26 February 2014

Count it All Joy

In the midst of the chaos...

Life around here is not always beautiful.

It is not always picture perfect.

There are days I feel tired and lonely.

There are moments of despair.

But I grab onto the hope that Jesus gives in the book of James.

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience."--James 1:2

God knows this life isn't easy.  He knows we will all have trials.  He calls us to be joyful in the midst because if our hope is in Him we can trust that we are not alone and that He will help us through the most difficult days, wipe away our tears, and be our strength.

Today, I will count it all joy.


25 February 2014

A Beautiful Mess

Mom to Mom

The theme at Mops has always been "better moms make a better world."

It's true for me.  After a day at mops...those 2-3 hours learning from other moms, growing closer to God, while my children are happily playing upstairs with their friends in child care....I feel so recharged and re-energized for the week.

These ladies brighten my day.  They give me hope.  They offer friendship and help.  They listen well.  They tag along on play dates.  We share.  We connect.  And for a few minutes I become Kristi again....for a few minutes I don't hear "Mommy I need...!"  It's a great break and time of refreshment.  This has been my 6th year at mops.  I am so thankful for all these women who have touched and shaped my life.  I am also happy to serve and be part of the team.  God has been truly good to all of us.  We are all a beautiful mess.


24 February 2014

Twin Baby Shower

My Sister

We are so happy for our sister Laurie and her husband Kelsey!  They are due this spring with twins!  This weekend we held the baby shower at my Mom's Clubhouse.  We had a great turn out and Laurie was extremely blessed with clothes, diapers, books, play yards, bouncy seats, double stroller, bedding, hand made blankets, you name it, they got it!  We saw lots of lavender and blue.

My mother and law and I were a great team and the day went so smoothly.  Laurie's friend Michelle made the favors, chocolate covered pretzels!  Our goal for the day was to bless Laurie and Kelsey's socks off and after helping her home and bringing all the gifts back to her house!  She truly was blessed.  Laurie announced the names of the babies...Ava and Nikolas Seon!  We are so incredibly happy for them and can't wait to hold those sweet babies in April when they come!  Twins! Twins! Twins!  God is so good!


21 February 2014

Time For A Change

Just Do It

When Julia was 2 1/2 and Mark was 1 I cut my hair really short.  Not something every woman does, especially with curly hair but it was so freeing and wonderful.  It also made life so much easier in the morning when I would comb through my curls in the shower.

I've always had long hair and I've always worn it curly for the most part.  For special occasions I like to get it straightened and it's very deceiving because it's even longer looking when it's straight!

But today I just woke up and needed to cut it!  I cut off 2 inches and it felt great.  I'm so thankful my mom was able to babysit for two hours and allow me some mommy alone time.

I walked out of that salon a much lighter, happier, care free person!  


20 February 2014

10 Things I Like About You

Creating Sense of Love and Positive Thinking in the Home

I don't know if it's been the snow, being cooped up at home, full moons, or what, but my kids have been sort of mean to each other lately.  "Get out of my room!" I hear Julia say, or "Julia, I don't like it!!!!!!!!!" screams Mark.  Normally these two are best friends.  They are only 17 months apart and really only know life together and basically fall apart with out each other (well, mark does anyway).

God gave me a great idea in the shower this morning.  Give them a love assignment where they have to stop and think about what they like, love, or appreciate about the other person.  I gave each big kid 3 sheets of paper.  At the top the paper said Daddy, Micah, and Julia or Julia's said Mark.

They had to draw that person and then list 10 things they like/love/appreciate about them.  They both did Daddy and Micah's first! I thought that was funny.  And then they really started to think about what they loved about the other person, they listed things like, they play with me, they spend time with me, they read to me, etc.  It was really sweet.  I think we need to do more activities like this once in awhile so we remember why we love each other!


19 February 2014

My Aunt Marie

Meet My Aunt

Everyone has that special 
someone in their family that they love to talk to, can relate to, and admire.

For me, my Aunt Marie has been that person! She is beautiful, smart, funny (really funny) and a great mom and wife.

Aunt Marie and Uncle Mark used to live on the East Coast nearby in Metuchen, NJ. I used to love to visit her home because she and uncle mark had a pool!

