crafting a meaningful little project at a time

Thursday, December 12, 2013

3 Ways to Make Facebook Work for YOU This Christmas Season

Here we are, almost halfway through the month of December, a couple weeks into Advent, and so close to Christmas you can almost count the days on two hands…how are you feeling? At peace, at rest, and prepared to celebrate the true reason for the season? Or do you find yourself overwhelmed, overstressed, and overloaded? Do you log onto Facebook each day and find yourself deflated, demoralized, and just asking yourself how everyone in your newsfeed seems to have more than you and do more than you…and you log off feeling bummed out? Don’t do it! I invite you to revisit the way you are using Facebook this Christmas season…or the way it’s using you! Here are three tips to help make Facebook work for YOU this Christmas season!

1.       Clean Up Your Newsfeed


Are certain “friends” blowing up your newsfeed with drama? Do you find yourself obsessing over one person’s constant updates about her great cooking skills, extravagant vacations, and general together-ness? Do you feel depressed, inadequate, and ineffective as a human being after viewing certain people’s status updates? Why are you torturing yourself? For Pete’s sake, just hide their updates from your newsfeed! If you feel like bumming yourself out someday, go ahead and look them up. But save your sanity and get that negativity out of your face. Flip this around. Are there certain Facebook friends who always seem to inspire you, brighten your day, or make you laugh? Be sure to like their posts often; this will make them show up regularly in your newsfeed.


2.       Be the Good You Wish to See on Facebook


You know those people who drive you crazy on Facebook? The ones who post 10 duck-face selfies a day…the ones who vague-book about something mysterious going on, waiting for someone- anyone- to ask what’s wrong…the ones whose posts make them sound absolutely perfect in every way…Don’t be that guy! Take a moment to scroll back down through your own wall posts over the course of the last month, and apply the preschool think-before-you-speak test to your posts. On the whole, do most of your posts meet the following five criteria:


T-      Is it true?

H-     Is it helpful?

I-        Is it inspiring?

N-   Is it necessary?

K-      Is it kind?


Ok, unless you’re really into image crafting and you’re trying to make yourself over into a nicey-nicey fake version of yourself, you’ll find that there are times you just want to vent a little bit and be snarky on your Facebook wall. But this idea still sticks- are you spewing hate and rage all over your wall, or are you looking for a little camaraderie and laughter from some folks with common issues? Give an honest look at what you’re putting out there, and if you don’t like what you see on your own wall, make a change.


3.       Add God to Your Newsfeed


This is the best strategy I can offer to bring you peace and perspective via social media this Christmas season: if you are looking for a way to put God at the center of your life this Christmas, get to Him on Facebook! He doesn’t have His own page, but there are plenty of faith-based pages out there that can point you to Him every time you pop onto Facebook.


Like the following pages:


·         Proverbs 31 Ministries

·         Ann Voskamp

·         KLOVE Radio

·         Good Morning Girls

·         Time-Warp Wife

·         Amanda Lynne Designs
·         Biblical Homemaking
Once you add these to your “Like” list, you’ll find that every few posts in your newsfeed are suddenly sprinkled with scripture, inspiring quotes, printable verses, and POSITIVE Christian messaging. Even if your newsfeed still has the kinds of posts that make you wonder, "What am I doing wrong that I can't be more like THIS guy?" At least those thoughts will be tempered by thoughts of "What can I do to be more like THIS Guy?"  :)

Now click back over to your Facebook page, and get to work: make Facebook work for YOU this Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Treasure Hunt Scripture Advent Calendar

Can kids find more than candy in their advent calendar this year? Is it possible to spend advent turning them away from the world, and steering them toward the Word?
I came across this awesome, creative scripture-based advent calendar DIY on Pinterest, and would love to share it with you, along with a twist to make it even more interactive for the littles in your life!
This idea came from Sweeter Than Sweets in 2011- here is the link

I followed most of her directions to make the calendar itself, but I took it a step further to make it into a daily “treasure hunt” for the kids. Here’s what I did…

I bought a decorate-your-own paper mache advent box from Hobby Lobby with a 50% coupon, which means I paid about $8 for it. I used scrapbook paper from my own stash to cover the box fronts, and printed off the numbers using Microsoft Word.

