Feb 222017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

yoga ball get paid

Swagbucks has been a great source of extra money over the past few years.  If you have read my blog for any length of time, I am sure you have picked up on how much I like them.

The flexibility in ways to earn has been the biggest draw for me.  There have been times when I am frankly short on time, and others when I have a lot of time to spend looking around and trying out new things.

Watching video clips is one of the easiest ways for me to earn gift cards by redeeming points, called SB.  Not only can I find clips on subjects that interest me, but I can also learn about new things.  The videos can run while I type up a blog post, fold laundry, do the dishes, or help a child with homework/school work.

Watching videos on my phone makes it even easier and portable. When I find a video I like, it can be saved to my favorites for me to watch again. (This is the easiest and fastest way to find certain videos at some point in the future.)

Modification of several yoga and  Pilates moves are also used in our home for sensory activities and exercise with the kids.  Each kid reacts differently to the movements, which takes trial and error to find the ones that might work best for you.

There are several ways for you to watch video clips to earn SB – via the Swagbucks website and via several apps on your phone. (Even if you are an international user!)  The apps are free to download. 

Below is a list of video I have come across on one app – Sportly.tv. (They were current as of the writing of this post)  You can earn 18 SB per day using this Swagbucks app.

Jack had a blast going through these with me.  Several were stopped so we could both try them.  Again. And Again. And Again.

Sportly.tv

  • Common Meditation Mistakes 2:20
  • How To Do Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 0:51
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Spiderman Move 0:52
  • Weights on Trampoline 1:14
  • Kundalini Yoga – Dyamic Cobra Pose 1:25
  • Olympic Buses Transporting Athletes Gets Lost For Hours 1:04
  • How To Do Crab Walks 0:30
  • Man With Cerebral Palsy Competes in Races With Brother’s Help 1:09
  • How To Do Pilates Neck Pull Exercise 1:50
  • How To Do Standing Shoulder Press 0:50
  • Belly Dancing: Snake Arms 3:22
  • How To Do Lunges 0:54
  • How To Do Yoga Knees to Chest Pose 1:09
  • Circus Exercise: V Ups Exercise 0:45
  • How To Perform Wellness Bridge  0:42
  • How To Perform Egyptian Stretch 0:30
  • Riot Erupts at Wheelchair Basketball Game 1:03
  • How To Do Yoga Standing Forward Fold Pose 0:54
  • Plank To Downward Dog 0:44
  • 70-Year-Old Qualifies for Olympics 1:23
  • Sumo Wrestlers – 10 Amazing Facts 1:24
  • Pilates Swan On The Roller 2:05
  • What is Doga? 1:34
  • Goal of Meditation 1:06
  • Pilates: Thera Band Arms 4:28
  • Pilates Footwork on the Roller 2:20
  • Squats on a Smith Machine with Medicine Ball 0:51
  • How To Do Kettlebell Swing 0:45
  • Pilates: Lower Lift with Magic Circle 4:40
  • Yoga – Revolved Side Angle Pose 1:07
  • Circus Exercises: Tuck on the Trapeze 1:13
  • Overhead Exercise with Dumbbells 0:43
  • Airport Security Confiscates Kids’ Tennis Rackets 1:13
  • Eating Tips Before Running 0:39
  • Belly Dancing: Chest Isolations 2:56
  • How To Do Pilates Open Leg Rocker Exercise 2:12
  • Food Art: Sports Themed Strawberries 2:00
  • Early Swimming For Kids Leads to Better Academic Performance 1:02
  • Strict Diet Guidelines for Chinese 1:04
  • Side to Side Obliques with Medicine Ball 1:05
  • Wheelchair Bodybuilders Inspire Others 1:11
  • How To Do Yoga Fish Pose 1:19
  • How To Do Pilates Teaser Exercise 1:14
  • How To Do Knee Plank Curls 0:42
  • 30 Minute Beach Workout 6:21
  • Yoga – Dancer Pose Easy Variation 0:57
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Thigh High Move 0:51
  • Beach Workout Tips 1:59
  • Russian Olympic Volleyball Coach Commits Suicide 1:03
  • Yoga – Side Plank Intermediate 0:56
  • Advanced Contortion Moves: Lever 0:59
  • Self-Defense Workout: Push Kick 1:30
  • Kundalini Yoga – Dynamic Bow Pose 1:35
  • Pilates Scissors on the Roller 1:48
  • Hula Hoop Upper Body Workout 1:05
  • French Open – 10 Uncommon Facts 1:19
  • Designer Proposes Trampoline Walkway 1:05
  • Pilates Single Leg Stretch on the Roller 1:57
  • How To Do Yoga Triange Pose 0:53
  • Kundalini Yoga – Spinal Rotation 1:34
  • 15 Minute Beach Workout 4:39
  • Fitness Through Sensual Dance – Lotion Motion 1:05
  • How To Perform Bicep Stretch 0:33
  • How To Do Explosive Jump Squat 0:30
  • Circus Exercises: Frog Sequence On The Rope 1:33
  • How To Do Yoga Eagle Pose 1:07
  • How To Perform Neck Rotation Exercise 0:37
  • Yoga – Cow Face Pose Easy Variation 1:40
  • Tai Chi: Strike Ears with Fist 0:59
  • Seated Dumbbell Knee Raise 0:45
  • How To Perform Front Leg Kicks 0:30
  • Pilates Open Leg Rocker on the Roller 2:00
  • How To Do Pilates Spine Twist Exercise 1:40
  • Yoga Side Plank 0:52
  • How To Do Pilates Swimming Exercise 2:15
  • Plank on Bosu 1:16
  • A New Hot Sport Due To Booming Skyscrapers 1:14
  • Tricep Dips with Yoga Ball 0:53
  • How To Do Standing Shoulder Press 0:50
  • 5 Types of Sports in German 0:47
  • How Can Mediation Reduce Stress? 2:27
  • Self-Defense Workout: Bump Escape From A Bear Hug 1:51
  • Yoga – Shoulder Stand 1:11
  • Belly Dancing: Figure 8 2:55
  • Pole Dancing For Fitness 1:27

 

Feb 122017
 

This post contains affiliate links.
christmas-tree-baden-springs

Well, I finally did it.  I sent Christmas off to my niece and nephew … I mean Santa* will be delivering it in his shiny, new ride.

