How to Help a Friend: Just Do It

How to Help a Friend in Need #justdoit

Not sure how to help your friend? Just do something! Anything!

You didn’t hear from me at all last week (I know you missed me, didntcha?!), and it wasn’t because I was busier-than-usual (I’m always busier-than-usual, so that’s not a good excuse). I had all these great plans to write a post or two detailing how my DH and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary on the cheap (I think I still will, but in the meantime, check out a few Instagram pics), but just as I was about to sit down at the computer and start typing out my thoughts, my husband made a phone call that unexpectedly and dramatically changed our plans. 

He called his dad for the purpose of checking on our kids, who were staying with his family for the weekend while we were busy celebrating; but as it turns out, God had divinely appointed that he check on his dad with that phone call instead. As soon as my father-in-law had answered the phone, my DH could tell something was wrong, and he was right. As it turned out, Dad had suffered a stroke and ended up spending the next few days in the hospital, undergoing various tests and treatments.

Change of Plans

We cut our anniversary celebration short – and I never did sit down at the computer! – and made our way as quickly as we could to the town about an hour away where his family lives. We got there just in time to see his dad before they whisked him away to start the medication for stroke, and we spent the rest of the week juggling our time between filling our responsibilities here in town and visiting with family an hour away. 

During the course of the week, the entire family experienced such an outpouring of love from the dear folks who know and love my father-in-law,  the founding pastor of a thriving church, that we cannot even begin to properly express our appreciation. Amid the uncertainties and fears of the first few days following the stroke, it was a tremendous blessing to witness love demonstrated in tangible ways. 

My Certain Little Someone, reading with Grandpa not one week after Grandpa’s stroke.

Encouraged and Provoked

As happens when the Body of Christ operates as it should, I was encouraged by the loving response of God’s people to our need, but I was also personally “provoked to good works”, as the Bible says. You see, I always have this trouble – and I know I’m not the only one – of knowing exactly what to do when someone I love has a need. Certainly, I always offer help, but just as certainly, they always turn it down. The conversation typically goes like this:

Me: Is there any way I can help you?

The Person in Need: Oh, I appreciate it, but we’re fine, thank you!

Me: Ok, but I’d love to help. Let me know if you think of anything.

The Person in Need: I will, thanks!

Ever had that conversation? And, of course, the person in need never actually calls on my help because they hate to be a burden to anyone. And I go on my merry way when the reality is, there are things I could do to be an encouragement and a blessing.

What I learned this past week has a familiar ring to it, and it’s this: Just. Do. It. Don’t wait for your friend to call on you, don’t wait for the “perfect opportunity” to be a blessing, don’t hem and haw and second-guess yourself. Just do it. Whatever you can think of that seems like it would be helpful, just do it.

How to Help a Friend in Need {Just Do It}

A few things done for us and for my father-in-law that were greatly appreciated and might spark an idea for you: 

  • Meals Provided: No fewer than three people simply called and said, “Hey, I made some food for you, when is a good time to drop it off?” If those people had called and said, “Can I make you a meal?” we would have said, “Oh, no, thanks, no need to put yourself out!”, and then both parties would have missed out on a blessing. On Friday night, our entire family sat around and enjoyed a veritable feast, and we barely had to lift a finger to fix it (which was a good thing, after the week we’d all experienced!); and our enjoyment of the meal was enhanced by the fact that our friends had made it for us in a sheer demonstration of their love and care for us.
  • Snacks and Treats: Maybe a full meal doesn’t fit your budget or your time constraints, but a snack of some kind is totally do-able! As we sat around my father-in-law’s hospital bed, we all enjoyed some homemade fudge that a friend had prepared for us. Another friend brought a towering basket of fresh fruit! Other options include breakfast foods (a batch of muffins, maybe?), or lunch supplies (a loaf of bread and a package of lunchmeat, perhaps).
  • Care Packages: One sweet friend ran by the grocery store and picked up a few things she thought my mother-in-law might find useful while at the hospital: snacks, tea bags and a mug, lip balm and lotion, and more.  This was so thoughtful and was the perfect thing for Mom, who was so busy caring for Dad that she didn’t properly take the time to care for herself. Many care-givers find themselves in the same boat, so a gift that helps them relax and regroup is perfect.
  • Messages: Words are powerful healing agents (Don’t believe me? Read Proverbs 16:24.) and they can be communicated in so many forms: in person, over the phone, via text, on Facebook, on email, through video, or even an old-fashioned card. We received all of those this past week, and each one was treasured. We read them to my father-in-law and I know he was encouraged by the loving words of many friends.  And don’t forget… laughter is the best medicine! It was a treat to be able to laugh together with various friends… even one who put together a short video with an inside joke that was appreciated by all.
  • Prayer: Talk about healing power! Ultimately, God is the One Who heals, and we have the privilege of coming boldly to His throne and asking for His healing. We witnessed my father-in-law progress from the point on Sunday night where he could barely say simple words like “OK” and “Bye-bye” to the point exactly one week later where he and my DH maintained a lengthy phone conversation about a variety of topics. I firmly believe his progress had just as much to do with the prayers of God’s people as it did with any medication or treatment he received. People were praying literally all over the world – in the Philippines, in France, throughout the United States, and more – and their prayers were as effective as Scripture promises they will be. When you can do nothing else, you can certainly pray!

