Celebrating Easter With Your Kids

ChurchKids

Holy Week is here! I cannot believe that this Sunday we will once again be celebrating Easter. This year we kept Lent simple. We are doing the same with Holy Week and Easter. Little ones get distracted easily. With my delegation of kids all being under the age of five, I wanted to keep our Easter message focused.

On Easter we celebrate Jesus. We celebrate his life. We celebrate his death on the cross. We celebrate that because of this sacrifice we are given eternal life with Him in Heaven. Jesus, as God’s Son, is the only one who could ever give us this amazingly special gift and for that we thank Him and sing His praises every day.

I don’t want any craft, any fancy project to take away from this important message. When my kids get a little older, I can see wanting to add some other items into our celebrations, but for this year, I wanted to keep it simple.

During our Morning Bible Time we read Lutheran Hour Ministries Lenten Devotions. We also worked on two new hymns. All Glory, Laud, and Honor (LSB 442) and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (LSB 463).

Because our Lenten Church Services start at the time Joel and Caleb are usually in bed, they have not been attending mid-week service. Josh and I have been alternating taking Noah. It has really been a nice experience. We are able to sit towards the front (something we cannot do with twin toddlers in tow). Noah has been more focused. He asks more questions and seems to listen to more of the service. It has been a nice time to worship together (but I am looking forward to next year when the whole family can attend together).

So that is how we are celebrating Easter with our kids. Keeping it simple and keeping it focused where it should be – with our eyes fixed upon Jesus and the Cross.

Happy Monday & Happy Meal Planning

Happy Monday. I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend. The “pirates” had a fun weekend full of adventures on the high seas.

Pirates

And now onto a new week. Easter week. I have always enjoyed Easter week. Not only the meaning behind the holiday, but I really enjoy attending such a variety of Church services as we make our way through Holy Week and onto Easter. It is also a blessing to share it with my kids. We have some Holy Week and Easter activities planned and I’m hoping to write more on those later this week.

But for now, here is what is cooking in our kitchen this week.

Breakfast: Oatmeal, bread & honey, fruit

Lunch: Cold sandwiches, butter noodles, foil feasts (zucchini, potatoes, squash, and turkey sausage drizzled in olive oil and throw in the oven for 45 minutes).

Dinner:

Goulash
Spaghetti & Red Sauce
Corn Chowder & Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

Other Stuff:

Homemade Bread (We found this recipe last week and everyone LOVED it. It will become a new weekly recipe in our house).
Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

New Sensory Tubs. I know this isn’t a grocery item, but I purchased the items in my grocery budget so I thought I would list it. Sensory Tubs are a hit at our house right now. In our current tub is a Spring Theme with black beans, chick peas, plastic flowers, and mini flower pots.
Sensory Bins Flowers

Linked up with Org Junkie’s Meal Planning Monday.

Meal Planning Fun – Week of March 17, 2013

Meal Planning is an important part of my week. It is one of my Friday “to-do” items. I sit down with my local grocery ad, a note pad and a cup of tea and get to work. I use two pieces of paper. One for my grocery list and one for my meal plan. Usually the grocery list has been started mid-week with items we’ve run out of (I only grocery shop once a week). On Friday I complete the list.

Here is what is on our menu this week. We are also going back to an envelope for groceries (we have always had a grocery budget, but were just taking it out of our debit account). I’m excited to start the envelope process again!

Breakfast: Blueberry muffins, oatmeal, toast, waffles, fruit. (rotate these items depending on morning)

Lunch: Hotdogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, butter noodles, peanut butter & honey sandwiches. (rotate items each day)

Dinner:

Beef Stew and Potatoes
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
Harvest Apple Pot Roast

A note on my dinner items. We have a family of five (the three kids are four and under). I work to ensure we can get two nights out of my meals. This is something that helps keep me within my grocery budget.

Snacks:

Lucky Charm Bars
Peanut Butter Cookies
Homemade Bread

I’ve also been in love with both of these teas recently.

There you have it. Our meal plan for the week. What’s on your menu? I’ll be working on my Easter menu next week. We are hosting Easter and I can’t wait to get everything ready!

Linked up with Org Junkie’s Meal Planning Monday.

