My Testimony - Part 1

Setting the Scene

My Home Life - The Foundation

I’ll talk about the spiritual aspect of my home life growing up in just a minute, but I thought I should probably start with a fly over of my family life. My dad worked the night shift as a Sysco Foods driver, a job he started shortly after I was born. He worked well over 40 hours a week and was frequently tired and worn out when he got home. My mom has some mental illness and life with her was very unpredictable. Beyond the mood swings with her, there was verbal abuse and gaslighting that occurred behind closed doors.

My parents were an explosive combination and their disagreements excalated very quickly. I don’t want to call them out on specifics here, I’ll just leave it with this - it was a tense house to grow up in and I spent a large amount of time hiding behind the couch. While I hid from them and their crazy world I always felt like there was someone sitting there with me. I knew I was not alone, and it was probably this knowledge more than anything else that founded my belief in a god in a home where spirituality wasn’t a priority.

For the first 7 years of my life, I had an awareness of Christianity only through the 80’s American culture which I lived in. Each year there were TV specials that came out around Christmas and Easter that gave some general idea of what the holidays were about, though Santa was my first thought at Christmas and not Jesus.

Through my parents’ divorce, my mom moved into some sort of angel worshipping and had angels placed all around that house and pins that I wore on my shirt. She would speak to the figurines and ask them for protection and talk with them on occasion like they had life in them. My sister fell in with a rebellious crowd at school and someone made a remark about the devil in her yearbook and I remember my mom being over the top angry. I first learned about exorcism from this event and not the movie. My mom was convinced that my sister had fallen in with devil worshippers or at least said so dramatically in her arguments with my sister.

There were two bibles in the back corner of my mom’s closet. I frequently came upon them as they resided right next to my mom’s old cowboy boots which I dearly loved and frequently snuck in to wear around when I thought no one was paying attention. They were old and beat up and there was a book labeled “Old testament” and one labeled “new testament”. On occasion, I tried to read them as a very new reader but they were incredibly difficult and were King James Version so even the words I could make out it was all way over my head.

I very distinctly remember standing next to our old Lazy Boy recliner one day when I was only about 4 years old. My parents were having a deep conversation about my uncle and they were both very distraught. I don’t remember what they were saying, I only assume they were talking about my uncle based on the events that followed. My dad left the room when they were done talking and my mom turned to see me standing there. She paused for a moment, I could tell she was torn between anger that I had been there and wanting to scoop me up and hold me close.

She settled on scooping me up. She came down and knelt before me giving me a big hug and when she pulled away she had tears in her eyes and she said to me “We need to pray for your uncle. He and Aunt are getting a divorce.”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about but she was so serious and insistent with tears in her eyes. I nodded my agreement then hesitantly asking “How do I pray?”
“Nothing to it.” She said and then informed me I need only say “dear God” then ask for what I want and at the end toss in an amen. We said a very simple prayer together “Dear God be with Uncle and help him out, amen.” and that was that.

Being the ever compliant child that I was I took this task very seriously and whenever I found nothing to do I would repeat that prayer with very little variance. Honestly, I probably said it 8 times a day. Then one day I was watching the Andy Griffith show and there was an episode when Opie’s aunt tells him to say his prayers. From watching this episode a few others that followed I gathered that you were supposed to say your prayers before bed and you should be kneeling with your hands in the proper position. I also learned you should bless your family members at the end of your prayer before you say amen. In this form, my prayers changed. “Dear God, Help my uncle out and give him comfort. God bless mom, God bless dad, God bless my sister. Amen.”

A few years later while walking through a craft fair with my mom at the local Catholic church I came across a sign that intrigued me; it read “when I count my blessings I count you twice.” I was very curious about this. Were blessings at the end of my prayers supposed to be counting something? Were they for my benefit or the benefit of those I was blessing?
As my mom and aunt moved forward to the next booth I quickly whispered to the woman “What does that mean? Why would you count someone twice in your blessings?” She smiled at me and said, “Your blessings are all the things you are thankful for, and if you count someone twice you are extra thankful for them.” I quickly caught up with my mom and aunt and contemplated this new information.

It made a difference in my little heart. Once I had digested this information my prayers changed remarkably. They were no longer quick things I said before bed, they took hours! I always had a hard time falling asleep so this new ritual really helped me out, my own form of counting sheep I suppose. I would make my request for the prayer then I would go through a list of EVERYTHING I was thankful for. “God bless my penguin stuffed animal, God bless my pillow, God bless my bedroom, etc.” Then when I got to the people I loved I would go through this process twice.

I am very serious it took about 2 hours to complete each night, if not more. I would frequently fall asleep before I could finish and then I’d be so upset the next day that my pray the previous night had not been heard because I had forgotten the “sign off” with an amen. So I developed a new habit to counteract this, when I started to feel a little sleepy I would say “and God I’m going to say amen now even though I’m not done in case I fall asleep.” Remember I was a child no more than 6 by the time these habits were formed and I had little to NO adult guidance on any of this.

For some years our next-door neighbors were Christians who attended a large church in our home town. They had daughters that were around my age. When they first moved in we were instant friends, however, my older sister had a nightmare one night about the mother. My mom was convinced that my sister’s nightmare was a sign from the angels that this woman was demon-possessed and evil and I was no longer allowed to play directly with them anymore.

Being the persistent kid that I was I always found a way around this, one was to climb the fence between our yards and chat with them from there, but my mom often noticed that and would yell at me not to be “the little pest on the fence”. I discovered a knothole in one of the wood boards which soon served as my means of conversing with the girls.

Eventually, being convinced that the family was somehow evil, my mom made it so uncomfortable for the family to live next to us that they moved, and so went my only source of information. Again I was relegated to TV specials on holidays to gain information about this God that I wanted so desperately to know about.

In this manner, I continued on until I was 12, and then everything changed. That is the background for me to begin my story. Come back next Thursday and I’ll dive into the next part of my story.

Read more: My Testimony - Part 1

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My Honest Review

This page contains affiliate links. Dell did not sponsor this post. This is my honest review of a product I paid for.

I used to buy a new computer every year. I’d set my budget and save up for the next one as soon as the recent one was purchased. I generally would talk one of my parents or cousins into buying my used one. I had a strange need for new computers. I don’t even think I was buying the best computer when I upgraded I was just buying the better than my current and the best I could afford.

Obviously, this model isn’t sustainable and once I got out of high school and real life hit I realized I could no longer do this. I saved up my money and worked extra jobs so I could get a really nice computer. I didn’t have a computer so I could play games, I had it for creativity purposes. I loved to write and make mini movies with my friends. I was constantly in search of the best and fastest machine to edit and render our silly creations.

I chose an IBuyPower customized machine. It was beautiful! The side panel was a transparent plastic panel so I could see inside and there were lights on each of the different components that could be programmed to light up with use or music. Best of all, it was a shiny royal blue!

That was the last computer I ever purchased for myself. I married Jason a year later and he is THE tech guy in this relationship and he has always picked out my machine for me after Big Blue died. Big Blue lasted several years and was revived a few times before Jason decided I needed a laptop. We had our marketing company back then and so while I used the laptop it wasn’t actually mine so when I left the company after our oldest daughter was born I had to give it up.

I was downgraded to Jason’s old computer that I had gotten him as a gift before we got married. It too had been revived a time or two and was more of a mutant than a machine. I started moving away from PC use altogether because using that old thing was so frustrating. For 7 years I struggled away with it and gave up writing for the most part because the machine made me so angry.

I pestered Jason so much about it he eventually got me a new laptop. It was great for word processing and could manage the kids' homeschool apps. It was slower than I would have liked, but a million times better than the old mutant I had been using.
With 3 kids in public school and each of them having about an hour of online homework to do a day our house was in need of another machine. I wanted to design the Conversation Journal and get back into writing on the blog so my desire was for a machine that could handle some creative applications too.

Jason found a steal of a deal. Dell sent him a $350 off coupon on a nice laptop. We were in the home stretch of paying off our student loans so buying a laptop was not on our radar for real, but the deal was so good we decided to go for it.
Upon the very first startup of the machine the cooling fan was broken and I had not owned it more than an hour before it was being packed back up in a box and heading back to Dell service support.

