Monday, August 31, 2009

Another Freebie

It really is amazing how many freebies are out there on the internet. Work at Home Mafia is just one of the blogs dedicated to finding coupons, freebies and jobs for those of us who are at home all day. I took a quick look at Work at Home Mafia and linked to a free bag of granola (on its way to me in the mail) and a free DVD (will come in 12-14 weeks). Fisher Price has this free princess DVD as an ongoing promotion. You just click "Order Free DVD" and there's not even a shipping and handling charge!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Exercise the Alphabet

While looking for good homeschool ideas, I came across these exercise alphabet cards on another blog (The Activity Mom). She linked to these cards which are completely free to print. They are awesome! I printed them on cardstock and we've already played with them as a family. We shuffled the cards, drew a letter and did that activity (individually). Then one of the kids had to place the card on the floor so that we would end up with the whole alphabet in order. There were no winners and very little competition, but my kids loved it! (They especially loved to watch Momma and Daddy do the little exercises.) My next idea for them is to create a spinner for added elements maybe (do the exercise) slow, fast, twice, or free skip. Comment if you come up with new and improved ways to use these cards.
Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Free Flowers


I just have to pass this one on! A friend of mine blogged a few days ago that a florist nearby --Humphreys--is "going green" by recycling vases. If you bring in four used vases in good condition they will give you a dozen roses or a seasonal bouquet! I wonder if this is a trend for florists around the U.S.? It certainly sounds like a good idea to me! I have many glass vases lying around (and I usually don't use them anyway because I prefer glass jars to hold my flowers) just waiting to be traded for beautiful bouquets!
Look here for other "Frugal Friday" ideas!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Our Duty to Do"


This morning as I was jogging and listening to my dramatized Bible on CD (that definitely counts as a thing I love!), I heard something that wasn't quite so high on my "things I love list." I mean does the Bible really say, "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'"? Yep. It's right there in Luke 17.
It's one of those verses that I have read over many times, but this morning it hit me--I really don't like that verse! I WANT to be commended when I clean the house, take care of the kids, do little crafts with them, take them places successfully, etc. I WANT my husband, my parents, my community, and my church to pat me on the back and give me high honors when I respect my husband and "rear up my children in the way they should go." (Consequently I also want them to ignore the fact that I often do the opposite of what I know I am commanded to do!) And yet, Jesus has called me repeatedly to lead by serving. And as a true servant, how can I expect anything but a call to do the next task well? (Right before the above verse is the part about the servant plowing all day and then coming in to a master who says--not, "Good job! Sit down to eat!"--but "Fix me something to eat, then you can eat.)
As a mom, I tend toward this complex of the underappreciated, downtrodden, you-owe-me mentality, and I need to STOP! I want to do my job and do it well and know that my treasure is in a better Kingdom. I guess this sounds a little bit like a rant, but please know it is a rant against myself! I know lots of moms who do show this servant-like attitude so well. So let us all go and be good servants, for "Of Such is the Kingdom!"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edible Playdough

Today's lunch was also our late-morning entertainment!
Mix together 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk, and 2 or 3 tablespoons of honey (I myself have come to terms with the sugary peanut butter for this season of life, but if you buy the natural kind, you'd probably want to add more honey)
add some great snacky foods and a few happy children, (BTW, did you know that if you cut an apple crosswise, the core looks like a star? God hid a star in every apple just for us!)
and you get a plump, adorable angel!
more great ideas at "Works for Me Wednesday"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raiding the Bookshelf

Today I snagged a few of my favorite books from the kids' bookshelf to share with you. I know they are the kids' favorites because as I was leaving the room, I heard, "Mom, don't take that one, I want to look at it!"
The first is The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. This is a pretty typical type of analogy about saving your kiss for the man you marry. (The kiss=your love, your whole heart, your purity) I love the fact that my oldest gets whisked away into romance with the art on each page and the idea that the princess does indeed find her true love (a humble farmer).
The next book is The Armor of God by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Jenny B. Harris. Mackall gives us a very simple retelling of Ephesians 6:10-18 putting it in situations that any young child will understand. The beauty of this book comes with the fact that my son has the (dress up) armor of God. The colorful pictures along with a sword and shield that my son can actually touch cement the verses into his memory. This reaches
almost every one of his ways of learning: he hears the story read, he sees the pictures, and he can actually play with his armor.
Book number three gets an A+ for creativity! (I really wish I had thought of this idea!) On one side of My Two Hands, My Two Feet by Rick Walton (illustrated by Julia Gorton) you read a poem about
hands with pictures of the older sister. Flip the book, and you get another poem about feet with pictures of the younger sister. Each
poem ends on the middle page: a picture of the two sisters lying in
the grass, asleep.
The next book illustrates a favorite idea of mine: using fiction to teach fact. Berry Best Gardening Book by
Megan E. Bryant is of course capitalizing on an old character that many of us moms enjoyed as little girls. It is more of a "factory model" book, but it does a great job at using big, bright pictures
to show the process of gardening--from seeds to what to plant to harvesting. And, as an added bonus, there is a fictional story about Strawberry Shortcake and her friends at the bottom of the page!
Last comes another illustrative book; this time showing us how to introduce our favorite stories to the very young. A wonderful story is always appropriate for every age. My oldest loves the pictures in this shortened form an old favorite of mine, Anne of Green Gables. The story is the same, just less of the rambling Anne-style of writing. This is a great way to encourage young ones to read: whet their appetite with a small portion of a bigger feast. This version was adapted by M.C. Helldorfer and illustrated by Ellen Beier.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Like A Single Cup of Water

