Monday, January 30, 2012

Sleepover Success: A How-To and a WINNER

So, this weekend Libby had her first spend the night party. To be honest, I've been avoiding this for a while. Selfishly, this is partly because I spend all day with other people's kiddos, and on the weekend I really just want to love on my own kiddos for a while. This is also partly because Libby is only seven, and she has so many more years to enjoy the epicness that is the sleepover; I didn't see the need to rush it.
However, I took the great plunge Friday night in what has to have been the world's best first sleepover experience. Here are some things I learned:


Expecting that you'll just put two kiddos together and that they will play happily for hours is not always the best approach. I don't know about your kiddo, but Libby wanted her sleepover to be greater than great, and just playing all night wasn't going to cut it. Think about a playdate-- fun for a few hours and then starts to fizzle, right? Well, why should we expect this to be any different? So, I suggest you have a plan. If the kiddos want to play, great, but have something in mind to do in case things turn sour or get boring. For us, this something was Dolphin Tale. Have you seen it? Confession: I wasn't looking forward to it for two reasons:
1.) I'm not just a huge fan of dolphins. I don't DISLIKE them, I am just more interested in other animals. 2.) It seemed to have lots of potential to be cheesy. I can handle a little cheesy, but I'm not much on OVERLY cheesy. Well, if you need me, I'll be busy eating my words. This movie was top-notch. We liked it so much, in fact, that we rewatched it yesterday. It has a great cast, great music, a great message, and is something the whole family can enjoy together. I highly recommend you check it out. The girls sat quietly and watched the whole thing.


While Libby has had a little sister for the past two years, she also spent five years as an only child....and sometimes it shows. She likes to be in the spotlight and isn't always super excited about sharing. If this sounds anything like the kid you love, I suggest preparing him or her prior to the sleepover. We talked about how she was our guest, how she may have different rules than we do, and how she may not like everything we like. We also talked about what we'd do if she got homesick at bedtime. While I can't prove it, I do believe that giving Libby a heads up and talking through what may happen helped avoid a minor meltdown on her part and helped her to be a better friend Friday night.


I think this is the key to having a successful first sleepover, so listen closely: carefully choose who you will invite. Not everyone parents the same way, not all families share the same values, and not all kids play well together. Period. So, getting your feet wet in the sleepover department with someone whose parents you know well is essential. I can't stress enough how much I respect the little girl's parents, and I know that their parenting style and priorities as parents are very similar to ours. Not to mention, there daughter was a DREAM! She was so polite and funny; I truly enjoyed being around her. Will there come a time when Libby wants to invite over someone I barely know whose parents I also don't know? I can pretty much count on it. But, by starting here with someone we know, we set the standard for how we treat guests and how we behave at a sleepover while staying in our comfort zone. One challenge at a time....I'm thinking that might need to be on my parenting motto list.

And before you go, I have a winner to announce:


And if you didn't win, chin up, pretty.
I have three more giveaways headed your way really soon from some awesome new sponsors.
And the fact that someone likes this little blog o'mine enough to want to sponsor it, is proof that someone other than my mom reads it. (Hi, Mom. Happy almost birthday.)
So, if you're reading, which you clearly are, you make my day. Every day.

Here's hoping your Monday was filled with the good stuff.
Ours was filled with the stomach virus. Yes, that makes round three at our house.
Yuck, yuck, double yuck.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Giveaway for You, Because You're AWE-SOME

First, let's start with a little trip down memory lane, shall we?

Bloggers, feast your eyes on baby Libby.

I love how she was so darn snuggly and oh, those ginormous cheeks!

And, here's one of my favorite pictures of us together,
which happened to be taken on my twenty-sixth birthday.

I love this picture of us because it kinda looks like we were telling secrets.

*Fast forward to the present, and say adios to Memory Lane.*

Now, take at look at sweet Libby today........ she laughs hysterically while trying to literally tape her little sister's mouth shut.
Nice, Lib. Really nice.

