Monday, February 29, 2016

Toys and Consumerism

When I'm out shopping (or shopping online) I often run across things I know my kids would love.  Sometimes I buy them and stash them "for later".  As I've been cleaning up around my house this winter I've consolidated all those for later items and discovered I have a whole box full of toys for the kids, especially for the girls, that I don't know when I'm going to give them to them!

Starting tomorrow it's birthday month AND Easter so I have opportunity for present giving, but I actually already have specific birthday presents for the girls.  We do small Easter baskets with chocolate and usually a small toy and I had something in mind to get for those, but now I realize I don't really need to buy anything, yet I still want to. 

We don't typically give our kids new toys just whenever except for once-in-a-very-rare-occasion.  We want them to value new things as special and also consider waiting for birthdays/Christmas or saving up their chore money to buy it themselves.  But finding all these toys I've stockpiled is making me realize that I'm the one who's bought into the "gotta have it" mentality.  Oops.  Apparently it's hard for me to pass up a good deal.  Especially when it's something I know they would enjoy.

The other thing that makes this a problem is that we also like to give some toys and some experiences.  Things like passes for a day at the local waterslides in the summer make lifetime memories.  I know all these "remember when" posts on Facebook about toys from the 80's take us all back and remind us of the toys we had, but without that how many of us would actually remember most of our toys?  I know I remember just a few things and perhaps that's because my mom saved those few toys so I would run across them every few years in the attic and now my girls play with them at her house.

I'm not saying all toys are bad, far from it!  They can be creative and entertaining, especially on cold rainy days when you don't want to play outside. However not all toys are created equal. You know there are some that inspire hours of creative play while others are played with a few times and then just sit in the toy box until they are discarded.  What a waste.



What if there was a way to try out new toys and not worry about whether your kids like them?  Pley* might be that solution for you.  It's a toy rental program that lets you choose from a wide variety of handpicked toys that are always kid pleasers.  They've recently added a bunch of new toys beyond the great supply of Legos that they already stock.  The biggest category is for preschool toys, but they've even added some robotic toys for older kids and dress up outfits for 18 inch dolls like American Girl.

Kids absolutely love to get things in the mail and what a fun idea to pick out something new every couple of weeks (especially in the winter!) without breaking the bank or contributing to an overload of toys in the house.  Pley lets you try as many toys (or Lego sets) in a month as you want on a one at a time basis for one low fee.  Make a new Lego set and then send it back instead of adding it to the giant collection of Legos that most of us have already. *wink* It's almost a toy and an experience all wrapped up in one!

Gift certificates are also available and make great gifts for relatives that might not know exactly what to get for special occasions. 

Do you have a good balance of toys at your house? How would you feel about trying a toy rental service?  Would this help kids learn to appreciate their toys more?

*This is a sponsored post and there are affiliate links where I will make a small percentage if you sign up.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Chug, Chug, Chugging Along

I realize elementary school music programs only matter to parents and grandparents, but they read this blog so here you go...


Cory was so proud he had a line to say at the program tonight.  He was the only one that didn't get a costume, but his line was more narration and the other kids were representing the lines of the character they wore.


The theme was something to do with the railroad and historical songs chants and songs that the slaves would have sung.  There was Harriett Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, a peg leg Joe, and a conductor.


I know the blanked out faces look weird, but I wanted to show the background (and of course my kid will always be standing in the back row!) and they were all too cute!

He also had a part where he played the xylophone, but I missed it as one little sister had to go to the bathroom and I'd already made her wait for him to say his lines!


Then little sisters stole my camera focus by helping put away all the folding chairs.


Yes, the chairs were pretty much as big as they were, but they did a really good job either carrying or dragging the chairs over to the rack for us to put them up.



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book: Robin

Robin

In 1877 the Wenghold sisters inherited an overwhelming debt with their father’s passing. An uncle they’ve never met offers a solution—come help on his Kansas cattle ranch. The oldest sister, Robin, agrees to go.

Ty Morgan has suffered through a year of misery after being jilted by the town beauty a few months before their wedding. But a tornado whirls an unexpected breath of hope into his heart when he rescues Robin, his neighbor’s newly arrived niece, and a small boy who was orphaned by the storm.

Robin’s crippled leg prevents her from being a real help to Uncle John, but she seems to be exactly who Ty needs to heal his broken heart. Until his former fiancĂ©e returns and a mysterious, elusive stranger casts worry over the entire community.

A woman determined to honor her obligations, a man entangled in a long ago-made commitment, an orphaned child in need of security . . . Can God guide these three souls to peace and fulfillment together?

