Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Giveaway Time with Healthy Houseful

The longer I live in Oregon, the more I appreciate the lifestyle. I honestly feel that if we hadn't moved here, Jack might have been an only child. I never would have learned about cloth diapers, solar panels, recycling bins that dwarfed their trash cousins, how to make kombucha (or even what the heck it is) and the simple joy of a clothesline.
Healthy Houseful's "Baby Prints" relief for itchy maternity bellies, stretch marks and scars.

Another green, money-saving device Nick and I have picked up: buying local. Within the last few years, we have made personal commitments to shop Oregon- and/or American-made products if at all possible. We try really hard to apply this to everything, including household items, clothes, presents, food, etc. It's not always feasible -- and we definitely don't go crazy over it -- but we love knowing that we're supporting the local economy (always a good thing!), lessening our carbon footprint, finding new/quirky brands and often using healthier products.

Plus, this resolution means I get to garage-sale to my heart's content. Can I get an amen?

So when my friend Genna, a local Monmouth mama who's even crunchier than me (don't worry, she would see that as a compliment), opened up her own line of locally-made, organic and kid-safe health and beauty products, I was stoked for her. And even more excited when she asked me to review some products!

I've been using Healthy Houseful stuff for more than a month now, and I have to say I'm pleased with the results. Genna makes everything by hand, using only local, organic, earth-, people- and pet-friendly ingredients. In other words, she notes dryly, your kid can eat this stuff and be juuuuust fine. As a mom of four ages six and under, I'm sure she's only speaking hypothetically.

Batting leadoff: Baby Prints, a salve for all itchy pregnant tummies. It also helps with stretch marks. Confession time: I am 35 weeks pregnant with Kupcake #3 and have never had an itchy pregnant tummy...or any stretch marks. (Ducks as cyber spitwads get hawked my way). So I can't fully vouch for the efficacy of this product. But I do know that after putting it over my stomach after showers, my skin felt soft and hydrated, and smelled nice to boot. It's easy to apply, not greasy in the least, and at only $4, is a steal!
Healthy Houseful's "Heat for Him" organic lotion
 Next up: Heat for Him organic lotion. Call me old-fashioned, but I love that it came in a jam jar. Additionally:

  • A little bit goes a long ways. I've been using it almost daily for over a month, and I'm only a third of the way through it.
  • It smells delish, like orange, cloves and cinnamon. Even Nick liked it and requested I use it again. (I'm thinking Genna knew what she was doing when she gave this stuff its name...).
  • It's way above and beyond dollar-store lotion. While it doesn't rub in as quickly as The Body Shop's "Body Butter" -- my usual standby -- it does just as good of a job at moisturizing and silkening.
  • Once again, the price. $6 for good lotion? I'm there. 

Healthy Houseful's organic "Owie Ointment" treatment for cuts, scrapes, blisters etc.

And last up: an organic Neosporin called Owie Ointment. This product was far and away my favorite!

As the mother of two boys ages five and two, I think I had this product about 42 minutes before I had a chance to use it. Jack slashed himself on something -- I can't even remember what. So I whipped out this little chapstick tube of organic greatness. To which Jack promptly asked, "Mommy, why are you putting chapstick on my cut?"

The Owie Ointment was super-easy to apply, went on smoothly, smelled good and wasn't greasy. True to its claim, Jack's boo-boo was healed in no time. I've also used it on myself for my own chafe marks (thank you, pregnancy running) and had great results. And it's a mere $3!

And now for the fun part. Three, yes THREE, of my readers will win their choice of either Baby Prints, Heat for Him or Owie Ointment!

To enter: head over to Healthy Houseful's Facebook page and become a fan. (She doesn't post super-often and won't bug ya, I promise). Then, leave a comment HERE ON THIS BLOG telling me which product you are interested in and why. Make sure if I don't already know you personally to leave some sort of contact info!

