Friday, November 27, 2015

McDonald's Arch Cards: An Easy Gift

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am a brand ambassador for McDonald's of Central Arkansas. But mainly, I talk about McDonald's because I (and my kids) love the place.

When you're doing your holiday shopping, you'll likely forget someone. It will come down to the last minute, and you'll think, "Oh no! I forgot a gift for (so and so)." The gifts that tend to slip my mind are those for teachers, bosses and Dirty Santa gifts. But I've got the perfect solution this year.

Stock up on McDonald's Arch cards.

McDonald's Arch cards (gift cards) come in denominations of $5, $10, $25 and $50 and can be purchased at any McDonald's. (They can also be purchased at some Kroger stores.) I picked up a couple of $5 cards, which will make easy gifts.

The amount may sound small, but there is so much you can get at McDonald's for just $5, it's really a valuable gift! Your gift recipient could purchase at least four items on McDonald's hefty Dollar Menu (five if they wanted to chip in their own change for tax).

$1 Menu
Sausage McMuffin
Sausage Biscuit
Sausage Burrito
Hash Browns
McCafe Coffee
Double Cheeseburger
Chicken McNuggets
Fruit 'N Yogurt Parfait
Sweet Tea
Vanilla Cone
Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie
Soft Baked Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

And of course, there are countless other items on McDonald's menu for under $5 as well.

If you want to keep an Arch Card on hand for yourself, they are conveniently reloadable for a cash-free fry run anytime. Feel free to use one on yourself when you need to recharge with a parfait or a lemonade during a full day of mall bouncing.

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

God of the Seasons

I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

Are you one of those people who leaves pumpkins on your porch 'til the last day of November, refuses to put up your tree until after Thanksgiving, or laments having to erase "Happy Fall Y'all" from your chalkboard? Or maybe you've been listening to Christmas music for weeks, have your tree decked and ready and even a few gifts set under it. I'm somewhere in between. My house is still decorated for fall. My tree is not up. But I've been listening to Christmas music and may or may not have already watched Home Alone 1 & 2. I love fall and never like to rush its end, but I love Christmas too and am excited for it to arrive in its own time. Sometime this week, I plan to transition our house from fall to Christmas décor, which is a tedious but fun job. With kids, it's usually like one step forward, two steps back (ornaments will be broken, no doubt), but they love helping and I love letting them (mostly ;)).

As we transition into a new season, I'm reminded that while our life circumstances change, our God does not. Sometimes it's hard to believe He's as faithful and constant as He says, but He is. We may feel tossed and tumbled about, but our God is sure and steady, and He's not surprised by what comes our way. He knew it before the world began. That's so comforting. We are in an interesting season in our personal lives right now, and it's good for me to remind myself that God is sovereign and He has a plan. There is a big picture here. But He uses changing seasons and circumstances to piece it all together.

I've always marveled at how God created the seasons -- winter, spring, summer, fall -- to break up the monotony of life and give us a change of pace. But He gave us different seasons in our lives as well -- being young, being old, hard times, mountaintops -- to teach us and grow us into the people He wants us to be. My only choice is to trust that God knows what He's doing in this season in our lives and that He will work it out for our good and His glory. In the meantime, I'm going to eat turkey and cook corn casserole, pull our tree down from the attic and decorate it with little helpers, and take in all this season has to offer. I know for sure it will be over soon so I want to savor it slowly and make memories that will last.

Today I am excited to give away this book from Tommy Nelson, Parable Treasury. It is a collection of stories that celebrates each of the seasons. Most importantly, each story teaches us a lesson about Jesus and includes verses from the Bible at the bottom of each page that go along with the story. This book is another way for kids (and parents!) to learn that God is God of the seasons, and there is something we can learn in each one of them. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling me which season (winter, spring, summer, fall) is your favorite and why OR something God is teaching you in this "season" of your life. Then be sure and enter via Rafflecopter below.

And Happy Thanksgiving!!! We have so much to be thankful for.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning to Win or Lose

I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

How do your kids handle losing? Are you one of those parents who lets your kids win? Or do you give it all you've got in a game of Uno? I'll be honest -- I don't let my kids win. I don't think I have once. I want them to learn from an early age sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that's ok! However, apparently my best efforts have fallen short because my kids are still pretty pitiful losers!

Selah has recently gotten really into playing "Candyland." I usually oblige her because it's an easy way to spend time with her that doesn't require much mental energy or imagination on my part. The games are enjoyable until she realizes Mama may reach "King's Candy Castle" before her. If I do, I brace myself. She may scream; she may throw the spinner; she will definitely cry. No matter what -- it doesn't end well.

