Monday, November 25, 2013

Nice Mommy Only Works Days

I love the theme of MOPS this year. It is all about embracing the "Beautiful Mess" that is our lives. Embracing the story and who we are. In the MOPS magazine (actual paper, flip-the-pages from back to front magazine) I read an article entitled "Night Shift Mommy" and it was quite convicting to me. I feel similarly that the kids' bed time is my time to "clock out"and check out and I get grumpy when they get up wanting more from me between bedtime and morning. As the writer says "Nice mommy only works days!", but also with the lack of sleep Night Shift Mommy has been working days too because Nice mommy is just too tired.

I love my children and they need me 24/7. They need me at my best and I don't get to clock out. The best I can do is get a couple of hours "off" on weekends when Daddy is home, and I need to make the most of that. I need to make sure I get enough sleep even if it means going to bed when they do, even though I would like to stay up and watch something with my honey or just read for a while.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful: Day 18

I am so thankful for my daughter. I can't believe the conversations we can have already and she is only three years old. I plan to nurture that relationship so she will always know I love her unconditionally and I am always there for her.

My bond with my mother is something I cherish. I hope that one day my daughter will cherish our relationship as much. She is such a beautiful person, inside and out. I look forward to will enjoy watching her mature and grow (but there is no hurry).

I am so blessed to be able to focus on being a mother at this point in her life.

Having Ice Cream on our latest Mother-Daughter Date

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thankful: Day 17

I am thankful for technology and social media.

There are many who disparage Facebook and consider it a guilty pleasure. I have had moments like that but if it were not for social media I would not have been able to keep up with and make the friendships that I have made.

Social media is a unique platform that helps you to get to know people on a different level than in face-to-face interactions. I have been able to grow friendships even long-distance because of it. I have even met friends through IRL friends who shared common interests (parenting, homeschooling, gluten-free cooking, etc.) and while these friends are not a replacement for personal interaction, I still value them. I know who to go to with advice because I read their blogs and I have a background into their experience.

I have been kind of slow to get into Skype but after moving an hour away from our families, Skype has helped our children interact with those we can no longer see every day. Children (at least mine) have a hard time associating a voice over a phone with the person and Skype adds the visual element that helps them make that connection. My mother reads books to my 3 year old sometimes and it gives her some Nonna time that she misses.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankful: Day 16

I am thankful for MOPS. Any mom with little ones would benefit and be encouraged by the experience.

It is hard for me to jump into big social situations. It is even harder for me to leave my children with people I don't know, even for just a couple hours. Through this experience I have learned that I do need this time for building up myself as a mom.

The few conversations I have had so far with my group have been uplifting and encouraging. The speakers have been interesting. I LOVE the crafts!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful: Day 15

I am thankful for my age. I turned 35 this year. I don't feel that "old" really. I still feel like a kid in many ways. (Parenthood will do that to you). Looking back I am not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. My life is SO much better! Did I accomplish all of my "goals"? No. Am I rich and "successful"? Not by societal standards, but yes in many other ways. I love my life more now than ever and I am happier than I ever thought I would be.

My perspective of self-worth has changed so much in the last few years. I am thankful for perspective. I am happy I am not who and where I thought I should be 10 or 15 years ago. I wouldn't trade who I am now for my 20 year old body.

My life isn't perfect but it is pretty great. I am thankful that I can see that. I am thankful for the help I have had by my husband, friends, family and Holy Spirit to see that.

Hugging Style

I read this post about hugs and it is just too funny! I grew up with an Italian mom and American dad. We lived in Italy until I was 7 and I went through a bit of culture shock when I moved to the states. 

Between hugs, kisses on the cheek, it was ALL so confusing at first. Social norms were very stressful for me to learn as a young unidentified introvert. They used to call me "shy" but I wasn't really, I like being around people but I don't like being the center of attention and I especially don't like drawing attention to myself by doing something awkward. Over the years I opted to take my cues from those around me. "When in Rome!" right? I don't mind hugs but I rarely initiate unless it is a family member or very good friend and that is the kind of relationship we have established already.

I am trying to teach my own children to respect the personal space of others and I don't force them to hug even family unless they want to. I think my in-laws were uncomfortable (maybe even offended) with this at first, but I think they understand now that my 3 year old enthusiastically goes up to them and wants a hug all on her own initiative. I hope it is so much more meaningful to them than an automatic, imposed action. I find my children are naturally affectionate to those around them and they model the behavior that they see without being forced to.

