Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When Pool Safety Hits Close To Home

On Sunday night, we had our swim team banquet. When one particular name was called, everyone screamed at the top of their lungs and the clapping went on for quite some time. The little boy whose name had been called made his way to the front to accept his trophy, still wearing his hospital armband. His dad watched as his eyes filled with tears. His mom just bowed her head and sobbed openly. All around the room people wiped tears away even as they clapped. You see, just two days before, that little boy was found at the bottom of the pool, not breathing.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the people who were there-- our lifeguard and some of our neighbors-- he was given CPR and by the time the paramedics arrived, he was alert and stabilized. He spent two nights in the hospital and arrived home on Sunday afternoon-- just in time for the swim team banquet. And you know what he wanted to do as soon as the banquet was over?

Go swimming!

His father looked at him and then over at me and said, "I know he's ready but I just don't know that I am!"

I watched on Sunday night as that little boy jumped into the pool in complete and total oblivion. He twirled and splashed and smiled, not realizing what a miracle he is. Not noticing the way his parents watched him like a hawk. Unaware that, because of him, we all watched our kids closer than ever and hugged them a little bit tighter as we wrapped towels around them. His brush with death was a wake up call for all of us. As one lady said to me, "It's sad that it took this to make us all take it up a notch. Because we should have been doing this all along."

But the truth is, we all suffered from a sense of false security. They have floaties on their arms. There are lifeguards posted. They know how to swim. They're on swim team, for crying out loud! And yet, for reasons that are still unclear, this little boy sank to the bottom of the pool in a moment.

If you take your kids to the pool regularly, let this be a wakeup call that extends beyond just our little neighborhood. Watch your kids. Talk to your friends while you sit on the side, but do it with your eyes trained on your children. Don't be lulled into that false sense of security that things will be okay. Because they aren't always guaranteed to be. No matter how great a swimmer your child might be-- no matter how much experience they have around water-- stuff can happen. Water is fun and great and part of the summer experience, but we need to respect it. I can promise you the parents at our pool will be doing a much better job of that in the months to come.

"Did you see how everyone clapped and cheered for Zeb tonight?" my 9yo daughter asked me after the banquet.

"Yep. It was really neat. A lot of people are really happy he's okay. A lot of people had tears in their eyes seeing him get that trophy."

She looked at me and smiled. "Mom," she said, "I had tears in my eyes."

I smiled back at her and said, "I did too honey. I did too."
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Write At Home Interview: Christa Parrish

My Heart Of The Matter Online post is up today. Write at Home features interviews with homeschooling moms who write. Ever wonder how does she do it?? This is one way we can get some answers to that question!

Go here to read the interview with Christa Parrish, author of Home Another Way:
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The Simple Woman's Daybook Monday June 29, 2009

For Today...

Outside my window... heat, heat and more heat... summer is here. I said yesterday as I walked across the hot asphalt of a parking lot, it felt like walking on the surface of the sun!

I am thinking... about pool safety. (I will post more about this later.)

From the learning rooms... sight words flash cards have been added to my 2nd grader's daily regime... go figure, he likes them and begs to do them!

I am thankful for... summertime

From the kitchen... mom's on strike (I will post more about this later.)

I am wearing... my daughter's jeans and a grey "Modest Is Hottest" tee shirt

I am reading... Elvis Takes A Back Seat by Leanna Ellis... cute, cute book! Just finished Talking To The Dead by Bonnie Grove... it was different than I expected, but very good.

I am hoping... for a good week and some creativity on my part to fill our days. It's the end of June and boredom has officially set in.

I am creating... some new Proverbs 31 Devotions. I like to write a bunch in the summer and stockpile them to use throughout the year. Doesn't always happen but if it does, it's a great feeling!

I am praying... for hurting people in tough situations.

Around the house... a good, deep cleaning is in order.

One of my favorite things... my three year old dressed in one of her too-cute bathing suits

On my iPod... Summertime by Kenny Chesney

A few plans for the rest of the week... All Star meet tonight, a tour of Great Harvest bread, several trips to the pool, a free summer movie with the kids, meeting up with some old friends from high school Wednesday night, celebrating the 4th with friends this coming weekend.

Love The Simple Woman's Daybook format? Want to read more? A Mr. Linky is at

Want to write your own? Here's directions on how to participate:
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Everything Is Different Now

Listened to this song this morning on the treadmill and these words jumped out at me, as they always do:

I got so tired of that;
I got so lonely
I dropped down and I called out to heaven
“Send me someone to love.”
Heaven shot back,
“You get the love that you allow.”
And everything is different now

(Lyrics by Don Henley)
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two Videos To Check Out!

This first one is my niece's audition tape for Tampa FL's American Idol. Basically this helps her bypass the long lines to audition. If Fox News Tampa picks her as one of the ten finalists, she goes to a mall to perform. If she gets selected there, she'll go straight in front of the judges at the upcoming auditions. I am SO excited for her and think she did awesome!! Please leave comments here or on You Tube to encourage her. The mall performance is July 1 so it's coming up soon! And if you live in the Tampa area, please go down to the mall that day and scream really loud for her!! I can't be there or believe me, I would be screaming my heart out.

The second one is the book trailer for my friend Mary's new book, Thin Places, which comes out this January. I am one of the fortunate people who has already gotten to read this book and I tell you it's a must read... so put it on your list. I would compare it to the style of Donald Miller or Anne Lamott (minus her cursing)-- very well written and spiritually powerful. So check out the video now and put the book on your "to buy" list for this winter!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Nurture Geniuses

Loved this from my dear friend Ann...

