November 30, 2007

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Since the season is upon us, I thought it would be good to discuss homemade Christmas presents. Every year since our parents became grandparents, we have provided them with a little hand crafted present from their precious little grandchildren. These gifts are great for many reasons but the two greatest reasons is that they are inexpensive and they are personalized by the kids. Happy for you and happy for Grandma and Grandpa. So in the last four years we have made picture frames with each family member's name (in the perspective of the child like Papa Jim and Uncle Tim) and then put a picture of each person with the child in the frame. Then when My daughter was two, we made dishtowels with her hand prints and the year on them. A set for each set of grandparents, and one for us. The materials were found at Walmart pretty inexpensively and she had lots of fun making the towels along side her friend who was making them as well. This year we are making something that I would love to discuss but cannot, lest I ruin Christmas for Grandparents who check on this site. Gifts that you or your children have made by hand are a much more personal way to say Merry Christmas, not to mention usually more inexpensive.
So, I thought that it would be a good idea to share a couple of resources here. I hope that others will leave comments sharing some of their favorite homemade Christmas ideas as well as great resources for the rest of us. My absolute favorite resource for any time of the year is It is a website based on the magazine of the same name. The website is really easy to search for age appropriate crafts that will warm a loved one's heart. In addition to gifts, Family Fun is also a great resource for decorating ideas that kids can create so that they may have some part in decorating for the season. You can also check out your local library for great craft books that won't cost you a dime. Another idea is to go to Michael's or another craft store (I LOVE Hobby Lobby and I have to say, my friends in the Northwest are truly missing out!!). Anyway, back on topic, The craft stores sometimes have project idea sheets that are free. And Martha Stewart's craft line has a few projects that would be good gifts for grandparents or other loved ones. If you aren't crafty, your child is too young or maybe you are afraid of what your child might do with a little craft glue, there are also many gifts that you can make on online photo centers like Shutterfly, Photoworks,, etc. Ranging from mugs, to t-shirts, calendars to coffee table books, the special people on your list will love a picture or two of their favorite little ones.
So, what have you done in the past, and if you have any other resources to share, please dish!

November 23, 2007

My Little Pack Rats

Ok so it's in their blood. My mom is a pack rat and her mother before her was the ultimate pack rat (when she died it all got passed on to Mom, Thanks Grammie!!). Somehow I rejected this family tradition, though I seriously struggle sometimes to get rid of things that carry the slightest bit of memories with it. But, for the most part, I am able to get rid of "stuff." After all, you can't take it with you and the person after you is not going to have the same attachment to it as you did. So, I was hoping my children would be free from the family curse of having to keep every tiny little thing that they have collected. Not that lucky!
With Christmas coming I was hoping to clean out some of the old toys that are broken, missing pieces or just plain neglected. I found that the only way to do this effectively is to sneak it away. But ultimately, this isn't working for us. I put a bunch of toys into a box for a garage sale, when the sale came, my girls discovered the box and played with ever last bit and they have returned to the overstuffed playroom. A few months ago, I sent a huge box of stuffed animals (do they reproduce on their own??). Last week, my four year old asked where the big dog was. I had to tell her that he went to play with other little kids that didn't have as many toys as her. She was consoled only a little bit. The bigger problem with sneaking away toys is that I feel like the girls are not learning a few valuable lessons. As I see it, they don't need all of this "stuff," they can give their toys away to make other children very happy, and most importantly, stuff doesn't make us happy. So my question to you is, how do you get rid of toys, old and not so old, and have your children help you so that they can learn those valuable lessons?

November 13, 2007


Discipline can be a sticky subject. And before I say anything, I want to reiterate that I am no expert. One of my friends emailed with a question about discipline. Her question was this, "What do you do when your child is completely defiant and doesn't care what the punishment is?" I think even if your child is on the complacent side, you've probably encountered this problem at least once or twice. Some mothers have to deal with it constantly. The little stubborn monster has come to live inside their child. What should this mom do?
I honestly don't have an extensive amount of experience with the stubborn monster. Both of my girls are on the complacent side. Though I have seen the monster and have felt the exasperation that it can bring to a situation. I will say this, having taught 7th and 8th graders, I've dealt with the monster there too, more than once. In teaching, I learned that if there was a problem with how the students were acting in my classroom, I needed to examine myself and see what I might be doing wrong. It is not much different in parenting. It is hard to do and we are usually quick to blame the kids for just being bad, but the difference can be made if we truly evaluate our discipline strategy or lack of.

