Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday

We love the library.  I've always enjoyed reading.  Picking up a book to learn something new or escape into another work is one of my favorite activities.  I'm continually amazed by the amount of information we have available at our disposal.  If you're interested in something, there's probably about a book out there to tell you about, how to do it, the history of it, how other people have experienced it or how to avoid it.
Funny enough, I married a man who never liked to read.  For him, reading was torture growing up.  Faced with the choice of reading a book for pleasure or having a tooth extracted, he would have been hard pressed to make a decision.  He avoided books like the plague.
So we decided early on that we wanted to instill a love of reading in our children.  One of our consistent prayers is that the kids would love to read.  And although Daddy started out reluctant, he would read simply so that our kids would see him reading.  Over time he has come to enjoy reading himself.
One of the cornerstones of our week is attending story time at the library.  Our consistency ebbs and flows with other activities in our lives, but whenever the topic of story arises, our son is eager go jump in the car and go.  This is a great activity for many reasons.  Number one, it gives me a break to get out of the house with the kids and meet other moms.  I have made plans many times to meet other ladies there and enjoy a hour of so with the kids, being entertained by someone other than "mom."  Number two, it exposes my kids to a variety of topics and books that I wouldn't have ever picked up.  Once a month, a local author reads to the kids and her books are fantastic.  Sadly though, they aren't anything that I would have picked up on my own.  So I've been very happy to "discover" her literary style.  And finally, it's free.  Every mom, frugal or not, loves "free."  It's something we can do together without taking out a small loan.  I love the resource of our library.  It works for us.

For more Works for Me ideas, check out www.  But beware; it's addictive.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Teaching Tuesday

Alphabet Match Up

Plastic Alphabet Letters
Alphabet Cards

1. Mix up the alphabet letters in a bowl.  
2. Turn alphabet cards right side up and mix them.
3. Child chooses a card from the pile.
4. Child must search through bowl to find corresponding plastic letter.
5. If a match is made on the first try, child keeps mates and make have a second turn.
6. If a match is not made, the child put letter and card back and turn goes to the next person.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Menu Monday

Yeah, our menu last week stretched a long way. That and having spaghetti on Sunday, ... we still have lots of groceries and ideas for this week. So some of this is "repeats" and some is new.

Yogurt, fruit, milk
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, juice
Lentil tacos, spanish rice

Cottage cheese, toast, milk
Leftovers, juice
Potluck: Taco ring

Fruit cocktail, cottage cheese, milk
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or leftovers), cheese cubes, juice
Pea soup, homemade bread

Yogurt, toast, milk
Leftovers, juice
Crock pot chimichangas

Scrambled eggs, milk
Tuna sandwiches, salad, juice
Black bean burgers

Gingerbread waffles, milk
Quesadillas, juice
Chicken chow mein, salad

Waffles from freezer, milk
Sandwiches, juice

For more great ideas: check out

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Around the Home Thursday

Budgeting has been on my mind a lot lately.  But so has creativity.  I think that's why I most enjoy being frugal.  For the creativity of it.
Sure there are times I'd love to go out and BUY something, some times anything.  But learning to stretch a tight food budget or looking for new says to "spoil" someone tends to bring out the creativity in me.  And that's fun.
So here are just a few of my favorite little "gifts" specifically geared toward grandparents:
  • Altered photo frame: I took a simple inexpensive wooden frame and covered it with patterned paper.   Embellish it and fill it with a cute photo of the kids.
  • Burn a CD of your favorite photos of the kids.
  • Make a paper bag album.  We titled our "Nana and Papa's Brag Book.  Each page had predesigned layouts for them to fill later.
  • Family calendars with photos of kids and grandkids.
  • Altered recipe card holder.  Have hubby cut a slit in the top of a basic wooden rolling pin the size of a 3 x 5 index card and cover with pretty patterned paper.  You can often find these at the dollar store.
  • Seeds started during a science project with your kids.
  • Any clothing item made with this art project:
  • Pinecone wreaths made from items collected during the kids' nature walks.
  • Framed family photos.  One year we got all the kids and grandkids together and took a photo.  Had it framed and wrapped with all our signatures on the matting.
  • Bake, can, and cook with your kids.  Make layered mixes of your favorite dishes for them to enjoy at home.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's fun and comes from the heart.  Grandparents love things that the kids were involved in.  Ask your kids for ideas and see what they come up with.  They just might surprise you.  And above all else, see where your creativity takes you.   

