Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst: A Review


I recently received a copy of Lysa TerKeurst's Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress, a companion to her book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, and I could not put it down.  What should have taken 60 days took me less than a week to read.

The book consists of sixty 2-3 page sections, each with a scripture passage, thought for the day, devotion, and prayer.  Through each devotion, the author shows readers how to be responders rather than reactors in emotionally charged situations.  Through the pages of this book, Ms. TerKeurst reveals that it is possible to experience irritations, criticism, and disappointment without becoming emotionally unglued.

This book was easy to read and hard to put down: it really resonated with me.  I tend to react emotionally no matter the situation, good or bad, and time and again I found myself nodding along and adding a "preach-it, sister" or two with Lysa's words as they struck home.  Lysa gave practical tips and suggestions for maintaining control in trying situations as well as real life examples of unglued moments in her own life.  Overall, this book gave me hope.  It opened my eyes to the possibility of living out from under the tyranny of my emotions, as well as offering grace in the face of the inevitable slip-ups.

I would recommend Unglued Devotional as a daily source of inspiration to anyone who finds herself coming unglued in the face of adversity.  And let's face it--that's just about everyone.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Easy No-Bake Energy Bites

I've been seeing these cute little energy bites all over pinterest, and they sounded good to me, so I thought I would make some.

As you might have gathered, given that I'm posting the recipe, our family liked it.  But really, what's not to like?  Mmm.  So good.



Before I go any farther, you should know that you are not bound to follow the recipe--feel free to substitute based on your likes and needs and what you have on hand.  Peanut allergy?  Substitute another nut butter.  Don't like coconut?  Leave it out and add chia seeds, sunflower seeds, or more oatmeal.  Not enough ground flax in the house?  Do what I did and use wheat germ to make up the difference.  Or use ground nuts.  The important thing to remember is to keep the proportions of wet to dry ingredients approximately the same.

Alright.  Ready for the recipe?  Here ya go:

Easy No-Bake Energy Bites
1 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. honey
1 c. coconut
1/2 c. ground flax
1/2 c. mini-chocolate chips
1 t. vanilla

Just mix everything together, then roll it into balls.  That's it.
I used a 1 tablespoon measure to make the balls and the recipe made 2 dozen.

I put the peanut butter and honey into the microwave for a minute on high first to make it easier to mix, but that step is completely unnecessary--you'll be able to mix it without heating.  Then when I added my mini-chocolate chips, they melted a bit, which I thought was a happy accident, infusing the chocolate throughout the ball instead of just in discreet chip-sized spots.

Lots of the recipes suggest chilling the mixture before rolling the balls, but I didn't and it worked just fine.  But if your mixture is too sticky to roll or the balls fall apart, you could try it.  Lots of the recipes also suggest storing them in the fridge, which I totally would have done if they had lasted that long, but since none of the ingredients require refrigeration, these shouldn't either, so it's more of a maintaining the ball shape issue than a food safety issue, I think.

A word of caution: while these little bites have lots of good qualities, including being a great source of fiber, high quality protein, and healthy fats, including omega-3s, being low calorie is not one of them.  According to my calculations, each bite contains about 115 calories, so consume in moderation.

Enjoy!

Easy No-Bake Energy Bites
 

 

by
Prep Time: 5 min


Ingredients (2 Dozen)
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 1/2 c. ground flax
  • 1/2 c. mini-chocolate chips
  • 1 t. vanilla
  •  
Instructions
Just mix everything together, then roll it into balls. That's it.
I used a 1 tablespoon measure to make the balls and the recipe made 2 dozen.
 
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An update on the whereabouts of the elusive Eli Manning

When last we met, the Bluefield household was looking high and low and everywhere in between for the elusive Eli Manning.

We checked at the library, but despite the fact that Tom Brady and Clay Matthews were hanging out in the children's section, Eli Manning was nowhere to be found.

Disappointed, I headed home.  Taking my sis, Buckwheat's, advice, I started calling loudly, "come out, come out, wherever you are," all over the house.  He remained in hiding, and meanwhile, we started racking up overdue fees at the library (can you believe they wouldn't let us just pay for Eli Manning?  They said they would bill us in about 5 weeks.  Five weeks!  Do they seriously think that I could bear to have a book overdue for 5 long weeks?).

I had given up hope when we spotted him in Hawaii, snapping the ball and talking to Drew like he hadn't a care in the world, like he wasn't the cause of us racking up an appalling ten cents a day in fines while he was gallivanting around in the surf and sunshine.  I mean honestly, if he was going to go to Hawaii, the least he could have done was take us with him.

