Guest Post: The Top 10 Safest Countries for Your Next Family Vacation

family vacation

Planning a family vacation can be challenging; you want to find a place to holiday that works with your budget and your vision of the ideal family vacation, but also offers a sanctuary for you and yours. So, where should you travel without having to worry about the safety and you and your family? Below are the top ten safest countries in the world suitable for your next family getaway:

Denmark
Denmark, and the rest of Scandinavia, has enjoyed a long reputation as some of the safest (and most beautiful) places to visit. Though Denmark can be a bit expensive, they also have some amazing free music and food festivals complete with kid-pleasing fireworks displays. As a top contender on Lonely Planet’s list of Best Family Destinations for 2014, Denmark has some great theme parks with fun rides, and Copenhagen is where you can find Hotel Legoland.

Statistically speaking, Denmark is one of the safest countries in the world to live as well:

  • Open Travel states the homicide rate as 0.88 per 100,000 people
  • Low crime rate
  • Low risk of natural disasters

The people of Denmark are remarkably hospitable and kind, so travelling to this naturally beautiful country with your family is a must.

 

Italy
With the Italian way of life centred onthe idea of family, it’s no surprise that Italy comes in second as one of the safest places to visit with your family. The people of this country are described as incredibly welcoming and you will never feel anything but secure in the bustling cities, world-famous restaurants, and kid-friendly beaches.

Lonely Planet lists the following as Italian features that your kids, and you, will be sure to enjoy:

  • Ice cream and gelato
  • Pizza
  • Pasta

Ciao Bambino raves about the pools and play areas in Italian hotels, and you can even sign your family up for cooking lessons.

 

Iceland
This country features a little bit of everything for every taste, and may be about the closest thing you can get to a true winter wonderland (if you decide to travel during the winter season). The worst thing to hear your children say whilst on vacation is the dreaded “I’m bored”, though they won’t have a chance to in Iceland.

Lonely Planet recommends the following family-friendly activities:

  • Horse riding
  • Elf Hunting
  • White-water rafting

This can all be done affordably, with a great exchange rate and travel prices.

 

Canada
Touted as one of the most polite countries in the world, Canadians are welcoming and hospitable, and the hotels and activities are much like what you would find in the United States, though typically more affordable. Safety is a top priority in Canada, with a relatively low crime rate and minimal risk for any natural disaster.

Visiting the various national parks is sure to delight your family, as well as:

  • Niagara Falls
  • The Maritimes
  • Banff National Park

 

Brazil
Brazil is a fantastic place to explore and get caught up in the lasting excitement surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brazil also has some great sightseeing spots:

  • Iguazu Falls
  • Christ the Redeemer
  • The Amazon Rainforest

And many beaches, colonial towns, and other amazing sights for a memorable holiday.

 

Japan
Japan, though revered as one of the cleanest and most polite countries in the world, ranks lower on our list due to the hazardous recent events that have happened, including the devastating tsunami and earthquake and the nuclear power plant meltdown.

However, the bustling cities and incredible train journeys throughout are a luxury for those wanting to see much in little time. Don’t expect it to be incredibly expensive either; because of the dependency on tourism, travel deals are easy to come by.

 

New Zealand
Another country boasting extreme natural beauty, New Zealand is a great place for families to holiday in. The British Government advises that “weather conditions can quickly become treacherous, especially in winter”, so you may want to plan your vacation for a more weather-friendly time of year.

Though rare, earthquakes have been known to cause significant damage in some cities in New Zealand, including the 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch in 2011.

 

Belize
As one of the most affordable Caribbean destinations, Belize is a popular place for families to relax on the beach, snorkel, scuba dive, or just enjoy the island culture.

Go beyond just the beach when you visit the spectacular Mayan ruins and cenotes in the interior of the island. Yachting is a lifestyle in Belize; sailing the waters can easily be researched and booked through sites likeonboardonline.com. You could even have a working holiday onboard!

 

Singapore
Asian charm extends into a welcoming, clean, and safe atmosphere in Singapore, where families are welcomed and treated as locals. Open Travel ranks Singapore as the top safest destination in the world, stating that crime and theft are a rarity and a low homicide rate.

There are many activities and sights to partake in when visiting Singapore, and the culture alone is fascinating and never dull.

 

Malaysia
After undergoing a major revitalisation, Malaysia is now focused on providing the very best for its tourists. Children will love Legoland Malaysia and the new Hello Kitty Town, while you and your spouse can relax in the famed Asian gardens or sightseeing tour.

Getting to Malaysia can be an issue as your connecting flights may cross some danger zones, and the region is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

 

About the Author: Andy Woodbridge is passionate about writing and has often written for a number of industry websites and both online and offline journals.

#MC #Sponsored: BGCA Keeps Kids #CyberSafe with the #CyberTribe

sponsoredDisclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I will admit, I am a little more than protective when it comes to my kids and the internet. There is so much BAD out there, that I want to protect their innocent eyes for as long as I can.

Now, I am not dumb. I know that with technology today, it is easier than ever for kids to access the internet, and get involved in all sorts of situations that could potentially be scary.

Even when I was a teenager, the internet wasn’t the best place to “hang out.” Back then, it was chat rooms. I will never forget when I was 16, and I met a guy in a chat room. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, and I was young and vulnerable. This guy knew all the right things to say to make me feel better, and I fell for it – hook, line, and sinker. I ended up making plans to meet this guy, all without my parents’ knowledge. I told my parents I was meeting a friend that night, and instead, I met this stranger from online. When I got to the park where I was to meet him, there was a man there – probably in his early 30s. Definitely NOT the guy I had seen pictures of online, and not who I was intending to meet. As I drew closer to him, I noticed he had printed out my picture and was holding it in his hands. So, he was the guy I had been talking to all along. Not the 16 year old boy I thought it was.

Everything inside me was telling me to run, and so I did. Straight to my car, and I drove to my friend’s house, because I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do. I couldn’t go home and confess to my parents what I had just done. I knew it was stupid. I knew my life could have been in danger that night. And, looking back now, as a mom myself, I want to bang my head against a wall. That was probably one of the stupidest things I have ever done in my life. Thank God I was smart enough to get out of there. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.

