Best of the Web- September 19

Hi everyone-

Here are my favorite links from this week!



How to be at peace with your choices via (in)courage


I try to avoid Wal-Mart like the plague,bBut some of these fall pieces are so inexpensive and trendy that I may just have to close my eyes (and ears) and shop!  Ha.  Off the Rack: Fall Fashion Highlights at Wal-Mart via Budget Babe

9 Money Secrets of the Amish–  I can’t have a blog called Yoder Toter and not post this article.


The best place to travel every month of the year  – Love this advice via Business Insider

Have a great weekend everyone!


A little (quiz) about me

So I realized I’ve been blogging now for 6 months!  Holy cow! However, there isn’t a ton of personal stuff on this blog other than what we get up to now or then, or when I talk a little more about my faith.  I thought it may be fun to do a little quiz so you all would know more about me.  I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not.


  1. What was your favorite food when you were a child?  Cereal and marshmallows.  Why the struggle to not eat Lucky Charms now is so so real.
  2. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?  I still live in the 1990s.  I do not own an iPod.
  3. What is one of your favorite quotes?  “Wherever you are, be all there.”  ~Jim Elliott
  4. What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?  Reading?  
  5. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?  Cleaning floors, scrubbing the bathtub
  6. What is your favorite form of exercise?  I really enjoy yoga, walking, and bicycling
  7. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?  Saturday mornings in the fall, cool and lazy!
  8. What’s your least favorite mode of transportation?  Flying, only because I’m terrified of it.
  9. What is your favorite body part?  After 3 kids?  My arms!  For real. 🙂
  10. What sound do you love?  Rain. And the sound of the kids in the morning- before they start the fighting. Ha.
  11. If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?  I’m working on my hospitality because having people over (since having babies) tends to stress me out.  So I would throw a dinner party at a restaurant to get together with old friends. I don’t know. That’s tough!
  12. If you could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?  I am not Bob Ross.  My scenery would not look like  “little trees,” but “dead trees.”
  13. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?  29.  Of course.
  14. If you knew the world was ending in 2016, what would you do differently?  I’d probably do the things that most people do when they are faced with death. I would spend more time in prayer and reading the Word.  I would live more intentionally.  I would hug my kids more.  I would get off of my phone.  I would appreciate my husband more and be more spontaneous.  I would also stop vacuuming… and I would eat ALL the chocolate.  😉
  15. If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? My grandma was my mentor for the first 29 years of my existence.  She had so much wisdom from a life of great joy and deep sorrows.   There are lots of women that I glean wisdom from, but she was the best.

What sound do you love?  Can y0u throw a mean party?  Maybe you’ve entered 2015 and actually own an iPod?  I’d love to hear!!



(I got the questions from this site.

Top Ten Reasons to Visit Lisbon, Portugal

Today I have my dear friend Richelle Z. sharing about her recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal.  Richelle has some great tips for visiting Lisbon and while the city was never really on my radar before, it is now.  Richelle is from the midwest, but is now living (and working) in the UK.  She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia.  Thanks so much, Richelle!

lisbon cover
Photo by Richelle.


Close your eyes for a moment and try to envision a city that is beautiful, culturally diverse, easy to navigate, ripe with delicious food, historically significant, and incredibly affordable. I’m guessing that in the pantheon of cities that one might picture, Lisbon, Portugal would not come to mind. While Lisbon might not have the major attractions of European mega-cities like London, Paris, and Rome, it absolutely deserves to be on your “must visit” list. Having just returned from a glorious four-day trip to Lisbon, here are my top ten reasons as to why Lisbon should be at the very top of that list.