What would happen if every Christian used the 4 hours daily spent in front
of the television a day (
more than 126 hours a month!) or the near hour a day the average American surfs the internet and spent two of those hours developing their skill in a particular domain ( woodworking, quantum physics, photography) and one hour more on the spiritual disciplines that lead into a deeper relationship with God, (prayer, memorization, Bible meditation, fasting) – only repurposing three hours a day from the five we spend on passive entertainment --- and in one decade, our entire culture – and the world at large – would be entirely revolutionized. How are we being faithful stewards of our 10,000 hours?

Want to read the rest?
Just go here:

This reminds me of a book I have sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting to be read. Bringing Up Geeks by Marybeth Hicks.
(Why yes, she does have a cool name...)
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plans For Today

  • Comfort my kids who ended a four year undefeated streak last night at their swim meet. It hurts all of us to have that one black mark on an otherwise perfect record. The other team was celebrating, talking about how they were making history and were going to break out the champagne while our kids filed out of their pool with heavy hearts. Seriously people. Did you have to say that in front of them? I realize you were happy but geesh!
  • Pray for Jon and Kate. Am I the only one who doesn't feel like we should give up here?
  • Ponder why nearly 40 year old women can still get acne.
  • Go to the grocery store, put gas in the car, and get some more tomatoes at the produce stand. I had a bacon and tomato sandwich for lunch yesterday (my first of this year, always an occasion to celebrate) and it was as good as I remember.
  • Make a peach crisp, serve it with ice cream tonight. Find something to serve the people in my house who don't eat peaches but will surely complain if they don't get something. Perhaps this? Naaah, I'll just make the rice krispy treats my son has been begging me for ever since I made some for our local theater to sell. But I will make that chocolate cobbler very soon!
  • Listen to a cd on writing a fiction synopsis that I bought back in mid May. As in over a month ago. I still need to make myself sit down and take notes on it so I can learn how to do this.
  • Workout for 40 minutes. I have upped my time and my speed recently. It's a little game I play with myself. You know. For kicks. (This is so I can eat peach crisp and not feel as guilty.)
  • Actually read aloud some of the books I brought home for my kids from the library.
  • Sit with my children while they whine and moan and complain their way through the measly two pages of summer school I ask them to do each day.
  • Take my daughter to driver's ed, then pick her back up again.
  • Deal with the laundry-- or make the kids deal with it. Enforce the various chores the kids like to pretend they don't have to do because it's summer and we are way off routine.
  • Choose a winner for the dvd giveaway. Yes, that was supposed to be announced Friday. I know.
  • Make breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast: whole wheat toast, cantaloupe, milk Lunch: Fried bologna sandwiches (don't knock it til you've tried it), wheat thins, popsicles for dessert Dinner: chicken over salad, rolls, peach crisp or Rice Krispy Treats for dessert. Clean it all back up again.
  • Take kids to swim practice. Even though they will surely complain that they shouldn't have to go now that they just had their last meet. Remind them that All-Stars is coming up and they just might get chosen to swim in that. Encourage them that they can get revenge on that team that beat us last night at the All-Star meet. But I'm not bitter. Nor do I get overly invested in trivial things like summer swim league records.

Last night some of the moms and I were talking about to-do lists at the swim meet. (It was better than talking about how we were getting beat.) One of the moms said, "Well at least you have the list. I just have the to-do's that never seem to make it on the list."

I live by my to-do list. The satisfaction of crossing things off provides me a little too much happiness. Plus, with all these things swimming around in my brain, having a place to put them just makes sense. Think about it once and write it down. That's my motto-- one I learned years ago. When I get that famous question, "How do you do it?" Well, my to-do list is a big way. When I can see what I have coming up on any given day it makes me feel more capable, more in charge.

Yeah, I know it's an illusion. Just let me dream...

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Devotion Today

Merry Monday To You All!

Thanks to everyone who stops by today after reading the Proverbs 31 Devotion. I love having guests drop by!!

Today the Whalen family will be spending the day recuperating after a very fun, very busy weekend. Mom and dad got away for a whole 24 hours, thanks to helpful grandparents who stepped in in our absence.

We didn't do anything special on our getaway we just... got away. It was needed time. If you haven't gotten away with your husband lately, plan something soon! It does wonders for a marriage! It's nice to have uninterrupted time to talk, dream, plan, and just finish a sentence for once. (You parents out there know what I mean!!)

Yesterday we had a great, relaxed Father's Day by the pool when we got home. Curt even cooked his own dinner (in my defense, I had dinner planned but he was in the mood for hamburgers on his father's day gift-- a new grill). So, hamburgers it was. After dinner we got the little ones to bed, left the big kids watching a movie and visited my stepfather to give him a card and wish him a happy father's day, then we stopped by Marble Slab on the way home to split a chocolate-with-Peppermint-Patty-mixed-in ice cream. Man oh man, was it good! A sweet ending to a great weekend.

So now it's Monday and I am a bit late getting this post up because I had such a great weekend. But I did want to ask the question, what is God telling you to have deliberate obedience and intentional trust in Him about right now? Please share!

I'll go first: I am deliberately obeying God in my writing, continuing to write as He directs and I am intentionally trusting Him to bring about publication in His timing and His will. It's not easy! Sometimes I just want to quit, to throw up my hands, to say "This is bogus! I am wasting my time!" But God keeps nudging me, and reassuring me, and so I keep on. Someday, I trust that I will be glad I did. In the meantime, I just keep telling myself to DO IT and leave the results up to Him.