I'd love to bombard Genna with a bunch of new likers and orders! If you don't feel like waiting to see if you won and would like to purchase something now, visit her page, find the photo of your desired item (HH also makes cramp relief, bath bombs and more) and leave a comment saying how many you want. Or, send an e-mail to healthyhouseful@hotmail.com with your order. If you're in the Salem/Monmouth/Dallas area, Genna delivers and collects your payment (check/cash) then. Otherwise, expect your goodies by mail and invoice by PayPal.

USA residents only, please. Contest runs through Friday, March 1. No purchase necessary to win.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Memorization Monster -- and a Giveaway!

Quick: which of the following have you memorized?
  • Your 4th-grade crush's birthday and phone number, though you've never seen him since
  • Every quotable line from The Princess Bride...plus every word to every song in The Sound of Music.
  • License plate numbers from every car your parents ever owned during your lifetime
  • Bible verses from Genesis to Revelation
  • The entirety of the Declaration of Independence
  • The word-for-word definition of the term "antidisestablishmentarianism."

    If you're a normal person, you probably know the important stuff needed for banking and everyday life: birthdays, addresses, your mother's maiden name, multiplication tables. You know, stuff that you can actually use.

    And then there's me. For some reason, my brain latches onto meaningless info that gets me nowhere (except baby shower games. I seriously always win the baby shower game where you have to memorize the tray of baby items).

    There is one item on the above list, however, that is not meaningless. Far from it, in fact.
Jack colors his "Keep me as the apple of your eye" page

In the worst and best times of my life, words have supernaturally appeared in my heart. I didn't create them, or even neccessarily ask that they be there. But there they were and I have always been grateful.

I'm talking, of course, about verses from the Bible, memorized over the course of a few thousand Sunday School lessons, summer camps, school and home assignments and personal study sessions.

Maybe you don't believe in God, or that the Bible is relevant today. I could definitely write several blog posts on this topic. But here's the skinny of it for me: the Bible is the best-selling book of all time for a reason. And I know from personal experience that I need its wisdom like air and good chocolate.
When learning ANYTHING, adding a bouncy ball is always a good idea! We tossed it back and forth to each other, saying each verse one word at a time per bounce. Jack dug it, and so did Jude, even though he had no idea of what we were saying.

Consequently, getting its truths into my children from an early an age as possible is a top priority for me as a mother. Part of this is practical; most of the verses adult Christians know were learned in childhood. Part of it is educational; the Bible is critical to understanding world history, among other things. And let's be honest: part of it just a little selfish...Ephesians 6:1, I'm looking at you.

So when Jenn over at The Purposeful Mom announced she needed reviewers for her new e-book, God's Word in my Heart: A Scripture Learning Guide with Memory Verses, I volunteered. This short e-book prompts parents to get their little ones (especially preschoolers through elementary ages) started on the easiest path to memorizing portions of God's word.

So here's what I did:
1) I read the book. Since it's only 20 pages, it didn't take long.
2) I perused the many ideas and picked out several I thought would work for our schedules, age levels and personality types. Jack, for instance, just is not into detailed crafts. As a five-year-old boy, he'd take an action rhyme any day.
3) Since this is not a project you can accomplish in one afternoon -- after all, truly memorizing anything requires repetition over several days, weeks and months -- I announced our plan to the family. Once Jack hears us say, "We're going to do this...." he NEVER lets us forget it.
4) We dove right in and did them!

Jack and his Scripture caterpillar!

I'm happy to announce that in just a few short weeks, Jack (and consequently, Nick) has memorized several verses perfectly and with great enthusiasm!

What I liked:
*The ideas were perfectly geared toward Jack's age
*The verses are arranged in an ABC fashion. In other words, you learn a new verse every day with one of the main words starting with the letter of the day. Like the first day: "Keep me as the APPLE of your eye" (Psalm 17:8) and so on. This makes it easy for Jack to remember what we're doing next and which order to say his learned verses in.
*There are many ideas to choose from. You get to taylor them to your family's needs -- either way your kids are learning!
*Because it's a "program," it keeps you accountable; once you get going, it's hard to stop. Or, should I say, Jack keeps me accountable and makes it hard to stop. We promised him that if he learns all 26 verses, he gets a rare visit to Chuck E. Cheese. I have complete confidence this motivation alone will keep him going.

