent death, but I do worry over things and scenarios. I'm anxious about making my plans and having things just so. I'm anxious during the afternoon, timing our day just right to have things accomplished and to pick up our oldest from school. I get anxious while cooking... making sure that all the food is cooked just right, tastes great, and making sure that none of our littles are injured in the process. I get anxious over making plans for the evening. I get anxious over whether everyone is receiving the proper amount of sleep. 
I get anxious over our family's nutrition. I get anxious over.. well.. a lot of things. 

I have a natural tendency to plan, to be prepared, if you will. (Remember this post?) I do believe this is a good thing. I do believe I can use this for the glory of God and to benefit others. My love of planning has enabled me to plan out showers for friends, plan events for our church's women's ministry, be resourceful of our family's income, and just be a help for all other types of things. It's a joy and I count it a blessing to help figure out the details for things.

But what happens when I let my love of planning overtake my life, my thoughts? What happens when all the details of the planning get a bit compulsive and I can't quit thinking of them? Is it good for me to become so anxious over these things that my mind won't stop spinning with different scenarios and my muscles become tense?

No. It is not good. What I am essentially doing is letting my love of planning become an idol. Instead of using what little talent I have in this area be used as a gift to the Church, I have let it get out of control to the point of it becoming a sin. 

There are so many things that we can be anxious about in this world. The worry of whether we will parent our children well. The worry of whether we will ever be parents. The anxiety we feel at the thought of a failed marriage. The anxiety we feel over those who may have sinned against us, or those we may have sinned against. 

I encourage you today, to not be anxious.  Matthew 6, vs 25-34 specifically, speaks volumes to me. How good is the Word of God to speak such Truth into our lives? 

I do not need to worry. I do not need to plan and map out every detail of my life. I do not need to worry over my child who may be living 2 continents over and across a vast ocean. 

My worry and my anxiety shows a stark contrast to the truth I know DEEP in my heart. A truth that resonates in my soul. God cares for me. God LOVES ME.. yes, even ME! I trust God. I know that God, who is Sovereign over ALL and ALL THINGS, cares for me (and all people) far above His other creations. I will rest in this truth. 

I'm praying the same for you. May you rest in the truth that the King of Kings, who is above all, loves and cares for you. He CARES for YOU! May we all run full force into seeking Him and His kingdom. 

Today is enough to handle. Let's let tomorrow handle itself. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


After a full day of mothering, laundering (clothes, that is. Not money.), housekeeping, refereeing, tutoring and chauffeuring, there is just something so blissful about brinner.

That moment, at 5:00pm... 30 L O N G minutes before the cavalry is set to arrive, when you feel like you could just close your eyes now and sleep 'till next summer. There is the hope that brinner brings.

Brinner, a perfect excuse to brew yourself a cup of joe and to soak in every bit of that delicious bacon smell that will surely permeate through every crevice in your home. (Seriously. Why is it that bacon can smell so dadgum good during cooking? Then, four hours later you wish that bacon had never been invented because then your house would definitely STILL not smell like it.)

Brinner, the perfect camouflage to your mommy-tired hands clinging to that cup of coffee like its your life-source.

Last night, 5:00 o'clock hit. I was willing my eyes open with every ounce of strength I had left in me. Brinner beckoned me with it's promises of warm coffee, bacon and an easy clean-up. I didn't even try to play hard to get. I ran straight into it's warm and welcoming embrace.

I let the smell and sounds of the sizzling bacon take me away. Who needs Calgon when there's bacon?

And then, there's Brinner.. in all of it's glory! Filling, satisfying and so easy to make: Brinner.

What's that you say? Taking pictures of your food and posting them on every social network known to mankind is so 5 years ago? Please be sure to refer to point 7. 

Stop and smell those roses while you're at it, too. Journeying through that perfect meal can be a beautiful thing, but soak in all your surroundings. Be grateful for all those little things that got you so dang tired through the day. Sure, you'll sleep good because of them tonight.

(Bella performing one of her newest tricks: crossing her eyes.)

