#IC #Sponsored: @Reebok #Zig Tech Big N’ Fast EX from @Finishline #Review

sampleDisclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Reebok and Finish Line. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for participating.
Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX
In a home with 8 very active kids, shoes are a hot topic. I need shoes that will be able to stand up against everything my kids put them through. And, believe me, my kids are tough on their shoes.

When we lived in Ohio, shopping for school shoes for my daughter was easy. We’d hop in the car, drive a few minutes to the mall, visit our local Finish Line store, and grab the perfect pair of shoes to last her until she was ready for the next size. They always lasted the entire school year. It was fantastic.

Now, we no longer have that luxury – but we sure have a whole lot more kids that need school shoes! What I mean is, we can’t just drive to the mall. Our nearest mall is over 2 hours away. It’s crazy. And when gas prices were high, like they were at the beginning of the school year, we just couldn’t afford to load up the van and drive that far to go shoe shopping.

So, I came up with the brilliant plan to just buy the kids cheap shoes to get them through the school year.

Oh my goodness. Dumbest idea ever. The boys are so tough on their shoes, that I was buying them new shoes every 3 – 4 weeks. So much for going the “cheap” route! If I had just invested in one good pair of Reeboks for each of them, I could have saved a whole lot more money, because Reebok shoes are made to last.

For this review, I was asked to either go to my local Finish Line store or head to the Finish Line website and do some shopping. I needed to grab a pair of Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX shoes for at least one of the kids. I wanted to really put this review to the test, so I opted to purchase a pair of Reebok shoes for Jace – my 10 year old. He is the hardest on his shoes, and I wanted to see how these would last with his active lifestyle.

I also opted to use the website instead of heading to the store. Oh my goodness. What an easy process! I just typed Reebok ZigTech Big N Fast EX into the search bar and it pulled up all of the available colors, styles, and sizes. I had Jace pick the color he wanted, we made sure we ordered the right size, and added it to my cart. The checkout process couldn’t have been more simple, and the shoes were on our doorstep in just a couple of days! Awesome!

Jace was thrilled when they arrived, and he begged me to let him wear them everywhere. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant. I didn’t want him ruining them the first day he had them. (He has done that with other shoes in the past. He’s that hard on his shoes.) I gave in, though, and he immediately ran outside to test out his shoes.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures of him being active in his new Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX shoes:

reebok

reebok

reebok

reebok

As you can see, there’s nothing Jace won’t try! And with his new Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX shoes, he feels like he can do anything! He couldn’t wait to get back to school and show his friends his new shoes. I haven’t seen him this excited in a long time. I love it! If it takes a little pair of shoes to make him feel like he can conquer the world, then let’s get those shoes!

With the craziness of life that having 8 kids entails, I just can’t spend all day and all night worrying about how soon I’m going to have to buy another pair of shoes for any of the kids. These shoes are made to last. I don’t know yet if Jace’s pair will last long enough to be passed down, but I do know they’ll last through the rest of the school year. And, to me, that is a *huge* blessing.

If you feel like you are always buying shoes for your kids and want a pair that’s going to last, I encourage you to check out the Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX line of shoes at your local Finish Line store or on their website. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

While you’re at it, I hope you’ll also take a few minutes to connect with Reebok and Finish Line in the following ways:

If you want to read other moms’ experiences with these fantastic shoes, be sure to check out the #Zig hashtag on your different social media channels.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to order more Reebok ZigTech Big N’ Fast EX shoes for the rest of my kids, and then we can enjoy the rest of our school year!

#FreePrintable: If You Think My Hands are Full…

As a mom of many, I hear the phrase, “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!” ALL.THE.TIME. So, when I heard the phrase, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart,” I immediately fell in love. It’s my go-to answer whenever I’m out.

I wanted to find something that had the phrase on it, but everywhere I looked, it just wasn’t what I wanted.

So, I decided to design something myself. :)

Because I love my readers so much, I decided to share it with you as well. Click on the image below to save the full resolution file to your computer. (Do not right click and save to print. I can’t guarantee the quality will be enough to print well.)

full hands full heart

I originally made my design in an 11″x14″ print because I already had the perfect frame for it. The one I’m sharing here is sized to an 8″x10″. Don’t try to print it in another size, because it won’t crop right. I recommend either printing it out yourself on a good photo printer or sending the image off to a photo printing service.

Here’s how my entryway looks with my new print all framed and on display:
entryway

I hope you love this print as much as I do!

