Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: Read and Share Toddler Bible

I jumped at the chance to review a toddler bible offered to me by Thomas Nelson Publishers. We are doing some homeschool activities instead of sending our daughter to preschool and have been looking for a great source for Bible learning.
The Read and Share Toddler Bible is great start and introduction to Bible stories, however, it lacks depth that I believe many children would understand if you only try.
Simple, common language is used in the 40 stories presented by this toddler Bible. Incorporated are engaging words and actions to help the story come alive- such as "splish splash" when describing the fish God made. The story selection I feel is appropriate for toddlers- highlighting the major events and characters of the Old and New Testament. My daughter recently turned 3- so we are starting to head out of the 'toddler' stage and into 'preschool' and these stories were too short and simple for her. Her attention span was longer than alloted for in the DVD version and book version of each story. I wished there had been more depth to each story- or perhaps some application type questions.
The colorful illustrations are wonderfully done. I appreciated the attempt at making the characters of the Bible look less caucasion and bring out their natural descents. However, on most occasions- the characters are interepreted in the more traditional "americanized" versions.
The DVD was a nice feature- but the stories moved too quickly for my daughter to even get a handle on them. Even for a younger child I felt they were too short to allow learning to actually take place.
My favorite feature of the Read and Share Toddler Bible are the parent/child activities at the end of each story. These activities were perfect additions if the story was focused on throughout the day. They allowed practical application and family fun to the experience. It allows the child to go beyond an "old Bible story" and begin the process of asking "What does this mean for me?"- a question adults often fail to ask themselves.
Overall, I think this is an average toddler bible with an excellent feature. I would recommend it to children no older than 3 and for use during playtime so the activities can enhance the reading.

Friday, September 25, 2009

3 year pictures, a big birthday, december 30, a new home, and fleas

How is that for a random title? Well, its because so much is going on- I can't help but be random. Izzy (finally) had her 3 year pictures taken. My awesome friend Nikki is hoping to start a photography business- so we are happy to help build her portfolio and I am sooo glad I'm getting some fun, creative shots taken of my baby girl (well not baby for too much longer!). Here was one she sent me as a teaser/preview. Ah, I'm in love. This picture sums up my daughter's personality to the tea! While izzy is fun loving and does smile and laugh a lot- you can often find her in an serious, observing stance. She is not a risk taker- and would much rather be watching others take the plunge than actually do so herself. She is kind of shy and unsure about change. She is more introverted than extroverted. She is all girl. She can look and act so grown up (especially in the face) but I hope she keeps her tiny, chubby hands forever! I still can't believe she is three!

Its been birthday week in our house. Paul's grandfather (who has been recently diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor) celebrated his 85th birthday. Paul happens to share a birthday with his grandpa so that makes it extra special. We had a huge party that night! My hubby got toys: grown up toys, and not so grown up ones! He got tools and tool storage from both parents and brothers and sisters (the big kid toys!). He got wii resort from me (big boy toy- but he giggles like a little boy while playing). And his favorite gift? A nerf gun that Izzy unprompted picked out for her daddy- yes a little boy toy for my big boy hubby. He couldn't be happier- and he is cute when he is giddy!

Speaking of birthday's. Baby Girl has hers already picked out (unless she decides to make it early!). December 30 at 8:30 am. Yikes. That's not too far off now is it?

We're house hunting. We need more space. Izzy needs a yard (she yearns for her own 'playground' that she could play on every day!). We need to not live where Paul works. We've looked at a few. We put an offer in on one today. We'll wait and see. Lots to look at. Never know what will pop up. We're trying to be patient. It sure would be nice to move before baby girl makes her entrance, but we are on no strict timeline.

One of the houses we looked at was occupied. Not by humans. But by fleas. Said fleas are now in our dwelling (and car). Said fleas are accused of making a midnight snack out of my ankles and feet and a midday snack out of my back and belly. They couldn't get their fill on me, so have started feeding on my daughter. Itchy mommy + itchy preschooler + live bugs in my house = a not so great situation. We have tried the carpet powder. I have washed and washed and washed all of the linens. No such luck. We bug bombed the place today. Fleas be gone or I swear I just might....well never mind. They better move on to a home with pets or else! My parents suggested adopting a cat to help get rid of the fleas- too bad I couldn't convice my hubby (especially since he would be on litter box duty until baby girl is born!).

Thats our life for ya. I can't wait until what next week will bring. It better not be lice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

My name is Jennifer. My husband and I have a 3 year old daughter and another on the way. I’m writing concerning your push for a healthcare plan that would affect me quite personally.

