Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm a slacker.

You might get the impression reading this blog that I'm an overachiever or something.  And I am, but only in certain areas.  If it's something I enjoy (say knitting) or something of core importance to me (such as parenting), I can be obsessive with the researching and collecting of well, everything...  My book and yarn collections are a testament to that.

When it comes to the day-to-day stuff, I am chronically undisciplined.  I can be a real slacker.

My point: I suck at New Years Resolutions. 

I'm annoyed when January rolls around again and I'm much in the same place.  It feels like I'm always trying to get my act together in the same areas.  So this year, I do want to continue to work on some things... Mainly time-management and the related self-discipline...  But I am not going to post out any resolutions. 

Instead, I wrote a list of things I am glad I worked on in 2010:

* Assuming Positive Intent - I have been working on this a lot. I am consciously trying to assume the best of intentions from my kids, my husband, my friends...  Only God sees the heart and it is not for me to be judgemental (and resentful).  I could go on and on and will likely write another post on this...
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* Being more Kind and Gentle - I can be snarky and too sarcastic sometimes.  Along with assuming positive intent, I have been trying to be more kind and gentle to those around me, especially my children.  I have been exploring "gentle discipline" this year and it is working for us.  I have been trying to really embrace that Golden Rule thing.  And you know what?  The more I try to cultivate gentleness, the more content I am and the more I enjoy my kids.
.

* Getting Out -  Getting the kids out of the house at least a few times a week has been a welcome change in our life.  I am an introvert and a homebody so this has been an effort.  The summer was filled with trips to the beach and taking the oldest to VBS.  Even a short walk to the park can change the day.  And if we have to go to the grocery store I make sure I have plenty of snacks, toys and do it at a time when we won't be rushed or tired.  Revolutionary. 
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* Celebrations - I really enjoyed planning and executing the boys' birthday parties and other parties this year!
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Ok, I feel like less of a slacker now.  :)  Now for those dishes...

What did you accomplish this year?  Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.  You deserve it! :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Post-Christmas Post

Christmas was great.  It was fun to see the kids actually enjoying and understanding a little more this year. 

Lookie here!

We were blessed with "just enough" this year.  Not too much to be overwhelming, but enough that I feel very blessed.  I also felt like we did "just enough" visiting.  Enough to enjoy it, but not too much to feel so hurried.  We are finally finding our stride.

Handprints and Poem for Dada

Enjoying the New Train Set

We got hit with a blizzard and about two feet of snow the day after Christmas.  Even though I'm a beach bum, I totally love snow.  Of course if we got more than one or two good storms a year the novelty would probably wear off. :)
Blizzard '10

I am working on getting things back to normal this week.  The house is thoroughly trashed.  There are toys EVERYWHERE.  And the kids are getting cabin fever which translates into mass destruction.  (Yesterday they got into baby powder amongst other things. Gah!)   

The tree and decorations will stay up a bit longer. I toyed with the idea of leaving them up until three kings day, but they usually come down New Years Day. We'll see how I feel this weekend.

Ok back to the cleaning thing...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Linkies

Just a few more (short) articles I enjoyed... you know if you have time between the wrapping and the prepping and the cooking...

7 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier and More Fun with Toddlers and Babies

What the Grinch and Expectations Have in Common
Wise words about how expectations rob us of enjoyment and can cause friction w/ our spouses.

Plan Your Perfect Christmas: Embrace Imperfection

What we Tell Our Children About Santa by Pastor Mark Driscoll
Interesting history lesson about Santa and this Pastor's take on finding a middle ground with his kids.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Simplifying Christmas

I know. I know. Christmas is only seven short days away.  Kinda late to be simplifying anything at this point.

I just skimmed through Simplify Your Christmas (Elaine St. James Little Books), a book I first read a couple years ago.  It had some good tips and reminders that I am thinking about right now. 

Here are my (not so organized) thoughts on the book:

* Embrace what you love about the season, reject/eliminate the parts you don't. *

Personally, I love the decorations, music, shopping, baking, eating... the traditions are what make Christmas special for me.  Now that I have my own family, I am really enjoying creating new traditions and passing down old ones.  I love the time to really focus on the gift of Christ... a time to celebrate Him.
What I don't love?  Feeling rushed, pressure to attend every (family) event, not having enough money to buy everything I want to give and trying to come up with gifts for people who never seem to appreciate what you do give.  (I'm sure we all have a few of those peeps on our list.  This year I gave up and they are getting gift cards... like it or lump it!) 

* Cut back on expectations... for gifts, for food, for whatever is stressing you out. *

We have gotten pretty good at saying "No."
Since our first child was born, we decided that Christmas morning is just for us. We make a big breakfast and take our time with the presents.  We will not travel on Christmas Day. We spent years before that driving to three different houses on Christmas Day after being out somewhere Christmas Eve. It was not an enjoyable way to spend the holiday. And there is absolutely no way my kids would be up to that. I would encourage you do to the same: Carve out a special time to enjoy the holiday with just your immediate family... be it Christmas Eve or Christmas morning or the day after... whenever works.