Let me share with you something that I am working on right now with the way I look at discipline. It may help, it may not but it is worth a try. Recently I was at a Courageous Parenting Seminar at our church. Our Children's Ministry Coordinator spoke about being a thermostat instead of a thermometer in your house. The difference is that a thermometer just reflects the temperature of the family, it has no power to change the temp and merely reacts to what is going on. If every one's happy, a thermometer parent is happy, if there is stress in the house, the thermometer parent is stressed. A thermostat has the power to change the temperature. It is constant, the temp does not go above or below what the thermostat allows, it is in control. The thermostat parent is consistent and unemotional with discipline.

If you think about it, it could be that a child doesn't care what the punishment is because they get the payoff of seeing mom or dad lose control. They win, they have gotten to you and have affected you so much that you feel you have lost control and that you have failed as a parent. If you take away the emotion and the ability of your child to get you beyond angry, then you take away that payoff. Why does a child seek this sort of payoff? Some would say that it is because they are simply looking for some kind of attention from the parent. Good or bad, it doesn't matter, they want it. And in the early years, they are going to seek that attention from you. As they reach adolescence, they will seek it from their peers. So when your children are young, you have the best chance of forming how they seek attention, good or bad. And if you miss this opportunity, it could be big trouble in the future.

So this is what we are trying to do in our household. When a behavior that we want to see go away occurs, such as whining or throwing a fit, we physically turn our backs to the child and wait to hear a change in their action. From whining, to talking or screaming to quiet. And as soon as we hear a good behavior, we complement it. Not with just a "good job," but with a more specific description of the good behavior. "Thank you for asking in your nice voice." When talking to the child we use a happy voice and try to convey true thankfulness (no terse or sarcastic voices). I have to say, for me, the hardest thing is taking the Angry voice out and talking calmly and unemotionally, especially if the child is not displaying the desired behavior. The key is having something to repeat to yourself in these moments to try to calm yourself down. Use a verse or a song or some sort of self encouragement that helps you not give in to the desire to scream and yell. Be aware of what sets you off and prepare yourself with something to concentrate on so that you don't lose it.

I think with any strategy, it takes consistent and honest trial and error to make it work. You can't just try something for a week or a month and because you have failed or the child has not responded right away say that it doesn't work. Discipline is a habit. Anyone who has tried to stop a poor habit and replace it with a good one knows that it is not easy. Don't give up! Anytime I hear someone say "I tried that and it didn't work," I think to myself that they probably didn't try hard enough. Be positive and don't go it alone! Seek partnership from your husband, do it together.

I hope this helps, I know it's a lot but we could probably write a book on this subject. Speaking of books. Try James Dobson's Dare to Discipline. It's a good book to read and re-read several times in your parenting journey.

If anyone has some discipline tips they would like to share, please comment or email me and I will post it for you.

November 9, 2007

Toilet Training

My first potty training experience was just too easy. But my daughter has always been that way. I know it's different with every child, but what are some things that you have done that have worked for your little toilet trainers? Maybe something you have gone through will help another mom out there who is trying to tackle the toilet training monster.
My experience: Completely on accident, we didn't really try to potty train. We were expecting a big 2000 mile car trip and the last thing I wanted was to be stopping all the time for a potty trainer. So, I had planned to try after the trip. About a month before the trip, my 2 1/2 year old started giving me hints that she was ready. Hint #1 was that she was going through more diapers than we had ever gone through. We were buying a big pack a week, which we had never done. I probably wouldn't have really noticed except it was a tough money time and we were trying to save money, not tinkle or number two on it and throw it in the trash. And since I am a math wiz, I realized that a 10 dollar potty seat would be much cheaper than the 70$ a month we were spending on diapers. Hint #2 was that her diapers were usually dry after naps and in the mornings. So, I bit the bullet and I bought a pack of diapers and a potty seat. I never bought a pack of diapers for that child again. In fact, we still have it waiting for #2 to reach that size. She was trained in a week, and I didn't have any stresses, because it was on her timing, not my own. As for the trip, we packed our potty seat in case of emergency, but she only used it once.
I can only pray really hard that the second one is this easy.
If you have an experience that might help others, please leave a comment!

