Saturday, August 1, 2015

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

I often think that I should write a post about products that have worked well for us, but I never get around to it.  So here it is…a few of my favorite things!

APPS
I have an iPhone, so these apps are all from the Apple Store

:: Build a Menu – this allows me to take my menu planning service on the road with us. We often try to stay in Prophets Chambers so that we can have some routine and stability for our family even on deputation. But that means that we are responsible for preparing all of our own meals. This helps me save money, time preparing the shopping list, provide variety in our meals, and keeps all the recipes in one place!

:: Blue Letter Bible – I started using this Bible Study app when I began the Busy Mama Bible Studies for my devotions. Some of the features are only available on wifi/data connection. But it gives me a Strong’s concordance, lexicon, interlinear definitions, related word studies, commentaries, and more at my fingertips. I love it!

:: Waze – we use a GPS for most of our route planning on deputation, but our maps are a little outdated. When we hit a snag or come upon a traffic jam, I always reach for my Waze app. It’s an app that tracks drivers while they have the app open. You can report hazards, construction zones, police sightings, red light cameras, and more. The information is shared with other travelers on the same route to help them avoid the same dangers. I can usually see why traffic is stopped, the average speed in the slow zone, or how long of a back-up there is. If you’re a speeder (shame on you!) it will alert you to cops also.

:: iExit – this app has been a particular blessing on deputation! It recognizes your location on all US interstates, and tells you what is available at upcoming exits. You can search for a particular store/restaurant, or you can view them by exit number. I use this to find out how far to the next Rest Stop (essential during pregnancy!), and to decide where we will stop for lunch/dinner. I can browse the upcoming restaurants and we can decide where we want to eat. It also tells amenities, such as which fast food restaurants have a drive-thru or playplace (a necessity with kids!). For each restaurant, hotel, or gas station it tells me which direction to turn after exiting, how far off the highway it is, and also lists the address and phone number. The app integrates with my Google Maps app so I can get turn-by-turn directions if needed.

BIBLE STUDY

I am really enjoying the Busy Mama Bible Studies on the Doorposts Blog. These in-depth studies are broken in bite-size pieces, so that I can do a decent study even in just 10-15 minutes per day. Each study runs for 30 days and focuses on a passage/chapter of Scripture. Since they are designed for busy moms, I can complete an assignment each morning. But if I am able to spend more time in a particular morning, then I can dig deeper. But it allows me to start the morning off on the right foot without getting up an hour before the kids (nearly impossible for me right now). There is an optional assignment to use with your kids for Bible class or family devotions, which correlates with Mom’s study. There is also a catch-up day once a week. There are a few studies which are published in book/Kindle format. All the studies can be found on the blog. Current/new studies arrive in your inbox each morning. They offer a new study about every other month. There is a study that started this month which is topical – Child Training Boot Camp. There is also a Facebook group so you can interact with others doing the same study. I am usually a few days behind, and the group isn’t as “separated” as I would prefer, so it hasn’t been necessarily helpful to me.

PRODUCTS

:: Aveeno Stress Relief lotion – I simplified a lot of our toiletries by getting everyone in theAveeno family to use the same body products. I switched to Aveeno lotion with the kids, so they didn’t have to smell like Moonlight Path. But I just discovered the Stress Relief scent – with lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang. I have used other stress-relief aromatherapy products which are usually eucalyptus spearmint. But I am loving the ylang-ylang scent, and the oat essences in the Aveeno products makes them very moisturizing!

:: Bug Bite Soother – I made this essential oil itch relief from a recipe on Learning About Essential Oils. It works SO WELL!!! When I get a bug bite it bothers me for a long time. Hydrocortisone doesn’t seem to help, and I haven’t had much luck with other bug bite relief products. But this chases away the itch for a LONG TIME. And it was really easy to make!

:: Lilla Rose Flexi Clips – I bought one of these a couple of years ago but didn’t use it very much. I don’t think I had purchased the correct size. On various sales since then I have accumulated a stash of one in each size, allowing me to use a flexi-clip regardless of the hairstyle I have selected for the day. They are much more comfortable than a claw clip. They stay put, even in my fine, thin hair. And they look pretty too!

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:: Thirty-One Bags – I’ll probably do a separate post on what Thirty-One bags I use to pack for depuation. But I use a lot of these products and they are wonderful! At first I was really skeptical, because I have a hard time justifying $50+ for a bag. But at the same time I’m a bag-addict, and these ones have lots of pockets and styles that keep things organized. I usually buy them on sale, but I have found them to be well made and functional.

:: Build-A-Menu – this online menu planning service has been very helpful to keep me on track with meal planning, even when life is busy. It did take me a while to get used to it and come to like it, but I think it was simply because I was used to doing my menu planning on a different “system”. I still don’t care for the way the weekly schedule prints, so I usually just hand write it. I have purchased my subscription for 50% off the last two years (this sale was in May both years).

