A Modern Day Fairy Tale: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: 'A Good and Perfect Gift' by Amy Julia Becker


From the Publisher:

Challenging surprises often lead to unexpected joy. Amy Julia opens eyes and softens hearts as she brings readers into her own story of disappointment turned to blessing. This is a journey of discovering strength through weakness, and the author learns to embrace the face that we are all dependent on God and one another. This books will inspire readers who appreciate beautiful writing coupled with deep insights about life and faith. "Amy Julia Becker has the courage and grace to tell the truth. Whether you are a parent or not, whether the children in your life are 'typical' or not, this story will shake you, change you, and encourage you."--Andy Crouch, author, Culture Making

My Thoughts:

Of all of the books I've reviewed in the past, as a mother to a child with special needs, it's certainly safe to say that this is the book I can most relate to. In this memoir, Amy Julia, a perfectionist who put intelligence and academic accomplishments at utmost importance, has her 'perfect' world come toppling down when her child is born and is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Amy Julia is very open with her struggles to accept this diagnosis and her struggles in faith afterwards. At points, it was so honest that at a few points, I wanted to personally shake her out of it. However, after her initial adjustments, I found many of the sentiments expressed to echo those I have said about having a child with Autism, and even quoting and finding comfort in the same bible verses I have. Many of the themes I have talked about on my blog, were also expressed in the book. While there were areas where I did not agree with her sentiments, in general, I could relate very well. I am a huge advocate for ending the use of the 'r word' and the book talks a bit of the hurt that comes with the use of that word, though I do wish that she would have discussed more. However, this was not a book about Down Syndrome, or the use of the word, but rather a personal journey to come to terms with an uncertain future and trusting that it is all a part of God's plan and will work out according to his will. I would recommend this book to any parent, regardless of whether your child is typical or has special needs because all children truly are 'a good and perfect gift'.

You can purchase this book here.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A 'Message' From Shaun


Just in case you needed a smile today:



The birds may be angry, but this mommy isn't. Shaun and his silly antics always make me smile and I hope it brings a smile to your face too. What a creative little 4 year old I have!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock


From the Publisher:

Carny Sullivan grew up in the zany world of a traveling carnival. Quaint and peaceful Serenity, Texas, has given her a home, a life, and a child. Logan Brisco is the smoothest, slickest, handsomest man Serenity, Texas has ever seen. But Carny Sullivan knows a con artist when she sees one—and she’s seen plenty, starting with her father. As far as Carny Sullivan can tell, she’s the only one in town who has his number. Because from his Italian shoes to his movie-actor smile, Logan has the rest of the town snowed. Carny is determined to reveal Brisco’s selfish intentions before his promise to the townspeople for a cut in a giant amusement park sucks Serenity dry. Yet, as much as she hates his winning ways, there is a man behind that suave smile, a man who may win her heart against her will. Shadow in Serenity is a modern-day Music Man, penned by a Christy Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author.



My Thoughts:
When I was contacted about doing a review of 'Shadow in Serenity' by Terri Blackstock, I wasn't 100% sure how I would really like this story. While I do enjoy the occasional crime type story, it is not my preferred genre and I tend to be a bit more picky about them. But I'm always interested to see how Christian fiction writers are able to write a crime/mystery story while keeping with the Christian themes, so I was excited to give it a shot, and thankfully so.
Just out of prison where he'd served time for previous cons, Logan Brisco heads to the small town of Serenity, TX, a town hit by hard times that he believed would be the perfect place to pull of his grandest con yet- filling the town with hopes of a new amusement park to be built which would bring profit for them all. But when he meets Carny Sullivan, a woman who herself grew up in a traveling carnival with her parents, conning carnival guests out of their money, she threatens to destroy Logan's plans. I can't say much more than this without giving the story away, but it was certainly a wonderful story. Had I had the time, I'm sure this would have been one of those books that I wouldn't have been able to put down. Beyond the cons, it is also a great story about forgiveness and the ability to change, with help from God. And also a great love story thrown in as well. I will say that towards the end, parts of it seemed a bit unrealistic and perhaps a bit rushed, but overall it was a great book and I look forward to seeing more from Terri Blackstock. Based on the writing in this story alone, it is no surprise that she is a New York Times Bestseller.

You can purchase this book here.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Supporting Home/Direct Sales Businesses!

If you follow any small businesses or have friends that do direct sales, you've probably seen the following going around on Facebook:

"Keep in mind this holiday season... YOU, the customer, are our everything. Spending $100 at Walmart or another retail or department store during the holidays won't make a difference to anyone; but spending $100 through a home business owner for Christmas means our business can continue, it gives us our pay, provides for our families, helps us meet our personal goals, and helps us continue to do what we love without using harsh sales techniques. The big stores will not care about you the way we will because unfortunately, you don't mean that much to them. You mean the world to me - shop a home/direct sales business for Christmas this year!! "

This is such a true statement. Even before starting direct sales myself, I had planned on having the bulk of my own personal Christmas wishlist come from companies such as Scentsy, Mary Kay, Avon...and some Ets
y shops too. I love the idea of being able to directly help make Christmas a little better for someone else. So today, I want to encourage all of you to consider doing the same! So, I bring you my holiday gift guide, home businesses edition!!

