Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Picture organization...


I was going to participate in Org Junkie's Monthly Organizing Round-Up this month, but couldn't seem to make enough progress. The project for the month of March was Picture Organization.

Digital photography is wonderful and horrible at the same time. I love being able to take a million pictures to capture that perfect look; and I love looking through the pictures before spending money to print them; and I love have the ability to fix red-eye and other picture issues; but I hate the additional effort this new technology requires to get to the final product.

I don't have a problem downloading pictures, and I even have an okay file structure for all the pictures, but I never get around to getting prints of my pictures.

One thing I have decided this month while trying to tackle years worth of pictures ... I am going to start creating photo books that come to me already printed. That may seem horrible to those of you who are wonderful at creating albums, but I really think this will work best for me (plus, I don't have a hair's worth of talent at scrap booking).

Org Junkie shared her system on her latest post Six Steps to Picture Organization. The step that I really need to add is step 2 -- "Copy." I need to start using a "to Print" folder and fill it every time I download pictures. That way I don't have to go back through hundreds of pictures to find the few that I want to print.

How do you organize your photos? And how to you get those digital pictures into albums?

On a side note, do any of you have a good recommendation for printed photo books (without paying an arm and a leg)?

Home Alone!

Darren flew up to Vancouver B.C. today for his annual visit to the Stargate set. This includes visits to Bridge Studios (where Stargate is filmed), some time on the Sanctuary set (Amanda Tapping's new show, a.k.a. Sam Carter), a big StarGate dinner hosted by Darren and David (last year they had over 100 people and several guest appearances by cast and crew), and some time at the Stargate Convention.

He will be interviewing the executive producers of the new show Stargate Universe that is scheduled to air in October. They are being very "hush-hush" about the show, so Darren will not be able to talk with the new cast yet or tour the new set. You'll have to stay tuned to GateWorld.net to find out the latest news!

The kids and I are home alone this week. I'm a little nervous, but lots of friends have offered to watch the kids to give me a break. So, we will survive ... and hopefully find lots of ways to have fun!

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Plan for Art and Action - week 4


This week our plan fell apart. It was just a crazy week and we didn't get to do most of the activities we had intended. I'm not sure my planning is helping much, and these posts are becoming very repetitive (instead of sparking creative, new ideas).

What do you think? Should I start posting on the past week, what we actually accomplished? Or maybe start posting about individual activities?

While attending "My Gym" this week with my two kids, I noticed again how delayed my little boy is with his running skills. He "runs" (if it can even be called that) like a young toddler, even though he is three years old. This is because of weakness in his core muscles. We need to spend some more time on this in the coming months.


Gross motor development:

  • Sand Box play - encourage pushing, pulling and lifting of sand filled trucks, buckets, etc.
  • Balance on One Foot – I'm going to fill some empty bottles with colored water and have him place one foot on the bottle. It gives a little more balance, while providing a game-feel to the activity. We didn't get to this activity last week.
  • Marching – to help with the coordination and strength necessary to run. “We Are The Dinosaurs” is a great song; and I'll be looking for a few others. The key to this exercise getting him to swing his arms correctly, with his limbs kept close to his body.

Fine motor development:
  • Lacing Beads - my son was not interested in the beads last week, but I'm not ready to give up on them just yet.
  • Cutting with scissors – cutting paper, play dough, anything with a fun texture.

I would love to hear what you think. As I asked above ... Should I start posting on the past week, what we actually accomplished? Or maybe start posting about individual activities?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Menu Plan Monday


I am taking a week off from menu planning this week. My husband is out of town all week and my kids don't appreciate (and rarely eat) anything I make for dinner anyway. I'll spend a week eating leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches, and making the kids whatever they will eat (pasta and veggies). The kids will still have their "new" foods to try, though.

For Meal Plan Monday this week, I'm going to finally publish a few my own original recipes that I have made in the last few weeks -- Chinese Chicken & Cabbage, Meatloaf, and Chicken Enchiladas (scroll down).

Last week, we were fairly successful with the broccoli, but my son still hated anything with bread. I'm going to try again next week with toast instead. Hopefully that will eliminate some the of "squishyness" that my son dislikes.

New "kid" foods:
  • squash
  • toast

Family Favorite Recipes:

Chinese Chicken & Cabbage
This is my variation of a family recipe from my aunt.

1 small head of cabbage, chopped in about 1 inch square pieces.
1 package Top Ramen noodles
3 chopped green onions
2 small chicken breasts
1 can crunchy rice noodles (or chow mein noodles)
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 packet seasoning from Top Ramen
Salt & pepper to taste

Slice and cook chicken. Set aside.
Boil Top Ramen in water for 3 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
Heat rice noodles in oven (follow directions on can).
Stir fry cabbage in some olive oil until lightly browned. Add small amount of water. Cover and cook to desired texture (I like to leave it slightly crunchy).
Mix olive oil, vinegar, seasoning packet.
Add chicken and noodles to the cabbage. Mix.
Pour olive oil & vinegar dressing over the cabbage. Stir until well distributed.
Top with green onions, rice noodles and sesame seeds.