Remember the phone call my DH made that launched us into the week we weren’t expecting? Well, at exactly the same time a week later, my DH made another phone call to his dad, this time with dramatically different results! We were amazed and so grateful at the progress Dad had made during the week, and we are confident that he is going to make a full recovery and be back in the pulpit where he loves to be. I can’t help but think that every single person who prayed and helped in any way they could think of had a tangible part in his healing, and they will in turn be richly blessed.

So now if I have a friend or loved one facing a crisis of one kind or another, I know what I can do. It doesn’t really matter so much *what* I do… as long as I just do it. 

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5 Reasons Why I Use Essential Oils

5 Reasons to Use Essential Oils

When I first signed up as a distributor with Young Living Essential Oils, I wrote a lengthy post about that decision. (You can read that post here, and you can sign up as a distributor yourself here, because once you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably want to. *wink*) I detailed then the mental and physical journey that led me to essential oils, but I didn’t specifically address the reasons why I chose essential oils as the primary healing modality, if you will, in my  home.

Now that I have over a year invested in learning about and using the oils, I figured it was past time to put into words the reasons why I chose to go with essential oils. Naturally, I believe these reasons are good reasons for you also to choose essential oils, but please keep in mind this is only a post about my experience and it is not to be construed as medical advice because I am not a doctor. If you  have any concerns or questions, please do speak with your medical practitioner before experimenting with the oils.

1. Essential Oils are Safe

Did you realize you have probably been ingesting essential oils and rubbing them onto your body already without even knowing it? That’s because many of them (here’s an itemized list) are categorized as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and approved as such to be used as food additives. Companies add GRAS essential oils to food and toiletry items for flavor and fragrance purposes all the time.

And if you don’t trust the FDA (Ahem. I don’t blame you.), here’s an interesting analysis by Dr. Robert Tisserand, an expert on essential oils, about the safety and various concerns regarding the use of oils. I encourage you to read through for yourself, but my conclusion after reading it myself was that he was hard pressed to find any hard evidence of any sort of serious negative side effects or reactions from the usage of oils. A quote from this article: “As used in aromatherapy today, essential oils have not caused a single death.” The same cannot be said for modern chemical medicine!

Certainly, we need to respect the power of essential oils and use them wisely and with a heavy dose of common sense. First of all, we need to make sure the oils we use are of the highest quality to avoid the adulteration and chemical exposure referred to in the above referenced article by Tisserand. Secondly, it is a good idea to dilute essential oils for both topical and internal use.  And it goes without saying that caution should be exercised when using oils on children (although I have read that studies done on children reveal no negative effects when they are used properly). With all that in mind, I think one can say that aromatherapy is just as safe as any other readily available therapy, if not safer. 

2. Essential Oils are Effective

I have experienced the effectiveness of essential oils personally and in my own family, and I have heard the testimonies of many others’ positive experiences. Browse through Oil Testimonials and see how many people have benefited from the life-blood of a plant that is called its “essential oil”.

3. Essential Oils Very Rarely Have Side Effects

The most common side effect of an oil is that it can cause a minor reaction in sensitive skin, like a tingling, stinging sensation or even a slight rash. The best way to avoid this reaction is to dilute the oil with a carrier oil.

Some people respond strongly to some oils think they are having an allergic reaction. However, it is more likely that any reaction to an oil is actually part of the detox process, which can be a good thing. (Even so, it’s a good idea to stop using any oil when you experience detox symptoms and allow your body time to recover before using it again.) There’s some debate about whether or not oils can be allergenic at all, but here’s a good rule of thumb: if reactions strengthen with each use of the oil, it’s probably an allergic reaction. If the reactions reduce in intensity, it’s probably detox.