I downloaded the scripture document she included for free on her site, and cut each verse apart. I made or collected the items she suggested from my own craft supplies, and I hit up Hobby Lobby and Michael’s for some of the more random things I didn't have on hand (tiny plastic babies from the baby shower aisle, for example). I customized this awesome idea a bit to fit more with my kids’ interest level and needs at this point.

Each day I place an envelope at the kids’ places at the breakfast table. One envelope contains the slip of paper with the day’s scripture printed on it- that child is responsible for getting the Bible and helping me look up and read the verses. The other envelope contains a clue to help that child find the object of the day. For example, the scripture the author of Sweeter Than Sweet included for Day 1 was Luke 1:26-28, 31...

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you… You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’”

The object she suggested for use to represent this scripture reference was a craft store pair of angel’s wings. So I took my set of angel wings and taped them behind the kids’ toothbrush holder in their bathroom. The clue I left for my son that day said:

“Joey, God sent an angel to tell Mary she would have a baby…check for a sign where we make our smiles shine…”

So then his job was to go find the object, and both kids placed their stuff in the Day 1 box to look at again later. There are other great ideas for hands-on advent calendar activities that get kids away from the Santa and candy obsession and into the Word…in ways that don’t seem corny or forced. Check Pinterest- my Christmas board has a few I found, but there are tons of ideas out there…I’d love for you to share what you’re doing this season to get your kids’ (and YOUR) eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of the wish lists and elf frenzies!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Make Your Mornings WORK!

The top two options for what to do when Mom’s taking a shower and getting ready for the day?

1.       Watch TV.

2.       Hang out with Mom in the bathroom.

No…and double no thanks!

But at four and five-and-a-half years old, giving my kids the freedom to roam the house and “find something to do while Mommy gets ready” is not a good plan. Huge messes get made, bickering sets in, it either gets really loud or really quiet- either of which is always a sign of trouble- and they just run amok.

Do you have this same trouble in the mornings?

To avoid these undesirable starts to the day, this summer I started setting out Morning Work the night before. I wondered how self-directed they would really be able to be, but they surprised me! After the first two days they caught on to the fact that their Morning Work would be sitting at their breakfast spots next to their cereal in the morning, and they started rushing out to the kitchen first thing to see what was waiting for them! Yes! I’d love to share with you what we’ve done so far…

The first week I printed off some Kindergarten readinessmixed practice pages from A Teeny Tiny Teacher just to see how they would go over. Little Lady raced right through, though she did get some good handwriting practice in. (I have a hard time working with the little lefty as far as penmanship goes.) Even though a lot of the skill practice was not challenging enough for Little Lady, much of it was above Little Man’s head. Since he wants to do everything Big Sis does, he dug in and powered through on his own, which I loved! She was happy to play teacher and explain the directions to him, and helped him give himself a star for his best-looking letters. She was a little hard on him about holding his pencil “the PreK way” (as in not grasped in his fist), but we’re working on that one!

The second week’s morning work brought these little MyPrinting Practice Books from United Art and Education - I think I picked them up for something like $2 apiece. These could have easily been made on the computer, but my ink and time-to-commit to projects was running low, so I splurged! These were a big hit too because each kid got to personalize his or her own book, but they were kind of dry and redundant (in my opinion).

I had to spice things up on Wednesday of that week with these memory practice necklaces I put together! Each necklace includes a set of sight word cards, our home phone number, our address, Mommy’s full name, Daddy’s full name, each child’s birthday, the name of the kids’ school, our family’s favorite memory verse, and the scripture verse theme for the new school year. I printed the sight word cards, which included the blank cards to customize, from Tip Junkie. I shrunk the cards down to half size, laminated and hole-punched them, and strung them on necklaces with beads to show which one belonged to which kid. The kids thought these were AWESOME- we’ve kept one in the car and one in the kitchen to practice, and they think they’re hot stuff when they get the “right” answers!

