Friday, May 31, 2013

Nature rocks - literally!

After a long and cold winter, we are thankful that Spring has sprung.  We have been taking every opportunity possible to get out to enjoy nature and all of it's beauty.  Our Creator is truly the most amazing artist with such an intricate touch!

A little toad friend the girls found.  No worries, we let him go shortly after.

These beauties are right off of our deck. Ahhh, spring is SO colorful!

 Our butterfly release  experience.

Recently, I found this idea for a nature hike with alphabet rocks here.  We painted letters of the alphabet on some rocks and set off for a nature hike in our yard.  The girls searched for things found in nature that begin with each letter and placed the rock on or near it.  

This is a great activity that includes, art, nature,
letter sounds and writing (painting).  The girls really liked this.

We've also had the privilege to see several bird nests, robin eggs, deer, chipmunks, bull frogs and my favorite - the beach @ the lake. 

What gifts of Spring are you enjoying in your "neck of the woods"?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Times of Refreshing

While away visiting our family (my mother and father in-law) in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, today I'm sitting here in my favorite quaint little coffee house.

Thank you to my wonderful in-laws, two little angels are asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing through their heads, while two older precious girls spend some quality time with Nana baking and playing in the sprinkler. 

And mommy here, I'm drinking a cup of my absolute favorite drink on Earth - Big Train Chai Latte...ahhhh, yum!  Also enjoying a few quiet moments out alone working on blog stuff and catching up on some other translation work and just reflecting a bit. It's a good day.

I can't help but mention a little bonus on my time away, I "scored" 40 Swagbucks for a web search ; ) I just had to throw that in because you know I like free stuff. 

So, to my fellow mommies, I hope you will be able to get away soon, even if for an hour, to have some time of refreshing simply doing something that you enjoy (although you enjoy being with your precious munchkins).  You work hard and deserve it! Your little ones will probably also enjoy fresh face and another creative and/or fun playmate.  No mommy guilt!  (Hey, I'm preaching to the choir here).

Mom, what do you like to do to feel refreshed?!  Do you feel like you are able to get enough time to be YOU and not just MOM?!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Several years ago, we were on a lonnnng plane trip to Central America for a mission trip with our first two children.  In an attempt to keep them content and entertained, we would quietly sing songs and do preschool finger plays (like Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc.).  Our oldest daughter was 2 1/2 at the time.  She began to do the Church & Steeple one, but her version went like this:

"Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and where are all of the people?  Oh, I guess they must be at Wal-Mart?!"

If you have or are around young children, I'm sure you are amazed and highly entertained at some of the things they say.  Sometimes it's absolutely hysterical and sometimes I am completely dumbfounded at where they get some of these things.  

Here are a few more of our best of the best from our little ones ;)

"I need a band-aid in my eye."

"Mommy, are my pants in the dryer or the wetter?"

"Mommy, I think you need to talk to Dr. Phil."

"That's hilarisis!" (That's hilarious)

To her younger sister: "Get in your car seat now, in Jesus' name!"

"Mommy! Hurry, sissy has leprosy."

Upon seeing an Amish woman (at the store) in winter dress for the first time, our oldest daughter in a very loud and excitable voice says:
"Mommy, mommy, look, it's Mother Goose!"

I hope this added a little joy and laughter to your busy day!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Tips to Save on Produce

Our family has been making some major changes in eating patterns and nutrition.  As we are opting for more natural choices and clean eating, this means A LOT more produce.  Although you cannot put a price on your health, produce can be quite costly when you are not strategic when purchasing it.  Here are a few tips on how to cut the cost when buying fruits and veggies. 

1. Freeze fresh herbs to use later.
I was so excited when I recently saw this post about freezing herbs.  We eat a lot of cilantro at our house, but I don't always use the entire bunch and it seems to go bad fairly quickly.  I don't like to waste! ugh!  Freezing the rest of the bunch saves from waste and allows you to have herbs on hand when you need them. 

2. Buy on sale and freeze. 
When fruits and/or veggies are in season and are at the lowest price, stock up and freeze them for later.  I do this often with bananas and strawberries.  My girls like to eat them frozen and frozen fruit is great for smoothies.  

3. Grow your own.
Growing your own produce is not only a way to save money, but it's also a great family activity to do with younger kids. You may have seen my post, last year, about our garden.  I had high hopes, a great raised garden kit and beautiful organic soil, but the reality is....our back yard is almost completely shaded : (  Therefore, Plan B is coming soon.  We are going to plant in large pots on our deck, which is the most sunny place in our entire yard.  We shall see?!  Maybe you have better opportunities to grow some yummy organic goodness in your own yard?!  

