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!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mommy Mission Statements

I was just reading my cousin Teresa's homepage on facebook. I love the way she described herself:

"I am who I am, I don't pretend to be anyone else! My goal is to raise funloving, kind children, who are on fire for the life God intended for them!"

What a great mission statement! What kind of mommy do you want to be? Do you ever write your own mission statements? How do you keep yourself on track to be the mommy you want to be?

Homework for me: I need to do some reflecting!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Photo Tip

I'm forever trying to get pictures of my boys & their cousins. I hit the jackpot at the lake a few weeks ago. They were watching Tom & Jerry together, and I asked them to turn around for a second. I said "Smile", they did & I snapped the picture. I'm thrilled with the results. Simple, but brotherly. Now I just need to crop the photo to take out the background images.

I'll definitely try taking a picture this way again!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Life's a Gift... Unwrap It!

Excerpts from "Tips for an Exceptional Life" (author unknown)

Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile.
Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
Watch more movies, play more games, and read more books than you did last year.
Always pray.
Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of six.
Dream more while you are awake.
Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less foods that are manufactured.
Drink plenty of water.
Try to make at least three people smile each day.
Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:
I am thankful for __________.
Today I accomplished _________.

Enjoy the ride. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

Live, love, laugh.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Catch 'em doing good!

After talking with my friend Elizabeth at our little town's firefighter parade yesterday (such a fun event!), I've been thinking a lot about positive reinforcement. In very simple terms, it's the practice of catching kids going good, instead of being on the watch for them to behave poorly. Here are some actions I try to practice in relation to positive reinforcement:

  • Identify the behaviors you'd like to change. Yes, we'd like our children to be perfect all the time, but what are the 2-3 issues that you are focusing on with your child this week? If you choose a handful of weekly/monthly goals instead of tackling all issues at once, you will probably have a much happier home!
  • Watch for good behavior. My 6yr old son has a LOT of energy, so I'm always looking for ways to praise him when he manages his energy wisely, instead of choosing destructive patterns.
  • Reward. Think potty training. When you have success with potty training, you give the child a little treat. Maybe you give an m&m for trying, and an oreo for going pee, and the child gets to watch a special movie when he poops in the potty. You're rewarding good behavior.
  • Be creative. Rewards don't need to be expensive or elaborate. Here are some examples from my house this week: gum for helping clean up a big mess, reading an extra story for sharing with a sibling, a big thank you hug for helping mommy with the laundry, ice cream for potty training success, saying "God loves it when you share with others"...
  • Look for patterns. Are your praises/rewards working, or do you need to find a different strategy? What works today might not work next week. And it's always different for every child. (Hint: PRAY for wisdom!!)
  • Don't forget to include discipline, whether that means derived consequences, natural consequences or spanking. Praising for good behavior is very important, but discipline is also important for training up a child.
So that's what's on my heart to practice today.
Happy Sunday!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Homemade Snack Mix

My friend Shannon shared another great idea with me today. At the end of the long day at work, when she's trying to prepare dinner, her 3 girls often ask for snacks. Sometimes snack preparation feels a little overwhelming when you're trying to juggle a million mommy tasks, so Shannon found a solution.

After her Aldi shopping day, she makes a snack mix for the week. The snack mix is always different, but here's her basic guideline:
a bag of Aldi chex mix
a large bag of nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts...)
plain chex cereal (to soften the strong chex mix flavoring)
a big scoop of dried fruit (raisins, craisins, mixed fruit...)
some kind of treat (yogurt covered raisins, chocolate chips, m&ms...)

She puts the mix in a large container with a 1/2 cup scoop. When the girls ask for a snack, they are able to go by themselves to get a serving of snack mix (empowerment) and Shannon feels good about serving her kids a healthy snack with protein & fruit.

You could even take the empowerment a step further, by asking children to make the snack mix with you. You can take that time to educate them about healthy nutrition. "We put a big serving of nuts, because that's protein - do you know why we need protein? It helps keep our bodies strong and it gives us energy to learn and play." I love learning that just 'happens'!

