Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Snowman Sensory Bags

The kids and I have been enjoying snowman themed activities, crafts, and games throughout the month of January, but today’s activity was especially fun!

We made Snowman Sensory bags. I had never realized before that this concept was even possible, but I might be hooked. I’m sure there will be more homemade sensory bags to come, but for today, here’s the snowman one. ☺

I got the idea from THIS website and followed it pretty closely with a few alterations.

Here is what you’ll need (items listed are for each child):

  • Ziploc bag
  • Scotch tape or packing tape (we ended up using Scotch and it was perfect)
  • Staplerblog snowman bags
  • Cut out Foam eyes, nose, and buttons (or something to create a snowman in the bag) The eyes and buttons were about the size of a penny I that helps.
  • Cut out Foam or felt hat—not necessary, but fun. The main part of the hat covered the width of the bag and then the flat part stuck out the sides
  • About 2 oz. clear hair gel
  • About ½ cup water
  • About 2 teaspoons glitter

#1. I reinforced the 3 sides of each bag with Scotch tape making sure to fully cover the corners. While I did this, the kids and I discussed the 5 senses and what senses would be used on our sensory bag.

#2 I let each child squeeze about 2 oz. of clear hair gel into their bag while I held it open. They LOVED this part as we used our entire bottle and it made lots of funny noises!

#3. I poured in about 2 teaspoons of glitter into each bag while they held it open.

#4. I poured in slightly less than ½ cup water into each bag while they held it open.

#5. I sealed each bag and let them smush everything around inside to mix it up. They loved this part and were getting eager for the finished product. ☺

#6. Next, I explained the snowman pieces and what they were supposed to look like when laid out properly. I gave each child their pieces to put in their bags.

#7. I had each child wipe the tops of their bags with a piece of paper towel to ensure it was dry and free of stickiness.

#8. I got out as much air as I could and securely resealed each bag.

#9. I sealed the top of each bag with Scotch tape (just to be safe.) ☺

#10. I stapled the hat to the top of each bag being sure to ONLY staple above the zipper seal.

And then the kids were ready to squish and smush away!!

The little ones did need help adjusting their foam pieces into the correct position, but when I explained some other options of ways to arrange them, they were pretty happy to just have fun with it.

I like that this is a craft project they can really use and even learn from. A welcome winter craft! I hope you enjoy it too! ☺

 

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Cut Your Christmas Decor Take-Down in HALF!

A few years ago I started using an easy trick that cuts

my Christmas decor take-down time in half!!!

(-And also helps with set up next year!)

Here it is!! TADA!!

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I realized that if I just gently take down the garlands/wreaths/swags (WITH THE ORNAMENTS AND LIGHTS STILL ON) and put them each in their own garbage bag [which I re-use year after year], I wouldn’t have to re-decorate and re-pack all the ornaments and lights.

-The Lights DON’t tangle because they are already spread around the garland

- The ornaments (most of ours are plastic) are padded by the garlands/swag/wreath or whatever I’m packing up.

-Everything I need to put the garland/swag/wreath back up next year is all together!

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Then I stack the bags (about 5 to a tote and stack the totes in the basement.

image(This year, I got organized and listed on the outside of each tote what I’d packed inside.)

Of course if you have a lot of glass ornaments this may not work as well.

I estimate I save at least an hour and a half on take-down and another hour on set-up next year, and it helps a lot with trying to keep track of everything with four little kids ‘helping.’

So there is my tip. :-)

-Verity

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Decluttering the Kids’ Room for Christmas! :-)

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It is amazing the difference of focus!

EXAMPLE: I am not a huge fan of cleaning – but if I get a brand new scented candle and focus on  displaying it on a clean table in a clean house … Well, that changes everything!

I clean my house in record time and light that thing with pride. ;-)

Kids are the same way :-)

So, in the easiest indeaver yet, the kids helped me clear out the extras in their room to make room for Christmas presents. (BOY, were they excited to get rid of stuff!!)

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(I think this will be normal thing for us each year! What a great excuse to clear out.)

Here’s everything we cleared from their room. :-) (A lot of it was just out of place, but some will be donated.)

Focusing on the future is my approach to decluttering in general. (And a lot of areas in life).

We get rid of things to make room for the things we want in our lives (whether it’s goals, items, responsibilities, people).