When It Rains, It Pours

We have had a lot of snow the past couple of weeks. A couple days ago, that snow turned to rain. Frozen, snowy ground plus lots of rain equals puddles. Lots of puddles. Growing into small lakes all around town. Our yard was no exception. In fact, when my husband looked out at our backyard, his first thought was, “that would make a great hockey rink if it gets below freezing.”

But outside isn’t the only place we’ve been finding puddles. About 8:30 pm on Saturday night we found a small pool on the boy’s dresser. Turns out there was a leak in the ceiling. Of course the leak was in the room where I had three little boys trying to sleep. So I moved their beds into their playroom. And there they camped out while Josh and I tried to assess the situation and do a little damage control.

Luckily the rain stopped and so did the constant drip from the ceiling. But after some investigative work in our attic and on our roof the next day, we realized we need a new roof. Not exactly where we had been hoping to spend a large amount of money this Spring. We have an Emergency Fund in place for such situations. And while I guess this would qualify as an emergency, neither of us really wants to raid that fund for this problem.

So that left me thinking of creative ways that I could save a few bucks and make a few bucks to contribute to the “new roof fund.” I’m always hesitant to get involved in trying to make money because I don’t want it to take my focus away from the very important job of caring for my family. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help out in some small ways. My initial brainstorming list left me with the following ideas to try:

  • Reduce grocery expenditures (this is oddly an ongoing hobby for me anyway).
  • Turn off those lights. Make sure I’m using natural light whenever possible.
  • Turn down the heat a couple degrees when possible (this may require my boys to have to put on pants, but hey, everyone has to make sacrifices, right?)
  • Collect and turn in our pop cans for deposit. (We live in a state where you can get five cents per pop can you return. I admit I do not do this. I simply recycle them for convenience.)
  • Sell used books on Amazon.
  • Sell kid stuff. (We have some V-Tech toys the kids have outgrown and a few other baby items that I can sell).

None of these items are huge money makers, but it’s a start. And you know what, we seem to thrive on periods of gazelle intensity in our financial lives. I think this will be a good opportunity for Josh and I buckle down and save a little extra.

Do you have any other ideas to make a few dollars with limited free time? I’d love to hear them!

An Exciting Opportunity

When I became a Mom, I pulled back on all extra activities and things in my life. The whole motherhood thing was new to me and I wanted to devote my full attention to my family and making sure I was doing my best to take care of them. As the kids have gotten a little older, I’ve had the urge to add one or two things back into my life. I have wanted to do this slowly – not taking on too much or committing myself to something I’m not ready to undertake.

About the time I was starting to have these thoughts, I was invited to attend a LWML event at Church. I didn’t really know what to expect going in. I knew LWML is a Lutheran women’s organization and I knew they give a lot of money to missions. I’d also always thought of it as a club for the more mature ladies of the congregation.

But I went. First I attended a Bible Study, then a nature walk, then an overnight retreat with women from all over the Iowa East District. I was hooked. I enjoyed the low key events that focused around spending time with God and digging into your Bible. I enjoyed the fellowship with women of all ages from my congregation. I enjoyed branching out to the regional events and learning from women all over the Synod.

LWML has also given me a chance to keep up on many of the skills I enjoyed while I was working outside the home. I have been able to plan events, create flyers, lead a Bible Study, and introduce our Church LWML Society to new online technology. What is great for me is that I was able to select my level of involvement in LWML and I specifically chose these areas of interest because they are things I can do from home at 10 pm in my pajamas when my young kids are asleep. (Since that is when I seem to have the most free time).

I am very excited this summer I will have the opportunity to take my LWML involvement to the next level and serve the Iowa East District as a Young Woman Representative (YWR) at the National Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. I can’t wait to attend the National Convention. To see LWML presented on a National Stage and to have the opportunity to worship and praise our Lord with so many fellow believers from all over the world.

So, bring on one more reason to look forward to the summer months! Praise God for this opportunity. I can’t wait to see what it all holds.

 

For Everything There Is A Season

Happy Valentines Day

One of the things I like most about living in the Midwest is the change in seasons. Every several months there is a change in the weather that allows us the opportunity to enjoy something new. Enjoy the change in weather. Enjoy the clothes we pull out of our closets we forgot about. Enjoy celebrating and decorating for new holidays.

