This past Christmas our family noticed something. Gifts are expensive! Perhaps you noticed too. After Christmas I ran across a few bloggers who mentioned either making all of their Christmas gifts and/or getting most of them for free with coupons or from giveaways.
What if I gathered gifts throughout the year both with coupons and by making them and didn't have a huge dent in the budget come November/December?
This idea has been floating around in my head long enough for me to begin collecting websites with good ideas. So, if you're on my Christmas list, don't look to closely at this post. : ) But if not, maybe you leave some great gift ideas in the comments. I would very much appreciate it!
Our family loves to dance. It really is one of the greatest family activities I can think of. This picture is an unusual one only because we usually don't dance in public. This is from my cousin's wedding and is one of the only times in my history that I can remember enjoying letting my children stay up insanely late. Most of the time I am too exhausted to enjoy it, even if everyone else is having fun!
Usually my hubby plays his guitar along with the iPod (Collective Soul, usually) and the rest of us dance, or I turn the music up loud while I cook dinner and the kids wander in and out and dance a jig or two with me. We really should do it more!
I love to dance in any way, shape, fashion, or form. I took ballet lessons beginning at age 3 (thanks, Mom!) and I have taught lessons locally on and off since I started college. I now teach a class that my oldest is a part of. I have waltzed with a near-professional dancer (a random time in China) and danced a modern interpretation of the Passion story at my church and a local school. And now, I've found a home in an aerobic dance class at the local YMCA. Wow, I love to dance!
For my kids, I think dancing is a way to see mom have fun. I don't show that love for life enough around them, and when we dance together, it just flows out effortlessly. And this, really, is worship.
So, take my advice, find a thing you LOVE to do, and share it with your children. You'll be happy you did!
When my hubby and son brought the pictures home from the Monster Trucks Rally this weekend, I learned that grown men really do jump insanely high with motorcycles and then remove themselves from the motorcycle on purpose to entertain crowds. Let's just say I am happy to be entertained by this from home by looking at pictures!
I also learned that there are two monster trucks (pictured above) whose drivers are married. They travel and perform together. Awww...
Today I'm offering unsolicited advice on parenting. There. You've been warned!
I'm also offering a not-quite-so-beautiful pic of the same daughter pictured above. This particular screaming fit was during the I-Hate-My-Tummy-And-I-Will-Never-Crawl stage.
And the first advice is about stages. There are a few very concrete facts about stages. #1 We're all in one stage or another at all times. #2 All stages end. #3 We don't usually skip stages. and #4 There are good stages and bad stages and we're almost always in both kinds at one time.
Our kids have stages (like the I-Won't-Crawl Stage) and they all end. Reminding ourselves of this is very helpful. My daughter (as some of you know) is in the "learning is for dummies" stage; my son is in the "maybe if I act like a baby I'll get more attention" stage. My youngest is in the "I can definitely get out of this by screaming like my life is ending" stage. I could tell you what stages my husband and I are in too, but that might take a while. : ) I definitely need the reminder that at the same time they are in beautiful stages--and that both kinds of stages, the good and the bad, will end.
Another good piece of advice is to focus on the heart. This advice is so difficult to take! This can also be broken down into different facets. #1 Pray for your child's heart. #2 Nurture your child's heart by both positive activities and love and by disciplining to the heart. and #3 Give your own heart (moment by moment) to the One who loves both you and your children more than you ever can.
Disciplining for the heart is the part that I find the most difficult. First of all, we have to be more concerned about our children's eternal welfare than how well they act (and make us look). That is HARD. And secondly the words and disciplinary actions that come from us must be humble and more about training than about venting our frustration. Don't ask me how to really do this; I only know that I should.
The other two pieces of parenting advice that I feel are most beautiful (and difficult) are in two other posts: positive parenting, which is in essence trying to head off problems before they arise, and raising our children for the work of the kingdom, no matter how much sacrifice or danger this involves.
This post is partly inspired by a post over at Simple Mom that has some great ideas!
This week is a normal one, which lately is very abnormal!