The FOCUS should NEVER be on the clutter – that is the past – past, hopes, objects, and identities.

The focus needs to be on what we are walking toward. (The relationships that we want more time for, the career goals, the ministries, the hobbies…)

I also took the time to apply some of my favorite Julie Morgenstern organizing techniques!

She suggests evaluating a room – then determining what IS working and what is NOT working.

What WAS working:

1. 4 kids’ favorite toys and almost all their clothes in one closet using baskets and shelves.

Working great!!!! :-) Very little clutter there. Easy to maintain and keep up.

2. Top Two Drawers of the Diaper Changing Station – (almost) perfectly organized and contained. Rarely got out of hand- even on our craziest days.

What was NOT working:

I’d noticed that despite the small quarters, 90 % of clutter gathered in ONE spot – right in front of the bed. That told me that the problems were probably right there. Here were the problems.

1. Overstuffed PJ drawer

2. One broken stuffed animal that was spreading

imagestuffing everywhere (Duck tape should do it…right?)

3. And one organizing system that was not working.  (A box with a lid under the bed for my son’s toy swords. He was so responsible with his basket in the closet that we let him have a second toy box in the room. At first he did well putting his toys away, but when we added the lid,  it became too hard to pull the box all the way out and put toys away – [especially since clean-up happens with 4 littles and a mom in the SAME room] so the lid will need to be take off for a while. Then he can just toss his swords in without pulling the box out.)

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Here it is! Finished product!

Decluttered – Check!

Problem Solved – Check!

(And the kids don’t know it, but for Christmas, I’m going to add all the castle decorations I’ve been collecting for them. Tune in for that in a couple weeks! :-) )

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So all set for Christmas!

How is your pre-Christmas decluttering going? (If you don’t have much time, grab a box and spend ten minutes grabbing garbage and donations. It is SO MUCH more fun to declutter with Christmast just 2 days away!)

- Verity

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Snowman Kit in a Jar!

IMG_3105Sometimes you need a fast, easy, cheap (or free), super cute, and practical gift for a child. I guess that sounds like a lot of criteria to fill, BUT I came up with the perfect idea and I can’t wait to share it with you!

It’s no secret on this blog that I LOVE play dough. I love making it, I love all the possibilities it presents, and I love that my kids can keep busy with it for long periods of time. :-)

I also love invitations to play, but they require so many pieces it’s a hard thing to give as a gift—until today!

I present to you: Snowmen in a jar!

Aren’t they cute?!?!

I started by making THIS recipe, but I added 1 teaspoon peppermintIMG_3101extract. (Did you know they are selling it at Aldi right now? So cheap!!) After the play dough was cooked, I added a bunch of glitter while I kneaded it on the wax paper. Ta da! Snow!

One batch of play dough is the exact amount you need to fill 3 baby food jars.

Next I just used items I had around the house. You could use anything! I chose 3 small pom poms in matching colors to be the buttons for each snowman. Then I cut green pipe cleaners for arms—I got 10 out of 1 pipe cleaner to give an idea of length. Next, I cut red pipe cleaner in slightly smaller segments for the carrot. Beads would work for eyes, or googly eyes.

I’m sure there are lots of great possibilities, but I was just using what I had.

I put everything into baby food jars—free containers! Any little container would work though—even Ziploc bags. I used black fabric paint to make eyes and a smile and then I used orange for a big carrot nose. I colored the lid with a big, thick permanent marker to look like a hat.

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To fill the jars:

Divide one batch of play dough into 3 parts. Roll each part into the shape and size of a small, chubby hot dog and slowly lower it into the jar being sure to fill the entire thing. You might need to smush it in with your fingers to get the air out. It should fill the main part of the jar perfectly.

Next, I laid the decorations on the top of the play dough—there is the exact amount of space you need for them!

Screw the lid on and you have a fun, fast, easy, cheap (or free), super cute, and practical gift for a child!

-Lydia

 

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Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 6)

St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas day everyone!!

Every December 6th – right before the biggest Christmas rush this well-timed holiday is my FAVORITE way to talk about Santa with my kids and take the day to focus on being giving and generous – like he was.

FIRST THING: We start the day with the German tradition of filled shoes (which they put out the night before).