But, if you don't stop and smell those roses, you'll miss all the hilarity that can ensue during mealtime with those little creatures. Who knew that I'd get a free ticket to the best dinner entertainment in town each and every night? Never a dull moment around our dinner table!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Funny little thing

Laughter is a big part of our family. My awesome husband has probably one of the best senses of humor. He laughs easily, quickly and heartily.

Our eldest has inherited this same sense of humor. While furniture shopping one afternoon, she saw a guy snuggled up on a bed. Upon pointing the snuggled up man out to her father, they shared a chuckle over the not-so-randomness of the scene.

She has also turned into quite the little prankster. I only wish I had such a great imagination as hers!

Yesterday afternoon, we were rushing to get out the door. In the corner of my eye, I saw her messing with my bed. Next came the sounds of rushing feet across our upstairs, followed by a fit of giggles between her and the little sister.

Choosing my battles wisely, I put the incident out of my mind. The house was in one piece, the kids were happy, and I was rushing to get out the door. A minor incident involving my bed and a mischievous first grader were not on the forefront of my mind.

We finally made it out the door and into the sweltering Texas heat to "watch" my nephew's 2nd football game of the season. (I pretend to watch, but really I'm a bit more pre-occupied with 3 little blonde people.)

Then, we enjoyed some yummy Chinese food with Grandma at this great little Chinese restaurant. We came home and let the kids enjoy the slightly cooler-than-before weather outside on their bikes. Before I knew it, it was the kid's bath-time... followed by our nightly story time... followed by bed-time.

My work for the day wasn't quite over though. I tended to some chores before catching up on some of my reading and shows with the handsome Mr.  And the very minor incident from earlier in the day was completely forgotten about.

Until 10:30 p.m. The entire house, yes even the Mr., had been asleep for several hours. Exhausted from a day of parenting and fun, I couldn't wait to crawl into bed.

I pulled off the decorative pillows on my side of the bed, and was greeted by this:

Dearest Reader, let me not even try to explain to you the restraint it took for me not to scream bloody murder and wake an entire house full of sleeping little (and 1 not-so-little) sleeping people! But I will tell you, that I will gladly mark the adrenaline rush I had at 10:30 pm last night as 2 days worth of work-outs!

Now, someone PLEASE give me some tips on how I can get this little rascal back!

What's a fun, harmless prank you've pulled on some young'uns?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


We're a musical family. Some of us are more talented than others at being musical. (Insert praise for my husband's giftedness here.) But we're musical in the sense that we LOVE LOVE LOVE music in our home! And in the car. And in the grocery store. And walking down the street. And just about everywhere.

We've already discussed how a good song makes me react, over here. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that my children have the same reactions, too. Sweet Bella girl was really getting her groove on in a clothing store the other day. And Jade's little melodies always seem to be filling the quiet spaces of our home. Even our munchkin Jo-Jo can be heard spouting off a word or two to his favorite tunes!

And we love all kinds of music 'round these here parts. There's a little jazz, some folk, (lots of) pop, a little rock 'n roll, and a good amount of worship. But my absolute favorite music to listen to are songs chalked full of Scriptures. You put simple truths to a good tune.. and it STICKS! (Just the other day I put my daughter's teachers name into a cartoon jingle that we are both familiar with. And, voila! She had her teacher's name down packed!) I want to be intentional in what's filling our little one's ears. I want them to store up the Word in their hearts. And well, when you put great, BIG truths to a good tune.. it STICKS!

We've had this CD for about a year now. And we have not tired of it yet! The tunes are catchy, and are packed with the Truth that I want my kids to know. (And hey, it even serves as a good reminder for me too! There have been a few times I've found myself cleaning or folding laundry whilst these peppy little songs pass the time!) I love playing this on the way to drop our oldest little Brantner off to school. It gets all of us so excited and ready for the day!

I love playing it when we are acting a fool in our living room with a "pick-me-up" afternoon dance party!

I love playing it .. well just a lot.. I just love paying it!

I highly recommend it! You can check it out here: Mighty Spirit Kids, iTunes, or Amazon

Monday, September 16, 2013

This one time, I almost died in the Dominican..