They moved many years ago because of a job change for Uncle Mark, and they now live in sunny California. I'm really glad for facebook so I can keep in touch with them and hear how great their son Paul is doing in college! Uncle Mark and Aunt Marie pastor a church in CA and I know they are a blessing to their congregation. We named our son Mark after Uncle Mark because of the impact Mark had on John when we were dating. John and Mark have a really special friendship and whenever Mark visits the east coast these two try to get together and they stay up all night talking about God and the Bible and just bonding. I'm so thankful for both my aunt and uncle. They spoiled me when I was little and took me on my first plan ride to Florida to Disney World. I will never forget that trip as an 11 year old and the fun I had with them. They treated me like I was their daughter.

Aunt Marie is one of my favorite aunts because of her style, neatness, and organization. And let me just tell you I loved her walk in closet and all her shoes! She is just what I wanted to be like as a wife and mom, organized, put together, and always inviting people over and making them feel welcome. Her family is from the South and let me tell you, she knows southern hospitality!

Her house has always been the fun house! I interviewed my aunt to find out how life as a mom was for her...please read her amazing story. I love her wisdom and advice, it really helped me put things in perspective as a mom of two boys.

1. What is the best part of being a Mom?

The best part of being a mom is that the Lord entrusted me with the care of another 

human being. There is a person on this Earth calling me "mom!'

2. What is your greatest fear as a Mom?

My greatest fear is that Christ wouldn't be first in his life. 

3. How has God prepared you to be a Mom?

God told me early on that being a mom is a gift. The child's needs come first, enjoy the 

journey, tell Paul 3 things everyday: I am proud of you; I love you; There is no such thing 

as "I can"t. 

4. What advice would you give to a Mom raising boys?

Respect them as boys and they are NOT little girls. They get dirty, they don't always pay 

attention to little details, they like to play rough and it is imperative to give them their 

space as they grow and try to find their path to becoming a man. Enjoy every activity/sport 

they try and encourage them everyday. BE ORGANIZED! It isn't fair to raise children in 

chaos. Make sure you find time for yourself and your husband. Remember, you were a 

couple before you became parents. Let your child see affection between their mom and dad 

and never ever fight in front of your children. Children find a way to blame themselves for 

adult problems. 

5. How did you create a fun environment at home?

I don't think I considered our home the "fun house." Yes, our home was always filled with 

friends because Paul and his friends knew they were always welcome-day or night. When 

they were in high school(and even now even though Paul doesn't live here full-time) and 

they went to a party, they all knew they could sleep here. We treated his friends like "extra 

sons" so today as young adult men, they still reach out to us...


18 February 2014

Julia and India

Social Studies Fair 2014

This is our third year doing the Home-school Social Studies Fair.  As a pre-K Julia learned about Thomas Jefferson, in Kindergarten last year we learned about the Light Bulb and Thomas Edison, and this year we all studied a country and we picked India.  I liked this year the best because Julia was older, she knew more people, she was braver, and we could dress up from our country and bring food from our country we studied.  

Many people asked us why we chose India.  That was a great question!  Well, to be honest we really wanted Italy or Ireland because that is Daddy's background, but they were taken right away.  So we really thought about it and we decided India would be a wonderful country because we know people who live there that we love very much.  We also happen to have may friends from India who live in America that we love and we love Indian food, so it was basically a win-win.

The first thing we did when we chose India was to visit the OB public library and get our research books.  Then we looked through the pictures, read through them, and talked to our friends about the country.  Julia's favorite fact was that the national symbol of India is the Bengal Tiger and it is endangered.  It is endangered because so many people have killed it.  Now it is very protected.  She also loved learning about Gandhi and Mother Teresa.  She loved drawing pictures of the City of Bombay and the children in their beautiful saris.

The next thing we did was talk to our Facebook friends to find out where to get a traditional sari for Julia.  I was willing to buy one and needed to know where to go.  My friend Sue O. was so kind to ask her friend who willingly let us borrow 3 saris exactly Julia's size and she even let us KEEP the pink one Julia is wearing (which was her favorite anyway!).  The Indian fashion is absolutely gorgeous and so girly.  We did a fashion show and wore more than one sari to the event!

Next was the work part, and that was putting together our board.  We researched on the computer, printed out facts, printed out pictures to color, the country, the flag, the tiger, mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Julia had to color and decorate each one and her board.  We listed the facts and glued everything down.  Then we reviewed the board so that on the night of the presentations we knew what to say when people came to visit our country.

