Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Time to vote on our next book!

UPDATE: We'll be reading The Bette Davis Club for our next book club meeting on January 23rd!

We're meeting tomorrow for our next book club meeting! Last month we chose a book called "The Art of Crash Landing" and it was such a great read!


But it's already time to pick our selection for our January 23rd meeting! These three options are sure to please. I don't think we can go wrong! Please click the link to read the description, and cast your vote at the end of this post: (winning title announced on Sunday Wednesday)







Cast your vote here! Winning title will be announced on Sunday Wednesday:
UPDATE: We'll be reading The Bette Davis Club for our next book club meeting on January 23rd!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vote on our next book!

***UPDATE: The Art of Crash Landing will be our next novel for our book club meeting on December 15th!

We're meeting tomorrow for our next book club meeting! Last month we chose a book called "A Window Opens" and I think it's going to generate some great discussion!


But it's already time to pick our selection for our December 15th meeting! These three options are sure to please. I don't think we can go wrong! Please click the link to read the description, and cast your vote at the end of this post: (winning title announced on Saturday)







Cast your vote here! Results will be shared this Saturday:

***UPDATE: Voting now closed, and The Art of Crash Landing will be our next novel for our book club meeting on December 15th!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

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! or pick one up from me at our next MOPS meeting.)

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! And for kids who are little older, this coloring page and certificate are perfect:
I'll be collecting shoeboxes at our MOPS meeting on November 15th to bring to our local drop off site. There's lots of great stuff at the Dollar Tree and at Target!

Happy Giving!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Vote on our next book!

**UPDATE: Our new book for our November 17th meeting is A Window Opens **

We're meeting tomorrow for our very first book club meeting! Last month we chose a book called "The Status of All Things" and I think it's going to generate some great discussion!


But it's already time to pick our selection for our November 17th meeting! These three options are sure to please. I don't think we can go wrong! Please click the link to read the description, and cast your vote at the end of this post: (winning title announced on Saturday)

**UPDATE: Our new book for our November 17th meeting is A Window Opens **









Monday, October 10, 2016

Easiest Dinner Ever

Today I'm sharing with you a go-to recipe when I just absolutely don't feel like cooking anything. It requires just three items from the grocery store, four if you're feeling fancy!

Easy Lentil Sloppy Joes


Ingredients:
Hamburger buns
Manwich sloppy joe sauce (surprisingly vegan, haha!)
15 or 16 ounces of pre-cooked lentils

Optional: pickles or avocados to put on top

I got the lentils from the refrigerated section of Trader Joes. They also sell organic canned lentils at Sprouts and at Ralphs! Getting pre-cooked ones is a great lazy cook hack. 

Directions

Pour the lentils into a frying pan, maybe with a bit of cooking oil.
Dump the can of sloppy joe sauce in the pan.
Stir.
Scoop on top of hamburger buns. 
Enjoy open faced with a slice of dill pickle or some avocado!


There it is! Embarrassingly easy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Announcing... Our New Theme!

This year we'll be following the theme from MOPS International! For those of you who have been a part of our group before, this isn't going to change the content or the format of our meetings. Rather, it will be more like a symbolic backdrop to our year. (And inspiration for decor and details!)

This year's theme is....


Starry Eyed is…

Seeing the light in the darkness and choosing to live courageously in both.
It is opening our eyes to wonder and choosing hope over fear.
Starry Eyed is significant acts of kindness that send ripples of light into the world.
It is a choice to live fully and wholly and to breathe our way back to life.
If you feel anxious and don’t know why …
If you are busy and distracted from the things you truly care about …
If you are restless for an unexpected encounter with God …
If you long to feel alive, to regain a sense of wonder, to hope a little freer and to be a powerful force of kindness in the world, then we’d love for you to join us in becoming Starry Eyed.
This year we will run wildly toward wonder, hope and kindness because We Are the Starry Eyed and we choose to see the light.
I hope you're as excited as I am about starting our new year! If you haven't already, be sure to RSVP to our first meeting on September 13th!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Good Old Days

There's a quote from the final episode of The Office that I've been thinking about lately:

It has especially been on my mind as I put together our family scrapbook for 2015. But it's easy to recognize the good old days when you're compiling actual pictures of beautiful moments and memories you want to keep. It's not so easy when you're dealing with a tantrum because you told your 18 month old he couldn't unwind all the toilet paper at grandma's house.