I wish that back then, we had had something like the BGCA CyberTribe. A safe place for kids to go to ask teens questions about online safety and bullying and get real answers. It’s also a fantastic resource for parents! In fact, I encourage you as a parent to take the “Are You a CyberSmart Parent?” quiz and see how your answers stack up. I ended up being a Cyber Survivor, and proving that I am doing my best to keep my kids safe while they are online.

I also encourage you to ask the CyberTribe any questions you may have about online safety and/or cyber bullying.

You can find the quizzes and ask your questions on the Boys & Girls Club of America’s Cyber Safe Website. All in all, it’s a great site that *every* parent needs to explore. Our kids are worth it!

Here are the two questions I asked the CyberTribe:

1. With easy access to cell phones, laptops, tablets, kids can access things they shouldn’t at any time – day or night. How can I protect my kids from seeing something they shouldn’t see if they click on an ad while playing a free version game on my cell phone?

2. I often feel like the “bad guy” because I won’t let my kids have a social media account until they’re old enough. I constantly hear, “But ALL my friends have one.” What can I say to convince my kids that it’s better for them to wait until they’re ready for an account instead of just giving in and letting them have an account?

I’m excited to see how the CyberTribe responds. I want to do right by my kids. I want to keep them safe while they are online, and I want them to always think before they post anything. This is something we will continue to talk about at length, especially given the number of kids I have!

Also, remember, that through today, June 30th, you also have the chance to win an ipad mini AND $500 to the Boys & Girls Club of your choice. But, hurry! Your chance goes away at midnight tonight! So, get your questions in!

How about you? How important is online safety to you? Have you ever had an experience where you or your child should have taken better precautions online? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

Have a Super Dad? Make Him a Super Gift!

Super Dad Gift

I wanted to do something special for hubby this year. Something unique and fun that plays on his personality. As the dad of 4 boys, (with another one on the way!), Superheroes have a big part of our lives.

I had seen the quote on a Father’s Day card, and thought it was perfect. The Super Man shirt was way too big for anyone in this house, so I cut out the logo and attached it to a very thin piece of wood. I painted the frame black, (it’s an 11″x14″ frame), and used a red paint marker to add the quote “Our HERO doesn’t need a cape… we call him DADDY.”

The gift was a HUGE hit. Hubby loved it, and now he just wants to finish the basement so we can have a Superhero themed living room down there. :) For now, though, it will just have to hang in our living room with everything else.

This is a super easy craft and doesn’t take long at all to make! (And it’s cheap if you use a t-shirt you have on hand!)

What other quotes do you think would work well on this frame?

Grandparents House Rules Free Printable

I’ve mentioned on the blog before how much we love “PapPaw” around here, and how important he is to us. Last year for Father’s Day, we made him a special Father’s Day Present (and Birthday Present). It went over quite well, and I knew I was going to have a hard time finding someway to top it this year.

So, I enlisted the help of my eldest daughter, and together we started browsing Pinterest. We came across this pin, and we both fell in love. I couldn’t find a place to purchase the already made plaque, so I decided to make my own using materials I had on hand. (Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post, because I’ve got free printables for YOU to enjoy!)

Grandparents House Rules Free Printable

Here are the materials I used to create the special gift above:

  • 12×16 frame
  • 12×16 mat with 10×13 opening (Or a 12×16 piece of cardboard, painted black)
  • 11×14 thin blank canvas
  • 11×14 printable (printed on two 8.5×11 pieces of copy paper)
  • antique Mod Podge
  • Red paint
  • Black paint
  • Black & White Polka Dot grosgrain ribbon

Now, it sounds like a lot, but in this house, it’s what I had on hand, and I had to make it work. When I first started to paint the frame, I was certain it was an 11×14 frame, and I could just put the canvas print into the frame. Imagine the shock (and horror!) when I discovered the frame was actually a 12×16 and the canvas fell right through the opening! GASP! But, I quickly solved the problem and proved just how crafty my mind is. ;) And, honestly? I love the way it turned out more than I would have if I had just put it in a frame. The ribbon and mat gives it an extra special touch.

To make the print, I simply printed the 11×14 printable onto 2 sheets of 8.5″x11″ copy paper. Then, I taped the two pieces of paper together (on the back of the papers). I applied a coat of Antique Mod Podge to the blank 11×14 canvas then applied the papers to that, trying to smooth out all the wrinkles. (Obviously I have not perfected keeping the wrinkles out, as you can tell toward the bottom of the canvas. If you know the secret, would you PLEASE let me in on it?) Once I got the papers perfectly lined up on the canvas, I applied a thick coat of Antique Mod Podge on top of the papers and let dry.

It was then that I discovered the frame was not an 11″x14″ like I had originally thought. So, I took the mat that had originally been inside the frame and painted it black. The only problem was, the opening was only 10″x13″, and my printable was an 11″x14″, so it cut off too much of the quote. So, I had to get creative. I decided to use hot glue and glue the 11″x14″ canvas to the outside of the mat. (You could also just use the right size piece of cardboard and paint it black if you don’t have a mat.) Once I got the canvas stuck to the mat, I hot glued black and white polka dot grosgrain ribbon along each of the edges for a special touch.

I absolutely love the way it turned out, and PapPaw did too.

Now, here are your free printables in a variety of sizes. Click on the picture to be taken to that size printable and save to your computer. Enjoy!

8″x10″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

8.5″ x 11″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

11″x14″ printable:
Grandparents house rules free printable

If you use one of these printables, I’d love to know how! Be sure to comment below, and if you have pictures of your finished project, leave us a link to them.

#Sponsored: Check out the New Superman Website Just in Time for Father’s Day

sampleDisclaimer: I received samples from SupermanHallofHeroes.com in order to facilitate my review.

Superman Hall of Heroes

Living in a house with a husband and 4 boys, (with another boy on the way!), you can only imagine how much we *love* superheroes.One of our favorite heroes? Why, it’s Superman, of course!

I actually grew up with a Daddy that was a little more than obsessed with Superman. I grew up watching all the Christopher Reeve movies, and I could tell you anything about Superman that you could possibly ever want to know.

So, when my boys were born, there was no debate: our boys would be versed in all things Superheroes. (And if you could see all of their shirts in the picture above, you would notice that each one of them has a shirt with a different superhero on it. :) Superheroes are just part of our daily lives.

