Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Cutest Basketball Kid Ever

Maybe I'm biased...OK, I'm definitely biased, but Kindergartners are the cutest basketball players, ever! David has had 3 practices so far. He may not be very good, but he is sure having fun doing it. Here's just a glimpse.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My first Vlog

As happens every Christmas season, things get super busy.  Christmas programs, parties and gifts take center stage.  Sometimes it takes something like a snow day to get us to slow down.  Today was such a day.  It gave me time to upload some videos from my new Flip HD camera.  I ordered this on Black Friday and just got it this week.  So I thought it would be a treat to show you some of the first videos taken with this (and highlight my kids at the same time).

Last night, amid the snow and slush coming down, our church had it's children's Christmas program.  Here are some videos from this.  The first one is the 4-5 year old choir.  David is the little wiseman on the front with a green robe and a crown (as a bonus, you'll hear one of our choir moms singing "Silent Night" in German).

Since he's so cute, they decided to let him have a mic twice!!  Here he is again (I'm new at the video thing so you'll probably want to fast forward about a minute and a half to get to the singing).

My last video is of the song where Julie had a solo.  She is one at the mic on the left (the last of the 4 soloists).

Hope you enjoyed my first vlog post.  I hope to have more of those in the future.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How I'm Going to Get a Free DSi for Christmas Part 2

If you'll remember from Part 1 of this post, I told you that I am working hard to earn Amazon gift cards.  I'm going to use those to buy a DSi for my daughter for Christmas - all for FREE!!!

I told you about the survey companies I use and how I have earned $125 from them over the past 6 months.

Now I'd love to tell you about the other way I earn money online:

2.  Point Reward Websites
Point Reward websites let you earn points in a variety of ways.  You then trade your points for rewards, i.e. Amazon gift cards.  I have used several of these sites in the past, but currently only use 2 (these websites can be time consuming, so use your own judgment about how many you join).

Swagbucks is a really fun site.  Its main function is as a search engine.  Periodically as you search you are awarded Swagbucks, usually 8-10 of them.  When you get 450 Swagbucks, you earn a $5 Amazon card.  You can redeem 5 of these a month.  Incidentally, there are a lot of different gift cards you can choose as well but I've only ever done the Amazon ones.

There are so many ways to earn Swagbucks on the site, I can't even begin to tell you all of them.  You can answer surveys, shop through their site (earn 2 Swagbucks per dollar spent), join services like Netflix, or watch commercials and answer questions about them.  That's just to name a few.  This is a fun, easy way to earn some Amazon dollars.  I've made $100 through Swagbucks so far.  Interested?  Join here.

My Points
This is my favorite site.  I just love My Points.  Just as in Swagbucks, there are a variety of ways to earn points through My Points.  They send you multiple emails a day.  Just clicking through the emails to the site advertised gives you 5 points.  Do what they ask on the site and you can earn anywhere from 25 to 2000 points.  Shop through My Points and earn 2 to 8 points per dollar spent (I do all my shopping through My Points because I feel I get rewarded more through them then through Swagbucks).  My Points also has a search feature that earns points.  Possibly my favorite part is that My Points connects up with Coupons.com.  You can print coupons from My Points and earn points both for printing and redeeming them.

My Points offers many different gift cards as rewards.  Find ones for popular stores and restaurants, including - you guessed it - Amazon.  So far I've earned $125 worth of gift cards - a $25 Amazon card, a $50 Amazon card, a $25 Kohls card and a $25 CVS card.

So there you have it, over the past 6 months or so, I've earned $125 from doing surveys and $225 from using rewards websites - plenty enough for a pink DSi :).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hard Questions

So David asks me casually today...

"Mommy, can Santa die?"

Wow, what a charged question!!  How in the world do I answer this?  I don't want him to think Santa is invincible or immortal and thus put Santa at the same level as Jesus, but I also don't want him to think Santa's life is in danger. 

(Incidentally, these kinds of questions might be why my parents never "did" Santa with us.  Don't get me wrong, they didn't come right out and say Santa doesn't exist, they just never encouraged it.  We never wrote letters to Santa or left cookies out for him.  We did have unwrapped presents every Christmas, but they left it up to us to decide who we thought those were from.)

