Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Return to Reality

Years ago our family made the decision to save up and go on a family vacation once a year.  When the kids were younger we surprised them each year at Christmas time with the destination.  Now that they are older, it takes a bit more coordinating, so we plan together.  With our second daughter in college now, it takes a even more planning as we have to go when she is on break.  Because she is in school not so close to us, this year we decided to pick her up and just keep heading south, ending up at the beach.  Ironically, it is the same place she was born 19 years ago.

 Yes, we were at the beach for an entire week.  I forgot how much I love the beach.  I forgot about the clear water and the white sand!  You see, Colorado is by far my favorite location we have lived.  There is something about the mountains that just makes my heart sing.  But I grew up spending summers at the beach and spent a lot of my early adulthood at my father's places at the beach.  We have a lot of beautiful memories of the beach, but we haven't been there in a while.

It was nice to see the surf and sand again!  To breathe in the salt air and listen to the waves- it has a way of relaxing your whole body.

We really did NOTHING except on one of our colder days, on which we went to the Gulfarium in Destin to see the animals.

Despite the fact that the first few days were colder that I had hoped, we had a fabulous time.  Some friends came to stay with us a few nights, and we got to reconnect with a few other friends as well.  It was a time of rest, healing, and fun in the sun!

Counting the days until we can go back!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Laura Story CD Review and Giveaway

I tend not to review music too often, as it is such a personal and subjective art form.  And quite honestly, I like a lot of different kinds of music.  I was a dancer for the first 21 years of my life, so I was exposed to a lot of different genres of music and I learned to appreciate most of them at some basic level at least.  You will often hear music playing in our home and in our cars, and usually you will hear a few voices joining in.  It's just what we do around here.

Through the years, we have been convicted to listen to more and more Christian music.  It's just refreshing, encouraging, and a good reminder of God's love for us.  We have also found that with our kids it can be a good conversation starter and even a good way to learn scripture.  While I really love old fashioned hymns, sometimes it is fun to hear a new artist, so the Laura Story CD sparked my interest.  I am glad it did!

So, OK, Laura is NOT really a new artist.  She actually did her first solo album in 2008, Great God Who Saves.  She is probably best known for her single, Blessings, a song written about her struggle after her husband's brain tumor diagnosis.  That song inspired her book, What if Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops, published in 2012.  In addition to singing, this Grammy award winner is also a worship leader at her church, a motivational speaker, and has just recently released a new book and Bible Study.

Impressed yet?

No?  Just listen to her newest album Open Hands and you will be.  Man, this lady is talented.  Her sweet, soft voice speaks of the love and trust she has in God.  It also speaks of some painful journeys she has traveled along the way.  But no matter what kind of song you are looking for, I assure you you will find one that touches your heart on this CD!

It is honestly hard for me to pick a favorite out of the 11 songs on this album, but I do really love the title song, Open Hands, a duet with Mac Powell, from Third Day.  Yes, I do love Third Day but with lyrics such as  "Jesus, I surrender all, every victory and loss, take it all..."  how could you not love this song?  And how could you not be convicted?

I think that is one of the reasons I love Laura's songs.  They are just honest words of faith that I believe God can use to convict and inspire you!  What better a way to fill your mind and heart with Truth!

As she sings in her hymn remake, Awake My Soul, "you're (God) worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues..."  Amen!

You can see the official Open Hands Lyric video on YouTube.

Our friends at FlyBy Productions are providing one of our readers with a free copy of Laura's CD Open Hands!  Just leave me a comment and make sure I have a way to contact you.  A random winner will be chosen on FRIDAY!


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

34 Weeks of Clean: Rinse and Repeat Week 11- The Entryway

34 Weeks of Clean! Week 11- The Entryway

Welcome back!  We continue to be amazed at how many people are sticking with us and taking back their homes from dirt and clutter.  If you are new with us, welcome!  It is never too late to start.  Feel free to jump in where we are at, or, if you are really motivated, go back to previous weeks.

Also, a quick word about the de-cluttering part of each week's assignment.   Several have asked what they should do with it all.  Some stuff is just old and worn and needs to be trashed.  There is no shame in that.   Bless people when you can, but if it isn't fit for you to keep- ie. broken and falling apart, chances are someone else does not need it either.  For things that just need to find a new home, we take things to the local Goodwill.  So I do not have to make weekly runs, there are hangers in our garage just outside our back door that I hang bags on with things to go out.  Once the hangers are all full we load them in the car and off they go.  The advantages to keeping stuff to go out outside of my home are that it doesn't clutter my living space and it doesn't tempt little hands, or big ones, to reclaim the items.  The struggle is real folks! ;)

OK, so here we go-

This week- Entryways.  Now, I know this means a little something different for each person, but let's work together here.  Regardless of what yours "looks like," everyone has an entryway of some sort.  Go out your front door and shut it.  Then walk back in.  There - that is your entryway!