One of the songs that I continually get stuck in my head is "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves. It's a great song, and I don't really mind it flowing through my head throughout the day.
One day as it was doing it's thing behind my temples, I was getting especially exasperated with my son for his snacking habits. I cannot count the number of times during the day when I hear, "I'm hungry," "When's ______? (the next meal)" and "Can I have a snack?" The first thing out of his mouth in the morning is, "Breakfast!" and the last thing I usually hear is, "Can I have another sip of water?"
This particular day I was losing it with him, and was about to say (scream really), "No more food!" When "Like a single cup of water" flowed right through my head. Uh oh. Major conviction. That led straight to the verses, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Mt. 25:39 and "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of coldwater...he shall by no means lose his reward.” Mt. 10:42
Sometimes these endless pretzels, apple slices, ice pops, and cups of water seem to have no meaning whatsoever, but Jesus gave them the highest meaning--a kingdom reward. Again I say, THIS is the great adventure. This job, this mission is one that is tied directly with the heart of our Savior! So continue on, good parents, in handing out those "single cups of water," and know that you will be rewarded as if you were handing each one to the Savior Himself.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 Things I Love Under $5

This blog is for those other thrifty souls out there who love deals and enjoy hearing about other people's finds. And yes, everything in this blog really was $5 or under.
I'll start with my favorite of these five, and the cheapest too, coming in a 2 for $2.75. This reusable shopping bag from SAM'S is the best! It is huge, can handle up to 40 pounds and cuts my shopping trip from about 20 bags down to two. This bag doesn't stop at shopping; oh no! I have used it to hold ballet supplies, books, camping gear, laundry, and all the junk that ends up in our van. The bag pictured is one of the ones I've been using for several months and it has no rips, and no tears--it's still going strong!
I have to put these 'flops in because they've been the best, and at $5, they were a steal! I picked
them out earlier this summer thinking that they were on sale for $15, and low and behold, at the checkout they were only $5. They've been very faithful, and I am very picky about my shoes. I definitely give them an A+.
These are the much-advertised $5 shirts from Old Navy, and since I bought them on the tax-free weekend, they actually were $5 a piece. I'm hoping that these quarter length/long-sleeved tees stretch my kids' summer wardrobes well into the fall, and maybe into our mild-mannered southern winter as well.
Next comes the best kid's meal treat EVER! These books on CD came
with kids' meals at Wendy's this summer and last summer. My kids
are just old enough to enjoy The Magic Tree House books, and as an added bonus, these are read by the author, Mary Pope
Osbourne. She, of course, does all the voices. Very cool.
And last but not least, I love these candleholders from CB2. They are hand-blown glass and range from just $2.95 to $4.95! They are my favorite thing to give as a gift (simple as a single holder with candle, also great in multiples), and as soon as I feel like my house isn't a crash zone, I would like to buy a few more of them to put in the middle of my dining room table! (Oh, and these taper candles are also a good deal at $1.95 a piece.)
So, there you have it. Another Things I Love Thursday--this time, the thrifty way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Magazines

This morning there was nothing really on our schedule, but thankfully there was something in our mailbox. Our High Five had come. High Five is the under five version of Highlights, also a great magazine for kids. What makes High Five so fun is that they include a game or craft with each issue. Usually it is something my oldest can cut out on her own; then we can all play. Last month it was a domino type game with groups of cars on each side of the domino. My son got to those first and after he cut them out, he made the groups of paper cars children for his Matchbox cars! This week it was a card game that my oldest cut out for us and we all played. (The 1 yo just watched.) It was definitely a welcome diversion and a good way to get Momma to sit down and focus on her kids for a few minutes. (High Five is an on-going gift from Grandma: Thanks, Grandma!)
Another magazine that I'm thinking we need is one of the children versions of World Magazine. They are, as a group, called God's World News, and you can choose the magazine that is on the right level for your child. The link
has a sample of each level of magazine. Since my oldest will be homeschooling this year, I think the "Taking Off" version might be perfect for us!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Body Pictures

