Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Overcommitted, Overbalanced :: Mom2Mom

Mom2Mom: a conversation between Moms about 
the hard points of this motherhood journey.

My full calendar wore me out last week.  Seriously.  Twice this month I've had packed weeks and twice I've ended up with migraine headaches at the end of the week.  I'm starting to think I'm a little overcommitted.

What are my overcommitted symptoms?

Tell me if any of these sound familiar:
  • I dread going to activities that I enjoyed at the beginning of the school year.
  • I throw together lessons for my weekly home school co-op class the night before.
  • I stay up until midnight every night trying to "catch-up."
  • I throw together lessons for my son's Cub Scout group hours before I lead them.
  • I use videos to keep my children entertained.
  • I'm grouchy, short-tempered, and easily frustrated.

What caused my overbalance?

I didn't become overbalanced all at once.  It happened bit by bit. 

I gradually took on responsibilities at my kid's extracurricular activities.  I decided to participate in a local home school co-op and to teach one of the classes my boys attended.  Then we signed Will up for Cub Scouts and, due to a limited supply of volunteers, I agreed to lead every 3rd meeting for his den.

I increased my blogging activities.  I set a goal for myself to blog 4-5 times a week.  I also accepted more responsibilities at Offering Hospitality as Carrie, the editor, prepares for the birth of her third child.  Then I set up a Facebook page for SMB to provide another avenue for connecting with readers.

I cut out exercising, cooking healthy meals and consistent quiet times in order to fit in everything else.  Why is it that when we start getting ourselves stretched thin we cut out the activities that we need most?!  The physical result of no exercise and too many Domino's pizzas has been an extra 5-8 pounds and one pants size.  The spiritual result is less tangible but no less felt.

How do I stop being stretched thin?

The problem is that all of my activities are good ones.  They each add to family life, teach my children something new, or provide a creative outlet for me.  So, how do I pick and choose where to spend my time?  Clearly something has to give, and soon!

Are you also overcommitted?  How do you keep life in balance?  I'd love to discuss this further in the comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Me Time (Part 2) :: Mom2Mom

A conversation between Moms about the hard points of this motherhood journey.

A couple of days after last week's Mom2Mom post published I went back and read it.  And I realized that what published wasn't really what had been on my heart to write.  Somehow it ended up being a tip or how-to post when really I wanted to write a from-the-heart post.  So I'm giving it another try today.

Today's Mom2Mom conversation is: Me Time.

Honestly, the concept of "me time" has always made me uncomfortable.  Back before I had children (aka when I knew everything), I listened with horror as moms talked about needing a break from their children.  I so desperately wanted to be a mom that the idea of gleefully leaving my child with a sitter so I could pursue my own agenda sounded self-centered.

After all, isn't self-denial and sacrifice the primary requirements in the Mom job description?!

Then I became a mom.  You would think that my view of "Me Time" would have changed.  But it didn't.

I still thought "Me Time" was selfish, only now I felt guilty because I wanted it so badly!  If I went out with a friend and left my family at home, guilt set in.  If I sequestered myself in my bedroom after my husband came home from work, guilt set in.  If I left my family for an entire day or overnight, I tried to make it up to them and ignore the guilt!

But, as any caregiver will tell you, if you don't take time for refreshment and renewal you will burn out. 

I think that's what happened to me about two years ago.  I just plain burned out.  Six years of meeting the needs of my family 24/7 had used up about everything I had to give.

I didn't have an epiphany or any kind of dramatic moment.  I just slowly started changing how I view "Me Time."  Now I see it as something that's necessary for my own well being. 

Me Time isn't about fulfilling my own needs or wants. 

If I get focused on what 'I' want and what 'I' need then I'm probably going to become frustrated with the people and events that get in my way.  I'm going to require my family to make sacrifices that aren't in their best interest so that I can get what I want.  In that case, Me Time is selfish, and I've so been there!

Me Time is about gaining perspective and a clear view of my life. 