Here is a picture of ours, looking towards the front door.

Somebody remind me to straighten that sign above the door!

Let's face it, for many people this is a problem area in their homes.  Usually not because they have too much decorative stuff there, but because it is the first place they hit when they come home each day, often making it a dumping ground for STUFF.  Because our family does not enter through the front door often, and I do not have a table in the entry to this house, it is a less of problem for us right now, but it IS still the first place people see when they walk in.

So here is your assignment- clear out and clean up!
  • As usual, clear your space first!
  • You know the drill by now. Start at the top - yep, those lights are dirty, I am sure of it.  Ask me how I know!  There was even a small ball up in our light fixture!  Kid you not.
  • Wipe down any surfaces.  If you have scuff marks from shoes on the walls and doors, the best thing I have found to use is a Magic Eraser.  I do not want to know what is in those things, but they are truly magical.  Even my all natural girl will break down and use them in a pinch!   
          -Pay special attention to door handles, any glass in this area, and light switches.
          -Wax any furniture you may have in this area!  See that fake plant?  It gets washed off too!  I am amazed at how much dust collects on surfaces like that.  And lampshades!

  • Vacuum and wash any throw rugs. If you stop and think about how many shoes hit this area in one week alone, you might even decide to put this chore on a monthly rotation!  We actually got rid of the area rug in our entry finally.  It was one I loved, but was getting frayed and tired looking.  For now, I am sticking to a clear space- kind of enjoying the starkness! ;)
  • Wipe down the base boards.  Again, magic erasers are great for scuff marks, just saying.
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floors.
  • If you have windows in this area, clean those as well, remembering blinds and/or curtains!  Now is your chance to really clean!
  • Return do-dads to their spots.  OK, only return HALF of your do-dads.  Remember our goal of less clutter!
Here's a tip for you - see that cute basket hanging there?  In the summer it houses our bug spray and sunscreen.  Instead of running around the house looking for said items, they are right by the door as we head out.  Cleverly concealed in a basket.  It is also a great place to hide dog leashes!  You are welcome!

DONE!  Not too bad, huh?  I hope this was a fairly easy week for you because, well, the next few weeks will be a challenge!  Enjoy your lighter project and be ready to hit it hard next week!

Don't forget to share your progress on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page so we can cheer you on!  There are still more than several people in the running for our final giveaway drawing.  Our friends at Redeemed and 621 Gifts (as well as your truly) have some fun treats for one lucky participant who posts a picture of each weeks' progress!


Friday, March 17, 2017


In case you were worried, I didn't want you to think I was MIA!

It's just that I had forgotten how much I loved this place. 

I may not go home.
Just saying!


Monday, March 13, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean Rinse and Repeat Week 10- Bathrooms

Welcome back!  With the book organizing behind us, this week should be easier for most of you to tackle emotionally! ; ) Yes, last week was about clearing out books and I KNOW that several of you whined through the project.  I will not name names to protect the guilty.  ;)  I am hoping you at least gave it a try.  I know it is hard, I love books too, be we cannot take them with us to heaven.  They are just things,  just like the rest of the "things" in our lives.  And while they can bring much happiness, we must not let them BE our happiness.  If you love them, keep them.  If someone else will love them more, share them!! I know that cleaning and purging are tough, but it can be done.   Mind over matter!  Let's don't let THINGS take over our lives!!  Find a friend to hold you accountable and jump in!

34 Weeks of Clean Rinse and Repeat Week 10- Bathrooms


Get ready ladies, this week is not the most fun, but we can do it!  I am assuming you clean your bathrooms on a regular basis but today we are going to really deep clean and tackle any drawers and cabinets there as well.  This is for ALL the bathrooms in your houseexcept the Master Bedroom bath.  We will get there, I promise!

Clutter on the counter tops can accumulate quickly!

Let's get started-
  • Start by emptying all of your drawers and cabinets.  Yes, all.  This will help you get an idea of what you have, what you need and don't need, and maybe spark an idea of a better way to put it all back.  Hold on to your hats - it is ugly!

  • Now, throw it all away.  Just kidding, though it is tempting, right?  DO take this time to DECLUTTER.  Remember, that is one of our goals in the 34 Weeks of Clean.  Expired medicine - throw it out.  Old makeup - throw it out.  Extra lotions that are not being used - throw it out.  Seeing a trend?  If it is not being used or will not be used in a timely manner - THROW IT OUT!  It is taking up valuable space.

