Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Get Your Toddlers to Brush Their Teeth

I have heard other people say before what a pain it is to get little kids to brush their teeth. I've heard parents complain about being bit, tantrums and lots of wiggling during teeth brushing sessions but honestly, I didn't have anything to relate it to. It wasn't until I took my girls to the dentist for the first time a couple of months ago that I realized that maybe my kids were in the minority of little ones who don't mind having their teeth brushed. The dentist wasn't too surprised that my 3 year old sat pretty still and thought she was big stuff in the chair, but he seemed overly surprised that my then 1 1/2 year old didn't mind it. He had her straddle my lap, and then he laid her backwards with her head in his lap. He asked me to try to hold her still and gave me this little pep talk about how she would probably hate it and he would be quick, etc. When she opened right up and just laid there, letting him brush, he continued to comment on how he had never had another one that age sit so contently. I'm not saying this to brag, but just to share some of the ways we have been able to brush our girls' teeth without a battle each day. 

Start young
I think one common mistake is waiting until the child has a full set of teeth and at a dramatic point in childhood to start brushing their teeth. It's a foreign object in their mouth and they aren't in control of it...of course they will be surprised. Start as soon as the first tooth pokes through. You can get little baby tooth brushes that you put on your finger until they are ready for toddler size. 

Be consistent
This one is probably really obvious, but toddlers need consistency. If they know that every morning after breakfast or before their nap, their teeth are getting brushed, they will be prepared for it and may not fight it as much. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible. For us, it is after breakfast and before bed at night.

Let them brush yours
Our kids love brushing our teeth. We often brush ours at the same time and they just think it is the best thing ever to get a turn brushing ours the way we brush theirs.

Take turns
When we first started, we would brush their teeth thoroughly first, and then let them have a turn playing with the brush and "brushing". Now, we let them have their turn first and "brush" their teeth (they are actually getting pretty good at it now), and then they pass it over to us for a turn. We have done it this way so long, that I give them their toothbrushes while I'm brushing mine and before I'm even half way done, they are passing me theirs and saying "your turn, mommy". It really helps kids to know they have some control over what you're doing to their body.

Assign words, songs or fingerplays
We have a little routine and words to go along with it. First, they open up and say "ahhhh" so their mouth is wide and I can get their bottom teeth. The I tell them I'm going "upstairs" and they say "ahhh" again and I do their upper teeth. Then they give me a "cheeeeeeese" and I do their front teeth. They know the routine well and tell me to do the same when they brush mine ;) They also love singing the Brush Your Teeth song by Raffi occasionally while we are brushing. Finger plays, songs, and rhymes about brushing your teeth are all great for kids. 

Show them pictures or videos
Sometimes one of the most effective ways you can get kids to do something they don't want to is showing them other people doing it. If they really look up to older kids, show them a picture of some bigger kids brushing their teeth. If they love Mickey Mouse, try to find a video on YouTube of Mickey brushing. Once they see that everyone does it and its "cool" they may be more willing to give it a try.

Have you faced the tooth brushing battle in your home? What are some tips you have for getting your kiddos to brush? 
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Little Things That Make a Big Difference In Your Marriage

Life and marriage can be overwhelming sometimes. Sometimes we get so caught up in the big things and the big picture that we are overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes in our marriages we feel like everything is piling up and there are all of these huge overwhelming things going on (not always necessarily bad things). What we fail to often see is that there are so many little things we can be doing each and every day with our spouse that can be a big difference within our marriage. 

Say "I Love You"--My husband is the best about this. He always says I love you. Whether we are on a 2 second phone call to confirm plans or he is leaving for the day, he always, always says it. I have noticed everyone in his family does as well, so I'm sure that's where it comes from. It is so nice to hear because who doesn't love being told I love you?! It just brightens up your mood every time. I think sometimes after people have been together a long time either they don't say it as often, or they say it but without any meaning. Say it like you mean it and say it often! 

Greet them when they walk in the door--This is something I almost had to teach myself to do. My husband almost always gets home from work when I am cooking dinner or changing a diaper or doing some chore and it is so easy to just yell a "hey!" from the kitchen and not really stop to give him a hug and say hello. It makes a HUGE difference to show them that you missed them while they were gone and are happy they are home. 