But, one thing (of the many) that I LOVE about Libby-- the girl has great taste.

And here's lately, she's loving this:

It's a devotional book, and to be honest I'm not sure who loves it the most at our house.

Let's explore this book a little further, mkay?

Here's Libby with her copy that she got for Christmas.

(Note to moms everywhere: if you need your kid to smile for a picture, trying asking her to say 'alligator underpants'. Cracks her up, every.single.time.)

I love this book for so many reasons,
one being that Libby loves it now and can still love it when she's sixteen.
By that I mean, it's one of those books that grows with you; what it means to you today will change over time, so you can reread it and discover something new with each revisit.

I also love how there are 365 entries, one for each day of the year.

AND, please notice the 'read on your own' part at the end of each page-- LOVE THIS! I love Libby being led to scripture and encouraged to explore her Bible on her own.

In case you haven't picked up on it, there might be just a wee bit of book envy going on here; I may or may not secretly wish this were my copy. I'll never tell.

And, one more reason to love it:

This book may just possibly buy you some silence. Oh, the joy that is a silent moment at my house.

And yes, in case you were wondering, my daughter is preparing to sleep in her dance recital costume from three years ago. Don't go there. It's called picking my battles. guessed it!
Because I love this book so much and because I love my readers so much AND to celebrate reaching 200,000 views and 300 followers (I'm at 299 right now, but I have faith that it'll happen soon), I am giving away one copy of this book to one of YOU!

Here's how you can enter to win:

1. Follow my blog. It's easy-- just look at the sidebar to the right and scroll down until you see a box with lots of faces and a follow button. Click the button. YOU CAN DO IT! :) Leave a comment telling me that you follow AND include one of the following:
a.) Your favorite television series, current or of days gone by.
b.) The name of one book I need to read this year.

2. Tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway. Leave a comment for each of these things that you do.

Libby will draw a winner on Sunday, and I'll announce first thing on Monday.

AND, if your kiddos are little or if you don't even have kiddos are are a kiddo at heart but think you'd enjoy this book, PLEASE enter! You don't have to have kids to win or to read God's word. :)

Here's hoping your Thursday is awe-to-the-some.

The commenting may now commence.

Oh, and I'm joining my favorite blogger today as she works to encourage us to get out from behind the camera and get in the pictures with our kiddos. You should check it out. All the cool kids are doin' it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

So, you know how sometimes it helps to picture the writer while you read?
I'm thinking this may be one of those times.
So, here's me...looking hopeful and thankful, right?
Let's hope so.

Moving on......

Hey there.
Today I've got something on my mind......bare with for a minute while I talk statistics.
I do have a point, I promise.

Did you know that this little blog of mine is growing like a weed?
Because it is.
 If you do recall, I was so excited in November when I met my 100,000 view mark.
Well, guess what?
Last week I reached the 200,000 view mark. I may not be good at math, but this I can handle.
That's approximately 50,000 views each month.
Holy canoli. That's a whole lot of views.
People must really like cake batter dip, which had just under 60,000 views in the past two months.
That's right folks, 60,000.

Now here's the part where I can make my point:


I am very, very thankful that 60,000 people took an interest in what I had to say about dip that tastes like cake. Really, really I am.


Why does this kind of hurt my feelings?
I think this kind of makes me sad because I'm not trying to write a recipe blog. While I do sometimes POST recipes, that's not my goal here.

That leads me to ask myself, what exactly IS my goal here? Why do I blog? What is about blogging that keeps me coming back for more and makes me look forward to it every day?

There are several reasons.
 So, I made a list (in case you didn't know, lists are kinda my thing):

1. I love the idea that something I say will encourage or impact or motivate one of you. I especially love the idea of something that I saw as a negative part of my life or a bad day affecting one of you in a way that something good comes out of it. This idea makes me very, very happy.

2. I love sharing (what I hope are) good ideas. I think our best tool as mothers, as women, and as friends is each other. And every once in a blue moon, I have an idea that I think you may like too. So I share. And you usually like. And this too puts a smile on my face.

3. I love to write. I love to record. And I don't do scrapbooks. This IS my scrapbook. This is the place where I record the major and completely forgettable moments of my life and my family's life because I don't WANT to forget them. If for nothing else, blogging is a great way to keep up with what I was doing last week, last month, or last year. It's the place where I can see how much I've grown, how I handled things, and how I viewed whatever it may be. I am a firm believer in the notion that we tend to sugarcoat our pasts sometimes. And I'm not all that into sugarcoating. I want the truth, and so I blog. I blog mostly for me, but I love that you enjoy it as well.

4. And I think it's safe to say that this is the most important reason: I blog because I like you. I LOVE the ways my blog has connected me with old friends and helped me meet new ones. I love that through blogging I have learned so much about other people and the things we have in common. I love that blogging inspires me to be a better mom and to get up and DO something new. I love the fact that blogging forces me to put my opinions and thoughts out there for all to see. It's sometimes scary, and there are times I've dreaded the response I would receive. But you, my friends, are always there, waiting with your helpful, kind, thoughtful comments. To sum it up, who has the best readers ever? Ummmm, that would be me, thanks.


I suppose that if I want people to head my way for something over than yummy treats, I need to post things are clever, creative, well-written, thought-provoking, relateable, real, and honest.
That's a big request, but I'll take that challenge.

And if you made the cake batter dip, two cool points are headed your way.

Here's hoping your Wednesday was t-totally awesome. Ours was filled with another attack from the stomach visit. This time Hollyn was the one that fell prey to its evil devices. Oh, stomach virus...we are so not friends.

Tomorrow I'll be linking this post here, so if you found my blog via Casey, welcome. Hope you liked what you saw and enjoyed what you read. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Games We Play {and LOVE}

Here's hoping your weekend was top-notch.
Mine was filled with a tummy ache (enough already. Ugh.) and a Parenthood marathon. I've officially watched every episode available on Netflix. Welcome to my life, Parenthood withdrawals.

OK, so today I want to talk to you about games.
We are big game people, partly because for so long it was hard for Libby to play outside for long periods of time due to her skin, so inside games became our thing.
But, finding good games is not easily done.
Some are too hard, some are confusing, and some are just plain ole' not fun.

Here a few we play over and over:

 This one happens to be my favorite. It's kind of like Scrabble but on an individual level. It's a GREAT way to practice spelling words or to make spelling fun. This game is also great because it's easy to adapt. For example, when I play with Libby, I usually take twice as many tiles as she does. It's a great game to take on trips because it's small and doesn't require a big, bulky box for storage.
I've seen this one at Target, but you can also order it by clicking on the link above.

I loved Battleship when I was little, so we gave it to the girls for Christmas.
It took a bit to explain the rules to Libby, but once she got the hang of it, she LOVES it. And I love the fact that it works her problem-solving skills while not being violent or loud. It does have a lot of small pieces though, so be wary if you have toddlers in your house. Libby is actually not old enough for this game according to the label on the box, but she does really well with it. I love this one because it appeals equally to boys at least to my girl, anyway.

Libby just got this game, and it's addicting. I love it because it comes with several variations on the rules. This means you can play it many times and still maintain the 'new' factor. My favorite thing about this game is it really pushes Libby's upper level thinking skills. This game is ideal for gifted learners, and I love that the game board has two sides, so there really is no way to just memorize where the items are on the board, seeing as how the board is most likely going to be different each time you play.

Santa stuck this in Libby's stocking this year, and I am so glad. While I love Go Fish, it was getting a little old. This version does a great job at changing things up a bit. Each card has several different items on it, so the game is different each time. It's a great spin on the original, and I actually look forward to playing this one with her...not so much for the old one.

