Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Cards...

Kudos to Amiee Bragg!!!  A few days ago your Christmas card was the first to arrive.  Your picture was fun and your card had a beautiful Christian message.  Thanks for leading the Christmas card pack in style!

I can't wait for our mantel will go from this...

to this!

I've seen some creative Christmas card holder ideas lately.  I hang curtain clips from this fruit garland that was my Me-Me's.  I love how I can easily look at all of them when we are watching TV. 

Every year these sweet family pics bring me so much JOY.  I keep every single one.  I just put them in a big ziploc with the year sharpied (can that be a verb?) on them and they go in a box with the Christmas stuff.  It is so fun to pull out the bags and see how everyone has changed!

How do you display your Christmas cards?

Christmas Movies...

What Christmas movie stands out from your childhood?  JB's is A Christmas Story.  Mine was Ernest Saves brother and I must have watched it 1,000 times!  We still know EVERY line!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Calendar II...

Brantley just emailed me about a free Live Nativity in Gilbert.  Love it!  Don't you just love it when friends know you so well that they know exactly what you would want to add to your calendar?!  Thanks Brantley!

One thing I meant to mention in my first post is that in addition to the "giving" aspect of December, we are also deliberately going to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

(Stolen from Polar Express)  For example, tonight when we put up our tree we are going to talk about how the tree is a beautiful symbol of Christmas, but the true spirit of Christmas (Jesus) lives in our hearts.

I have also devoted a whole night to putting out the manger scenes...on their own...after everything else is up...the best for last...the stars of our Christmas decorating show! :)

What are some things that you would put on your Family Christmas Calendar...I'd love to hear your ideas!

Christmas Calendar...It's not too late!

My kids are finally old enough this year to really "get" a countdown calendar and get excited about Christmas approaching.

Justin and I discussed it and decided that for us, adding an item each day will work best (I don't want to put that we will look at lights on the 15 if it is raining that day!  OR  What if we've had a long day?...add "drink hot chocolate together" and you've got an event!)...each evening when Justin gets home we will open the calendar and see what we are doing that night as a family (sometime during the day JB and I will have discussed it and I will have added that night's activity to the calendar). 

I made the calendar from items in my craft room, so it was free.  Most of the items that will go on there are things we will be doing anyway, but like I've mentioned before...Kids LOVE anything that has a special name and that you have dolled up to be extra special!

I think it will be fun to keep the calendar from each year and it will make our December "deliberate".  One of our goals is to really emphasize "Choose to Love" each night and include items of "giving" like:

Invite a neighbor over to watch Elf.
Make cookies for your teachers.

Go shopping and buy a gift for someone else.
Help wrap gifts for others.

Again, things we are doing anyway, but by emphasizing, we can really make December extra special!

Also, after we watched the Curious George Christmas episode I made these up for their doors.  Like Curious George, each morning they can circle the day they are on, and mark off the day before to see how many days till Christmas.  It will cut down on the "How many days?!" questions and they can practice their counting!


Well, I made it to Day 16.  It's not that I couldn't think of eight more things that I'm thankful for, I just got busy...or lazy...whichever.  Growing up when we used to do things half-way my dad would say..."I'll give you a 50 on that."  I guess I'll give myself a 66%.  :)  Or if this list counts I'll give mysef a 100! :)

1.  Glasses/Contacts.  I'm severely nearsighted and without you I wouldn't be able to function.  Plus, I would be a creepy old lady before my time asking kids to come closer...holding their chubby faces in my I could look at them.

2.  My Car.  We do a little car dance every time I roll over a "mileage milestone".  Not too long ago I hit 150k.  Woohoo!  Three-fourths of the way to my "goal mileage" and you are still reliable!  I'm also grateful for no car payment...another reason we dance!

3.  My son.  I had an earlier post about being grateful for my daughter.  Can't forget about you!  I am grateful of the mother-son bond that we have.  There is nothing more sweet.  When you were a baby and we rocked and sang "Wagon Wheel" I thought about how that would be a sweet song for us to dance to at your wedding.  Is that weird?  It was that moment when I started praying for your future wife.  I hope we will be great friends.  I am also grateful for the father-son bond you fill for JB.  You mimick EVERY move of his and I know that makes him so proud.  It also makes him VERY aware of the example that he sets for you.

4.  My husband.  Where do I start?!  You are amazing.  You make me laugh till I pee.  This past Father's Day the kids and I put together a picture book about you and them.  Wow, it was incredible to see all of the fun they have with you (and me!  Who was taking the picture? :) ).  They are SO blessed.  Our parenting styles are very similar and we are a United Front...This means the world to me.  You pick at me about all of my crazy "family time", but deep down I know you love it...and sometimes you even thank me for it.  This summer when I was filling in some frames in our room I asked you if it should be just us or the kids...You said "Just us.  We see them all day...I don't want them all over the walls of our bedroom too."  I laughed and laughed over this and I loved this comment because, in a way, it was telling me that I'm still your number one.  Which is great for us...and them!

5.  My job.  I complain about you some.  Sorry about that, but work is WORK!  All in all I am very grateful for you.  I'm glad I have a job and I'm glad it is one that gives me flexibility.