What? You did not know that Santa updated his ride to truck with a variety of letters written on the side (U P S, U S P S, F e d E x)?  Hmm. I must have not sent out the memo.

Well, he has updated AND he delivers at non-Christmas time if you are good enough … or have an aunt who happens to have moved over the holidays and is still living with only half her stuff out of boxes while also shopping for a house, conducting IEP meetings every few weeks, finding new doctors, buying a new-to-her car, figuring out new groceries stores, updating insurance, and other equally fun things.  Her kids were lucky to have a Christmas at Christmas as it was.

And why, do you ask, has Santa updated his ride?

Well, that is fairly easy to explain.  Because he has partnered with a site called Swagbucks to help his aunt save money while showing her love for her niece and nephews.  Everyone gets to have a nice warm fuzzy feeling that way.

And how does this aunt use Swagbucks to save?  Well, with activities like the one below. It is calorie free, I promise, so no worries about blowing your fitness resolutions.

Here’s another fun team challenge to help you earn SB from Swagbucks! For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web!

If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes!  Last month I was able to learn new tips from others who had gone before me, earning 935 points for myself and over 3,000 for my team. (That may seem like a lot, but our high scorer for the team had way over 10x my team points.  That leave a lot of room for improvement.) I am not sure how next week’s will go, as there are some other things on my calendar to take care of as well.  

They have one themed around Valentine’s day – the Chocolate Dipped Team Challenge begins Monday, February 13th.

Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team. Pre-registration is going on right now! If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up on this page as well.

2. Starting February 13th at 8am PT, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far. 

All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card!

Not only that, but if you earn 300 SB before March 1st, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus (as long as you’ve signed up under me)!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 25 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, February 17th and will expire on Tuesday, February 28th 11:59pm PT

*While we do not believe or celebrate Santa at our house, that is not true for all of our family members.  In this context, I am assuming you all know that he is not real and I am really talking about the mailman, but keeping things light and fun.

Feb 102017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

date night nice

One of my anxieties with moving, a fear of mine actually, was knowing friends and support systems are not a given and often take a long time to form.

We had lived in 3 different communities before landing in Small Town.  In none of those first 3 communities did we form what felt were solid friendships; we were in the community but not a part of the community.  Perhaps if we had stayed longer, those budding friendships would have solidified into something more.

Once we moved to Small Town, it took over a year to solidify a friendship with my neighbor, even longer to get to the point of canning together or starting the roadside stand.  This friendship ended up growing so much, we now refer to them as “aunt” and “uncle”.  It took my kids several more years before they asked, “how exactly are we related to Aunt and Uncle?”  :)  Blood does not always make a family.

It took 4 years, after joining the rural community, before I joined the local MOPS group and began to make a few close friends, which also resulted in participating in my first Farm Market Swap.

Farm Market Swap collage

During the years of having small kids, my husband and I were not always blessed with the ability to take time for ourselves, to get away as a couple for a few hours a week, or even once a month. At times it was possible, but at others it seemed like we came back to a situation that was harder than if we had just stayed home. (The idea of a weekend away was out of our realm of reality at that point.)

Often, we had to settle for coffee and a movie at home, hoping to not wake up the kids and not to fall asleep before the end of the movie.  Those first months were filled with kids scared to go to sleep, scared that you would not be there when they woke up, scared of … night time was not a good time, which was a shame as the days were filled with hyper-vigilant, hyperactive, inquisitive, take-life-by-the-horns, I-know-best kids.

As they grew a bit older, things calmed down some, but the anxiety is always there in the background.  Now we were dealing with official  diagnoses of ADHD, and unofficial sensory and trauma related issues, as well as lesser known issues that come with ADHD beyond the attention and hyperactivity issues. (here,too, but there is a bit of language.) (This was a great read for me recently, helping to connect some of the dots to other issues I otherwise could not find the cause of.)

The mere idea of moving brought me anxiety.  Not only was I going to have to meet a lot of new people, but my kids were going to be reminded (subconsciously) of times in their early lives, when things were not consistent, when there was a lot of loss, when they had no control.  I was anxious about how they would react. However, a move was happening and we would have to deal with the outcome.

My husband was excited to find out the local YMCA had a monthly Kid’s Night Out, where parents could drop their kids off for a few hours of games, fun, and pizza.  I was less than excited. Way less. The mere idea made my stomach start to knot up. My husband could not understand why, though he found out after the first night we tried.

See, the time to drop them off, it began about an hour before the kid’s bedtime and lasted for up to 3 hours.  Night time is the worst time of day for our kids.  Their ADHD behaviors, their sensory/trauma issues, and developmental issues have been a struggle all day, making their brains tired.  Their bodies, however, act as if they are full of energy.

Jack gets so overloaded with things (noise, activity, expected social behaviors) that his brain goes too fast for his body.  He then runs and hides in a quiet place, or turns in circles (vestibular sensory seeking), or hits, or … he does not handle it well, especially when tired … an hour before bedtime. (Yes, our kids go to bed early, but they also sleep 11-12 hours still.)

We tried it once, was well as a three day Holiday Day Camp where I had to clarify a few things with the director on the second day or risk one of my kids being kicked out, before agreeing this was not working for us.  We mentally set ourselves up for a year+ of home date nights and switching off if one of us needed to be gone in the evenings.

