Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Meal Planning Pt.1: Why I plan my meals once a month

 December will be here tomorrow and so it is time to plan my monthly menus again.  I have been planning my menus by the month since visiting Jon's mom last August. She gave me a book called Once a Month Cooking  by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson that I read and started to apply in our household.  It is a great book that has ways to save money through planning and cooking only once a month.  Sample menus and recipes are included.  Each day, you pull a meal out of the refrigerator or freezer for supper that night, heat and serve.  Voila! 

This book answered a lot of the frustrations I had had at supper time.  I hated the question "what's for dinner?" when Jon got home from work because I would realize I had no idea.  I would scrounge around and pull out something, realizing I was missing one or two ingredients.   Back to the pantry I would go...only to make something that neither of us really liked or head out the door to eat out.  I saw that we wasted a lot of money eating out, buying food that we didn't eat, and throwing away leftovers.  I decided that we needed to change.

Tomorrow I will be posting the second part of "Meal Planning" and will focus on how I do it.  If you have anything that you do that you find works, please feel free to post your suggestions.

Advent Calendar

J has been asking for about a week now when Christmas will be here and I know that the concept of time and days is really difficult for him at this age.  I found an easy homemade advent calendar that we made together today.  I printed the templates from DLTK's Growing Together.  I printed the tree in black and white because J would be painting it but the ornaments I printed in color.  The ornaments are small and there are 24 of them.  I knew J would not sit still long enough to paint or color them all.  If your child is older, they might enjoy coloring or painting each one.  Here are a few pictures of the painting process.

We let the tree dry, I cut it out, and J glued it onto a red piece of construction paper. 

Each morning, we'll glue on an ornament until Christmas day, when we'll attach the Merry Christmas star! 

 This project is also a great way to practice counting past 20.  DLTK's Growing Together had the instructions to count backwards from 24 to 1.  I decided to adapt it for J to place the ornaments 1-24 to continue working on counting.  This will also help with printed number recognition.  I am really excited and I hope that some of you may be able to use this as well!  Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Books for Babies

My family visited for Thanksgiving this past week and my mom brought J and H a whole lot of new books.  I sat down to read with H yesterday and realized that she sat through four books in a row without trying to squirm away.  So if you have a wiggly baby who doesn't like to sit still for reading, I highly recommend Busy Baby books
Busy Baby Dotted Spotted Words  Busy Baby Dotted Spotted 123  Busy Baby Dotted Spotted Colours 
They are simple books with 1-2 words per page with bright, vivid pictures.  I think that is why H enjoyed them so much.  There is also a shapes book but I could not find a picture.  I was so excited to finally find books that H would sit through and enjoy.  The big emphasis while I was teaching was how important reading is.  I greatly encourage parents to read to their children.  Read, read, read.  It is a great way to develop language skills, increase vocabulary, and teach new things to your child. 

H will also sit through our Bible story times with J.  His Bible is The Beginner's Bible that I actually got at a choir Christmas party as a White Elephant Gift when J was a year old. 
The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories
J has loved reading it and has spent hours just looking through the stories by himself.  I am hoping H will enjoy it just as much as J.  Finding a children's Bible was hard for Jon and me since most are a little simplistic.  This Bible was a great thing for us as it wasn't quite so simple and because it is broken into individual stories with the Scripture reference underneath.  It also includes the crucifixion on a young child's level.  Several of the ones Jon and I looked at skipped from the Last Supper to the Resurrection. 

J and I used his Bible to read the birth of Jesus last night to kick off our family's Christmas season.  For the next two weeks, our Bible verse to memorize will be Luke 2:11.  Over the next few days, I'll also be adding Christmas crafts, coloring sheet links, and other Christmas ideas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday

I have never been brave enough to go to the store on Black Friday until this year.  We had decided not to go until we saw a few deals in our area for J and H that we thought were worth it.  Jon and I went with my brother and sister specifically for a Buzz Lightyear toy for J.  My brother decided he would be the one to stand by that section.  As I walked with him over to where they had the Buzz's stacked, we were joking about having him throw elbows and push people down.  I wished him good luck and went to my station to wait until midnight. 

While waiting, unbeknownst to me, my sister was texting him joking about not falling down and getting trampled.  I then texted him to check on him and see how the crowd was in his area.  His response to me was "Would this be putting too much emphasis on stuff?"  I blew it off at the time and we finished our Black Friday shopping in under 20 minutes, thanks to teamwork. 