My kids, unlike me, are die-hard Santa believers.  So that brings me back to the question.  How do I answer this 5 year old's question?  I decided to do what all good moms do when asked something I don't know a hard question.  I said  "What do you think?"

He impressed me and said "Yes, I think Santa can die.  Only God can't die.  He better be careful on Christmas Eve then, huh!"

Ah, I could breathe easy again....until the next time.

What about you?  What would you have answered? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, my Love

Today is my wonderful husband's birthday!!  33 years ago he entered the world, 15 years ago he entered my life, 11 years ago he became my husband.  I love him so much more than that day.  And I love celebrating him.

So, to my dear, hard-working husband, I hope you have a fabulous day.  Happy Birthday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

How I'm going to get a free DSi for Christmas

Ever help out Santa? My kids have each asked for a Nintendo DSi for Christmas. And since sometimes I have to help out Santa...and since DSi's are on the pricey side ($149)...I thought I'd try to get one for free. :)

So, how in the world am I going to get a free DSi?  Using Amazon credit.

Ok, ok, your next question is "But how do I get Amazon credit?"

I'm so glad you asked!!

There are 2 main ways that I earn Amazon credit. 1 - Taking online surveys. 2 - Using  points reward websites.  I thought I'd list some of the sites I use and how much I've earned from them.  (I'll tell you about the surveys this post and the reward sites in a future post.)

1.  Online Surveys
 Online surveys are great, if you can find the right website to go through and if you can do the surveys while you are doing something else.  Every evening Tim and I like to watch TV (or Netflix).  Since I'm sitting there, basically doing nothing anyway, I've started doing surveys during that time.  I can probably get through, on average, 2 surveys a night.  That way I feel like I am being more productive with my time.

Here are the survey companies I use and the good and bad about them:

This is one of my favorites.  You'll get about 5 or 6 survey invites a day, but will probably only qualify for 1 or 2 of them.  You earn points for each survey, anywhere from 1500 points up to 90,000.  I typically qualify for the 1500-3000 point surveys.  The higher ones are usually for a very specific demographic - such as "caretakers for someone with diabetes".  I always click through and try for the higher ones, though, just in case I qualify.

Once you earn 60,000 points, you can trade it in for a $20 check.  I've just requested my second one of these and I've been using Toluna for about 6 months.  ($40 in 6 months may not sound like a lot, but it was earned in time that I was already doing something else.  In other words, its like not spending any additional time on something and earning money for it.)

Valued Opinions
This is one I really like too.  You won't get as many survey invites from them - maybe 4 a week.  Each survey is worth a certain dollar amount, from $0.50-$3.00.  Once you've earned $20 in your account, you can cash it out for a $20 Amazon gift certificate.  The certificate code is emailed to you immediately, so you can use it right away.  The downside to this site is that your qualifying survey money takes about 4 weeks to credit to your account.  So you can see that it is there "pending", but you just have to wait for it to go through.

I've claimed 2 Amazon cards from them.  So, just like above, I've made $40 in about 6 months.

This is a smaller site, which is good and bad.  Good because you tend to qualify for more surveys.  Bad because there aren't as many surveys available to take.  One thing I really like about MyView is that it gives you points even if you don't qualify for the survey.  If you answer all the initial questions, you usually get 175 points.  If you then qualify for the survey from those questions, you'll get anywhere from 700-1400 points.  I also like the fact that your points are credited immediately.

Once you get to 21,000 points, you can cash them in for a $15 Amazon card.  I've earned one of these.

My Survey
I get a couple survey offers a week from them and tend to qualify for most of them.  They are worth anywhere from 150 to 700 points each.  When you earn 1100 points, you get a $10 Amazon card.  I've gotten 3 of these.

So overall I've earned $125 doing surveys over the last 6 months - $40 in cash and $85 in Amazon credit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Enjoy your day with your family and count your blessings.
Here are mine:
1) Wonderful God who loves me 
2) Wonderful husband who loves me and makes me laugh and is my best friend
3) Wonderful kids who want to play with me and love on me every day
4) Wonderful friends who actually enjoy spending time with me :)
5) Wonderful house to live in
6) Food on my plate everyday
7) More blessings than I can list on here.  Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My favorite shopping day of the year

Yup, you heard right.