November 4, 2007

Menu Planning

I don't know about you all, but I dread shopping for food. I think as the budget gets tighter, I dread it even more. The dreaded question "what's for dinner?" Sometimes haunts me in my sleep. I wish that I could just fall back on Olive Garden or my favorite burger place here in Texas, Scotty P's, every night. But since we're not millionaires, that doesn't work for us. I admire my friend who can cook up food better than any restaurant and still stay within a pretty tight budget every month.
I can actually go back to my childhood to blame my current meal planning dread. Both of my parents worked and simply picked up dinner makings on the way home every single night (they still do this). I am sure that they could have retired by now on the money they would have saved if they had effectively implemented efficient meal planning. I never really learned how to cook much more than spaghetti and ramen noodles. I have since developed survival skills in the kitchen, thanks to the Food Channel. I do like to cook, when it's a special holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. But for everyday cooking and trying to keep within a budget, I just dread it.
When we first got married a good friend with a little more married life experience than I, sat down with me and showed me how to plan a menu and make a shopping list. We had grown tired of buying Pizza on Monday night and having the left overs for the rest of the week. (Seriously, what my husband must have been thinking?!) She showed me tricks like making a pot roast on Sunday and then using the left-overs in different meals for the rest of the week. All of this information was helpful and useful. But I admit that sometimes, I just can't even sit down and make a plan and a list. And now I have the added pressure of trying to be healthy for my kids.
A couple of things that I have learned in the 8 1/2 years since getting married and being responsible for someone else's full tummy might be helpful to you all so I thought I would share them.
First, a friend of ours gave us a year subscription to Quick Cooking magazine. That's all we needed because those 6 issues have given us 4 years of quick meals since then. They have pages and pages of a variety of types of recipes. Ranging from 5 minute prep time to slow cooking meals. We always go back to those magazines. In fact, I just discovered a new favorite two weeks ago. The recipes are submitted by readers so there are tons and tons of great short-cuts and real life recipes.
Second, a new discovery of mine is online menu planning. For a few bucks a month, you can subscribe to a menu planning website and they do the work. All you have to do is buy and prepare the food. They give you the recipes and the shopping list. It is revolutionary, really. There are a few different sites. Most of the sites have a sample menu for you to look at to see if you would like their product. Is the one that I think I like the best so far. The Six O'clock Scramble allows you to pick and choose from their recipes so that when you print it out, your shopping list does not include the items for recipes you choose not to use. The Scramble is also family and budget friendly. They make each recipe with as few ingredients as they can and they test their meals with test families before sending them out to everyone else. They have received recognition from Real Simple Magazine too. Another site is At Saving Dinner there are several different versions of menus you can select from including vegetarian, low-carb, low-fat, budget minded, and a few others. I have their sample menu for what they call the Body Clutter Menu. It is a little overwhelming but it includes a daytime menu as well as dinner. It can't be modified like the menu at The Six O'clock Scramble. Saving Dinner's strength is in their variety of menus. Some other sites to check out are: and

November 2, 2007

Guest Poster

I said in the beginning that I am not an expert. And that is so true. I really want to get some contributions from other moms out there. My guess is that you all suffer from the same lack of confidence that I do. You probably think, I don't have anything that special to share. But I'll bet you do. We've all had those amazing moments when something just clicks in our head. Maybe someone told you, maybe it was learned through trial and error, maybe you just stumbled upon the perfect answer to a daily problem or difficulty. However You came to learn it, you got it! Now, it is your duty to pass it on to others, so they can have it too. You might give a gift to another mother who is just beginning to struggle with something you learned to deal with long ago. Whatever it is share it with us!!

I want to start something called "Guest Poster." You can write a little blurb about whatever topic you like and I will publish it to the blog. You can email me at and I will proofread and edit (if needed), then post it to the blog. It can be anonymous if you would like. You can literally write about anything that moms might be interested in. A favorite source of information, a favorite toy, a favorite activity for your kids, a favorite product that makes life easier. These are just a few ideas, I'm sure that I haven't covered it all. I really hope that you all take advantage of this and contribute to the blog, I know that I look forward to learning something new from all of you!