Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ghostly Jugs

I found these cute little ghosts in Family Fun Magazine (which I love!). If your house is like mine, you always have empty milk jugs, so it's nice to recyle them into an easy & cute craft.

We haven't put the lights in the jugs yet, but the boys had fun painting the faces on the jugs.

I love fun Halloween crafts and decorations! And I've loved looking through the holiday ideas that all of Scribbit's readers have shared!

We finished our jugs today, and 5 of them are happily sitting on the porch. They look so bright and cheery! They were easy easy to make and totally free. The hardest part was cutting the light holes with the exacto knife, and finding rocks to weigh down the jugs. This is a GREAT project for ages 2-10!

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Black Bean Salad - 5 minute dinner

6pm last night, and I had no idea what I was fixing for dinner at 6:30. Not a good sign! I'm usually good about figuring out dinner before noon. But I remembered one of my husband's favorite meals, and pulled everything out of the pantry/frig.

To make black bean salad, layer:
crushed tortilla chips,
lettuce/spinach leaves,
black beans,
shredded colby jack cheese, and

To make it even better, I would add an avocado, but I rarely have them in the frig. If I have shredded chicken baked & frozen in the freezer, sometimes I'll throw that on, as well.

Voila - healthy, super-fast and yummy meal.

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Grandmother Wren just posted a great dialogue about television vs. play. I especially liked what she said about the power of play, so I've posted it here. You can read the entire article at her very creative website:

A child learns through play – in all ways, a truth adults do not always understand.
David Elkind, psychologist and author (“The Hurried Child”), says of play:
“Young children learn best by playing and following their own curiosities, by solving real problems, such as how to balance a stack of blocks, or how to negotiate a zipper, put together a picture puzzle and most of all, by making mistakes and trying again."

What does your child want you to know?
Simply this:

When I play – I learn!

I paint and scribble and color and draw – and I learn

To develop my imagination and creativity
To develop eye-hand coordination
To distinguish and purposely create shapes
To express my feelings and ideas
That my ideas have values
Relationships of space and size
Concepts of symmetry, balance, and design
About how colors mix to make new colors
To distinguish patterns from a background
An acceptable way to make a mess
To hold a pencil or other drawing implement and to control the pressure
To express myself with words when describing my drawing
The basic strokes of the printed language
To control the small muscles in my hands

I play with play-doh, sand, water - and I learn

About different textures
How to create patterns and designs
To exercise my Imagination and creativity
How to use tools
To solve problems
Concepts of size, shape, and volume
Concepts of warm and cool, wet, damp, dry, heavy, light
To observe changes

I look at books and listen to stories – and I learn

That books are important and enjoyable
That print is written word
To express my own thoughts, feelings, and ideas
To handle books with care
To follow the development of thoughts and ideas in the plot of a story
That I like books and someday I’d like to be able to read them too, when I’m ready
To recognize certain words when I see them in print
To use more complex patterns in my own speech
To use my imagination and make up my own stories

I play with blocks and cars and trucks – and I learn

Concepts of shape, size, length, and location
To create and repeat patterns
To exercise imagination
To express ideas and exercise imagination
About the properties of wood
To see myself from a different perspective

I play outdoors or at the playground – and I learn

Physical strength, coordination, and balance
To use my imagination
To cooperate with others when involved in group play
Self confidence as I develop new skills
To solve problems
To observe likeness and differences
Concepts of texture color, weight and size
Strength, balance, and large muscle coordination
To use my energy in a constructive way
Concepts of speed, direction, and location
To negotiate and take turns
To appreciate nature and develop a sense of wonder

I play and live with my family – and I learn

To listen and understand spoken words
That my ideas have value to the others
To express myself with words
To wait my turn when others are talking
To help plan what we will do and when we will do it
To cooperate and be considerate of the needs of others
To be flexible in my thinking
To express myself with my words
To try on different roles
To solve social problems through negotiation
To sort and organize play things
To make decisions

I listen to music, I sing, I dance – and I learn

Balance and coordination
To be conscious of moods and rhythms of music
To express myself physically in an appropriate way
About the space around me and the space of others
To be conscious of rhythms in music
Concepts of fast, slow, loud, soft, high, low
To express myself in new and different ways
Listening skills
To remember the words of songs and poems I have learned
and to put things in proper order
Various concepts emphasized in songs
Phonics or auditory discrimination
Awareness and identification with my culture and other cultures

I play – and I learn
That I am me – a small child who is valued, cherished, and loved.
I count in the world!

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More Leapfrog

I just discovered that has free computer games on their websites. I played a couple of them with my 2.5 year old yesterday. He really liked baking a cake (which teaches baking items and sizes, as well as following directions).
The games are organized by age, so it's easy to find a good match for your child.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Susan & I are participating in a booksigning event at this special reception for teachers at the Opry Mills Barnes & Noble. If you're in the area & want to come by, it would be fun to meet you! And educators definitely can't beat their 25% discount on your purchases!
Ann :)

Barnes & Noble Opry Mills in Nashville
Join us for our Educator Reception


Arrive early for café treats and coffee and stay for the prizes awarded every half hour, including our $100 Gift Card.