Yesterday, I headed up to the school to check MC's desk and book box once again.  I figured if he could manage to get out of our house to Hawaii without being seen, he sure as heck could have wandered over to the school and shoved himself in a desk.  No luck.

Then today, I finally did what I should have done in the first place, which was bribe AKD.  It could be that the two of them were in cahoots from the start, seeing how much cash they could squeeze out of me, but at this point, I don't really care.  AKD found him calmly sitting on MC's bookshelf.  I have no idea how he managed to sneak back in here after the Probowl, but there he was, in the very same place that I had already checked countless times.

Anyway, tonight Eli is back safe and sound at the library, hanging with his crew in the 790s, and believe me when I tell you, Mr. Manning will not be invited back to our home.

Of course now we're entertaining the entire Minnesota Vikings team.  Here we go again...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lesson learned: God is enough

I was feeling restless that morning: empty and lonely, and I felt like I just needed...something.  So I reached out to a friend.  I desperately wanted to see her, talk to her, that morning.

But I got no response what-so-ever.  Not even a, sorry, I'm busy this morning.  Nothing.

I was bitterly disappointed.  I felt like I needed to spend time with this friend to make the icky feeling go away. 

God whispered to my spirit, "I am enough for you, my child.  I am enough."

And I self-importantly answered, "yes, God, I know you're enough, but..." (oh, the presumptuousness!  Who am I to say "but" to God?) "...but sometimes I just need someone to talk to face to face, someone to physically put their arms around me."

It's true, my friends--we are called to be the hands and feet of God in this world.  We are his body, and sometimes, being held in the arms of a friend is a holy experience, a hug from God.  If we just trust in him, God will meet all of our needs, and most of the time he's working through imperfect, but obedient people to meet those needs.

I went about my morning chores still feeling out of sorts and empty, but since God kept whispering to me, I finally decided if I didn't hear from this friend by 10, I would spend the time I would have spent with her, with God.

At the appointed time, I reluctantly got out my Bible and the devotional book I'm reading (love it!  Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst).  Reluctantly, I say, because I still thought what I really needed was not time with God, but time with my friend.  I'm reading the devotional through fast, about 10 devotions a day, so I can write a review, then I'm planning to go back and read it slowly to savor its truths.  So I opened to the next devotion and it was about storing up treasures in heaven instead of on earth.  I pondered that for a bit and read on to the next one.

And the next one spoke straight to my soul, telling me that no one and no thing can fill the empty spaces within, but Jesus.  Jesus really is all I need.

I broke down, my friends.  I prayed, "God, you are enough.  Absolutely and completely, no buts."

It was a breakthrough moment--one that I will remember for a long time.

And it was at that exact moment that my friend finally called.

Did that just give you chills?  It did me.

It was as if God was smiling in that moment and saying, "daughter, I am so thrilled you finally understand that I am really enough for you, and here's a friend to put her arms around you, too."  What an incredible gift!

Can I just stop for a moment and marvel at all of the intricate pieces of this puzzle fitting together so perfectly? That Lysa would write this book in this particular order? That I would choose to review this particular book next because I had heard about it in the context of my mom's study group? That I would read right up to this point and stop the previous day? That my friend wouldn't see my 3 messages until after I had read this particular devotion? That she would call at exactly that moment? Oh my word, the logistics! And that God would care enough about little old me to set this entire plan in motion? It boggles my mind, people.

My friends, it is so easy for us to try to solve our own problems.  We think that we know what we need, but we can't see the forest for the trees.  We see only our limited world view, while God sees the big picture.  He knows what's best for us; He knows what we need.  And He will do his darnedest to get it to us, even if it means we have to go through heartache and disappointment to get there.

But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ice Castle


The other night the boys and I headed over to THE MALL to visit the ice castle that's been growing over there.  It's really neat how they do it.  They have a place called the icicle farm, where they grow baby icicles, then they place them where they want the structures to be and spray a fine mist of water at them to make them grow.


It was beautiful.  And impressive.  Three months ago, they started with an empty parking lot, and now they have this maze of structures made completely of water.


There were lights that changed color embedded in the ice making the pillars glow.  It was cold, but we had fun exploring and running through the tunnels.


I'm so glad we got to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity.  If you'd like to go--they're planning on keeping the ice castle open for visitors until the end of February (weather permitting, of course).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sensory Playroom: Trampoline

Like I mentioned in my DIY crash pad post, jumping on things (safely) is a great way to get vestibular and proprioceptive input.  And the crash pad is great for that, put a trampoline allows the jumper to keep jumping.  A trampoline also provides a different sort of input on the joints than a crash pad, so that's why I think they're both essentials in a sensory room.