One thing worth mentioning here, although it’s not the purpose of this post, is that some medical conditions do not tolerate certain oils. Epilepsy comes to mind, since I recently had a friend with this concern. If you have a chronic medical illness or condition, do your research and make sure the oils you want to use will not aggravate your condition.

4. Essential Oils Have a Long History

The aforementioned Dr. Robert Tisserand gives a brief history of essential oil usage here, but suffice it to say that ancient cultures (Rome, Egyptian) regularly used essential oils medicinally. And, of course, the Bible is filled with mentions of oils (distilled and infused) used for many purposes, including physical and emotional health.

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more trust in something that has stood the test of time! Modern medicine miracles exist and are not to be discounted, but give me a time-tested remedy any day over!

5. Essential Oils are Easy to Use

You know how I like things to be simple! I find aromatherapy to be the most accessible of all modern alternative remedies: Chiropractic care is expensive and time-consuming (although very beneficial!); acupuncture is also expensive and exclusive in that it’s not really something you can do at home; homeopathy is just downright confusing; and I confess that I find herbal medicine to be much the same.

Essential oils are easy to use at home – simply diffusing them into the air is an effective way to use them, as is rubbing the diluted oil into the skin. Although there is much to learn about the science of aromatherapy, at its very basic level, it can be used at home by even the most inexperienced person. (Provided, of course, that inexperienced person is willing to learn the basics of safety and usage!)

They are also neither expensive nor exclusive like the other therapies I mentioned. The average wholesale price of a bottle of essential oil from Young Living is around $20 and contains several hundred drops. (Ask me how you can get the wholesale price for yourself!) When you consider that you use only one or two drops at a time, that price is actually minimal in comparison to most other alternative meds out there. (Hey, it’s even cheaper than most run of the mill OTC meds!)

 

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Simple Wall Art: Fill Those Empty Walls

Win your own free wall art from Bigstock!

Win your own free wall art from Bigstock!

It shouldn’t be a secret to anyone around here that I like it when things are simple. (Hence, authentic simplicity. Yeah, that’s where that comes from!) I don’t really consider myself lazy (most of the time), but for sure I’m not going to put extra effort into anything that isn’t worth it.

Home decor is one of those things, right up there with crafts and making the bed. (Changing the sheets, now. That’s important!) In the past year, the craftiest thing I’ve done is making some monogram-esque picture frames for our living room. They turned out pretty sweet – if I do say so myself – and weren’t all that difficult; but trust me when I say the easier the home decor is, the better.

Ya with me? Ok, good, because I have a fantastic idea (and a giveaway!) for you today. See that fun vintage wall art in the photo above that is now gracing my kitchen wall? It’s actually a photo from Bigstock, printed in poster size and framed. Very cool, yes? And very simple!

Bigstock has tons of photos available to purchase and download… and then print on a large scale and hang on your wall. With over 17,000,000 (yes, that many zeroes) photos to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect one for that bare spot. (Unless you’re really really picky, and then I’m afraid I can’t help you.)

FIFTY Images FREE!

And guess what?! Every single one of you – yes, even you! – gets to try Bigstock out for free! And I know you love free stuff, because you’re just like me. Here’s the deal: Bigstock is generously offering my readers a free 5-day trial of their site, which means that for 5 days, you can download up to 10 images absolutely FREE! The standard free trial only includes 35 images, so this is an extra 15 just because you like my blog (you knew that had to be good for something someday, right?).

Bigstock wall art

Click here to start your free 5-day trial. Browse through Bigstock’s massive selection of photos and start dreaming of all you could do!

That’s Not All, Folks!

One lucky reader also will win a free poster-size image for themselves! You can choose the cute vintage coffee one I chose, or you can choose another from a list of selected images (something for every style). Please note that the frame is not included.

This giveaway will end next Monday at midnight and is only open to residents of the United States, aged 18 or older. The prize will be shipped directly to you by Bigstock. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their shipping information or will forfeit the prize.

Enter the giveaway here:

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Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils #yleo #essential oilsIf you are interested in using essential oils as an alternative to chemical-based medications, then you’ve probably come across at least a few different brands, all of them claiming to be the best for one reason or another. The information out there is often conflicting, always biased, and extremely difficult to sort through.