We love body pictures! Today I had the kids lie down on our large paper and I traced their bodies. I traced first with a pencil and then went over it with black marker (because I always make mistakes!)
I did not fill in heads, because for added beauty, I took head shots, enlarged them, and printed them in black and white. Then we put their heads on!
And then we colored, colored, colored!
These are for Grandma's play room, so Grandma, if you read this, expect a "surprise" in the mail shortly! Hopefully a certain little girl will be able to "play" with her cousins, even when they are four states away!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grass Soup

Yes, those ARE my good kitchen spoons. But loaning them to the kids is worth it when we get an hour of two of good play. This is one of my kids' favorite summer games. In fact, I can lug out the wading pool and the sprinkler and whatever else, and they will probably just end up making grass soup.
All it takes is a bucket of water per kid, a spoon (or two) per kid and lots of nature. I believe this particular rendition has water, dirt, rocks, and grass, but I have seen the kids get even more creative lately. In goes any kind of nut or seed pod they can find; in goes any kind of insect that they are brave enough to catch.
So grab those buckets and maybe a kitchen spoon or two, and have fun!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Courage

More philosophy about rearing children--
One of the most challenging quotes I've ever heard about raising children came from the President of International Justice Mission Gary Haugen. He was being interviewed by Dennis Rainey from Family Life Today on July 1, 2005. The quote is wonderful, so I'm going to put it here as well as tell you where to find the rest of the interview.
[The joy and the fun of our walk with Christ] begin by asking, in one sense, what am I training my children to go do? Am I training my kids to play defense, or am I training them for the purposes of playing offense? Because I think we give our kids all this stuff, and I do, I'm an earnest parent, so I give my kid shelter and food and nutrition. I give them education, and I give them structure and discipline and faith and the teachings of Christ, and I give them all these things. I think there's a point at which my kid turns to me and asks, "Mom, Dad, why are you giving me all this stuff?" And the honest answer for me, many times, as a parent, is to say, "Well, I'm giving you all this stuff so you'll be safe." And my kid looks at me and says, "That's it? You're giving me all this so that I'll be safe, so that nothing bad will happen to me?" And I think something inside them dies, and they either go away to perish in safety, or they go off to look to find the grander adventure in the wrong place. Because what they're actually feeling in their heart, I think, is the word of Jesus, which is saying to them, "No, I didn't make you for safety. I made you to go build my kingdom and transform the world." (Click here for the rest of the interview.)
So what Gary is saying is that we as parents must teach our children of the wonder, excitement, and yes, even danger, of being a Christian. So this is courage: that parents rear up their children to serve to the Kingdom, no matter what the cost.
Look at (in)courage for other Christian moms talking about courage.

Prayer

I believe that prayer is every parent's first and most powerful parenting tool. Too strong a statement? I really don't think so. If we believe that we are saved not of works (Eph. 2:8-9), how can we believe that we can ultimately save our children through our works? We can and we must, endeavor to be good parents. We can and we must apply the Word to our parenting through the power of the Holy Spirit. But we shouldn't cry out that we are failures each time our child sins. We should think carefully about our parenting methods, but we should also realize that the true Parenting is from God.
All that said, I will say again: I believe that prayer is every parent's first and most powerful parenting tool. This is true with infants. Prayer is definitely what got me through leaving my oldest alone in her room for an entire night for the first time! (Dear Lord, You know I'm tired. I can't stay awake all night. But praises to You, Lord! You never sleep. Keep watch over my little one all night long. Amen) Prayer is my only defense against losing my temper when my children prove how exceptional they are at whining and fighting (usually in some terribly public place!). And though I haven't experienced it yet, what defense is there but prayer against the worry of letting your little one (even if they are 16) drive off alone?
I do believe that prayer is a most powerful tool, yet I often forget to pray for my children. It is an exercise that must be very deliberate. Lord, hold our children in Your mighty hand. Guide them in the paths that You choose. And please, Lord, let us as parents, remember to pray for our little ones.