My husband is self-employed. We must find our own health insurance and are responsible for paying its fees in their entirety. We are commission based in the real estate market- a job market which has been impacted substantially in the past months and years due to economic conditions. We have earned $30-50,000 pretax in recent years. Our first daughter was born via an urgent and unplanned c-section. A c-section is considered a ‘pre-existing’ condition under almost any health insurance provider. All but one carrier refused to cover any sort of maternity care in an insurance plan. One carrier offered a ‘maternity coverage’ plan that would have cost us around $250 a month extra, simply for the maternity care. We were then ‘forced’ to accept coverage from the non-profit group Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Blue Cross allows anyone into their health insurance and does not recognize any ‘pre-existing’ conditions. Due to our desire to 1) have more children and 2) not risk not being covered in the case of an unplanned pregnancy we went with this health insurance plan. We have been very happy with our coverage. It is not the ‘Cadillac’ of coverage, but it covers major medical and lab procedures and even some preventative and well child care. We love being able to choose our own doctors and hospitals. We pay for it- we should choose where we want to go. Our monthly premiums went up over 28% this past month due to state of Michigan forcing Blue Cross to make more money.

So you see Mr. President and Congressmen, we are the people you are designing this healthcare plan for:
· We are too rich to receive Medicaid
· We are too young to receive Medicare
· We have a preexisting condition that disqualifies us from most, if not all insurance providers
· We provide and pay for our own healthcare being self-employed
· Our rates have significantly increased (28%) taking us from a monthly premium from $370 a month to $477 a month.

We are the family that has been described by President Obama and other supporters of this plan as their ‘target’ market:


We do not want the government to step in a take over our health insurance. We want to choose our doctors. We want to get an MRI if our doctor recommends one (and not have to wait 3-6 months for it!). We are happy with our coverage. Would we like to pay less? Sure. But we have made health insurance a priority. We want to protect our children and ourselves in case of a medical crisis. We do not want to be floundering in mountains of debt because we have not prepared in advance. Could we use the extra $477 a month in our budget? You bet! But, we have placed our health and our children’s health above new TV’s, a new home, the latest car, and trendy gadgets. We are being stewards of the bodies and life God has given us by protecting them.

Please do not take away our right to choose. The government already provides assistance and major medical care for those who are too poor, too old, and too young (MIChild).
I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be free. I wish that our current legislative and executive branches would remember the ideals to which our country was founded: A country in which my voice matters. A country based on capitalism and competitive markets to build our economy- not take over’s which drag it down. A country where the government supports my right to live, parent, and be who I desire to be- not a country who tells me how to live, parent, and what to do.

Healthcare needs reform. I don’t understand how a c-section can be considered a pre-existing condition when over 30% of births are performed this way. I am frustrated when doctors and patients are forced to make care decisions based on financial reasons as opposed to quality of health care. But, forcing insurance companies to accept all will only drive up prices and force more companies to close. Controlling hospitals and care facilities will only denigrate care and prevent lives from being saved (have you ever been a patient in Europe or Canada?). Why not help companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield continue to do the great work they are already doing? Support them- don’t overtake them. And let them help you instead of trying to rework the whole system.

Please, focus your attention on creating jobs, cutting spending waste, and finding creative and capitalist ways to reform healthcare- not socialize it. I plead with you behalf of all of us who do not take advantage of government assistance, who are being affected by health rates skyrocketing and being rejected for conditions that are not really conditions at all. I am an American. I have the right of choice and the freedom to decide what is best for my family- don’t I?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sensible Stewardship- God's Ownership

Before one attempts a stewardship life- they must first understand (and agree) with God's complete ownership of EVERYTHING.

One of the most commonly used words in the English language is "mine" or "my". But how accurate is the definition when being used towards anything? Can this be my house, my job, my paycheck, my family, my body, my life?

Take a look at scripture (all NIV):

Psalm 24:1-2: "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters."

Romans 11:35-36: "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."

1 Chronicles 29:11-12: "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all."

Looking at these verses- to whom does your job, your house, your family, your life belong to? God.

Why does everything belong to Him? Because He created it.

As simple as the Psalm is- I love this verse the most simply because there are no exclusions.
  • 'the earth is the Lord's' = all of creation, all of its inhabitants, all of its wonder and beauty and majesty
  • 'the world' is the Lord's= any of its substances, all of the world's treasures, things that are in this world that we hold tight to (think of all of our stuff! God owns it all!)
  • 'all who live in it (the world)' are the Lord's= you, me, your spouse, your family, your kids. You live here? You belong to God. You gave birth to that sweet face that smiles at you every morning, that's wonderful, but that little darling is not yours, but God's!

