Thursday, December 24, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Discontinued: A Personal Tragedy

Every year, I find myself standing in Bath and Body Works at least one time per Christmas season . . . and every year, I'm reminded of this story . . . .

When my husband and I first started to get to know each other, one of our favorite dates was to grab some dinner and then go to the mall. Believe it or not, he seemed to enjoy browsing through stores and people watching as much as I did (of course, seventeen years later—or should I say seventeen years OLDER—we both see the mall as a big ol’ chore).

I used to drag that poor boy into Bath and Body Works. Now, I could never convince him to use any of the men’s body scents (give him a big bar of Coast and he’s happy), but he did find a hand soap that he really liked. He bought the obligatory four or six or whatever the deal was, and we went on our way. He commented to me a few times that he liked having a fresh-scented soap at his kitchen and bathroom sinks. Before long, he was ready to re-stock.

When we got to the store, we couldn’t find his new favorite, and the sales girl told us that that scent had been discontinued. I thanked her, and when I happened to glance at his face, his mouth was making a slightly fishy impression.

“W . . . W . . .Whaaaaat? WHY? Why would they discontinue that soap?”

Oooooh, right. I briefly forgot the impact that this must have on his gender. It was his first time. I mean, I had had years of hearing the word discontinued. Bath and Body discontinued several of my favorite scents. Ultima II discontinued my lipstick. (Does Ultima II even exist anymore?) Gap discontinued my bra. Snuggle discontinued my fabric softener. And—this one still hurts—Clinique discontinued my eyeliner. My wedding day eyeliner. The perfect brown that had just enough of a hint of pinky red to make my eyes look wide and rested and glowing and not in a pinky red that suggested that I had conjunctivitis. (Of course, I was 26 at the time, so I realize that a lot of this was less about cosmetics and more about Mother Nature still smiling at me and giving me things like collagen and invisible pores.)

So back to my man. He was so miffed that I had introduced him to the joys of having a soap that scented a whole room, and now it was gone. After that incident, he was done. He’ll still tag along with me when I go there to load up on candles and room spray and hand soaps, but as far as he’s concerned, “Bath and Body, you are dead to me.”

Merry Christmas and happy shopping, everyone. Here's hoping that none of your stuff will be discontinued this season!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's December!

We love this scripture reading guide for the month of December (thank you, Pinterest friend, and we give you full credit for this amazing reading plan)! This would make a great tradition for the month of December--just allow a few extra minutes at the end of dinner each night.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Raising Grateful Children

With the Christmas season upon us, we love this great reminder from John Rosemond. Enjoy!

"A Five-Point Plan for Growing a Grateful Child" by John Rosemond

1. Do not give your child very much beyond basic necessities and basic comforts; in which case he will be grateful for what he does get. The fact is that the more a child gets, the more he expects to continue getting, and the less grateful he is for anything you give him.

2. Assign your child to a daily routine of chores in and around the home, which he does not for money but simply because he is a competent member of the family. In case I need to make this clearer: Do not pay for chores. When they are paid for, the child is likely to believe that if he doesn't need money at some point in time, he doesn't have to do his chores.

3. Give your child an allowance, but in so doing, assign a certain area or area of fiscal responsibility to him. That forces him to begin budgeting and to begin developing an appreciation for the value of a dollar. Allowances given without responsibility teach children that money grows on trees (or in dad's wallet or mom's purse).

4. Before every family meal, give thanks to God for all the blessings he has conferred upon your family.

5. Do not celebrate your children such that they know they are being celebrated. Why? Because the child who is celebrated develops a prideful attitude. In that regard, it is helpful to remember the words of Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887): "A proud man is seldom a grateful man; for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." Humility goes a long way in this life.

©2014 John K. Rosemond

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Favorites: November 20, 2015 Edition

I’ve been thinking about traditions this week. I’ve concluded that the traditions that I try to start intentionally are rarely a hit with my people. It’s those random, afterthought, on-a-whim moments that seem to take flight around here. Example: every year, I have sentimental visions of driving around town looking at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music, and relishing every moment of being together in the close quarters of Daddy’s truck. I even went as far as to print a Christmas light scavenger hunt from Pinterest last year. Know what happened? Both children enjoyed the lights-set-to-music show in a nearby neighborhood, but other than those three minutes, the older one seemed unimpressed and the younger one dozed off most of the time. There’s a house in a nearby neighborhood that features a video image of Santa walking by the window, peeking out, and holding a little candle—well, that just freaked both of them out. My husband was quite ho-hum, and my teeny bladder cut the trip short. But the first thing on my list today? They start asking when it will be time to do this around August.

The Santa’s Beard Countdown

This is the one we use, but these are all over the internet, so take your pick. A bag of cotton balls and a disposable tape dispenser, and we’ve got ourselves a par-tay. My children take turns every night taping one cotton ball on Santa’s beard (tape works better than glue). They color his hat together. As I mentioned above, this was a half-hearted afterthought of an activity, but oh my goodness, they love it.