* Examine your motives. *

Do you shop because you are bored or unsatisfied with your life?  In the book she says
Shopping has become America's pastime.  On average, we now spend six hours a week in a mall and only 40 minutes a week playing with our children.
Yikes.  What better excuse to feed our shopping addiction than Christmas!
I am really liking the three gifts rule we are putting in place for the kids this year.  (Three gifts under the tree, one to represent each wiseman.  Each gift with a different theme.)
Some years, the gifts might be more expensive than others, but it is a good limit for me. Otherwise I tend to feel like I need "just one more" thing and before you know it I've gone overboard.  I'm already trying to cheat on my own system by cramming extra little pressies in the stockings.  :)  I figure that will be my wiggle room on the "good" years.
I love shopping and will spend hours and hours "window shopping" on-line.  I fully realize it is an escape.  I love getting packages in the mail!  It gives me something little to look forward to. 
Perhaps this is not an issue for you, but it is something I need to keep in check.

* Simplifying doesn't always equal "less time consuming."  *

Ok some of the ideas St. James mentions might take more time, such as personally responding to each Christmas card you receive instead of sending a mass mailing of cards yourself.  But there is no right or wrong way for your family to celebrate the holiday.  Focusing on the "meaningful" is going look different in each family.  Taking the time to ask yourself "Why am I really doing this?" might lead to some big changes in how you celebrate.  By eliminating the obligations and pressures we put on ourselves, we give ourselves the time and room to make Christmas more meaningful and memorable.

Anyway, I definitely recommend picking up Simplify Your Christmas (Elaine St. James Little Books). (It's out of print so maybe try the library.)  It covers topics including cards, kids, giving, holiday spending, decorating, food, and plenty of ideas for creating a simpler, more meaningful Christmas for you and yours.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Linky Love: Homemade Ornament Roundup

I have been collecting tutorials for homemade ornaments.  These are all easy enough for the kids to help with.  I think this is going to be an annual tradition for us.  Last year W and I made cinnamon-applesauce ornaments and handed them out to everyone on our list.  (You can see one of the cinnamon hearts in this post.)

* Cinnamon Applesauce "Cookies" (basic recipe, but there are tons of variations on the web)
* Salt Dough Ornaments .. a classic!
* Beeswax or Crayon Wax Dipped Pinecones
* Recycle Toys into Ornaments
* Sparkly Yarn Ornaments
* Vintage Glitter Snowballs (part of a series of 24 Handmade Ornaments, though not are as kid-friendly to make)
* Retro Snowflakes
* Sparkling Ice Crystals
* Borax Crystals
* Mice (made from Hershey kisses!)
* Felt Wrapped Trees
* Not technically an ornament but this (unbreakable) felt garland is perfect for homes with little ones.
* Button Wreath
As if all that wasn't enough for you, here is a list of holiday books with coordinating kids crafts.  Most are, you guessed it, ornaments.

Shhhhh!  We made these for the Grands last week.



Anyone have others to share?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

my day so far: excuse the lack of grammar

preschooler woke me up at 6:30am...  not unusual but the peed on bed/sheets/comforter was... (way to NOT put a trainer/diaper on the kid last night, mom.  Uh doy!)
grouchy, clingy toddler... again, not completely out there but the quickly ensuing poo-plosion was a bit much...

"Can I have a lollypop?"  "Not now."  "Whyyyyy??" "Um because it's 8am and you haven't eaten breakfast yet."

fed the kids, nurse the tot, feed them both more more more  (Seriously these guys would eat non-stop if they could... but not at dinner.  That is a whole 'nother category apparently.

Boys play w/ playdough... "mommy come eat these cookies I made!" (repeat that about 10x's)

"Can I have a lollypop? Gum? Snack? Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh?"

IMPROMPTU DANCE BREAK.... evacuate the dance floor...

check up on my holiday orders on-line... call customer service to find out an item I ordered awhile ago is no longer available, but yet is still showing up as available for purchase on the site and is showing up as "backordered" on my account... JCPenny, you are on notice!  (along with Kohls but that is another post)
weeeell I thought I was finished Christmas shopping for the kids...

laundry, dishes, laundry, laundry, laundry

"ok WHY are you completely naked?"  (this is a new thing and it results in whining b/c he is cold. no duh.)

"Don't play in the toilet!" 
"Don't put that washcloth/toothpaste/etc etc in the toilet!"
"Don't climb on the stereo speaker!"
"No you can't go out front and mess with the Christmas lights."
"Don't propeller your brother."
"Please stop taking the ornaments off the tree"
"Please plug the tree back in."
"Put the fan back in your room if you would like to keep it."

"I'm cooooold!"  "How about we PUT SOME CLOTHES ON then?"  o.m.g.

(aww they are playing megabloks together.  cuteness.)

baby won't nap

feed them both lunch
story time
let's try that nap again...
"I don't want to do quiet time!!!"  (yeah, yeah, I know, you tell me every.single.day.)