If you understand and agree with scripture that everything is owned by God, how does/will this affect the way you treat 'your' stuff? I often remind myself of how I treat something that I'm being loaned. Whether its a sweater, a cooking pan, even a car. When I am using something that doesn't belong to me- I treat it better! It's how I was taught. You return something better than how you received it. You wash the car. You scrub the pan or include a tasty meal inside of it.

So, if none of the stuff I have is mine, maybe I'll treat it better? Maybe I'll take a little better care of it? My home is on loan from God- maybe I should be more thankful for it and keep it more tidy. My body and life is not even mine- how should I take better care of His temple? My daughters (eek I love saying that!) are on loan from God. Oh how I should love on them more and take better care of them for His sake.

Understanding God's ownership can help you face trials as things happen to you and your stuff. Isn't it frustrating to have to take a car into the repair shop, to replace an appliance, to continually buy shoes for your ever growing child? How will your reactions change in the situation if you face it knowing you are taking care of someone else's stuff? From experience- I can tell you that when I have to take our car in for yet another fix up- my attitude is a whole lot better and I deal with the situation with a more grateful heart when I realize I'm just doing what I need to do to take care of someone else's belonging. Being a manager (aka steward) of God's stuff helps ease the 'woe is me' factor that so easily creeps into my life. Not that I don't complain, it still happens. But it happens a lot less frequently and with much less intensity.

So what's next? How do you apply the concept of God's Ownership of ALL things (and people) to your sensibly stewardship life? Some ideas for you (and your kids!):

  • Write "God's" on a bunch of sticky notes and place them on items in your home and office to remind you that the item (car, tv, fridge, computer, toy) does not belong to you, but God.
  • Write 3 ways you will use one of 'your' possessions for God's glory- it is His after all!
  • Write a thank you note to God. He has so graciously shared with us- thank Him!
  • Teach your kids "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"- (good ole' Sunday School classic). You'll have a different perspective singing it once you realize its deep truth!
  • Get out and enjoy God's creation and the things He has made and owns at a local park, zoo, or exhibit.

Still need one more idea? Memorize Psalm 24:1. It can be a great mantra!

Monday, September 14, 2009

6 Months

Ok, so here is baby girl at 6 months along...well more like me 6 months get the picture!

I think this dress makes me look bigger than I really am- but its super comfy and was perfect for the outdoor wedding we went to.

So at 6 months aka 24 weeks along....

  • I've only gained 5 pounds!!! (so thankful for that- but I'll gain anything if that makes my baby healthy)

  • She is about 12 inches long

  • Weighs about a pound and a half

  • Is an excellent riverdancer on my bladder

  • Loves to wake up and kick me around 10:00-10:30 when I'm trying to fall asleep

  • She would have about a 60% chance of making it outside the womb

  • Eyes and ears are done

  • She is proportionate to what she will be like at birth- just basically needs to fatten up!

  • All major organs are basically completed

  • Baby craves orange pop- so I oblige

  • Still doesn't have a name...we really need to get working on this one!

  • Has a very impatient Big Sister who is dying for her to come out

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Things I Love Thursday- Joovy Ultralight Caboose

I am so excited to share this new thing I just simply LOVE!!!
I got my double stroller- and it is as wonderful as I hoped (and I got a great deal on ebay!).
May I present.....
The Joovy Ultralight Caboose!

What did I want in a double stroller?

  • Easy Manueverability- my sister in laws and other friends have these massive double strollers that don't turn, that are beasts to push, and are simply just too huge! I wanted something I could easily and quickly move around clothing racks, that wasn't going to kill my back pushing or loading back up into my car.
  • Compact- I know double stroller and compact are two words that don't often combine (especially at an affordable price point). But I wanted something I could fold up and not have it take up my entire back of my pacifica. For what I use a stroller for- I wanted it as streamlined as possible.
  • Sit n Stand- My three year old likes to walk around next the shopping cart and out of her stroller now. I couldn't see the point in having a double seated stroller with it so hard to get her in and out of it. I wanted her to have freedom to be able to walk around- but with the ability to sit and rest for the longer trips (or to be able to have a place to keep her in a busy environment!).
  • Economical- I didn't want to spend more than $200. I have not purchased much as far as baby gear in the past (thanks to gifts and hand me downs). I know that you get what you pay for a lot of times with strollers. But, we simply cannot afford any more, and didn't want to spend more on a stroller than any other piece of furniture in our house!
  • Fun Color- I know its a silly thing. But I thought it would be fun to have a great bright color that would make the stroller stand out among the crowd of black (think having a fun suitcase!).

