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!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tax Rebates = Bargains

"Kroger will offer shoppers free groceries through a gift card program. It works like this: if a customer turns his $300 tax refund or economic stimulus check for a Kroger gift card, he will receive an additional $30 on the new card. A $600 check would garner another $60 dollars and a $1,200 check would warrant another $120 to spend in groceries."

Kroger gas is often some of the cheapest gas available and they offer great sales on groceries. So if there is a Kroger near you, this might be a good score for your budget.

"Sears/Kmart will offer a 10 percent bonus to anyone who converts their check into a Sears or Kmart gift card." Sears offers great sales on children's clothes and they have a great return policy for worn out clothes. So this could also be a great deal.

Thanks to my DH for finding this article on msnbc last night!


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where is your focus?

It's easy to let your heart tailspin as you look at grocery and gas prices. But Christians are called to stand strong. We should be smart and wise, disciplined and determined, but we need not fear as we face uncertain times. Read what Unfolding Grace's beautiful reminder as she reflects on a powerful poem from Charles Spurgeon.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to read her post. It will help me tame my fears, comfort believers around me, and encourage nonchristians to explore the deep rest of Christ. I hope it will also encourage you.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Fitness Magazine

I've been enjoying my free subscription to Fitness Magazine. I love to clip their workouts to follow at the gym or around the house. Last week, I met with a few girlfriends at the Y (in a racquetball court area!!) for our own little workout class. My sister took the lead, teaching us a series of exercises from the Love Your Shape workout. Based on your body type (apple, pepper, or pear), the magazine gives specific exercises for toning and sculpting. We were really sore the day after our workout.

After copying the article to share with my sister, I realized that many of their exercises are available for free on their website. You can build your own video workout, create a diet, look at exercises for your 'problem spots' or download a playlist for your ipod. I look forward to playing around on their site more, as the tools look very helpful!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cycle/Run Workout

I'm not a runner, so I was really surprised when my spin class instructor asked the class if they'd be willing to try something new today - a cycle/run workout. We said yes (though a bit fearfully), and set out on our adventure. It doesn't sound like much, but it was so hard for me.

We cycled moderate hills for 10 minutes, then went out on a paved path to jog a mile, then cycled for 10 minutes, jogged for another mile, then cooled down by walking a few laps. I had done all my arm exercises before class, so needless to say, I was BEAT! I laughed when I looked at my bright red face in the mirror.

I'll go back to Kara's class though - I LOVE a good instructor who will challenge me! If you're looking for a trainer in middle TN, Kara would be great - she's upbeat, easy to talk with, she helps you understand techniques, and she gently challenges you to give your best.

My hubby will be proud of me for running 2 miles. And I'm proud too!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quick & Easy Snacks

My Weight Watcher friends have gotten me hooked Fiber One oats & chocolate bars. High in fiber and relatively low in calories/fat, they make a quick and easy snack. Best of all, they are really yummy!!

The bars are usually pricey, so I only buy them on the clearance rack at Big Lots. This week, though, Moneysavingmom blogged about a coupon deal:

Fiber One cereal bars are on sale for $1.50 when you buy four this week at many Kroger stores.

You can get them for $0.50/box or less using this coupon (you can print 6)

There are also Fiber One $0.50/1 coupons here which would make those $0.50/box.

I love hearing about all of Crystal's deals!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tax Free Shopping List

Does your state have a tax-free shopping weekend before each school semester? Tennessee's weekend is coming up - April 25-27, and I've been building my shopping list. I put a post-it note on the calendar page a few months ago, so I could plan ahead.

On my list (in the brainstorming order, so it's very random!):
  • packing tape, scotch tape and masking tape (for home & for leading workshops)
  • elmers glue (crafts/school)
  • socks for my eldest son & me
  • shorts & underwear for my tall & skinny son (he's a size smaller in shorts than he wears for pants - so I've been stockpiling in the wrong size!)
  • envelopes
  • funky shirts for me (I want to look at Forever 21)
  • diapers!!! (i'll try to buy enough for the summer)
  • shoes for DH
  • printer paper (though I can't remember if this counts)
  • bathing suit & little swimmers for my little girl

Am I leaving anything out?

