Seeking Gratitude Even When Life is Hard

IMG_9013

Sometimes life is hard, and in those times it seems like such a daunting task to find something to be grateful for. It’s so easy to look at all the things that are wrong instead of all the things that are right.

I’ve been really convicted of this lately. I’ve been tired, there have been a lot of things going on, and quite frankly, complaining is easy. But, there are so many blessings in my life, and I think it’s important to focus on those things. Of course I know it’s easier said than done. I might resolve myself to only think about the good things in my life, but two minutes later I’m back focused on my problems.

Recently, however, I read an article that really helped my perspective, and gave a simple, yet profound tip for counting your blessings. Imagine that everything you have, everything you are was suddenly taken away. It has all been returned to you. How thankful are you for those things you had once taken for granted?

God’s unending love…

My family…their laughter…their health…

My dishwasher and washing machine…

My hands that get things done and feet that take me where I need to go…

A reliable car…

The food in our cabinets…

Hot water…

Our refrigerator that keeps food cold…

Bookshelves full of books…

My son’s cochlear implants so he can hear my voice…

The warm blanket on my bed…

A soft couch for relaxing…

Cooking utensils…(have you seen Cutthroat Kitchen? I’m never taking a pan or spatula for granted again.)

I’m not perfect at this exercise yet; I think it takes a lot of effort to move to a mindset of gratitude, but I’m trying and am already feeling more thankful.

As a sign in my parent’s house attests: There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

Book Review: Kill Devil

Kill Devil (Jed Patrick series Book 2) by [Dellosso, Mike]I love a good action novel. Mike Dellosso is quickly becoming one of my favorite Christian thriller authors. Kill Devil is book two in the Jed Patrick series, with Centralia being the first novel in the series. I really enjoyed Centralia and couldn’t wait to get my hands on book number two in the series, Kill Devil.

Jed Patrick has been living under an assumed name with his family in the middle of nowhere after he seemingly rid himself of the people in the mind-altering Centralia project who were targeting him. One day, however, his daughter Lilly is kidnapped from their new home by CIA agents who are looking for an important flash drive regarding the Centralia project. Jed doesn’t fully trust these agents, so he sends Karen into hiding, and gives her the flash drive to take with her. While Jed is able to reunite with Lilly, the CIA is holding her as collateral until they get the drive.

Meanwhile, Tiffany Stockton is a second generation CIA analyst coming to grips with her dad’s recent death. While going through the stuff in his office, she stumbles upon an encrypted flash drive that has all sorts of information about a covert program called “Centralia”, and is determined to find out the truth.

Since the CIA has Lilly, Jed cannot afford to stray too far from the path the CIA has for him. Who can he trust? How deep does this covert program go, and what do they want from Jed? Jed has to figure out who he can and cannot trust–including his own mind.

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, and hope that there is a third Jed Patrick book in this series.

 

*I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Vacationpocalypse Redux

texas

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been around much the last month or two. After I got back from my Jeopardy! audition in Seattle, I started not feeling right. I went to the doctor a few times, saw a couple of specialists, had surgery, and was not in a very bloggy mood until I just received the “healthy all clear”. Praise the Lord! So, all is well, I am back, and I wanted to share some photos of our trip to Texas last week. Remember Vacationpocalypse last year? Well this trip followed that one up nicely.

Our kids had the opportunity to be a flower girl and ring bearer at a friend’s wedding in Fort Worth, Texas. We decided to fly out a few days early, so we could spend some time touring the area, and we had a few “field trips” planned as part of our homeschool curriculum.

It’s a 3 hour flight from San Diego to Dallas. Well, not even three hours. I think the total flight is around two hours and forty-five minutes. Between take off and descent, it’s only about 2 hours in the air. No problem! This would be easy. We got to the San Diego airport and found a parking space right in front (never happens), then made it through security in five minutes (never happens either), and our flight left 15 minutes early, with an early arrival time planned (woohoo, Texas steak dinner here we come!)

Texas has been getting record rainfall and flooding the last few weeks, but the storm in Dallas wasn’t supposed to move in until after our 5pm flight was to arrive. Everything was going smoothly, the kids were doing great on the flight, and I was anticipating a nice steak once we arrived.

About 10 minutes before our arrival time, the captain came on and said there was a lightening storm in the DFW area, and no planes could land, but that we would circle until a path opened and arrive about 20 minutes late.

We continued to circle for 2 hours…every 30 minutes the captain would come on and promise us only 20 more minutes. I started to not believe him. It was now 7pm, and we had no time table for landing.

IMG_0261

Finally a little after 7pm, we were told we were beginning our initial descent–into Wichita Falls–about 120 miles north of DFW to refuel. We considered renting a car to make it down to DFW, but they never let us off the plane. We sat on the tarmac for FOUR hours. Junior was not having any of it…it was meltdown central on that plane, and I don’t blame the poor kid. A 3 hour flight had turned into 9, and I had only packed enough snacks and games for 3 hours. Finally, at 11:30pm, we landed at DFW. No one on the plane got dinner, so we were all hungry and crabby. After getting the rental car and driving an hour to the hotel, we finally settled in about 1am.