6.  Jay's school.  Public schools get a bad wrap.  I'm thrilled that Jay was able to start at a school that is really trying to make a difference in children.  Each week I'm thrilled about the GOOD you are really trying to instill in my child...while having fun!  I have been so pleased at how the children are setting reading goals so they can really "own" their reading.  The "thankful" worksheets that poured in at Thanksgiving were wonderful and really focused on their blessings!  This week in the newsletter it mentioned that school-wide the children are learning the 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey.  You know me and a self-help book...I love this!  Last week there was a school-wide Macarena where the song was played over the loud speaker as the kids danced in the halls.  How fun is that?  You are awesome!
7.  Betsy's school.  She has been home a good bit with me lately due to you not opening on time.  It has made me realize what a challenge it is to get my work done when she is here.  It is not fair to me or her.  It has given me a whole new appreciation for you.  I'm grateful that she has a safe, loving place to go to in the mornings and Betsy and I hope you open SOON!

8.  Family.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family.  I'm grateful for each one of you.  We have a REALLY great time together and I'm SO blessed to have each of you in my life.

Lastly, I'm grateful for "365 Grateful".  This was so fun and really made my November special this year.  In my daily quiet prayer time I'm adding you...Just a quick sentence of what I'm grateful for makes me happy and helps me remember to thank God for my many blessings!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Grateful, Day 16.

11/16/2011  I'm grateful for "silly-business". 

Some evenings at bedtime it is all "business" around here.  But there are those unplanned "silly-business" nights that creep into our lives and we LOVE them.  You probably know what I mean...It is the "witching-hour"...7-8ish...and all of the sudden:

One tickle gets the whole family in a wrestling match...
A pile of clean socks that have not been put away starts a "sock war" on either side of our bed...
A ball gets thrown once and then before we know it, we've been playing Keep-Away for an hour...
A pillow is thrown up again and again for "outfielder practice"...
Started by a quick check to see if someone's pajamas glow in the dark the flashlights come out and we are piled in one bed talking in the dark about all kinds of things...
One little girl hides under the bed and a hide-and-seek match starts...
One flip they learned in gymnastics turns into JB doing handstands by the wall and cartwheels in our room (He can do an amazing cartwheel, BTW)...
I am showing JB one You Tube video and we all get sucked into a You Tube marathon...
A laundry basket turns into a "car" or "train" and JB sees how far he can slide the kids across the kitchen...
We notice that Jay's whole outfit is "slick" and JB starts sliding him around the living room to see how far he'll go...
Someone turns on the music on our clock radio and an all out dance party begins!...
We realize that Checkers slide really well across the coffee table and a "mini-airhockey match" begins!...

Well, this week Jay was showing us that he was learning the Macarena in PE and so I pulled it up on You Tube so we could all teach Betsy...which turned also pulling up the Cha Cha Slide, YMCA, Peanut Butter Jelly Time and a few other classics.  We danced HARD and laughed HARDER and it felt SO GOOD.  I'm reminded again and again that the best things in life are free...and "silly business" is one of them!

Grateful, Day 15.

2009 Tailgate

11/15/2011  It is about this time every year that I get "snippy" about my Saturdays being encroached upon by football games.  Since a love of sports is a big part of JB (and Jay!), I have decided that I need to have a better attitude!

I am grateful for tailgates with family and friends.  I am grateful that we live so close to our Alma Mater so that we can be a part of the excitement of Game Day!  We are blessed to be able to include season tickets into our budget.  I am grateful for my in-laws who come into town to watch the kids so JB and I can enjoy a kids-free tailgate once in a while.  I'm grateful that my dad and uncle have season tickets so I can see them extra during the fall!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grateful, Day 14.

One of my favs!  -Photo taken by JB's sister.

11/14/2011  I am grateful for digital cameras.  The other night I was organizing my digital pictures and got sucked into hours of sweet videos and old pictures.  I'm so grateful I have them...especially since my memory is already failing me!

Grateful, Day 13.

11/13/2011  I am grateful for traditions.  I LOVE traditions...three times and it's a tradition!  This year is our third year of making the same Thanksgiving loop.  We spend Thanksgiving Day with JB's family and then head to my brother's house on Friday (watching The Polar Express in the truck on the way to kick off the Christmas season!) to spend time with my family.  I am REALLY looking forward to it!  I'm also VERY grateful that we live close enough to both of our families to do this with ease!

Grateful, Day 12.

11/12/2011  I am grateful for my faith.  I'm grateful that my husband and I both grew up in Christian families.  We are blessed every week by our church family.  I'm grateful for our humble pastor and our fabulous Wednesday Night Programs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Grateful, Day 11.

11/11/2011  I am grateful for my house.  No, it is not exactly what I would have pictured for a "forever house", but I am very grateful for it.  I live in a safe neighborhood that is zoned for fabulous schools.  I have neighbors that I can trust.  We have plenty of room, inside and out.

Although I am grateful for my house, I find that it is one area that I struggle for contentment the most...Possibly because I love browsing house magazines/blogs so much!

My grandfather grew up in a New England cottage that was +/- 1,300 sf with 3 other siblings.
My mother grew up in a brick ranch house that was +/- 2,200 sf with 4 other siblings.
I grew up in a +/- 2,600 sf house with one sibling.
My two kids are growing up in a +/- 2,400 sf house.