Hug--I feel like hugging can easily be one of those things you just stop doing after awhile. Or forget to do. Or just don't make a priority. It can really make you feel connected. If you have kids, taking time to hug in front of them can always show them that your marriage is a top priority and shows them that mom and dad love each other. 

Do something for them-- I'm not necessarily talking any grand gesture here, but just doing a little something for them every day. I know my husband really appreciates the rare occasion where I get up and make him a nice breakfast before church. It makes my day when he unloads the dishwasher. Little things like that each day can definitely show your spouse how much you care for them. 

What little things do you do in your marriage to make a big difference? 

Since we are talking about marriage, I want to give a big shout out to my sweet husband, whose birthday it is today! I am so thankful for him today and every day but especially love celebrating him on this day each year! Happy birthday honey! 
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Trips, Homeschool and Winter

Just a little life update in bullet point form:
  • I left my babies for the first time to go be with my family in Colorado for a funeral. I had left them once overnight before, but I was back within 24 hours. This time, I left on a Thursday afternoon and came back the following Monday night. We all survived!
  • Because of said trip, I have been catching up on life the past week and a half or so. Laundry, cleaning, and just getting back into a routine. I always take awhile to get back after it after being gone. 
  • My oldest daughter has been asking me to do homeschool for awhile. She is about 3 1/2 so I was planning on waiting until at least fall to start a very relaxed preschool type thing, if not waiting until the fall after that to do preschool. She has been asking so much and so excited about it that I decided to try just a few small things. I don't really think it could qualify as home school, but she likes to call the activities that, so we'll go with it. This week, we did Daniel Tiger activities from 1+1+1=1. She has loved every second of it. Even though we won't start anything formal for awhile, it made me realize I need to be better about doing structured learning and activities with her because she eats it up. 
  • Winter has been semi-mild compared to some years, but it has also been a little bit backwards. We had days that were in the 40's in January when it is typically below 0, and now it is way below 0 when it should be starting to warm up a little bit. I won't complain about it since it wasn't nearly as long as normal winter, but I am sure ready for spring!
  • Speaking of spring. I am dreaming about days of playing in the backyard all morning, eating a picnic lunch, going on bike rides, running through the sprinkler, grilling out, going to the splash pad and park and all of the other fun summer brings! We've been hanging tight with lots of fun activities to keep us busy inside.
  • Back to my first point: when I was in Colorado, I got the joy of hanging out with my adorable niece the days I was there. I just love her so much! She is my first and only niece and the absolute cutest! 

  • I decided to do a 60 day real food challenge (that I made up--it's basically whole 30 modified to include beans, some grains like oatmeal and rice, and natural sugars) with one cheat a week. I need consistency and hoping this will help. There were a lot of things I loved and hated about whole 30, so hopefully this will be the best of both worlds! I am seriously craving some chocolate, though. 
  • This was kind of a draining week adoption wise and I am just looking forward to some family time this weekend!
What's on your schedule for the weekend?! Happy Friday! 
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Biblically Work out Offenses with Other Believers

I naively thought that when I became a Christian, friendships would be easy. Christians are nice (usually) and want to have good, loving friendships (usually), so what would the problem be?! Maybe you’re laughing at that right now because you know that while intentions are great, no relationship is perfect. Or maybe you’re nodding your head because you assumed or assume the same thing. So what do you do when these offenses hit and you are left hurt, offended or confused by a brother or sister in Christ? Read More 
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Living With an Allergy Kid: A Mom's Perspective