For more money saving tips, check out:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

13 Essentials for a New Mother's Diaper Bag

I had a great time this weekend attending my cousin's baby shower.  I'm so excited that she's having her first baby: a little boy.  I can't wait to see him.  She's going to be an awesome mother. Even though she's the youngest, she's always been a natural mother.  This baby is very lucky.

So in honor of my little cousin, I'm posting a list of my top 13 essential items for a new mother's diaper bag:

1. Burp clothes: These are important for so many reasons.  Obviously they protect you and the baby when you're burbing your child.  But they're also great for a teething child or for cleaning out the bulb syringe.  I mostly used cloth diapers.  They were super absorbent and big for those larger messes.

2. A great receiving blanket: I carry at least two.  They're great for covering when you need to nurse in public and for swaddling a fussy baby.  

3. Gas drops: My pediatrician recommended that we give our son a dose every time we changed him.  Furthermore, I took a dose every time to relieve gas after my C-section.  It helped our son sleep better and have fewer hiccups.

4. Baby tylenol and thermometer: I can't tell you how many times both of these items calmed my nerves.  As a new mom, I needed that extra peace of mind knowing what my child's temp was and knowing that I could ease his pain after those vaccines.

5. Mentholatum: I don't know why but this works.  When my kids have colds, I rub a little on their feet and they get better.  Simple solution, but works fantastically.

6. Nursing pads:  I love those by Lansinol.  They are very absorbent and economical.  The breast cream by the same company is also very beneficial.

7. Wipes: I've found that the store brand wipes are just as effective as brand name.  However, I always try to buy fragrance free items.  With a slight history of sensitive skin in the family, I tend to avoid dyes and fragrances.  Who needs 'em anyway?

8. Diapers: Need I say more?  These are very similar to the wipes.  Store brand are really just as effective.  We tried a couple of different brands with our son.  He was so long and skinny; some brands just weren't tight enough to his little body.  Finally we settled on Kirkland and Pampers.  But really Kirkland were just as effective at a lower price.

9. Extra hat, socks, outfit: If you leave the house without a hat, it will rain.  If you leave without socks, your child will loose one.  If you leave without extra clothes, your child will spit up.  It's a given.  

10. Snacks and drinks: for you and your child.  Of course your child won't be eating right away, but when they start, a baggie of cheerios can go a long way to getting you out of Target without buying snacks and having your sanity in tact.

For more Works for Me ideas, check out:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Teaching Tuesday--Finding a Preschool...

My two kids are still little.  My daughter is 3 months old and my son is 2.5 years old.  School has been one of the farthest things from my mind.  However, a recent conversation with an acquaintance got me thinking.  She was asking if I was going to be putting my son in preschool in the fall.  I hadn't even thought of it.  I'm a mom who's fighting to stay at home.  But I'm also an educator, highly valuing the efforts of teachers in our community.  And I'm very aware of what a blessing education is.
My delima is this: When do you put a child into preschool?  How do you find one and how do you afford it?  I'm looking for some creative, but practical solutions here.  Because although I still think my little guy is still too young to enter school, I'd like to have some "education" of my own before decision time comes. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Menu Monday

My mouth is watering. I'm hungry just thinking about it... Yummy!

at Mom's
Leftover Tortellini Spinach salad for dinner

Yogurt and banana, milk
Tuna sandwich for me, Peanut butter and jelly for son, carrots, juice
Potluck: Taco Ring or Tuna spirals

Cottage cheese, berries, milk
Peanut butter and jelly, fruit, juice
Beef Stew, salad, bread

Hot cereal, banana, milk
Sandwiches, salad, juice
Pea soup, bread

Yogurt and fruit, milk
Leftovers, juice
Taco salad

Pancakes, milk
Leftovers, juice
Tortilla soup, bread

Freezer pancakes, milk
Sandwiches and salad, juice
Crockpot chimichangas, spanish rice

Meal Plan Monday is hosted by Organizing Junkie. Check it out for more ideas:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Red Lobster Recipes

I just found a yummy looking site. If you're always looking to recreate that eating out experience at home, you have to check out There is some great fish recipes and a few others as well.