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Cup Colors

My friend Angie is staying with us this week from Phoenix. She & her husband have four children ages 5 & under (and another one due in 3 months), so I've been looking forward to collecting mommy secrets from her.

Instead of labeling sippy cups, she has assigned a color to every child. So she buys cups in 4 different colors and each child knows his/her color. Their sweet girl always has pink, of course. But each boy has his own orange, blue, or green cup. The kids never get confused & drink out of someone else's cup, and mommy always know which one belongs to who!

I love it - so easy and no sharpie marker labels that wipe off!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Rest of God

I read a great book last month, called THE REST OF GOD, by Mark Buchanon. A friend suggested that I would enjoy it, so I read it while sitting in the spring sunshine. It was exactly what this tired heart needed to read. A call to honor the Sabbath, and a reminder of the many blessings the Sabbath brings to us. NOT a call to be lazy or slack off. But a call to intentionally set aside a day each week to rest, enjoy and refresh our mind, bodies and spirits. It wasn't preachy, it was just a breath of fresh air. Here's what the website says about the book:

Most of us feel utterly ransacked: we're waylaid by endless demands and stifling routines. Even our vacations have a panicky, task-like edge to them. "If I only had more time," is the mantra of our age. But is this the real problem?

Widely acclaimed author Mark Buchanan states that what we've really lost is "the rest of God-the rest God bestows and, with it, that part of himself we can know only through stillness." Stillness as a virtue is a foreign concept in our society, but there is wisdom in God's own rhythm of work and rest. Sabbath is elixir and antidote. It is a gift for our sanity and wholeness–to prolong our lives, to enrich our relationships, to increase our fruitfulness, to make our joy complete. Jesus practiced Sabbath among those who had turned it into a dismal thing, a day for murmuring and finger-wagging, and he reminded them of the day's true purpose: liberation-to heal, to feed, to rescue, to celebrate, to lavish and relish life abundant.

One month after reading it, I've fallen back into patterns of frenzy instead of rest. Why do I do this? So today is a reminder to myself to let life go at a slower pace, to stop and smell the daisies, to sit down and laugh with my children, and to read a little bit of brain candy (fun-loving books) before bed. I'm most certain that rest will make me a better woman, a better wife, a better mommy, a better writer, and a better friend.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spa in the Car?

I don't know if you're like me, but I hardly ever have time to give myself a manicure. And I love to have well-manicured nails, so that sometimes frustrates me.

(Confession - I was the girl in high school that painted my nails almost every day to match my outfits! Oh, that was a long time ago!! Friends that know me now probably have a hard time imagining that!)

I rarely bother with colored nail polish anymore, but I can at least keep my fingernails neatly filed. My secret - I keep a nail file and hand cream in the minivan. When my husband is driving on the weekends, I can take a few minutes to file my nails and give my fingers a mini-massage. It's silly, but it works well for me!!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spice up your Marriage

Christy just finished posting a wonderful series about spicing up your marriage. She shared 30 days worth of ideas - from light-hearted activities like stargazing, canoeing, dancing and sending love notes; to more serious things like reading Song of Solomon together investing in your marriage, and making your bedroom a haven.

The whole series is really good. Christy's writing is thoughtful, challenging, and humble. She's one of a handful of bloggers I've met in person, and she's a delightful woman. You can easily follow her links to read the whole series, and it would be a good coffee break read.


Be Your Own Barista!

MoneySavingMom found a great little free download of book with Starbucks coffee recipes. Those of you that know me well, know that I love to sweeten my decaf coffee (if I drink caffeinated coffee I start shaking after one little cup!) with peppermint syrup and lots of 2% milk to make my own version of starbuck's peppermint lattes. Now I can experiment with more recipes from their book, like double chocolate creme frappuccinos, gingerbread lattes, caramel macchiato, or caramel apple cider.