I LOVE Black Friday.

I'm the kind that gets up early and is at the store by 3:30 AM.  When the whistle is blown, I run for the deal.  Whether it's a BluRay player or a Littlest Pet Shop toy, it doesn't matter.  It's all about the deal and the thrill of the hunt.

That being said, there's also the agony of defeat on Black Friday.  The time when the one thing you want just got snatched up by the person in front of you.

But there is a solution....online shopping.

That's right!  "Run" for the deals in your PJ's from the comfort of your couch.  Online retailers are offering up such good deals this year, it would almost be a crime not to look.

So, I'm going to be internet-browsing the next few days.  Hopefully, I'll be getting phenomenal deals on gifts from everyone's lists.  I will still be there early on Friday, running with the best of the bargain shoppers; but, with any luck, the "got-to-have-it" gifts will already be on order.

Where will I look online for deals?
I will definitely look at CSN.com.  Need a barstool?  Some Kids toys? A new rug?  You can find it ALL in one of the 200+ stores of CSN.com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: Blind Sight

I am honored to work with Kathy Carlton Willis communications as their newest book reviewer.

Blind Sight

I was sent the book Blind Sight by James Pence to read.  James Pence has authored 3 novels and also has a ministry in chalk art.  (You can see one of his chalk art videos here.)

The book pulls you in from the start.  I know when books are really good because I don't want to put them down until I finished them.  This became one of those books.  The main character, Thomas Kent, is heartbroken almost to the point of being paralyzed after his wife and 2 kids are killed in a car accident.  All of the sudden he is thrust into a deadly situation where he is trying to keep two 10-year old twins alive until he can find their mother.  Oh, and while he's at it, taking down a ruthless, powerful cult that the twins family was ensnared in would be an added bonus.

While reading the book, you get an inside look into a cult - how it got started, how it brainwashes people to believe it's agenda, and what it's endgame is.  It's really pretty terrifying to think this kind of cult could exist in our world.  On the flip side, it's so encouraging to see how God's love and Jesus's gift of salvation could penetrate even the deepest Satanic, cultic influence.  And when more than one Christian band together, they can bring down the giant by using God's strength and guidance.

The action in the novel is very fast-paced.  The whole story takes place over 5 days and has many twist, turns and narrow escapes.  But the theme of Christ drawing people to himself is prevalent throughout the book - both in Thomas Kent's life and in the lives of the twins and their mother.  The book is easy to read and would be a great weekend read for the adventurer in your life.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Booksneeze Review: Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Are you a blogger?  Do you like to read?  Sign up now and join Booksneeze.  They send free books to Bloggers in exchange for your honest opinion of them.  What could be easier than that?

Did you miss any of my previous Booksneeze reviews?  Check them out here, here and here.

This month I read, Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.  This real-life book is mainly about Colton Burpo, a 3-year old boy who, during emergency appendectomy surgery, visited heaven.  I have to admit, I started reading this book as a HUGE skeptic.  I thought that this little boy just made up a story to tell to his preacher father about seeing Jesus in heaven.  However, after reading it, I truly believe that God gave him a glimpse of heaven.  Colton knew where his parents were during his surgery and what they were doing - facts that they had never told him.  He picked out his grandfather from a picture...a grandfather who had died long before Colton was born.  He had never seen a picture of this man, but he saw him in heaven and identified him on earth.  He also saw a little girl in heaven who told him she was his sister.  He had not been told as a 3-year old that his mother had miscarried a little girl before he was born.  But he woke up from that surgery knowing it.

Besides the obvious arguments for his story being the truth:  it was consistent over many years, he recognized people that he should have not known...an even greater argument exists.  Everything he said aligns with Scripture precisely.  I think if we ask the typical 3 year old what heaven will be like, there will be a lot of different answers.  But not many of them will align with Revelation prophecy of heaven or the pre-incarnate descriptions of Christ like the one found in the book of Daniel.

As I was reading the book I did have to wonder "Why him?"  Why did God choose to show heaven to a 3-year old preacher's kid from Nebraska?  I think there are 2 very good reasons.  First, the Bible clearly states that unless we have the faith of a child, we cannot enter heaven.  Colton believed everything he saw without questioning it.  He didn't scrutinize the Bible to find out if what he saw was real or a dream.  Jesus held him, the angels sang to him.  This is what he knew was true.  He just believed. 