Been there, done that, we have the cappuccino mix at home.

(The picture below shows a ‘date lunch’ where we took the kids with us.  They sat at the corner side of the table watching a movie, while we were on the other side having cake and coffee; they got some goodies too.  They were not allowed to talk with us until the movie was over. Sometimes, you do what you need to do.)

cake children coffee shop date afternoon line

Then … then, we continued to visit a particular new church.  George loved the kids’ activities and new people.  Jack, well, it was hit or miss at first.

Being a new place, we did not share the unique aspects of our family.  For starters, we did not know these people well.  Secondly, not everyone reacts the same way when I share things.  Sometimes they judge our kids (or us) before taking the opportunity to get to know us.  Thirdly, I was hoping our kids would handle the change calmly at first.

In the past, unfortunately, it has often been the case that in these situations, that the adults in charge say, “Sorry.  If your child is not willing to act in these socially acceptable, calm ways, s/he can not be here.  You will need to come with them or keep them with you.  It is too distracting and hard for us.” I have missed quite a bit of church these past few years due to kids not being able to handle/exhibit the expected behaviors.

Much to my surprise that is not what happened at this church.  After one obviously trying Sunday morning for the kids’ teacher, I determined to go early the next week and talk to the preacher’s wife.  She was one of the few I had met whom I felt would hear me out and could then direct me with whom I should talk.

Keeping things to ourselves was obviously not working.

This talk turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined.  As we were talking, she stopped me and said, “I think you should tell all of this ____.”  The person she said?  The only other lady in the church I knew, the one who had told me the week before that their household is never quiet because she and her husband were such extroverted people.  That comment alone made me want to become her friend immediately.

These ladies and I missed all the beginning of church that week as I shared everything – how we became a family, struggles of ADHD, some other learning/developmental struggles they may face.  I also stated the fact that if my kids were not adjusting well to the kids’ classes, they were welcome to sit with us.

What I got was – “Well we were just discussing this in our morning meeting and how to handle it … do you think having an older teen with them would help?  … I will let the teacher know not to call on them to read out loud the harder passages … we could move them to a younger class, but that might cause more issues (and explained why) … how about we try these out and see how it goes?”  They offered a few other options as well.  I came away feeling more encouraged than defeated.  It was an unexpected change for one.

A few weeks later, I got an email from the teacher asking, “How can I help him/them while in class?  What can I do to not make things worse?”  WHAT?!?!  Not only was this person still willing to have them/him in class, but also asking what to do to make things easier for my child!

I cried.

Then I put together a response, explaining a few struggles that were probably appearing, how they might manifest themselves, and list of basic things that seem to help me in that situation.

valentines cupcake decorating children collage

Last week, my husband had mentioned the youth of this church were hosting a Kid’s Night Out this coming weekend, so the parents could have a night to themselves (for Valentines Day).  If you had said this a month ago, I would have dismissed it.  By now, however, I told him I thought the kids would do well and we should take advantage of it.

Why?

  • The kids knew the adults.
  • One of the teens has watched the kids during mid-week gatherings and did fabulous (actually will try her as a babysitter this month).
  • The setting was familiar.
  • The group was small.

Though there might be a bounce house (shhh) and other activities, I doubt it will be as loud or chaotic as the ‘Y’ was. (Please do not think we do not like the local ‘Y’; we are actually going there weekly for a kids exercise class and it is going fabulously.  Of course, it is a small group and does not last for 3 hours.)

This year, for one of the few times in our marriage, my husband and I will get a chance to “celebrate Valentine’s Day”.  Though it is more like – “having a date near Valentine’s Day” as we don’t really celebrate this day any different than other date nights.  The first year of our marriage we did our taxes and didn’t even realize the date until we had to sign and date our forms. Yup, we are such romantics.

If your significant other or someone important in your life is as oblivious to the day as my husband and I are, you are in luck.  Bring them some coffee (bought with a gift card?) and a cookie and they will thank you for your spontaneous gift.

If they are not so oblivious, you need to get a move on with something beyond a card signed with your name.  How about a gift card to their favorite store?  Or one to use to take them out for a special evening, while earning points back?

Do your Valentine’s Day shopping through Swagbucks and get cash back for all your purchases!

The best part? Through Valentine’s Day, select retailers are offering double cash back or more! Just click here to sign up for Swagbucks and learn more.

If you don’t know about Swagbucks, it’s a site where you earn points (called SB) for doing things like shopping, watching videos, discovering deals, searching the web, and taking surveys! You redeem your SB for gift cards or PayPal cash.

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me and spend at least $25 in shop, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus!

Feb 062017
 


Adventures In Gardening yellow flower

This post contains an affiliate links and my honest experience with this particular product.

Taking chances is something gardening is all about.  It is what makes it an adventure.  Even if you never try a new technique or plant, you are taking a chance.  Gardening is not for the faint of heart.  Whenever you plant a flower, spread seeds, add a tree to your yard … you take a chance on the weather cooperating, the soil providing nutrients, deer not eating your plants … well, you get the idea.

During the 2014 spring season, I decided to take a chance on a new gardening product, Roll Out Flowers.  This particular product may not have been new to everyone else, but it was something I had not tried before.  I had heard of making plantable paper with seeds, of using damp paper towels to help spread small seeds evenly in areas, but never had I purchased such a product.  However, the kids were excited to try this and see the results.
front flower bed sunflower packet

The concept was simple, roll out the product and water.  In a given amount of times, flowers were supposed to appear.

As we lived in a place with almost constant breezes or gusts of wind, I added a bit of mulch to the top, helping hold it in place.  Later, more was added as the sun would quickly dry out the material otherwise.