Computer Games for Kids

Another free product that my kids and I enjoy are the online games available through different websites. I would definitely not recommend lots of computer time per day or unattended play, but for limited amounts of time, these are some great games for you to play with your kids.
I would love for those of you who read this to comment with suggestions of your own.
PBS Kids has a good index of games that are related to their shows. Our favorites are the games on the Super Why website. My 3-year old can play the "Build Your Own Super Hero" game where he has to find the letter that makes a certain sound in order to build a word and earn a prop for his super hero.
Another GREAT site is Starfall.com. Many kids can use this site to not only learn letter sounds, but put those sounds together and begin to read! There are also portions of this site with easy-to-read stories for the young reader.
I am also really excited to have found Sheppard Software.
This site has it all! They have a map game where children are given a small portion of the US to click and drag states onto, much like a map puzzle. They also have math games, science games, and preschool games.
So if your day tends to get a little long around the edges,
consider adding one of these computer games to your schedule. You will preserve your sanity, help your children learn, and hopefully enjoy yourself too!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Angel Food

No, not the cake! The ministry. It really is amazing and definitely qualifies for a "Things I Love Thursday." Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational ministry that provides groceries at a discount price. In their own words "Angel Food is available in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box at $30 per unit. Each month's menu is different than the previous month and consists of both fresh and frozen items with an average retail value of approximately $60. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in various communities using a wide range of retail grocery stores and has resulted in the same food items costing from between $42 and $78." You can check their website at angelfoodministries.com to see pictures of this months menu items.
You order the food through local churches who support the ministry. There are no requirements to qualify and it is my understanding that the churches actually receive money for each box that they sell through the ministry. So you are receiving discount groceries, saving yourself a shopping trip, and helping a local church. Each church has a pickup day and time where you take a box and go through and pick up the food you have ordered. This is a GREAT way to save on groceries, and these days, most moms are thinking about how to do just that!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Explore Your Own Town


If you're like me, you tend to forget that there are vacations to be had right down the road. I forget that there are many in the US who travel hours and hours to get to my own back yard to visit and sight see.
Today we went out with some friends to take a riverboat cruise. When we realized that the cruise wouldn't start for 2 hours, we decided to explore the downtown area. We took a walk, caught a bus, and then took a ride on a riverboat. Above are my girls sporting more handmade dresses from my mom.
I would love it if you would comment with your favorite "back yard adventure." What can you do when you explore your own town?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blurbing


Many of you scrapbook, I am sure, and I have tried my hand at that as well. A good friend of mine suggested a while back that I just start with my oldest daughter's birth (there are boxes and boxes of pics from before that!) and straight-edge crop and plop them in a book. I did that with four books, and it worked pretty well. But there is all that stuff you have to lug out and put back up before any of your sticky-fingered children come around. And there is the cost of printing the pictures and buying the books and paper and decorations and page covers. All of this plus the fact that you've put SO much work into the book and it is almost too fragile and precious to let the subjects of all those pictures look at themselves in a book. Can you tell I was a little frustrated with scrapbooking?
Enter blurb.com. This is just one of the many online stores that will print a book for you. Blurb's method is for you to download a free program called "Booksmart" which automatically pulls your pictures from your iPhoto or MyPicture program. Then you choose a book size, choose your page lay-outs, and drag and drop your photos into your book. You can make your pictures large or small, put lots of pics on a page or just a few, and you can write a lot or a little. There are not a huge amount of decorations, but there are enough to be creative.
The best things about blurb are 1. it's affordable (you don't have to print your pictures!), 2. there is no mess and no clean up, and 3. it's a lot faster than regular scrapbooking! I'm a huge fan.
So far I've designed and ordered two family picture books and have been wonderfully impressed. I'm working on our third and fourth books now. I have also taken photographs for a book of my own poems (above) that I published through blurb. This has been a life-long dream, and though it is only self-publishing, it is a great feeling.
So if scrapbooking is driving you nuts or if you're miserably behind with your historian duties as a mom, don't despair! Blurbing could be your answer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Free Books


Did you know that through an organization called The Ferst Foundation children in the state of Georgia receive free books every month? The Ferst Foundation (the link for the actual site is not working today, but this link will take you to a brochure for the program) followed in the footsteps of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which was started by its namesake in her home county and has spread to many other communities. Through these programs children can receive one age-appropriate book a month from birth to age 5. The first book is always The Little Engine That Could and the last book is usually Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come. If your community does not offer a program similar to these, check out the link for the Imagination Library for details on how to get one started where you live.
My kids have been receiving these books for years, and since my little ones are like many in their love of reading the same books over and over, the new books are a welcome addition to our library! Our favorite so far is the one pictured above: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, pictures by Axel Scheffler. It has rhyme and repetition. It has suspense and humor. It has a cute little mouse and a great big silly monster. What more could you ask for from a picture book? This is one my husband and I don't really mind reading once a week. (We still don't want to read it once a day, mind you, but once a week is alright.) If you're not on a free-book-a-month program, The Gruffalo is definitely worth buying!