Tag Archives: books

A Blissdom Series: The Sessions

For those of you who didn’t attend that conference I keep talking about last weekend (Should I say it one more time?? Ok, Blissdom!) I promise this is my last post about it! 

Then I’ll continue sharing photos of my kids…I mean, who doesn’t want to see the Little Man with an Easter Bunny? 

I enjoyed most of the sessions I was able to attend this weekend, but there were really only 2 who stuck with me the most. It would have been 3 had I not forgot my camera to the Rock Your Camera session! 

I want to share these speakers with you briefly because I think they’re worth sharing. I know my small 800 word blog post can’t possibly do their talks justice, so I’m not even going to try to explain their keynote sessions, but more introduce you to these 2 men that might inspire you as much as they did me. 

Jon Acuff
One of my favorite quotes from this weekend: When you refuse to hide your scars, they become a lighthouse for someone else so they don’t crash into the same rocks.

This is why I started blogging. So you can imagine he got my attention. I wanted to start a blog that would help others along their path to motherhood, and it was through blogging I discovered that my journey through motherhood wasn’t unique, but it was the commonality that would bring a connection between me and my readers. 

And what’s been hindering my blog and my writing? Fear. He stated, 1 insult + 100,000 compliments = 1 insult. And it’s so true. I’ve changed my voice, changed my topics, and changed the direction of my writing so many times so that others would “like me.” (No internet pun intended.) 

I was afraid that if I showed my true voice my biggest fear would emerge; that I’m not important. But what I walked away from his talk with is that Fear wouldn’t exist if what I was doing weren’t important. When we take the easy path, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s when we’re doing something important that Fear begins to show it’s face. 

So, just like his new book…I’m going to Punch Fear in the Face

So is he credible? Jon is a best selling author, popular blogger and public speaker for Dave Ramsey’s team. In his new book, Start, he teaches the road to being awesome and guides you out of your boring day job and towards helping make your dreams a reality. 

Thanks to Blissdom, we received an early release copy just for attendees, and from what I’ve read so far…it’s AWESOME!

You’re going to start to notice a theme…

Scott Stratten
I have to be honest, when I heard the opening Keynote Speaker was going to be a “Business lecture,” I instantly recoiled. It was Friday morning. I’d been up since 6am. I did NOT want to listen to some boring talk about ways to be a better business woman. 

Oh man. 

I was so wrong!! 

His latest book is The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business UnAwesome. And already you’re probably thinking, How does this relate to a SAHM?

Well, it doesn’t relate to me as a SAHM, but it does relate to the brand I’m trying to build; myself! 

He gave this amazing example during his Keynote about the Ritz-Carlton. While staying at their hotel, his son lost his favorite stuffed animal. And when he called up the manager to see if they’d found it the manager offered to mail it back to him. Upon explaining to his son that his stuffed animal wasn’t lost, he was on an “extended vacation” and he’d be returning home soon. 

The next day he’d received the stuffed animal…but it didn’t stop there. The management team decided to prove to his son that his animal was in fact on a vacation, so they took photos of him by the pool, in the spa, and even earning his stay by working for the hotel (with employee ID badge and all!)

What he learned is that the Ritz-Carlton logo and brand wasn’t what the PR and Marketing team spent months creating and perfecting, it was in the management team that went above and beyond. They were the image he’d have in his head the next time he went to choose a hotel. 

That’s what I need to be…it’s not in my logo or the homepage of my blog. It’s about who I am in the community, on twitter, and the respect I give to those around me in person. That’s my brand and who I want to be.

* * * * * *
And in keeping with my new “brand” of being a better listener, engager, and member of the mom community, I want to introduce you to some more amazing moms I met this weekend that I plan on supporting in the future!



WellRounded Home.com

A Meaningful Christmas Ornament Exchange

Now that my husband and I have a growing family of our own, I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months how I want “Christmas” to look in our home. 

My son still probably has 1 more year before he really understands what Christmas represents; which I’m thankful for because it will give me more time to think the whole thing through, but at the same time, I want to begin to develop traditions now so when he does begin to comprehend the meaning of Christmas it won’t be a total surprise! 