Finally, quiet. 

~~~~~
I am thinking about my morning and laughing because it is not an unusual morning for us.  We sure cram a lot in there, huh?  This also explains why my house is pretty much a disaster and why I honestly don't care one lick about that today...  Life with tiny kids is crazy exhausting and I am still enjoying it.  (Unless you talk to me between the hours of 4:30pm-6pm. I am not enjoying much of anything at that point.) 
Maybe the years of sleep deprivation have warped my brain??
Still 5 more hours 'till Papa K gets home...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's the most wonderful time...

I have to admit, I've been a little scrooge-like for the past couple years.  2008 sucked all around.  I had just had a baby in 2009. 

But this year?  I am absolutely loving it!  Of course it helps that at four, my oldest is finally old enough to understand and enjoy some of the traditions.  (Last year it seemed to go over his head and he was completely out of sorts on Christmas day.) 

I went shopping on Black Friday afternoon with him.  I still don't think I'm the doorbuster at 4am type.  I much prefer on-line shopping.  :)
But it was great to go in the afternoon.  They had a full staff so there were no lines.  And while I missed out on some stuff, there were enough deals to make it worth it.  We stopped at Starbucks for a chocolate milk (his first!) and a peppermint mocha for me.

W loved decorating the house!  I unpacked the ornaments and he put them on the tree.  I put some special ones towards the top, but he did about 85% of the decorating.  He even put some ornaments on his kitchen set.  How cute is that?


Of course putting the lights on the house with Daddy was pretty much the highlight of his year.


I finished the book advent.  Eventually I will make some eco-friendly reusable wraps for these, but since I have an obscene amount of wrapping paper in my attic I picked a roll and got to it.  Wasn't sure where to put these, but they look pretty nice by the tree. (Like the number labels? Yeah, they are just plain post-its w/ marker. LOL)


Now I am waiting (no so) patiently for all my mail order goodies to make it to me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sharing some Cheer

Send Holiday Cheer Christmas Card
Shop Shutterfly.com for elegant Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.
Been playing around with Shutterfly again. :)
Here is a card I made just for you, my tens of faithful readers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stay Sane Y'all

Linky: Stay Sane This Christmas by Making Wise Decisions
"In the end, Christmas is meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to point our hearts towards God’s grandest gift to us, found in the shoddy manger in Bethlehem. It’s not meant to stress us out."
Yes, I am posting another linky.  :)
Some nice reminders for this time of year when it feels like everyone wants a piece of you, your time or your money.

Holiday Meltdowns

Linky: Holidays and Meltdowns They go Together like Peanutbutter and Jelly

Great little article and a must read for this time of year if you have little ones.  No, it's not just your kids.  :) 

We were pretty surprised last year when our little guy was super grouchy on Christmas morning.  But on good ol' Facebook I realized that he wasn't the only one. We are going to change our tact this year and change our expectations too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Update

Oh yes, I know you all were waiting on the edge of your seat for this one.  hahaha

I am pretty much finished shopping for the boys.  Just need some stocking stuffers and something for the husband.  wooohooo  A few little things for other people, but the big stuff is done.

I am enjoying Christmas shopping this year.  "Gifts" is my love language so I usually get a thrill out of planning/making/buying gifts.  One year I made handmade gifts for everyone on my list.  This year is a lean one, but not the leanest we've had.  We save a little each month throughout the year so I have a little cash to work with come shopping time.  Throw in some good deals and I think we've done ok. 

Regardless of your gifting budget, family traditions are an important way to make the holidays special and memorable.

For us, I want to focus a lot on the season of Advent.  I have a children's book advent I'm working on.  I also would like to start doing an Advent wreath so we can follow along with the reading and candle lighting that our church does.  (More great Advent countdown ideas here, here and here.)

Another tradition involves going to a lights and animated village at a garden center near my in-laws.  I would really love to start the tradition of annual trip out to Longwood Gardens as well.  My lights-obsessed son would flip! 

Of course there are traditions about the gifts themselves.  My mom would let us choose a small gift to open on Christmas Eve. I am doing a variation on that and am giving the boys new PJs to open every Christmas Eve.  Some people have a set number of gifts or themes for the gifts.  (I love these wear, read, want, need tags!)  I have thought about limiting the number of gifts and we naturally have been buying less and less each year out of necessity.  Still pondering this one.

The boys' PJ's for this year from Gymbo. Love 'em!

What family traditions do you remember from childhood?  Which traditions will you start with your family?

I read a similar discussion on FB the other day.  The one mom said that she fills the living room with red, green and silver balloons.  So the kids have to wade through them to get to the tree.  She said it has really helped on the slim gift giving years and the kids love it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh CRAP.



I used be someone who filled out Christmas cards on Halloween...while handing out candy of course.
I used to be someone who actually sent Christmas cards. heh.
I used to be someone who had all her Christmas shopping finished by Thanksgiving.
You know.  So I could spent December baking and wraping my presents with MarthaStewart touches. 
I am NOT kidding.  I love that stufff.

We have pared down our gift giving tremendously in recent years, but the sudden realization that Christmas is less than 2 months away has me feeling slightly panicked.  Guess I better start a list or something....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Read Me Linky:

Make Home a Haven Using Personal Filters by Simple Mom

I was going to email this out to some of my friends.  (You know who you are. LOL)  But I figured I'll just post a linky.  This article really resonated with me.  This is something I have been consciously working on for awhile but I've never heard the term "personal filter."  Very fitting stuff for this time of year.

My favorite part was about avoiding TV commercials and not taking your kids to browse the toy isle if you want to cultivate a heart of contentment in your home.  Advertisers spend a lot of money to convince you that you truly must have that shiny new toy, fun new boots, or that delicious bacon double cheese burger, etc etc.

Reminds me that I need to watch The Story of Stuff again.  (Did you noticed they added a few more stories recently?)

I heart Shutterfly

I love Shutterfly.  I have for a long time.  I especially love that I have had photos safely stored on their site for years. 
Yes, years. 
I have been happy with the calendars and greeting cards and prints I have ordered.  (Photo
calendars make for some very happy grandparents, btw.) 
So when Shutterfly offered me some free holiday cards if I did a write-up, I jumped at the chance! 

Ok, so I am supposed to tell you about my favorite of the Christmas cards designs.  Honestly it is hard to choose! 

The premium, folded cards are nice. 
Peace on Earth is clean and classic.


I like Good Blessings because it refers to one of my favorite verses. 

I love the concept of Family Memories from the Christmas Story Cards.  Perfect for someone who takes a lot of photos, or like me, has a little baby who has grown up a lot this year.  I'd say this is my favorite if I had to pick right now.



Now if only I could get a decent photo of my kids...


Disclaimer:
This post is part of the Shutterfly free card promo for Bloggers.  You can participate here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Manly One Party

Yes, another party post. We've had a lot to celebrate lately.

We used to call D "little-old-man" so a "manly" themed birthday party seemed like a good idea for his first. Besides, how could I not make chocolate mustaches once I saw them?

If you are my Facebook friend you've already seen these, but I figured I'd post anyway. I got so many great ideas for this party on-line so I had to give back. This party was actually a month ago, but I've had computer issues.

Sharpies + latex balloons made for some cheap and theme appropriate decor.
Itty bitty moustache stamps were purchased from Skull and Crossbuns on Etsy.  (Used them on the cupcake picks and thank you notes.)  Mustache Lolly Candy Molds were found on Amazon.  (This is an affiliate link.)  Here's the recipe I used for the cupcakes.  Healthier than usual and they were a big hit with everyone.  I did top them with regular cream cheese frosting though.  I made D's shirt using a tutorial I found here.
And I didn't get a good picture of it, but I cut out mustache shapes from black construction paper and taped them to the mirrors in the house.  tee-hee

 
More Manly Inspiration:
Mr. Man Party (Pretty sure this the blog that started the "manly" birthday party themes last year.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembering

I think I'm generally a private person.  However, I do not mind talking about this topic.  In general, I think our culture does not handle it well... if at all. 
I no longer have the bitterness and longing that I once did.  I remember how difficult it was to deal with such a personal and often unspoken loss.  Through the grief I have found a greater appreciation for my life and the little ones I was allowed to keep.  Things happen in this world that don't make sense, that hurt, that seem pointless...  The what-if's are always there, but my hope is in Christ. 

Today my heart goes out to those who are still in the midst of mourning, those who are still waiting to complete their families, those who are still hurting...  I hope that you find healing and I pray that you find peace.

October 15 is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.  Tonight, all around the world, candles will be lit in remembrance.

Monday, October 11, 2010

mmm fall

I'm loving the cooler weather.  It gets my knitting mojo going.  Babies are good knitting inspiration too.  I finally finished and gifted these green scrappy pants I've been working on.  I love the way they came out!  Yes, they are a bit funky but that's my thing.  They won't fit for a few months so I had to make him a pumpkin hat too.  The hat will (hopefully) fit him now. 

D needs a hat too. I orignally bookmarked the pumpkin hat for him, but I decided to do something that will be appropriate through the winter.  So I used the last of my bday money to buy this pattern:



I haven't completed a project with cables so this should be interesting!  I hope there is minimal swearing involved.  Am waffling on a yarn to choose.  I have some grey 100PureWool (super soft!) that might win out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

B is for Baby Shower

B is for....
Bird! Baby! Boy!

A few weeks ago we threw a shower for a dear friend of mine. As you can see, we went with a birdie theme. (Birds & trees are the nursery theme.) I found so much great inspiration on-line so I am returning the favor and posting some pics.

Invites came from Vista Print. I incorporated one into a wreath for the front door.

I made most of the decorations with printed scrapbook paper and solid card stock. I picked up a 2" circle punch from the craft store (with a coupon of course). To make the garlands I just ran the cut-outs through my trusty sewing machine.


Alternate messages: Welcome to the nest! Feather your nest! About to hatch!
In the end I just kept it simple with a "Welcome Baby" banner.


Instead of a wishing well, we had a wishing shelf.  :)  Guests were instructed to bring a new or used book for baby's library.  Card cage collected card gifts.


LOVE this guest book idea I found on Living Eventfully. I printed free coloring pages from the net. The guests got into and it was a great activity to kill time until the guest of honor arrived. I am going to take the pages to be bound at an office supply store.

Favors were these tasty chocolate nests made w/ chow mein noodles and Jelly Belly "eggs."  (Made by another friend, Em)
A couple general tips, pick up that white tacky stuff from the office supply store to hang decorations on all surfaces. And bring your own tape, scissors, suction cups, etc when you are decorating a space that is not your own. I was so glad I did this time.