Thirty One Gifts




Of course, what kind of consultant would I be if I didn't mention Thirty-One? Truly though, our products make great gifts for all occasions. One of my personal facorites is the Organizing Utility Tote- give it by itself, or make it a great gift 'basket' with body washes, lotions etc or a movie night theme with popcorn, a move or two or fill it with baking supplies...the possibilities are endless. You could do the same with any of our other bags as well! The other great thing is that many of our items can be personalized for a unique gift. For a child, you could do a nice Short Utility Bin or Large Utility Tote with their name! This is especially great for those l
ike myself who have an unusual name and can't usually find items with the correct spelling!!
You can view everything we have to offer on my website (and please feel free to e-mail me with any questions!)

Scentsy
Anyone who knows me personally, or who has followed for long, probably knows that I'm a Scentsy addict. A cute warmer and a few bars is the perfect gift for anyone who loves candles and wants their house to smell great! One of my personal favorite warmers is the Piece by Piece warmer, benefitting Autism Speaks, still available in closeout while supplies last. I haven't met someone with a child/grandchild on the spectrum yet who doesn't love this warmer. But the great thing about Scentsy is that there is truly a warmer style and scent options available for everyone! And for those looking for a bargain, there are a TON of plugin warmers available in the closeout for a discount too!! For the Scentsy addicts, you could give a gift certificate so that they can take advantage of January's Bring Back My Bar promotion too! If you do not already have a Scentsy consultant, I have several friends who are-too many to post them all here, but I'm happy to pass along their names, just ask!

Pampered Chef


For the person who loves to cook in your life, Pampered Chef is a great choice! Lots of great, unique cooking tools. I don't have a ton of PC products myself, but the few I do have (including their bamboo spoons) have been wonderful and I love them. They have some great gift sets, ready to give, or you can mix and match a few items and fill your own gift basket! On my personal wishlist: the Pizza Party Set and the Sweeten It Up Set! You can check out all of the wonderful products for yourself here, from my friend Tammy!

Avon


I am sure everyone has heard of Avon, and it doesn't need much introduction. They have a little something for everyone- women, men and children and all at great prices. Avon products make perfect stocking stuffers too. As a child I remember getting them myself and I always loved it. Check out their website for some great gift ideas at great prices here!


And let's not forget Etsy/homemade items as well! There are so many amazing vendors out there, I wish I could list them all, but for now I will just share my friend Kelli's primitive decor online store:

Pleasant Valley Homespun Primitives


Personally, I know a lot of people on my shopping list enjoy primitive decor, myself included. If you have someone like that on your list, you should definitely check her out here. My personal favorite items are her Primitive Family Signs, a great one of a kind gift!! Absolutely gorgeous. But all of her items are wonderful, and would be perfect for the primitive collector in your life.

These are just a few of the many home businesses out there: Mary Kay, Arbonne, Tupperware, the list goes on... Not to mention all the many crafters on Etsy or local to you! Between all of these wonderful companies, you are bound to find something for nearly everyone on your list, while directly helping these people have a better Christmas. The same cannot be said when purchasing all of your gifts from Wal-Mart or Target! So, my challenge for everyone is to consider your shopping list and see if you can add in just one gift from a company such as these.

Do you have your own direct sales company you're a consultant for? An etsy shop? Please feel free to leave your links in the comment and tell everyone a little bit about your company!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness

I'm sure everyone who has a Facebook has seen many of their friends posting daily what they are thankful for. I mentioned a few weeks back that I loved the feeling of thankfulness that everyone seems to be feeling this time of year, so you'd think I'd have been the first to jump on that bandwagon...but well, I just don't have the memory for that. I started the 30 day photo challenge earlier in the year and made it 5 days...maybe? So rather than try to keep up with that, I decided to share my thirty days of thanksgiving right here, all at once.

November 1: I am first and foremost, thankful for my God. Without him, I would have nothing to be thankful for. Anything good in my life is thanks to Him. It is nothing I have done, but everything He has done.
"I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving."- Psalm 69:30

November 2: I am beyond thankful for my husband and son. They are my everything. Without them, I don't know where I'd be and I am thankful every day that I was chosen to be Matt's wife and Shaun's mom.

November 3: I am thankful for my parents, for being wonderful and supportive in every way. They truly made me who I am and I thank them for that.