Battery Storage

I’ve had my share of Pinterest bombs, but this one was a golden moment. I have a big man and a little man, and they both have an intense fondness for all things battery-operated. We used to have a stash of batteries in a desk drawer, another stash in a kitchen drawer, some in the garage, and another few in a cabinet in the laundry room. Then I saw this picture:

I sent my husband to get a tackle box (sure, twist his arm to go to a sporting goods store), and we gathered up every battery in the house. Love that we can easily see what we have and what’s running low . . . and they’re all in one nice, neat place.

If only all of the pieces of life fell into place that easily.

Easy Appetizer

If you come to my house over the holiday season, there’s a chance that I’ll treat you to my homemade pumpkin dip. Maybe I’ll make a batch of spicy sausage balls. Or maybe my husband will make his incredible homemade pimento cheese, and we’ll eat it on crackers and pita chips and tortilla scoops and little pieces of bread (I love that stuff).

But there’s also a good chance that I’ll just serve you some of this:

This isn’t just a holiday thing for us. My daughter and I have been pigging out on this since last spring. We generally spread it on baby carrots or cucumber slices. I’m not as much of a label reader as I used to be, but from what I can tell, this is a relatively healthy snack . . . but it tastes like a big indulgence. I've found that it's great to have a few of these kinds of goodies on hand for spur-of-the-moment partying.

Happy Friday, everyone!


Andrea and Stacey both love . . . .

If you haven’t taken Dr. Gary Chapman’s Love Language assessment . . . seriously, take it right now! Between us, we’ve read three of Dr. Chapman’s books, and we have a long, cold winter ahead filled with reading opportunities! His teaching is pointing families back to the Bible and married couples back to each other. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Teacher's 12 Days of Christmas

Thanks for all the response to A Hubby's 12 Days of Christmas! I'll be posting other gifts for the hubs, hopefully this weekend. Stay tuned!

But are the 12 Days of Christmas for Teachers! I have to say I REALLY loved doing this for my kids' teachers because, as a teacher myself, I know I'd LOVE this! I found the idea of course on Pinterest, but changed a few of the items. Most are self explanatory but...the four tasty treats were cupcakes in a bakery box, the 101 Blessing were little inspirational cards I found at LifeWay for teachers, the "smiling face" was a school picture, and the 12th day was a calendar for the upcoming year (purchased from the dollar bin at FAV!!!). Some days are bigger than others, but the wrapping really makes any gift seem extra special! This is carried out just like the one for hubby...purchase, wrap, and tag everything first. Don't be fooled and think you'll be able to do it each night...negative. Let's be honest...that never happens! I always did this the twelve days leading up to school getting out for Christmas Break. Only count weekdays...not weekends. I also put all the wrapped and tagged gifts in baskets (one for my daughter's teacher and the other for my son's) in the back of the 'burb so they could grab that day's gift as they headed in each morning. It was just too fun!

Here are the "tags." I put these on cute card stock with pretty ribbon. Feel free to copy and paste! I changed the names to protect the innocent so insert your child's name for "Joseph." Have fun!

On the 1st day of Christmas

My elf gave to me…

A cup and can of soda pop for my holiday san-i-ty!

On the 2nd day of Christmas Joseph’s still spreading joy

With a cute and fun little emery board!

On the 3rd day of Christmas

My elf came in again…

With a sweet little notepad and pen!

On the 4th day of Christmas

Joseph came marching up my way,

With 4 tasty treats to get me through the day!

On the 5th day of Christmas

You’re probably craving something fruity,

So I brought to you a few little Cuties!

On the 6th day of Christmas

My elf had another little perk, Something smelly and nice from

Bath and Body Works!

On the 7th day of Christmas

Joseph came charging through the door…

It was time to spice up my room with some holiday d├ęcor!

On the 8th day of Christmas

Here are some cute paper clips…

I hope you’re not tempted to use them on my lips!

On the 9th day of Christmas

My busy little elf had even more…

101 Blessings for me he had in store!

On the 10th day Christmas

Joseph is counting on just the perfect space,

For me to display his smiling face.

On the 11th day of Christmas

A picture frame for sweet memories had here at _________ Academy.

On the 12th day of Christmas

As 2016 draws very near…

Merry Christmas Mrs. ____ and Happy New Year!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whatcha Got Wednesday: November 18, 2015 Edition

Well, we can tell that y'all are thinking about the holiday season . . . and not only are you thinking about food and shopping and parties, but you're also thinking about the particular challenges that face us as parents during this action-packed season. Here are a couple of questions we got this week:

Q: I am dreading the holidays in part because my parents always seem to "get involved" when we are disciplining our children. I like having my children spend time with their grandparents, but I feel that they are interfering in our parenting. Any advice on how to handle these situations?

A: Many times what may seem like grandparents "interfering" is really just grandparents trying to be a part of their grandchildren's lives. Many parents, especially mothers, are control freaks. Period. Laying out a set of rules for grandparents is usually met with resistance because it implies that they are "new" to this whole parenting thing. Allow your parents this coveted grandparent privilege . . . to spoil, return, and repeat. If you make it clear to your children that things that might be permissible at Grandma's house are not permissible at home, you're still able to allow your own parents to set the rules for their own home while you maintain yours. Just like any other situation, leadership parents are consistent. Your children and your parents will be able to enjoy their relationship and time together, and your parents will be less likely to interfere while in your home. Their job as grandparents is to just have fun without the ultimate responsibility of raising your children. Good luck!