Inspiration:

Paper Birds @ Family Fun

About to Hatch Shower @ Living Eventfully

Bird Nest Baby Shower @ My Little Cottage in the Making

Bird Themed Shower @ Leaving My Mark

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Change of Seasons

I know summer isn't officially over, but the weather has turned cooler and we are getting into a school year rhythm here. After W's party, there was a baby shower (am working on blogging that). The next day the kids and I took a 10 day trip across the country to visit family. Wow. Whatever made me think that was a good idea I don't know. (No hubby. Change of location every few days. Two crazy, active boys... yikes.)

And here we are. Smack in the middle of September!

I joined a homeschool coop and there are lots of kids in the 3-4's age. So we have a little preschool class going on Mondays. Very fun. One of the local museums offers preschool art classes so we are doing that once a month as well. That was not as big a hit with W, but we will keep trying. When you throw in some Library Story Times and trips to the park we are keeping quite busy.

Oh and D's first birthday is like a week away. No idea how I am going to pull off that party! LOL

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summer Reading

I've been getting some more reading done lately. I'm great at starting books. Not so great at actually finishing them. These books were good enough to get to the end. Here's my unsolicited opinion.



The House that Cleans Itself

The basic principle is that you first need to change your home to better work with your family's needs and habits. Only then can you work on changing any behavior that needs to be fixed.

Likes: It makes perfect sense. Some people are naturally neat and organized. (I am not one of those people. I keep things pretty clean, but clean and neat are two different things.) I have accepted that housework is not tops of my priority list. I think with some changes I could have a house that (almost) cleans itself. She gives lots of practical ways to achieve this.
Dislikes: I will note that this changing your environment thing looks to be a looong process. If I steadily work at it, I guess it will take me no less than several months. And with the little guys to attend to, I'm thinking it will take even longer.

Bottom Line: This provides a logical process for streamlining your home to fit your family's needs. Definitely worth a read if you are not naturally neat and tidy. I will have to keep you posted about how it goes.



Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood

The basic theory of Love and Logic is that you use empathy (aka love) and logic to teach your children to make good choices and to think for themselves. Sounds like common sense but I guess if it was so easy for me I wouldn't be reading all these parenenting books. :P

Likes: This is a practical book. A few of the strategies seemed like they won't work for us exactly as written, but they were easily adaptable. Oh yes, the scripts! That is my most favorite part. They tell you what to say when your child misbehaves. I seriously made note cards so I can memorize the phrases I want to use. You've heard, "Consistency is key!" Well this is all about consistent responses and logical consequences. For me, knowing what to say and how to react BEFORE we are in the moment is crucial. Otherwise I am likely to respond in anger and frustration. Not good.
Some of the things from the book are things I do already, like offering choices on inconsequential things. So I am comfortable incorporating more "Love and Logic" into my parenting.

Dislikes: In the book it says that a healthy parent-child bond is crucial for this approach to work, but they don't seem to elaborate much on how to achieve that. (The Baby Book by Dr Sears is a much better book for developing a healthy attachment with the under 2yo set.)
They propose that developmental levels don't apply to their strategies, but in my experience some sense of child development is important when dealing with little ones.
Also some of the wording took on a more "shaming" flavor than I'm comfortable with, but it's one of those take-what-you-can-use things. I'm guessing that a lot is in the delivery.

The bottom line: This is a great read for anyone with kids in the 2 to 6 who wants some new, effective discipline strategies that will translate to the teenage years and beyond. I thought it was useful enough that I tracked down the audio version for Papa K to listen to during his commute.



Ordinary Mom Extraordanary God

A Christian devotional book with short 2-3 page essays. As the title implies, it's written specifically for moms.

Likes: I like the devotional format. I can grab some quick encouragement as I drink my morning coffee. It is written in a friendly, conversational tone. Ok, so I'm only half-way through but so far all the topics have been applicable to my life. :)

Dislikes: Really not much to dislike. I guess a more scripture references would be nice if someone wanted to study a topic more in depth, but I don't think that's the intent of the book.

Bottom Line: I am enjoying it and I recommend it. :)


I've got a few more books on the nightstand: Raising Your Spirited Child and Grace Based Parenting are almost finished, but in limbo. And I just picked up Radical Homemakers, Playful Parenting and Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful


Disclaimers: I have not been prompted to or compensated for this post. Just an good old fashioned book review. The links to Amazon are affiliate links, but I never get paid anything from them so I don't really take it all that seriously.
As an aside, I do read books I don't care for. But I never finish them and therefore don't really offer an opinion unless asked.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's Electric!

My oldest is OBESESSED with all thing eletrical... especially lamps and fans. So I went with a robot/lights theme this year for his birthday. I didn't do as much as I wanted because I was sick (sick-as-a-dog-flu-sick) the week before. :(
Here are a few pics...

Lightbulb Cake (shaped from a sheet cake) made by the talented Dirkey.


Birthday banner was made by me. This was a super easy project, but I'll put the instructions in another post with a better picture.
.