I look forward to hearing your experiences!
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Fun And Inexpensive Summer Ideas

I posted a list of fun and inexpensive summer ideas my kids and I are going to be doing with a group of friends from our church this summer. Check out these ideas and see if they inspire you to plan some of your own!
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do I See Life As A Ministry Opportunity?

I loved this post by Cara Putman... it made me wonder how many ministry opportunities I have missed out on because I didn't ask for them, didn't look for them... I loved how a disappointing situation was turned around by one simple prayer/perspective change. With God, nothing is wasted and all things work together for good. May we have eyes to see those opportunities when they come our way. Read on...
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just For This Moment... A Good Thing

My house is clean. (Well, not the toilets but only because we were out of Comet, so that will happen tomorrow.) The den has been vacuumed and the pillows on the couch have been freshly plumped and arranged. The laundry is actually all put away. There is a homemade chicken pie bubbling in the oven and a pot of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove. The kitchen floor has been swept, the counters wiped, the sink scoured with bleach.

What's more, I spent time with my kids today-- took them out to Pizza Hut to use their Book-It coupons. I also bought them a set of Tinkertoys at the used homeschool store-- remember those? They have played and played with them this afternoon instead of watching tv. At lunch today, we sat and talked and I remembered to smile.

Any moment, my husband will walk in the door from a four day trip to a totally clean house, happy children, and a homemade dinner.

Just for this moment, I feel capable. I feel like I can actually do this thing called motherhood. It is only a moment, but I had to share it with someone. Because, you see, these moments don't come often.

I am choosing to be thankful they come at all!
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Books Questions

As a confirmed bibliophile, I just had to do this little q&a when I saw it at As Cozy As Spring.

1. What author do you own the most books by? Lee Smith-- I started buying her books when I was in high school and one of my dad's rental house tenants moved out in the middle of the night, leaving behind boxes of books. Black Mountain Breakdown was in the boxes and I devoured it. I have loved her writing ever since...

2. What book do you own the most copies of? The Bible, it's a bit over the top how many we own, but that's totally my husband's fault... he has a Bible buying sickness.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? No-- as an English major, perhaps it should, but it totally doesn't

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Phineas (Finny) in A Separate Peace, Noah in The Notebook

5. What book have you read the most times in your life? I re-read Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and Elizabeth Berg's Escaping Into The Open fairly often. Also Elizabeth Foss' book Real Learning is excellent and inspiring and worthy of regular re-reading for homeschool moms.

6. Favorite book as a ten year old? Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards and Danny, The Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? Typically if a book doesn't grab me, I simply don't read it-- so I can't say that I've actually read a bad book in the past year!

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? House and Home by Kathleen McCleary-- I don't know why that one touched me the way it did-- probably because it's a book I would love to have written

9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? The Bible notwithstanding, I would say Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner

11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? the books I had to read when I took a semester's worth of Victorian literature... I still shudder at the memory of that class

12. What is your favorite book? There are so many-- that would be like asking me to choose a favorite child!! There are those that I see on the shelves at the library or the bookstore and just smile like I am running into a dear old friend... those are my favorites. The ones that make me smile when I see them again.

13. What is your favorite play? Oklahoma-- I have fond memories of my kids being in it for our community theater's summer production several years ago.

14. Poem? "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost

15. Essay? "Welcome To Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley (someone gave me this essay when my son was born with a birth defect-- it so captured what I was going through and I never forgot it.) I also love the late Erma Bombeck's essays about life as a homemaker. Forever, Erma is a good book to check out to get a good collection.

16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I am stealing Jenn's answer but I would have to say she's right: Stephanie Meyer-- I just don't get the whole Twilight thing...

17. What is your desert island book? the Bible

18. And . . . what are you reading right now? Sleepwalking In Daylight by Elizabeth Flock (secular fiction-- not loving it but I want to see how everything turns out) and Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild (Christian nonfiction)... I have an extensive list of titles I hope to get to this summer in both fiction and non, Christian and secular... it's like at a buffet-- my eyes are always bigger than my stomach where books are concerned! I was so happy to see Elizabeth Berg has a new book out, and Jennifer Weiner's new book that comes out in a month looks great, too!

So many books, so little time!
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dear Noggin,

Thank you for putting Little Bear on at 4:00 pm each day. The theme music begins to play and it just makes me smile. I fetch my little one from wherever she is in the house and sit her down in front of the tv as the voices of Little Bear and Mother Bear and Cat and No Feet and all the others fill our home. I love Mother Bear. She is so sweet-- much sweeter than I am. She inspires me to always be so kind to my little bears, to speak softly and gently like she does. She is my hero.

Because of Little Bear being on at 4:00, I can freely go into the kitchen without guilt and work on dinner preparation. I am guaranteed that for that full 30 minutes, my 3yo will be absorbed in the adventures of Little Bear and I can chop and dice and saute to my hearts' content. I am sad when the music comes on at the end, because my time is up. Noggin, I confess I wish there were back to back episodes of Little Bear. Sometimes I need more than 30 minutes. Sometimes I am still cooking dinner.