I was tempted to bury it under a thin layer of mulch, but wanted to follow the directions as stated.

front flower bed may 6 2014

front flower bed 2 may 6 2014

The kids were so excited to see what would happen, checking every day to see if there were any new seeds.  Unfortunately, this method did not work for use.  Whether it was due to old seeds (I bought it during the off season) or the sun drying it out too much,  nothing sprouted from this material.  Eventually it was removed from the flower bed and replaced with other traditional seeds.

I have tried the same method with other products, and other flower types, with some success.

Have you tried this product or similar?  What results did you end up getting?

Jan 232017
 

This post contains affiliate links.
5-love-languages-of-children-clean-edgeThere are few books I read during my college years that still stick with me even to this day.  Most were academic in nature, things that I learned but did not affect me personally.  However, during that time I learned about the 5 Love Languages.

How I responded to actions and comments from friends and acquaintances, as well as how I acted towards them, began to change as I began to see them in a new light.  Up till then, I had not even realized my helping set up for a meeting or my willingness to go with them somewhere was how I expressed love.  I had assumed it was the thoughtful thing to do and that everyone did it.

I was wrong.

I learned it was how I showed and received love.  It was the form that spoke strongest to me personally.

Once my  husband and I met, it helped both of us to know our preferred love language.  While our languages are different, we are able to express our feeling in the way the other is most likely to receive it best.  We are also able to give grace when we realize they are not giving us what we need at the moment, because they do not always think the way we do.

While my husband may not always bring me flowers, he does do the dishes at times, or helps clean the kitchen.  Those are the times I feel like he is spoiling me.  He is speaking my language.

When we walk or go somewhere, we hold hands or sit close, and my husband greatly appreciates this. I am speaking his language.

Without knowing these things about ourselves and our spouse, we could have been spinning our wheels sitting in the same room together watching our favorite movies and sending heart felt cards to each other, yet never feeling truly loved.

When we added to our family, we both knew we needed to find our children’s love languages.  The problem was, how?

How do you figure out the love languages of your children when they can not even talk?  Are they the same as the languages of adults?  Are they expressed in the same way?  Do they have a primary language and a secondary language, and do they stay the same as they grow older?

Enter The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The first parts of the book talk about why the showing love is so important in your relationship with your children.  Then a chapter is devoted to each of the various love languages.  If you have never read these books, practice a form of parenting or working with children that has not taken into account what is going on inside them, or are beginning your journey with kids, you will want to spend time in the beginning of this book, considering why this is important.

child shredding zucchini with border

It was interesting to see how these languages are felt and expressed differently in the lives of our children.  Touch, for example, may not mean holding your child’s hand like it would your spouse.  Instead, it might mean touching their back as you walk past them at the dinner table or picking them up to hold them in your lap.  Time might be shown in helping with homework or playing a game.

These love language explanations are followed by the chapter I had been waiting for – Discovering Your Child’s Love Language. Now I could figure out if I needed to keep rubbing George’s back or if Time was his main one and we should bake more together.  Did Jack appreciate me playing games with him or should I continue to do the soft touches on his arms when he sat on my lap? The conclusion?  I should keep doing all of them.

As it turns out, children’s language may change over time.  They do not have a primary one, though they might respond to various languages at different developmental stages.  So, while I will keep rubbing George’s back and playing with his hair (one way we found to almost instantly calm him down), I will keep baking with him and sitting near him for homework.

To be effective in discipline, parents must keep the child’s emotional love tank filled with love.

The next chapters of the 5 Love Languages of Children cover topics related to learning to love your children effectively which I had not thought so much about – Discipline, Learning, and Anger.

I have been told over and over, through our many (foster) parenting classes and books read, discipline is not always a negative thing.  It does not always mean punishment, but instead means guidance and teaching.  It comes from a place of love, not a place of anger and annoyance.  Sometimes easier said than done.  However, I personally have noticed a change in my kids when I make sure to love on them more, or take a deep breath before addressing the situation.  Sometimes a hug or verbal reminder is all they need – “I am right here. Please lower your voice.”  Other times, they do need firm reminders of expected behaviors.  The balance is a tough one to keep at times.

At night time, Jack is still in need of close physical presence, he prefers at least line of sight to an adult; even after 5 years, he does not feel safe.  It had improved to the point of me being able to sit in the living room “drinking coffee”, out of his sight, while he went to sleep; then we moved and progress went backwards at least a year.  I got really annoyed at him last night for disobeying and not staying in bed, responding harsher than I should have.  Once I realized his need and got past my “this is how it should be” thinking, things got better and we all slept (albeit two hours after he his bed time).

One point they make, and where I think some parents go wrong, even I at times, is to make requests instead of commands.  I understand saying “please” always is better then “go do ____”.  Where I used to go wrong, and where I hear other go wrong is saying, “Do you want to go brush your teeth?”  instead of “Please, go brush your teeth.”  The first is truly asking them if they want to or not, so do not get mad if they say “no” and keep playing.  One of my kids would take that question at face value then wonder why you are getting mad at him when he says he does not want to go.  The other child would understand that you really are telling him to go brush his teeth.  When wording something as a request, make sure you are willing to accept a true answer and not just the result you are wishing to obtain.

The same literal child above was reminded last week, that it was time to go and he needed to put on shoes.  The second time I said the same sentence with out any acknowledgment of hearing me I reworded the request into a statement: “We are leaving whether you  have on your shoes or not.  If you do not want your socks to get wet, you need to put on your shoes.” He was over putting on his shoes almost immediately.  No threats, but straight forward fact about the consequences of not doing what was asked.  

Parents who do not take time to speak the five love languages, but simply seed to meet a child’s physical needs, are neglecting her intellectual and social development.

We have seen the results of this in our children.  When they first came to us, their emotional ages were several years behind where they should be.  It was hard to teach them anything as they did not trust us, were hyper-vigilant, etc.  They were focused on surviving and had no mental energy left for learning.

