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!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Activity Centers - part one

Our family life works best when I manage our time in 15-30 minute blocks. I encourage my children to rotate through activities throughout the day, so they will grow in mind, body & spirit; instead of becoming dependent on television/movie entertainment. (There is an appropriate time for movies and television, but it should be limited.)

When children are playing with one toy/item, I’m always trying to think of ideas for the next activity. I find that being prepared with ideas for them equals happy and engaged children, instead of bickering and complaining children.

My latest strategy has been to set out 3 activities on the dining room table, and let each of the 3 children choose which activity they’d like to do for a block of time. They might choose one activity to do all together, or they might each select a different activity.

I try to rotate activities among different categories: learning centers, art, imagination and physical activities. This reminds me to engage various parts of their minds and bodies.

I’ve also started keeping a list of activities that fit within the 4 categories, so the wide variety of activities can always be ‘in my back pocket’. I’m going to post this lists on the refrigerator or at my desk, so I can see them often. I can also let my oldest child read the list to choose his activities.

I’ll share activities from the 4 activity centers over the next few days.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Children's Prayers During Meals

The Armistead family taught our children a lovely blessing to sing at the dinner table. It is sung to the tune of the children's classic song, Are You Sleeping?

God our Father
God our Father
Once Again
Once Again
We bow our heads to thank you
Bow our heads to thank you

We love this blessing, and we've recently adapted it to involve younger children and guests. Instead of everyone singing each phrase twice, we sing it as an 'echo prayer'. One child leads the song, starting with the first phrase, "God our Father". The rest of the table echoes. Then the leader leads the second phrase , "once again", before waiting for the table to echo. And so forth, until the whole blessing is sung.

It's an easy way to remind our children (and ourselves) to give thanks to our Provider and Sustainer throughout the day.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Frugal Flower Gardens

I love spring colors - especially flowers, flowering trees and bright grasses. But I've never been much of a gardener. (Actually, I've always been pretty good at killing flowers instead of helping them grow - my thumbs are not green!!)

But I'd like to add some color into our landscaping. I did some googling for frugal gardening tips, but I didn't find much. These two articles were helpful:
17 ways to landscape on the cheap from MSN
Landscaping on a Budget from the Dollar Stretcher

So I thought I'd ask you - what are some frugal ways to add pizazz to your flowerbeds? What are some inexpensive and hearty flowers that you would suggest for a Tennessee garden?


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Power of a Song

It was a hard mommy afternoon in our household. Lot's of fussy, whiny and ungrateful children. My DH got an earful from a tired mom when he got home! But then the sweetest thing happened tonight.

My 7yr old is at a late baseball game, so I'm letting the younger two kiddos try to sleep in the same room. My 4yr old was making his cot in his little sister's room, and spontaneously started singing "Hosanna" from Hillsong. I've never heard him sing it before (though it is a song that we play frequently on itunes), so it was so sweet to hear him start singing on his own.

It was a great testimony about the power of words/songs that children absorb, and the power of God to bring praise into our home in the middle of our grumpies.

So I think I'll go turn on some praise music to close out the day.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

MommySecrets from the Week's Treasure Chest

Here are some articles I've enjoyed from other bloggers this week:

Social-Emotional Skills for Preschoolers from Let's Explore

Use What We Have: Ugly Craiglist Canvas from Like Merchant Ships

Birthday's on a Budget: Roundup! from Frugal Upstate

11 Cheap (and free!) Toys for Young Children from simple mom

It's been a fun weekend in our house - visiting with friends from WI and AZ, going to the zoo, playing baseball, going to a concert, playing on bounce-arounds, building fort, drinking coffee, and having a Wii date with my hubby. Today will be mostly a day of rest - I love quiet Sundays!

Oh, and I started a great book yesterday! It's Joanne Heim's new book, "Misplacing God and Finding Him Again". It echoes prayers in my heart over the last 2 decades - her writings are parallel the journals I've written for years. I'm sure it's a book I will recommend to people often! I'll write more when I finish the book.

Happy day,

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dance Dance Dance

I didn't work out at the Y this morning, and it was too chilly to walk. Well at least my brain thinks 50 degrees is too chilly, since it thinks the weather should be 65-70 degrees and sunny during April!

