Monday, December 31, 2012

{The Best of 2012}

My snow picture really doesn't have anything to do with this post. It's pretty and a nice way to end the year.

Sights and sounds and smells often take me back to particular moments. With 2012 ending, I decided to list some of the places, shows, words, sounds and activities that have been part of our year. Our is the key word. Obviously, "Land Before Time" wouldn't be part of my life this year if it weren't for my kids. Even so, most of these are more my answers than anyone else's.

{And speaking of  the approaching new year, nobody has gotten the right answer to my end-of-the-year game that includes a calendar prize. You should go play.}

Restaurant : Zaxby's and Chick-fil-A

Recipe : Sausage Balls

Games : Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Trouble, Uno

Sports : Murray State basketball, t-ball and youth soccer for the first time, UK basketball {Hello, national champions!}, St. Louis Cardinals baseball

Kids' movies : "The Lion King," "Land Before Time" and its many sequels

City : Charleston, S.C., which we visited twice

Music : Needtobreathe in general, "Mercy" by Dave Matthews Band, "Some Nights" by Fun, "Rest Easy" by Andrew Peterson, "Rise Up" by Matt Maher, Slugs & Bugs, "Third Word Symphony" by Shaun Groves

TV shows : "Parenthood," "The Good Wife," "Bones," "Downton Abbey"

Movie : "What to Expect When You're Expecting"

Books : "James: Mercy Triumphs" by Beth Moore, "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker

What about you? What sights, sounds and smells will bring you back to 2012 for years to come?

This post was inspired by (in)courage's "The Best of Everything 2012." Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekend Words

Four Ways to Find More Margin in Your Day :: I've started carrying an old-fashioned paper calendar planner with me. I still love and use Google Calendar, but I've found the ease of having a tangible list in front of me makes me more efficient when I have a block of time to get some things done while my kids are in school or my youngest is napping. All of that to say, I liked these practical suggestions, although I'm not good about getting up before my kids, which is why I usually think about my day the night before.

Overplanners Anonymous :: I've been learning some of these same things about walking the thin line between planning and organizing but not trying to control God and being disappointed when my plans don't prevail. It's kind of like planning not to plan.

What have you read this week worth sharing?

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Friday, December 28, 2012

{God-sized Dreams} The Do What You Can Plan

As you say goodbye to 2012, say hello to doing what you can to take steps toward your dreams. For me, 2013 is going to be the year of God-sized dreams. Their actual size isn't important, but I want to make moves toward what God is calling me to do and be and give and love.

Available at for $2.99
Want to join me and a group of women who are saying "yes" to trusting God as we dream? Here's a list of all the God-sized dreamers. Follow our blogs as we dream. And dream along with us in your own ways. I can't wait to hear all the stories of God's faithfulness.

One way you can start figuring out what to do next {You know, once you've heard God nudge your heart toward a person or a project or a plan or a purpose ...} is read Holley Gerth's The "Do What You Can" Plan, a short e-book that releases at midnight on New Year's Eve, just as the old year passes and the new one comes. Right on time. But you can order yours now.

I read it recently. And I've already reread the notes I took while doing so more than once. Yes, it's that kind of book. And, hey, it's just $2.99, yet packed full of practical wisdom.

Reading through the chapter titles alone is encouraging for a perfectionist soul like mine.

  1. Start Small
  2. Be Specific
  3. Take the Next Step
  4. Don't Go It Alone
  5. Stop Waiting for the Perfect Time
  6. Push Past the Fear
  7. Seek God and Work Hard
  8. Celebrate the Little Successes
  9. Say a Hard "No"
  10. Find Your Pace
  11. Overcome the Days You Want to Quit
  12. Do Something Different
  13. Avoid Comparison
  14. Keep  Your Heart in It
  15. Don't Worry about Getting it Wrong
  16. Stop Being Hard on Yourself
  17. Get Rid of What Doesn't Fit You
  18. Remember Everyone Has Bad Days
  19. Resist the Urge to Throw a Pity Party
  20. Know What's Next for You
  21. Keep On Keepin' On

Then Holley elaborates on these truths beautifully and practically. She writes as if she's my friend sitting at my kitchen table. I was excited when she spoke about the Proverbs 31 women being one of action:

"This woman brings, selects, works, gets us, provides, considers, plants, sees, supplies, speaks, watches and fears the Lord. While her virtues are often praised, it's clear that all of them are more than simply belief. She is a woman of action. ... It's an example of how we can proactively approach life and be faithful with whatever God has placed under our care in a way that honors him and blesses others. ... She does what's simple and straightforward. But she does it with consistency and excellence. Over time, that adds up to much more than her actions each day might convey to those observing."

And however we each choose to act, it's all a process. We have to keep moving toward God as he calls us and shapes us and moves us and guides us and teaches us and convicts us and encourages us. Settling for comfort isn't the goal.

"God never wants us to get complacent. He doesn't want us to find our comfort zone, build a mansion in the middle of it, and refuse to leave. ... You will never get to the place where God stops calling you closer to him."

Consider inviting her words into your heart and God-sized dreams into your heart. They could help make for a happy new year.

I was provided a free, early PDF version of the book as part of being on the God-sized Dream Team, but nobody told me what to write. These comments about the book are mine. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

catching up, merrily

'Twas a merry Christmas around here! And even though we still have some celebrating to do with my family this weekend, I wanted to share some of the highlights from Christmas Day.

But, first, I have to tell you. I loved Christmas Eve. We had two plans change and ended up spending the afternoon and evening together. Just our God-made family of four. And I loved it.