Although family sizes are dropping, homes are getting bigger.  One thing I have realized now that my grandparents have passed and my parents will soon be putting their house up for sale...It is not the house that you remember when loved ones are gone.  It is the people and the memories of times with them in that house. 

My great grandparent's New England cottage would not be in a magazine.  It never had been "remodeled" didn't have a "workable" kitchen.  The wallpapers were floral and the bedrooms were small...the bathrooms were VERY small and you had to watch your hot water usage.  It didn't have central HVAC.  But it FELT perfect.  Memories were made there...we would lay awake talking at night...easy to do since my brother and I were on cots in the dining room and someone was always on the living room pull out.  We would laugh about the "East Wind" that my Great Aunt always spoke of that never seemed to show up on hot summer nights when we came to visit.  Hot tea on the porch...lots of laughs...great family  The house without them in it is just a house.

My grandparent's brick ranch would also have not been in a magazine.  It had not been recently "remodeled".  The kitchen was small.  There was no rhyme or reason to the way the pictures were hung throughout the house.  The everyday dishes were a simple Corelle and the silverware in the drawer didn't match.  At the holidays there were always several people that would have to sleep on the couch.  Again, there were hot water issues when you ran the dishwasher if someone was in the shower.  But it FELT perfect.  Kids, grandkids, great grandkids would pack people in the living room for Trivial Pursuit and we would just make room.  There was great food...and there were always at least three women in the kitchen cooking together.  There were little Snicker bars on the coffee table and Oreos in the pantry.  The dishwasher/shower issue was a running joke.  The conversations were generally sports, current events and politics and they were exciting!  The pool table downstairs was always in use by one of the boys.  We would stay up late with a really good old movie.  I would spend hours playing "make-up" at my grandmother's vanity.  I learned how to play croquet in the yard and we would climb the large crepe myrtle trees.  I was enamored with the "crushed ice" in their fridge.  Their bathroom was always stocked with a big jug of bubble bath.  There were always fresh flowers from their yard and rose garden in the living room.  My grandfather's grandmother's love of fashion!  Oh, the way they would light up when we would come to visit!  The house without them in it is just a house.

So I ask myself...would I trade a perfectly good house for a bigger and better one...straining us financially and possibly limiting our family time and creating stress, or can I Choose to Love my house and make memories right here?

I know I don't need more house to be happy, so I pray for contentment.  After all, my "forever house" is not in a magazine.  It is in Heaven.  I am grateful for that too.

Grateful, Day 10.

11/10/2010  I remember this song from when I was little..."Make new friends, but keep the old ones...the new are silver and the old are gold."  When I think of this song now I realize that the longer you keep friends the more "golden" ones there are.  I am grateful for friends.

Old friends, New friends, High-school friends, College friends, Neighbor friends, Young friends, Older friends, Friends that I've met through my husband, Friends that I've met through other friends, Friends that I've met through work, Church friends, Tennis friends, Family friends, Blog friends...I'm even grateful for the friends that I haven't met yet!

"Good friends are like stars.  You don't always see them, but you know they're always there."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grateful, Day 9.

11/10/2011  I am grateful for our armed forces.  They are not just nameless soldiers.  They are someone's mother...father...son...daughter...wife...husband.  Selflessly serving our country so that we can live in peace.  I am grateful for peace.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grateful, Day 8.

11/08/2011  I am grateful for a healthy family.  If you read blogs, you know the power of words.  You know that you can get emotional over a sentence, or the story of a stranger. 

-About a year ago I sobbed for a week as a read the blog of a family in Chapin that, on an ordinary weekday...headed to pick blueberries, lost both children (the same ages as mine) in a car wreck.  I sobbed as their father blogged about how he used to get frustrated when they would be jibber jabbering in the back seat and he shared that he would give anything just to hear their little voices in the back seat again.  I was inspired by his great faith.  His story will never leave me.  It still pops in my head when I get frustrated on a car ride and it brings me back to what's really important.  I pray for them every June.

-I had a lump in my throat last Christmas when Edie's house (Life in Grace) burned to the ground and I thought about how horrific it would be if we lost all of our earthly things.  I rejoiced with her as she thanked God that her beautiful family was all safe, not even a single hair singed.  I've followed her on her journey of rebuilding and witnessed her enormous faith.

-I mentioned Ashley at Lil Blue Boo a few posts ago.  Yesterday she wrote:

And then the dreaded butt shot…..they can’t fit it all in one syringe… I have to get two (one in each cheek). All I repeat to myself is: at least it’s not Boo, at least it’s not Boo. They can do anything they want to me as long as it’s not Boo that has to go through it….I’m so super thankful it’s me. Thank you God for choosing me.

Ashley is going through chemo...a little piece of hell on Earth...and she gives another example of her great faith in thanking God for choosing her to go through this and not her daughter.  Can you imagine?! 

I'm grateful to read stories of others that make me not take my own health, and the health of my family, for granted.

I'm grateful for a good cry. 

Grateful, Day 7.

Everyday Math Computer Game
11/07/2011  I am grateful for afternoons with my children.  Since this part-time schedule is new for me, it is something I don't take for granted.  I am confident that this was the right choice for us.

