Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX

My little family of four just returned Tuesday from a fun trip to Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Grapevine, Texas thanks to a generous Christmas gift from my parents. We had a blast! It's only about 40 minutes away, but we don't spend much time over on that side of town, so it was a great get away. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was perfect for my kids at this age.

With our bags packed before we left for worship Sunday morning, we left straightaway from the church parking lot. A quick stop for lunch and checking into our room by 1:45 had us in the waterpark by 2:30. Our oldest was tall enough to ride all but the biggest ride, and the ride range our little lady fit into was perfect for her abilities and mom's maximum comfort level! We spent hours in the water over the three day time period we were there--there was something for every age and ability.

The waterpark was the main attraction, but we thought we'd check out the MagiQuest adventure too since we'd be there over the course of 3 days. If you've never heard of the game, you purchase magic wands and go on a scavenger hunt throughout the hotel, finding different items, completing different "quests" then graduating on to "adventures." The data is stored somewhere so you can use the same wands on subsequent visits to GWL and pick up your game right where you left off. The kids enjoyed the hunt, and it gave us something to do when we got a little too pruny from the water. In any other hotel, I would've been annoyed with children running up and down the halls, but that is what this hotel is made for! You just go with it.

One evening we joined the pajama jammin' dance party before a bedtime story in the lobby. Wiley the Wolf helped lead the dancing and turned the storybook pages, which was a hit with all the kids. The next night we decided to close down the waterpark. It was awesome--no wait for the slides and hardly anyone in the wave pool. Lots of practicing swimming and hyping swim lessons for summer 2016.

After completing our last quest to become master magi and another morning into afternoon at the waterpark, we let the kids pick out their last treats of the trip. For sister, it included a trip to the little girls' spa, Scoops for a full service pedicure, complete with tiara and a scoop of ice cream. Brother hit up the arcade with Dad during girl time. While our kids were a great age for the experience now, I can see where they would enjoy it even more as they are older, and I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Easter 2016

The first quarter of 2016 passed by in a blink of an eye, and I've been missing this space. I have so much to tell about what I've been up to, but today I'm easing back in with a little family holiday update.

We had somewhat of a crazy Saturday, but it turned into a nice Easter spending time with my family in Corsicana by Sunday morning. My brother received some great news about a new job opportunity that week, and it was good to be out of town and in some sunshine since it had rained so much around here the week prior.

Saturday morning was Pure Barre, soccer pictures, followed by a soccer game, then handing off the kiddos so we could attend a wedding Saturday evening. I think that was our first date night in about 4 months, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Sunday was filled with church and family, my favorite things. My parents' church has a living cross each year where everyone adds fresh flowers to the cross. One of my mom's friends sent this pic of the kids as we placed our flowers there.

I wish I had a photo of the finished product, because it truly was a lovely tribute covered in blooms. The message of the cross, of Jesus dying to save us from our sins, is the most beautiful, sacrificing love. What a God we have that He would love us enough to make a way to bring us back to Himself through His Son after all our wandering.

My mom, brother, and I headed over to my grandparents' church to attend with them while my dad and Mr. G entertained my kiddos. After an Easter ham lunch and an Easter egg hunt, we came home that evening with bags and bags of Easter candy to a huge Nothing Bundt Cake in the fridge that I had forgotten to load into the car for Easter lunch at my Grannie's. Three cheers for chocolate cake for breakfast all week long!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Report: A Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I received a copy of Susan Anne Mason's newest book, A Worthy Heart, in exchange for a review. This is the first work of Mason's that I've read, and it's the second book in her Courage to Dream series. Review spoiler alert: I've read this 3 times since I received it back in early January!

A quick synopsis: Maggie Montgomery is headed for America from Ireland to visit her older brother, by all appearances. Really though, Maggie is longing for escape from a stifling relationship in her homeland. During her visit, she meets her sister-in-law's brother, a handsome man with a troubling past that landed him in prison whom she is forbidden to have any contact with. But the heart knows what it wants, and can she really be stopped? Will her past come back to drive a wedge between them, or will his past be a deal breaker?

My thoughts: This is a fascinating story about not just asking for forgiveness, but accepting God's forgiveness and walking forward in the life God has for those particular characters in the story. This is a major theme in the book, and what a great challenge for the Believer. If God has forgiven, why can't we? I love love stories, and this definitely fits the bill even if it's a little farfetched. It's fiction though, so there you go! Maggie is definitely the kind of character a woman might wish to be: beautiful, kind, witty, and faithful. Ms. Mason made me empathize with the characters, which kept my eyes on the page late into the night!

As I mentioned, this is the second book in the series. I've decided to go back and check out the first book in the series, but you could definitely read them out of order without confusion. A good add to your summer reading list!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Report: The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I received a copy of Julie Klassen's newest book, The Painter's Daughter, in exchange for a review. I've reviewed one of Julie's books before (here) that I purchased myself and have picked up a few more since then because I truly enjoy her storytelling. So obviously, I jumped at the chance to grab her latest for a review!

A quick synopsis: Sophie Dupont is the daughter of a painter, residing in a picturesque English seaside town where many artists come to paint the beautiful landscapes of the region. Her father runs an art shop selling supplies and also paints. She finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, until an unlikely hero - the brother of her child's father - appears and offers to marry her to save her reputation and "do his duty" on behalf of his family. Captain Stephen Marshall Overtree is on leave from his duty with the infantry when he stumbles upon Sophie while searching for his brother. Their marriage sets them on a journey to love through mistrust, faith, in-law conflict, and separation by war.