We went to redeem some Chick-fil-A gift cards my kids' got in their stockings from Gran-Gran in our first family Christmas the weekend before and happened upon a Jesus birthday party. We love Chick-fil-A anyway, so the party hats, party blowers, and live saxophone music were bonuses! Then we headed to the once-daily showing of the old-fashioned 2D version of "Monsters, Inc." Yes, I'm the mom who doesn't do 3D movies and takes her kids to movies that already exist on DVD. They don't the difference and like the theater.

We picked up some deliciousness from Panera Bread for our sick friends and our own Christmas morning breakfast, delivered said goodies, and then ate Mexican for dinner. Really, who doesn't want cheese dip for Christmas Eve?

The afternoon and evening were simple. And just right. 

And then there was this moment {pictured above} on Christmas morning.

I took Ben shopping for Cate earlier this month. Once I steered him away from the "Cars" stickers and Matchbox cars and trucks, he picked out a spiral notebook with a cat on the front, some Sesame Street and Tinkerbell stickers, and markers. Clearly, he knows her well, maybe even better than I do. Honestly, I thought the cat notebook was funny and random. She loves notebooks and generally has one near, but she hasn't expressed a particular fondness for cats.

At least not publicly. Until she opened her gift, that is. "He knew I loved cats." Um, yes, apparently he did.

Of course, while she was gushing about her present, Ben was enthralled in his own and totally ignored her.

Cate helped Greg pick out my stocking stuffers, evident by all the pinkness and purpleness. That's a cupcake-shaped soap dispenser, if you were wondering.

Legos have come a long way since I was a kid. And, yes, I loved seeing my kid build this tree house. I helped some. But it was more moral support than anything else.

It's no cat notebook, but Cate wanted to get Ben a fireman dress up outfit. He already has a fireman rain boots and coat, so she was happy to find these fireman accessories when we browsed Amazon last week. I do love that my daughter picked out my son's favorite gift.

Over the river and through the woods to grandma's house we go! Actually, we walked next door to Greg's grandparents' house for lunch, but, hey, the sentiment is there.

And so were all nine of their great-grandchildren, including my two ...

We did another picture of them lined up in birth order, but I liked this one better. In case you were wondering, that's nine kids 8 (almost 9) years old and younger. Three of them were born in 2009.

That's the whole crew that has descended from Anna Faye and Tommye D Taylor ... or at least married into the group. Just one of Greg's cousins and her husband were missing; they joined us later in the day.

My mother-in-law broke out the 1987 home movie that shows the homemade version of "The Night Before Christmas" my husband, his two brothers, and three girl cousins performed when they were some of our kids' ages. Our kids loved it. So much they watched it three times. 

Meanwhile, we were under a blizzard weather advisory. The evening rain and sleet turned to snow overnight, leaving us with a White {Day After} Christmas.

On your mark, get set, go ...

The kids loved sledding down the hill at the park across the street from our house. I couldn't believe we ended up being outside an hour. That's far longer than I ever wanted to be out when I was a kid.

I hear driving conditions were rough. Truthfully, we didn't leave the house all day or really ever get out of our pajamas, except, of course, to apply extra layers to stay warm for that hour yesterday morning.

And then there was Frosty with his vegetable facial features and very short celery arms. 

Tell me about your Christmas. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white. 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

{No More Perfect Moms} An Introduction

I hope you had a merry Christmas and have enjoyed being with family and friends. We still have celebrating to do, but I wanted to share this perfect {oh, the irony ...} opportunity for moms as the year new approaches.

Sometimes crafts are harder than they should be. More often than I care to admit, things just slip my mind and my daughter is just waiting nearby {literally} for me to remember to put batteries in her Vtech Vreader. Some days I run late to meet a friend -- something that irritates me even though I know the massive line at the Post Office or traffic down the main strip through our small town is completely out of my control.

One day last week I let my kids watch "Gnome and Juliet" twice in the same day. I recently accidentally wrecked our mini van. I yell when I should whisper. I let circumstances dictate my mood instead of choosing joy. I talk when I should listen. I react with my emotions when I should consider logic.

These and many, many more reasons are why I'm thrilled to read "No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage. As if a book that seems to be written for me isn't enough, I also have the opportunity to be part of Jill's launch team. I've mentioned the book before. I'm talking about it now. And this won't be the last time.

I've started reading "No More Perfect Moms" {ah, perks of the launch team!} and the first chapter had me jotting down notes:

"We compare out messy insides -- our struggles, our failures, our less-than-perfect lives -- to other women's carefully cleaned-up, perfect-looking outsides."

And then Jill goes on to write about how media {TV, magazines, social media, etc.} complicate the issue.

"The hard part of this comparison game is that we aren't comparing ourselves to reality. The photos are Photoshopped and airbrushed, the stories are edited, and the guarantee of perfection is overpromised in order to sell magazines."

That's not real life. In the following chapters, Jill discusses how to love your real life without perfect kids, bodies, marriages, friends, days and homes.

If you're a mom who has ever felt exhausted, stressed, anxious, overworked, insecure, unsure, or busy {OK, so, any mom, really ...}, you should consider a couple things related to this book.

1. Sign up for Jill Savage's "No More Perfect Moms" 31-Day Email Challenge. I'm sure it'll be a fantastic way to start the new year. You don't have to have the book {which doesn't release until February anyway} to be part of this. Click here to sign up so you can start receiving real-life encouragement in your inbox on Jan. 1.

2. Don't buy the book yet, but get ready to do so Feb. 4-9. Along with the release of "No More Perfect Moms," Hearts at Home and Moody Publishers will offer additional bonus resources worth more than $100 if you order/buy the book anytime Feb. 4-9. Click here to learn more about this and sign up to be reminded of the release date.