We do plan on having Santa in our home, but as Christians, we also want to teach him the importance of Christmas and how it relates to the birth of our Savior. I haven’t quite figured out how to blend the two together yet (if it’s possible!), but now, thanks to A Meaningful Christmas, I feel a little ahead of the game! 

A group of girls from our church decided to get together this year and participate in A Meaningful Christmas ornament exchange. If you’re not familiar with this, that’s okay! 

It’s only 2 years old, and is just now really getting around on the web! Although orders have closed for this year, I highly suggest “Pinning” as a way to remember to jump on it for 2013. 

Designed by the Poe Family, A Meaningful Christmas is a child-centered devotional that helps count down the days until Christmas using the Christmas story, passages, and ornaments; 1 for each day leading up to December 25. 

As suggested by A Meaningful Christmas, I helped organize an advent ornament exchange with 23 other moms from our church. Our planning began in October, and once we had the number we needed, we divided up the ornament responsibilities. 

I was given one of the harder ornament projects – Day 8: Mary is Chosen.

The verse that goes along with this day is from Luke 1:26-28. . . God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . .to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph . . .The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 

What the verse tells us is that God selected Mary to be a part of His family and be the mother of Jesus; similar to how we were given our children by God; therefore, my ornament assignment was to collect pictures from each one of the women participating and use the family photo on my ornament. 

I am not a very crafty person, but I managed to find some Christmas themed scrapbook paper I had laying around the house and left over ribbon from the Little Man’s first birthday party. 

After a brief lesson on how to Modge Podge on Youtube, I was all set to make my 24 ornaments. Thankfully, I didn’t feel any pressure to make them perfect since emails had been going around about other people’s lack of craftiness as well! 

We selected a date for our ornament exchange, and it didn’t take long to figure out our host went above and beyond what I was expecting! Each of us had brought a cute gift bag thinking that’s what we’d be bringing our ornaments home in, but to our surprise, we had plastic storage boxes waiting with our names on them; each with A Meaningful Christmas devotional book inside. 
All we had to do was walk around and place 1 ornament in each box, and at the end of the night, we all walked away with a box ready to go on December 1st. 

To make the exchange a little more social, we all brought appetizers and desserts to share, and then took a few minutes to explain which ornament ours was and how we came up with our design idea (and any flaws we happened to discover.)
The exchange was a lot of work, and did take a few hours of my time to create all 24 ornaments. I originally thought I had the hardest job of collecting all of the pictures, but looking at how much time and effort everyone else put in, I think I actually walked away with one of the easier tasks! 

In the end, I walked away with these 24 thoughtfully handmade ornaments:  

Although there’s not a reason for me to do another A Meaningful Christmas exchange, if you plan on doing one next year, I have a few pieces of advice to make yours successful! 

  • Order supplies in advance! Almost 3,000 families participated in 2012, and supplies were running short in most craft stores. Expect to find empty hooks and competition in the aisles for the wooden craft squares needed to make your ornaments. Start looking for the tiles just after Christmas or plan on ordering them online (like we did!)
  • Be Original – Because you have to be! Since the concept is still so new, photos and ideas online are limited. I tried every Google and Pinterest combo I could think of and found the same 2 or 3 images. Another good reason to start early, you have time to plan your design! 
  • Number your ornaments. You might notice it doesn’t say in the instructions to number your the back of your ornaments or label them somehow. Have all the women in your exchange mark their day in some way on their ornaments to save you the trouble of trying to match them all up later. 
  • Make it fun for your kids! Plan some fun and creative ways of making your devotional special to your kids. My advice: wrap the ornaments and let them open one each day like a gift. Then have a separate tree to place the ornaments on so they can easily go back to previous days and discuss the verses. 
  • Modify when needed! I have an almost 2 year old, so some of the “apply” suggestions won’t work for us. For example, my son can’t draw a picture of his family, but it doesn’t mean I can’t use the ornament with our family photo to have him name his mommy and daddy! I’ll try and post the modifications I make to give you some more ideas! 
For more information on how to participate in A Meaningful Christmas, make sure to check out their link on Facebook

Hallmark Tour Comes to Dallas

So it was no surprise when Hallmark invited me to participate in their Hallmark Tour for bloggers that I jumped on the opportunity! It was taking place in one of Dallas’s most historic hotels, The Magnolia, breakfast would be provided, and rumor has it we’d be receiving some awesome goodies. . . how could this possibly be a bad combination? 