***

Well, I'm still working on the book from last week so I haven't gotten to this one yet. ;) Review will be coming post haste though now that I'm making time to read more!

***

If you would like to read the first chapter of Robin, go HERE.



Julane Hiebert is first of all a child of God. She is also a wife to Bob, mother to two living sons, Kip and Rob, two daughters in heaven, two wonderful daughters-in-law, Becky and Tami, and grandmother to six perfectly wonderful grands, as well as an additional three ‘other grands’. She lives with her husband in a wee cottage by a small lake nestled in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas.

Though encouraged by many to pen the story of raising two daughters with an incurable disease, she has chosen to incorporate the lessons learned into the lives of her not-too-perfect characters. Her passion is to present the promises and hope found in God’s Word in down-to-earth, everyday experiences through her stories.

Julane loves reading, decorating, junking, antiques, and chocolate! No particular order, but one would be safe to insert chocolate between all other interests.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book: Pharaoh's Daughter

Pharaoh's Daughter


“Fear is the most fertile ground for faith.” “You will be called Anippe, daughter of the Nile. Do you like it?” Without waiting for a reply, she pulls me into her squishy, round tummy for a hug.
I’m trying not to cry. Pharaoh’s daughters don’t cry.
When we make our way down the tiled hall, I try to stop at ummi Kiya’s chamber. I know her spirit has flown yet I long for one more moment. Amenia pushes me past so I keep walking and don’t look back.

Like the waters of the Nile, I will flow.

Anippe has grown up in the shadows of Egypt’s good god Pharaoh, aware that Anubis, god of the afterlife, may take her or her siblings at any moment. She watched him snatch her mother and infant brother during childbirth, a moment which awakens in her a terrible dread of ever bearing a child. Now she is to be become the bride of Sebak, a kind but quick-tempered Captain of Pharaoh Tut’s army. In order to provide Sebak the heir he deserves and yet protect herself from the underworld gods, Anippe must launch a series of deceptions, even involving the Hebrew midwives—women ordered by Tut to drown the sons of their own people in the Nile.

When she finds a baby floating in a basket on the great river, Anippe believes Egypt’s gods have answered her pleas, entrenching her more deeply in deception and placing her and her son Mehy, whom handmaiden Miriam calls Moses, in mortal danger.

As bloodshed and savage politics shift the balance of power in Egypt, the gods reveal their fickle natures and Anippe wonders if her son, a boy of Hebrew blood, could one day become king. Or does the god of her Hebrew servants, the one they call El Shaddai, have a different plan—for them all?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pharaoh's Daughter, go HERE.

***

I really love reading historical fiction about Bible characters, especially if they are supporting characters to a story.  We really only have a few verses about the Pharoah's daughter that raised Moses as her son.  Imagining what life might have been like can help me think about Bible stories in a new light.  And this one really intrigued me when I read the description.  Unfortunately it's still next on my TBR pile.

***



Mesu Andrews’ deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, enjoyed fourteen years of pastoral ministry before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where Roy now serves as Academic Dean at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. Mesu writes full-time, snuggled in her recliner beside a cozy fire on rainy Northwest days. The Andrews’ enjoy visiting their two married daughters and a growing tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.

Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), tells the story of Job and won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

I sent my good camera in to be repaired over Christmas and got it back a month ago, but never got around to putting it back together. I always regret that. I adore the photos it takes when it's in good working condition.


On a day when it's 50 degrees outside and your little girls have been begging to blow bubbles, you blow bubbles.


Sometimes at each other!


And when you have random giant bamboo sticks in your yard (from a coworker!) they apparently become your broomstick! Thanks Princess Sophia...


We won't talk about the dog poop that apparently has been accumulating in our yard all winter and was found by all 4 pairs of shoes... No, we don't have a dog.


I've been saying we won't be hiking on February 20th this year like we did last year, but if this weather keeps up it won't be far off.  You can't see there are still a few piles of snow in our yard (unheard of for this time of year), but it was so nice to be outside, I even pulled a few weeds.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Book: Soul's Prisoner

Soul's Prisoner


She'll fight for her future...but can she escape her past?
Chicago, Winter, 1891
Rachel is in danger. She's seen too much.
She creeps along the cement walls through the dank underbelly of the asylum. She'd never planned to leave her quiet farm life, never thought she'd find a place in the city, never imagined she'd be in the kind of danger that would have her cowering in Dunning's cold, labyrinthine basement.