3. Visit "No More Perfect Moms" website. This is where you can share stories, learn more about the book, and view motherhood resources.

And now I need to go wipe off the kitchen table again. That yogurt that was squirted on it just didn't come up the first time and I keep putting my arm down in the stickiness.

A PDF copy of "No More Perfect Moms" was provided to me as part of the book's launch team, but I've been excited about this book for awhile and these comments are mine. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Glory to God in the highest ...

And there were the shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on each peace to men on whom his favor rests." 

When the angels had left them and gone to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 
... The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 
From Luke 2

Merry Christmas! May you be especially bundled, snuggled, accessorized, surprised, peaceful, loved and joy-filled today. 

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Monday, December 24, 2012

12 in 2012 ... with a giveaway!

This year was good to us. Unlike most every year since Greg and I were married in 2002, this year didn't have major life-changing moments. We didn't move. I wasn't diagnosed with a chronic disease or start a new, freeing treatment for it. We didn't adopt a baby. Nobody quit or started jobs. We didn't even bungy jump. My girl did start kindergarten and lose a couple teeth. And we traveled, of course. But 2012 was full of ordinary moments that challenged and encouraged me to live intentionally and choose joy. Of course, there were many times I failed and wished I'd reacted gentler and kinder, spoken softer and sweeter, acted quicker, and chose joy sooner.

But in the end, we're blessed and this year reminded me how good life really is.

To recap these adventurous in ordinary life, I thought I'd list the 12 most-read posts from my blog. Honestly, the posts do seem to reflect our year, although a couple of them surprised me when I started ranking which posts had the most views.

So here they are, in chronological order:

Two of those 12 posts tied for the most views. Want to guess which ones? How about making this into a game? With a prize!

First three people {who live in the United States} to guess one of the two posts with the most page views wins a 2013 calendar. And these are better than those free calendars you get in your mailbox from your insurance company. Trust me. You may guess once. Then if no one guesses correctly, I may let you guess again. You have until Dec. 31, or until three people guess correctly. Be sure to leave your email so I can contact you. And ... here's a hint: One of the two especially surprised me. 

Bonus: If you want a second guess in the first round, follow me on Twitter. Tell me in the comments you did as you make your second guess.

Alright. Ready. Set. Go ... 

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head

My girl was oh-so excited about this craft. Turns out, it was harder than it looks. Ah, such is life.

But she was determined. And meticulous. Just like she is in most all things.

We did it. A little lopsided. Sheep falling. Mary and Joseph not exactly admiring their baby marshmallow in the manger. But the shepherd has his staff. And the horse is sturdy. "The hay was the easiest part," my girl proclaims. {Of course, my friend had already colored the coconut, so, yes, scattering it in and on the manger was certainly something we could handle!}

"You guy want to eat it?"

Silly question, momma. 

And then it seemed a tornado came through Bethlehem. Right on our kitchen table.

Despite the chaos we sometime experience in life that goes far beyond a wrecked candy shelter, this is the season of Jesus' birth. One little baby attracted shepherds, wise men, and nations of people. He had to come and later rise from his grave so he could give us real life. Everlasting life. Life that won't be knocked down for good when the icing doesn't hold.

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay. 

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Words

Consider this in the first in what I hope is a regular weekend post sharing what I've read during the week that made me think, laugh, or relate. Hopefully these posts will do the same for you.

Meaningful Moments of a Boy-Mom Christmas :: I only have one boy. He's 3, and all boy. I can't imagine if we ever have another what Boy #1 will instigate with Boy #2. Even so, this made me laugh. And remember I'm not alone.

Meet Your God-sized Dream Team :: Holley Gerth has a way with words. She uses them to encourage. And I'm so excited to be part of her "dream team" as a new year begins.

I weep for them :: Kelli Stuart has a way with words. Sometimes she makes me laugh. And sometimes she makes think we're meant to be friends. This time her words pierce deeply my momma heart.

What words have inspired or entertained you this week?

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Dreaming God-sized dreams

I've never considered myself a dreamer. I find satisfaction in to-do lists and practical solutions. I like to get things done. But I've found myself with lots of ideas lately.

Some are fleeting. Others are still with me while others have been transformed into new things.

I sense God nudging me to channel some of my skills and passions into a new adventure. This may mean fully promoting my freelance dreams. Or perhaps it could mean God's preparing us for our third adopted baby to be brought home. Or maybe I haven't even realized what the creator of the universe -- and my ideas! -- has in store.

With that said, when Holley Gerth asked for applications in November from women bloggers who wanted be part of a "dream team" she was creating, I applied. I'm one of 99 women selected to be part of this team, which has a private Facebook that is spilling over with encouragement and inspiration for how to make the most of where we are life, using the talents God has given.

My "dream" as stated on the application was something about pursing more freelance opportunities while not sacrificing my role as a wife and mother. I do think that's where God is leading me, but I certainly don't have an particulars nailed down and other fleeting thoughts and ideas and feelings have found their way into my heart and mind. So we'll see where this goes.

But I'm excited to be part of something I sense God will use in a mighty way to encourage women to make a difference for a kingdom so many people need nearer.

Join us by saying "yes" to God in your own way. And stay tuned to hear more about what I'm learning about God-sized dreams, which, by the way, don't have to be big in size, just in sync with what God is calling you to specifically. So, here's to dreaming and trusting the Creator to get us there!

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

{Tiny Prints} 50% off thank you notes

Thanks for making our Christmas fun.