I can’t tell you definitively which brand of essential oils (EO’s) is the best, but I can tell you why I chose to use Young Living oils almost exclusively. I’m not writing this post to bash any other essential oil companies out there – I have no reason to do that – but simply to explain what benefits led me to choose YL over other brands in the event that my decision-making process is helpful to someone else out there researching the available options.

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

  • History – Young Living has over 20 years built into the industry, giving them plenty of time to learn about and invest into the oils they sell, as well as plenty of time to develop a reputation. Many of the brands out there have popped up seemingly overnight (certainly that is not true of all of them, and surely there are companies even older than YL, but I am not speaking of those on this point), and are relative unknowns as far as I am concerned. It is awfully easy for those start-ups to be here today and gone tomorrow. Young Living is not a start-up or an unknown entity, and that’s enough to edge it out over others that were recommended to me.
  • Reputation – Twenty years has given Young Living plenty of time to develop a reputation, and aside from those who are skeptical of any alternative medicine, that reputation is a very good one. The vast majority of people who have used Young Living oils have been very pleased with them and found them to be of high quality. I can count on one hand the number of negative reviews I’ve read in terms of the performance of Young Living’s oils. 
  • Quality – The quality of the oils is what is behind their strong reputation. Much has been made online of Gas Chromatography /Mass Spectrometry testing, but in reality that test only tells the beginning of the story when it comes to essential oils. Young Living performs a total of 7 tests on every batch of oil that passes through their facilities and onto their customers, and if the oils don’t pass the tests, they don’t sell them. Even so, that’s not enough to establish the quality of the oils, because once again, each of those tests tells only part of the story. The chemical makeup of an essential oils depends on so many factors, all of which are highly variable, so YL makes sure that optimum conditions exists in all those factors. Starting with the seed of the plant, and continuing with its cultivation and harvest, YL monitors every step of the way to ensure that the highest quality oil is the end result. If you don’t believe me, read this summary from a chemist that explains in detail all the efforts YL takes to ensure a quality product.
  • Training and Support – If I ordered a random oil from a random company online, chances are I’m left to sink or swim when it comes to using that oil. Sure, a quick google search will tell me the basics about any particular oil. Or I could read tomes and tomes of textbooks about oils, their chemistry, their usage, etc, and I probably will (I’ve already read a few!). But what has helped me more than anything has been the support of my sponsor and the rest of the folks on her team. Any time I have a question, I know where to go, and someone on the team always has an answer for me! Young Living’s company structure was intended to create that network of support so that no one is left in the dark on how to use their oils. As my own team grows, my desire is to create that same environment of training and support that has been so beneficial to me.
  • Thieves’ Oil! – This proprietary blend is produced only by Young Living, and although others have similar products, this is the one I kept hearing about over and over and over again. I haven’t been disappointed with this powerful oil, and I always make sure to have some on hand. I clean and disinfect with it, and I use it whenever someone in my family gets sick! I have seen it first hand cut colds and the like short when they’ve already started, and I’ve also seen it prevent various sicknesses from passing through the family from one person to the next. Good stuff, I tell you.

Reasons Why YOU Might Like Young Living Oils

Some more for you to consider as you make your decision:

  • Young Living has grown 75% in the past year! That’s some pretty incredibly amazing word-of-mouth sales going on there!
  • Young Living’s wholesale price (available to distributors) is comparable to a lot of the companies I’ve seen online, plus you have the option to enroll in their Essential Rewards autoship program, which allows you to earn bonus points you can use towards free oils! I’ve received 4 or 5 free bottles of oil in the past 6-8 months. When other companies imply that they are cheaper than YL, that’s probably because they’re comparing against the full retail price.
  • Young Living makes it easy for you to get the wholesale price – all you have to do is purchase a starter kit (from $40-150) and then make another $50 purchase within the year. No other commitment, but all the benefits of having a wholesale account.
  • Of the major brands, Young Living is the only one I know of that owns and operates their own farms and produces their own oils. Not all of their oils are produced in this way, but quite a few of them are. Some of those farms are based in the US, and some of those farms are based in other countries where the plants are indigenous to that area.

If you think you’d like to give Young Living oils a try, I’d be happy to have you join my team! Visit my Young Living website for more information. 

Please note that I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice. I’m simply sharing what I use for my own family. 

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French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

Delicious Breakfast – French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

On holidays and weekends, one of my favorite things to do is fix my family a slightly more involved breakfast than usual (read: something besides toast and a smoothie). It’s a plus if said breakfast is deliciously decadent without really being decadent. And it’s a total plus if said deliciously decadent breakfast is made with the leftover bread that accumulates over time in my freezer.