Tonight I help teach a class on baby care at our local pregnancy resource center, so as far as menu goes, I'll be leaving a simple chicken noodle soup and home made rolls for the hubby and kiddos. (I shook a few too many onion flakes in it; I hope they don't notice!) These rolls are the best and easiest I've found, (I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 AP flour) and I should have enough left (I'm taking some for our dinner in the class too) to serve with at least one more meal here this week.
Tomorrow I take the two younger kids to Mother's Day Out, teach the older one at home, and we're all home in the evening. Yay! I'm going to make a crock pot goodie with a pork roast, potatoes, and carrots--using brown gravy mix and worchestershire sauce. I might serve some left over rolls with that or cook up some frozen corn on the cob.
Wednesday the kids and I head to our YMCA for dance and pilates classes for me (YAY!) and kid time in the Adventure Center for the kids. They love it, I love it, and we're all really happy when we get home. The two bigger kids have choir in the evening and then we'll have spaghetti and broccoli for dinner. Easy and everyone will eat it. : )
Thursday is a repeat of Tuesday and I'll make some meatloaf for dinner. I haven't made that in a really long time. I usually just feel my way through a meatloaf and add whatever I have on hand--whole wheat cracker crumbs, tomato sauce, etc. Ooh, look what I just found on All Recipes! Since I'm still on my muffin kick (see here) I may just have to make my meatloaf that way! It would cook really quickly, that's for sure! (Oh, and I'm working on a pizza muffin recipe that I'll share when I've got it right. My family is patiently taste-testing in the meantime!)
Friday we do school in the morning and then the hubby comes home early so we can go to the Y as a family. I do a pilates class, the hubby works out on his own, and the kids enjoy the Adventure Center. Everyone wins! And hopefully, we'll go out for something cheap (or free with coupons) for dinner.
And to finish off the details: for homeschool, my oldest is using verses from 1 John for her handwriting, doing wonderful worksheets from a book called "Giving Thanks," working on place value and even and odd numbers (plus continuing to practice adding and subtracting), adding to a giant timeline for history (will blog about that one soon), Journaling, reading the Secrets of Droon series for her free reading, and memorizing the US Presidents using this fun book.
And every single day the littlest takes a good nap (praise the Lord!) and the two older spend a good while in their room reading and playing quietly. This is my sanity time. : )
So there's our week in a nutshell. How's your's looking?
Lately I've been signing up for every free thing that I see offered on the internet. A few months ago I would've sighed and said, "I really don't have time for that," but I guess after a few sign-ups I realized it was easy, and after a few free things in the mail, I was hooked.
Above you can see some of the items I've received. Clockwise they are a uniball pen, a rouge magazine with coupons, a slimfast breakfast bar, free bag of Stacy's pita chips, a free Always and Tampax sampler with coupons, a sample of Gold Bond's moisturizing hand sanitizer, a $25 Kroger card, Golden Double Stuff Oreos, a free stainless steel water bottle, free panties, a free sippy cup, and a free stainless steel water bottle. And these are just the ones I've managed to take pictures of before they were ravenously consumed. I know for sure that there were several granola bars that were eaten before they could be photographed. : )
Oh, and there is one more that I'm a little more skeptical of, but I've tried it, and it worked, so I'll share it here. Silver Jewelry Club has 6 items at a time that are free. These items change out every 15 minutes. Since you only have to pay shipping, I figured it was worth the $7 to see if it worked. I ordered a ring, and I love it! So, I've ordered a few more things for gifts. I really don't understand how they can offer a $50 piece of jewelry for free, but they are, so I've taken advantage of it!
Let me know if you've found any great freebies out there too!
I have a love-hate relationship with bath time, I admit. I love it because who can resist those wet heads and shining eyes and giggles and squeals? I hate (okay, that's a strong word, more like feel disgruntled about) bath time because I'm tired by the time it comes around. I've taught and cleaned and cooked and chased and played and cooked and fed and cleaned and I'm ready to sit down, but no, it's bath time!
One way my hubby and I deal with this is (please don't report me!) we only bathe our kids every other night. (I'll pause here for you to take in that long shocked breath...) And since the week is a little uneven, it usually, okay, always ends up with us skipping two nights at some point. (Another shocked breath, anyone?) When I feel guilty I just think about Laura (we're reading The Little House series) and how she only bathed once a week, right?
All of this to say that occasionally bath time has been an issue for me. So when I ran across this blog over at Supermom Central, I decided to pass it on, just in case anyone out there has any of the same troubles.
There are definitely some great ideas here! Read to your kids while they're in the tub, let them paint the tub with chocolate syrup (brilliant!), or play relaxing music in the bathroom. I need ideas like this! If anyone has more, please leave them in a comment.
And really, most of all, I need to cherish the time with my kids. They are usually happy and relaxed (except for the occasional fit from the boy when any tiny speck of soap drips into his eye) and this is a good time for me to enjoy them. Learning letters with our foam bath letters or listening to them giggle as bottles make funny sounds, or seeing my daughter off in fairy land pretending to be a mermaid--these are the moments that put a smile on my face. These are the moments I will cherish!
This is a sample of my 4yo's artwork. Lately he has blessed my heart with his drawings! When he picks up a marker or a crayon and settles in to draw, nothing can bother or upset him. He could be a famous artist at work in a studio--he is beautiful!
I love this piece (I can call it a "piece," right?); it is especially near and dear to my heart. I love the expressions on all of our faces, I love our clothes (the boy does have a pair of pants with blue and black stripes) and I love that we're all smiling.
"My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips." Psalm 63:5
I think this is the way the son sees our family, and oh, how my heart praises God! This, this very picture, is what the Kingdom is all about. Oh, Lord, in the midst of blogging and ministries and cooking and cleaning and driving and buying, let me remember that this is the Kingdom: our family together and smiling. : )
I love these story cards! Or I would if we owned them (hint, hint to the grandparents!) What a wonderful idea they are! In each "Tell Me a Story" box there are 36 3.75" by 4.75" illustrated cards. There are tons of activities and games you can do with the cards, but the best ones include having your children choose a few cards and then you (or your child) tell a story to go along with the pictures you've chosen.
For instance, take the cards that are pictured here. Here's the idea: Once two eager squirrels ran into a wise owl. "Tell us a story!" they twittered. "Okay" hooted the owl. "There once was a lonely orphaned princess. Every night she would look up at the moon and pray for a mother to tuck her in and sing to her. Suddenly her fairy godmother appeared. She immediately assumed the fairy was there to tuck her in and sing to her. 'No dear,' said the godmother. 'I can't stay for that long.' The lonely princess began to cry. 'But dear, do you see that moon up there? There is a mother waiting for you there.' Then the fairy was gone and the princess found herself floating toward the moon. And sure enough there was a mother. The best kind of mother, too. One who hugged her long and lovingly and read her stories and sang her songs. The mother hugged her tightly and sailed back to her room with her. And they lived happily ever after." When the owls finished the eager squirrels were wiping their eyes. "I think we'll go find our mother now," they twittered. And off they ran.
See, with the cards, anything can be a story!
And to go along with that idea, here's a poem I've bee wanting to share. If you're in the right mood, you might need some tissues!
1) How did you spend your Valentine's Day? What did you get? What did you do? 2) A list of your top reasons/things that would have made it even better.
Well, as you all know, we had big plans for Valentines day. The first pic is my favorite photo display in our house. The small pic is of my hubby and me when we got engaged (9 years ago). I was at the beach babysitting for a family and he came to visit and perfectly popped the question on a sunrise walk (and we saw dolphins! It was so romantic!). The bigger pic is from this past summer on
the beach with our kiddos around our feet. We've taken the same pic several other times, and someday all these kissing pictures will probably have their own blurb book. : ) Anyway, I'm showing that pic because the hubby and I
went out the night before Valentines for a Restaurants.com dinner (it was a great deal!) and then came home and rented My Life in Ruins with VOD. That too was very fun.
