Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Eric Trap

I know I do a lot of book reviews on this blog, but I get free books to do so. I love books and I love free, so it is a great situation for me. :-)

Since I am fairly new the world of KidMin, I am constantly looking for resources to explore to help me be more effective in my new career direction. So when I read on Kenny Conley's blog, that I could receive an advanced copy of this book to review on my blog I was all for it. :-)

The Eric Trap is a collaborative effort by Jim Wideman, Kenny Conley and Sam Luce. I do not know any of these gentlemen personally, but as I entered into the world of KidMin their names kept popping up so they must know what they are doing.

If you read nothing else on this blog read this: THE ERIC TRAP IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS ON KIDMIN THAT I HAVE READ. Seriously, I think anyone who is remotely involved in Children's Ministry should read this book (or even if you have walked by the children's wing in a church.) :-)

The Eric Trap follows the a week in life of Eric Newman, a gifted children's pastor, who is struggling in his ministry. After each Eric narrative, there is then a chapter written by a different author addressing the areas where Eric struggled: Delegation, Leadership Under Authority, Activate Parental Leadership, Measuring Success, and Order Your Priorities. As I read this book, I felt myself identifying with Eric in so many ways...I think the title could have almost been THE AMY TRAP. :-) I also appreciated how the authors had systematic questions at the end of each section to help the reader evaluate where they are an how to improve in the areas. While I did not complete these exercises on my first read, I have every intention of returning to those sections and perhaps even working through some of them with the members of my team.

I cannot say enough about this book. Be sure to get your copy at the Orange Conference later this month or on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 9, 2012

FIVE DAYS!!! (and a few other things...)

All right people, you only have FIVE days until the best day of the year!! Of course I am talking about MY BIRTHDAY!! No worries, you still have plenty of time to shop for a gift. Seriously, I am turning 42 on Wednesday and this birthday is bothering more than any others. Weird, right! I think it might be because my dad had his first heart attack at 42 and since I have some of his DNA I guess that weighs on me a little...especially since I don't always have the healthiest of habits. Regardless, I am excited about having another year on the planet and, of course, getting cake and ice cream. :-)

Besides my birthday, here are a few other happenings in the life Amy 4.0:

*Since I mentioned my not so healthy habits, I thought I'd share a victory. I decided to give up candy for lent. This was huge for me because I am a candy addict. I was really proud of myself that I was able to accomplish this (with a couple of minor slip-ups) with God's help. I have never given anything up for lent so it was good for me to experience that.

*Anna is still not a fan of costumed characters as you can see from the picture at the Bunny Dome in downtown South Bend. Anna couldn't stop talking about seeing the Easter Bunny and we waited in line to see him. However, once we got inside the dome, she wanted nothing to do with the Easter Bunny. We didn't want a repeat of Christmas with Santa (you can see the photo here) so we didn't force her to sit on the Bunny's Lap. :-) Not sure how she is going to respond to Disney Characters.

*Speaking of Disney, I think we have a tentative date for another trip. Well, looking at Mark's schedule, I think a trip will probably happen in February right after Anna turns 4. We always said we would go again when Anna was 4, just didn't realize that it would be immediately after her birthday. :-)

*We headed to Chicago for a couple of days during Mark's Spring Break because Papa and Mimi flew into Midway airport to visit for the week. We visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier and just walked around the city and saw some of the sights. I think Anna liked riding the CTA bus more than anything. I was really glad that I was able to take a couple of days off that week since it was right before Easter and Easter is like the Super Bowl for churches. :-)

*On Monday, I got the whole day to myself. We had the day off from work since the weekend was so busy with church activities. Anna wanted to go to preschool and Mark had to go to work so that left me all by myself. I think the last time I had a whole day to myself was before I met Mark in 2005. I enjoyed the day by going to see The Hunger Games and taking a nap. Mark will usually go to see any movie I want for my birthday, but he straight up said that he wouldn't see that one. That is OK, there is new Zac Efron movie coming out, so maybe he will go with me to that one. :-)

Enjoy the weekend and don't forget to shop for my birthday gift! :-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Stand By Me: Book Review

I read Stand By Me by Neta Jackson as part of the blogger program where you are provided with free books in exchange for an honest review.

And since I am being honest, I was not a great fan of this book. It is the story of people who are involved in the SouledOut Community Church and particularly focused on two characters and seasoned member of the church, Avis, and an idealistic college student, Kat, and their interactions. One of the reasons I wasn't a fan of the book was that neither character was all that likeable or well developed (as a side the end of the book I did discover that Avis was a character in some of the other books by this author so her character may have been developed in those.) There were also topics that were touched upon in the book, but not developed: racism, church crisis, homelessness, HIV, domestic abuse, family dynamics, calling in life, educational crisis, being new to faith, etc. Now I realize that no author could develop all of these topics in a book, but none were really developed. Overall, it was a below average book and I am not sure I would have finished it if I had not agreed to review it.

