A Lesson in Thanksgiving

Two years ago we were spending Thanksgiving in the pediatric intensive care unit.  Mia fell down and then suddenly had a huge hematoma.  Before her eyes we watched her body be covered in unexplained bruises and dark red spots.  At the hospital we found out that she had no platelets left.  Over the course of days they diagnosed her and worked on treating it.  This all happened the day after we arrived at our new duty station.  So we found ourselves with a sick child in a new city CAM00167with no friends or family celebrating Thanksgiving and just being grateful that our children were alive and we were together.

And so at this time of year when we are being grateful for our blessings, I think back to that scary time and to the lessons I was reminded of during it…

I am thankful for my faith.  Riding in the ambulance with lights flashing, Mia looked up at me and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not scared.  I know that God is with me.”  And she was right.  As our minds started to fill with panic our hearts were filled with faith.  God doesn’t make us sick and He doesn’t necessarily heal our body, what God does is walk beside us, loving us, giving us strength and preparing us for the way ahead no matter what it might be.

Our brave patient with her best buddy

Our brave patient with her best buddy

And I am thankful for the love with in our family.  Zoe would not leave Mia’s side.  When they wheeled Mia up to her room, Zoe rode next to her hugging her.  She laid in her bed, played with her, brought her food, and cried when Mia screamed in pain.  She was everything a sister could be.  I am proud of both of my daughters.  And I am proud of the family we have created and the love we all share for each other.

I am thankful for our friends and family, for all those who love me and love my children and love my husband.  People may be far away at times but our lives are filled with loved ones who will pray for us during our sorrows and celebrate with us during our times of joy.

And I am thankful for the generosity shown to us by both friends and strangers.  That Thanksgiving one of the doctor’s arrived with his family and a Thanksgiving dinner for us.  It was an act of such pure kindness I still tear up thinking of it.  But I am grateful not just for grand gestures like that, but for every time a stranger held the door open for us, gave my family a smile, picked up a dropped cup.  People are kind and we need to remember that.

I am thankful that my daughter is healthy again, yes.  But I am also thankful that our family survived the challenge and that we have learned and loved through it.  It has been a reminder to me of all that we should truly be thankful for–faith, love, friendship, and kindness.

Car Bucks

If you are traveling this holiday season, you might want to consider bringing some car bucks.  They have definitely brought peace and joy to our car.  :)

20150512_101611This past summer we went on TWO major road trips, hitting both coasts–I am proud to say that during the course of the summer I drove on the I-10 in every single state it passes through.  All told we visited 15 states (but really Texas should count as like 10 different states since we drove from one end to the other).   And most of it I did alone with the kiddos. Two six-year-olds and a baby can make for a LONG trip.  Trust me.  Enter car bucks…

Car buck tickets

I got the idea on our first trip and we used imaginary ones.   By the second trip, I had my husband design actual “car bucks” for us.  The girls loved them!

So, how do you earn car bucks?

  • Being good during the drive,
  • Helping out when necessary,
  • Passing things back to siblings,
  • Being quick at rest stops,
  • Having good listening skills,
  • Good manners at our stops, etc.

With the baby in the car, my girls earned quite a few by helping keep Colton quiet and happy.  And I’ll admit that I pass the bucks out very freely.  I would rather reward good behavior throughout the trip then have grumps riding with me.  And this gives them more to spend.

Travel tickets

But what do you spend the car bucks on?

  • Buying souvenirs
  • Treats at rest stops
  • Special snacks

    Enjoying a rest stop along the way

    Enjoying a rest stop along the way

These were all things we would buy anyways but this way it was connected to good behavior which helped prevent whining and begging.  The souvenir money wasn’t an arbitrary amount and it allowed the children to practice good financial skills when deciding how to spend their money.  But don’t feel like you have to do a $1 to 1 buck ratio.  Make it work for you.

