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Looking Back

The Sound of Freedom

American Pride mini roses from the FTD USO Collection

I was contacted by FTD to see if I would like to receive one of their special USO collection items to say thank you for our service. There was no obligation to write a review or blog post. I picked this beautiful living American Pride Mini Rose bush. I’m a big fan of living plants and Munchkin loves mini roses, so this was perfect for the two of us to enjoy. The patriotic hat planter with American flag adds a little something special to the plant. It makes both Munchkin and I smile whenever we look at it.

Raising of Flag

Independence Day: The Beginning

Picnics. Parties. Family. Friends. Fireworks. Freedom.

Independence Day is a day for celebrating our country’s independence. It’s about freedom from oppression. Our nation was build on the concept of freedom for all. Each document was carefully crafted as the Founding Fathers wanted to protect the freedom foundation that was being built. They understood the importance of balancing power and freedom. Freedom didn’t happen over night, and it certainly wasn’t easy taking the country from concept to reality. There were epic fails along the way, but there was an ideal to try to obtain.

When our fledgling nation decided it was time to be free, they knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Lives would be lost in the name of establishing a new nation. Yet, Independence Day was a time of celebration even though they knew there would be a long, hard road ahead of them.

Little Munchkin hugging our neighbor's flag.

Sounds of Freedom

Cheering. Laughing. Smiling. Hugging. Crying.

While I’ve known about the meaning behind our Independence Day celebration from a very young age, I didn’t truly understand it until D became a Marine. It was then that I really started to understand the sacrifice that went with freedom. My understanding deepened even more when Munchkin entered the world. I now had the perspective of not only a military spouse but also the perspective of a parent.

Sacrifice. Reward. Freedom. Security.

A constant battle to achieve the right balance took place within our own little family, but when looked at on the larger scale of the nation, it is almost overwhelming to try to achieve that perfect balance to maintain personal freedoms while providing protection from those who wish to strip those freedoms from us. Freedom – an ideal – could it really be achieved and maintained?

The roar of military jets overhead were a constant reminder that freedom is never free. Listening to the heartbreak of a wife, husband, mother, father, child… who find out that a loved one would not be coming home. The sadness that accompanies separations and the joy brought by reunion are only parts of the military life.

911… Lives changed forever. Prayers. Lockdown. Anger. Joy. Sadness. Fear. Friendship.

Our nation, if only for a short while, came together. Talk of unity abounded. Tiny glimpses of that one nation under God were seen. Flags waved. Voices of support were heard.

Fireworks and Bombs. Both explosive. Very different yet both are part of the freedom equation. One symbolizes celebration while the other symbolizes the necessary fight to become a free nation. Freedom without sacrifice is not possible.

As I think back on how our nation began, on our journey as a military family, I know that the price of freedom can be great for everyone involved. The cost will be different for the various individuals involved, but there will be a price for everyone. We all need to think about the sacrifices made, the sacrifices that continue to be made before we readily give up the freedoms we have already been afforded.

Fireworks. Flags. Freedom.

On Independence Day, as music and laughter fill the air, flags wave freely, and fireworks fill the night sky, we need to remember that freedom is never free. The sound of freedom is amazing. The loss of freedom is deafening.


FTD USO Collection

The FTD USO Collection features a variety of patriotic selections including floral arrangements, the mini rose bush, cookies, and chocolate covered strawberries. FTD is donating 5% of every purchase from this collection to the USO until December 31, 2016. The best part is that they’ll be donating a minimum of $10,000 from this and other USO promotions to the USO.

About the USO

“For nearly 75 years, the USO has been the nation’s leading organization to serve the men and women in the U.S. military, and their families, throughout their time in uniform. The USO is not part of the federal government. A congressionally chartered, private organization, the USO relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to support its activities, and is powered by a family of volunteers to accomplish our mission of connection.”

We’ve always been impressed by the work of the USO. They offer entertainment for the troops and their families. In fact, they recently had Sesame Street Live here for the kids. They provide support for military families throughout their military careers as well as during the transition. They provide support for wounded warriors and their families. That’s just a tip of the iceburg, but you can learn more about the USO programs here.


Wordless Wednesday: Chickens at 2 Months

Our chickens are certainly growing.

The chicken gang always greets us at the door to the run.

Wetting down the run means these chickens are going to search for food.

The chickens were hoping for some mealworms.

The coloring on these guys is beautiful.

The coloring on these two is beautiful.

2 of our black chickens now have some red on them.

Big Bear: Hiking Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail

Taking in the beauty of the water

The summer temps were on the rise while Grandma and Grandpa were visiting, so we decided to escape from the heat by heading up to Big Bear. The idea of cooler temps, water, and towering green trees was just too much to resist.

Having a picnic amongst the pines was relaxing

I packed us a picnic lunch as I knew that we’d want something to eat before we headed out on our hike. We weren’t sure exactly where we were going to go hiking, so we stopped by the visitor’s center to get some recommendations. It’s a good thing that we did as some of the roads were still closed for the winter.

Munchkin at the trail head getting ready to head out

When we told the park ranger that we were looking for a relaxing hike, he recommended heading over to the Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail. It was a shorter hike through the forest that didn’t involve a lot of elevation changes or crazy terrain.

Daddy and daughter hiking the Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail

As is normal, D and Munchkin took the lead. Their long legs tend to give them a bit of an advantage. I’m normally following behind them taking pictures. I couldn’t believe that I forgot my camera, so I just snapped a few pictures with my phone while we were hiking.

The Champion Lodgepole Pine was absolutely huge

Munchkin decided that she really likes being in the forest among the trees as it’s so peaceful. It was a relaxing hike through the forest, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at our original destination. We were all quite impressed with the size of the Champion Lodgepole. The picture certainly does not do it justice.