And that’s just one of the reasons why I am SO excited about SupermanHallofHeroes.com. This fantastic website is inspired by Superman and the character attributes that define the world’s first and most recognized Superhero – unwavering morals and an endless pursuit of truth and justice – and the website offers a fun and inpirational way for fans to pay tribute to REAL, everyday heroes by submitting their photo and story online.

Do you have a hero in your life? Someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, or someone who has touched your life in a special way? Induct them into the Superman Hall of Heroes today! There are multiple gift-giving options and levels, and each one contains special Superman-themed items similar to those pictured above. These are high quality items, and they are certain to bring a smile to the face of your favorite hero.

Through Father’s Day, a portion of the proceeds from the sales of Superman Hall of Heroes packages will go to the The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. I love that!

Also, right now, if you have a hero that you want to nominate, but you just don’t have the funds to do it, use the code MYHERO at checkout and you will receive a free Level One induction of your hero.

So, what are you waiting for? You have NO excuses. Head on over to SupermanHallofHeroes.com  and nominate your hero today.

Superman Hall of Heroes

Cute Gender Reveal Photo Idea

This weekend, my daughter had quite a surprise up her sleeve for me.

I had gone out to coffee with one of the girls from our youth. (Who also happens to be my niece.) After coffee, I was also treated to the new Fro-Yo place in town. While we were out, my phone rang. It was my oldest daughter who had been spending the night with her cousins.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Ashley: “Mom? I’m at the church fellowship hall helping Aunt Sabrina with VBS stuff, but I really don’t feel well. Can you come get me? I just want to go home.”

Me (panic stricken, because Ash *never* gets sick) : “I’ll come right now. Do you need anything? Ginger ale? A bucket?”

Ashley: “No, just take me home so I can lie down.”

Me: “I’m on my way.”

I sped all the way to our church. When I got there, the parking lot was empty, and Ash came out to meet me. “Mom,” she said, “Sabrina needs to ask you a question. She’s right inside.”

I told Ash I’d be right back and walked into the fellowship hall.

I about died right then and there when I heard “SURPRISE!” from quite a few of my favorite people. The entire fellowship hall was decorated in pink and blue, (with elephants everywhere!), and so many of my friends and loved ones were in attendance.

Apparently, Ashley had told everyone that she knew 20 weeks was really early in a pregnancy to have a shower, but I had been under so much stress with Gage that she wanted to do something to bring a smile to my face and help me forget about everything – even if it was just for a little while. That, and she KNEW I would never make it to the birth without knowing if the baby is a boy or a girl. :) And she also knew it was driving me batty to have to drive to Atlanta with Gage so much, (where there are actual STORES!), and not be able to buy something for the baby to be.

What a sweet, sweet girl I have.

Before I get to the gender reveal part, I do want to show you a couple of my favorite pictures from the shower.

First, the adorable cake:

gender reveal cake

Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen?! My sweet friend Jodi did the most amazing job. And because Ashley didn’t want to reveal the gender with the cake, (because apparently *everybody* does that), the cake was chocolate – which  made it taste as amazing as it looked!

Next, we have the sign in “sheet” – a framed picture of the ultrasound photos where attendees were asked to choose Team Pink or Team Blue and sign in with the appropriate color marker. This is something I will treasure forever, and I smile every time I look at it:

Gender reveal sign in

I also need to explain this one. You see, quite some time ago, I had mentioned to Ashley that a friend of mine had said she wanted to “Surround her baby with Scripture” at the birth and afterward. I thought that was the most wonderful idea, and I said that I was going to steal the idea and do it for our baby as well. Ash beat me to it, though, and several weeks before the shower, she asked friends and family to send over their favorite verses. Then, she made these cute little cards with each of the verses and hung them on the wall at the shower. I am so excited that I already have all these verses and can start reading them out loud to Baby before he/she is even born!

Surround baby with Scripture

I am pleased to tell you the party went off without a hitch, and she revealed the gender by having me pop a black balloon…. full of BLUE glitter. :) Yep, I was actually right this time! IT’S A BOY!!

Because I have so many friends and loved ones that weren’t able to attend the shower, I wanted to announce the gender on Facebook in a cute way.

Here’s what we came up with:

It's A Boy!

(See it as my profile picture on Facebook.)

I love the way it turned out, and I loved that I could get hubby involved with the reveal. :)

And, p.s. I am SO glad I know for sure that’s it’s a boy now and I can finally do some shopping. Yaaaay!!

What cute ways have YOU revealed the gender to family and friends?

Our Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Adventure #vinezvacay2014

lighthouse

It’s no secret, I love lighthouses. Not just because of their beauty, but because of THE Lighthouse that saved me from my sin. If I had the money to collect anything, it would be lighthouses.

On our recent vacation, we had to drive from North Georgia all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We decided to toss the Mapquest directions aside, and we purchased an atlas for our drive down. Because this was the kids’ first real vacation, we wanted to take as many opportunities as we could to show them sights and things they might never otherwise experience.

So, it was no surprise when I saw a lighthouse just a few miles out of the way that I asked hubby if we could stop. Because he’s such a wonderful man, he agreed.

We piled out of the van and headed into the gift shop. It was there that we discovered there was quite a hefty charge for us to enter the lighthouse or do any looking around. I knew we were counting every penny on this trip, so with much disappointment, I told hubby that it was OK. It was enough that we got to see the lighthouse from the outside. We didn’t need to go in.

As we were getting ready to leave, the cashier waved my husband over to her desk. “Let me help you out. I come from a big family and I know what it’s like when money is tight.” She gave us a HUGE discount and soon we were sporting our beautiful paper bracelets and heading out to the lighthouse.

lighthouse

Now, I don’t know what I was expecting taking seven children to the TOP of the tallest lighthouse in Florida, and the second tallest in the United States. I must have lost my mind for a moment when I thought this would be fun.

We stepped inside the lighthouse and looked up.

lighthouse stairs

There were a LOT of stairs. And they just seemed to keep going up and up and up. Panic set in with a few of the kids – mostly my 9 and 10 year old sons. But, I was determined. We were going to do this.

