May 6, 2015

LEGO KidsFest Dallas

The LEGO KidsFest I told you about . . . and gave tickets away to . . . finally came around, and I have to tell you my boys seriously thought they died and went to Heaven. One of them told me it was the best thing had ever happened to him in his entire life!

But you have to admit, this is pretty incredible:

Keep an eye out for LEGO KidsFest coming to a city near you soon!

January 18, 2015

Maybe I'm Not a Doormat After All

If you've been reading this blog long then you know when I take a lengthy break, there's usually a stressful, emotionally-driven reason. My latest absence is no different.

But the good news is that the same situation is pushing me to write another personal post - something I haven't done in over a year.

One of the most popular posts on this blog is Extravagantly . . . A Personal Post. The basis for that post was my decision in life to love extravagantly, out of the ordinary, with everything I have.

To be honest, it's not much of a decision. I think it just happens to be the way God made me. Even on the days I would wish it away or find myself wanting to protect the fractured pieces of my worn, tired heart, I find I can't be anything different than what I am.

I don't even know how to love a little, or in measured increments. But from what I'm reading in my Bible, that seems to fit right in with God's instructions:
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.  
Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.  
Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.  
Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.  
Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.  
Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.  
Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.  
Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up.  
Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.  
If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.  
Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do.  “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. 
Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. 
Romans 12:9-21 (MSG)
And all that is good and great. Seriously, I don't mean that flippantly. I'm glad God is clear on what He expects out of us in our relationships.

But you know what happens on the flip side of loving deeply? Getting hurt deeply. And as a believer, what comes after that is forgiving deeply. It's just not easy sometimes. Not when the hurt is still raw and you're still wondering why. Not when it's happened once again or when everyone else is asking why you keep giving chances.

Sometimes . . . sometimes you feel like a doormat. Like this approach to life has simply led to people taking advantage of you. But that passage, it says "Bless your enemies." That would be the ones that hurt you, right? Even though I think sometimes those enemies also go by the name of "friends" and "family". You know those loved ones who don't make you feel so much loved by their actions.

I have to tell you I'm tired. My heart is weary. My emotions are raw and my confidence is battered. But I will get up tomorrow and choose to love, choose to forgive - knowing full well that may mean that I'm opening myself up to be hurt all over again.

I read this quote this week, just when my aching heart needed it the most:
 When we willingly lay down our need for revenge, to fight back, or to justify ourselves, we are never being a doormat. We are exuding an unparalleled strength and other-worldly control. We are being Jesus to the lost, the weak, and the needy. Counter-culture. Christ-like.
So I will keep going, one foot in front of the other. Loving and forgiving wholeheartedly, all while learning how to set boundaries. Loving people doesn't mean that those people get away with doing things that are damaging to others. But it does mean continuing to choose to love, continuing to choose to forgive. Learning to face the pain and come out the other side because in the end . . . it's worth it.

It is worth it.

December 19, 2014

See Santa - Eat Milk & Cookies - No Wait!

My boys are now 8, 7, 7 and 4. Each year for the past several years we have loaded everyone up and visited Santa. We have done it in all different ways. We have waited in long lines and fought the children from getting into everything we walked past in Bass Pro. We have made a reservation and waited to be called on at Watters Creek.

This year we are doing something different. My boys are older. They understand a little more what this Santa tradition is all about and how it works. They're not quite as smitten with just being in the presence of someone who looks like Santa should.

So tomorrow we will be going to KJ3 Photography in Princeton. Kids that go to these Santa sessions have a chance to sit and talk with Santa, eat milk and cookies, read books and (if Mom and Dad supply them) even get gifts directly from Santa! For $45, your kids will get a half hour with Santa to really spend some time and enjoy themselves. In addition, you will get a disk with 5 edited images for your Christmas memories. There's no waiting. You have a set time and you show up and go in to meet Santa.

Follow KJ3 Photography on Facebook to stay up to date and hear about future specials.

If they can get pictures like this out of your little ones, you'll want to visit them when it's not Christmas too.

Great Stocking Stuffers - Last Minute Orders from Amazon!

This post may contain affiliate links.