Jenny has finally found her place. After a childhood of abuse, she has friends, a real job, and her only wish is to give her adopted son the kind of life she never had.

A life of stability, without the risk and uncertainty of a father.
But when Jeremy, Rachel's brother, stumbles into their warehouse, asking for help to find his missing sister, Jenny's carefully constructed life begins to crumble.

***

This is the second book in a series and I have a feeling you really should read them in order (find a description of book one here).  I'm actually only a few chapters into the first one and I am hooked into this portrait of life in Chicago in the late 1800's.  It's so far removed from the way things move and hum today, yet humanity really hasn't changed all that much.

This is the first of Cara's books that I have started although I now have 2 more in my pile.  I think the covers and the kind of dark feeling threw me off, but the stories themselves, while dealing with dark things, are not dark, they are just real.  I'm so glad to have "met" a new author.

***

If you would like to read the first chapter of Soul's Prisoner, go HERE.




From Cara Luecht: I never planned to be a writer. In fact, it took me a while to finish college. But I did, and here I am. And I now I can’t imagine not being a writer. By day, I am an English Instructor for a local college, mother to four amazing children, and wife to an eternally patient and supportive husband. In the evening, when I can squirrel away some quiet time, I read and write historical fiction. I have a B.A. in English Lit. from UW Whitewater and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. If you have a question for me, or if you are local and would like me to stop by your book club or writer’s group, please drop me a line via the “Ask the Author” tab. I always love the opportunity to meet with others who share my love of books.





Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tea Collection: Destination Italy

It's my favorite time of the year!  The time when Tea Collection releases it's new destination designs of clothing for kids!  This spring they're taking us on a tour of Italy and the colors and designs are just lovely.

The first release is inspired by modernissimo art and the work of Giacomo Balla with the abstract shapes and typography of the Futurism movement.

Starting today and running through Monday the 15th, everything made by Tea is on a Buy More, Get More sale.  Buy 3 items and save 15%, buy 4 items and save 20%, buy 5 items and save 25% with the code AMORE.  And yes, even the older styles that are marked down are included so don't forget to check the sale section.

As I've looked through their Italy collection I am so impressed by how well they have coordinated the colors so that 3 or 4 pieces can all mix and match.  The styles below were picked out of the catalog by my girls and they all match the same pair of leggings in the blue, as well as a hot pink option.  And the two dresses as well as some others would match the purple berry colored leggings.







Don't forget, there's plenty of Roman architecture and speedy Vespa inspired wear for the boys too!

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*This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Conference Adventures

One of the adventures associated with my new position as a water district commissioner is to attend workshops to be a better commission! Since this one started at 9am Saturday morning we all went to have fun.


The hotels in Seattle are pretty much fancier than anywhere else we stay, even if it's not the fanciest hotel there, Courtyard by Marriott.  Towel animals!


Fireplace in the lobby while waiting for our pizza.  The cuteness of the newly short hair on these two is just killing me!


When you are the first one up on a Saturday morning you get to snuggle with Daddy and read cool books on Oceans.

And then all my family got to swim in the hotel pool while I went to learn about the ethics of being a commissioner (which is pretty much summed up in the golden rule and also, don't be stupid), the proper role of commissioners, and what things count as public records (pretty much anything in written form, eek!).  It was pretty funny being one of the youngest ones in the room by probably 15 years.  There were 2 or 3 other people who looked my age and the rest were probably well over 50!  I was pleasantly surprised to see a good mix of genders though.

After my brain was completely fried with legalese we went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  Most of my family has been, but I had never been to a Cheesecake Factory in my entire life given that I don't really care for cheesecake.  The food was pretty good and I was actually blown away by the cheesecake.  Dangerously good!  I had the turtle cheesecake and we also had the mango key lime one. 

First bite ever

We took the dessert back to our hotel because the restaurant was so loud and the kids were done.  It disappeared in a hurry split between 5 people, but I don't think we would have wanted more. (Cory had to have his own gluten free ice cream sundae)
Then we watched The Good Dinosaur.  A very weird movie, and a bit too scary for my little ones.


My college roommate, Wendy, met us for dinner and came back to watch the movie with us.  I don't get to see her often enough.  We had lots of adventures living together for a year in college and a year after college.  So funny to think I've known her for half my life now.

Then we went swimming again on Sunday morning and headed back home in gorgeous weather.  The passes were a bit sketchy on Friday on the way over, but at least by the evening they were better.

It's kind of fun to have a "staycation" as people call it, but a bit spendy for this crew if we didn't already have another reason to go.  Adventures all the way around!