Archives for October 2012

Have a Happy Halloween!

In the Christian blogging world, Halloween is one of those taboo topics. You either celebrate it, or you spend your life telling people why you don’t.

I am one that celebrates it. I have since I was a very little girl. My Dad loved Halloween. We would carve pumpkins, and we always had the most creative costumes, no matter how much money we had. (Or didn’t have!) We didn’t celebrate the Devil or participate in any form of devil worship. We carved pumpkins, went house to house to get as much candy as we possibly could, and then spent the next 3 months trying to devour said candy.

When I became a parent, celebrating Halloween was a no-brainer. I loved it so much as a kid that I wanted to pass that love onto my kids. For years, we had “themed” costumes, and would go trick or treating in our favorite little neighborhood.

And then we moved to the mountains.

Houses are really far apart down here, so going door to door is impossible. So, no one does it. Each town has a “trick or treat” on the Square. We did that one year, and each kid got 3 pieces of candy. And it wasn’t even good candy. (It’s hard to charge a “candy tax” when they don’t get anything to begin with. And that sentence right there proves why I am not a politician.)

So, we stopped celebrating. It made no sense to decorate the house with pumpkins and gourds when no one was going to see them. We still carved pumpkins, but even that lost it’s luster. This year, no costumes were purchased, no pumpkins carved, and today is just like any other day. And I hate it. I want to give my kids the full Halloween trick-or-treat experience, but it’s just not possible in the area we live in. Sure, I could go purchase a ton of Halloween candy at 50% off, but that’s just no fun.

I wish I could afford to drive back up North for Halloween every year. Maybe if we get the right president in office and he brings gas prices back down……

So, since we’re not celebrating this year, let me leave you with a few of my favorite pictures from Halloweens past.

Halloween 2009
Happy Halloween, my friends. Celebrate and have LOTS of fun for me today, ok?!

Family Portraits – A Day at the Waterfalls

This has been a very busy week for the Vinez clan. We have family in from out of town, and it seems like the entire week has been full of doctors appointments, meetings, and things to do. To top it off, it was Fall Break for my kiddos, so I had all all 6 home, and had to keep them all entertained and happy. Whew.

On Thursday, hubby had the day off. Because the weather has been absolutely gorgeous around here, we decided we would take the kids to a local waterfall and get some family pictures. After all, it’s about time to get our Christmas cards ordered.

The falls were breathtaking, and since it was a Thursday, they weren’t crowded at all. At times we had the whole place all to ourselves. It was wonderful.

The kids had a blast at the falls, and I was able to walk away with some really great portraits of the kids, and of hubby and I. The only thing I couldn’t get was a family shot with all of us in it at one time, but I am really happy with what we did get.

I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. As a warning, this may be picture overload, so just bear with me. Hopefully this will help you get to know my family a little better, and maybe it will even give you a few posing ideas for your own family photographs.

Ready? Here come the photos…….

all the kids

all the kids

all the kids

Hubby and the kids

Me and the Kids

Me & Hubby

almost 25 weeks

all the kids 4

all the kids 5

all the kids 6

What do you think?

I’m having a hard time picking which one to use for the Christmas cards this year. Which one is your favorite?

How hard is it for you to photograph your own kids? I’d love to hear your experiences!

NAPCP Photography Tips & a GlVEAWAY! {Ends 11/9}

As a photographer, I could not be more excited about getting the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and share this giveaway with you on behalf of the NAPCP (National Association of Professional Child Photographers).

First, let me tell you a little about the NAPCP.

The National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) is an association whose mission is to promote and support the artistry and integrity of professional child photographers. The NAPCP connects parents searching for child photographers in their area with its professional members by providing a comprehensive directory of photographers and informative articles on what to expect from their professional photography experience. Serving as a valuable resource for both photographers and parents, NAPCP continually strives to raise industry standards in child photography.

The holidays are just around the corner, and I am sure you are already thinking about and planning your holiday family portraits for your holiday cards, right?

Here are the top 10 tips for taking photos of your children, courtesy of the NAPCP. (I will also be adding my thoughts and/or examples to these tips.)

TOP TEN TIPS FOR TAKING PHOTOS OF YOUR CHILDREN

1. Get on their level: Lay or sit down on the floor to capture the perfect picture. Not only will you be able to see the world from their vantage point, but you’ll also have better perspective and angles when shooting.

In the picture above, Lucy was lying flat on her belly, so I got flat on my belly and shot right at her level. This has always been one of my favorite portraits of her.

2. Lighting is key: Most parents think that having great lighting can be replaced with a camera’s flash, but the flash can actually make children appear washed out. Instead, utilize indirect, natural lighting by shooting near a window in the house or under the shade of a tree.