Once upon a time, I used to be adventurous. But now, I'm a stay at home Mom that is so terrified of frogs that I poke at my son's fake frogs before picking them up. Oh, who am I kidding? I've always been deathly terrified of frogs. That's nothing new. And maybe the fact that I took loads of body spray on each mission trip I've ever been on further proves my unadventurous-ness.

But alas, I spent many of my teenage-yeared summers in foreign lands spreading the great news of Jesus. It was a sweet time of ministering to so many who had completely different lifestyles than me and to many who needed to hear the sweet name of Jesus.

Whilst in the Dominican Republic one summer, a group of young women and I reached out to the impoverished youth of the city. As a follow-up to the work of some brave missionaries who had gone before us, we spent time with boys that we affectionately called the "shoe-shine" boys. Many of these sweet little guys, to put it mildly, did not have the most ideal childhood. As they were sometimes the sole provider for their families, they would shine shoes in the town square of Hato Mayor. What little income they brought in, would be used to buy food for their large families. Part of our day consisted of interacting through baseball, a favored Dominican past time... and sometimes spoiling them rotten at any chance we could get. We would buy the kids treats here and there, and really just try to be friends with them.

And when we weren't hanging out with the shoe-shine boys, we were probably having lunch at our friend's house, AnaB! (You can't just say her first name. And you can't overemphasize it... it's AnaB!) AnaB was a good friend to us and her family fed us lunch each day we were in Hato Mayor. And one time.. they took us on a fun little outing. Well, it was fun for some people.

After a week of loving on some kids who could definitely use some extra attention, we were all so excited to re-coup and have an afternoon of fun! AnaB and her brother, Munchy, had invited us to ride horses out in the "country." Our group consisted of about 8 people; the girls I traveled with, AnaB, her brother, our Dominican translator, and another American missionary. There were only 2 horses. A few of my friends went first, returned and let the other American missionary and I have our turn.

Oh, how fun this would be! Riding through the Dominican countryside.. looking at all the mountains, trotting along on a pretty brown horse! So picturesque! Oh, look at that over there.. and that! How beautiful this land is! And it really was so enjoyable for the first 15 minutes. Until Satan entered the horse. (Okay. Not literally.)

As my friend and I were rounding the corner, we met up with AnaB's brother.. who had somehow found another horse to ride. We walk along a bit, and my horse starts to get a tad.. hmm, we'll say spirited. Being an unexperienced rider, I'm a wee nervous at this point.. but my "cool" is remaining intact, for now. Perhaps I should have not led my horse to believe I was okay with his sudden burst of energy, because before I know it.. that thing is racing off! Conjuring anything and everything I know about horseback riding, I pull with all my might on the reigns to get the blasted beast to stop.

It does not work.

I pull on his mane... Still. NOTHING.

And then I really lose any amount of restraint I have... and the screams start shooting from my mouth. High pitch. Shrill. Frantic. Maniacal... they are all there. Having one grand exiting party.

In between the maddening sounds that are produced by my frantic vocal chords, I hear no approaching galloping noises coming to my rescue. There is no one. I will surely be forced to either cling to this wretched thing or will be catapulted off of it. Goodbye my family, because this is how my life will end. At the ripe old age of 20, she died riding a horse in the Dominican.

Trees are coming at me with lightning speed, a branch here and a branch there.. it's really a miracle that my face is not slashed into hamburger sized pieces at this point. As anyone can tell you, I do not.. repeat.. DO NOT have cat-like reflexes. So, thank you dearest ADRENALINE for making me move out of the way of every low-lying branch between here and what will soon be my death, I am sure.

And before I know it, there is all this commotion coming from the field. Other screams are matching my own. Deeper, more controlled yelling and such. But still.. my cavalry is coming to the rescue! Next thing I know, my horse has stopped, and there is a small Dominican man 3 feet in front of me with a machete in the air. Who knew that a Dominican man running through a field with a machete the size of a Camry would ever look so chivalrous?

I still don't know how he managed to make the horse stop, as the horse was completely uninjured and fine. And I still am not really sure how I even got down from the horse. But, I do remember not having my shoes on. Who knows where they went in the midst of the chaos. I also remember running a low-grade fever the rest of the day. I guess all the excitement was more than my feeble-old-self could handle.