UNICEF: More than Six Decades of Service

unicef

Shortly after the end of World War II, the United Nations established the United Nations Children’s Fund as a vehicle to deal with the needs of children in war-torn countries around the world. The mission of UNICEF was established as providing long-term assistance for humanitarian and developmental needs for children and mothers. Initially, it provided emergency food and healthcare to children in countries without the ability to assist them due to damages from the war. However, the organization now serves children and mothers in developing countries around the world. Many people choose to donate to UNICEF because it funds so many programs globally, and is known for its effective work.

Currently, UNICEF has offices in more than 180 countries and is managed out of New York. The organization is funded by contributions from governments and private individuals, and has an annual budget of nearly $4 billion. It is estimated that more than 6 million people donate to the organization each year, and many of them are regular monthly donors. The agency reports that more than 92 percent of the funds received are put to work in the field for services and assistance.

One of the most popular and effective fund-raising programs for UNICEF is the Trick-or-Treat concept. Starting in 1950, children have donated funds they collect while out on Halloween. The well-known orange boxes are credited with keeping the work of UNICEF in the public’s eyes, while raising an estimated $200 million dollars over the years. Many adults who contribute today started off with the orange boxes and have continued to support the organization as a result.

A more modern way of communicating the UNICEF message utilizes individual animated spots as part of the Cartoons for Children’s Rights project. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been the source of inspiration for this project. The goals of this Convention are a major part of today’s focus for UNICEF.

Other sources of funding include corporate sponsorships and the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. For example, the Education and Literacy Programs of UNICEF are supported by a number of companies worldwide, and involve a range of participants. From small companies to large corporations, the organization also works on specific projects for targeted needs. In 2013 Merck & Co. helped create the Merck for Mothers campaign, which involves a commitment of $500 million for programs seeking to improve the healthcare for expectant mothers and their newborn children.

February 13th is “#ValentinesForDogs” Day. Celebrate with @Milkbone

sampleDisclaimer: This post is brought to you by Milkbone. I received samples of their products in return for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

zander and scout

My readers may or may not know that we recently adopted a new four-legged friend from our local animal shelter. Scout has quickly become one of the family, and we can’t imagine not having him here. He is so good with all of the kids, and he is always so well behaved.

A good dog like that deserves a special reward! So, I’m excited that Milkbone wants to give dogs their own Valentine’s Day, and they have declared February 13th “Valentine’s for Dogs” Day! It’s a special day where we can show our four legged favorites how much we love them.

The good folks at Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs have made it easy for you this year with a doggie Valentine’s Day card. Get yours today. Just click here: [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/]

I also want you to take a moment and check out this infographic. It’s  special Valentine’s Day survey of U.S. Dog Parents:

doggylove_infographic_15_national_640

So, tell me. How will YOU show your dog you love him/her this February 13th? For us, it’s easy. The kids are off school on Friday, so there will be someone here to show him extra love and attention all day long. If the weather’s nice, we’re also hoping to take a family hike and bring Scout along. He *loves* to be outside, so this will be perfect for him!

We’ll be celebrating our furry friend Scout this Valentine’s for Dogs Day with extra love and special treats courtesy of Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Milo’s Kitchen, and Canine Carry Outs. And I’ll be sure to tag all of our pictures of the fun we have with #ValentinesforDogs. I hope you’ll head on over to [https://www.bigheartpetvalentines.com/], print out your cards, then tag YOUR pictures of fun with #ValentinesforDogs as well! Can’t wait to see what fun, creative ideas you come up with!

Learned a New Craft…

Yesterday was an absolutely terrible day. Like, totally the worst. It started Saturday night at bedtime. One ended up with a stomach bug. Then another. Then another. By morning, I had 4 with the stomach bug and one complaining his tummy hurt. It was a very long night, and an even longer day. I’m pretty sure I got 10 minutes of sleep total.

BUT, there is a silver lining to this very dark cloud….

My Christmas present was finally delivered!

chalk paint dresser

Isn’t it pretty? I just love it. It’s beautifully displayed in my dining room.

As I was looking around the room, though, I noticed nothing else in there looked half as pretty. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the picture frame I got for my wedding. (You can see it in the reflection of the mirror.) It’s been through several moves, and it was beat to snot. So, I shot my friend that painted my dresser a message and asked her how difficult it would be for me to paint the frame to match the dresser.

There was paint left over from the dresser, so she gave me that and walked me through the steps of making the frame beautiful.

Here’s the before and after:

frame before and after

I just LOVE it. And it was SO, SO easy to do! Now, I want to paint ALL the things. :)

I may quickly become obsessed with this. And I may drive my husband insane. But once he sees how pretty everything can be, he might not be too mad at me.

I think I’ve found my new go-to craft. And this definitely made my horrible, awful, terrible, no-good day soooooo much better.

Have you tried your hand at painting furniture? What do you think?