This breakfast is all of these and more. My DH even called it “epic” and he’s not one to effuse over his food. I’m thinking the cinnamon syrup is what pushed him over the edge this time.

French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #nutfree #wholefoods

Delicious French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel Topping and Cinnamon Syrup

If you don’t keep your bread ends in your freezer… well, you should! You can make a lot of things with leftover bits and pieces of bread, and this recipe is one of them. Other recipes include:

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bread Crumbs

Easy Peasy Cheese Ball

Chicken Zucchini Stuffing Casserole
French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

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How to Win Your Child’s Heart

How to Win Your Child's Heart

How to Win Your Child’s Heart -

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

You hear a lot in various circles these days about the importance of “winning your child’s heart” … but what does that mean exactly? And more importantly, is it even a Biblical concept?

I’ve been contemplating both of those questions for a little while now, and I’ve arrived at some satisfactory conclusions for myself. (I’ve also realized how terrible I have been in this department!)

free-vintage-valentine-card-boy-and-girl-dont-give-me-the-brush-off

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

I’ll start with my thoughts on the latter question:

Is “winning your child’s heart” a Biblical concept?

Well, certainly the Bible does not command us to do as such, at least not in the way it commands us to discipline, train, and teach our children. I haven’t found a verse yet that says, “Go win your child’s heart!” But here are some verses and Biblical principles for your consideration:

  • Obedience springs from a heart of love. John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
  • God instructs children to give their hearts to their parents. Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
  • Our Heavenly Father pursues us. I John 4:9 We love Him because He first loved us.
  • Parents are to engage with their children in a loving manner. Matthew 18:5, 6 “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” and Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
  • Jesus rebuked the disciples for disregarding children, and made a point of reaching out to them. Matthew 19:13, 14 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Win Your Child's Heart

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

How to Win Your Child’s Heart

I think it’s safe to say that it’s a Biblical concept, so now what about the question of how exactly to go about it? I’m embarrassed to admit this one has stumped me for some time. The best I could come up with until recently was that I needed to spend more time with my children. Relationships are built on time, right? But that didn’t seem to be cutting it for my love-hungry Certain Little Someone, and I could sense a building anger and frustration in his heart that worried me. We could spend the whole day together doing all kinds of fun things, but it was like his love tank still wasn’t quite full.

As I pondered the problem, I lightbulb went on in my (admittedly dim-witted!) head: “Winning someone’s heart” is exactly what goes on in a courtship! Now, clearly, at some point this analogy totally breaks down, but there are a lot of similarities that are applicable to the parent-child relationship.

Win Your Child's Heart

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

I mean, think about it. Exactly what happens when a young man has an eye on a girl and sets out to woo her? As I imagined a courting couple, I began to develop a clear picture of what it would look like to win my child’s heart (minus the googly eyes and raging hormones):

  1. I must spend time with him. This is where it all starts. Time – copious amounts of time – spent together, doing whatever. What’s being done doesn’t matter so much as the actual fact of spending time together. Typically, a couple falling in love can’t wait until the next time they get to see each other or talk on the phone because they just love spending as much time as possible with that person.
  2. Time together is a good starting point, but it’s not enough: What’s even more important is the interaction that takes place during the time spent together. For one thing, a courting couple will generally participate in activities they don’t necessarily enjoy simply for the sake of spending time with the other person. This means, I must sometimes play games and other activities I do not enjoy simply because my son enjoys them and I want to spend time with him. This is hard for me because I’m a girly-girl and both my boys are ALL. BOY. Playing outside is something I just do not love to do – never have – and yet, I must do it if I want to win their heart. My Certain Little Someone, in particular, absolutely loves the challenge of trying to hit a baseball with his big foam bat and literally could spend HOURS practicing this skill. I have never ever enjoyed baseball in any form, and it’s sheer torture for me to throw him the ball over and over and over and over… and over … and over again! (It’s probably also sheer torture for him to try to hit my wild throws, poor guy!) But I’m learning that this is something very important to him that I need to do – with a good attitude – whenever I can, just to show him that I love him.
  3. I must speak kindly, gently, and respectfully to him. A fledgling courtship will break up pretty quickly if harsh words are exchanged! And yet, harsh words escape my mouth so often when speaking to both of my sons. Harsh words and harsh tones build walls and drive wedges between people; they don’t win hearts and they don’t build relationships, and they certainly don’t win a child’s heart! I find my boys respond to me so much better when my words are spoken in kind tones. And when they are misbehaving and require correction, I still must guard my tongue and my tone of voice and make sure my words are respectful and loving even as I discipline them in one way or another.
  4. I must praise his success… and his effort! Flattery will get you nowhere, but well-worded sincere praise can secure a heart better than anything else. Just think of how a courting couple compliments each other on just about everything. I have never seen a child who didn’t blossom when praised, and it’s common knowledge that the more you praise a little one, the harder they try to please you and earn that praise. Whether they experience success in behavior, academics, sports, or some other endeavor, I need to pay attention to it, notice it, and praise them for it. And even if they don’t succeed, if they tried their best, I want to notice and praise that, too.
  5. I must see his potential. One of the quickest ways to a person’s heart (besides food, of course) is to notice not so much what they are but what they can be. See the person hidden deep inside (sometimes pretty deep) and seek to draw it out by making the other person aware of it. This is particularly an area I need to improve in with my children! I’m oh-so-quick to see their faults and failings that I overlook their potential to be more. I don’t want to tromple on their potential; I want to bring it out!