We've been playing this one for the past few years, and it's a time-tested favorite at our house.
As a mom and teacher, I like this one because it helps Libby learn to categorize or group things. It also helps her pay attention to details and work on her elimination skills. Again, it's another gender friendly game that I played when I was little. In my opinion, if it's good enough to still be on shelves after twenty plus years, it's worth a try.

What are some of YOUR favorite games to play with your kids? We are always looking for new ones to add to our {massive} collection.

Here's hoping your Monday feels like a Wednesday, and please feel free to send some Parenthood replacement ideas my way.

 P.S.) Please do not judge me based on the semi-poor quality of these pictures. Sometimes the internet is way too limited.....

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sausage-y Goodness For All

Blog friends, today I'd like to introduce you to the magic that is sausage muffins.

This was one of the first recipes I learned to make as a newlywed, and it's still a favorite at our house. 
It's super easy.
Seriously, if you can stir and measure, you got this.

Here's what you'll need:

-one can cream of chicken soup
-1 can of water
-3 cups Bisquick
-1 pound of sausage, browned and drained
-1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, depending on how much you prefer
-1 muffin tin
-nonstick spray or butter

First, brown and drain your sausage. Then add to that the rest of your ingredients. Mix well and scoop in sprayed or buttered muffin tins. I usually fill them about 3/4 of the way full, but a little more or a little less is not a problem. Bake at 350 for twenty minutes or until brown on top. This usually makes about two dozen muffins.

Two reasons I love this recipe:

-They are just as yummy for dinner as they are for breakfast.
-Every time I make this for a get together, I always get asked for the least three times.

Here's this is as big of a hit at your house as it is at ours.

This weekend at our house is sure to include lots of yummy treats and some overdue movie watching.
Here's hoping your weekend is as low-key as ours will hopefully be.

This weekend I'm sharing this yumminess here, here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In The Most Simple Ways

First, let me say that my absence these past few days: totally unexpected.

Two very dear friends of mine are going through very hard times, AND I've had the stomach bug...both of these things have resulted in me not having much left at the end of the day for blogging. 
So, so sorry. 
Forgive me? 
Great; you guys are the best. 

Today I wanted to share with you a few things that I've discovered lately that are making me super happy....that translates to ear-to-ear grin kinda happy, in case there was any question there.

First, Libby and I LOVED watching this movie together last weekend: 

It's based on a true story and is WONDERFUL. Great message, great story about families working through tough times, great inspiration for all. AND, it's currently streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend, but be warned: it does deal with cancer and is sad. I do believe, though, that after seeing this, Libby has a new found empathy for the situations and trials other face. If you check it out and love it (which I'm pretty sure you will), let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. And to find out more about the boy who inspired the movie, you can check that out here:

Second, I cannot believe I haven't discovered this show sooner:


A few weeks ago, one of my favorite Christian bloggers talked about how much she loves this show, and I realized I was clearly missing something. This is not surprising considering keeping up with hot TV trends is usually not to be found on my list of priorities. Well, fortunately for me, this is also currently streaming on Netflix, and I think it's safe to say I'm teetering on the edge of addiction. I love the characters, I love the real-life story lines, I love how the family works together, and I love how it encourages me as a parent. Are you a fan? If so, what is your favorite storyline?
 I ask because I simply can't pick a favorite; I kinda love them all.....

Next on the list is this book series by Karen Kingsbury:

I have read (and loved) many of her books, but the Bailey Flanagan series may be my favorite.
I just finished the third book in the series and cannot wait for the fourth and final book to come out in March. I love how Karen Kingsbury writes about relatable characters and how they approach the world and its many problems as Christians. And, for those who love a good love triangle, this one simply can't be beat. I honestly don't know who I want Bailey to choose in the fourth book.....

Moving on for now...

I am also loving this little ditty:

A friend gave me this Jane Austen Devotional for my birthday, and can I just say it's one of my all-time favorite gifts. How stinkin' thoughtful was that! Taking my love for literature and combining it with my love for God's word; you can't beat it. This book pulls passages from Jane Austen's works and relates them to scripture. Love, love, love it.

