Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Highchair Reading

 Everyone knows the importance of reading out loud to your children.  In fact, I've even blogged about it but have struggled to find ways to read with Sweepea.  She loves books but she wants to enjoy them on her terms.  The other day, she sat in our new living room flipping through a lot of our chapter books and examining the illustrations on the covers.  The minute I sat down with a book next to her, she thought it was time to move on to something else.  Sweetpea will flip through all of the board books on our shelves but will only sit through one or two pages when Jon or I start to read aloud.
I've read to her while she is playing but invariably she gets frustrated.  I've tried rocking with her and reading, which Buddy loves, but she would listen to two pages and squirm out of my arms.  Finally, at lunch one day, while Sweetpea was busily eating, I grabbed a library book and started reading.  She was enthralled.  Her hands were busy as she ate but she was completely focused on the book. 
So this is our new way to read.  I don't necessarily get to eat my lunch while they eat but that is okay.  Buddy loves it since he would read all day long if my voice would hold up and Sweetpea listens intently.  We read all of our library books today at lunch without any fussing or squirming.  Here is a picture of Sweetpea enjoying her dessert as we read. 
This may not be the most conventional way to read but it works for Sweetpea and maybe it will work for other very active and busy babies as well.  Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Crafts

Monday is Memorial Day and so I wanted to post a few craft ideas to do with preschoolers.  I think this is an important holiday as we pause to remember those men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that we can live in freedom.  Buddy and Sweetpea are not quite old enough to understand that sacrifice totally but I want to begin to introduce American pride.  Crafts are an easy way to start a conversation with Buddy as we work.  Here are a few of my favorites.

A Star Wreath for the door

I hope you all have a great and safe Memorial Day weekend.  Take time to pray with your children for those who are serving and have served for our freedom overseas.  We are so grateful for their sacrifice!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Homemade Frappuccino

Today I had an email from Money Saving Mom and in the email was a recipe for a Homemade Frappuccino.  I just had to pass along this recipe.  Jon and I both love coffee so it automatically caught my eye.  One of my favorite treats during the hotter months is a nice cold frappuccino but I hate the coffee shop price.  This is a pretty simple and cheap recipe that I will have to try out soon.  The recipe calls for a Magic Bullet but I'm sure it can be made in a regular blender and poured into a cup.  Hope you enjoy this throughout the summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Elephant Room

Jon and I are currently watching the Elephant Room DVDs which contain eight conversations between seven influential pastors.  This has been an interesting series to watch as it has challenged my thinking about several different hard topics. 
The format is two pastors answering the main question while being moderated by another pastor.  The other four pastors have an opportunity to weigh in throughout the various discussions.  Very blunt and very honest conversation develops throughout and becomes thought provoking as well.  I knew and recognized some of the pastors while others I did not know.  I also came in with some preconceived notions, positive and negative, about some of the pastors.  While I do not completely agree with each pastor on certain points, I have developed a respect for these men and their passion and motives for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a very heady series and so it is good for me that the DVDs are broken each main question session.
As a youth pastor's wife, I appreciate and love these challenging lines of thought and discussion.  Hearing these pastors talk has given Jon and me a springboard for deep conversation together.  The Elephant Room is not something for everyone but if you are interested in learning more, the website, The Elephant Room, has more information.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Re-using Bottle Caps


Re-Nest has a great way to reuse bottle caps that would be great for carrying snacks for children.  Jon has been drinking lots of flavored carbonated waters lately so we have lots of bottle caps.  I look forward to trying this out in the future.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baby Signing Time

Baby Signing Time Volume 1 DVD
Baby Signing Time is a DVD I have been wanting to watch with Sweetpea and Buddy but was unable to find it at our library.  A great friend found out that we wanted to preview it before buying, loaned me her copy.  Sweetpea, Buddy, and I sat down to watch and it was a great educational movie.
Baby Signing Time is learning DVD to help teach babies and young children various signs using music and actual signing babies.  A little warning to parents, the songs are very catchy.  After watching the DVD once, Buddy was signing several new signs and singing the songs.  The first section is about food and eating which completely sidetracked Sweetpea because as soon as a picture of a banana appeared,she crawled to her highchair and pointed to our bananas.  She spent most of the rest of the movie eating her banana and watching.  She was not very interested until the babies would come on screen and Sweetpea would wave at the screen and say 'hi!'. 
If you are looking for resources to help you teach your child sign language in a fun and engaging manner, I recommend trying Baby Signing Time.  Between the music, the babies who sign, and the host, Rachel Coleman, children will love this movie as a first step into signing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chore Chart: Update

Buddy's Chore Chart has been working better than I expected.  The first week we implemented these expectations, he only missed two or three smiley faces.  The second week was a little more rough as he was sick a few days and started to say "no" to doing chores.  Here is a picture of his chart on Sunday.