Q: Thanksgiving is next week, and my son will not eat a single thing we plan to have for Thanksgiving dinner. Do you have any good ideas on how to make him branch out more with what he eats?

A: Ah! The Picky Eater. This can be done! If you look at every situation--including picky eating--from a perspective of teaching good manners, it makes so much more sense. I don't know how you’re currently handling this, but if you’re preparing special foods for your child at every meal—STOP IT. By giving him something special, you’re encouraging him to feel entitled, and it can also foster disrespect for the chef of the household. Think about what would happen if your son goes to a friend’s house for a meal; as a parent, you would probably be mortified if he proclaimed, “I don’t like it!” or “I don’t want this!” That would be bad manners, plain and simple—but if you’re giving him whatever he wants at every meal time, then he’s learning these bad manners at home.

So . . . how do you tackle the problem? Begin with one teaspoon of everything on his plate. He must eat everything in order to get seconds on anything. Do this every night for one week. The next week, increase the portions to 3 teaspoons of everything except his "favorite" at each meal. Again, he must eat everything to get seconds on anything. Continue the pattern, and eventually you'll see the results that you want.

Many parents freak that the child won't get enough to eat, and they give in in the name of "malnutrition." But in all actuality, most children eat breakfast and lunch foods fine, so we’re talking about one meal (and it’s the meal you probably have as a family). Good luck—the results will be worth your efforts!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Hubby's 12 Days of Christmas

A few years ago, I ran across a very cool idea: 12 Days of Christmas gift giving for your husband. I thought it was neat because I had never heard of it. Of course, my bubble was quickly burst as I logged onto Pinterest and found a ton of ideas . . . who ARE these people with all of this insider information? Anywho, being the nut that I am, I thought, "How fun would it be to do this for my kids' teachers too!?" And as it would happen, in that same year, I had bought Advent style boxes for both children and had them paint the boxes as a fun Spring Break project. I then filled those for the kids to open each day! Everyone had a little something going on!

Now, before you roll your eyes, just know this little burst of freakish energy was short lived, and this "perfect storm" of Christmas tiding never rained down as a group again.

Like most new things (at least for me), I was all over it! The ideas and gifts just fell into place . . . I was so stoked! Just ask my co-director at the time. I had wrapping junk and gifts shoved in every corner of my office and under my desk so that my husband wouldn't happen upon them at home. I scoured Pinterest for ideas and ran across everything from candy to fit the "numbered" days, socks and drawers and the like for each day (which just seems wrong--how boring), just plain ole surcies that had nothing to do with the numbers . . . uh, no . . . if you're gonna do a theme, DO a theme. And of course, several Pinterest promoted the naughty, freaky, sexy "doing" the 12 Days of Christmas. While I'm sure that one would have been received with great enthusiasm, I throw my back out doing the laundry, so a crotchless panty Christmas, it was not.

I have kept up with this tradition for my beloved, and he LOVES it! He won't say it, but when that first gift day rolls around, he gets a lil giddy . . . around day four, he'll say something along the lines of "Oooh, another gift!"

My man of few words tells much with so little. I think--well, I know--that I love doing this for him so much because he ALWAYS knocks it out of the park when he gives me a gift, and I have had more gift fails in our nearly 19 years together than I care to mention. Knowing that he loves it and looks forward to it, and knowing that I can make him smile--this man who gives so very selflessly all year long--just makes my heart burst!

I like to end with the 12th day falling on Christmas Day, so I begin on December 14th. I start thinking and planning usually around the end of October. I buy/make, wrap, and tag all twelve gifts before the 14th--that makes "delivery" each day so much smoother, especially with so much going on right in heat of the holiday season. So here are my gifts from that first glorious year:

1st Day of Christmas

Season ONE of Once Upon A Time on DVD - RIGHT!? So perfect! We love this show but came upon it really late in the first season.

2nd Day of Christmas

TWO tickets to see Michael Buble in concert - My husband has a December birthday, so I'm killing two birds here, people! Michael Buble is one of our favorites, and having seen him in concert before, this was just too awesome, especially so close to home.

3rd Day of Christmas

THREE days in Greenville - The concert was IN Greenville, and we NEVER go anywhere, so a three-day excursion was just right! Btw . . . concert wasn't until January. I definitely wouldn't be THAT foolish as to try and do all that in December.

4th Day of Christmas

FOUR wine glasses - Bless that man. Ours all seemed to be broken. He's a bit of a wrecking ball with anything made of glass, plastic, broth . . . (see the incompatibility list).

5th Day of Christmas

FIVE GOLDEN DOLLARS!!! (and a new wallet!) - I learned that you have to go to the bank to get these . . . aanndd you might have to go to a couple of banks. He really needed the wallet, so the five gold dollars just made sense . . . and again . . . peeeeerfect!

6th day of Christmas

SIX chocolate-covered strawberries - Now this one I had delivered from Edible Arrangements, so scheduling was a definite so that it would arrive on the right day. Very yummy . . . he shared.

7th Day of Christmas

SEVEN cards a 'coming - I bought and wrote/signed seven different Christmas greeting cards (the good ones from Hallmark, even) and strategically placed them for him to find during the day. I have fond memories of watching my mother do this very thing for my dad on like a random Tuesday, so this one was sentimental for me.

