August 24, 2016

Gift Guide: The Best Toys for Boys (From a Mother of 5 Boys)

As a mother of 5 boys (ranging from 4-13), I often have people ask me: "what are good gifts for boys?". I have found that the best gifts for boys have been gifts that each of my boys have enjoyed throughout the years. Interestingly though, all of my boys have completely different personalities; but a good gift for a boy is a good gift, no matter his personality. The other thing I really believe is that a good gift doesn't have to cost a fortune, good fun can be given at a reasonable price!

My list of gifts for boys is not in any particular order, just things my boys have loved throughout the years. If you click on each photo and it will open the Amazon page where you can see more reviews on each product, proving that I am not the only Mama who loves these products!

1. Stomp Rocket 

My boys have all really enjoyed the Stomp Rocket. What is great about it is that even the littlest of boys (or girls) can use it. Sometimes Nerf type guns are difficult for the Littles to be able to do, but the Stomp Rocket works like a charm. This one is extra fun, it glows in the dark! It can be purchased at most stores or on here on Amazon for $14.
If you have more than one boy involved, the Dueling Stomp Rocket makes it double the fun. It most likely cannot be purchased in stores, but can be purchased here on Amazon for $21.
2. Play Tent 

My boys love to *camp-out*. They have been given many different tents as gifts throughout the years. I will highlight a few of our favorites. We will start with my 4 year old son Wilson's favorite tent, the Playhut Thomas the Train Pop-Up Tent   

                                 
He absolutely adores Thomas (look at that sweet face), so this tent was the perfect gift for him on his 4th birthday. I desperately looked for it in stores, but thankfully Amazon was able to get in to me in time with 2-Day Prime Shipping! You can get it here for $27. One of the things I love about this tent is that it does not have any poles; it is complete, no parts! It easily folds up flat and we store it behind the dresser.
This castle tent is also a super fun gift for boys (or girls), my sons have all loved dressing up at one point in their lives and this tent makes it even more fun! It cannot be purchased in stores, but is available here for $19

This Indoor/Outdoor Big Tent Playhouse make a great one for any size boy (or girl), but it is bigger than most and can accommodate *bigger* kids. What makes this one even more appealing is that it has no poles and it collapses down into a small flat bag! It is a bit more in price than the others, but is bigger and more versatile making the $44 price tag worth every penny. You can check it out here.
3. Rocket Balloons

These Rocket Balloons are sure to be a favorite gift for boys of all ages (including dads). We get these for our boys almost every Christmas, they never get old. Think of what a normal balloon does when you let it go after filling it up with air and these a a million times better, I promise! The set comes with 85 Rocket Balloons and a hand pump for easy filling. They are rather inexpensive for the serious amount of fun they produce, check them out here on Amazon for $14.


August 16, 2016

DISTRACTION: This Mama's Biggest Enemy

Am I the only one who is failing at being a homemaker/wife/mother/friend/daughter/sister due to distraction?!?! Namely internet distractionAnyone else? Or is it just me?

I feel like it comes at me from Every. Single. Angle. 

Now please understand, I try very hard to fight against it, but *it* (distraction) always seems to win. It's almost like a medical condition or something. 

I get determined. 
I won't be distracted. 
I'll stay on track. 

Then, out of nowhere, like the dog in the Disney movie UP, my heads turns & I'm all like: "SQUIRREL!". Oh, MAN! I'm sucked in to something completely unimportant again.

Even as I am typing this (and I only have a few paragraphs so far), I find myself switching back and forth from other tabs, checking different feeds...WHY?!? I don't really want to, but *it* calls to me. I hate it!

I totally feel Paul when he says:


"I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate." -Romans 7:15


Now I know we are not supposed to condemn ourselves, but let me tell you that what I am feeling here is not condemnation, but real unquestionable conviction


"So, then, be careful how you live. 
Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil." - Ephesians 5:15-16


I feel as though I am letting the enemy completely distract me from the most important things in my life. Things that I know God has called me to. Things that I truly want to be top priority, but they just get pushed down the list by stupid, pointless nonsense. 

The funny thing is that often times *it* presents itself as innocent or even good, like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Maybe it's searching a recipe on Pinterest (cooking is good right? I need to provide yummy meals for my family, right?) Or reading adoption blogs. Or reading boring home school blogs. Or my personal downfall, posting photos of my kids (it's like a virtual scrapbook, I need to preserve the memories, right?).

Let's discuss the team leader of internet distraction: Social Media. Social media has made me LESS social. In the beginning, I refused to have a FB account. You see, I don't like jumping on trendy bandwagons. But in late 2010, I caved. Since then I now have lots more interaction with *friends*, even *friends* that Like me! But seeing a feed of what people are doing and Liking doesn't really add up to social interaction.