And, once again, another seasonal change is upon us. Valentines Day is this week. Believe it or not, Ash Wednesday is this week. I usually do not do a lot for Valentines Day, but the boys and I started to get into the spirit of decorating with hearts today. I cut, they decorated, we hung them in our doorways. It is amazing how little paper hearts with scribbles can make your day a little brighter.

As the season of Lent approaches, I’m once again faced with whether or not I want to give something up. “Giving something up” is not a required thing for us Lutherans. Still, I have tried to give something up the last couple years with a more specific purpose. I do not want giving something up for Lent to be a personal goal. I want it to be something that helps me grow in my faith and provides me an opportunity to realign my priorities to strengthen my relationship with God. 

So my decision this year is to give up Facebook. I did this a couple years ago and found it to be a very healthy thing. As a stay-at-home Mom, one of the things that I often miss most is social interaction. I love my kids, but sometimes I crave to talk to someone who is over the age of four in my day. Facebook is an easy way to see what other adults are doing and interact. That’s not a bad thing. But let’s face it. It can also be a huge time sucker that doesn’t always leave us feeling great about our lives when we’re done. Here are a few signs for me that it is time to take a little break from Facebook:

  • I make excuses to come into the kitchen and refresh my Facebook page.
  • I am making unfair judgements about other people after reading a post they made or looking at a picture they post. (There is no way to know what is going on in someone’s life based on one picture. It is too easy to make snap judgements based on a Post that could be incorrect).
  • The time I spend “checking in” on Facebook is taking me away from time I need to be spending with God, my family, and my in-person life.
  • I judge my self-worth by how many “Likes” a picture or post gets.

So, for the season of Lent, you will not find me on Facebook. I do manage several group Pages that I will allow myself to respond to the needs of in a limited manner. If I get an email through Facebook about it, I’ll still try to find a way to respond in a timely manner.

Where can you find me? I’ll still be on the blog. I’ll still have my email. I’ll still be reachable by phone or in person. I’m looking forward to actually keeping contact with people in those ways again instead of my reliance on Facebook.

Are you giving up anything for Lent? I’d love to hear what you are doing. Or if you ever have given up Facebook – was it as painful as you thought it would be? Last time I did this, I thought I’d be amazingly difficult but I was surprised how little I ended up missing it.

Taming the Toys: Life Beyond the Stuff (Part 2)

Last week I told you about how we boxed up our children’s toys and took them to the basement. Lack of respect for their toys, as well as their inability to put them back where they belong had me fed up.

I did not know how the boys would react to this change. I was prepared for tears, lots of request for their things and complaints of, “I’m bored Mom!” To my great surprise, the complaints never came. And with a lack of things to dump out of their toy box, the boys actually found new things to occupy their time.

A couple old boxes were hot ticket items. They became a fort, a road, a castle and other things I’m sure I was not told about.

We now do lot more reading and exploring of books. I let books sit out more now than I had in the past. The boys pick them up and I catch them just sitting in a chair and looking at the pictures. It’s great! I also include them in many of my daily tasks. They enjoy helping me with the chores and fixing the meals. Sure it might take a little longer (and create a bit more of a mess), but they are learning new skills and it is giving us more quality time together.

I realized I was not giving my children enough credit. Enough credit in their imaginations and their ability to be entertained beyond the stuff. And the positive aspects of the change are farther reaching than just my children. My husband actually said to me, “You know, I think I’m already more relaxed coming home and not tripping over all the toys.”

Wow! We took the toys away and everyone is happy? It seems to good to be true! I’m sure your next thought is, “Sure, that is great, but how long will it last?” Well this is week two since the Great Toy Take-Away. Yes, my kids are still playing with some toys, but I am controlling the toys instead of letting them control me. I let the kids get out a couple things at a time. Before we get out anything new, we put things away. And if they cannot respect the item, it is immediately taken away.

And that big empty toy box? We did find something to do with it.

Linked up with the Home Link Up at Raising Arrows.

Top 10 Reasons Why We’re Ready for Christmas & Not Afraid to Admit It

It is that time of year again. The time that dreaded debate begins. No, not that debate. The debate about when is the “proper” time to crank up the Christmas music and trim the tree.