The chart is working as a reminder for me to help Buddy have a devotional time.  This is his favorite "chore" to complete right now.  I am currently looking for a Bible that comes with a CD so that for devotion time, he can listen to the stories read to him.  If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them as there are so many choices out there.

Jon and I decided to give an allowance for chores completed and so Buddy earns a nickel for each task completed with a smiley face.  Here is a picture of the lay-out of nickels.  Buddy noticed this second week that there were more empty spots and really wanted to have those nickels too.

Not having those nickels became a lesson for him to complete his chores more often.  Also, Jon and I do not let Buddy add a smiley face to the chart if we have to keep asking him to complete a task.  The point of the chore chart isn't to add up smiley faces but to help Buddy learn to complete tasks around the house on his own.  All in all, this chart has worked well for us and will be something we'll continue to use with Buddy as he grows.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Today I tried the Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins from Gina's Skinny Recipes.  I love blueberry muffins but hate the guilty feeling of eating them when I know muffins are primarily disguised cake. 
This recipe uses whole wheat flour and applesauce to provide a moist muffin.
Buddy and Sweetpea really enjoyed these this morning and both ate two whole muffins.  I have to admit that Jon's reaction was "They taste healthy" and I had to add a little melted butter inside to really enjoy them.  But, I would have added butter to regular muffins as well so I don't necessarily feel bad about that.  My muffins did not look as pretty as Gina's since I used the frozen blueberries instead of fresh so they turned a little more purple in color.
All in all, this is a recipe I will be adding to our family collection.  It was super easy to whip up and took 30 minutes to make start to finish.  If you are looking for an easy and healthy breakfast, give this blueberry muffin recipe a try!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dee Henderson -- The O'Malley Series

O'Malley Chronicles, Volume 2 (O'Malley Series)The O'Malley Chronicles, Volume 1 (Three novels in one volume: The Negotiator / The Guardian / The Truth Seeker)
For Mother's Day, my wonderful husband gave me nine books because he knows that I love to read.  Six of the nine belong to the O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson.   This series is one that I first read in high school and have read several times now.  I am currently on Book 5, The Healer, and have greatly enjoyed re-reading.  All of Dee Henderson's books that I have read have been enjoyable and have very much kept my attention.

The O'Malley Series is about 7 people who have chosen to become a family and now lead very interesting lives.  The first book in the series, The Negotiator, is about Kate who is a hostage negotiator.  The book follows her journey to faith and answers tough questions about who Jesus is.  Dee Henderson writes quick moving, action oriented books and each book in this series solves some sort of puzzle or mystery.  In The Negotiator, Kate's name is mentioned in a bomb threat right before the plane explodes.  The book continues as she scrambles to solve who blew up the plane before someone else gets hurt.  Kate has to learn to lean on Jesus through a time of crisis and not to try to do things in her own strength.

Each book is told from another person in the O'Malley family's point of view and has a very strong salvation message in each.  From personal experience, these are not books to read to relax and go to sleep but these are books that will keep you turning page after page! 
Here is a list of the book titles in case you would like to find them at your library.

     Book 1 - The Negotiator
     Book 2 - The Guardian
     Book 3 - The Truth Seeker
     Book 4 - The Protector
     Book 5 - The Healer
     Book 6 - The Rescuer

If you are also interested, there is a prequel to The O'Malley series, Danger in the Shadows, but this series will also stand alone.  Danger in the Shadows explains the background information of another character in the O'Malley series.   Hope you enjoy! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Infantino Barn Shape Sorter

We have been having fun getting ready to move across town soon so we are doing a lot of free play around the house.  I've put any crafty lessons and other things that require extra attention to the side for a while and we're just exploring the toys we have around the house.  One of Buddy and Sweetpea's current favorites is the Infantino Barn Shape Sorter.
Infantino Barn Shape Sorter
This toy is great for teaching many different concepts like animal, color, shape, and letter recognition.  The Barn Shape Sorter also is practice with hand eye coordination and problem solving as Sweetpea or Buddy places the letters in the top or the animal shapes at the bottom.  Sweetpea is loving putting the letters in the holes at the top and looking to see them fall.  She is also working on learning the words 'open' and 'close' as we play with the barn door.  There is a clock on the side that is not visible in this picture but Buddy is currently asking "What time is it?" and he'll set the clock to a time.  Unfortunately the minute hand does not move so it always has to be an "o-clock".  Buddy can make Sweetpea laugh every time that he makes animal sounds as he maneuvers each animal piece. 
Here are a few photos of Sweetpea enjoying the barn.  Buddy was at school the day I took photos.

Peering into the top to see the letters fall in.

 Trying to place the red C on top of the barn and watching it slide down.

 One of my favorites!

Playing with the blue sheep and the door.

Playing intently.

One of the best things about this toy is how the pieces store inside of the barn and how portable it is.  I had to cook church supper last week and this was the toy that I chose to bring to entertain Buddy and Sweetpea.  All in all the Infantino Barn Shape Sorter is a great toy that can be used for lots of learning opportunities.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Girls' Night Out and Fellowships

This week I was reminded of the importance of fellowship and time with other Godly women.  Thursday night, a few ladies from Sunday School got together at a local restaurant and we had a great time.  There was good food, great conversations, and lots of laughter.  The best part is that I felt like a whole person again not just a Mommy or wife.  Having a night out without my children and husband, while I love them dearly, was an eye opening experience.  Yes, we talked about our children.  Yes, we talked about our husbands.  But we also had real life challenging conversation focused on Christ.  I came home feeling more energized than I had felt in a while.  Girls' Night Out can be beneficial as friendships are formed and strengthened and as "mommies" are allowed to be women again.

On a similar note, tonight, our family had a great fellowship time with another family from our church over dinner.  It was such a joy to be able to hang out with fellow Christians and to watch our children play together so sweetly.  It was very similar to the Girls Night Out except that this was my entire family being welcomed and lifted up.  I enjoyed this time of hanging out and getting to know friends on a deeper level.

I am recognizing through these two instances how important it is to not shut myself and my family off from others.  Spending time with friends and letting my children spend time with other children is so beneficial for me, for my husband, and for Buddy and Sweetpea.  I hope to be able to enjoy more of these times and to be able to open my home more often as well.  God has given us these friendships to build us up and to encourage us in our daily walks for a reason.  Let us be willing to take the time and effort to spend that quality time growing together.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Playtime with Blocks

Yesterday, while Buddy was at school, Sweetpea and I had fun playing with Buddy's Mega Bloks.  (Yes, it really is bloks, I did not make a typo.)  These are blocks designed like Legos to stack and build but are much larger for toddlers.  Buddy has always loved playing with blocks and Sweetpea has recently discovered these in his room.  I brought them into the living room and she and I had fun playing together.

After some free play time, I decided to turn the blocks into a learning opportunity.   Because each block is brightly colored, Sweetpea is fascinated with them.  As she would choose a block from the bin, I would name the color.  Sometimes she would hand the block to me and I would sort them according to colors.

The purple blocks quickly became her favorite to pull out and she would dig around in the bin to purposefully find a purple block.  By the time we had to go pick up Buddy from school, she was recognizing purple, red, and yellow on a consistent basis. 

Children learn best through play time and this was an easy way to add color recognition to our play with Mega bloks.  I did not push her if she acted uninterested but kept a running commentary of what she was doing.  This block playtime also became a lesson on "cleaning up" as Sweetpea helped to place the blocks back in the bin when we were finished. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saying "No"

 As a youth pastor's wife, one of the hardest things I have found is to say "no" to someone at church.  Jon and I have this discussion all the time that it is okay for me to say "no", but I still finding myself committing to things that maybe I should have declined.  Or worse yet, if I do say "no", I am racked with guilt for days.

I know that this problem of not being able to say "no" affects not only pastors wives but also so many of us, including stay-at-home mothers/wives.  Maybe it is because some feel guilty for not "working" and feel that they should have the extra time to say yes.  Even though every stay-at-home mom knows that we truly have a calling and that taking care of our children and household is our God given area of service, it is so easy to feel obligated to say yes to every person who asks something of us.  "Yes, I'll bake a two dozen cupcakes for school snack." "Yes, I'll come to that event."  "Yes, I'll..."