As for the snacks, of course our regular snacks were all free.  I just also picked up some extra special ones.  Like oreo sticks with creme dip (yum!) and the cups of cookies.  (I’m not very health concious on the road.)  The kids loved being able to choose when they could have something special like the cookies.  They tend to know best when they need a little pick me up.

Print on green paper to make them look more like money

Print on green paper to make them look more like money

Download Car Bucks

Car bucks have made our road trips easier.  I hope they help you!

 

Spooktacular Birthday Party

I can’t believe our little man just turned one!  colton cake croppedWhere did the year go?  I honestly feel like this was the fastest year of my life.  With his birthday so close to Halloween and my husband loving to decorate the house, it only made sense to do a Halloween themed party.  We had a great time and I wanted to share our party, not because it was so over the top and cute, but actually because it was so incredibly simple.  We’ve been busy so this had to be a very low prep event.  So if you are looking for something to do before trick-or-treating, here you go.

 

 

Invitations

IMG_2598We made these cute little bat invitations.  I cut the body and head separately so I could add the inner piece with all our info and then glue the head over it a bit.  I used sticker gems for the eyes and folded the wings so that you can only see the word Celebrate.

Bat invitations editable template

 

 

Bat invitation

 Photo Booth

I love these!  We used some leftover decorations to create a backdrop and then put out the different photo booth props.  There are so many available online, why design more?  My favorites came from One Creative Mommy and Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke.

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Water Bottle Labels

One of my favorite things to do for a party is themed water bottle labels.  It’s such a simple thing but really sets the mood and the kids like it.  Then we just put out some water bottle flavoring and everyone can create the drink they want.

Halloween water bottle labels

Halloween water bottles

Halloween water bottle labels

 

Table Decorations

We also did these cute table top decorations.  You just print and cut them out.  Then I attached them to a skewer stick so that they can be stuck into anything–a base, a dish, plants.  To make a stand I just cut a styrofoam ball in half and spray painted them black.

Halloween images for table decoration or clipart

Halloween table top decorations and clip art

We also had Halloween themed food.  There are so many cute ideas on pinterest that I’m not even going to go into all of them here.  (Check out my Halloween board for ideas.) But I am including the food labels since they are editable and festive.

Editable Food Labels for Halloween Dishes

Halloween food labels editable

And we pulled out our floating candles from our Harry Potter party to add some ambiance.

floating candles

Activities

For activities we made masks. I used a kit I purchased at Michaels but you could just as easily cut out your own pieces. I also put out Halloween themed foam stickers to add to the masks. Quick, easy, and fun!

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But you know what is even quicker for a craft… coloring! Have you checked out Quiver? You can print out coloring sheets that come to life in 3D through the free Quiver app! It is so cool and turns ordinary coloring sheets into magic. My kiddos love it. So print some out from here, throw out markers or crayons, and you are good to go!

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Beyond that we just let the kids play in the yard (which resulted in all of them putting on a show for us singing “Let It Go.”)

Goody bags

Finally, our goody bags… hands!  We picked up disposable gloves from Target (but you can get them anywhere) and stuffed them with candy.  For an extra touch add a spider ring to the finger.  I’ve actually had kids come up to me since the party to tell me how cool the hands were (and my girls have begged to take the extras off my hands).

Halloween “hand”-outs sign

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And of course I need to end on a few more pictures of the birthday boy, since it was his special day afterall…

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Our New School Room

I love our new school room!  Over the summer I just got fed up with our school room.  It had been cute when we set it up but as the actual schooling got under way, it just became too disorganized, drab, and depressing.  It needed a redo and desperately.  Take a look, here are our before pictures…

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And now, ta da!

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I really wanted the room to be brighter and happier so I went with the bright green, blue, and pink.  And we desperately needed more organization.  The room was fabulous when it was first set up but now that the kids were older and a baby was in the picture, we had outgrown the original design and it was a hot mess.  I wanted to move away from the crowded cupboard to more shelf space that was organized.

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We bought the shelves from Walmart for only $30 a piece and then the colorful baskets came from Michaels on sale.  I made the tags out of scrapbook paper (all those stacks of it finally came in handy) and black chalkboard paper.  I just used a white paint pen to write on them.