As a side note, this book was an example of what I find often in Christian entertainment. In many cases, it is just OK. Now I recognize that many publishers and producers do not have the big budgets that some of the big name movie studios, music producers or book publishers have, but does that mean that quality has to be sacrificed. Just because it is Christian doesn't mean it has to be crap. my soapbox. Happy Reading Everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness

How is it already March 16? Time sure flies. Sorry I haven't been posting much lately (or at all.) I have a few blog posts brewing in my head of a more serious nature that will come out at some point. In the meantime, here are few of the random things floating around in the world of Amy 4.0:

*I LOVE watching March Madness and filling out a bracket. The odd thing is that I don't really pay attention much to college basketball until the tournament starts. I think it has to do with my OCD brain liking to fill in the bracket. :-) I am hoping that a Big 10 team wins it all...especially if it is my Boilermakers (which I can write because at the moment they are ahead at the half of their first game.) Boiler UP!!

*What is up with this weather? 80 degrees in March...I LOVE spring, but not sure I am ready for it to feel like July just yet.

*I REALLY want to go to Disney World! I think I go to the Disney Parks Website at least 3 or 4 times a week looking for deals and packages. Right now, it is just wishful thinking...but my birthday is in a month so if anyone wants to surprise me with a trip I would be happy to receive it. :-)

*Speaking of Birthdays, I am turning 42 in April. Not sure why, but I am dreading 42 more than other birthdays.

*Anna has NO interest in potty training. I hope that she isn't still in Pull-Ups when she goes to college. :-)

*I am getting excited for Easter at Living Stones Church. We are using some Science experiments and demonstrations to tell the Easter Story in Kids Kanyon. As long as I don't blow up the church, it will be great. :-) We are also starting a series called "The Walking Dead" for the adults. I got a call today about being a zombie in a video we are using for that series. I am strangely excited to be a zombie....if we film early in the morning I probably won't even have to do much acting. :-)

Guess that it is it for now! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Anna!!

Here is my sweet birthday girl sporting her princess garb and royal chalice (aka Dora Cup.)

Three years ago today at 1:18 AM, my sweet baby girl was born weighing a whopping 10 lbs. It is hard to believe that she has grown so quickly. She is a such a joy and pleasure and makes us laugh all the time. This is a photo of her right before we took her home from the hospital.

Here are some fun facts about Anna:

*She loves to music and is constantly singing songs...both real songs and made up songs.
*Her favorite word is "silly".
*She loves our cat, but the feeling is not mutual. Because of this, Anna does all sorts of things to try to get the attention of our cat...running, jumping, dancing, grabbing her tail, etc.
* She LOVES accessories, especially shoes!
*It is very seldom that you will find her at home without a princess dress, tutu or some sort of jewelry on. However, she always takes them off when we leave the house. Maybe she is trying to be an incognito princess.
*Her favorite person in the world is Daddy. Isn't this an adorable picture?

I also found a something on Pinterest (the internet version of crack) :-) that had an idea to ask your child the same few questions on each birthday starting at age 3 and publish it in a scrapbook. I loved this idea and thought I would share Anna's answers (and then I have them documented in cyberspace so when I get around to making the scrapbook I am not trying find some random piece of paper.) :-) I am not sure how accurate her answers are considering when I asked her if she wanted the Giants or the Patriots to win the Super Bowl and her response was PINK, but here we go:

1. What is your favorite color? Pink
2. What is your favorite toy? Princess Dress
3. What is your favorite fruit? Banana
4. What is your favorite tv show? Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Chicken Nuggets
6. What is your favorite outfit? Princess Clothes and Shoes
7. What is your favorite snack? Fruit Snacks
8. What is your favorite animal? Zebra
9. What is your favorite song? Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
10. What is your favorite book? Pinkalicious
11. Who is your best friend? School friends and Church Friends (guess she likes everyone) :-)
12. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play on the slide
13. What is your favorite drink? Apple Juice
14. What is your favorite holiday? I don't want a holiday (great less money spent on gifts) :-)
15. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Oatmeal
16. What do you want to be when you grow up? Dora the Explorer

Happy Birthday Anna! I LOVE YOU!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Heart of Ice

Here is another book review from my friends at booksneeze. I love that I get free books in exchange for an honest review.