~~


Meatloaf

I have been playing with this recipe for years (and am still experimenting).
This is the variation I made last week that my husband really liked.


1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean chicken sausage
1 can tomato paste
1 egg
1 package Stovetop stuffing
1 packet meatloaf seasonings

Heat oven to 350.
Mix raw meat together.
Add tomato paste and egg. Mix well.
Add stovetop stuffing mix and seasoning packet. Mix well.
Fill loaf pan. Cook in oven for 60 to 70 minutes.

To cut cooking time down to 35 to 45 minutes, you can make a ring on a cookie sheet instead. Or you can cook in muffin tins for 20 to 25 minutes.

~~

Chicken Enchiladas
This recipe was inspired by my college roommates from my senior year.
Prep time is normally about 45 minutes, but this is one of my husband's favorites, so it is worth it.

1 large chicken breast
1 box Spanish rice mix (Rice-a-Roni) or try my Mexican Rice recipe
1 can petite diced tomatoes (used in Spanish rice)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cans enchilada sauce
12 slices cheddar
12 slices mozzerella
6 burrito-size, soft tortillas

Make spanish rice according to package directions. Or try my Mexican Rice recipe
Boil chicken breast and shred. Lightly salt & pepper for taste.
Lightly grease cake pan.
Place 6 tortillas in pan, side by side in U-shape (like they would be shaped if they were crunchy taco shells).
Fill tortillas with ingredients. I use the following order:
- Spanish rice on the bottom (you will only use about half the rice)
- 2 cheddar cheese slices per tortilla
- Shredded chicken breast (evenly distribute between tortillas)
- Cilantro (use as much or little as you like)
- Pour 1 can of enchilada sauce over ingredients, distributing it evening over all the enchiladas.
Fold tortillas over, one at a time, and roll to the side to hold them closed.
Place 2 mozzarella slices on top of each enchilada.
Pour 1 can of enchilada sauce over the enchiladas.
Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is lightly browned on top.

~~

Check out other menu plan's at OrgJunkie.

Happy Monday!

Strength to Bring Down the House

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 12

"Then Samson called to the Lord, saying 'O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray...'"
Judges 16:28

I have been convicted this week of my negative attitude. I have not been very joyful lately. This needs to change!

I am called to walk in strength, not my strength (which is actually weakness), but HIS strength. What an amazing gift that God gives us joy and strength beyond ourselves and our circumstances!

Lord,
Remember me today and give me strength. I have faith that You will enable me to face the overwhelming tasks that I am facing. Give me strength, Lord - physically, to stay well and fit to finish my work - and emotionally, to keep healthy thoughts about it along the way. Help me to walk in your joy today, for "the joy of the Lord is my strength."
In Jesus Name,
Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tea Party!


Last week I found this great tea set on sale at Target (check out my post about this great toy company). I wasn't sure what the response would be to a tea set, but decided it was worth trying.

Joshua loves it! He spent all afternoon today hosting a tea party (I'm not sure where the fire chief's hat come in...)


Joshua and I enjoyed our delicious rosy tea. Abigail was excited by our pretend drinking and wanted to try it, too. She almost has it...


You will notice that the sugar is missing from the tea party...


Abigail took off with the little purple bowl and lid. She carried it around with her all afternoon.

We had a wonderful afternoon drinking tea. I'm sure there will be many more tea parties in our future!

"Green Toys"


I just discovered a new toy manufacturer - Green Toys Inc - and it was love at first purchase. I bought a great Tea Set on sale, and now I'm hunting for other products by this great company.

  • American-made - lower transportation costs and green-house gases
  • Eco-friendly - made from recycled milk containers
  • No BPA, phthalates or lead paint - the products pass a plethora of tests
  • Great, quality toys - my kids love them
I have been looking at tea sets for weeks now, but couldn't find anything I liked. The little plastic sets felt too cheap and made me think of the landfill it would eventually occupy. The tin ones were cute, but all I could see was the possible rust (and lead-based paint) if my kids decided to use water in it. And the ceramic ones seemed a little to breakable for my youngsters. I had almost given up hope.

After picking up this set at Target on sale, I did a little more research before handing it over to the kids for play. This is an impressive company that makes a great product. Check it out.

Have you purchased from Green Toys? What do you think about them? Or about recycled toys in general?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Peas, peas, peas!


While we were in the grocery store this week, a lady stocking produce offered Joshua a pea pod full of peas. I helped him open it and he ate a few little peas. This inspired me to pick up a hand full of pea pods to open at home.

Joshua had so much fun opening each pod. Every time he would ask, "What is inside, Mommy?" Then he would break it open and exclaim "PEAS!"


He was not convinced that he wanted to eat the peas.
It was more fun playing with them.


I remember shucking peas as a kid, sitting out on our deck on a sunny day with a bucket of peas that had to be ready for dinner before we could go play again. It really is a fond memory for me ... maybe because I love fresh peas so much.

It is so fun exploring new foods with the kids!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blitz-It Friday

Grab My Blog Button!
Organized Everyday is hosting a new carnival called Blitz-it Friday.
If you have no idea what a blitz is, read here: the original one hour blitz and staying focused.