With Build A Menu I can select the grocery store where I want to shop (and they even have Aldi and Wal-Mart!), then choose from a list of weekly menu items, and then print my shopping list and recipes. They offer several different meal categories, including freezer cooking, family friend, dine on a dime, Trim Healthy Mama, Gluten Free, Paleo, Allergy sensitive, slow cooker, etc. I can choose meals that feed 1-2, or 4-6. They have breakfast and lunch options, but I primarily use this for dinner planning. A newer feature allows you to input your own favorite recipes so you can select from them at any given time. I have not taken time to use this feature, but I am looking forward to doing so!

I really like that this helps me to add variety to my menus. It also takes advantage of seasonal items to maximize savings – something I have never been very good at! There is usually a dessert of the week, but I haven’t really utilized it. Sometimes the instructions on the recipe don’t seem completely clear, but since I consider myself to be a decent cook/familiar with the kitchen, I can usually figure out what to do. I also like that they now have an app so I can take my list and menus and recipes on the go… i.e. deputation!

:: Eucalan No Rinse Wash – I originally discovered Eucalan when I was cloth diapering the older kids.  It’s a wool wash that helps to re-lanolize wool products, like the ones we used for overnight.  However, it also works well as a delicates wash, and it’s perfect for traveling!  Whenever we need to rinse a few things in the sink I can just soak them for 15 minutes in Eucalan, and I don’t have to try to rinse all of the detergent out when finished.  Just wring them out and drip dry.  It comes in several scents, but we like Wrapture the best.

:: Shutterfly – hands down the best photo site out there.  I find their interface easy to use, and I get lots of great prices and coupons through email offers.  I buy a lot of photo gifts for Christmas presents, and then they send me “thank-yous” in the form of special offers…and I usually end up getting several 8x8 albums printed for free each year.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Nolan’s Fourth Birthday

For Nolan’s birthday, we celebrated a week early in order to do it while we were at home.  The kids got to borrow some adjustable roller skates while we were on deputation, and they seemed to like it.  There is a new-ish roller skating rink at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Pier 6.  I’ve been wanting to go there anyway, so we gave both Elaine and Nolan some skates and took them skating.  Elaine did better than Nolan.  He got tired of falling on his bum, and took the skates off, but then eventually he put them back on.  (Poor guy is a klutz like Mommy).  Grandma outfitted them with new helmets, too. 

It was a lovely evening to walk by the East River and view the city.  The kids were on and off the rink, and we even let the twins have a go.  Nehemiah is a natural athlete and did fantastic, even skating without the support bar!

20150625_132907401_iOSA tradition from Ben’s side – you get to pick out a cereal (the “junkier” the better).  He looks really happy here, huh?!?

Nolan's Fourth Birthday Presents
My Four Monkeys

Nolan's Fourth Birthday Presents
Presents!  Before the activity this time, since we needed the skates to go to the rink!

Nolan's Fourth Birthday Presents
Helmet from Grandma Godby

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Elaine’s card for Nolan.  The boys are bald because they got buzz cuts.  I guess Liberty is the second one – with the read beard, er – hair!

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Mr. Potato Head from Elaine.  This was the only thing on his birthday list.  She made the sister-of-the-year list!

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Puzzle from Grandma Hamilton

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There are the skates!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Elaine and Nehemiah

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
He is one cool dude, definitely from Brooklyn!  The hat is always backwards, and the glasses (or “eyes” as he calls them) are the first thing he asks for in the morning!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Libs.  She had more trouble than Nehemiah!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Elaine tried to help…

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
…but they aren’t quite ready for a train yet!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Birthday boy,

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
and his sis!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Fall one!

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Fall two!  (And they just kept coming)

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Mommy and kiddos (all FIVE of them!)

Roller Skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6
Brooklyn Bridge and NYC in the background

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City boy, my first Brooklyn Baby

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Spider Cake
He asked for a spider cake.  I’m no cake decorator (the frosting is too messy), but I thought I could put eyes and legs on Oreos!

Spider Cake

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Eating his Spider Cake.  This is the “cheese” smile I get most of the time!

Nolan ~ 4 Years Old

I actually got to take these at the beginning of the month, but for 2.5 weeks of our deputation travels we had no internet and only sporadic cell signal, so posting was out of the question!

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Nolan is a master pouter.  I see this look too often!

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But when he smiles, he is irresistible!

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(Same pic, B&W)

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“I’m four now!”  (Excuse Elaine in the background!)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Best Father I Know

Today everyone is posting about how grateful they are for their fathers. And while I am certainly thankful for my father, and now my “bonus” dad – my father-in-law – today I wanted to talk about a different father. Someone that I could not do without – the father of my kiddos.

I don’t talk about Ben very much here on the blog. The kiddos pretty much get the spotlight. But today is Father’s Day, and I didn’t think I could let it slip by without bragging on the awesome dad that my kids have. Especially since I am missing him today, and Father’s Day is incomplete without him.

