Monday, November 16, 2015

And the winner is...

Alright, moms! I counted the number of individual entries (no duplicates) and entered the range into a random number generator then counted down from the top (see the pic above for proof, if you have very good vision). Congratulations to... Melissa J! Email me with your home address and I'll send out your two tickets to VeggieTales Live!

To the non-winners (never any "losers!") there are still many more chances to win. Tomorrow morning on The Big Big House Morning Show around 7:30am and at our last two Veggies for Hope stops today and tomorrow. And you're the first ones to hear this: Wednesday is "Winning Wednesday." What's "Winning Wednesday?" I'm glad you asked!

Every hour on The Big Big House Morning Show and on The Way Home (so 6-10am and 3-7pm) you'll have a chance to call in and win a family four pack of tickets to the show AND on Thursday we'll give away a four pack with a Meet & Greet! Hooray!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Win VeggieTales Live Tickets!

Like little heat-seeking missiles, my boys started smelling the VeggieTales Live show weeks before I told them about it. Randomly, from the back seat on one ordinary day I hear, "Mama, can we go see the VeggieTales show?" I already had the tickets but had not yet shared the news with them. My big one told me he saw a commercial after Sesame Street. Ah... well played, Veggies! Well played!

There are a lot of things my kids ask for that I'm not crazy about, e.g. the 48-inch tall Darth Vadar from Target. Truth be told, I wanted to take them to VeggieTales Live as soon as I heard the show was coming. As parents, when our kids ask for something good, like a second helping of broccoli (No joke! This just happened last week!) or to go to church a few minutes early so to have extra time to pray (I'm still waiting for this one), we are willing to bend over backwards to make it happen.

Sometimes financially though, it's not as easy as that backbend. Spirit FM and the Mom Squad Blog to the rescue!

Here's a chance for you to win two tickets to VeggieTales Live! Little Kids Do Big Things, November 22nd at the Straz Center in Tampa. It's at 2pm, but come early because before the show, Spirit FM and other folks will have tables set up with activities like coloring, puppet-making and veggie bowling!

How do you win? Just leave a comment with your name and your favorite VeggieTales song. I'll draw a random winner on Monday around 10am and post the name. Be sure to send the link to the blog to friends and family to increase your chance of winning!

Here's some more good news - there are a few ways to get discount tickets - as of last night there was a Groupon for discounted tickets and there is also BOGO 50% off if you use the promo code "LARRY". You have to do the math to see which deal is better. That is outside of my skill set. HERE'S A LINK TO THE SHOW and to PURCHASE TICKETS.

There are more giveaways coming up on Spirit FM and through our Veggies for Hope collections on Monday and Tuesday, but if your little one's heart is set on it, and you can make it happen, I think it's worth it to make the purchase. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Itty Bitty Soul

One of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog a few years ago was about my niece, Ella. A beautiful little blonde girl with a sweet spirit and a perpetually giddy personality. Ella and her mom and dad are the first adoptive family I have ever had the chance to get to know. Growing up, there were kids who were adopted, but I never got to know their parents. After all, I was a kid too!

I was so amazed by how perfect that family was. Don't misunderstand, they had imperfect moments, plenty of them, but they perfectly fit together. Then I had the chance to host an event for Catholic Charities Adoption Services last year and I saw it all over again. I think it's a bit of a mystery that although this isn't the "normal" way God makes a family it still feels so natural and right. It's one of the most beautiful acts of love that I think we could ever witness.

November is the month where we focus on what we have to be thankful for, which I think is a perfect fit for Adoption Awareness Month. I just read a great book that would be an awesome addition to a preschool classroom bookshelf or in your own home. Itty Bitty Soul is the story of a little guy who God sends to be part of a family. Mom is a business woman and dad owns a food truck! They are a fun-loving, faithful couple who is just waiting for the call that their baby is here.

I love that it shows the range of emotions adoptive parents go through. But what is even better is that God speaks to the little boy and assures him that although he is tiny, he is important and can change a life, which to me is a great testimony to why we should work hard to support adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Jim Fellows, the author of Itty Bitty Soul, shared that he wrote the book after witnessing his friends go through the process & the rollercoaster ride of emotions it takes you on. One interesting thing he mentioned is that his friends frequently heard, "I know a lot of people who try to adopt and then end up getting pregnant!" as though adoption was a consolation prize. I think if you talk to any adoptive parent, they would say they feel like they won the grand prize, not a consolation. So I asked him, "What SHOULD we say to a couple trying to adopt?" His reply - "You're going to make a great mom and dad!" or "I'm praying for you!"