"America's love affair with materialism has taken its toll on things that matter most...It is the absence of parents, who have nothing left to give...If only Mom and Dad had been there when the passions peaked.  So many of the difficulties that confront our kids come down to that single characteristic of today's families:  There is nobody home...It is my conviction that those who choose to bring a child into the world must give that boy or girl the highest priority for a period of time.  In a very short time, they will be grown up and on their own...I believe the two-career family during the child rearing years creates a level of stress that is tearing people apart.  And it often deprives children of something they will search for for the rest of their lives.  We can only hope that a significant segment of the population will awaken someday from the nightmare of overcommitment and say, 'This is a crazy way to live.  There has to be a better way than this to raise our kids.  We will make the financial sacrifices necessary to slow the pace of living.'"  -Dr. James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grateful, Day 6.

My first lipstick.  I have this photo on my make-up vanity.
It is me with my Me-Me, Mom and Grammie.

11/06/2011  Today is All Saints Sunday.  I am grateful for the family that has gone before me that makes me who I am.  My Me-Me had four children, her second was my dad.  My Grammie had five children, her fourth was my mom.  I'm grateful for all the hard work and patience that my grandparents went through to make my parents the wonderful people they are today.  Although my grandparents are not around to see me raise my children, and there are a billion questions that I would LOVE to ask them, I know they watch over me and guide me.

"Every mother is like Moses.  She does not enter the promised land.  She prepares a world she will not see."  Pope Paul VI

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grateful, Day 5.

11/05/2011  I'm grateful for Saturdays at home.  I'm grateful for Paintastics that are all the fun of painting...without the mess!  I'm grateful that I've started to realize that young children (and their parents) get more fulfillment painting together, than going to an art museum...throwing the ball together, than playing in an organized sports game...reading books together, than going to an event at the library...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grateful, Day 4.

11/04/2011  I am grateful for blustery autumn days with brightly colored leaves swirling all around me.  I am grateful to live in a region that experiences all four seasons.  Each year, as the seasons change, I am grateful for the unique gifts and excitement that each brings.  I'm grateful for yearly examples that our world is constantly changing around us, and change can be refreshing and beautiful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grateful, Day 3.

11/03/2011  I am grateful for my mother.  I'm grateful that she shares her garden knowledge with me and she brings me cuttings of her favorite plants for me to enjoy.  I'm grateful for my Grandpa, who set the example by doing the same for my mother.  I'm grateful that my trumpet flower bloomed late, for with everything else dying back around her she is that much more stunning.  I'm grateful for the beauty of nature, God's free gift to us.

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars."  ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Grateful, Day 2.

11/02/2011  As I wait in anxious anticipation for the ultrasound results of a dear friend who has two boys, I am reminded that to have a little girl is a blessing and a gift that some parents may not get to experience.  I am grateful for my daughter.

Grateful, Day 1.

11/01/2011  Tonight I am grateful for a quiet and uninterrupted Family Night.  I'm grateful for the anticipation in my children's eyes as I read a book they haven't heard since last November.  I'm grateful for the smile on my husband's face when I read in "country voice" for Farmer Goff.  I'm grateful for my hometown neighbor, Mrs. Goff, who gave me the book...because it was one of her favorites!

grate·ful Adjective: Feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.

Inspired by Heidi, who was inspired by 365 Grateful...For the month of November I'm focusing on what I'm grateful for.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Train a Child....

I have read that children between the ages of three and eight begin to acquire the sense of self they will come to know as their own being AND those that acquire sense of self later in the teenage years will suffer from emotional distress because of it.  Wow!  Doesn't that sentence make our jobs as parents of young children sound important!  It IS important!

We've really been working on filling up this "sense of self"...connecting "self" with Choosing to Love God and Choosing to Love Others.

This video makes me smile!  I know it makes God smile too!

Friday, October 14, 2011


I see Betsy playing with her babies...Something she's been doing a LOT lately...

Me:  "Are you changing your baby's diaper?"
Betsy:  "No, I'm getting ready to ask her fake dad to change it for her."

Prayer Request...

Isn't it funny through blogging how we can read about and really get to know people through their words...even though we haven't met them...

I know some people who follow hundreds of blogs...but I only follow a few...and of the few I read...each week I'm inspired in some way.  Whether it is inspiration to be a better mother, a better friend, a better Christian...

This morning as I read Ashley's blog I was so impressed with her faith that I wanted to pass it along.  Over the past few months she has written some beautiful posts on faith as she has gone through trials...losing her father suddenly, having a miscarriage and now a molar pregancy.  She has a beautiful attitude and her comment about "God would just know I'm faking it" says so much about her relationship with God and I feel sure her faith and friendship with God will one day lead her through the narrow door (Luke 13: 22-30).

Please add Ashley to your daily prayer list.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a sad day in the Brown household...

I'm sorry but I'm going to have to vent here for a moment.  Flipper has been pulled from TV,  apparently it was too wholesome (morals, conservation, family values, love of animals, great displays of a healthy sibling relationship and a father that makes sure his boys do chores before play and "do the right thing"...etc.).  Actually, the whole "American Life Network", a Christian-owned network that offered conservative family-oriented programming (launched on May 1, 1985), has been pulled...the channel will be rebranded as "You-too" and the only "retro" shows on their schedule will be Batman, The Green Hornet, and The X-Files.  Grrr!