This week, I did not have a whole hour to blitz. Instead, I did two 30 minute sessions. I am very pleased with the amount of work I was able to accomplish, in spite of the distractions of kids.

Sorry, no pictures. I forgot about snapping a few shots until I was well into the cleaning.

First 30-minute blitz:
  1. Changed the linens in the kids room
  2. Sorted three loads of laundry and started one
  3. Loaded the dishwasher
  4. Hand-washed the pans
  5. Cleaned the stove
  6. Cleared off and wiped down the counters
  7. Wiped down the cupboards
  8. Changed the sheets in the master bedroom (the timer for the first half-hour beeped while I was finishing up the bed)

Second 30-minute blitz:

  1. Cleaned the bathroom (including the toilet, sink, mirror, shower/tub, sweep & mop floor, changed linens, shake out rug)
  2. Started another load of laundry
  3. Swept and mopped kitchen and dining room floors (the timer beeped while I was finishing up the floors)
I had a few more things on my list to get done, but overall, this was a very successful cleaning session.

Have fun blitzing!

Our Food Turned Green

We had fun on St. Patrick's Day. If the kids were older, I would have talked about St. Patrick and the profound effect he had in Ireland and on missions in general. But instead, we just enjoyed learning about the color green.


Yes, Abigail is eating green macaroni! I added a few drops of blue coloring and the effect was beautiful. Joshua has been talking about it all week.

"What happened to our macaroni, Mommy?" He then answers his own question. "It turned green!"

~~

We made green jello for dessert!


And used star and heart cookie cutters to make shapes in our jello.


Joshua mostly wanted to play with his jello. He only took a few bites then told me he didn't like it.


Abigail, on the other hand, quickly devoured all the jello I put on her tray!

We had so much fun!
And Joshua will never forget that green macaroni!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Plan for Art and Action - week 3


We had so much fun last week. We ended up changing our kitchen time to activities more green for St. Patrick's Day - like green jello jigglers, green macaroni and cheese, etc.

Now that the weather is getting nicer outside, it is easier to get in some good gross motor exercise. We didn't do very well on the fine motor skills last week; my son gets very impatient with these activities because he can't do them very well yet.

My son is very excited about Brown Bear right now. For speech, we played different games around this book. I found a used Brown Bear Board Game; it is missing the instructions, so we don't know how to play the actual game but we used it to play Go-Fish and made up our own version of the game.

We also had fun with the Dinosaur song, but he had no interest in the Bear Hunt. I'm going to get a copy of the specific song they use at school; maybe that will be more familiar and more comfortable.


Gross motor development:
  • Sand Box play - encourage pushing, pulling and lifting of sand filled trucks, buckets, etc.
  • Balance on One Foot – I have a great idea for adding some variety to this. I'm going to fill some empty bottles with colored water and have him place one foot on the bottle. It gives a little more balance, while providing a game-feel to the activity.
  • Jumping – we always love jumping.

Fine motor development:
  • Lacing Beads
  • Cutting with scissors – cutting paper, play dough, anything with a fun texture.

Speech development:
  • "Going on a Bear Hunt" – We are going to try again using the song from school.
  • Music and Dancing – As long as he is excited about these songs we'll keep using them. “We Are The Dinosaurs” and “The Airplane Song” from Whaddaya Think of That? by Laurie Berkner will be our primary songs. This activity is great for speech and gross motor skills.

Arts and Crafts:
  • Easter Decorations - not sure exactly what we will do yet, but maybe something we can hang in the window.

Kitchen Fun:
  • Blueberry Muffins - we are going to try these again; one of these days we will make muffins.

Enjoy your week of art and action.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Written On Your Forehead!

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 11

"…Make straight your way before my face."
Psalm 5:8

The devotion for the week was about keeping our focus on God and his will for our lives. We know God has a plan, a purpose for our lives. He has called us to participate in his plan for creation, for humanity, for eternity. What an abundant and amazing life we are called to! Yet we forget who we are; thus, the need for it to be “written on your forehead.”

This brought to mind the Shema (from the Hebrew for “hear”), the Jewish confession of faith.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon you hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.”

I think about how my life would be impacted if I kept the word of God and his will for my life this present in my daily life. Too many times, I lose my focus in the urgency of the day. Throughout this week, however, I felt the Spirit calling me back to peace, back to God’s plan for my day.

Lord,
Thank you for your goodness and your faithfulness; thank you for caring enough for me to have a plan for me. I pray that Your will, Your plan, would be clear to me as I got about each day this week. I know that your plan for me is not just for some future time, but for today as well. Remind me throughout my day to focus on You and Your plan, not my own.
In Jesus Name,
Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hope's Song



This is Hope's Song from VeggieTales: An Easter Carol DVD. It can also be found on A Very Veggie Easter CD.

My son watched An Easter Carol for the first time today. My eyes teared up when I listened to Hope's Song. It has been years since I heard this song. It is a beautiful telling of the Hope we have because of Easter.