When we arrived, we were provided a breakfast buffet, and I was actually relieved to discover that I wouldn’t have to be pushing and shoving through a crowd to get to my bacon! Hallmark kept the event small at about 20-30 women, which made it really enjoyable to get to meet and network with some of the other women. 

While we were eating, we were given a variety of birthday cards to fill out if we wanted. I have a lot of birthdays coming up in October, so I definitely took advantage. Although if they’d waited just a few more weeks to have the event, I would have taken them up on their offer to mail my cards for me too. Unfortunately, I didn’t want my friends receiving their birthday cards 3 weeks early! 

They also gave us a free sample of Hallmark’s new Text Bands. Similar to a pager, you type in a message you want to share, and when you’re ready you can go around and Bump your band with others and exchange messages! I slightly wish my child was older because this would be so fun for a birthday party. (Parents: There’s even a dirty word filter!) 
I always forget that Hallmark isn’t just greeting cards. After breakfast we were encouraged to walk around and browse some of their new products. One of my favorite items was the Celebration Banner for special occasions. They provide up to 5 of each letter on a variety of backgrounds for you to create your own party banner. The colors make it easy to use for Halloween, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. 
And since the theme was Birthdays, they surprised us all with a birthday cupcake. I took this as a personal surprise and decided to begin celebrating by birthday 29 days early! After all…you only turn 30 once! 

But the really neat product that’s hard to see in this picture, are the personalized party plates Hallmark has come out with. You can choose your occasion (holidays, birthdays, wedding, “just because”, etc.) and add a custom photo to the plate. I was slightly impressed because the quality of the photo was actually really good and the plates weren’t made cheaply! If I’d found one of my son, I would have had no problem wiping it off and taking it home to reuse.

 And don’t be surprised if you see this show up at his 2nd birthday! 
At this point, I know what you’re probably thinking, Hallmark’s goal was to just sell me something, but that actually wasn’t the case! Throughout the event they provided lots of interesting information on how to take great photos at birthday parties or at special events. They talked about ways you can make someone feel special even when it’s not that “Special Occasion.”

I also learned a lot about the Hallmark Greeting Card company that I never would have known. In my mind, they were a corporate entity based out of New York that dominated the paper industry. Instead, I learned that they’re a smaller company based out of Kansas City, and almost all the employees are passionate about what they do! There are several card divisions in the company, and most are only made up of a small group of about 10. Most of the employees wear their “heart on their sleeve” which is why they’re able to come up with their ideas, and just love what they do. 

In the end, I walked away with a lot of really interesting information to take away about Hallmark, but of course, I couldn’t help but be excited about the goodies! Remember, I love stationery
Last night, we tried out the Storybook Buddy at bedtime. I honestly think Tim was more excited about the book than the Little Man was. Christopher was our book companion, and each time Tim came to a highlighted sentence in the story Christopher Can’t Sleep, the stuffed bear would add to it by continuing to read or make fun sound effects. He even has multiple phrases at the end to say “Goodnight” so reading this story never gets boring! (This would make a really fun Christmas gift!!)

Anyway, my goal of this post isn’t to force you to buy any of Hallmark’s products, and I definitely was NOT paid for writing this, I just love it when I come across new products and wanted to share my finds with you!

Hallmark also agreed and decided to allow you in on the fun!

If you’re a fan of my blog, or just happen to be reading this post, you can go online to Hallmark and receive 30% off of all their personalized items from birthday plates, invitations, holiday cards, and thank you notes! 

Simply use the code BLOG30

Do you have any favorite Hallmark products I need to know about?

A Little Summer Reading

Every once in awhile I’ll get into a reading kick where I read more than just my one book a month for book club, and for the last two months, I’ve definitely been enjoying some much needed reading! I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat down and read book after book. Okay, with the exception of my guilty pleasure reads; The Hunger Games back in March and The Twilight Series in 2010. 