*When ordering God's Word in my Heart, you can choose the version: KJV, NKJV, a mixture of NIV + others, etc. I like options!

What I didn't love:

*I wish it had been a little longer and more detailed on each idea, perhaps with illustrations on the craft ideas. I am NOT a crafty person and need as much help as I can get!

*There are a lot of clickable links throughout the book (most often to other similiar sites/blogs). Because of how my brain works, I don't like being sent multiple locations to get information; I'd rather have everything in one spot. But this might just be me and my neurotic quirks.

At any rate, Jack is learning that Scipture memorization is a priority in our house and establishing a pattern that will serve for him his whole life.

Hearing his beautiful little voice recite the word of God seriously blesses this mother's heart (and his grandparents'!). Because when the first words out of his mouth in the morning (even before he requested his Mickey Mouse vitamins) are, "What verse are we learning today?" I think, "Oh yeah. This is definitely a good thing!"

Want to get in on the Bible-loving action? You can win by leaving a comment below! Or purchase your own e-copy for only $1.99 TODAY (Valentine's Day). Beginning tomorrow, it goes up to $3.99, so purchase today!

(If you purchase the book, enter the giveaway anyways -- Jenn will refund your purchase price if you are the winner.). 

Tell me, if you memorized verses as a kid, what was your method? Or, how do you teach your own kids today? Or, why do you want to win this e-book?
Make sure to leave your name and some sort of contact info in the comments so I can contact you if you're the lucky winner!
Contest ends February 17. I received a copy of this e-book for review purposes only; all opinions are my own.
Update: Jessica Derstine is the winner! Thank you all for participating.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Things Being Nick's Wife Have Taught Me

He tips my chin up to look at him, his green eyes hungrily taking in every molecule of me. I sigh, more than content to fully rest in his arms. Nick and I have been married 8 years now, together for 10, but I don't think this sensory explosion -- the feel of his strong arms under my hands, the sight of his mischeivous grin, the comforting smell of his body wash, the sound of my name from his mouth and the taste of his kiss -- will ever get old.

To quote
Kristen Welch, one of my favorite bloggers: monogamy is hot, ya'all.

In a world where a college football player's imaginary girlfriend, a superstar's lipsynching and the possible demise of the everlasting Twinkie can dominate the headlines for weeks, I revel in the reality of what Nick and I share.

Back in December, Nick and I went to a wedding. The bride had been a candlelighter in our own nuptials. As she took the hands of her groom, eyes shining, Nick leaned over.

"Katie and Ethan don't look old enough to be doing this," he whispered. "But they're younger than we were when we got married, right?"

I stifled a giggle, whispering back, "Babe...they're more than a year older than we were!"

The look on his face was priceless, making it even harder for me to control myself.

If you would have told me when I was 17 that I would one day be writing a blog called, "5 Things Being Nick's Wife Have Taught Me," I would have laughed and said, "You must mean another Nick, right?"

But here we are. And while I by no means have this whole marriage thing figured out, I have (mostly by trial, error and the grace of God) picked up a few tricks. So in honor of both Valentine's Day and our half-year anniversary tomorrow, here are 5 things being Nick's wife have taught me:

1) Everyday life is a GIFT.
I once thought that the only life worth living was an obviously exciting, adventuresome, fill-up-your-passport existence, that long absences apart from your humdrum life, small hometown and same-old friends were the ticket to happiness. And then I married a military man. By the time we hit our 5th anniversary, he had been gone more than a year. (And I have it "easy" compared to wives in the other branches.)

Straight up: Nick and I were not meant to be apart. When he deploys, it's unbelievable how much I miss his physical presence, handyman skills, dorky jokes (including the unfunny ones)...even getting to do his laundry! In the beginning, I took that all for granted. But today? I've learned that even a trip to the grocery store together (especially without kids!) is an opportunity for high romance.