Head over to Signs, Miracles, and Wonders for more Then Sings My Soul Saturday.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Ultimate Blog Party 2009Welcome to my first ever Blog Party!
So glad you could stop by!

To get involved in the action, stop by 5 Minutes for Mom. They will be partying all week. You can post a party at you blog, or just sign up to win some of the great prizes (including gift certificates, books, stuff for kids, stuff for you... and much more).

For those of you who are new here, let me introduce myself. I'm Christy, the contemplative mom. I am the wife of a full-time graduate student - we've been married almost 10 years - and the mother of two young children - my son is 3 and my daughter is 1.

In the busyness of life, I have begun to wonder... is it possible to be a mom and still be contemplative? I started this blog last October out of my desire for community as I strive to live contemplatively. Here you can share in my journey as I learn how to live in continual meditative prayer and to bring glory to God in both the spiritual and the mundane tasks of life.

Check out my post on living a prepared life to understand more of my motivations and themes. I enjoy reading and writing about my children (crafts, parenting idea, books, etc.), my home (organization, projects, etc.), my faith (prayer, Bible study, contemplations, etc.), food and more.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Take a look around and please let me know how you enjoyed your stay.

And don't forget to check out the great prizes available at the party.
Some of my favorites prizes are:
11 — Aromatherapy book and a sampler of therapeutic essential oils.
Provided by: Jennifer at Oils For Wellness

106 — Melissa & Doug Role Play Dress Up Costume (prize value $50)
Provided by: Good for the Kids

USC 11 — See Kai Run baby/toddler shoes
Provided by: Traveling with Baby and See Kai Run

16 — $20 gift certificate to Ladybug Limited
Provided by: Ladybug Limited

Other prizes I'd love are:
99, NTL 22, 19, 39, 21, 22, 44, 56, 58, 118, 12
Have fun partying and making new friends!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blitz-It Friday

Grab My Blog Button!

Organized Everyday is hosting a new carnival called Blitz-it Friday.
If you have no idea what a blitz is, read here: the original one hour blitz and staying focused.

I have used a similar style of cleaning in the past, by setting time limits and hitting one area very quickly, but have never tried it for an hour. I am hoping to use this carnival to get some good things done in a short amount of time.


Blitz-it Friday:
Kitchen Blitz
  1. Put away leftovers from lunch
  2. Unloaded dish washer
  3. Reloaded dish washer and started it (yes, there were so many dishes that I had to immediately run the dishwasher)
  4. Hand washed pans and misc. dishes
  5. Cleaned stove
  6. Put away groceries
  7. Cleared off and cleaned counters
  8. Cleared off and cleaned kitchen table and chairs
  9. Swept kitchen, dining room, living room and entryway floors
  10. Mopped kitchen and dining room floors

Today was my first hour-long blitz using these specific strategies. And I must admit I was disappointed at how much I got done (or didn't get to). I was really hoping to be more productive (the bathroom really could have used some attention, too).


A few things I found extremely helpful:
  • the rule about FOCUS -it kept me on track, especially while clearing off the counters and putting the items away in other rooms.
  • the suggestion to keep WATER nearby - about half-way through my hour, I was wearing down, then I saw my water. After a few big swallows, I was ready to keep going.
  • a LIST of tasks to accomplish - although I didn't get to everything, it helped me be very focused in the kitchen and finish the job completely (instead of leaving it mostly clean)

Have fun blitzing!

Compassion

The Way of the Heart – Part 3

Photo courtesy R. Pelisson - http://www.SaharaMet.com

--
I am currently reading The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.
Check out the other posts in this series.

--

I have often struggled with the monastic idea of solitude. It always seemed that they were withdrawing from a world that badly needed the savor and preservation of the salt we are called to be. However, Nouwen has some powerful thoughts about the intersection between solitude and ministry, about the necessity of solitude in order to minister to others.

According to Nouwen, “Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry.” When we allow ourselves to enter “the furnace of transformation” (i.e. true solitude), it causes us to see ourselves for who we really are, to realize our own desperate state and to know that we stand only by the grace of God. “In solitude, our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, a rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that can open itself to all suffering people….”

In order to serve others, we must die to them; we must stop judging them, stop evaluating them, stop measuring our value and worth against their lives. In this we become “free to be compassionate.” It is only in the presence of God that this transformation can occur. “Solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry.”

Using St. Anthony as the prime example of this link between solitude and ministry, Nouwen goes on to state that “the solitude that at first had required physical isolation had now become a quality of his heart, an inner disposition that could no longer be disturbed by those who needed his guidance.”

“Thus in and through solitude we do not move away from people. On the contrary, we move closer to them through compassionate ministry.”

Lord, transform me in the furnace of solitude to be genuinely compassionate of those around me who need your salt and light in their lives. Call me daily to your presence, that I may see You, your mercy, your glory ; that my own pride would be burned away; that I would die to my neighbor; that my life itself would become ministry. Amen.

All quotes are from The Way of the Heart, chapter 1 – Solitude.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome, Baby Charlie!