Usually I’m a “wait until December 1″ type of girl. But this year, I’ve changed my tune.

Why?

Here are my Top 10 Reasons Why We’re Ready for Christmas and Not Afraid to Admit It.

10. My new felt Advent calendar just came in the mail today and I can’t wait to put it up!

9. Christmas decorations are expensive. Why not put them up a little early and get your money’s worth?

8. Christmas is a fun time and puts me in a happy mood. A happy mama makes for a happy family.

7. More time to celebrate family traditions and maybe make some new ones.

6. Our copy of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” broke. We really need to move onto, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

5. More time to celebrate Advent.

4. Who doesn’t love Christmas music?

3. We are traveling this Christmas. Starting the celebration early gives us more time to enjoy the Christmas feel at home.

2. More time to bake, eat and give away those Christmas treats.

1. I refuse to apologize for taking an extra two weeks to celebrate our Savior’s birth!

So how about you? Are you ready for Christmas? What are you most looking forward to about the season?

 

Taming the Toys: The Day We Took the Toys Away (Part 1)

Toys. If you have kids, you have toys. Toys to help them play, learn, and stay entertained. Toys coming in from birthdays, holidays, and that last trip to the toy store. But do all these things really serve their intended purpose? Does having more toys make for a happier child?

I don’t think so. And for some time now, I have known that we have far too many toys. Many of these toys have turned from a blessing into a curse for our family. Instead of getting played with, they get tripped over. They are angrily thrown across the room when they are in the way. Or, in the case of those toys with many pieces, they are dumped for nothing more than the sake of dumping, never even to be played with.

Toys have been an area of growing frustration with me for some time. And it’s not just the mess. It is the lack of respect my boys seem to have for their toys. I was picking up the same toys several times a day, only to watch my children making a mess in another room while I worked.

Finally I had enough. I asked my husband to bring my laundry baskets upstairs. And we took the toys away. We packed them into those laundry baskets and down to the basement they went.

It felt great. I could see my carpet again. But to be quite honest, that was as far ahead as I had thought. I didn’t really know where we were going to go from there. Was I going to have a mutiny of angry and bored children on my hands? All I knew was that my boys needed to learn more care and respect for their toys and this is how we were going to begin. I was also looking forward to reclaiming our living spaces, which had become so overtaken with toys, we had a hard time using the space as a family.

What happened next was far from what I would have expected. It taught me something about not only how to manage all that stuff but something about my family as well.

Join me next time when I share how my kids reacted to this change!

Twin Toddlers & Big Boy Beds

Whenever people find out that I have twins there are two common responses. Usually, if the person asking is young they get excited and tell me how much fun twins would be. How they always wanted twins. I can see them start to imagine matching outfits and two identical little people holding hands. If the person is older and has been around the block before as far as child raising goes, they usually have a different response. They look at me with sympathy and compassion. They usually say, “Wow – and your other son is four?” I can see their minds going to a loud, rowdy house with never ending supplies of dishes, laundry, and mushy Cheerios.

Now that Joel and Caleb are two, we are moving out of the baby and basic need stage of life and onto the beginning of the teaching and learning years. We are starting to think about things like discipline, potty training and learning our ABCs and colors. They are starting to become more aware of the world around them and are soaking up everything they possibly can.

This past weekend, more on a whim than anything else, my husband and I decided now was the time to switch the boys into Toddler Beds. They have been admiring Big Brother’s bed for some time now. They will run to it when I will call for bedtime, they will snuggle up in it and say “Nite Nite!” Yes, they wanted Toddler Beds. But were we ready for Toddler Beds?

I will admit I liked being able to put them in a crib and know they will be in that same spot when I come to get them in the morning. But I also know that this would be a good learning opportunity for them. A chance to learn to stay in the bed until Mommy or Daddy tell them they can get out in the morning.

So we gave it a go. They loved it. And they look like such big boys. One more reminder to me that my “babies” are already two years old (even though I’d still not willing to give up my one favorite pair of maternity pants – maybe I shouldn’t admit that out loud?) And even though we’re still working on staying in bed all the time, I’m glad we made the switch. Seeing the look of pride on their faces when they get to go to bed in their own beds has been a reward in itself.