On Valentines morning, I decorated the table for the kids and they were THRILLED. They each got a little gift and we ate heart-shaped pancakes with M&Ms. Yum. And the fam had come up with a few surprises for me as well. My hubby bought me a Dyson Ball Vacuum for Valentines Day! I know
that may not sound very romantic to some of you, but it is a glorious gift! We've been living without a vacuum for a few weeks (since our old one gave out) and a vacuum of any kind would have been greatly appreciated. But a Dyson! Wow! I love it! And it sure beat the present I got him. (a t-shirt with a cow and a jug of milk--the cow is saying, "Milk, I am your father." And the milk is saying, "NOOOOOO!" I knew it would make him laugh.)
And my sweet oldest made me a few gifts when she went for a short visit with my mom. They are beautiful! All in all it was a wonderful day, and I really don't think I would change a thing!
I don't know how many of you cut box tops for your kids' schools, but there are some great deals at the Box Tops website to make it all more worth your time. If any of you are near a Kroger (or any of their affiliates), Box Tops for Education will double your Box Tops points with many purchases.
You also receive 5 box tops for signing up.
And, even if there are no Krogers in your area you can sign up for the Box Tops site here and receive a free $10 coupon booklet. Great deals!
And, because MyBlogSpark has provided me with a Kroger gift card to give away, you can leave a comment here (if you're a follower, please) and save even more! Just tell me any experience you've had with a Kroger store or with Box Tops for Education and I'll randomly choose a winner of a $25 Kroger gift card from these comments at the end of the week. If there aren't many comments (no local Krogers for my local readers, sorry), the better the chance to win!
The gift card, information, and giveaway was provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.
I really wanted to tell the teachers of my younger two how much we love them, so I made some giant Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins, bundled them cutely and took them over to the school today.
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:11
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
1 John 3:23
I'm also still preparing for our Valentines breakfast.
On Saturday, the kids and I will make some Valentines place mats to beautify our table. We'll fold paper in half, cut out
hearts, spread them on a rectangle of contact paper and then cover them with another rectangle of contact paper.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1 John 3:1
I can't wait to set their places Saturday night. I'll include a little card with a verse on it for each child. Then we'll read the love verses (I love 1 John too!) at breakfast.
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:18
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7
Notice the sparkly heart? What could be better than glitter foam with a sticky back? You can cut anything out of it, but hearts have to the best. My oldest has already been experimenting with it, so I borrowed a little for the teacher's cards and the table verse cards.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
In keeping with my Valentines theme, today I'm sharing a pic of a dress that my mom made for my girls (there's a little one just like this for the youngest). This is a super easy and super cute dress that anyone can make!
The shirt is a $2 deal from Wal-Mart and the skirt is a sale-rack teen skirt from the same store. Mom cut a little out of the width of the skirt and cut off the waist band. Then she sewed the skirt onto the shirt. Wow! She thought it still needed a little something, so she added a ribbon and a bow. She estimates the whole thing cost under $5! And from the smile on my oldest's face (and the fact that she insists on wearing this dress even though we have below freezing temps outside) you can tell that it is worth way more!
Last Valentines Day, the kids and I made flowers for our neighbor. We used red crepe paper streamer, rolled sections of it loosely, taped one end and pushed down and separated out the other end. Then we taped the flower to a popsicle stick and taped on a green leaf. It was SO simple, and the kids were able to do most of it themselves.
Some of the flowers were prettier than others, but grouped together in a jar, they made a very cheery display.
We just used items we had on hand already, so substitutions could make this even better. Green pipe cleaner for the stems would be nice, and I've also seen flowers like this made with regular tissue paper.
We put all the flowers in a jar, stuffed the jar with some pink tissue paper, tied on a red ribbon and took a little Valentines love to our neighbor! What projects are you doing this Valentines Day?
In honor of Menu Plan Monday, I'll include our ritual (as in, we did it last year and I plan to do it this year) Valentines Breakfast.
Use this pancake recipe, add the blended beets to make them pink (you can't taste the beets, I promise!) and add M&Ms and carefully pour them on the griddle to create hearts. (Last year's hearts do not include the beets.)
On Sunday morning, I will decorate the dining room, put the kids' and hubby's gifts in front of their plates and serve our "breakfast of love." I can't wait!