Saint Nicholas

In Germany they do not do stockings but shoes instead. They kids put them outside – and the neighbors are often the ones to come fill them! I grew up with stockings, but I enjoy this tradition from my missionary kid husband’s childhood, and we do this instead.

AFTER BREAKFAST: The kids and I read a book about the real Nicholas who has inspired many by his love for Christ and others. My favorite book is this one which I mentioned in my post yesterday.

ALL DAY: The kids help me make their Christmas gifts for family and friends! I can’t post pictures because I know my family reads this, but I love practicing generosity after talking about it!

-Verity

 

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Christ-Focused Christmas Traditions (Part 5)

Christmas Books!

I’ve SLLLOOOOWLY been collecting Christmas books!

Here is what we have so far, and here are some that are on my wish list!

Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend

Saint Nicholas

We read this every December 6th! I can hardly wait to read it to my kids tomorrow! :-)

It’s the true story of Santa Clause. We can learn a lot from other Christians, and his story has a beautiful message for children and adults.

A Christmas Guest 

christmas guestHebrews 31:2 says “2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” In this age-old story a little boy actually does entertain an angel on Christmas eve. There is a touch of fantasy, but I think it’s a beautiful book that brings out that Biblical truth in a way children can understand.

Masterpiece Story Bible

This book has a passage on one side and a famous painting on the opposite page. It covers the whole bible but it has a dozen Christmas related paintings and passages too.

I love covering the Christmas story using scripture verses and high-quality paintings.

My Wish List!

Gift of the Magi

magiI can hardly wait to introduce my children to this timeless classic.

Christmas Day in the Morning

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I read this at our pastor’s house. It’s a lovely picture of mature love.

What other books would you suggest??

-Verity

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Christ-focused Christmas Traditions (Part 4)

Last year Lyd posted some great articles on Christ-focused Christmas traditions! I’m reposting the links today in case you missed them!

Make sure you come back tomorrow and Saturday as I’m posting about our Christmas book collection tomorrow and my FAVORITE Pre-season kid tradition on Saturday!

Nativity Invitation to Play

Baby Jesus Craft

Mom’s Musings: The Opportunity of Christmas

Happy December Everyone!

-Verity

Christ-Focused Christmas Tradition Series (Part 3)

2012-12-19 at 16-52-58Christmas Baking for the Neighbors

Growing up, Mom would make dozens of green frosted kringles,  wrap each in tinfoil topped with a  bow and then send my sister and I door to door dropping off holiday cheer to our neighbors.

It was very memorable to us, and we each continue the tradition in our own way – because we learned the blessing of stopping and trying to give.

Lyd (who is the better baker) makes her own kringles – while I settle on a few different cookies plastic-wrapped on plates (or last year with a new baby in the house I kept perspective and settled on bags of store-bought chocolates and cards.

A week or two before Christmas, the kids and I drop off the sweets. The kids love it, and it is nice to touch base with neighbors in a friendly way in the dead of winter. (Living in MN, we can go months without talking because we are all bundled in our houses!)

-Verity

 

How I do ALL My Errands and Cooking in ONE Day

 

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Every couple weeks, I get my two least favorite activities (ERRANDS and COOKING) done in the same day. When I decide to do it, it opens up the rest of the week to so much productivity!

Here’s the general schedule and how I do it.

(BEFORE the day)

- Write grocery list (I’ve written about this before, but I write my grocery shopping list in the exact order everything is located in the store – helps a lot with speed and sanity when we are 17 minutes in and one or two kids start to whine.

- Have kids’ clothes laid out so I can throw their clothes on and we can leave first thing in the morning!

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- Have kitchen cleaned up. (The one morning a week that is my nemesis is MONDAYS so this is harder than it sounds!)

DAY:

8:00 Clean up Breakfast & Get Kids Dressed

Spend 10 minutes clearing toy clutter that they pulled out so we can walk into a clean(ish) house.

9:00 Walmart – and usually only one other place because that’s all we can do if I want to get home in time.

12:00 Home – Make them something fast like microwave burritos, Ramen or Mac N Cheese. (Errand day comes once a week so I figure they’ll survive with that type of food.)

12:30 All my kids take naps. (Errands wear them out too so even the 5 year old who is usually skipping naps now sleeps!) :-)

12:45 This usually gives me a solid hour and a half!