Professional Portraits @ 1/3 of the Price...

We're always trying to save money. Mostly out of necessity. Sometimes simply out of habit. But there are somethings that I just haven't been able to sacrifice in my budget. Having the kids' pictures taken is one of them. I love to be able to take them and have their photos taken. Even though the last couple of trips my two year old has had me pulling my hair out. Still it's a fun treat that I've enjoyed too much to let go of.
However, I think I may have found a few tricks that, although don't make professional portraits very frugal, do make them more "budgetable."

1. Sign up for a membership card. We go to Sears and have their smile savers card which saves us the $15 sitting fee each time. I paid an initial $15 for two years and have saved a ton of money. I figure this year alone I will save at least $100 in sitting fees.

2. Look for bonus programs. This year Sears is offering a BOGO program for $5-$10, depending on when you sign up. For each sheet of photos you buy, you get a duplicate sheet for free. This works great if you have a large family to send photos of the kiddos to. Some studios will offer a frequent buyers card or portrait packages for discount prices. However beware here as well. Some packages sell additional poses at a higher price.

3. Clip coupons. Many parenting magazines will have coupons for the major studios, including Sears, JCPenny's, Picture People, etc. Don't subscribe to magazines? Flip through the pages at your pediatrician or OB's office. Often times there are coupons for packages or, in my case, a free 10 x 13.

4. Watch for special promotions. While I had my son's photos taken the other day, I saw a sign up sheet promoting a new background and prop set that was being introduced. The studio was offering free sheets and discounted prices for coming in on specific days to try it out.

5. Check online. I often find additonal coupons and promotions online that I wouldn't otherwise know about. Also checking out the website will give you a sampling of backgrounds, props, and ideas to be prepared ahead of time. And as we all know, the quicker you can work with little kids, the better.

6. Finally, be prepared with an idea of who you will be sending photos to and what size you plan to send. I never walk into the studio without a list of important relatives and friends. This helps me focus in on what photos are really worth my money and who will be getting what. My husband loves this one 'cause it keeps me from overbuying on the the off chance that I might be forgetting some one.

Need proof that all of this works? I spent less than 1/3 of the original price on photos this last week. Although I'll be receieving 8 sheets, I only paid for 3. I had my discount card for a free sitting fee, a coupon for a free 10x13, a coupon for a free 8x10, and used my BOGO to get 6 sheets for the price of 3. Not bad if I say so myself.

For more great Frugal Friday ideas, check out to see how others are saving money as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Teaching the Days of the Week

After college and pre-babies, I spent a few years substitute teaching in our little town.  While I was making my way from school to school, I also spent quite a few days subbing in preschools. This time taught me some of the greatest learning songs that I've ever heard.  In fact, one day while my husband and I were both down with the flu, we spent the entire afternoon singing and laughing till we felt better.  Later, as we moved around, I spent a week in my friend's kindergarten class and introduced them to the following song.  When she returned, she was happy to find they were completely in love with this song.  Now that I'm a mom, I'm not only trying to teach my son, but find ways of making learning enjoyable as well.  So just a few days ago, I introduced him to this song.  He loves it.  Only two years old and he wants to hear it all the time. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do:

(Tune is to the Adams Family theme song)
Days of the Week (snap, snap)
Days of the Week (snap, snap)
Days of the Week, Days of the Week, Days of the Week (snap, snap)
There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,
There's Thursday and there's Friday,
And then there's Saturday!
Days of the Week (snap, snap)
Days of the Week (snap, snap)
Days of the Week, Days of the Week, Days of the Week (snap, snap)

Hope you have fun with this one.  For more great ideas, check out

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday-- A list

Do you ever have those days were you're list seems unending? I actually can't even post photos of my tackle it 'cause it's just those little tasks that all seem to add up and snowball into one another. You know what I mean. The things that don't seem to get done between changing diapers, nursing, and chasing a two year old. I almost forgot that I needed to do a couple of these things. But here are the main ones that I'm trying to tackle today:

1. GET GROCERIES-- what have we been eating? The green stuff that grows in the back of the fridge? I swear there's not much more in this house in the way of "food" other than that and a bottle of ketchup.
2. WORKOUT-- oh, yeah! I'm supposed to be doing that. And dieting too. Seem to have forgotten that between the Easter candy and the bag of chocolates I got on rebate at Rite-Aid.
3. Have son's pictures taken-- I've been putting that one off since the disaster I had with him last time refusing to have his photo taken with his sister.
4. Take the kids on a nature walk-- now if I could just figure out a place around here away from the distracting slide and the main road that we live next to.