It was a great turn out.  So many wonderful home school families came and the older kids gave written/oral reports and everyone was able to present their board to other students and adults.  The kids all got passports and when they visited another country they learned facts, ate some ethnic food, and got a sticker in their passport.  The moms who put together the event did a fabulous job!!!

Julia Star we are so proud of you!  Your hard work paid off and it was fun learning as a family with you!


17 February 2014

Our Spring Wish List

Plans For Spring

One of the exciting things to look forward to this spring is good weather and finishing up the school year early!  We will be done with school mid May this year!  We started in August on purpose!  This year I am really excited to take all three of my kids to some awesome learning places and great parks!  I have listed below the places we will visit this spring and included prices, info, and links for those of you in the NJ area!  Bare in mind my kids ages are Julia-6, Mark- 4 1/2, and Micah-practically 1.

Local Parks:

Dorbrook Park, Colts Neck (cost is free, includes a huge playground, huge sandbox, jungle gym, bathrooms, and sprayground which opens mid June)

Holmdel Park Longstreet Farm, Holmdel (cost is free, includes 2 playgrounds, farm with sheep, peacocks, chickens, pigs, horses, and cows (milking is at 3:00 during the week), huge lake, tons of open grass and BBQ picnic areas, bathrooms, also great for running, and power walking with strollers because of sidewalks and hiking trails)

John Philips Park, Old Bridge (cost is free, baseball field, cricket field, soccer fields, 2 playgrounds for toddlers and one for older kids, swing set, bathrooms, benches, hiking and fitness trails, lots of sidewalks which is great for bike riding)

Thompson Park, Jamesburg (cost is free, two playgrounds, huge deer area, small animal farm, bathrooms are far from play ground, the children love to feed the deer which is allowed, the other animals you can see are all types of birds like turkeys, geese, roosters, peacocks, etc)

Learning Places-(click on place to view website)

Liberty Science Center, Jersey City 14C on Turnpike- (must pay admission and price of theater/Imax tickets, we got a year membership which has totally been worth it because a family of 5 pays about $91 for regular admission and theater tickets and the year membership is less than $125...totally pays for itself with a second visit, awesome exhibits, zoo on 3rd floor, Bob the Builder play area good for all ages on 4th floor, cafe and theaters and story time ages 2-5 year olds on 2nd floor, all the movies are educational.  So far we have seen one on Penguins (great for all ages) and Watermelon Magic (life cycle of plants awesome for 3-6 year olds). (gift shop) Admission: Adults 13 and up pay $19.75, Kids 2 and up pay $14.75, Imax or film $10/$8 per person....Hours Mondays: Usually closed, Tuesday-Friday 9-3pm, weekends 9:00-5:30pm

Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange-(must pay admission, we have a year membership which is totally worth it, Adults $11, Children $8, Under 2 Free...hours 10-3:30pm)  Variety of animals, cafe, carousel, playground, indoor exhibits, penguins, monkeys, peacocks, prairie dogs, pony rides, farm animals (you can feed them for a fee) eagles, panthers, cheetahs, turtles, train ride, reptile indoor exhibit, and gift shop)

Wonder Wing Museum, Brookdale College, Lincroft-($7 per person, children under $2 are free, huge ship to climb, ropes to climb, boat to play in, dress up corner, water play, craft room, lighthouse to climb, tree to climb) The only thing I recommend is to pack a lunch because you are not allowed to eat inside the museum we go to our car to eat or eat at picnic bench on the side.  On Fridays at 2:00 ages 4-6 Twinkle Tots Planetarium is open.

Rainy Spring Days: (click on name of place to visit website link)

Junglerrrific, Howell- Indoor play area for babies, toddlers and big kids, carousel, ball pit, indoor slide, cafe to eat, must wear socks (everyone required to take off shoes)  The owner Barry is so neat and clean and great with kids!  Cost $7 per child who plays, parents are free, it opens at 10 am- 6pm Mon-wed, and 10-5 Thurs/Fri.

All About Fun, Matawan-Indoor play area with dress up room, game room, music room, video games, craft area.  Times are Mon/Wed/Fri 10-3 Thurs-closed, Tues 1-4pm, cost $7 per child.