That's probably what I'll say on our thank you notes that friends and family who have and will bless us with gifts will receive soon. And I'm going to use this fun self-portrait my husband snapped recently.

How can I say Christmas has been fun when Christmas hasn't happened, you ask?

Well, we've had some parties with family and friends and it's been fun. We have more parties coming. And then there is the actual holiday still to come. And, hey, it's gonna be fun!

But I can tell you without opening a gift that I'm grateful for the people who make our Christmas -- and all the other days of the year -- merry and bright.

Is there someone you want to thank? Perhaps more than one someone? Well, here is your chance to get a jump start on thank you notes.

Tiny Prints will have you wanting to say, "Thank you!" for its prices for this one day only. From noon {central time!} today until 11 a.m. tomorrow {Friday}, you'll save 50% on your thank you cards order. Just use the code DOD1220 when you check out.

Tiny Prints has high-quality products, which can be personalized with your pictures and text. And, hey, thank you notes are fun, just like Christmas.

{Disclaimer: Compensated affiliate link used, but I really do have Tiny Prints thank you notes on the way to my front door.}

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{Compassion} It's your turn to give!

In recent posts, I've mentioned Compassion International's gift catalog, now I want to invite you to be part of the kind of gift-giving that could change someone's life and even their family for generations to come.

'Tis the season of giving. Even though this kind of gift may not sit under your tree with a pretty bow on top, it will bring the Christmas spirit -- the truth that God's kingdom is near -- right into a family's life and hear in South America, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, or Africa.

Learn more about Compassion's gift catalog.
Jesus literally gave everything. Even his last breath. His momma Mary gave much too as she spent nine months carrying the savior of the world in her belly. And to honor this birth, the life and his life-altering death, Compassion International is hoping to raise $20,000 to change the lives and hearts of children and their families.

You could give $55 for a baby's medical care for an entire year. Or $4 protects a child from parasites. An African family can have seeds for a garden for $10. Other families could be equipped with livestock for $280. You could help children have water {just $23 helps build reservoirs} and access to safe, sanitary bathrooms {$30}.

So, friends, here is your challenge : Consider being one of 10 of my readers to give just $10 to help families you've never met but who have hopes and dreams like you.

Of course, we don't have to stop there if more of you want to give. But I'd love to see our community here make a difference this Christmas. You can browse Compassion's gift catalog here and shop for someone who has needs greater than most of us have ever know.

This is the third post inspired by Compassion International's #ItsAboutGiving campaign. Read about our birthday party for Jesus or my gift-giving love language. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

{Greg's Guest Post} Top 10 of Us

Welcome my husband, Greg, to my blog! 

I know you are used to reading what Kristin writes and she is so good at what she does that I look forward to every one of her blog posts. She recruited me to write here, but I am an amateur so bear with me.

We often say that God has a plan for each one of our lives, and I believe that is true. God knows everything we will ever think or do, and he is in the details. One of the cool ways that this works is in a marriage. God knows all the little details in our lives, even if we don’t know all the little details about our spouse when we get married.

Kristin and I have found out several gratifying things that we agree on, even though we didn't necessarily discuss them before getting married a decade ago, have helped bring us together. 

In no particular order, here the Top 10:

1. Sporting events are great for the whole family, not just Dad. Kristin grew up in a sporting family, watching football, basketball, and soccer. Her dad played football for Kentucky and her sister, Cassie, played soccer at Austin Peay. (We have since forgiven her for attending our alma mater’s rival and marrying a Governor basketball player.) So Kristin came into the marriage knowing a thing or two about watching a sporting event with family. 

Good thing, too, because I grew up playing basketball, baseball and, to a lesser extent, soccer. Plus, college football is one of my favorite sports to watch. Kristin and I enjoyed attending Murray State and Kentucky games together while in college. We've lived in Murray for nine years and part of our life here includes our season tickets to Racer games! The kids enjoy going and seeing family and friends.

2. Christmas lights are not a priority at hour house. In fact, we've never put them up on the outside of our house and only have them on the tree and mantel inside. I have no desire to light the house up like Clark Griswold, and Kristin doesn’t want to mess with them either. Not that we’re Scrooges, but it’s nice to agree on one less thing to worry about.

3. Every vacation must include, at some point, a trip to the miniature golf course. I’m not saying that we’ve followed this one to the letter, but we have at least attempted to find one. I guess miniature golf is one of those things we usually only do on vacation but this was kind of fun to learn this about Kristin. We even did this before we had kids, just the two of us out on the miniature golf course reliving younger days.

4. We don’t want pets. Growing up on a farm, my family had dogs and, but never anything inside other than a couple of birds. (Kristin just cringed at learning I lived in a house with birds.) Don’t get me wrong, I like your dog, but I am glad that he stays with you when we leave your house. Kristin had cats and some hamsters as a kid. Now we’re both allergic to cats and so our house is pretty much a pet-free zone. The kids may talk us into getting a fish at some point, but that’s probably it.

5. Art museums don’t qualify as fun on vacations. I have gone to art museums with friends before (and if I have gone with you, know that I love you) but neither one of us enjoy that very much. If you are an artist, know that I am amazed by what you can do, because I draw stick men.

6. Our bed is a kid-free zone, at least until we are both awake. Kristin and I both need our sleep, so there was no letting the kids come sleep with us at night. We both snore (although Kristin debates this ...), so there are enough distractions if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night.

7. We are happy to drive safe, affordable used cars. Neither one of us ever has cared whether we had a new car to drive, which is ironic because my family is in the car business. If you do happen to be in the market for a new car, please call Dwain Taylor Chevrolet-GMC, Toyota of Murray, or David Taylor Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, all here in Murray. 