As social creatures I think we need non-sexual physical interaction, though individual needs may vary greatly. You might even call it a need for platonic intimacy, which gets kind of confusing for teenagers approaching puberty and even young adults. As a society we may help our youth to recognize this need as a way to prevent pre-marital sex. We all need affection, but there is a time between puberty and marriage that we don't have many socially acceptable outlets. I theorize that it may be this unfulfilled need that we are not addressing as the average age people get married gets higher and it may contribute to the high incidence of premarital sex. (I personally don't make it my business what people do in private, but when they involve children either by influence or by conception, it becomes everyone's problem.)

On the flip side, some people feel that any physical contact is potentially dangerous for becoming inappropriate. I would argue that our puritanical values have made even hugging awkward for some who fear temptation or even just the appearance of evil. When in close proximity, it is easy to make a wrong move by accident and cause an extremely awkward moment. For this reason, many err on the side of caution and just don't hug. In an effort to set clear boundaries, some people miss out on a natural source of legal dopamine. Hugs can counter depression.

I personally don't feel that hugs are "too intimate" at all. Intent is the key. I cannot control another person's intent, but I know my own. For me it is a friendly gesture of support that communicates something words cannot. In some situations words are the wrong thing to say. 

What is your hugging "style"?

MOPS: Meal Planning

Our MOPS meeting was about meal planning. Our speaker today was one of our own moms. I appreciated her honest walk-through of her process of meal planning. I really like people who tell of their own experience without pretenses. She was real.

My own version of meal planning has evolved over the years. It was hard for me to come to the realization that we had to plan meals, but I have learned to enjoy it. I didn't grow up meal planning. My mother can just throw stuff together. That is how I learned to cook, but I also like to make certain meals and I don't like having to go to the store because I'm missing one ingredient (or many). I don't like grocery shopping and eventually by meal planning I figured out how to only go grocery shopping once a week. I could probably go every two weeks except for the fresh produce and the small apartment fridge.

As with many things, we can learn by doing. Just pick one way. Try it out for a while. See what works for you and what doesn't. Our MOPS speaker today showed us her way of meal planning, and it is a good way to do it, but each of us has to do what works for us. I liked how she presented it in a very open-ended way.

We all have challenges. We all have goals. We all have some sort of budgetary restriction. We can all save money and time, while sticking to our family's goals and challenges if we take up some intentional planning with our meals.

These days I plan about 5 dinners per week. I plan on having leftovers or a back-up easy meal (maybe a crock-pot freezer meal) the other two days. I pack up leftovers and freeze them for David to take for lunch. We only recently settled into this routine and it is working very well for us. I am thankful he likes leftovers. We have eggs for breakfast. Sometimes a breakfast meat, sometimes just cheese. My 3 year old likes cereal or yogurt for breakfast and then she has a bigger mid-morning snack. David takes leftovers for lunch. I eat leftovers or I will make myself a salad, quick soup (from scratch) or sandwich.

Some things I have learned recently to reduce waste and maximize efficiency:

1) When I only need 1/2 and onion or pepper, I chop up the rest and freeze it otherwise it ends up in the back of my fridge and goes bad before I remember to use it. If it's in the freezer I use it in stir-fries or soups when I need it.

2) I buy meat in bulk and freeze it in meal-sized portions, OR I cook it and then divide it up into meal sized portions. I sometimes buy in bulk from Zaycon Foods and I prepare crock pot freezer meals in gallon freezer bags. I can just put the whole bag in the crock pot and have a meal ready in about 4 hours. If I have stuff to do I put it in at about lunch time and it is ready by dinner time. Here is a link to my crock pot recipes. 

3) Putting leftovers in the freezer. While David doesn't mind leftovers, he prefers to eat the same thing at a later date. I don't blame him and this has greatly reduced how much we have to discard. By freezing it doesn't go bad before he wants to eat it and we cycle through meals with some variety and he can even choose what he wants to take each day. We use containers that have dividers and I add frozen vegetables on the side (that I transfer directly from the bag frozen) that end up getting steamed while he warms up the leftover entree.