When I have a girls night out with my friend and we talk about all the crazy and annoying stuff our kids do, then I come home with the perspective that my kids are normal and healthy.  And that they aren't trying to make me lose my mind on purpose.

When I spend an occasional night away from my family, then I come home with a greater appreciation for sweet bedtime hugs and snuggles.

When I spend an evening secluded in my bedroom reading a book, then I feel creative and energetic for having fun as a family.

So, if you are early in your journey as a mom, let me share my heart - this is a marathon not a sprint.  Take a break from mothering every once in a while and reposition your perspective.  Your family will benefit just as much as you will.

What is your opinion on Me Time?  Selfish or Needed?  Do you take regular breaks or is it hard to find the time?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Organizing a Pantry with Wire Shelves

Okay, Steph, I need to pick your Mommy Brain. My kitchen pantry is a total mess, and one of the big reasons is that the built in shelves aren't solid. They are those wire things with the plastic covering. They look just like those stackable kinds (wires go from front to back), but mine is the entire pantry. What would you do so that things don't fall through?
-Alicia, on Facebook.

Funny you should ask, Alicia!

I have installed plastic-coated wire closet systems in my kitchen pantry, linen/hall closet, and 2 out of 3 bedroom closets.  I LOVE wire closet systems!

Closets and pantries with fixed shelves often end up with unused vertical space.  Mine are adjustable but Alicia's shelves are all 18 inches apart. That can result in a lot of empty space so the key is to find ways to fill that space but still be easily accessible.

Vertical organizers can help fill the space.

The Neu Home Can Organizer looks like a great way to organize canned goods vertically.  I found this one on the Walmart website.  It's under 13 inches in height and $30 in price.  I'm sure there are similar products from other retailers.

I see that the side supports run the same direction as the wires on the shelves but a hard piece of plastic, or cheap cookie sheet places underneath would solve that problem.

This corner storage rack would also make great use of vertical space.  It's under 18 inches tall so it would fit between the shelves.

I'm not sure how sturdy it would be for canned goods but it looks good for boxes of pasta laid on their side.  And at $13 it's not a bad price.

Hanging baskets also fill vertical space.

I couldn't find an example online but I own 2 of them so I know they exist.  These baskets are made of the same wire as the shelves.  They have 2 firm "arms" that slide over the top of a shelf and the basket hangs below it.  You would need something firm (like a flat baking pan) on the shelf to keep the arms from sliding through.  These would be good above stacked canned goods.

Baskets contain small items.

Canvas bins or baskets are very popular right now.  They come in all sizes, shapes and colors.  The key to maximizing space is to keep the sides as vertical as possible.  Slanted sides will create empty space.

Even though these bins are slanted I like that they have a space for labels.  This can be helpful when organizing pantry items by use.  For example, a bin for baking items (baking soda, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips, muffin papers, etc.) or a bin for spaghetti night (pasta, sauce, mushrooms, etc.) or a bin for various seasonings and spices.

If you prefer the look of baskets, these Hyacinth baskets come in several shapes and sizes.

I think they would be perfect for storing bags of chips, boxes of raisins, or individually wrapped snack foods taken out of their large boxes.

I personally use super cheap (we're talking $1 each) plastic baskets from Wal-Mart.

One basket contains all the small baking ingredients my husband needs for our weekly Sunday night pancakes.  He just grabs the basket instead of asking me what happened to the baking powder.

I use another cheap kind of plastic basket to keep small things from falling through the wires or getting lost.

Items like taco seasoning packets or Kool-Aid packages slip between the wires so a basket of some kind keeps me from losing any.

I also keep my frequently used spices in the basket; such as garlic powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder.

Do you use wire shelves in your closets or pantry?  How do/would you organize for fixed shelves and small items?