I snapped a pic of W and played around with it on Picnik.com. I had some plain 4x6 notecards I affixed to the back and wrote the "thank you's" on there. Theme appropriate and cute! I'm so pleased with how they came out. (BTW the background is a playsilk we pulled out of the toy bin.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A fond farewell to 3!

Can I just say, I have no idea why 2 year olds get labeled "terrible 2's." Sure they are curious and start getting into trouble. Maybe it's because that's when tantrums start for some kids? (For my short tempered kids the tantrums start before one, but anyway...) I'm sorry my friends, THREE is the true terrible age. I have often thought that maybe I'm dealing with something a little "extra" with my guy, but only time will tell on that front. However, most mom's of 3's seem to agree. This is a very challenging age. They are trying so hard to assert their independence that they practically push us over the edge. Yes, I know that four will come with it's own unique challenges. I know enough to know that it's pretty naive to say the worst is behind you.

It's not all terrible though. Three has also been filled with some lingering baby snuggles and some hilarious commentary on life. My son's imaginary friends have been most colorful!
Sure I'm always a little sad to see another milestone distancing us from our first baby. The challenges of this age have really been a catalyst for my own personal growth. I am learning to be more patient, more self-less and humble. (Seeing your child yell at you exactly the way you've have yelled at them is pretty humbling.) I have had to re-evaluate what works and what doesn't work in our family. I daily seek God and ask him for the strength to do a good job.

Still, I say FAREWELL to three with a smile on my face. Happy 4th Birthday, baby boy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Joy

Being a wife and a mother is work. All good relationships require some effort. And when the relationship is with a tiny, needy person(s) with no emotional maturity or sense of self and who is solely dependent on you for life... well it can get a bit draining. (I meant the kids not the husband. Zing.)
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I used to think I was so laid back and patient. Heh. Let's just say God tested that theory with my first darling boy. FAIL!
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I have been realizing more and more that I need to "recharge" by spending time with God. When I make the time to pray and read my Bible, even for a short period of time, my day is drastically different. No this is not a major revelation, but rather one of those "easier said than done" things.
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My kids still do crap like this:

and a lot of this:
But my ability to "deal" is exponentially better. I think this can be true in any circumstance in life. When things suck, bring it to the Lord.
There is an old Hymn that has been stuck in my head lately that says it much more eloquently than I can.

The first verse goes like this:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
My specific prayer has been for JOY and that I would truly enjoy this season of my life. And you know, what? It's working.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Party Time!

Hello internets. I did something very klutzy last week and sprained my foot/ankle. I've been making use of my hours on the couch watch the entire season of Pushing Daisies. (Why did it get cancelled? It's so much more original and interesting than so many other shows.)

I've also been doing some party planning! Oh how I love a good theme party. Before mommyhood I had visions of Martha-esque kid's parties complete with technicolor cakes and pinatas full of trinkets. Now I know the dangers of food dye and the true cost of cheap plastic toys. It kinda makes me a party pooper sometimes. I am determined to overcome this and get a little creative if needed.

Party 1: DS#1's Fourth Bday Party!
Theme: Electricity/Robots
We are just doing a small family shin-dig at my in laws, but I still wanted to make it special for him. The boy is completely obsessed with all things electrical. However, light bulbs aren't exactly a popular party theme. He (and I) like robot motifs as well so I'm going to make it an electric/robot theme. Evite.com had some great robot choices. Will have to shop around for plates and such. (Any ideas?) I think it would be funny to come up with some silly names for the foods. I will be freezer paper stenciling him a 4 shirt.

Inspiration:
Lightbulb Cake, Lightbulb Cupcakes




Party 2: Baby's First Birthday (aka "How is my little baby turning one already?")
Theme: Manly/Mustache
I call him little-old-man-face and little-dude and little-man due to his serious, yet sweet, demeanor. I love all the mustache stuff I've been seeing around the blogs and lookie! Evite even has a Manly Mustache invite. I don't want to give away all my plans, but chocolate mustaches? How can I not make those? I'd like to do a bigger party since it is his first, but will have to crunch some numbers and see what I come up with.
Inspiration: The Mr. Man Party, Bronson's Manly Bash, Fenn's Little Man Party



I also am in the midst of a bigger production still, a baby shower for a certain BFF. However I shall keep all those plans under wraps for now.


I love this crap! teehee If only I had unlimited funds for this area of my life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Feelin' Hot Hot HOT!


I feel like we skipped the spring. It is so HOT!

My AC was like the little engine that could last week. It was trying, but only keeping our house in the 80's. Refreshing.

My oldest did his first Vacation Bible School this month. He had fun and (on the couple days I didn't help out) I had an actual break. Weird, but nice. I have him in another VBS program for last week and this week.

I am itching to get in the kitchen for some bagel baking, but the weather is not conducive. I did try cooking pizza on the grill. Will post more about that later.

I have started The House That Cleans Itself program. I think it makes complete sense, but am a little overwhelmed at all the work that I need to do. I will press on though. I need to get back on the house horse and get the housework under control again.

On a more personal level, I have been seeking and finding joy in my day to day. Sounds simple, but it's not always easy to enjoy the mundane. I've been thinking about writing about that but I always wonder what is too personal to share, you know?