It's so simple. We don't need to fix the problem, we just need to love them and support them. And I think that it starts with teaching our children, through a book like this, that adoption is one of the most beautiful gifts God has created. What if our children grew up seeing adoption as a privilege, not a threat or an alternative. How many more unborn babies would be allowed to live? How many more couples would embrace adoption instead of spending their life's savings (and emotions) on infertility treatments? How many more children who are adopted would see their life as special and not unwanted?

So check it out - the colors and illustration are beautiful and you'll fall in love with mom and dad, just like I did. Part of the profits this month go to, an organization that helps bridge the financial gap for couples who are trying to create a family through adoption. And happy Adoption Awareness Month!      

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I See "How Beautiful" It Is

This Sunday God had fun and created a music video for me. He must have been bored!

The communion song was How Beautiful, by Twila Paris. I know, it's not the newest song, but the melody is timeless and our choir sang it perfectly. I've always loved this song. I even had it sung at my wedding.

I came back from communion, knelt to pray and after a few minutes did the usual, studying of the people walking by me. As I saw soul after soul receive the Eucharist, that's when my personal music video began and I was struck with how true the lyrics of the song were. The chorus is simple,
How Beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

First a little girl passes by in a smocked dress, then her older sister who was awkwardly eleven-years-old.

Then a mom and her three sons.

Then a grandfather and his grandson.

Then a young woman with Down Syndrome.

Then a Filipino woman. A black woman. An Indian man.

An usher who is permanently confined to a wheelchair.

It was such a privilege to look around the community of people I worship with and see, not what the world defines as beauty, but what God does, and to witness it as those words were being sung. The world has a very narrow view of what is beautiful, and if you look over a long span of time that definition changes with the wind. But I got to see real beauty in the form of the individuals who make up the body of Christ.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

They're Playing Our Song!

Cool guy, Graham. 
You know that trend of typing a sentence with a period between each word for extra emphasis? For instance, "My coffee maker is on the fritz. Can't. Wake. Up." This is how Graham, my 2-year-old speaks. He uses full sentences, but there is a poignant pause Between. Every. Word. He's into saying "I can't" right now. It drives me bonkers.

Typical conversation-  Me: "Graham, come here now."
Graham: "I. Can't. Walk. Ma. Ma."

This past Sunday at church, Graham was standing on the pew hand rest, facing me. We were eye-to-eye to sing the Alleluia at the start of the gospel acclamation. I said, "It's time to sing, Graham!" I couldn't hear his tiny voice over the people around me, but I watched his lips move and with my hands on his ribs, I could feel the vibrations. Then he said the sweetest, truest fragmented sentence, "Ma. Ma. This. Is. My. Song!"

I've never heard him say that before, but I love that he did. Alleluia. Praise the Lord. I hope that is always "His song". All I could say in response was, "Yes. It. Is!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forgive As My Father Forgives

The culprits, eating carrots & licking frosting off mixers.
It started with silence around 6:15pm. Silence is never good in a house of toddlers. Silence = trouble. They weren't in the play room, so I went searching. Liam had to go potty so he went to my parents' bathroom and Graham followed behind with a pitcher full of poker chips and fake money. Don't ask.

I found Graham sitting in my parents' shower with the coins spread out around him. Liam was going potty. I said, "Dinner is ready and you shouldn't be in here. Pick it up and come out now." And I walked away. Mistake. 

A few minutes later I heard my name and went looking to see what was the matter. Both boys were now in the shower with the glass doors slid shut - and stuck. I got my dad. Long story short. He was getting quite frustrated trying to open the doors which must have come off the track. He was angry with the boys, asking them why they were in the shower in the first place (my fault). And as I was asking... "Can I help?"  *Shatter!!*  I heard Graham start crying and then he got handed to me around the door. Next came Liam, handed off. I saw blood on the ground and hoped it hadn't come from either of them. Liam started crying. I started crying. Everyone was crying! There was glass everywhere. 

I dealt with the kids and my parents cleaned up the mess. Side note - after dinner they went in to try to slide the other door into place and it broke too. Ugh.

I was so angry at those boys. No dessert. No Curious George. Eat dinner and get in bed. I reminded them that I told them to get out of the shower and they didn't listen. At dinner Liam apologized to my dad for breaking the door and my dad pointed out that they didn't break it. He did. I jumped in to say, but you WERE disobeying. I didn't want to let them off the hook. When it came time for tucking in, I was cold to them, but tried to make sure the night ended on a loving note. 

Meanwhile in Adult Land, I was crying. Telling my dad I was so sorry. He said - don't worry about it. It's okay. He was frustrated, but he didn't lose his temper with me. 

