Sunday, November 27, 2022

Keeping the Faith or Finding the Faith Repeatedly?

Friday night comes around. For most, it is a celebration. The end of another work week. A chance to unwind. For me, it is just another night. Another day done. Only change for me would be that the next two days will not include schooling the kids or two nights of making lunch for my husband to take to work the next day. For the past several weekends, I keep forgetting that nothing is happening of notable exception. I let myself think of hopeful plans before reality kicks in. Then it hits me and I hate my mind for being ridiculous. 

Christmas is coming and instead of being thrilled, I've actually just wanted it to be over. I had thought the Grinch in me had dissipated. I was wrong. I'm starting to be glad we are planning to do it at home with just us. Less stress of how I'm going to get through it. 

So why? Why would I feel like this? Why am I going through these notions? Well, I'm finding it hard to keep the faith right now.

I wish I could say that I'm always "keeping the faith". That I always believe everything is going great. That I never worry. But that just isn't so. A friend asked me how I keep the faith. At the time I told him, that I remind myself that this isn't it for me. This life isn't all there is for me to look forward to. But as time went on from that conversation, I thought over it again and again. And again. 

The truth is, I don't "keep the faith". I continually have to renew it. I have to choose my faith over the doubts and fears that constantly plague my mind. It is never as smooth-sailing as some make it look. I've heard pastors say that as Christians, we are to shine a hopeful light at all times because we don't know who is watching and we want to remind them that hope is out there. And they would be right. In our hardest times, we are to exude the ever flowing knowledge that God is greater than our troubles. However, I'm human. And I'm honest. So I'll admit it. Life isn't roses just because I chose to follow Christ. Because I believed in Him. I have trials and troubles just like anyone else. But I keep reminding myself that He is in control. That my worries are just that. Pitiful worries. This life isn't the end all. After all, read Romans 5:3-4. This is progressive towards something much greater.

The snowball starts

Things happen though.

50 Stages of a Toddler Stomach Bug | Feeling sick quotes, Sick quotes ...Last month a chain reaction set off in me. It started just as my parents left and my husband came down with a dreaded virus. I was so thankful they didn't get sick! But I was also worried about my husband. One by one, the rest of us, save one, had symptoms of the illness. I was comforted by the fact that God allowed one of my kids to avoid getting sick while the youngest had a mild sore throat only. Through it all, I could see God's hand. That week, each day went by in a bit of a blur. I was so sick, I wanted to stay curled up in bed and cry. Sickness carries a secondary reaction in this broken body of mine. Every nerve and joint hurts when I get under the weather. But as I told my husband, Mom can't stay in bed. She has cooking. She has kids. Life goes on. I prayed daily. For healing. For strength. Just to do a little more. And before I knew it, Friday had arrived. My husband was finally better and able to get at least one shift in for the whole week. Talk about a tiny paycheck though! And I have a family of 6 to make sure is fed. But God got us through that trial too. Did I freak out? Better believe I did! How to Encourage a Friend Who's Struggling with Money Problems

Next week comes along. We are back to school. We are back on track. I carefully plotted out meals and we skimmed through with the basics. My husband started driving to a new site. It is an hour one way. So gas bill was a little higher. But it was all going to be okay. Right? His paycheck came through. Only a third of what we had planned on. Turned out the medical insurance double billed to get us for a backdated start on his benefits. I started seething. Who were they to pull this crap without notice?? But no. Back to believing that God's got this. I slipped up in my faith, but the truth is there. It's all going to be okay! 

Week three was now over. And guess what we find? Check 3 is also cut down to maybe a third of what he should have taken home. Again with the insurance. So I sit here thinking, why bother caring anymore? This is life and it will be whatever it will be. We just have to keep skating through one task after another. Feeling Empty Quotes & Sayings | Feeling Empty Picture Quotes

Life keeps on going

I wish I could say that I took this like a rolling punch. But it was more like a doubled over one. I wish I could say I had no frustration ripping through me. But I did. I'm a planner. I have Christmas to prepare for. I had projects I wanted to work on and places to check out. We moved to this new town and I want to know more about it! I'm a problem solver. But I feel as though there are too many problems weighing me down lately. At the end of the day. I sit back and say, Nothing more I can do. Just gotta make the best no matter what happens. 