It arrived back and the sound cards hadn’t been installed properly. They initially wanted me to send it BACK to dell once more which would have meant in the 4 weeks I had owned the laptop I had only used it for two days. Jason posted a comment on Dell’s Twitter feed and they immediately corrected the problem by walking us through the fix. I was fit to throw a fit, but Jason the patient handled it all for me - he is pretty cool like that.

Now that I’ve got the machine and the fan works and the sound is properly functioning I love it. I had started designing the Conversation Journal on my old laptop and it was taking forever, I was dedicated so I pushed through. With this Laptop, I have been able to design 4 pages to every 1 on the old machine. It starts up in an instant and I haven’t even optimized my startup (kids running around means my time is limited and prioritized).

Right now Amazon has a pretty good deal on the same machine and it is possible that it may go down a little more for Prime Day. If you are on the lookout for a new laptop I highly recommend this one.

From the Amazon Product Page

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Read more: Dell Gaming Laptop

Kindles Tablets and Other Devices we CAN Live Without

Tranturms. Safety. Boundaries

Our Family History With Tablets

In honor of Prime Day, I thought I’d give a review of the Kindle Fire. They are sure to come on sale and you may be tempted to buy one or two for your kiddos. This article will be worth the read before you make that decision.
We've got 5 Young Children
We’ve currently got 5 children under the age of ten. We have used both Ipads and Kindle Fires with our kids. I will be 100% honest with you, we no longer use tablets in this house. I truly preferred the Kindle when we were using tablets, the parent controls are so much simpler to use and set-up. I strongly recommend getting the Disney Circle to moderate your devices, but if you don’t have the Circle the native child controls on the Kindle Fire are really good. If you make the decision that tablets are right for your family, no judgment from me, I would recommend the Kindle over the Ipad.

Now I’m probably going to shot myself in the foot and talk myself out of any affiliate sales on a Kindle Fire if you keep reading. That’s okay with me though. I want to empower any parents out there that are struggling with the Tablet and Device debate with your children. It is fully possible to get rid of devices and still have children that are entertained long enough for you to get done what you need to.

When our first 2 kids were under the age of 4 we had two Ipads. They enjoyed using them all the time and would frequently throw tantrums when I took them away. We were planning on Homeschooling and I got swept up in what the other moms were doing and I felt like I HAD to have some sort of tablet for them. The Ipads were older and needed replacing and after much research I bought the Kindle Fires for them.

They enjoyed their educational programs. They had apps to encourage reading, bible study apps, and math apps. I told myself it was all okay because they only had educational content on their Kindles and they had auto-shut offs set up. They were trained to expect to use the Kindles within a certain window of time every day. They still stomped their feet and got angry when the Kindle’s would shut off. They whined and cried if we missed a day, and they begged bargained and tried to be sneaky to get more time.

We had meltdowns over the tablets on a regular basis at least once or twice a week and when you have more than one kid those really start to add up. We started down the path of minimalism and I regularly looked at the Kindle’s and thought about how much I disliked them. They caused anxiety in me. I tried instituting a system of fasting one day a week from technology and they were like little junkies going through withdrawals, it made me endlessly angry.

Then one Thanksgiving they broke their charge cords for the last time. I had already replaced them many times before and I was done. I told them I wouldn’t be spending any money until Christmas and maybe they’d get new chargers in their stockings. The next month was an interesting one. The first two weeks they were just awful and whined about the Kindle’s every single day at 1 pm and would throw down and cry until 2 pm when the Kindle’s would have turned off. Then all of the sudden they forgot about them. They realized they weren’t getting what they wanted and they moved on. They started playing with their toys more, building and laughing, working together and being kids.

Christmas came and I had the charge cords but I never gave them to the kids. We’ve been tablet free for 4 years now and it has been wonderful. We do have a Switch game system that they got for Christmas last year, but we practice not throwing fits when they are told to stop playing - how do we do that you ask? Jason will randomly tell them to stop for an undefined period of time. They might play for 3 minutes and be asked to stop for 20. They might play for 20 and be asked to stop for 5. It is random and if they throw a fit they don’t get to go back to it.

I am okay with the Switch because we had some strict guardrails in place from the very beginning and because they play together on it. It is a community thing and they invite friends over which feels less like they are isolating themselves and diving into technology without direction.