I couldn't help but think about the story of the Unmerciful Servant from the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18. The king forgave his huge debt but then when someone owed HIM a smaller one he was unmerciful and threw him in prison. I was the middle-man debtor in this story-turned-real-life. My dad forgave me before I even asked yet I was so angry that I couldn't properly tuck my kids into bed.

But here's the tough part: When it comes to parenting, if you are too quick to forgive do you miss out on the opportunity to teach a lesson? Of course there is a lesson there on forgiveness and mercy, but where's the dividing line between holding on too long and reinforcing the message? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What It Means to Be a Woman

newborn-nelly, by rotorhead 2003 via
Have you seen this article by Ruben Navarrette Jr. from The Daily Beast? I said on The Big Big House Morning Show that the headline is the most powerful wishy-washy statement I've ever read. It read: I Don't Know If I'm Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos. Wow. Even though it is not even close to being a firm declaration, that took courage and I think it is what a lot of people are thinking or at least feeling in their hearts.

The part of Mr. Navarrette's article that resonated deepest with me is his reasoning for why he has been pro-choice for 30 years. Consequently, it is the same reason that he is "on the bubble" of being pro-life. He says it's because he is a man. For so long he stood on the sidelines because, as a man he didn't feel like it was his right to decide what a woman did with her own body. He has come to realize with the loving nudge of his pro-life wife that declaring neutrality is "wimping out" and what it means to be a man is to use your voice to protect a child - your own or someone else's, even if their own parent is the one from whom they need to be protected.

Wow again.

My initial response was, "Good for you, 'man'". And then I thought, if that's what it means to be a man, then what does it mean to be a woman? I think to be a woman is to nurture, love, create life. And I'm not just talking about getting pregnant and rearing children. We are nurturing, loving & creating when we plant a garden, listen to a friend's story, help organize a bake sale at school or drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic to make money to put dinner on the table (often all within 24 hours).

In response to the abortion debate, if to be a man is to protect a child then I think to be a woman is to nurture a child. But how do we do that if the child hasn't even been born yet? We do that by supporting our local pregnancy centers. We do that by encouraging couples struggling with infertility to consider adoption. We do that by teaching our kids how to be compassionate towards the girl in school who (rumor has it) is newly pregnant. Our teenage children (or the kids in our church's youth group) are on the front lines. They are our eyes and ears on the battle ground. Take your teenager to a pregnancy center and ask for a tour or attend a fundraising dinner and let them hear a story of a life saved. And most importantly, we pray.

The worst thing we can do is nothing. That's not the kind of woman I am. Come to think of it, I don't know many women who ever sit around and do nothing, especially when a life is on the line.

What else WILL YOU DO to help nurture, love & create life this week?

Friday, July 31, 2015

What Are Your Kids Snacking On?

Like most families, we thrive on routine in my home. Nap is 1-3 (ha! Yeah right. More like 1 to 2, 2:20 if I'm lucky). After nap we snack! We rotate the snack item from day to day. Popcorn, pretzels, fruit, goldfish, pickles... It's really more than a snack. It's an event.

Beckah Shae and family have also given us more than a snack in "Scripture Snacks: Kids Fun Size Vol 1". Beckah's husband is a producer and super talented and her daughters are following in her footsteps with their beautiful voices.

I talked with Beckah on the show this morning and she said that the Word of God is the greatest legacy she could leave her daughters, so they walk around the house singing verses from the Bible. Everyone knows singing helps commit something to memory (that's how I memorized all the prepositions for extra credit in 7th grade!).

So I have for you, Mom Squad Blog reader... a chance to win a copy of Scripture Snacks. Just leave a comment with your child's favorite snack item. I'll choose a winner and announce on Wednesday.

If you don't win, don't worry. We are putting a free download of Scripture Snacks in the swag bags for Spirit FM's 2nd Annual Women's Conference AND throughout August, you'll have a chance to WIN 1 GIVE 1. So you'll get a copy for yourself and one to share with a friend.

Good luck! And the album is available starting today on iTunes, Amazon & other digital platforms & of course at Christian retail stores. Check it out at (I love the track called "Time"!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

You Aren't What You Wear, But...

If we were being graded on our dress at church, I'd say I get a B- on average. Some days I wear a dress, but some days I wear jeans. Scratch that. Many days, I wear jeans.

A lot of people say, God doesn't care what I wear to church. All that matters is that I'm there. If God had to choose between having you in the pew in your pajamas and not having you in the pew at all, I'd bet my bank account he'd rather see those Star Wars footies of yours. But why do we feel the need to have this arguement? Why can't we say, "God, I know you see my heart, not my clothing, but I want to put effort into this hour and that effort will start with the way I present myself."

If you see me next weekend in jeans, please don't call me out. But I promise I will try to improve my grade. You in?