It's the middle of the night, and I still haven't fallen asleep. I can't sleep. I'm too worried about her. I drag my feet over the side of the bed, grab my phone and creep out of our bedroom. I slowly open the door to her room, sneak inside and over to the side of her bed. Quietly, I shine my phone light near her bed so I can check her breathing and see her face. I relax when I see her chest slowly moving up and down and hear her calm, steady breaths. Of course I can't be too sure, so I shine my light a little closer to check her face. All clear, no hives. I gently lift her pajama top to check her belly for hives. It's all clear. I tiptoe out of her room, shut the door and climb back in my bed. Maybe now I'll be able to sleep. That has to be the third time since she's gone to bed that I've checked on her. 
This is life with a food allergy kid. Not every night, of course, but more nights than I can count a similar scenario has taken place for me. My biggest fear is that my girl will have a reaction in her sleep and the unthinkable would happen. If she's awake, I notice the hives, I see the swelling. But if she was asleep when it hit? Well, I can't let my mind go to that place. See, my sweet girl is highly allergic to peanuts. The allergist told us when she was about a year and a half, that on a scale from 1-6, with 6 being the most severe an allergy can be, she is a 5. That was terrifying for me to hear. God has protected her. Both times she had a reaction (before we knew), I know His hand was on her. On all of us to act quickly and get help immediately. But the scary thing is that the allergist explained to us that contrary to the popular belief that a reaction can be different every time, the reaction is the same every time. With her, both times, it came on slowly. It was about 3 hours after she ingested peanuts that symptoms started showing up, which I hear is rare for a peanut allergy. It is usually immediate. Her symptoms are hives on her face, stomach, and chest, redness on her feet and pelvic area, and swelling of her eyes and lips. She also said the symptoms will always be the same. But in our case, that is where we've caught it. So we don't know what would come next. Would her throat close? Would she stop breathing? Would she go into anaphylactic shock? Likely one of those things would happen. And that's why the night time is the scariest for me. If she somehow got into something with peanuts at 6 p.m. while we were at a friend's house, her symptoms wouldn't show up until after she's gone to bed. Every night before we go to sleep, I creep into her room and check on her. I know many parents do that, and I probably would even if it weren't for this, but every night, that's one of my purposes. I have to set my mind at ease. While we are as careful as we can be about peanuts with her, things can happen. Another kid could offer her a treat while we aren't looking, or even an adult who doesn't know or forgot. 

We have been so blessed by a few families at our church who provide treats each week. Early on, they decided not to serve anything with peanut products because of my daughter. It has been such a blessing to our family. I don't have to worry about her running right out after the service and grabbing a treat from the table, because I know they are all safe. Everywhere else, I have to ask what it is, what all the ingredients are, and then specifically ask if it has any peanut products. I am happy to do it for my daughter, but it has just been a great joy to not have to worry about it at church. Because of that, I let my guard down at a small group a few months ago. I wasn't thinking about it because everyone knows about her allergy. I certainly don't expect people to cater specifically to her, but everyone has been so sweet about it, that I didn't even think to ask that time. It was about 10:00 that night when it hit me. I didn't ask if there were any peanuts in the dessert, and I didn't eat it so I don't know! My husband tried to think about what it tasted like and really didn't think it was peanut-y, but that wasn't enough for me. I texted the girl who made the dessert, but I got no response until awhile later when her husband texted back that she had already gone to bed and he wasn't sure what was in it. We immediately got her out of bed to check her, but it was probably too soon for symptoms to have shown up, so we gave her benadryl just in case. That was the night I described above. The night where I couldn't get to sleep because I was worried sick about her. The night where I got up multiple times to check on her and make sure. I try to be careful and always ask, and keep her away from anything peanut related, but sometimes I slip up. Even people who know her and love her and are well aware of her allergy just forget. It's not at the forefront of people's minds all the time and I wouldn't expect it to be. Even though someone may very well know about it, they aren't thinking about the fact that reese's pieces contain peanut butter when they offer her one. Yes, that happened, and yes it is scary because then you don't know how many she ate or what will happen. The lady at the stadium eating a bag of peanuts behind us, kindly offers one to her because she sees her big blue eyes curiously watching her crack nut after nut. It's always because of people being kind and people wanting to share with her. Of course we have never had someone purposely give her a peanut butter sandwich and then sit back and see what happens. It is always completely innocent, but that's what is scary! 
Obviously there is only so much I can do. I can't live my life in a constant state of worry that she might come in contact. (Thankfully she does not have an airborne allergy, so she would have to actually ingest the peanut product to have a reaction). I have to trust God with it. I have to trust God with her life. I can do my part, but the rest is in His hands. This is just one large way that He has drawn me closer to Him. As a mama, I want to do everything I can possibly do to protect my baby. I don't ever want any harm to come upon her, as I'm sure any mother feels. But God has taught me that I can only do so much. I can make people aware, teach her about her allergy, read labels and keep her away from it and that's about it. I can't control what other people eat or serve (and I wouldn't want to!) I'm thankful that He has taught me that much more to trust in Him. Trusting Him with your child's life is about the biggest thing you can hand over with open hands. I know He is sovereign and good. 
Do you have any experience with food allergies? If so, what are you or a loved one allergic to? Can you relate to the fears and paranoia I describe? 
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baked Pesto Tacos