   -A word about kid's tub toys.  Inspect and throw out the old ones.  I am sure you know what a mold holder those plastic ones can be.  GROSS!  If they have holes in them, chances are they are harboring mold.    Feel free to try to bleach them, but in my humble opinion, unless you are committed to keeping that up weekly, it is better to just toss them.  And if you are brave and looking for a science experiment, cut one open and see what you find.  Yuck!

  • Wipe out all of your drawers and cabinets before replacing your things!  Anyone else amazed at how gross these areas can get quickly?

  • Stick any and all rugs in the laundry!

  • Take down your shower curtain and wash it as well.  If you need to replace the liner, now is the time.  Yes, they can be washed up, but for about $4, you can replace them just as easily.  Hey, sometimes we just need to make it easier on ourselves. 

  • Curtains or mini-blinds?  Do those as well!
  • Light fixtures need to be cleaned off.
  • Tub, countertops, and toilet are next.  Are you having fun yet? ;)
  • Walls are up next.  Why?  Because if you use hairspray I am willing to bet that the wall behind where you stand to do your hair has a layer of hairspray on it. ;)  Don't forget the light switches while you are there, as well as any pictures or such you have hanging.
  • Door frames are next.  Again, why does every door have all those cute, but hard to clean decorative grooves? Design fail, I am sure!
  • Off to the baseboards we go and then lastly the floors!
  • More than one "extra" bathroom?  Repeat! ;)
  • You can now replace your rugs and shower curtain and then stand back and admire your hard work!

Are you tired yet?  Just so you know, we did not do all three of our bathrooms in one day.  We are not gluttons for punishment, 'ya know!

Speaking of tired - we are almost three months into cleaning and organizing our homes and I know the tendency is to slack off and let things slide a bit. (Exercise New Years' Resolutions, anyone?) Can I just encourage you to get your second wind and keep plugging away?  We CAN do this!  And trust me, together is much more fun.

Don't forget to post those pictures when you are done to stay in the running for our great prizes from 621 Gifts and Redeemed, plus a box of goodies from yours truly!    Here is just an example of the wonderful gift boxes from 621 Gifts- you will LOVE them!

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Ok friends, time to get cleaning!  Remember, we are taking our homes back, one room at a time.  You CAN do this!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ashton!

Once upon a time there was a young Air Force couple stationed in a little Mississippi town.  They had not been married long when the young wife, she was only 22, you see, decided they should begin trying to conceive, convinced it would take a long time.  A month later she was pregnant, much to everyone's surprise yet delight!

9 months later, the first child and grandchild to a very excited family, was born.  It was not an easy delivery but two days later the young couple came home from the hospital.  Two days after that they moved out of their house for their first military flying assignment- the young pilot headed west while his wife and newborn daughter returned "home" to stay with grandparents for a few weeks. 

A month later, that sweet little girl got her first airplane ride and she and her mommy joined her daddy in a furnished apartment.  Three months later, the little family drove across the country to their new home. 

12 moves later, that little girl is now 23- TODAY!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Ashton Lee!

You showed us what it was to love someone more than life itself.
You have taught us to see life through the lens of joy.
You inspire us to be the best parents we can.
You encourage us to love Jesus more every day.

You are loved and admired by your three younger siblings, treasured by your friends, and have touched the world with your kindness and your talent.

We are blessed to call you daughter!

We love you to the moon and back!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Time Does NOT Heal All Wounds

It is no secret that our family has traveled some rough roads in the past.  I am not in the secret business and tend to bear my heart in my blog.  But let's face it, rough roads and hurt are not unique to our family.  The Bible tells us that in this life we are going to have troubles.  

It is just part of our sinful world.  Sometimes those troubles are self inflicted and other times not, but regardless, they are very often painful and life altering.

A job loss.  
A death.
An unexpected move. 
An ended relationship.
An illness.

Regardless, we can be rocked to our very core and have to fight to recover.   Praise God we have friends and family that help in that fight, that stick by our side to comfort us, love us, and affirm us.  

But here is where we get stuck sometimes.  We look to people for healing and here is what they tell us- "time heals all wounds."  I have probably been guilty of even saying it once or twice.  But I have also had the opportunity to really meditate on it lately.  Here is what I have found.

Yes, with time, things may get a little less painful or a little more bearable or even a little more manageable.  But healed?  Nope.

So then what?

Here is what I found in my search for answers to the then what...

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Imagine that- the Bible had the answers I was seeking! ;)

You see, time does NOT heal all wounds.