Are Fitness Trackers a Cure for the Obesity Epidemic?

Obesity is a modern phenomenon. Take a look around you in any public place and a large percentage of the people in the immediate vicinity, young and old, will be overweight. The good news is that there are loads of great gadgets to help us lose weight if we want to do something about our weight problem. We can download fitness apps on to our mobile phones or dance away the excess calories using a games console. So are fitness trackers useful for weight loss and can they cure the obesity epidemic?

Just How Fat Are We?

Obesity is officially an epidemic. More than a third of American adults are considered to be obese and just over 6% are morbidly obese. This costs the US economy approximately $3 billion per year, money that could be far better spent on education, healthcare and welfare for poorer members of the community.

Prehistoric men and women weren’t obese. For one thing the only fast food they ate had four legs and was pretty good at running away at speed, and for another a fat Neanderthal man would have been a sitting target for every predator within fifty kilometres. No, obesity is the result of too much food and too little exercise. Modern life has become way too easy and with so many adults and children spending the majority of their day sitting in a chair, it’s no wonder a lot of us are fat!

How do Fitness Trackers Work?

The thing about fat people is that aside from the fact they have a tendency to eat too much, they also don’t move enough. Consuming too many calories and not doing enough exercise is a sure fire way to pile on the pounds.

A fitness tracker is worn somewhere on the body. Designs vary but bracelets are common. Fitness bands measure how much you move and at what intensity. The device converts the data it collects into useful measurements to help you work out how much useful exercise you are doing. They can also be synced to smartphones.

Accuracy across the spectrum of fitness gadgets varies. Some devices flatter the user by overestimating how many steps they take whereas others underestimate, so you are doing more than you give yourself credit for. There are many tracker options available today with some most popular included here.

The Trouble with Gadgets…

Fitness gadgets are always popular, especially in the post Christmas period when you know you ate too many mince pies and nothing fits you anymore. But like all gadgets, fitness trackers are often a five minute wonder, worn for a couple of weeks and then tossed into a drawer to gather dust.

Gadgets can help with weight loss, but if you want to keep the weight off, you need to give your lifestyle a complete overhaul. Eat healthily and incorporate regular exercise into your schedule, without or without a fitness tracker. Join forces with some like-minded friends or join a slimming group for moral support. It won’t be easy, but the rewards will be worth it.

The Mindful Revolution in Schools {Infographic}

Your online teaching degree will help you achieve many things – better communication in the classroom, new and effective teaching methods and more. What it might not teach you is the importance of mindfulness, which can reduce the stress of both teachers and students dramatically.

Learn more about the Mindful Revolution in our new infographic:

Nova Southeastern University Online Master’s in Teaching & Learning

Highest Grossing Religious Movies of All Time

religious movies

The second film adaptation of the best-selling Christian book series “Left Behind” arrived on DVD in late 2014, followed by the DVD release of the religious film “When the Game Stands Tall.” While the second film only briefly played in theaters before going to DVD, “Left Behind” and other religious films spent more time in theaters. Some of those films delivered big results at the box office and made Hollywood think twice about religious films. Though not all of the religious films over the years grossed a lot at the box office, some made twice as much as the films took to produce.

“The Passion of the Christ”

Long before Mel Gibson gained a reputation as a difficult actor, he made headlines as the director of “The Passion of the Christ.” The film, which told the story of Jesus Christ’s last days on earth, became popular with a large number of groups. Churches across the country even rented buses and planned trips to see the film in theaters. Gibson referred to the movie as his passion, and while some had their doubts, the movie grossed more than $370 million.

“The Chronicles of Narnia”

Some of those who saw “The Chronicles of Narnia” in theaters had any idea that the film dealt strongly with Christian and religious themes. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” grossed more than $291 million in theaters and paved the way for the studio to make two sequels based on the same book series. Those two films grossed an additional $200 million at the box office, and some reports indicate that the studio may produce the remaining books in that series.

“Heaven is for Real”

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, “Heaven is for Real” tells the story of a little boy and his relationship with his father. Ed Young Jr and others in the industry might find the film appealing. The young boy suffered a life threatening medical condition that landed him in the hospital. After recovering, he told his parents of what he saw on the other side and passed along messages from family members who died before his birth. His dad later wrote a book about his son’s experiences and how his family felt. The adaptation of that book grossed more than $90 million.

“God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Night Dead” is a complex film that tackles themes of faith and spirituality. Released in 2004, the film became one of the highest grossing religious films of all time. It tells the story of a religious college student and an antagonistic college professor. The professor demands that his students state that God doesn’t exist, and when the student refuses, the professor gives him several chances to prove that God is real. Though the film only played in select theaters across the country, it grossed more than $60 million and made a significant amount in DVD sales later.