Over time, they have learned to calm down some.  However, they are still anxious.  Anything taught to them during these times may as well be taught to a brick wall.  Their emotional ages,while improving, are still about a year behind, depending external factors and what exactly you are asking them to do (change in schedule vs. deal with a difficult person vs. doing something they would prefer not to be doing, etc.).

The last of these three – love and anger, was a chapter that unfortunately I really needed to read.  With all the changes going on in our home, emotions have been running high.  Anxiousness, sadness, happiness, excitement, nervousness, shyness, uncertainty … all these emotions mixed in with having to schedule appointments, set up services, start new school/church, continue home schooling, leaving an old job, learning a new job, finding your way around a new town, leaving friends, meet new friends, gather paperwork, organize chaos, decide what to keep and what to get rid of, finishing up activities around the house … well, honestly it leads to many days where sadly not everyone responds in the most appropriate of ways.  I see myself referencing back to this chapter in the upcoming months and days, as I am the one to set the example for my kids, helping them walk a path of appropriate handling of anger.

The last two chapters were aimed at the parents reading this book, either single or married.  They covered various aspects of parenting, of being parents, and how it relates to our children and their love/growth.  These chapters held encouragement and tips for creating a solid foundation in us and those around us.

Finally, at the end of the book were several resources: an epilogue, notes from chapters, and The Mystery Game for parents to play with their kids in order to help them determine the child’s love language.

begin to build bat house collage

One of the things I have liked best about this book are the practical examples and solutions presented. These examples helped me visualize what was being talked about, seeing ways to apply it in our home.

Another aspect I appreciated is actually something that is missing – a new parenting style.  The point of the book seemed to focus more on the relational side of parenting your children, rather than telling you how to raise them.

If you have previously read another version of The 5 Love Languages, then you will see some repeat, especially in the first few chapters.  The parts I found to be different or specific were the application area, or how it is expressed.

In the end I was glad I read this book.  It is a great addition to some of the other parenting books we have read and our (imperfect) method of parenting.  The 5 Love Languages of Children was also a great encouragement to keep moving forward even if we are not perfect in our parenting, especially because we are not.

Jan 182017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

bird-themed-birthday-party

It was decided – we were going to have a party George’s birthday.  Even though we were in the middle of finishing our home remodel and preparing to move.  It was not like I was doing anything else, or had any other details to plan. (Part 1)

With the theme now decided, party favors found, I moved on to games and decoration.  We were taking a risk by having the party at the local park.  However, it had been a mild autumn so far and I hoped it would continue as such.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I looked around for items we already owned to reuse.  If it had been solely up to George, the whole pavilion would have looked like an aviary, live birds and all.  For decorations, here is what came about instead:

  • Reused a birthday banner , hanging it up high along the side of the pavilion, facing the parking lot. It is similar to the one linked, but not that exact one.  We picked our up from the dollar store a few birthdays ago; this was it last time to be used.
  • Gathered up large limbs, tying them around the support posts.
  • Placed various stuffed plush birds of George’s in the branches of the trees.
  • Used table clothes, previously acquired at an end of holiday sale, and various colors of crepe paper.  This was one of the great benefits of not having a color theme.

As for games and snacks, we began with the game – Hawk and Sparrows, a.k.a. freeze tag.

Then a horrible thing happened – the fox got into the hen house and stole all the eggs.  Each team had to go find their own specific color of eggs, a.k.a. an egg hunt using easter eggs.  The kids were great about finding their eggs, even calling out the colors if they found one that did not belong to them.  In the end, all but one team could not find their last egg.  It turned out that I hid it too well, even I could not remember where they were.  We finally found them, in a circle out in the grass, in plain sight.  The point was not to make it a hard ‘game’, but to make it a fun one.  That being said, as you can see by the pictures below, I had to get a bit creative in ‘hiding’ them around the area of park we were in.

egg-hunt-party-activity

Once all the eggs were found, we gathered the kids together to make bird feeders using peanut butter smeared on cut up paper towel rolls/toilet paper rolls and rolled in bird seed. (note: if are you dealing with peanut butter allergies, shortening could be used as an alternative.)  Each kid had a plate in front of them which began with one roll and a glob of peanut butter.  Once it was smeared on, bird seed was added to the plate, allowing the majority of see to stay contained and making clean up extremely easy.

The kids were not too sure about spreading the peanut butter till I demonstrated that it really was okay to take a bunch on your fingers and smear it around.

A string looped through the rolls meant they would hang it up once they got home.  A paper lunch sack meant transport home would be mess free, which I am sure the other parents were thankful for.

The kids were beginning to wind down, it was time for snacks.  Prior to the party we had made birds nests, a.k.a. haystacks made with chocolate chips but no nuts or marshmallows, leaving them in the muffin tins for transport. Each kid was given their “nests”.  Small bowls of jelly beans were sat out along the table, allowing the kids to choose which eggs they wanted to place in their nests.

The birds’ nests had all been made inside cupcake tins, with paper liners.  This made it very easy to transfer them to the table for each kid, then to a paper lunch sack for the kids to then take home, if they did not eat them at the party first.

Next up were cupcakes, drinks, and opening gifts.  Once everyone was done, they were off and running, making use of the nearby play equipment and open space.

birthday-theme-bird-cupcake

My lack of photos for this post has nothing to do with me being frugal with my time or pictures.  It has everything to do with my mom taking most of the photos for this day, while I was helping direct the kids.

In the end all had fun helping George celebrate his birthday, which was the point of the whole endeavor.

P.S. I have enjoyed using the remaining erasers we acquired from the party.  Not only are they cute, but they work very well and are of a great size for hands, both large and small.