God does!

If you are hurting, I would encourage you to not look to time, but to look to God instead.  Only He can heal.  In His time and His way.  

Until then, we trust and hope in Him.


Monday, March 6, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean Rinse and Repeat- Week 9- Books

 Before we move on, a note from me to you-

We are now 9 weeks onto this project (that's two whole months) and I know the tendency is to slow down or drop out.  Don't do it!  Just like those New Year's resolutions we try to make, the excitement and newness wears off and the fun is gone.  Don't give up!  Ladies, we can do this!  I know it is not easy, but I promise it is so worth it.  At the end of this journey you will have a cleaner, more organized home, hopefully a lighter load both physically and mentally, and a HUGE sense of accomplishment.  I know because I have done it. And so have others that will attest to the same things.  Keep up the good fight to take our homes back - one room at a time.  Deep-clean, de-clutter and reorganize- let's go!

Hi, my name is Michele and I have a book problem.  I love to read and I love books.  OK, that is not really the problem.  The problem is that I like to buy books, keep books, and oh, buy more books. After 14 moves we realized we had a book problem.  (Yes, we are a little slow.) 

It may have been the packer telling me that all of our weight was in the books.  Luckily for him I did not take it personally. But my husband took it seriously and we have since scaled down. It was hard and my oldest even blogged about it.

However, since then, someone (probably me) has bought a few more books.  Plus (read- this is my excuse) I review a lot of books so they sneak their way into my house.  Add that to the fact that one of the last times we moved we had to scale back and move out two bookcases.  Less space, fewer books.  I know, I know - boo hiss.

But here is the deal.  Books take up space. Books not being read collect dust.  Books cost money.

Libraries are full of beautiful books.  I can read them without owning them.  I can also store more on other devices, taking up less space.

So this week's goal Organize your books throughout the house, get rid of those you do not love and decide which ones you MUST keep, and clean off those bookshelves. In every room they reside in your house!

  • Take all of the books off the bookshelf.  Sometimes once you actually lay your hands on them, you will decide you really don't need that particular one.  This also helps you get a realistic view of how many books you really own.
  • If you are a little OCD like me, you can categorize your books! ;)  If I am looking for a certain book I can usually locate it pretty quickly. 
  • Only keep what you LOVE!  If you just enjoyed it, pass it on and let someone else have a turn enjoying it.  Hospitals, nursing homes, and health clinics welcome donations.  Even some hotels will accept book donations to have for their guests.
  • Use a hair dryer to dust off the pages of books that have been sitting for a while.  Even our allergists warned us that books are a collector of all things dusty.  Old books can even be set outside on a warm, sunny day to air out.
  • Dust the bookshelf, top to bottom and even the outside.  Think spring cleaning here, not just your weekly fly-by dusting!
  • Replace the books you decide to keep and enjoy the empty space.  You do have some empty space, don't you?  If not, start at the top and do it again! ;)
    After. See, the pile is shorter!
  • Got another bookshelf?  Or two? Or more?  Find the next one and start the process over again! Psst- homeschoolers- hold off on THOSE books! ;)  But, yes, even go through the books in your children's rooms.
If you head to more than several rooms with this project, be careful not to get distracted.  Stick to books only this week.  Promise?!

Let me just say, I KNOW this is a hard project for many of you.   Most women I know love books.  I am one of those guilty ones.   Really, I am.  But too many books can take up precious space in our homes.  If each book you own thrills your heart then by all means keep them.  But I challenge you to hold each book in your hand and ask yourself-
  • does this bring me true joy?
  • will I read this over and over again?
  • does this book add value to my life?
If the answer is no, pass it on.  Let's don't allow books to give us value, to make us feel more scholarly or learned somehow, or to just take up space and collect dust!  

And just so you know I am not heartless, I want to show you our two packed bookcases.  The first one is a bookcase I keep in our storage space with all of the "little kid" books from my kids' childhood.  We bring them out when little people visit and someday I hope to snuggle up with grandchildren and read them.  The second has many of my husband's books on leadership and Lord willing will go into a home library in our someday permanent house.

Ok, get to work...I am off to read a book. ;)

Don't forget to add your pictures to our Facebook page!  We love seeing others' progress! Plus our friends at 621 Gifts and Redeemed are graciously providing some fun gifts for one lucky participant who shares a picture of their progress each week.  In addition, I have a box of some of our favorite cleaning projects for you, as well as a few treats just because!


Friday, March 3, 2017

3 Seeds- Another Great Game and Review

We were introduced to Chara Games by way of a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  At that time, we received their new game Commissioned.  It is a keeper, and we play it a lot.  Since then the husband and wife team, Patrick and Kat Lysaght, owners and the creators of Chara Games, developed a second game, this time a card game, called 3 Seeds.