Follow my Stephanie's Mommy Brain Facebook page to join similar conversations about home management and organization.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Maple Syrup Tour in Massachusetts :: Family Fun Friday

Last year we started a new tradition - attending the Maple Sugar Days at River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

This free, family-friendly event takes place the first 3 weekends in March.  If you are in the area I HIGHLY recommend it!

The highlight of the event is a tour explaining the process of collecting Maple sap and turning it into syrup.

First, you determine if the Maple tree is big enough to tap.  If the tree has a circumference of 10 inches or more it's big enough.  You can use a tape measure and multiply by 3.14 or you can just hug the tree.  If your hands don't meet then the tree is probably big enough.

Ben and Mia hug a tree.

Next you drill a hole into the tree.

You have to position your tongue just right!
After drilling the hole, hammer in a tap.

Notice the sap dripping off of the tap!!
Now it's time to hang your bucket and cover to catch all of the sap.

Once you've collected the sap you strain out any debris and pump it into the evaporator.

Checking if the sap has turned to syrup.

Last but not least, we get to the best part of the tour - samples!!

Maple Tea - sap reduced to 10%
Maple Cream - syrup that is whipped

Maple Sugar - like brown sugar with maple flavor
 This tour definitely gives you a whole new appreciation for maple syrup!!

Have you made maple syrup?  Do you have a favorite recipe that uses maple syrup?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maple Syrup Children's Book Recommendations

Maple sugaring, or the process of collecting maple sap and turning it into syrup, is a New England tradition hundreds of years old.  My family's tradition of attending   Maple Sugar Days at River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge, Massachusetts is only 2 years old.  We may be newcomers to sugaring but we still think it's a lot of fun to celebrate each year.

To prepare us for this year's Maple Sugar Day, I found a free Maple syrup lapbook* online.  We enjoyed learning about the different varieties of Maples that you can tap, equipment used to tap a tree, and various other information.  It's a fun lapbook, though probably better suited for children slightly older than mine.

As usual when planning a field trip, I also brought home a bunch of library books.  This time I have only 4 to recommend to you.

Sugar Snow: My First Little House Books.  Adapted from the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger.  Published by HarperCollins, 1998.

The text in this story is adapted from a passage in Little House in the Big Woods.  One night Pa brings home a bucket full of Maple syrup and several cakes of Maple sugar.  The family enjoys this sweet treat on a snowy day in the Big Woods.

This sweet book is sure to be a hit with Little House fans.  The process of sugaring is kind of glossed over but the illustrations are really nice.  A fun picture book to read with younger children.


Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall.  Illustrated by Jim Daly.  Published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 2000.

A little girl goes to the sugarbush (stand of Maple trees) with her Grandpa to help tap the trees for sap.  She later waits patiently for the sap to be boiled down into syrup and canned.  As she waits, she enjoys a treat of hot syrup poured over snow.

I love the illustrations in this book!  A note tells us that they are actually oil paintings.  The details in each one are amazing; from the harnesses on the horses to the sunlight shining through the syrup!

I also love the family unity in this story.  Three generations work together to turn the sap into syrup.  Friends and neighbors also help.  This kind of community involvement is hard to come by these days.


Sugaring by Jessie Haas.  Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith.  Published by Greenwillow Books, 1996.

In this story Gramp and Nora gather sap from the trees and take it back to the sugar shack with the help of two horses.  We learn about the process of evaporating the water out of the sap in order to make syrup.  Meanwhile Nora is concerned that the horses receive a treat for all of their hard work.  Eventually they are given Maple sugar.

While the story is similar, the focus on this book is slightly different.  Only Gramp, Gram and Nora are mentioned.  Also, more detail is given of the actual process, which is helpful if you are wanting to learn how to make syrup.  

The illustrations aren't quite as detailed as the previous book but they are just as delightful.  And most New Englanders will be thrilled to see that Gramps wears a blue baseball cap with a distinct "B" in the middle (that's Boston Red Sox, in case you didn't know).


At Grandpa's Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney.  Illustrated by Janet Wilson.  Published by Kids Can Press, 1997.