And as for the rest of the week, here's what it's looking like:
Mon: I'm gone to teach a class so the hubby and kids will have leftover cheeseburger buns.
Tues: Hubby's favorite: hot dogs, sour kraut, and mashed potatoes (don't ask me; he mixes it all together and pours obscene amounts of mustard on it, and it makes him very happy.)
Wed: I'll use the leftover mashed potatoes to make a simple cream of potato soup. I'll serve it with crumbled bacon and shredded cheese. Yum!
Congratulations! I'll be e-mailing you and waiting for a response! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! To all of you who commented and to ALL of my followers. And a big thanks to that friend who said, "If Random.org chooses me, let it choose again so one of your other followers can have the basket." You know who you are, and you rock!
Just click here and you'll be taken to an archive of weekends. Click on a weekend and you'll find a plan!
Each weekend has activities and crafts, kid recipes, games, and suggested movies. You could do everything on the list for a special family weekend, or just pick and choose! This will be a great resource for chasing away boredom on the weekend OR during the week.
Be sure to comment to win the SAHM survival pack. Random.org will choose a winner tonight! See sidebar for details!
Here is the SAHM Survival Pack! I can't wait to pick a winner tomorrow evening (I think I've really drug this giveaway out, don't you?!) Anyway, for anyone who hasn't been following the giveaway, here's what you will get:
1. Kid activities including activity book, stencil set, and crayons
2. Kid vitamins (Disney Nemo Gummies)
3. Gallon Size Great Value Baggies
4. Small pack unscented wipes (Target brand)
5. Small pack Kleenex
6. Three packs of Nemo gummies
7. Antibacterial handwash (I think this will be Gold Bond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer, thanks, Ang!)
8. Vaseline Bath Beads
9. Equate brand children's acetaminophen
10. Top Care Antibiotic ointment
11. Sparkle band-aids
12. Beeyoutiful grapefruit seed crush
13. Beeyoutiful spirulina
14. Green stainless steel water bottle
15. Magnetic shopping list
16. Green plastic basket
(2/5 edited to add 17 and 18)
17. I almost forgot the $5 Starbuck's card
18. And a last-minute find: a pretty pocket copy of Psalms and Proverbs. I should really include the whole Bible because I've definitely noticed that when I read and my heart is more focused on Him, mothering goes MUCH more smoothly, but this will just have to do for now.
Thanks for everyone who has commented on these SAHM posts! I love it that we can help each other do much more than survive as stay at home moms!
(As long as you are a follower of Of Such is a Kingdom, comment on this post, all posts from this week, and all posts listed under the giveaway on the sidebar for entries to this contest.)
On another point of business: remember Seeds? Well, they've sent me a coupon code that any of my readers are welcome to use! You will receive 20% off at the Seeds music store (So 2 cds for about $10!) and when this code is used 10 times, I'll get a free cd. And if you'll remember, each cd comes with one to keep and one to give away. That means I'll be able to keep one for my kiddos and give away one on the blog! Fun! So, here's the code: OOSTER. Feel free to buy as many cd's with this code as you like. : )
When the world iced over this past weekend, I couldn't help myself from taking lots of close-ups of the beautiful details. God is such a Master Artist. Every single branch,
every single leaf,
every single berry had its own decoration.
It is mind-blowing what detail our Lord took in creating the beauty that was around us for mere days. The blanket of snow was beautiful, but it was the ice creations that made the world so stunningly breathtaking when the sun came out.
I pray for this kind of attention to the little things in my parenting. The scrape that hurts when my boy puts on his shoes, the frustration my oldest feels when she gets something wrong, the helplessness of my youngest when she can't go everywhere her siblings go--help me to deal with these little moments as our Lord dealt with each leaf and twig in the ice storm. Let me wrap them in beauty and know that they are passing, fleeting even. And oh, Lord, let me enjoy the little things!
Don't forget, every comment this week will be counted toward the SAHM Survival Pack giveaway!! (See the left sidebar for more details.)