Thanks for sharing Shannon

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A New Hair Twist

I tried a new hair twist today, following the directions from an article in Woman's Day magazine. It was easy to do (less then 5 minutes) and it was really cute!

Here are their directions and the picture from their magazine:

1. Place your thumbs at the top of your ears and run them back through your hair to sweep the top half into a ponytail. Secure it with a hairband, then pull remaining hair into a ponytail directly below.

2. Twist the top pony clockwise and pin it into place; twist the bottom one counterclockwise and pin so ends can peek out.

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The Kindergarten Countdown - Transition Tips

I needed these kindergarten transition tips a year ago!

Last July, I was incredibly anxious (not the norm for my personality!) about my oldest son heading to kindergarten. I prayed and prayed for peace about letting him go, for positive friends, and for a fantastic teacher that could challenge his smart brain and rein in his strong energy. And I had so many friends from Bible study praying right alongside me.

It was a great year for my son and a good experience for me, so I'm not nearly as anxious as we head into first grade. Still nervous about not yet knowing his teacher, but much more willing to trust God to provide for his needs. (It's still a day-to-day battle though!)

I wish someone had given me a guidebook for sending your son to kindergarten. Tips for me, tips for him, and a general idea of what to expect. Yes, the school sent some basic principles, but nothing too practical.

Let's Explore just posted a great article on the kindergarten countdown - transition tips. If you are sending a child to kindergarten, or if you have a friend sending their child to kindergarten, take time to read this post! This whole website is full of creative ideas for young families - I love reading her ideas!

My favorite two tips from her article:
  1. Have something planned for yourself the first day after drop-off -- maybe meet a friend.
  2. Know the daily schedule and themes in your child's classroom so you can ask specific questions. Asking questions like, "What did you do for choice time?" or "What did you learn about caterpillars today?" usually gets more detailed responses than, "What did you do today?"
Two more tips that come to mind:
  • Make lunch for your child the night before. Consider freezing PBJ sandwiches ahead of time - they freeze really well!
  • Visit your child for lunch every other week - or whatever fits your schedule. It's a good opportunity for your younger children to 'be a big kid' and you can get to know some of your child's peers.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Levels of Engaging Children & Teens

I've been pondering the different ways that people engage children & teens as they parent, educate, and supervise them.

So I've created a ladder of engaging children/teens that rises from

  1. tolerating
  2. engaging
  3. nurturing
  4. shepherding
As a parent/grandparent/teacher/caretaker, it's easy to fall into the habit of simply tolerating kids. It doesn't look like an abusive relationship - you and your kids might even happily co-exist, sharing space together, but really living separate lives. Sometimes I go to sleep realizing that I served my children all day, I watched them play, and I even directed them in various activities. But I never sat down to just 'be' with them.

To really engage a child, you must get down on their level and interact with them. You might read a book together, work a puzzle together, cook together or play cars together. But the key is being together - capturing time and space in the same plane together. Engaging a child is the first stpe in building a meaningful relationship. It's building a bottom line level of support from which you can grow.

The next level of adult/child relationship is nurturing. It goes beyond 'playing with' a child to promoting character/skills development. It means taking time to teach life lessons through everyday experiences. It means disciplining a child in order to mold a heart - not just change immediate behavior. Nurturing requires a much greater investment of time and heart - and it requires adults to resist the call of laziness in order to be intentional (ouch!).

The highest level of relationship is shepherding - it's engaging a child in order to lovingly guide them towards spiritual, emotional, social, mental and physical maturity. It means looking into the skills/talents/passions/styles of a child and helping them to become the best they can be. As children grow, it means helping them establish and work toward life goals. It requires rebuking, instructing, discipling and loving in a long-term committed relationship.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Being a Great Wife

My pastor, Carter Crenshaw, taught earlier this month on “The Roles of Men and Women”. I loved the sermon, and I wanted to share pieces of it with you.

NIV Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." A woman’s role is to be helper to her husband. How can I be a good helper to my husband?