There is so much you can do with lighting. You can create cool silhouette effects, or you can move to the shade to get away from the harsh sunlight. Below are two photos that show the different ways I used the same natural outdoor light, first as a silhouette effect and then with a flash to see the family:

3. Never stop shooting: For every good shot, there are typically about 8-10 bad ones, but that’s the beauty of having a digital camera! Change the setting to continuous shooting mode to capture lots of shots in the midst of action. Even most standard point-and-shoot cameras have some sort of “sport mode” that can accomplish this task.

I couldn’t agree with this more! Even the very best photographers get shots that aren’t very good, and that’s why we take so many pictures and only show the very best ones. 🙂 Continuous shooting mode will eat your battery a little faster, but you can get some incredible sequence shots, and you may just get that perfect shot with your little one looking right at your camera.

4. Get to know your camera: Consult your camera’s manual or look up the settings online so that you can take full advantage of all of its different settings. Three key ones to experiment and get comfortable with are the aperture setting, the shutter speed and the ISO setting.

Yes, yes, YES!!! There is a reason your camera comes with a manual. It is full of tips, tricks, and “how-to”s for you to learn how to make your camera function to the best of its ability. If there are things you aren’t sure of, get online and google “how to use xx camera” – you may find forums, tips, and other ways that will help you out even more.

5. Consider black and white: Black and white photos are not only timeless and classic, but they can also easily cover up the redness and blotchiness on newborns and babies. Adjusting the black and white settings is usually easiest to do after the photo session in photoshop or picasa.

Black and white is an excellent option for a more “elegant” look… or to hide those blemishes. Look at the difference between this newborn picture in color and then in black and white:

 

6. Make it fun for them: Kids love to play with their parents, so turn a photo session into play time! Play games, tell jokes and sing songs with them – pretty soon, they’ll forget that you’re taking pictures.

I had one family in Ohio that actually requested I take photos of them dancing. We turned the music all the way up and they danced their hearts out. It ended up being their favorite portraits, and they had them blown up and put all over the walls of their house. Another tip: If you are taking photos, and you cannot get the kids to look at the camera and smile, take a break and allow them to take a few “funny face” pictures. It gets the smiling, and it helps them understand that the sooner they look and smile, the sooner they can be done. 😉 

7. Get up close and personal: Get close or zoom in to capture all of the small details that make your child unique.

I am all about the super closeups. I’ve got tons of them of my kids. The first example above is one of my favorites, but here’s another one:

8. Pay attention to the background: Before you start shooting, make sure that any unwanted or distracting items, like a vacuum cleaner or piles of clothes, are out of the way and out of the shot.

Sometimes this can’t be helped, especially if you are shooting candid shots. But, if you are actually stopping what you are doing to take photographs, take your child to an area with a pretty background, or remove unwanted objects from your line of vision.

9. Bring your camera everywhere: You never know when inspiration will strike. Camera phones make it easier to capture the everyday moments with your children – they can take decent pictures, but don’t always print well because of their low resolution.

I have 2 cameras, my professional camera and a point and shoot that fits in my purse or the diaper bag. While my point and shoot is always on hand, 99% of the time, I have my professional camera in the trunk or car, just because you never know when you might happen along the perfect setting or lighting for that “must have” shot. And, yes, I do use my camera phone for some shots, but only to upload to Instagram or Facebook – never to print.

10. Show off their personality: Standard portrait photos are parent favorites, but don’t hesitate to shoot pictures of them in their natural settings and behaviors. Their quirky and adorable habits today can usually create the best photos that you’ll treasure years later.

I love natural, candid photos. And when I think of grabbing shots of my kids as they are, I have one photo that stands out in my mind, and always brings a smile to my face.

The photo above is of my son, Jace, when he was a little over 18 months. That’s just him, playing in the yard, clothes off, pretending to be a cowboy. It’s a shot I will treasure forever… and will someday use to embarrass him if necessary. 😉

What do you think? Helpful tips? Anything you would add to them?

What if you’re still unsure about taking family photographs? Then, I’d highly recommend you check out the NAPCP website to find a professional child photographer in your area.

Whether you choose to use the photography tips above, or decide to contact a photographer through the NAPCP website, the NAPCP wants you to walk away with a way to “Fill your frames.”

To help you do just that, the NAPCP is offering one lucky Blessed Beyond Words reader a uniquely beautiful picture from from The Organic Bloom. Normally, these custom-designed frames are sold exclusively to professional photographers, but now you have the chance to win one of your very own!