We started making the long climb upward on the very narrow stairs. Every 20 steps or so, there was a landing so that those coming down the stairs could get past us. This made the climb a little easier, except on the two boys that were already scared out of their minds. However, the younger kids were really enjoying themselves and weren’t scared at all.

lighthouse

At one point, we were fairly high up into the lighthouse, and Gene, Zander, Jace, and Lucy had stopped on a landing to wait for me, Ashley, and the younger kids to catch up. Jace was in full freak-out mode at this point, and was clinging to anything he could find to hold onto for dear life. All of a sudden, Lucy stomps on the landing as hard as she could – just to freak Jace out. Boy, did it work. You could hear the roar of her laughter and Jace’s screams all throughout the lighthouse. Oh, what the other visitors must have thought.

We got one landing away from the top, and all of a sudden, *I* started to panic. I grabbed Gene and said, “I can’t do this. I need to get out now. I can’t be here.”

Now, let me tell you, when MOM freaks out, it’s not good. This caused an even worse panic in Zander and Jace. Within seconds, we were all crying and needed to find a way out.

My husband, being the loving man that he is, told me that he had made it this far, and he was going all the way to the top. So, he took Ashley, Lucy, and Parker to the very top of the lighthouse to see the sights. I stayed on the landing with the other kids and enjoyed the view from the window:

lighthouse

The view was just fine from where I was standing, thankyouverymuch. ;)

After hubby came down from the very top, it was time for us to figure out how we were all going to get down. Gene picked up Carly and Gage and started to walk down the steps, and at that moment, I completely lost it. There was NO way I was going to let him carry both of my babies down those stairs at once.

There was quite a bit of debate, (and quite a few giggles from passersby), but it was decided that Ashley and Gene would take the kids down, and Gage and I would wait for Gene to come back up and help us down. I was willing to wait all day if it took all day. I knew Ashley would be fine at the bottom with the other kids, and I knew the boys would just be thankful to be out of the lighthouse.

I watched as Gene walked out of the lighthouse with all the kids, and I started to feel a little less panicked. Gage and I slowly started making the trek down the stairs, and we met Gene about halfway. He helped us get all the way down to the bottom.

Once we got down to the bottom, you should have heard the laughter that came from my entire crew. We were all so relieved to be out of there that we couldn’t help but laugh about it. That was definitely one part of our trip that we will never, ever forget. And I’m sure we will be talking about it for years to come.

lighthouse

What’s your funniest family vacation moment?

Why I Seem to Have Disappeared… Again

As a mom of seven, and a pregnant one at that, one can only begin to imagine the amount of chaos a “normal” day can contain. That being said, since we got home from our vacation, it has been one thing after another, and I have barely had the chance to sit down – let alone breathe.

Our vacation was wonderful, and I have 3 posts sitting in my drafts right now to tell you all about it. We survived a 5 night cruise to Haiti and Jamaica with all seven kids! And it was awesome! I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

However, shortly after we got home, my son Gage had another seizure. (I posted about his first seizure here: My Child Had A Seizure). The second one came on completely out of nowhere. There were absolutely no warning signs this time. It was my husband’s day off, and we had just come home from getting our taxes done. Gage was laughing and playing and running around the house, chasing my husband. All of a sudden, he hit the floor and went into a seizure. My husband stayed right beside him while I called 911, and we took another trip to the ER. Because he had fallen and hit his head, they ran a CT scan. The first scan came back with some abnormalities, and because those abnormalities were right in the area where they had removed the cyst, they did a more dedicated scan of that area. The second scan came back better, but we still need to discuss the results with a neurologist. He was already scheduled to have an EEG done, and that happened on Tuesday of this week. It required a 2 hour drive to TC Thompson Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga, TN. The test was over quickly, and Gage did GREAT. However, thanks to a wreck on the mountain coming home, a detour took us out of our way and caused it to take 4 hours for us to get home. By the time I finally did get home, I was beyond exhausted.

After dinner that evening, my two oldest sons started arguing over dessert. I told them to put the dessert away, get their pajamas on, and get ready for bed. Not two minutes later, one comes running out of the room yelling, “I didn’t do it!” and the other one comes out of the room bleeding from the nose. A trip to the ER and we discovered that my ten year old’s nose was broken in two places. The joy of raising boys! :)

brokennose

We had to meet with an ENT/Plastic Surgeon today, and they will need to put Zander’s nose back into place. Because this will be quite painful, he’ll need to be put under anesthesia. We’ll go back on March 12th to have it taken care of.

So, as you can see, things are quite chaotic around here, and I’m trying to find a moment to catch my breath. I’m doing my best to get things back to normal, but until I know more about what’s going on with Gage, I just can’t commit to anything right now.

Thanks for sticking with me… and if you have any prayers you can spare, I’d certainly appreciate them. I’m longing for things to calm down and life to return to normal chaos without all the doctors and hospitals.

I sure hope things are going well on your end! If you’ve got some good news you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to hear it! Just leave a comment below.

Well, That Wasn’t The Reaction I Expected!

Another One is On the Way!
Early in January, hubby and I found out that another blessing is on the way. We had been trying for several months, so it wasn’t that big of a shock. However, my husband is the type of guy that prefers we don’t tell anyone about the baby until I’ve been to the doctor and we know things are all right. While I am terrible at keeping secrets, I’ve kept this secret enough over the years that it doesn’t bother me to wait to share our news with the world.

We found out we were pregnant on a Monday. That Saturday, I was at our church with my 9 year old son, Jace, setting up for a baby shower. My preacher walked in and said, “I heard the good news!” Not having a clue what he was talking about, (because, again, we had told NO ONE the news), I asked, “What good news?” He responded, “That you’re having another baby.” At this point, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. And so did Jace. We hadn’t even told the kids! Jace turns to me and asks, “Are you really, Mama?!” Oh my gosh. I wanted to die. I smiled and told Jace, “Yes, honey.” Then, I quickly turned to Preacher and asked him who had told him. He wouldn’t tell  me. All he would say was that several people had told him over the past few weeks. Few weeks? We just found out 5 days before!

Terrified that word would spread like wildfire, I called Gene in a panic. I told him he needed to sit the other kids down and tell them, and then he needed to call his parents before someone else said something to them. So much for a surprise. I had had big plans of doing a cute pregnancy announcement, but that went right out the window. I was heartbroken and frankly, I was angry. That was OUR news to tell in OUR time. It wasn’t anyone else’s business.

Once word started to spread through the church, our friends, and our family, we got the usual responses, although this time they had a twist. “Eight is enough, right?” “You always wanted 8, so you can stop now, right?” “Another one? Are you crazy?” “Better you than me!” And so on. It hurts so badly when your own family and those you count as your dearest friends can’t just smile and celebrate your joyous news with you.