1. Love your husband
2. Love your children
3. Be sensible and pace yourself (If I push myself to a point of burnout, I won’t be good for anyone or anything!)
4. Nurture your family
5. Build and care for your home (see Prov. 31)
6. Be responsive to your husband’s leadership

Use wisdom with a man…consider a man’s key needs
a. A man needs admiration and respect
b. A man needs your support in his work and his dreams
c. A man needs a recreational companion (this one is challenging with young kids in the family)
d. A man needs physical responsiveness

“Nevers” in Relationships
1. Never submit to anything immoral or illegal with a man
2. Never hide abuse
3. Never nag (oh, this one is hard for women, isn't it!)
4. Never embarrass your man in public—but confront him in private!
5. Never stop encouraging your man—critics will line up at the door to criticize him. The line of encouragers is short!
6. Never treat sex in marriage as a duty. Always consider it a privilege.
7. Never lose interest in his job.
8. Never make your kids your top priority. Always keep your husband there.

I love my husband dearly, and cherish our relationship. I love that my pastor took time to exhort couples in their relationships. And I'm grateful for the challenge to love my DH and my family even better.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mashed Potatoes

I love homemade mashed potatoes, but I always thought they were incredibly difficult to make. Here's a mommy secret - they're easy to make, very inexpensive and super yummy. If only they were healthy...

Kathy Troyer taught me & 8 other women to make these yummy mashed potatoes in a church cooking class 6 years ago. This is my recipe for Frugal Upstate's Collection of Frugal Bread, Potatoes, Rice & Pasta.

8 medium baking potatoes or large red potatoes
1 stick of butter
¼ c milk, approximately
1.5t salt

Wash and cube potatoes. (You can peel them if you want to, but the peels tenderize while boiling, so the dish works really well with unpeeled potatoes.) Place potatoes in a stock pot and cover with cold water. Add salt – taste to check saltiness of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a slow boil. Boil 20 minutes, or until tender. Combine butter and milk, then heat in the microwave. Drain potatoes, then mix in mixer with butter and milk. If the consistency is too thick, add a little bit more milk. You can eat them plain, or top them with one of the following: cheddar cheese, roasted garlic, or dill.

Kathy uses the leftover potatoes to make potato cakes, for breakfast. She adds 10 crumbled saltine crackers, 2 eggs, and chopped onions (if desired). Stir to mix well. Brown by patties in non-stick pan. They sound good, but I haven't ever tried them.


Cute Hairstyles for Little Girls

Thanks to Joanne, I just found a great website with TONS of hairstyling ideas for little girls. The website is full of great pictures and tutorials.

Now if my baby girl's hair will just grow out!!! She's 21m, but she doesn't yet have enough hair to style. In due time...


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Peach Ice Cream - Summer Fun

We made ice cream three of the nights we were at the lakehouse. Making ice cream is a tradition in my sweetheart's family, so he shares his talents with our family. We love it!

We tried a new recipe for Peach Ice Cream based off a Southern Living recipe this year. It was easy and it was really yummy!!

4c canned peaches, drained
1c sugar
120z can evaporated milk
3.75oz package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 can condensed milk
1qt half-n-half

Combine peaches and sugar in a blender – blend ‘til smooth. Stir together evaporated milk and pudding mix. Combine rest of ingredients. Freeze in an ice cream freezer. Enjoy with friends!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Marshmallow Guns - Summer Fun

Marshmallow guns were a highlight of our family vacation - for kids and adults! I heard my mom & sister talk about them before the trip, but I totally underestimated how much fun they would be!!

Think BB gun in accuracy, but then imagine shooting mini marshmallows out of a star wars like pvc pipe gun. You blow on one end, then the marshmallow shoots out the other end.

Kids ranging from 2-65 shot marshmallows off our back deck into the woods last week. We also ate a lot of marshmallows (the 6 and under kids probably ate as many as they fired) and of course we shot at each other. I loved putting 3 mini marshmallows into my gun and firing away at my husband!