8th Day of Christmas

Dinner reservations at EIGHT pm - Like I said, this perfect storm never happened again, but this particular year, the 8th day fell on a Friday night, and the kids' Advent boxes held a "coupon" to rent a Redbox video to watch with the sitter while we went out. Everyone was super stoked! And we got a little down time for just the two of us.

9th Day of Christmas

NINE kisses - Simple enough. But change 'em up . . . keep your man guessing! Wink. Wink.

10th Day of Christmas

Top TEN List - Very David Letterman style here. I typed a list of the top ten things that I love about him, and I used the coolest font and the best clip art I could find; I printed it in color and framed it. Interesting side note: this one has stayed the same for day ten each year, but the list is ever changing.

11th Day of Christmas

"Heaven" at ELEVEN - Okay . . . so maybe there weren't novelty undies involved, but I figured that since we would most likely still be up at 11 pm on Christmas Eve, why not a little Mommy kissing Santa action?

12th Day of Christmas

Modernist Cuisine Book - This was the only one that didn't have the number associated with it, but it was a book that he had seen featured on a cooking show, and I FOUND it! I really wasn't willing to give up the day one spot, cause . . . duh . . . perfect! So this was his "big" gift, and appropriately so on Christmas morning.

It was a fun experience! Of course, the tags were all rhyming and could be sung to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas." Years following haven't been quite this over the top, but like I said, I was on FIRE that year! Whoop! Whoop!

I highly recommend doting on your man a little this season . . . and be sure to throw in a little lovin'! ;)


PS - If you'd like to see the lists from other years or if you'd like my 11 days of teacher gifts ideas, let me know! I'd be happy to post.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What Language Are You Speaking?

A few years ago, my church hosted a marriage workshop centered around Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages.  At the beginning of the workshop, each person took the test to determine his or her “love language”—or the primary way that we all express love to each other. Mine is Quality Time. The speaker talked about each language, and when he got to that one, he recommended, “Never go long periods of time without being with your spouse.”

My husband winked at me, and I started to snicker.

Because of his job, he had spent our entire third year of marriage elsewhere. I handled it so gracefully . . . I cried, I couldn’t sleep, I lost a startling amount of weight, I went to the doctor twice (adamantly believing that I had some kind of weird stomach disease—and half afraid that they would name it after me once they figured out what it was) . . . okay, I was a mess. I remember my grandmother looking at me one day with furrowed brows and saying, “I never expected you to fall apart like this!” Instead of being offended, I was equally puzzled and disgusted. I was an only child until I was 16 years old. I lived alone for three years before I got married. Basically, I’m not afraid of being alone. I have noooo problems walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one . . . and enjoying it! But marriage? Well, that changes everything. 

So that Saturday afternoon answered a LOT of questions for both of us. Thankfully, we both recovered from that year (plus a couple of others that came along later) just fine. But to this day, I still try to speak my own language to him, and he tries to speak his to me. I feel the most loved and satisfied when he speaks to me in my own language, and ditto for him. We forget that sometimes.

Dr. Chapman has generously placed his Love Language assessment online for free. I could not recommend it more! In fact, if your spouse declines to take it, I would even urge you to give it your best shot and take it for him or her—see if you can figure out what his or her language is, and then look for ways to speak it. I believe that Dr. Chapman's books and resources are transforming marriages and families by showing us all how to love each other more effectively; what could be better than that?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

For Approval of Man?

I came across this verse yesterday during my quiet time--which, if we're being honest, doesn't happen near as much as it should. It really made me stop. Whoa . . . how true and very convicting is this? I immediately thought about my children . . . and yours. What are we doing? Are we raising our children by the world's set of standards, which seem to be deteriorating by the minute and completely without a moral compass? Or are we holding firmly to the Word and pressing on even when our sanctimommy "friends" try to sway us otherwise?

Our children are but ours for a moment; our job is to point them so that they are His forever!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Toys Try to Take Over . . .

Several of my closest friends had children before I did, and let me tell you, I benefited from their wisdom. My poor best friend had to endure endless calls through nine months of pregnancy (in her great wisdom, fairly early on, she told me, “Listen. Your body is going to do weird and crazy things. Just assume that they’re all normal unless there’s a LOT of blood or a LOT of pain.”) It was good advice, but I still called her. The calls continued through the newborn days, and I was never more grateful to have girls in my circle who had blazed the trail.

Along with advice, they gave me hand-me-downs. Boxes and bags of maternity clothes, sleepers, bibs, burp cloths, baby socks, and some of the sweetest, softest outfits you have ever seen. Then some toys came in—fuzzy rattles, plush snuggle toys, colorful singing characters that hung on the arm of the car seat.

Well, the toys kept coming. And coming. AND COMING. By the time baby #2 arrived, our upstairs family room looked like a Toys R Us outlet store. We had one of everything, and although we appreciated the gifts (seriously—I think my husband and I have bought five toys to this day), the toys were taking over.

And let’s all say it together: “They didn’t play with any of them.”