Wish me luck. Want to see what other people are tackling today? Check out

Teaching Tuesday--Practicing letters

Is your toddler extremely active?  Mine can turn his baby sister's blanket into a sled in 2.5 seconds.  I turned around this afternoon and he was pulling her around the house.  You'd think we had my daughter just for his entertainment.  Anyways... that's a side note.
I'm constantly looking for ways to keep him busy and teach him at the same time.  Since the year began, we've been trying to learn the alphabet.  He's doing pretty well and we're so proud of him. But it's a challenge to keep it interesting for a 2 year old.  However, this is a great idea.

Magnetic alphabet letters
Small soft ball

1. Let up the letters on a flat smooth surface.  The letters from the leap frog set work great for this.  Otherwise, you will only be able to set up certain letters.
2. Bowl the ball toward the letters and see which ones your toddler can knock over.
3. As you set them up again, talk with your toddler about the colors, the letter names, even try counting how many your toddler knocked down.
4. Have fun with this.  It may not last long, but it will be a chance to squeeze in a few minutes of learning and focused energy for an active toddler.  

Monday, April 14, 2008

Menu Monday

I'll be home for a few days, but I tried to include some ideas for you as well.

Scrambled eggs, bagels, milk
Peanut butter and jelly, applesauce, juice
Hamburger skillet, salad

Yogurt, granola, milk
Leftovers, juice
Potluck: Hearty Hashbrown Casserole

Cream of wheat, milk
Peanut butter and jelly, salad, juice
Spinach and tomato tortellini, salad

Cottage cheese, yogurt, milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, fruit, juice
Taco salad

Scrambled eggs, milk
Peanut butter and jelly, fruit, juice
Shepard's Pie

Pancakes, milk
Leftovers, juice
Tortilla soup, salad

Frozen pancakes, milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, juice
Spicy Macaroni and Cheese, vegetable medley

Friday, April 11, 2008

Just for Mom Friday

Wow!  Have you ever read a book that you just can't let go of?  One that you just can't wait to get your hands on and just can't put down?  I just finished that book.  It had war scenes, interpersonal conflict, and an international setting, as well as a true story told in a very gritty manner by the man who lived it.  If you haven't read it yet, you must.
Want to know what it is?  The book I read was "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah.  Beah tells the story of his personal journey from boy to wanderer to soldier and back through rehab.  Set in the country of Sierra Leone, this book follows his journey and tells of how he was recruited, trained to kill, and convinced to stay in the horrific life of a child soldier. Although a difficult read, the book clearly lays out the dilemma facing so many countries around the globe today: civil war being waged by children. 
I feel I can't do the book justice in this format.  It was a life changing read.  Beah speaks with such honesty and heart that you can't help but be gripped by his story.  If nothing else, I find myself moved to my knees in prayer for this children.  Recruited young, made to hate, convinced to kill... they've lost their youth and innocence.  One can only hope that the Lord will hear our prayer, move those of us with the time and means, and change their plight around the world.  Read it!  You'll love it!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Using My Crockpot Works for Me

Wow!  Juggling a 3 month old and a 2.5 year old... can we say exhaustion?  I was telling my husband the other day that I feel like I just move from one mess to another.  Afternoons are particularly hectic with getting up from naps, fixing snacks, nursing the baby, and trying to figure out what to make for dinner, all the while trying to get through the bewitching hours of the evening.  Here is one little trick that helps me out a lot: invest in a crockpot cookbook.  Mine is an absolute lifesaver.
 My mom gave me a crockpot cookbook for Christmas this year.  The recipes in the one I have are pretty basic, but that gaves me a lot of creative freedom.  I just pop it open in the evening to pick out something tasty for dinner.  Or use it when planning my meals and have a wealth of ingredience at my fingertips.  
  Crockpot meals require little attention.  If it includes meat, I take it out the night before and assemble other ingredience on the counter or in the refrigerator.  Most meals only reqire a few minutes of my time in the morning to dump all the elements in and turn it on.  That simple.  And with the basic recipes I have, I can make a meal as simple or as complex as I wish, merely by adding extra spices and vegetables as I have time and food.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Keeping a Baby Book Works for Me