I know there will come a day that no one watches Little Bear in our house anymore. That day is arriving faster and faster. I remember when my nearly 17 yo used to watch it years and years ago. Now he walks through the den and I point at the tv, "It's Little Bear!" I say. "Don't you remember?" He pats his little sister on the head absentmindedly and says something about her standing too close to the tv. Then he goes upstairs to his room to plan his life via cell phone from behind closed doors. For a moment, I wish that my little bear could have stayed little forever. But Noggin, that's just not going to happen, then or now.

Instead I choose to be grateful for Little Bear at 4:00, and for the chance to do it all again with this little one... and this time around, I am appreciating it so much more. So I wanted to take a moment to say thanks Noggin for your public service to moms everywhere.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer School: Day One

Heard from the dining room table, where my 12 yo was working on his long division (oh, the agony!) "This is terrible! No one else I know has to do this! I'm suing my parents for the rights to my own freedom."

I'd say the first day of "Summer School" at our house went just swimmingly!
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Homestead Blessings DVD's: A Review and Giveaway

When I received copies to review of Homestead Blessings, I knew I was in for a treat. The West ladies who host the videos are crafting extraordinaires and seem so sweet! They walk you step by step through demonstrations for easy and inexpensive ways to make candles, soap and bread at home, often using things you already have. I gathered my girls to watch it with me, and they are really anxious to try our hand at making dipped candles. I personally want to make the soap. She pointed out the health benefits for making your own soap and I was inspired by what she said. I must admit, I am still nervous about handling the lye, though... I can picture me splashing it on myself. Thankfully they teach you to have vinegar on hand to neutralize it if that happens. Either way, I think we have some ideas for fun summer projects ahead of us after watching these videos.

If you are interested in learning some homemaking skills like these, I highly recommend these great dvd's. They are nicely done and presented in such a way that the projects seem doable. I will admit that by the end, I was fantasizing about having my own little booth on Saturdays at our local farmer's market, selling bread, candles and homemade soap with my girls. I wonder if that pays better than writing??

Want to win a set of dvd's?? Just leave a comment here stating which dvd you would most like to watch (the soap, candles, or bread) for your chance to win. Make sure your email, blog address or website is listed so I can contact you if you win! I will announce the winners on Friday so be sure to leave a comment by then!
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good Things

The other morning, the doorbell rang. "Could somebody get that?" I hollered, assuming it was one of my kids' friends. No one comes to the door for me, except on occasion the UPS guy to drop off a package of books I ordered. But I hadn't ordered any books lately. The kids came running back. "It's some guy with flowers!" they said. I sat up and took notice. By the time I got to the door, he had left the flowers on my doorstep and was pulling away in his car. I waved vigorously at him. He was my new best friend, this man who brought me flowers in the midst of an otherwise long and boring day.
"Who are they from?" my kids asked, dancing around me, as excited as I was at this unexpected interruption.
"I have no idea," I answered truthfully as I ripped into the card. What I found inside made me gasp in delight. It was from my friend Ann, who lives in Canada. A farmer's wife who writes beautifully and inspires me regularly with her eloquent turns of phrase and continued pointing to the goodness that's all around us, the Savior we all need. I have followed her blog for a few years, and a random email sent to thank her for her encouragement bloomed into a real, across-the-miles friendship. One day I dream of going to Canada to see her, to see the farm she writes of, her warm and loving home. One day, somehow, I will give her a big hug in person.
In the meantime, I am contenting myself with trading emails, and now enjoying the flowers she sent into my life-- a good thing that happened when I least expected it. I can't think of anything nicer she could have done for me. Thanks Ann, I hope you enjoy the picture and knowing that your flowers made it here safely!
One more good thing: These flowers are from the big hydrangea bush that grows outside my front door. I love keeping the glass pitcher continuously refilled with fresh flowers while the bush is blooming. It serves as a centerpiece on our kitchen table and makes a nice companion to the daisies that now sit on the island. My kitchen just feels so "summery" with fresh flowers in it! Flowers are a definite good thing to me!
Here's an arrangement tip Alyce sent me: Fill a vase with lemon slices, then fill with water and daisies for a beautiful summer centerpiece. Make your own good thing at your house today!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Survival Article

Welcome to all of you who stop by today after reading the devotion. I am glad to have you visit! Below is an article I didn't write, but wanted to share. I hope it refreshes you as we begin the long, hot summers at home!
Saved By the Bell
A Summer to Remember
Sharon Lovejoy Autry

The final bell rang. The kids screamed for joy. Mom sits in the carpool line wondering, "What in the world are we going to do all summer?!" Maybe as summer has begun, you've found yourself resentful and angry because your children constantly "interrupt" your schedule. If that's how you're feeling, you're normal.

But, wait. We wanted these kids, right? Are they really interruptions or blessings in disguise? How can we move from simply surviving the summer to making it a summer to remember?

Here are a few ideas to get you out of the summer survival rut:

1. Realize they won't be this way forever. What is it about your kids that you won't have in two years? If you are a parent of:
  • Preschoolers: Look at their hands and notice how tiny they are. Enjoy that.
  • Elementary children: When you're away from home, call them. Their voices sound small on the phone. That always reminds me to enjoy their innocence rather than expecting them to act like little grown-ups.
  • Tweens: Laugh at and enjoy their giggles (usually girls) and the fascination they have with being gross (usually boys)! Hopefully that won't last forever!
  • Teens: Even if they are driving you crazy, make your home the safe place. I still remember the fun place our parents created at home. It was our refuge. Let kids feel safe in your home by cutting down on the criticism and looking for ways to build them up. Mom and Dad's secret was a ping-pong table. We spent hours there.