My thoughts: This is a beautiful, while somewhat unlikely, love story. I wish the "love" part of the story had been developed more. A key component of the story - crisis pregnancy - is so relevant in current US society with the choose life movement, and this moved me to do more for women facing that issue here in my community (more on that later). Sophie approached that by placing her faith in the Lord. Most particularly, I loved that Ms. Klassen shared the Gospel message in a very straightforward way on page 154, "Did she know the matchless peace that came from God's merciful grace--sending His Son to die to pay the price for mankind's sins, so all might live with Him, forgiven, forever?"

I enjoy a good story where the heroine is swept off her feet by a truly good man. Ms. Klassen made me feel for the characters, whether that was anger, sadness, joy, etc. and I think that is one of the signs of a good book. Another great Regency read!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Someone I Loved Died

Picture me sitting down in front of my little silver laptop and cracking my knuckles over this page. Ah, where to begin? I feel like I've experienced an entire lifetime in the past month, but how do I explain it when I am yet still processing it?

Found here

On December 12th, I lost a family member--my uncle, my mother's brother, the father of my 3 teenaged cousins. He was only 10 years older than me and 13 years younger than my mom. The loss is devastating.

The funeral was a week before Christmas eve, smack-dab during the most wonderful time of the year.

It's very hard to make merry when you are in the midst of that pain, even for a follower of Christ. While there may be joy in the season, there is sorrow of the heart with the knowledge you won't have a chance to see a loved one again in this life.

And it was exactly as bad as I always thought it would be to explain death to my little guy. We've shielded him from that harsh reality of life up to this point, but there was no way around it. He knew Uncle T, and he understood the conversations happening around him. Of course during our short discussion, the dreaded question came: "So will you die, Mama?" I managed to keep it together until I left the room.


I have some great pics of the kids from the holidays that I'd like to post, but I can't do that without first acknowledging that this Christmas was a very hard season for my family.

Here's to 2016 being a year of hugging loved ones close and finding joy. I continue to say, "Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 62:6)

If you ever need a resource, our preschool minister provided the book Someone I Loved Died. It's an age-appropriate biblically-based explanation of death and going to heaven for the believer in Christ.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Lynn Austin's newest book, On This Foundation, in exchange for a review. I decided to branch out a little bit from my usual Regency period fiction to an Old Testament Biblical fiction piece. I loved reading Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion series, so I was hopeful that maybe I could make it through this.

I got busy with a few church responsibilities and required reading that went along with them, and the first time I picked On This Foundation up, it didn't seem like light reading. So I put it down. And then a week later, I picked it back up, determined to try again to make good on my promise of a review. I'm so glad I did, because I enjoyed it so much!

If you're familiar with the Bible, this book is a telling of Nehemiah's story--how he was called by God to go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It covers his appointment as Governor of Judah by King Artaxerxes, people who stood in his was, and his commitment to honoring God in his efforts to begin the work to restore the holy city.

Keep in mind that while the story of Nehemiah was true and well-tended in this work, it is indeed a piece of historical fiction. There are a few peripheral characters surrounding Nehemiah who are fictional. Their stories are interwoven with not only what the Jewish people were suffering during that time, but how Nehemiah's strategies impacted them as he came on the scene.

When I finished, I told my husband I thought he would enjoy it. It appeals to both men and women, especially followers of Jesus Christ and those who love to read God's Word. You probably already know the story, but this is an interesting telling of it. In particular, these people were living in a time where Queen Esther's "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) moment was so recent, and there were several reminders of that throughout the book. It was a great challenge for me personally. With world events as they are, Christ-followers the world over will be facing those moments for themselves.

If you're looking for a book to cuddle up with over the holidays, this would make a great one! This is the third in Lynn Austin's The Restoration Chronicles series. Now time to check out the others!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Meal Plan Monday: Cold & Rainy Edition

Like everyone else, I've spent the weekend Christmas shopping from the same spot I'm sitting in now, wearing stretchy pants, and otherwise not paying attention to most of the things I've eaten. But I just posted a photo on instagram about not missing a Monday working out, so today I guess I'll apply that to meal plans to eat. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so they say. So here we go!

The weather is gray, chilly, and seems to be begging for soup. That was my jumping off point this week.

Monday: Homemade Chicken and Noodles
I have chicken in the crockpot cooking as I type, just salt and peppered. After dance this afternoon, I will boil and drain some noodles, and dice the chicken, added together with the juices from the crockpot plus a little broth, carrots, and peas because we need veggies. And then I'll season it.

Tuesday: Taco Soup
I usually make this with hominy, but I have corn on hand this week, so I'll be substituting that instead. Recipe found here.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
I've been facilitating a ladies' group at church this year, and this is our last meeting for the fall. We decided to have our Christmas party catered, so I'll be putting that together. Thankfully, the rest of the fam will eat from the church kitchen!

Thursday: Leftovers
We've got company coming in for the weekend, so we'll either be eating leftovers from Monday and Tuesday or hot turkey and cheese sandwiches (think grilled cheese, with turkey) from the stove.

Friday: Fun Night
Out to eat, for sure!

I'd love to expand my soup recipes, but ingredient lists a mile long and things like "lentils" turn me off. Do you have any
recipes you would recommend?
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