I wish I could say I owe the increase in reading to our two vacations, but the only time I found myself reading was on the airplane to and from New York. The only reason I’ve gotten as much reading done as I have is that I’ve been forcing myself to make the time. Even if that means neglecting my blog slightly during the Little Man’s nap times or right before bed. :)

It also doesn’t hurt that it’s been nearly impossible to put the books down that my Book Club or I’ve chosen! 

If you’re looking for some good book choices, here’s what you’ll find recently read in my Kindle. 


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – I know. I’m a little behind on this one, but after seeing the first 20 minutes on the plane to Maui, I instantly stopped watching and picked up the book. As expected, the book is so much better than the movie! This is the story of a 20-something man named Jacob in the 1920’s who find himself wandering alone after the death of his parents.He drops out of Cornell during his last final exam before graduating as a veterinarian, and finds himself hitching a ride on a train for a traveling circus. He develops an odd trio relationship with the animal director and his wife, as you discover something just isn’t right between the couple. 

This is a really light and easy read; however, it was difficult to read some parts that involved animal cruelty and some graphic sexual scenes. Fortunately both are few and far between!

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See – This is the sequel to the novel Shanghai Girls. I won’t share too much information so that I won’t ruin two books for you, but these are some of the better books I’ve read all year. Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters, Pearl and May, as that they attempt to escape China in the 1930’s as it’s about to be taken over by the Japanese. You follow their story as they smuggle themselves out of China and over to the United States via an immigration island where they’re forced to deal with difficult situations. The novel continues as they learn to make the best of their new lives in America. 

Dreams of Joy follows up from where the story leaves off in Shanghai Girls. Pearl is forced to return to the Republic of China in the 1950’s while it’s in the height of Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward campaign. 

Both books are filled with amazing and very sad history as they’re based on actual events that took place. I loved both books since I know nothing about China’s history as a closed country. It was so interesting to read, I almost found the historical situations more interesting than the fiction! 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – This was another quick read. Partially because it was extremely relateable to me as a mom and wife, but the plot moved really smoothly as several characters told the story. The last thing Alice remembers is being 28 years old, married to the love of her life, and 14 weeks pregnant with her first child. When one morning she finds herself on the floor of a spin class and is pushing 40 with the scars of a C-section on her body. Within an hour she finds out, she has 3 children and is in the process of divorcing her husband. What Alice Forgot takes the reader through the missing 10 years of Alice’s life. 

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – Confession! I just finished this book even though it was our Book Club choice for May. I really wanted to read it, and then never did, but I’m so glad I finally got around to it. I’m always nervous about picking up murder-mystery books because you never know what type of book you’re going to get; however, this one was right up my alley! I could read it before bed without getting scared. 

This is the story of Silas and Larry; two boys from the backwoods of Mississippi who share a deep secret about a night that took place in High School. For Larry, it meant living in isolation until his 40’s and for Silas, moving away and disowning his friend. It takes a near-death tragedy to bring these two people back together as they begin to unravel all the events that took place almost 25 year prior. 

11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King – I’m not going to lie. This book is a commitment. With a total of 880 pages and weighing in at just over 2 pounds, if you’re a slow reader like me, you will spend a few weeks (or longer) working on this book. But, I found myself unable to put it down! Even though I knew I’d have to be up at 6am, I found myself awake at 1am still reading. 

Forget the Stephen King horror writer you know, and meet Stephen King historical fiction/sci-fi writer. Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, goes on a bizarre journey when he discovers a time portal in his local diner’s stockroom. He is enlisted by the diner’s owner to take over his passion – to prevent the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. The biggest problem Jake encounters is that the time portal takes him back to 1957, and he has to begin a life in the past while he waits for this world-altering event to take place. And if he’s able to go through with stopping the assassination, what type of consequences await for him in the past, in the future, and to the world? 

I also loved this book because, although it’s not 100% accurate with the events that took place surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the Kennedy Assassination, it’s fairly accurate in the places he lived, worked, and visited in Dallas and Fort Worth. I always enjoy reading historical information about my home city and discovering the way things used to be. 