Here we have another story with a Grandpa and a child, this time a boy, as the main characters.  This Grandpa and grandson take time to notice various wildlife around them while tapping the Maple trees; red squirrels, grosbeaks, and nuthatches, to name a few.  Another difference is that the evaporator (giant pot to boil in) is located outside.  Though the story is slightly different, the end result is the same - syrup is made and enjoyed together by the two generations.

I enjoyed this book also.  I liked the inclusion of the wildlife as they gathered the sap.  It helped you have a sense of being outdoors with the characters.  I also enjoyed how the boy works with his grandpa to make the syrup together.  I can easily see the illustrations being drawn from real family photos; though I don't believe they are.

In all of the library books I read (there were others but these are my favorites), the one theme that ran through all of them is that maple sugaring is a family affair.  It unites generations and gives children a sense of history and tradition.  I love that!  Family heritage is so important for children but so difficult to cultivate in this day when generations are separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.  It's good to read children's books that also value family and tradition.

What ways do you cultivate family traditions across generations?

* For those unfamiliar with lap booking, it's basically mini-books and small activities that you make with information about a specific topic, book, country, etc.  Lap books are fairly popular among home schoolers but I think they would work well for non-homeschoolers also.  Especially for holidays or summertime activities.

Other maple sugaring posts:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ask Mama

I've been thinking. (Uh-oh!)  I thought I might start a new monthly feature called "Ask Mama" or "Ask Stephanie."  You could ask me questions about home management, organization, home school, parenting, etc.  And I'll answer them once a month.

What do you think?  Is this something you're interested in?  Do you have a question you've been dying to ask me? 

Tell me what you think or ask me a question in the comments.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finding Daily Time for Me :: Mom2Mom

Today I'm beginning a new feature called Mom2Mom.  Several of you responded to my survey back in January saying you'd like to hear about some of my struggles as a mom.  Well, that's what Mom2Mom is about.  Just a conversation from one mom to another about some of the hard points of this motherhood journey.

Today's Mom2Mom conversation is:  Finding daily time for me.  

From the moment my precious firstborn arrived home from the hospital he has demanded all of my time and attention.  Those first months were spent grabbing showers and catnaps when Will chose to sleep.  In other words - they were pure torture.  My pediatrician gave me some great advice back then.  Dr. S. said, "It won't hurt him to cry while you take a shower.  No child ever had to go to the hospital for crying too much."  I took his words to heart!

Fast forward 7 years and 3 more children and finding a few minutes for me each day has become even more challenging. 

I know some moms who get up at the crack of dawn before their children to fit in an hour or so of peace and quiet.  I am NOT a morning person and two of my children definitely are.  That means as soon as they hear feet hit the floor they are up and raring to go.

I know other moms who enjoy time for themselves while their children are at school.  I home school.  That means my children are with my 24/7.  Not only do I not get school hours to myself, I'm spending them teaching my children.

So, how do I make time for myself each day?

I have made our daily schedule so that ALL four of my children go down for rest/nap time after lunch.  All of them.  It's not negotiable.  The 2 big boys (6 & 7 years) must stay relatively quiet in their room for at least an hour.  The 2 littles (2 and 4 years) must sleep for at least 2 hours.  This way I get at least 1 whole hour every afternoon to myself.

Unless it's a day like today when the doorbell rang about 20 minutes after putting everyone in bed.  After that I kissed my quiet time good-bye.

The second way I make time for myself is at night after the kids are in bed.  I am a night owl.  The still quiet of my home at night is when I think best.  So that's when I write a lot of my blog posts. 

And stay up way too late.  Which then makes it hard to get up in the mornings and just perpetuates the cycle.

It's not a perfect system but most of the time it works.  And on the days it doesn't work (like today) I try not to get frustrated that I'm not accomplishing what I wanted to for the day.  I try to remember that in 20 years I won't regret not writing one more blog post but I will regret not reading one more book with my 2 year old son.