I'm done with my Christmas shopping, but I know many of you are still looking for those last minute gifts or stocking stuffers. Here's a few I would recommend that qualify for Prime shipping so you will get them in time for Christmas:

Valentia Even Glow Serum - $35

I am extremely skeptical about skin products, especially if it costs more than $5 - $10. But I have been using this skin serum for about 2 months now and it works! It evens out my skin. My complexion is more even. The surface of my skin is smoother. I love how it feels going on. It's not messy or oily. It's absorbed into my skin immediately and works in a short period of time.

The solution is slightly orange and a thicker liquid consistency. You dot your face with the product then rub it all in at the same time. It doesn't leave any residue but rather makes my face glow after applying. There is no stinging. I had no negatives about this product at all.

This is a great stocking stuffer for someone who appreciates high-quality skin products.

Yalmeh Super Youth Eye Cream - $17.25

Most eye creams it seems are outrageously expensive. I want to prevent further damage, possibly undo some existing issues and generally make my skin feel amazing, but not at the expense of more important things like putting food on the table for my family, you know? That's one of the great things about Yalmeh's Super Youth Eye Cream. The small size is just $17.25 right now and if you buy the larger size, you get double the amount of cream but it's only $24.95.

This product claims to help get ride of black circles, broken capillaries, fine lines and wrinkles. I can't tell you that I've seen huge evidence of these claims. However, I feel as if it does a good job protecting and replenishing my skin so it is accomplishing the main results I want in an eye cream. But they also offer a 90-day money back guarantee if you don't get the results you are looking for.

You might be able to win your own Yalmeh Eye Cream here.

Every Man Jack Thickening Shampoo - $10.15

If you're shopping for men like I am. Sometimes they're stockings can be a challenge. A couple of years ago I discovered Every Man Jack men's grooming products and now I know exactly where I need to go when I need these kinds of things for my men.

Not only does it smell great, it also works hard on those difficult men smells and skin challenges. I buy this as a gift for the guys, but in the end it's actually a gift for me!

December 15, 2014

Ready for Christmas? Planning . . . #HoneyBakedHoliday #ad

Oh my, this holiday is racing towards us full speed ahead. I am trying to slow it down enough to enjoy the moments . . . I'm not quite sure if it's working yet. 

But I am so glad that I have been able to mark one item off my list - the food for our celebration. We bought both a Honey Baked Ham and a Honey Baked Turkey! Since Christmas is typically a ham holiday, I bought a bone-in, half-ham and then a roasted turkey breast. Both are covered in the traditional Honey Baked sweet, crunchy glaze that they are famous for. 

The Honey-Baked Hams are hand chosen for their leanness and smoked for 24 hours.  They come already spiral sliced down to the bone. 

The Honey Baked Turkey Breast is glazed with the same amazing flavors as the traditional hams. You can buy them roasted or smoked.  

In addition, you can buy a whole slew of sides that are just heat and serve. Just move them into a new dish and your sides will look homemade without all the hard work.

And desserts . . . oh my.

I bought a Kentucky Derby pie. I opened it straight out of the fridge and ate a slice. It was great. Chocolate chips, pecans, flaky crust. Then I read the instructions and realized I was supposed to heat it up in the oven before it was served. The next piece I had was even more amazing with the chocolate melting and warm crust, mmmm!!

(For locals, I bought my Honey Baked products at the Honey Baked Ham store on Preston between Park and 190.)

From now until 1/11/15 you can enter to win a $25,000 HoneyBaked Kitchen Makeover when you buy a Ham and Turkey Breast bundle. Check out this amazing limited time coupon for $8.00 off any Bone-in Ham and Turkey Breast or Boneless Ham and Turkey Breast from HoneyBaked Ham to help you make your holiday dinner easy and delicious!

(This offer is valid only at the following locations: Rolling Meadows, Orland Park, Villa Park, Morton Grove, Naperville, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Plano, Mesquite, Hurst, Lewisville, Houston, Austin, Spring, Clear Lake, Sugar Land, Indianapolis, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Roseville, Birmingham, Troy, West Bloomfield, Livonia, Flint, Dearborn Heights, Sterling Heights, Taylor, Ann Arbor, Canton Township, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Mechanicsburg, Monroeville, San Antonio, Bellevue, and Lynnwood. For store addresses click here.)

 Donate $1.00 to Feeding America during checkout at the register of any HoneyBaked store. $1.00=10 Meals!