I can't put into words how angry I am.  I guess it's just not as popular as "Almost Naked Animals" or some brain-trash like that.

Justin looked last night to find something to replace Flipper and, with our umteen channels, Leave it to Beaver and the Addams Family, two of his favorites, were sadly no where to be found either.

As with toys, I think some of the best shows were ones from the 1950s and 1960s.  They show a world where television shows set an example for how people should live.  I'm sure things weren't perfect in "real life" like they showed in the TV shows...but when you chose to watch something, it was a positive experience and you got something out of it.  Those shows were using TV as an instrument to entertain, but to also IMPROVE our American culture, not destroy it.

One thing I love to look for in the Bible are versus that were written so many years ago that still apply today...When TV and internet didn't exist I know words were written to guide us.  In Matthew 17 Jesus talks about temptations to sin.  When I think about today's programming and that I have a CHOICE in what my children watch (and what I watch for that matter!)I think of these verses.

"If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.  How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith!  Such things will always happen---but how terrible for the one who causes them!...If your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out and throw it away!"

There are many TV shows out there that set bad examples and make you "lose your faith", ie desensitize your mind and "grey" the area between black and white.  These verses make me understand that I have to be careful with my own shows!...and REALLY careful with my childrens'!  Especially, when the "TV world" isn't in the business of helping us parents out!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Attention Addiction Part One: Where I went wrong.

Hello.  We are Jay and Betsy...and we are addicted to attention.
Since I started this motherhood journey I have really tried my best to do it "right".  I obsessively read parenting books and soak up as much as I can so when an issue comes up I can be ready for it.  For the most part I thought I was doing all the "right" things when it came to helping my kids grow, learn, develop and become independent.

I recently discovered that when I started working part-time this summer, without even realizing it, I slipped into a known "no-no".  I have been child-focused in the afternoons.  I hurry and make sure all my "work", both house work and work-work, is finished before they come home from school so our afternoons together are uninterruped...which in the moment seemed "right".

If my children were babies...or even toddlers...this would be okay.  However, since they are not babies or toddlers...the timing was off on my new-found time.  They are at the age where they should be needing me less, not more.

The trouble is, with the flexibility of my new schedule and my internal feelings about having a Kindergartener, I have been setting up an environment where they need me more...In turn, making us all selfish.  In the afternoons we have been reading together, doing workbooks together, going on walks together, talking about our day together, baking together, singing and dancing together...

While all of these things seem wonderful, it is hours each day together...Yes, too much love and attention (in an older child) can be counterproductive.  They need play our own house and own yard...with me nearby...but not involved.  I need to show them I love them by being near and available when needed, but not child-centered.  They need time to discover things.  Time to be imaginative, create, build, dance, sing without a cheering section (me!).  They need to see me doing things for others...or for myself...and not them.

In the words of Nanny McPhee, "When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but do not need me, then I have to go."

I need to teach them that they are loved...deeply, by me and God...without them thinking that constant attention=love.  I want them to see that there are many ways to give and receive love...and being self-centered is not the way to fill that void.

Up next:  Attention Addiction Part Two:  How I came to this revelation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hello. My name is Sally...

and my children are addicted to attention.

More soon on 1) where I went wrong...2) how I came to this revelation and 3) what I'm doing about it!

Any child can be taught to be beautifully behaved with no effort greater than quiet patience and perseverance, whereas to break bad habits once they are acquired is a Herculean task.
-Emily Post

Thursday, September 15, 2011


My kids had a case of (what the Berenstain Bears call) the "green-eyed gimmies".  After months of me deliberately changing our focus...really focusing on family rather than STUFF, including family-only birthdays, this week we had two breakthroughs!!!

1) On Friday when GDad came through town it took a full hour (believe me, that's saying something!) before they asked if he had brought them anything...and when he hadn't there was no fussing!

2)  On Saturday after Bet spilled yet another drink...and JB groaned in aggravation...I had an idea to have a "Family Drink Contest".  (As I've mentioned LOVE to get involved with anything that has props and fancy names!) 

I suggested teams (Jay & JB, Bet & me) and whichever team went without spilling a drink for 7 days (not consecutive) would win.  We drew up goal charts and the aggravation of drink-spilling has turned into a fun game...It was REALLY fun on Sunday when JB spilled at lunch!!! :)

Anyway...I I announced the game I said, "What should the winner get to do?!"  Betsy exclaims, "I know!  Go on a flashlight walk together!"  I couldn't believe it!  AND she said it with the same excitement of "get a toy"...or..."get candy".  LOVE a breakthrough!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Finished The Entitlement Trap yesterday.  In my opinion it is a MUST buy, MUST read.  It is a fabulous combination of their past books and also pulls from some areas of their website (, which I get so many great ideas (repenting bench, consequence game, role-playing dialogue, setting goals with small children, monthly values, animal examples...) from.

Some highlights from Chapter One:

"We seem to be working for our kids' approval, rather than their working for ours.  And as our lives get busier and busier, with both parents working, and as the disconnect grows between what we say our priorities are and where we actually spend our thought and energy, we parents give our kids things instead of time, spoiling them as we add fuel to the entitlement flame.  We give them too much and demand too little of them."