When I was pregnant with my son, I received a baby book at one of my showers.  I was so excited because I love looking through mine from growing up and wanted to give the same gift to my children.  At that same shower, another friend gave me this great suggestion.  She keeps her children's baby books out where she will see them every day.  This way she is constantly reminded to make little notes inside.  I started thinking about where I am several times a day.  The solution was easy.  At the computer desk.  So my children's baby books are sitting there waiting for me every time I log on to the internet.  That way I'm reminded to write down all the little things that I love about them.

For more Works for Me tips, check out

Monday, April 7, 2008

Menu Monday

Yogurt, bananas, toast
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cottage cheese, juice
Potato Bar

Granola (or cereal) and milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, carrots or broccoli, juice
Potluck: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, granola bar, crackers, juice
Chicken Noodle Soup, biscuits

Cream of Wheat, fruit, milk
Lunch at Sally's or leftovers
Ravioli Pasta Salad, Cheddar biscuits, 

Bagels and cream cheese
Egg Salad sandwiches or leftovers, juice
Tacos, rice

Gingerbread waffles
Leftovers, juice
Dinner at Wedding Reception

Leftover waffles
Egg Salad sandwiches, juice
Hearty Hash Brown Casserole, salad

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Around the Home Thursday--Chores

Here are some great chore ideas to get your toddler to help around the house.

1. Feeding the household pet: My 2.5 yr old son feeds the cat every night.  He loves it.  I help him open the rubbermaid container, but he scoops out the food, runs it to the pet bowl, and brings back the scoop.  On evenings that I just want us to go to bed, he sure to remind me that he still needs to feed Annie.
2. Watering the plants: This one's easy.  What 2 year old doesn't love water?  My little guy loves to water the plants.  And why stop there?  We've planted tulips outside our front door as well. Gardening is definately a favorite for him.

3. Picking up toys/clothes: This is a big one for me.  If he's going to have all these toys, it's about time he starts picking up.  I can't possibly manage it all by myself.  And why should I? Toddlers are easily old enough to learn about picking up after themselves.  And it's never too young to learn personal responsibility.

4. Sweeping: Yes, you may have to follow along after them, but they'll get some of it done for you.

5. Clearing the table: There are certain elements that you must be careful with (china, knives, etc).  However, toddlers can clear cups, plates, silverware, and napkins.  My toddler loves to help in the kitchen and clearing the table is simply an extension of that.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Activity Wednesday

Simple but fun activity for you and your preschooler.  Maybe even younger, depending on the maturity of your child.

Rain Stick

Empty wrapping paper tube
Masking tape
Tack or nail
Dried peas or beans
Decorating material: buttons, markers, crayons

1. For an adult only: poke holes in the empty tube with a tack or a nail.  Go all the way through the tube, but not through to the other side.  Be very careful.  You will need a lot of holes.  The more holes you make the better the sound will be.  
2. Tape a piece of paper onto one end of the tube with the masking tape.  Make sure it's adhered thoroughly.
3. Pour 1/3-1/2 cup of dried peas of beans into the tube.  Cover the other end of the tube with paper and masking tape.
4. Allow your child to decorate the tube as they desire using crayons, markers, buttons, glitter, etc.
5. Use this instrument to work on rhythm patterns with your child.  It can be used to develop a recognition of patterns as well as various activities in hand coordination.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Teaching Tuesday--matching

How would have thought?  I just found a great idea for teaching letters.    What about a game of "Memory"?

Just pick up two packages of ABC flashcards at Walmart or Target, or wherever you can get them. They're really inexpensive and you can do a lot with them.  Divide the deck so you aren't working with too many cards.  For example, work with just the letters A-J one day.  Do the same with the second deck, choosing the same letters.  Turn them all over.  Have your child turn over two cards at a time, saying the name of each.  If they're a match, the child gets to keep them.  If not, have your child turn them back over.  Now you get a turn.  Whoever gathers the most matches wins.  

Hope this works well for you.  I'm off to pick up a second set of cards.  Let me know how you do.
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