Later that night as I tried to go to sleep, my brother's text kept coming back to me.  I reflected on how easy it was to get caught up in the frenzy of "stuff" and how because it was set up like a competition, we had bought more than we intended.  I thought about how Jon and I had already talked about doing a smaller amount of presents and how we had already begun to fail. 

As a mommy who wants to be faithful with my children, I do not want them growing up caught in the consumerism of Christmas.  I want my children to know that Christ is the meaning behind CHRISTmas.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday are easy ways to justify spending more money because it is just a "great deal".  My goal this year is to make our family Christmas purposeful and Christ oriented.  I want J and H to remember that Jesus's birth, not presents, is the reason we celebrate.  I'll be posting over the next few weeks with crafts and activities that J and I will be doing to be more intentional in celebrating Christ's birth.  If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please feel free to comment and participate.  Hope you enjoy and have a great Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Family Time

My family arrived today for Thanksgiving!  I have not seen them in about 3 months which is the longest I have ever gone.  They were supposed to arrive around 7:00-8:00 p.m. but instead surprised me with a knock on the door at 1:15 p.m.  It was such an awesome surprise!  J and H were glad to see Grammy and Papaw, Aunt Kara, and Uncle David.  We'll pick Aunt Sandi up at the airport tomorrow. 

This is why I love Thanksgiving...the feeling of complete gratitude to God for my family.  I am going to soak them all in for the next few days while they are here.  We're also going to show them around our new town and eat lots of wonderful food.  I plan on taking lots of pictures too.

Thanksgiving time is also a favorite because Jon and I were married four years ago tomorrow. These four years have been awesome and I hope to have many many more.  I love my husband and am so thankful for him and all that he does for us.  Thank you Jon! 

I wish you all a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Recommendations

J loves to read and has loved to read since he was about 3 months old.  He and I would sit for hours when he was little and read together.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle was his favorite book.  It is a great book that helped teach J his colors and numbers. 

Very Hungry Caterpillar

H,on the other hand, will not sit still for books hardly at all.  We read one book at a time because if I try to do more than that, she is too squirmy.  Her favorite that she'll sit through mostly is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault.  This book was a favorite when I was teaching and a fun way to work on ABCs.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Lap Edition

Currently we've been reading Feeling Thankful by Shelley Rotner since it is Thanksgiving time and we've been talking about giving thanks to the Lord with our Memory Verse (Psalm 136:1).  J loves the pictures of real children and real things that correlate with the text.  I add my own twist at the end which is the copyright page but if a page has words, J expects you to read something.  I close with "And I'm Thankful for God who made the whole world!"  H has sat through this book, I think, because of the great photographs.

Feeling Thankful (Shelley Rotner's Early Childhood Library)

At our church library, J chose 9 Fruits Alive by Mindy Macdonald.  This is our second time checking this book out.  The first time, I chose it to go with our Memory verse which was Galatians 5:22-23.  J has enjoyed the rhyming rhythm and the simple definitions of each Fruit of the Spirit.

9 Fruits Alive (GodCounts Series)

My recommendation is a book for stay at home moms or moms who are transitioning to staying home.   Who Got Peanut Butter on My Daily Planner by Cindy Sigler Dagnan is a great book that I have read several times.  I love this book because it has practical tips for organizing and caring for my family and keeps a sense of humor about serious topics.  She also addresses ways to overcome perfectionism and tips to keep your priorities in focus.  And a bonus at the end...recipes!

Who Got Peanut Butter on My Daily Planner?: Organizing and Loving Your Days as a Mom 

I love to read and love hearing about a new book.  If you have a favorite book, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Honesty and flopped cupcakes...

I said that I would be real and honest so here goes.  J loves to cook so I thought we could make a Thanksgiving themed treat.  I found some adorable cupcakes pictured online and charged into baking.  In my head, I thought this would be perfect since we had a Sunday School picnic today.  I made the cupcakes last night since it was easier to have that already finished.  This morning J and I made a Creamy Cocoa Buttercream Frosting. (I love homemade icings so much better than store-bought.)

J's favorite part!