2) True love is in the details.
On our wedding day, I thought I knew Nick. Re-reading that sentence makes me laugh.

I did know Nick, sort of. I knew lots about him. I knew his soul was beautiful and perfectly matched mine. But I truly didn't know the real him until life got messy and sticky and less-than-perfect.

Once I figured out that the key to Nick was in the actual little things, and not what I wanted to be his little things, our marriage got a million times better.

As silly as it sounds, it took me years to figure out that Nick is completely different than my brothers or dad. He doesn't dress like them, gravitate toward the same music (the day I catch Shane, Jonathan or Dustin blasting Prince and George Michael is the day I'll start loving Martha Stewart) or know every sports term like they do. He prefers picking his own clothes instead of letting me dress him (drats!), and it was me who taught him how to drive a tractor.

But more than that, he JUST ISN'T THEM. He is his own person, with his own opinions, love language, money style, hot button issues and so on. I had to learn to embrace those details, not try to re-shape them into something I'm more familiar with.

3) The quickest way a wife can sabotage a relationship is to take it over.
This one was really, really hard for me. After all, coming into marriage, I genuinely knew more about smart money and time management, the Bible, running a household, proper fighting techniques, etc. than Nick did. And boy, for the first few years, did I let him know it!

And guess what? It didn't work.

When I "led," Nick shrank back from his rightful role as head of the household. When I missed opportunities to positively affirm his job as provider and protector, his confidence plummeted. When I withheld affection from him over his perceived missteps, thinking it would teach him my supposed marital superiority, we both ended up empty and confused!

Women, don't get me wrong. I dig strong, feminist personalities; it's how world change happens. But when we continually mock (however demurely and subtly) our husbands' roles as leaders, we're only hurting ourselves.

4) True happiness comes from serving each other -- NOT yourself.

I remember thinking on our honeymoon that these would be the best years of our lives. My reasoning: we were skinny, together and had oodles of kidless free time. Once all the oxytocin wore off and the kids showed up, however, I figured the good times were over. And I lived accordingly; I used Nick and our marriage to make myself as happy as possible while I still could.

Like #3, this attitude also backfired. I soon learned living for myself made for a pretty lonely existence. Once the kids showed up -- once I saw how unbelievably sexy Nick was to me in his role as a dad -- and "real life" began, I was forced to think outside my little box.

Thankfully, Nick started figuring this secret out around year 5 as well. We started looking for ways to truly bless the other, no matter what sphere of our lives: work, home, exercise, the bedroom, church, our social lives, etc. instead of just using each other as good-looking hired help. It required a lot of communication, trust, patience and perserverance.

But let me tell you: that's when things got insanely hot.

5) A marriage truly is an INVESTMENT -- you get out of it what you put into it.
Any woman who's been a wife more than, oh, a week, will tell you that marriage can be crazy-hard. Nick has hurt me more deeply than I ever thought possible; he has pushed all my buttons repeatedly; he has made me wish he was uglier so it would be easier to hate him. And here's a confession: I have more than once asked God why the heck he gave me this man to love.

Answer: because Nick makes me a better person, even though it hurts sometimes.

Over 8 years, we've seen way too many of our friends' marriages end up in divorce court. It scares us, so much that we have taken concrete steps to divorce-proof our own relationship as much as possible. Like:
*regular date nights
*working with marriage mentors
*taking marriage and communication classes, reading marriage books, etc.
*intentionally staying away from temptations like porn and erotica (no 50 Shades of Grey for me!) and deep relationships with the opposite sex
*cultivating outside interests and staying in shape ("Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands!")
*Staying accountable to friends and family
*remembering why we got married in the first place: because we're best friends.

Obviously, every photo in this blog except for the last is old. Neither Nick nor I have that same haircut, thank God. I'm out of college. Nick has switched jobs in the Air Force. We live in different places, and with kids who look like us (okay, me, but whatever). Life is different, and that's a good thing.

The first pictures show a couple. But the last one shows a team.
How about you? What has being a husband/wife taught you this Valentine's season?