Jan 102017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

At the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 I did not write down official New Year’s Resolutions.  Instead, I spent December reflecting back on this past year and all the craziness it held, trying to get a grasp of it all:

  • the conclusion of a 2-year home remodel, which I initially thought would take 6 months (we saved thousands of dollars, though in exchange it took a lot longer)
  • my husband graduating with his MBA, going to class at night while working during the day
  • the subsequent job change
  • parenting for several months on my  own
  • and a move to a place with no current support network.

Not only did we move, but we moved into a rental house; a temporary situation we decided previously was a good decision while we learn the area.

Reflecting back on the year, there was a lot to take in.  My reality from this time a year ago till today is vastly different.  A year ago, I could not have even guessed we would be at the point we are now.

How am I then to look forward a year and know anything at all about what will happen?

I can’t.  I couldn’t if I tried.

5-love-languages-of-children

What I can do is think of habits or areas of life I would like to work on, setting myself up for success, hopefully, no matter what the future holds.  Here are a few of the areas I would like to work on this year:

  • Putting the “home” part back into “homemaking”.  Increasing the laughter in our home, decreasing the ‘stuff’, making it feel calm and uncluttered, these are all areas which need improvement and would provide beneficial results in other areas.
  • Being more consistant in use of my early morning hours – writing blog posts, visiting Swagbucks, getting a load of laundry ready to begin washing, etc.  Along with this would be going to be at a decent time, so as to be able to wake up at 5 a.m.  While it may seem early to some of you, I really do like those early hours better than the late one; I am more productive during those times.
  • Planning ahead consistently for those normal life events – whether this is a meal plan, a school lesson plan for the month, or a plan for when to do laundry, having these aides in place will reduce the amount of decisions I need to make every day.  I will gladly take any extra brain power I can get.  My consistancy this past year with these areas would ebb and flow, depending on what else was weighing on my emotions and calendar.  I want to get back to setting aside certain days or times for these events, rather than doing them as they happen to pop into my head.
  • Challenging myself to do some of the things which have scared me, things outside my comfort zone but which really are more ‘new’ than ‘scary’.  Or even things I have for too long said, “I am not good at that … This is an area I am really bad at..”  While I may never be someone to dive to the deepest trench in the ocean or become president (of the country or of a large business), that does not mean I should not continue to challenge myself.
  • Be more optimistic in terms of how I view myself.  Okay, maybe “optimistic” is not the appropriate word; what I do know is that I often find myself referring to negative aspects of my personality or apologizing for things which others may not even notice.  Instead of working to improve, I am so focused on my failures I miss what is going past.  Instead of sharing sunshine and flowers with others, I am focused on how I scuffed the floor last time.  Who cares about the floor?!  Move on, already!  Open the windows and let some sunshine in!  (Enough, I will stop with the exclamation marks.)

In general, I want to get back to the roots of who I am, of who I want to be.  That is something I feel I have lost these past several years while feeling, instead, like I was only trying to survive the day/week/season of life.

While I hesitate to call anything a “New Year’s Resolution”, to set a theme for the year, or to give myself yet another thing to feel guilty over, there are items which happen to be starting now.  This is in large part to due to the timing of the move, no more home remodel going on, or that fact that my normal month to feel this way (November) had enough of its own going-ons that it did not need any more.

One of the items under “Challenging myself to do things I said I couldn’t” is to get down a routine with Swagbucks, and other similar sites, in order to not only pay for this next year’s home school supplies, but also the cost of hosting this blog and gardening supplies, albeit limited compared to years’ past.  I do not have set number on hand right at the moment, though I will begin to gather them soon.  What I do know is that all together this will come to a few hundred dollars.  ($100 being the equivalent of 10,000 points, called SB).

Whatever activities I choose to do, in order to earn SB, will have to fit into my normal life.  I can not take an hour or two every day to sit clicking a screen, babysitting a point counter.  This is where having a smart phone has helped.

rotary phone with border

Years ago, my husband suggested we switch from our flip phone to a ‘smart’ phone, I bulked.  We no longer were on a set contract with our service provider, the phone we had made good calls, and if I wanted to see the internet, I would use a computer. “If someone wants me, they can call.  At least they should be polite enough to think me worthy of a few minutes talk time rather than a quick note written in bad english.” (a.k.a texting)  Why spend hundreds of dollars for something I found caused people to be rude and annoying. I did not need a ‘smart’ phone.  I did not want a ‘smart’ phone.

Then my husband came home with information about a phone service provider option.  All my reasons for not doing it began to pale in comparison to the cost savings.  We could save 60% on our phone bill. Each month.  No contract.

After discussions back and forth, running the numbers to see how long before we would be saving money, we became the owners of a ‘smart’ phone.  It took some time for me to figure out how this new gadget in my life might begin to work for me, rather than against me.  And, yes, texting has won me over for the most part.

Using my phone to help me earn and save money has been one of the best features I have enjoyed.  It has taken some time, but I have found things that work well for me.  I have also found things that did not work, but they are no longer on my phone and so I do not really remember what they all were. 😉

christmas-tree-baden-springs

Now that the holidays are over, a lot of us have gone into savings mode again as we rebuild our bank accounts from all that gift buying! Some of us have already started saving for the 2017 holidays! If you’re looking to extend your budget or just stay within it, Swagbucks is a great resource for that.

You’ve probably seen me write about Swagbucks a lot on here. It’s a site where you earn SB for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

While you may not grow so rich you lose the sense of the value of a dollar, it can help ease your budget. Whether you use it to pay for today’s needs (utility bill, groceries, restaurant outing …) or tomorrow’s wants (rainy day fund, Christmas/birthday gifts, …)

To make the impact on your bank account even greater, you can earn a bonus when you initially sign up.

Here’s how you get your bonus:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 2/1/17. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least $25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another $2 (200 SB) bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping. If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)!

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real.

