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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This post is brought to you by Popsicle.
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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.

Blessing #7 Has Arrived… and What an Entrance She Made!

Most of my faithful readers know that I have been anxiously awaiting the birth of baby #7. Honestly, this has been my longest pregnancy yet… or at least it felt that way. We found out in early summer that we were expecting, and after going through Summer, Fall, and Winter, it felt like I would never make it to 39 weeks or my induction date.

At my last doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, January 29th, my cervix was still very high, very posterior, and only 1 centimeter dilated. Since my induction was set for that Friday morning, the doctor decided that I would head into the hospital Thursday night instead. He wanted to use Cervadil to help ready my cervix before starting the pitocin in the morning.

We arrived just before 8pm, got checked in, and headed up to Labor & Delivery. After answering 8 bazillion questions, they finally got me hooked up to the monitors and watched the baby and my contractions for a little while. Around 9:30pm, the nurse checked my cervix, (still posterior and still only a 1), MOVED my cervix forward, (do not ever, ever let anyone do this to you. Oh my gosh.), and then inserted the cervadil.

I was doing great until a little after midnight… and then the back labor started. Now, in all of my labors, I have never, ever had back labor until now. It was awful. My husband slept soundly on the couch bed next to me, while I bounced on the birthing ball, trying anything I could to ease the pain. At this point, my cervix was maybe a 2. Maybe.

Around 5 am, they started the pitocin. Shortly after that, the back labor pains were so bad that I asked for some kind of pain medicine just to take the edge off. They gave me Phenergan and Stadol in my IV. Within minutes, I was sound asleep. Unable to function, couldn’t wake up. I don’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. My cervix was at a 3, but not really making much progress.

At 7:45am, the doctor came in and checked me. I was still incredibly out of it and couldn’t wake up from the stupor of the pain medicine. I was finally at 5cm, so he broke my water.

By 8am, I still wasn’t really “with it” but the contractions were incredibly intense. I don’t know how I didn’t break my husband’s arm, I was squeezing so hard. They checked me – now at a 7 – and ordered the epidural.

Not moments later, I knew I had to push. In fact, I was screaming at the nurses that I was pushing, and they kept telling me not to push and to just hold on… the doctor was coming.

But, seriously – when you have to push, how do you NOT push? It wasn’t happening.

The next thing I know, the doctor walks into the room, puts on his gloves, and I delivered Carly right on the bed. No time for him to catch her, no time for the nurses to get the bed apart, no time for an epidural. She literally popped out! She was born at 8:09 that morning.

The cord was wrapped around her neck twice, and she was very, very blue, so the doctor quickly removed the cord, and they whisked her off to get her lungs cleared out.

I was still so out of it at this point, and don’t really remember what all happened. That medicine just had me so out of it. Her apgar scores were 7 and then 9, so she perked up really quick. And hubby stayed beside her the entire time.

Me, Gage, and CarlyThey cleaned her up and then moved us to another room. Around 10:00, hubby went home to take a shower, and the nurse took the baby back to the nursery. I took a nap, and when I woke up around 11:30am, the meds had finally worn off and I was wide awake – and couldn’t believe how well I felt! I took a shower, did my makeup and never once felt like I had just given birth hours before.

The doctor came in around 1pm, and I asked him if there were any way we could go home. He said that he was fine with my going home, but we’d need to get approval from the pediatrician to allow the baby to go home so early.

Later that afternoon, after a thorough check up with the pediatrician, we were allowed to go home. We would need to bring the baby back the next day for a few tests, but there were no other restrictions.

We left the hospital a little after 6pm, ran to the grocery store – because we had NO food in the house. (All the kids were away for the weekend, and we were planning on being in a hospital for at least 2 – 3 days.) We were home by 7 o’clock that night. Less than 11 hours after Carly was born.

This was definitely my most interesting – and fastest! – delivery to date. But it was also, by far, my easiest. I absolutely cannot believe how good I feel. God is just so good!

I want to thank each one of you who has called, sent messages, or prayed. Every thought, prayer, and message just means the world to me.

With the entrance that this baby girl made, I have  a feeling she is going to keep me on my toes! But I’m already head over heels in love with her, and she has made the perfect addition to our family.