As a family we have been listening to CS Lewis' audio book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in preparation for the movie coming out in December).  We reached the end of the book this morning and a phrase spoken by Aslan, the lion, stuck in my mind.  It very clearly states the second reason I think God would show Colton and us a glimpse of heaven.  Anyone who is familiar with the books knows that Aslan symbolizes Christ.  CS Lewis often used Aslan's words to make Biblical points understood.  In the book Edmund asks Aslan if he is in their world too.  Aslan says "I am....But there I have another name.  You must learn to know me by that name.  This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."  I feel that is why God showed Colton a glimpse of heaven.  That by seeing Him there, Colton and all of us, can know him better here.

In conclusion I was very impressed by this book.  It's easy to read and would only take you a day or two to finish it.  And, hopefully, by the end, you will be convinced like me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Books I've been Reading - Fall 2010

Lately, I've just been pouring over books.  For several months during the summer, I had a dry spell.  No books interested me.  I couldn't figure out what to read, so I just read magazines.

About 2 months ago the dry spell ended.

A wonderful sale on Barnes & Noble's website (bargain books plus free shipping over $25) helped me get about 10 books to read.  Combine that with a great Lifeway $5 book sale and a Kindle that I got for my birthday (hey, e-books count too!) and I suddenly had a pile of books to choose from.

Since then I've been devouring books left and right.  I thought I'd share with you what I've been reading, both to give you ideas and to have a record for myself.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
Some of my friends will disagree with me on this, but I love Harry Potter books.  They are well written and engrossing.  I read all 750 pages in 4 days.  I couldn't put it down and it was the second time I've read it!  Since the movie is coming out this month, I thought I should re-read the book.  Loved it as much as the first time I read it.

The Mermaid in the Basement (Lady Trent Mystery Series #1)
Funny title, I know, but I had been eying this book for a while.  It's the first of a series about a lady detective in the late 1800's.  She's advanced for her time in that she is a lady scientist and uses science and deductive reasoning to solve a crime.  I liked it so much that I'm asking for the next ones in the series for Christmas.
The Mountain Between Us: A Novel
Awesome, awesome book!!  This is probably my favorite out of the ones I've read recently.  Two strangers get on a private plane to beat a snowstorm.  The plane crashes and they have to survive on a cold, snowy, barren mountain.  I read this one on my Kindle (my first e-book download), but it comes in print version too.

The Clouds Roll Away (Raleigh Harmon)
This book is about FBI agent Raleigh Harmon.  It's the third book in the series but the best one in my opinion.  You can pick up and read this one without reading the other two.  They are about the same person but are independent stories.  In the book she is solving a high-profile case involving a popular rapper and a burning cross on his property.  Easy read, but I would wait until it's on sale to buy it.
Once Upon a Day: A Novel
This book is a little break from my "normal" kind of reading.  It's a novel but not a Christian novel, which is the genre I normally stick to.  It's a coming of age novel but quite a bit different than any I have read before.  Two adult children grew up in a family full of secrets.  You discover those secrets by the end of the book and you feel for the kids.  Yet you know they will survive and start to mend now that everything is out in the open.  I would recommend this book for the mystery and plot twists that it takes.  Just be aware there is cussing in it.  If that kills a book for you, then don't read this one.

East of the Sun: A Novel
This one also is a little different than my normal novel (thought I'd branch out a little bit).  This feels like a book that might be required reading in an English class.  It takes place in the 1920's when Britain still rules India but their rule there is being questioned.  Three young ladies travel from England to India trying to find happiness.  There is a lot of historical commentaries in the book as well as emotional growth from the characters.  They arrive as naive girls, but by the end they are wise, mature women.  I felt like I should write an essay when I was done with this book.  Not that it is bad, just thought-provoking.

Well there you have it - what I've been reading for 2 months.  There are 2 more books on the list, but I'll be posting separate reviews of those shortly.  I plan to have a whole new list of books to tell you about closer to Christmas. 

What about you?  Do you like to read?  What are some of the books you have read recently?  I always love new ideas!!