The ten highest grossing religious films made more than $1 billion at the box office and sold millions of copies on DVD. Those films let Hollywood know that film goers enjoy seeing stories based on classic bible tales and that church goers would pay to see those films. With several of those films coming out in 2014, this might indicate that Hollywood will tell more religious stories in the future.

25 Things Every Mom Needs to Know

I compiled this article for my local MOPs group this past month, but I figured it was something all moms could use – not just moms of preschoolers. I hope these little tips and tricks help you out in this crazy little thing called motherhood. And, I promise – I have tried each and every one of these tips, and would not pass them along if they didn’t work. (Most of these I use daily!)

25 things every mom needs to know

1. Having trouble with your kids using too much soap? Tie a rubber band around the nozzle, and it will help prevent that.
rubber band around soap  nozzle

2. WD 40 removes crayon from just about anything – furniture, floors, appliances, you name it.
WD40 to remove crayon(I cannot get it to work on walls, though, so invest in a magic eraser for that. Works great on my counters, tables, and even my fireplace though.)

3. Do your kids use multiple cups per day? Somehow, I end up with 50 cups all over my kitchen island. We bought these 88 cent cups from Walmart, one design for each kid, and attached magnets to the back of them. Now, I stick the kids’ cups on the fridge for the day in the morning, and throw them in the dishwasher at night. No more cups all over my counters!
magnets to keep cups off your counters(I use two magnets because my kids tend to be “funny” and stick their cups on the fridge with stuff in them. If I don’t use two magnets, the cups slide to the ground. This helps keep them a little more secure.)

4. Toddler socks are SO slippery. Fix them quickly and easy with a few drops of puffy fabric paint on the bottom. Instant grip-strips.
puffy paint on toddler socks(This is a great project to have your kids do! My kids love putting puffy paint on any new socks the little ones get, and it saves me time by having them do it.)

5. If you make your own baby food, use an ice cube tray to freeze the food. You’ll have quick and easy access to a week’s supply or so…
ice cube tray for baby food(Of course, if your baby is a little piggy like mine, it may not hold an entire week’s worth… but it’s a good start!) :)

6. Scuffed up shoes? Use crayons to hide the marks.
use crayon to hide scuffed up shoes(While it doesn’t cover them perfectly, it does hide them well enough that people can’t see the scuffs when they’re just looking at you.)

7. Sauce to-go containers make great pacifier keepers. Keeps them clean and easy to find in the diaper bag.
sauce containers for pacifiers

8. Shoes and toys can be washed in the dishwasher. Really!
(No picture – because I didn’t want to have to empty the dishwasher first – but I promise this works! It’s a great way to get my kids tennis shoes clean. Just run them through a cycle, and let them dry overnight {not in the dishwasher}.

9. Toothpaste will remove permanent marker from your wood furniture. (I actually prefer the 88 cent tube of Pepsodent toothpaste for this, but I couldn’t find it when I took the picture. However, I did test it, and the Crest worked great too!)
toothpaste to remove permanent marker
toothpaste to remove permanent marker(See those spots where it’s lighter on the permanent marker side? That’s where I spent HOURS trying to remove it with magic erasers and anything else I could think of. In less than 5 minutes with the toothpaste, I was able to get it all completely off!)

As an added bonus: Toothpaste also makes a great jewelry cleaner. Just use your toothbrush with a dot of toothpaste, and “brush” your jewels. Rinse off in warm water, and your jewels will sparkle.

10. Have a collar that won’t stay flat or wrinkly clothes? Use a flat iron to smooth out wrinkles.
flat iron to remove wrinklesCommon sense caution: Be sure the clothes are not on your child before using the flat iron on the wrinkles.

11. Lint rollers are the one must-have item for every mom! Use them to pick up glitter in your craft area, or to get the crumbs and hard to pick up items in the bottom of your purse or diaper bag.
lint rollers pick up everything

12. Does your kid squirt juice everywhere every time they pick up their juice box? Teach them the right way to hold it by pulling up the flaps on the side and holding onto it there.
teach your child the right way to hold a juice box

13. Make your own magical stain remover – just mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and water to form a paste. Add in a few drops of dawn, and mix it all together. Apply to stains on clothing, and allow to sit for half an hour. Wash like normal. If it’s a VERY stubborn stain, or if it’s baby clothes that have yellowed from storage, allow the paste to sit on clothes for about an hour, then brush the paste into the clothing and pat the paste back on there. Allow to sit for another hour, then wash as normal.
miracle stain remover(Tip: Wisk laundry detergent is the ONLY detergent I’ve found to help with stains. Wisk mixed with this secret recipe is a miracle worker on those tough stains.)