November 4: I am thankful for my sisters, Hope and Heather. Though we didn't always get along as kids, I never had to worry that they would not have my back if I needed it. And I have never laughed as hard as I do when we're together.

November 5: I am thankful for my brother, Jeff. Though I never met him, I am thankful because he taught me to be understanding and accepting to those who are different. This has made me a better mother to Shaun because of that.

November 6: I am thankful to one of my very best friends, Erica for getting me through the bad times and understanding what I was going through, without judgement. I am forever thankful and grateful to call you my best friend.

November 7: I am thankful for my other best friend, Brittany for always standing by me, even when she didn't necessarily agree with my choices. She has always been one of the few who I knew I could always count on.

November 8: I am thankful for my wonderful friend Tiffany, for breaking me out of my shell...or at least enough to sing at church every week. It is one of my absolute favorite memories and something I miss greatly. She also took me to church camp one year, and it forever changed my life. I owe her so much.

November 9: I am thankful to my fellow Autism mommy friends who I've been so blessed to meet. The circumstances of our friendships might not be ideal, but I am very thankful for the support and advice I've been given by all of you!!

November 10: On this 236th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps, I am thankful to the military and all of the wonderful opportunities it has given our family. While military life is not always great, I know we have a steady paycheck and a place to live. We've also been places I would never imagined (even just living here in California), that is only because of the Marine Corps.

November 11: I am thankful for the veterans. Particularly, of course, my husband. And also my Great Great Uncle Theodore, WWII Navy Veteran. He was my hero and I miss him daily with his wonderful war stories and the Navy vs Marine Corps battles he would have with Matt when we'd visit. He has been an inspiration to me, and I hope that he is looking down and is proud of the person I have become.

November 12: I am thankful for all of the amazing teachers and therapists that have helped Shaun to get to where he is today. I am constantly in awe of how far we have come since his original diagnosis and I owe so much of that to all of them.

November 13: I am thankful for Camp Illiana, my beloved Church Camp I always speak so highly of. This place has really helped to make me a better person (and a better Christian) and brought some wonderful friends in my life. It is a place that immediately felt like home and even now, years later, is still one of my favorite places on earth- a safe haven.

November 14: I am thankful for all the negatives in my life, they have made me stronger and brought me to where I am today.
"
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."- 2 Corinthians 12:9

November 15: And on that note, I am thankful for my previous relationship. It taught me what true love was NOT, and allowed me to recognize the real thing when I found it.

November 16: I am thankful that my mom always encouraged me to keep writing. Even when I could not think of one single thing, she'd encourage me to keep trying. Always.

November 17: I am thankful for couponing. That might sound silly compared to everything else on this list so far, and maybe it is, but it has certainly been helpful in keeping within a budget and helping my family to save money...which means less stress for this mommy! So once again, I say...I am thankful for couponing!!!

November 18: I am thankful to anyone who has ever helped us, in anyway!!

November 19: I am thankful for this blog and all of my readers. This blog served as a great distraction and outlet while going through my husband's yearlong deployment, and has been a great way for me to share my son's progress and raise awareness for Autism.

November 20: I am thankful for Facebook. Not because I'm addicted (though I am), but because being far away from all of my family and friends, it has been a great way to keep in touch with everyone and share photos of Shaun and our family.

November 21: I know I've said this already, but I'll say it once again...I'm soooo very thankful for my husband. With my anxieties, I'm sure I'm not the easiest person to live with, but he accepts me and loves me anyway, and pushes me to do things I never believed I could do before.

November 22: I am thankful for Thomas the Tank Engine for being a great learning toy for my little boy- helping to teach him his colors, numbers, reading and even improving his speech. I love that my baby has something that he loves so much.

November 23: I am thankful for 'conversations' with my son about Santa Claus. It might seem like nothing to ask a four year old what he wants from Santa and being told an appropriate response, but for Shaun, this is wonderful. This is the first year he's really seemed to get it (though he's loved Christmas and Santa for ages, he never really 'got' it) and I'm so excited. The same goes for watching him trick or treat, open birthday presents on his own, etc....

November 24: On a less serious note, I am thankful for the UPS and mailman...haha...they always bring me great goodies;)

November 25: I am thankful for our house. While I wish we could live closer to home, and hopefully we soon will, I do love the place where we are. Looking out at my wonderful ocean view every day is a great reminder of how truly lucky we are.

November 26: I am thankful for California weather...like I said, I wish we were closer to home, but well, I'm not ready for the snow just yet...or ever!!

November 27: I am thankful for my wonderful mother in law who on this day in 1983 brought my amazing husband into this world. I cannot thank her enough for that and I could not wish for a better mother in law (afterall, she take my side instead of my husband's...haha...what more could you want? ;))

November 28: I am thankful for the rest of my family, and my husband's family as well. I have been very blessed, beyond a doubt.