So. There you have it. This one time, I almost died in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lists, lists and more lists

I'm a list maker. I mean, like, a hard-core list maker. I make lists of things that need to get accomplished, Calendar app fanatic, and have grown to love Siri so much for reminding me of so many important things that I would've never remembered had her creepy voice not reminded me.

In the 7 years the Amazing Mister and I have been married, I have gone to the grocery store maybe 4 times without a list. We end up coming home with Hamburger Helper, frozen pizza and 1 package of toilet paper on those weeks.

Grocery shopping usually includes a not so orderly trail of little blonde people. So, I need my list to survive. And not only do I need my list, but I need it to be organized. Having 1, and only 1, store that I frequent, I make my list according to the layout of the store. It makes my shopping experience so much more joyful to have everything- well the things I can control at least- to have everything all sorted out just right.

But with our family income being reduced a bit in the last couple of weeks, I had to get a little more resourceful in my shopping. Desperate to not enter the coupon game and visit 18 stores per week, I racked my brain as to what we could do to cut back. First, I would have to meal plan more than I already was doing.

Meal planning has been crucial for me to keep our menu lively and non-redundant. But this past week.. I really combined my awesome list making skillz with my menu planning skillz. I planned our week up and down, from breakfast, lunch and dinner to even the snacks. It's all my menu plan for the week.

I scoured Pinterest, the favored recipes already in the forefront of my mind, and recent sales ads for recipes. I clicked on a few grocery stores that are REALLY close to my house. (For me to visit multiple grocery stores, it would not be worth it for me to drive further than 6 miles from my home at this point. The gas spent in my typical "Soccer-Mom" car would not be worth the few bucks I would save at Grocery Store C that is 15 miles from home.)

And then I made my grocery list based on ingredients needed for said meals, snacks, and other household items. Simple enough. But I also based my selections between store A and store B based on which store had the lower price for the items I needed. As I made my list, I made sure to make note of how much each item would cost. (Of course, produce would be a rough guesstimation. However, I've bought nearly the same produce for so long and know the seasonal prices well enough to know the approximate $'s I would spend on it.)

This whole process took about 3 hours of my Saturday between the listing, the planning and the shopping. On a grocery budget that was already tight, without cutting anything off my normal shopping list, and no couponing... our family saved well over $30 in one week's worth of groceries. Well worth the hard work for those few short hours!

What are your tricks for the grocery store? How do you save a dime without losing your mind? Have any habits that help you out?

Monday, September 9, 2013

7 Years

Today marks the 7th Anniversary of marriage to my wonderful, amazing, spectacular and awesome Husband! He is such a precious gift to me, and I wake up thankful for him every day.

My husband is not perfect. I do not put every ounce of my hope and trust in him each day. But I do praise God for His goodness in the mate that He has provided for me. In the 7 years of bliss we have lived in, Matt has made our home joyful and has kept the laughter abounding. He has carefully guided and kept me accountable in my faith, and is quick to lovingly correct me. He spurs me on, and encourages me to not loose heart. Because of his hard work and provision for our family, I count it a joy to wash his underwear and to cook for our family. When I don't feel pretty (and when I do), Matt is quick to tell me how beautiful he thinks I am.

I could write a blog post for days about the many ways my husband is a gift to me. But I won't bore you all, all 10 of you who read my blog, with all the sappy details.

My prayer for our upcoming years of marriage will be for joy to continue to abound, humility to be ever-present, and that we continue to persevere in our faith.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

SO MUCH Reading!

So, we've already established my love of reading, yes? If you didn't quite catch onto my undying affection for books from my last post, lemme just clear it up for you. I love books. I love reading books. I love having books. And I love stories.

As we've settled back into our school-time routine here, I've had so much more time to read. It's wonderful. Curled up on the couch whilst my bebes nap, baking in the 400Degree heat of the afternoon car-pool line, sneaking in a few pages while dinner simmers on... my current read is always right there. It's almost blissful.

Now, let the record show.. I love books. Yes, I know I've told you that before. But, really, you should know. I LOVE BOOKS! I love them in almost any shape or size. And the contents of said book don't usually matter too much. Because of my Faith and some strong convictions, I usually try to shy away from certain genres... but give me a bad story-line, and I still love it. Give me a "not-so-well-accomplished-plot" and I still love it. Give me bad dialogue... and by golly, I still love it... or at least, I really like it!