How do you make daily time for yourself?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Teaching Children Hospitality as the Hostess

Have you ever viewed a play date, birthday party or special event as more than just a fun occasion for children?

My four year old daughter, Ellie, recently hosted a play date for her friends from our home school co-op. Because I want Ellie to one day be an excellent hostess I took a little extra time and included her in all of the hostess tasks*.

Ellie (in the denim jumper) with her friends

Please read the rest of the article at Offering Hospitality.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Easter and Lent Children's Activities

Creating family memories, especially around holidays, is a major part of a mom's job description.  That's why I'm spending time this week planning a few activities, decorations and meals to help my family remember our Easter celebration.
These are a few of the resources I'm using as I plan for the next 40 days:

Lenten Calendar for Kids by Catholic Icing

I found this great countdown calendar at Catholic Icing.  I really like the way it looks like a game board and that you are sort of traveling on a journey to Easter.

You can print the PDF or you can save it to your computer.  Counting down the 40 days to Easter, rather than using dates, makes the calendar reusable each year.


Lent Activities for the Family by Miiko Gibson

This is also a PDF you can save to your computer and print.

Gibson is a protestant and briefly, but respectfully, explains what Lent is.  The remainder of the e-book is comprised of ideas for activities to do as a family during Lent.

One of my favorite ideas is "#20. We can have 'new life' in Jesus! Do something crafty like make a tissue or coffee
filter butterfly. Or draw a butterfly and paint or color it. Look up 2 Corinthians

I haven't decided yet which of these activities we'll do.  Gibson suggests printing them all on cardstock, placing in a bowl and randomly drawing each day.  With my little guys I feel the need to prepare things ahead of time but if my kids were older I might do that.


Resurrection Eggs by FamilyLife

Whether you buy this pre-made product or collect items to put in plastic eggs, this idea is fantastic for teaching children the events leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

I'll use these eggs a couple of times a week to discuss the Easter story so that my kids are familiar with it.  I'm also leaving them out in a basket as a part of our Spring/Easter decorations.


Monica at the Homespun Heart has a post FULL of ideas as well as another PDF to download or print.

I'm definitely using some of her ideas.  I especially like the way she links each activity to a specific verse.  She has another fun idea to hang a names of Jesus garland.  I can't use that one this year but I'm filing it away for the future!


I followed Monica's links to Mustard Seeds who had linked to Celebrated Family for an idea to remind children of Jesus' wounds.  On Good Friday you draw a red dot on the child's palm and write his name across the dot.

This will go along beautifully with the verse I plan to memorize in April with my children.

It says, "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that bought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."


I also plan to make an Easter coloring book for each child using free online printables.  You can find a plethora (don't you just love that word?) of printables at the following links:
All holidays come with special food so we will have the traditional chocolate bunnies, Cadbury Eggs and maybe a bunny cake.  This year I want to try Resurrection Cookies and Resurrection Rolls.  I think my kids will enjoy making AND eating them.

Are these ideas new to you or traditions at your house?  Do you have an Easter or Lent tradition that I missed?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easter Memories


The word brings a variety of memories to my mind.  New spring dresses with white dress shoes.  Eating ham dinners.  Dyeing eggs.  Hunting Easter eggs.  Cadbury Eggs.  Chocolate bunnies.  And sunrise services at church.

Photo credit: jarrodtrainque

All the things a good Southern protestant girlie excitedly anticipates each year!  Well, maybe not the sunrise service but I did look forward to going out for breakfast afterward!

I vividly remember one Easter down South as a young teenager.  The holiday  came in early March that year and snow had fallen overnight.  That alone was unusual for Arkansas!  But not the end of our excitement!

After the sunrise service we returned home to move our dog from the carport to the backyard before heading out to get breakfast.  My younger brother and the dog had a routine for this.  Stephen opened the carport door, the dog ran through the kitchen, around the kitchen table once and then shot straight out the sliding glass door into the backyard.  Only this time Stephen didn't get the door open in time.  And Dusty, the dog, ran smack into the glass door.

