#MC #Sponsored: What’s Your #RedKettleReason for Giving this Year?

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Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for The Salvation Army. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

red kettle reason

The holidays are here, and you have probably already noticed that the Red Kettles are back out. Those special kettles belong to The Salvation Army, and they go to help those in your community that need it most.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based ministry that has been in America for over 130 years. They are set up to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. In fact, last year, The Salvation Army’s 3,600 officers, 59,000 employees, and 3.4 million volunteers served almost 30 million Americans in need. If you add that up, it comes to about one person, every second, every day. That’s amazing!

And their money really goes where it says. The Better Business Bureau set a guideline of 65% of every dollar spent going toward support, yet The Salvation Army blows that out of the water. They spend nearly 82 cents of every dollar donated to support community service programs.

The best part? All donations remain in the community where they originate. So, if you give in your community, it goes to help someone in your community. I love that!

This year, to celebrate the 124th National Red Kettle campaign, The Salvation Army is encouraging you to share YOUR reasons for giving by using the hashtag #RedKettleReason. When you post using that hashtag, you can view other posts focused on giving. You can also check out RedKettleReason.org to learn why the rest of America is giving.

Now, I want to share our #RedKettleReason with you.

As a mom of 8, there have been times when my family has needed help. Somehow, this help has always been provided, though most of the time, we never even know who our “helpers” are. An anonymous card will show up in the mail with just enough money to pull us though the week. Bags of groceries mysteriously appear on our doorstep, just when we need them most.

Because of how much others have helped us out, it is so important to me to teach my children how to give back. So, every year in December, when my husband gets his bonus, we sit down as a family and decide how we want to give back. We budget some of his bonus to go toward helping others in need. It gets the kids excited about the thought of giving to others, and allows them the chance to help someone else just like they have been helped.

My kids don’t have the best of everything. They don’t get new ipads, fancy clothes, or the most expensive gadgets available. But they are loved, and they have all of their needs supplied. By giving back to organizations like The Salvation Army, I’m trying to instill a spirit of giving in each of my kids. That way, they’ll grow up thinking of others during the holiday season instead of the “gimme, gimme, gimme” attitude that seems to run rampant. And you can bet, every time we pass a Red Kettle this holiday season, our spare change (and then some) will be given to help someone in need.

I want to encourage you to share your own #RedKettleReason and consider donating to The Salvation Army. You’ll spread a little holiday cheer, and you will make the difference in the life of someone who needs it.

Please connect with The Salvation Army in the following ways:

Please share your #RedKettleReason and let us know why you’re giving this year!

christmas tree


How to Help Others with Your Old Furniture

If you are thinking about upgrading your interior design scheme and you want to get rid of any of  your old furniture, you should think twice before simply throwing it away, especially if you really do not want to see it go to waste and it is still in decent shape. Even an old and worn piece of furniture can be revived again with the right DIY approach and expert touch, and this can all be done at a very affordable rate too, so there is no need to think that an otherwise old or unattractive sofa, bed, desk, etc. should not be salvaged.

So, are you ready to learn how you can keep your furniture out of the trash and out of the landfills and help others in need at the same time? Continue reading for a few ways to do just that.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill

There are many ways to help others save money, and one way is to donate your furniture to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Both of these charitable organizations will be happy to pick up the furniture from your home, so you really do not even need to lift a finger to be a good person and help the less fortunate acquire beautiful furniture.

Find Local Centers Seeking Furniture Donations

Look around town, as you may be surprised by the many organizations that work to help others every day and would be happy to take your old furniture off your hands if you are planning on getting rid of it. Consider places like senior centers, homeless shelters, synagogues and local churches, and even theater companies that may be in search of great props for their productions, especially since they may appreciate the history of Chesterfield sofas and vintage pieces of furniture that have loads of character.

Contact the National Furniture Bank Association

The National Furniture Bank Association will route your old furniture to the Partnership for the Homeless, as well as other non-profit organizations that are available to help people when they are trying to set up their own households.

Give to Your Friends and Family in Need

Sometimes you know people in your personal life who are in need of new furniture. If you know anyone who is hoping to get their hands on furniture from places like The Original Sofa Co but they do not have the money or they are struggling in any way, consider giving them your used furniture at no cost. This will greatly help them while also giving you the chance to free up some space in your home and go shopping for new pieces that you will love to use and look at for years to come.

Rather than throwing out your old furniture, give it away to someone in need, whether it is to someone you know personally or to a charitable organisation that helps people who are struggling every day. Your conscience will feel great and you will be able to snag great deals on new furniture to beautify your home.


#Sponsored: #SeeMuchMore – Keeping Your Family Healthy with a VSP Vision Care Plan #Giveaway

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Disclaimer: I will receive a pair of sunglesses in return for my post. Opinions expressed are 100% my own. Information provided by VSP.

VSP logoEye exams are important for everyone in your family – from babies to adults, and everyone in between.

Did you know that annual eye exams are important to your overall health? They allow eye doctors to detect early signs of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, among others.

The kids have been back to school for awhile now, but we can’t forget that getting them an annual comprehensive eye exam can help them learn and experience life to the fullest. Have you made their yearly eye exam yet?

It is important that parents should take their children to the eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam starting as young as six months old, then again at three years old, before kindergarten and every year after that. Because 80 percent of what we learn is through our eyes, an eye exam is essential for your back-to-school “to do” list.

In-school screenings do not provide the same level of detection as comprehensive eye exams. Even the screening the doctors office does at their yearly well care visit isn’t enough to get your child through another year.

Do you know the common signs of vision problems? The can include squinting, head tilting, avoiding “close work,” trouble focusing, continuous rubbing of eyes and headaches.

1 in 4 children has an undetected vision condition that can negatively impact learning. Don’t let your child become another statistic!

But, eye exams, glasses, and contacts can be expensive.

That’s why I want to share with you the benefits of enrolling in vision insurance. With VSP Vision Care, you can:

  • Keep your eyes healthy with highly credentialed doctors who provide the most thorough exams
  • Save money – the average VSP member saves approximately $320 each year with vision insurance!
  • Get access to great eyewear – more than two dozen brands and hundreds of styles to choose from!
  • Enable your family to experience life to the fullest

Please take a moment and check out the following resources:

Our eyes should be one of our top priorities. Please take a few moments to educate yourself on the facts, and learn more about enrolling in a vision insurance program today.

Want to win a pair of Designer Sunglasses worth over $100? Enter using the Rafflecopter gadget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


#MC #Sponsored: Start Your Journey to Healing at CaringBridge

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Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CaringBridge. I received product a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

caringbridge

Sometimes, you just want a place where you can connect with family and friends online, safely and privately. No matter what your reason, CaringBridge is here to help. This unique nonprofit was launched so that people could start their own free website to receive support when they need it most. A website through CaringBridge allows users to share important information with family and friends quickly and easily. Those with access to your personal site can then offer love and encouragement and help you focus on healing.

If you or someone you love could benefit from starting a CaringBridge website, please visit CaringBridge.org to learn more and get started today.

Have you used CaringBridge? What is your experience? Tell us in the comments below!

 


Prayers Appreciated!

ourchildren

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading into our local hospital to be induced. Soon, our family will be complete and baby #8 will be welcomed with open arms.

If you can spare a prayer for a quick, easy delivery with no complications, I would sincerely appreciate it.

Things may be quiet for a few days around here while I adjust to becoming a mom of 8 and snuggle my sweet little newborn as much as humanly possible the first few days.

Thanks for being loyal readers of the blog. I promise to be back soon and things will be better than ever!


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

Sponsored Post
This post is brought to you by Popsicle.
Popsicle_logo

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?