Devotion in Motion: When Bad Things Happen, Part 4

17 ¶ Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV)

“Christmas Carols Every Day”

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

On Sunday nights at our little country church, the people sitting in the pews take turns calling out requests for songs that they want the congregation to sing. People pick out songs they like, and we sing them until it’s time for me to preach. My older son, Spencer, usually picks out “It Is Well With My Soul” hymnal.jpgor a Christmas carol–even if it’s the middle of July. I guess he just likes Christmas carols. And that’s OK with me, especially if he wants to sing “Joy to the World”.

Did you know that, in some ways, “Joy to the World” is not a Christmas carol? Most of the other Christmas carols are taken from the New Testament and tell of the Gospel account of the birth of the Christ child.

But  “Joy to the World” is not a New Testament song. It’s actually based on an Old Testament text–Psalm 98 to be exact. And when Isaac Watts wrote the hymn, he wasn’t writing a song about baby Jesus being born in the manger. Instead, he wrote of  the coming of Jesus Christ to set up His kingdom at the end of the age. So while this song is an excellent carol for Christmas, it’s also a wonderful choice for all other seasons of the year.

My favorite stanza of “Joy to the World” goes like this:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the Curse is found.

It always makes me feel joyful to sing that verse, because it’s such a clear explanation of the nature of our suffering in this life. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden (in response to the lie of Satan), sin and death entered the world. Because of this, Genesis 3 tells us that this present world is fallen, and ruined by “The Curse”. But Jesus Christ has died on the cross and risen from the grave to redeem and restore all things. “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

So, here’s what I have come to realize: Very often when people have troubles, they shake their fist in the wrong direction. God is not the cause of our suffering. He created the world in perfection. We need to rightly place our blame and anger. We need to blame Adam, not the Almighty. We must hate the Devil, not the Deliverer. Our suffering comes because of sin, not the Saviour. The fault lies with the Curse, not with the Cross.

Several years ago, an older friend of mine was suffering terribly with an awful head cold. He said, “Brother John, I prayed this morning and asked the Lord to take this cold and give it to the devil.” Now that’s what I call understanding where to place the blame! Dear mamas, this fallen world has its share of trouble and sadness. Draw near to the Lord this week, and He will strengthen you and deliver you from the evil one.

spence.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is in the middle of his 25th year of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi.  He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 18) and Seth (age 15) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Walter, the pup in the picture at right with Spencer, now weighs close to 100 pounds!) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to extramailbox@juno.com.

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The Rockwood Files: Mama needs some “spring” in her step

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

This morning I woke up, shuffled downstairs for caffeine and glanced out the kitchen window. What I saw woke me up faster than the Diet Dr. Pepper. It was snow. Let me rephrase that. It was MORE SNOW!

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said to no one. But if it was a joke, Mother Nature was the only one snow-falling.gifsnickering.

I turned on the small TV in the kitchen to catch a local forecast. The weatherman said the snow flurries wouldn’t accumulate and would, at worst, leave only a dusting on the ground. But the wind chills, he added, would be brutal.

“Ugh,” I said, exasperated at the thought of dressing in layers once again. By the time I get the kids dressed warmly enough to go outside these days, they look like three little Michelin men in varying heights.

Even though we’ve only had 56 official days of winter so far, it feels more like, oh, I don’t know, 56,000 or so? Experts say this is the coldest, snowiest winter on record for most of the country. One day last week, there was snow on the ground in 49 states, with Hawaii being the lone hold-out. (Is it just me, or does a trip to Hawaii sound fabulous right about now?)

It’s not that I have anything against snow. I love snow – the first two or three times it happens. After that, I’m over it. I want to run an errand without wearing a parka. I want to stop driving down slushy streets that re-freeze overnight. I want to see the sun!

Perhaps the worst part about the unusually cold weather and the all-too-frequent snowfall is what it’s doing to my energy level. The gray skies and bitter winds make me gravitate to the sofa across from the fireplace. I spent a few hours lying there last Sunday afternoon, dozing while the kids watched the Winter Olympics.

(By the way, at the time of this writing, it is 24 degrees warmer in Vancouver, Canada than it is here at my house – in the SOUTH. There’s something very wrong about that.)

After I’d been lying there a while, 8-year-old Adam nudged me awake and said, “Mom, are you going to wake up from your nap now?” He was clearly a little irritated with the day’s lazy agenda and he was ready to do something, anything. His impatience gave me the strongest sense of déjà vu. Suddenly I remembered feeling the exact same irritation when I was that age. Why were my parents so tired, I wondered. I didn’t understand why they’d want to spend their day off doing something as boring as reading the big, fat Sunday newspaper and sleeping on the sofa. It was SO boring. I swore I’d never be like that when I was a grown-up.

(Note to all 8-year-olds: Never swear that you won’t ever be like your parents because it’s the quickest way to ensure you will be.)

Reliving that memory was one of those full-circle moments that made me realize I’ve now become the newspaper.jpgboring grown-up – the one who wants to be left alone long enough to read the newspaper, the one who falls asleep if she’s given a semi-quiet room and a chance to get horizontal. No wonder the kids were miffed.

Perhaps my motivation will increase when the temperatures do. Many of us just need some reassurance that spring will come again. We need to see a tulip poke its pretty head out of the ground. We need a few sunny days in a row and temperatures warmer than those at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The good news is that there are only 33 days to go until the first official day of spring. And when it does, the kids and I are going to shoot hoops on the driveway and plant flowers and eat popsicles on the front steps. And I promise I won’t waste one minute of the summer complaining about the heat.

But until then, I’m nothing more than a sleepy Mama bear, hibernating in her warm, dark cave.rockwoodheadshot2010compressed3.jpg

Wake me when it’s spring.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. 

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Giveaway: Food for Thought

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Editor’s note: Comments closed, chicks. We’ve got a winner! Congrats to Sara Schmidt, a work-at-home graphic and web designer and mom to Elijah and Morgan.