And finally, I am loving this:

The church we are visiting is starting Beth Moore's new study on the book of James very soon, and I am so excited. If you've never done a study by her, I highly recommend it. She just has such a way with words, and I love how much I learn about scripture when doing her studies. She takes what is often times intimidating and relates it to every day life explained in every day language. Have any of  you done this one yet? I can't wait to learn more about this book of the Bible.

Here's hoping the stomach bug is banned from your house, and that it doesn't return to our any time soon. Once a year is enough for us.

Happy Thursday to you and you and you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

30 in my 30's: #14

It's Friday.
It's a three day weekend.
That alone is reason to celebrate.

I turned thirty-two this past Saturday, and I guess with all the birthday-ing, I've been feeling more inspired to check items off of my 30 in my 30's list.
Well, after re-reading my list, I realize that I completed #14: Have family pics. made that I LOVE so much that it's hard to choose favorites.

Here are few shots from our shoot:

Love, love, love them.
Also love that they were taken by a friend who is a budding photographer. That girl is seriously going places. Did I mention that she's only a freshman in college?
If you're in the Mississippi area and want her contact info., let me know.

Tonight I will be surrounded by some of my favorite people and will be enjoying a MUCH NEEDED girl night. Here's hoping your Friday is even half as wonderful as mine will be.

Oh, and it's not too late to link to my Resolutions post... have you read that one? If not, you can find it here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012: My Word for This Year

This year, I'm trying something new; I'm jumping on the 'pick a word for the year' bandwagon. Like I said in my 2012 resolutions post (there's a linky party waiting there for you, btw), I believe in setting goals.

And this year, my goal is simple (not pun intended):

I want to simplify my life.

In case you are new around here, 2011 was not my best year.
It was filled with drama, frustration, and disappointment.
Of course, there were many good times too, they were just often overshadowed by the many things in life that sometimes make it so darn hard.

While I certainly am not in control, I have to believe there are some things I can do to make this a wee bit better and to steer 2012 in a direction that in no way resembles 2011.

Here are some ways in which I hope to simplify my life:

-less clutter and more tossing to the curb or donation location

-less committing to outside things that I do not HAVE to do and would have before said yes to simply because I was asked (for example, taking on extra responsibilities at work or in the community and religious organizations I so love). I will still be involved, but I will be more selective about over-extending myself.

-making an effort to not make things harder than they have to be. For example, picking up a little each day rather than wait until my house looks like it's been robbed before I start the clean-up process.

-Instead of doing five or so things, doing two or so things better.

-investing more in the friends that really matter.

-less television and more family time.

-less computer time and more time spent reading.

-making a point to go to bed earlier and get up earlier so as not to start my days off by wanting to pull my hair out one piece at a time.

-reminding myself that less is more.

-planning better in an attempt to not add any last minute stresses.

-working to keep my home more organized and not use up all of my organization skills in my classroom.

-keeping my priorities straighter than straight.

-less trying to please the masses and more trying to please the Master. The more time and effort I spend trying to live the way God wants me to live, the happier I am. It never fails. Funny how that works....

Have you chosen a word to focus on in 2012?
If so, do tell.

Happy Wednesday to you and you and you.

Today I'm linking here,here, and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012: What I'm Resolving NOT to Do This Year {Linky Party}

{You can find my list from last year here.}

I believe in the power of resolutions.
I think that by simply choosing to do or be better and then making note of it, whether it's through confiding in a friend, announcing it to the world via facebook or your blog, or simply writing it down and tucking it away in a place where only you will see it.
 I think that there's something to be said about wanting to be and do better.
 And I want to do both this year.

So, with that being said, here are the things I am aiming NOT to do in 2012: 

1. I will NOT let facebook by my only connection with the outside world.

I am so guilty of this. Instead of calling a friend or sending a card (which I'm afraid will soon be a long lost tradition), I check in on facebook. There's no real contact. There's no intimacy. There are so shared smiles, tears, or giggles. This year, I'm making more of an effort to keep up with those who are dear but perhaps not so near to me. There will be more phone calls, more e-mails, and more letters. Get ready.