2. Say "no" with a smile. It makes you and your child feel better. They know you have some regret at having to say no. You are on their team.

3. Play music. Anger and music don't usually dance. Movie soundtracks, praise songs, music from my teen years or even classical stations. I rarely find myself upset with my kids when we have music playing in the background.

4. Go outside. Sometimes taking a walk or bike ride with the kids can do wonders to change everyone's perspective.

5. Things aren't always as they seem. Remember that the way you are seeing things at this moment is probably not how it will look in a couple of hours. Frustrations can build and dissolve quickly when you have kids.

6. Offer them 30 minutes of your time. After they have helped pick up around the house let them pick what the two of you will do together and watch their eyes light up! For older kids, offer them the day off after helping for an hour.

7. Ask your kids what they think is fun. You might be surprised to find that their idea of fun often doesn't cost any money. My sister was amazed to find that her 7-year-old son's idea of "fun" was playing tag in the front yard with dad, mom and his little sister.

8. Slow down. Successful parenting doesn't mean you have your children involved in every possible extra-curricular activity. Successful parenting means you are there for them. If you've been running all year, it takes "practice" to enjoy staying home. Don't give up. Turn off the computer, TV, cell phone, etc. and read or play games (no matter what the age of your children).

9. Pray. When you are at your wit's end, ask God to help you remember what to do with your kids. On our own, it's hard to enjoy the moments because "life happens." But God has a way of giving us perspective that will slow us down and help us see our families the way He sees them: with love and compassion.

The next time you blow your top or realize you're just surviving your kids instead of enjoying their clumsy feet, silliness, or their constant desire to talk on the phone, stop and think, "one day I'll miss this!" The funny thing is, tomorrow we'll be longing for today. If we choose to think like that long enough, the kids won't be the only ones sad to hear the school bell ring this fall.

Sharon (Lovejoy) Autry, a mom of 3, co-authored Mom and Loving It, Finding Contentment in REAL Life with her sister, Laurie (Lovejoy) Hilliard, mom of 4.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Giveaway For Our Book!

Want a chance to win a copy of Learning To Live Financially Free?

Head over to Momlogic and leave a comment for your chance to win!
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4:8 My Thoughts

For my quiet time, I have been reading Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild each morning. This book has been good for me, seeing as how I tend to be my own worst critic. Today I was reading the part where she talked about deciding to "4:8 her thoughts" in a moment when she was tempted to dwell on a negative situation. She spoke of intentionally turning her thoughts to the good things in that situation instead.

The 4:8 reference is to Philippians 4:8. I liked this and decided that I wanted to share it with you because it goes nicely with the "good things" posts I have written about lately. I want to intentionally 4:8 my thoughts-- seeing the good in bad, seeing the light in dim places, seeing Truth when I am prone to only see lies.

I included some different versions, as they all had an aspect I liked to them!

Philippians 4:8 (Contemporary English Version)
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (The Message)
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

How about you? Do you need to 4:8 your thoughts?

PS. My "good thing" for today is the fact that I have managed to post here on my blog regularly-- even multiple times a couple of days! After a couple of weeks of feeling dry where blog posting was concerned, it's nice to be back in the swing of things!
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Peanut Butter Brownie Bars

I have received Julie Druck's "A Heart For Home" newsletter for years. This recipe appeared in the June edition and I just had to share it with you all!

Peanut Butter Brownie Bars

1 box brownie mix for a 13x9” pan

1/2 C. butter, softened

1/2 C. creamy peanut butter

2 C. powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. milk

1 C. semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 C. butter

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of a 13x9” pan with cooking spray. Mix brownies according to package directions. Bake for approx. 25 minutes at package temperature or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool completely. In medium bowl, mix the next 4 ingredients with mixer on medium until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over brownies. In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and butter on medium heat 30-60 seconds; stir until smooth, microwave longer if needed. Cool 10 minutes; spread over peanut butter filling. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set and serve.

To subscribe to Julie's free e-newsletter, send an email to
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When Life (Or A Friend) Gives You Lemons...

For my birthday, my friend LeAnn gave me a basket filled with fun summer things. (She's crafty/creative like that.) For a splash of color, she threw in some lemons. I figured I would slice them and add them to the water I faithfully drink each day but... somehow I never did.

There the lemons sat on the counter by the sink, growing more puckered and softer each day. Finally today I almost scooped them up and threw them away. Just then I had a fleeting thought: what if I could find a recipe to use these lemons for and not toss them? I thought that there was little to no chance of me having all the ingredients for something like that, but lo and behold, not only did I find a recipe, I also had everything in the house to make it!

And so tonight when Curt walked in from work, there were not one, but two desserts cooling on the counter. (I had made blonde brownies earlier.) He smiled broadly and I could tell he was glad to be home. Not only that, but I had made his favorite dinner: spaghetti and homemade yeast rolls. (Yes, I was in the kitchen all afternoon.) But as my family gobbled up the special desserts I had made and ooohed and aaahed over them, I was glad I didn't toss the lemons. When life (or a friend) gives you lemons, I highly recommend making these lemon bars. I know I am glad I did!

When Life Gives You Lemons Bars


1.5 sticks margarine

1.5 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar


3 eggs, slightly beaten

1.5 cups granulated sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

4 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. baking powder

Mix crust ingredients until crumbly. Pat into 9X13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix filling. Pour over hot crust when it is done baking. Bake again for 20-25 minutes. Cut while warm. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

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Moments To Remember

The other night I watched my nearly 13yo son slice through the water, swimming fast, swimming hard. He lifted his head out of the water for a breath and submerged his face again in one quick move. As he reached the end of the lane, he flipped upside down underwater and resumed his freestyle stroke back towards the other end of the pool. He looked strong and confident... nothing like how he began life.