So far this month, during the past 10 days, I have earned over $10 (1033 points).  This has been spread out between points earn for shopping online, a lot of video watching, several surveys answered, daily polls, bonuses for reaching daily goals, bonuses for finishing my Daily To-do list (on the left side of the home page), searching the web, and Swag Codes.

As I have begun to incorporate it into my daily routines, I have learned what works for me and what does not.  For example, I do better at finding surveys in the morning.  It also helps for me to start with a search first thing, followed by the other items on the To Do list.  After that, I focus on watching SBTV on my phone, then short clips on other apps.
LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (Sony PlayStation 3, 2009)Combining earning from this month and some from last, I was able to redeem for a PayPal gift card, which was then used to pay for several items on Ebay. (The particular item shown definitely falls into the category of A Want.)  Of course, I clicked through on Swagbucks before finalizing the purchase on Ebay and will earn more SB back in the near future.  Every penny counts, and soon they begin to add up.

*You must receive your shopping SB before March 1st

Jan 062017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

bird-themed-birthday-party

It was decided – we were going to have a party George’s birthday.  Even though we were in the middle of finishing our home remodel and preparing to move.  It was not like I was doing anything else, or had any other details to plan.

After nixing the idea of renting out the school gym, again, we worked our way through ideas.  We lit upon a topic which not only reflected his personality, but which I could come up with themed activities and decorations. That last part was very important, as I also was not looking to spend $50-$100 on decorations and games.

The theme?  Birds.

To figure out where I should focus the limited budget, I asked George what he really wanted at his part.  George requested bird rings for cupcake toppings. His love of giving was showing through. :)

Personally, I am not a fan of these rings.  Often they get lost or broken within a day or two.  But that is what the birthday boy requested, so that is where I started.

Unfortunately, the only ones I could find were either Angry Birds, had bad reviews, or reviews said they were sized for adults.  I considered settling for woodland animal rings, but kept looking as they were not exactly matching up with our theme.

Doing some adjusting of search words, I did find some bookmark/photo clips that might have worked, but were not what I was really looking for.

Instead I found bird whistles.  Not exactly an items I would like to have a lot of in my house, but something that the kids would love. Given that the party was to be outdoors, having a loud party favor would not necessarily cause issues.  However, the reviews had me hestitant to order them.  I took way to long going back and forth on this one.

Then I found plastic bird stamps.  Hmmm. No whistling sounds in the car to drive parents crazy, thereby guaranteeing to never talk to me again.  This could work. The downside was the potential for them to be dried out by the time they arrived to me.

By this point I was tired, had spent too many hours searching online, changing search terms and following rabbit trails.  Then came a wonderful thought, “You know, erasers would have no issues of ink potentially being dried out, nor or making eardrum busting noises.” Another bonus was the great reviews.

I was 99% sure this was the route I was going to take.  My tired brain though listened to the doubt … and kept looking.

Plastic toy bird? Ach, but the shipping time is too far out.”

However, I had found a search term which had great results.  I kept looking, finding a set of 7 common birds with great reviews.  The worst reviews had to do with not have certain species or geographical areas represented.

The down side of this as party favors for potentially 20 kids, this would get expensive.

If you are looking to combine the love of birds with the love of legos, here is an ideal kit.

So, what did I go with?  The owl erasers as party favors and the TOOB of Backyard Birds as a birthday gift. Both were a hit.

The erasers were the large kind, making it very easy for kids (and moms) to hold them while actually having room to erase.  There were no worries about them being lost, and the scale on top of the cupcakes was perfect.

The TOOB of backyard birds did not come across as cheap looking, but instead had great detail and weight to them.  These birds are not overly large and were easy for smaller hands to handle and play with.

Now that the party favors were taken care of, I had to decide what to feed the kids and which games to play.

to be continued.birthday-theme-bird-cupcake

Dec 282016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

reading book dress-up costume

When the kids were younger, we knew they were behind in various academic and developmental areas.  Whether this was due to the environments they were in during their early years, or due to the trauma of removal and foster care, there were gaps and delays in their learning.

As toddlers and young children, our kids were extremely needy. Previously I had envisioned me teaching the kids as toddlers, sharing discoveries and books, working together in everything we did.  And while that did happen, it was not exactly as I had seen in my visions.

While my prior education was not in education of any sort, I sought out resources and books.  A lot of reading and many trials later, we were beginning to find things which worked.  I also soon came to realize this was not something I could do on my own.

Almost 6 years later, I may not have a degree in Early Childhood Education, but I have picked up a few pointers along the way.  I have also come to realize I am the best expert on my kids.  While we have leaned on the local public schools for aide in helping George learn, in the end I am the one who knows him best.  This fact has helped me be confident in seeking out resources to fit his needs and learning styles.

Reading has been a struggle with both of our kids, though for different reasons.  One child struggles with turning the sounds into words, the words into a sentence, and the sentence into a thought he understands.  The other child struggles with reading being ‘boring’ and having to sit still long enough to actually let learning happen.

Thankfully, the resource we found for the first child works well for the second, and is a great resource for any parent regardless of learning issues.  Even better, until January 20th, you can receive a FREE 4-week Trial.

Reading Eggs has given George the confidence to keep going, even when it was hard for him to put together sounds.  It is fun and there is no one to tell him he is doing it wrong. If he needs to go back and review, it is as easy as clicking back on an earlier task or ‘egg’.

Jack enjoys it as it does not seem like school work.  It is up-beat, short lessons, and keeps his attention.  He also enjoys the extra games he ‘gets to play’ once he finished his lesson. (This is my rule, not the program’s.)

We have also continued with Math Seeds, to subsidize Jack’s math work.  While I still need to monitor his online work (he has formed some bad habits to get through faster, which the program does not pick up on) this has been a great ‘privilege’ for days when he can finishes his work, or on days when he can not accept teaching from me.

George benefits from Math Seeds over the summer and on school vacations, to help provide the continuous review he needs in order to help his brain grasp concepts.