14. Use hot glue in the holes of bath toys to keep them from getting moldy.
use hot glue to keep toys from getting moldy

15. Ever wonder why onesies have those envelope folds at the neck? It’s for blowouts. Just slip baby out, and you don’t get a poopy mess in their hair.
what are those folds for anyway?Extra tip: These are also great if your kid tends to freak out when you pull their shirt over their head. Just put on and take off by going up (or down) their body instead of over their head.

16. A long piece of fleece makes a great teething guard for baby’s crib.
fleece to guard crib rails from a teething baby(Just cut a long skinny piece of fleece to size, then cut slits to tie the fleece around the rail.)

17. A crib sheet over the top of a pack and play will keep baby from being eaten alive by mosquitoes while outside.

18. When potty training, invest in puppy pads. Then, layer your child’s bed – pad, sheet, pad, sheet. Makes night time sheet changes SO much easier.
puppy pads for potty training(I am one that takes diapers completely away once the child starts training. Most of my kids don’t have accidents at night, but for the few that have, this has saved my sanity.)

19. Night time coughing? Rub vapor rub on your child’s feet and put socks over them before they go to bed.
vapor rub on the feet cures nighttime coughing(I don’t know how or why this  works, but it really, really does!)

20. Don’t like to use vapor rub? That’s ok! There’s a natural remedy too. Just cut an onion into fourths, put it in a bowl, and place it in your child’s room near their bed when they go to sleep. Again, I don’t know how or why this works, but it does!

21. Have an infected cut you’re not sure what to do with? Shred a potato (peel and all) and form a paste. Apply directly to the wound. Cover and keep it covered over night. The potato draws out the infection. You won’t believe the difference in the morning.
a potato can cure an infected cut(True story: My 17 year old stepped on a rusty nail. Instead of telling me about it, she let it go. The next day, her foot was red and swollen. It looked awful! We put the potato “paste” on it, covered it with a washcloth, then wrapped it in an Ace bandage overnight. The next morning, you couldn’t even tell where she had stepped on the nail.)

22. Have a little one with the sniffles? My kids always grab a tissue and then stuff it in the same box. To eliminate this problem, I started taping an empty tissue box to a full one. There’s a box to grab the tissue, and a box to throw it away. Once the empty one is full of dirty tissues, I take it off, throw it away, and attach the now empty box to a new box of tissues.
clean tissues, dirty tissues

23. Once a month, or after battling an illness in your house, wash your kids toys in a mesh bag. Fill a bathtub full of water, add one cup of bleach, and drop the toys in. Swish it around, so all the toys get covered. Rinse in clean water, then hang outside to dry.
how to wash legosExtra tip: This is the BEST way to wash Legos that I’ve found. Never washed your kids’ Legos? Maybe it’s time.

24. Lozo.com – this website is SO great for moms. Just type in your grocery list – being as generic or as specific as possible, and it will pull up coupons for every item on your list. LOVE this site and use it every time I go shopping.

25. If you remember nothing else, I want you to remember this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Somewhere, there’s a mom who is going through the exact same thing you are, or has faced it in the past. That’s why a MOPS group is so great. It brings moms together, and we can lean on and encourage one another while on this path of motherhood.

But, even more than our MOPS moms, GOD has promised that He will always be there. Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” I think this is a great verse for us moms to lean on. We shouldn’t be jealous of other moms and how well they handle stress or the creative projects they come up with for their kids. (Think: Pinterest Moms!) We are simply to do our best and remember that no matter what comes our way – no matter how bad our kids are that day, or how exhausted we might feel, God has promised that He will always be right there to comfort and refresh us.
Hebrews 13:5

I hope these tips have helped! If you have a tip you’d like to share, please feel free to leave it in the comments.

In Case of Emergency Break Glass {Gift Idea, Free Printable}

In Case of Emergency

I made this for my best friend this Christmas, and it was a HUGE hit.

I don’t have any type of vinyl cutter, so I had to come up with a creative way to get the letters on the glass. At first, I tried stickers. What a nightmare that was, and I just couldn’t get it to look the way I wanted it to look.

Then, I discovered inkjet transparency film. Oh my goodness. BEST STUFF EVER. It made this project SO easy, and it looks professionally done. Plus, I don’t have to worry about the letters peeling off, because they’re on a sheet inside the glass. (But to look at it, you’d never know that’s the case. The letters look etched in the glass.)