Do you ever find a recipe that you think sounds great, but then you try it and while it is still great, it just needs a few of your own personal tweaks?! That is what happened with these tacos. I originally saw this recipe from Mix & Match Mama , but it just wasn't quite it, you know? So I decided to make a few little adjustments that I knew my whole family would enjoy. 
Here is the recipe that I ended up with! 
Baked Pesto Tacos 
(Adapted from Mix & Match Mama)
What You'll Need:
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 box taco shells
1/2 cup store bought or homemade pesto
1 cup salsa 
1 can black beans (or 2 cups of cooked dry beans)
Shredded cheese (I usually use about a cup, but never measure. Use as much as you like!)
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Brown your ground meat and drain.
3. Add spices to your meat + 1/2 cup water and stir well. Cook until water is absorbed.
4. Stir in pesto, beans and salsa and simmer on low for about 3 minutes.
5. In a large baking dish, stand taco shells up and fill with meat mixture.
6. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake until cheese is melted!
We had never done baked tacos before we first tried this recipe, and my whole family really likes them this way! Hope you enjoy! 
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Homemaking On A Dime: Hosting Company

Today is the final post in the Homemaking On A Dime series! It has been really fun talking all things homemaking, sharing tips for how to do it on a budget, and reading all of your ideas! Thanks for sticking with me through it, and I hope it was helpful and entertaining for you as well. 
This week we are talking about ways to host company while on a budget. Opening our homes is so important and can be so much fun, but if you are tight on funds, you may not be as willing to do it very regularly. So let's get right to it, and talk about some ways to minimize the cost of having people over. 

Go easy on beverages
If you are having a meal, or even if you're not, calm down with the drinks already! I think a lot of people feel like they need to have 16 different drink options at each meal, but I think we can honestly say that most people will be fine with water or maybe one other option. There are really inexpensive drink mixes, or a good way to mix it up would be to do some infused water with things you already have like berries, or lemon and lime. 
Themed dinners
Instead of creating a big, fancy feast, try coming up with a themed dinner. Taco night, baked potato bar, soup supper, or something similar. A lot of these kinds of themes will also allow you to focus on one main thing and just provide several toppings. Like have a bunch of baked potatoes (so cheap), and provide cheese, sour cream, broccoli, bacon, etc. and have people create their own. This also works well with doing personal pizzas, or shish kabobs! People love picking out their own stuff, so it's entertainment AND dinner. What more could you want?! 
Game night
Skip the dinner and go straight for the games. If you can't afford to feed several extra people, don't feel like you have to have them over for a meal! Ask some friends over for a game night and have everyone bring a game and snack to share. Or just serve dessert and drinks. We love games and we often enjoy having people over for games after our kids have gone to bed. 

Have a fire
Something about fires just draw people in. The fire pit we bought last year at Target has been one of our best entertaining investments thus far! We have had countless conversations, laughs, and marshmallows around that thing. People love to just sit outside in nature, roasting some mallows and chatting long after the sun has gone down. 
Have a pot luck
If you want to get together with a group of people, host a pot luck! This works out well for larger crowds so that everyone can bring something and everyone has plenty to eat! We do something similar every year for July 4th. You could provide the main dish and everyone could bring a side or dessert, or you could grill out and everyone could bring what they want. The options are endless with pot lucks! 
Skip the fancy feast
Instead of having bacon wrapped filet mignon topped with expensive cheeses and mushrooms, dial it down a notch and have a casserole and a few sides, or a big pot of soup or stew. People will be just as happy with that (maybe happier), and it will save you some big bucks. Don't feel like you have to go all out just to have someone over (but if you like to, that's great can definitely be fun). There are so many meals you can make really inexpensively to feed a large crowd! 

Any other ideas for hosting on a dime?! 