"Two prime elements of JOY are appreciation and work."

"It's about what our kids need more than what they want or what we would love to give them."

"Can our homes become a stronger culture than the peer, the media, the societal or the school cultures that flood over them?"

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Package?!

Isn't it fun to get mail?!  This is the newest book out by the Eyres.  I pre-ordered and it just came in the mail today.  My highlighter and I will be busy tonight!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This moment.

You know those moments when you look over at your child and for no particular reason feel a strong link to God and you are in awe of what a beautiful work of art He has made?

Rarely do I have my camera with me when these moments come up.  Usually it is a giggle, a smile, a far away stare, a questioning glance...they pass so fast my memory has to hold on tight to remember them just a few seconds longer.

I caught one yesterday.  It was an "in the moment" pic.  No smile.  No pose.  No "make you laugh" phrases.  No bow.  No special outfit.

I want to look back on this one and remember those beautiful little features and how by the end of the day her hair would be so wild that pieces would creep over into her eyes and the back of her little hand would push them away as she would be in the middle of a "jibber-jabber" story...remember that from birth her lips were absolutely beautiful...her eyes always filled with questions...remember her little yellow school shirts...and how she was my one that would always sit extra close...remember how she loved to whisper...and when she did her little breath tickled...remember everyday moments like this one.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
- Mary Jean Iron

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crafting a Child...

Something caught my eye last week.  Up on Betsy's shelf are Child-craft books that I kept from my Me-Me's house.  I had forgotten about them...for some reason I thought they were more of an encyclopedia type book that the kids would like as they got older. 

They are not kids books. They are PARENTING resources...and they are GOOD.

I love how I am learning about "family" through books that my Me-Me read when my dad was little and I love how when I turn each page I smell her house.

Currently I'm hooked on Volume 14: Your Child Goes To School and Volume 12: You and Your Family.  The copyright is 1954.  What amazes me is how SIMILAR advice in these books is to "common sense" advice given today.  The books really walk through understanding your child...and teaching your child.

I've been highlighting as I go and I can't wait to continue to share some of the fabulous things I find!

"It is satisfying to see a youngster take his place in the family, especially if there are other children.  You wonder how the same parents could have offspring so different in every way.  Each is unique in apperance, temperament, personality and outlook.  You prize each one of them just because he is yours.  You take each one as he is, enjoying him for his own self.

In the whole of childhood, each day seems so long in the living, and so short when you try to recall it.  You do not want to feel, too late, that you have not savored to the full each phase of your child's development.  Your feeling is not 'I hate to see this child grow up,' but 'I know that each step on the way up is too precious to lose.'

You cannot afford to miss some of the pleasures that come at the most unexpected moments.  A little boy snuggles down under the covers, after saying goodnight, then jumps up again to give you one last hug. 'I'm the best hugger in the business,' he says, 'and all my hugs have Mommy and Daddy written on them.'"

Child-craft, c. 1954, Volume 12: You and Your Family

I taught the kids how to use my tape player this week...They are loving listening to music and books on tape!
I love how the books tell me "You are not alone."...Kids have to be taught to be friendly and...It. Takes. Time. (and patience!)

That sums up my two!
(Doesn't this little girl in overalls look like Bet?)

Sound familiar?  Family Night/Family Meeting/Family Council

There's a place for everything...

And everything has a place!

Organize:  Crayons. Markers. Colored Pencils.
Baskets...Target $1 Spot.
I find myself saying this phrase so much that my kids are finishing the sentence for me.

Up soon:  Home organization.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Afternoon Schedule...

I figured out right when school started that we needed a PLAN when the kids got home from school.  Snack was hurriedly were running in and out of my house...there was no homework even thought about...

So, Week 2 went a lot differently than Week 1.  On Monday I sat the kids down and told them of the new plan.  It is going well.  Here it is...

-Go pick up Betsy.

-Get home with about 10 minutes to spare before the bus comes.  We run in for her to go potty and us both to grab a Pop-Ice and we head out and wait for the bus.

-We grab mail and head inside.

-I make the kids a snack (They get one "healthy treat" and one "sweet treat"...Examples: an apple and a Reese's cup, applesauce and a cookie, watermelon and a Pop-Ice.)

-While they eat their snack I go through the mail (new folder system will be in place soon!), fold clothes that I had moved to the dryer at lunch, and empty the dishwasher (if I had started it that morning).  For some reason I have found that if I am sitting at the table grilling them about their day they give me blank stares...but if I mull around the kitchen working on these chores then they will talk and talk, so that's what I do!

-After snack we head upstairs (if it is Monday, we do Manners Mondays now), then they each sit at their desk and do their homework or a "lesson".  I use the Summer Bridge workbooks (Thanks Sarah!) and the Kumon workbooks.  I also have several dry-erase books that I have gotten at consignment sales that I like to use for handwriting practice.

This takes about 30 minutes and it identifies areas we need to work on.  Below is an example.  After Jay did this math lesson I could see that Jay needs practice with his 5.  With a large class, this may not be picked up at school...but one on one we worked through it.  We practiced writing "5" on a writing board" throughout the week to reinforce the correct way the 5 goes.