The most recent book I read was "Heart of Ice" by Lis Wiehl. I was excited to read this book because it was a work of fiction in the crime/mystery genre which I enjoy. I was a little apprehensive because this book was published by a Christian publisher and you don't typically see this genre in the Christian book world. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It kept my attention and was suspenseful and exciting the way a good crime novel should be, but was not so graphic that it made it difficult to read. It was somewhat predictable in parts and there were extraneous story lines that didn't seem to be relevant to the story. However, I know there is sequel so the author may have been setting up story lines for the the next book

This book revolves around 3 friends who are called the "Triple Threat Club" because of their work in the crime industry: a TV crime reporter, a prosecuting attorney, and a FBI agent. I do not want to give too many details of the story so that I do not spoil it for other readers. However, I would say that I would recommend this book for someone who is looking for a good book to read on a cold afternoon in front of the fire.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Life Well Lived

About a month ago, my grandma passed away at the age of 93. At her funeral there was an open mike time where people were allowed to get up and share anything they would like about my grandma. At her funeral, I was INCREDIBLY sick with a sinus and ear infection. I did not get up at that time and make any comments because they would have been peppered with constant coughing, nose blowing and probably would not have made much sense since my ear was completely plugged and I could not hear very well at the time. :-)

Anyway, here are some things that I might have shared had I not been so sick at the funeral.

My grandma was SMALL in stature (in fact a rite of passage as a grandchild was growing taller than Grandma.) However, her height was the only thing about her that was small. She left a BIG legacy in so many areas.

As a 4th grade teacher, she had a BIG presence in the classroom. I saw this first hand as a kid who went to the same school where she taught (along with my mom....I didn't dare misbehave because I knew one of them would find out immediately. I am not sure who I was more afraid of disappointing...MOM or GRANDMA.) :-) Through the wonders of Facebook, I saw numerous people post about how she was one of their favorite teachers. Pretty amazing legacy to leave!!

She left a BIG legacy with her family. She and my Grandpa raised 8 children and after all their children were gone they decided to foster another child who is now just as big a part of our family as anyone else. I am not sure I would have the heart or the energy to do that after raising 8 children. I have one child and while I am not rushing her to grow up I am not sure I would have the energy to take in another child once Anna is out of my house. She was always concerned about the safety of her family...just ask anyone who spent the night at her house. I guarantee they could tell you the best way to escape her house in the event of a fire. :-) As the only grandchildren who lived close by growing up, my sister and I have many memories of fun times with Grandma whether it be road trips, overnight visits at the house or going to movies.

She left a BIG legacy when it comes to food (of course this is a topic that is near to my heart.) :-) She was an amazing cook and I have great memories or blueberry pies, apple squares and bacon and eggs fresh from the chicken house. A few years ago, I asked her to write down a few of her recipes for me. She went several steps beyond and made tons of recipe cards with all of her recipes plus numerous others. Those recipes are one of my most treasured possessions and I hope to put them into a book form of some sort this year.

Finally, she left a BIG legacy in the area of faith. She loved and served Jesus faithfully for many, many years and wanted the same for her family and friends. She was truly an example of a life well lived for God. I know that when she met Jesus he said, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I feel like my life will have been well lived if I can leave half the legacy that my grandma left.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Years Resolutions!!

Happy Chinese New Year Everyone! It is the Year of the Dragon! I am sure that you are impressed with my knowledge of Chinese culture considering I have absolutely no Chinese in my genetic lineage (although Anna did look Asian as a maybe there is something somewhere.) :-) However, I am not that well versed in Chinese culture (other than the fact that I think their food is delicious), but I have mad skills when it comes to googling something. :-)

Anyway, you may be wondering where I am going with all this Chinese New Year stuff. I have found that it is helpful to me if I publish my New Year's Resolutions/Goals on my blog as a way holding myself accountable to the throughout the year. However, we are already 23 days into 2012 and most people have already given up on their resolutions and I haven't even started or articulated mine. There are plenty of good reasons for this including being sick with a sinus and ear infection since January 2.... on top of the fact that we had house guests and a funeral in the midst of this 3 week illness. If I had tried to blog about my goals during that time, the goals would have been something like:
  • "Make sure to have tissues, Advil, Mucinex and cough drops on your person at all times"
  • "Take a nap"
  • "Invest in Kleenex corporation"
So, I decided to hold off on the blog until I felt a little better. While I am still nowhere near 100%, I finally feel like I am beginning to recover from this crazy bug and can begin to formulate and work toward my goals in this area so I am declaring them my CHINESE NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS for 2012: The Year of the Dragon:

  1. Exercise at least 3 times per week-This will probably be a goal for me every year for the rest of my life. I was doing well with this in 2011 until the holidays hit and then I got sick. Definitely need to get back into the habit.
  2. Develop a will-With the hundreds of millions of dollars that I have, I really should allocate where it should go. Seriously, we don't have much and have the proper beneficiaries listed on things and have talked to who we want to care for Anna in the event of our untimely demise...just need to make it legal (and I realize this should have happened already.) :-)
  3. Organize/Improve My House-I was not blessed with the domestic gene so I am very challenged when it comes to decor and home organization (which is weird because I think I am a fairly organized person overall.) However, I know I don't like any space in my house right now so hoping to rectify that. I do not have a huge budget for any major projects, but I know I can do some things like paint, organize closets and spaces, and pitch/purge/sell things we don't want/use/need. I also want to convert our junk room, I mean office, into a playroom so that every room in the house isn't overrun with toys.
  4. Read 100 books-Last year, my goal was to read 40 books and I far exceeded it so going to try to challenge myself on this one.
  5. Complete 2 digital scrapbooks-I have not started on Anna's 2 year old scrapbook and she is almost 3 so I want to finish Age 2. I also have several recipes that were my grandma's that I want to make into a cookbook (if you are related and want a copy I will post the link when it gets done...even more motivation to finish it.) :-)
  6. Unplug-I love my electronic devices!! However, I have found that there is almost never a time in my life when I am not using something electronic and I am not sure that is healthy. I had jury duty a couple of weeks ago and cell phones were not allowed in the courthouse and I think I might have been twitching a little by the end of the day because I was away from my phone. :-) Because of this, I want to make a commitment to unplugging from everything for at least 1 hour a week (and it cannot be while I am sleeping.) :-) I also want to take at least 2 days where I unplug for the entire day.
  7. Read through the Bible in a year-I love YouVersion as tool to do this.
I also have 2 more areas that I want to work on but I haven't quite figured out the details on how to make it happen yet.
  1. Some sort of Sugar Fast-I don't struggle with things like alcohol or recreational drugs, but sugar is my drug of choice. I need to fast from sugar at some point. I am not sure if I give it up completely, fast one day a week or do something like a lenten fast. Still trying to work through this.
  2. Financial Goals-I want to figure out how to spend less and save more. We do an OK job at this, but I want to do better. Not sure if that is through couponing, eating out less, selling non-essential body parts, or some other manner.
I think that is it!! Happy New Year and enjoy an egg roll in honor of the Year of the Dragon!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday!!!

This is my AMAZING Husband, Mark. He turns 39 today (yep, I am cougar and got myself a younger man.) :-)
These are some many things about this man that you may or may not know and that I love about him:
  • His friends in college called him "Oster Monkey" because of his tree climbing skills (hence the sock monkey hat he received from my mom for Christmas.) :-)
  • He has taken in upon himself without being asked to take responsibility for the dishes, laundry, trash, cleaning the bath tub and taking care of our cat (including the litter box.) Ladies, I know you are jealous!!
  • He is an AMAZING dad and will even be "Princess Daddy" when Anna is playing dress-up.
  • He is an incredibly talented musician.
  • He likes to go Disney World (not as much much as me, but still likes it.) :-)
  • Every year he WANTS to be the one who frosts his birthday cake.
  • He has incredibly high standards as to what he will watch/listen to in terms of entertainment.
  • He loves Jesus!!
  • He puts up with all my crazy (which can be extensive at times.) :-)
Happy Birthday Honey! I LOVE YOU!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Am Second

Hello 2012! I have several posts for floating in my head for 2012, but have had several things happening that have kept me from posting (house guests, illness, funerals, playing "Words with Friends", etc.) I promise they are coming! :-) In the meantime, here is a book review thanks to the folks at

I was very excited when I saw that I AM SECOND was offered in book format. I became familiar with I AM SECOND when our church did a series of the same title in 2010. We based that series off the the website that features videos of people who have faced adversity and how they overcame it by putting Jesus first and themselves second. I really enjoyed the stories when we did the series and was hoping I would enjoy the book. The book did not disappoint. It was very inspiring to read the stories of many different people....from musicians to athletes to everyday people. It was amazing the read the stories of how their faith helped them to overcome many trials in their lives. This book was a quick and easy read. One feature of the book that I really liked was at the end of each story there was a web address as well as a QR code for your smartphone that linked you to the video of the story you just read and ones that were similar.

I highly recommend this book and if you are not a reader at least check out the website to hear these amazing stories!!

Happy Reading!!