I hope you have enjoyed this series! I am looking forward to hearing how you have used some of these tips over the last 5 weeks! 
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Friday, February 6, 2015

So You Think You'll Adopt {An Adoption Handbook}

If you have considered adoption for any length of time currently or in the past, you know that there are many questions to be answered before you can start the process. There are a lot of unknowns and confusing terms and complicated issues with adoption. And that's all before you're really in the thick of it! Believe me when I say that I know and understand! We prayed and thought about adoption for years before we finally committed to starting the process. It is a big deal and it certainly is something that you should take time to pray over and consider with your spouse or family. Here are some of the things you might want to consider if you think adoption may be in your future, whether tomorrow or years down the road. 

Domestic or International
You probably hear these terms used in adoption lingo. I'm sure you understand what they mean (domestic means adopting a child from America, and International means adoption a child from another country), but you may not know what each entails. I'm sure there are positives and negatives to both domestic and international. Our family considered both, and honestly, I always thought we would do international. Maybe God has that in store for our future, but ultimately we decided on domestic right now. Things to consider when choosing where to adopt from: travel, costs, age of child, how comfortable you are with having a relationship with the birth family, length of time for the process, length of time for travel, your age, health, financial status, how long you've been married, etc. 
In thinking about travel, you will want to consider if you would even be able to do it. Some countries require multiple trips over, and some countries require you to travel for 2+ weeks. For some people this may not be possible because of job or family commitments. Some people also may not be comfortable traveling to another country for any period of time. You will also want to look at costs. While it is really hard to determine exact costs between different countries, or even within the states, different countries have very different fees. You'll want to consider the age of the child. I think it is highly uncommon, if ever, that international adoptions of newborns happen. Different countries adopt out children of different ages. My sister was adopted from China at 15 months old, and back then (12.5 years ago), that seemed to be pretty average for China. You are probably aware that in this day and age completely closed domestic adoptions are pretty rare (I'll talk more about this in a minute). You should consider how comfortable you would be with having a relationship with the child's birth family. Now, these relationships all look very different, but it is something to consider. If you are not at all comfortable with it, perhaps an international adoption would suit you better. You also will need to look at different countries requirements for you. All countries have certain requirements. Some countries might require you to be at least 30 to adopt. Maybe you need to be married for at least 5 years and have 2 or less children. Each country is different, so you'll want to look into those requirements. 

Open or Closed
I just briefly mentioned above that few domestic adoptions are completely closed these days. So what do "open" and "closed" mean? I'll start with closed because it is pretty straightforward. A closed adoption is where the birth family and adoptive family have no contact. In a closed adoption, the birth mother may sometimes choose the adoptive family, but I believe it is unlikely that they would ever meet face to face, or if they do, they would not have further contact after the adoption takes place. She may also choose not to pick and then the agency would choose a family for her baby. An open adoption is more complicated because it looks different for each family. A semi-open adoption would be the next step of openness. In a semi-open, the adoptive and birth families may have contact only through the agency or another "middle man". I have heard of cases where the adoptive family sends pictures and letters to the agency, and they pass it onto the birth family. They might be one step more open, where they still use a middle man, but that person or agency connects them via a phone call, so they are not exchanging phone numbers. A semi-open could also mean that they have direct contact, but possibly have not shared identifying information such as last names, phone numbers, states of residence, etc. They may do this through a private blog, an email address set up only for them, or even a Facebook page just for that purpose. There are absolutely no statistics here, but I would say that based on all of the adoptive families I know, this one seems to be most common. A semi-open could also go further and mean that they do have identifying information, but don't talk all that regularly. Maybe they text once in awhile, but don't visit face to face. The beauty of a semi-open is that both families can find what works for them. It can also ebb and flow as time goes on. There is no hard and fast rule to what a semi-open looks like. An open adoption would mean that all information is shared and families have direct contact. This may mean they talk every day, maybe every week, or maybe just a few times a year. Again, it is going to be specific to them. An open adoption will also likely mean that they see each other face to face time and again. Maybe they live nearby and they are open enough for the birth mom to come over to the adoptive family's house for dinner, or maybe they only meet up annually for a weekend together. It all looks a little differently, and it is important to think about what you would be comfortable with. Do keep in mind that as your adoption process goes on, you may change your mind. I have heard of several stories where one or both parties wanted a closed until they met and formed a bond and both decided on an open! Just be aware that your comfort level may change. 