We got our van used from Uncle Dwain and it has proven to be reliable and we have enjoyed many trips in it. I am so blessed that Kristin is not pressuring me to be driving around in the newest, flashiest minivan. She recently wrecked our van and hope to find a dependable, affordable replacement soon. It doesn't even need a DVD player. 

8. Kristin doesn’t expect our yard and landscaping to be Better Homes and Gardens quality. Don’t get me wrong, I have always made sure the job got done. But, I am not necessarily a big fan of mowing/landscaping, and I am so glad that we have Joey Johnson with Cornerstone Lawn Care to mow our yard and take care of these things now. We started Cornerstone Lawn Care to help mow all of our rental properties’ yards, but getting our yard mowed is a nice perk too.

9. Board games, card games and word games are all part of enjoying family time and time with friends. Whether we are playing the Name Game, Euchre, Game of Things, Settlers of Catan, Hearts, Spades, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land or Words with Friends, we are a game-playing family. She used to beat me regularly in Scrabble, and then I learned her defensive, board-jamming ways. We enjoy competing with each other in these types of games we are both good at, and now with the kids we enjoy playing games with them, too!

10. We both enjoy road trips. I mentioned the mini golf that usually happens and the art museum that don't, but we love the adventure and it is so much fun to load up the car with the kids and set out to see family and friends. Although we love being at home, there is nothing like seeing new places and traveling with our family. Kristin is great at organizing everything and I am good at handling the navigation and driving, so we are a great match.

What things do you and your spouse fall on the same page about as your live your life together that maybe weren't areas you discussed before tying the knot?

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{Celebrating & Giving} Happy birthday, Jesus!

In a where commercialization often drowns the real meaning, I don't want my kids to forget what Christmas is really about.

Simply, it's Jesus' birthday. 

This season is set aside to celebrate the birth of a baby who changed the world. This baby grew up to be a man that gave us the ultimate gift of eternal life. And he's coming back one day.

Now, there are tons of ways to celebrate all of that. Give to people to you love and the people down the street or across the world you've never met. Give anonymously and randomly as your go about your ordinary life that brings you to gas station stops and lunches at restaurants. Read the Christmas story. Read it from another version, like the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I highly recommend. Sing songs around your house, in your car and while standing in hallways of nursing homes. Bake treats for your friends, family and mailman.

And I pray this is the heart of my family even when it's not Christmas.

But because it is Christmas, I want to focus on the goodness that abounds this season and instill the things that really matter in my kids' hearts.

One way we've decided to do that is with a Jesus Birthday Party. The tradition started two years ago with two of my closest friends here and our families. And then it grew to include more families last year. This year, I had the {slightly crazy} idea to have live Slugs & Bugs music as we celebrated Jesus' birthday. Randall Goodgame helped me make it happen.

The Slugs & Bugs Christmas album has been a great addition to our family. Turns out it was a great addition to the party too. We were so glad four-fifths of the Goodgame family was part of our party.

Let me give you a little back story. I had a hard week that was full of relatively small things that weren't going as I had planned or hoped or expected. Then my momma heart was shaken with the seemingly senseless tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Truthfully, I was excited to have a party with lots of kids whose innocence and joy make the worldly problems fade. And, really, there's not much more fun than a birthday party in my world, even when some families had to cancel because of sickness. Unfortunately, December is full of busy schedules that conflict and sickness and these things kept several families from coming. But God had a plan and was present at our party. 

Part of our celebration was giving. We collected donations for a local food pantry and money to buy gifts from Compassion International's gift catalog.

The kids also made cards and I encouraged them to give them to their neighbors or someone else who may need a Christmas blessing. My sweet girl gave out four cards while we were caroling in a local nursing home Sunday. Her saying "Merry Christmas" has she handed strangers handmade cards is a snapshot of giving if I've ever seen one.

In celebrating with these joy-filled, innocent friends who aren't ashamed to shout "Happy birthday, Jesus!" wherever they are, I was reminded of cliches that really are true. God is in charge of all the details, even party planning. Jesus is the reason for the season. And two {or 12} are better than one.

This goes along with Compassion International's #ItsAboutGiving campaign. Read an earlier post about my gift-giving love language. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, December 17, 2012

{P&G} A World Wide Web of Deals


I like shopping online. I'd say at least 60 percent of the Christmas gifts I bought this year came from online shops. I took advantage of deals and cash back opportunities. Plus, I didn't have to drag my two kids through toy aisles or the couple local stores in my small town as much as I would have had to otherwise.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, I buy more than gifts online. When my favorite local grocery store stopped carrying our favorite marinade, I ordered a case online. More than once. Big boxes of diapers and wipes have been delivered to my front door many, many, many times in the 5 1/2 years I've had a kid in diapers. {No, not the same kid!} And just last week I ordered the laminate floor cleaner I've found most reliable. I'm waiting on the last Christmas present to arrive this week.

With the unwrapping of these online-ordered gifts quickly approaching, a stash of batteries would be good to have on hand. Luckily, P&G eStore has a deal on its Duracell products. You can get 28 AAA or AA batteries delivered right to your door. Perhaps you should even enter the Duracell sweepstakes and possibly win a bundle of batteries worth $100.

Regardless of what you order, you'll get free shipping when you spend more than $25, free samples with every order, and 15% off your first order with the code A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA.

And while you're there, go ahead and stock up on Pampers or Luvs diapers, Downy and Tide laundry products, Gillette shaving accessories, Olay and CoverGirl beauty products, and Oral-B and Crest teeth care products. Because, really, the only thing better than having one box arrive on your door step is carrying two inside your house.