WaysYou Can Win Your Child's HeartI could go on, but I think you get the general idea! What it comes down to is this: a courting couple is generally on their best behavior, treating the other person in the best way they can in a concerted effort to win their heart. Parents can do the same thing for their children, but it’s a lot harder because it has to be balanced with the need to train and disciple them. It’s also a lot harder because in the parent-child relationship the heart-winning is usually one-sided; whereas in a courtship, as long as there’s mutual interest, both parties have their best foot forward.

And clearly, the analogy falls all to pieces at some point, because in a courtship there’s that added element we’ll call “romance”. Obviously, that doesn’t come into play here!

But I’m taking a cue from the lovelorn and making a concerted effort this Valentine’s Day (and all year long) to win my child’s heart so that they will more willingly accept my instruction and discipline.

What steps do you take to ensure you win your child’s heart? 

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Easy Spice Cake {#BakingMyHeritage}

Spice Cake, Easy and Delicious

 

Do you follow me on Instagram? Well, why not?! You are missing out, my friend! Because if you had followed me on Instagram, then you would have known that I picked up an AWESOME cookbook while I was in Michigan last Christmas, and that I proceeded to bake some AWESOME deliciousness from it.

See this picture here? It was on Instagram. Live. In the moment. My excitement was almost palpable!

Well, at any rate, I was excited so I had to share with everybody on Instagram. And as I bake things from the book, I’m going to continue sharing on Instagram, so if you wanna keep up with me as I go around #BakingMyHeritage, then follow me on Instagram.

But first, check out this cake. (It’s from the book.)

Easy and Delicious Spice CakeIt’s AWESOME. Easy, delicious… and Finnish. Say what??

Head on over to Baking Whole Grains to get the full scoop.

 

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5 Super Bowl Party Must-Haves

5 super bowl menu ideasHere’s the funny thing: I hate football, and I haven’t been to a Super Bowl party in years. But I have a whole bunch of Super Bowl idea posts on my blog… wonder what a psychologist would make of that, hmmm?!

Now if someone were to invite me to a Super Bowl party, I would be happy to attend because a party means food, and when food is involved… count me in! Especially if your Super Bowl party features any of the following menu items:

Homemade Potato Chips

1. Homemade Chips & Dip

Uh huh. I’m serious! I know, it’s way easier to buy a bag of chips and a jar of dip. But making your own chips and dip is way cooler, plus also way healthier. Double win!

Parmesan Crisps

2. Parmesan Crisps

OK, so I admit that making your own chips and dip can be a little bit labor-intensive and time-consuming, but Parmesan Crisps are a different story altogether: super easy and pretty fast! Oh, and amazingly delicious. You won’t be able to eat just one, and I’m not kidding.

Football Cake3. Football Cake

This simply decorated football cake won’t take you anymore time than any other homemade dessert, but there’s no dessert more appropriate. Touchdown!

bbq chicken dip4. BBQ Chicken Dip

Think of the famous Buffalo Chicken Dip, minus the hot sauce, plus some BBQ sauce, and you have BBQ Chicken Dip. It’s total yum; ya gotta try it!

Toasted Chickpeas5. Toasted Chickpeas

Chances are, if you’re having a party, you’re going to have some guests with food sensitivities. If anybody in your party is gluten-free or allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, or wheat, then this is the perfect snack for them! None of the afore-mentioned ingredients, and it’s delicious to boot. Plus – bonus for you, the hostess and chef – it’s super easy to make. I bring you Toasted Chickpeas.