We’ve got a bundle of gift certificates to give away, and all you need to do to throw your name in the hat is tell us what you think. The gift certificates come from our buddies at NWArestaurants.com, which has the most up-to-date, comprehensive info on restaurants in Northwest ocharleys.gifArkansas. (They also own the website NWAMovies.com, which is super helpful as well.) Today’s gift certificates come from Cold Stone Creamery, O’Charley’s and Fast Lane Entertainment.

We’ll let you in on a little secret that won’t be secret much longer: NWArestaurants.com offers gift certificates (called Penguin Bills, pictured right) for lots of different restaurants, and pbillsicon.pngthe gift certificates are HALF-OFF! Even better, this is the only program of its kind that helps local charities. As an example, you might find a $20 gift certificate for Chili’s that you can buy for only $10. All net proceeds of this sale will go to a nonprofit group in Northwest Arkansas. We love this program because everybody wins: Mama gets to eat out for a change. We don’t blow the budget. And local charities get desperately-needed funding.

The Penguin Bills and restaurant selection are constantly changing, so you’ll need to check back often to see what kinds of deals you can snag. Click here to check it out and bookmark the site for future reference, so you can check it out before your next dinner on the town.

Now, back to today’s giveaway: The winner will receive three different gift certificates — one from Fast fast-lane.jpgLane Entertainment, one from O’Charley’s, and one from Cold Stone Creamery. YUM! The gift certificates total $50!

Here’s the question we’d like you to consider: “When you’re ‘grandma-age,’ what do you hope your adult children remember most about you?

To throw your name in the drawing for the bundle of gift certificates, click the big orange button below and let us know what you think. You may also e-mail us your thoughts at giveaways@nwaMotherlode.com.

Increase your odds of winning by sending your friends a note about the giveaway. Just be sure to put giveaways@nwaMotherlode.com on the CC line of your e-mail so we can give you proper credit. We’ll give you an extra chance to win for every person you tell.

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Fashion Mama: Five Fabulous Fashion Finds

By Michelle Thompson, nwaMotherlode fashion editor

My first choice that I just must share with you is a website that I am completely in love with. It is Ideeli.com and it features majorly discounted items from top designers. We are talking Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana, Betsey Johnson, and Tahari just to name a few.

These items are marked down usually 60% to 75%. I do recommend making sure that you check the Eligibility for Return on the item you wish to purchase. They even have children’s fashion on the site as well from time to time. I ordered my oldest daughter, Macy, a pair of leopard and cherry print rain boots that were off-the-charts cute.  So ENJOY!!!!!!!!

These shoes (below) are the perfect Girl’s Night Out shoe!!! In fact I just wore them out last Friday night with my favorite girls. They are BCBG and you can get them at Belk’s in Rogers for $89.99. I dream about these shoes I love them so much. They are platforms too, so they really are comfortable; not volunteer at your child’s school all day comfortable, but hang out with your friends at a fabulous restaurant comfortable. 

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Okay, I know this favorite might be too much for some, but I do love this trend, and I think there are sooooo many options available for each and every body type. THE ROMPER!!!!!!!

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Every summer I pick a specific clothing item, usually a sundress of a certain flattering style, and buy several of them. I call it my “uniform”, which as all of you moms know, things run the smoothest when you don’t have to over think every little decision, especially getting dressed in the morning. I pick these cute little numbers, which I call my uniforms, so I can optimize my summertime with the kiddos.

v296857.jpgThe most important thing to do when you pick an item and buy several of them is ACCESSORIZE!!! Change it up with fun, bold necklaces, scarves, bracelets or bohemian earrings. This year I think the Romper is my summer uniform pick. They are soooo cute on! My best friend, who is anti-romper, actually said that she would wear this cute cheetah print romper from Victoria’s Secret. The other romper from my fashion floor came from Target. Have fun with this one, and keep an open mind. 

This little trio from NY and Co. just screams, Spring is here!!!!  The bracelet is just gorgeous with all of it’s ornate detail, and the ring is just a globe of flowers and fun. The earrings are perfect petals to adorn your ears. Also, at NY and Co., the jewelry is Buy One get the second piece at 75% off. What a steal!!!!!!

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I couldn’t resist adding these adorable leopard, twinkly-toed, high-tops for girls from Paris Blues. My daughter and I first saw them at Marshall’s in Tulsa, but they didn’t have her size. She was, of course, devastated (ha!), so I went on the hunt and found them at Sears.com for $19.99.  They have grosgrain ribbon shoelaces and leopard jewels on the toes…it just doesn’t get much cuter than that.  

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smallmichelle2.JPGMichelle Thompson is mom to two beautiful daughters, Macy and Brooklyn, and is nwaMotherlode’s new Fashion Mama editor. Look for new articles from Michelle on the last Friday of the month. To read more about this local fashionista/mom/marathon runner, click here

New ‘Techno Mama’ blog: Shop It To Me

Mama editor’s note: We’re so happy to welcome Sarah Hood as our newest mom blogger! As the name of her blog  — Techno Mama — indicates, she’ll focus on new, emerging or just plain cool technology — that moms are interested in reading about! We know you’ll like this first one about the website “Shop It To Me”.

By Sarah Hood

sarah_hood2.jpgI am a big believer in getting “on the mailing list”. I tend to be loyal to my favorite retailers and I jump at the chance to  receive their emails with coupons and sale announcements.

Since I’m not a regular at the mall, I love that my inbox can help me keep up with the good stuff. Gymboree Gymbucks redemption time? Check! Baby Sale at Old Navy? Check! Black Friday (and Cyber Monday!) Specials? Double Check! And Shop It To Me is like icing on the cake!

Shop It To Me is a website that acts as your personal shopper – and finds all the deals for you. When you log on to the site:

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The system asks you what you’re interested in – women’s, men’s, or kid’s (or all of the above!). Next comes the fun part – picking your favorite brands. You’ll be surprised how many of “your” brands are on the list - Steve Madden, New York & Company, Ann Taylor Loft, Kate Spade, Levi’s, Gap, Nike. And for kiddos there are classics like Osh Kosh, Stride Rite, and Carter’s alongside trendier brands like Robeez, Bugaboo, Oilily, and UGG. All in all there are 111 brands to choose from for kids, 349 for men, and over 600 for women!