4. Buy local: i.e Farmers Market
Farmers markets can be found in most towns/cities.  This is a great way to support local farms and families as well as cutting the cost on fresh produce.  We have a lot of fun going together to our farmers market and picking out goodies.  Ours even has an entire organic section - woo hoo!  I also use this as an opportunity for the kids to use math skills and the younger ones to recognize different fruits, vegetables and colors.  Throw in some Spanish names for the produce and you have an entire lesson (yay for homeschool field trips). 

5. Price Match
Aside from the farmers market, I have found that Aldi is one of the cheapest places to buy produce. I go there often to stock up.  If I'm making a trip to Wal-Mart (or another larger chain) for a "big" shopping trip, they will price match the produce from Aldi.  Aldi doesn't currently sell organic, so when you can't buy organic produce, you can soak* the regular produce to remove most of the residue like waxes and pesticides. 

*Fill your sink full of water and add about 1 cup of white vinegar.  Place your fruit/veggies in the mixture and allow to soak for several minutes.  Rinse and eat. 

In what ways does your family save on the cost of produce? Please share any tips that I may have missed?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The big release date - butterflies that is

We recently completed our My Father's World From A to Z: A Complete Kindergarten Curriculum for this year (which we really enjoyed, by the way).  Earlier in the year, we did the lesson on butterflies and one of the activities was to observe the life cycle of the butterfly with our  Live Butterfly Garden Butterfly Kit.  Because it was still pretty cold out when we did this lesson, we waited to order our caterpillars until a couple of weeks ago.

The girls were so excited to get the caterpillars in the mail.  We were all amazed at how tiny they were, but that didn't last long.  They quadrupled in size in a matter of a couple of days and then began to make their chrysalises (cocoons).  We thought the process would take two weeks for the butterflies to emerge, but one morning our four year old came running out of our school room saying: "we have butterflies, we have butterflies, we have butterflies!!"  We were all so excited to see the beautiful creature that had developed.  

We fed them and enjoyed watching them for three days and then we knew it was time to let them go.  As soon as we took the little habitat outside, they were fluttering like crazy.  It's like they knew life was waiting. 

The girls said their goodbyes and five little butterflies went their separate ways.  It was a lot of fun looking for them throughout the yard.  We found them fluttering around and landing on different plants and trees.    

This was a really fun and special project to do with the girls.  I especially liked the "Words to Remember" section that go along with this B for Butterfly lesson:
God can make me new.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mommy's Little Helpers?!

      photo source

A few weeks ago, I turned on the early my best attempt to wake up ; ) One of the headlining stories was regarding mothers who depend on medication (namely anti-depressants) to help them get through the day with their children.  Several days after watching this, I heard some statistics on a podcast that said 40% of American mothers are unhappy and 1/4 of American mothers are clinically depressed.  Furthermore, the same podcast stated that there is an increasing trend of "cocktail moms".  These are moms who often drink alcohol throughout the day in order to get by. 

These statistics shocked and saddened me. I am not pointing fingers at the moms who are doing what they feel they need to do to be "a better mom" because I am definitely not beyond that.  So often, survival mode is the name of the game and although I try to opt for more natural means, I truly believe motherhood can bear a very physical, emotional, and mental load on one's self.  Not to mention the many hormonal imbalances/changes that come with pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

I am more so frowning at the demands our society puts on mothers.  It's so easy to get stuck in the cycle between being a "domestic goddess" who dedicates all 110% of herself and her energy to her kids at home and the "I do it all-working professional mother".  Either of which can get out of balance. 

It reminds me of the movie Selena, in which they are discussing being stuck between cultural stereotypes.  In one particular scene, her father says, "we're not Mexican enough for the Mexicans and we're not American enough for the Americans".

Our culture puts high standards on women/mothers.  Mom's can crumble under the pressure of feeling that we're not professional enough for the professionals and we're not domestic enough for the domestics.

Although there are soooo many amazing women and moms out one person (mom) can be a Martha Stewart hostess, Emril in the kitchen, have a Pinterest home and be a Jillian Michaels in her workout and so on. It's just not possible.  The beautiful thing about that is - IT'S OK!!  We all have different gifts and talents that we bring to the table that bless our family the way we were created to.

We will never be enough for the demands that society and sometimes even our peers and/or families may put on us.  Thankfully, those are not our "measuring sticks".  As long as we are loving and serving our family the best we know how and living a life pleasing to God by being who we were created to be as a wife and mother, we are enough.  When we can rest in that kind of grace, it sure takes a lot of the pressure off.

(Thanks for joining me today.  I've been looking forward to getting back here. Whenever I go missing, I can be found over here.)

Mom, how do you deal with the pressure of the supermom status?