This is the same child who couldn't get near water because of the trach in his throat the first two years of his life. I remember taking him to the beach for the first time in his life at 2.5 years old. What a moment that was-- one I thought I would never see. I feel like God was saying then, "You think this is amazing.... just wait another ten years and see what I do with him then!" That same boy is now competitively swimming, and holding his own, winning ribbons and placing amongst the other boys his age. That was something I couldn't see from the NICU windows when he was born-- a future so far off it felt impossible.

Sometimes it's easy for me to forget how he started, what a miracle his life is. It's easy for me to see him just like I see the rest of my kids. To take for granted his health and his abilities. But in that moment, God reminded me. He stopped me and gave me the vision of him as he was superimposed over him as he is now. It was a moment of clarity and appreciation for what I have been given in this boy. I can hardly wait to see what he will be doing in ten more years. I am thankful God made me his mother so I could witness the scope of his life-- always holding what was up against what is, never forgetting how far we've come.

Note: This post is in honor of Ryan Kenneth Wlodyka, who was born at 28 weeks gestation and weighed in at 2 lbs. 12 oz. He came home last week at 4 lbs., 7 oz. and was welcomed by his two brothers and sister, who were most excited to have their baby brother home after a long ordeal. When they walked in from school that day, Amy was sitting on the couch holding him-- what a great surprise! I have known Amy since 7th grade and she has great taste in music, I must say. I confess sometimes I just pull up her blog and let the music play while I am online. :)
When Ryan was born Curt emailed her to let her know that God had given him a vision that was much the same as the one I experienced the other night. It was a vision of Neil (her husband) coaching Ryan from the sidelines in a soccer game. (They are a huge soccer family.) I am sure at that moment the idea of that tiny baby being strong enough to run and kick felt as far away as my trach baby competitively swimming. Ryan's homecoming was one step closer to that moment. May God be with Ryan and his family as they take more steps each day.
Congrats to Amy and Neil! Go tell her congrats at!
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Summer Planning

Be sure and read the great comments with lots of ideas shared! Thanks to all of you who comment!

This summer my kids will be going to the pool, eating popsicles, catching lightning bugs, riding their bikes, taking a trip to the beach... and working on schoolwork. Yep, that's right. We are having our own version of summer school at the Whalen's. You can imagine how excited my kids are about this little plan. Thankfully I have dad as backup so they don't dare argue.

In case any of you care about such things, here's what we are doing:

Each school-age child (except the 16yo who will be, Lord willing, working to pay for his car) will be responsible for getting up every morning and spending about an hour and a half on some school work and having a personal quiet time (for the bigger kids) I bought each child a Summer Bridge workbook for their grade. I have looked at these many times, but this is the first year I have purchased them. For my 12 and 14 yo's, they are also going to be going through Study Skills That Stick. They both felt this year that they needed to learn how to study more effectively and so they (almost) are on board for this choice. If you are a homeschooler who thinks that maybe one day possibly your kids might go to school, I would urge you not to make the mistake I did by not teaching study skills. They will thank you later if they do, in fact, go to school or take outside classes of any kind. Even in preparation for college, this is a good thing to do with latter elementary/middle school students to lay down a good foundation.

Other than that, we will be reading a lot. I have promised that I will take them to the library as much as they need to to keep them in good books. At night we are going to encourage reading time instead of mindless tv. Seeing my 9 yo daughter's test scores this year made me more convinced than ever that reading a lot increases abilities on so many levels. So I will keep prodding them to read. She has really exploded with reading this year and that makes me so happy to see!

I will be spending this summer making plans, which is something I love to do. I am hoping to print out and organize this handy little Alphabet notebook to do with my soon-to-be four year old next year. I know if I assemble all the components and have it all together, we are more likely to do it. And I plan to go through Family Math and gather materials to make the games that sound good to me so we can include more hands-on math in our school year. Again, if I make the effort to flag the games I want to try and gather the materials/premake anything that needs to be assembled, then I am more likely to do it. Summer is a great time to do that.

So, those are my plans as far as I know now. I am also compiling a list of books I want to read over the summer. Some fiction, some non.

I have also begun a list of fun things I would like to do this summer. Things like:
  • visiting the Farmer's Market
  • picking blueberries
  • driving down to a SC peach stand (which is not far for us to do) and hopefully sampling some fresh, homemade peach ice cream while we're at it
  • making and giving away vases of the hydrangeas that grow on the large bush in our yard from empty, washed tin cans that we decorate with ribbon (we saw this done last year and it is so cute and a great pick-me-up to surprise someone with!)
  • participating in the Barnes and Noble reading program
  • going to see some of the summer movies at local theaters

I plan to post the list somewhere and let the kids help pick what they would like to do. I don't want to do the same old thing every day so I hope that having a list will help us mix it up. What are your summer plans? I would love to hear what you are cooking up... maybe your ideas will end up on our list!

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Monday) Sub sandwiches (on whole wheat rolls or seedless rye bread with smoked or honey roasted turkey, lettuce, Italian dressing, mustard, pickles, etc.), fresh cantaloupe, Garden Salsa SunChips

Tuesday) Taco Salad, sliced watermelon

Wednesday) Spaghetti, Homemade Rolls, Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies (or I might try this instead! Yum-o!)