That's why I was so thankful to get the book Win or Lose, I Love You by Lysa TerKeurst. This adorable book features playmates Lulu and Max who head into the woods to host a "field day competition" with their animal friends. Everyone is having a great time until Goosey loses the costume contest and Coyote loses the obstacle course. When Coyote throws over the pie table and destroys the yummy pies, everyone gets a clear example of a sore loser. Of course, Coyote later apologizes and his friends forgive him. But the lesson is learned. "Sometimes you'll lose. Other times you'll win. What matters most is how you treat your friends."

I can't say this book has solved all our sore loser problems, but it has helped. When I see Selah's arms cross and her start to simmer, I remind her of Coyote and how no one likes to play with a sore loser. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but she always stops to think. I still have hope though because I can tell as Eden has gotten older, she has learned to better handle losing. So hopefully by time Selah is her age, she will too.

I'm giving away a copy of Win or Lose, I Love You. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post about how your kids handle losing or what your favorite games are to play together. Then enter via Rafflecopter below.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Lord Determines Our Steps {SURPRISE, y'all!}

We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps. That's what the Bible says. And the way He orders our steps is never quite like we would have done.

For the last four weeks, we have had a sweet, adorable baby boy in our home. He came to us quickly, in an emergency situation, and he dove into my heart even quicker. I love this boy -- his hugs, his kisses, his playful tongue-tapping noise.

Tyler and I had always talked about fostering. We feel it is the call of God for Christians to care for orphans and widows. But of course, we planned to do it in our time. When we had more money, and when our three-year-old slept, and when we'd gotten our anniversary vacation out of the way.

But the Lord determines our steps.

The last four weeks have been hard but joyful. There have been sleepless nights, tummy aches, and weary mama prayers. There have been peaceful nights, belly laughs and thankful praises. Our little guy adjusted well and the rest of us were close behind him.

Until I took a test to confirm my hunch -- a secret suspicion I'd been carrying for a couple weeks.

I'm pregnant.

The Lord determines our steps.

This is definitely not how I would have ordered these events. I mean, "God, don't you think this is kind of bad timing? Come on."

Yet I have another suspicion that maybe God does have it together. Maybe He's got a secret, higher up, more beautiful plan for how this whole thing will unfold. I don't have a clue. But I suspect He does.

Someone asked me if I felt more detached from our little guy once I got our news. My answer was no. To be perfectly honest, I still feel more affection for him than the plus sign on my pee-soaked stick. But I also know, I'm not his mama. I love him and I know how to get him to sleep and I've learned how to curb his gas and produce regular poop (that was more difficult than you might think)... but I'm not his mama. So I'm praying for the one who is -- that she might once again be capable of filling this huge, God-given role so I can turn my attention and affection to the little pea growing inside of me. WHICH I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE IS THERE! There has been so much to process in the last few days. I haven't known what, if anything to share publicly. We are still figuring out what the future holds, but I would appreciate your prayers that God's will would be done in every way and in every person involved in this situation.

I know He will take care of us all. He is a good, good father. (Here's a little video treat for ya)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Evening With John Cisna (The Man Who Lost 56 lbs. Eating McDonald's)

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am a brand ambassador for McDonald's of Central Arkansas. But mainly, I talk about McDonald's because I (and my kids) love the place.

Last week I had the privilege of putting on my big earrings and heels and driving to Little Rock for an event at the Clinton Center. We McDonald's ambassadors were invited to dinner at the acclaimed Forty-Two restaurant, where we heard from John Cisna, the man who lost 56 lbs. eating McDonald's every meal for six months. I know what you're thinking. HOW could that be possible? We've all seen or heard of "Supersize Me" and been told for years that fast food will make us fat. But John's story proved what I've believed all along. It's not about where you eat but what. You can make wise food choices anywhere. And everything can be done in moderation.

That's the very reason I was on board with becoming a McDonald's ambassador. I'm not ashamed that my family loves McDonald's because we balance what and when we eat there with other nutritional options and exercise. Balance is the key to life, right?

Cisna was a high school science teacher in Iowa who created a project with his students. He would eat McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for six months, but he would stay within the recommended 2,000 calorie diet each day. His students were in charge of creating his menu. And he required them to track his carbs, protein, sugars and fats, making sure each day's meals stayed within the FDA's recommended amounts. A typical day on his "McDonald's diet" would include fruit and nut oatmeal and an egg white delight for breakfast, a salad for lunch and a value meal for dinner.

After 90 days on the diet and walking 45 minutes per day, John had lost 37 lbs. and lowered his cholesterol. He continued his diet for another 90 days and increased the intensity of his exercise, doing what he was now capable of after losing so much weight. The end results were staggering. He lost a total of 56 lbs., lowered his cholesterol from 249 to 190, his triglycerides from 156 to 80 and his LDL from 170 to 113.