But that doesn't keep my anger down completely. That doesn't give me 100% unfailing confidence that everything will continue without a hitch. That we will prevail. 

Instead it has me doing some serious searching. Questioning what is wrong with me. There has to be something wrong with me. I'm the only one having a problem right now. Kids have their moments. After being shut up at home with just each other and me, they get tired of the Monday - Friday grind too. Thankfully, they cheer up during the weekend. Saturday means there is a chance we will go to the library or grocery store. Sunday means church. And that all adds up to an escape. Not so much for me. I seem to want more out of the weekend. One past weekend didn't have either of those happening. And that dark cloud rolled over me that I just couldn't seem to shake. I didn't even want to try. I just kinda shut down. Answering questions directed at me and otherwise silently went through the daily tasks lined up. I came to a realization. I have an adventurous spirit. I like exploring. Seeing new places. Heck, I even have moments where I think I might enjoy meeting new people and making friends. Not so often these days, but occasionally. Turns out, that is what is wrong with me! I'm physically broken, but my mind hasn't slowed down to join it. And even when I'm physically active, I'm married to a guy that is a home body. He is so tired of driving all week, that even if we have money and/or time he doesn't want to leave home. And even if I'm dying to go out, I can't bring myself to ask that of him. Besides, 3/4 of my kids don't like being away from home for long. My boys would rather sit in the game room, playing or watching their dad play. The youngest gets tired of walking and starts whining about going home, which frustrates me to the point of being done with whatever I'm attempting to enjoy. 

I had hoped that our Thanksgiving Day weekend trip to my in-laws would be a shining reprieve. But the night before our trip, my husband and daughters started showing symptoms of sickness. It blew up suddenly. We got up before the sun the next morning and almost didn't make the trip at all. Let's just say our trip wasn't as glowing as we had hoped. Not quite nightmare stage, but got pretty close. My husband had an asthma attack that scared me. I'd never seen that happen before. He is always so careful with his asthma. And we all came down with symptoms that required around the clock medications.

A choice has to be made

I really don't know how I'm supposed to rectify this character trait in me. But I know it brings me to a choice. The same choice has to be made, over and over again. I can choose to stay in the dark cloud or I can choose to find joy. I can find my faith again. Tell myself that everything is going to get better. That everything is alright. Sometimes it starts as one choice, but later I turn the other way. Sometimes it requires me to accept what I can't change quietly. Sometimes I have to stop myself from getting my hopes up again or having higher expectations on anyone or anything else in my life. Only one has never disappointed me - God. So yes, I have to keep the faith. More accurately, I have to keep renewing it. It doesn't come naturally to all of us. It is an effort that has to be taken. With or without a prior struggle. I remind myself that though I "will have troubles in this world", that I must "be of good cheer" for He has "overcome the world". 1 John 16:33

Friday, November 18, 2022

Turning Screen Time Into Learning Fun Time with Pixicade Pets!

I have showed you the magical app kit known as Pixicade in a previous review. You can often find them at the front of Walmart stores or even online at Amazon. But they didn't stop there. They took game-making to a whole new level with Pixicade Pets! Now, your child can create pets in their own little universe. I'm going to show you how. 

*Disclaimer: I was sent 2 kits in exchange for hosting a party and then sharing my honest review afterwards. I was not otherwise paid or endorsed. All opinions are mine or my party goers only.*

As a Mom, I hate screen time that has no purpose. My only guilty allowances in this has been a single app game, watching movies or playing on the Xbox. And those are strictly monitored, timed and screened by us parents. Pixicade is a whole different ballgame! I don't have to worry about what they are seeing. What they might be accessing. Or even who they are playing with. Call me overprotective, but I know what is out there plaguing the internet world. And I want safe options for my kids to enjoy. Pixicade was an introduction to my children in the world of video game creation. They were able to make their own games. Their friends can play and they can learn from it. 