When we were dating, Ben asked me how many children I wanted to have. My reply was, “Eight.” I’m not sure what made that number come out of my mouth…I always hated babysitting and as a teenager was adamant that I didn’t want to have any snotty nosed kids. Maybe I was trying to scare Ben away, or see how serious he was about our relationship. But as it became clear that we were going to get married, we “decided” that we would “start” with five kids. I didn’t have any clue at that point what five kids entailed (or I may have stuck with my original plan of no kids), or if we would even reach our “goal.” Now, less than eight years later the birth of our fifth child is looming at just two months away.

But with each child we have added to our family I have been more and more thankful for the man I married and the father that he is becoming. The sermon this morning touched on how difficult it is to swim upstream and be the kind of leader at home and church that God requires. Especially with a strong-willed, stubborn woman like me at home, I know Ben has his work cut out for him. He’s not perfect – he would be the first to tell you – but he strives to follow God and lead his family in the right way.

These last couple of years haven’t been the easiest, but they have really made Ben shine even more in my eyes. First, we added twins to the family. While I know some dads who would hardly stoop to change a baby’s diaper, my husband was busy taking “first shift” for feeding, changing, and rocking two babies to sleep.  (And he was good at it!) Many times he pulled an all-nighter at the 24 hour laundry mat so that I didn’t have to go the next day with four kids. He spends his Saturdays helping with the grocery shopping and catching up on housework. We make a pretty good team getting things done on bath night, too! This past week that he has been gone has made me realize how exhausting it is to do it all by myself!

And in addition to this crazy life of four small children and a fifth on the way, we live in a challenging urban setting and a small apartment with no private or quiet space. I don’t know how he studies or gets anything done.  But through all of this Ben has managed to spend a year working two full time jobs – one as a contractor; the other a missionary on deputation. Many nights he has stayed up late (because that’s when the quiet finally comes) to sort through a call list. The next day he spends making calls on his “lunch break” to schedule meetings. And somehow he fits in ministry at our sending church, study time, one or two baseball games, and playing with the kids. He gives them a big part of every night, and it baffles me that he can accomplish anything else. (Or where he finds that energy at the end of a long day!)  My kids have no idea how blessed they are that he comes home and devotes that time to them!

The year of working two jobs was hard. Then we gave up the “security” of a job and consistent income for life on the road.  Life in full-time ministry.  Full-time deputation has its own set of challenges. (You all thought we were just on a big vacation didn’t you?!?) Last month Ben made over 600 contacts between phone calls and emails in a 10-day period. He does almost all of the driving to get us from place to place, and then still finds the ability to get up early before all of us for his quiet time with God. He has taken the advice of other missionaries to keep the pace slow enough for his kids to handle. He has done a fantastic job of making deputation good for them – and not just pushing them along to get to each destination.  He loads the car and unloads the car at each place. He sits in the room until the kids fall asleep in yet another strange environment. He lets them hijack the radio for their video instead of streaming the baseball game.  He’s a good dad.

Yes, I think I married a pretty special man. When I was in conflict about my own call to the foreign mission field and God’s clear direction to marry this guy who wanted to stay in the United States, I remember speaking to my pastor’s wife about it. She told me something I have never forgotten. “When I knew I was supposed to marry my husband, I abandoned my own dreams and began to adopt his.” I’ve been dreaming New York City church planting with Ben for almost eight years. Now we are so close…we know the borough, the neighborhood, and we are almost halfway there on raising our support. Moving to the Bronx is so close I can taste it (it tastes like the best pizza and bagels in the world in case you are wondering), but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.

I know I take Ben for granted too often. I’m sure my kids don’t know just how special their Daddy really is. But if he keeps on the same path – the path of leading his family in God’s Will for us, then they will find out one day. And when they do, I hope my sons become just like him, and I hope my daughters marry men like him.

These are a few of my favorite pictures that say my husband is also a father.

Birth of Elaine Cristin Hamilton
This one made him a father on November 5, 2009.  She made quite the entrance with an emergency c-section, and the drama has only increased!

NYC Brooklyn Bridge with the Hamiltons
I love that Ben loves NYC and has taught our kids that this is our city, because this is where God wants our family.

Ben Babysitting the Twins
Quiet time often comes in one of these forms…

Daddy Working with the Twins

Ben sleeping with Nolan
(That’s Nolan)

Liberty's Quiet Time with Ben
(This is Liberty)
I think this may be my all-time favorite picture of Ben!

Catching Fireflies
Catching fireflies

First Tee Ball Lesson  First Tee Ball Lesson
Teaching baseball (and putting up with their odd fashion styles!)

Elaine's first chocolate milk
Life’s important lessons – how to drink chocolate milk!  I must tell you though, it was Mommy who taught her how to dunk chocolate chip cookies!

First Twin Family Park Outing
Going on a walk when it’s a lot of work and not much relaxation…

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Or managing them all together so Mommy can get something done too…

Nolan's 3rd Birthday

Wrestling with Daddy
(The couch usually leads to wrestling in the floor)

Happy Father’s Day Ben – from all of us!

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