Have you ever tried to coax a yellow lab with a bleeding nose out from under a bed while wearing a brand new Easter dress?  No?  I really don't recommend it.

I also have a few New England Easter memories.

Lent and Easter in Rhode Island were quite a shock to my Southern sensibilities.  First of all, who wants to wear a new lightweight spring dress when it's 40* outside?!  And forget wearing open-toed dress shoes with the new dress.  I'll take boots, if you please! 

Photo Credit: On the White Line

One Ash Wednesday in particular stands out in my memory.  I had JUST finished reading the latest book in the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye.  (If you aren't familiar with the series, it is a fictionalized account of the "End Times.")  In the book, God placed a smudge-like image on each Christian's forehead.  The image was ONLY visible to other Christians.

So, here I go driving down the road, still thinking about the book, when I pass a Catholic church where people were leaving a service.  And they all had SMUDGES ON THEIR FOREHEADS!  I may or may not have freaked out a little and checked the mirror to see if I had a smudge on my forehead.

And when I didn't see one, I may or may not have continued to freak out, just a little.

Whether it's biting into a rich Cadbury Egg, taping a broken glass door, or fearing I missed the Second Coming, one thing's for sure - Easter evokes a lot of memories for me!

Come back tomorrow when I'll be sharing how I'm creating new Easter memories with my children this year.

What memories of Easter or Lent do you have?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inexpensive Vacation Lodging for a Family Budget

Have you ever tried to fit 4 children and 2 adults with all of their luggage into a standard size hotel room for a week?

It's not pretty, let me tell ya!

Which is why we rent suites when our stay lasts more than 2 nights.  Suites (Residence Inn is our favorite) usually have a separate living room so Mom and Dad can stay up later than the kiddos.  They almost always have a fridge and microwave so you can keep drinks cool and heat up breakfast or a snack.

But a suite can be pricey, which is not a good thing for a family on a budget.  Depending on the trip we usually pay up to $150 a night.  Do that for a week and you are out a chunk of change without a whole lot of space.  I don't know about you but I prefer to spend my money on souvenirs and tourist activities.

That's why I'm excited to tell you about a discovery I made before Christmas!


Vacation Rentals by Owner.  They have listings for all over the country.  For one bedroom city apartments to sprawling 6 bedroom (or more!) country estates.  You find the listing you're interested in, email the owner and work together to book your stay.

When our extended family decided to have an early Christmas reunion we wanted to all stay in one location.  We could have done that with suites but it would have been complicated.  So we searched VRBO.com in the area half-way from their Texas homes and our Rhode Island home for a house big enough to accommodate 13 people.  

We found a listing in Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee.  5 bedrooms and 4 baths in a beautiful log cabin.  It sounded too good to be true!

But it wasn't.  Too be honest I was a little nervous going to the deal.  What if the owner had exaggerated the space?  What if it was filthy?  What if there were no kitchen supplies?

There had been no need to worry.  Five minutes after we arrived I could tell that this house would live up to its advertising.  We had a great time in an amazing house.

From now on I'll be checking VRBO.com when we plan a vacation!

Have you used VRBO or a similar site to rent a vacation house?  What was your experience like?

Disclosure/Disclaimer:  No one asked me to blog about this.  I have received nothing in exchange for this post.  I am just really excited about this website and having a non-hotel option for our vacations.  There are similar websites; this is just the one we used.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Learning to Use My Story

The crisp white, blue-lined notebook paper lay before me on my Grandma's kitchen table.  Squirming in my seat excitedly, I picked up the yellow No.2 pencil and scribbled, "Once upon a time..."

And then I was stuck.