Just check off the brands you typically shop for and even the ones you would buy if they were ON SALE. The site will have you choose clothing and shoe sizes for your family so it knows exactly what to look for, and then you’re done!

Shop It To Me will scour the online stores and sites with your preferences in mind and send you emails with sales on your brands in your size.  You’ll be able to choose how often you get emails – daily, weekly, monthly. But you’ll only get emails on the days there are sales on your stuff. Here’s an example of a “Sale Mail” email:

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All the sales you could ask for, all in your size and just a click away. You can adjust your brand and size preferences any time, so it’s truly customized to what you need. What a cool treat each week to browse through sales (every Mama’s favorite!) and see if anything catches your eye. The emails are simple and small – no clogging up your inbox. And if you don’t feel like “shopping” that day, hit Delete and move on – more sales will be there next week!

A few things to remember:

Shop It To Me isn’t a store – it merely points you in the right direction for sales. So the site can’t help you with shipping questions or returns.

The site offers incentives like gift cards in return for signing up your friends. Always be sure you have your friends’ permission to submit their email addresses, but be sure and let your girlfriends know how to sign up to  get the deals!

For birthday and holiday gift ideas, be sure and change your brand and size preferences to include your Mom or sister, or nieces and nephews.

Follow Shop It To Me on Facebook, Twitter and the Shop It To Me Blog to get the scoop on fashion and site giveaways – and brag about your best finds!

Have a blast! You only thought personal shoppers were for the rich and famous! And this one is FREE!

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.

About Sarah: Having grown up as one of those nerdy, studious types, I never really thought it would pay off. And now here I am. I’m no professional, just a slightly geeky Mama. But I’m so excited to have a venue to share tips and advice and best kept secrets with all the other Mamas out there who could really use a timesaver here and a cool, new website there. I love keeping up with the latest in blogging, digital networking, and the newest Apple “toys”, and I confess that I do everything from pay bills to order lunch online. I’m hopeless!

I’m thrilled to join the team and would love to hear from you with questions or feedback regarding gadgets, technology, or blogging – I’m here for YOU. And, of course, you’re always welcome to stop by my blog, Musings of Mother Hood to say hello. To read more of Sarah’s bio, click here!

Tweens & Teens: A Special Story

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Suffering is part of the human condition and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence.  ~ Billy Graham

Most often, this blog discusses issues facing parents with Tweens and Teens; however, this month, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to share a true story that has touched me deeply and may do the same for you. I believe it will help us all put the “problems” of dealing with tweens and teens into the proper perspective.

A few weeks ago in Sunday School, we were talking about our children (tweens, teens, and in-between) and a couple in the class, Al and Cindy, began sharing a story about their son, Holden, who passed away at 10 months of age from a rare illness known as “Omphalocele,” a birth defect in which his intestines, spleen, and liver were all are born outside his body and covered by a thin membrane.

Overall, Holden had three major surgeries and at 5 months of age went into respiratory arrest. Cindy had to administer CPR to her own child. His lungs were damaged, there was pressure from his Omphalocele, scar tissue from a tracheotomy, and he was aspirating so they had to use feeding tubes. Then bronchitis set in.

During his last five months of life, he was on numerous antibiotics, had obstruction of his bowels, was dehydrated, and was on constant pain medication. The respiratory arrest had caused brain damage, though the doctors didn’t know the extent. Over the next few months, his brain continued to shrink and, at the end, an MRI revealed he only had 50% of his brain left.

Al and Cindy faced the most difficult decision of their lives: Would they continue to allow Holden to live or allow him to go be with the Lord? After constant prayer and coming to the realization that Holden would have significant brain damage requiring constant medical attention for the rest of his life, they decided to let him go be with the Lord. He passed away in their arms. Though they are not the only couple that has ever faced this situation, I don’t believe any parent will have to make a more difficult decision.

As Cindy shared their story, I began to tear up, along with everyone else in the class. Al and Cindy have endured about as much pain as a parent can.  Losing a child is the greatest tragedy that can happen to parents, though not knowing whether your child will live or not may be equally as difficult.

It would have been easy for Al and Cindy to become angry, bitter and resentful. But they didn’t. They somehow found the courage to remain faithful and positive. I can’t begin to understand all they’ve gone through, but I do understand this: Their story makes me go straight to my own children, hug them as tightly as I can and tell them how much I love them. At this point, no annoying behavior my children have ever done, or ever will do, matters as much as having them here with me. We can figure the rest out together.

I’ve begun to realize how petty I can be about the difficulties I face with my own children. Little things like not turning off the bathroom lights, leaving toys in the hallway, and trying to manipulate situations are no longer as annoying as they were in the past. Boyfriends, girlfriends, arguing, defiance, cursing, and everything else that comes with being a parent doesn’t seem as important or pressing as it once did.

I imagine that Al and Cindy would give everything they own to experience with Holden any problem that we’ve ever had with our own children. But they can’t. They never will.

Al and Cindy have agreed to share excerpts from their story with us below. After you read it, go hug your kids — no matter how old they are. Tell them how much you love them. I know I will.

Holden – Our Sunshine in Heaven

What do you do when a doctor takes all your hope away from your unborn child and suggests you terminate?  In shock, you share with him that this miracle is from God and was given to your family for a reason. We had no idea that we would only have Holden for ten short beautiful hard months after he was born. I started desperately praying and asking God to give me the strength to get through this journey. That’s when a very special verse came into my family’s life: Isaiah 41:10.

Here is a small glimpse of my journals (five full journals in all) that I started that very day and have not stopped since. I knew God was taking us on a roller coaster ride with holden.jpgHolden and my family. The main thing God wanted me to do was TRUST HIM.

December 2008: The Love of a Mom

I’m sitting here next to you writing in my journal. I get emotional just touching you and thinking of how much I want to hold you (can’t – your on the ventilator) and take you home for Christmas. I love you so much. It’s amazing how much love God gives a mommy. I love looking at your swollen sweet face. You are a treasure, little man. All my pain, stress, emotions and heartbreak is worth it, child of mine.