Thursday) Chicken and Rice, black-eyed peas

Friday) Steak and beans in crockpot, corn

Saturday) Hamburgers on the grill, Roasted potatoes, Ice Cream Sandwich dessert


Steak and Beans in Crockpot

1.5 pounds boneless round steak
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 minced garlic clove
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
1 beef bouillon cube, crushed
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
hot cooked rice

Cut steak into thin strips. Combine mustard, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic. Add steak to mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to crockpot. Add next 3 ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add beans and cook 30 minutes longer. Serve over rice.

Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert

Layer ice cream sandwiches in a flat pan, top with Cool Whip and Heath Bar bits. Repeat layer and freeze. Before serving, cut in squares and drizzle with hot fudge sauce. This is delicious and great to feed a crowd!

Want more menu plan ideas? Check out
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The Simple Woman's Daybook, Monday June 8, 2009

For Today...

Outside my window... blue skies and fat white clouds

From the learning rooms... waiting on our "summer school" books to come from Amazon (a whole post on that will be running tomorrow)

I am thankful for... some clarity from God on some issues I am dealing with-- even if I don't love the direction He is sending me, it's still good to have direction (and that's all I will say about that for now)

From the kitchen... sub sandwiches, Garden Salsa Sun Chips, fruit-- it's a swim meet night so we have to have something quick and easy to eat in shifts

I am wearing... gray track pants and one of my husband's tee shirts, fuzzy pink socks... it's morning and I am comfortable

I am reading... Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes... so, so good! It makes me want to cook up a storm! Highly recommended!!

I am hoping... to squeeze every drop of summer out of the next 3 months

I am creating... plans for the summer (more about that in the post tomorrow)

I am praying... for confirmation and direction, which, as I said, I am getting

Around the house... washing all the sheets on all the beds this week, playing the Hannah Montana movie soundtrack in the background while we work! (We finally saw the movie this weekend and drove straight to Target and bought the soundtrack afterwards.)

One of my favorite things... summertime

A few plans for the rest of the week... dentist appointments for four of the children, two radio interviews about the financial book, two swim meets, a playdate for my 3yo with one of her little CBS buddies... a busy week!

Note: The Simple Woman's Daybook is not my creation. Feel free to use the starters for your own blog posts. For more entries, check out her blog:
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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weekend Good Things

A girls' night in on Friday night with my 14yo daughter, who really wanted to be with a friend but stayed home with me instead. We watched a chick flick and ate brownie sundaes while the 3yo slept and the rest of the family was at the swim meet in the rain. We got the better end of that deal, in my opinion...

Seeing Hannah Montana on Saturday with my 9yo daughter... having our "best day ever" just the two of us, running errands and focusing on her.

Sunday morning pancakes made by my husband, who is a good thing himself.

The encouragement of a good friend when I needed it most.
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Friday, June 05, 2009

Good Thing Report: Friday

Yesterday was a day filled with good things-- a fun photo shoot for my friend Shari's new book that is coming out with Zondervan, some time to shop utterly alone, getting the dark jeans I needed for She Speaks with Shari serving as my consultant for the purchase (always great to have a professional stylist as one of your closest friends-- Lord knows I need her input!), and volunteering as a family at the Safe Journey graduation last night.

(Disclaimer: I did no work at the event but somehow found myself assigned to the "job" of watching the graduation and eating the yummy meal that was served... not sure how that transpired, but I was happy to be the one to take that "job." My husband was a server and my daughter watched kids in the nursery... you can imagine how happy they were for me. Not to mention several of my friends who were giving me the stink eye from the back and talking trash about me amongst themselves. I told them not to be bitter. They said too late.)

But here's my good thing for yesterday-- it's a small thing, but it's one of those little nudges from God that makes you see that He truly does take care of us down to the smallest details. With the way the day was unfolding, we were going to have to leave our 12, 9 and 7 yo with the 16 yo since the 3yo and 14 yo were going to be with us at the event. Now, the 16 yo is not wild about babysitting in the first place, but having to feed them dinner that involved any preparation was going to be asking way too much. I wondered what in the world I was going to feed them and was a bit stressed about it, to be honest. Because I knew that things were timed to the wire and stopping at a fast food place or a grocery store was out of the realm of possibility. I acted like Scarlett and said, "Fiddledeedee, I will worry about that later," and just had fun at the photo shoot.

At the shoot, Shari ordered in Olive Garden soup, salad and breadsticks for us all. It was a great lunch and a fun way to unwind after the shoot was over. As Shari was packing up to leave, I saw that there was nearly a whole pan of breadsticks leftover and asked her if I could take them home. She waved her hand at the spread of food and said, "Take whatever you want!" I noticed that there was also nearly a whole container of soup leftover as well. And just like that, I had a dinner plan. I bagged up the soup and breadsticks and took them home-- much to my children's delight! My son only had to heat the soup in the microwave and all was well at home in our absence.

So, my good thing for yesterday was soup and breadsticks, provided by a generous friend and a loving God.
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Thursday, June 04, 2009

9 Ways God Has Spoken To Me

This is a great post worth reading.

PS. I met Emily at the Colorado Christian Writers' Conference. She is a delight and I had the great fortune of running into her at the airport where we spent time getting to know each other.