I sat down that day to write a book.  I'd read more books than I could count so surely I knew what a good story looked like.  And dozens of good stories swirled around in my head so getting one of them down on paper should have been easy.  At least, that's what my naive nine-year old self kept thinking.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I again sit at a kitchen table attempting to write.  Shifting in my chair to find a comfortable position, I place my fingers on the black computer keyboard and type:  

"I heard God whisper, 'I gave you a gift.  I gave you a story.  Now it is your responsibility to use those.  And use them wisely." - Amy Sorrells

And then I am stuck.

I sit here today to write a blog post.  But not just any blog post.  Today I am writing a blog post to win a scholarship to the She Speaks Conference.  It's not just any conference.  It's THE conference for Christian women who desire to be speakers and writers and bloggers.  It's the conference I have longed to attend for three years but couldn't!

So how do I get unstuck in writing my blog post?  By telling you my story.

Last year, about this time, I read a blog post by Amy Sorrells.  In it she said, "I heard God whisper, 'I gave you a gift.  I gave you a story.  Now it is your responsibility to use those.  And use them wisely."  As I read Amy's post, I heard God whisper the same thing to my heart.

God gave ME a story.

The story He gave me is no longer the fairy tales written by a nine-year old girl.  Now it is the story of the joys and trials of a thirty-six-year old woman.

  • A woman who knows the trial of leaving family and friends and the joy of following her husband.
  • A woman who knows the trial of living with a painful, incurable disease and the joy of encouraging a young wife seeking information about the same disease.
  • A woman who knows the pain of miscarrying a baby and the joy of birthing four children.
  • A woman who knows the exhaustion from caring for a sick two-year old all night and the joy of teaching a five-year old to read.

God gave me a story to share but I need help.  I need to learn how to communicate my story in an effective manner.  I need to learn how to craft an article and presentation so that my readers and listeners receive encouragement.  I have MUCH to learn so that I can use my story wisely!!

That's why I want to attend the She Speaks Conference.  So, I can be equipped as a speaker and author. 

Maybe one day I'll finish the book I started twenty-five years ago.  I already have the first line done:  "Once upon a time God planted the dream to write a book in the heart of a nine-year old girlie."

What dream has God planted in your heart and how are you accomplishing it?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sea World Blogger Event :: Family Fun Friday

We are a family of animal lovers (as long as they don't live at my house!).  In fact, any family outing that includes animals is sure to be a hit with my children.  So when I received an email inviting me and my children to attend a blogging event hosted by SeaWorld I couldn't say yes fast enough!

We were not disappointed!

At the event we learned about SeaWorld's animal rescue program which has helped nearly 20,000 ill, injured, orphaned and abandoned animals with most of these creatures rehabilitated and returned to the wild.  Unfortunately for the Spoonbill we saw, one of his wings was amputated after an injury in the wild.

Can you tell they are nervous to be so close to the bird?

Because the Spoonbill cannot return to the wild he joined SeaWorld's Animal Ambassador program.  As members of this program, animals interact with guests in the parks, and also make numerous media and public appearances throughout the year to raise awareness for conservation and species in danger.

Sam kept his eye on the alligator!

In fact, had we been at one of the 3 SeaWorld parks in Orlando (SeaWorld, Aquatica, or Discovery Cove) we could have touched the Spoonbill and his friends, an American alligator and 2 penguins.  Sadly for us, local law said we couldn't touch them.

The highlight of the day for all of us was watching the 2 penguins waddle only inches away!  They were so cute!!  We learned that not all penguins live in cold climates and that these two cuties had been born at SeaWorld.

Sam liked looking at the penguins!

We have never been to SeaWorld and are not likely to make it to Florida any time soon.  However, my husband's parents retired to San Antonio, Texas last year.  We haven't visited their new home yet but we already planned to visit SeaWorld San Antonio when we do.  I think this event increased our anticipation for that day!

Thank you, SeaWorld for providing an educational and fun outing for my family!!

Have you visited SeaWorld?  What was your experience?  Any tips for us newbies? 