2. I will NOT eat when I'm bored.

Although I am not terribly bad about this, I do want to be more conscious this year about eating when I'm truly hungry rather than when I'm truly bored.

3. I will NOT fail to comment.

I have failed miserably at this this past year.
I'll read a blog post, love it, be touched and moved by it, and yet I still fail to comment.
This year, if I enjoy reading what someone took the time to write, I will make an effort to tell them so. I am touched by those who comment on my blog, who let me know that someone out there took the time to read what I wrote and to peek into this little life of mine. And then to know that someone actually liked what I had to say....well, it's like the cherry on top. I want to be that little voice to someone else.
 Commenting, here I come.

4. I will NOT rush through my morning.

This is probably the biggest thing that I need to work on changing this year. You see, I wish I was that mom who got up early every morning, went for a run, came back and showered. Then I'd cook a big breakfast, and enjoy a cup of coffee while doing my morning devotion. All of this would be done before the kids even wake up, of course.

Well, it turns out that in real life, I am anything BUT that mom. I sleep 'til the last possible second, rush to get ready, get frustrated, and leave the house a frazzled mess.

While I'm not expecting a major revolution, I do realize that I am happier and more pleasant and have an overall better day when I get up just a little earlier in the moring and have more time to do my thang. My family deserves a mom who is friendly in the a.m., and this year I will be making an effort to give them that, at least more often than not.

5. I will NOT covet.

I want one of these....badly. And one day I will have one. But it's my turn to enter the magical camera world, I will sit patiently and will NOT waste my time being jealous of those who are clicking and editing away.

6. I will NOT watch more than I read.

I love to read. It's truly one of my all-time favorite activities. And yet in 2011, it often took a backseat to, of all things, the television. It's just so easy to pop in a movie or flip the channel and melt away my worries. But, what do I really gain from that? I'm not saying the tv is bad; it's not. But everything should be used in moderation, and moderation does not mean consuming most of my free time. This year I WILL read more than I watch. I've already made my list...and have already finished one book that is on it.

Now it's your turn.
I want to hear what you're wanting to do this year or resolving NOT to do this year.
Link up your resolutions, ladies {or gents, if there are any readers of the male variety out there}.
And then go and see what others are resolving to do in 2012.
And remember: a little encouragement goes a long way.
As for me? I'm ready to comment, so send your posts my way.

This link will be open for one that means until next Tuesday, January 17th.
And if you want to link the post back to this post so that others can join in the fun, I'd certainly appreciate it.
Until then, happy resolution-ing to you and you and you.

Linking this post here, here,here, and here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oink, Oink Pink Piggies Say: Hollyn's 2nd Birthday

It's no secret I love a good party.
I believe in the power of a birthday and that the lives of my little ones are worth celebrating.
 This year was no exception, but I did focus on my word for the year:
 I did less for this party than any other party I've thrown for my kiddos.
Also, we kept this one to just family, also something new for us.
The results: perfect.
 It was simple, and peaceful, and Hollyn loved every minute.

Here's the lowdown:

-There were super cute handmade piggy invites.

-There were little piggies and yummy yum cake balls.

-There were individual banana puddings in mason jars.

-There were precious piggies that held balloons.

-There were treats for our guests and lots of simplicity.

-There were two candles on the birthday girl's cupcake, plus one to grow on....

-There was an adorable two-year-old girl who could not have been more excited.

-There were lots of times we saw Hollyn her ever famous OOOOOOHHHHH face that we all love.

-There was singing and lots of sugar.

-And there was a slight sugar induced stare to tie it all up.

This party was nothing short of a t-total, simple success.

Now if I can only figure out how's it's possible that my baby is already two......

Today I'm linking here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,  and here. That, my friends, is a whole lotta linking.