Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Gift Review

Thinking back on this year's was interesting to me how some gifts were an immediate hit and others have taken time to connect with.  I thought I'd share a bit about the toys that were an instant hit with the kids.  The common theme with all of them was that they didn't need an adult to help them understand the toy.  It was instantly understandable to them.  

Our gift to K was a new train table. (We bought it at Costco.)  It required a lot of work to put together, about two hours, but worth the effort. He plays with it morning, noon & night!  Last night at 9:30, I found him in his room with a little lamp on happily pushing the trains around the track!

Our gift to M was a Fisher Price (FP) kitchen.  (Ordered on-line from Fisher Price) It was very easy to assemble and has been by far the favorite toy this year.  She also got a FP tea set from her grandparents and that has been well loved also.  We've had lots of tea parties; I love it!!

My sister- Katie- got each of the kids flashlights, and they love them! She bought them at Target, but the photo I "borrowed" from Amazon.  K's is a Lightning McQueen flashlight, and M has Disney princesses on hers.  Need a quick fix to keep the kids content for a while?  Give them each a flashlight!  I've tucked theirs away in the kitchen cupboard for times when they are bored and I need them to play while making a meal.    

Hooded towels and a new doll were also favorites of Miss M. The towel was from Grandma (purchased from Avon), the doll (by North American Bear Company) was from Aunt Kendra (purchased on Amazon).  We have finally found a name for her new doll: Asia!  So sweet.

What toys or gifts have your kids enjoyed this year?  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Salt Dough Ornaments *Updated*

One of our advent activities was to make Christmas ornaments, but I didn't have a clue what to make them out of.  My friend, Amy, suggested salt dough ornaments- thank you for the idea, Amy!!  The kids had fun and we made a variety of gifts from this project.  Sorry I can't share pictures of the finished products as the ornaments are going to be given to people who sometimes read this blog. **Update** Now that Christmas is over, I've posted a photo of our finished ornament at the bottom of the screen, so scroll down to see it. :)  

On the first day, we made the dough and cut out our shapes.  The kids had a blast working with the dough and making a mess.  While they played, I cut out the real ornaments that we'd give as gifts.  I used cookie cutters to make the shapes.  Some of the cut out shapes I also stamped with a rubber stamp to give the dough an interesting pattern.  I baked our creations and let the kids play with the excess dough.

On the second day, we painted the baked ornaments.  The kids love to paint and did a great job.  (Although, Miss M decided to paint her tongue yellow while my back was turned!  Ugh!!  Well, now she knows that paint doesn't taste good.)  Once the paint dried, I added some embellishments to the ornaments.  I discovered that a coat of Mod Podge is a good way to give our little creations a top coat.  While the Mod Podge was still wet, I sprinkled clear glitter on some of the ornaments.  They turned out quite nice.  Once everything was dry, I added ribbon as a finishing touch.   (If you visit Pintrest, just type in a search for salt dough ornaments and you'll find a wonderful variety of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.)

Recipe for Salt Dough Ornaments
(Makes about 12 small handprint ornaments)
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water
Note: Add more water if needed.
Combine ingredients and knead dough for 15 to 20 minutes.
Bake at 300ºF about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. 
You may have to bake considerably longer depending on how thick your items are. 
They may not feel hard right away but will harden as they cool.
(Ours never did harden even after baking for 40 minutes...guess I added too much water.)

Here's the finished product!  We made ornaments
for Grandpa, Grandma, & Aunt Katie.  I inked
the edges of the star with brown ink, adhered a photo
of the kiddos, and threaded a lovely ribbon through
the hole at the top to make it easy to hang on
the tree.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's a Wrap!

How are your advent activities going?  It's been so helpful for me to have something pre-planned for each day before Christmas.  It's sort of like a preschool program.  The kids have something new to look forward to each day, and many of the activities are actually helping me to get holiday stuff accomplished.  For example, they helped me wrap their cousin's gifts.  It was entertaining to see them try to figure things out.  K had tons of tape stuck to the paper, but none of it was helping to hold the paper together.  M was having a great time just ripping more and more tape out of the dispenser.  In the end, the gifts got wrapped, and we all had a good time.  

I wanted to share a quick tip too...We had an accident and about ten of our advent numbers tumbled off and the activities inside the muffin tin went everywhere.  Fortunately, I had written each day's activity on a separate calendar so it wasn't too hard to fix the mess.  Having the activities written out also helps me prepare in advance in case there are supplies I might need to purchase.  Sometimes because of unplanned events, we may need to switch the day's activity.  Having it all there at a quick glance, I can look ahead easily switch out the folded papers inside the muffin tins w/o a lot of fuss.

My master Advent Calendar planner, it makes things easy to prep for.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Calendar

Last year, I posted about a cute advent calendar using a mini muffin tin.  I was packing my bags to head to China to meet our daughter, so the whole idea of making anything crafty was just not going to happen.  However, this year I was blessed to be a part of a ladies' Bible study/ craft group.  Guess what we made??  Yep, the muffin tin advent calendar.  I just -totally procrastinated!- filled each little cup with a slip of paper naming a Christmas activity for the day.  So tomorrow we'll get to remove #24 as we count down to Christmas and Jesus's birthday.  If you want to do a last minute calendar, even using 24 envelopes would work, here are some activities you could include in your count down, I listed more than 24 so pick what you like or make up your own...  Sorry I didn't post this sooner!

Our very own advent calendar; my kids are so excited.  Everything is attached by magnets.  

Read a Christmas story.

Memorize a Christmas verse.

Name 3 things you are grateful for.

Sing a favorite Christmas song.

Call your grandparents and tell them you love them.

Make a surprise for Daddy.

Have hot cocoa as a family.
Make a Christmas card and send it to your grandparents
Watch a Christmas movie.

 Color a picture of the nativity. (Look on-line for free color sheets to print out.)
Go on a drive to see Christmas lights.

Make a special Christmas treat. (I have a super easy recipe for peanut clusters on my blog!)

Deliver treats to neighbors.
Act out the nativity story and read Luke 2:1-20.

Make a gift for Grandma and Grandpa & wrap it.

Shop for a gift for a cousin, friend, or family member & wrap it.

Give a gift to a child in need.

Look at the stars if the sky is clear.

Play a game as a family: hide & seek…

Finger painting (which could potentially be a gift if framed.)

Build a snowman or make a snack for the birds to eat.

Go on a nature hike

Wrap a gift for Daddy

Memorize a Christmas song to sing for our family on Christmas day.

Help clean the house for company (my kids actually think it's fun to help clean!)

Open one gift on Christmas Eve

Remember that the greatest gift ever given was Jesus.  God loves you very much! (John 3:16)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Transition Times & Other Challenging Moments

I am a very slow learner when it comes to life lessons.  I wish it wasn't so, as I have to keep going through the same hard stuff over and over before finally...I get it!  Recently I had one of those moments where I realized a pattern that had been happening repeatedly for the past two and a half years.  Good grief, why didn't I notice this sooner??  It has to do with my kids and times when they are most likely to misbehave.  We all know that when our kids are tired, hungry, or bored they are more likely to be hard to get along with.  What I did not notice until a couple of weeks ago is transition times are also a major time for misbehavior.  You know, like stopping one activity to move on to another.  Perhaps it's getting on shoes and coats so we can go somewhere.  It might be time to stop playing and head to the dinner table.  A major one for us is pausing the movie so our son can go use the bathroom.  He often fights that one.  Or maybe it's the transition from being away to coming back home.  I have so many memories of standing at the coat closet trying to put away coats after an outing and having an all out battle with my kids about something inane.  "Why?!?" I pondered this after a particularly ugly confrontation in the hall next to the coat closet recently.  Then it dawned on me that these moments are all on the heels of something else.  We had a change in pace, change in location, change in activity and now there's a struggle to transition to something new.  Once I got it I started reminding myself in my head: "Ok, this is a transition time so be more patient.  Don't be surprised if there is noncompliance.  Remember they are still quite small and changes aren't easy for them."  All this self talk- when I remember to do it- has really helped me and I've often been able to see something brewing and ward it off.  I also pointed out what I'd learned to my husband.  The other day we shared a knowing look as we dealt with our daughter melting down at the end of a fun bike ride.  We just nodded and said to each other,  "Yep, it's a transition time..."  Then to the kids,  "Who wants a juice box??"  The meltdown subsided and we moved into the house for some juice.  Seriously, I wish I'd known this when they handed me my son!  Sorry, my sweet boy, that it took me so long to figure this out.  Thankfully, my dear daughter will have an easier go of it through ages two and three than my son did.

Some other moments when my kids are likely to be"difficult" are: when I'm on the phone, when I'm trying to do my hair and makeup in the morning, while I'm making dinner, when we are paying for something at the store...  Hey, parenting isn't easy!!

I'm trying a new game plan for when I'm on the phone.  If my kids are getting too crazy, loud, or doing naughty things on purpose (since I'm on the phone and they think I won't notice) I hold up fingers and count to five.  If I get to five fingers, that means there will be a consequence when I get off the phone.  It's still in the testing phase but worked well yesterday with my son.  I'm not sure that my daughter, at 21 months understands this yet.

Here's the biggie: when I'm making dinner... ugh!  This seems to be the time of day that tries moms' souls!  My goal is to start dinner at 4:30 so it's ready by 5:30.  When I start making dinner, I declare a work zone that is off limits to kids.  They know exactly where they can and can't roam in the kitchen.  That way we are all safe and nobody is literally underfoot while I'm cooking.  Usually, I have to reinforce the boundaries of the work zone at least twice while I'm preparing a meal.  If I'm desperate, I put on a video for the kids to watch.  (We have a one movie per day limit so I make sure to not use the video option up earlier in the day.)  Another method that works is putting miss M in her high chair with toys or a small snack.  Then I set up big brother K at the island with a drink and something to do that isn't normally available.  For example, I have white erase boards with activities that he can doodle on and feel like he's getting to do something special.   On the nights when my husband is working and it's just me and the kids, I rely on leftovers that can be prepared in a hurry so I can avoid blow ups, melt downs, and all the other miserable misdemeanors that seem to sneak up on us during the pre-dinner hour.  At least twice a month I just wave the white flag and we grab a pizza from Papa Murphy's.

My two angelic children: K & Miss M.  They never misbehave...Ha Ha!

What are some predictable times that your kids are likely to misbehave?  And what do you do to try and redirect them into positive behavior? Please share your ideas.  I love to hear from you all!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preschool at Home: Finger Painting

I discovered a great resource for doing preschool at home.  It's a book called: Slow and Steady Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander.  It suggests age appropriate activities for each week of your child's life from birth to age 5.  I decided to try out the activity listed for M's age (almost 21 months old).  Personally, I'd never offer my less than two year old paint, but if the book said they could handle it then I was willing to give it a try.  My sister was visiting, so each kid had an adult nearby to keep things from going crazy.  I cut up some celery, carrots, and apples so we could use them for making prints on paper.  Eventually, it turned into finger painting and we got quite messy.  But everybody had fun and M actually enjoyed it the most.  She's quite the little artist!  

Our lovely Miss M jumped right in and started stamping away like a pro.  

Our little group: K (in Daddy's old shirt), Auntie, Miss M, and Mommy.

Celery seemed to work the best for little hands and made neat designs.

Big Brother K refused to smile while Daddy took pictures of our happy group.
Auntie knew how to make Mr. K smile though!  No faces were actually
painted in the the making of this smile.  :) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Spotlight: Nancy Tillman

For K's 2nd birthday, he received a wonderful book called On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.  It's message is simple: you are a miracle!  The author never mentions God in any of her books, but there are hints that point you to Him as you read the text.  Each of her six picture books has a similar theme: we are all loved and each person has value.

I love that this book is applicable to adopted kids too!

Not only are Ms. Tillman's books uplifting, but the illustrations that she paints are fantastic too.  I don't know how she does it, but the pictures are very realistic and yet dream like at the same time.  There are often bits of fantasy and whimsy woven into beautiful scenes of nature.  Sometimes you will notice animals, instruments, or faces hidden in roots of an old tree or in the sparkle of the stars.  Her work is truly unique and beautiful.

Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman.

I happened to see four Nancy Tillman's books on display at Kohl's this week.  They are selling her books: On the Night You Were Born, It's Time to Sleep My Love (by Eric Metaxas), Wherever You Are, and The Spirit of Christmas.  Each book is hardback and on sale for only five dollars, yes that's $5!!  All the profits go to help local children; our Kohl's is donating the money to our local children's hospital.  Very cool, I think.  So now might be the time to grab a few books by Nancy Tillman to give as Christmas gifts.  At least, that's what I'm thinking of doing.  :)

Get four of Ms. Tillman's best selling titles at Kohl's for only $5 each!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little "Fall" Project

I joined a ladies' small group at my church that meets once a week for a bit of parenting advice, Bible study, encouragement, and time to chat with other moms while we work on a craft or project.  I love being a part of this group!  Every week I come home with fresh ideas to help me in my parenting role, and I've had a chance to be creative or at least productive.  The crafts are prepared for us ahead of time so we just show up and get to do the fun part of making the project- perfect for tired moms who want some down time.  Recently, we made a set of blocks that say "Fall".  It was not hard to do, but the end result was so cute.  The clever part was using die cut letters; they look so much better than if we'd tried to paint them.  We adhered the letters with  Mod Podge which is a kind of glue that you brush over the entire block.  It dries clear with a bit of a shine.  

The blocks are four and five inches tall.  We roughed them up with sand paper
after we finished painting them, but before we adhered the letters.  

Baby M was hanging out with me while I took pictures of my fall project.

Now she's trying to run off with my blocks so I
switch my focus and photograph her instead.
What a cutie!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Crafty Solution

As I sat in the rocking chair in my daughter's room, I looked at all the stuff I used every day (powder, lotion, creams and pastes, etc...) that needed a home.  This miscellaneous stuff was cluttering up her small room and annoying me since I am a huge fan of neatness.  Her dresser was too far away to store the items there, and the ledge above the wainscotting was within reach of little hands.  I noticed the pegs on her shelf (from The Land of Nod) were high enough up so I started to formulate an idea to make hanging pockets to slip onto the pegs.  However, I am not a skilled seamstress.  I really don't enjoy sewing.  My sister Katie is great at it though, and she's quick to get projects done.  So I asked her if she would create a hanging pocket system for me.  Here's what she made for me... I love it!!  

Lotions, powder, medicines, Q-tips, and more...all have a place of their own.

Close-up view of a large pocket with smaller pocket.

I used the ties as a handy place to clip all of M's hair bows.
 Now that they are on display, I remember to use them.

A closer view of the small middle pockets.

Baby M's room has a garden theme: birdhouses, butterflies and such.  I happened to have an extra fitted sheet from Pottery Barn that I hadn't used yet.  Since her quilt and bedding matches this, I thought it would be fun to incorporate it into the wall hanging.  Then we came up with a couple of matching fabrics and some ribbon & buttons for decoration.  My sister not only sewed it, but she also came up with the layout as well.  I thought she was clever to use some of the characters from the sheet for added interest on the little pockets in the middle.  

My wonderful sister Katie and baby M.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Author Spotlight: Tricia Goyer

It's fall and I find myself in-doors more often now.  With the days getting shorter and colder, I'm often reaching for a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and a steaming cup of chai tea. (Of course, this is only possible when the kids are asleep!) If you are also in the mood for some good books to read, let me suggest a couple for your reading enjoyment...

I've read four books by Tricia Goyer and enjoyed all of them.  My two favorites are: From Dust and Ashes and Blue Like Play Dough.  In researching a bit for this post, I discovered that Tricia has written over 30 books!  Here's her blog if you want a complete list of titles:

The cover didn't sell me.  I almost
brought it back to the library unread!
Glad I didn't as it was a great read.

The first book, From Dust and Ashes, is a WWII historical fiction, which happens to be my favorite genre when I'm looking for a fun read.  This one focuses on a little town in Austria and the liberation of a prison camp at the end of the war.  I found this book to be so captivating that I read it all in a two days!  That is not normal for me, so I think it must have been a great book.  Of course there's romance, mystery, and adventure, but it was mostly quite believable which is important to me.  It's obvious that Goyer did her homework and was familiar with the historical data that she wrote about.  In her other book I'm recommending, you'll find out why she's so familiar with the happenings of WWII.

I read this one slowly but enjoyed
each chapter and the unique life lessons
shared through her own experiences.

Blue Like Play Dough is a non-fiction book.  It's basically an autobiography about Tricia Goyer and her family.  Being a mom, I like to read true stories about other moms.  Sometimes it's very encouraging to hear that my daily experiences are similar to what other moms are going through.  However, Tricia is anything but a "normal" stay at home mom.  She is an author, homeschool mom, and has various volunteer jobs including working at a crisis pregnancy center.  She has also interviewed lots of WW II vets as part of her research for her writing.  All in all, I found her life story to be fascinating and inspiring.  The book was also a good reminder to enjoy each stage with my kids because they do grow up so quickly.

Happy reading to you, and please feel free to leave me a comment and share your favorite book or author.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preschool or Homeschool...It's No Longer A Question

Our son turned four recently!  He's learning to read with Hooked on Phonics.
Last year I started teaching my son how to read.  Then we got our referral from China and all formal homeschooling came to a screeching halt as we adjusted to life with a new baby girl.  Almost a year went by (time does fly!) while I debated about what was the best path to take for K's education.  I was contemplating preschool mostly as a way to give him a "social life" and me a break with his little sis for a couple of hours.  Fall was nearing, and K's 4th birthday, so I knew it was time to make some decisions.  My husband was not in favor of sending our son to preschool.  He had a lot of good reasons.  My reasons for opting for preschool I mentioned above.  I looked into a church preschool near our home that had been highly recommended thinking maybe I could persuade my husband to change his mind.  Once I saw the curriculum and the cost it was obvious that preschool was not the right choice for our son.  They charged $120 per month, for four hours of instruction per week, to teach the kids the alphabet and the sounds they make.  Plus some counting, shapes and colors, etc... would be included.  I couldn't justify sending our son off to a school that would teach him what he already knows. That seemed silly to me and a real waste of money.  I looked at Hooked on Phonics and found out with an on-line coupon, it was only $140 for the entire package which includes preschool-2nd grade books, workbooks, dvd, and parent guides!  I'd pay almost that much in one month for him to learn four letters of the alphabet at the local preschool!!  So, I ordered Hooked on Phonics that very day.  We have been working through the program for about a month now. We love it! The preschool level was too easy (I'll use it for little sis eventually), so we jumped in at the kindergarten level.  K & I are both enjoying it a lot.  We do our homeschool lesson while little sis naps.  It has become a special bonding time.  Besides learning to read, he also does one activity sheet (from the H. on P. preschool extras worksheets) of his choosing.  Usually it involves cutting and pasting, which are new skills for him.  He's also practicing drawing and writing letters as well.  I know there are probably tons of programs that teach children to read successfully.  I was too tired to try and research a bunch, so I went with what I'd heard about.  It is working, and K is reading the little books with simple words that they provide as well as some books that I have or have checked out from the library.  What I like best about it is that it's sequential and organized.  It gives me a starting point to work from, and then I can get creative and add to it to fit what my son needs.  For example, he was struggling with certain words and ending sounds.  So I used a variety of methods (flip chart, letter cubes, magna doodle, home made worksheet...) to just review those words until he got them fluently.  Then we moved on with the H. on P. program.  I hope to share more about teaching K to read at home.  For now, I just wanted to share an update and give a plug for homeschooling.  It rocks! I'm so glad that I made the choice I did, and I have to admit that my husband was right about preschool.  It's sad that I took so long to agree with him on it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Craft Idea: Thank You Cards for Brides

 I made thirty of these cards for my sister
to use as wedding shower thank yous.   
After my sister's wedding shower, I realized she had a lot of cards to send out.  Since she was so busy with planning a wedding, working full time, and supporting her fiance as he went through chemo, I wanted to do something to help her.  I love to craft, so making her thank you cards seemed like a fun way to help her out.  I found an adorable card idea on Split Coast Stampers and adjusted it slightly to suit the supplies I had and my sister's wedding colors.  Sorry I don't recall the artist who originally came up with the template, but I love her idea.  Supplies I used from Stampin' Up: Very Vanilla cardstock, paper punch for the flower, grateful stamp, and Rich Razzleberry inkpad and cardstock for both the flower & sentiment.  I also used a Martha Stewart paper punch (for the "lace"), 1/8" ribbon from JoAnn's and a faux pearl to jazz up the flower.  I attached the flower with Zots clear adhesive dots.  The card was actually fairly simple to make.  Hope you give it a try.  The finished card is 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I am reading a great book about the "ten secrets to the best education for your child".  It's called Upgrade by Kevin Swanson.  Check it out and see what you think.  Although the focus is education, I'm finding a lot of helpful parenting advice in this book too.  It's hard to sum up all the awesome things this book addresses, so I'll just recommend it and let you find out for yourself.  If you are considering homeschool, this book is a must read.  If your child is struggling in a certain subject at school, this book may give you some direction or inspiration on how to help them succeed.

This book will encourage you and maybe surprise you too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wedding Shower Gift Boxes

The wedding shower went well.  (Thank you to the ladies that gave me game ideas!)  We ended up keeping it simple.  I did a quiz to see how well they knew my sister.  Several people got all ten right.  I asked her to leave for a moment and the gals were asked to write down as many things as they could remember about what she was wearing.  We also gave a prize to the person whose birthday or anniversary was closest to my sister's wedding date, ended up the mother of the bride had the closest anniversary, and the mother of the groom had the closest birthday.  Then during gift opening, we set the timer for random amounts of time.  Whenever it went off, the person whose gift was being unwrapped received a prize.  I think everybody had a great time.  

I also made little treat boxes and filled them with bags of chocolate covered almonds as a party gift for everyone that attended the wedding shower.  I've attached  a couple of pictures below so you can see the finished product.  Also, I've included a brief "tutorial" if you'd like to make these treat boxes. (If you need more info, I can email you a pdf file that gives step by step instructions.)  They are very easy to make and you can get two boxes from one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11" card stock.  Supplies needed to make the box: card stock, double stick tape, scissors, Scor-pal (or some sort of system to make score lines), and whatever embellishments you want.  
Here's the completed treat box.  It was a bit beat up
by the time I remembered to photograph it.

The box is about 3 1/2" by 3" by 1 1/4".

I made fifty of these little boxes.  Crazy, I know, but it was fun too.  

Sticky strip is double stick tape sold by Stampin' Up.  Crumb Cake is a color of card stock they sell.
Visual Tutorial by: Andrea Walford, Paper Crafter’s Library, February 2011. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recipe: Baked Potato Salad

Baked Potato Salad

Since my husband had been away camping for three days, I thought it would be fun to welcome him home with a nice dinner- something fresh since he'd been eating a lot of prepackaged foods.  I made him his favorite salad and grilled chicken.   The baked potato salad takes quite a bit of prep time, but it is so worth the effort.  I got the recipe from Taste of Home ten years ago, and it continues to be a favorite with us and those we share it with. If you have a garden, this recipe will be a great way to use up some of your fresh produce. (I used fresh basil and chives from our garden.)  If you are going to a barbeque, this is also an awesome dish to share with others.  They will love it.  Enjoy!

       Baked Potato Salad

4 ½ lbs. unpeeled red potatoes, chopped into ¾ inch pieces
¼ cup olive oil
2 envelopes (.7 oz ea.) Italian salad dressing mix
1 med green pepper, chopped
1 med yellow pepper, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped 
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
3 oz real bacon bits
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 tbsp vinegar
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp garlic
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 tbsp fresh basi, minced)

In a large bowl, toss potatoes with oil & dressing mixes.  Place in 2 greased 9x13 pans and bake uncovered @ 400° for 45 min or until tender.  Cool.  Transfer to a large bowl & add peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggs, & bacon.  Toss.  Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl, mix well.  Pour over salad and stir.  Cover & refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Garnish with fresh chopped chives if desired.  Serves 16-20.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When Shopping with a Three Year Old...Buyer Beware!

What's wrong with this picture?  Read below to find out!

I bravely made an impromptu decision to head to the mall with my 18 month old and almost four year old in tow.  I needed to pick up gifts for the wedding shower and I had a coupon that was about to expire.  Thus, a trip to Bath & Body Works was in order.

I loaded my daughter into the stroller.  then I popped some snacks into the drink holders, and geared up my son with a monkey backpack.  Really, it's a leash for kids.  He loves it, and it keeps me sane while I try to focus on the task at hand.  Without the harness, he's been known to take off running with great speed.  However, it's not a perfect system as I was soon to find out.

Once inside the store, I decided to have my son carry the shopping bag since he was having a hard time not touching everything.  As long as I keep him productive, we can keep trouble at bay.  (Or so I thought!)  We came to a display of hand sanitizers.  I asked him to get one of each color: pink, green, blue, yellow...  He did great!  We moved on to candles.  They were 3 for 5 dollars.  We picked out six.  Then we roamed the store and found more goodies.  Further back another display of candles, so we picked out some more.  I think my son may have grabbed an extra, or I lost track of how many we had.  At that point in the shopping trip, my daughter was getting tired of being in the stroller.  I was quick drawing toys to keep her happy.  My son was getting antsy and we kept getting all tangled up in the "leash" as he'd go in circles around me.  Good grief!  I staggered to the counter to pay.  Time to pull out the snacks, and remember to use the coupon, and keep my son from melting down if the clerk happened to freak him out by saying, "What's your name?".  While the clerk rang up my items, they were more than I'd planned on, I hustled with the kids back to the soap display to get two more soaps.  They were 5 for $15.  If you only picked out three, you had to pay full price for each of them.  Whatever!  We found said soaps and scurried back to pay for everything.  By then, customers were crowding around us (making my son and me nervous) and I just wanted to get my little circus out of Bath & Body!

The kids did well in the store.  So they got rewarded with a treat, one petite scone each from Starbucks, before we left the mall.  Later that night, once the kids were finally in bed, I had a moment to open the B&B bag 'o goodies and see what I'd purchased.  In the midst of all the items, I discovered a half empty bottle of hand sanitizer with a big "NEW!" sticker on it.  How in the world?!?  Yep, I bought a store sample that had been used by countless strangers.  Ugh!  Ok, it was only a dollar, but this should not have happened.  Checking over the receipt, I also discovered that I brought home ten candles.  One of which I paid twice as much for because they were on sale in sets of three.  Oh well.  I decided to keep the full price candle and enjoy it.  While the candle flickered, I had a good laugh over buying a half empty sample bottle of hand sanitizer.  Instead of saying "NEW" on the sticker, it should have claimed: "USED!"

Next time I head to the mall, I'm going alone!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wedding Shower Game Ideas Needed!!

My sister, Katie, and I are planning a wedding shower for our sister Kendra.  I'm in charge of the games.  After forty minutes of searching on-line for suggestions, I'm a bit brain dead.  There aren't that many good ideas out there.  I'm looking for something creative, fun for everybody, but not embarrassing or gross, and not the usual run of the mill shower games either.   I'm stumped at this point.  Anybody have an idea that they'd like to share?  I'd be truly grateful!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Strengthening Family Bonds

Laughter, prayer, time, dinner & conversation...these five elements strengthen family bonds, at least that's what researchers claim.  Being an adoptive mom,  I probably think about bonding more often than non-adoptive parents.  We had to work at connecting with our kids and developing a bond.  I've found it's an ongoing process, much like keeping your marriage healthy.  My two children initially bonded with us through different means.  Our son (19 months old at adoption) is a snuggler and wanted to be held or near us all the time which made bonding fairly easy.  Our daughter (10 months at adoption) has bonded with us best by having fun together and positive eye contact.  It seems to me that connecting with her took longer than it did with our son.  She has since learned to be more snuggly and affectionate which is such a wonderful gift to us!

How do you promote a strong bond between you and your kids? Listed below are some of the activities we've done that have been most productive towards bonding.  Perhaps they will give you some fresh ideas to try with your own kids. (Most of them you probably already do!)  But I'm especially writing this post for adopting parents who are about to become parents.  Like you may be, I wondered with both of our adoptions if we'd connect with our kids.  I worried, would they learn to love us?   The answer is yes!  It takes time but they do, and you become a family.

  • Blowing bubbles.

  • Playing in the water (pool, sprinkler, watering can...whatever)

  • Bake something yummy together.  

  • Play Peek-a-boo.

  • Wrestle. (At our house, an adult laying down is an open invitation to wrestle- whether we want to or not!)
  • Let them help you with a project.  My son helps me make birthday cards for people & wrap the gifts.  Right now even housework is fun for them.  Occasionally, I let them help with vacuuming.

  • Go through the drive-thru to get burgers & fries.  Then park somewhere and climb in the back seat and eat together.  My kids love this!  It's something special they do with me when daddy is working a late shift.  Sometimes we take it home and eat it there, especially ice cream!!

  • Jump on a trampoline or in a bouncy house.  It brings out the kid in all of us adults.

  • Go on an adventure together: a walk in the neighborhood, story time at the library, a train ride...

  • Turn on fun music and dance together.  I like to pull out the Bee-Bop-Band and give everybody and instrument to play while we boogie, or we'll just prance, march, jump, or twirl around.

Some of our favorite songs to dance to are:
-Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
-Reach by Peter Furler
  • My top suggestion: READ together.  This is also a great time to snuggle.  If you're new to my blog, check out my posts on Children's Literature.  Periodically, I post about books that we enjoy.  We visit the library often to keep story time fresh and fun for all of us.