Post Alpha Bits and Little Free Library

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Recently I was contacted by Post Foods and Little Free Library to see if I would consider partnering with them to host a Little Free Library and promote literacy. I just so happened to have a conversation with a friend during that same window of time, and she mentioned that she has always wanted a Little Free Library in her yard. So, she and I are partnering together to make this happen for our community!

Little-known fact: I used to be the Literacy Coordinator at a YMCA before- and after-school program when we lived in North Dakota. I am VERY passionate about reading good books to my children. Teaching them to read and reading good books myself (so they see me enjoying learning) are on the top of my educational goals for them. So this should be fun!

We received some Alpha-Bits cereal in the mail. The kids are always excited to get a package, but when they found out it was for them, it turned to all-out glee. I asked if I could take pictures of them with their cereal, and Markus started trying to bust into it within seconds. Haha!

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I used to eat Alpha-Bits as a kid, so of course I had to try some. It doesn’t taste quite how a remember it, but thankfully I have my own Post cereal that I treat myself to sometimes: Great Grains. The kids had Alpha-Bits on their yogurt for snack.

The next day we shared some with my friend’s daughter, who doesn’t even know that she’s going to have a library in her front yard soon. The kids did some Snacktivities (fun little word coined by Post) like sorting letters and writing their names. And then they gobbled down handfuls of cereal. ūüôā

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(Markus had trouble finding an “M” in his pile.)
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Next time I think we’re going to separate vowels from consonants before eating, and then I might bring out the big guns: construction paper and glue. So many fun things to do with edible letters!

To learn more about Little Free Library, visit them on Twitter or Facebook or their website.

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I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Girls’ Weekend!

The last weekend of September, a few friends and I headed to the north shore of MN, near Lutsen. We had a BLAST! Food, waterfalls, nails, shopping, hiking, food, hiking, food, chick flick, wine, food, books, magazines…did I mention food? ūüėČ

Can’t wait for the next girls’ weekend!

And some of my top recommendations of places to visit on Minnesota North Shore are:
World’s Best Donuts (They were closed when we went on Saturday! And we seriously drove all the way back up to Grand Marais the next morning just to get them. Worth it.)
Coho Cafe (though we were quite disappointed with their portion sizes when we ordered the food to go)
Angry Trout Cafe
Temperance River State Park (for hiking/scenery)

Sherman’s New Lease on Life

Sorry to keep all three of you in suspense over the past week. ūüôā Here’s the lowdown on Sherman:

I posted a pic of Sherman on Facebook a few weeks ago, and a friend of ours from college mentioned that he was pretty sure he had an identical dog sitting on his desk at work. This seemed like a long shot, since the original Sherman was purchased about 9 or 10 years ago. He mentioned that he’d gotten his quite a while ago from his girlfriend (now wife), and that amped up my hopes considerably. After a few more Facebook exchanges, we determined that the new doggie was a match, and his wife dropped him off at our house on her way through the Twin Cities to Chicago (thanks, Liz!!).

I prepped Anja that afternoon by telling her that a new doggie that looked like Sherman was on its way to our house. I asked her what she would call the new doggie. She thought for awhile, then said, “I will call him Rosie.”

“Rosie it is!” I proclaimed happily, and we went about our afternoon. To say Anja was excited to see “Rosie” was a vast understatement. She was bouncing off the walls with giddiness. Her first comment was, “I didn’t remember Sherman was so soft, Mama.” Haha!

“Rosie” didn’t last long, and we had a resurrected Sherman by bedtime. A couple weeks later, he is already showing some signs of aging, like a crustier coat and a squeezed neck, but there’s a new shine in his little eyes.

While the original Sherman still remains at large (*tear*), we are so grateful to our friend Greg who was willing to share his doggie with a little girl who will love him times a million. Hopefully he won’t end up like Lotso.

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Dallas, Day Four

Slept in
had cereal and juice/coffee in room
drove to Manny’s Uptown (***/*****) for lunch with a high school friend of mine
Had brisket tacos, uptown queso, and Husband had a mango frozen margarita
walked around uptown with my friend, saw his place
went to Breadwinner’s Cafe (****/*****) for dessert, had key lime pie and chocolate seduction cake (key lime was excellent, I’m a hard sell for any non-homemade cake)
stuffed, drove back to hotel
Sat by pool in the sun, then the hot tub
showered
went to Galleria Dallas, shopped
Had supper at Mi Cocina (***/*****) beef taco, pork tamale, cheese enchilada, all decent
back to hotel to relax

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I often get tired of dragging my big camera around, so a lot of pics on this trip were taken with my little point-and-shoot, an old Canon Powershot. It’s funny, because even though the camera can’t “do much,” I sometimes like the shots I get with it even more than if I’d taken them with an SLR.

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As I’ve mentioned in my Daybook entries, I have been reading lately. ¬†It is not always an easy read, but it is a good read. ¬†Today my heart is heavy with friends’ news. ¬†My eyes welled with tears as these words rent soul:

I grip the card and I know all our days are struggle and warfare (Job 14:14) and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly wage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy. ¬†He sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world, and I gasp to say God is good. ¬†The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God’s glory, and I heave to enjoy God…and Satan strangles, and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor. ¬†~Ann Voskamp

When my daddy was sick, and when he died, I wrestled so long, so hard with the goodness of God. ¬† Through a sermon my pastor spoke, a hot Sunday morning in August, the parking lot a sea of folding chairs and umbrellas and sweaty tots, I came to see God’s mercy in the apparent evil.