But every once in a while, there is a book that is just fascinating. A real page turner. The kind of book you can't believe you stayed up past 2 a.m. to read.. and yet there you are at quarter-till-4 still reading.

Here are 2 of my most recent "can't put it down" for real page turners:

As my heart for the orphan grows, I can't help but to gobble up (almost) every book on the subject. The Language of Flowers (by Vanessa Diffenbaugh) tells the story of one Ms. Victoria Jones. Victoria spent her child-hood bouncing from one foster care home to the next. The book conveys her story in the present, while filling in the gaps from her past. I found the book to be a beautiful, if not sometimes tragic, representation of what so many children must go through on a daily basis. While Victoria is a fictional character, her life story has helped soften my heart to the many children who are stuck in a limbo. So many whose biological families can't care for them, yet they aren't adoptable for one reason or another. 

Thanks to my Dad, because I'm sure it's totally hereditary, I love history. World War II is a tad fascinating to me. I love watching movies and/or documentaries about it. I love reading about it. I love hearing stories about it "straight from the horse's mouth," so to speak. I came across this little gem of a book thanks to another great blogger's summer reading list. The book recounts the great Louis Zamperini's life. Starting from his mischievous childhood, following him through his early adulthood, and all the way through the war and elder years. The book weaves together the story of Zamperini's life with many a historical fact about the 2nd World War. Because of this, it took a bit to get used to Hillebrand's writing style. But y'all... its good. I mean, like REAL GOOD. And can I just tell you, that when you think you've reached the best part... you haven't! I wish I could just tell you the best part... like RIGHT NOW. But I can't. Just go get the book.. read the amazing story of Zamperini's life!

Now, just don't sit there all selfish! Share your most fav'ed reads! Which books have had you relentlessly turning those pages one after another?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Things you might not have known about me.

1. I'm painfully socially awkward. I sometimes have an almost panic attack on the way to church each Sunday morning. I definitely love my church and consider most to be as dear to me as my own flesh and blood. However, I cringe at what I may say to the poor new soul at church who has to hear me flounder through a horrific attempt at conversation. Those who have known me for a good length of time find vast amounts of humor in the quirky way I communicate. But bless those new people's hearts.. they just don't get me yet. And I'm a total mess of nerves just trying to make small talk.

2. I could probably eat Mexican food every day of my life for the rest of my life and never tire of it. Quesadillas, enchiladas, chips, salsa, tortillas, guacamole, nachos, rice, beans, chimichangas, burritos... let me count the ways I love you. I do. I really do love you. It goes without saying that I could probably also eat my bodyweight in tortilla chips in one sitting. Oh, the crispity goodness!

3. One of my prized possessions is my library card. I've loved to read as long as I can remember. Growing up in a family full of hunters, I spent most weekends (November thru January) of my childhood on the deerlease. I can remember packing a good 2-3 books for each weekend trip and almost always finishing all of them. As an adult, I visit the county library close to 3 times a month. And I feel like the hold system is 50times more awesome than any express check-out lane at any grocery store... ever...anywhere. It's like I'm a total VIP going in and getting the contents out of the brown envelope, scanning them through, and exiting the building in a total of 5 minutes.

3. If I could grow a garden, at least 90 percent of it would have to be cilantro. While cilantro can be found in many a great Mexican dishes, it still needs a category of its own. It's cilantro. Each Sunday, our church dismisses with a boisterous and jubilant version of the Doxology. With just as much joy as I sing that out each Sunday, I sing it out each time I pull that beautifully fragrant, leafy herb outta my produce drawer in my fridge. Hallelujah. Cilantro truly is a blessing from God.

4. My music playlist will never be as cool as my husband's. That handsome tall blonde man is to credit for any music of worth on my playlist. If not for him, you might have thought my iTunes belonged to some 14 year old girl. I'm thankful that he shares his great taste with me!