So, for that very reason, I held off saying anything on Facebook. I just didn’t want to deal with more snarky comments or “Don’t you know what causes that” comments. (Well, that, and hubby still hadn’t been able to get a hold of his dad. We didn’t want to post anything online until we had told him personally.)

I had an ultrasound yesterday, and after seeing that sweet little heartbeat fluttering away, I couldn’t contain my excitement – or keep my secret – any longer. I called Gene and made sure he was all right with my sharing the news on Facebook. After all, he’d have to read the snarky comments too.

I posted a picture from the ultrasound on my personal Facebook page and said, “September is always our busiest month with our anniversary and Jace and Lucy’s birthdays. But this September, things will get even busier. This little peanut is due to arrive sometime around September 16th. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted 8 children. God has seen fit to bless me thus far, and we couldn’t be more excited. God is good!”

I prayed as I clicked the “Post” button, “Please, Lord, give me the strength to handle the comments with grace and dignity.”

I expected the worst. What I got sent me into shock. Instead of snarky, unkind, or just plain rude comments, I received nothing but love, support, and lots and lots of congratulations. I couldn’t believe it. When Gene got home from work last night, we talked about the reaction the post had gotten, and I cried… only they were tears of relief, not tears of hurt this time.

When it felt like everyone else had nothing kind to say, my Facebook friends – a mesh of the most amazing people I’ve known both offline and online for years – made me smile and made me feel loved. It feels great!

I know lots of moms of many that put off telling people they are pregnant again, simply because they’re afraid of the reaction. There is something wrong with that! What is our society coming to when we can celebrate the birth of baby #1 or #2, but let’s not even talk about #5 or #6? Every baby deserves to be loved and celebrated, whether they are an only child or come from a family of 14.

The Bible is very clear on how God sees children:

Psalm 127: 3 -5 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

Psalm 139: 13-14 “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Mark 10:14 – “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Moms (and Dads!) of many, it’s time for us to do as Psalm 127:5 says and not be ashamed. God has blessed us, abundantly, and every new life that is born into HIS army should be celebrated. And if you are not a mom or dad of many, but encounter one in your daily business, please be kind. They don’t need to hear your thoughts or opinions, unless they are kind. Keep the rude comments to yourself. It’ll just be better for everyone.

And with that being said, I can’t wait for September to get here. :)

Give Thanks… and Enjoy a @Popsicle While You Do! #Sponsored #PopsicleMom

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November is my favorite month, and this month, we also celebrate my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. It’s not about the shopping, or the football games, but it’s about being with family and talking about all the blessings we’ve received in the past year. And this year, Popsicle is helping us take things one step farther.

Fall with Popsicle

Now, every time the kids eat a Popsicle, they have to use the stick to write something that they are thankful for, and then put the stick in the “Blessings Jar.” On Thanksgiving Day, while we sit at the dinner table together, we will read all of the blessings that are written on the sticks. (The same is true for my husband and myself. If I have a Creamsicle {which I often do!}, I have to write a blessing that I’m thankful for on the stick and put it in the Blessings Jar.)

Blessings Jar

It’s a very simple project, but it’s one that has really made a difference in my kids. The first few Popsicle sticks were easy, “Family, our House, etc.” But as the jar has gotten fuller, they’ve had to sit and think about things they haven’t already named. I am really proud of some of the answers the kids have come up with… “Aunt Stephy, food on our table, our church…” the list goes on and on.

blessings_sticks

I am most excited about sitting down together around our table and reading all of the blessings they have thought of this month. And, because they seem to be so good at this, we may end up with TWO Blessings Jars by the time Thanksgiving finally gets here. You know what? That would be all right with me!

count your blessings

Making the Blessings Jar is easy. I just took a Mason Jar and a piece of white computer paper. I folded the computer paper to fit on the jar, and then wrote “Blessings Jar” and the verse from 1 Chronicles 16:8, “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.” I thought it was a fitting verse to go behind the idea of sharing our blessings. You could have your children decorate the piece of paper any way you’d prefer. A fun idea would be to put leaves under the paper, and have the kids color the paper with crayons in fall colors. Then, just tape the paper to the jar, and start collecting your Popsicle sticks. You could do it the way we do, and every time the kids enjoy a Popsicle treat, they write a blessing, or you can build up a stash of Popsicle sticks this month, and then on Thanksgiving Day, put a Popsicle stick at every seat at the table. Then, have each person at the table write a blessing they are thankful for on their Popsicle stick, and once they’ve read it, put it in the jar. You could bring the jar out year after year, and eventually have a jar full of blessings.

We have so much for which to be thankful, even when things seem difficult. There are always little blessings in our life that keep us going and make every day a little sweeter. This year, we’re taking our blessings and sharing them with the world. And we’re doing it all with a little help from Popsicle.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing about my family’s adventures with Popsicle this year. I have absolutely enjoyed being a Popsicle Mom Ambassador this year, and I’m thankful for the chance to share my experience with you. From our giveaways to our Pop-Up Party for our neighborhood and friends, we have had such a great time!

I want to encourage you to stay in touch with Popsicle all year long. Remember – Popsicles aren’t just fun in the summertime, but these sweet treats are fantastic all year long!

  • Visit the Popsicle website to find out about all the fabulous Popsicle products available.
  • Become a fan of Popsicle on Facebook for photos, fun, coupons, and so much more straight from the brand.
  • Follow Popsicle on Twitter for fun tweets that will get your mouth watering.
  • Follow Popsicle on Pinterest for tons of ideas, pictures, and more to spark your creativity and get you busy with Popsicle products.

What blessings would you write on YOUR Popsicle sticks?

Weary in Waiting, but God is Still Good

Have you ever had a need, and it seemed like the harder you prayed, the longer God made you wait?

I have been in your shoes. I want to share my story with you.

In July of 2012, we found out that blessing #7 was on the way. We were thrilled, and we knew that we would need to start looking for a passenger van. After all, our Expedition only seated 8 people, and with 7 children, that meant we would either be driving 2 vehicles, or someone would have to be strapped to the roof of the Expedition. (Not really, but you know what I mean.)

So, we started praying and searching for a van. We prayed, and we searched. Prayed harder, and we searched longer.

Still, nothing worked out. Either the vans were too old, too expensive, or only a 9 passenger.