We also work on things that the teacher mentions in the Wednesday newsletter that comes home.  For example last week she mentioned that some kids were writing their names in all caps and she was teaching the name to be in Cap and Lowercase.  I knew Jay was writing his name in all caps, so that day we worked on how he should write his name going forward.  We also work on the teacher's "words of the week" and talk about their meanings.

(I had school year lessons...and summer lessons...growing up.  I hated them and despised how my friends got to run out immediately and play while I couldn't play 'till I was finished.  Even though I hated them then, I appreciate them now!...Right now my kids really like them.  I bet that will change in a few years, but I'm hoping that once this "lesson time" is set...they will be used to it when "real" homework rolls in.) 

-After the "lesson" we read books together or listen to a Joy School song/story.  (Also about 30 minutes.)

-At 4:00 it is FUN TIME!  I've decided that at their current age every day can't be play-outside-with-friends-day, so on Monday/Wednesday/Friday they head out with friends.  On Tuesday/Thursday they play at home (TV show, free play with babies/Legos/dress-up clothes/doll-house, walk, backyard porch time with paints, etc.) or (after I gauge tired levels) we may go on an outing to the library, pool, park or zoo.

-At 5:30 it's time to be back inside before Daddy gets home.  They have 15 minutes of timed (sound familiar?) room clean up.

-They wind down before supper with a TV show, currently Flipper is always picked, while JB and I talk/cook dinner together.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Schedules (part 2)...

Thank you for your comments on the last post.  I've decided to leave the morning bed making to the kids...the kids do a decent job and will get better with practice...I may straighten up a little after the fact, but y'all have inspired me to not give up on them.

I love the idea to take the mail vertical.  I'm on the lookout this week for folder holders and cute folders!  I already have a HUGE bulletin board in the laundry room as "command central" for school schedules and calendars...beside of it will be the perfect place for the "mail station"!

15 minutes downstairs (mornings)

Okay, so after my 15 minutes upstairs  I head downstairs for 15 more minutes (cue timer!).
-Start the washer with the clothes I brought down.
-Open the blinds.
-Straighten pillows and make sure coffee tables are clear and wiped off.
-Shake out tablecloths or change them (if needed).
-Windex windows (if needed) and sliding glass door (ALWAYS needed).
-Start/Unload dishwasher (except silverware-Bet's chore)
-Wipe down counters and appliances with a soapy cloth.
-Wipe down powder room sink (if needed).
-Change powder room towel (if needed).
-Clean powder room toilet (if needed).
-Water porch plants.
-Take inventory of paper towels, toilet paper, Glade Plug-ins, dog treats, detergents, soaps, etc.

Up next...Afternoon schedules with the kids (including Manners Mondays).

Friday, August 26, 2011


Since we all had brand-new schedules in May, when I went to part-time days, we used the summer to get used to our new days.  I did not have a firm schedule for every day...I treated it like "summer" and we were very spontaneous.
Summer Fun!  (Photo taken last summer.)
Now that school has started I've been working on our weekly schedule.  One for ME and one for the KIDS.  My next few posts will be about this...Areas that I KNOW I need HELP with are Groceries and Mail!  If you have an awesome SIMPLE system to share with me that works for you PLEASE do!!!

Inspired by Fly Lady (Reality Check-I do NOT use her entire cleaning schedule.  She is AMAZING!  I just grab bits of it that work for me.), one thing that has been SO helpful to my "choose to love your house" time is the TIMER!  I've been using the timer for a while with "time-outs", but have just this summer started using it for cleaning/organizing and am pretty much addicted!  (JB even commented the other day that he feels like he is on the set of "60 Minutes".)

I have a tendency to "putter" A LOT and the timer keeps me focused. 
putter-verb To be active, but not excessively busy, at a task or a series of tasks

Every morning I time myself for 15 minutes upstairs and 15 minutes downstairs.  Within those 30 minutes I get an AMAZING amount of things done!  I really don't even believe it myself!  Since I'm timing myself I don't "putter" or get distracted.  I am efficient and a bit of adrenaline even kicks in!  The BEST part is that when I am through with this 30 minutes each morning I know that I have accomplished SO MUCH and my day has just started!!!  I can be more focused on my work when I'm not thinking of the million things that aren't done around me.  AND I also know that I won't be discouraged (or embarrassed!) to invite someone inside who may pop by for a visit.  I am satisfied and proud of my home when it is clean!

15 minutes upstairs (mornings):

-I open curtains and make ALL the beds.  (I was having the kids make theirs, but they weren't making them like I like and I had to look at their unmade bed until they got home (when they do their 15 minutes of timed clean up)...which bugged me.
-Put the most "full" clothes basket at the top of the stairs. (I have three bins in our closet we all use labeled Darks. Colors. Whites.)  If none of the three bins are full I grab towels or sheets, but something is going down for the washer.
-Put things back in their places in my room and bathrooms.
-Check showers and bathrooms (and supply drawers) and see if anything (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toilet paper, etc.) needs to come up from the laundry room or go on the store list.