So, that’s my summer reading list. And I’m excited because I’m actually a month ahead on my Book Club reading which means I have a whole month to continue reading books of my choice. 

What do you suggest I read next? 

Just a Few More

I’ve recently taken on a new addiction. 

It started with just a taste. . . 

Then I found myself thinking about it while I was at a basketball game, 
making dinner, and even sneaking away while taking care of my son.

Staying awake until all hours of the night getting that “fix.” 

Something has got to stop! 

So, I’ve decided in order to cure my addiction, I have to finish what I’ve started. 

Warning: Save yourself! 
Or don’t and read this book! It’ll give us something to talk about!

What are your thoughts on The Hunger Games Trilogy

Winner Winner

Chicken Piccata by The Pioneer Woman
Chicken Dinner!

Congrats to Lisa Cowan Whitham
for winning the Taste of Home recipe book!

If you didn’t win this week, don’t give up yet!

Tune in Wednesday for my next giveaway!
With only 2 weeks until Christmas, I’ve got the perfect gift to help you get started on your wrapping!

Comfort Treats No. 3

When the holidays roll around, that’s the time my kitchen gets the messiest! 

I have quite a few favorite treats that I make every year, 
and most of them have come from this cookbook!
I know, I know!
I’ve mentioned Taste of Home a number of times on my blog
but it’s because they’re just so darn good!

I have yet to make a dish out of one of their recipe books that I haven’t liked. 

I normally share my favorite recipes when sharing a cookbook,
 but I think this time I’ll share my husband’s. 
(He’s already begging me to make these again!)

by Muriel White, Brampton, Ontario

Makes 3 dozen 

1/2 c. butter
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. baking cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 32 squares)
3 1/2 c. flaked coconut
36 large marshmallows (about)
wax paper

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine butter, milk, cocoa, and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Remove from the heat; stir in cracker crumbs and 1 1/2 c. coconut. 
Let stand until cool enough to handle. 
4. Using moistened hands, wrap about 1 tbsp. of mixture around each marshmallow (dip hands in water often to prevent sticking). 
5. Roll in remaining coconut; place on prepared baking sheet. 
6. Cover and freeze until firm.
7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. 
8. May be frozen for up to 2 months. 

In the end, you’ll have something that looks like this
Looks delicious, huh?

From sweet treats to bountiful breads and savory bites, 
you’ll want this recipe book on your shelf for all the holidays!

But why wait to buy it when you can win it here!

One lucky winner will win Gifts From the Country Kitchen by Taste of Home.
Simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Contest will end Saturday, December 10 at 12:01am. 

Thirty by 30: No. 1

I’m so proud of myself! I’ve completed another task on my Thirty by 30 list. I’ve actually made the time to finish, not 1 but, 2 books outside of my Book Club. For the last 2 years, I’ve been so busy at work, I’d never have anytime to read a book before being assigned the next one. There are so many books I want to read that I feel behind on, I’m glad I’m finally able to finish one book early to read another.

Do you have any book recommendations for me?
I’d love to read them!  

Sleep Intervention: 1 Week Later

It’s been a little over a week since we started the Ferber sleep training, and a week since my last posting about it. I’m happy to say by Night 5 & 6, Mark was officially sleeping all the way thought the night. And I’m not just talking the medical sleeping through the night of 6-7 hours. He now sleeps from 8pm to 6am. Occasionally, we’ll hear a whimper in the night, but he goes back to sleep pretty quickly. 

Nap times are also on schedule. He goes down at 10:30am and 3:30am with a little bit of fussing, but once he’s asleep naps range from 1-3 hours. 

He’s even napping right now!

Words cannot describe how much of a difference this has made on our lives. Leading up to the sleep intervention, I’m not ashamed to say that I was not enjoying my son. Anytime I was around him, he would scream and cry in my ear. He was just fussy all the time. Naps times were a beating. I was convinced I was going to break my ankle at the rate I was having to rock him; or at the least he was going to fly out of my arms. 

