100 Followers! What Did I Do to Deserve You?

Jan 31, 2011

100 sculpture

Wow! I have one hundred followers and I've not asked for a single one. Thank you all! {Thank you, Michelle for becoming my 100th!}

I'm still trying to figure out what I want this blogging thing to be. When I browse through the blog world, I see review/giveaway blogs and wonder if I should try that. But then, I imagine how much time they have to spend on it and think about how I'm a minimalist {at heart} and really don't want companies to send me a bunch of random stuff anyway. I suppose I could be very selective and only do occasional reviews. Hey! I already do that...with my own stuff. There are also those blogs that chronicle the daily life of the blogger and are so witty or gritty that you just have to read them. But I'm not very witty and definitely not gritty and my daily life is rather mundane. What about those photography blogs? After all, I've taken more pictures of my kids since I started this blog than I have in the past several years. {Poor kids, they won't have much of a visual record of their life from about 2003 until 2010.} No, I'm still not very good at it. Then there are those amazing cooking blogs with photos of delicious food to drool over that was made from all-natural, organic ingredients. I used to like to cook but I don't have time to try new recipes very often. I'm in a season of my life where I need to stick to tried-and-true for a while. Everyone loves a good informational blog. One that teaches you something new that will make your life easier or better. One that I don't think I could pull off is the crafter blog. I do some crafty things on occasion but it's usually something that someone else wrote about on their blog, along with a detailed picture tutorial. Besides, I haven't taken the time to figure out what's wrong with my sewing machine...for a whole year now. And I have supplies to make soap and molded crayons that are waiting patiently for me to make time for them.

I suppose that I could stick to what I'm doing. A little bit of everything. But the successful bloggers say that you should have a niche and stick to it. I don't have just one area of interest. Maybe I should try to narrow it down.

Okay...I'm a mom.

A homeschooling mom.

A Christian homeschooling mom.

A Christian homeschooling mom of boys.

A Christian homeschooling mom of FIVE boys.

A Christian homeschooling mom of FIVE boys and wife to a cop and soldier.

{In the words of Levi: "This is gonna take a while."}

A Christian homeschooling mom of FIVE boys and wife to a cop and soldier, who strives toward healthy, natural living, cooks with real food, likes to sew {when my sewing machine is working}, has breastfed for a combined total of over nine years, advocates babywearing and co-sleeping, loves reading...

Maybe that's my niche. Being me. I'll stick with it for a while. After all, it did win me an award. LOL.

For those of you who have taken the time to skip through my blog, is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of? Do you have any awesome blogging tips for me?

God Gave Us So Much - Book Review

Jan 27, 2011

God Gave Us So Much is a limited-edition treasury of three books by Lisa Tawn Bergren. The wonderful watercolor illustrations are by Laura J. Bryant. Contained in the quality hardback book are God Gave Us the World, God Gave Us Love, and God Gave Us Heaven. The stories are primarily a running dialogue between Little Cub and her Mama, Papa, and Grampa Bear. In God Gave Us the World, the polar bear family visits a museum where they see bear habitats from all over the world. Mama explains how God is our Creator and made a world filled with bears who are all different, as well as what they eat and where they live. It's Grampa Bear's turn to answer Little Cub's questions in God Gave Us Love. When Little Cub gets irritated by her otter friends, Grampa Bear teaches her about the gift of love. He explains the three different types of love in a way that is easy to understand. The story concludes with Grampa Bear telling Little Cub that God shows his love for us through our friends and family and by sending his Son to save us. The last story, God Gave Us Heaven, is my personal favorite. Little Cub has lots of questions for Papa about heaven. She learns that nothing bad happens in Heaven and that we won't have any burdens, only blessing. Papa covers all the bases by explaining that bears don't become angels when they die and how Jesus is our "bridge" to heaven.

As an adult who is familiar with the Bible, it is easy to see that the author sticks to Scripture, especially in the last story. Heaven is a difficult concept to understand, let alone teach young children but Ms. Bergren does a good job of trying to explain it. I shared this book with my three year old and seven year old sons. We had to break it up and only read one story at a time because my three year old started losing interest near the end of each. The boys enjoyed the stories but didn't ask for a second reading. However, the last story was a starting point for a discussion between me and my seven year old and it revealed some things about my son's belief system that I wasn't aware of. I don't see this book as the bedtime story type, but rather an introduction to some concepts that may inspire more questions from your little cub.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah for review. These are my honest opinions of the book.

Planning M2's First Birthday

Jan 26, 2011

My sweet baby boy will be turning one year old next month. I have been having small birthday celebrations for the boys for several years now, with just us and grandparents. My feelings toward birthday celebrations have changed over time and I chose to scale them down in order to shift the focus away from materialism. My original thoughts were that we would have larger parties for milestones, such as the 13th and the 18th. And, honestly, as our family grew bigger, I felt like it was asking too much of our friends and family to attend birthday parties so frequently, not to mention that it gets expensive.