This week we are trying something new: a combination of self-guided drawing lessons and sight word/printing practice. The littles were asking how to draw this and that all last week, from Lego men to dogs to houses to broccoli, which warms this artist-momma’s soul:  I LOVE working on drawings with them! Little Lady especially gets frustrated with stick people because they don’t look “real.” If I could toss aside what I was working on and do drawing lessons with them on a whim, I would be one happy momma…but I too often find myself putting them off or redirecting them when I’m engaged in other, oh, I don’t know, work! I don’t want to let the passion for drawing fade, though, so I found these simple how-to-draw templates on a site designed to support children with special needs called Do2Learn.
I would recommend this site for any and all children, regardless of where their needs lie: this site is chock-full of any kind of developmental, academic, or skill practice printables and activities I could think of- what an amazing resource!  So I took their how-to-draw examples and kicked them up a notch: I pasted the drawing tutorials into Microsoft Word documents, added a spot for them to write their names at the top, and used a teacher dotted font to write sight word traceable sentences  at the bottom of each page. I made a page for each of the weekdays around the theme of castles, because we have been singing nothing but Kingdom Rock songs from VBS for the last three weeks! We have a castle, princess, prince, dragon, and wizard to work on this week. The first day, the day of drawing the castle, the kids had slept in a bit, so I was able to take a few peeks at their work as I was getting things ready in the kitchen. Loved, loved, LOVED the industrious work and conversation I got to eavesdrop upon! The Little Lady really took off with the page, adding Rapunzel’s tower, a pathway, and other scenery, chatting the whole time about what she was adding and why. Yes! The Little Man worked hard on his castle, tongue poked out through pursed lips, until he came to the windows. He decided he’d rather have circular windows, and once he drew those in, they looked so much like eyes that his picture quickly turned into a Transformer with arms and legs- perfect! I can’t wait to see what the next day’s drawings will look like!

Morning Work has revolutionized our mornings- the kids are not only out of the bathroom while I’m getting ready (yay rah!) and they’re not melting into puddles of ooze in front of the TV first thing after they wake up, but they are excited about finding out what cool new learning activities are waiting for them each morning! My routine has been to troll Pinterest here and there throughout the week to gather ideas, and I spend the last half hour or so before I go to bed on Sundays getting five days-worth of activities printed and set on the breakfast bar, along with any materials they need to do the work. That way everything’s there the night before, ready to set out with the breakfast supplies. The few minutes it takes to gather ideas & supplies and to plan ahead have made our mornings so much more peaceful and productive…just another great way to craft every day!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lego (Learning) Mania!

Operation Rage Against the TV Screen is in full swing around here…and so is Lego Mania! The littles are obsessed with Legos- they have a few sets between the two of them, and they inherited their Daddy’s Lego cases from when he was a little boy, so they have plenty of the little blocks to build with.
Do you have kids who are into Legos at the moment? Or do you have bins full of Legos at home that need new life breathed into them? Here are some of the things we’ve been working on- maybe some will work for you and your little ones this summer!
The first step, after pinning ideas, printing, and laminating of course, was to put together the Big Lego Binder. The bulk of the activities in the binder came from one of the awesome printable learning packs from one of my favorite learning resources, 1+1+1=1 . There are all kinds of printable themed packs available on this site for free for preschoolers and Kinders, and many have related Bible connections and scripture practice too! (The Lego one does not.) The Kindergarten LegoPrintable Pack features sight word practice, patterning, greater than/less than practice, counting with coins, writing, reader booklets, printing practice, matching games, and more. I downloaded the whole pack and just printed the pages I thought would work best for us right now. One of the kids’ favorites from this pack was a memory game that we played as Go Fish- there are so many fun mini-figure cards, from Disco Dude to Indiana Jones to the Mime…finding new “guys” is just as fun as making matches to win the game!

Another activity I adapted and added to the binder is a set of blank mini-figure templates. I found this image on Pinterest as well, and just printed them four-to-a-sheet to make them smaller. The kids have been busy designing their own “Lego people.” When we get these done, I plan to cut them out, laminate them, and glue magnets to the back. The kids have big plans of making a Lego village with scenery on the front of our dishwasher! (I plan to sneak in some sight word practice here too by printing some colored Lego brick shapes, writing in the words we need practice with, and working out a way to make Lego story sentence strips…muah ha ha…)

Another big hit in the binder is the DIY Lego Game from Inspired By Familia. Also a Pinterest find, this game was super easy to assemble- it includes playing cards and a set of directions for the game. I adapted the instructions to simplify the rules a bit, found a free blank game board template online, and colored it instead of setting it up the way this site suggested to save time. I laminated the game board and three-hole-punched it to keep it in the binder. The game works like this: each player picks a mini-figure, which line up on the Start box. The game board is set up for play by making a pile of various Lego pieces, and the pile of playing cards. Play starts with the youngest, progressing to the oldest. The first player draws a card and follows the directions. The cards include directions like, “Take one Lego piece,” “Lose a turn,” or there will just be a color that the player moves to. The goal is two-fold: who will collect the most Lego pieces/build the biggest Lego structure, and who will get to the end of the board game first- so we end up with two winners at the end.