Cisna was later hired by the company to be a McDonald's brand ambassador and now travels the country telling his story. He was clear in the speech I heard he does not think this diet is for everyone. It was simply, as he explained, an experiment. His message is that it's not where you eat but what you choose that matters.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him. He was bubbly and enthusiastic and passionate about his new life. He talked about his wife and three daughters and seemed quite family oriented. I found it refreshing to meet someone with so much passion for what they do, even when he receives much criticism for it.

I had a blast the whole evening. The culinary staff at Forty-Two treated us to a gourmet meal that was -- get this -- crafted strictly from McDonald's food! I barely believed it when they told us. They literally drove to a local McDonald's, took ingredients from the freezer, and put together a gourmet, three-course dinner that would have wowed anyone. It was amazing! It just goes to show the ingredients McDonald's uses really are fresh and high quality. The meal was a true, fine-dining experience.

Fried Apple Martinis, McGriddle "Steamed Buns," Vietnamese Larb Lettuce Wraps and Honey BBQ Chicken Crostinis
Salad of Baby Spinach and Kale Mixed Greens with Smoked Apples, Tomato Conserve and Fried Chili Lime Tortilla Strips

Oven Roasted Artisan Chicken with Carmalized Onion Soubise, French Fry Gnocchi and Roasted Parsnip and Curried Cauliflower Frappe

Vanilla "Soft Serve" Crème served on an "Apple Pie" Shortcake with Rich, Buttery Caramel Anglaise and a Tart Apple Compote
My mouth still waters looking at these pictures! This meal was one of my all-time favorites. But what's neat is that, like I said, I can drive to my local McDonald's and be served the same food. Yes, it may be cooked up a little differently, but it's still tasty and -- when consumed wisely -- can be part of a balanced diet.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Have A Six-Year-Old!

I never get emotional about birthdays. I really don't. But on my six-year-old's birthday eve, after she was all tucked in and ready for another day of Kindergarten, I felt some tears well up in my eyes. It wasn't that she would be six. It was that so many good things had passed. I thought about how she made me a mama when I didn't have a clue how to be one. I thought about how I used to bounce her all hours of the night in her wallpapered-room in our duplex and think how proud I was of choosing the beautiful name "Eden." Ha! (true story.) I thought about bottles and diapers and so many glorious "firsts." It had all been so beautiful and yes, a little too quick. Raising babies was the hardest thing I ever did, yet the welled-up tears dropped when I thought about it being over. I have big girls now. One who has to use two hands to tell her age!

I went to Eden's classroom on her birthday to take cupcakes for the kids and had such a great time. It was neat getting to spend some time in the room and see how the kids interact and behave. I have to admit - I was so proud of my girl. What I saw was what I expected. She was playful, kind and friendly to everyone. Her teacher even bragged on how well she is reading and it just left me beaming. Have I mentioned I love this girl?

After school we gave Eden her gift and watching her (and her sister's) face light up was pretty darn cute. (Of course, we got her Shopkins!) (And the new Cinderella movie)


Saturday we are going to have a little family weenie roast and campout in our yard to further celebrate. Eden has had a "big" party every previous year, so this time, we're keeping it simple and small. It seems when you take all the hoopla out of birthdays, you can really focus on enjoying each other and each moment.

Also in past years I have always posted my girls' "birthday letter" here on the blog. I did write Eden a letter a few weeks ago when we were at Pine Cove, but I've decided to keep these private from now on. As she gets older, I suspect my letters will get more personal. And I'm excited to keep them especially for her until the day I hand them over as a special, personal gift.

So, how did you handle your child's most recent birthday?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall in Full Swing

I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

Fall finally swung in for us this weekend. We decorated the porch and house and visited the pumpkin patch, two of our favorite traditions. Eden actually told me decorating the porch was her *favorite* thing about fall. Not her birthday, not the pumpkin patch, not Halloween... I realized I better never even think about foregoing this simple ritual.

Sunday after church we visited the pumpkin patch with friends, and this year was different because it was actually cold outside. Usually when we put on our cute boots and fall outfits we feel a little silly but we want to at least dress like it's fall at the pumpkin patch. This year, though, was the epitome of a chilly, fall day.

What fall activities has your family done so far? Still on our list is baking pumpkin treats, decorating pumpkins, and celebrating a special SIX-YEAR-OLD's birthday! (Tomorrow!)

To help celebrate this season I love, I'm giving away a copy of a sweet book called God Bless Our Fall. This is the perfect book for cuddling up with your little one (ideal for ages 0-4) and reflecting on all your favorite parts of this time of year. It also reminds us to thank God for them all.

To enter to win, leave a comment on this blog post telling what your favorite part of fall is or a fall activity your family plans to do soon. You must also enter via Rafflecopter below.

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