February 2009:  Holden’s Sweet Homecoming

Today we brought Holden home from the hospital. We were welcomed on a cold, rainy night by all of our wonderful friends. I saw signs held up by children (one said “Holden rocks”!), lots of clapping and cheering, the house decorated with streamers, a cake and my three children with smiles from ear to ear!  My whole family was finally together! I could breathe again.

May 2009:  Scariest Moment of my Life

Holden stopped breathing today. I had to administer CPR into my child’s lifeless body.  I begged and pleaded on my knees with everything I had for God not take Holden away from me. I had an emotional breakdown that day. He was airlifted to Little Rock, and it was the longest three hour drive of my life not knowing if my baby was going to live or die.

September 2009: Devastatingly Beautiful

Go to Jesus, Holden. Go to Jesus.  It’s okay to leave me, I love you. Thirty minutes after we took Holden off life support he went to be in Jesus’ arms. Our ultimate prayer of healing was answered after months and months of pain.

God just healed him in Heaven and not on this earth. Hard to swallow, but so true. I remember bathing my baby for the last time and it how it felt so natural and wonderful to do this last thing for him and knowing his spirit was already in heaven.

September 26, 2009:  Saying Goodbye

Holden’s funeral was a celebration of his short meaningful life. I remember my pastor saying Holden is in the land of the living, and we are in the land of the dying. Wow!  It was such a profound statement for me and I had to soak it in especially when I missed my baby more that words could express.

In closing, I just want to say that my overwhelming pain through the past year and half has turned into overwhelming healing. God in so many ways is keeping Holden’s memory alive. You cannot imagine what that does for brokenhearted momma. See, it’s okay to talk about Holden and his death. When you don’t say anything, it’s like it never happened, and I live with it every day. His name brings music to my ears and joy in my tears. God gives and he takes away, and then he gives again.

I want people to know I have five children – three on this earth and one perfect in heaven and another miracle of life coming this May (2010).  His faithfulness is unfathomable. I’m so humbled to share my story of hope and what God has done for me. Losing a child is the hardest thing a parent can go through, but you don’t have to face it alone. God will give you all the comfort you need to go forward in your life.

In His Grip,

Cindy and Al

Hair: Cheating on your stylist

Dear Rhonda,

I cheated on my stylist. I wanted to try this new guy that my friend said was supposed to be great, but I hated the way he cut my hair. I really want to go back to my old stylist but she is going to take one look at me and know that I strayed, and I really don’t want things to be awkward. What should I do?

Dear Remorseful Cheater,

There’s an old saying out there that goes like this: “You stray, you pay.” But the truth is that it’s really okay if you try another stylist. Honestly, it is. In fact, stylists are sometimes even relieved to lose a customer who might be super picky or just never really satisfied. We’re normal people, just like you. We want our clients to be happy and, if you never are, it’s probably best for both of us if you move on.

But if you choose to go to someone else and happen to not like what you’ve paid for, go back with confidence to your old stylist. If he or she is happy to hear from you again, chances are you’ll get right back in her appointment book. If you’re made to wait, oh, I don’t know, two to three weeks or more, then chances are she wishes you had stayed away.

Now, this isn’t really a bad thing. It just means maybe you need to realize that stylists are human. It may also mean you need to do a reality check on your expectations. Really listen to what your stylist has to say about what kind of cut, style and color will work best on you. Remember, we’re trained for this, and your stylist can be your hair’s best friend.

Speaking of friends, most stylists genuinely like their clients and want them to be happy with their hair. If you end up being happier with another stylist, so be it. It’s your choice, your money and, most importantly, your hair. You’re the one who needs to feel good about how you look. And we all know that if you start the day with bad hair, your whole day heads straight into the pooper.

Just be sure you’re communicating with your stylist – what you like about your hair and what you don’t like. And be sure to do this before the stylist begins. Here’s hoping you and your stylist have a harhondapic2.jpgppy reunion.

Rhonda Moulder, pictured right, is a mama to two beautiful daughters and is also a stylist in Bentonville. E-mail her a hair question at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com or call for an appointment at the salon at 479-586-5100. Have a happy hair day.

Life With Ladybug: On multitasking

By Shannon Magsam

John calls from work and I’m editing a story on my computer. He asks after me and I tell him I’m fine, fine.  He asks, “What was that noise?” Oh, I just smashed down the trash so I could fit more in – that was an old squeaky toy of the dog’s that I threw away, I explain.

He asks another question and I distractedly answer. Now I’m unloading the dryer. It seems like he wants to keep talking, but instead says he’ll talk to me later and we hang up. We forget to say I love you. We rarely forget.

Later, after my daughter is home from school and doing her homework at the kitchen table, I sit across from her doing my own homework on the laptop. She asks about medians in math. I get up, read the instructions with her, wind her back up again and go sit back down.

Two minutes later she mentions something that happened in the lunchroom. Her friends called her food yucky. I can see part of her head over the computer and I look across at her. “Well, if you like it, just tell them everybody likes different kinds of food,” I say, then continue typing.

When I look up next, she’s gone to play in her room. I’m left with the feeling that maybe she had more to say about the lunchroom episode, but I didn’t bother to ask any questions.

My sister calls that evening and we start to chat. I’m folding the laundry that I never got around to this morning and the phone is in the crook of my neck again. I’m unloading the dishwasher when she says she’s having a problem with her daughter, who’s the same age as Ladybug. She wants my opinion.

The t.v. is loud and Ladybug is calling out to me from her bathwater. I feel frazzled. I have to ask my sister to repeat what she just said, not because of the noise, but because I was concentrating on whether the silverware was really clean or not.

I tell my sister to hang on, I take Ladybug the shampoo, tell my husband to listen for her, and get back on the phone. I try to be a person who learns from lessons, especially those that are so fresh.

I take the phone into the bedroom and close the door. I sit on the bed and hold it to my ear with my hand. I don’t do anything, except listen. Really listen.

In bed that night, I think about how women are so “good” at multitasking. How we feel more productive when we’re accomplishing more than two things at once. And how that good feeling can turn bad when we realize the people in our lives are rarely receiving our complete focus. And they deserve it.