I have seen this trick on several blogs:  I keep a bin upstairs (under the guest sink) and a bin downstairs with large trash bags, Windex, paper towels, a "Chore Boy" scrubber, toilet cleaning wands/scrubbers, foam soap refill bottle, Magic Eraser and Chlorox wipes to make the next steps QUICK.

-Empty wastebaskets. (if needed)
-Wipe down bathroom counters with Chlorox wipes.  Use "Chore Boy" to scrub toothpaste off sink. (if needed)
-Clean toilets. (if needed)
-Windex windows and mirrors that need it.  (There is ALWAYS a window that needs it!...One day I will miss wiping away those grubby little hand and face prints!-Sigh.)
-"Magic-erase" any scuffs I see.
-Fill soap dispensers. (if needed)

15 minutes downstairs (mornings) coming up next!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is the one thing that gets you through the week?

This was asked recently at a retreat.  A year ago I probably would have said..."Diet Coke?"

However, last year when I started attending Wednesday night Bible Study this answer came extremely easy to me.  "Weekly Bible Study.  Hands down."

My Wednesday night group started back last night...after a summer of being off...and I have so much to say about how sometimes we forget about our best parenting resource.  If we just READ...everything becomes so CLEAR.  We joke that we wish our baby came with an instruction manual.  We WERE sent home with an "instruction manual" when we left the hospital...The New Testament.

This post to be continued...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Follow Up to Friday Treats...

Give and you shall receive.

Isn't that SO true!  I can get so wrapped up in my SELF that I sometimes forget that...but when you GIVE to friends, neighbors, family, strangers, etc. it always comes back in some way whether it be warm fuzzies, fond memories, or a ROCK?!

Jay came home from school Monday and as we were sitting at the kitchen table eating a snack he got a BIG smile on his face and his little expression that says "I just remembered something!".  He reached into his little pocket and pulled out a ROCK.  He said, "Mommy, I found this rock on the sidewalk today at recess.  I hid it in my pocket, took it to the bathroom with me.  I washed it off with soap and dried it off and put it back in my pocket for you!"

Don't even get me started how happy this made me that my sweet boy was thinking of me.  That simple rock placed on my desk makes me smile all throughout my day. 

We've both been brave throughout this first week of school, but I think somehow he knew I needed my own little treat that said, "I'm thinking of you."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday Treats...

When I was growing up there were some days when I would get home from school and there was a treat on my bed.  Recently I asked my mom about those treats.  She said she would put a treat on my bed on Fridays.  "Only if I had a good week?," I asked.  "No...good or bad, just a treat for making it through the week," was her response.

Bat bag for Jay.
I loved the treats I used to get and I loved her response.  Sometimes kids (and adults!) need a little treat "just because"...a treat that says..."You are special.  When I wasn't with you this week, I saw this and thought of you."

"Tangled" shirt for Betsy.
 We made it through our first week of school...and believe me, there were many times I thought of them.  Hopefully they thought of me some too!  :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Cemetary Visit..with children.

My brother and Grandpa share the same birthday.  It has been a tradition in our family to always celebrate their birthdays together.  Their birthday, and Christmas, were the two times each year when my mom's whole family would be together and there were really great times with really great memories.

I love how traditions evolve and one year Grandpa started buying them matching shirts and each year they would wear the same shirt at the party.

The thing about traditions is that they are AMAZING when you have them, but when something changes and you don't have them then it feels like a little piece of you is missing.  Bart and Grandpa were extremely close...for Bart every birthday will be bittersweet.  I think that is why it is so important as our life evolves that we create new traditions to fill some of that void within us.

{Sidenote:  If you happen to be a couple that every year fusses about which family you will spend time with because of this tradition of hers or that tradition of his.  After the heated debate make sure that you reflect on how blessed you both are to come from families that had established traditions that affected each of you so much that you were willing to debate them!}

That all being said, Monday was their birthday and my Aunt Nancy called me to see if I would like to go with her to the cemetary after I picked the kids up...she would bring some they could feed the fish and turtles (there is a pond there).  I agreed and without much thought of conversations that might come up with a 3 and 5 year old in a cemetary we got out of the car.  All they had heard was, "We are visiting Grandpa."

Jay:  "Where's Grandpa?"
Me:  "Honey, he's not here.  You know where Grandpa is."
Jay:  "He's in heaven with God."
Betsy:  "So is this heaven?"
Me (finally clueing in):  "No, this isn't heaven."
Betsy:  "But there is Jesus." (points to statue of Jesus)
Me:  "Yes, that is only statue of Jesus...Jesus is in heaven.  Heaven is not here on Earth.  When you die your spirit, soul, personality, everything that makes up YOU goes to heaven to be with God and your body stays here.  Your body is just a shell for you to use while you are on Earth.  After you die and everything else is gone your body is buried here in the ground to remember you by."
Jay:  "So Grandpa is in the ground?"
Me:  "Yes, right here by Grammie, his wife."
Jay (shrugging his little shoulders):  "Well, let's just dig him up!"
Me (Not sure whethere to laugh or cry...chose to laugh):  "No...I wish it was that easy...Let's go feed the fish!"

I was in no way prepared for this impromptu conversation about death, heaven, burials...but somehow it turned out informative and not too creepy.  (Considering where we were, I like to think that maybe there were a few spirits helping!)