Now I am not saying social media is bad for everyone or even that it is bad for me, I just realize that I have lost deeper connections because of it. Before FaceGram I used to daily text my mother and grandmother photos of my kids, I would have long phone conversations or even have a friend over to actually hang-out, I even would send cards to people just for funzies, like real mail! I long for deeper more meaningful interactions with my extended family and close friends. Social media is a cheap imposter pretending to fill the need of friendship that we have all been given by God.

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  -Hebrews 10:25


I know for some social media has been great and they really benefit from it, but for me...well it's a distraction. A distraction from what is really important in my life. Now I am not saying that I am deleting my FB and taking a vow of social media abstinence. That is so not realistic, we are talking about a girl who deletes her Instagram app at least twice a week in order to rid herself of the distraction. Do the math, I delete it twice....I'm re-downloading it people, GAH! I'm like a junkie.

I love this quote I came across on distraction:
  • Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord.  (unknown)
I sometime seriously wish an EMP would knock out the grid, causing us to lay down our electronics and spend quality time with each other.

Please understand, I love my life and I do feel as though I am embracing this time and enjoying my children. I major in fun. We do a lot in the spending time with each other category. I am just convicted by how easily my phone, this little piece of metal/rubber/plastic whatever its made of can so easily distract me from this beautiful life I've been given. It dings and beeps at me, pulling me away from reality to tempt me with time-wasting, covetousness, dis-contentment, escapism, pure distraction. Maybe I'm focusing on the wrong problem, maybe I just lack self-control....that's a whole other post.

My challenge to myself (& you, if you find yourself in my same situation) is to give technology it's proper place. Turn off the dings, beeps and notifications and just live. Live life. A life free of emails that tell you that you need this or that product, free of FB posts that tell you which candidate stinks and why, free of artsy/hipster photos of people who you don't even really know, free of crafts or recipes that make you feel like a not-so-great mom/wife, a life free of technology distraction.

Sure I'll log on to FB and see what's happening in the political/recipe/mommying world, sure I'll post a photo (or 2 or 3) on Instagram, but when I'm done, I'll leave it. I want to focus on this path God has me on and focus on loving the people that God has put on this path.

This verse in 1 Corinthians has been speaking volumes to me lately:

"I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible." -1 Corinthians 7:35


This is my prayer. Lord, help me!



rebecca

May 31, 2015

Summer Road Trip 2015 Begins....

We love to road trip, like looooove. 

I (rebecca) grew up taking long road trips in the summer with my family. We would all (2 parents, 7 kids & 1 dog) cram into a minivan, with a car top carrier on top and set out for weeks of tent camping and PB&J sandwiches. 

Rich and I road tripped for our honeymoon (so fun), but last year we took our first long (7,877 miles) road trip as a family. 

We packed up our 6 kids (no dog) in the Suburban and tent camped all around the USA. We had such a great time exploring National Parks and visiting family and friends that we were not ready to come home after our 5 week trip, we could've gone a few weeks longer!

*    *    *

Needless to say, we have been excitedly anticipating this year's trip! This year we are traveling in an RV (which is awesome); some of our boys think it is "cheating", but it definitely makes the traveling part much easier. The gas is $1.00/gallon cheaper this year and the RV only gets 2 miles per gallon less then the Suburban, so we are projecting similar gas expenses as last year. 
(We were totally blessed to find an RV that was right in our price range, 
but worth more than double what we paid)


It is *tradition* (since we did it last year) to visit a Bass Pro Shop in the first leg of our trip. So we stopped at one in Tallahassee last night.
(Seriously, the way they are both holding there shirts because they are slightly embarrassed...ah, sooo cute!)

I found a cowboy hat for Wilson at a thrift store last week and he has been talking about being a cowboy, so Rich told him he'd buy him a gun when we went on our trip. Needless to say, he was very excited to pick out a gun at Bass Pro!
(Daddy & Cowboy Wilson)

One of the best things about having an RV is that we no longer have to smuggle 6 kids into a hotel room when traveling one of the camp-less stretches of the trip. Last night we boondocked at a Walmart in Pensacola (which basically means we called the manager and asked if we could park there overnight).  We just parked, pulled down the shades, turned the A/C on and we all slept great in our own beds. Best part is it only cost $9 in gas to run the generator all night. A much better experience then unloading sleeping children, bags, pillows, more sleeping children and anything else that we may need late at night and dragging them into a hotel room that only has 2 beds and spending $75-$100.
(Eating breakfast in the Walmart parking lot.)

(This is what boondocking looks like. Not very exciting, but when all you need to do is sleep, it works out great.)