My 10th anniversary weekend is coming up and I’ve vowed: no computer, no phones, no distractions. Oh, and no multitasking.

7452.JPGShannon Magsam is mom to 8-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here. Oh, and leave a comment if you’re in the mood. 

Appliance rebates beginning in March!

This story hit the evening news one day last week, but we wanted to publish it here in case you missed that report. There’s a new federal program that encourages consumers to replace their appliances. (It’s springcleanwasher.jpgsort of like “Cash for Clunkers,” only this time it’s fridges, washers and hot water heaters.) If you’re in the market for a new appliance, you’ll want to know about this and take advantage of the cost-savings.

Here’s how it works: Customers must replace an existing unit with an eligible “ENERGY STAR” appliance from a participating retailer. (Metro Appliances & More is a participating retailer. Click here to see where they’re located.) The retailer will haul away the unit that you’re replacing and provide proof it was hauled away.

The idea behind the program is to help families save money, protect the environment, stimulate the economy and create jobs. Go to www.arkansasenergy.org to read more about it.

Here’s a list of appliances involved with this program:

  • Refrigerator (rebate of $125)
  • Clothes washer (rebate of $175)
  • Hot water heaters (gas storage, gas condensing, gas tankless, heat pump) (Rebate of $200)

Program rules:

Rebates will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until the allocated program funds are depleted. First-come, first-served status will be determined by the date the application arrives at the rebate fulfillment center. (That means you better mail it in QUICKLY so you can get your rebate check.)

Purchaser must be an Arkansas residential consumer, supplying a home address. (Business customers aren’t eligible.)

Households are limited to one rebate per appliance category per household.

Purchase must be made during rebate offer period.

Appliances must be installed within Arkansas state boundaries.

Only ENERGY STAR rated refrigerators, clothes washers and select hot water heaters at the stated rebate levels are eligible. Qualifying units must be listed on the ENERGY STAR website. (Click here to see it.)

Rebates are only available for replacement of existing units with new qualifying appliances.

Purchase must be made from a participating Arkansas retail location or participating vendor (like a licensed plumber.) Online purchases not allowed.

Rebate forms must be completely and accurately filled out and accompanied by proof-of-pumetroapp2.jpgrchase and documentation from a participating retailer that the replaced unit was HAULED AWAY. Customers can also show proof of recycling in lieu of documentation from a participating retailer that the replaced unit was hauled away.

Rebate applications must be postmarked (postal mail) or submitted (electronically) within 30 days of purchase.

If you have any questions about how the program works, talk to anyone on staff at Metro Appliances & More. (Dave Wicklund is the store manager.) Their phone number is 479-750-2200.

Happy appliance shopping!

Free eye exams for infants

One of our sponsors, Drs. David and DeAnne Witherspoon Optometry, recently told us about a national program designed to help parents get free eye exams for their infants 6 to 12 months of age. The program is called InfantSee. Click here to visit their website and read more about the program. 

These eye exams for infants can help detect major vision problems so they can be treated early. There are several physicians in our area who participate in this program. Below is a listing of those eye doctors. Call any of these eye clinics to get more info, or you can speak with our sponsor, Drs. David and DeAnne Witherspoon, by calling 479-464-9702.

Fayetteville:

  • Dr. Allyson E. Mertins
  • Dr. Tammy Grammer Morris
  • Dr. Bobby B. Decker

infantseetrans.gifSpringdale:

  • Dr. Kimberly Ann Owens
  • Dr. Jeffrey B. Myers

Centerton:

  • Dr. Megan J. Petty

Rogers:

Siloam Springs:

  • Dr. Kenneth Childers
  • Dr. William Philpott

Bella Vista:

  • Dr. William Yoos
  • Dr. Belinda Starkey

Military Mama: In the beginning…

By Jade Stone, Military Mama

I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of weeks now and it occurs to me that as a reader, it’s often difficult to understand a writer’s perspective unless you know a little about where the writer has come from and what experiences have sculpted that person into what he or she is today. So, that said, here’s a little about me. Disclaimer-the following are memories of a very small child collected with a slight dusting of time and as a result the details have become a bit foggy(or froggy, as my 4 year old would say!). 

My dad was a quiet, insightful, and intelligent man who had one tour of Vietnam under his belt as part of the infantry with the first Cav when he married my mom. She never knew him as “normal” nonetheless; she fell in love with this young soldier as a pen pal through a friend and married him at the ripe age of 17.  He was a gunner on a helicopter so it’s no surprise that the first tour left him shaken and most certainly riddled with PTSD which is a whole other batch of tales! He was told that he would certainly lose his mind should he return for a second tour.

Being the stubborn man that he was, nothing would stand in his way of fighting next to “his brothers”. Unfortunately, as expected, he began losing his sanity upon returning from round two. Sadly two tours just weren’t enough. As a soldier, Dad was hardwired to believe he wasn’t done until he had avenged the lives of the dear friends he had lost to the Viet Cong and so he ducked the detainment of the doctors and went back for a third tour. If there was anything left of his shell-shocked, Agent Orange-dusted mind, it wasn’t much. Somehow, he beat the odds and came home in one piece. At least his body did. I was conceived shortly after his third tour and began life in WOMAC Army hospital in Fort Bragg, NC, home to so many brave men and women. These are the humble beginnings of my life as I know it today.

Now, the next few years are fuzzy to me however. I’m sure my mom can see some of those days as if they were yesterday. Some of them I’m sure were great but there was a lot of heartache and turmoil involved in watching a loved one spiral into insanity through the misty jungle that was his mind.

I know that mom spent lots of time at the hospital, just like any new mother, with monthly checkups for me and the occasional cold/flu spell. Over that time, she became friends with one of the nurses there who was actually in the delivery room with her. Come to find out he held me before she did! This gentleman had also served three tours in Vietnam but as a medic with the 173rd and if I’m not mistaken, he and dad knew each other somehow, through the military of course. Interestingly, he managed to keep the majority of his sanity. His name was Lynn and he often worked in the emergency room and saw mom and I come through. It wasn’t long before they became friends. He understood what my dad was going through and was a friend to my mom when she needed one most. She was struggling to deal with the flashbacks, and strange stories dad had begun to tell. She remembers some of his night terrors so vividly and yet one stands out among the rest.