The biggest surprise about the guns was my 6yr old's adaption. After shooting the guns for a while, he decided the guns would make great musical instruments. So he & his cousin spent hours making trombones, trumpets, and clarinets out of the pvc pipes. They're not glued together, so they were easy to manipulate. They loved figuring out the various sounds made by shaping the gun in different ways. And thankfully they were great at keeping the instrument volumes low enough to use inside the house!

Making the guns would also be a great activity for Young Life, church youth groups, or after-school clubs. It's fun, it's cheap, and hours of interactive entertainment!

Here's a tutorial you can follow to make your own marshmallow gun. Happy playing!

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Long Hiatus

So sorry about the LONG hiatus! I was hesitant to post publicly that I was going on vacation (it's so easy for stalkers to figure out your address - even when I'm very careful to post very limited personal info on the blog), but I thought I would be able to post every few days anyway.

Not so - the cabin where we visited on Norris Lake in east Tennessee had no phone line, so we didn't have internet access. Big surprise!!! But honestly, I was glad to be disconnected from cyberspace because it allowed our extended family to build more relationships instead of living in the world of technology.

My time away was fantastic!
  • Day 1: I drove 3.5 hours to my parent's farm outside of Knoxville to get ready for the family vacation
  • Days 2-9: at my uncle's lakehouse in the middle of nowhere (15 minutes to the nearest gas station, 25 minutes to the nearest grocery store). My 4 siblings (and my DH's brother) and their families came at various points during the trip, so family dinners hosted 11-18 people. We spent the days skiing, kayaking, eating, playing games, reading books, telling stories, and lounging on rafts in the water. It's my favorite place in the world.
  • Days 10-11: Cleaned up at the lakehouse, shuttled stuff/kids to my parent's house, and drove 1.5 hours east to Kingsport, to help my sister move into her new house. I'm such a dork - I had so much fun organizing, decorating, and arranging stuff with her. And it was great to have good sister time!
  • Days 12-13: Drove back to Knoxville to hang out with my kids and parents on the farm. The highlight of our time there was watching the kids play in the creek! Then we drove back home to meet Daddy.
So after 12 days without internet, I'm a little overwhelmed with work/personal emails. I'll post a little bit this week, and I'll get back to almost daily posting next week. I miss blogging!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Penny Pictures

It's time to print your spring/summer memories. Snapfish is having a sale through July 12, where customers can get 50 4x6 prints for only a penny each! Additional 4x6 prints are just 9¢ each. Use coupon code JUL4PENNY08 at checkout. Hurry, this offer ends July 12!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fill your grocery cart without busting your budget

MSNBC has a great little article about shopping on a shoestring. Some of their ideas are standard decisions for budget-minded shoppers. But I picked up some new tips & I was reminded of tricks that I've forgotten. You can read the whole article here, but here are my favorite points on saving money with food staples:

Go for bulk - Buy eggs in economical 18- or 24-packs if you’re planning to use a lot of them. Even if you don't finish them quickly, eggs are still good for up to a month after the expiration date.

Not just for breakfast
At an estimated 20 cents a serving, eggs make for a much cheaper source of protein than meat. Substitute frittatas, omelets and other such egg-based foods for meat at main meals. If you're watching your cholesterol, avoid the yolk and just use the whites.


Buy brown
Though it costs about 25 percent more, brown beats white for its valuable fiber and fatty acids. Brown rice will turn rancid over time, so refrigerate it for storage up to six months. By purchasing brown rice in bulk and refrigerating it, you can save significantly.

Try barley
If rice prices have skyrocketed in your area, consider dry barley. It's packed with even more nutrients than brown rice and is about 40 percent cheaper. Use it like rice in soups or casseroles. Toss it into a salad with tomatoes and almonds.


Think frozen
Frozen produce is preserved at its nutritional peak, yet sells for a quarter of what it costs fresh. So stock up on frozen to save money and reap nutritional benefits.


Fresh isn’t all that
Once caught, all fish is iced. So fish on the frozen aisle is really fresher and cheaper than what the store thaws and peddles as fresh.