  1. It’s less touristy than other major European capitals, so it has a far more authentic and original feel to it. I don’t know about you, but I love traveling to a place where very few people look and sound exactly like me. In other words, I want to experience something new and exciting. In Lisbon, you will absolutely have that chance, as far fewer tourists visit the city.
  2. Not even factoring in the twelve-year low of the euro to the dollar, Lisbon is a tremendously affordable European capital. You can afford to travel very well in this city, staying in gorgeous hotels that you wouldn’t be able to afford in Paris and eating fancy meals that you wouldn’t come close to affording in London. Public transportation is also extremely cheap.
  3. Speaking of public transport, it is one of the easiest cities that I have ever navigated. Lisbon’s metro system runs frequently and continuously throughout the city, extending to the airport and nearby Belem very quickly. For those who have tried to make sense of the nightmare that is the Paris Metro or who have nearly cried every time they swiped their Oyster card on the oh-so-expensive London Underground, this should be a welcome treat.
  4. Food, food, and more food. (Who doesn’t love food?!) The food in Lisbon is absolutely amazing! I had the most delicious seafood stew that I have ever eaten in my life. Not only was this arroz de Marisco full of actual seafood (shrimp, scallops, crab, mussels, fish, and more), it was only twelve euros. One can also indulge in chocolates, flamingo cheese, sardines, port, and fruit juices at incredibly low prices.
  5. Lisbon is also known for the pasteis de nata, the most amazing custard tart that you will likely ever eat. It’s also entirely possible that one of the reasons I initially wanted to come to Lisbon was to eat this tart. And I was not disappointed. These custard tarts can be found all over the city (I ate my first one immediately upon arrival in the Lisbon Airport), but the best ones will be in Belem at the Antiga Confeitaria. Be prepared to queue here, though, as the word has gotten out that these little custards are pure bites of heaven (and the true original).
  6. If you want to experience dynamic nightlife, Lisbon has you covered. The city really comes alive after ten p.m. or so, much like Barcelona and Rome. This is not just nightlife in the sense of clubbing or all-night raving, mind you, but relaxed, enjoyable cocktails, tapas, fado music (which we sadly didn’t have a chance to experience live), and late night meals. For those who are really keen to experience Lisbon after dark, head to Bairro Alto. A quotidian Saturday night will feel like New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
  7. Portugal was once a world leader in terms of exploration and navigation, and this is something that the people of Lisbon still recognize today. The city commemorates the role that Portugal played in the Age of Discovery with the Monument to the Discoveries in Belem. This is a statue depicting great explorers and leaders in the country’s history with the beautiful backdrop of Belem to highlight it. Nearby in Belem, you’ll also find the Torre de Belem, which was built in the early 1500s as a defensive tower. I really enjoyed this part of the city (for many more reasons) and I would highly recommend visiting it.
  8. The cultural gems of Lisbon are truly world-class. The city has top art museums like the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, beautiful botanical gardens, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, and the Castelo de Sao Jorge to name just a small few. The wonderful thing about Lisbon, however, is that the city is relatively small and compact enough to afford visitors the opportunity to see all of these sights in the space of a long weekend.
  9. The Alfama. This part of the city, once Moorish, really encapsulates all that is unique about the city. I loved wandering through the winding, hilly, brightly tiled streets of this part of Lisbon because it was unlike any city I had ever seen. Strolling through the Alfama will also take you to two of my favorite sights in Lisbon, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and the Se Catedral. I’m sure you’re thinking that you can find castles and cathedrals in any other European city, and, while that’s true, there is something really special about the Se Catedral. The cathedral, built on the site of a mosque, dates back to the mid 1100s and has survived earthquakes in its time. It is not to be missed.
  10. Last, but certainly not least, the people of Lisbon are truly warm and friendly. I always felt safe and welcome wherever we went in the city. It’s impossible to characterize a city based upon people you randomly encounter, but I was left with a pretty great impression of the people of Lisbon.
Lisbon collage
Photos by Richelle.


It’s impossible to capture all of the reasons why I feel Lisbon should be on your travel list, but I hope these ideas have left you excited and curious to visit this dynamic city. Let’s not tell too many people how wonderful this city is, though, so we can keep it to ourselves for a bit longer!

Best of the Web – March 14

Today our little “Bubba” is 3 years old.  It’s crazy.  I feel like I gave birth to him about 18 seconds ago.  So cheers to Olen- we love you to the moon and back.

Olen bday collage

Here’s some weekend reading for you to enjoy!



Ahhhh grammar!!  This is probably my favorite article from this week- and I will be bookmarking it so I don’t make these mistakes.  (You won’t get the grumpy cat meme unless you read it ^).

grumpy grammar cat

Gmail Hacks?  Yes, please.  Gmail is so simplistic, yet I’m still figuring out how to use it.

A long blog, but a worthwhile read on why we utter so much negativity on the web.

Love some of her thoughts:  

“Because no matter what inalienable rights we have to scream at each other on the Internet, it doesn’t release us from the obligation we have to deal with the repercussions of our negativity.” 

And: “Because no matter how fancy or not-fancy someone’s home is, everyone has good days and bad.”



Oh, yes, can we please drop the Pinterest-perfect birthday parties?   I will preach this to myself as well.

Why I Made My Kids Talk to Strangers–  thought-provoking.  I’m not sure if I’d allow my kids to catch the bus across town, but there is merit in showing them they don’t have to live in fear of people.  Your thoughts?



A family road-trip through the Pacific Northwest.  Pinning this post for sure- although I’m not sure about that campervan!  I love my family, but mama needs some space!

An extensive editorial about the effect of TripAdvisor.  I snorted over the Angkor Wat review.  If you travel frequently or just like the idea of traveling frequently- read this!   I really think you can sort the travelers from the tourists by talking to people who view reviews as the word of God.  In life there are lots of happy people, and lots of negative ones- those people are usually the ones that spend time reviewing properties– If ya get my drift!


I’m off to eat cake and ice cream!  Let me know which one was your favorite!




Grief is a Journey

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.


After a long, hard winter we awake to spring. A rebirth of sorts and clearing of so much clutter that’s built up after the long months indoors.

 Sometimes the clutter comes out of our hearts and our heads and not the cupboards and basements.


I found two pictures this week.

One I had been searching for for months.

And one I had fallen upon by chance.

collage of gran and dale
Gran and Dale both holding our little Jackson when he was only 2 or 3 months old


Some time has passed since you left but there is still a void.  A want for dad’s opinion about the Word.  A desire for years of God-fearing wisdom to be poured out over a cup of coffee.

If grief comes in waves, it shows itself in eyes that fill with tears when someone says that they miss your Gran

Our storybook of life has changed so much these past 4 years.  Watching the process of death is coming face to face with your own mortality–  Tasting the sweetness of heaven while fearing the emptiness of your goodbye.


I thank God for those stories of Liberal, Kansas.

And political discussions over monkey bread.


I remember how you prayed for your deaf son.

How you lost so many to war yet never lost your faith.


I remember how you rested in Romans 8.

And chose us to sing, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus ‘tis now.”


The passing of time has proved to me that “only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”


Thank you.  For what you did.

Best of the Web- February 28



I have no clue how another week is gone.  It means we are  just one.week.closer. to seeing the grass!  I adore spring and fall and all of the opportunities we have to get outside. Also, tomorrow is March 1st and March means vacation! (See the internal pep talks I give myself? Lol).

It seems like every time Brian and I visit North or South Carolina we always say, “we have to move here!” This article gives you a sarcastic look at the beauty of the South–  25 Reasons You Should Never Visit the South

And while we are talking about beautiful destinations, how about an article on the Best Spring Break destinations for adults?  Although, you have to be okay with going to Iceland for Spring Break.  Since it’s been warmer there than most of Ohio- and March is one of the peak seasons for the Northern Lights- I’m definitely game.


If you haven’t checked out Y Travel Blog before, this one may be a little hard to follow, but I really enjoyed reading Why Frustation is Your Most Powerful Ally:

“I love working on negative emotions as I feel this is where we find the highest source of fuel to move us towards the life we really want.

Negative emotions are a signal that change is needed and frustration is one of the most powerful. The greater the frustration the more pressing it is that you make a change.” 

Some may disagree and say you need to be coming from a place of positives, but I will agree with Caz when she says that negative feelings usually spur you to make the most changes.  Dave Ramsey essentially teaches the same thing- that you won’t make changes to your financial situation until you get mad- really MAD- that you aren’t getting ahead every month.

Speaking of Dave (some of you are beginning to wonder if we are bffs), I saved this article from his site this week on 7 Characteristics of Debt Free people.


These educational tools for kids (and adults)- may come in handy for you.  I found a few that Jackson will probably love!


Switching gears, after a few VERY trying days with a toddler, I stumbled on this blog post and it put big tears in my eyes.  I don’t want to wish away these years (though I may wish away some days) and this was a nice, gentle reminder of things that will some day be obsolete.

And now that I’ve gotten you a little emotional, what about this couple almost straight out of The Notebook.  They died holding hands.  I couldn’t even read the story to Brian without getting a huge lump in my throat.

That’s all folks!  Have a great Saturday!

Christians: What if we did just this one thing?


child with text

Yesterday was intense.  When you have three little ones, at least a quarter of the days I’m fairly certain I may not survive.  I’m not complaining, this season is just hard.

C was teething badly and running a fever and Bubba was a hot mess because we had stayed out too late the previous night.  He’s been going through the terrible twos and the tantrums have been a little crazy.  (I would probably be losing my mind, but I distinctly remember Jackson being a Tasmanian Devil from about 2.5-3.5 and then one day we woke up and had a “normal” child! Ha)!

There was a whole bunch of disciplining to get O to stay in his bed for nap time and at one point I laid down next to him and acted like I was sleeping (I could have!).  I was thankful for this moment because at this point he was finally STILL and QUIET.  I placed my hand on his chest and started to pray.

Oh motherhood, you have torn me up.  I know that people will say that your children should not “rule” you, but when you are in the stage of little ones- they do!  Not that they tell me what to do or that I let them get away with things- but they set the tone for the day.  If you have a sick child or a disobedient child, you can’t just send them to their room or bed and move on with your day.  It is all hands on deck- and those two hands belong to Mommy.

It’s easy for me to cling to my own experience or the trusted advice of friends, but what I really need to cling to is the cross.  It’s no coincidence that praying over Olen lowered my blood pressure and focused my eyes away from the insanity of the day and on the beautiful surrender that motherhood requires.  I don’t serve Jesus so he will give to me the things that I want, but I do want His wisdom and I do desire to be more like him.  Asking my Lord for how to deal with these tantrums draws me closer to Him.

Lastly, how more effective would we be as friends/grandparents/spouses if we added prayer to the equation more? I’m thankful for a family member that will stop what she is doing and pray with me when I call asking for advice.  I don’t need the advice, I need the prayer!   I think about times I have taken comments/advice from friends or family on our parenting…and while they may have been said out of a heart of love, what would a heart of prayer do to change things (or maybe it would change some of us that think we know it all–oh now that WOULD be intense). 🙂


How do you deal with tantrums?  I have prayed directly with Jackson when one of us is upset with the other, but Olen seems a little young for that.  Do you find that people are quick to offer advice but slow to offer prayer?  How do we counter this?


Best of the Web- February 21

It’s another snowy day in Ohio.  The extreme cold this week, coupled with snow, dashed with some sickness, and our littlest two haven’t left the house in a WEEK.  We’re all going a little stir crazy around here, to say the least.  This mama is running out of ideas to keep the kids busy- so Jackson has taken it into his own hands to color pictures and “decorate” the house with them!  I’m all for this creativity, so decorate away!  (and thankfully, I have a few more rolls of tape on hand)!

sorry for the nasty phone pic


Here are some of my favorite articles/blog posts from this week!

See, there is no reason to fret over eating cookie dough!  Raw eggs everyday and she’s 115!

An inspiring story about raising money for an international adoption.  What a great read about faith in God coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit!

I really love Pinterest.  It’s been such a helpful tool for me by way of exercise, cooking, homeschooling,  even blogging.  (You can follow me here).  My friends and I have definitely talked about the guilt that can come from not leading the “Pinterest life” (i.e. having a perfectly decorated home with award-winning meals, while completing a DIY project per day), but Courtney gives an interesting perspective– a Biblical perspective— on Pinterest.  Would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

I haven’t read this book yet, but Crystal’s blog about making time for yourself is spot-on!

She says:

Because here’s the truth: one of the BEST things you can do for yourself, your marriage, and your kids is to take time to refuel and refresh yourself. To stop and savor life. To make time for things you love….