Happy shopping!

This post, for which I'm being compensated, is sponsored by BlogHer and P&G, but I really do love online shopping. My experiences are true and will continue to happen. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

always never alone

Photo by Angela Taylor

I cried a very ugly cry and verbally vomited my overwhelming emotions all over my husband when he got home from work today. Some of it unfortunately spewed on my two kids who pay attention when I wish they wouldn't and make me wonder if they hear me other times of the day. Then in the midst of the ugly, ugly moments of me retelling how I cried and felt alone while cleaning out my wrecked mini van, truth broke through the mouth of my 5 1/2-year-old girl.

"Momma, you weren't alone. Jesus is always with you."


I was still crying, but inside I was rejoicing.

Because she's right. And she's been paying attention to the things that really matter and not just my spewing, crying mess.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning up and cleaning out

I had a to-do list today while both my kids were in school: Order cupcakes. Get blood drawn. Call back insurance adjuster. Clean out wrecked mini van. Start looking for new-to-me mini van. Pick up consignment money. Pick up prescription.

Crying while cleaning out my van wasn't part of my plan. It wasn't that there was more stuff stored throughout my van than I realized. It wasn't that I was saying good bye to a machine that has served us well and taken us to many places. It was the what-if scenarios running through my mind. It was the replaying of the other car crashing into a tree.

And I'm guessing the logistics of cleaning up after my wreck sparked an overflow of emotions. In the grand scheme of life, this isn't that bad. Sure, it's inconvenient. Of course, it's something I wish my kids hadn't experienced. But I know people suffering worse and I know people I don't know have problems that don't even compare.

We're blessed. We're safe. And we're surrounded by a community of people I wouldn't trade for a brand-new Chrysler Town & Country.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Songs of the season

If you asked me my favorite Christmas song, I'd probably stumble over my answer because there are so many I love.

Last week I transferred files, including songs, to my new laptop {Merry early Christmas to me!}, so this week I've been perfecting my Christmas playlist. It started out with 72 songs. Right now, the playlist has 60 songs by 18 artists. Did you catch my use of "perfecting"? That implies it is a process.

So, back to my hypothetical question: What's my favorite Christmas song?

Well, according to my work-in-progress Christmas play list, it's "Joy to the World" with "Away in the Manger" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" as close seconds. At least musicians I like have some worth-listening-to versions of these classics.

My all-time, hands-down favorite version of "Joy to the World" is by Bebo Norman and has been mentioned on this blog more than once and is one that I repeat {the sounding joy ...} often. The other versions I love that will remain part of my ever-changing Christmas play list are by Randall Goodgame, Third Day and Casting Crowns. The same three musicians do "Away in a Manger" in ways I love. Jeremy Camp's "O Come All Ye Faithful" is especially good.

The other songs I'm loving this season are ...

This all leaves one question: What's YOUR favorite Christmas song? Share in the comments, or, well, go write a whole blog post about it and post your link.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

A wreck of a day

Angels we have on heard high
Sweetly singing ore the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria in excelsis Deo

My 5-year-old girl and her 6-year-old classmate were singing this Christmas carol behind me in my mini van while my 3-year-old son was adding in his own boyish sounds. We were almost to the big kids' school and I eased into an intersection, continuing on the small residential road toward the drop-off site and apparently into the path of the car I hadn't seen coming full speed on the bigger highway.

It was loud. It happened fast. And as my mini van slowed into the yard on the corner of the intersection, I saw the small red car keep sliding through the wet grass into the tree.

Time seemed to stand still yet speed along in the same instant. Perhaps that's what surreal means.

I turned around to the three kids in the back seat. The boys were speechless. My girl was spouting questions about the logistics of what had happened and what it meant would happen. I pushed open my slightly jammed door to check on the other driver. Her airbag had deployed and her door wouldn't open, but her window was down and she talked to me. She kept asking me if the kids were alright. I assured her they were and that I'd call 911.

Again, time was a funny thing. It seemed to take the emergency responders awhile to get there, but I'm guessing it wasn't really that long. I called my husband. A mom from the school stopped, helped calm my shaken-up nerves and then took the big kids to school while I awaited the police, my husband and a tow truck. The volunteer fire department showed up first. Then EMS. And then the sheriff's deputies.

I cried. I had been crying. And I cried some more. I told the police what happened. And I heard the fire and medical workers carefully getting the woman out of her car. The longer it took them, the more I cried. The school principal who has become my friend heard from another mom who drove by I had been involved in a car wreck, so she came to see if I needed anything. Apparently I needed a friend. She literally shouldered my tears, reminded me of God's faithfulness and provision, kept me from staring at the EMS guys loading the other driver onto a stretcher and into a neck brace. My husband showed up. The tow truck came and we made a plan for my wrecked van's destination.

And all the while my boy sat in his car seat looking at the fire truck parked right next to us.

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ whose birth the angels sing
Come adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord the newborn King

Gloria in excelsis Deo

I probably cried again. And then I got it together to go check on my girl and our friend at school. I left with a heart full that she goes to school where she does, where I felt loved this morning in this small community, where her teacher reminded her she was safe, where the principal acted more like my friend and called me after lunch to give me an update on her conversation with my girl and check on me. My husband arranged for me to borrow a vehicle from his mom.

On the way to drop off my boy at his preschool, I texted a few close friends and asked them to pray for the other driver. I couldn't stop thinking about her. She seemed to have come from nowhere into that intersection, but when I pulled into her path, she came into my mind. And stayed there for much of the day.