To enter, use the rafflecopter gadget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own and have not been influenced away. Tips provided by the NAPCP. The NAPCP and The Organic Bloom will provide one winner with a picture frame. I will also receive a picture frame of my own as a thank you for sharing this post. 

Flirty Aprons *NEW* Bibs {Review & GlVEAWAY – Ends 11/9}

I am a huge fan of Flirty Aprons. And since they recently introduced their new toddler bibs, I am officially an even bigger fan. As you are all aware, I have a very messy toddler on my hands. Here’s proof if you need it:

So, you can see how a toddler bib could come in handy around here.

For our review, we went with the Tiny Trucks toddler bib from Flirty Aprons.

The new toddler bibs from Flirty Aprons are fantastic. They offer full coverage from the neck to well past the hips, meaning Gage is covered when he’s in the high chair. The material is easy to clean. It’s cloth on the outside, and the inside is completely waterproof.

Take a look at how well Gage’s bib fits him:

He *loves* this bib. Every time it’s time to eat, he grabs his bib and heads to his highchair. Now he won’t eat anything until we’ve got his bib on him. And that’s a good thing, considering how messy he is. One feature that I love  is the set of snaps on the back of the bib. No matter what size your toddler is, this bib will fit him (or her). It’s easy to put on, keeps the front of the shirt clean, and cleans up easily.

I really love everything about this toddler bib. If I could make one change, though, I do wish it had sleeves. There are many times we have dinners at church, and while the bib will protect most of Gage’s outfit, his sleeves are still exposed, and often get the brunt of the mess.

But, when we’re at home, I’m not really that concerned about sleeves. It would just be a nice option to have when we’re out away from home (and the washer and dryer).

I would highly recommend these bibs to any parent, and especially to any parent that has a messy toddler like I do. You will love how easy this bib makes clean up time!

Special Deal for Blessed Beyond Words Readers: October 23 – 25th, you can purchase a bib from Flirty Aprons for 50% off the retail price!!! Do NOT miss your chance to get such a great deal on these bibs. Just use code BIB50 at checkout to get your discount.

Click HERE to SHOP TODDLER BIBS

Feeling Lucky? I also have a Flirty Aprons Toddler Bib in the Tiny Trucks pattern to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, use the Rafflecopter Gadget Below.

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Disclaimer: I received a toddler bib from Flirty Aprons in order to facilitate my review as well as an extra bib to give away to a reader. Opinions expressed are 100% my own. Affiliate links are included in this post.

Wordless Wednesday: We Survived Birthday Season

This really won’t be very wordless… I haven’t quite figured out how to keep my mouth shut. 😉

Our first 5 monkeys have their birthdays in July, August, September, and October. Those 4 crazy months are called “Birthday Season” in the Vinez house. But, we just recently celebrated Parker’s birthday… officially ending Birthday Season. Well, until February when Carly arrives and March when Gage turns two and April when hubby has his birthday. Whew. We really are trying to fill up an entire calendar. At least we get the holiday season off and a couple of months after hubby’s birthday.

Since all the kids turned another year older, I thought I’d share a picture from each of their birthdays this Birthday Season.

July Birthday, Zander:


August Birthday, Ashley:

 

September Birthdays, Jace & Lucy:

 

 

October Birthday, Parker:

 

And since Gage’s birthday isn’t until March, I thought I’d share a recent picture of him. This is what happens when Gage gets Doritos and Chip Dip. (Yes, together. If someone else has chip dip, he has to have it too, no matter what he’s eating.)

If you’re participating in Wordless Wednesday (or not-so-wordless, whatever), leave your link in the comments below so I can stop by and leave a comment for you!

2012 Tiny Prints Holiday Collection Released {Give Away – Ends 10/28}

I am the person that obsesses over my Christmas Photo Cards. And this obsession starts every year as soon as the leaves on the trees start to change. I want to get the perfect family picture for our Christmas cards, but I want the design of the cards themselves to be just perfect too.

That’s why I love Tiny Prints. They offer such a wide range of holiday photo cards that I am certain to find exactly what I am looking for. Whether I want fun, festive, funky, or faith-based, they’ve got it.

Tiny Prints has recently revealed their 2012 Holiday Collection, and I am in love! I have found so many new designs that I just adore. I really can’t wait to get started ordering my Christmas Photo Cards to pass out to family and friends.

Take a look at just some of my favorite designs from their new collection:

Not only does Tiny Prints offer fun, creative, and beautiful designs at incredibly reasonable prices, they also have excellent quality. And this year, they’re making that quality even better with the option for their new Premium DoubleThick™ Matte Paper. This is their most luxurious cardstock yet, and just one more reason to love Tiny Prints. With these fantastic new designs and the new premium paper option, you’re sure to have people talking about your Christmas Photo Cards for years to come.