By Christmas, I was weary in the waiting. I felt like my prayers weren’t getting any farther than the ceiling, because there was just no answer from God. I was discouraged, depressed, and growing more anxious by the day.

It was then that I decided to stop praying for the van. I stopped asking God for what we needed, and I started focusing on my relationship with Christ. I still stumbled and fell, but I drew myself closer to Him.

At the beginning of February, my faith had been rekindled, and I just knew God was going to answer my prayer for a van.

I sat down with my husband, and I asked him to give me 30 days. No looking online for vans, no making phone calls. I just wanted to pray faithfully and continually for 30 days that God would supply our need for a van. I just knew He was going to answer, and I knew it was going to take Him less than 30 days to bring the perfect van to us.

For the next 30 days, I prayed. And I prayed. I cried and begged God for a van. Every.single.day. I spent my quiet time with Him on my knees in prayer, weeping, and praying that He would supply the van.

Thirty days passed, and still no van. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. Maybe someone to drive to our house, leave a van in the driveway, and hand me the keys and the title free and clear? I don’t doubt God could do that, but He decided not to. Probably to teach me a different lesson than the one I wanted to learn.

In March, we started our search for a van again. We looked online, did drive-bys, made phone calls. So many phone calls.

All the while, I kept waiting, praying, and seeking His face. I knew He wasn’t going to bless me with anything if I wasn’t doing everything in my power to be as close to Him as I possibly could.

Quiet time was spent in my closet – searching His Word and praying for His guidance.

And still I waited.

By the end of the summer, I had pretty much given up hope of ever finding a van. I was convinced that this was the lesson in patience God wanted me to learn, and I was just going to have to rest on His perfect reason for not wanting us to have a van.

Hubby and I stopped talking about “the” van. I never stopped praying for it, but we didn’t talk about it at all.

On August 30th, I happened upon a quote in my Bible and updated my Facebook status to say this:

praying for a van

This status update ended up becoming a talk about the safety of passenger vans, other options for large families, and more frustration than I ever could have imagined.

That evening, Gene and I researched the safety of vans and other options, and my next status looked more like this:

still praying

At that point, I was more confused than ever. Luckily, several friends put me in touch with several different large families. I was able to speak with others who had once been in the exact situation we were, and they were able to calm my nerves and help me let go of my frustration. One sweet lady even prayed with me over the phone. The kindness and compassion in her voice as she called out to God on my behalf is something I never want to forget.

On Wednesday, Sept. 4th, hubby had a meeting for work and it took him in Gainesville. As he drove there, he passed a car dealership. (This car dealership is less than 5 minutes past where he works every day.) There, on the lot was a 15 passenger van. He had to work the next two days, so we didn’t get the chance to call about the van. I was certain it wouldn’t work out anyway, but I prayed that if it was supposed to be our van, it would still be there that weekend.

On Friday evening, hubby called the car dealership, and asked about the van. It was still there! We made an appointment to come down and see it the next morning… which also happened to be our 11th wedding anniversary.

We sat at the car dealership for hours while they tried to work everything out with our trade in, financing, and everything else. We sat on the couch and I prayed and prayed and prayed.

Yet I still tried not to get my hopes up. I just knew it was all going to fall through, and once again, we would have to leave the dealership empty handed and brokenhearted.

Around 1:00 that afternoon (after being there from 10am), they called us into the office to sign the paperwork on the van. It was really happening. We were going to have a vehicle that our whole family could fit in. I was still skeptical, though. I was sick to my stomach and so afraid something was going to happen and we still weren’t going to get the van.

However, a few minutes before 2:30pm, they handed us the keys, and we drove off the lot. It was official. We had a new (to us) van.

our van

I still can’t believe it. After a year of praying, we have a van sitting in our driveway. We can all load up in the van and drive to church as a family. No more taking 2 cars everywhere we need to go, there’s plenty of room here for all of us. And more. :)

And what truly blows me away is that He not only answered and supplied our need, He also supplied my want. I didn’t want a white van. I have a “stalker van” complex, and the thought of loading up my family into a white van made me nervous. But now I don’t even have to worry about that. This van is definitely not white. :)

I am blown away by what God has done for us, and I want you to know that He knows YOUR needs too. He hears your prayers, and He will answer when the time is perfect. It might not be as soon as you want, but it will happen. Just hold on and keep trusting Him.

I want to close with a verse: Psalms 84:11 KJV – “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

Keep trusting Him, and He will bring it to pass. It might not happen in an instant, but your need will be met.

Have you grown weary in waiting? What verses are you leaning on to keep you going while you wait for an answer from Him?

A Mini Minion, and A Whole Bunch of Talent #CreativeKids

My oldest son, Zander, loves to create. 99% of the time, you can find him “doing” something creative. He’s either drawing, writing a story, (comics are his favorite), reading, or – his newest fetish – creating with playdoh.

This afternoon, he brought me a “mini” minion that he had made, and I’m going to use it to take the opportunity and brag on my boy a little.

We had a fun little photo shoot with his little creation today. Here are the results:

Zander's Minion

Zander's Minion

Zander's Minion

I absolutely love it. He just blows me away with the things he comes up with.

And since I’m already bragging on him, here are a few more pictures of things he has made for me lately:

A True Hero

Zander's Donald Duck

Zander playdoh creations

Zander captain america rock

Zander's legos

Yep, I’m pretty proud. He is so incredibly talented, and I love that he loves to create so much. If my Daddy were still alive, I know the two of them would get along quite well. My Daddy had an amazing ability too, and it definitely skipped a generation. Luckily, Zander got some of it and he is running with it!

Do you have a creative child? If you’ve posted some things your child has done, I’d love if you’d share your link with me in the comments. It’s good for us to brag on our kids. :)

Becoming a Titus 2 Woman in Today’s World

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Becoming a Titus 2 Woman

For the past few months, I have been doing the Bible Study, “A Woman After God’s Own Heart” (Kindle Edition) with a dear friend.

One set of verses that is referenced over and over in that book is found in Titus 2:3-5.

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

I know that the very first sentence states that it pertains to the “aged” women, and while I don’t like thinking about getting older, I do realize that there are several groups of women who are looking up to me (besides just my children) —

  • My teenage daughter and her peers
  • The young college-aged ladies at church
  • Newly married women
  • Women just starting their families

And when they look to me, I want to be pointing them to Jesus. I would so much rather they look to HIM, but I pray that nothing I say or do could ever be used as a stumbling block if they do look to me.