One night she was awakened by a tightening around her throat. As she opened her eyes, the image of my father standing over her with his hands around her throat materialized before her. All she could hear was “You Damned Gook”!!!  He nearly killed her that night and would have had no clue what happened the next morning. She never slept in the same room again but rather locked herself in another room at night, especially after I came along. Lynn knew this behavior all too well and tried his best to help her cope. Little did we know that this was the beginning of Lynn’s thread through our story.

As for me, Dad couldn’t handle the sound of a person crying or screaming. Unfortunately for me, as a baby, my fussy time was 8 p.m. every night. It sent him reeling into a particular memory of his first tour. He was new in country and was hiding in the bushes when he heard this screaming noise charging at them through the dense foliage. Fear and anticipation over took him and when the object emerged he opened fire. As the smoke settled, he realized he had just killed a screaming, frightened, pregnant woman…yes, he relived this nightmare every time I cried. He never forgave himself for that. To cope, he would simply place me in a dark room and walk away which was the safer alternative. You see, we had a beautiful German shepherd named Smokey that barked at anything suspicious and then one day he disappeared. I’ll let you guess what his fate became…So to escape, mom would take me to the mall every night to walk around until it was time for me to go to bed around 9 or so. She quickly became tired and increasingly more nervous about our safety, and for good reason.

Sometime shortly after the age of two, my grandparents, whom I came to love and adore, arrived on the doorstep of our small home under the cedar trees and politely informed my mom that if she wanted to live in this madness she could; however, their grandbaby would not! And thus moved me to what would soon become “home” in Springfield, MO.  It was only a matter of weeks before mom followed suit with divorce papers in hand. Dad loved us very much but his mind just couldn’t handle the people in his life because it was too busy dealing with the demons that chased him in his head. It had to have been hard for her to leave the love of her life and yet she knew for our safety, it was a must.  So, all 4 of us resided in a small rock house on Park Street for a few months until mom could get back on her feet. Soon, the day came that the divorce was settled. However, even that day proved to be bittersweet for her. Unbeknownst to me, it was also the day she found out I would have a little brother soon.

As for the time between that day and the day my little brother was born, I remember living in a small little white house with old wood floors, and a TV set up in such a way you could watch it from the bed in the other room.  It was here that I can remember eating saltine crackers in bed with mom watching Johnny Carson and thinking this was the greatest place on earth. I also thought that hot dogs and eggs were what everyone ate in the morning and that Grandma’s house was like going to heaven because there was nothing but love and all the most amazing food anyone could possibly want to eat!

Though I couldn’t help but wonder where all the big green men had gone (uniformed soldiers) I loved the new colorful world I’d landed in.  It was just me and mom to face the world around us with my Grandparents by our side.  As far as I knew, it would be smooth sailing from there on out…and then came baby brother. To be continued….

k-and-j-heads.jpgJade is one of our newest mom bloggers at nwaMotherlode. She welcomes your comments here as well as any suggestions you may have for her future posts. You may also e-mail her at akajadestone [AT] yahoo [DOT] com. To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE

Beauty Buzz: Top 5 List of Beauty ‘Don’ts’

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Dear Andi,

What’s your top five list of beauty “don’ts”?

200.jpgDon’t skip sunscreen. Everyone says it; everyone agrees; few of us actually follow the rule. If you’ve ever seen me without my foundation and seen how many freckles I really have, you know that I am one of the worst offenders. If you find yourself thinking cheap and not wanting to spend the extra dough on the lotion with an SPF included, just think of the money you will save on wrinkle cream later! Make-up that includes sun protection, although not a bad idea, is not enough for any real protection, so lay it on thick up front.

Don’t get stuck with a product you hate. We’ve all done it…you love the color in the store and then when you see pictures from a big night out, realize you looked more Tammy Faye than Tina Fey. Don’t be afraid to take it back just because it’s been used. Remember that companies make money by encouraging brand loyalty and return customers. They want you to be happy and coming back for more. Even if you bought it at a drug store or market, check out their return policy or research the brand’s web site for options.

Don’t let your bathroom drawers look like an episode of Hoarders. Until recently, if my family had staged an on-air intervention, I would have been completely mortified. But, in a nesting frenzy during my last pregnancy, I decided to purge my beauty stockpile of anything that had not been used in 6 months, and I honestly have not missed anything that got tossed. If you have make-up or hair products that never get used (probably because you had not yet heard my helpful “don’t” about returns) try passing it on to a friend or sister that has different coloring or taste than you. Eye make-up, unfortunately, needs to find it’s way to the trash bin, because it is a nesting ground for bacteria. One quick tip: I bought three cheap bins that fit under my cabinet and designated each one for hair, body, and face. That way I know exactly where to look and when I have a bottle avalanche, everything still stays organized and doesn’t end up all over the bathroom floor.

Don’t spend your mortgage on “miracle” skin products. Products that claim to transform you over-night are usually making claims that cannot be backed up. The key to youthful skin is hydration (Drink that water, ladies) and the right combination of products for your skin type. Save that money for some Spanx…now those are miracle workers!

Don’t fight nature. If you have thin lips, don’t draw lip liner outside of your natural line to “fake it”. Full eyebrows? Clean them up, but embrace the drama they bring to your eyes. Please, please, please, don’t bleach your freckles. There is nothing wrong with enhancing your natural beauty (and yes, we all have it) but stay true to yourself. Where would Cindy Crawford be without her aptly placed mole? Well, she’d still be gorgeous…okay, not my best example, but you get the idea.

“Beauty Buzz” is sponsored by Hull Dermatology, with offices in Rogers, Bella Vista and at the Eureka Springs Hospital. Dr. Hull has published several scientific papers and has received numerous awards and honors for her work in dermatology. For more info, click here to visit the Hull Dermatology website or call them at 479-254-9662.