I’ll be uploading some pictures to the Facebook Page soon, so be sure to check them out!

Parker’s Teeth: Before and After

I mentioned a few days ago that Parker, my 4 year old, would be having dental surgery this week. The surgery was on Thursday, and I am pleased to say that he did GREAT!

Parker doesn’t have any enamel on most of his teeth. So, even though we brush them twice a day and floss them, his little teeth have just been rotting away. It’s incredibly painful for him, as many of his nerves were exposed, so surgery was a must. (And for those that have asked, they aren’t certain yet if his adult teeth will be the same way yet or not.)

The bummer is that during surgery, they found more work that needed to be done. So, he will be going back on the 7th for a second surgery. But, they completely reworked his front 6 teeth, and he looks like a completely different kid!

Here, take a look:

parker teeth before

parker teeth after

And here’s the picture I shared on instagram right after his surgery:

Parker's smile before and after

The difference is uncanny, isn’t it? This will help him out so much. I can only imagine how much better it feels for him already!

He’s acted like a champ since he woke up from surgery. Never wanted any pain medicine, just kept telling me he was tough and didn’t need it. :)

I hate that he has to go through surgery again, but once we get all of his teeth fixed, I really think it’s going to help him so much.

Now, I’ve got Gage having his adenoids taken out and tubes put in next week, then Parker’s second surgery on January 7th… and then it’s going to be time for baby #7 to arrive! Things are about to get very, very crazy around here I think. :)

It’s Official… Recurrent Ear Infections Means Tubes!

It looks like my little boy will soon be undergoing yet another surgery. This one is far less complicated, and much more common than his last surgery, though, so I’m trying not to stress out about it too much.

Gage gets ear infections all the time. About 3 weeks ago, we were at the doctor’s office, and she said that if he gets another ear infection in the next month, we may need to consider having tubes put in his ears.

Well, this past Friday night, Gage started running a low-grade fever. I prayed it was just the crud that everyone seems to have right now, but in my heart I knew better.

By 3 am, he had a raging fever of 104.

I tried all day to get his fever down: cool rags, Tylenol/Motrin cocktail, etc., but nothing worked. At 5pm Saturday night, I decided it was time to take a trip to the ER.

After a 3 hour wait, and their failed attempts to get his fever down, the doctor finally came in. Sure enough, another double ear infection. The doctor decided our best option was to give him a shot of antibiotics, and send him home.

The next day, his fever finally broke, and he started acting better. But it wasn’t until yesterday that he was finally back to his old self, playing and goofing around like the crazy kid he usually is.

This morning, I had a follow up appointment with his pediatrician. She checked his ears, and they are still severely infected. The shot he got most likely helped his fever, but it didn’t do a thing for his poor ears. So, he’s on another round of antibiotics, and we’ll meet with the Pediatric ENT next Wednesday. I’m guessing we’ll set a surgery date then.

It breaks my heart to see him in constant pain. I know the tubes will help. My oldest daughter went through the exact same thing when she was about Gage’s age. Only then, doctors didn’t want to put tubes in kids’ ears. She’s now 15, and she still has trouble with her ears. I don’t want Gage to go through that. And I’m afraid that if we don’t get the tubes soon, he will have an absolutely miserable winter. I think it’s best to just get it over and done with now – especially before Carly makes her appearance. It’s just the thought of another surgery for my baby that has me worried….

Any parents out there had experience with tubes? What do I need to know before and after surgery? I’d love any tips or advice you can give!

Family Portraits – A Day at the Waterfalls

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

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

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

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

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

Ready? Here come the photos…….

all the kids

all the kids

all the kids

Hubby and the kids

Me and the Kids

Me & Hubby

almost 25 weeks

all the kids 4

all the kids 5

all the kids 6

What do you think?

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

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

Wordless Wednesday: We Survived Birthday Season

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

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

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

July Birthday, Zander:


August Birthday, Ashley:

 

September Birthdays, Jace & Lucy:

 

 

October Birthday, Parker:

 

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

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

Mommy Brag: Kids Singing at Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for watching!