I walked into our family room one afternoon and saw toys scattered all over the floor. My son was sitting on the floor in a corner looking sleepy and zoned-out and not really playing with anything. I told him, “It’s time to pick up all of these toys.” He automatically replied, “But I’m still playing with them.” I said, “You’re playing with ALL of these toys?” He blinked and looked around and then said, “Oh, no, we would need more kids for that.”

Yeah. It was time for a toy cleanse.

It took me months to match up parts, shine away the dust, and figure out the best places to donate the best of the stuff. We’re down to bare basics now, and all four of us are better off (plus our dog was able to cut down her dose of anti-anxiety medicine). But both kids have a fondness for a couple of characters, and I want them to enjoy their animated buddies. I mean, Big Bird and Strawberry Shortcake and I had our fun times together back in the day, so I get it. I’m picky about what my kids watch on TV; in fact, there’s one wildly popular show that I flat-out refuse to let my little girl watch (I don’t care how cute it looks—I’m not budging). But she likes “Doc McStuffins” . . . and after a hard day of kindergarten, who doesn’t need to kick back for thirty minutes with a sitcom and a cup of half-strength grape juice? So here are some creative ways that I’ve let Doc into the house--without allowing her to take OVER my house:

Last summer, Grammy gave her a little gray Doc McStuffins t-shirt. Instead of letting her wear it to school, it became her Friday night shirt. As a reward for giving it her all with writing her name and counting by fives, each Friday night, my little one takes an extra bubbly shower and puts on her Doc t-shirt with a pair of soft pink or purple shorts. It’s our Friday night ritual, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything . . . of course, I noticed that the shirt is creeping up her middle, so I went ahead and bought a new one that she’ll get for Christmas. I bought it two sizes too big.

For that same birthday, she also scored a Doc McStuffins beach towel. Unless I miss my guess, Doc will be joining us for our annual beach trip for years to come. (Shoot, I still have the Mickey Mouse one that I got for my thirteenth birthday.) Bonus: her birthday presents were covered in Doc wrapping paper.

We have another fun tradition also: every fall, my husband and son go on an overnight camping adventure. As soon as we kiss the boys goodbye, we head to Wal-Mart’s party department and buy a pack of Doc paper plates. We feel that cartoon paper plates bring a certain elegance to our Friday night take-out.

We also have a Doc toothbrush, Doc bandages, and a pair of navy blue canvas shoes—plain on the outside, but Doc’s little face is inside the shoe. Her Granddaddy and her uncle have already bought my daughter a Doc lab coat and matching hair band for Christmas . . . I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to play doctor’s office together, but as she sports her coat, she’ll have to use her imagination with the tools she’ll use. I feel certain that our dog will get plenty of check-ups, and I’m looking forward to seeing what regular household items will magically become medical instruments. Other possible Christmas gift ideas include a Doc bath towel or wash cloth, body wash or bubble bath, coloring books, snack plates, and more bandages (‘cause I’m sure you know how long those last). We also love Doc stickers—because then, a plain notebook, a box of tissues, or a snack pack of Goldfish crackers will suddenly involve our girl Doc.

My bottom line method of managing the toy tidal wave: if it’s something that we can use or use up, then Doc is welcome in my house . . . but please . . . no more junky toys.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Favorites: November 13, 2015 Edition

From the “I’m thankful for” posts on Facebook, to the fact that all of the grocery stores have cream of mushroom soup on sale, it’s dawning on me that Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us. This week, we’re sharing a few holiday-related favorites that we think you’ll enjoy!

Andrea’s Favorites:

Christmas Novellas

No matter where you stand on Christmas decorating (for the record, every year I firmly state that we will decorate on December 1 and not before . . . and my husband cheerfully ignores me and decorates the day after Thanksgiving)—if you want to have time to get a few Christmas reads in, you’ve gotta start early. I generally start reading these little gems around the beginning of November. Here are three of my favorites:

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

 I read this one a couple of years ago, and several days after the book had ended, I was still waking up thinking of my book friend Edith. When you get a “book hangover” like that, you know that you’ve read a great one.

Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

In the second novel, a character tells the protagonist, "You are a woman drawn to home and hearth. Never doubt the happiness such simplicity can bring you." That quote sums up my life so beautifully right now.

Nail Polish

Penny Talk by Essie

I absolutely love this color for fall. The coppery tone makes me think of glorious trips through the mountains. It also has a hint of sparkle that could take you right into the Christmas season. Now, I love a good dark red for Christmas, but if your hands are as non-stop as mine, then your nails will absolutely chip, and a chip in this color is much less noticeable than it would be with red nails. The best part is that the sparkle is subtle enough that you can wear it to church and not give the impression that you’re heading to Vegas later.


Southern Plate’s Faux Pecan Pie

Basically, this is a pecan pie minus the pecans. I made this last Thanksgiving, and I did something that every good southern woman would tell me never to do: I made it for the first time on Thanksgiving. No trial run. Thankfully, my people devoured it, and no one could tell that it wasn’t traditional pecan pie (‘til I told them and made them guess the secret ingredient)! This one has sealed its place in my holiday season repertoire.


Stacey's Favorites:

Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop

Okay . . . just get this. I love mine so much that it became the muse for a few themed gift baskets we gave as Christmas gifts one year.