Infant or child
Obviously a very important thing to consider would be what age of child you want to adopt. If you want to adopt a newborn, domestic adoption would likely be the right choice for you. You can also adopt older children domestically, usually through your state, or you may know it as foster care. Typically, children from other countries are at least a year or older at the time of adoption. They may be young babies when you first get a match with them (referral), but because of the processing time, it takes months to get over to that country sometimes. Older children and teenagers are also available for adoption both domestically and internationally. Of course, age range will vary from country to country.

Private, agencies, consultants, OH MY!
What do all of these things mean?! Well, when adopting domestically, you will use one of the above to go through your adoption process.
Private--a private adoption would be where you are working word of mouth, through friends, ads, etc. to find a match with a birth mom. This would all be finalized through a lawyer when the time comes. 
Agency--This would be what you think of typically. Agencies can range greatly in size, from tiny local agencies with 2 people working them, to large agencies with offices all over the country. You would want to do your research and pick one that fits well with what you're looking for. Agencies work with you from start to end, usually doing your home study, matching you with a birth family, helping you finalize, providing counseling, giving support to the birth family and more. 
Consultants-- Using a consultant was a new approach to me when I first heard of it, but ultimately it was the one we chose. When you use a consultant, your consultant is the person in YOUR corner, advocating for you. They network with agencies around the country to find a match for you faster. Our consultant completed our profile for us, gives us advice, answers questions, gave us a list of financing options, and more. Once you are matched, you will ultimately end up working with whatever agency or lawyer that the birth family who chose you is matched with. The consultant doesn't take care of all of the details of the process, so you still need an agency or lawyer, but that will come after your match.

Drugs, alcohol, mental disorders, special needs, gender, ethnicity and other considerations
Before you begin the adoption process, you will want to consider all of these things. Gender will probably be the easiest. Either you'll have a preference or you won't. Ethnicity may be the next easiest thing to consider. Some people will only consider children of certain ethnicities, while others will take a child of any ethnicity. This would likely only matter in domestic, as you would probably know what ethnicity you are adopting if you go international. Other considerations would be if you would adopt a child who has been exposed to drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, either in the womb, or out if adopting an older child. This is a little more tricky, because there is a lot to consider there. Just as I said with openness, I suggest you keep somewhat of an open mind, as you may waver some as time goes on and you see and learn different things. At first you may think that you only want a perfectly healthy child, but you may change your mind, so just keep that in mind. If pursuing international, you may need to be up front with that right away because there are typically different programs in other countries for healthy or special needs/older children. In domestic, you can change your mind with time and each situation that you come across. 

Those are the things our family took into consideration while we prayed and talked about adoption. If you have been considering adoption in your future, I hope you found this helpful! Please let me know if you have any further questions about adoption that I can answer, or anything from this post that I could clarify. I would encourage each of you reading to at least pray about adoption as a possibility. Maybe you have never considered it or thought that you "couldn't" do it for various reasons, but I would just ask you to consider it. Not commit to it immediately, but just ask God if He might have adoption in your family's future. If He does, He will soften your heart to it. Maybe not right away, but He will. 
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Thursday, February 5, 2015

God IS Good All the Time

God is good, all the time. 
You probably know it to be true. 
But do you really believe it? Deep down in your heart of hearts? 
Is He still good when there are people starving to death in the world?
Is He still good when you've been in a horrific accident? 
Is He still good at 3 a.m. when your baby just.won't.sleep? 
Is He still good when you're knee deep in a financial crisis? 
Is He still good in the midst of yet another school shooting? 
Is He still good when your marriage seems to be failing? 

The answer to all of these, is, of course, "yes". Yes, He IS still good. He is good, ALL the time. 
It can be hard to believe it when you are going through something hard, or when you take a good look at the world and see everything that's wrong with this place. Everything that is lacking. Everything that is horrible. 

Psalm 107:1 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." 
Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Psalm 145:9 "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."

Those verses tell us what we know to be true. God IS goodness. He IS holiness. He IS righteousness. He is the very essence of everything that is good and perfect. We can't always see it, true. But does that mean that He isn't those things? Certainly not. 