After I'd stopped crying and was getting ready to leave the scene in my husband's car, I asked the policeman if I could get the other driver's name so I could check on her later. Well, apparently, he didn't write it down. Rather he just had our driver's license numbers and insurance policy info. Of course, he also had the names and birthdates of the three kids in my vehicle. But not the driver's name. I left praying I could get an update on her condition at some point, preferably before the seven to 10 working days I was told to allow for the official police report.

We got the back-up vehicle. My husband talked to the insurance company, which is sending an adjuster to look at my mini van tomorrow. I talked to a couple people on the phone. And then I managed to lock the borrowed keys and my spare house key in my house when I stopped at home to change my socks, shoes and jeans, all still wet from the morning grass made messier by our tire tracks.

Yep. My husband had to come rescue me again. Second time in two hours.

I managed to safely maneuver the much-larger Yukon I'm temporarily driving through the crowded Post Office parking lot and then meet a friend for lunch. She asked if I wanted to reschedule our already planned lunch, but I thought lunch with a friend and none of our kids may be just what I needed. And it was for more than one reason.

One reason: Her friend is an emergency room doctor at the little hospital where the other driver was taken this morning. So she texted him to see if he could give her an update on the lady's condition. A couple hours later, she told me the other driver had been discharged from hospital because she was doing OK. Thank God. Plus her company was good for my soul.

See him in the manger laid
Whom the choirs of angels praise
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid
While our hearts in love we raise

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Another friend brought me flowers. And I got teary-eyed as I read all the encouragement posted on my Facebook status. Other friends and relatives have texted. And I'm reminded that I'm not in this life alone. I'm thankful for God's protection and the community in which he's built around me. And for my little family who loves me, even when the dinner I make fails and we decide to go to Zaxby's, where kids eat free on Mondays, just 30 minutes before my husband is supposed to be at a meeting. He was a little late. But our bellies and hearts were full.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Crafting Christmas, again ...

I've had the same wreath hanging on our front door since February, so when Greg mentioned he wanted a wreath for the front door at his office, I checked out the ones in the holiday section at Walmart. None of them worked, not even for me, who only changes her home decor for December, especially for $19.98.

So I did what any slightly crafty, deal-lovin' mom would do: I turned to my 5-year-old daughter who believes anything can be handmade and said, "Don't you think we could make Daddy a better wreath?" She was immediately on board and suggested we use blue ornaments. "Because Daddy likes blue things."

After a few days of seeing the Walmart bag of supplies sitting around, I decided to tackle it tonight. With Cate's help, of course. I'm not sure it's better than the gaudy, gold $19.98 wreaths, but it's more us.

And Daddy approves.

This is actually our second craft of the season, and this one wasn't even on my short list of things I wanted to do. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Snapping a parenting moment

I played substitute photographer for a friend of mine who had volunteered to take pictures at a local story time's holiday pancake breakfast before her daughter got sick the same morning. This was the same friend-photographer who took our family pictures this year. I certainly didn't mind helping her out.

Moms {and a few dads} lined up with their kids to pose in front the beautifully decorated alter at the church that hosts the weekly story time. I snapped some of the whole family, some of siblings, and some of little ones still unsteady on their feet standing in front of the Christmas tree. Several wore holiday attire and many wore red.

And then there was my boy, with his gold, navy and gray. With a motorcycle on his shirt. He was eager to pose for a pictures, so another friend took the camera from me and I went to sit with my boy. Only that's not what he wanted.

"You not be in my picture. I be by myself."

My 3-year-old son totally kicked me out of his picture and I wasn't in the mood to argue about my presence. So I shrugged my shoulders, took the camera back, and snapped Ben's picture. He grinned. And I went on taking other pictures.

The more I thought about it, the funnier the story became to me. I've told it several times since, and I keep thinking I should take something from it. You know, grow from here, become a better momma with this. Here's the thing: Ben's love languages these days are tickling or arguing. He has the best belly laugh and it comes out with the slightest tickle. I tickle him just so I can hear him laugh and rid the moment of any crankiness brewing.

Arguing is a different story. He'll try to engage in "uh-huh" versus "na-huh" battles that I usually refuse. I'm trying to learn to pick my battles, yet be consistent {with a firm yet gentle approach ... seriously complicated stuff this parenting business!}. I suppose that's why I just walked away from the picture and let him sit by his own mischievous self in front of the beautiful Christmas tree.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

{Compassion} It's About Giving

My husband and I sat alone in Zaxby's earlier this week. By alone, I mean, our kids weren't with us. They were at their schools. But, also, he pulled in the parking lot to meet me at 10:59 a.m. An early lunch worked best in our schedules, so we went with it. And we were the first customers of the day. Being alone meant we had some time to talk.

Christmas easily worked itself into our conversation. "So what do you have for the kids?" he asked, knowing I am mostly done shopping.

I paused, realizing my list for my kids was short. I told him I had several books and some craft supplies for our 5-year-old girl and some other books and a movie for our 3-year-old boy. Then I defended my short list: "I don't want to walk into a store and buy them toys just for the sake of buying them something. I want to be inspired to get something good."

We are blessed with generous family and friends who will shower us with treats this holiday season. We've tried to intentional about making sure the true, everlasting meaning of the Christmas season doesn't get lost in the consumerism in which our culture is drowning.

Last year my daughter poured change and dollar bills from her piggy bank to help buy gifts for a local family who couldn't afford to have gifts under their tree. Coats were included in what our group of friends bought this family. Yes, we got them some games and toys. But, hello, every kid needs a coat. And my girl helped.