On occasion, they ask if they can get Kindle’s again but I tell them only the book readers not one with games and they are mostly disinterested in that idea.
  • Wireless

    But your kids will feel attached to them
  • Simple & Functional

    But they may cause tantrums
  • Everywhere

    But you better have boundaries

Read more: Kindles Tablets and Other Devices we CAN Live Without

Podcast and Overcoming my Fear

New Things Abound

Overcoming My Fear


I'm Launching a Podcast

In mid-September when the Conversation Journal launches I will also be launching a podcast to help support parents in their efforts at having conversations with their kids. The podcast will feature real-life conversations between parents and their kids, tips and interviews with seasoned parents, and conversational tools to help parents.

This process has been incredibly scary and I've shed more than a few tears - I mean have you ever had to listen to your own voice? It is strange and uncomfortable for someone who prefers to stand behind the star.

Jason has always had big dreams, and I wont lie they have scared me, but I’ve taken comfort in knowing I’m just the behind-the-scenes girl. I could play a part of his big dreams, they were in a way my dreams too, but I didn’t have to stand out in front and shine. Standing behind him made going after things I was passionate about all that much easier.

With this, I am not only having to step out in front but step out alone. He might be giving me technical tips here and there, but ultimately I’m standing here alone and staking a claim on this thing.

For years I rode horses. Time after time I met people who had bought a horse simply because they loved them. They had no idea how to ride or train a horse and in many cases they were terrified to actually get up and sit on top of those wildly tamed beasts. I marveled at them. I didn’t understand what they were afraid of, and I couldn’t understand why they would go through the trouble and expense if they were so terrified.

Now I understand. My wildly tamed beast sits in front of me in the shape of a dream - a ministry of helping parents have conversations with their kids. It is tame, what is there in writing and recording a few podcasts, and yet it is wild - new and unknown.

All this being said, I recorded a simple podcast on our summer goal of learning a new language as a test. I forced myself to publish it and let me tell you, I shed quite a few tears over it. Excitement, anxiety, fear, so many emotions that I’m not used to feeling all at once. The actual podcast wont launch until September, but I’m going to record a few small episodes to practice and help me get over my fear of my own voice. If you want to be a part of the process click below to listen to The Conversation Podcast.

The Conversation Podcast

Do you know a mom who you think is doing a great job at having conversations with her kids? Was your dad stellar? If you know a parent who you think we could all learn from let us know and we will try to get them on the podcast.

Nominate a Mom

Sometimes I don't dream big enough! I'm going out on a limb by posting my list of people I'd love to feature on the podcast. If any of you Honorary Montoyas out there can make a connection I'd be over the moon.

  • Sally Clarkson
  • Celeste Headlee
  • Sheila Heen
  • Kathleen Edelman
  • Lera Boroditsky
  • Paul Cuffaro's parents (YouTuber)
  • Mariah Elizabeth's parents (YouTuber)
  • Jake Koehler's parents (YouTuber)
  • The Art Hub for Kids parents (YouTuber)

I know one of them

Read more: Podcast and Overcoming my Fear

Can You Do Minimalism With a Large Family

You cannot spoil a child

I’m going to start this out with a very important truth that I think will or can help you with this process or concept. You can NOT spoil a child with love. Love is NOT what spoils a child. We often think love is giving them whatever they want, giving them everything we never had, but the truth is love says no and love sets boundaries. If you see a spoiled child, it is not love that spoiled them, it is something quite the opposite!

Moms (and dads) taking care of yourself and your sanity is often a key in unlocking your ability to really love your child. For me the constant mess of the house, and I’m not talking dirtiness, was driving me insane. No matter how much I cleaned the house was messy. Than I’d start the mammoth task of organizing and no one was capable of maintaining it because there was so much stuff. I found myself following them around and putting things away while they were still playing with them. If things weren’t strictly maintained in the organization that I had created than all the toys would be dumped from all the bins in search of a single one. I was homeschooling two older children, I had a very busy toddler, and I was about to have a 4th child. It was all too much! I sat at my desk one day completely dejected and worn out scrolling through Facebook to numb my distressed mind, and that’s when I came upon a viral post by Allie Casazza. She had 4 children and claimed to have gotten rid of all of the toys. It was revolutionary and I was just desperate enough to try it.

Read more: Can You Do Minimalism With a Large Family

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