We are hoping for Spring temperatures this weekend!  We can't wait for all the snow to melt away!


11 February 2014

Fighting the Winter Blues

Feeling Depressed?

I have felt so yucky these past few weeks.  I truly believe it's because of being cooped up in the house and not getting enough gorgeous sunshine.  This 20 degree weather for so many weeks straight is down right awful.  I hate bundling up all the kids.  I'm tired of washing the floors from the salt and wet snow.  And I am really tired of shoveling, de-icing, and ice skating down my driveway.

Since I've been in such a bad mood, aka winter funk, I've decided to make a list of things I can do to help us get ready for Spring, and not feel so sun deprived, and not feel so cooped up in the house!  All of you out there with small children know how hard it can be to feel/be trapped in your home because of bad weather. The kids need to run, they need the sun, they need to be free to play.

"Seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer.
Treatment for seasonal affective disorder includes light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. Don't brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year." -- online article quote from  Mayo Clinical Staff 

Here are some ways to bring "life and sunshine" back into your home!

1. Put on happy music

This may sound silly but for me listening to music while I clean the house, fold laundry, or get ready for the day really does put me in a better mood!

2. Start de-cluttering/organizing

For me, when I start to de-clutter I feel better.  I go room by room and literally make piles for Good Will, Trash, Consignment, or Hand Me Downs...then at the end of the week or month (however long it takes to do the bedrooms) I drop off my items.  This way we get rid of what we don't need and we make room for the next season's items, or birthdays!

3. Drawing/Painting

My children have taught me this one.  Taking time to stop and sit and be creative uses a part of the brain that just brings joy to your system.  My kids talk more while they draw, they sing, they are sometimes silent, but they are always happy.  Many times if I sit down with them and join them I also feel the release of stress.  Find something that forces you to stop, sit, and be creative.  

4. Nature Walk

Even if this is a five minute walk, taking time to let the kids go outside, and get sunshine really does pay off.  We all need the Vitamin D from the sun, we all need the fresh air, no matter how cold, and kids especially need to just run!!! This week I am making time to go to a park to just let the kids run!!!!  Lord willing we will be above 30 degrees!

5. Visit a Museum

There are so many great places to go and learn with kids.  This month we are visiting The Liberty Science Center and The Monmouth Museum.  These are places for fun, learning, and mind play that even adults can benefit from!  Spending the extra money is worth it to get out of the house, explore our world, make new friends, and do something different.

6. Eat Out

Oh, bless your hearts, all you homemakers out there, you need a break in the kitchen every now and again.  Whether it's a trip to Wendy's, or Panera Bread, or Chipolte, sometimes eating a meal out just does wonders for the morale of the family.  Let's face it, we all like to eat out.  And moms and dads love a break from cooking and a break from the clean up.  So go online, print out some coupons or groupons and have a bon apetit!

7. Go someplace new

Going to a new place brings adventure and fun.  Just switching up the normal routine can be the change of pace everyone needs.  We like to library hop.  There are so many great kid libraries in NJ that we go to Matawan, Monmouth, and Old Bridge.  Going someplace new doesn't have to cost money, just do your research and prepare to enjoy.

8. Sing with your kids

We do this all the time in the car.  We sing from the Frozen soundtrack and we all take turns singing the different songs.  Being silly with your kids is one of the best things that they will remember forever.  And you don't need a great voice.  Just use lots of charisma and sing loud!!!

9. Write a list of things you want to do in the Spring

I like this one because as a homeschooler this is great for our writing skills.  Have your kids tell you what places they want to visit or things they want to do when the weather gets warmer.  You will be so surprised to hear their opinions.  Talk to them about the cost of places.  Teach them how to budget money or plan the day (time management).  Make a list and then really try to do the things on the list.  I bet they will come up with some great ideas...my kids can't wait to go to the Turtle Back Zoo, the Jenkinson's Aquarium, and Dorbrook Sprayground!!

10. Encourage someone else/bless another family

I'm sure you  realize that your neighbors are just as tired of this bad weather as you are!  Bake some cookies and bless a family near by.  Buy some popcorn and let them borrow your favorite DVD.  Make cards for the grandparents and mail them out.  Find things to do to bless others because I have found when I stop thinking about how depressed I feel and start thinking of ways to bless or encourage others, suddenly I'm feeling a lot better!