So this afternoon we had a dance marathon in the bonus room. I selected upbeat tunes from my Dizzler account (think itunes, but all the music is free), and we started crazy dancing. We did 'lunges' to Surfin USA, we did push-ups/sit-ups to the Star Wars theme music (my boys love Star Wars music), and dance moves to 20 minutes worth of songs. I was holding my 2yr old for some of the songs, so I did some 'bicep curls' moving her up and down from my chin to my chest, and used her for extra weight on 'squats'. We added in some jumping jacks, some side-stepping, and some jumps during the fast music. It was a lot of fun for me and the kids - and a great workout for all of us!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Christian Traditions for Easter

I've read some great posts this week about Christian traditions for Easter, so I thought I'd share them with you. This is the most cherished tradition of our faith (at least it should be), but it's so swamped by the Easter bunny and colored eggs. Those things are fun too, but how do we teach our children the true meaning of Easter? Check out what these women are doing:

From the Simple Wife - picture books, family seder supper and resurrection egg hunt
From Passionate Homemaking - a whole set of resources for families - from recipes to homeschooling curriculum to Holy week.
From Harvest Ministry - a list of ways to minister to others during Easter week.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Teaching Children to Read - with a Creative Twist

I love this story about a creative way Amy is teaching her son to recognize sight words and practice reading. It's a great way to make your child feel special AND help him practice skills for his schoolwork.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Treasures I've Been Waiting to Share with You

I've been collecting so many fun tips, strategies and recipes to share with you, but I haven't been able to invest the time I wanted to have with each article. So I'll just share one big list of treasures - enjoy!

Kelly's post on Frugal Resurrection Eggs (be sure to follow the link she mentions in the 1st paragraph for easy-to-make eggs and the scriptures woven into a kid's Easter story)

Amy's deliciously light banana bread from The Motherload

From SimpleMom: 20 Tips for Finding Your Routine With Kids

From Scribbit: Apple Galette Made with the World's Easiest Pie Crust

From Faithful Provisions: Costco Best Buys

Polly's 12 Tips on Managing Kids’ Laundry and Clothes

13 Ways toMake Your In-Transit Motel Stay Part of the Vacation Fun - from Having Fun at Home

Nutritious Freezer Meal Carnival from Passionate Homemaking - look at the ideas in the comment section too!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Dealing with Temper Tantrums

I just read this article about Temper Tantrums from Connect with Kids. I liked this portion of the article, in which the National Network for Child Care suggests these tips for resolving conflicts:

Try to remain calm. Spanking or screaming at your child only tends to make the tantrum worse instead of better. Set a positive example for your child by remaining in control of yourself and your emotions. Remember, never shake your child in response to a tantrum!

Pause before you act. Take at least 30 seconds to decide how you will handle the tantrum. Consider these four options for dealing with a tantrum: Distract – Try to get your child’s attention focused on something else. If he or she screams when you take him or her away from something unsafe (like your purse), offer him or her something else with which to play with.

Remove – Take your child to a quiet, private place to calm down. This should be a quiet “cooling down” place that is away from other children. Avoid trying to talk or reason with a screaming child. It doesn’t work! Ignore – Older children will sometimes throw tantrums to get attention. Try ignoring the tantrum and going about your business as usual. Hold – Holding an “out-of-control” child calmly is sometimes necessary to keep him or her from hurting himself or herself or someone else. Children don’t like to be out of control. It scares them. An adult who is able to take charge of the situation and remain calm and in control can be very reassuring.

Wait until your child calms down, then talk. It’s difficult to reason with a screaming child. Insist on a “cooling down” period, and follow up with a discussion about behavior. Use this opportunity to teach the child “OK” ways to handle anger and difficult situations. With practice, preschoolers and school-aged youth can learn how to ask for help, when to go somewhere to “cool down,” how to try a more successful way of doing something and how to express feelings with words (rather than hitting, kicking or screaming).

Comfort and reassure your child. Tantrums really scare most kids. Often, they are not sure why they feel so angry and feel rather shaken when it is all over. Your child needs to know that you disapprove of his or her behavior but that you still love him or her.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Kids and Cleaning

My mother-in-law had a great idea for getting kids to clean their rooms during the holidays. She suggested hiding cut-outs of holiday shapes and hiding them throughout the room. As kids clean, they find the holiday cut-outs throughout the room. Some of the holiday cut-outs might have prizes (a cookie, an extra 15 minutes of TV time, or a special date with Dad) on the back of the shapes.

January - snowmen, February - hearts, March - shamrocks, April - Easter eggs or bunnies, May - flowers, June - flags, July - fireworks, August - school, September - books, October - pumpkins or leaves, November - turkeys or Pilgrims, December - Christmas trees, Santas, presents, candy canes.

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