This is what I would like to have:
It's a Skywalker 8 foot round trampoline The thing I love about this trampoline is it's small and close to the ground (only about a foot off the ground), so it can be used indoors, but it's big enough to get a satisfying bounce (by the way, if you want one, too, watch the price.  As of this writing, it's $149, but it's been only $129 for the past couple of months.  If you're willing to wait, you might score a better deal).
 
I say "I would like to have it," not "I have it," because I think I've convinced myself that we don't have room, plus we already have an outside trampoline that we can use during the non-snowy months.  It makes me really, really sad to say that, but one must be practical.  If you have room, though, this is a fantastic price for this trampoline.
 

We just have this small rebounder--you can pick them up at discount retailers for around $30, or they're are always available at garage sales or on Craigslist.  You can also find them online.

Use used to have an inflatable trampoline (sort of like this one), which was nice, because it was bigger than the mini trampoline and we could easily fold it up and stow it away when we weren't using it, but it sprung multiple leaks, so we threw it away.

*************
This post is from my Sensory Playroom series--I'm putting together a sensory room for my boys on the cheap (read: homemade) and decided to share with you all :) To see all the sensory playroom posts, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why would anyone want to read my blog? A giveaway.

Ohmygosh, y'all, Rafflecopter is giving me fits. 

To enter the drawing:
If you see the rafflecopter widget below, go ahead and leave a comment, then enter via the Rafflecopter. 
If you don't see the rafflecopter, go ahead and leave a comment, and then send me an email via my contact form (click here) saying that you entered the giveaway.

OK, read on:

So the other day Hubby was looking over my shoulder while I was admiring my blog, and he noticed me looking at the Visitor's Map and Recent Readers on the right sidebar.


Did you even know that was there?  Well, now you know.  You can also search my blog by clicking on "Ligit Search".  Check it out--it's kind of interesting.

Anyway, at the time there was someone visiting from Turkey, and Hubby just couldn't believe it, that someone in Turkey would be reading my blog.  He said, in an incredulous voice, "why would anyone want to read someone else's blog?"

Wow. Talk about a slap in the face.  The reason I write my blog is so that people can read it.  If I didn't think anyone was reading it, I would just write in a journal, or not at all.  It's not his fault, though, he's not really in to the mommy blog culture, so he really doesn't know why anyone would read someone else's personal web log, besides family, of course.

The whole exchange reminded me that I really don't know why most of you read my blog.  I mean, some of you are family and you're just looking for pics of the kids and updates.  And some of you are my friends, but how about the rest of you?  Why do you read my blog?

As a thank you for reading, I'm giving away a $5 gift card to Amazon.com, Target, or Starbucks--winner's choice.  One winner will be chosen at random on Friday, February 1.  To enter, just leave a comment letting me know why you read my blog, then follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

Thanks, friends and good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Please note: if you read my blog via email, you will need to actually visit the blog to enter the giveaway.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where is Eli Manning?

We've misplaced a library book, and it's coming up on the book's 3rd and final due date in a few days.  We've looked everywhere we can think of, and I have a vague memory of putting the book in my bag of library books to be returned a month or so ago, so my next step is to try to find it at the library to prove we already returned it.  I don't actually remember returning it, and in fact have an equally fuzzy memory of me taking the book back out of the bag because my son wanted to keep it for a few more weeks, but one can dream, right? 

Some people might get upset over this turn of events--after all, it is the same kid's books that go missing every time (what is it about that kid and books?)--but for me, this situation has been a source of quiet amusement.

Because the book that is missing is this one:



What's so funny, you ask?  Think about it.  I asked MC if he had checked his desk for the book and he said he had and it wasn't there.  And I said, "so Eli Manning is not in your desk? {pause}  Well, of course not--how would a huge football player fit in your tiny little desk?"

As MC stepped on to the bus this morning I called out to him, "see if you can find Eli Manning at school somewhere!"  Wouldn't that be fun and amazing?  If he did find Eli Manning?  I must invite him to visit.

I asked my husband if he knew where Eli Manning was, and imagined him saying something like, "well, I don't know, but I assume he's in New York.  Or maybe Louisiana, since his season's over."  What he did say was, "   ...   ...   ...   ", but it was still good for a chuckle or two.