10 February 2014

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe


1 tbsp melted butter
1/2 med onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 pint (16 oz) half n half
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 lb fresh broccoli chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Saute onion in butter.  Set aside.  Cook melted butter and flour using whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Stir constantly and add the half and half.  Add chicken broth, broccoli, carrots and sauted onions.  Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Puree half of mixture in blender.  Return to heat and add cheese.  Stir in nutmeg.


And Then There Was Love: Angela and Tom

Love & Marriage

I met Angela at Grad School back in 2002.  We both graduated from Baptist Bible College in 2005 and our wonderful Dean was Dr. Hartzler who truly impacted all of our lives to be the best, godly, teachers we could be and be a Living Curriculum and shine for Christ.

Angela and I have stayed in touch over the past few years through facebook!  She is a sweetheart!  Read her love story...

1.     When did you two meet? 

We met on a Christian dating web site called Sovereign Grace Singles.

2.   Who approached who first? 

(Angela) I wrote to Tom first.  I had taken advice from a friend to use the site to be an encouragement, not to worry about if this was “the one.”  So, I read something on Tom’s profile that I responded to by trying to just encourage him.  He said he probably wouldn’t have written to me first, because I was 8 years younger, and he didn’t think I was in his age range.

3.     Who spoke the most and who was shy in the beginning?  

     When we started writing back and forth on the site, it was pretty equal, but then when we moved to phone calls, Angela spoke more (still does!)  J

4.     Where was your first date? How did it go?  

(      (Angela) Tom came down to visit me in NY.  The first outing was to dinner at Friendlys.  Tom was very nervous and laughed nervously the whole time.  The next day, he came to pick me up to go on a walk in the park.  As I was wheeling to his car, my wheelchair hit a bump, and tipped forward, throwing me out.  He handled it like a champ, laughed with me, and helped me get back up.  That’s when I knew he was a great guy.

5.     When did you know that Angela was the one! How long did it take to learn this. 

     (Tom) I knew that Angela was the one when I came to visit her the first time , at the end of our visit, just before I left.  (About 3 and ½ months after we “met” online).  I realized that she did have the qualities I was looking for as a spouse.  We got along great in person, and it confirmed what I had suspected on the phone. 

6.     How did Tom propose?  Were you surprised? 

(    (Angela)  Tom proposed on Thanksgiving 2008, at the Allentown airport.  I knew he was going to propose.  We were practically the only ones in the airport, and we had a soldier take our picture right after he proposed. 

7.     What is Tom’s best trait? 

    Faithfulness. He loves God and God’s word.  He’d rather read the Bible than anything else.

8.     What is Angela’s best trait?  

     She’s caring.

9.                        How do you solve disagreements? 

(       (Angela) We’re still working on this one.  I run headlong into conflict, and Tom    avoids it at all costs, so this causes conflict which I run to and he avoids, ect, ect. Ect.    J 

10.                        How do you share/divide housework?  

(       (Tom)  I do most of the outside work (Angela – especially snow shoveling this winter)  and Angela does most of the inside work (Angela – but Tom is great about sweeping the floor!)  I am Angela’s sous chef if I’m home when she’s cooking. 

11.                        What trips have you gone on as a couple that were very special?  

(        (Angela)  We went to Toronto for a honeymoon the summer after we were married.  It was really fun exploring the city, and we even went to a Blue Jay’s game!

12.                        What is the best part of being married?

(     (Tom) I enjoy coming home to be with her, because I know she loves me. 

13.                        If you could go anywhere in the world on a vacation with your spouse where would you go? 

(       (Tom) We want to go explore more cities in Canada and the US -  to Vancouver and Chicago sometime in the near future.  We’re looking forward to a trip to Boston for a cousin’s wedding this year.

14.                        If you could sum up your marriage in two words what would they be?   

(       (Tom) Learning unselfishness

     Thank you Tom and Angela!!!! May God continue to bless you guys richly!



05 February 2014

How do I resign from the Mommy Guilt Club?

Book Club Wednesday

Am I Messing Up My Kids? Book by Lysa TerKeurst

Have you ever gone from feeling like Mom of the Year (making an awesome batch of pancakes or brownies) to a gold star member of the Mommy Guilt Club (you know, when everything you plan to do goes wrong, no one behaves, or worse yet your child throws a tantrum in the MIDDLE of the store?)