I did my research. I googled. I ebayed. I read reviews. I read blogs. I fell in love with the joovy ultralight caboose (not to be confused with it's heavier predecessor the joovy caboose). Ultralight was the key word here. At only 21 pounds, and streamlined, this stroller folds smaller and is lighter than my Graco Quattro Tour I received when Izzy was born. I can carry this baby around with one hand! It's also significantly shorter than all the other double strollers. Check out the specs at Joovy's website.

It came in fun colors. I ended up with the "sage" green. Its more of a cross between lime and sage. Its perfect.

My favorite features of the Joovy ultralight caboose are:

  • Pushes like a breeze. I had my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old on this at the mall yesterday. I felt as though I were pushing nothing. It was amazing. I think part of it is due to the great sealed ball bearing wheels (think inline rollerblades).
  • Its quality. Everything about this stroller feels nice. When I was assembling it- I couldn't help but notice how the frame and fabrics felt 10x better than my graco. It is well made.
  • Great cup/snack holders. The parent organizer is this awesome neoprene wrap around the handle bar. Not obtrusive. Holds waterbottles and cups perfectly, has a great zipper pouch for my keys. There is an awesome net organizer on the back of the seat for Izzy's cup and snacks so she can help herself and I don't have to share my cupholders!
  • Did I mention this thing only weighs 21 pounds? It is seriously light and compact and still has all the room we need! Great basket underneath. (I know some people complain that their 'big kid' has to get up to get into the basket- but seriously- is it that big of a deal? )
  • Amazing sunshade. This will easily shade both of my girls, or completely block out the front passenger in case they fall asleep. Plus, its easily removable when I don't need it, like the mall.

Some things missing that you may or may not miss (to me, these were not deal breakers considering how I use the stroller)

  • The front seat does not fully recline back. It does recline- but not flat. I still think that a 9 month old would fall asleep and be ok with a blanket or something.
  • The infant car seat attachment does not allow you to just 'click in' the seat. There is a red safety belt that is conceled in little pockets on the side of the stroller that you brace around the top of the car set (much like if you were to buckle the seat in a car without the base). I have not used this aspect of the stroller yet, but I don't see it as a problem.
  • Price- I know its not as affordable as the fisher price sit n stand and slightly more than the baby trend- but I am finding it worth every penny. It retails for $239-299 in stores, but I won a brand new on ebay for $190 (there are a couple of stroller depots that sell them each day or week, so there are constantly new ones up for auction).
  • Small space for back seat passenger. This stroller does have a smaller area and seat for the back seat big kid than others- helps saves on space. I do not find it to be too small however. My 5 year old nephew fit fine. Yeah, he probably wouldn't be comfortable riding around for 2 hours in it, but it works. If I needed a stroller where I would want my preschooler sitting for long periods of time, I would have gotten a tradition two seat double. This is meant to provide a resting, periodic resting place for the child to sit or stand, not crash out and nap!

Who would I recommend the Joovy Ultralight Caboose to? Really anyone with young infants-preschoolers. This stroller would be great to travel with, as it is so much more compact. I also would use it for everyday use. I would not recommend as an option for someone with "2 under 2". The amount of freedom that the 2 year old would have and the lack of possible comfort for long term rides would make this more difficult if I had a child younger than two in the back. I remember Izzy taking short spurts on her cousin's sit n stand last summer when she just turned 2. She did well with it, but I wouldn't have trusted her for long.

So, I just absolutely LOVE my new toy. I highly recommend the Joovy Ultralight Caboose if you are in the market for a sit n stand. Check out more things we love at The Diaper Diaries' blog roll "Things I Love Thursday".

-if you are interested in 'test driving' the caboose ultralight', the only store in the grand rapids area that sells them (to my knoweldge) is USA Baby. Babies R Us carries them only online. And, obviously, since I purchased this stroller, I'm not being asked or provided anything in return for this review.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why do companies do this?

I just don't know why companies feel as though they must take political stances. Why can't they make the product or do the service they provide and stay out of the political arena?

If they want to support a cause- why can't it be for something less controversial, something every American can stand for?

Why do the people who make such delicous ice cream have to go and dedicate a flavor to support gay marriage?

Well, I guess I'll have to find a new "high end" ice cream to splurge on...because I'm not going to allow my money to support a company that isn't going to remain politically neutral. Rats.