Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Countdown!

When I was younger, all I knew of advent was chocolate calendars (we're from a very low church background!) Now that I have kids of my own, I've been on the hunt for some more meaningful ways to celebrate advent.

Here are some ideas I've found:

1. Ann Voskamp has a delightful little book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas, which guides your family through daily biblical stories and images leading up to Christmas day. Alongside this book, you can also create a Jesse Tree - hanging various ornaments representing different biblical figures and events in the redemption story. There's a whole website devoted to making your own Jesse Tree, with free printable ornaments, gift tags, coloring pages, etc. Worth checking out!

2. Another idea I've heard of is to set up your nativity scene progressively, one set of figurines at a time, and saving baby Jesus for last. His arrival made all the more special on Christmas day!

3. Similarly, another twist on the nativity scene is to have the wisemen/magi start on one end of the house and journey closer and closer to baby Jesus as Christmas day draws closer.

4. This Playdoh Advent calendar is just pure fun!
5. And if you have artistically inclined children, consider printing out some blank templates of this advent tree and providing crayons and markers to decorate one shape at a time until Christmas day. Proudly display the progress on the refrigerator!

And this year, now that my kids are old enough that I can sleep through the night uninterrupted, I actually planned ahead and ordered this reusable Christmas stocking advent calendar! 

I tucked tiny little treats inside, as well as a low key Christmas activity to do each day (like: "Read a special Christmas book" and "Have a picnic by the Christmas tree").

Does anyone else love the countdown to Christmas as much as I do? How does your family celebrate Advent?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful way to practice and model giving with your young ones this holiday season!

Grab a shoebox (or preferably a sturdy plastic container), fill it with gifts for a girl or boy, and Samaritan's Purse will ship it overseas to a child in need, along with the good news about Jesus.

Here are a more detailed instructions on how to pack a box. (You can print your own boy/girl/age label here!)

And here are some excellent suggestions on what to put inside your shoebox.

Also very cool, if you pay $7 shipping, you can track which country your box is going to!

I'll be collecting shoeboxes at our MOPS meeting on November 17th to bring to our local drop off site. There's lots of great stuff at the Dollar Tree and at Target!

Happy Giving!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Taking Back Dinner

I'll be the first to admit that I'm terrible about mealtimes with my two boys. I'm a short order cook who lets the kids graze pretty much all day. My boys eat at the coffee table.

So I was really excited to get some tips at our last MOPS meeting from Lindsay Stenovec, a nutritionist and registered dietitian. She shared that there is a division of responsibility when it comes to meals. Parents do the what, when, and where of feeding. Children do the "how much" and "whether" of eating from what the parents offer. She suggested to try meals "family style" where children serve themselves (instead of pre-plating) in order to encourage self-regulation. She also recommended to stay neutral about sweet treats, offer them on a predictable basis, and not to use them as a reward for finishing veggies.

Keeping in mind her suggestions, I decided to give it a try that very night.

I made a big deal by setting the actual dinner table (I know!!) with placemats and everything. I even lit a candle to generate some excitement over this "special dinner". I set out a few dishes: frozen peas (a generally safe veggie), lentils (always a hit in my house), and baked sweet potato tots (a totally new item to them), and a slice of toast, cut into 4 pieces.

I didn't push anything at them or pressure them in any way. The result was a total hit! They loved scooping their own food (so grown up!). My oldest looked at the peas and said: "Me will only eat one of these" and gingerly put one into his mouth. Then he said: "Actually..." while he scooped a big spoonful onto his plate. They were curious about the sweet potato tots- my oldest ended up eating three, and my youngest took a bite out of four. My kids liked eating this way so much, they insist on a "special dinner" every night now, and sometimes even at lunch!! (And if you're wondering... yes, the candle always has to be lit, haha!).

I'd love to hear if you've had any success with Lindsay's tips!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Secrets to Successful Parenting

We have an exciting opportunity! Our church - the very same room we meet in for MOPS - is hosting a positive parenting expert to teach a 5 week course on "The Secrets to Successful Parenting" All the details are in this flyer. 

Also note that the childcare is optional! If you don't need it, you won't need to pay that $25. 

Be sure to RSVP to Hilde (Hilde@HildeRCB.com) by October 8th. You won't want to miss out!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Fierce Flourishing

Our MOPS theme this year is "A Fierce Flourishing."