How do things go so wrong so quickly?

One minute you feel like skipping through a field singing, The hills are alive!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the next minute you feel like hiding in the bathroom watching Rachel Ray on your I pad for the rest of the day!

Why do we get so upset?

Why do we care if our kids clothes don't match?
Lysa has declared a state of emergency!  No more mommy guilt!  Here are her rules:

1." I will no longer be fooled into thinking that my kids came to me good and anything bad they do is a reflection of my poor mothering.  No, kids are bad when they come to us.  They have a sin nature just like we do.  They need a Savior just like we do.  Instead of pointing the finger at myself when they act bad or make poor choices, I will point them to their Heavenly Father.  I will assess what correction the kids need and administer that, but I will not let my kids' poor choices define me as a mother."

2." I will have the courage to let them live with the consequences of their bad choices.  This is tough because we as moms have become masters at fixing, and arranging, and protecting, which is necessary when they are young.  At some point we have to start shifting responsibility to them.  We want what is best for them and think all our extra efforts to fill in gaps are a good thing, but it isn't."...I will not follow behind my children for the rest of their lives, picking up the pieces of their bad choices."

(sometimes this means announcing the temperature for the day and the time you are leaving, and if they don't match or are too cold next time they will remember a jacket.)  

3. "I am going to stop feeling guilty over telling my kids no.  I already tell them no quite a bit.  But often I feel guilty for doing so.  Not anymore.  No is a great answer and one they will hear for the rest of their lives from other people.  As long as I balance the noes with enough yes answers to keep their hearts from getting discouraged hearing no will be good for them."
4. "I will not compare myself to the seemingly perfect moms I know.  Look, motherhood is hard.  70 percent of mothers will admit to having struggles with this complicated role, and I'm convinced the other 30 percent is not telling the truth.  WE all have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments, victories and defeats.  Just as there are no perfect children there are no perfect mothers.  We are all just doing the best we can.  We all need to call out to God often for strength, courage, wisdom, patience, and grace, grace, grace.  Instead of criticizing each other, we moms should band together, encourage each other and help each other out." 
I loved all of Lysa's rules especially the last one, because I know so many perfect moms that I can never live up to.  I get discouraged just thinking about it.  But what I do love are the women God keeps putting in my life to sharpen me, to laugh with me, to lean on, to pray with, and to feel normal with.  I have met the sweetest group of friends at church and at my coop that I know God has destined for me to meet and grow from.  I will never ever be a perfect mom.  But I do not have to feel like a horrible mom either.  With God's grace I will just do the best I can.

I think the moms who willingly admit they need God's help and strength will be blessed with it!

04 February 2014

And Then There Was Love...Cleo and Daniel

And Then There Was Love...

Cleo is my cousin!  She is 24 years old and married to Daniel, and they have a beautiful baby girl Luna.  Cleo and Daniel graciously did my marriage interview.  I love their perspective because they met at a young age and yet are both very strong, determined, and mature.  

Here is their love story...

Where did you two meet?

1. (daniel) well, we met at a very young age. She was 13 and I was 15. Imagine  the heat I got for that.

Who approached who first?

2. (daniel) I saw her first, said hello, and ran straight to my older brother and said "WHO IS THAT?!"
(cleo) We met at our brothers' apartment, they were roommates at the time. We had our first conversation while watching a movie, I think we "approached" each other.

Who was more talkative...who was shy?

3. (daniel) Me... Spoke. Her.. Shy. LOL.
(cleo) I don't remember being particularly shy, but I guess I would be the shy one.

When was your first date?

4. (cleo) The same night haha. The movie we were watching has always been regarded as our first date movie. It was "Wrong Turn." We had a great time and we always talk about how that's "our" movie
(Cleo leaves interview to go attend to our crying baby. lol)

When did you know that she was the one? and vice versa?

5. (Daniel) I thought she was the one when i saw her, but realized it after the trials and trials and trials and tribulations and tribulations and... you get the point.
(Cleo) Danny and I clicked SOOOO well right from the beginning, I realize now as an adult that I took that kind of connection as a given. I've never even remotely had that kind of spark with anyone I've ever met (platonically or romantically).