But M2 is my last baby. {Yes, we moved to the other side of the fence on this issue. I still have mixed feelings about it, but that's probably a post of its own. One that I may never write.} And my feelings toward birthdays are shifting again. :) We do not know what our days hold in store for us. As I hear about tragedies befalling families, I feel that we should celebrate the blessings in our life as often as possible. My children are my blessings, so when I have a birthday party for them, it is really for me also. I'm not sure how we'll handle the gift issue yet, but I would like for it to be limited, maybe asking guests to donate to a charity if they choose. We have considered sponsoring a child with Compassion, so that would be one option. I'm also considering just requesting board books because a child can never have too many books. How would you handle it?

Originally, I was going to go with the sock monkey theme because we have always called M2 our "chunky monkey". {He was my biggest baby at 9 lbs, 2 oz and was 21 lbs by 6 months.} I found some adorable printable sock monkey decorations on Etsy.com.

But that changed when I was at Target last night. One of our all-time favorite books is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Target carries several TVHC party items, but I only bought the invitations ($3.99 ea) and stickers ($1.59) knowing that I could build on the whole theme without buying the rest. I love the bright primary colors and dots. It's a great theme for boys or girls. You could put more emphasis on the butterfly ending for girls.

I picked out party supplies in matching primary colors and grabbed some dotted treat bags ($1.99/20 ct) and tissue paper ($1.99) that works with the multi-colored dots from the book. I'll probably go back for the matching wrapping paper ($1.99). The yellow circle underneath is a straw placemat ($1.99) that I'll use under the food dishes. I'll need to get some more in red and green.

And, of course, when I got home, I jumped online to do a little research. My first inspiration is the caterpillar cupcake train at Coco Cake Boutique Cupcakes. A woman at church is a cake decorator, specializing in cupcakes, so I may ask her if she can replicate it. If we don't go that route and just do regular cupcakes, I love these cupcake toppers. They should be easy to make using primary colored cardstock and the round stickers from Target. To make the stickers go farther, I think I'll stick them on white paper and copy or scan them onto cardstock. The issue of food is covered in the book: we'll eat what the caterpillar ate. You can see great examples HERE and HERE. The homemade invites I've seen are super cute but I don't have that much time on my hands and they're just going to get thrown away. {Update: I'm going to try to make some poms too.}

Did I inspire you to try your own Very Hungry Caterpillar party for your little one? Check out some other Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday parties to see how other moms pulled it off:

Of course, I'll post pictures of the party when it happens...next month. And the next Saturday after M2's party, we're having a skating party for N, who is turning 12. Their birthdays are five days apart and they are my twins separated by 11 years. Same hazel eyes, same light brown hair. And three weeks after that, it will be time for L's fourth birthday. Thank goodness, the next birthday after that isn't until July...When my first-born turns 17!

Top 5 Types of Toys You Must Have If You Own Boys

Jan 22, 2011

Having been a mother of boys for over 16 years now, I've gained some insight into what they like to play with. Of course, there have been variations among all five of my sons. One loved action figures, but the next one was never interested in them. The younger ones have enjoyed trains and the train table but not fanatically. And there have been toy crazes that were mostly hype and a huge waste of money. This list consists of toys that have been played with consistently, passed down, found in every room and vehicle we own, fought over, and/or slept with (or hidden under a pillow because that's the best place for a boy's treasures).

Building Sets
Wooden blocks are nice to have but Legos are my boys' building block of choice once they reach about four years old. Any one who has a boy knows that you are required to own these small, multi-colored bricks of creativity (and pain, if you happen to find one on your walk to the kitchen at night). They can be educational and are great for quiet time. One of my boys will usually want to take his Lego creation with us when we go out and, inevitably, it will end up at the bottom of my purse...in pieces. I have sucked Legos up with the vacuum at home and the car wash. They have been rescued from under couch cushions, from the lawn mower, from babies, and from my mother's dog {both ends}. While there are specialized sets from Star Wars to SpongeBob, I recommend sticking with the regular Lego building sets. At least until your child has worn you down proven to you that he truly will play with the overpriced plastic nuggets.

Pocket-Sized Cars
Hot Wheels vs. Matchbox. I think it's the beginning of brand allegiance. Kind of like Ford vs. Chevy. My husband still has a handful of Hot Wheels from his childhood (that the boys are NOT allowed to play with) that have vivid memories attached to them. I do not recommend the race track sets and mega playsets. Too many pieces and they take up too much space. A good car rug works just fine. But don't make the mistake we did and let the boys get a car every time they are good at the store. Or tell family that "he's into Hot Wheels" when they ask what to get for their birthday. We have hundreds of little metal cars now. No exaggeration. Boys and wheels. The love affair never ends, it just gets bigger and more expensive. Just ask M1 who has already owned three Mustangs and a truck.