There are many aspects to Reading Eggs, including spelling, ebooks, and the Story Factory, where you can create your own book.  This variety has helped keep it fresh and exciting for the kids.

Whether you are looking for something to add to your school day, give the kids to work on during winter days, or as an added fun activity to aide in learning Reading Eggs might be just be what you were wanting.  With a FREE 4-Week Trial, now is the perfect time to explore the program.

Here’s what your child can enjoy:
Reading Eggs
Spelling
96 carefully graded spelling lessons that develop essential spelling skills in a progressive sequence.
Reading Eggs
Story Factory
A step-by-step guide to writing a story which can be entered into a weekly competition.
Reading Eggs
Reading Eggspress Library
More than 2000 real books converted to interactive e-books for young readers, many with read-to-me audio options.
Reading Eggs
Mathseeds
160 highly engaging math lessons specifically designed for kids aged 3–8. Your child can earn golden acorns and collect their own pets!

Click here to see what others are saying about Reading Eggs!

Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress, Mathseeds

 

Dec 242016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

For those of you who visited the Facebook page yesterday, you would have seen where I posted about the freezer cooking session I completed.  It was somewhat planned, in that I knew the recipes I wanted to make and had already gotten the ingredients for them.

The unplanned part was as to the time I was going to do this.

My first thoughts were to do it on one of the days the kids were otherwise occupied.  However, I ended up doing some much needed grocery and clothes shopping (for myself) on those days.  There is one more day when they will both be occupied for several hours.  That day is already taken by the act of getting licenses plates in our new state and meeting the handy man at our rental house.

Initially I had planned to take the kids on a hike.  However, it became clear that a lazy day at home was what everyone was desiring.  I took advantage of the Christmas movies going in the living room, pulling up the recipes of the meals I planned to make.

Plan to Eat is a meal planning services I have been using for the last several years.  It initially filled the need of a quick way to plan all my meals during the week, often for a month at a time.  It also allowed me to easily move plans around as life happened.

It has also became a great way to organize and quickly find my recipes.  This was very important when my husband decided we needed a slew of new recipes added to our collection.  Not only did this save an onslaught of little bits of paper from taking over my kitchen (he could quickly add them to the recipe collection online), it also allowed us to see if there are recipes we no longer make.

How did today go?  I think it was fairly successful.  The 3 different meals resulted in 4 family suppers or main dishes (one of those we ate last night), and the beginnings of 7 lunches for my husband.

Why the urge to do this now, right before a major holiday?  Two reasons:

  1. My husband needs to reduce his sodium intake.  He has been eating a lot of prepackaged lunches these past few months while living solo; it is beginning to take its toll.
  2. I am tired of having to make supper from scratch every night.  It is nice to have at least part of some meals for the upcoming two weeks already begun.

dishes-kitchen

Before doing any cooking, I washed dishes and ran the dish washer.  Then ran new dish water.  I also started a load of laundry, as that was another job I was trying to accomplish.

Having these things taken care of, meant I could end this session without having to face two foes – Mount Wash-more and Count Dried-on-food.

I gathered the ingredients I could remember of these three favorites of ours, then pulled up Plan to Eat on my laptop, sitting it on the counter.  Not having to search through my recipe binder and various cookbooks saved a lot of time and frustration on my part.

Next, I decided on the order of recipes, taking into consideration the prep and cook time of each.  My goal was to have no down time, utilizing the cooking of one time to prepare for another.  I also cleaned as I went, thereby allowing me more room to work and less time cleaning time at the end.

Some of my favorite freezer recipes have come from this book, including our chocolate chili recipe which I made yesterday.  Initially found at my library, it has become an unexpected resource which changed the way I viewed freezer cooking and associated recipes.

freezer-cooking-ingredients

Once the chili was cooking, it was time to move on to the next recipe – Superfast Salisbury Steak. Not a freezer recipe, per se, but one that adapts well to making ahead. I make it as noted, doubling the sauce*, then divide into freezer bags. When we are ready to have it for a meal, a bag is defrosted in the refrigerator, then reheated.

*As we like sauce with our meals, this recipe makes enough for two meals for us if I double the sauce amounts.

With the chili on the back burner, cooking down, two of the larger remaining burners were utilized for cooking the Superfast Salisbury Steak’s beef/turkey patties.

It was now time to start making the third and final meal – meatloaf.

Dad’s Meatloaf is another recipe I find we can get two meal out of, usually by making two loaves instead of 1. This does mean extra bacon, which I lay side to side, the short way.  Laying it in this pattern, rather than running down the long length of the loaf, I am able to slice between the bacon pieces.

This meatloaf recipe is one I have tried a few ways to adapt to freezer cooking. The best results I have gotten was when I followed all the steps up to the point of baking it.

Instead of baking, I place it on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and flash freeze it. Once frozen it gets wrapped in plastic and placed in the freezer. When I am ready to have it for a meal, I defrost it in the fridge, inside the baking dish I am wanting to use. At the appropriate time, I place it in the over to bake, according to the directions on the recipe.

For yesterday, this meant the only ‘cooking’ part of this third recipe is to make the home made relish. As I was out of skillets, my large sauce pan was utilized to fill the need.

freezer-meals-cooking-on-stove

All together yesterday had been a pretty good lazy day, an unplanned break from a fun filled, productive week.

It took more than 1 hour to do the cooking session I had lined up for the day, mainly due to trying to allowing the extra relish to cook down and post about it on Facebook as I went along.

We ate the chili for supper last night, leaving two servings as lunches for my husband.  I think the meatloaf will make a great meal on Monday, leaving a serving of that as a lunch during the week for my husband.

I am thinking the next ‘freezer meal’ session should include muffins and cookie dough.  Or it could be all this talk of food is making me hungry again. :)