This particular season of Motherhood can feel more like surviving than flourishing. It can feel like you're a lone lily in the desert. How are you supposed to bloom when water is so scarce? When the kids are very little and are so utterly dependent upon you for everything ... when they rely on you to meet every need, to wipe every tear, to set every boundary, to play every game, to read all the books, to prepare every meal, to even BE the meal! - it becomes very easy to go into survival mode. To constantly count down to the next naptime, to the next bedtime, to when they're finally sleeping through the night, to when they can feed themselves, to when they're finally out of diapers. To when, maybe, if ever, this parenting gig will get easier.

But what would it look like if we chose to flourish instead of survive?

What if we embraced the chaos and the mess and chose to enjoy this season of life anyway? What if we sought out everyday moments to celebrate? What if we were on the lookout for the goodness right in front of us? What if we claimed all of the opportunities for rest and connection that we could? What if we realized we weren't just any lilies, we were desert lilies? We were made to flourish right here where we're planted. Right in the midst of whatever desert is yours: your "spirited" child; your husband deployed; your family too far away to help; your special knack for breeding non-sleepers. There can be so many impediments to our joy. So many reasons to live our lives in survival mode.

This year, I invite you to choose to flourish. It won't be easy. It might even be scary. It will involve a fierce determination to look at our everyday lives with a new perspective. To reach out to other moms for friendship, connection, and encouragement. It'll take a fierce determination to rediscover joy amidst the drudgery, beauty amidst the mess, and purpose in the chaos. But I believe we'll emerge the better for it, for even trying. Because one day I want to look back on this particular season of motherhood and be able to say "It was hard, but it was GOOD."

So thanks for helping me get there, ladies! We're better together!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bathtime Fun

Our air conditioning has been broken for the last few weeks. In an effort to keep the kids cool yesterday, I turned to Pinterest! I threw the kids in the bathtub and mixed up some bath paint.

I took shaving foam (Barbasol original worked well for us) and mixed in two drops of food coloring. It was very easy to rinse off when the kids were done playing.

My boys loved it!

It was a great sensory experience for my youngest, and my oldest loved to "see what happens" when he mixed colors together, or dropped some in the water. Best of all, they were able to stay cool!

Highly recommended activity! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Fresh Start Parenting

Wendy Snyder, who some of you may remember from her excellent talk to us last year on preventing and handling power struggles, is running a positive parenting class.

Here's all the info:

I highly recommend Wendy, she was a MOPS crowd favorite last year! Be sure to check out her blog, too!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Curl up with a click, 8th edition

I have so many great articles to share with you! We don't always have time to dig into that novel like we want to, but it's nice to steal 5 minutes in the day to read something inspiring, encouraging, or practical. Hope you enjoy!

7 Ways to get your kid to stop whining - Number 2 has worked well for us!

I have everything I ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy? - Being distracted is a big one for me.

To my four kids, from Dad - I love this letter so much, I wish I had written it myself!

How to get picky kids to eat (But for real) - I thought number 5 was genius (it's okay to lie to our kids, right?)

How often are healthy couples having sex? - Great perspective from the MOPS international blog.

Why we don't stress out about choosing a school - As a former teacher, this is the BEST article I've read about education in a long time!

Self deprecation is for mothers - That voice is loud in my head sometimes, I confess!

What have you read lately?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fun News from Arlene Pellicane

Many of you remember Arlene Pellicane when she came and spoke to us last year. (We all loved her so much, she's coming again this fall!) She has two things she'd like to share with us:

1. Her new book "31 Days to Becoming a Happier Mom" is set to release this August! Here's a fun book trailer all about it:

 And guess what?? You can get the Ebook version for FREE during the month of August!

2. Mark your calendars for this Friday, July 31st. Arlene will be talking about becoming a more content and happier wife on Focus on the Family radio.

You won't want to miss out on these freebies! Arlene has some wonderful wisdom to share with us all!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Preserving Memories

I've been having a wonderful time with family out on the farm in Michigan! We've been busy making lots of memories, like catching fish and making s'mores with the kids for the first time. I'm a bit sentimental when it comes to keeping memories and taking pictures. It's really hard for me to walk that fine line between enjoying the moment and capturing the moment. It actually seriously stressed me out during William's third birthday party!

Do you do anything special with your pictures? I know some moms who do a sort of family yearbook through Snapfish or Shutterfly. One of our MOPS moms introduced me to Project Life, which is sort of an easy way and low maintenance way to scrapbook and journal. Here are some sample pages:

I also journal in a Mom's One Line a Day Memory Book. It's a super easy and simple thing I do every night. I just write a few sentences about the highlight of the day (or lowlight, if I'm in a mood, haha). Here's what a sample page looks like:

I've been at it for almost two years now, and it's been fun to look back at the previous year's entry!

What about you? Are you into keeping diaries and scrapbooks? I'd love to hear what you do!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Keep it Clean

I've been hearing a lot about this book, and I finally ordered it on Amazon!

I confess, I have a problem with clutter around the house. I have no problem doing housework and cleaning up, but the piles of things just seem to grow. Part of it is that I'm a bit of a sentimental pack rat, and the other part is a paralyzing fear that I'm going to need something a week after I've thrown it away!

And I've noticed that my mind feels less chaotic, jumbled, and stressed out when all the things are picked up and put in their place. So I can't wait to dig into this book, and clear out all the unnecessary junk from the house. I'll let you know if it is actually life-changing magic!

Related: Do you make your kids do formal chores? I have a cousin who's great about that: each of her three kids have set chores to do each day (they're 7, 4 and 2 years old). I admire that but haven't gotten that organized! The kids do help me around the house - emptying the dishwasher and the dryer are favorites - but I don't hold them accountable to specific chores yet.

Something helpful I found: this printable is a great reminder of what kids can do at what age.

And also: how cute is this version of a chore chart?

I like the idea of making something together with my boys... in the hopes that it would create buy-in and excitement about chores!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Some Things You Should Know

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey in the last post. The information you gave me will help me make the next year of MOPS even better!

For those of you who are interested, here are the results (19 total responses):

People's favorite meetings are the ones where practical tips are shared (9 votes) followed closely by "I don't care, I'm just so happy to be kid free" (7 votes).

Most people would prefer to meet up at the Liberty Station playground on our off weeks (14 votes) instead of the zoo. So that's what we'll do!

As for MOPS business cards, 11 of you said you'd be somewhat likely to give them out and 6 of you said you'd be very likely to give them out. I'll be designing some and printing some up for the fall. No pressure to hand them out if that's not your thing!

I asked if we should do more along the lines of the MOPS International yearly theme. This was pretty split - 8 of you said "No, let's just keep it casual", and 8 of you said that you had no strong opinion. So I think we'll continue to keep it casual!

I appreciated all of your honest feedback about what suggestions and ideas you have for next year!

In other news:

We had our first MOPS summer playground play date today! Thanks so much to Kelly for putting it together. If you missed this one, there will be others. Keep an eye out on our Meetup page!

Also, if you're a planner like I am, you'll want to know our MOPS meeting dates this fall! I've updated the Meetings page with all of the dates (including the Mom's Morning Out dates!) and I'll be adding in speakers and topics as they get back to me throughout the summer.

And stay tuned for weekly blog updates over the summer!

Monday, May 18, 2015

End of the Year Survey

Can you believe it's the end of our MOPS year? We've had so much fun together! It's been a joy to be your leader this year. In an effort to make next year even better, would you fill out this survey for me? I will also have paper copies at tomorrow's end of the year tea.

As an extra incentive, you'll be entered into a drawing for a gift card when you fill out a survey! If you fill this document out online, please be sure to leave your name in the comment section to be entered to win!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fascinating Infographic

I found this infographic so interesting, I thought I'd share!

The Challenge of Prosperity
Brought to you by Counseling@Northwestern’s Online Masters in Counseling

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Searching for Sunday

I've been dying to tell you about the latest book I've read: Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans. I knew Rachel from her other work, most notably A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I loved that book and passed it along to every woman in my family, so I knew her latest would be sure to please.

Searching for Sunday was a balm to my weary soul. In the book, she shares her journey in loving, leaving, and finding Church. Much like the author, I grew up entrenched in Evangelical culture and fell completely out of love with it as a young adult. Finding my way back to a community of believers has been a bumpy road filled with doubt and cynicism. To be honest, I still struggle on Sunday mornings!

Rachel weaves her stories around the seven sacraments. (Are you from a low church background like me? I didn't know all seven. They are: baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death.) Having so little experience with sacraments, I was a little skeptical about this arrangement. But I found myself underlining and nodding my head and tearing up and wanting to shout AMEN in each of the chapters! Her writing is so warm, her depth of insight so profound, her stories so funny (does anyone else remember playing "chubby bunny" in youth group?), that I devoured this book in about a weekend.

Here's a short excerpt from the author herself. It gives me the chills every time I watch it!

For those of you who struggle with church, with Christians, with doubt, who feel like you never fit in on Sunday mornings, who wonder what is the point of it all... Rachel Held Evans' new book will speak words of hope, truth, and promise right to your heart! You can order yours here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tried and True

A few weeks ago we heard from Nicole Stone, a local acupuncturist, at one of our MOPS meetings. She talked about treating digestive issues in children, and she also shared some kid-friendly healthy recipes. 

Yesterday I made the 2 ingredient cookies she shared:

In addition to adding in some crushed almonds, I confess to adding chocolate chips to it. I just can't bring myself to call it a "cookie" if there's not something sweet in it! I was a little unsure that they would keep their shape, but they held up pretty well. And both of my boys gobbled these up, so I consider these a success!

Here's the recipe if you'd like to give them a try: 

2 Ingredient Cookies

2 bananas, mashed
1 cup oats

Optional additions:
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
*If you are adding more than one extra ingredient use
¼ cup of each

-  Mix the 2 ingredients together in a bowl.
- Spoonful scoops of batter onto a greased cookie sheet
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
- Let cool and enjoy

The next recipe I tried was the white bean dip. My toddler turned up his nose at it (maybe he didn't like cilantro?), but I thought it was phenomenal! (Note: add salt if you're making this for grownups.) I would have taken a picture of it had I remembered, but I ate it all in record time. Great with crackers for dip, or spread on a wrap with cold veggies inside. 

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it for yourself (and let me know if your kiddo likes it!):

White Bean Dip
2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
3 garlic cloves, crushed or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 ½ lemons, juiced

In a food processor, combine the cannellini beans, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Process until smooth, or to your desired consistency. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kid's Music

Do your kiddos listen to a lot of kid's music? Most of the stuff out there can drive you straight up the wall by the second first time you've heard it. It reminds me of that hilarious Portlandia episode "Squiggleman". If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a clip (you're welcome!)

If you're looking for some fun kid's music that's easy on your ears as well, I have a couple of recommendations.

A lot of people love "They Might Be Giants." They sing a lot about science stuff (preview these songs first, some talk about evolution and that may rub you the wrong way!) but they have some ABC's and counting songs too. They may be more appreciated by the slightly older kids, but I thought I'd share one of my faves from them: 

Did you know the Barenaked Ladies came out with a children's album called Snacktime? There's some super catchy stuff on there! Here's a sample:

And one that I've recently discovered is Caspar Babypants (it's actually Chris Ballew from the 90's band The Presidents!!). I'd probably even listen to this without my kids around!

What about you? Do you have any favorite kid's music?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Beautiful Poem

Wendy Snyder was here on Tuesday, talking to us about effectively handling and preventing power struggles. It was great information and beneficial to us all! At the end of her talk, she shared this beautiful poem which I would like to also share here. I hope you are encouraged by these words!

Everyday I Have My Child to Raise Over Again
by Diane Loomans

Every day I have my child to raise all over again. 
I will build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I will finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I will do less correcting, and more connecting.
I will take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I will care to know less, and know to care more.
I will take more hikes, and fly more kites.
I will stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I will run through more fields, and gaze at more stars.
I will do more hugging and less tugging.
I will see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I will be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I will model less about the love of power and more about the power of love.

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Celebrating Holidays

What kind of parent are you? Do you go all out for every holiday, get your Pinterest on and craft and bake with your kids? Or do you find holiday celebrations (big and small) stressful and overwhelming? Or do you fall somewhere in between?

During my first year of teaching, I went all out for every celebration I could. Behold, St. Patrick's Day in my third grade classroom:

That rainbow was hand painted by me and my aide.
If you look closely in the top of the picture, you'll see the leprechaun traps the kids made!