Charles William Hall

Born March 4, 2009

To happy parents:
Andrew and Rebecca Hall


and older brothers:
Evan and Samuel

Weight: 8 pounds 3 ounces
Length: 21 inches


Welcome, baby Charlie! I can hardly wait to meet you! Congratulations!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

March 17 is a day set aside to celebrate the life of Saint Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17, 460 A.D.

Saint Patrick was born to a wealthy family in Wales. At age 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and spent six years in slavery before he escaped.

Much of his time in Ireland was spent working alone as a shepherd. During this time of solitude, he became a devout in his faith. It is also believed that it was at this time in his life that he began dreaming of converting the Irish to Christianity.

After he returned to Britain, he was told in a dream to return to Ireland as a missionary. He undertook 15 years of study and ordination as a priest before returning to Ireland with a dual mission - to minister to Christians there and to convert the Irish.

Saint Patrick left an incredible legacy! Not only did he bring "many thousands" to the Lord, he also proved the viability of missions for the church. His example inspired later missionaries to greater levels evangelism abroad.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

If I Give a Pig My P.J.'s

Have you read any of the children's books in the series If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond? They are such cute books about a crazy series of events that happen if you give a mouse a cookie(or a pig a pancake, or a moose a muffin, etc).

"If you give a mouse a cookie...
He will want a glass of milk...
and a straw...
then a napkin ..." etc.

The events in the books always lead back to the beginning; they cose with "chances are he's going to want a cookie (a pancake, a muffin, etc)..."

Tonight Joshua was saying something about a pig and his P.J.'s. We weren't sure what he was trying to tell us, but Darren quipped back, "If you give a pig your P.J.'s...?" Joshua started laughing and began creating his own story. It went something like this:
"If I give a pig my P.J.'s,
He'll want to sleep in my bed.
Then he'll want to hold my teddy.
And he will drink my water.
When he wakes up, he'll want to play.
And that will make him tired.
He will want to take a nap.
And for his nap, he'll want to wear my P.J's."
I was so excited that Joshua followed Darren's lead and started adding his own ideas to the story. We had already gone through the story twice (he likes to repeat things) when he came up with "he will drink my water."

Beautiful! This was the first time Joshua was really engaged in creating his own story.

A Plan for Art and Action - week 2


Last week I had a great plan for days of fun, but I ended up a little less productive and "fun" because of persistent migraines. But we are going to try again this week, with a less aggressive plan.

The only part of the plan that we really worked on was the gross motor development. The other activities are the same as last week.

Gross motor development:
  • Obstacle Course – my son loved the obstacle course. This will stay on the list for another week.
  • Balance on One Foot – I just add this activity anytime, like while waiting at the grocery store or the doctor’s office.
  • Jumping – this also works anytime. Sometimes when we are on a walk, we’ll jump over cracks.
  • "Car" Rides – for animals in laundry basket, both kids love pushing the basket around the house. We never got to this last week, but will try again this coming week.

Fine motor development:
  • Lacing Boards – we will first need to make the boards (see crafts projects below).
  • Clothes Pin Game – not sure what the game is yet, but it includes pinching the clothes pin open to work those little fingers.
  • Tissue Paper Creations – this is a fun craft project that really encourages fine motor development (see craft projects below for more details).

Speech development:
  • "Going on a Bear Hunt" – Using this song and the book as a launching point, we will go on our own bear hunt (maybe becoming a bear at some point, walking like a bear to throw in some gross motor exercises).
  • Music and Dancing – “We Are The Dinosaurs” and “The Airplane Song” from Whaddaya Think of That? by Laurie Berkner will be our primary songs. This activity is great for speech and gross motor skills.

Arts and Crafts:
  • Make Lacing Boards
  • Decorate Clothes Pin Game
  • Tissue Paper Creations – using sheets of tissue paper, fold, cut/tear, and scrunch the paper; then glue the little balls onto a piece of construction paper.

Kitchen Fun:
  • Blueberry Muffins
There may still be too many activities for the week, but hopefully this will be a "normal" week and we can better gauge how many activities we can accomplish in a week.

Enjoy your week of art and action.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday


This past week was hard on our meal planning, but I am motivating myself to try again.

I am not organized enough to plan out breakfast and lunch with the kids, but I am planning on introducing different foods to them, or working on foods that they have not been very receptive to in the past.

New "kid" foods:
  • brussels sprouts
  • honeydew melon
  • white fish
  • bell peppers

Menu for this week:
  • Monday -- Chicken Fajitas, veggies.
  • Tuesday -- Kale & Potato Stew (crock pot), bread.
  • Wednesday -- Thai Curry, rice, veggies.
  • Thursday -- Chili (crock pot), corn bread.
  • Friday -- Spaghetti, veggies, bread.
  • Saturday -- Nachos, green salad.
  • Sunday -- Leftovers night. Not very exciting, but necessary.

Check out other menu plan's at $5 Dinners (our guest host for the week - next week Menu Plan Monday is back at OrgJunkie)

Happy Monday!

Do You Need A "Time-Out"?

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 10

"As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.

She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.'