True story.

Obviously, each moment in this season of parenting isn't going to be scrapbook-worthy, isn't going to make us twinkly-eyed with joy. But the sheer number of older parents who tell me to enjoy this stage (as irritating as that kind of statement can be) makes me wonder if there's some kind of important perspective I should have right now.

I'm not going to burden myself with the task of LOVING every mind-numbing, stress inducing, anger producing, exhaustion-filled moment of parenting. That's not even realistic. But I think I could benefit from slowing down a little more, of being present, and of taking notice of the little things.

I want to take stock of each joy-producing moment of parenting as it's happening, instead of being distracted by my to-do list. To enjoy sticky kisses and spontaneous hugs as they come. To really watch my kids as they concentrate on their play. To find the humor in what they're telling me. To relish the feel of them on my lap as we read a book. To linger in their bedroom after they're asleep for the night, just taking in the sight of them clutching their stuffed animals in bed.

It's a fine line between wanting them to grow up already and wanting them to stay little forever, and I want to walk it well!

Monday, August 8, 2016

MOPS Book Club

You're officially invited to MOPS book club, starting up this fall! I'm giddy excited about it. Let me tell you what it's going to look like.

You know those book clubs that are super serious, where people discuss literary techniques, use big words, and only read thick classics with tragic endings? That's not the vibe I had in mind.

And you know those book clubs that only tackle the latest beach read, where half of the people don't even read the book, and where the discussion devolves into swapping potty training horror stories? That's not the vibe I had in mind, either.

I'm hoping to strike a happy medium: one part social, one part literary, where discussions focus on how we related to the themes in the book. If that sounds like your cup of tea, I hope you'll join us! Believe it or not, you CAN still read with little ones underfoot (the trick that works best for me is to ignore my housework).

Here are the details:


And now for the exciting part: selecting our first novel! Below are the three novels to choose from, please click on each link to read the summary. Scroll to the bottom of this post to put in your vote!

Blueprints (416 pages)


First Frost (320 pages)

They each look so good, I'm pretty sure we can't go wrong! Cast your vote below; you've got until Saturday, Aug. 13th before the winner is announced.

UPDATE: We'll be reading "The Status of All Things" as decided by popular vote!





Saturday, July 9, 2016

Let's build a village

This is the third summer that we've spent in Michigan, living with my in-laws on their country farm. And every summer, I come to the same conclusion: we need to start a commune.

It becomes very clear very quickly that this parenting gig is just a whole lot easier when there are other caring adults around to share the burden.


All we need is a big house and a big backyard. We can split responsibilities. We'll take turns cooking dinner, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, and cleaning the floors. We'll watch each other's kids so we can shower in peace and run to Target alone. The kids would always have friends to play with and the moms would never feel isolated or lonely. Someone would always be there to take care of your toddler while you're in labor at the hospital. We can cover for each other when we need a nap! THINK OF THE NAPS!

But we'll draw the line at husband sharing. No husband sharing.

And while this is tongue-in-cheek, I do think that the importance of the proverbial Village cannot be underestimated. We need each other so much in this stage of life. Especially in this day and age where most of us don't live near family, raising young children can be extremely isolating. If we don't have a village, we can fall into a comparison trap and think everyone else has it together while we don't. Our exhaustion and anxiety feels larger than life. There's no place to turn for a babysitter so we can focus on our marriage. It becomes easier to judge other parents. Without a village to turn to, it becomes more automatic to turn inward for help rather than reach out.

So maybe what we need is to create our own village - not a big house with walls and rooms, but a community of moms that are there to support each other. How can we do this?

1. Invest your time in developing relationships with other moms.

MOPS is certainly an easy way to do this. There are lots of opportunities to develop friendships between all of the meetings, playdates, and Moms Nights Out.

Another way is to be intentional in having friends over to play at your house, even when you don't have the time to make your place look as presentable as you would like it!

Don't be shy in getting someone's number and taking the first step!

2. Be willing to be honest and vulnerable.

It's just a lot easier to connect with someone when that someone doesn't appear to be perfect. When we admit we don't have it all together, it's easier to put our guard down. There's less pressure. We need to have the guts to answer truthfully when someone asks "How's it going?" A truer connection is made when I tell you that the only reason I'm not yelling at my kids this morning is because there are other people at the park, that my boys have been pushing my every last button and I'm just counting down the minutes until bedtime. It's the "me-too's" that draw us all closer together. We all have good days and bad days as parents, and sharing that common ground goes a long way in building true community.

3. Offer help, and learn to ask for help.

Part of having a village is the willingness to BE the village for someone else. Even if it's as simple as texting a friend while you're at Target: "Do you need anything at Target while I'm here?" Or offering to bring dinner over to friend who you know from your Facebook feed has two kids down with the whatever sickness is going around. Or offering to come over to your friend's house with your kids to entertain her toddler so she can nap with her newborn.

The flip side is being honest enough to reach out for help. It's often harder to be the one in need, to admit we could use some help. Reach out anyway! You'd be surprised at how many people would love to help you.

It takes a village, ladies. Let's build our own!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Easy Fourth of July Ideas

If you're looking for some last minute ideas to spruce up your Fourth of July plans, I have a quick little roundup of easy food-related ideas. Some of them even the kids may be able to help with!







Friday, June 24, 2016

Curl up with a Click, 11th 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!

Stop Making Everything Perfect for your Kid - "Is cushiony perfection for our kids the new national obsession?"

What Slowing Down Teaches you that Rushing Never Will - "What if saying someone was 'slow' were the greatest compliment?"

An Open Letter to the Female Hat-Wearing Dog from Go, Dog, Go - "And yet like so many cartoon female dogs, you only have eyes for some generic nobody who can't see how freaking fantastic you are."

How to Get your Kids to Talk at Dinner - The "negative assertion" strategy is my favorite!

What it's Like to Have Four Kids - Oh man.... number 4 and 6!

The best gift books from your kids are the ones they made themselves. Thanks Artkive - Have you heard of this App?

The perfect song for your next kitchen dance party!

If 70's Moms had Blogs - I can't even pick out the best quote from this one because it's ALL GOLD!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Father's Day from your kids

If you need some last minute ideas for Father's Day gifts your kids can make, I'm reposting a roundup I shared last year! As for us, we'll be painting some rocks for Daddy to use as paperweights for his office. We'll say something about how "my dad rocks" on the card!


Father's Day is quickly approaching. What can your little one make for him? Here's a roundup of some of the cutest ideas I could find:

All you need is some painter's tape, and some finger paint! The messier the better!

How fun! Especially if your husband has a sweet tooth!

Free printables included. Just stock up on dad's favorite snacks!


How cute is this golf tee porcupine?

What A Catch Father's Day Gift Idea with free print on { lilluna.com }
Customize this idea even further by having your child decorate the label!

This printable one has the cover that you can color, and then a mad lib on the inside!

I hope you were able to find some inspiration here. Happy crafting!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MOPS Survey Responses

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses to our end of the year survey! I thought I'd share a brief summary of the responses with you.

Our top five favorite speakers were:

1. Nonie Levi, MFT, "Parenting on the same page"
2. Kristie Christie from Compassion Int'l "Eliminating entitlement and cultivating empathy"
3. Three way tie between:
A. Wendy Snyder, "Creating Cooperative Families"
B. Teresa Zucchet, "The Impact of our words on our kids"
C. Arlene Pellicane, "31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom"

I'll do my best to have them back for this upcoming year! And I was pleased to see that the vast majority of our speakers were highly rated.

All of you who responded were happy with the level of spiritual content, felt welcome in our group, and were happy with the quality of childcare. Yay!

Craft day: 62% of you said just one craft day in the spring is fine with you! So that's what we'll stick with ;)

Here's a peek at the next two questions:


Some thoughts about fundraising next year. My primary goal is to lower dues from $15 a meeting to $10. Although we try to pay our guest speakers well, our biggest costs are childcare workers! Fundraising money could also go to help cover the cost of special events like our Christmas party, our End of the Year Tea, and our Craft day. (Something we already do: I offer free advertising on the sidebar of this blog to local businesses who offer donations to our MOPS group!)

If we were to do a fundraiser, I wouldn't want it to be something that we have to sell (like cookbooks for example) mainly because I'm terrible at that! And I'd love for the money that we raise to come from the community or church members, as opposed to our own pockets. I'm thinking about an online auction with items donated from the community. I would just need some help from you all in setting that up!

Which leads me to the next question - I'm so happy so many of you are willing and able to help out! I'll be looking for people to help me with three types of roles: 

1. Greeter. I'd love for one or two of you mamas to help me at the check in table - to show new moms where childcare is and where our meeting room is! Also to just be a friendly and welcoming face! This would require you to be at the meetings at 9:15 (you could drop off your kiddos in childcare at that time).

2. Hospitality. It would be great if I could get a bit of help in tearing down the room and putting away coffee and table decor. This person would also help me shop for MOPS supplies (special coffee creamer and other miscellaneous stuff) - and of course you would be reimbursed for expenses! This person would also help set up meal trains for mommies that need them.

3. Public Relations. I would love more community involvement with our group. This person would help me hang flyers at the local library and set up brochures in maternity wings of hospitals, etc. This person would also be bold enough to ask local businesses for donations (either goods or monetary donation) in exchange for ad space on our blog.

Ideally I'd have one or two mamas help me with each category. If this sounds like something you would like to do, shoot me an email: sarahbutterfield@gmail.com. But there's no pressure! Sometimes all we can muster is Showing Up and that's okay too!

Last thing: almost 94% of you said you would be interested in a MOPS book club! And 77% of you said that meeting on a weeknight would be best. I'm still working out the details of this, but it's going to be happening and I'm EXCITED! Look for a seperate blog post about the book club coming soon.

Well ladies, I know that we just ended our formal meetings last month, but I'm already so excited about next year! If you want to peek ahead at the list of dates, I already have them posted under the meetings tab.

In the meantime, Valerie is helping to organize our playground play dates while I'm in Michigan this summer. Have fun without me, I miss you already!!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summer Reading List

Even though I'm not a student any more (and not even a teacher!), I still look forward to summer as my prime reading time. Reading has always been a hobby of mine and I've still managed to keep it up despite having small children underfoot (the secret is ignoring the housework at naptime...)

I thought I'd share a list of books I've recently enjoyed, as well as share a list of titles I'm looking forward to reading in the next few months!

Here's what I've read and recommend:

Fiction:



Non Fiction:



And here's a list of books I want to read this summer:



What about you? Have you read anything good lately? Anything on your must-read list this summer? Do share!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

When is your family complete?

How do you know when you're done having kids? Do you have a mutually agreed upon number in mind and stop when you hit it? Do you keep popping out babies until you're family "feels" complete? Or maybe you find that you have less control over the number than you thought.

Before we had kids, my husband used to say: "If you have one kid, you may as well have a dozen." His reasoning was that once you cross the line between NO KIDS and KIDS, well then you may as well go for gold. But then we had our first kid. And 18 months later we had our second kid. And we discovered that each kid adds an exponential amount of work (and love, yes of course!) and changes the family dynamic.

After a lot of back and forth, we're very happy with just two kids in our family. Although I do have to admit, as my youngest gets older and older (nearly two and half now - practically driving!), I find myself missing their baby stage!

Then I came across this music video by Nicole Nordeman, making the rounds on my Facebook feed:


Though friends assured me I would cry, my immediate thought was: "Hey, maybe let's have a couple more kids. Yep, we need more kids." And then the boys woke up the next morning and had a ten minute screaming match about which cartoon to watch first, and I had a reality check.

So for now I have a nursery pennant just like this hanging in their bedroom:


To be honest, some days I want it to be true more than others. And I do my best to remember to cherish every stage my kids are at, while they're there. Even on the hard days!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Your New Favorite Brownie Recipe

I stumbled upon this brownie recipe when I was looking to impress some dinner guests. They are decadent and delicious and just perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! Plus they're quite simple to make, considering they're not from a mix.


By the time I thought to take a picture, most of the brownies had been gobbled up. There was just this little corner piece left!

The original recipe is from here (also a more professional picture, haha). Don't let the fact that they're vegan scare you off! In fact, I loved teasing my dinner guests by having them guess the secret ingredient (no one could!) See below:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup pureed or well-mashed avocado
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water (I like to instead use 1/2 cup brewed coffee + 1/4 cup water)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan dark or semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees F). Grease an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pureed avocado and olive oil until smooth. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, salt, and water (or coffee + water). Stir until smooth. Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.
Pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly throughout the pan. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean (there may be some melted chocolate chips in there).  If you overbake, the brownies will have a cake-like texture.
Remove and let the brownies sit out for at least 20 minutes before serving. Cut and serve, or cover and store for up to 3 days.

Friday, May 6, 2016

End of the Year Survey


I can't believe we are nearing the end of our MOPS year together! I think it's been our best year yet! Would you take a few minutes and fill out this survey? Even if you've only come to one or two meetings, your responses are really valuable to me as I plan for next year.

What's in it for you? A chance to be heard, and a chance to win one of two gift cards! We'll be holding the drawing on our last meeting (May 17th) and you don't even have to be present to win :). Thanks for your feedback, ladies, and thanks for a wonderful year!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Curl up with a Click, 10th 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!

Why I always ask for photos of just the two of us - What a sweet reminder not to give our marriage the backseat.

To my son: makeup isn't what makes me pretty - I think this is a great response to give to any kid, not just your son!

12 Innocuous household items my son has turned into weapons - I literally laughed out loud at number 7 and 9!!

This stage of life is hard - You're not alone! We all feel the same way.

How to stop your toddler from running away - Some really good tips here!

Rice Krispies: My Spiritual Awakening - I also go around muttering that I'm "too smart" for this, so this resonated with me.

For the days you can't parent - Defcon levels totally on point, here!

How do you keep up your relationship after kids? - Great points here, love that she mentions love languages (speaking of which, are you coming to our next MOPS meeting? Love languages is what it's all about!)


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mother's Day Gifts with an Impact

Remember when you first started feeling contractions? Or when your water broke? If you were like me, you grabbed your carefully packed hospital bag, took a selfie with your husband ("last picture of our family of two!"), and excitedly called family members as you drove to the hospital. You labored on a bed in a private room, surrounded by nurses and doctors. The most stressful part was getting the epidural on time.

Consider this: you're feeling contractions, your water broke. You walk waddle 20 miles - miles! - to the nearest hospital. But this hospital doesn't have any basic necessities... no electricity, no running water, not even any healthcare professionals.

Now imagine that you somehow survive these conditions to bring forth a brand new baby into this world. You bring home your bundle of joy and do your best to provide safety, a home, clothes, and food. But you are not in control of your country's failing economy, of natural disasters, of when you'll be pregnant next. You can't bear to watch your children starve, and so you do the most logical thing to ensure their survival: you drop them off at the local orphanage.

This is the reality of motherhood for too many women around the world. The majority of orphans in Haiti, for example, still have living parents. And 300,000 mothers die each year during pregnancy and childbirth - a tragedy made worse by the fact that it's entirely preventable!

There's a really great way to be part of the solution, here: support businesses that employ these mothers around the world. I have a few favorites that I'll share with you. And Mother's Day is the perfect excuse to shop for this cause!!

Shop the Orange Rose Collection from Every Mother Counts:


Shop the jewelry from 31 Bits:

"We work with our beneficiaries in Uganda to create fashionable, quality products. They earn an income enabling them to provide for their families. We care for them holistically through counseling, health education, finance training, and business mentorships. After five years in our program, our beneficiaries are ready to graduate. A graduated beneficiary has her own business and is educated, healthy, and confident. She is empowered."

Shop MarketHaiti (in partnership with the Apparent Project, who I've worked with before!):

I have a necklace similar to this that goes with everything!
And it's only $18!!

Shop jewelry and fashion accessories from the Noonday Collection:


"We collaborate with 29 Artisan Businesses in 12 countries to design a collection of handcrafted jewelry and accessories. We develop these Artisan Businesses through fair trade, connecting them to a global market and empowering them to grow sustainably."
If you know of any other businesses that help and empower our sisters around the world, I'd LOVE to hear about them!