I was talking to another mom friend of mine the other day, and she recounted the panic she felt one year when her preschooler came home with all of these notions, ideas, and EXPECTATIONS of what St. Patrick's Day would look like in their home. Green footprints? Yes! Gold coins? You betcha! Laying a trap? Of course!

Like many of us moms, she hadn't given a second thought to St. Patrick's day other than dressing her child in something green. As a childless first year teacher, I shudder to think of the burden I may have unknowingly placed on my students' parents!

I'm all about having fun celebrating the holidays, big and small! But only if it's fun for ME. I think we all have different levels of enthusiasm and tolerance for Pinterest-worthy projects. Maybe you're all in for every holiday. Maybe you wish we could all just dial it down a notch

My specialty is talking up something marginally fun/different/exciting and playing it up like it's the BEST THING EVER!

How do you handle holiday celebrations for your kids?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Curl up with a Click, 7th edition

A compilation of some great reads around the internet:

10 Things Happy Moms Don't Do - I'm still working on number 4!

The Not So Magic Word - Should we stop teaching our children to say please?

I let my toddler dress me for a week - This gave me a chuckle.

Why Being a Mom is Enough - "Somehow in this mixed up media world of things to do and places to go and dreams to follow the beauty of simply being a mother is completely lost. "

Modern Moms Looking for Perfection in all the Wrong Places - Such a good reminder!

The Importance of Roughhousing with your Kids - Moms can do it, too!

The Day I Pooped my Closet - I dare you to read this without laughing out loud :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Valentine's Day Rice Krispie Treats

I'm happy to share with you a fun and EASY recipe you can whip up for Valentine's Day. The kids can even help out!

Here's what you'll need:

10 oz. marshmallows
3 Tbsps butter or margarine
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
16 oz almond bark (or melt-able chocolate)
Heart shaped sprinkles (or in my case, left over red and white sprinkles from Christmas. But do it right people - spring for the cutesie sprinkles!!)
wax paper


1. Melt butter over low-medium heat.

2. Dump in marshmallows and stir until it looks like yummy ooey-gooey soup.

3. Pour in 6 cups of Rice Krispies, then stir.

4. Press into a GREASED 9x13 pan. Let cool (or put it in the freezer for five minutes).

5. When cooled, lift the entire contents of the pan with a spatula and place on wax paper. I promise you this is easier than it sounds!

6. Start pressing those cookie cutters and making hearts. Trim away the excess and try not to shove it directly into your mouth. Instead, shove the excess into a cookie cutter, molding into a heart by hand if necessary. (The excess ones will be less pretty but still delicious!)

7. Melt your pound of chocolate, then dip in half a heart, one at a time. Sprinkle with fun sprinkles right away before the chocolate hardens.

8. Display on a platter and admire your handiwork before your family starts grabbing them!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Reading List

I mentioned in my last post about how one of my resolutions was to read more. It's hard to find time with a two-year-old and a one-year-old underfoot, but I have a secret weapon: I ignore the housework (on a related note: please don't ever drop by unannounced, haha!). I'm also patient with each book and settle for reading in ten to twenty minute bursts instead of uninterrupted hours at a time.

Here's what I've just finished (and I recommend them!):

An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Here's what's currently on my nightstand:

Growing up Social by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane
The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

And here's what's on my ever growing list of things to read:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Teach us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Love Does by Bob Goff
When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman
A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof

What about you? Have you read anything good lately? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

This blog has been silent for far too long! I had all of these grand plans about this little online space, and then the holidays happened, and life happened, and posting didn't happen.

But I'm back. 

Do you make new year's resolutions? I usually don't. Back when I was a special education teacher, all of my new year's resolutions were made in August. I had the best of intentions of staying on top of my paper work, of actually using my word wall, of grading in a timely manner. And I'd be pretty good at it until about November, when I'd start feeling burned out and switch to survival mode. 

But now that I don't have a classroom to worry about, I found myself making actual new year's resolutions for the first time. 

They are:

-Sort/put laundry away in a timely manner
-Read more books
-Decorate our bare walls
-Exercise a little every day

Please don't ask me how I'm doing. I take comfort in Mary Shelley's quote, pictured above!

What about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them?

Keep an eye out for more new posts in the days ahead!