Go read her blog post and then leave a comment sharing either one of the ways she listed, or another way that God has spoken to you. What a fun, thought-provoking discussion!
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On Twitter

You might have seen Twitter updates are now featured in the top right hand corner of my blog. I like this for a couple of reasons-- one, that it provides fresh content on here even when I am not able to write a whole blog post and two, it's an entirely different way to provide a glimpse into what my days are comprised of. My husband says Twitter is a fad and he will never do it. (He said the same thing about blogging when I began long ago, a-hem.) But I think it's fun and enjoy the fact that I can post an update on Twitter and it appears simultaneously on both my Facebook page and here on the ole blog. That's killing several birds with one stone, which always makes me happy! And now that I have a fancy new cell phone with a keyboard, I can even update from the road... that's very cool and makes me feel uber technological, which is a rare feeling for me. So I am enjoying it while it lasts!

Note: my new cell phone (which arrived via FedEx yesterday) is my "good thing" to share today... I am sure eventually it will just be a phone to me, but for now it is a fun new toy!

Want to learn more about Twittering? Here's a great article a friend sent me about getting started:
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Partly Sunny

Awhile ago my son and I were waiting for his sister to get her hair cut. As we sat in the waiting area, we listened to the radio that played in the background. The forecast came on and the announcer said that it was going to be partly cloudy. My son, who was playing with legos on the floor, stopped what he was doing and looked up with an indignant look on his face. "Mom," he said, "That man said it's partly cloudy but it's not. It's partly sunny." Then he went back to playing.

Oh to see the world the way my son did in that moment. He taught me a huge lesson on perspective that day and I have been mulling it over ever since. Do I see my days as partly sunny or partly cloudy? Do I marvel at the wonders or get caught up in the mess? Do I consciously choose to alter my "glass half empty" mentality and choose to see it as half full?

That's one of the reasons I have decided to do these "good thing" posts. I want to share the good things that happen in my day, to mark them somehow so I don't lose them in the shuffle of life. I hope that you will join me in seeking to see our days as partly sunny. Sure, a few clouds may enter our horizon, but that doesn't mean our outlook has to be altered. Partly cloudy or partly sunny? My son taught me it's all in how I look at it.
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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Good Thing

In my sixth grade son's class, his teacher has them go around and share their "good thing" each day. Throughout the year, he has looked at me while we've been doing something to say, "Mom, this is going to be my good thing." I like that his teacher has trained him to be on the lookout for the good things in our lives-- the moments that might slip by unnoticed if we don't learn to look. I just wish I had thought of it long ago!

With that in mind, I am going to try to share a good thing here on the blog each day for the next little while. I am sure many days I will have more than one, but I am aiming for at least one. I also want to initiate this at the dinner table when we are all together (which is rare these days with swim team taking over our evenings). I want to get my other kids looking for their good things-- and I want to hear about them. I want to hear their hearts and get a glimpse into their perspective. I have a feeling their good things and mine will be vastly different sometimes!

So, if you'd like, you can leave a comment with your good thing. Or post on your blog and leave a link so we can all visit. I am excited to begin looking for good things to share here. Lord knows there's enough bad things around... it will be refreshing to look for the good!
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Monday, June 01, 2009

A Fundraising Opportunity

Some of you may remember Connie, who is raising money to adopt two children from China. You can see photos of her beautiful birth and adopted children on her blog, plus learn more about her newest fund raising efforts. Please head over and enter her drawing-- you will be donating towards a great cause and you might win a great prize!
Here's her blog address:
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The Simple Woman's Daybook Monday June 1, 2009

For Today...

Outside my window... Carolina blue skies, the summer heat has shown up but I am not complaining
I am thinking... about my decision to not write at all this week (after finishing up the speaker book and getting the novel ready for my agent, I am spent), except for regular blog posts which have been sorely lacking around here, I admit.
From the learning rooms... continued daily reading for the 7 yo. Four of the kids will have "summer school" at home this summer. The two older ones will be working on study skills in preparation for a new year and the two youngers will be doing Summer Bridge workbooks and daily reading practice to keep their skills sharp. They aren't thrilled about this plan, but it needs to happen.
I am thankful for... our church-- service was awesome last night, followed by an impromptu dinner with a dear friend. It was a great night all the way around!
From the kitchen... two rotisserie chickens I picked up last night, baked sweet potatoes and peas. A stocked pantry and fridge thanks to a trip to the grocery yesterday afternoon. Starting the weekend with a menu plan and a stocked kitchen is a good feeling.
I am wearing... gray track pants and my blue Pine Cove TX tee shirt
I am reading... The Wednesday Sisters (for fun), Facedown (for my morning quiet time)
I am hoping... to finish a proposal a friend and I are working on together quickly so I can initiate my "no writing" pledge for this week.
I am creating... the proposal I just mentioned and then... nothing for awhile. (Once I find out if the proposal was accepted, I will tell you guys what it is!)
I am praying... for confident humility-- something our pastor talked about last night. The confidence to go boldly before the throne, the humility to know I am only there because of His grace.
On my Ipod... If Today Was Your Last Day by Nickelback, The Book of Love by Peter Gabriel
Around the house... counting down til school's out so we can get to the lazy days of summer
One of my favorite things... new clothes! (birthday presents)
A few plans for the rest of the week... learning more about Twitter-- my newest social media experiment, the kids' first swim meet of the year Tuesday night, serving at the Safe Journey graduation on Thursday night, a photo shoot for my friend Shari's new book, waiting for my new phone to arrive... I am moving on up from my old Razr-- exciting times!
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