I thought of all the items I'd purchased from mostly direct sales companies, and realized that I had one from each that I totally loved. Soooo, we assembled baskets of "our favorites we'd love to share with you!" One of these was included in each, and they have been huge hits among recipients. I just love it!

Vacation Souvenir Ornament

I ran across this of course while cruising "the Pinterest." I tucked it away and even shocked myself by remembering to actually DO IT! While on vacation with my extended family, I scooped a bit of sand into a baggie and tossed it into the back of car. Again . . . very pleased to have kept up with it and in turn make ornaments for each family. Just a fun, sweet, sentimental token.

Homemade Butter (great family activity)

As Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, this is one of those sweet remembrances I come back to year after year. If you've never made homemade butter with a child—well, you have never lived.

Okay, maybe an overstatement, but nevertheless . . . fun!

Every year that I was teaching, I did this with my kindergarteners around this time of year. Of course, it has become harder to find glass baby food jars, but if you're tenacious enough, you can do it. The short and sweet: heavy cream, a pinch of salt, and a heck of a lot of shake-shake-shake! Get yourself some corn muffins, and yummers!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Charting New Waters

When the time came to potty train my first-born, I have to admit that I was more than intimidated. Rocking, breast-feeding, nurturing, all that stuff came totally naturally to me. But the idea of bodily fluids all over my house had me briefly lying on the sofa with a wet wash cloth on my head. Then I found these printable charts where you could place a sticker every time your child went to the bathroom. In a totally uncharacteristic move, I printed a bunch of the charts and actually hung one up in my rose-garden-themed bathroom. I figured this process wouldn’t be a picnic for him either, and having cute little pictures on the chart might cheer all of us up.

Of course, I was already going against the core of my nature by printing the charts, so stickers were a bit much to ask. I put a sharpie on top of my John William Waterhouse framed print and told my husband that every time we take our son to the bathroom, we should offer to draw him a picture.

For some reason, my son was mesmerized with vacuum cleaners—so more often than not, that’s what he asked us to draw. (We got really good at drawing them. One time my dad came over and decided to mix it up by drawing a canister style instead of our standard upright. My son announced, “Granddaddy drew me a wagon!”)

After a while, we stopped asking him what he wanted, and we drew what we were in the mood to draw. So my drawings were all about sunshines and flowers and happy faces and the occasional butterfly. My husband continued to draw vacuum cleaners, but he also drew trucks, planes, and even a snowman once or twice (I think it was summer, and any time the temperature goes above 70 degrees, the man longs for a hard freeze).

And then I saw it: a crazy-looking little creature.

I came out of the bathroom and called to my husband, “Hey, I love your squirrel!” He called back, “That’s a dinosaur, and you know I had taken Nyquil when I drew that!”

Unlike me, my husband can actually draw, so the wild-looking critter really cracked me up.

And then it was ON. We could not wait to comment on, compliment, or make fun of the other’s drawings. One day I took extra time to draw a little guy with a top-hat and animated-looking eyes. My husband complimented me on my leprechaun. I had totally forgotten that we were two days away from St. Patrick’s Day, and that little guy was really supposed to be more of a magician than a leprechaun—but why should he ever know that? Weekends were more fun because he was home more, so there were more chances to compare drawings.

As I’m sure you have guessed, my son was still in diapers, having accidents that were every bit as bad as the scenarios that I imagined, but his father and I were having a blast with our utterly worthless chart system. In case you’re wondering, I absolutely DID save the chart with the dino-squirrel.

And if you need to know how to potty-train a toddler boy, please ask Stacey Watts. Even though I eventually did have success, I have no idea what I did to finally train that kid.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Whatcha Got Wednesday: November 11, 2015 Edition

I am collector of stories, you might say; I LOVE a good funny, especially when it comes to kids, teaching, and parenting. Of course, everything isn't always funny, and there are some real struggles out there. Those times when it DOESN'T come naturally, more often than not, those moments are happening in MANY other homes too. I have been accused on more than one occasion of "peeking in windows" and "listening in" on household conversations when I share inevitable scenarios with a group. Nope . . . not a creeper . . . I just hear the same things over and over. So NEVER feel alone in this parenting gig!

Here are a few of the MOST asked questions (and frustrations) from parents:

Q: My 5-year-old son will not listen the first time, especially when it comes to cleaning up. How can I get him to do what he's asked to do without losing my cool and yelling? It can be anything, even things he's done before and knows to do. I feel like a broken record!

A: Stop asking him to do anything. TELL him what you expect him to do. Asking offers an option to NOT do whatever it is that you want him to do. The same is also true when it comes to things like leaving the house, settling down during a meal, etc.

With boys especially, never dole out a very broad set of elaborate instructions (such as, "Clean your room.") Oh no; you might as well say "go get lost in space." For boys, be very specific. For instance, say something like, "Pick up your dirty clothes on the bedroom floor." or "Make your bed." or "Put the legos in the blue bin." After he completes each task, give the next instruction.

The best illustration to gaining insight on how God designed a man's brain came from Mark Gungor's "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" series. Think of the male brain as several boxes, and within each is a specific area of concern: one for the car, one for his job, one for you, etc. The boxes DON'T MIX! Now, to a woman, that is just crazy talk, 'cause all our mess is mixed together up there! The same is true for younger males. Knowing this (and, by the way, I have yet to have a man tell me that this illustration or way of thinking is incorrect) helps us to understand our boys better. Be specific! And if he still can't get it, then there's always the trash. I mean . . . who really wants to step on another Lego?!