How did Daniel propose?

6. (Cleo) HAHAHA. Well, we had a marriage discussion. I was 18 at the time and I made it pretty clear that I was done being his girlfriend, and he agreed. But after that I did get an official proposal too: I came out of the bathroom and Danny was right there on one knee with my ring...I snatched it and ran lol. It was a total surprise because I picked out the ring and we were waiting for it to be sized; I expected it to be ready by the end of the week but I guess they called danny and told him it was done early so he blindfolded me and I spent an hour and a half in the car wondering why in the world he was being so ridiculous. When we got to the house I went to the restroom and when I came out there he was!
(daniel) notice she said SHE picked out the ring. So spoiled.

What do you remember about the wedding?  Was anything unexpected?

7. (cleo) The wedding was incredible, we had such a fun time. Nothing particularly unexpected happened but it was a day to remember for sure. I was 2 hours late, I guess no one expected that lol.
(daniel) My favorite part was seeing her walk alongside the lake to me. It was like i never saw her before. She was the prettiest I have ever seen her... before and still to this day. LOL.

What do you love about your spouse?

8. (cleo) Danny is hilarious, super kind, and uncontrollably giving.

9. (daniel) Cleo's best trait would be being a great mother.

What is your marriage success secret?

10. (daniel) If I tell you our secret, it won't be a secret anymore!. lol
(cleo) a happy wife equals a happy life lol. also, you have to learn to communicate. and never stop laughing together.

How do you deal with disagreements?

11. (daniel) well first she calmly asks me to lower my voice... after I let go of my ego I listen and just take it slow to hear her out.
(cleo) think and speak with God's wisdom. LISTEN. and consider that maybe you're wrong.

How do you divide house work?

12. (cleo) yep. straight down the middle. we both work at home so we're both making messes lol.

Where have you traveled to?

13. (daniel) Jamaica for honey moon. LA for a Laker game, which was the best day of my life besides the wedding day... (smirks). London was amazing! Saw a Laker game there too. Vegas was super fun because cleo never parties but OOHHH HHOOWWW she did in vegas. 
(cleo) Jamaica and London were both extra special and fun. We definitely know how to vacation.

What is your favorite part about being married?

14. (daniel) Two checks is always better than one!
(Cleo) Funny guy. My favorite part of being married is the feeling of freedom that it allows me.

Where do you hope to travel to?

15. (daniel) Tokyo, can't wait to go!
(Cleo) Somewhere in Africa, we love to experience other cultures.

What two words best describe your marriage and the both of you?

16. (daniel) Halle. Lujah,
(cleo) Blessed. Friendship.


03 February 2014

Date Night Challenge

Life After Kids...

Date Nights used to be every Friday, Saturday and Sunday before kids.  Now, we are lucky if we get a date night twice a month.  This past month we had two awesome dates.  January 4th, was on a Satruday at the Count Baisey Theater in Red Bank when we saw our favorite comedian Jim Gaffigan.  And a week ago on January 24th, a Friday we went to a wedding together.  The kids were actually invited to the wedding, but we really wanted a night alone.  Both nights were really fun. It felt so good to get out of the house, do something totally different, dress up even, and have a meal together where we can talk uninterrupted.

At the above link you fill in your info and Focus on the Family will send you 3 guides to Date Nights 1, 2, and 3...(I love a challenge).  The goal is to have 3 dates in 3 weeks and then once a month for the rest of the year.  I like this because I know we can exceed the challenge and try to get out even more than once a month, but it's great to at least have a goal.

I'm especially looking forward to the weather warming up because John and I like to go outdoors for our dates, whether it's sight seeing in Manhattan, or shopping at an outdoor Mall by the shore, anything to switch up the daily routine and be together and connect!

Won't you take the challenge???


02 February 2014

Every Mom Has A Story: Abby Helms

Meet Abby Helms

I just love Abby.  She exudes wisdom and grace, and is one of the most craftiest and creative people I know.  (Hence the art teacher).  She is married to Paul who is our lead worship leader at church.  Paul is so gifted at what he does and I really feel that God has blessed these two with talent and creativity and has a lot in store for them!

Abby has an 18 month old Silas, and is currently preggers with her daughter Ollie, who I believe should be here any day now (her due date is Valentine's Day).