Whether you’re like me, and you’ve already started thinking about your holiday cards, or whether you’re a wait-until-the-last-minute kind of shopper, I encourage you to check out Tiny Prints. And while you are on their website, be sure to check out their Special Offers page where you can find Tiny Prints coupon codes and promotions to keep you on budget and score a great deal!

I also encourage you to connect with Tiny Prints in the following ways:

Want to win $50 off your Tiny Print’s holiday card order and send out your cards in style this holiday season? Use the rafflecopter gadget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Tiny Prints. I have received a promotional item for sharing this post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own based on previous experience with Tiny Prints and have not been influenced in any other way. $50 off total order prize does not include shipping & cannot be combined with any other promos.

Mommy Brag: Kids Singing at Church

I’m going to take a few minutes and brag on my kids for a little while. I’m allowed to do that, right? 🙂

Before I share a video with you, I need to give you a little back story.

If we go waaaaaaaay back, when I was little, my parents had a gospel singing group. They would travel and sing in different churches, and my brother and I went right along with them. Often, we were pulled up on the stage to sing with them. I grew up with a love for singing, and it has never gone away… I just don’t get the opportunity to sing much anymore.

A few months ago, I decided that since I am “mom” to about half of the youth in our church, that we were going to join the Youth Choir. For months, Jace would fight me about this. He refused to sing, and he would stand up on stage, lips tightly closed, and you could just tell that he had no desire to be up there. Drove me crazy. But, I prayed about it (constantly!), and I’d remind him over and over that he was supposed to be singing to the Lord. By not doing his best, he wasn’t making God proud of him.

Something must have sunk in, because just a couple of weeks ago, after Youth Choir practice at church one night, Jace asked me if I thought if anyone would mind if he and I sang a song… just me and him. (My heart soared!)

We started practicing, and soon all the other kids were getting jealous. They wanted to sing too! So, I decided the church would much rather see 4 little ones at the front of the church instead of me, and I bowed out.

Last night, the kids got to stand in front of the church and sing their song. This is just one of the songs I remember singing with my parents all those years ago. Here’s the video so you can see:

(Feed Subscribers, CLICK HERE.)

After church last night, Jace told me that he loved singing and that he wanted to do it all the time… and that from the kid that just weeks ago stood on the stage and pouted when it was time for the choir to sing.

God really does answer prayer… even the ones that don’t seem that significant.

I am SO proud of all the kids and how well they did last night. I just need to teach Lucy how to share the microphone so that Parker doesn’t have to lecture her during the song. 😉

Thanks for watching!

There are Monsters in my Cereal! #MyBlogSpark {Ends 10/18}


There are many things in life that make me smile. After all, I am a mom to 6, and most days are spent in laughter. (Kids say the funniest things!) Another thing that makes me smile is finding something that takes me back to my childhood. One such item (or items, in this case) are the Monster Cereals from General Mills.

When I was a kid, a bowl of Boo Berry cereal could mend any broken heart and fix any boo boo. Really. My dad’s favorite was Count Chocula, and everyone loved Franken Berry. These cereals were always on hand in our house, and they were always the perfect pick-me-up.

So imagine my absolute delight when I found out General Mills was bringing back their Big G Monster Cereals for a limited time! Each of the 3 cereals (Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and Count Chocula) will be available at Target, as well as other retailers nationwide.

I think it’s important parents know that each serving of these cereals has no cholesterol or saturated fat. They also provide a good source of calcium, whole grain, and nine essential vitamins and minerals. We can proudly serve our kids the same cereal we enjoyed as kids, and not have to worry about the “junk” that might be in there.

For this review, MyBlogSpark sent me a box of each cereal as well as a $20 Target gift card. This was one of my favorite reviews ever. 🙂 Not only did I get to enjoy some of my favorite cereals and share them with my children, but I also got to do some shopping at my favorite store – Target! 🙂 (Note all the smiley faces? I really liked this review.)

The Big G Monster cereals were a hit with my entire crew. And I love how much they loved them. As far as the Target gift card? Well, that was put to good use ordering birthday presents for my soon-to-be 4 year old.

I encourage my readers to connect with General Mills and Target in the following ways:

You can make this Halloween extra spooktacular with Big G Monster cereals. Hurry to your local Target store and stock up on them before they’re all gobbled up!

If you’re feeling lucky, enter to win a Big G & Target Monster Cereal Prize Pack here on Blessed Beyond Words! You’ll get 3 boxes of Big G Monster Cereals and a $20 Target Gift Card. Enter using the rafflecopter gadget below.