Q: My daughter won't sleep in her own bed. She is 3 years old. We have tried putting her in her bed, but she always comes back into ours every single night. None of us are sleeping well, and it is making me a very grumpy mother the next day. I am so frustrated and don't know how to keep her from coming into our room? Help!?

A: Lock the door.

Seriously, if she can't GET in, she won't COME in. Mothers especially are wimps in this department. I love you girls . . . but c'mon! She will be alright. Put a pillow and blanket by the door if you must, but end it. As long as you're the only one bothered by a situation, it will never change. Eventually, that soft bed will be much more comfy than a pallet on the floor. Now . . . DO NOT try this for the first time on a Monday night when you have to go to work the next day. Do it on a Friday night when you don't have to go to work the next day. Be smart about it, and don't add to your frustrations. And get some sleep. You need it ;)


Do you have parenting questions? Send them to us, and join us right here each Wednesday for Whatcha Got Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Incompatibility, Take 2!

Our Happily Parenting team is totally inspired by Chuck and Barb Snyder to celebrate our differences in marriage. We're going to keep adding to our lists!

Here's a look at Stacey's:

My man loves to cook. He especially loves garlic and rosemary. LOVES is the word I’m using here . . . okay, maybe ADORES, COVETS, CRAVES--you pick. The point is, if the man could find garlic rosemary dental floss, he’d support the market.

Me: eh, a scant of either, if ya got it, and I’m good.

Now Mexican food: that’s another story! Babe will choke it down for me. He’s very selfless that way.

Me: I could eat Mexican every. Single. Night. That is no exaggeration. I never lie about chips and salsa.

My betrothed runs the roads for work, so if it doesn’t involve work, generally speaking, “extracurricular” isn’t his style.

Me: I trying to find something to fill the two minutes I have free between 4:26pm-4:28pm on Tuesdays.

My main squeeze doesn’t sleep. For reals . . . does. Not. Sleep. He runs on three to four hours most nights, and that’s usually between 8 pm and midnight. In our nearly 19 years of marriage, he’s always been that way.

Me: I’d love to say that I feel guilty for being able to sleep when I know he can’t, but seriously, I could go to sleep right now on the hardwood floor, no pillow, lights on, with a party of 50 people going on in my house. I got NO issues with sleep. No kidding, he swears I fell asleep mid-sentence one night. He tells everybody. Hater.

My better half is affectionately called my “lil’ nerd.” He’s cool with it. I mean, when we were first married, he’d read his old college physics and calculus books in bed. C’mon . . . NERD (though I am grateful for his love of all things math now that our daughter is taking high school honors math classes—‘cause dude?!?!)

Me: 2+2=4

When my dearly beloved drives, he strives to keep somewhat of a distance between himself and the car in front of him.

When I drive: He swears I’m trying to peek in their trunk. Lies.

In an effort to sleep at night, precious likes to roll over FACING me for that initial snuggle into bed moment--breathing and everything. Face to face. Like our noses are touching.

Me: Spoon me, but don’t breathe up my nose. I’m a cool side of the pillow, face free of any covers or flesh, fan going kinda gal. I also may or may not be a little claustrophobic.

I often tease my love that if I didn’t buy his clothes, he’d be naked. He agrees. But when it comes to shoes, that’s a job he prefers to handle. However, he has three pair. Three. One of which doubles as his work shoes (construction, btw) and his church shoes. It’s awesome.

Me: Hello. My name is Stacey Watts, and I am a shoe-aholic.

I rock 80’s tunes everywhere I go. My children are even very well versed is 80’s lyrics. It’s just fun and original . . . there’s variety . . . and the hair!

My sweet thang says all 80’s music canned be summed up in one song: “Take On Me” by Aha. ”What!?” Other than the cool video, I disagree.

His hotness prefers the likes of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings and so wants me to love them too.

Me: Shoot me in the face.

And Mr. Watts is very starched when it comes to birthdays. He wants nothing to do with celebrating his own; I learned that very early on in our marriage.

Me: I’m hard headed and am planning a special surprise for his milestone birthday this year.

My everything, my all is definitely a man’s man--minus the sports. Bless him, he couldn’t tell you what team played what sport and could not care less than he already does about anything to do with a sporting event.

Me: I would love the chance to tailgate, wear cute shoes, and serve football themed snacks.

For anyone who has ever met my husband . . . he’s a spiller. He spills everything, generally on himself. The best one yet (and there are MANY) was the time he spilled a bowl of soup in the pocket of his shirt. I am laughing even now as I type the words. I mean, how does that even happen?

Me: I can say that I have never spilled soup in any of my pockets. In fact, I buy Clorox wipes, Tide sticks, and bleach pens in bulk.