May the best team win!

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Brush Teeth with An All Natural, Affordable Toothpaste

This is not a sponsored post. Tom’s of Maine gave me some product to try, but all opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate and referral links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity!

Although you know that healthy teeth have more to do with diet than oral hygiene, you still want to keep them clean, yes? (Ain’t nobody wants to catch wind of stinky breath, ya know?) And cleaning said teeth with toothpastes laden with nasty chemicals seems counter-productive, yes?

But natural toothpaste is so expensive, yes? 

No. 

Thankfully, affordable yet natural (even fluoride-free!) toothpaste is available at just about every grocery store, as well as the ubiquitous Walmart and Target. I’m talking about Tom’s of Maine, whose line of kids’ toothpastes I was recently able to try.

What I Like About Tom’s of Maine

  • Availability: You can find their products in just about any store, or online at Amazon.com or Vitacost.com. Some other highly recommended natural toothpastes are a little more obscure and harder to come by, so it’s nice to know there’s an option close at hand.
  • Affordability: The Silly Strawberry Kids’ Toothpaste which I tried is currently $2.61 at Vitacost (normally $5.17). A pack of 3 is currently $7.83 at Amazon.com. If you want to pick it up at Walmart, you’ll find the price to be somewhere around $3.00.
  • Skin Deep Rating: EWG’s Skin Deep Database rates products based on their safety and environmental impact. Tom’s of Maine’s kids’ toothpastes get a rating of “2″, which is an excellent rating.
  • Natural Flavors: One thing that I despise about most kids’ toothpastes is the artificial flavors they all contain. My kids love that fake flavor, but I cannot abide it! My Certain Little Someone is very particular about the flavor of his toothpaste, and has turned his nose up at other natural brands. At first, he didn’t take to the Silly Strawberry flavor (which comes from actual strawberry juice!) but it wasn’t long before he adjusted, and then he loved it as much as any of the other fake ones. Now the Wicked Cool Mint flavor, which comes from actual mint leaves, is definitely not his favorite, but that’s no surprise since he doesn’t even like peppermint candy canes!
  • Transparency: I love how Toms of Maine is very transparent in detailing the ingredients in their products so you always know what you’re getting. Their Ingredients List details what ingredients they use in their products and from what those ingredients are derived (a very important detail!).
  • Fluoride-Free: Fluoride-free toothpaste is hard to come by for children past the toddler stage, so I love that Toms of Maine makes fluoride-free versions of all their children’s toothpastes.
  • What’s Missing: Tom’s of Maine uses no artificial flavors, preservatives, fragrances, or colors.

What I Don’t Like

Honestly, there’s not a lot I don’t like about Tom’s of Maine, although some of their ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate) are not *quite* as natural and unprocessed as I would prefer. However, the alternatives are a lot pricier and extremely difficult to find, which makes Toms of Maine an excellent choice.

 

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How to Get Your Kids to Listen When You Call {The “Yes Ma’am! Game”}

How to Get Your Kids to Listen Without Raising Your VoiceLately, I’ve gotten seriously fed up with having to repeat my kids’ names , each repetition rising in volume until the entire neighborhood (probably the entire city) could hear my roar. I’ve gotten fed up with my kids for not responding like they know they should… and I’ve gotten fed up with myself for allowing this to continue. That’s just some straight up bad parenting right there. 

As I considered how to go about remedying this situation I found myself in, I remembered some advice our pastor had given a few months back about training your children in obedience and respect: He recommended training your children before the need arises. As it applies to this particular problem, that means training them to respond to your call in the way you want them to before you actually try calling their name. In other words, don’t try to train them to respond politely and respectfully when you’re irritated in the heat of the moment. Nope. That’s just more bad parenting. To really train them well, you have to train them before the fact, not after. 