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And here is the front of the room…  The bulletin board is for our Bible verse that we are memorizing.  And on the white board you can see our timer which has been so helpful in keeping us on track and helping the girls focus on their schoolwork.

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On the next wall is my desk.  When I first set up the room, I didn’t have a desk for me–my thought being that this was a space focused on the kiddos (and I didn’t see how it would fit at the time).  But that just didn’t work.  Maybe it’s the teacher in me but I needed my own space to work, prep, and plan.  The bulletin boards will soon be filled with the kid’s work and the bean bags are our reading nook.

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And here is our science center.  I really love it!  I covered an old bookcase in patterned contact paper (like what I used on the filing cabinet).  It hid the water damage and stains.  On the shelves are all of our science and social studies books and activity kits.  On top are our science tools.  The Parts of the Scientist poster came from here.

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The filing cabinet is one of my favorites.  My dad had given us the filing cabinet but it was pretty dingy.  I spray painted it purple and covered the drawers with the purple chevron contact paper.

redone filing cabinet

Be sure to take the drawers all the way out and remove the handles, etc.  There should be screws in the back that you can use to pry them off.

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Really I went a little spray paint happy.  Once I did the filing cabinet, I decided to paint my little plastic drawers.  I’ve had this set for years (you can usually find it at Costco or Michaels) but was just done with the multi-colored look.  So I painted all the drawers purple.  I also took off the silver handles to add the labels.  In the past I’ve used paper labels but this time I used dry erase tape so that I can change it whenever I want.

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I also painted our school desks.  They were looking dirty and dingy but this really brightened the entire room.  Just be sure to put many coats of a sealant such as polyurethane coating for wood.

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Finally, I added the paper flag banner to be a finishing touch and help bring cheer to the room.  I wanted a place that made me smile when I entered because I knew that would make the children smile too.  I used scrapbook paper and twine that I already had around the house.  For the flags I used the template from Flairy Tales found here.

Paper flag banner

Not only is the room happier, but it has made us more efficient.  It’s easier for the kids to help the room stay clean and shows them just how much we value their schooling.  Win win win!

Celebrating Pope Francis

So with Pope Francis’ visit, it’s been all Pope all the time over here at our house.  I have been so inspired watching his visit on TV–the joy, the enthusiasm, the challenge to live the life we are called to live.  And this has been a wonderful opportunity for our kiddos.  This is why we homeschool–to give them an education imbibed with our religious faith.

Watching the canonization of Junipero Serra

Watching the canonization of Junipero Serra

The Pope may be leaving but you can still enjoy some Pope Francis fun.

Matthew 16:18 craft

This is the Bible verse the girls have been memorizing this past week (“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”) and this is the craft we did with it.  We actually first did this when Pope Benedict stepped down and Pope Francis was elected, but we used a real rock.  This time I used glittery fun foam for the rock so that we could attach it to our Bible board.

Peter Rock
Matthew 16:18

You can download Peter and the church here: On this rock craft template

And here it is using a real rock…

Peter and the Church

 

Flat FrancisIMG_2249

We participated in Flat Francis and have been taking him with us this past week so that he can explore a little more of the U.S. than just D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.  You can get yours here: http://flatfrancis.org/

 

 

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Pope Francis puppets

We were inspired by Catholic Icing’s puppet of Pope Francis.  I love her saint puppet set!  The girls really wanted their puppets to look like our Flat Francis and I think they were adorable.

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Mitre Hats

The girls decorated these mitre hats while watching one of the services.  Clearly they don’t go for the humble look.  :)  They are super simple to make.  Just cut out the mitre shape from white paper and then add a band so you can wear them.

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But they loved wearing them!  This is one of my favorite pictures–Mia helping make dinner while wearing her hat.

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Pope Coloring Sheets

We also enjoyed pope coloring sheets from Drawn 2 Be Creative which you can find here.  She has Pope Francis and the Vatican crest.

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