Boost your intake
Whether canned or dried, beans pack valuable protein, fiber, folate and iron for a cost effective $1 per 16-ounce can or bag, often much less when on sale. They’re a healthy substitution for, or addition to, meat in any hot dish or salad. Black beans or lentils can be added to pasta sauces, soups and casseroles for an affordable, nutritious meal. Chickpeas add low-fat protein to green salads.

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Summer Fun - Clang Clang

Clang Clang is a good inside game, for times when you & the kiddos need a break from the summer heat. Here are the simple directions:

Gather an assortment of 10 unbreakable items that will make various sounds when dropped onto an aluminum pie tin (pen, spoon, plastic cup, matchbox car). Set up a barrier (chair with a sheet, door...) so that the kids cannot see the items you are dropping into the pie tin.

Give each child a pen & paper. Ask them to # their papers 1-10, then try to guess the items that you drop. You might do a second round with the same objects, giving them a simple clue (something you write with, something you eat with...) to help them identify the object.

Then reveal the clues and give each child a treat for trying their best. The favorite treat in my family is bubble gum!

This is a good game to teach concentration and problem-solving.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Taco Soup

I first discovered this yummy recipe when my friend Jennifer brought it to me after the birth of my first son. We've been in love with the dish ever since. It's a great mommy secret, because it's made with items usually in the pantry, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare. I make it more often in the winter, but it's a great frugal recipe for Frugal Upstate's collection of frugal ground beef recipes this week. So you can save it for the colder months!

Taco Soup
1 lb ground beef
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can corn, undrained
1 can chopped Mexican tomatoes, undrained
1.5 c water
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
toppings: chips, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, avocado

Brown beef and onion; drain.
Stir in beans and other ingredients.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15-60 minutes.
Serve with toppings on top.


Potty Training Might Kill Me

As I'm writing, my 3.5 year old son is sitting on the potty, trying (well at least he's supposed to be trying) to go poopy. He's sitting there because he just pooped in his pants for the 6-7th day in a row.

He's been 85% potty trained since he turned 3, but we've majorly digressed in the last 2 weeks. (The only major life change is that his big brother (age 6) is home for the summer - perhaps my 3.5 yr old just wants more attention.) So we've gone from his beloved "big boy pants" in Lightning McQueen print to pull-ups. But he doesn't care. He doesn't care whether he's doing 'baby' things or big boy independent things. He doesn't care about getting incentives for pooping in the potty. I'm at a total loss.

Perhaps I need to re-evaluate. Am I angry because it's an inconvience to change his poopy pants, or am I concerned for his overall development? Am I giving him enough time, attention and love? Am I encouraging him to be independent in age-appropriate ways? Am I being grateful that at least he chooses to pee in the potty, instead of his pants?

So I fall on my knees, again, admitting that I can't do this mommy-thing by myself. I need sovereign help. I need God's patience, God's wisdom, and God's endurance to be a good mommy. So perhaps this is the perspective change I need - a reminder that I'm not supposed to be a mommy in my own strength. I'm supposed to be a mommy depending on the Lord's indwelling strength minute-by-minute. Oh, that's opposite of my independent nature!!

I'd appreciate your prayers and ideas!


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Summer Fun - Inviting Friends on Adventures

I've mentioned my friend Shannon several times before, but I thought you might like seeing some of the activities she is planning with her girls this week. She plans ahead, then invites other moms to join in their fun. I love the accountability of planning group activities, the opportunity to kids to practice getting along & having fun, and the opportunity for moms to enjoy good fellowship together. Here's an excerpt from her email earlier this week:
We have fun things planned for this week:

The girls and I are going berry picking Tuesday morning in Springfield. I am hoping to get an early start to the farm to beat some of the heat. We will hopefully be there from 8:30 to 10:00 (approximately!).

Wednesday we're going low-key and heading to the downtown library for the 10:30 storytime, book check-out and lunch in the courtyard with the fountain.

On Thursday, we'll head to the Kirkpatrick sprayground. Since it's getting progressively hotter as the week goes on, I figure we will need water play by the end of the week.

If we don't see you, have a great 4th of July! Hope you can join us for one of these!

Shannon and the girls

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