10:00 am: Michael Shoulders, V is for Volunteer, will be reading at our Storytime.

10:30 am: Drawing for first Gift Basket!

10:40 am: Linda Ragsdale, Pet Pals You Can Draw, will be demonstrating step-by-step, how to draw.

11:00 am: Drawing for second Gift Basket!

11:10 am: Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, Great Group Games , will lead some fun, interactive team building games.

11:30 am: Drawing for third Gift Basket!

11:40 am: Join authors Sonya Hayes, Stuck in the Middle, and Debra Smith, Hattie Marshall Series, and discuss their success with writing.

12:00 pm: Drawing for $100 Gift Card! (Must be present to win)

Educator Appreciation Week October 13th – 21st. PreK-12 educators save 25% on classroom and person purchases, including 10% on DVDs & CDs. Certain restrictions apply.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Learning at Home

Letter Factory has been a big hit with my youngest son. The Letter Factory Video is one of his favorite movies, and at 2.5 years old, he is gaining a great grasp on letters and phonics. He can't sing the traditional alphabet song, but he knows the Letter Factory song with all the letter sounds. Very funny!

We're also enjoying the Letter Factory Game that's in the picture. It teaches letter recognition, phonics, counting, and letter sequences.

Well, I thought this was going to be a quick blog, but I'm realizing how many Leapfrog items we have in our house. Other products we particularly enjoy: The Phonics Radio and the Fridge Phonics Letter Set

We believe in learning through play. We don't usually sit down to "learn". But we do a lot of "learning" thorughout our days through cooking, walking, driving, shopping, playing, and cleaning. It's so fun to see a little one's mind start to develop!

Happy Birthday Baby
My little girl's first birthday was today. I can't believe it's been a year!
First birthdays in our house focus on the cake smashing. Little bit was so cute tonight. She picked up little chunks of chocolate cake and put them in her mouth. After a few pieces, she started handing chunks to daddy. Does that mean she's going to start sharing at an early age? Wouldn't that be nice!
Our family of 5 couldn't eat an entire bundt cake. Well, I COULD, but my husband would make fun of me all year! So we cut 3/4 of the cake into 2-4 piece servings to deliver to new neighbor friends. It was like a traveling birthday party, and a great excuse to connect with neighbors.
Happy Birthday little girl! :)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free Mammograms

The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman.. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'donating a mammogram' for free (pink window in the middle).

This doesn't cost you a thing.

Their corporate sponsors /advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising.

Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Help a Family in Need

I have two friends who have invested all their money and more in an amazing indoor play center for kids, Fundom Kids . The business has failed, and they are trying to re-coup some of their costs. They are using their biggest item (a huge two-story castle) to generate publicity on Ebay. The more people that visit the auction site, the greater chance they have of attracting media attention - which will ante up the bid and hopefully attract middle Tennessee families to visit Fundom Kids before they close on October 27. This will help, in even a small way, to ease their huge financial burden.

Can you take a few minutes to visit their Ebay auction site?
Can you ask friends and family to visit the Ebay site?
Will you stop and pray for this family and their business?


Apple Oatmeal

I grew up loving Quaker's apples & cinnamon oatmeal packets, but my mom just taught me a new way to make them. When she's following the Weight Watchers diet, she eats oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Sometimes she adds apples. So we started dicing apples into our oatmeal, before microwaving it. Then we add brown sugar on top (or Splenda brown sugar). It's easy, healthy and yummy for moms that need to fill their bellies for a hard morning's work.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chores = Brains

I think it's important for even young children to learn simple household chores. We do chores together (laundry, dishes, silverware, toys), and make it fun. But until today, I didn't think about the educational value of chores.

1. Responsibility and perseverance. These skills will lead to a much better chance at academic success.
2. Classifying and sorting skills lead to mathematical intelligence. So sorting silverware, groceries, toys, and laundry is a big help for foundational skills.
3. Patterns will help with math skills. So let them set the table and learn about sequencing.
4. Putting away the groceries can teach nutritional awareness - a part of science.

I'll have to keep thinking, as we go empty the dishwasher!

First time obedience

We've been struggling with our 2.5 yr old this month. He is testing our limits to the nth degree!

One of the readings from my church small group this week was Colossians 3:20, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." A kid friendly phrase came to mind, when I read that scripture.

"Obey, and have a good day"

I know, it way oversimplifies the scripture. But God says he is pleased with our obedience. He will bless us when we are obedient. Not necessarily blessing us with a happy and easy life, but with a good and abundant life. Things will be well in our hearts, therefore things will be well in our lives.

But toddlers can understand the simple phrase, after it's repeated a few times. They will eventually understand that first time obedience leads to a happy mom, which leads to a spanking-free experience, which leads to a happy afternoon.

So that's our phrase for the week - "Obey, and have a a good day."


Monday, September 17, 2007

New recipes!