I realized we did not have the candy corn featured in the picture so we ran to the store to get some.  That was my first mistake as the store was super busy.  The second mistake, I could not find candy corn anywhere!  So improvising, I grabbed marshmallows and toothpicks.  In Jon's words, this is the "creepy turkey" that was made.   Oh well, the children at the picnic ate them and enjoyed them. 

I attempted to save the turkey by cutting the marshmallow in half and removing the face.  It still didn't look quite right. 

But the important part was that J still loved making them and of course, eating them! 

If you are looking for other Thanksgiving ideas to do with your child, here are a few ideas that I will be doing with J next week. 
Give Thanks Turkey  Another fun craft!
Thank the Lord Song  J loves to sing so this is perfect for him.
Thanksgiving from Totally Tots  Activities geared towards younger children.
1+1+1=1 Thanksgiving Ideas  These are mostly activities for older children but we're tweaking a few of the projects for J. 

On another note, I will be taking Sundays off for a Sabbath from blogging so if you receive updates via email, you will not receive an email on Monday.  Thanks!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving and Psalm 136:1

This week our memory verse has been Psalm 136:1 since Thanksgiving is next week. J was so proud to
say his Bible verse this week.  Hope you enjoy the video! 

 J and I have been doing Thanksgiving activities also.  Today, we made the paper plate turkeys from Ramblings of a Crazy Woman.
J loved painting the plates!  He then painted with watercolors while waiting on the paint to dry.

Here J is glueing on the eyes, beak, and wattle.
A finished turkey face!
Now for the feathers...

The finished turkey and a happy J!

H was occupied with her one of her favorite toys, our
Vtech Discovery Nursery Farm.  She loves how it plays music when she pushes different buttons.

Earlier in the week, we made a cornucopia from ChristianPreschoolPrintables.com.  I pre-cut all of the foods since J is still learning to use scissors.  He loved coloring (even though the colored pencils did not show up very well in the photo) and my favorite part was listening to him say

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year because it isn't about gifts or things. In my family growing up, it was about getting together with family and spending time together.  We cooked, ate, laughed, and cleaned up as a family.  The food was awesome and so delicious but the special time that was spent just catching up and visiting was the best part. That is the tradition I hope to instill in J and H.  Jon and I differ in our opinions over cornbread dressing or stuffing but we completely agree that we want our children to have thankful hearts. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Balancing Expectations

When I was pregnant with my first baby, J, our church at the time threw me a baby shower.  A baby shower is an awesome event...good fellowship, adorable baby stuff, and, of course, cake!  As I sat enjoying my cake and just enjoying life, I overheard some older women discussing the pastor's children in a very negative light.  They went on to discuss how they thought the pastor and his wife did not parent very well.  My heart began to sink as the reality of parenting while doing ministry set in. 

What pressure to know that people in the future would be discussing J and how Jon and I choose to parent.  I resolved then and there to always make their discussion positive. 

After J was about 10 months old, I realized I was driving myself and Jon, my husband, crazy trying to be the "perfect" mommy with the "perfect" son.  Something had to give and I decided to give up trying to please people and start focusing on pleasing God.  He is the One who gave us J, and now H, to raise and to nurture.  He is the One that holds Jon and me accountable. 

My focus now is to raise J to be a Godly man and H to be a Godly woman.  J is only two and H is almost 8 months old but even now we are introducing them to Biblical truths.  That may look crazy in the world's eye and a lot of people may think Jon and I are wrong, but I know that God our Father is pleased.

P.S. If you are a pastor's wife, or engaged to a pastor, In Our Shoes: Real life Issues for Ministers' Wives by Rachel Lovingood and Jennifer Landrith is an awesome book that I wish I had read sooner. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Goals

I believe that when I start something there should always be goals.  Even as we raise our children, my husband and I have goals lined out for them.  Whether that goal is a short-term goal like potty training or a long-term goal like raising a Godly man and woman, we have something to strive towards.  Same goes for this blog and me.  This is a new venture in our household and so I have come up with a few things to aim for.

1.  To glorify God through the blogging process.
2.  To blog in a positive manner about real life issues. 
3.  To be real and transparent at all times, regardless of how I may look.
4.  To give Godly solutions and advice for raising God-centered children.
5.  To discover more about myself and my family. 

Thank you for being a part of this journey.  My sincere prayer is to give practical advice to you and work together to raise our children faithfully!