And now, he’s a completely different kid! He’s happy during the day, and loves to be around me. We’ll have “giggle time” in the afternoons, and he’s just so sweet. I feel like I have my Little Man back. Another benefit is that I’m not falling down exhausted anymore. I’m getting continuous sleep, and I have time to myself during his naps.   

Now, to be completely fair, he did have 2 top teeth come in right around the weekend we started the sleep training. Tim will tell you his behavior was 80% teething. I’ll slightly agree with him, but I think it was more like 40%. I only feel this way because he never slept this way before he started teething either. Nap times were no where near as good as they are now. At the most they were 30-45 minutes.  

I hope by blogging about this it helps a few people. I know the Ferber method hasn’t worked for everyone, but I will say it’s at least trying if you can stick to it. 

In the end, here’s a few of my personal tips I have if you’re interested in making it work:

1) Read the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (New,Revised and Expanded Edition) by Richard Ferber. I tried to cheat several times by picking up pieces of information here and there and letting him just “cry it out.” You should really understand the way your child sleeps and the correct process before going forward. It’s a very easy read! 
2)  If you give in one night, don’t give up! Pick up right back were you started. 
3) Make sure that you can apply naps to your sleep training. Getting good sleep during the day helps to get good sleep at night. (It’s all in the book!)
4) Remember, it’s just one week! Each time I felt terrible for letting him cry, he’d wake up smiling at me in the morning and have no recollection. If it doesn’t work, it’s only a week of his/her life, and you can move on and try something different. You haven’t scarred them for life!

And please, I’d love to help if you have any questions!
It has definitely changed my life!

Sleep Intervention-Night 1

The last 5 days have been a serious wake-up call for me.

Just a few weeks ago, I had struggled with our pediatrician’s recommendation to break his night time feedings. At the time, Mark would go down for the night around 8pm, wake up once (no more than twice) a night to eat at 3am, and then sleep until 6:30 or 7am. Although this wasn’t ideal, and was slightly unpredictable, I had decided I was “ok” with this because whether he woke up at 3am or 5am, he was going to have to wake up for a nightly feeding anyway. I was under the impression after 8 hrs, all babies need to eat. Why listen to him “cry it out” for a 2 hour variation? Plus, this pediatrition was new to me, and didn’t know Mark. I’m sure he was just telling me what I wanted to hear, but I know what’s best for my son.

Then came the double ear infection.

For a week, I was up anywhere from 1 to 3 times a night comforting or nursing Mark back to sleep. And just as the wake-ups seemed to be dwindling back down to once a night, the teething began. And to top it off, Tim and I left Mark for 4 days for his corporate retreat.

Upon returning, you can imagine what awaited for me! (I say “me” because Tim sleeps through it all.) I’ve been up on average 3 times a night, but it’s now begun to affect nap times! There have been days where he’s only gotten 30 minutes of sleep instead of his usual 2-3 hours. He’s also fight me when he gets near our rocking chair or crib; full out exorsist behavior.

So, I decided I’m not just “ok” with this anymore, and it’s time for a sleep intervention.
I’d played with the Ferber method before, and knew the basic principles of how it worked, but had never been able to follow through. We accomplished getting him to sleep on his own for bedtime, but night wakings and naptimes had been an epic fail. So, I smartened up, and bought the book to do it right this time.

In the one day it took me to read this book, I immediately saw that some of what I thought was Ferber actually was bad information. For example, you’re not supposed to just cover your head with a pillow and let them “cry it out;” it’s controlled crying. I also had been taking him out of the crib to try and comfort him if he cried for too long. I’d also heard that for some kids, Ferber just doesn’t work for naps; however, the process extends into naptime. If you’re not following through from from night into day, then the exercises are ineffective.

So here I am . . .3am. Night 1. Mark’s been crying since 1:51am. I’ve been going in every 10 minutes to pat his chest and then leaving quickly.

I’m surprisingly more calm than I have been in the past. I know the plan and the structure. Thanks to the book, I know understand what’s going on in his head which is also helpful. Each time I feel like giving up I refer back to the basics of what I know. He’s safe. He’s not in pain. He’s just mad, and that’s okay.

Finally. . .4:04am. . .he’s asleep.