As a mom of 7, and one that has been married for 10+ years, it’s pretty evident that I fall into the “aged” category now. And the more I read, re-read, and study these verses, the more I want to be this type of woman.

Let’s break it down, bit by bit:

The aged women likewise - We’ve already said who this pertains to: any woman that has someone who looks up to her. (In reality, every one of us can think of someone that looks up to us, no matter what our age or situation.)

that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness  - What exactly does this mean? According to the Strong’s Concordance, behaviour means “a position or condition” and holiness means “reverent.” To me, this section of the verse says that we are to be respectful in all that we do. In fact, according to dictionary.com, reverent means “deeply respectful.” So, we aren’t just to be respectful in any situation, but we are to be deeply respectful. (Boy, is that tough – especially when someone cuts you off in traffic!)

not false accusers - This is easy to interpret: don’t lie, and don’t make up stories to make yourself look better. It is never ok.

not given to much wine - The word given here means, “to be brought under bondage, made a servant.” In other words, don’t let wine (or alcohol) control your life. I do not drink – at all – because of my own convictions from I Corinthians 6:19-20 - “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (For another really good article on why Christians shouldn’t drink, read this one: Seven Good Reasons Why Christians Should Not Drink)

teachers of good things - This is literally translated from the Greek as “a teacher of the right.” Wow. Tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t it? We should know what is right and what is wrong, and we should teach others what is right. Not condemning, not judging, but teaching by our actions.

That they may teach the young women - Why are we doing this? Because of all the women that have been placed under us.

to be sober - This literally means “to make of sound mind.” We should not let anything have control over our minds or bodies (I Cor. 6:12) except for the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

to love their husbands - Notice who is mentioned first: our husbands, not our children. Many times, when we become mothers, we make our children our top priority. They should be a priority, yes. It is our duty to teach them right from wrong, and love them. But, we must remember that God expects so much more in our life. We are to first love our husbands. Respect them. Honor them. If we put our relationship with our husband first, it will cause our relationship with our children – and everyone else around us – to be even better. It took me a long time to learn this lesson, especially after being a single mom for quite a few years, but once I “got it,” my marriage has become so much sweeter and better than I ever could have imagined.

to love their children - Yes, we are to love our children. We are not to belittle them or be annoyed by them. We are simply to cherish them. I can’t tell you how much it hurts my heart to see moms on TV or even on Facebook talking about how terrible their children are, or how they wish they could just get away from them. Our children are a precious gift, and they should be treated as such.

To be discreet - This word “discreet” has caused quite a commotion on my blog as of late. While the literal translation of this word is “self-controlled,” I believe there are many ways it could be interpreted. We are to be modest, private, and careful with the words we choose to speak. I know this is easier said than done, especially when it pertains to our words. The world does not need to know how angry you are at your husband in your Facebook status update. There are some matters that are better kept to yourself or brought only before your Savior.

chaste - Literally translated, this means, “morally blameless, innocent, modest, or perfect.” None of us are perfect. We are human, and we fail daily. But, we should be striving for perfection. We do that by keeping our standards high in every area of life. In today’s world, there are no morals. We should stand out from the world so they might see the difference in us. (And they won’t always like it. You will be called things like a “prude” – or worse. Don’t let it discourage you. As long as you are doing what you believe will please your Jesus, that is all that matters.)

keepers at home - This means we are to run our household smoothly, efficiently, and to the best of our ability. I will tell you that this is one area that I have to work to do. Laundry piles up, dishes pile up, and I can’t remember the last time I dusted the mantle. I have given this area over to Christ, and with His help, I’m getting better.

good - This means “valuable or virtuous.” Am I a woman of virtue? One that my husband is proud to show off? One who keeps her standards high? There is nothing I desire more in this world. I made mistakes in the past, but God is using those mistakes to help me teach my teenage daughter the importance of guarding her heart and keeping her mind, heart, and body pure.

obedient to their own husbands - The world today jumps all over the idea that women are to “obey” or “be brought under” anyone. We are taught the exact opposite: you are your own person, no one can tell you what to do. But, God’s word is clear: we are to be under our husbands. To love them and respect the authority they have been given.

that the word of God be not blasphemed - The world will use the Bible against you. I hear it all the time. They justify their actions by interpreting the Bible to mean what they want it to say or by using verses out of context. (We Christians are guilty of this too.) However, if we are living the life of a true Titus 2 woman, and a woman who desires only to please her Lord and Savior, the word of God cannot be truly used against us – or against God. If someone tries, we should have enough knowledge of Scripture to back our choices up.

The Lord convicts different people of different things. I believe He has called me to keep my standards incredibly high on many things:

  • My dress. I have never seen anything wrong with wearing pants, but as I’ve drawn closer to the Lord, I have felt Him convicting me about what I wear. I don’t wear low cut tops (unless they have something under them), and I don’t wear shorts or short skirts. However, now, I have an overwhelming desire to only wear skirts (or dresses) when I leave the house. It’s funny, because I grew up going to a Christian school that only allowed us to wear skirts – and they had to be below the knee. I hated every minute of it and swore I would only wear skirts to church once I graduated and you’d never catch me in a skirt anywhere else. Look how far God has brought me… :)
  • Television and movies. My television is not on very often, but when it is, my husband and I are both very careful about what is showing on the screen. Foul language, sex, gore, and extreme violence are just some of the things that cause us to turn off a tv show. Before we rent a movie or see on in the theater, we use Focus on the Family’s website Plugged In to see exactly what we can expect from a movie. This site has saved us from wasting a large amount of money. Otherwise, we would have had to leave the theater or turned off the movie. The same goes for my kids: they don’t watch a movie unless my husband and I have watched it first, or we watch it with them and can turn it off if need be.
  • My words. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt…”  Always. I want to be known as someone who goes out of her way to encourage someone else, not bring them down or hurt them with my words. And this applies to all areas of my life: with my husband, with my children, with friends and family, and even with strangers. A smile and a kind word goes a long way, and I know that my speech can either please or displease my Lord.
  • My disposition. I have always been a “Here I am” type of person. By that, I mean, “I’m right here. If you need me, come find me.” I want to help, and I want to be asked to help, but at the same time, I am very much an introvert and don’t make friends easily. This gives off the attitude that I am a snob or stuck up or, gasp, “holier than thou.” (Man, I hate that term.) I’ve heard it all. And it’s not true – at least it’s not what I’m intending to portray. I just have a very hard time of getting out of my “bubble” and getting to know someone. However, I have fallen under real conviction about this lately. I’m trying so hard to become a “there you are” person instead of a “here I am” one. I want people to know that I care about what they need, and I am striving to reach out and let them know… no matter how hard it is. (And it is hard!)