Ah yes, I am easily amused.  It's the simple things in life, you know?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIY Subway Art

Did you think I forgot about the big laundry/mud room revealOf course I didn't forget.  I walk through or at least in to that room every day.  The truth is...it's not quite done.  I know, I know, it's been almost a year since I said it needed to be overhauled and we're coming up on 6 months since I actually started.  That's how these things go around here.  This is why we could never build our own house, or even buy a fixer-upper.  It'd never get finished.  Oh, the big things would, but there would always be those nagging details that never quite get finished.

Anyway, in this case, it's just a couple of pictures that need to be hung.  We've run into a snag because they need to be hung on the wall that holds the pocket door, so there's nothing back there to hold a nail, and Hubby's trying to figure out the best way to hang them.  I'm being difficult in insisting that I want to have them be easily removable so I can change the pictures (so he can't just screw them in or glue them to the wall).  Such a difficult person, I am. 


Oh, right, and then there's the fact that I just put the pictures in the frames this morning and Hubby hasn't been home since to do anything about them.

Anyway...I knew I wanted to have some sort of saying on the wall, but I didn't want to spend the money to actually buy a print or a vinyl saying.  Plus, I wanted the flexibility of changing out the saying from time to time.  What can I say?  I find it hard to commit.

I narrowed my choice down to two options:

Option 1:
Laundry
Wash. Dry. Fold. Repeat.
 
When I saw this particular saying (on pinterest, of course), I had to laugh.  Because you know as well a I do that laundry is never ending.  Hubby didn't get it.
 
Option 2:
Laundry
The most memorable days
usually end with the dirtiest clothes.
 
My friend Rocky pointed me to this one, and I must say it tugs at my heartstrings, 'cause it's true.  And I need to remind myself of this fact whenever I find myself telling my boys not to do something simply because it will make a mess.  It had absolutely no effect on Hubby's heartstrings, however.
 
So I went with option 3:
As for me and my
household
we will serve
the
Lord
 
Oh, wait, that one wasn't an option.  Oh well, I like it :)  And when I want to do something else, I can just switch it out.
 
So I knew what I wanted to do, I just didn't know how to make it look pretty.  That is, until I found this lovely blog post via pinterest talking about how to make Subway Art in Microsoft Word.
 
 
All I did was open Microsoft Word, and adjust my margins to the size print I wanted.  I went to Insert > Picture > Word Art and typed my first line, then clicked OK.  I followed this process for each separate line. 
  • To adjust the size, click on the word art and drag one or more of the black boxes on the edges to stretch it to the size you want. 
  • To change the color, click on the word art, then click the paint bucket in the word art tool bar.  Choose a color from the menu and select it for both the fill color and line color. 
  • To change the font, click on edit text in the word art tool bar, then select your font from the menu.
  • To stack the words (like I did with WE WILL), just hit the return key while you're typing to put the words on top of each other.  
Once I had it the way I wanted, I just printed on cardstock, trimmed the edges, and put it in the frame.  And there you have it--so easy, and just what I wanted.

To make it easy on you, I've made the file available to you to print.  Click here to access the file. 

If you just want to print it as is, click on the printer button in the upper left, then trim 1/2 an inch off the bottom and 1 inch off the right side.  If you want to make changes, like to change the colors, click on the down arrow to download to your computer.

And that big reveal?  It's coming, I promise.  Someday...

To see the evolution of our laundry/mud room, click here and here and here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Having friends over

You may remember that when we went tree hunting after Thanksgiving, we brought a couple of friends along with us.  And we had the best time ever.  Seriously, we're going to have to bring friends along from now on.
Hubby, AKD's friend D, AKD, MC's friend E, MC, Roger
 
Anyway, the mom of MC's friend just couldn't believe that we would want to include her son in our family outing to pick out our Christmas tree.  I assured her multiple times that we, indeed, did not mind having him with us, and that in fact, we thought it would be more fun with him along.  Anyway, I eventually told this mom that some day I would have to tell her the story of why I'm so willing to have my kids' friends over. 

That happens now.

You have to understand, when I was growing up, our house was messy.  Let's just say that keeping a tidy home was low on my parents' list of priorities.  I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say I was too embarrassed to invite friends over.

One day, when I was in Jr. High (oh the angst!), my best friend at the time and I made plans for me to spend the night at her house.  She was going to go home and ask her mom and I was going to go home and ask my mom.  We both naturally assumed that both moms would say yes, since that's what had always happened in the past.

So I went home and asked my mom, who said yes (actually she said ask your father, who said ask your mother, who said ask your father, so after a few rounds of this I decided their answer was yes).

The next day at school my friend told me her mom said I couldn't come over anymore until I invited her over to my house.

I understand now where my friend's mom was coming from.  It's not that I was a huge inconvenience or horribly behaved, but it gets tiring after a while always being the host.  Always feeding the kids and providing supervision.  She had no idea there were extenuating circumstances, and figured we were just being rude by never issuing our own invitation.

But at the time?  I was devastated.  I couldn't invite my friend over to my house, and I couldn't even tell her why.

That's why I always say yes, whenever possible, to having my kids' friends over.  Even when it's inconvenient.  I really have no idea what their circumstances are and why they might not reciprocate our invitations.  I really don't care.  I want my kids to have friends, to be able to spend time with their friends outside of school. There are so many great lessons to be learned this way.  And if the only way for that to happen is for me to open my home, so be it.  Most of all, I want our kids' friends to know that they are always welcome in our home: that we care about them and enjoy spending time with them.

 I do have ulterior motives here--it's not all butterflies and rainbows.  I mean, if my kids' friends are spending time here, I control the environment.  I get to know them, and I hear things.  Which is all good when you're attempting to help a child navigate his way through the gauntlet of childhood to adolescence to adult-hood.

So that's the story.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A real conversation with the dental assistant

(whom I am seeing more often these days than I would like).

 

Dental assistant (on the phone): Oh, I hear your dog in the background.

Me (sarcastically): Yup, my little "puppy."

DA: What kind is it?

Me: Uh, it's Roger.

DA: (confused silence)

Me: My 5 year old.
 

Yup, my 5 year old son likes to pretend he's a dog (that is, when he's not pretending to be a cheetah, tiger, beluga whale, or some other creature), and apparently he's convincing enough that he fooled our friend the dental assistant...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Upside-Down Prayers for Parents: A Review

 
I recently read an advance review copy of Upside-Down Prayers for Parents: 31 Daring Devotions for Entrusting Your Child--and Yourself--to God by Lisa T. Bergren (you may by familiar with her popular children's books, including God Gave Us You).
 
This book contains 31 short chapters, each consisting of a scripture passage, a meditation, a prayer, a question to help you process the reading, with space for journaling, and questions to help you talk to your kids about the issue discussed in the chapter.  Each chapter is just a few pages, and it's a quick read.  Ms. Bergren's style is down to earth and relatable.
 
The premise of the book boils down to this: as Christians, we know that God uses trials and temptations in our lives to draw us closer.  We know that after having survived a tough time in our life we emerge stronger on the other side.  So why play it safe in our prayers for ourselves and our children?  Why not, instead of always praying for provision and protection, pray for those trials?  Why not pray that we will learn and grow and draw closer to God?  Why not pray that our children will make small mistakes while they are still under our protection and learn from them, so that they don't end up making bigger mistakes later on that are not so easy to recover from? 
 
As a mother, it is difficult, close to impossible, to pray that my children would experience adversity, so I found this book to be thought provoking and challenging.  The book is an incredible tool for gaining perspective when I or my children find ourselves in the midst of hardship, to remember that God can and will redeem even the worst of situations and if we just cling to God good will come.  I will keep this devotional close in the years to come to help remind myself of this truth as difficulties arise.
 
The life of a Christ-follower is counter-intuitive in so many ways.  Gods ways just don't make sense to people who are told to always look out for number one or that strength always wins.  But as Christians, we are called to shrug off the conventions of this world and lean into God's strength, God's ways.  Upside-Down Prayers for Parents helps us to do just that.
 
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.
Did you like this review?  Please take a moment to rank it below:
 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Twelve Unlikely Heroes: A Review


I recently received a review copy of Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You by John MacArthur.  As the title suggests, the author explores the lives of 12 heroes from the Bible, heroes who were flawed and imperfect, but still were used for God's purposes, to further God's kingdom.  Each of the 10 chapters explores, in depth, one or two unlikely heroes, giving the reader a deeper understanding of the culture and history of the time, making each hero seem more real and relevant.

I was excited to read this book. I mean, did you see that subtitle? "What He Wants to Do with You"? Any word from God about what I should be doing is welcome.  I was disappointed that Mr. MacArthur spent most of his time fleshing out the heroes, making them real, and only a few paragraphs about what that could mean to me in my life (I guess he was thinking I could figure it out for myself--I was looking for a bit more guidance). 

Because it wasn't what I was expecting, it took me a while to get into this book--Mr. MacArthur's writing seemed dry to me, and while the information was fantastic, and I love learning about Bible history, it was tough going.  I did end up enjoying the book, once I gave up my preconceived idea that my purpose would be revealed in its pages.  I particularly identified with a few of the heroes, including Jonah and Ester.

I conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys exploring Bible history and culture, and those who would gain encouragement from these examples of real, flawed humans who were used by God to do amazing things.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sensory Playroom: DIY Ball Pit

Ah, a ball pit.  I have fond childhood memories of ball pits.  Fond, fuzzy memories.  I don't remember a whole lot, just that I thought they were fun and that I should be allowed to go in them much more often.  So, of course, my children need to have a ball pit in their sensory room.  Not only are they fun, but they also provide multi-sensory input that can calm or awaken the senses, depending on the child.

Ball pits are also not inexpensive.  Well, you can buy an inflatable one for $20-30 at a discount retailer like Target or Walmart, but those are small, and...shall we say...not very durable.  And, hello?  Only 20 balls?  What?!

If you have small children, you can use a pack-n-play for a ball pit.  Just dump in some balls and deposit child.


If you have older children, like me, look for a small rigid plastic wading pool at a garage sale or on clearance at the end of the season.  Mine is 5' in diameter, and I picked it up for $5.  You could definitely use an inflatable pool, but depending on how jumpy your kids are, you might end up with holes in the pool.  I'm thinking of putting it outside and adding water to the pool during the summer, but not sure if that will happen.


A word about ball pit balls: you will need a lot of them!  Way more than you would think.  In this ball pit, I've got about 500 balls, and I feel like we need more.  As you can see, I've also added some other soft balls, so you can definitely add things other than official ball pit balls to your pit.  Nerf balls or even playground balls would work.  Or add something entirely different, like packing peanuts or nerf gun bullets (can you imagine how many nerf gun bullets you would need to fill up the pool?!) 

You can order balls online--here are some choices from Amazon.  You can also buy them at discount retailers like Target or Walmart, and in fact, right now (January) you might find them on clearance.  You could also check garage sales (you might get lucky) or try Craigslist.  I think mine cost a total of around $30.

One more thing--I'm sure some of you are thinking, "no way am I doing that in my home.  Too messy.  We would have balls everywhere." 

It's true, the balls do end up everywhere, but to me, the mess is worth it.  First of all, the kids are responsible for picking up the balls when they're done.  So what do I care how big a mess they make if they're putting everything back the way it was?  Bonus: they're getting gross motor input (which is calming to my sensory child) as they scramble to pick up the most balls at clean-up time.  Second, having the balls has opened the door to hours and hours of fun, and not just in the ball pit.  My boys love to have ball fights (less painful than snowballs, let me tell you), shoot baskets, and...well, and other things.

Like stuffing their sweatshirts full of balls so they look like the Michelin man and then lumbering toward each other like Sumo wrestlers.

And I could have sworn I took pictures, but darned if I can find them now.  Bummer.

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This post from my Sensory Playroom series--I'm putting together a sensory room for my boys on the cheap (read: homemade) and decided to share with you all :) To see all the sensory playroom posts, click here.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Five Photo Friday: Christmas break

I wanted to share a few memories from the past few weeks:

When Grandma & Grandpa were visiting, the boys decided to go ice fishing.
MC got football pants for Christmas.  Hubby thinks this will help with the whole keeping the knees from tearing out in MC's pants situation.  I somehow doubt it.

After all our Christmas visitors left, the boys went ice fishing again.  Like they meant it.  This time, they caught some fish worth eating.
Don't they look cozy?  Not sure if these two did any actual fishing...

MC and Hubby went to Polar Camp, where someone gave my 9 year old son a deadly weapon and told him to throw it (can you see the tomahawk up there in the air between MC's hand and the target?).  Yup, that's what Cub Scouts is all about--giving boys deadly weapons.
A bonus (because, if you were counting, you know that this is photo number six):
I wanted to share this file folder game with you--super easy (and free) to make--just match the beginning sound of the animal to the letter that makes that sound.  Download the animals and letters here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hearing God

Most of the time, I don't hear God speak.  (Oh my, and if that opening line doesn't make you think I'm a crazy person, what will?).  Most of the time, as much as I long to hear His voice, as much as I strain, as much as I am still and quiet and wait, I don't hear Him.  Which isn't to say He isn't speaking to me, through the feeling in my gut, through a friend, through a circumstance, through seeming coincidence, through my mom's group (thank you sisters).  I just don't hear an actual voice. 

There have been a handful of times in my life, however, when I've heard the voice of God so clearly it's as if He's standing right beside me.  And as much as you'd think that kind of thing would freak a person out, it doesn't; it's like a comforting embrace to hear my Creator's voice.

One of those handful of times happened just a few weeks ago, and I want to tell you about it.  Because it's funny.  And reminded me of something.  And taught me something.

You may remember that I suffer from migraines.  If you've never had a migraine, you just don't know how horrible they can be (and mine are mild compared to others I've known).  The trouble with my migraines is they won't go away unless I take medication.  But if I move enough to get out of bed and go into the bathroom to get my medication, the motion will make me throw up.  But not right away.  I'll vomit 10-15 minutes after my trip the the bathroom.  Ten to fifteen minutes after taking my medication.  So I don't know how much of it has been absorbed into my system, so I don't know if I can take more or how much.  It truly is a horrible cycle of pain and meds and emesis.

I don't know if it does any good to take some medicine and then throw it up again.  And I hate to throw up.  Almost more than anything else in the world.  So mostly, when I get my migraines, I lie in bed hoping and praying for the pain to be miraculously removed from my body, until I just can't stand it anymore.

God is big, my friends.  He could totally do it.  And He totally cares about my pain.  This is true.  So it's not as ridiculous or hopeless as it may seem, to pray that God would work a miracle in my body and relieve my pain.

A couple of weeks ago, that's where I was, lying in bed at 4 in the morning, having awoken with a migraine 30 minutes earlier, with my eyes squinched shut, my fingers pressing into my temples, praying desperately that God would take the pain from me.

And in that moment, I heard His voice, just as plain as could be, saying, "honey, honestly, get up and take some Tylenol."

I was a little taken aback.  I mean, wouldn't you be if God said that to you?  (Well, I guess one might be taken aback if God said anything to them audibly.) 

That's not exactly what I was asking for, God.  I mean, I'm glad you're listening and all, but Tylenol?  It hurts to move.  That's why I want you to do it for me.

And then I started to chuckle.  (Well, not actually out loud, because that would have hurt.  Plus? My Hubby already thinks I'm a little loopy.)  Because God answers prayers.  And sometimes, it is good and right to wait on Him, on his timing, to move on those prayers, but others?  We need to just do it.  We need to stop hiding behind prayers and wishful thinking, and just. start. moving. 

God works in this world, that is true, sometimes in miraculous ways.  But most of the time, God is working through ordinary people like me and you to accomplish His purpose: broken, imperfect people who choose to be obedient to His will.  And sometimes?  God calls us to obedience in taking a part in answering our own prayers.

I got up and took some Tylenol.  What else could I do with such clear instructions from I AM?  And I didn't throw up.  And my headache went away.

Praise be to the One who spoke the world into existence, for caring for me in such a real and tangible way, for choosing to speak to me through my pain.  Me.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sensory Playroom: DIY Crash Pad

For a while now, I've wanted a crash pad.  A crash pad is just a big soft something to crash into or jump upon.  And crashing into things (safely) and jumping on things (safely) is a great way to get vestibular and proprioceptive input.  Which I'm concerned about because of my sensory son.  It's also a great way to burn off pent-up energy indoors.  Which I'm concerned about because of my wild-child, climb everything and jump off son.

 
Now, of course, these things are available for purchase, but they are mighty expensive...so I decided to make one.  The problem was, I didn't know what to stuff it with.  I mean, there are plenty of soft materials out there with which to stuff a crash pad, but if I were to purchase enough of any of those soft materials to make a crash pad, that would definitely put this project well out of my price range.
 
So I stewed on it a while, and was struck with a genius idea.
 
We've got all these extra pillows and blankets around.  And we kind of have to keep them around for guests (even though half of our guests usually bring their own pillows), but they're a storage issue, you know?  They're bulky.  Take up a lot of space.
 
Can you see where I'm going with this?  Oh yes, I'm gonna make me a crash pad and solve my storage issue, all in one fell swoop.
 
I used a queen sized flat sheet* whose fitted mate had worn out long ago, and laid it flat on the floor, right side up.  Then I folded each end (top and bottom of the sheet) toward the middle, overlapping the edges about 5 inches.  I sewed along the two open sides, and turned it right side out, which resulted in an envelope.  Or a very large pillow slipcover.
 
Next I sewed ties (I used double fold bias tape, because that's what I had on hand) to the top and bottom of the sheet, at the opening where they met.  I used 5 sets across the opening.
 
 I stuffed in all those extra pillows and blankets, a couple of mattress pads, and even 2 sleeping bag liners that Hubby and I made but haven't used in years, but that he doesn't want to get rid of. 

Bam.  Crash pad made; storage issue solved.  When we have guests, we can just remove the appropriate number of pillows from the crash pad.
 
 
It took me less than half an hour, and zero dollars to make.  If you don't sew, you can also just stuff pillows and blankets into a duvet cover.  Or ask someone to make one for you--they won't mind.

And then?  And then we jumped.  And jumped again.  And again and again and again and then we came back and jumped again the next day.
 




So much fun, my friends, for all of us.  Even if you don't make a crash pad, take some time to jump in a pile of pillows and blankets today :)

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This post is the first in my Sensory Playroom series--I'm putting together a sensory room for my boys on the cheap (read: homemade) and decided to share with you all :)  To see all the sensory playroom posts, click here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

You know what annoys me?  Well, lots of things, actually, but if I decided to blog about every.single.thing that annoys me, we could be here for a very long time.  So, limiting myself to one annoying thing, I'll give you a hint.  It's something old people say to young people.  All.The.Time.

It annoyed me when it was my grandma saying it to me, and it annoys me when it's my kids' grandparents saying it to them.

"Do you have a girl(boy)friend?"

And, the various themes thereof.  Upon arrival, "do you have a girl(boy)friend?"  Upon receiving a phone call, "is that your girl(boy)friend?"  Sitting at the supper table, "did you see your girl(boy)friend at school today?"  After taking a shower, "are you going to see your girl(boy)friend later?"

Ugh!

I know it's just something people say, but think about it.  Is it really too much to ask you to think about what you're saying?  The ideas you're putting in their heads?  My 12 and 9 year old sons are no where near mature enough to have girlfriends.  Physically?  Maybe, and if not, someday soon.  But emotionally?  No way.  When you ask them, over and over, if they have one, they start to think maybe they should.

Stop making my kids grow up faster than they need to.

Finally, after about the 15th time this visit (fifteenHonestly), I asked the question I never had the guts to ask my own grandmother, "why do you say that?" 

The response, from a loving grandparent?  "Because it's fun."

OK, people.  So what you're saying is, it's fun to make my kid squirm?  It's fun to, over and over and over again, make him blush and become suddenly engrossed in his book, his supper, his iPod?  It's fun to make him not want to spend time with you because you're always asking that stupid question?  Do you really not have anything else to say to my son?  Really?

That, my friends, is bullying: using words to hurt another person for your own amusement.  Stop it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hanging Backwards

Happy 2013 y'all!  How was your Christmas?  The Bluefield family had a great time, hosting 2 sets of houseguests over the break, with just the boys heading out for an ice fishing expedition at the end.  As busy as it was, it was relaxing and renewing as well.  Miss you already, guys.

Anyway, have you heard about this closet decluttering tip?  The idea is, at the beginning of the year (or whenever you want, really), you turn all the hangers in your closet around backwards.  As you wear the clothes, when you hang them back up, hang them up the regular way.  At the end of the year (or whatever time period you choose), whatever is still hanging backwards you haven't worn at all during the year, and you can safely get rid of*.  If you're patient enough to wait a whole year (or whatever), this could be a terrific way to get an idea of what you actually wear and what you don't need anymore.

So, this morning, inspired by my mother in law, who retired last year and mentioned she needs to weed some things out of her closet, I turned all my hangers around backwards.  I was thinking I should actually hang some things that aren't normally hanged (my t-shirts and casual pants) to see if I can weed some of those out as well.  And then, just because he wasn't around to object, and I'm curious to see the results in a year, I turned Hubby's around, too (sorry if that bothers you, honey.  Anything you wear you can turn around after you wear it, K?).

I actually weed out clothes with some frequency, since I love to get rid of things so much, but even so, as I was turning my hangers around I saw a few things that I wouldn't be surprised to see still hanging backwards at this time next year. 

It's all about the mights, you see.  I might wear this.  I might need this.  We let the mights cloud our thinking.  The hangers?  They're completely objective.  This way, I'll know.

Anyway, just wanted to share.  Let me know if you try it.  And if I remember, I'll let you know how it turns out for us :)


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* Of course, you're allowed to still use your judgement on this (you're a grown-up--you can do what you want).  I'm pretty sure Hubby's not going to wear his sports coats this coming year, but I'm also fairly sure he shouldn't get rid of them, at least not without replacing them.  Because sports coats are something he should have, even if he doesn't wear them frequently.
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