Munchkin acting like she's holding up the boulder

Of course, we had to make a few stops along the way as it’s hard to resist a large boulder cave.

Everyone squeeze together for a group picture

We also had to try to all squeeze together to get a group shot during the hike.

Beautiful wildlife refuge

After we visited the Champion Lodgepole, we took one of the side trails to see the wildlife reserve. We saw lots of ducks and birds along the way and in the water.

We enjoyed seeing the wildlife at the lake

We were able to walk around the lake. We saw an old log cabin and other homesteading type buildings. It’s always interesting how the fireplace stands long after the building has crumbled away. We would have loved to learn more about the buildings, but there weren’t any signs. We continued on our way around the lake and made our way back to our original trail.

Beautiful location for a picnic and a hike

We definitely want to come back up here to explore more of the trails. It’s such a beautiful location. Our exploration wasn’t over as D decided to take the scenic route back out. It confirmed the fact that I really need new shocks on my truck. lol! The views were stunning, so it was definitely worth the bumpy drive.

Painting Pottery with Grandma

Munchkin painting pottery with Grandma

We had so much fun spending time with Grandma and Grandpa last week. We’re so thankful that we had the time together. We kept things pretty low key without a crazy schedule.

Grandpa taking pictures of us painting pottery

One day, we headed over to the local pottery place to paint some pottery. Grandpa was our cheering section as we took our time painting our pieces. He took some pictures as well as shared our adventure with Munchkin’s cousin. We wish they could have been there as well, but it wasn’t possible this time. Last time they were out we had planned on coming here, but bad weather kept us from taking part in the activity.

Munchkin painting her pottery bird

Munchkin picked out a pottery bird to paint. Originally, she was going to go with something practical, but then she thought it would be fun to paint the bird. She was very meticulous as she painted. Stroke by stroke, she added more depth and detail to her bird. She was definitely the most detail oriented of the three of us.

Munchkin and Grandma painting their pottery

Grandma painted a set of 4 car coasters. Layer after layer she built up the color to create vibrant coasters. Me? Well, I decided to paint a deep dish pie plate. As soon as the owners saw what I decided to paint, they commented that someone was going to be making some pie. It became on common comment as people saw what I painted. Needless to say, I did end up making a strawberry pie once I got the piece back. lol!

Finishing up painting pottery

Grandpa was very patient with our crew as we took our time with our pottery pieces. I tend to jump right into painting while Munchkin planned everything out ahead of time before she even touched a brush to the pottery piece. Grandma was somewhere in between the two of us. Of course, we had some entertaining music to listen to the entire time we painted which made the entire thing even more fun for us. There was singing, laughing, talking, and painting. It was definitely a good day.

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to provide feedback.

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and a Satisfied Soul by Sarah Mae

Are you a Martha personality or a Mary personality? I tend lean more towards a Martha personality. I like to get things done, and I have to remember to take time for the important things in life. I have to slow down and treasure the moments before they pass me by. I need to work diligently at filtering what I say and being careful that I don’t come across too strong in conversations. I do believe that we all have a little bit of Mary and Martha in us and sometimes it depends on the situation which personality type is more dominant.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Lately, I’ve been so busy with getting things done outside that things inside of the house have gotten set aside other than the basics – food, general cleaning, laundry…. I needed something to help me get back into the routine of getting things done around the house as things had, once again, gotten cluttered. I have also allowed some other daily habits to slide as I try to get up early to beat the heat.

In Having a Martha Home the Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and Satisfied Soul, Sarah Mae gives readers simple tasks to complete in the home as well as tasks to complete in their spiritual life. The Mary Challenges focus on connecting with the Lord and starting the day off on the right foot. It’s meant to provide inspiration and encouragement. The Martha Challenges are small, manageable cleaning and organizing tasks that can be done each day.

This book recommends that you start with a clean house. It’s not a deep-cleaning, get your house in order book. Oops! Guess I need to get things in order first before I can use the book as recommended. The book does start with a prep day to get your house in order. Of course, I needed more than just a day to get things back in order. I had let quite a few things slide as I was spending a good portion of the day outside working trying to get things done before the heat of summer hit. I could have waited to get the challenge started, but I chose to just dive right in anyway.

Each day starts with a quote or verse and then a little encouraging write-up based upon Sarah’s experiences. I love that she shares the good and the bad. There is no judgement in failing at tasks. As someone who is a perfectionist but not a neat freak, this is something that I appreciate. (Yes, as crazy as it may sound, the two can go hand-in-hand.)

Once you’re done with the daily reading, you come up to the Mary Challenge which gives a scripture passage to read and then several reflection questions. This is a journal type set-up where you can write down your answers directly in the book, if desired. Now you have your Martha Challenge. Some challenges are recommended for daily tasks while others are just that day. She gives recommendations for getting your kids involved.

I admit that I found it odd that she recommended starting the day by cleaning the kitchen. I don’t know about you, but I want to start the day off with a clean kitchen which means ending the day by cleaning up the kitchen. I’m up early to feed the animals, put together hubby’s lunch, and make him breakfast which means I don’t want to have to clean up the kitchen before I’m able to get to work.

The book itself is set up where you are implementing the cleaning ideas (Martha Challenges) Monday through Friday. Saturday can be a day for projects or catch up. Sunday is a day of rest. The system is quite flexible even though it’s designed around a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a living room, kitchen, and dining room.

I really like that she decided to take her original 31 day to clean challenge and turn it into more than just a cleaning challenge. Using Mary and Martha as the role models for the two types of challenges is a smart and interesting approach to the idea.

The book is well written. It’s not meant to be a real in-depth spiritual study or deep housing cleaning project. It’s a great way to get into the habit of meeting with the Lord daily as well as completing certain cleaning tasks daily. It’s flexible and encouraging.