Add in "beach time" and that's my summer in a nutshell thus far.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Our plans are low-key today. Just like my hubby likes it.
Our oldest was sick yesterday so we skipped church to prevent the germ-sharing . (Though his high fever is gone this morning so he's on the mend.) We spent some family time this morning blowing bubbles and just enjoying eachother's company. This evening I will attempt to cook a free-range tenderloin a la Pioneer Woman and make some mashed taters. The hubs loves meat and potatoes as I'm guessing lots of guys do. Unfortunately (for him) meat and potatoes have "special occasion" status at our house. Other than that, I'll give my pops a call. Maybe we'll have a family movie night too.
I've been enjoying our little famliy lately. Things are calming down on many fronts and I see some routine settling into our lives again. And routine is a very good thing for my guys. :)

Happy Father's Day to all the Daddies out there!

Here are some quotes for you:

"A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."
- Billy Graham, Christian Evangelist

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
- Theodore Hesburgh, Catholic Priest and President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame

"It is much easier to become a father than to be one."
- Kent Nerburn, U.S. Author and Educator

"A father is a guy who has snapshots in his wallet where his money used to be."
- Unknown

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm so blue-hoo-hoo!

Anyone watch Veggie Tales?


Here're the spoils of our first blueberry picking trip.


The berries were delicious, cheap and best of all organic-ish!
(They aren't certified but they do not spray the berries.)
This was the first year I actually have enough to put some in the freezer. (Thanks to my mom for helping.) We usually only get enough to eat up in a couple weeks. W was much more into it this year which helps. I plan on going back a few more times before the season is over. It would be awesome to have enough for smoothies all winter long!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Mutant Muffins


These are banana chocolate mutant muffins (name my own). Yes they taste as good as they look.
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I was inspired by this post.
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Since I don't need gluten free, I used a recipe for banana bread from here. (My new fav recipe btw.) I divided the batter and put about 1/4 c. cocoa powder in one half and 1/2 c. choc chips in the other. I could have used a shot of honey or something in the cocoa powder side to bump up the moisture/sweetness, but they were still good.
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Normally the hubs doesn't get into the baked goods but he was really raving about these little babies. Now the 3yo has a thing about chocolate chips. If I put chips in anything he simply shreds the goodies to dig out the chips. Uh. No. But I gave him some plain banana bread with a little cream cheese and he couldn't get enough. So yeah. Weirdo.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Fun List


Yesterday we sat down as a family and came up with a list of things we want to do this summer. We prefaced it by talking about seasons and specifically summer. Not sure the 3yo comprehended much but he did come up with a few ideas for the list.
  • Lighthouse
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Playground
  • Beach
  • Pick Blueberries
  • Children's Museum
  • Sea Shell Museum
  • Aquarium
  • Franklin Institute (this will be his big bday present)
  • Make Bubble Solution
  • Camp Out (in the backyard)
  • Have a Picnic
  • Lucy The Elephant
  • Make Ice Cream
I have seen some links around the blogosphere of people doing similar things. Like this one about making a summer "bucket list." I'm thinking I might put our list on posterboard like here or here but I will add some clip art for my non-readers. I also saw where the kids (school aged) put the check list in a composition book. If you need more inspiration for your own list, Ohdeedoh has some ideas for you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the set-your-place mat

my apologies for the crappy picture!
I cannot claim the original idea for this, but I forget where in blogland I first saw this project.

It's cheap and simple and so very practical. The first one I made was with a plain vinyl place mat and a black Sharpie. Worked great but somehow it got misplaced.

(How does one loose a place mat?)

I couldn't find another vinyl mat so here's a version with a fabric-ish mat and fabric markers. The mat cost a dollar. So I don't feel too bad that it is deteriorating. I guess will continue my search for another vinyl mat. Not only does this help the little guy set his own place BUT I can remind him to put his cup "where it belongs" so he doesn't spill it.

Not that you need directions, but here is how you make one:

Lay out your items

Double check the placement so everything is where you want it (which I didn't do. ahem.)

Trace with a pencil

Color over the pencil lines with your marker of choice (I free handed the fork tines a little)

Heat set your marker if you use a fabric marker. If you use Sharpie you are done. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

crazy bagel lady

One day last week I decided to make bagels. I also felt I HAD to roast the turkey that I had defrosting in my fridge. Oh yeah, and temps here were around 90.

I forgot about the weather when I started my plans for the day. Duh.

The bagels were soooo yummy that it was worth it. I tried two recipes this time.

I wish I had a picture to share, but we ate them all and I did not snap a pic. I think this is my fav method:
http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/05/cinnamon-raisin-bagels/

And I found a little vid on how to roll them:



Isn't the internet grand?

If you can make bread, you can make these. Actually I think it's easier to get a good result with bagels vs. bread.


A few tips: If, like me, you don't keep bread flour around, you can buy wheat gluten at the regular grocery store and add that to all-purpose flour. The extra gluten gives it the correct chewy texture. Use parchment paper or well seasoned stoneware unless you want them to stick. You want to flip them at least once to get light browning on both sides. Yes, they are a long process, but they are cheap, delicious and freeze well. These are going to be a staple in my house from here on out.