Disclosure:  This event was free for us to attend.  It also include a lunch for my family and a large bag filled with SeaWorld branded products.  Blogging about the event was not a requirement for attendance.  Also, I have no experience at their parks but enjoyed this particular activity with their animals and trainers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beaded Accessories Hot for Spring

I absolutely can't believe that I am writing a fashion post!  Me.  A fashion wannabe is about to give fashion advice.

Tonight I joined a webinar by Shari Braendel, author of Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad.  She shared about the hottest trends for this Spring.  Now, I'm not usually a "hottest trends" girl but I did appreciate hearing what's popular and what I can expect to see in the stores.

I nearly fell out of my chair when she said beaded accessories are popular this year.  Why?  Because I already planned to write a post telling you about Chunky Bling - an online jewelry company that specializes in ... wait for it... BEADED ACCESSORIES!

Who would have thought I'm a part of a trend?!

OK.  On to Chunky Bling.

Beaded WatchesThey contacted me before Christmas about becoming an affiliate with their company.  Basically that means I blog about them, put a button on my side bar, and if you purchase anything via my affiliate link then I receive a small commission.

If you've read here long then you know I'm picky about the products and services I share with you.  I have a rule that if I'm going to promote something to you, it should be a product I would use or buy myself.

Chunky Bling is one of those companies.  They specialize in beaded watches, necklaces, bracelets and rings.  Many of their products are around $10!  That's a great deal for a fun, new bracelet for Spring!

They also sent me a ring to try out.  I selected the Swarvorski Pearl Bordeaux ring in a size small. 

Initially I had concerns about the ring.  Due to my rheumatoid arthritis my fingers swell and shrink constantly so I was afraid the Chunky Bling ring might get stuck or not even fit.  But it's made of a stretchy cord rather than a metal wire so I've had no problem wearing it.

If you want to be trendy this Spring, or if you just want a new piece of fun jewelry, check out Chunky Bling!

Disclosure:  All Chunky Bling links are affiliate links.  If you purchase through the link I will receive a small commission.  As incentive to join the affiliate program I received a Chunky Bling ring to review.  I do believe this jewelry is fun, pretty and reasonably priced.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Growing Stephanie's Mommy Brain

Three and a half years ago I began a new adventure - blogging.  After reading other people's blogs for over a year I thought blogging would be fun.  So I started Stephanie's Mommy Brain as a place to share photos and stories with our extended family and friends.

Along the way I fell in love with everything about blogging.  Writing posts.  Editing html code in my template.  Interacting with readers.  Meeting other bloggers.  Networking with PR companies.

I also discovered that blogging is much more than a journal of life for my family.  It's a creative outlet for me.  And it's a way for me to help other moms.  At least I hope what I write helps you, encourages you, and inspires you!

In an effort to learn more about blogging and grow Stephanie's Mommy Brain, I have applied to the Mom Central Blogging Grant Program.  If I win this $2,000 grant I will use the money to attend She Speaks and begin a second blog - one that focuses on "making the most of family time."

To win a Mom Central Blogging Grant I need your help.  

I need you to go to http://bit.ly/helpgrowstephmommybrain every day until April 15 and vote for me!  The top 15 applicants in 3 categories will advance to a second round where the Mom Central staff will choose the winners so I need as many votes as possible.

Here are a few ways you can help spread the word about my application?
  • Share with your Facebook friends why you like reading Stephanie's Mommy Brain and include the http://bit.ly/helpgrowstephmommybrain link.
  • Share on your blog why you like reading Stephanie's Mommy Brain and include the http://bit.ly/helpgrowstephmommybrain link.
  • Invite me to write a guest post for your blog and allow me to include a byline at the end about the grant.
  • Ask your mom group or home school group to vote for Growing Stephanie's Mommy Brain.
  • Tweet:  I voted for "Growing Stephanie's Mommy Brain" to win one of the #MomCentralGrants. You can too at http://bit.ly/hAs8pN.
I'm really excited about this opportunity and hope you'll excuse the self-promotion!!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!  Thank you for all your help!!
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