Join us tomorrow for our new Whatcha Got Wednesday (blog-style)!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Incompatibility Makes a Great Marriage (the Snyders Told Me So)

“Barb and I HAVE found a couple of areas we DO have in common. We were married on the same day . . . and have the same kids, but that's the END of our compatibility--except our commitment to each other, and that's what makes the whole thing work.” --Chuck Snyder

About 20 years ago (I cannot believe it’s been that long!), I was driving home from my part-time job one night, and I had the pleasure of hearing Chuck and Barb Snyder on a radio program. They were discussing their book Incompatibility: Grounds for a Great Marriage. The Snyders refer to themselves as the world’s most incompatible couple. I thought they were one of the most delightful couples also (and even though I was single at the time, I immediately bought that book and still enjoy reading through it). One of the most fun parts of the book is that the couple started a running list of ways that they were incompatible; they kept adding to the list for the rest of their 58-year marriage (sadly, Chuck passed away two years ago).

Frankly, I think that almost any time a man marries a woman, a list like theirs exists. Sometimes we complement each other like chocolate and peanut butter . . . and then there are those other times . . . .

Y’all, I just had to take a stab at creating a list like the Snyders’. Maybe we’re not the world’s most incompatible couple, but we might be in the running!
Mister thinks that York peppermint patties are a waste of perfectly good chocolate. I just love them . . . so refreshing.
Mister yearns for fall. He loves the crisp air, football season, and trips to the mountains. To me, fall means saying goodbye to my white purse, weather that’s too chilly for my flip flops, and flu germs.
Mister loves Christmas with its heavy food and many gatherings; I prefer a lounge chair, a glass of sweet tea, and a summer afternoon.
Mister wears shoes all the time. I mean ALL THE TIME. The man puts a pair of shoes on if he has to pee in the middle of the night. Let’s just say that when I get a pedicure, even if I tip well, they probably lose a little revenue with the cost of their foot paddles.
Mister likes to blast 80’s music or heavy metal in his truck. I’d rather listen to 70’s music or classical.
He would prefer to drive. I would prefer to ride.
Mister: If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late. Me: If you’re early to a party, the hostess might still be contemplating what earrings to wear.
Mister: Speed limits are to be strictly obeyed, as are ALL rules. Me: Just use common sense and be nice to people and you’ll be fine.
As uptight as he is about rules, Mister is a bit more laid-back about germs. He says, for example, that shopping carts won’t kill our children. I scrub them down with Purell wipes and then put a fabric cover on them.
Mister is lactose-intolerant. I’ve spent many a tender night with Ben and his good friend Jerry.
Mister believes that Facebook is breeding ground for disagreements, nosy people, and immoral behavior. I just can’t wait to get on there and see which friend has posted a picture of her child’s swimming lessons.
One time I called Books a Million to order a book that he wanted (to read for pleasure), and the customer service rep asked me if she needed to hold it “in case the whole class needs a copy”? (That still kills me.) While his nose is buried in nerdy history books, I’m glued to a Rachel Hauck book or perusing Woman’s Day.
He’s a man of few words, but I say why use a one-word reply when a couple of paragraphs are so much more friendly?
Last beach trip: he’s taking pictures of the helicopter flying over the ocean. I’m trying to capture artsy pictures of our children playing in the water.
Same trip: I heard a scratching noise outside the laundry room door, so I turned on the lights and discovered a family of SIX raccoons. Country Boy starts tapping the window to scare them away, while City Girl dashes to the living room to grab the camera.
He loves meat. I crave salads.
He gets up early—EARLY—on weekends and cooks a big breakfast. I’ve found that his big breakfasts re-heat very nicely in the microwave two hours later.
My summer splurge beverage: sweet peach tea. His summer splurge beverage: a post-grass-cutting icy beer.
I’ve mentioned my fondness for bare feet. For some reason, he gets a big smile when I wear boots. My feet feel all cooped up and claustrophobic, but I wear the dang things for him.
Mister dearly loves all things electronic. He says that if it weren’t for him, I would still have a giant bag phone under the passenger seat of my car “to call someone in case the car breaks down.”
He believes that shopping should entail purchasing exactly what you went into the store to purchase. I feel that there should be room for browsing, price comparing, bargain hunting, and maybe spotting something cute that my friend would like for her birthday next year.
Classic movie for him: Blazing Saddles. Classic movie for me: The Sound of Music.
He’s a Type A. I’m a Type B (but only because there doesn’t seem to be a Type G).
He gets angry when he’s hungry, so he grabs whatever is available and eats it immediately; I tend to pace around the kitchen and peruse the cabinets until I feel nauseated from low blood sugar.
When it comes to toothpaste, mints, and gum, he’s all about spearmint and I prefer peppermint (green packaging for him, blue for me).
When we were attempting to name our daughter, I thought every name I suggested was romantic and feminine. He called them all “hippie names.”
Mister votes the same way every election (and he never misses an opportunity to vote). Now, I feel very strongly about voting. I imagine that my female ancestors would be pretty hacked off if I blew off voting to, say, browse in the scrapbook store instead (it happened ONE TIME). But while Mister tends to vote based on specific requirements, I occasionally peruse articles to see if anyone mentions more personal items, such as who drinks sweet tea, what the candidate’s dog’s name is, and who might prefer boxers to briefs.
Someone once asked the big question, “What is the most romantic song of all time?” Goodness, I started thinking then, and I still haven’t come up with an answer. After a half a second, my beloved blurted, “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”