Friday, June 4, 2010

slacker

Have I really not published a post since Mother's Day? I have a few drafts waiting in the wings. I feel like I lost May. The kiddos, especially the 3yo, are keeping me beyond busy. Then we had house guests this past weekend. My 9 year wedding anniversary was yesterday. The days are slow, but the years are flying by. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Mother's Day Post

It's Mother's Day again; a day to honor moms in all stages of "mothering."

Mothering is hands down the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I love my children more than I realized I could. But the day-to-day care is often a challenge. Being a parent has changed me and made me a less selfish person. My world is consumed with caring for these two little people and I feel like that's how it's supposed to be right now. And like most things, if you are going to do it "right" it's probably not going to be easy. Keeping a sense of humor and lots of prayer keep me going. :)

I also appreciate my own mother much more since I have had my own kids. I realize why she is a little bit crazy. It's partly my fault. haha (Happy Mother's Day, Mom!)

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I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. -Abraham Lincoln

If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much. -Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

The mother, more than any other, affects the moral and spiritual part of the children's character. She is their constant companion and teacher in formative years. The child is ever imitating and assimilating the mother's nature. It is only in after life that men gaze backward and behold how a mother's hand and heart of love molded their young lives and shaped their destiny. -E.W. Caswell

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed. -unknown ;)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I *heart* books

I might have a bit of a book addiction. I can always seem to justify a book purchase. It used to be on Amazon, but now it's at the thrift store.

I just can't resist a new (to me) book. W-man has a steady rotation of books in his room (of which I recently posted a picture).

Confession: I used to collect children's books long before I ever had kids. But I don't exactly know where they all are. So every so often I find a box of kids books in my garage or attic.

Oh and cookbooks. Don't even get me started there. Christmas books are another weakness. (Next year I will definitely have enough for a 25 day book advent.)

I'm also our local LLL's librarian. The other moms give me old books and I list them on Paperback Swap:

PaperBackSwap.com - Book Club to Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.

There I can trade them in for books we can use in our library. I also trade my own old books to get new books. I have gotten some great books and saved a lot of money using this service. You pay to ship books requested from you, but pay nothing to the ones sent to you. Usually it costs about $2-$3 to mail a book using media mail. (It's a bit less for lighter paperbacks.) Anyway, I think this is a great program, saves money, saves your house some clutter, and gets used books in the hands of those who really want them.


Disclaimer: I get credit if you join using my referral link by clicking the banner or telling them mamaknj@ msn. com sent you. Paperback Swap did not solicit this post. I was just listing some new books this week and thought it was time again to share my love of PBS! :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning!


Does anyone else get a little boost of motivation in the spring time? I'm not planning any deep cleaning this year, but I find myself reorganizing and trying to pretty-up our home. I'm also into purging our belongings (especially clothes) and trying to get the housework into a more manageable system.

I'm finding that simple things, such as rearranging the stuff I already have, gives our surroundings a fresh look. I love rainbows and was so excited to try arranging the children's books by color. Quite pleasing to the eye! I am going to try this with my cookbooks next.

What are your spring projects?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Inspired!

I have been saying for awhile that I need a little girl in my life to craft for because there was a real lack of inspiration for boys' projects. Well the tides have turned, my friends, and I have been finding BOY ideas left and right. I am loving it. Many even use old materials to create something new, aka UPcycling. :)

Here's the links....

* Cheri has so many great projects, but the Robot Rex T is top of my list. She also teaches you about bleach pen painting, using embroidery floss and freezer paper stencils. Embellishing is a great way to cover up stains! Just sayin. (These projects seem super easy even for the non-crafty among us.)

* On made I found how to upcycle old adult clothes into a sweater vest or even a cute lap t. Makes me want a serger even more! (These projects are a bit more advanced as you need some decent sewing machine skills.) But there are also tips on non-sewing techniques such as fabric dying.

* Prudent Baby does tend towards girl projects, but there are some boy ones too. I love this tute for a hooded towel. I will be cutting up some old towels to make a beach-worthy creation!

* Course I already posted about the bandanna beach/Bermuda pants.

ETA one more! Card table play (army) tent... love it.

I'm now on the look out for cheap, plain boys T's. I am also contemplating snap pliers and a serger... Lord help me! :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bandana Pants!

Ok, these are more like long shorts or "man-pris" but no matter what you call them they are going to be cool and comfy for the summer. If you have basic sewing skills, you can make these. I plan on picking up bandanas for a couple more pairs and tweaking my measurements a bit. These would be perfect to change into after a beach day!


The best shot I could get. My little model is 3.5yo and wears a size 4/5. Ideally he would wear them with a non-striped top. LOL I used the directions in the first link and went with an elastic waist for ease of using the potty.

Tutorial with pictures here:
http://blueyonder.typepad.com/photos/bandana_pants/index.html

Martha Version here:
http://www.marthastewart.com/article/bandana-clothing-crafts?page=2