Another fun addition to the binder is a neat spin off of the color-by-number idea, which my kids love. This one is color-by-sight-words, featuring Ninjago characters was called Kindergarten Sight Word Pages from Fun with Learning. It’s pretty self-explanatory: the Ninjago characters are labeled with various sight words, and the kids have to read the sight words- and color words- to decide which part to fill in with which color. I thought this might be beyond my little guy, who is four, but he is so intent on being able to do everything that Big Sister does that he plowed right in and surprised me!

Since Ninjago is the theme of Lego people that my littles are most interested in at the moment, I took some extra time to create a set of Ninjago cards from scratch for a matching game. Totally worth the time! They have had just as much fun playing memory with this set as they have using them as story-starters. They will lay all the cards out, face up, and tell stories about the characters. Sometimes they recreate the story lines from the cartoon, and sometimes they make up their own scenarios. My Little Pony figures have gotten involved at a few points, and I’ve seen them propping the cards up in their rice bins to really set the scenes for their imaginary play episodes as well. I found the pictures on the Brikipedia site- you can find any kind of Lego characters or themes here, or you can brush up on your Lego terminology here too!

’ve kept the Big Lego Binder and a bin of Legos out on the sofa table over the last week so the kids can access it when they want, and we’ve also spent time working on activities from the binder together under my direction. Playing Lego Go Fish has been a popular after-dinner option, and every time they’ve spent time watching a Ninjago episode, they have gone right to the binder afterwards to follow the TV watching with some Lego learning play time. Woo hoo!
I hope some of these Lego learning activities can work for your kids too- they are a cheap, fun alternative to sitting around, staring at a screen all day!  :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Operation Rage Against the TV Screen

Summer vacation is here, and I’ve already seen the writing on the wall:

“Mommy, can we watch a show?”

What this really means is, “Can we watch every episode of Ninjago on On Demand back to back until our mouths are hanging open, drool is coming out, and our eyes are glazed over? Pleeeease?”

Ack- no!

But here’s the bad thing: with working full-time from home and staring down the barrel of an upcoming maternity leave, I get distracted- so this could totally happen!

Ok, ok, I’ll admit it- this DOES happen! I turn on Ninjago with great intentions to limit it to just one episode, thinking that I’ll get busy killing my to-do list while the kids are quiet and entertained. But now that Little Lady knows how to work remotes, I get busy doing paperwork or laundry or whatever and don’t notice that the minutes have turned into hours…because the kids are quiet and entertained…or rather slack-jawed and staring…yikes!

Operation Rage Against the TV Screen isn’t an effort to remove the TV from our lives entirely: every parent has different views on what amount of TV watching is right for their kids. I’m ok with letting my kids watch TV and movies- I’m not ok with falling into the trap of turning on the TV and letting my kids stagnate in front of the screen for hours on end. Even if it means that I can get a lot of work done while they are quiet and entertained.

Operation Rage Against the TV Screen is our battle against complacency, and the commitment to approach each day with an attitude of creativity and engagement, rather than the attitude “how can I keep the kids quiet and entertained today?”

I spent the last week of school or so digging through my teacher closet, pinning things on Pinterest, overworking my printer, and sitting in front of the laminator putting together kits, pulling out materials, making games, and building my arsenal. My budget for summer bridge activities was a measly $20, so most of the materials we used were things around the house or dollar store deals. We spent the first day of summer break (which happened to be pretty cloudy and overcast) at the kitchen table together making games and learning activities.  I tried to keep the activities simple, cut down on unnecessary frills, and focused on skills that the kids were working on at the end of the year along with what they’d be expected to start with in the fall in preK and Kindergarten.  Also, I tried to come up with plenty of independent activities- reality is, I do need time to work at home this summer while the kids are here. Even though TV Babysitter does keep the kids quiet and entertained, I’d rather see them industrious and engaged.

I will continue adding to the reserves and rotating in new activities throughout the summer, but now that the bulk of the hunting, gathering, and assembling is complete…

Operation Rage Against the TV Screen is a GO!

If you’re looking for ways to engage your kids in crafting meaningful summer days, stay tuned for more ideas to come! My goal is to blog a couple times each week about things we’re doing that may be things YOU’D like to be doing too! (But not if it means TV Babysitter has to take over for me to get it blogged! Ha ha!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Maternity Crafting: Totally Worth It!

I had to take a pause yesterday when my daughter asked me why I never make anything for myself.

What? Yes I do! I make things all the time! Why, just last week I was working on a skirt for…oh. Well, before that I sewed up a few bibs for that baby shower…right. But wait- didn’t I just get done working on Baby Boy’s scrapbook?

Hmmm…point taken.

This came up when I was standing in front of the mirror in Little Lady’s bathroom, tugging around at an ill-fitting maternity shirt, wondering out loud why it was so baggy here, so tight there, and why it didn’t seem to fit me the way it had fit the model in the magazine. (Well, there are several answers to that last part, but we won’t go there!)

Little Lady said, “Mommy, let’s get out your fabric and make you a new shirt! Then you can make it however you want! You NEVER make yourself anything at all!”

Why is it that the biggest duh moments, the smartest and most insightful comments, seem to keep coming out of these little mouths while I-the grown-up- just spend my time overcomplicating and overthinking everything?

Why is it that I sew stuff for my kids all the time, but I never make anything for myself?

Am I not worth the time and effort? Hmmm…that’s a thinker…

So I spent late hours last night trolling Pinterest for some clever DIY maternity tutorials. The thing that’s been bugging me most is the shirt situation: I may be getting wider and rounder by the day, but my height is still stuck where it stalled out in sixth grade- 5 foot 3 inches (and that’s on a good day). My torso is super short, so most of the maternity shirts and dresses that fit belly-wise are super long. The ones that aren’t gathered on the side are very tent-like, and “flattering” has become a word that just makes me laugh out loud.

Here are some of the ideas I thought I might try…the dress below is a pic from a tutorial on Do It Yourself Divas, and the rouched shirt before and after pic is from a tutorial on Made.



I spent about $15 between JoAnn Fabric’s Red Tag clearance section and Goodwill’s tank top section yesterday morning, and about ten minutes sorting through my own tank top & t-shirt collection and sewing supplies to find some elastic for rouching.

Now the tricky part: finding time to sit down and tackle these projects! If Little Lady had a class spirit day next week, would I find the time to make her a special skirt? Absolutely. If my son was invited to a birthday party, would I make time to create a gift for his little buddy? Totally.

So why is it that when I look at my to-do list and look at this pile of material and collection of ideas on making my own everyday wardrobe fit correctly, my initial reaction is, “Oh, I’ll work on that when I get all this other stuff finished. If it doesn’t get done, then that’s ok too.”

Hmmm…maybe Little Lady has a point?

Fine. I made the time. And of course, I’m so glad I did!

I tried something along the lines of this dress, though I deviated considerably from the tutorial. I eyeballed everything as far as measurements go- I tried on the tank top, marked just below the bust, and chopped that off. This particular $2 Goodwill find had some interesting layers underneath that I hadn’t noticed when I bought it- this made pinning really fun. But I think the added layer helped make the top sturdier, which kept the weight of the skirt from pulling too much on the bodice. For the skirt, I had picked up a remnant that was just over a yard and a quarter- I just sewed this up the back into a tube, and sewed a casing in the top wide enough to accommodate a yard of 1.5 inch braided elastic. Inserting the elastic here created a fitted, gathered top, which allowed me to bypass the hated task of gathering by hand! Then I just attached the skirt directly to the top (not flipping inside-out the way the original tutorial showed). This gave the dress a finished look without needing ties or bog floppy bows (not quite my style anyways). After hemming the bottom, the dress was done. All in all, it took maybe an hour to pull together. This is terrible news: I think all my tank tops are in danger now!
I also tried out the rouching technique I saw here on some giant t-shirts I recently picked up from Target, and it was super easy! Well, aside from the fact that I had a hard time keeping the elastic steady and stitching in the seam of that wiggly knit. I think that more pinning and more practice would solve that problem, but for a first try- and given the fact that the end result is supposed to be bunchy-I’m happy with the results.

I gave in and decided to hem a couple new dresses while I was on a roll, so now I have three tailored dresses and three “new” rouched t-shirts to lumber around in this week! I may not be able to change the fact that I’m not one of those six foot, slender preggers with a tiny basketball bump under their shirt, but it does feel good to have clothes that fit the way they are supposed to! Sewing for myself may become a habit…

The best part of this whole endeavor, as with most things I do, came about with the kids. The excitement Little Lady shows when she comes out in the morning to find something new I made for her drives me to stay up late, crafting tired for the sake of wide-eyed happy mornings. But who knew that her excitement would be for me too? Perhaps it’s a good thing to show the littles that I can take time to make things for myself sometimes too? Little Lady came out this morning to find me in my new dress and said, beaming,

“Mommy, you did it! You made your dress!  I knew you could do it- I love it!”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Crafting Kind-hearted Kids

Talk about melting a mother’s heart…
Little Man got to pick out a new toy at Target yesterday, as we were exchanging a duplicate birthday gift. His first stop was the One Spot: the Avengers cups and plates had caught his eye. As he reached for the cups, he stopped and said, “But what about Phoebe?” I explained that this was his time to shop for himself- Big Sis was at school, and plus this was his gift money to spend on himself. He dropped his hands to his sides and said, “But Phoebe won’t get a new toy?” I told him that no, this time I wasn’t buying one for her. His brow furrowed, then relaxed, as he smiled and said, “I know! I will buy her a toy myself!” The Avenger cups were forgotten as Little Man proceeded to spend the next five minutes browsing the One Spot for a perfect gift for his sister.
Fast-forward to that evening, after the kids had been put to bed. Little Lady’s having a hard time getting to sleep: rolling around in bed, organizing stuffed animals, fidgeting, and so on. Finally, when it becomes obvious that something’s on her mind and she’s not going to sleep, we bring her out to the living room. Immediately she says, “I have to stay up late because I have to make a thank you for Joey for getting me my La La Loopsey coloring book, Mom!” And off she goes to the craft supplies…
She proceeds to spend her “late night awake time” coloring, cutting, pasting, and arranging a tablescape for Little Brother to wake up to in the morning. (This is a double-heart-melter in itself: on holidays, birthdays, or other special days at our house I do this for the children- I stay up late to make them individual placemats, set out special dishes, lay out treats or scenes, and make a special little presentation for them to find waiting for them at the breakfast table in the morning. To see Little Lady use this loving strategy on her own tells me that they do value this effort, that it has stuck in their minds as something special to do to show one another their love and appreciation.)
The ultimate sign of love and selflessness in this activity is her addition of rocks: you see, these rocks have been taken from her prized rock and mineral collection. She guards this collection unlike any other- and she has quite a few…souvenir spoon collection, clip-on earring collection, treasure collection, you get the idea. For her to allow her brother to touch her rocks and minerals would be a feat in and of itself: for her to arrange them just so and offer to share them- even the coveted “Band-aid rock”- is amazing to me. She explained the rest of this to me: she chose to include the big green bow because green is Brother’s favorite color. The red and blue paper cut out is a fancy cup with water in it for him to drink, since we shouldn’t leave real cups out at night for the cats to drink out of. The little green and brown paper cut out is a palm branch, to remind little brother of Jesus. The drawing on the left has Mommy and herself with a card for him, and a butterfly, because those are just always special. The placemat has bubble letters because they are the fancy way to write someone’s name, and the card has the message inside, “Thank you, Joey, I love you.”
I like to say that my kids love one another fiercely: I picture their relationship like that of a couple lion cubs. They play, cuddle, attack, play, cuddle, attack…they are the best of friends one minute, and bickering like a couple of old women the next. We hear plenty of the, “He’s looking at me,” and “She’s making the scary face at me,” and “But Mommy, he’s breathing funny and it bothers me…” I wonder if I’m speaking a different language, if I’m failing them completely when I try to help them problem solve and be kind, only to find them pummeling one another when I turn my back. I’m working on crafting these little humans to be kind-hearted and caring…it’s always a work in progress… but I keep this in my heart: I know that the first thing they look for in the morning is each other, and the last thing they do at night is find each other’s hugging arms.
To anyone else, this tablescape may look like just a couple hand-drawn papers and a pile of stones. But to this mother, it looks like love…an act of appreciation…a sharing of a selfless heart…and it encourages me to keep spending time modeling these caring behaviors for my kids, to see them leaking out of little hearts and hands when I least expect them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dawn Devotions: Day One

So coming out of a 72 hour Christian “retreat” experience called Trinity Great Banquet, I am all jazzed up, high on faith, and riding the wave of ambition and change. Mob-mentality moved me to action, got me outside my comfort zone, and forced me to look with a critical eye at my own faith life.
I could talk about this experience for days and write a novel about the experience, but at the moment I have stepped out of that haven of cultivated Christian fellowship and study and back into my real world life, and there are- of course- forces pulling from all directions and lots of work to get caught up on…but a small piece of the story is asking to be shared, and a bit of accountability is in order: thus Dawn Devotions had to be hammered out raw and right now. And then sleep.
At the end of the weekend experience, I was asked what I was going to do with what I learned…one of the biggest things laid on my heart this weekend is the uncomfortable fact that my prayer life is…lacking, at best.
I pray all the time. I pray with my kids. I pray for myself, my family, my friends, and people in need. I have a stack of devotionals that I read when I have time- I’m a busy working mom, and I get it in where I can fit it in. Sure, there are some days I skip out when I have deadlines to meet, and I usually flip past the additional scripture references, and sometimes I only get a page into my chapter before I drift off in bed at night, but hey- I have a lot on my plate, I already hardly sleep, and I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all I can do, right?
Priorities. They’re a tricky thing, yes? Tricky how I trick myself into complacency with the “have to” things and the “need to” tasks and the “when I have the time, I will....”
Intentionality and accountability. That’s all it is, friends.
And so, I find myself fighting the overwhelming temptation to turn off that alarm at 6:01 this morning. A whole hour of sleep sounds a whole lot better than sitting at the kitchen table with a book and bleary eyes, but I drag out. I had a bad attitude: I was a grouchy disciple this morning. I was grumbling, hand in head, yawning and cracking the book and telling myself that maybe I was just being too overzealous- I’d tone it down, start small: surely 15 minutes in the Word and 45 back in the Bed would be a good start to this new idea. I’d go to bed earlier tonight, try harder tomorrow.
And then I glanced at the next page and saw this random verse in Ephesians 5 jump out at me:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Hmm…was I just yawning? Ok, ok, I hear You…
So this is it: Dawn Devotions, Day One. I’m listening.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February Play & Learning Materials