Fast forward, and now they can make a whole universe while having their very own created virtual pets. My kids know that pets in real life isn't happening until they move out! But virtual pets are absolutely allowed. Even better is that it has been STEAM certified! It can be a fun, but educational game that spans a variety of ages.

How do you start in the fun?

You need to get a kit. Like I said, Walmart or Amazon has them. While you can load the free app, it won't save your progress without the loading of your personal code which comes in the kit. Once you get your kit, you will need to install the app on your device. It was quick and easy to load on both my phone and on the tablet. 

Creating an account comes next. Using your kids' info creates a safety net, with their settings for age restrictions built in. Hopefully the video I have uploaded walks you through, but if you have questions, let me know!

Things we enjoyed about this included....

You choose one personality as your main one, however, the game picks a second personality trait for you. We laughed at some of the choices. My character was a smarty pants by my choosing, but the game added sporty (so not like me!). My youngest chose playful and the game added clumsy (which would be more like her sisters character). Her sister chose adventurous and the game threw in chill, which my daughter commented was the complete opposite! It certainly makes for interesting pets. 

Pets react to things done with and to them in the game. You are encouraged to play with your pet to boost their happiness level. But be careful! If you make them jump up and they fall onto their heads, they will cry. But if you play with them in good ways, they are happy. You know this by the emoji faces that pop up. This will raise or lower their happiness level accordingly. 

Coins are available through random tapping around the worlds and in games. This is great because my kids loved adding things to their pets wardrobe, house and outside decor. But when you have 3 kids playing, coins can get depleted pretty quick. 

Things we had trouble with were....

Feeding our pets was the hardest. What we noticed was that the first feeding was quick. But if we had to feed them more or wanted to feed the other pets, we had issues getting the food to pop up to them. Now, this could be the game or maybe it's my outdated tablet.  

Another issue I had was the permission function. If the kids come to a certain function, they need parents permission granted. You enter the adults email address. I got an email that wanted to verify my age. There were two options in this. Charge my credit card .50 (which will eventually be returned to me) or enter my information. Normally, I'd say no way. I don't have a credit card. And I don't like sharing personal information online. However, since I'm reviewing the functions of the game, I went with personal information. What I found was that I don't exist. The information I entered (which only I should know best, right?) kept telling me I couldn't be verified as an adult. On a whim, I started using outdated information. Bingo! Turns out, they think I still have my previous last name. Something that changed over 5 years ago! So the company that does the verifying is incredibly out of date. That or I'm better at off-grid living than I thought... 

However, fear not. If you ever get stuck in the game, they are incredibly open to getting you the support you need. After all, it was created by a husband and wife team. He programs and she is an art teacher! 

It has been a lot of fun. We showed it off to our friends and the kids love being able to play. With Christmas coming on fast, it makes a great gift option too! 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Creative Meals With Heinz 57 Sauces!

I love cooking. The easier the meal, the better. Especially since I started having so much pain. But I don't want to sacrifice healthy or tasty for ease. I've discovered that sauces can go a long way in keeping the balance for all 3 of these needs! 

*Disclaimer: I was sent a party pack in exchange for hosting a dinner party as well as sharing my reviews. All opinions are mine or my guests alone. I was not otherwise endorsed.*

I'm not as knowledgeable in Heinz 57 sauces. Once upon a shopping trip, I only knew of its original sauce. They have certainly branched out since then! I was sent several sauces. And even some other party materials. I'll show you my unboxing below. Then we can talk about the cooking and tasting!

Okay, this is why I don't make videos often. I feel so awkward in them. But at least you get to see what I was sent to work with as I prepared for the feasting. 