Amazing Moms: Becky Shaffer of Saving Grace

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We couldn’t wait to meet Becky Shaffer last fall after we heard about her mission to help young girls aging out of the foster care system. The way we saw it, this was a new generation of moms (in the future) and they needed the extra support to help keep them on the right track. Four hundred volunteers later, and the tireless work of Becky and her husband, Saving Grace opened at the end of 2009.

The facility — a renovated convent in Rogers — is truly amazing. As foster children, many of the girls who will live at Saving Grace have never had their own bedroom. And what dream bedrooms these are. To parallel the uniqueness of every girl, a friend of Becky’s gave each room a distinct beauty and flair.

We’ve been so pleased to be able to help Saving Grace twice with the help of nwaMotherlode mamas across Northwest Arkansas. We donated lightbulbs HERE and food for the Saving Grace pantry HERE. It was such a great feeling to be able to be a small part of this wonderful undertaking — as well as to become friends with this “Amazing Mom”, Becky Shaffer.

We asked Becky some questions about her journey to help provide hope and a “safe harbor” for local young women:

s553967337_1904520_1232407.jpgWhat inspired you to start Saving Grace? I was taken away from my mother who was violently abusive. I was placed in a children’s home where I did very well with having support all around me. I graduated from high school and went to college (mostly for a place to live) and all of my belongings went with me. I didn’t know what I would do for the holidays because there were no options for me.

I was pregnant and married by Christmas.  My husband and I have been married for 21 years and have 3 daughterss: Caitlynn-5, Hannah-14 and Christin-20. We spent 18 years as house parents to foster children and saw a need to help these young women as they transition into their adulthood. We took a year off from full time ministry to young women in crisis and then started researching and looking for office space to work out of and ended up with the old convent space behind the old St. Mary’s hospital in Rogers! 

Can you tell us about your personal foster care experience? I did well at the children’s home due to the support, patience and unconditional love I found there. I also asked Jesus into my heart and began to understand the beauty in His grace. I went from making very poor grades and being in special education to making good grades in regular classes.

The main problem was attaching to the foster parents who I called mom and dad and then them not being able to fulfill that role in my adulthood. There was a point in my thirties where I had to grieve over the fact that I didn’t have any parents and my children didn’t have grandparents from my side. It later made me a much better foster parent/house parent at the children’s home my husband and I worked at.

Obviously you’ve been a foster mom to many in your life! Can you share with us what that was like? Great question! First of all, the first few years I was only a few years older than the girls in my home….I still had a lot of growing up to do myself! :) Having been in their “shoes” I knew much more than most people in the position so in my head I thought I knew much more than I really did.  I grew up a lot in those first few years.  I also knew what the girls were up to most of the time when they thought nobody would figure it out….mostly because I probably tried to get away with it myself.

The hardest part for me was probably getting attached and getting hurt. It didn’t stop me from loving the girls and trying to reach them and touch their lives though. We still have many girls who call us mom and dad and we have several grand-children and wish they all lived closer so we could spoil them better. I was “Nana” at 29 years old with the first grandbaby.

Being in residential care myself at the children’s home helped me know better how to serve these girls.  Trust me, I made mistakes and I’ve had to go back and apologize for my lack of understanding and looking back especially in the early years, know I could have done better….that’s only because of my own experience. We all do the best we can, even with our own children. Just like most women, I second guess myself and wish I would have done more. I was able to spend Thanksgiving week in North Carolina near Ft. Bragg with my newest grandson and our daughter Crystal. It was a joy to just dote over him for a week with no distractions! :)

What volunteer opportunities do you have right now at Saving Grace? Many! Office help (answer phones, light cleaning in office..), weekend house volunteers (be at the house to be a responsible presence), mentors for girls, women willing to come and share about their career and what it took to get there…for a career fair, fundraising help with ideas and helping facilitate events, volunteer coordinator …

Tell us about how women in the community can help with mentoring. You’ll have a play area for mentoring moms with kids, right? We do have a play room so moms can bring their kiddos and so that our young women here can learn from being around other women and their children.  I learned so much from other moms when I was in my teens and twenties.  We welcome women who want to invest in these girls lives with their time and energy.  They need to be shown a different way to live and raise a family.

What are your main goals for the girls of Saving Grace? There is a silent epidemic in our nation: young men and women living under private or public programs reaching adulthood without the resources they need to succeed. They look like normal healthy adults, but at night you may find them sleeping in their car or on a friend’s couch. Without adequate resources, high rates of crime, drug use, homelessness, suicide, and emotional trauma are often the result. Where do they go for help? Who hears their crying when they are alone?

Saving Grace will help young women ages 18-24 unlock doors of opportunity, security and hope through education and supportive relationships. More importantly we will encourage them to deepen their faith, strengthen their resolve and learn to trust others – because they have learned trust a Savior. We hope to offer other communities inspiration to “repair the breach and restore the streets” across our great nation.

Acceptance, restoration and hope are often taken for granted, but for those living without – receiving them makes all the difference in the world .

Are the girls encouraged to attend college? They are strongly encouraged to attend college or learn a trade. Education is part of their rent reduction. If they’ve not completed high school they will have the opportunity to do so.

Why do you think so many people have reached out to help? I speak all over Northwest Arkansas and every time I share what we are doing and why there is a need for a place like Saving Grace, most people are shocked to find out there is such a great need for these young people. It truly is a silent epidemic and the more we share the need the more there will be people willing to rise up and do something to make a difference.

Northwest Arkansas is full of compassion for these young people and are making a difference by getting involved and being proactive. We’ve had so many generous people that have gotten involved. We’ve also had people who can only afford to give of their time. Most people have been hands on and still are. There are so many generous people who have given of their time, money and talents! :)

How many girls are living at Saving Grace right now? We have 2 residents and 2 resident assistants living at SGI, with several applications out and we are looking forward to having lots of laughter in these halls! 

Each girl has her own beautifully unique room. What does that mean to them? There are 14 rooms that have been decorated in the latest in room décor and they look amazing. Check out the pictures on our website and on our FACEBOOK page under Saving Grace. The people of Northwest Arkansas showed up and got to work! :) We have a beautiful facility that anyone would be proud to call home.