The only upside, I told my husband, is that if we ever wanted to fly to Europe, we know the kids could do it =)

Next Post: Photos of my 33 oz Texas tomahawk steak, sitting on a live longhorn steer, and the ring bearer and flower girl in action.

Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

Book Review: Little One, God Made You Special

Part of Junior’s speech therapy is reading aloud to him as often as possible. Since he definitely has his favorite books that he likes to read over and over, it’s fun to get new books for him to look at (and so I don’t have to read Pout Pout Fish for the 14th time that day.) I was excited to get him the charming little board book, Little One, God Made You Special by Amy Warren Hilliker and illustrated by Polona Lovsin. This book is inspired by Rick Warren’s bestseller The Purpose Driven Life.

This small board book (only six full page spreads) is geared towards very young toddlers. In rhyming words, the adorable illustrations show various animal moms with their babies, telling them how special and unique and loved they are. The last page in the book declares “You are perfect, little one. There’s no one like you–no not one.”

I thought this book was very cute, and the illustrations were the highlight. The words flowed well and it was easy to read and enjoyable to sit and read aloud to Junior. It was probably a little young for him…it would be perfect for a young toddler…maybe 9-18 months old–who has a very short attention span.

Junior enjoyed looking at the book, and I enjoyed reading it to him even though he is getting to the age where he prefers more of a plot. But, it was still very cute.

*I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

 

“Shhhh. They Don’t Know They’re Learning” DVD List…for home or travel!

032

I know a lot of parents try to tough out traveling without using technology, but sometimes you just need to switch on the DVD player for sanity’s sake. Having logged over 130 hours on road trips or plane rides with one or both of my kids since 2014, I know a little bit about traveling with kids. (plus we have another 30 hours+ worth of traveling planned for later this year), and sometimes turning on a DVD is just the best option for everyone. It tends to reset the atmosphere, gives some peace and quiet, and helps the time pass more quickly. Even though Tater gets carsick while reading or coloring in the car, she does fine watching shows, so I make sure to stock up on quality shows.

But, not all DVDs are created equal. I try to make sure that the DVDs we have in the car for traveling are educational, but also fun and enjoyable. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning! Here are my top picks for Educational DVDs to pick up for your next trip (or even just to have around the house!)

(My kids do have plenty of non-screen time during our travels as well…check out some of my DIY travel games for road trips, and my simple DIY Travel Lego Tray!)

Toddler and Preschoolers

  • Leapfrog Letter Factory
    • This is such a great show for kids who are learning their ABCs. Both of my kids were able to learn and practice their letter sounds. Junior still asks to watch it on occasion, because it’s entertaining, even though he already knows the letters.
  • Leapfrog Math Circus
    • This is another wonderful Leapfrog DVD, that teaching counting by 10s.
  • Leapfrog Math Adventure to the Moon
    • In this DVD (can you tell I love Leapfrog shows for little kids??), children are introduced to skip counting, which is a major foundation for multiplication.
  • Meet the _____ series
    • Meet the Letters, Colors, Numbers, and Shapes are four of my top DVDs for little kids. Much like the Leapfrog series, they introduce kids to learning in a fun, engaging, and sing-songy way.

Young Grade School (K-4th)

  • Wild Kratts
    • This popular PBS show teaches kids about all about animals. The fast-paced cartoon action is enough to keep all the kids entertained.
  • Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
    • I grew up playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego on the computer, and enjoyed watching the cartoon version. Both kids love these DVDs, and will watch each episode over and over. Tater spouts off trivia about geography, history, natural wonders, and science. It’s adventure mixed with information that keeps my kids enthralled.
  • Liberty’s Kids
    • This is a cartoon take on Colonial America during the Revolutionary War. It’s fast paced, exciting, and includes all the episodes that teach about the American Revolution and incudes the lives of such historical figures as Benjamin Franklin (the main character voiced by the legendary Walter Cronkite), Paul Revere, and George Washington.
  • Popular Mechanics for Kids
    • This is a fun series for hands-on science learning. Tater didn’t like some of the “gross” episodes about reptiles and bugs, but she loved the rest of them.
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
    • Do you know how adorable it is to hear your 3 year old singing Conjunction Junction?! Too adorable. This DVD includes all 46 of the Schoolhouse Rock! songs on one disc. My kids love rocking out to this DVD. In fact, it’s in our car’s DVD player as we speak.
  • The Magic School Bus
    • With the exception of a few “millions and millions of years” dinosaur episodes, this entire series is really great. I used to watch it when I was young, and learned so much about science. My kids have the entire series on DVD and really enjoy it.

Do you have a favorite educational show? Let me know in the comments!

*This post contains some affiliate links.