5. Johnson and Johnson baby products will be used on my children until they leave for college. Well, they would be if I have any say over it. Our oldest is 6.. the youngest is 2. Each child is bathed with the baby stuff each night and slathered in lotion after bath-time. I love the stuff. The silkiness. The way it smells whilst being used. And the way it smells hours later. Oh, and the way my kids covers and pajamas always have the faintest Johnson smell to them.

6. I will always be that weird lady you see at a stop light dancing unabashedly in the driver's seat. There's just something about a good song on the radio that makes me dance goofy. That, and my kids almost always find it entertaining. Well, that, and that, and that I will always be that goofy person sometimes dancing to the beat of my own drum. So glad there are forgiving words like "quirky" to describe people like me. Those words always sound so much more optimistic than "weirdo."

7. I catch onto every trend 10 years later. Pointy toe-d heels/stilettos were around a good 6-7 years before I had my first pair. Skinny jeans repulsed me the first few years I saw them. And I swear, everytime I say I will never own " (fill in the blank here) " that thing becomes the hottest, newest trend. A decade later, I join said trend and eat my ancient, dusty words.

Monday, September 2, 2013


My passion for adoption has been somewhat of a slow build-up to what is now a rapid boil. My first exposure to an "orphan crisis" was at the age of 16 in a rural Latvian town in a ginormous orphanage with hundreds of special needs children. I remember my heart being so burdened for each face I saw who didn't have a Mom to hug them. I knew then, that I at some point I wanted to adopt.

Over a decade later, I still know that I want to adopt. However, some of the details are a tad fuzzy. We are still in this weird limbo stage of not officially starting the process... yet, our hearts are ready. Right now, we are putting our hope in God's complete sovereignty. The waiting isn't necessarily easy, knowing somewhere out there.. our child is waiting on us.. and we are waiting on him. However, I do believe that this time of waiting isn't to be wasted.

It's no secret that the orphan crisis is just that: a crisis. Right now, there is an estimated 150+million orphans in the world.  It's an overwhelming and heartbreaking number. My heart weighs heavy for each of these little people and the hope I have for them.

Obviously, our family won't even make the tiniest ping in this number by adopting 1.. or maybe 2.. or heck, even 3 orphans. And you may not even feel led to adopt. Adoption isn't for everyone and every family. This should not be used as an excuse to not care for orphans.

First, think of what we might could do to help end an orphan crisis. Nations like Haiti have a devastating amount of orphans. Sadly, many of Haiti's "orphans" aren't true orphans. Mothers put their children in orphanages or up for adoption believing that they will receive better nutrition and care. These mothers are simply unable to feed their children. The Apparent Project was started in hopes of helping end the orphan crisis in Haiti. Mothers are able to make jewelry, learn life skills and earn two meals a day for their families. Then, let's think of the orphan crisis in our own backyard. What would happen if we linked arms with the single mom's in our communities? The teenage girl who might be scared out of her mind and pregnant... or the woman who already has a few little ones running through her home, single and has found herself to be carrying another little bundle of joy in her womb? What would happen if we provided loving support and encouragement to these moms? I don't know. Let's cook them a meal once or twice a week. Surprise them with diapers or heck even a Starbucks gift card. And then there's the family who's house definitely doesn't have 1000 spare square feet. But their hearts are big, and they have a desire to love a child whose biological family can't. This precious kiddo may not be adoptable, might just be a "ward of the state" for now (a foster child). But this family desires to make this child loved and cared for. Encourage them. Bring a hot lasagna over one night, gift them with a gift card to a fun family restaurant. Stock their cabinets with new crayons, coloring books, puzzles. Love them.

Unfortunately, even doing our best to help prevent this crisis from growing still won't end the orphan crisis. There are so many wonderful organizations and orphanages that are doing great things and loving orphans well. Lifesong partners with families to bring orphans into families and they provide countless programs in many nations to provide care to children. Coreluv has two orphanages in Haiti and offers nutritional meals to many other children. New Day Foster Home provides precious care to many special needs orphans in China. Consider supporting one (or all) of these great organizations!

I encourage you not to let the vastness of the orphan crisis overwhelm and paralyze you. Get involved. Start small. Just please, don't turn your head and pretend its not happening...