Learn more about the
Compassion gift catalog.
For the second year, our Jesus Birthday Party with friends will include a collection for money to be spent on items from the Compassion International gift catalog and canned goods for a local food pantry. My friend who is planning activities for our church party was talking to me today about ideas to incorporate giving while we're gathered there to celebrate Christmas. We mentioned the Compassion catalog and having kids make cards for local nursing homes.

Gift giving is my love language.

I like to happen upon a gift for a friend and buy it for them. Sometimes I store these treasures until birthdays or Christmas, but other times I give them just because. Part of this love language I speak and hear gets frustrated this time of the year because I don't make wish lists to share with people in our holiday gift-giving circle and sometimes people want that. When people ask what my kids want, I always answer with general areas of interest. "Cate is really into anything crafty. Ben likes dinosaurs and vehicles." I'm sure it's frustrating for someone whose love language isn't gift giving, but I can't bring myself to distribute a list of specific gifts when our family is so incredibly blessed. We don't need anything.

Because we're blessed I want to give. I want to give money to help families have Christmas presents under their trees. I want to give money to help families in other countries have better lives with less disease, more nutrition and greater sustainability. I want to teach my kids to want to give.

Yes, this time of the year is a fine time to give. But, really, giving should happen in any month. Those same kids that opened the box with a new coat inside probably will need new shoes next spring. Disease will still plague poverty-stricken countries in the summer. The needs don't just crop up in December. But this is month in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who was born in a manger because Bethlehem had no other room for the savior of the world and later died a gruesome death so we could have eternal life in a place his Father has spent more than 2000 years preparing for us. Seems like as good a time as any to give.

Oh, so, my husband reminded me that having a sense of wonder on Christmas morning is part of being a kid. He came up with a great Christmas gift for our kids. One of his childhood memories inspired the idea. As he was talking about this, I realized how stories are such a rich part of my gift-giving love language and I was reminded how grateful I am my husband and I are in this parenting -- and giving -- thing together.

Think about how you can change Christmas -- and maybe even life -- for someone. Visit the lonely. Make cards for the sick. Pray for the helpless. Give money. Meet needs. Give food. Give gifts. Create wonder. Show love. How do you hope to make a difference this season? And what about the next season?

This blog post was inspired by Compassion International's #ItsAboutGiving campaign. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the season!

I spent my son's naptime wrapping Christmas gifts and listening to Christmas music while wearing a T-shirt and wishing the windows in my house opened. Seriously. Crazy Kentucky weather. High of 72 on Dec. 3.

Funny thing is, I'm totally in the Christmas season, no thanks to the weather, which really does usually cool off around here. This weekend certainly helped push me into the season, even though I was basically already there. We walked in a Christmas parade with my daughter's school and went on a tree hunt on my mother-in-law's farm {see picture above}. Truth is, I love Christmas and the preparations that go into the season.

Our non-denominational, non-traditional church is incorporating an advent devotion and scripture-reading time into the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It started yesterday and I'm looking forward to the coming weeks. The anticipation and symbolism that comes with celebrating the advent season is something I remember fondly from my Catholic childhood. My faith has grown since I sat in those pews at Immaculate Conception in La Grange, Ky., but God is still God and the details of Jesus coming to live among us as a baby are fascinating and full of joy.

So, with a happy heart, I welcome the season.

With the parade-walking, tree-hunting adventures finished, other items on my Christmas to-do list include:

  • Fix one clothes pin on my card wreath. I've gotten a couple cards already that need a home.
  • Print Christmas newsletters, label envelopes and mail Christmas cards.
  • Finish Christmas shopping, which only includes a few gifts for a few people, and will likely happen online.
  • Make some of these Christmas treats. That's it on my baking list, and that's not really baking.
  • Wrap more. Listen to more music, especially my favorites,which, in case you're wondering, are "Silent Night" by Mercy Me, "Joy to the World" by Bebo Norman, most all of Third Day's "Christmas Offerings" and nearly all of City on a Hill's "It's Christmas Time."
  • Make one wreath with my 5-year-old girl for my husband's office door.
  • Protect some time at home before the evenings become filled with fun parties with our friends and family. I want to make sure we read the Christmas story out of "The Jesus Storybook Bible" more than once.
  • Brainstorm decorations and other details for the Jesus Birthday Party we're having again with friends.

And because it's freeing to think about what I'm not doing, I'll give you that list too:

  • Not hang Christmas lights outside. My husband is grateful I don't care about such things. 
  • See above about my lack of baking projects.
  • Stress about perfection. Some of my heavier ornaments wouldn't work on our tree that has narrow branches. The Little People nativity is often scattered near the Geo Trax holiday train set. Christmas wrapping and presents have exploded in my guest room. So what. 'Tis the season. Let's enjoy it! Yes, I'm telling myself at least one more time.

Thing is, I may add to or take away from those lists. And that's OK. I want to embrace the season that celebrates Jesus' birth. I want to help my kids experience joy. I want to grow closer to my husband as we establish traditions with our young family.

What's important to you this season? How have you been preparing yourself, your family and your home? 

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

{Tiny Prints} Sitewide sale EXTENDED again!

Joyful Joys : Aqua Flat
Holiday Photo Cards
Happy December! If you didn't get a chance to use Tiny Print's sale earlier this week, you get some extra time this weekend.

Tiny Prints is has a sitewide 25% off sale happening. Perhaps you can finish your Christmas shopping with some of the lovely photo gifts, holiday cards and invitations you'll find there. This deal is good through the weekend. {It expires Sunday, Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.}

Just use the code WKDSALE1112 at checkout. Happy shopping!

{DISCLAIMER: Compensated affiliate link used. But, really, those are some of the Christmas cards I'm mailing soon.}


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