Remember when life is hard, when things pile up, when the world is a scary place and you wonder what bad thing will happen next: God is unchanging. 
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Learning Your Husband's {Love} Language

Oh love languages! What a beautiful,  yet confusing thing they are. 
I am guessing that you fall into one of three camps here. 
1) You know all about love languages and love them (no pun intended). 
2) You have heard of the term love languages but you have no clue what it's all about. 
3) You have no idea what I am talking about. 

The love languages come from the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The idea behind it is that there are five ways that people can experience love. They are: quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Each person has a preferred love language. Some people's are very obvious and other's are much less obvious, but the whole theory is really interesting. If you don't know what your love language is, both you and your spouse can take the quiz here to find out. I would highly recommend both of you doing it! 

Now that you know what it is, let's talk about how to speak your husband's language. 
My husband and I were married for several years before we really learned our love languages and put each other's into practice. Mine is quality time. His is physical touch. When we took the survey, physical touch was by far my absolute lowest. Quality time was pretty low down on his list, but I don't think his lowest. Needless to say, we had not been clicking as well as we could have because we had no idea what kind of love the other person was looking for since it's not what we wanted ourselves. If his language doesn't mean a whole lot to you, then how can you speak it? How can you love him the way that he needs to be loved?! 

After much discussion, I have learned how important it really is. Because touch is not very important at all to me, I couldn't understand how me literally putting my hand on top of his head while we were watching t.v. would make him feel loved. Because that would do nothing for me. Honestly, years later, I still don't exactly get it, but I'm much better at trying to meet that need for him. The most important thing you can do is set aside your own desires here, and figure out what his are. After you've learned what his language is, learn how to speak it. Learn what exactly makes him tick. If his language is gifts, what exactly about gifts makes him feel loved? Does he like receiving gifts spontaneously? Does he want something expensive or thoughtful? Does he feel unloved when he doesn't receive gifts often enough? How about words of affirmation. If words of affirmation are what makes your guy feel loved, are you affirming him enough? Does it make him feel unloved when you don't take the time to affirm him, or only when you actually cut him down? Does he prefer verbal words of affirmation or written? Take the time to ask these questions so you can both really get to know and understand each other's language. 

My husband and I had these conversations up front when we were first learning about love languages, but it also took us probably months to really put them into practice regularly, and actually understand them. Even though I may not understand how physical touch makes him feel loved, I now understand what about it makes him feel loved and what exactly he is looking for there. He understands how important spending quality time together is for me and how I feel really disconnected when we go days without having good one on one time. Throughout those first few weeks and months, we asked each other a lot of questions "in the field". When we would be holding hands on a walk, I would ask him if it made him feel loved. Or if we were watching a movie and I put my head on his shoulder, he made sure to tell me that it made him feel loved. Once we started hearing it and piecing it all together, it became easier and now it is second nature. I know he needs that touch to feel connected, and he knows I need the time to feel connected. 

Another interesting thing about them, is that once you've learned the love languages, you can start to see some of them very obviously in some people. I have a friend who is constantly giving compliments and telling people what she appreciates about them. It would be a safe guess that words of affirmation is probably her love language--she would feel really loved to hear those things, so she is sure to tell other people because she wants them to feel loved. I have a family member who gives really great and thoughtful gifts to other people often. I would venture to guess that receiving gifts is her language, and that she would be elated to receive a thoughtful gift from someone else. They even have love languages for kids! It is really interesting to see how the love languages come out in individual people. 

What is your love language? How about your spouse's? 

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

EASY Valentine's Crafts for Toddlers

As a former preschool teacher, I love doing crafts as much as the next guy. But there is nothing worse than seeing a craft, thinking it is cute, and clicking on it only to find that it has 87 steps and most of them have nothing to do with your kids and everything to do with YOU. I don't know about you, but I don't have hours to prep crafts for my kids. It needs to be quick and dirty (and let's face it...crafts with toddlers are definitely dirty)! I've compiled a list of some of the easiest, most do-able Valentine crafts for you and your toddlers to do. Hopefully if you're looking for last minute craft ideas, this will be of great help! {Links go to full projects/tutorials}

Mosaic Heart {Fine Motor Practice}
This cute craft allows your kids to practice cutting with scissors, and gluing--both great practice of fine motor skills! 