November 29: I am thankful for my new Thirty-One business, my sponsor and director. Already I am loving this amazing company and the support I've been given and I cannot wait to see where this road leads.

November 30: I am thankful for whatever our future holds, because I know wherever we end up, it will all be God's plan for us.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Scripture and a Snapshot: Jeremiah 29:11 (with song!)


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."- Jeremiah 29:11

Okay, okay, I know I've done this verse for Scripture and a Snapshot before. In fact it was the verse I used the first time I participated, but it is a favorite and one that deserves repeating. I also discovered a song this morning that I felt fit perfectly with this verse that I wanted to share with everyone.

I have stated many times on here and to those who know me personally that I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. God does not make mistakes and every trial and hardship we face is part of God's plan for us. We might not understand why these things are happening, or how this fits into His plan, but it does regardless. When you have a child diagnosed with Autism, I imagine it's natural for a parent to wonder if there was something you did or didn't do that could have prevented this from happening. It's human nature, and I've dealt with it myself. From my personal experience, I wondered about the vaccines. If we'd not had him vaccinated would he have been diagnosed? (We had a long debate before making that choice with our doctor, who ironically assured me that my child was too social to ever be Autistic...but that's a completely separate topic!) After some time I realized that there were signs there before the vaccines anyway, and I do not believe in my son's case that this was the trigger, but initially I did have these thoughts. After letting the diagnosis sink in, I also realized it didn't really matter at this point what the cause was, because all of this was truly God's plan for my life and for Shaun's life. He has so much to offer this world and has such a brilliant mind. God did not make a mistake in creating this amazing child. He is perfect, just the way he is- they way God intended him to be.



As I mentioned, I discovered a song this morning that reflected my own thoughts perfectly, 'Mama Don't Cry For Me':

Cause she’s always known that God don’t make mistakes
And with a little faith she knew she’d be okay
She looks in his eyes and her heart hears him say,
“Can’t you see? I was meant to be.”
Mama don’t cry for me.”

It is a beautiful song, and one that I am sure many Autism moms (or other special needs mothers) can relate to as well. It deserves to be heard and shared. You do have to download to listen, but it's a free download and so worth the time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Introducing My New Business Venture: Thirty-One Gifts ♥

As I'm sure all reading this know by now, I am a military wife and a mommy to a child with autism. With my husband's somewhat unpredictable schedule and my son's hectic, therapy filled schedule- working a normal job is impossible while still allowing me to be active in my son's
therapies. For some time I'd contemplated various direct sales/work at home opportunities, but nothing seemed to be a good fit. I'd sold Avon briefly before Shaun's diagnosis and well, it just didn't go well, leaving me a bit apprehensive of trying something else anyway. But still, I looked
into the possibilities- many had wonderful products, but too expensive! I knew I wouldn't be able to sell something if I wasn't willing to pay the high costs myself. Those that I felt were
better costs, were well beyond covered in my area. It seemed like I'd hit a dead end.

Then I started seeing Thirty-One on various blogs. Now, I'd heard of the company before, but thought it was strictly purses and while I do love purses, I was very much a Vera Bradley addict so I didn't give it much thought. But, everyone seemed to be raving about these bags and as I looked into them, I saw that it wasn't JUST purses, but home organization and so much more as well. I also discovered that it was a Christian based company and that the name actually came from Proverbs 31-the story of a virtuous woman. Already I was falling in love. So, I spoke with a wonderful consultant, Amy, about testing out one of these bags myself to do a review and
introduce all of you to this company as well. In the back of my head I started going over th
e idea of signing up as a consultant myself. As soon as I saw the products Amy sent me up close and personal, the decision was made! So I am very excited to announce that I am now and Independent Thirty-One consultant!!




Now for those who have not yet heard of Thirty-One, as I stated before- they sell purses, home organization, aprons and so much more- and most products can be personalized as well (which is great for someone like me who has a name you can't typically find on personalized items!). The products are practical and more importantly- affordable and quality products. One of my favorites so far is the Organizing Utility Tote that Amy had sent me! It's great as a diaper bag, a coupon binder carrier, a teacher...or just a busy mom who tends to have a full bag!!


The Large Utility Tote (pictured below- 'Out and About') is also a favorite- I've used it for grocery shopping, taking things to my son's classroom, etc. I LOVE it, and have already gotten a ton of compliments! This is going to be great for our holiday travels!!


So, that's my big news, please feel free to check out my online shop and join my Facebook group where I will share the amazing monthly specials Thirty-One has to offer, as well as any personal specials I may run in the future! (As per regulations, I am not able to post these deals publicly, but November's special is wonderful...who doesn't love something for $1??) I am so excited to see where this new business venture will take me and I thank anyone who helps to support me in advance!!