3 Seeds is a "light" strategic card game for 2-5 players.  The recommended age is 12+ , but our 9 year old has picked it up fairly quickly!  We love strategy games, but they are often too big to lug around, so we were excited to find one that we can pop in my pocketbook and take on the go.

CharaGames aims to develop games that have Christian themes for teens and adults.  While you do not have to be a Christian to play them, I believe you will by all means appreciate them more as a Christian.  There is also a good deal of history to be learned as well as character and Christian principles, all wrapped up in the fun of the games!

So how is 3 Seeds played?

Time, Labor, and Money are your "seed" cards.  Plant them in your "fields" and the fields of others to reap points.  Each field requires a certain number of each card to be completed.  With each completed field you earn points towards winning.  You must choose the fields in which you plant carefully, as some have higher point values than others.  There are also "special event" cards that can add bonus points to your score.


I like this card game as it takes some thought and although there is a winner,  in some ways it is a group effort game (actually Ashton just informed me that it is not at all a group effort game, and that is why I never win).  I also love that it can be played in about 30 minutes.  For a family that has a kid that begs to play games daily and is past the simple kid board games, that is a plus for us!

Like Commissioned and 3 Seeds, but ready for something new?  CharaGame  just fully financed their new game Unauthorized in a record two days, and the kickstarter campaign is still going strong to even more fully support the upcoming release.  We cannot wait to get our copy and get started!

With two amazing games out and another one on the way, we are eager to see Chara Games take it's place in the world of strategy games.  They are well on their way!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Florida's Treasure Coast Homeschool Reivew Crew Review- and Our Upcoming Trip!

It is always an honor to review for stellar homeschooling companies, but sometimes it is also just a lot of fun.  Amazingly, it also seems to be perfect timing in many cases, based on our needs or life circumstances.

That is exactly what happened when we heard about our most recent review from By the Way Book Series.

You see, we are headed to Florida in a few weeks for our yearly family vacation and guess what?  One of By the Way Book Series is...wait for it... Florida's Treasure Coast- Here We Come.

Seriously?!  Could it have been more perfect timing?!

Our family had the privilege of living in Florida years ago and we have been to Disney a few times, but otherwise our youngest has not had much time in or knowledge of this magical state.  At his age, (4th grade) it is not in our current curriculum to do specific state studies, so this book is not only a great tie-in to our trip, helping get us all excited about the things we could see and do, but also a good resource for a state study!

About the book-  In Florida's Treasure Coast- Here We Come, author Joy Budensiek tells the story of two children, siblings Alex and Lexi, as they join their grandparents in Florida for a much needed vacation from the cold temperatures where they live.  From the minute they step off the plane to the minute they go home, Alex and Lexi get to experience the beauty of Florida.  They learn about the tress, the animals, the history and more, shown to them through a Biblical Worldview.  While conversational and engaging, the story is like a history, science, Bible, and geography lesson all rolled into one.  When a new subject is introduced in the story, there is always a separate fact area on the corresponding page labeled Did You Know?  In those sections, you will find additional facts on the subject.  For example- technically, a palm tree has no branches, mosquitoes have 47 teeth, and only one side of a whale's brain sleeps at a time.  Who knew?

What we liked- ALL of it!  It is not often that you can find a book, fiction or non fiction, that is written from a Biblical worldview.  Joy does an amazing job of this and her obvious love for the Lord and His creation shines through.  Illustrated by Stephanie Robledo, the pictures are fun and engaging and will hold the attention of even the younger kids in your life. 

There is a lot of information packed into this 48 page hardback book!  Because of that, I think you would find it challenging to read in one sitting if you used it as a read aloud.  My 9 year old (4th grader) did read it in one sitting but it took him a while and he was highly motivated considering our upcoming trip.  Since then, he picks up the book often and just flips to a few pages he wants to look at or read again. This is often what I find at bedtime!

Places we now want to visit in Florida-  Everywhere!  But not like you would think.  Unlike your usual tourist brochure, the By the Way Book Series is not a specific destination book.  Instead, the intent is to focus on God's creation!  I love that Scripture is quoted throughout the book and the characters continually praise God for what they see.  It is refreshing and encouraging.

If you are interested, there are currently several other books in this series with many more to come!  We have already chosen the next one we want to own- Colorado-By the Way!  Colorado is another state we have lived in and it holds a special place in our heart, so we look forward to adding this one to our library!  New York City is also on the upcoming list, and I know someone that will be perfect for!

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer