Sunday, December 18

video

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope you are enjoying lots of family time, as we are!

Wednesday, November 30

Giving Thanks

For amazing family time


 and the silly pictures to prove it...
 

 We give thanks.


For a daddy who carves amazing jack o'lanterns


  and makes campfires in our backyard...

We give thanks.


For crazy girls dressed up like bugs, 

For pumpkin seeds,


and Cleopatra too...

We give thanks.

For all the memories of this season,


And for those still to come...

  We give thanks.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and 
cometh down from the Father of lights..."
James 1:17

Monday, November 14

Chuck E. Cheese

Nothing says "I love you" like a birthday party. Nothing says "I like you" more than an invitation to a birthday party. And no one can say "Happy Birthday, Kid" like a giant mouse. So naturally, nothing compares to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I had managed to avoid this experience for my first 7 years of motherhood, but no longer. My kids were invited to a party there a few weeks ago, and our lives will never be the same.


They saw the craziness, and jumped in headfirst. I made the mistake of taking all three girls by myself to the party on a Saturday. Never again. Chaos doesn't begin to describe the scene there, and they loved it.

Every heart-racing mini-ride.


 Every obnoxiously loud siren.


Every larger-than-life "noo-noon"


2 hours later, I attempted a feeble plea, "Mommy will bring you back here next week so we can finish using your tokens and get prizes when it's not so crowded!" They looked at me with big, glazed eyes, in the way that only sugar-crazed, overpartied kids can. And I realized there was NO WAY I was getting them out of there until they had spent every last token and cashed in every single ticket.

Nearly an hour later, we were deciding how to spend the tickets when the girls spotted giant lollipops. "We want those!" they cried. Deciding we had just enough tickets, I approached the busy cashier confidently. "We'll take 3 lollipops." I gave her the tickets, and, just my luck, the lollipops had been mismarked. They were EACH about the number of tickets we had. I sighed, dreading to tell my exhausted princesses the bad news.

 

Then a voice from behind the counter spoke up. "You know, you can always pay the ticket difference."

At this point, it didn't matter how much that difference was. (But for the record, it was only $1.92) Without hesitation, I reached for my wallet, "We'll take it. And God bless you!" 


Natalie's first love

 

Wednesday, November 9

Quick Freebies

I promise a real post is coming soon, but if you're interested, here are two freebies I've found online this week:


1. From Penzey's Spices
Free "Kind" sampler box of four spices: 82440C,
       These next 2 are free with a purchase, I believe:
Free teacher's box sampler: 83018C
Free 1/2 c jar of "Forward" spice: 15958C

I LOVE Penzey's spices and have found that by ordering the ones I really like in bulk bags rather than jars, they are very comparable to other store-brand spices, and soo much better!




2. From Birthday Express, you can get an adorable customized keepsake scroll with your child's name and important information that happened on their birthday. I bought one for each of my girls to put in their baby books, which had good intentions but need a little help :)  You do have to do multiples on separate orders but you can use the same coupon code. I paid $4.95 each shipping.

Offer code: FREESCROLL, or you can also try YE629. Both worked for me today. Yay! I love free deals :)


Happy shopping!

Friday, November 4

3rd Down

I had my third little girl 2 years ago, and I feel like I've been running ever since. They say that the transition from two to three kids is the true test of a mother, probably because you have more kids than you have hands. "If you can handle three kids, you can handle a dozen!" they say. I don't know about that, but I'm amazed at the difference in my parenting from #1 to #3. You can call it redefining priorities, or a change of perspective, but I call it survival. For example,

My first daughter was allowed to dress up in a designated costume between the hours of 3-5 pm. After her afternoon nap, but before dinner and a bath. I recently peeled my youngest out of not 1, but 3 costumes after 24 consecutive hours of wear.


I read all the child training books with #1 and was convinced that 2 year olds should be able to sit quietly and happily beside their busy mothers for several hours, doing nothing. After two very active daughters consistently disproved this theory, I distracted #3 with cotton candy the other day. And it worked.


I carried #1 wherever we went, #2 went into the bulky double stroller with #1. #3, not so picky, plops down whenever she's tired. Who knew kids were so easy?



After my older girls randomly stripped down at very awkward moments, I learned the secret of the swimsuit. Little girls love swimsuits. If you put one on over their clothes, they can't bring themselves to take off the suit in order to get their clothes off. Of course, then your kid is wearing a swimsuit, but at least they're clothed...

Foiled again!!

Usually.


And finally, probably the most important lesson I've learned from having kids...





Why get mad when you can get a picture instead?

Friday, October 28

My Name is Mama

"Oh, that's a nice drawing," I told the little boy in my first-grade class. "Are you done?"
"Just a minute," he said, "It's for my mom, I just need to write her name on it." Then he carefully scrawled, in his best six-year old writing, the letters "M-O-M."

My mind went back to an earlier conversation I had with my own daughter, who is his age. "Look Mama! I made this picture of you. It even has your name on it. See? It says 'Mama!' And I wrote 'I love you' a bunch of times because I love you a LOT!!"


That's when it dawned on me. To her, my name is Mama. The more I thought about it, the deeper I felt this statement. There's no other role I play that changes my entire name. I don't go by wife, or cousin, or teacher, though I am all of those things. I retain my identity, who I've been my whole life. But being a mom is different.  It's not just a part of my life - it changes all aspects of it. And it doesn't matter whether you carried your child for 9 months or you brought him home from 6,000 miles away. The moment you hold that child in your arms, a mama is born, and there's no turning back.

Mama cheers on other people's kids in t-ball, and wipes their faces after cotton candy. 
A mama's heart rages when she sees any kid being treated unfairly. 
Mamas cry at sad movies and movies with happy endings too. 
Some of mama's best friends are under 4 feet tall and live in her house. 

Being a mama changes who you are, and that's ok. I'm not Liz to my kids. My name is Mama, and I love it. They have no idea that I had imaginary friends to keep me company as a kid, or that I was class president in high school (some turnaround huh?), and they really don't care. I'm Mama, and that's all that matters. I'm the one that gets up with them in the middle of the night, who holds them when they're sick or afraid. When you're a mama, you might not get 8 hours of uninterrupted beauty sleep each night, but you don't mind [too much]. It's all part of being...who you are. Mama.

And while only time will tell, I suppose I'll probably stay a mama forever. If I'm anything like my mom (and I hope I am!) I'll go over to my daughter's house in twenty years or so and I'll instinctively pick up stray toys and help her fold the mound of laundry by the couch. Then I'll ask her how her day was and if she needs anything. Not because I have to, but because I'm her mama, and that's just what mamas do.


Question: How has being a mom changed you?

Thursday, October 20

Science Fun

School is really rolling along, as you can see. :)



Having 7 kids together (I do a co-op with a friend) from 6 months to 8 years old is challenging, but the kids are having a great time, and so are we.


First grade is studying weather right now, and I just had to share these cute devices we made!

The first one is a weather vane. I was so suprised that it actually worked!! You can find directions for a similar vane here, though ours didn't call for the plastic cup. It was really easy!




The second device is an anemometer, used for measuring wind speed. Directions are very basic:


1. Tape 2 straws together to make an "x."
2. Punch a hole in each styrofoam or plastic cup about an inch away from the top.
3. Poke a straw end through each cup about an inch or so, bend, and secure with tape to the inside of cup. Be sure cups are all facing the same direction.
4. Push a tack through the center of the straws (where the "x" is formed) and push gently into the eraser of an unused pencil just far enough to secure. Straws should spin easily when blown.


The kids love going out and recording the weather using devices they've made, and I feel like a cross between Handy Manny and Martha Stewart - it's great!!

Saturday, October 15

Digital Scrapbooking Software Winner



And the winner is....

Wait for it...




Mom4Less! (Number was chosen through randomizer.org.)  She has been contacted and has one week to contact me for more information, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.

A big thanks to all who participated in my first giveaway, and there's more good news!! Even if you didn't win, you can still get this great software at a great price, and just in time for the holidays! My Memories Suite has given me the go ahead to offer a $10 discount for their basic software,  (bringing it to less than $30!) PLUS another $10 in downloads from their site. Just follow this link for the software and copy and paste the code STMMMS73689 in the coupon/promo code box. That's it! 

Thanks again for joining in, have a great day!

Wednesday, October 12

He Said, She Said...Nothing


My husband, who is a pastor, occasionally asks me to do a skit with him as an introduction to his message. Not too long ago, he was teaching on communication in marriage, and our skit went something like this:

    (Tom walks through door)
    Me: Hi, Sweetheart! (kiss) How was work today?
    Tom: Ok.
    Me: Did anything exciting happen?
    Tom: No.
    Me: Oh, ok. Well, what do you want for dinner?
    Tom: (Man grunt).
    Me: Your mom wants us to come over for dinner next week, do you think Tuesday sounds good?
    Tom: I dunno.
    Me: She really wanted to set a day. Please can we go Tuesday? I checked and our calendar is wide open.
    Tom: Sure. Whatever. 
    Me: Oh, thank you, Sweetheart! (big kiss on cheek)

For the record - HE wrote this. Not me. I hadn't read it until we started practicing, and about halfway through, somewhere around the man grunt, I started sounding a little frustrated as I tried to pry answers out of him. After all, we wanted this conversation to sound realistic, and that's how I usually respond! But Tom stopped me, "No, no, Sweetie, don't sound like that in the skit. Act like you did when we were dating." Ouch.

I totally understood what he meant, but his comment stung. I thought, He's right. Why did I have all the patience in the world for him before we were married, and now I don't? What happened?

After 10 years of marriage, any wife can tell you exactly what happens. We have one too many conversations like the one above. We put ourselves out there too many times and get tired of being hurt or ignored. You can probably relate. But when, really, is it ok to give your spouse a piece of your mind? to lose your temper? to stop talking altogether? I don't know the exact answer, but here are a few I found in the Bible:


Forgive "seventy times seven..." (Matthew 18:22)
"Let your speech be always with grace..." (Colossians 4:6)
Be "kind...tenderhearted...forgiving one another..." (Ephesians 4:32)
"The fruit of the Spirit is love...peace...patience...gentleness..." (Galatians 5:22)
Don't repay "evil for evil, or railing for railing." (I Peter 3:9)

Ouch. For the record, I didn't write those either.  And I'm not saying they're easy. I'm saying those responses are much more biblical than mine often are. And, if I'm honest, that's exactly how I want others to treat me. To be kind to me when I'm in a bad mood. To forgive me and love me when I'm not very lovable to them.

So let's test this: What if, for just one week, we treated our spouses the way the Bible tells us to? The way that came so naturally when we first met? Just for a week. How might our relationship change? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it would improve! So, for the next week, I'm going to try my best...
   1) not to respond to or talk about my husband in an unkind manner,
   2) to forgive easily, and
   3) to encourage daily.

You know, the way I did "when we were dating." I'll let you know the results, and I have to tell you... I can't wait to see them myself!! If you want to try this too, let me know so I can pray for ya! I have the feeling we're gonna need it. :)

Friday, October 7

My First Giveaway!! Digital Scrapbooking Software

I have been tossing around the idea of doing a few giveaways and reviews for awhile, so when My Memories Suite emailed and asked me to host a giveaway for Amazon's #1 ranked digital scrapbooking software, I jumped at the chance!

I love traditional scrapbooking. I've done several books of my own and some for friends, but having a lot of small children around and a lot of small (expensive) scrapbooking material is a bad combination, especially because I don't have a workroom to close off. Over the past few weeks, I've fallen in love with digital scrapbooking. The Memories Suite has so many options - when I make a digital scrapbook, I can add video, text, embellishments, music, you name it! I started with some of their templates (tons of options!) to save time and learn my way around the program, then I customized them a bit. Plus, you can go online after the initial download and choose from even more layouts, or start from scratch and make your own book. You can even print it! Here are a few pages from one I'm working on, from a recent trip to Chicago with my youngest:



For me, digital scrapbooking does exactly what I need for this stage of my life - it preserves family memories in a fun, creative way, without the hassle and expense of a bunch of equipment and embellishments that my toddler will probably eat at some point.

And - here's the best part! I am allowed to give away one copy of their digital scrapbooking software for FREE!! All you have to do to qualify is:

1) Follow/Friend me via Google Friend Connect or Facebook :)

2) Go to www.MyMemories.com, find a layout or "scrapbooking kit" you like, and leave me a comment with the name of the kit and what kind of subject you'd use it for (i.e. daughter's bday, wedding, etc.). You can do this every day if you want!!

Bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter here (leave me a comment that you did)
Bonus entry: 'Like' MyMemories on Facebook (leave me a comment that you did)

That's it!! I will take entries through next Friday, October 14, and randomly choose and announce the winner on Saturday. (Winner will also be notified via email.)

Do check back on Saturday, because if you don't win, I will be giving out a code that will give you $10 off your digital scrapbook software plus a $10 coupon for additional downloads, that's a great deal!! So enough talk, go to MyMemories.com now and check it out yourself!

Sunday, October 2

Field Trips


Everyone knows the best part of school is going on field trips! Between teacher meetings, appointments, and even a couple of planned educational activities, our school year so far has been packed with fun places to go.

The kids loved these carved trees at a nearby park!
Nattie climbing her first tree... stump :)

My kids are enrolled in a virtual online academy that uses the K12 curriculum. It's creative, innovative, challenging and fun. I love that the school organizes (optional) activities and field trips for the kids to do. They also let us know about businesses in our area that offer homeschooling events, such as Six Flags, Legoland, and the local Performing Arts Center. (if you homeschool, these are worth checking out!) We couldn't possibly attend every event, but a few weeks ago we had a great time a school-sponsored park day where the kids got to make their own t-shirts, eat ice cream, and just have fun!







2nd field trip: A nearby library has a huge booksale twice a year. There was an entire wall of kids books at $.25 apiece! Most other books are $.50, which is still a great deal! The kids sat and looked at books for the longest time and each walked out with a bag full. We won't even talk about how many books the mommies bought!! If you've never attended one of these, just google "used book sales in [your area]. You can get some great deals!
 

Aren't they a studious bunch??


So I'm looking for ideas... whether you homeschool or not, what are some of your favorite field trips for elementary-aged kids?

Monday, September 26

Chef School 201

Rule #1 - No licking the spoon until we're done stirring!
I've noticed something. My kids seem to misbehave most when I'm busy trying to do my own work. You know how it goes. It's late afternoon and I'm scrambling to pick up the house, get dinner on the table, and keep 3 grumpy kids from killing each other. After dinner, the saga continues.

Play outside. ("Been there.")
       Play inside. ("Done that.")
             Clean your room. ("Over it.")
                    Find something to do. ("But I'm b-o-r-e-d!")
                           Leave your sister alone. ("She started it!")

I needed a change from the "Now you all play nice while Mommy cooks" routine, or at least one of us wasn't going to make it. New plan: My older girls, who are 4 and 6, rotate in helping me prepare dinner, expanding Chef School to include daily responsibilities in the kitchen. They help me mash and stir, heat and butter, set the table...and they love it. The other daughter helps me clean up from dinner that night... and they love it. I love it too.




~ I get one-on-one time with my kids, talking and laughing, and we're getting a chore done!

~ Miraculously, having only 2 children playing together really cuts down on the bickering, and the older girls each enjoy alone time with our toddler.

~ They are learning tons of valuable life skills, which I intend to let them "practice" more and more at my house! (hello, day off!)


But the best compliment I could get came this afternoon, when Linsey and her friend were making "soup" in my kitchen. As they were cleaning up, I asked her friend, "Do you help your mom wash dishes at home?"

Immediately Linsey interrupted, "Oh, no. She doesn't get to do chores like us at her house! She has to play in her room while her mom does the dishes." Lol, I know it will change eventually, but I'm really hoping that attitude of "getting to do chores" will stick around for a few more years!

How do you involve your kids in the kitchen?

     

Thursday, September 22

Friendship Lessons

On a recent vacation to the Grand Canyon, we had the chance to visit a local deer farm. It was incredible (and slightly overwhelming at times!) to be so close to so many deer at once! Along the way, the girls picked up some important lessons about friendship as well:

1. Apparently, a kiss on the hand is not a universal sign of affection.



2. Sharing food is a sure way to win friends...


and more friends...but



3. You can definitely have too much of a good thing!



4. Always look new acquaintances in the eye, for safety reasons.



5. A good friend will respect your personal space,

 
while others are just downright nosy.



6. It's ok to be different, you won't (and shouldn't) always blend in.



7. If your real friends aren't working out so well,

 
then find some imaginary ones.



8. And finally, to test a friend's loyalty...

 grab their tail and give it a good tug!
(Go ahead, I DARE you!!)
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