Now, at this point – all the food is sitting on the counter still. 

So (AFTER making coffee!) I put away what needs to be put away, but I end up keeping MOST of it out because I’m going to use it to make all the meals. (LOVE the excuse to not put stuff away!)

Here is a typical meal plan of the meals I make. I usually need to make ahead 5 meals:

1. Stuffed Green Peppers (Hamburger)

2. Thai Chicken Casserole (Chicken)

3. Burritos (Chicken)

4. Potatoes and Hamburger Gravy (Hamburger)

5. Tacos (Hamburger)

I make a graph to see at a glance what I need to use each main ingredient for.

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The top left shows the hamburger uses.

The top right shows the rice uses.

The bottom left shows the chicken uses.

And the bottom right is just a reminder of other main ingredients that are only used in one dish each.

 

I usually start the rice or potatoes (because they take so long).

Then I cook ALL the meat.

Finally, I add in the vegetables and extra seasonings to make the rest of the food.

And put them all together!

(USUALLY, I have most of the ingredients made but not much mixed together yet (i.e. NOTHING finished but everything pulled out when the kids get up from their naps.

But when they get up, we have my sanity saver of “MOVIE MONDAY” which I put in about 3:00. This gives me another much needed hour and a half! :-)

That’s it!

I usually can get the living room cleaned up (though not often the kitchen) by the time my husband comes home. Usually though, I can finish the kitchen after supper and enter Tuesday with a 5 day stretch of pre-cooked meals, no errands, a semi-clean house (and well…time to catch up on the laundry). :-)

-Verity

The Biggest Secret to a ‘Magically’ Clean House!!

My mother always seemed to have a magically clean house.

I don’t remember her ever saying to us (the phrases that I’ve used umpteen times on my kids – )

“Okay guys! Let’s get this place cleaned up!!”

or

“Daddy’s coming home in 5 minutes and EVERYTHING is a mess. Ready…set…Go! Go! GO!”

or

(This one accompanied by aa threatening – every so slightly hysterical tone – ) DON’T MOVE the couch/ chest/ dresser! We don’t have time to clean out under it before our guests come!!

Growing up our house was just always clean.

Now that I ‘get’ cleaning and housekeeping a little more, random phrases she’d say every so often make a lot more sense and hold the key to my mother’s effortlessly clean house.

I thought I’d share today some of those magical phrases.

“Leave every room a little better then when you entered it”

 I’ve been trying hard to implement this. When I remember to do this, it is SO effective!

Our room

My childhood room – looking much more sophisticated. :-)

The living room can be a NIGHTMARE, but if I just straighten, toss or de-clutter two things each time I walk through – not even stopping in my steps – just straightening and grabbing as I go – it may only take a dozen walk-throughs, and it’s clean! (Well – cleanish anyway – this is my toddler-zoned house we’re talking about here!!)

“As you walk through a room, just glance around and see if you can take anything with you.”

Along those same lines, this works so well. When I remember to do this, my house is much more put together at the end of the day!

If I’m headed to the kids’ room by way of the spare room, I [should] scan for toys on the floor that belong in their room.

“Just do a little more each time you do something”

We never had sticky rings left on shelves in our frig. If Mom saw a little residue left on the refrigerator shelf, she’d grab a paper towel and wipe that spot – and around the other shelves too.

It took an extra 10 seconds tops.

It saved her from having to clean the refrigerator very often.

(I on the hand,  have to do a complete overhaul ever month or so.)

”Just keep your hands moving”

 Mom was just always moving – calm – very rarely stressed – but always moving.

Now that I’ve matured, I see tmy mothers’ secret.  SHE was the secret.

If there was chaos, she’d grab every 3 second window to calm it.

If there was mess, she’d take a 5 second walk-through to clean it.

Every task she did ‘a little’ more instead of ‘just enough.’

Her attitude and care came out in everything – even if it was as simple as walking through a room, listening to her two VERY TALKATIVE twin girls, or helping  us with a project.

She wasn’t looking to take ‘a break’ from housekeeping. Just because she cleaned yesterday, didn’t mean she would not wipe ‘a little extra’ today.

Making her home ‘a little’ nicer for us was her lifestyle and heart.

Thanks Mom! :-)

mom and I

Mom and I at Lyd’s wedding

- Verity