I am working on learning to say "no" and, since Sweetpea's birth especially, have had to decline several opportunities to help out around the church.  This is hard for me since I was so involved with Jon in every part of ministry prior to having children.  Our Heavenly Father is slowly working in my heart to help me realize that my first and foremost job is to raise Buddy and Sweetpea and then to accomplish certain tasks that He places in my life.  It isn't my job to overwhelm myself with volunteer work so that Buddy and Sweetpea and my house are neglected.  Someone once told me that every time I choose to say yes, when I should be saying no to a task, I could possibly be taking the opportunity for someone else (even the one Called) to say yes with complete enjoyment and fulfillment.  There has to be a balance in life between working hard for the Lord in ministry tasks and balancing my home, husband and children.  Sweetpea and Buddy will only be young for so long and if I miss opportunities to enjoy being home with them, I won't be able to get those days back. 

You may think that I'm contradicting myself from my post My Children Are Not an Excuse but I don't see it as a contradiction.  I think learning to say "no" to some things is saying "yes" to more important things.  If my Lord is calling me to work in a ministry then I should by all means say yes, but if He is reminding me to protect the sanctity of my family time, then I need to say no guilt free.  This is where the struggle lies, finding the balance and learning to listen with open ears to what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Homelife Magazine

One of my favorite magazines to read has always been HomeLife Magazine from Lifeway.  As an avid reader, I've probably been reading HomeLife off and on since junior high school.  Every church that I have been a part of has ordered these magazines and I have looked forward to reading the articles and finding tips to having a great home.  This month's issue was an exceptional one so if you can, I recommend finding a copy and reading it as soon as possible. 

Each month, HomeLife includes a variety of articles for every person.  There are articles for men, women, married couples, families, single parents, and step-families.  HomeLife also includes a Family Faith section where they write an article that can be used during a family devotional time with memory verses for each week.  This is a simple place to start if you want to begin a family devotional time but don't know how to begin.

I'll admit that I look forward to browsing the recipes by Judie Byrd each month in the Now You're Cooking section.  I've taken many of her recipes and saved them for use in our household or even put my own spin on them to adapt for our family's taste buds.  I'm looking forward to trying out her Black Forest Trifle on page 52 for the next special occasion in our house.

All in all, if you have the opportunity to read HomeLife magazine, I recommend picking one up and enjoying it cover to cover.  It is great to read a magazine designed to glorify God in the topics that are written about and in the pictures that are printed.  I know that each issue is designed to draw people closer to God and to encourage growth in Christian faith.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Proverbs 31: 28 "Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her"

I just want to say Happy Mother's Day a little early to all of the moms out there.  Being a mommy is the hardest thing that I have ever done but absolutely the most rewarding.  Even though my children are still young, I am learning the sacrifice that it takes to truly be a great mother.  I was blessed to have an awesome mom and am so glad that I can still call her and ask for advice or even just talk about life.  My mom is such a great example of a Proverbs 31 woman and I hope to follow her example as I raise Buddy and Sweetpea!

Don't forget to take time tomorrow and remember to thank your Mom for all that she has done for you.  Happy Mother's Day!

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie." Tenneva Jordan

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Heritage of Lancaster County

The Shunning (The Heritage of Lancaster County #1)
I have just finished the final book in The Heritage of Lancaster County series today and highly recommend all three books.  If you have never read a Beverly Lewis book before, this series is a good place to start.  Beverly Lewis writes, primarily, books set in the Amish community and about her characters' journey to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  While I enjoy many comforts of technology and electricity, her books always remind me that life can be much simpler.   

The Confession (The Heritage of Lancaster County #2)The Shunning by Beverly Lewis is the first book in The Heritage of Lancaster County series.  The Shunning is a book about an Amish girl, Katie, who finds out her life could have been different and the path that leads to her being shunned by the Amish community.  I really don't want to spoil much of the book so I'll leave it at that.  Beverly Lewis does a superb job at explaining the different Amish customs mentioned in her book without the reader feeling like there has been a lecture. 

The second book in the series is The Confession and the final book is The Reckoning (The Heritage of Lancaster County #3)The Reckoning.  Each book leaves you wanting more and makes you think about life and how the little moments can change the course of your life.  Beverly Lewis does a superb job of weaving the gospel into her stories and bringing her characters to life. 
Even if you don't choose to start reading this series, every Beverly Lewis book is a great one!