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Disclosure:  The product, gift pack, information, and additional sample have all been provided by General Mills and Target through MyBlogSpark.

 

Progresso Light Soups in 2 New Flavors! #MyBlogSpark {Ends 10/15}

Even though I am pregnant, it’s still important to me that I eat right and stay on the right track when it comes to exercise and making healthy choices. After all, I don’t want to gain back that 40 pounds that I worked so hard to lose.

That’s why I was so excited to find out about 3 new rich and creamy flavors that Progresso introduced in their Light Soups: Light Creamy Potato with Bacon and Cheese, and Light Chicken Pot Pie Style. These two new flavors are joining the lineup of more than 40 Progresso soups that are 100 calories or less per serving.

For this review, MyBlogSpark sent me a can of each of these new flavors, along with a soup mug, a lunch tote, and a water bottle. This was such a great little gift pack! I love the lunch tote. While I don’t really go anywhere that requires bringing a lunch, this tote is the perfect size for toting things wherever I do happen to go. The water bottle is great! So great, in fact, that my daughter stole it and takes it to school with her every day. (I’m totally ok with that, too. At least I know she’s drinking water during the day and not sugary sodas!) The mug was perfect for taste-testing the two new flavors of Progresso Light soup. Speaking of which, these were pretty good. Normally, I love potato soup and can’t get enough of it. This was ok. I could definitely tell it was a light soup. But, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t eat it. The chicken pot pie flavor, though, was really, really good. I loved how creamy it was, and I loved all the vegetables in it. It will definitely be the soup I stock up on to get me through the winter.

Overall, I liked the soups and would recommend them to my readers who are looking to eat right and stay on a better track. I also encourage my readers to connect with Progresso in the following ways:

Also, CLICK HERE to download a coupon for $1.25 off 4 cans of Progresso Soup. That’s a steal!

Want to win your own Progresso Soup Prize Pack and try out these two new flavors for yourself? Entry is easy, just use the rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Progresso and MyBlogSpark for allowing me the opportunity to try out these new soups!

Disclosure:  The coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by Progresso® through MyBlogSpark.

Tips for Parents Choosing Life Insurance (Guest Post)

When you become a parent, your priorities change. It becomes less about you, and more about them. You realise the importance of making sure your little ones are safe and provided for, whether that is making sure they go to the right school, or making sure they eat something healthy before they start throwing down cookies and ice cream.

Unfortunately, being a parent also forces you to think about the worst things that could happen. How to minimize risks, and how to prepare for the bad times. One important aspect of this preparation is life insurance. Helping to provide protection should the worst happen, life insurance can be an invaluable investment.

So, what should you be looking for when you are buying life insurance?


Value Work Done At Home

One of the most common mistakes made by families choosing life insurance is undervaluing the work done within the house. You may be a stay at home parent, or you may work part time, whatever the situation, it is important to give value to the work you do within the household.

This may include cooking, cleaning, washing the dishes, vacuuming, doing the laundry, ironing, driving the family around, gardening, and everything in between. All those hours you spend doing chores around the house, should be valued when you are deciding how much life insurance you need. If you were not there to do them, how much would it cost for an outside party to do them?

Add Your Kids To Your Policy

Most life insurance providers allow you to add on extra features, or riders, to your base policy to tailor it to better suit your needs. Find out what riders you can add to your policy, whether they are worth the cost, and how much you will benefit from them. One rider you may want to consider as a parent is a child protection rider. This can offer financial assistance if something bad were to happen to your child.

Do Your Research

Find out everything you need to know about what types of life insurance are out there, which insurers are offering what, and what is best for you. Think about income protection insurance, accidental injury insurance, and standard life insurance options. You will also need to work out how much cover you will need. Try using an online life insurance calculator or speaking to an insurance expert.

Get Healthy

While many parents stay fairly healthy running around after their kids all day, it can be helpful to look into any health issues before getting life insurance. Try to lose the excess pounds if necessary, and quit smoking. Take up regular exercise, and try to lower high levels of cholesterol or blood pressure.

Shop Around

As a parent, you will recognize the value of shopping around to get the best deal. There are dozens of life insurance providers out there (such as GIO Insurance, at www.gio.com.au), all offering different deals at different prices. To make sure you get the policy that is right for you and your family, spend some time looking around at what’s available. Use a comparison site, insurer websites, and speak to friends or relatives to see what they recommend.

Payment Options

Some insurance providers offer discounts for paying annually rather than monthly. If this is an option for you, make sure you take it. You may also find that buying your policy online can provide a number of bonuses, from premium discounts, a couple of free months, and cashback if no claims are made.

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