And if you don't like coffee, you can always look at their recipes for pastries and desserts! Almond Biscotti, chocolate fudge squares with mocha glaze, and scottish oat scones are just a few of the recipes they printed for readers.

When you click on the Starbucks link, scroll down to the brown box and click on the icon of the Starbucks paper booklet. That's the recipe book.

What a treat!

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Starfall is a Hit

I wrote about many moons ago, when my MIL told me about it, but I think it's worth a second post. As I type, my 3yr old is sitting beside me practicing phonics and blended sounds. There are more advanced levels that teach children to sound out words and read sentences.

The "Let's Learn our Letters" section teaches phonics and letter recognition. That's where my son has been playing this week. It teaches each upper case and lower case letter, and has various activities to reinforce the skills. It also shows the child interactive videos with the sounds each letter makes. Periodically it introduces a Memory game that helps the child match letters with words that start with the same sound.

It's free, it's easy for children to navigate, and it's very well designed. It compliments the style of Sesame Street, Letter Factory and Between the Lions.



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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Family Uno

Our family loves to play games. It's a little challenging with our 18m old, so sometimes she sits in our laps and sometimes we play after her 7pm bedtime.

One of our favorites is Uno. We've been playing since our youngest son turned two. It's a great way to teach color and number recognition, matching, strategy, and taking turns. Everyone lays their cards out in front, and we help each other figure out the best moves. We skip the challenge of remembering to say "uno" with only one card remaining, because it's a little too difficult for the younger kiddos to grasp. When someone wins, we all give high fives & say 'nice job'. Then we shuffle and deal the cards to start again, saying "You never know who will win next time!"

We usually play 2-4 games in a setting, but my kids would be happy to play 10 games in a row!

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Striped Delight
Here's a yummy treat for the next time you want to make a dessert. It was a big hit at a party we went to for African missionary friends last week. I was so excited when Susannah brought her recipe to church yesterday!

Striped Delight

35 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
6T butter, melted
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 c sugar
2T cold milk
12oz cool whip, thawed
1 1/4 c cold milk
2 small packages chocolate instant pudding

Mix cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl, then firmly press onto bottom of 9x13 pan. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and 2T milk with whisk until well-blended. Gently stir in 1 1/4c of cool whipp and stpread over the first layer.
Pour 3 1/4 c milk into large bowl and add pudding mixes. Beat with whisk for 2 min. Pour over cream cheese layer and let stand 5 min. Drop remaining cool whip by spoonfulls over pudnig and spread.
Sprinkle leftover oreos over top of dessert.
Refrigerate 4 hours.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Family Time

My friend Aimee just shared two great resources for families with me:

  1. Write Mama Write just wrote a great post with 50 mood changers for toddlers. It's a very creative list of activities - many of them easy & requiring no preparation. It's a great list to print out for the refrigerator - for those afternoons when you think you might pull your hair out if you hear another whiny voice or angry scuffle. Those are the moments when we need an intentional activity to pull out of our sleeves to uplift our spirits and help our children find positive outlets for all their energy!
  2. Aimee also shared a new book (she's quite an avid reader!!) by Amanda Soule called "The Creative Family: How to encourage imagination and family connections", that I can't wait to read. The author also blogs at SouleMama, a site full of good ideas!

2.5 Years After Katrina

I was invited to help lead a community service conference for independent schools this weekend. Because it was hosted by a school in New Orleans, we decided to focus the learning on schools serving in the face of disaster. We studied the effects of Katrina, response efforts and what schools could learn about engaging students to serve in future times of crisis/disaster.

It was emotionally challenge to revisit Katrina through videos, interviews, pictures and panel discussions. But the hardest part was the bus tour of the city. The tourist parts of the city are back to normal - you'd never know they have struggled. But other parts of the city are still struggling tremendously. It was completely overwhelming to see - I can't imagine what the devastation was like 2.5 years ago.