I just found a new low-calorie, slightly gourmet, and basically easy set of recipes at Cooking Done Light. I look forward to experimenting!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pulled Pork BBQ

My friend Angie (from Phoenix) served me (a southerner) pulled pork barbeque sandwiches at her house a few weeks ago. She laughed at herself for making southern food for my family. But I admitted that I'd never made BBQ pork (I know, it's shameful!). We LOVED her recipe, and my husband snuck the ingredients into the grocery cart last week, so I would make it for him. So here is the super-easy recipe:

Put 1-2 pork tenderloin(s) in the crockpot.
Cover with 1-2 inch(es) of water.
Sprinkle with onion soup mix.
Cook 8-10 hours on high.
Pull pork apart with a serving fork.
Clean the pot (or drain the liquid).
Add 2 cups of BBQ sauce.
Cook on low for 2 hours.
Serve on buns, or serve alone


Sunday, September 09, 2007


I love good artwork - especially paintings! Betsy Karounos, a friend from our community group has just launched her website that features her artwork. I'm so proud of her!


Friday, September 07, 2007

Hard Mommy Days

Yesterday was a really hard mommy day. Actually, it's been a hard mommy week. I'm sure my stress/worries are spilling over into the behavior of my children. They have an uncanny way of sensing when something is a little 'off'. So I'm trying to remind myself to pray A LOT throughout today - and measure my every thought by Christ's truth. Our problems/deadlines/worries seem MUCH smaller, when we think about how BIG God is!

I walked out on the porch to wave goodbye to my DH and my eldest son en route to kindergarten this morning. The temperature is a gorgeous 75 degrees - such a blessing after a much hotter than normal summer. The song, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" immediately popped into my mind, so I started singing. What a great way to start a morning!


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;There is no shadow of turning with Thee;Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!Great is Thy faithfulness!Morning by morning new mercies I see.All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,Sun, moon and stars in their courses aboveJoin with all nature in manifold witnessTo Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endurethThine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Healthy Snacks

I just read a great post on healthy snacking from Grandmother Wren. It talks about the philosophy of healthy snacking, healthy snack ideas, and involving your kids in snack preparation. I'm a big snacker, so this was a good read for my family!

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Potty Time!

I just read about Rebecca's potty training adventures, so I'll share some of our stories this month. We're potty training in our house too! Isn't it funny (well, not so funny!), how they get ready for the potty training process in their own sweet time. And you just can't potty train before they're ready, can you?

We started out with tiny rewards for trying to go pee pee in the potty. We had a bunch of candy hearts, so he got one heart everytime he tried, and a piece of bubble gum if he succeeded.

Then we progressed to 'pee pee parties'. Three pees in the potty equaled one party during the first week of potty training. A potty might be popcorn/video, ice cream at sonic, or homemade milkshakes.

Now he's going potty regularly, but we're still working on pooping consistently in the party. So he gets big treats when he poops in the potty. Last night, his treat du jour was potato chips. He's definitely his father's child in that regard - I would have chosen chocolate!


Baby Flight Strategies

It always makes me nervous to fly with children. I'm not a generally nervous/uptight person, so it's odd that I get so nervous about it. I worry that they'll be loud, disobedient and out-of-control - and it's difficult to discipline effectively on the airplane. I guess my nervousness stems from pride - I want my kids to be well-behaved, so I can appear to be a good mom. Sin is ugly, isn't it?

The way I deal with my nervousness is to make a game plan. So here are some of the things we did to help the baby (11months) on this weekend's flight:

  • Board first on Southwest and pray for an empty seat (Children under 2 don't need to purchase a seat, but if the flight is full, they have to sit in your lap.)
  • Let her stand up in your lap, and watch all the people enter the plane. (The lap trays are usually strong enough to support a baby's weight, so this works well for standing)
  • Let the baby flirt with friendly passengers.
  • Some friendly passengers might even want to hold/entertain your baby for a little while.
  • Let her flip through the magazines - point to key words, let her help turn the pages, let her crinkle the pages, let her play with the little postcard inserts
  • Let her explore the snack pack - touching, tasting, shaking, rattling, scooting...
  • Ask the flight attendant about the best place to change a diaper - some planes have changing tables in the restrooms!
  • Take a ziplock bag full of munchies, as well as food for any meals during the flight.
  • Give the baby a pacifier and/or bottle during take-off and landing (this keeps their ears from hurting)
  • Take a bag of small multi-purpose toys. I try to take toys that have at least 2 ways to entertain - shaking, stacking, making noise, turning over, hiding...
  • Add 1-2 board books - read them, point to key pictures, play the drums on the cover, turn the pages...
  • Remember your baby games - peek-a-boo, find mommy's nose, rhymes, songs...
  • Encourage her to sleep. It might require extra snuggling, pacifying, singing...
  • Laugh and make the best of it!


Treating Kid's Colds

Our pediatrician usually advises us to use a decongestant during the day and an antihistimine at night. So when our kid's have colds, we usually give them Benadryl (generic) at night. This system works well, and it almost always prevents the cold from transcending into a sinus infection.

**Benadryl usually makes people sleepy, but occasionally it wakes people up. Watch to see how it affects your child, and respond accordingly. :)

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