Here’s what you need to  make your own:

  • Inkjet Transparency Film (also available at your local craft store)
  • FREE Printable (See Below)
  • 8 x 8 Shadowbox (also available at craft stores, or even Walmart)
  • Ceiling Fan Pull (looks like the “hammer” to break the glass – I found mine at Walmart)
  • Favorite Candy Bar

Here’s how to put it all together:

  1. Open and/or Save the In Case of Emergency Break Glass printable on your computer. You can find the JPG Version HERE or the PDF version HERE. (Either one will work just fine.)
  2. Print the Printable onto your Inkjet Transparency Film. (Make sure you read the instructions for the film. I quickly learned that if you print it on the wrong side, the letters will smear. BUT when printed on the correct side, they’ll stay forever.) Also make sure you print it at 100% so it’s exactly the right size you will need.
  3. There is a border around the words. Cut out the printable just inside the border so the sheet will fit perfectly against the glass inside your shadowbox frame.
  4. Put the printable against the glass, hot glue your candy bar in the center of the included white paper with the shadowbox frame (or to any kind of scrapbook paper you prefer).
  5. Put the shadowbox together.
  6. Glue the ceiling fan pull to the back of the frame and allow it to drape over the front of the frame.

That’s it! This is a quick and easy project that I guarantee will be a HUGE hit!

I do also recommend giving the recipient another candy bar separately, just so they don’t feel the urge to break the glass right away. ;)

I’d love to know what you think of this project!

If You Only Read One Book This Year, Make it This One {Affiliate Links Included}

affiliate**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting Blessed Beyond Words!***

I love reading. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl. If I could get my hands on a book, I would read it. I’d even sit with a flashlight under my covers, reading until late into the night.

As I got older, and life took over, it became much harder to find the time to read.

Since Sawyer was born in September, and he nurses all.the.time, I’m finding I have lots of time to read now. I’d almost forgotten how much I love it.

Because I’m usually nursing while I’m reading, I can’t sit and hold an actual book. Kindle books work great, though, because I can access them from my phone and read every chance I get.

A few months ago, I found out that the sister of one of my very dear friends from high school wrote a book. I had to read it, just because I knew Sally, and I had always admired her.

Little did I know, this book would blow away every other book I’ve ever read. Honestly. I couldn’t put it down.

The book is called “Kept.” And let me tell you, it “kept” my attention from the beginning to the very end. And I didn’t want it to end!

keptKept is not your typical Christian romance novel. There’s romance and relationships, yes. But this book is about so much more than that. It’s about one woman’s struggle with life, failed romances, awful men, and finding a Savior that can make her whole.

I don’t want to divulge too much, but if you’d like to read more about the story, check out Sally Bradley’s website.

Right now, the kindle edition of Kept is available on Amazon for just $4.99. That is a fantastic deal that you don’t want to miss!

There are few books that I consider “must reads,” but this is definitely one of them. I’ve told everyone I know to read this book, and I figured I’d better share it with my favorite blog readers as well. :)

If you read the book, I’d love to know what you think of it. Were you as mesmerized as I was? Did you find it hard to put it down?

Why Surprises Are the Best Gifts

Everyone loves celebrations, especially the Christmas season. However, choosing gifts can be stressful. Going to the mall or other shopping outlet and dealing with traffic is one stressful situation. Another is finding the perfect gift. If it’s a gift for Grandpa, what do you get  someone who probably has it all? If it’s a gift for your husband, he possibly has an idea of what you may get him. That takes all of the fun out of tearing into a beautifully wrapped gift under the tree, doesn’t it? Here are a few reasons you should go ahead and surprise the man in your life with a personalized gift this holiday.

It Shows You’ve Gone the Extra Mile

A personalized gift shows you’ve gone the extra mile. You’re giving them something useful. Many times a personalized gift is tangible, so it’ll always be around. Every time they pull it out, they will think of you. This special man will know you’ve paid a bit extra, too. You’ve had to figure out that special message or choose the perfect engraving details. Other times, gift ideas such as a gourmet dinner cruise, helicopter lessons, or golf lessons with a PGA pro is an experience of a lifetime for them.

It’s Not a Last Minute Gift Idea

hand wrapped gift

Image via Flickr by Erika G

Personalized gifts are not last-minute gift ideas. You certainly can’t wake up the day before the holiday and run to the store to grab them. If you’ve considered making a gift for him, that will take time as well. Surprising the man in your life with a personalized gift lets him know you’ve planned this gift. You took time and effort to ensure it was special, just for him.

There are Many Out of the Ordinary Gifts to Choose From

Shopping for a personalized gift allows you to choose out of the ordinary gifts. There are thousands of gifts to choose from. However, your best bet is to choose one that will suit his taste. Is he into golf, auto repair, a food lover, or adventure seeker? If you’re unsure of the best gift, get a few ideas from a site such as Cloud 9 Living. Here you can search by the experience type or most popular gift ideas in your area. These gift ideas for him will help you decide on that perfect gift.