(Marking our progress and mapping out the next leg of the trip)


We realize what a wonderful experience we have been given and thank God for Rich's job and all the hard work he puts in and for the many other blessings from the Lord that allow us the opportunity to spend time with eachother like this. 

Stay tuned as we continue our journey...


♥ rebecca 

April 12, 2015

Mckee Botanical Garden - LEGO Exhibit

Today was the last day of the LEGO exhibit at McKee Botanical Gardens. So keeping true to my procrastinating ways I took my boys [& Aidan] today. Not yesterday or any of the other days these past six months that it has been here, but today

As we approached the pay counter, the lady surprisingly looked at me and said: "You know we close at 5pm, right?". I smiled and said "YES!, that is why we are here. We don't want to miss it!". It was almost 4pm, she seemed confused by our untimely arrival [ha!].

My boys love LEGOs. Like obsessively love LEGOs. We have been blessed with bins and bins given to us, combined with the ones my boys have purchased and we have enough to keep 5 boys busily building for hours a day.

{ My boys are serious posers. }


{ LEGO Finches & Birdfeeder, the "seeds" were little LEGOs. }


{ Cutey boy Wilson in front of the Hall of Giants }


{ LEGO Hummingbird - Each sculpture had a sign telling how many LEGOs it took to build it. } 


{ McKee is such a beautiful park. }


{ LEGO Lily Pads & Jumping Coi Fish }


{ LEGO Fox stalking Rabbit - Sorry for the fuzzy photo }


{ Waterfall in FL...amazing! }


{ LEGO Bumblebee & Funny Jamey }


{ Tower of Babel Water Sculpture}


{ Sleeping Giant Tree - Knocked over during a hurricane but still growing on it's side. }


{ LEGO Rose}


{ LEGO Butterfly & Handsome Harrison }


{ The boys found a family of rats, they were highly amused. }


{ Bamboo Pavilion - Complete with monkeys. } 


{ LEGO Cuties }


{ LEGO Buffalo & Baby }


{ Fairy Garden...or "Hobbit Village" to us }


{ Jamey & a "Hobbit" Tree House }


{ Such a handsome group of boys! }


{ Mini picnic table & shiny turtle }

I love the adventurous side of my boys. They are so much fun and I am so excited for the many adventures to come!


❤️ rebecca

April 11, 2015

things that ERK me.

First off, I must warn you; the things that ERK me are quite petty...

With 5 young boys, 1 baby girl, 3 cats and a husband part of my daily life; I can handle crazy. I can handle messy. I can handle loud. I can handle midnight trips to the ER. I can handle pretty much any and all chaos.

But do you want to know what drives me CRAZY; like raging lunatic, bat-crazy?  Well then...LET. ME. TELL. YOU. 

The things that drive me mad are stupid things, like the seriously petty "issues" that life throws at us. Want an example? We'll call it the Case of the Missing Flip-Flop.

This story has a back story that actually explains away a little of my insanity, so we will start there. 

*                 *                *

Two weeks ago I bought Wilson (age 3) a new pair of flip flops [because he lost his]. After about a week or so, the new ones went missing [ends up they were left at my brother's house, 3 hours away].

So yesterday I bought another pair for him, a nice pair [from Target, not Wal-Mart]. Then today after the boys cleaned straightened their room, it was time to run errands. "Get your flip flops on.", I sweetly asked Wilson. Two minutes later with a poochy lip he informed me that he could only find one.

Queue in ERKed Mama. What followed my initial, over exaggerated response was hours [literally] of a 7 person man hunt for a stupid flip-flop [7 because Rich was smart enough to not join in]

At one point Rich even offered me the $20 bill in his wallet so that I could go buy a few pairs for him, saving myself [& the kids] hours of searching and if we had a few pairs we would lessen the chance of this happening again [so he politely argued]

I would not have it. It was the principle of the matter I was fighting against now. You see, I knew the flip flop was in the house. It had been here last night and it was still here. But where? 


{ Wilson & the not-missing flip-flop re-enacting his poochy lip *he was trying so hard not to laugh }

I had a sneaky suspicion that it had gotten "put away" when the boys were cleaning straightening their room. This has happened before; keys, other shoes and many other necessary items have gone mysteriously missing after the boys clean their room. So I knew that someone had to have put shoved it somewhere or in some corner.

We searched high & low, under & in, behind & on top. Over and over again, scouring the same places repeatedly. 

A few hours into the search I declared that I would be running errands on my own [because I would not be taking a shoe-less child and by no means would wearing a different pair of shoes be an option]. That declaration was met with many tears, the thought of me leaving the house without my 3 Littles is unbearable. 