4) Going into Costco with a plan, knowing it is a war zone. Let's face it: Costco is full of expensive temptations. Go there with a list. Only buy what is on your list. If you can't do this, don't go to Costco. We only buy what we know we will need. I have very specific things I know I will use. I don't buy anything that I will only use more of (or have to waste some of) if I buy it in bulk. Generally I buy unprocessed meats, eggs, cheese, coffee, grains, legumes, vitamins, OTC medications, supplements, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, printer ink cartridges (if you wait for their coupon you get $20 off two double XL packages, which is a great deal). I can't afford to buy processed meats, meals or specialty cheeses or anything else that generally gets featured at the taste-test carts.

5) I find I save a lot of money buying in bulk. We try to find a store that has gluten-free flours and pastas in the bulk section.

6) I am not a "couponer". I use coupons sometimes but they don't make coupons for most of the things I buy. The times I have tried to use a lot of coupons, I ended up going over in my budget because I was trying to change what we ate according to what we had coupons for and I found it did not save me money because I was buying things that were too processed and we just didn't eat. I cook from scratch and I save more money that way.

MOPS Craft: We made Friendship Soup Jars

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful: Day $@#*M%*&

Today I am thankful for grace and forgiveness. As a parent, I have many opportunities to feel I fall short of what I "should be", but I am learning to forgive myself, pick myself up and do my best again every day.

The beauty of grace and forgiveness is that it has a power that is totally counterintuitive and yet so beautifully brilliant. I think that is why people struggle with faith in our Lord and struggle with acceptance of His grace. You cannot earn it, you are given it. The only thing standing between us and salvation is faith.

In order to accept the Lord's forgiveness, we have to be able to forgive ourselves. It is easy to condemn ourselves, and there is a time for that, it is not a step that can be skipped, but then we must forgive ourselves in order to accept grace. I am thankful that I am learning to forgive myself.

I am naturally very hard on myself. Some have called me a perfectionist. That doesn't mean I have a perfect house, on the contrary, I can't EVER have a perfect house BECAUSE I'm a perfectionist. However, I am learning to accept "good enough" and prioritizing some things and accepting I cannot do everything.

So I've missed a few "thankful" posts. I would have liked to stay on top of this, but I started again today and will try to continue. Forgiving myself for my shortfall allows me to continue on more good work that I would not have done if I could not forgive myself. So I am thankful for it and for the grace of God who supports me each day in my growth as a parent, wife, daughter and friend.

At the Pumpkin Patch. No makeup. Just family memories.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankful: Day 8

I am thankful for my home. We downsized when we moved and got rid of a lot of stuff. I am still getting rid of stuff because I love living in a simplified, efficient home. It is possible to have too much space. Downsizing really helps you focus on what is really important in life.

Sure it is difficult when you have a lot of crafty hobbies. Keeping all the materials for homeschooling accessible has been a challenge. I wouldn't want a bigger space right now. Maybe in the future, but right now I am happy we have this home. I love the people in it. It is serving our purpose.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful: Day 7

I am so thankful for my mother. Today I learned that even our great relationship still has room to grow. We are still learning from each other.

I believe the Lord put us together for a reason. We are very close and if she were not my mother we may still be very good friends, but we do have very different personalities. We have very different love languages and sometimes we don't seem to communicate as efficiently as we should be able to for all the years that we've known each other. But what is awesome is that we always give each other the benefit of the doubt and we always work things out.

Today I was desperately lacking sleep. My son is 10 months old and has reverted back to waking every 2 hours at night. I don't remember when I had a full night's sleep. I got up this morning feeling like I was going insane from lack of REM. I had to consciously check myself every time I opened my mouth to make sure I wasn't snapping at anyone. I was about to bug a close friend by email and ask her advice when I realized I should probably call my mom first.

So I called her. She asked me if I wanted her to come a day early as she had planned to come tomorrow for a visit. I told her I just really wanted her advice. She said she had refrained from offering her advice until I asked but that she thought I should try cutting out coffee. She suggested to try to cut it out for a week and see if his sleeping improves. She said it could be that he doesn't process it as quickly and it keeps him up at night even though I drink it in the morning. It could also be that because he doesn't sleep enough during the day that he is over tired and wound up at night and can't stay asleep.

I humbly accepted her advice, desperate for anything that might help. I can't express how much I appreciated her waiting for me to ask her opinion. While she is full of wisdom and life experience she has, in the past, had a tendency to offer unsolicited advice. While it is a mild annoyance for me, I have tried to talk to her about it because it may aggravate other people more who don't know how well meaning she is and don't give her the benefit of the doubt that I do. I admit many times I have rebelliously rolled my eyes and ignored her advice, only to eventually realize she was right. It is much easier to follow her advice when I ask for it.