Having high standards in today’s world can set you apart, and the world will often let you know how much they disagree with you. I have even had Christians tell me that I’m too strict, and if I don’t back off a little, I will regret it. I’ve had people condemn me (good people) because I took a stand against a movie, a book, or a decision they decided was all right for them. I won’t lie, it hurts. But, I’m not living my life to please them or make them happy. I must live my life to please Jesus. He is all that matters.

If it were easy to stand against the world, Ephesians 6:11 – 18 would have been left out of the Bible. We are in a battle, and we must arm ourselves with the proper equipment.

I am so blessed to have several examples of Titus 2 women – Joan White, Deena Stalnaker, Elaine Stephens, Pat Lucido, Glenda Seay, Bonnie Michel, Carol Renshaw, and my mom. These women live their lives daily for the Lord, and through the years, they have all helped mold and shape me into the woman I am today, and the woman I am becoming. I am still far from perfect, and I still seek out these women for Biblical counsel, advice, or to watch how they react to certain situations. I am so thankful for each of these women, the testimonies they have, and their desire to live for Jesus.

I don’t know if this post has helped you, or even just caused you to think. It is simply what the Lord has placed on my heart, and I felt the need to share it with you. It is my desire that we all get a little closer to Jesus and hear His words for us.

If this post has helped, would you let me know? And if there’s something I’ve forgotten, please let me know that as well.

How is the Lord working in your heart? Have you felt His touch lately? Are there changes you need to make in your life, your home, your heart? Are you striving to be a Titus 2 woman? Do you have an example of a Titus 2 woman in your life? I would love to hear from you.

LYSOL – Not Just Cleaning, but Healthing

With seven kids, and having four of them in school, you can only begin to imagine the number of germs that enter my household any given day. And when one of us gets sick, I have to do everything in my power to make sure we *all* don’t get sick.

That’s why I’m so thankful for LYSOL. LYSOL not only helps me get rid of the germs that are in my home, but it helps me prevent new germs from coming in and attacking my family. LYSOL is the only brand of household cleaners I will use simply because it works the best at keeping my family healthy.

LYSOL Healthing

This Spring, I’m not just going to be “Spring Cleaning” my closets and dresser drawers, but instead, I’m going to be making better choices in every area of my family’s life… I want more than just a clean home. I want a healthy home.

I know that “Healthing” sounds like a made up word. At first, the grammar geek in me had *such* a hard time even saying the word. But as I learned more about what Healthing is, I have since come to love the word.

Healthing is the appendage of the LYSOL Mission for Health. It’s the drive behind their products that are focused on killing 99.9% of germs and creating solutions for the home to promote both excellent hygiene and disinfection. It goes beyond just cleaning. It looks holistically at home a healthy home can help keep families thriving.

Both cleaning and disinfecting are vital components to the Healthing process. Of course having a clean and organized house is important, but killing germs on surfaces that are touched often can help stop the spreading of bacteria and viruses among family members.

In order to promote their Healthing campaign, LYSOL has connected with 65,000 schools to promote healthy habits and good hygiene. (I SO wish they would come to my kids’ schools. I am constantly fighting teachers and staff over something as simple as handwashing.)

They have also provided educational programs that will reach 50% of new moms with information related to caring for their newborns and keeping them healthy.

LYSOL also works with organizations like the National PTA, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the Global Hygiene Council and many others to share the ideas that Healthing illustrates.

Giuliana Rancic and LYSOL have also partnered together to visit YMCAs across the country to demonstrate Healthing in action. The provide attendees with hands-on education about their products as well as the steps required to practice better hygiene habits in their homes. They make all of this fun and easy to understand for kids. They also provide information and products to the YMCAs, and they also donate a one-year membership to a local family.

You can get involved in LYSOL’s Healthing Initiative today! Learn more by visiting LYSOL around the web:

I’m all on board for Healthing in my home! Are you with me?

healthing_02

Disclaimer: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for LYSOL®. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Gage is 2!

It’s so hard for me to believe that Gage is 2 years old today. It seems like just yesterday, it was him that we were bringing home from the hospital. Now, he’s a big brother and constantly helping Mommy out with the new baby.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Here’s Gage just a few days after he was born:

Gage 5 days old

 

Here he is at his birthday party last year:

Gage 1 year

 

And here he is now:

IMG_5525_2

He is such a sweet boy. He loves to snuggle with anyone that will sit with him. He love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, His Mommy and Daddy, his Aunt Stephy, and junk food. Yes, he has my sweet tooth. And my stubbornness. And my temper. But he gets all his sweetness from his Daddy.

His birthday party is tonight, so you can bet there will be lots and lots of pictures to share soon!

Happy birthday, Gage! Mommy loves you so much!

Family Pictures, Baby Pictures, and More

While I may not be very “on the ball” when it comes to blogging, I AM getting so much done around the house. In fact, last week I even took some family photographs.

Of all of us.

With a self-timer.

And the best part? I actually ended up with a frame-worthy portrait of the 9 of us.

Take a look:

My Family

 

And here’s the one I got of just the kids:

All my kids

 

Aren’t they great?! I love them so much that I took advantage of the special Artsy Couture is having on canvas prints and I ordered each picture as a 16×20 canvas. Can’t wait to get them!

And, since I’m sharing pictures, I HAVE to share my two new favorite portraits that I took of Carly last week.

Carly Grace

Carly Grace

That top one of Carly was my “Must Have” shot. Now, I love it so much that I’m thinking I may need to redesign the blog around it. :)

Carly is such a good baby. She sleeps well, eats well, and hardly ever fusses. The kids all still love her, and we have fallen into a nice routine around here. I couldn’t ask for anything more. (Well, maybe a few more non-sleeping hours to get some blogging done!)

I hope life is treating you well. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pictures above.