Twice I’d stood in the same pew as John had at the funerals of both of his sons, and I had turned and I had seen for myself, how John stood with the congregation and sang it clear, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” ¬†Twice John sang his lifelong favorite Scripture before the coffins of his sons. ¬†I can still see him brave through each line sung, the tears of faith streaming down his cheeks into his smile. ¬†My throat had swelled raw in this sad awe, and I had turned away, drowning in grief waters all my own. ¬†The kind of faith I had witnessed in John, that spoke in the dead boy’s home, that kind of faith puts real vertebrae into a verse like Ephesians 5:20: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (NASB, emphasis added).

This is the hard thanksgiving.  In the face of great loss, we grieve.  And God, who allowed his own son to be crucified, relates.  Understands.

God, who gives and takes away.  God, an ever-present help in trouble.  God who holds all truth.  God, we pray for your grace and peace and thank you for your mercy, especially for those who cannot find the words to pray right now.

Just Desserts

Have you finished your Christmas shopping? ¬†I am almost done. ¬†I find that lately I am doing more and more of my shopping online. ¬†I try to support small businesses and local vendors when I can. ¬†It just makes me happy to know that another entrepreneur is able to put food on their table when I buy a gift. ¬†It’s like giving two gifts!

Speaking of food on the table (and lovely gifts), if you are looking for a dainty and one-of-a-kind present for a sister who loves to entertain, for a granddaughter who delights in tea parties, or even if you just want a serving piece to anchor your own Christmas spread…my friend Hibby has a shop. ¬†She makes cake stands and dessert pedestals that are sweetly feminine, perfect for displaying delectables. ¬†Pay her shop a visit!

Once Upon A December

Lots of updates!

We closed on our house last week, and my mom came to watch the kids while we began renovations. ¬†We’ve never really DIYed many big projects, so we’re both cutting our handyman teeth on the house. ¬†It is essentially move-in ready, but there are some cosmetics that (in our opinion) need updating, and we figured we might as well do it now so we can enjoy the changes rather than wait until it’s time to sell again (someday). ¬†Here are some “before” shots I took. ¬†Can’t promise I’ll be good about taking progress pictures, but eventually, there should at least be some “afters.”

Here’s the living room:

Kitchen/Dining:

Master bedroom:

Kids’ room (they’ll still share for now):

Family room:

Bedroom #3:

Office/Guest room:

We began by ripping off the trim. ¬†Thought it would be easy, but they used 3″ Godzilla nails (as Husband calls them), and lots of them. ¬†Plus the baseboards extended down to the subfloor, so the carpet kind of pins it to the wall as well. Within the first baseboard I did, we discovered mold under one of the pieces (joy!). ¬†So Husband had a friend stop by to look it over, and they found more in the subfloor and the wall. ¬†Thankfully, said friend knows a lot more about construction than we do, and he’s going to help Husband fix it up. ¬†Hooray!

So while Husband continued to rip out trim and take down doors, I cleaned the ceilings and painted the ceiling in one bedroom. ¬†I have had an impinged bicep tendon since I was 22, and I have to be really careful what I do if I want to keep the pain manageable. ¬†As soon as I finished the painting job, I told Husband, “This is going to kill me tomorrow.” ¬†Sure enough, two days later, I am still in so much pain I can barely get my own shirt on. ¬†Le sigh.

We had two more fab friends stop by to help Husband with the painting Sunday, and I can’t wait to see the progress.

Markus came down with a double ear infection last week (and initiated me…Anja has never had one, so this is my first experience). Poor little guy was soooo fussy. ¬†He’s on the mend, but Anja spiked a fever last night and has been really fussy and needy today. ¬†She was up last night fussing every 10 minutes until around 4 a.m. ¬†Gack. ¬†It really makes me thankful that my kids are healthy most of the time. ¬†Funny how God uses hard things to make you appreciate the blessings.

Husband said he wasn’t going to let me decorate for Christmas at home, since it is a “waste of time,” but after Anja asked multiple times if we could have a tree like Grandma’s, he gave in and brought up a miniature tree and the advent house from the garage. ¬†I also took out Anja’s nativity so the kids can play with that.

So far we’ve really been enjoying our Jesse Tree devotions and Advent activities. ¬†I will admit that I’m probably more excited about both things than Anja is. ¬†ūüôā

Collages

In jr. high and high school, I had a close girl friend named Jana. Jana and I spent a LOT of time together, especially in the summer. She lived across town, but that didn’t stop us. I would hop on my bike and race to her house. I used to time myself, and found that on average, it took me only 4 1/2 minutes to get to her house…before they took down the old wooden bridge over the train tracks, that is.

Anyway, I loved Jana because she was a little bit eccentric and liked to do creative things. We melted crayons and made new colors, baked lots of very colorful cakes and fancy pies, built Lego villages (long after we should have been playing with Legos), went ice blocking (the summer equivalent of sledding), sat on her roof and spied on the neighbors. We also did more normal things:  golfed, rollerbladed, and played tennis. We watched movies and made our own movies. We played pranks on our friends.

But one of the things I remember doing often with Jana was making collages. I think most people have made a collage or two in their life, some school assignment or rainy day project Mom gave them. But we made collages like there was a shortage of them on the earth. My entire closet, as well as the front and back of my bedroom door, was covered with collages we made.

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In the midst of our remodeling process, I found a tattered manila envelope full of magazine clippings from the mid-90s that Jana and I had used back in the day.

So Anja and I sat and made collages. And I found Jana on Facebook. She’s still quirky, doing things like roller derby and dressing up strange iwith her husband. That makes me happy.

Anja’s collages made me happy, too. They have the same flavor of oddness that my collages used to have, all eyes and mouths and random limbs. You’ll notice lots of 90s flair in there, too–a Michael Jordan jersey, a young Tiger Woods, David Robinson, Will Smith.

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And here’s my collage. It would have fit right in on my bedroom door. Maybe I’ll even bring it there and hang it with scotch tape (my mom would LOVE that, I know!).

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What kinds of things did you do for fun in high school?