I contemplated how to go about this for a while before it hit me: Turn it into a game! Kids love games, right? And usually, the simpler the better. The game I came up with is definitely simple, but it is amazing how much fun The Boys have playing it!

yelling

photo credit: sideshowmom

The “Yes Ma’am! Game”

I call it the “Yes Ma’am! Game” and it goes like this:

  • I call one of The Boys’ names in a sing-songy voice.
  • If they respond with a prompt “Yes, ma’am!”, then I say, with great excitement a la a carnival caller, “Ding-Ding-Ding! You’ve won a prize! Mmmmm-Wuah!!” The “Mmmm-Wuah!!!” part is, of course, an air kiss, and is as exaggerated as I can make it. They collapse into giggles and absolutely love it.
  • If, however, they fail to respond, or worse, respond with a “WHAT?!?!” full of attitude, then I say, “ERRRRRR (think of a buzzer sound)!! You lose!”, followed by a sad face. This usually prompts them to say a cheerful “Yes Ma’am!” but it’s too late for the “prize”.
  • Repeat until you’re sick and tired of it.

Told ya. Simple!

The Boys

The Boys!

How it Works

To be honest, when I first started this whole game, I wasn’t sure how it would all play out; but I figured anything was better than hollering their name at the top of my lungs, so I just dove in and did it with gusto. 

It played out much better than I expected! Here’s how it all went down:

  • Day One: On our way to school, we played this game for the first time. The whole way. Over and over and over. And over again. I was quite surprised by how much fun they had, and every time I tried to stop playing the game, they literally begged me to play it some more. I was tickled pink. They had no idea that training was in session! Sneaky ol’ mama!
  • Day Two: The evening of the second day, Daddy had a chance to get involved in the fun, and we all took turns calling each other’s names. Yes, The Boys even called out “Mommy!” and “Daddy!” and we had to answer with either a “Yes, sir!” or a “Yes, ___Kids’ Name___!” After all, everyone should be treated with respect, not just mommies and daddies. And Tiger Cubs’ little “Mmmm-wuah!” air-kiss was so precious, it was a prize worth getting.
  • Day Three: The Boys were too good at the game by this point, so I introduced a new element: surprise! This time, no matter how much they begged, I wouldn’t call their name when they were asking for it or expecting it. I explained that they had gotten too good at this game, so I needed to make it a little harder. They were pleased with that explanation, although Tiger Cub (the younger one) still kept asking for me to call him, so occasionally I would indulge him.
  • Day Four: Honestly, I was a little surprised that by this time, the “Yes Ma’am!” response was starting to become automatic, whether we were actually playing the game or not. I started intentionally calling them during times when they were involved in something else to see how well they would respond. And I would keep the game going – if they responded the right way, I’d give them an air kiss at the very least, but if they did not, then I’d make the “wrong” buzzer sound. I did find, though, that they responded best when I called their name with a bit of a sing-song in my voice, even when I was serious about needing their attention. One little problem did arise, though: as soon as they had said “Yes Ma’am!”, they would go back to what they were doing without waiting to hear what I had to say to them, which kind of defeats the purpose, so I had to learn to grab their attention quick while I had it.
  • Day Five: Mission Accomplished!! I can truthfully say there’s a lot less name-yelling going on around here and a lot more “yes-ma’am-ing”. An unexpected benefit of this whole game is that I as the parent am doing a better job of addressing them with the respect they deserve, which means that they in turn address me with more respect. You reap what you sow, you know?

I plan to keep this game up until we’ve got it down pat and the “Yes Ma’am” answer is automatic every time, and then I’ll resurrect it as I need to when the habit slips.

Listening

photo credit: sgarton

Will It Work For You?

No guarantees, friend, but here are a few tips to at least give it a fighting chance:

  • It probably works best for kids in the preschool/early elementary age range. Any older and they’ll just look at you like you’re cross-eyed. Trust me, your teenagers will not have fun playing this game! (I don’t have teenagers but somehow I just know this. Such great wisdom I have, I know!)
  • You can choose whatever phrase you want your kids to respond with. I know not everybody has their kids call them “ma’am”, and in fact, we didn’t start out doing that. In the past, we’ve had our kids say, “Yes, Mommy” or “Yes, Daddy” instead of “ma’am” or “sir”, so that will work just as well. Or maybe just a polite “Yes?” is good for you. Whatever works, as long as it is in a polite tone.
  • Don’t play the game in the heat of the moment when you’ve called them the thousandth time and they have not even looked your way. Wait until a time when everybody is relaxed and happy and introduce the game in a fun and inviting way. 
  • Don’t be afraid to be silly! That’s a lot of the charm of this little game.
  • Your “prize” can be whatever you want: a hug, a real kiss, a sticker, singing a song, whatever. I chose an air kiss because I was driving at the time, and it was some way I could show them love and affection without taking my hands off the wheel. I think intangible prizes have more value than tangible prizes, personally, and whatever you do, don’t go with candy.

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