Bumble Bee Valentine {Free Printable}
What could be easier than printing out a tutorial, cutting, gluing together and adding a couple of googly eyes?! 

Cardboard Heart Stamp
Paper, paint and a toilet paper roll...probably all things you have laying around at home!

Love Truck
This one might require buying a few supplies like heart stickers or candy hearts, but still a really simple activity! 

Love Bugs
Cute little heart shaped bugs...the possibilities for what to write on these are endless! 

Handprint Hearts
Who doesn't love hand print art?!

Heart Sponges
I'm sure most of us have a sponge buried somewhere under the sink, right? Put it to good use with this cute and easy craft! 

And just because this idea is too cute to not share {probably much more time consuming though...}
Valentine Heart Animals 

Which craft(s) are you planning on doing with your kiddos for Valentine's? 
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Homemaking On A Dime: Throwing Parties

Parties are so much fun, aren't they?! I have always loved throwing parties, but since having kids and having infinitely more parties to host and attend, it can be stressful to come up with ways to do it without spending hundreds of dollars. Since I have 2 kids whose birthdays fall about 6 months apart every year, I definitely can't afford to be hosting really expensive parties that often. And our family is only getting bigger! Whether you are hosting a preschooler's birthday party, a baby shower, or an anniversary bash, hopefully you will be able to put some of these tips into practice. 

Don't provide a meal
This is probably contrary to what most hosts would say, but we all know this is the most expensive part! You can still throw a stellar party without having a meal at it. For my kid's birthdays, I have done some of both, but I typically try to have their party in late afternoon-after lunch but before dinner. A late morning would work out well, also. This way, people don't expect to get a full meal and you aren't busting your wallet to provide it. Even if you have 20 guests and get $5 Little Caesar's pizzas, that will still add up really fast. Instead of providing a full meal, try offering themed snacks, dessert only, or finger food choices. These ideas could turn out really cute and be way less expensive! For my oldest daughter's first birthday party, we had a rainbow theme, and offered snack foods in each color of the rainbow (strawberries with dip, cheese puffs, vanilla pudding, guacamole, blue corn chips, grape jello), as well as drinks and cupcakes that I made.

Choose a theme early
If you're going to have a party theme, pick one early! This way you can be on the look out for things on sale and you will have extra time to DIY things or shop at thrift stores for items. This will also give you lots of time to peruse Pinterest for ideas, of course ;) 
Make your own invitations and paper goods 
Making your own invitations does not have to be intimidating. There are so many tutorials out there these days and with free websites, like PicMonkey or Canva, you have lots of tools available at your fingertips! Search Pinterest or etsy for ideas you like, and then create something similar on your own. This may save you quite a bit, although you can sometimes find custom PDF invitations for a pretty good price. 

If you are going to make several paper goods, like printables, cupcake toppers, etc. then you will probably save quite a bit by making your own! I made these food labels and water bottle labels really easily in My Memories Suite.

Use what you have
You probably have a lot of things around your house that you can use already! Using vases to put themed decor in, or adding household items for a little touch. Think outside the box and see what you have laying around in your home already. For my younger daughter's first birthday, we were in the middle of moving so we just had a small family party and I got out the set of mason jars I already had, and added ribbon and cute straws to make it a functional decor piece for guests to drink from. 
Showcase pictures
Photos are cheap to print, easy to make a cute display from, and everyone loves them! Win-win-win! There are tons of cute ideas out there for cute photo displays. I try to always have pictures out at every party I host. It gives people something to look at and do, as well. Some ideas I've used: tri fold board with weekly baby pictures, monthly pictures on a ribbon with sparkly clothes pins, cake smash photos in clear frames on food table, professional yearly photos blown up as decor pieces, photos in frames painted to match theme, pictures of baby and parents at same age to compare.

Provide games & activities
Instead of hosting the party somewhere expensive with fun activities, try coming up with a few games of your own. We have done simple things such as a guessing game to estimate how many photos we took of our daughter in her first year of life. The winner got a gift card to the froyo place. We have also done surveys where people tried to fill in the blank on things about our girls (favorite book, color, what she calls the dog, etc.) At the most recent party, we had a photo scene set booths are a big hit as well. At kids' parties, having activities for both the adults and the kids is always a good idea. We set up lawn games like Baggo if the weather is nice.
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