Do you have any future plans for Saving Grace that just aren’t feasible right now? Wow, this is such a great question.  We would love to open a facility for young men. There is a huge need for young men to have a transitional house too. We have also gotten several calls for young moms 18-24 with infants who are homeless or just in a really bad situation.  We are looking into what we can do to help meet this need as well. Our focus for now is young women 18-24 aging out of foster care and/or homeless who need a safe place to transition and hope for a future where they too can make a difference in the lives of those around them in need.

Thanks again to Becky for answering our (many) questions. Here we are with Becky in one of those gorgeous Saving Grace bedrooms!

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We’ve redecorated. Like it?

james-smith-nwafamilyvideo.jpgYou’ve probably noticed our big invitation to “Take the Video Tour!” at the very top of the website, complete with our cheesy grins. Have you watched the video? James at nwaFamily Video did a great job of pulling everything together and making us look “professional”. He did say after editing this together that the blooper reel is hilarious. We’re sure it is!

(Here’s a link to James’ website. He does weddings, love stories, videos of kids in action, and corporate videos, too. He was recently on the set of Toddlers and Tiaras! Unfortunately, he signed a confidentiality form and we can’t get him to spill any fun details.)

Even if you’re not new to the site, we’d love for you to check out the video. See if you can tell which one of us is sitting on a thick phone book so she wouldn’t look like a shrimp (hint: her name rhymes with cannon). Click here to see our video! 

facebook.jpgWe’ve also got a new Twitter bluebird to make it easy for you to follow us (if you’re not on Twitter, it’s easy to sign up!) We also have a link to the nwaMotherlode Facebook page on the site! It’s in the middle column, sandwiched between our BRAND NEW CATEGORIES and “Sites We’re Surfing”. Our Twitter followers and Facebook friends often receive new information and giveaway details first!

Speaking of our BRAND NEW CATEGORIES (can you tell we’re excited?), we recently decided the categories needed to be a little more organized and user-friendly. So we asked our graphics guru to take the mama from our t-shirt design and adapt her to the various category activities. There’s a drop-down menu under most so you can choose your poison.

funstuff_cat.pngFor example, under “Fun Stuff” there’s Five Minutes With a Mom, Inside His Head, Cheez Quiz (this one really got you mamas talking this week) and New In Town.

You probably also noticed our new comment button, which is orange and hard to miss. See?

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You can click on the orange button or comment the way you always have (way at the bottom of a post) and it will go to the same place, no problem.

We’ve also got a Motherlode “button” you can grab and place on your website. We’d love for you to link to us! If you have any trouble loading the button onto your blog, please send us an e-mail and let us know so we can help out.

We hope you like the changes and we’d love for you to try out that new comment button to let us know what you think! We’d also love to hear if there’s anything else we can do to make the website more user-friendly for you. We’re always looking for ways to make the website better for our readers. We appreciate each one of you!

Party Giveaway: Oh, oh, oh it’s magic!

magic-hat.jpgComments closed. We have a winner!

If your kids like to party, then you’ll definitely want to throw your name in the hat for this week’s drawing. It’s a FREE magic show by magician Joey Williams, and it takes place in the loft of Mad Pizza in Rogers. The owners of Mad Pizza are also throwing $100 worth of pizza, too! All you’ll need to do is show up, bring the kids and enjoy.

Here’s the best part of this giveaway. The scheduling is totally up to you. If your kid’s birthday is still several months away, you can hold your prize until then and arrange the party date with Joey and Mad Pizza. If your child’s birthday has already passed, you could also use this prize as a “Just Because” party or a “Happy Spring” party or a “My Mom is Extra Cool” party. Kids never need an excuse to have fun.

Joey Williams is an award-winning stage and close-up magician who has performed abra-and-i-bw.jpgthroughout the state. I met him one night while eating at Mad Pizza with my husband and our kids. He was there making balloon animals for all the kids in the restaurant. My boys both got a balloon pirate sword, and my 3-year-old girl got a balloon poodle. Everybody left full and happy, and the boys beat each other with their pirate swords all night long.

Joey is a clean-cut, hard-working grad student who is personable, easy to talk with and loves what he does. Kids really respond to him, and he gives them a great, exciting show. You can read more about his experience and awards on his website by clicking here.

Mad Pizza is one of the Motherlode mamas’ favorite places to eat, and our kids think it is the BEST. We madpizza.jpgmust warn you. Once you eat there, it will be hard to go to any other pizza place. One of the reasons for that is VARIETY. They are famous for their buffet which features a LOT of different types of specialty pizzas as well as all the classics like pepperoni, sausage, cheese, etc. My favorite is the Margherita pizza. But the Taco pizza and the Baked Potato pizza are excellent, too. (I know baked potato pizza sounds weird, but, trust us, it works!) They also have lots of different types of dessert pizzas like cherry, blueberry, apple, peach, cinnamon sticks, chocolate peanut butter and chocolate chip. My all-time favorite is the banana pudding pizza, which is good beyond words, if you ask me. Click here or on the logo to see their amazing menu.

Another thing we love about Mad Pizza is that they make it easy to eat there. Every time a hot pizza comes out of the oven, a server brings it around to each table in the restaurant and offers you a slice. So you don’t have to spend as much time running back and forth to the buffet bar for yourself and the kids. Plus, you get the pizza while it’s piping hot! Yum.

HOW TO ENTER: If you’d like to have your next party PAID FOR, you can throw your name in the hat by clicking the orange button below and telling us one of your favorite party memories. Was it your wedding reception? Maybe a baby shower? Or a bachelorette party? Your baby’s 1st birthday party? Your parents’ 50th anniversary party? Whatever it is, we’d like to hear about it. You can also e-mail your memories to us at giveaways@nwaMotherlode.com.

INCREASE YOUR ODDS: As always, you can increase your chances of winning by telling your friends/family about this giveaway via e-mail. We’ll give you an extra chance to win for every friend you tell. Just be sure to put giveaways@nwaMotherlode.com on the CC line of your e-mail so we can give you proper credit.

Good luck in the drawing! We know this will make somebody’s child a VERY happy camper.

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