After I interviewed Abby and really read through her answers I felt God stirring in my heart and destining our budding friendship.  Abby thank you for your wisdom and honesty and sharing your story with us!  

Here is Abby's story...

1.    Abby when/where did you and Paul meet?

I met Paul while visiting my brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey the summer of 2010. I’d gone to church with them and afterwards Paul came up and introduced himself. Paul had been the worship leader at Jacob’s Well from the beginning of the church but every other time I’d visited my brother, someone else had led worship. So that Sunday was the first time I’d ever seen Paul even though I’d been there four or five time before. God’s timing I guess…

2.    How long were you engaged for?

Not long! Once we decided to get married, neither of us wanted a long engagement. So, four very short months after he proposed, I walked down the aisle.

3.    Did you always live in NJ?

Not at all. I moved to NJ in 2011 but I was born and raised in Tennessee, and while I have come to appreciate NJ and call it home, I’ll always be a southerner at heart. :)

4.    How do you feel about being in leadership at JW? Is it hard/fun? Did you know that you and Paul would be in ministry together from the get go?

Serving the church brings a lot of joy to our lives, but it is not always easy! Paul works part-time for Jacobs Well as the Deacon of Worship and Arts. We also lead a Missional Community Group for Rutgers students together. We do both of these things on top of our regular jobs (Paul works full-time for Rutgers Cooperative Extension and I teach art part-time at the Wilberforce School.)

Paul and I work well together, and we love merging every part of our lives, but I’ve found that most of the time Paul needs me less as a business partner and more as a wife. So, I’ve learned to focus on keeping our schedule manageable, planning family days and down time, and keeping things under control at home. These things might seem trivial but I see them as vital to our sanity and ultimately our ability to serve others.

5.    You and Paul have an adorable 18 month old Silas...and soon baby Ollie will make her debut...what motherhood joys are you loving right now?

To be totally honest, this mama is in survival mode. I’m three weeks from my due date with a long list of to dos before baby comes. Needless to say, I’m worn out! In the past weeks though I’ve loved letting Silas be “my little helper.” Whenever I can, I let him get involved in my to do’s. Whether its cooking, cleaning, or crafting there’s usually a way to make it fun and assessable for him. I’m always impressed by what he can do, when I give him the chance.

6.    How have you prepped Silas for becoming a big brother?  Does he get it?

Silas has no idea what’s coming! We talk about Ollie with him a lot, but honestly he’s not that concerned. Usually he’s more interested in Mama’s belly button than sister’s kicks. He’s in for a big surprise!

7.    So you have been through labor and delivery once, how did Paul help you through it all?  I couldn't have done it without the help of John and my doula!

I tend to be the more steady, stoic one in our relationship, so to be honest, the first time around I worried the whole thing might be too much for Paul. I have never been more wrong! Paul was a total champ. He was calm but focused from the first contraction. He even bossed me around a bit, and thank the Lord he did because when I wanted to continue laboring a little longer at home, Paul made the decision to overrule me and we headed to the hospital. Silas was in my arms one hour later! I am so grateful that Paul went with his gut and led in that moment. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have made it.

8.    I know you and Paul love Jesus and are teaching Silas all about Him...what legacies as parents/ as a mom are you hoping to leave behind?

I hope my kids would say that their mom was wise. Wisdom only comes from God, so I hope that throughout their life my opinion would be one that they valued because they knew it was one that came from meditation on scripture and Spirit truly dependent on the Lord.

9. What is your one bit of advice for a pregnant mom out there or newlywed?

Well, with Silas, I was both a newlywed and pregnant. Things didn’t happen according to the plan Paul and I had set for ourselves, and to be honest, I wasn’t too happy about that. My first pregnancy consisted more of fear, doubt, and depression than sweet anticipation. But from that one place, I couldn’t see very far. From where I’m sitting now, I am so unspeakably grateful that God gave us what He knew we needed rather than what we thought we wanted. My advice would be to not feel bad if in marriage or pregnancy or motherhood, you don’t always feel the way you think you’re suppose to feel. Be honest with God about these things and let Him “deliver you to your desired haven.” (Psalms 107:30). He has good plans. Plans that will make you whole, even if its hard. 

I cherished your answers Abby!!! Thanks so much for doing this!  --Love, Kristi

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