But the Lord said to her,'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'"

Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)


I was reminded this week what is most important in life. As I have been encouraged through this devotional series to "get organized", it was good to be reminded to always keep the tasks for each day secondary to my relationships -- with God, my husband, my children, my friends, etc.

This passage of scripture provides such beautiful imagery of our time with the Lord. I would love to be found each day sitting at his feet, basking in his presence. And there is no higher example I would like to provide for my children.

There are always things to get done, and they need to be done, but there also must be time to sit -- with my children on the floor as they play, with my friends, with my husband, and with my Lord at his feet as he teaches and encourages and transforms me.


Lord,
Thank you for the precious lives and relationships you have blessed me with. Remind me daily to be like Mary, not Martha, and choose Jesus and people over house work.

Please help me get done the things that you want me to accomplish for each day, and help me to respond properly to any interruptions to my schedule. Give me peace in knowing that I will get it all done in your timing.
Amen.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Banana Bread

The other day, Joshua wanted to make cook some bananas. I tried to explain that if we stuck his banana in the microwave, it would just squish. He was not convinced.


Finally, I showed him a box of banana bread mix and asked if we could cook bread instead.


No bread, but banana muffins finally convinced him.
Too bad I didn't get any pictures of Joshua and Abigail eating the spoils!

Migraines...

Today, I am going on a rant. I have been completely useless for two days now (I had a few pre-written posts scheduled to publish these last few days, or you would have noticed my complete absence), all because of ... Migraines!!

I have suffered from migraines since I was 12 years old. I have these wonderful times, where I go months without a bad headache; and then I have times like these last two months, where I get BAD migraines several times a month.

I've tried figuring out what triggers them, but there doesn't seem to be any one thing. It feels like there is really nothing I can do, but pop pills or stick myself with a needle.

Imitrix and I have had a love-hate relationship for years. It always knocks out the migraine, but the side-effects are severe (imagine a half-hour of migraine pain overlapping with horrid joint pain)! But nothing else seems to work.

My new doctor recently suggested I try Relpax instead. It is the same type of drug as Imitrix, but has had fewer side-effect complaints. But after this last round of migraines, I don't know if Relpax can cut it. Sure, I appreciate the lack of horrid side-effects, but it didn't work as advertised. No more migraine, but I have had this residual headache for over 48 hours.

I am very frustrated and feel at a complete loss. There are so many bad emotions that get wrapped up in the pain ... the guilt of abandoning my family, the horrible feelings of failure and depression, the idea that I will never catch up from everything that isn't getting done while I lay here in bed.

So, what do I do now? Do I ask for a stronger dosage? Do I go back to the drawing table? Do I go back to Imitrix? Is it time to start the testing again? Let doctors poke and prod again?

Thanks for enduring my ranting. I'll be back to my normal self ... soon?!? And will catch up on all your wonderful blog posts.

In the mean time, happy blogging and I'll see you soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

BPA in everything???


I have recently started paying more attention to all the toxins "they" say are in everything I use in my house. Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating, but I do find it frustrating that so many items I use on a daily basis are now being found toxic, especially for kids.

In her article on BPA-free sippy cups, Keeper of the Home provides great links for more information about BPA. She also gives the results of her in-home testing of several sippy cups.

I'm not sure if I am ready to fear all plastic in my home, but I did purchase BPA-free sippy cups this weekend. My kids were in need of new cups anyway, and I decided it wouldn't hurt to buy the "safer"ones. I purchased the less-expensive Avent Magic Cups with the handles for my daughter, and a new cup from Playtex, the Baby Lil' Gripper Twist 'n Click (which was not reviewed in the article) for my son.

What do you think about BPA? Have you done anything to limit or remove it from your home?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading List for 2009

Rev. 18 DEC 09

I am not going to reach my goal of reading 25 books in 2009. I will have to try again next year. Before having kids, I was a huge reader. I did not realize how challenging just two books a month would be now that my time is spent more with my children. Maybe next year I should include all the children's books I have read ... that would easily be over 50.

Below you will find a list of what I am currently reading and the books that I have finished reading. I will be updating this list throughout the year.

~ Book Reviews


~ Currently reading:

~ Finished (most recent at the top):
  1. Patrick: Son of Ireland by Stephen Lawhead
  2. The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry by Henri J.M. Nouwen -- check out my blog posts about this book
  3. John: The God Who Cares and Knows You by Kay Arthur and Pete De Lacy -- check out my notes about the Gospel of John
  4. Your Three-Year-Old by by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. and Frances L. Ilg, M.D. -- check out my thoughts about this book.
  5. The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian
  6. The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
  7. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
  8. Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery
  9. Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery
  10. Clean House, Clean Planet: Clean Your House for Pennies a Day the Safe and Nontoxic Way by Karen Logan -- check out my comments about this book in Deodorizer and Cleaner and Green Goals

Monday, March 9, 2009

Obstacle course

The weather was cold and wet last week. We needed something ACTIVE we could do inside. What could be better than an obstacle course.