As women, we are capable of a lot. We can multi-task. We have “eyes in the back of our head”. We can pull all-nighters when our child is really sick. We can juggle a lot of balls.

But at some point, when a rubber band is stretched out too far for too long, it’s going to snap. At some point, when you keep running on empty, you are truly going to run out of gas and be stranded on the side of the road. At some point, the lack of sleep and running around like a chicken with your head cut off will catch up with you and knock you flat.

Can someone hug this lady for me?

Last, but not least, I may have squealed when I found this article and realized that Downton Abbey costumes will be on display at The Biltmore when we visit.  Aaahhh.  Downton is one of my guilty pleasures, although I have been fairly unmoved by the season.  Maybe Julian Fellowes is just making up for the fact that some of us are still unable to move on from the fact that SYBIL DIED.  I think I’m still having nightmares. (Not really, but it was totally traumatic for me).


What do you think?  Have you ever eaten a raw egg (not mixed in cookie dough or cake batter)?  Do you think it’s wrong for moms to take a time-out to pursue a passion of theirs?  Do you watch Downton Abbey and did you find yourself as distraught as me when Sybil died?  Wow, that’s a hodge-podgery of questions, I THINK I NEED TO GIVE MYSELF A TIME OUT AND LEAVE THE HOUSE.  Haha.  Happy weekend!


My Wish

Today the man in my life turns 33.  He kissed me for the first time just 6 days before he turned 18.

We watched our wedding video the other day.  Two young kids, not a wrinkle between us, proclaiming that we would love each other like Christ and he would support me financially, and I would support his dreams.

This comes easy when you are 20 and 22.


Fast forward to just 4 or 5 days ago when a friend called and told Brian that he is sick. Very sick. The disease that took Brian’s dad four years ago has reared its ugly head and we don’t have the right words again.

Just two days earlier while Brian was away for work I lay in bed and cursed the nights that I can’t sleep because he isn’t here.  I don’t know where the insomnia comes from but it was birthed with Jackson and has never ended.  Then I remembered my two sweet friends who go to bed without their husbands each night due to the cancer, too.  And I pray for their comfort and their hearts.


The love comes easy when it’s just you and him chasing big dreams and loving long and sleeping well.

The love is thicker but harder to see when mixed with sleepless nights and changes of plans and death and disease.

We may not always have the fairy tale.

But we have it fairly good.


And may we always remember at birthdays, and other days, too.

That this life is fleeting and just a vapor.

And it’s not YOLO, it’s more like YOGO.  You only GET once.  You only GIVE once.


The greatest love story of all is the man who gave His life away so that we might live with Him in Glory.

That man was 33 years old when he took to the cross.


So today as my man turns 33, I’m thankful for him as he gives so much for this family.  He loves purely and kindly.  He is wise and calm so many things that I am not.

Yes, my wish for him is to have a great evening filled with slobbery kisses and chocolate cake and maybe even a Wiggles party (ha! Jackson’s request).

But my bigger wish is that our family would use this upcoming year to love well and give well.  Follow the lead of our King and the lead of our husband and daddy.  That we would be grace-filled and giving, intentional with all of our time.

Happy birthday, Brian.  We love you so much!




Best of the Web- February 14 edition

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here are a few articles from the past week that I enjoyed reading:

The One Question Every Parent Should Quit Asking

“Wanting them to be the best is all about me. My expectations. My fears. So I yell at them from the stands, correct them after lessons, and coax them into activities that suck the fun out of childhood. And in the process, I teach them that their worth is wrapped up in how they perform.”


It reminded me of some things I’m currently reading in this book.  (Affiliate link)

Maybe this is why there is a song called, “Johnny and June”:  Greatest Love Letter of all Time

I love when older folks speak an encouraging word.

And because I’m dying to go to Iceland.  So many great deals on flights from the East Coast and now this travel guide to help me plan.  Right, Mr Yoder Toter?  😉


Last, but not least–

Worth the 2 minutes and 13 seconds of your time.  A couple married 63 years gives some very valid advice!