The Element of Surprise is Always Best

Have you two set a dollar amount on your gift exchanges? Or, maybe you have a top 10 list of items to choose from. Surprise him with a personalized gift, yet stick within the budgeted amount. Many believe that something custom has to cost a large sum of money. Even something as small as a gift certificate to a unique store puts a higher value on your gift. To add the element of surprise, place your certificate in the same size box as one of the items on his list. Add a custom designed wrapper for a special touch.

He Can Be a Trendsetter

Men tend to like to brag more than they let on. Having a personalized gift authorizes him to brag and say no one else has a Christmas gift quite like this one. So while the guys are all around sharing stories of their holiday meals and gifts, they can set the new trend of what their friends will all want next year.

Because He Won’t Do It for Himself

It doesn’t matter the gender; both men and women enjoy receiving surprises. There aren’t many people who order personalized gifts for themselves. The reason could be because it seems like a conceited or greedy idea. You feel someone else should take the time and effort to do it because it symbolizes love and care. So since he won’t buy his own personalized gift, surprise him with one.

As you can see, it’s not so much more trouble of you picking a personalized gift than any other method of gift giving. Surprises, though, are what make the gift worthwhile. To receive that genuine smile because you’ve given a gift from the heart will make you and him feel so good.

Join Me and Share Your #Blessings365

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So, all this week, I’ve been writing up my annual post with my “word” for the new year. I had it all written and ready to publish…

And then I went to our church’s watchnight service.

Since I left there, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all the blessings God gave my family in 2014.

While 2014 was a tough year, full of ups and downs, there were far more “ups” than “downs.”

This year, I want to document every blessing He gives me – in the form of a picture.

That’s why I’m committing to #blessings365.

Every day I will share a picture, highlighting some sort of blessing God has given me.

Some days, it will not be easy. I am certain there will be days I will have to look hard to find the silver lining. But, with Christ as my Savior, there is ALWAYS a silver lining.

Will you commit with me? Will you share your blessings for 2015? I’d love to have you take part! Just take a picture, upload it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – wherever you want to post it, and use the hashtag #blessings365. And every time you search that hashtag, you’re sure to find a blessing!

I’m so excited about 2015 and what God has in store. I just know it’s going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to share those blessings with you – and see the blessings God is giving you!

So, join me! You can find me on instagram, twitter, and facebook.

I hope to see you at #blessings365 this year!

Create Your Own Christmas Light Show Set to Music

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If you can’t make it out to a traditional Christmas light show in your area, how about creating one yourself? This is a great family project that everyone can get involved in.

1. Decide how many lights you’re going to use: You’ll have to think about whether you want to go big or start out with a smaller display, and grow each year. Be as creative as you like here. You can string lights from one end of your house to the other; or, you can choose to put them up in specific spots, like your garage or front garden.  Using 30 – 60 channels of lights should be enough to start with, especially if you’ve never programmed lights to music before. If you build a decoration collection gradually it can help you reminisce each year.

2. Stock up: The best time to buy lights is the day after Christmas, when everything is on sale. If you plan on growing your display each year, stocking up on lights is always a good idea. You’ll save a ton of money than if you wait till the holiday season to buy them.

3. Purchase a control system: This is hardware that hooks up to your computer. There are different systems to choose from, depending on how much of the work you can actually do yourself. A fully built kit is more expensive than a DIY system, but if you’ve never done this before, it’s probably the best option.

How to Upcycle Old Furniture

The world is full of ugly furniture. There is literally tonnes of the stuff – in junk shops, garage sales, landfill tips, and dumped on the side of roads. You may even have some less than attractive items taking up space in your home. So what’s the answer?

Buy New Furniture

If money is no object, the simplest solution to a house full of ugly furniture is to go out and buy some new stuff. Stores such as unicheinteriorfurnishings.co.uk sell lots of gorgeous pieces of vintage furniture, or you could pop over to your nearest Ikea and pick up some budget Swedish mix and match pieces for a song. Unfortunately,  however, investing in brand new furniture is an expensive business and not all of us can afford to splash out, particularly in these straitened times.

A much better alternative to buying expensive new furniture for the home is to upcycle the pieces you already have. Or, if you really can’t stand anything you already own, go hunting for some second hand items of furniture with potential.

The Definition of Upcycling

The principle behind upcycling is to reuse discarded pieces of furniture and transform them into better quality items. There are lots of ways to do this.