I've been meaning to blog about our homeschooling schedule for a while. I'm homeschooling our oldest with 1st grade work. The boy joins in occasionally and does a lot of puzzles/marker board work/worksheets on his own.
I wasn't sure how scheduled we be as a new homeschooling family, but this is what we've worked out:
Every day the oldest does MATH FACTS (kind of like Saxon math) counting by numbers 1 through 10, 100's to 1000, 1000's to 10,000 and backwards from 20 to 1. Then she says her addition facts up to 10 + 10. We're working on adding subtraction problems as well.
Then the oldest does some kind of MATH WORK. Either worksheets or a game, etc.
We have a list of SPELLING WORDS that she writes 2 times each day and does some worksheets with. I've just come up with these by looking at her other work. This week we're starting animals (farm animals). Next week we'll add jungle animals.
Last week's spelling was fruit words so we pulled Galatians 5:22 for our HANDWRITING. We try to make the handwriting either be a verse that goes with what we're doing for the week, or a verse from what our pastors will preach about on Sunday. At the end of the week she presents her handwriting verse somehow. As you see above, last week we decorated a frame with fruit.
For HISTORY we've been creating a giant timeline using the one from the front of an old Life Application Bible of mine. We've drawn pictures, looked up events on the internet, and talked about the events. She usually gets to tell either her daddy or some other family member about what she's learning. The neat thing about the timeline in that Bible is that above the timeline are Biblical events and below are world history events. We're seeing how they both line up. For instance did you know that Nebuchadnezzar and Aesop are from about the same time? I sure didn't before we started working on the timeline. Hopefully we will create a resource that we will use with different history curricula in the future. I'm also hoping that whenever any of us read any historical fiction, we'll be able to plug it into the timeline. Oh, and we've covered from creation to about 450BC so far. : )
We have a SCIENCE curriculum, but we have been taking a break from it for a while. We're picking up science here and there. This week we're reading about farm animals using this site. Today we read a little about cows and watched some great videos about making cheese and butter.
Other than that, the oldest and I are reading Little House on the Prairie together, she's reading A LOT on her own (fiction), the oldest two go to a great choir program at our church, and they participate in PE (usually) once a week at the Y.
I'd love to know what other home schoolers out there are doing, if you have the time to drop a comment!
And don't forget, every comment this week will be counted toward the SAHM Survival Pack giveaway!! (See the left sidebar for more details.)
Snow and ice. Ice and snow. Boy, has it been some weekend! I found myself last week muttering under my breath, "Just make it to Friday!" That was when the Young Mom's Conference at our church was supposed to begin. Yes "was supposed to." Then it began to snow on Friday and Friday night's meeting was cancelled. And then we woke at 6am on Saturday to find the world iced over and the power off. Beautiful, and not at all what I had planned for my weekend!
So instead of a morning listening to uplifting, encouraging and God-centered speaking and then grocery shopping, I had a day at home with my cold kids with no power and no food. Whew!
I spent some time lying in bed while everyone was still quiet praying (while my hubby and I were trying to pretend it was still night so that maybe some of the kids would go back to sleep despite their noisemakers not being on). My heart would begin to list the negatives: Lord! No power, no heat! No hot water! (When was the last time I had a shower?!) No food! And then His Spirit would whisper wordless comfort and I would know that there was much for which to be thankful. That was basically how the whole day went. Complaining then being thankful, then repeat. And I was able to get to the grocery store, and it was beautiful, and we had dinner with friends, and when we got back the power was on. Praises to our God!
And what did I learn? Well, the Songs for Saplings song "Sanctification is for making me holy..." kept running through my head the whole weekend. And maybe I'm not far enough away from the weekend to be able to say, "Wow! I'm so glad!" But I am glad in a quiet and tired way that my Holy Father isn't finished with me yet. And I am humbled. I thought the weekend was about me getting some much needed rest, but no, it was about Him getting the glory for everything. And He does!
This is the week of the SAHM Survival Pack giveaway. Every comment on every post this week will count as an entry for the giveaway as long as you are a follower. So comment often and let the games begin! The comments for the following posts also count as entries, so leave a comment on each post for multiple entries!