I realized she is learning to hold back and I am learning to swallow some pride.

Besides all that she is a great help with the kids and they love her. She did end up coming a day early. I got a much needed two hour nap. I feel so blessed and a little more sane. She helped distract the kids so I could focus on making dinner. We tag teamed the dishes and I'm kind of caught up.

I love my mom.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful: Day 6

I am regretfully thankful for modern medicine and that God guided the decisions of those who had my life in their hands. Though I have a hard time trusting doctors and stay away from them as much as I can, I have to admit that they have one thing definitely figured out: emergency and acute care. When I have been led to seek medical care, I have been blessed with some skilled individuals.

I am not exaggerating when I say modern medicine has saved my life three times. Once, when I was 15 I would have died were it not for intense antibiotic treatments for impetigo that I developed as a complication of shingles. Two years ago an emergency surgery removed an infection that was a complication from Crohns disease that if we had caught it any later may have caused me to die from sepsis. The doctors were actually surprised I didn't have a blood infection already at the time. Then when my son was born, I was going into liver failure from cholestasis of pregnancy. The cesarean saved both our lives. His cord was wrapped around his neck tightly three times and he would not have survived a vaginal delivery.

I have had issues with some treatments for chronic illnesses. I'm not a fan of prescription drugs. I have met great doctors, mediocre doctors and downright horrible doctors. Overall, though, I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to be a mom and to have both my children.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thankful: Day 5

I am thankful for my husband's ADHD. We have faced some challenges because of it, but it is a part of who he is. Some of the benefits are that he is very creative, intelligent, innovative, resourceful and great with our children. He has found a job niche, which is really the key for people with ADHD. He thrives in that environment because 1) it is in a field that interests him, 2) he can be himself and is appreciated for it (I'm pretty sure the Symantec business model is designed around the ADHD mind), and 3) he has plenty of opportunity for growth which keeps him interested and building his career.

His diagnosis led to many positive things in our lives and it explained a lot. He has grown in confidence over the last year and I hope that will continue. Confidence is something many people with ADHD struggle with and I am happy to be there to see his grow.

If you know someone with ADHD or suspect they have it, or if you suspect you might have it, a great book is Driven to Distraction by Dr. Hallowel and Dr. Ratey. We found it at our local library, but here it is on Amazon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful: Day 4

I am thankful for hardships today. Our character is defined not by how we act when everything is peachy keen, but by how we make it through hardships. It isn't easy, but when you find yourself past the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" and you are looking the other way through the tunnel, you sometimes find how much you have grown through all of it. I know I have matured immensely through our struggles.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 
--1 Thessalonians 5:18

I don't know why we had to go through two very rough years of bad health, David not being able to get a job, then finally getting a job, then getting laid off, then a difficult pregnancy. Through it all, God was there and we had everything we needed. For that I am thankful. It definitely brought us closer to Him and to each other. The struggles are never going to be gone, at least not on this side of heaven, but we hope we have a break for a while at least. 

Even if we don't have a break, I know God is with us. I know we have each other. I am thankful for those I can lean on when times are rough. I am glad to be there when times are rough for others. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankful: Day 3

I am thankful for my wonderful husband of 7 years. We have been together for almost 11 years and I can't imagine my life without him. Through our struggles we have grown closer. I could not ask for a more loving, supportive, kind, helpful, patient, understanding man to be my husband and father to my children. He is proving to be the awesome father I imagined he could be when we met. I feel so strongly that we work as a team, using our individual strengths to head this family and to parent our children.

The trust and loyalty we share is more than I could have imagined possible. I respect and love him more every day even though I didn't know that was possible. This year I discovered a blog called Happy Wives Club. It has been both encouraging and affirming. It isn't sugar coating, but realistic happiness in marriage for the long haul.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankful: Day 2

I am so thankful for my beautiful, healthy, amazing, brilliant, charming and totally awesome children!! We had a complicated and dramatic birth experience with our little (who am I kidding, BIG!) Tiger. He was early, in distress, with a cord wrapped around his head three times. If I had not been experiencing liver problems and getting checked so routinely he may not have made it to term. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that he is alive and healthy.

His big sister loves him so much and she is teaching him how to share (most of the time) and likes playing and cuddling with him. I could not ask for a sweeter little girl. I am so happy that they have each other. I know they will be good friends as they grow up. It is something I have prayed for since before they were born.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful: Day 1

Last year I participated in the "Thankful Posts" Meme. It might be cheesy but I love it. So I'm doing it again this year because I have had so many new things to be thankful for. We had so many changes in the last year.

I am thankful of where we live. There are so many blessings that came from this move and I will write more specifically about them in the coming days. Today I am so thankful we were able to move here back in January to be closer to David's job. I know now more than ever that it was the right move for us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

MOPS: Family Goals

There was a wonderful speaker today at my MOPS meeting. She spoke about the process she has gone through for setting family goals. Lately I have been trying to be more intentional in my life and this really fit right in to what I have been trying to accomplish. She stated how only 3% of people write down their goals and something like 17% make goals, but don't write them down. Everybody else just goes with the flow without making goals.

MOPS Craft Project: Pumpkins
While I'm definitely in the 17%, I decided that I am going to now be in the 3%. Of course I have written down some goals over the years, but I never thought to organize them the way she described. I am a very "organized" person in some ways but not so much in other ways. In an effort to achieve organization, I keep a bunch of lists. Some are on paper and some in my head. I am not able to keep track of everything without my lists. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to make a very specific written list of my goals.

I began on paper to set my priorities:

  1. God
  2. Marriage
  3. My Children
  4. Extended Family
  5. Friends
  6. Community
Based on this list I went on to list categories of my life I would like to set goals for. Then I numbered them in a general priority. In each category I wanted to be sure to write down some accomplishments as well as what I am trying to achieve. I think it is important to see how far you've come as well as looking at where you want to go. 


  1. Faith: I have a prayer list started and I do spend time reading the Bible both myself and with the children, but this area definitely needs work. I would like to set aside time for a daily devotional. Consistent Bible study. Daily Bible reading. Reading the bible daily with the kids. Family worship. Find a church family. Sharing my faith with confidence when the Spirit moves me.
  2. Marriage: We have both become more intentional about our marriage. We make sure to have at least one date per month. We do spend time talking about the budget, the children and things we would like to do together. I would like to set a more regular time to plan our goals. I would like to set aside a weekly date at home since we can't really afford to go out more than once per month. 
  3. Family: I love being a SAHM! Homeschooling right now is about giving them varied experiences and having fun. We are starting to make some friends here and we are doing weekly activities to get the kids out of the house. I have a general curriculum going for the children's preschool. David and I both have one-on-one time with each of the children and I want to make sure to continue that. I want to continue to get my introverted self out to let the kids make friends and learn to interact with a variety of different people. I want to continue to schedule outings for the children both during the week and on weekends with Daddy. 
  4. Finances: The only way we were able to move closer to David's work this year was because of our family commitment to getting out of debt and saving up cash for the move. We have been doing great for over two years now thanks to Dave Ramsey and following the "baby steps". I would like to have regular monthly budget meetings, not just when there is a change in the budget. 
  5. Household: After getting settled into our new home here, it took a while, but I was able to set a semi-routine for household maintenance. I have tried charts and the index card system, but what works best for me is a general "schedule" of chores. I put a few on each day of the week and try to get them done that day. (I actually typed up and laminated this weekly schedule.) Spreading them out helps me to feel like I can accomplish something each day without getting overwhelmed. If I can't get everything done one week, on the following week I focus on what I didn't get done the week before. One of my goals since before we moved is to reduce "STUFF" and we are still working on that. It is a constant process because STUFF continues to magically appear in our home. One thing that stuck with me is the "Give Away/Put Away/Throw Away" Boxes idea from a book I once read on home organization. I would like to make it a monthly activity to go around the house and sort things that are laying around into one of these three categories, preferably with help from the family. Reducing clutter is a cyclical job just like dishes and laundry. It never ends.
  6. Health: We are good about yearly checkups with the doctor. We eat gluten-free and mostly lower-carbohydrate for the adults. We like to get out of the house and take a walk together. I think we are all overdue for dental visits. I would like to get on the elliptical at least 3x/week and do at least 1/2 hour of yoga on the days that I don't. Right now it isn't always attainable, but it is a good goal to shoot for. I want to continue learning about essential oils and prevention of illnesses. 
  7. Studies and Personal Growth: I am really fascinated with essential oils right now, so I will continue my research. I would like to teach a class on Essential Oils 101 for some friends who have asked for one. I also want to read some books on Curriculum Options for Homeschooling my children.
  8. Extended Family and Friends: We keep in touch by phone, email and Facebook with many friends and family. I want to plan monthly trips to visit my mother and in-laws with the children during weekdays and at least once a month with David on a weekend day. We have talked about a trip to visit extended family in Alaska and I would like to set a date and make more specific plans. I want to be good about keeping up with birthday cards, emails, sending pictures of the kids to people who aren't on Facebook and reading my friends' blogs. I want to make more of an effort to be a loving support of those around me. I want to set aside time to spend with my friends who live near and time to talk on the phone with those who live far away. This is something that is very difficult for me.
  9. Crafts: I love crafts. Nothing says "I care about you" like something hand made. I especially like useful things. I am very creative but not as organized about this as I would like to be. This year I have actually planned and gathered the materials for making Christmas gifts with plenty of time to make them. I want to set a goal to plan making Christmas and Birthday gifts ahead (including a budget) so I am not rushing to finish at the last minute. I would like to have a stock of handmade gifts to give for unexpected events and maybe even to bring to craft fairs or craft exchanges. 
  10. Communication: We are pretty good at staying in touch with family and friends through different methods. I keep up two Blogs, one for my family and homeschooling (the one you are reading) and also my Essential Wisdom & Nutrition Blog which has evolved from just nutrition to include also essential oil supplementation. I feel kind of scattered with blogging sometimes, but  I have made improvements and maybe by setting some goals it will all come together. Some people read my blogs and others just read Facebook. Some refuse to go on the internet at all unless they are checking their email only, so I try to send them more personal updates. I would like to set a schedule to be more consistent in my blog writing so people we care about will know where to go to read updates. I want to be consistent about sending birthday cards and letting the people I care about know that I do.
I might add more later but this is what I came up with today during the children's nap time. I definitely need to focus on just a couple goals at a time, but it feels good to have it all written down. What goals are you working on? What goals have you met recently? Do you write down your goals?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Frolicking Fun in the Fall

This first set of photos was with the MOPS group.

This next set of photos was our family outing to the pumpkin patch.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Favorite Crafts

List It Tuesday

I thought I would start with my favorite crafts. I love crafts. I always have. It is really hard not to go crazy at the craft store or office supply store. In no particular order:

  • Re-purpose-ing, now also known as up-cycling. I love jars, especially. Empty jars, especially big ones from Costco nuts or Mayonnaise. I usually remove the old label and sometimes, if I use it to contain a gift or something, I will glue on a new label I cut out of scrapbooking paper. I use decoupage glue so that it becomes waterproof, then I can write on it with a a permanent marker. Kids love getting a jar full of random things for their birthdays. I love repurposing other things too. I totally want to make my daughter a play kitchen out of an old night stand or something soon, but I don't think we have the room for it right now.
  • Sewing. Again, I especially love to sew gifts. There is nothing that says "I really put thought into your gift" like a home-sewn craft. Of course you have to get really creative, but with Pinterest, these days, there are lots of free patterns and ideas. Lately I have made hand-sewn cards in a kind of applique style.
Mother's Day Cards, machine sewn applique
Baby Shower Gift
One for Big Sis and one for Baby Sis
  • Cross stitch. I don't know why, but I like counted cross stitch. I love how the pixels you put on a canvas eventually meld to reveal the big picture. I don't have a lot of time to cross stitch but it saved my sanity when I used to work and had a lot of downtime and after my surgery two years ago I couldn't do anything and cross stitch helped me pass the time, plus I made everyone's Christmas gifts by hand that year.
Geeky Cross-Stitch I made for my husband on Father's Day
It means "there's no place like home"
  • Scrapbooking. I have NO time to scrapbook, nor do I have the budget, but I love to do it. I am still working on my wedding album (we have been married seven years) but I did finish my daughter's baby book. After I finish my son's baby book I will probably just do digital scrapbooking. I have an album for every year saved on my iPhoto, ready to order when we have the money to order it. I have some scrapbooking supplies but I use them for card-making, repurposing and random projects more than I do for scrapbooking.

  • Cake Decorating. I always make my children's birthday cakes, and sometimes my nieces' cakes, but I really love adult birthday cakes too, which tend to have a "flavor theme" instead of a cartoon character. I like making desserts  or my husband's work too because they are always very appreciated. I make gluten-free and regular cakes. I took a cake decorating class on a whim back in college and it has paid for itself many times over.
"Boots" Cake

"Thomas" Cake
  • Organizing. (Is that a craft? sure it is!) You can't tell by looking at my house but I am in a constant state of "getting organized" so it must be a craft! I love bins and those cute little photo-organizing boxes. I love dollar store plastic bins too, especially if they are different colors. I love binders and lists, so I keep my lists organized... in binders. Apparently I have a type of ADD (without hyperactivity) which I have compensated for by making lots of lists and keeping obsessively organized, but it works, so I'm embracing it. 
  • Cooking. My addiction to office supplies is only overshadowed by my love for cooking tools. I sold Pampered Chef for a while, mostly to get all the discounted stuff. They have the best quality kitchen tools, many of the ones I have I got before I got married and they are still in great condition. My kitchen would not be complete without my Kitchenaid Mixer, however, which is indispensable if doing any gluten-free cooking.
  • Photoshop Elements. I recently discovered Elements. It was given to me as a gift but it took me a year to really sit down and figure it out. It really takes a project to inspire you to learn a new program, otherwise the skills are all just theoretical. I'm still playing with it but is really handy for making business cards, logos and cute
  • Homeschooling or Kids Crafts. I love preparing and organizing crafts for kids to do. Luckily my kids (and their friends and cousins) love to do "projects"--as we call them-- and I get to do this for get-togethers and birthday parties. I used to do daycare and this was the funnest part. Now I'm homeschooling and my precocious 3 1/2 year old loves to paint, craft and cook too. Eventually I will teach her to sew and decorate cakes if she wants to learn, but these days we do a lot of theme crafts to make learning fun instead of a chore. Right now I enjoy designing my own curriculum around her interests. Some people call it "unschooling" but that sounds so unstructured compared to what we do, I like to call it Intentional Learning. 
Painting with Pudding

Mixing together the Play Rice we dyed with food color.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lying Liers and Their Lies

I have always been fascinated by body language. It might be the introvert in me, or maybe I just like people watching. I have read books like "Your Body Doesn't Lie" (about applied kinesiology) and I am fascinated by Metalists. I don't believe anyone can "read minds" but I do believe some of us can spot visual cues more naturally and intuitively than others.

I recently watched a TED talk about How to Spot a Liar. The speaker, Pamela Meyer, says that many times we are willing participants in a lie. At first I thought she was a pessimist, but the more I thought about it there more I guess it must be true. If it is true, though, that people lie as much as she says we do, then I guess I understand why I seem to fail personality tests because "nobody is that honest". REALLY?? I beg to differ. I must be more honest than the average person, but I consider myself to have plenty of tact and I choose to use diplomacy and redirection rather than flat out white lies, but technically I guess that is lying by omission. Or whatever?? I am often just wanting to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

So it made me sad. That we lie to each other. It is part of our culture. Does it have to be? Is it true that we perpetuate this in our society and that we are often willing participants in the lie? We look the other way, so to speak, or even lie to ourselves and acknowledge the lie as truth, then why do we do this? Does it serve a purpose or does it just add to the confusion of the thread of reality that we claim to hold on to? What is important here?

Lies do not matter as much from people who don't matter as much to you so I have to examine it from the perspective of a loving and trusting relationship. That of spouses, maybe. Meyer says that spouses lie more to each other than people who are dating. WOW. Ok, lets assume that it's true. Why is this the case? I guess it depends on the people and what they are lying about.

If a lie is self-serving and to protect one from the consequences of something they have done wrong, then lying is bad. Sure, white lies are still lies, but do we want truth or do we want kindness? If the truth is not kind, and you really love a person, are you going to tell them the truth or are you going to be kind? Do we fault people for wanting to be kind? Do we fault people who tell the truth even if it hurts? We can't have it both ways.

In friendships we cannot keep friends if we are brutally honest all of the time. Nor can we keep from annoying people if we say "that's not true, you just said that to be nice" all the time. It is hard for a perceptive person such as myself to accept lies. I thought it was because I wanted honest interactions, but maybe it is OK to accept kindness too. If I have to choose, I would choose kindness from those who I know love me.

"But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; 

but the greatest of these is love." -- 1 Corinthinans 13:13

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Family Hike and Science Factory

We started off our week with a family hike. Blueberry has taken an interest in our point and shoot camera so I have been showing her how to take pictures with it. She takes pictures of flowers, people and her toys.

Looking for acorns

Showing me the acorns she collected

 During Nonna's visit this week we took advantage of the nice weather and opted for a day at the park. Blueberry needed to get outside.

 The Science Factory preschool program has started. We are lucky to have friends to go with this year.

He always falls asleep in the carrier.

We made a butterfly out of construction paper, then she painted it Rorschach-style with multiple colors. She has a lot of watercoloring experience so putting a "big blob" on her page was something new and different. Here is the result:

My smart, thoughtful, kind, cooperative, witty, funny, and beautiful little girl.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Apples, Apples, Apples

Can you guess our theme for the week? Blueberry knows the letter A but we love apples, so we repeat this theme in the fall.

Some of the projects we did this week are:

Stamping with Apples

Apple Taste Testing

Gala were Blueberry's Favorite

Ten Apples Up On Top, by Dr. Seuss

I have an apple punch so we do many projects with them. For this one I printed a picture of Blueberry at the bottom of a page and as we read the book she glued more apples on top of her head in the picture. She wanted to do it again the next day so it must be fun!

Here is our Smiley Tiger

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blueberry and her Bible

Blueberry has started asking me to read her Bible Story Book to her. We got her a "beginner bible" (early reader) with activities and discussion points. The idea is to get her in the habit of doing devotions. I was not taught to do devotions as a child and honestly I am still learning to make it a regular habit. It touches my heart when she brings me her Bible Story book.

After every chapter we talk about the story. Though the discussion points in the book focus more on "obeying", my discussions focus more on Love. The Father loves us no matter what and these people obeyed because they were loved by God and they trusted that God knew what was best for them. God rewarded them for obeying but he loved them no matter what.

At the end of the story of Moses, one of the questions is "Who should you obey?" There are four pictures under the question. They are labeled "Mother", "Father", "God", "Bad Friends". We talked about that, but then I asked her "Which of these loves you?" She was smart enough to figure out that people who are "bad friends" must not love you, and that Mommy, Daddy and God love her and want what is best for her, so that is why they tell her what to do sometimes.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seventh Anniversary

For our seventh wedding anniversary we took our children out to dinner. We have a date planned for next weekend, but it is important for us to share this celebration with our children. We had so much fun at Buffalo Wild Wings. (No, we aren't insane and our children are not perfect, but they are pretty awesome!) That place is perfect for taking the family with little ones because everyone is loud and the wait staff is super friendly and even interact with them.

As I sat there enjoying the company and the tasty wings, I reflected on how when we got married seven years ago, I couldn't imagine how great my life would turn out. I feel no "seven year itch" and I am as in love with my husband as I was seven years ago, if not more. My children are fun and bright and did I mention fun?? We have our ups and downs but overall I have no complaints.

My husband and I acknowledge that neither one is perfect. Perhaps it is our humility that holds us together. Definitely our love for each other. Forgiveness on both sides. Some things that have brought us together have been our struggles so when we are told to be thankful even for our struggles, it is because they are there for a reason. We are imperfect that we may show forgiveness and grace to each other. Those are opportunities to truly show love and devotion.

Things are getting better. Our family has gotten bigger. Though parenthood was in our plans, even we could not imagine how amazing it would be.

This coming May we will have been together for 10 years and though it doesn't seem like it could possibly be that long, I can't imagine my life without him.

Fall and Football

Last week we officially started homeschool. Of course, when you homeschool, you don't really ever stop. Any minute you may find a learning opportunity. Learning is fun at our house. When Daddy comes home and asks "What did you do for school today?" the answer is, and should be "nothing, we didn't do school today." At least I think that is true for preschool and kindergarten. In reality we are always learning, always curious, answering questions, solving problems.

So my biggest project for last week was making this calendar to learn the days of the week and months of the year. We also learned songs to help us remember months and days. The days of the week are from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is one of Blueberry's favorite books. She loves to move the sticky arrows every morning.

Our theme for the first week was Fall and Football. She traced fall words and we did some football themed activity pages. She also did a lot of workbook pages and we made cards for grandparents and great grandparents who are Packer fans.

Little Tiger likes to sit and play with toys while I do school with Blueberry.

We had a playdate with a friend. We also did a lot of playing together at home. 

Little Tiger is very ambitious and is wanting to stand and walk. He takes very large, deliberate steps when we support him across the floor.

On the weekend Blueberry finally was able to purchase her "My Little Pony Magazine" that she has been saving up for with her chore (we call it a cooperation chart) money.