As I was preparing to leave I decided to change Lila's diaper before heading out. She was adorably reading books in her brothers' room [after first pulling down a shelf of them]. I leaned down to pick her up and SHRIEKED with excitement [so loud that I scared poor Wilson who was stading near by]

There on the shelf, behind where the books had been that Lila had pulled down, was the MISSING FLIP-FLOP! I jumped around like an idiot and did a victory dance. My life could finally go on. I had closure and the best kind at that; it was FOUND! What peace flooded my soul. 

Once I came down from my mountain top experience, I glance over at Jamey (age 4) [who had a curiously huge smile on his face]. "What!? Why are you smiling like that?", I asked. "Oh, I put that there...", he smirked and started to laugh.


{ the missing flip flop is found }


And just like that the whole crazy thing was over. We all laughed and moved on. How RIDICULOUS. I ruined a good portion of a beautiful Saturday dragging my poor boys into my insane search. I knew I was crazy and I should have let it go, I knew that we would have eventually found it; but for whatever reason it is the small petty things that really ERK me and we had to find it.

I need to grow in this area. Pray for me [& my poor kids and husband].   


❤️ rebecca

November 23, 2014

when ROTAVIRUS hits a large family...

Rotavirus = Horrid stomach pains that cause your children to cry out in pain, followed by gut wrenching vomiting...and just when you think it is over, then comes the explosive watery diarrhea.
(Sipping gatorade & watching Phineas and Ferb with a bucket close by)

In the last 48 hours we have change 4 beds of sheets, used every towel in the house & I have personally been vomited on 4 times (one of which was a 2am vomit shower by our sweet 2 year old who was climbing in our bed to tell me he wasn't feeling well).
(Our sweet little resting Wilson)

The stomach pains caused our littles (who got it first) to fuss & sleep; but the olders thrash about, moaning & groaning, crying out in pain, everything short of cursing the day the Rotavirus was born.

The vomiting is bad, really bad. So bad that we have given it the theme song: Let It Go, Let It Go! But what came next was just outrageously disgusting. Twilight diarrhea episodes by multiple children are what horror movies should be made of. Repeatedly cleaning up someone else's watery poop when all you want to do is sleep is physically & emotionally taxing. Like SERIOUSLY.

Normally I can handle our chaotic life without breaking down, but this sickness plague we have visiting our house right now has me at my breaking point. What is my breaking point? Well, this time it looked like a few tears shed in the shower & me asking Rich how & if I can quit my job. Then he nostalgically reminded me of our honeymoon when I had a similar illness of which HE had to clean up. That was TRUE LOVE. The details of those dreadful 2 days are too heinous to share. 

So what is my takeaway? Well, I'm not sure yet....it's not over. In the few short minutes it has taken to type this we've had 4 more vomiting episodes which dirtied the last of the clean (not soaked in vomit) towels. 
(Eddie has been doing a lot of this lately...)

Rotavirus 2014 Takeaway:

1) I can literally feel discouragement knocking at my mental/emotional door trying to persuade me to be overwhelmed with my life. I do not want to give into this. Last year's holiday season was miserable due to the end of very long/terrible pregnancy & birth of Mary-Lila (a wonderful occasion, but stressful none the less).

2) I am not a comforting person naturally, in fact I have to be intentional about being an empathetic comforting mother. I am more of a: "you are fine, shake it off" kind of mom. But when it comes to vomiting I am TOTALLY empathetic. The sounds, the stomach wrenching, the taste in the mouth...I totally relate (I have spent 4.5 years of my life excessively vomiting: 6 pregnancies X 9 months). And it just so happens that I am coming out of a horrid 3 week illness, so in a strange way God is using this sickness plague to build my comforting instinct.

3) Whenever sickness visits our family I a reminded of how blessed we are with health. I am so thankful for each day I get (however chaotic) with my children & husband. Each breath is a blessing from God. 


March 4, 2013

Beach Camping In The Keys

We went beach camping in the Keys for the first time as a family. Amah was visiting, so she came along as well! It was quite a drive, but the boys were troopers...
 
By time we got there and set up it was already getting dark, but the boys were anxious to ride their scooters & roller blades!

We had a camp site raccoon friend that would visit us at the campfire each night!
video

 
Good morning campers!

 
Not quite "roughing it"...

We went into Key West & walked around the "market" area.

The "Southern Most Point" in the continental U.S.!

One of the days we braved the COLD water & swam (I wore a wet suit of course, LOL!).
 
Exploring the park...


 The old train bridge...

Night Fishing!

Happy Camper!

The last day we went fishing, definitely the HIGHLIGHT of the trip!
 
The whole trip all Jamey wanted to do was throw rocks.....he was totally excited to FINALLY be able to throw them freely!

JJ & "Flipper", his Key West buddy!
 
Cutest fisherman EVER!!!!

What a FUN trip, full of FUN memories!!!!