We drove through bumpy roads in Lakeview, the upper 9th ward and the lower 9th ward. We saw shredded tarps covering roofs, leveled lots, and fields where there used to be houses. Driving down a street, one house would be beautifully redone, and the next house still abandoned. You can look through the windows of so many houses and see gutted remains - just wooden beams inside formerly beautiful houses. You can still see many spraypainted markings from when emergency relief workers first visited the houses, marking the number of dead bodies or asking neighbors to look after pets.

There are two bridges downtown with probably 60 tents full of homeless people. The city has connected people with mental illness or addictions with services, but they don't have a place to house the other people yet.

It was redeeming to hear stories of love, compassion and service. It's amazing to see how locals have helped one another, and how our country has reached out to help. But there is much more to be done. So if you can partner with your church or other relief organization to help, I hope you will. I know I will be looking for ways to help. And I will pray for the people living in New Orleans, the people that had to leave New Orleans, and the people trying to rebuild New Orleans.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

We serve a BIG God

He is my strength when I am weak.
He is my rock when I am slipping.
He is my deliverer when I am trapped.
He is my fortress when I am crumbling.
He is my refuge when I am pursued.
He is my shield when I am exposed.
He is my Lord when life spins out of control.

Poem by Beth Moore from her study on David, “A Heart Like His”. I copied down this poem after Bible study on Tuesday. I love the reminder, and I plan to post it on the refrigerator.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Dishwashing Debate

Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking just posted a great article about the dishwashing debate. She gives statistics from three different styles of washing:
1. the dishwasher
2. washing dishes by hand using running water
3. washing dishes by hand using a filled sink basin.

Perhaps the most eye opening part for me was her research on bacteria left on items from hand-washing vs. dishwashing.

It's a good read!

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Messes in the Car

Today I was really grateful for the extra change of clothes that I had stashed in the diaper bag for my 3 year old.

We were driving happily along to the Y for a spin class (my favorite exercise) after a happy morning at home. Out of the blue, my son says "My belly hurts", quickly followed by "I think I'm going to throw up." I was so shocked that I had trouble responding. Finally I managed to pull of the side of the road and catch most of the mess in a big plastic lid (I just happened to have 5 gallon tubs in the van, ready for a consignment sale).

Yuck. I was 15 minutes from the house, in the middle of nowhere with puke all over my crying son. :( In case it ever happens to you, here's the best action plan I could think of:
  1. Remove clean toys and books from the area. Put dirty toys and books on the ground.
  2. Wipe down the child with baby wipes and kleenex (or whatever you have in the car)
  3. Take the child out of the carseat, and take off his soiled clothes (leaving them on the ground).
  4. Redress the child and fasten him into another seatbelt. (I just happened to have an extra booster seat in the car, so that was convenient)
  5. Comfort the child with soft words, a CD, or a movie (I just happened to have our portable DVD player in the car, so that was a lifesaver!!)
  6. Wipe down the infected area with napkins/wipes as much as possible and put all soiled clothes, toys, books... into a bag/box.
  7. I couldn't find a hose to clean the lid at the house where we stopped (and no one was home), so I just had to turn it upside down and wipe it on the grass (not so lovely!), then we stopped by a store to rinse it off with their hose.
  8. Once home, I gave the car a thorough cleaning with rug cleaner and lysol.
So go stock your car:
  • an extra set of clothes for your kiddos - you never know when you'll need them - from spilled milk (2 weeks ago at a restaurant) to a puddle of water at the end of the slide (last fall) to a potty training accident (last week).
  • napkins, rags, or paper towels to clean up messes
  • a plastic bag - for whatever!
You might be very glad you took the time to do it!!


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mexican Baked Fish

My sister shared this recipe with me a few years ago. It's different than the usual fish recipe and we really enjoy mexican food, so this recipe has been a hit. My 6yr old son walked into the house tonight, saying "It smells great, Mom". Those are rare words from him, so my face was beaming as I finished dinner. Best of all, it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.

1 1/2 lbs cod or white fish (boneless)
1 cup medium Pace picante sauce
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup coarsely crushed corn chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking dish.
Lay fillets side by side in the prepared baking dish. Pour the salsa over the top, and sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheese. Top with the crushed corn chips.
Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork.