Friday, June 29, 2012

Fourth Of July Crafts for Kiddos!

Handprint 4th of July art, 4th of July tutus, and a firework pencil, what fun!

I am being organized this holiday. I am actually going to plan out events, and actually have the supplies needed... I will, I will! I am going on a retreat this weekend with my MOPs group, so hopefully I can get everything bought today...

Here is a little compilation of cute crafts I'm going to do with my 3 and 1 year olds.

Fireworks Pens 
(though I will be making pencils, and we will be using them to practice writing our F is for Flag worksheets, link HERE...)

These cute Handprint Eagle Shirts are adorable!
Then, to wear underneath, we will be making Fourth of July Tulle Tutus. My little girly girls are going to absolutely love wearing these, I think we will add glitter and stars to them, too.
What are you doing?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stockpile This!

Coupons are a stay at home mommies best friend! Here are my deals this week that I am going to pick up a few of...

Using a Target Coupon to get $0.50 off this nail polish, you can get it for $0.44 each! I am planning on trying to pick up quite a few and stash them away for stocking stuffers.

 This cleaner was $1.82 at my Target, then I was able to combine two coupons for it.
A Target coupon for $1 off and also a $0.75 coupon you can get in the 4/1 Smart Source found in the Sunday Papers, (I save mine in a coupon binder.) In the end it was only $0.07! I plan on picking up a few of these and store them up to help my cleaning bill.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daily Prayers of Grace and Thanksgiving for Mothers

Prayers to help turn thoughts to thanks and grace during the trying times of mothering...

 Lord, thank you for the daily opportunity to clean up after my children, I know other women praying daily for blessings to clean up after, and I have been graced with [two].

Lord, thank you for this home to clean, and capable hands to clean it. Please give me the wisdom to know when to clean, when to pray, when to play, and the strength to follow Your guidance in choosing.

Lord, thank you for the innocence of the eyes that brim with tears at a broken toy or stubbed toe, and give me the strength and wisdom to teach those eyes to see grace in the real pain that is coming.

Lord, help me focus on the joy in the creation, not the work in the clean-up, in the mess of toys and paint and play dough.

 Lord, give me the peace and calm that comes in the knowledge that these hard days are a blessing that has been given to me. These children are the biggest gift I will receive in my life. Give me the strength to stop and thank You for them every time we eat together.

Lord, help me realize that You are all my kids need, and You are all I need, and all our needs are met in You. Not in a bigger house, a cleaner play-room, or a new dining room table. Help me remember the more we focus on You the less empty we will feel, the happier we will be, and the more loving and peaceful our home will be.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Multitudes on Mondays

8. food crumbs left on smiling cheeks that don't care
9. eyes bright with wonder at a chipmunk
10. horse eyes staring back at us full with the knowledge of what is truly right and good, and what is not
11. laying close enough with my 3 and a half year-old that I can see the gold tint at the base of her eyelashes as she stares down
12. the smile of satisfaction on my 19-month-olds face as she says 'cookie' and is understood, and rewarded
13. Ann Voskamp baring her soul, so that I can more fully understand my own
14. the chance to start over, try again, be better, every minute of every day
15. the wrinkles and saggy belly button that make my daughters laugh, yet was created at their creation
16. watching tired eyes close in the rear-view mirror on the way home from the mountains

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Museums on a Budget

Being a thrifty mom is kind of my passion. I love a good deal. I love frugal living. I recently came across the term 'Christian Simplicity' and it resonated within me. My eyes widened and I felt something click. My urge for a simple and natural life would actually align with my religious principles? Would help me find Jesus better in my heart? I couldn't believe my luck.

This website can explain it better than me...
The good life is one that is inwardly rich toward God and outwardly rich toward our neighbor. Jesus offers such a life, but many of us have received his message on thorny soil. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and desires for other things have taken precedence and our lives are not as fruitful as they could be. Christian Simplicity works with God to help people transition from a heart of thorny soil to a heart of fertile soil. found here

or maybe this one...
Experiencing the inward reality [of christian simplicity] liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone, because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance, not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd recorded in his journal after months alone in the barren Arctic: 'I am learning ... that a man can live profoundly without masses of things. found here

There is so much to be found on the topic of christian simplicity, but I guess I shouldn't fill up my post with other people's writing and get on to what I was actually going to write about, and that was how to do museums with kids on a budget... a frugal, simple budget. 

Here is how I do it. I joined the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. My kids adore going there, especially because right now they have a lizards and snakes exhibit that is full of live animals. A family membership is $80, so really not that much. But, I went one step more... I joined at the 'Family Plus' membership level. For $115 dollars 2 adults and up to 7 guests (adult or children guests) can go to the museum, (I actually got it for less than that, they sent a flyer in the mail offering it for $95 if I bought by a certain date.) What I did, was asked my parents and sister if they wanted to split the membership with me. So we split it how we saw as fair, I paid $45, my sister paid $20, and my parent's paid $30. Now, we can all go to the museum as often as we like, and it was incredibly affordable! When I go with friends and their kids I can get most everyone in for free as well, which is nice for friends that are also living on a stay-at-home mom budget and maybe wouldn't pay for the museum, which is $13 for an adult, and $8 for each child! If you had a mommy friend or two you like to do trips with, you could split it with them!

We just got back from our 3rd trip in 3 months and the kids had so much fun. I enjoy getting out in the summer and not coming home covered in sunscreen and sweat, too! 

So, maybe my tip of splitting a membership with someone will be doable in your area? Working together we can all be thankfully thrifty! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lost Sock Solution

Where do lost socks go? Who knows. Is there a cure? Well, yes... and no. There is a cure, and I have the answer, or at least an answer. However, it takes a tiny bit of diligence from your entire family. So, is it a sure-fire solution? No. Goodness knows even a tiny bit of diligence is hard to squeeze out of everyone. But my solution WILL help your family's laundry, I promise! I have never had so few lost socks in my life!!

So here is my lost sock solution: the plastic clothes pin from Walmart, or 'peg' as my English husband calls them.

I keep a basket of them by dirty laundry hampers.  When I throw dirty socks in the laundry, I clip them together. It really takes just 1 extra second, I timed it. So it really is a small amount of diligence. 
When you pull your socks out of the laundry, they will still be together! It seems like magic, but it is true! I use the same peg to hang my socks up on the line, then throw the peg in with the clean, dry laundry when I am done. When I put the laundry away, I throw the pegs in the basket by the dirty laundry hamper. No more lost socks! Well.. in a perfect world.
This diligence, as simple as it seems, fails us sometimes. Every now and then I find a lone sock on the living room floor. I know, I know, my family is crazy. This would never happen to anyone else. But it happens to us. So I made a lone, lost sock hanger that I hang in our laundry room. I just super-glued clothes pins to a painted and distressed board and staple gunned a ribbon to the back. Easy, cheap and quick, and it has lasted for 5 years now, so pretty good! I usually find my matches this way. Every now and again I give up and throw a sock away.

I hope this post can help you! I absolutely adore my sock solution. I read other solutions... safety pin the socks together- too much effort, wash them rolled up- won't clean mine good enough, keep them in a bag- I will never go through that bag! buy all the same socks- boring... I can't remember the rest, but, either way, this solution finally worked for me. I have officially been using it for one year, and still like it, so it passes my test, for what that is worth!

Can you perfect my solution? Add your thoughts to the comments!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Multitudes On Mondays

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever. psalm 107:1

Here I go! I am beginning my 1,000 gifts list, after Ann Voskamp! It's June, and that doesn't make sense to me, a teacher at heart, I like things to take place neatly within either a calendar year or a school year. June is now, and now is where I'm starting, so I have to just get over it!

1. life, in all it's messy glory, has to be my first gift
2. old friends I got to see at a wedding on Saturday, friends, some of whom I've known since I was 5
3. new friends, mommy friends, that have enriched my life since I've entered the 'mommy phase'
4. rainbows in the sprinkler water as we run through our sprinklers this morning
5. sunshine and wind drying our clothes naturally
6. fingerpaint
7. my two little babies, sweet sisters to each other

OK, this is harder than it looked! I'm trying to be specific, and yet want to thank God for everything and be incredibly general. I can only guess it will get easier...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day Craft for Babies, Toddler, Preschoolers

This is an easy Father's Day craft for young children. I did it with toddlers, but it could easily work for any age, really.

I put the child's hand-prints in paint, put them on a paper, then printed off this saying:

To Daddy With Love

My dirty little fingerprints
I've left on every wall,
And on the drawers and table tops,
I've really marked them all.
But here is one that won't rub off,
I'm giving it to you,
Because I'm thankful for a Father just like you!

But the hand-prints and paper in a little frame and you have an adorable father's day present.

This was mine from 2 years ago, I've been trying to remember but sadly I can't remember what we did last year, and this year we are making them today, so I will post that later hopefully!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All You Need Is Love

I love this picture. It was taken on our family vacation to England. This was my 30th birthday. I asked for no party, no surprises, just a day at the beach with my family.

Mothers constantly question if what they are doing is right, and I am no exception. I must second guess, doubt, and judge myself ten times a day, on a good day.

This day and my present, time with my family, reminded me of how little they truly ask for- our love and some time.

The question I should ask first is: do my girls know I love them? And they do. I know that because when they are sick, they want me to hold them. When they are scared or nervous, their eyes turn to me.

In the end, really, The Beatles had it right: All You Need Is Love, the rest, everything, is just a bonus.

How Do You Show Your Husband Love?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Seems simple enough. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my dog- done. Unfortunately, the simple part is not loving them, it is showing them I love them.

So many studies have proven that marital happiness takes a plummet after a couple has children. I can see why. I don't have the time, energy, or brain cells left to think, "Okay, Goosey is finally asleep after 30 mins of back rubbing, Gabbers' laundry needs to be hung out, then I have 2 phone calls to make while I check my emails before I race to get the dishes rinsed and in the dishwasher so before the kids wake up and need a snack and cuddle I can get dinner started, oh, and let me think of a way to show my husband and kids I love them." It just doesn't work like that for me. My brain is so scattered with my to-do list and my daily tasks that I don't always make it a priority to show love. True, love is embedded in the things I do. It's quite obvious I'd do anything for them, have I have completely given up my life for them, (to get a new, much fuller and rewarding life, I might add.)

I should still show them love more clearly. It's easy to forget. One day I stopped to think about my dear hardworking husband. I realized how very sad it is that he might not feel the full weight of my love. When we were dating, one time I took my now Hubbers in the car, and didn't tell him where we were going. I drove us 45 mins away to the top of the Grand Mesa in Colorado where I knew of a look out point you could watch the sun go down and the lights of the Grand Valley slowly flicker on. I took out some wine, (knowing him as well as I do now, what a sport he was to actually drink a whole glass of the local Honey Mead!) and a picnic lunch. We sat and watched the sky darken and the lights come on, put a blanket on, and just talked. We took a different route home and stopped to get a pizza in Montrose, Colorado. When is the last time I've done something even remotely like this?... I mean, I guess I did say he could go fishing without us tomorrow morning, but that's not really quite the same, is it? Though, it is a way I do show him love. 

I do need to make some more 'grand gestures' like that one. Yes, we are deep in the throughs of kid-raising. But we are still married, and when our kids are grown we will still need to feel whole together. These days, grand gestures are going to be fewer and more far between, so I thought of some 'not-so-grand gestures' I can do on an almost daily basis... 

Not-So-Grand Gestures to Show My Husband I Love Him... 
1. Do 'his' job when he doesn't expect it.
I mow the lawn when the kids are playing outside sometimes. It's nice to see his face when he comes home and doesn't have to do it. Sometimes I'll take out the trash, or make a phone call for him. You get the point.

2. Don't tell him about my day when he gets home.
Don't talk at all. Just smile, hug, and let him be. Maybe even ask him about is work after a bit of quiet.

3. Make him his favorite dinner and dessert.

4. Let him go fishing with the boys.
With no 'payback,' no sighs, no catch up work when he gets home. Just go have fun.

5. Look him in the eye.
When he's talking about his work. When he gets home. When you're eating breakfast. Pay attention to him, let him know he's more important than your text, dishes, or the news. 

6. Say, "I apppreciate..." and fill in the blank. 
I appreciate that you go to work for eight and a half hours everyday in a job you don't love so I can stay home. I appreciate that you never complain when I run out of groceries mid-week. I appreciate that you don't mind that my make-up and hair stuff easily takes up our whole double vanity. I appreciate how much love you have for your two little girls... etc.

Husbands don't ask for affection. They're not wired for that. My husband won't climb on the table, put his breakfast on my plate, and then squat next to the computer talking jibberish until I let him climb on my lap while I type, (as my 18-month-old just did, she obviously knows how to ask for affection when she needs it! Crazy monkey.)   

Maybe my list is small compared to others, but honestly, these days, I am exhausted with just the normal day to day. This is where I am starting. I will add to it. Can you add something in the comments?    

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Finding Joy in Simple Things

Finding joy in normal life. It's what we all want. Yet, I sometimes have a harder time actually living a life of joy.
I am in the middle of two incredible books right now. The Happiness Project and One Thousand Gifts. Both are about finding happiness and joy in the here and now.
As I read my 18-month-old her story before nap time today, the book she chose off of her child's bookshelf reminded me of both of those books.
It was called My Favorite Thing by Gyo Fujikawa, copyright 1978, (a wonderful thrift store find!)

Isn't it wonderful that the child on the cover is splashing in a mud puddle? The whole book is full of child-like joy over simple, (and free) pleasures. Aren't the best things in life free?
The passage that struck me last night from Ann Voscamp's book, but really from the bible, was

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. Philippians 4:11

 Didn't Jesus say, and the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these? Can we find more pieces of Heavenly joy on Earth if we try to live with less? Get more pleasure from less?
 This last one is my favorite, because it could be me snuggling under that quilt!
 I am trying to live more to the philosophy of a 'simple, Christian life' and this book spoke to that for me.

What's your favorite thing? And does it cost much?

Monday, June 11, 2012

B Hap E

That was a license plate I pulled up behind at a light today. Be Happy.
I pulled up behind this license plate on the way to the grocery store with my two kids at 5pm. As you well know, that is the witching hour. My beautiful, adorable, smart, funny children are replaced secretly by fairy children until bedtime. They whine, complain, fight, and all kind of other fairy mischief, unbeknownst to my two little angels who are stashed away in fae land.

B Hap E. Seems easy enough. Yet, if it was, wouldn't we all be singing and dancing in the rain every day? I have a better license plate for you: B Gr8ful. Be Grateful. That is so much easier to do. While driving my two fairy children to the 'horsey and cookie store' (that I was unaware would be OUT of free cookies tonight. really? tonight?) I thought about that license plate and how the phrase 'be happy' can be hard to put into practice. How can I just be happy? What am I actually supposed to do?

On the other hand, it's easy to just 'be grateful.' I push the kids around the store in their Mickey Mouse cart and tell my 3 year old, "if you bother your little sister and make her scream one more time, (this is the sister with the itchy, unexplainable hives bothering her all day and keeping her up at night, and the 4 swollen molars, pretty easy to annoy at the moment) then you are going to have to walk with me." This phrase was not met with much joy, as said 3 year old is currently outgrowing her naps and not in the best of moods by evening. Telling me to 'just be happy' at that point would be met with a noise, something between a sigh and a 'hmpf.'

However, telling myself to 'just be grateful' reminds me that I am grateful to have two, healthy, beautiful children to push in a cart. I am grateful to shop in a store with fresh produce, safe and healthy food, friendly sales people, and enough money to buy what I need to keep my family healthy and happy. I am grateful that I have a safe and reliable car to get us to the store. There are so many blessings bestowed upon me. It's hard to be in a bad mood when counting my blessings.

Next time you are in a foul mood... B Gr8ful

Try and name 3 things you are grateful for, and see what it can do.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Getting the Most Out of Your Weekend

Now that I have kids I am always struggling with not having enough time. My workout has become the many times I go up and down the stairs each day holding a 25-pound baby. The only t.v. shows I watch are Sesame Street or Super Why, and my movie nights consist of Tangled and Cinderella. Laundry day is now every day of the week, and in my spare time all I want to do is sleep.

So with lawn projects, cleaning, cooking, errands, and a multitude of other projects just begging to reach the top of my weekend to-do list, how do I get the perfect balance between enjoying my weekend, relaxing, and also getting things done, (because to my hubbsters and I, getting projects done is a big source of our satisfaction out of life, though if it takes over our time it actually turns to stress.)

I found a few ideas that help me balance out my weekends.

1. One day I focus more on things that need to get done, and one day I focus more on my family. Usually Saturday is spent doing projects or running errands or just doing things around the house; then, on Sunday, we try to something fun as a family, (zoo, pool, even just play at a park for a few hours.)

2. I remind my self of two phrases Ann Voskamp wrote: "Life is not an emergency. Life's a gift. Just slow." and "Hurry hurts kids." I try to remind myself that none of this stuff is as important as my people.

3. I say no to a lot of social events. I know that friends and family are incredibly important in life. However, my Hubbsters and I are introverts, and we gain our strength and happiness from doing things alone, hearing peace, and we both despise large gatherings. Now I give myself permission to say no to weddings and other events unless they are very important. If I do say yes, I leave early. Keeping our weekends to ourselves seems selfish sometimes, but we did create our own little family, so we do want to enjoy just the four of us sometimes.

4. We use our grandparents. People who don't have family in town can find a couple with kids the same age or an older friend who just needs some baby/little kid time. We have all of the above, we are very blessed.

5. Sometimes we spend time apart. Hubbsters is off fishing. He'll come back renewed, refreshed and ready to give. We will all benefit from that.

Putting it into practice...
This weekend my parent's took my 3 year old to a parade, while I ran to Crate & Barrel with my youngest and bought a wedding registry gift, (a little me time.) (And Hubbsters if off fishing, his time.) This afternoon/evening I am going to keep working on my garden path project, and the girls can play outside in the baby pool after they wake up from naps, then heading into our town's festival to ride the carousel horses and get ice cream. Then, tomorrow, we are spending time as a family: church, Skype call to England to say hello to the Grandparent's, and probably a group trip to IKEA (we love going there, but also have some returns) and a family BBQ. So I tried to mix in stuff I had to do, with stuff that will renew and refresh us.

Do you have more ideas? Add them into the comments! What will your weekend look like?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Let God Wash Away Your Dirt

Our town was pummeled with a very scary storm a few days ago. Six tornadoes touched down in our area; thankfully, a tree was the only victim I've heard since I last watched the news. I sat on my daughter's bed and read Madeline with one eye out the window in case a twister came our way, ready to grab the girls and run to the basement if needed, but not wanting to keep them up until who knows when, either.

The next morning when I went to let Daisy, our adorable chicken, out of her coop I surveyed some of our damage. Sadly, my prize peonies, (ok, the only prize they've actually won is the one I bestowed on them myself, the prize of being the most beautiful flowers in my yard,) took a brutal beating. There they lay on the ground, broken, beaten, and covered in dirt. Without their stems they were doomed to dry out and die.
I gathered the flowers off the ground and washed them. It reminded me of baptism, how Jesus washes away our sins and dirt. He makes us clean again.
Then He puts us in a vase where we can be constantly refilled with His peace, love, and serenity- if only we look for it.
I could look at all the mess and dirt that surrounds me right now. The hail was the size of ping pong balls. Our roof is ruined, our fences are gashed everywhere, there are holes in many of my kids' outdoor toys. And then there are the flowers, leaves, and tree branches strewn on the lawn. But intead I will choose to focus on what was saved, and what can still be saved.

Our God is a God who saves. Psalm 68:20