Sauce choices include...

We found the sauces at our local Walmart. These are sauces I don't think I would have tried unless I was doing the party. Not that I wouldn't think them good. Just that they are a shot in the dark with my picky eaters.  There are 5 flavors to choose from, 3 are crunchy and 2 are infused with honey.

We decided to make the Crunch Chili Pasta recipe that had been sent in the pack. However, in my normal cooking habits, I modified the recipe a bit.

I decided to use ramen noodle instead of spaghetti and pair it with egg rolls as the side dish. It was a super simple meal to put together using the Chili Pepper Crunch sauce. I also added small pieces of pork loin into it. 

Next up was trying the Roasted Garlic crunch sauce. Heavy on the garlic, not so much on anything else. This was the one that was least liked. I could see it working better if it was used with another sauce of some sort, maybe. Not so much alone.

The final sauce in the crunch variety is the Mandarin Orange Miso. I saved the best for last! This one was the winner of the taste test. Even a couple of the kids preferred this one most. Perfect blend of the orange with seasoning. Slow cooked some pork with this one too. (We only ever seem to have pork now.) Served with fried rice and sides.

What about the honey?

Now we move on to talking about the final two sauces. Both of these are infused with honey to give them a sweet tone. As soon as I looked up the one with truffle in the title (Infused Honey with Black Truffle), I knew that one wasn't happening for our family. My husband said if it comes from the mushroom family, it doesn't serve our family. So I gave that one away to guests. The Infused Honey with Chili is the other one, however. I cooked this one slow with pork and served over rice. Taste-test for this one showed that it was more favorable among the adults than the kids. My sons reaction was that it was "too sweet". His loss! This was one of my favorites. 

Pricing and Location! 

Two important factors for my family when buying groceries are how much it cost and where to find them. We found these in the sauce aisle of our local Walmart. A quick search should even tell you what aisle they would be in your local store IF they are carried. As for pricing, each bottle is $6.78. Which makes one full meal as you have seen from the dishes I created and served. 

Over all, I'd say they each have merit. Best 2 were the Honey Infused Chili and the Mandarin Orange Miso Crunch. I would gladly make those again and be looking for new recipes that included them.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Game On! With OP Games!

My family has quite the collection of board games. We try to play together as often as we can. We were sent two more to add to our collection! Both were sent to us by OP Games. Don't recognize the name? Have you heard of a game with 'opoly' at the end? Then you know the company who sent these to us! 

*Disclaimer: I was sent these products in exchange for hosting a party as well as sharing reviews afterwards. I was not otherwise paid or endorsed. All opinions are mine and my guests only.*

Through Tryazon, I was sent 2 board games. Telestrations and Blank Slate. We have played a version of Telestrations before. But this was a different version. Here is where we have fun and get to know the games. 


Telestrations was hilarious. It really does include everyone no matter their level on drawing skill. As a matter of fact, we didn't bother keeping score. We just enjoyed seeing where the original word led us each round. The original word is written in the secret word space. You pass the book to the next person. They read the word, draw it, and then when time is up we pass again. Next person guesses and passes. And the rounds continue until we are on the final guess on the last page. Everyone gets their original book back and the big reveal is likely to have some hard laughter belted out around the table.

Where can you find this and other variations? Walmart has several kinds. As does Amazon. And then if you shop at Target, there are some there too. I was surprised, but Barnes & Noble also sells this one.

Blank Slate

Now we move on to the second game we tried out. Blank Slate! We didn't have enough time to play this one, so I decided to pass it on as a door prize. However, I do have this video to explain how to play the game.

Where can you find this one? 

Walmart has it. So does Amazon. And so does Target

We love having games like this. It brings us together in a fun way. And with the weather getting colder, it will be great to pass the time indoors together surrounding a board game! 

What do you think? Does your family still take time to play together? Let me know in the comments below!