We started with 10 letters in a bucket. Joshua would pick one out to carry through the course and place in a different bucket at the end. This controls how many times we have to go through the course to deliver all 10 letters to the end. It also forces some fine motor skills by holding a small object in his hand the entire time.

Then on to part one, the stepping "stones."


Next is the step stool. We stepped up and down five times before moving on.
Joshua is reluctantly helping Abigail climb the stool as well.


Joshua is jumping down, ready to move to the next activity in the course...


... the tunnel! This is a favorite for both Joshua and Abigail.


As he emerges from the tunnel, faithful Blueberry horse is waiting for a ride through the kitchen.


Leaving Blueberry in the dining room, Joshua "walks" to the end of the course ... as a bear (or a wheel barrow; he had his choice of either).


Ten times through the obstacle course takes its toll. Joshua rests at the end, before jumping up and asking mommy what's next.

I was surprised how many times children will do the same thing over and over. Abigail loves to follow him around and tries to copy everything he does.

We had so much fun! We'll have to try it again on the next rainy day!

A Plan for Art and Action

As promised in 31 Days of Crafts for kids ... and more, I am publishing this week’s list of activities to do with my children.

Gross motor development:
  • Obstacle Course – this is great game, especially when you are stuck indoors (check out the recent pictures at our family blog). Here are some of my ideas for both indoor and outdoor versions.
  • indoor – step up on stool, jumping, tunnel (or crawling under a table), bouncy horse (balancing/ jumping), “crazy” walk (bear, frog, crab, wheel barrow, etc)
  • outdoor - rock wall climbing at playground, balance beam (walk along curb or low ledge), jumping, stepping up and down
  • "Car" Rides – for animals in laundry basket, both kids love pushing the basket around the house.
  • Balance on One Foot – I just add this activity anytime, like while waiting at the grocery store or the doctor’s office.
  • Jumping – this also works anytime. Sometimes when we are on a walk, we’ll jump over cracks.

Fine motor development:
  • Lacing Boards – we will first need to make the boards (see crafts projects below).
  • Clothes Pin Game – not sure what the game is yet, but it includes pinching the clothes pin open to work those little fingers.
  • Tissue Paper Creations – this is a fun craft project that really encourages fine motor development (see craft projects below for more details).

Speech development:
Note: My son’s speech issues center around his creative language. He is very limited in his creative and pretend play, and this has limited his speech development. Most of these activities focus on pretend play and music.
  • Tents and tunnels – we are going to turn our living room into a big tent.
  • "Going on a Bear Hunt" – Using this song and the book as a launching point, we will go on our own bear hunt (maybe becoming a bear at some point, walking like a bear to throw in some gross motor exercises).
  • Music and Dancing – “We Are The Dinosaurs” and “The Airplane Song” from Whaddaya Think of That? by Laurie Berkner will be our primary songs. This activity is great for speech and gross motor skills.

Arts and Crafts:
  • Make Lacing Boards
  • Decorate Clothes Pin Game
  • Tissue Paper Creations – using sheets of tissue paper, fold, cut/tear, and scrunch the paper; then glue the little balls onto a piece of construction paper.

Kitchen Fun:
  • Blueberry Muffins

We are excited about a fun week of activities and play. I may have planned too many (or too few) activities. I’ll adjust the plan in the coming weeks, once I have a better feel for how this works.

This is a really long post. Did I include too much information? Or would you like to see more specifics? Let me know if you would like more details on any of the activities I have listed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Create in Me a Clean Heart - Week 9

"Seek first God's kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well ... Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come when the time comes."
Matthew 3:33 (NCV) / Matthew 6:34 (Message)

This week's verse is a beautiful call to review and revise my priorities. Do I allow the concerns of life to take my sight off of all that God is doing and forget his faithfulness? Have I let the urgent tasks of life take priority over what is more important?

I have been thinking and praying this week about my priorities. Even though I know what is most important, it takes discipline to not allow the "squeaky wheel" or the urgent demands to run my day, instead of keeping my priorities in order.

If my priorities are off, I no longer have my focus on God, and the concerns of my daily life rule my heart with fear and worry.

Lord, I confess that I worry about too many things. Forgive me; help me to seek first YOUR will. Breathe your peace and rest into my heart. I don't know how I am going to accomplish everything that lies ahead of me, but I will look to you for answers and guidance, and rest knowing that you have everything under control. Amen

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's your name?


Last week on the playground, one of Joshua's friends was prompted by his dad to say thank you to me for something I had done. "Thank you, Ms Christy!" was his response.

On our walk home, Joshua asked who Ms Christy was. I explained that it was my name, but that he could call me Mommy.

The other day I was in the bathroom doing my hair when I hear this little voice call from the kitchen, "Ms Christy, Ms Christy (pause) Mommy!"

I could not believe he had remembered my name... and then chose to use it to get my attention. It is really weird to have your three-year-old call you by your first name.

Kids are so funny!

31 Days of Crafts for kids ... and more ...

I was inspired by this post I ran across this week at The Artful Parent. She posted a list of 31 activities to do with her daughter in March. She has some great ideas, which are especially helpful for the art-and-creativity-challenged parent, like myself.