Army Men
For just a dollar or two, you can get a bag of green plastic Army men at a discount store and provide your little boy with hours of play. With those little bits of cheap molded plastic, he can wage mini wars across the landscape of your living room or under the backyard tree. Of course, if you want to spend more money and get toy soldiers that will stand up to a little more play time, go for the Toy Story Bucket o Soldiers. Army men with parachutes are a favorite!

Wheeled Transportation
This is a BIGGIE but can take many forms. Every age and stage has its own special mode of transportation. It will probably start in babyhood with a walking toy to help jump start their upward mobility. By the time your boy reaches toddlerhood, you will definitely want some type of ride-on toy for your little ball of energy. Sometimes, they are pimped out with a Disney theme or look like miniature trains or race cars. I prefer the classics, like the Radio Flyer to the right.

Some parents choose to skip the trike and go straight to the "big boy" bike. Levi just received his first real bicycle for Christmas. A 12" metallic red, Lightning McQueen bicycle with matching helmet and a bell. (Thank you, Mawmaw & Pawpaw. At least I'll know where he is.) He instantly fell in love and made laps through the house for the next week until he finally got to try it outside.

The next link in the bicycle chain is the 16"-20" BMX bike. Buy a helmet and make them wear it because they will be trying to imitate the X Games. And just when you think you've gotten used to the banged up knees and elbows, they will beg you for a mini bike. Start praying now.

Other wheeled instruments of destruction pleasure may take the form of roller blades, Heelies, scooters, and skateboards. I told you before...boys and wheels. Like a moth to a flame.

Merriam-Webster defines a projectile as "a body projected by external force and continuing in motion by its own inertia". These also take several forms. The most basic is a ball. Wikipedia says that it technically is a projectile but the term generally refers to weapons. Hello? They must not be remembering one of boyhood's favorite games...Dodge ball. A boy's fascination with the simple sphere is most evident in sports. Even a non-athletic boy will appreciate a basketball hoop to hang over his bedroom door. And be sure to always keep quarters handy while out and about because if there is a bouncy ball machine nearby, he's likely to spot it. 

I remember, as a first-time mom, five boys and 16 years ago, that my little boy was not going to play with toy guns. My husband laughed at me. My mother laughed at me (and she only had one sweet girl child). Papa Bear was already in the military at the time, but not yet in law enforcement. My feminine ideals were shot down by the time Mason reached preschool age. Unless you live alone on an island with no access to media, your little boy will most likely pick up a stick (or banana or Lego creation or play dough...) and pretend it's a gun. We do have rules regarding toy guns: no pointing them at faces and only "shoot" people when they are aware and actively playing along. As a mom, I don't allow toy guns that look like modern lethal weapons. Even with the required orange tip, they look too realistic. Since we do have real guns in the house (always unloaded and locked in a safe), I don't want my little ones to confuse the toy guns with the real thing.

I have one boy, in particular, who has two under-the-bed storage boxes overflowing with Nerf guns. He makes it a point to collect every new Nerf gun that comes out. Another favorite is the Western cowboy gun, although it doesn't technically fall under the category of projectiles unless it comes with sticky darts. And I can't remember a summer that didn't include water guns and water balloons. Of course, I can't leave out sling shots and catapults. Boys love projectiles so much, that if they don't have anything else available, they will fashion their own out of straws and paper wads. Yes, we're still working on restaurant manners.

Supply your boy with these basic types of toys and everything else is just clutter icing on the cake. You will have given them what they need to be creative, imaginative, and active, exercising their small and large motor skills. Just be sure to encourage their positive play and join in their fun from time to time.
Special note for the serious-minded: Hopefully, it doesn't need to be said, but I do not really believe that we own our children. I also do not advocate violence and understand that toy weapons are not suitable for every child in every situation. Parents should reserve the right to raise their own children as they see fit. :)

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 
-Psalm 127:3

Turkey Sausage

Jan 21, 2011

I found a great substitute for pork breakfast sausage. I usually crumble and brown it all at once and freeze it until needed. It's good crumbled in breakfast burritos, spaghetti, on pizza, or made into patties.

Turkey Sausage

2 lbs ground lean turkey (I usually use a combo of 99% FF and 85% to get good flavor)
1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Crumble turkey into a large bowl. Add seasonings; mix thoroughly. {You can use latex gloves or your Kitchen-Aid to make mixing easier.} Shape into 2 1/2 in patties (or not). In a large skillet, cook patties or crumbles over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until it is all cooked through (no longer pink). Drain on paper towel-lined plated or bowl.

Tip: If you use all 99% fat-free turkey, add a little olive oil to pan before cooking.

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