Hello, blog! How I’ve missed you! That new job and grad work really tried to drive a wedge between us, but I’m back, baby, and I love you still!
Speaking of love
February is here, my dear: the perfect time of year to celebrate God’s GREAT BIG LOVE with the littles in your life while playing and learning together! Let’s talk about some ideas for celebrating God’s love for us and our love for one another as we learn and play together this month.
Below I listed the materials we’ve gathered for our February learning and play activities, which fall into five categories: Sensory Play, Learning Games, Crafting for a Cause, Love Scripture Advent Bags, and Love Books.
Sensory Play: For sensory play this month so far, I’ve noticed my almost-four-year-old Little Man choosing the rice, pasta, scoops, pom poms, and pipe cleaners every time. He uses the pipe cleaners and pom poms to make Truffala Trees (inspired by Seuss’s Lorax, of course), and lines the pasta up to make seats and roads. His sharks usually make an appearance here (because he “wuvs them!”) and he creates ocean floor scenes, scooping out valleys, sprinkling down rice-rain on the scenes, and having fun. My five-year-old Little Lady has been bringing her tea set and kitchen ware into the sensory zone: she’s been using the scoops and measuring spoons to carefully divide the rice amongst her tea party guests, adding the colored pasta and items to make “Valentine’s soup,” and narrating the whole way. I have a little idea of taking pictures of their process at the sensory table this month and making them into a board book based on their narrations…we’ll see…  J
Learning Games: Breaking into my armoire of teaching supplies, I pulled out all of my math manipulatives that were red, pink, or white, along with anything else that fit the color scheme or had anything to do with love! The real joy here was printing off the free Valentine’s Day Printable Packs from Homeschool Creations (link below), cutting out the pieces, using my NEW home laminator to laminate, stuffing the tracing pages into page protectors, and assembling the games in a cute binder- yay!
Crafting for a Cause: We make crafts all the time, but I’ve tried to be more intentional about focusing our crafting gifts on helping others through service projects each month. This month we are making Valentine’s cards to donate to a local retirement home & care facility. We will do some of these on our own, and we will have a card-making party with our little friends to do a bunch assembly-line style. We are also collecting coins to support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, which our church is focusing on this month as well. The kids will write a letter to their grandparents and family members asking for a donation of coins- the goal here is to stay small so the kids can get a sense of how many pennies make a dollar, what one dollar can do for malaria victims, what ten dollars can do, etc. (More info. below!)
Love Scripture Advent Bags: I found these great scripture cards offered FREE from Happy Home Fairy (link below); there are 14 cards, each with a different love verse from the Bible (NIV). She listed several ideas for their use on her blog. I chose to put together 14 numbered treat bags, each containing one of the scripture cards and a treat for each of the littles. Each morning they get to open a bag, read the scripture verse with me, and hang it on their bathroom mirror…and enjoy the treat, of course! We are displaying all the love verses on the mirror, and every time we’re in the bathroom (potty, brushing teeth, washing hands, taking baths, etc.) we pick one to read. We are also focusing on memorizing John 3:16 this month, which was our card for Day 1, so we are posted that one in the car to practice there too!
Love Books: I went through the kids’ room libraries and pulled any books related to love…and what do you know, the Bible was the first one in the basket!  J  We keep the themed book basket in the play area or on the sofa table: since this is the only book basket in the greater part of the house (the rest are in the kids’ rooms), these books provide our go-to reading material throughout the day. Snuggling and reading is wonderful, of course, but even greater are the conversations that come out while we read. Guiding the reading experience to be seen through the lens of teaching God’s love for us and for one another helps keep the focus where I want it, and leads to more life-applicable lessons, in my opinion!
Sensory Play
·         Red & pink colored rice
·         Red & pink colored wagon wheel pasta
·         Fuzzies- pom poms, pipe cleaners
·         Things that are pink and red- dollar store trinkets, beads, Toob animals that are pink or red
·         Heart shapes- felt & plush heart shapes, sparkly heart ornaments
Learning Games
·         Snap cubes- sorting, patterns, building, adding/subtracting
·         Color tiles- building, adding/subtracting
·         Lacing cards- fine motor skills
·         People & pawns- sorting, patterns, adding/subtracting, storytelling
·         Building words- letter recognition, sight words, scripture verses
·         Red bears- counting, sorting, storytelling, adding/subtracting
·         Conversation hearts- sorting, counting, graphing, letter recognition, eating…  J
·         Printable Packs- Preschool and Kindergarten Printable Packs from Homeschool Creations (link below), include 20+ pages each of age-appropriate themed learning activities and associated scripture verse; tracing, letters, sight words, counting, matching, sorting, patterns, adding/subtracting, etc. Here is the link to all of their FREE printable packs:
Crafting for a Cause
·         Valentine Cards for grandmas and grandpas at a local retirement home/care facility- Cardstock, felt, stickers, rhinestones, glitter glue, glitter, ribbon, patterned scissors, doilies, etc.
·         Lutheran Malaria Initiative- paper maché boxes for kids to decorate with above supplies; they will use these to collect coins to donate to the LMI work in sub-Saharan Africa throughout the month, then sort and graph their coins, then decide what their coins can purchase ($1 can help a child with malaria receive medicine, $10 can provide one family with a treated mosquito net, $50 can pay for malaria prevention messages on African radio, etc. Learn more at
Love Scripture Advent Bags
·         Numbered treat bag for each of the first 14 days of February
·         Treats & trinkets for each child to put in each bag (candy, mini board books, small toys, etc.)
·         Daily scripture cards, each featuring a bible verse based on love- printed FREE from the super awesome Happy Home Fairy blog at
Love Books
·         The Holy Bible  J
·         When You Were Just a Heartbeat by Laurel Molk
·         The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
·         National Geographic Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Valentine’s Day by Carolyn Otto
·         The Five Senses of Love by Janet Parsons
·         Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
·         Strawberry Shortcake Be My Valentine by Megan E. Bryant
·         The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors by Jan & Mike Berenstain
·         The Berenstain Bears God Love You! by Jan & Mike Berenstain
·         I Love You Because You’re You by Liza Baker
·         Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben
·         How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
·         Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
·         The Story of Valentine’s Day by Nancy Skarmeas
·         Journey through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek
·         Hope through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek
·         Loving through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek
·         Celebrate through Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek  ***Note- if you are not familiar with Mattie J.T. Stepanek, get familiar- he started writing poetry of peace and God’s love when he was three years old, suffered and succumbed to complications from Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy when he was a preteen…AMAZING story of a young person choosing JOY and impacting the world with his FAITH:
Sending my love your way as you craft meaningful ways to celebrate LOVE with your littles this month!