My lack of planning has severely limited the types of activities I can do with my children. With just a little bit of fore-thought, we could be doing so much more to explore and learn and grow.

In the near future, I am going to begin a new series listing the arts and crafts, gross and fine motor development activities, and speech exercises that I will be doing with my son for the month (or maybe only a week at a time).

As many of you know, my three-year-old son has some developmental delays in his motor skills (both gross and fine) and in his speech. These have led to years of therapy in New Jersey's Early Intervention program. However, these services were only available until his third birthday, now we are on our own, until we are ready to put him in the public school system.

I have years of therapy sessions and advice from speech and occupational therapists that I can draw on. I just need to get it all down on paper and really get busy working with my son so he does not continue to fall behind in his speech and motor-planning.

Stay tuned for fun ideas to do with your kids...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Solitude

The Way of the Heart – Part 2


Photo courtesy R. Pelisson - http://www.SaharaMet.com

I am currently reading The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.
Check out my first post in this series, Desert Spirituality.

--

What does the word "solitude" bring to mind? After reading this chapter, I have to admit that my idea of solitude is selfish and shallow. It means my time to think my thoughts, a place for me to be refueled and gather new strength.

In contrast, Nouwen defines solitude as “the furnace of transformation.” The place where we ultimately lay down our thoughts, our will, our lives; where we come to know that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us; where we are changed into the image of Christ. Solitude is the place “where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the … compulsions of the world.”

In my life, this fight is waged every moment of every day, and I do not feel have the strength to persevere long term. Yet it is precisely my weakness that forces me to surrender entirely, unconditionally. Only then can I realize that He was there beside me the entire time. In true solitude, I come face to face with the grace and holiness of my savior.

How do I apply this idea of solitude to my life? As Nouwen says, “We are responsible for our own solitude.” I know I must persevere in the discipline of solitude in my life – a specific time and place to be with God and God alone. But I feel the bigger challenge for me is to abandon the selfishness of my solitude and allow myself to enter “the furnace of transformation,” to surrender to His purification in my life.


All quotes are from The Way of the Heart, chapter 1.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Let's Dance!

Joshua has the cutest little dance right now. When we turn on the music at home, he does this fancy footwork resembling the Cha-cha-cha!

Here he is at school (in the white with green sleeves) practicing his dance moves.


Abigail LOVES music and LOVES to dance.
You can't tell in the picture, but she is dancing her heart out!


Whenever she hears music, even if it's just a little toy playing a short jingle, she does this cute little dance where she bends her knees and bobs up and down. She has this little barn that plays music. Sometimes she'll push the button over and over just for a chance to dance.

So cute!

Sacred


I love the song "Sacred" on Caedmon's Call's latest album Overdressed. It speaks of celebrating and enjoying every day life, even with its mundane tasks. Below are the lyrics. I have added some italics to the phrases that really echo my heart.
this house is a good mess
it’s the proof of life
no way would I trade jobs
but it don’t pay overtime

I’ll get to the laundry
I don’t know when
I’m saying a prayer tonight
cause tomorrow it starts again


could it be that everything is sacred?
and all this time
everything I’ve dreamed of
has been right before my eyes

the children are sleeping
but they’re running through my mind
the sun makes them happy
and the music makes them unwind

my cup runneth over
and I worry about the stain
teach me to run to You
like they run to me for every little thing


when I forget to drink from you
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a stream
to feed the garden


wake up, little sleeper
the Lord, God Almighty
made your Mama keeper
so rise and shine
rise and shine cause

everything is sacred
and all this time
everything I’ve dreamed of
has been right before my eyes

Head over to Signs, Miracles, and Wonders for more Then Sings My Soul Saturday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Personal Goals for 2009

I know it is already March, but I wanted to post my goals for 2009. I have already been working on most of these for the last two months. But they needed to be better defined and documented. For me, goals need to be specific and measurable in order to properly motivate me.

So here are my goals for 2009:
  • regular exercise routine (at least three times a week) - Since my daughter was born, I have not been able to establish a regular exercise routine. I really need to do this for more energy and to get control of my migraines (when I am running regularly, they seem to decrease in frequency)
  • read 25 books - With kids, it has become increasingly difficult to set aside reading time. I was going to set a goal to read 50 books, but after realizing that would be almost a book a week, I decided to back off a little.
  • purge / organize our entire apartment - This is the longest we have lived in one place and have accumulated too much unorganized stuff. I am used to cleaning and purging with each move; instead I'll have to do it without the motivation of a move (unless we end up moving this summer ... still to be announced).
  • increase my "solitude" (time alone with God) by 10 minutes per day - That may not seem like much, but it is over an hour a week. I wanted to make it longer, but felt that even this small amount of time will require a new level of discipline.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Abigail Likes to Draw

Abigail loves to imitate me. Her new favorite activity is writing / drawing. I want to encourage her love of drawing, but she sticks everything in her mouth so crayons, pens, markers, etc. are too risky (not to mention that she will draw on anything and everything she finds).

It finally dawned on me that she (and I) would love Aqua-doodle!
No mess, lots of fun!

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