Paint Effects

Wooden furniture can be sanded down and painted or varnished. Painting old furniture is a popular way of creating a new and vastly improved piece you can use in your home with pride. Most items of furniture can be painted – even metal or MDF furniture. There are even entire ranges of paints designed for the very purpose.

Paint effects are easy to achieve and you don’t need a lot of skill to create a faux antique finish on an ugly old table or dresser. Simple paint the item in two contrasting colors and then sand it down to reveal the underlying color in selected areas. Dark wax can also be used to create an antique finish.

Upholstery for Beginners

Upholstered furniture can be re-upholstered with new fabric. Upholstering a piece of furniture requires some knowledge, but it is easy enough to learn the basics by signing up for a beginner’s course at a local college or watching instructional videos online.

The Art of Stencil

Old furniture can be decorated with stencils or other decorative designs. Make your own stencils or buy some ready cut from craft stores or online retailers. Paint the item in a base colour and then use your stencil to create a design. Alternatively, paste paper images cut from magazines or newspapers and then varnish them. This is an old decorative technique, but when used sparingly it can be surprisingly effective.

There really is no limit to what you can do with old, ugly items of furniture. All you need is a bit of time, some paint, and lots of enthusiasm. Yes, it is nice to have brand new furniture in your home, but upcycling old items will give you an enormous amount of satisfaction and pride in a job well done. Plus it will save you a fortune in the long run.

elephant crib bedding set

#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

5 Ways to Prevent Winter Respiratory Problems

Between five and 20 percent of Americans get the flu every winter. Other respiratory ailments like allergies, the common cold, and asthma can also cause problems during winter.  This year, breathe easy during the cold season by following these five tips.

1. Get a Flu Shot

flu shot
Image via Flickr by USACE Europe District

Although a handful of people believe that flu shots are dangerous, there isn’t any scientific evidence supporting that claim. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recommends flu shots for children, elderly people, and those with chronic health issues. These people are at a greater risk of getting extremely sick from the seasonal flu. As recently as 2011, over 50,000 Americans died from influenza and pneumonia.

Don’t take the flu lightly. Get the shot so you can lower your risk of infection. It’s especially important if you work in education or healthcare. You won’t catch graduates of UC’s respiratory therapy program skipping their shots; they understand that influenza presents a serious threat.

2. Keep Your Home’s Air Clean

Many people suffer terrible allergies during the winter. This seems counterintuitive since there isn’t exactly a lot of pollen in the air. It starts to make more sense when you look at the air inside your house.

Indoor air pollution is often worse than outdoor pollution. That becomes a big problem during winter, when people spend more time indoors. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your home’s air clean so you can prevent respiratory problems. Some of the most effective things you can do include:

  • changing your furnace’s air filter at least once a month
  • dusting your home often, including hard-to-reach surfaces
  • keeping your floors clean
  • using more houseplants that filter the air
  • using an air purifier if you have bad allergies

3. Avoid Sick People

The common cold and flu are caused by airborne viruses. Just breathing the same air as a contagious person can get you sick. Physical contact increases your chances of getting a virus. That’s why you should avoid people who show symptoms of respiratory illness.

That’s not always easy to do, especially if you work with people who don’t understand that coming into the office while sick puts everyone else at risk. Still, you can do your best to avoid contact. You can also use hand sanitizer to kill germs and viruses that spread through casual contact.

4. Don’t Share Keyboards

Computer keyboards are filthy. It’s not something people like to think about, but it’s true. If you share a computer with someone, even members of your household, you should consider buying your own keyboard. You may feel a bit silly carrying a keyboard to work with you, but at least you’ll lower your risk of getting ill.

5. Wash Your Hands Frequently

Washing your hands is one of the most effective things you can do to prevent winter respiratory problems. Unless you spend all winter holed up at home, you can’t avoid touching things in public. Washing your hands frequently will kill viruses before they have a chance to infect you.

What methods do you find most useful for keeping your respiratory system healthy during winter?

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.

#MC #Sponsored: Give Back with CaringBridge & Make a Difference

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

caringbridge

‘Tis the Season for giving back. What better way to do that, than by donating to CaringBridge?

CaringBridge has kicked off their WonderFull themed year-end giving campaign, and they want you to help them raise $1.2 million. Because they are a non-profit, CaringBridge relies on donations to help those facing health journeys the ability to gather up support. Did you know that nearly 95% of all funding comes from people who use CaringBridge? The WonderFull themed campaign features match contributions from 3 incredibly generous donors ranging from 10,000 to 25,000.

This holiday season, as you gather together and decide which non-profit you want to donate to, please consider making a tax-deductible donation so that families can always get the support they need.

Please visit https://www.caringbridge.org/give to find out how you can donate and make a difference in someone’s life today.

#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.

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