Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7 Ways to Support Foster and Adoptive Families

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As Fost/Adopt parents, we feel like we're walking through a crazy journey... often it can feel like we're walking alone.  But we're not alone.  We have a wonderful community of friends and family who have chosen to walk this road with us.  Each of them have taken the time to invest and learn with our family in a variety of ways.

If you know a foster or adoptive families, your support is invaluable.  These are just a few ways you can make a difference in their lives:

1. Ask Questions-- Asking lots of questions allows you to enter into their world just a little bit.  We welcome questions as it shows that people really do care about how we're growing our family.  Just as you would ask questions about a mother's pregnancy, asking questions about an adoption shows your interest and support.

2. Donate-- There are lots of great adoption grant foundations out there helping families bringing their children home.  And there are lots of families in our own communities putting time into fundraisers hoping to bring their children home.  Adoption can be very financially taxing.

For foster families there can be financial strain as well.  While the state helps pay for those costs, the monthly checks come at the end of the month.  So unless the family has some savings, the initial cost of taking in children can be daunting.

Ask families for specific items they can use.  Bedding, school supplies, backpacks, shoes, gift certificates are all wonderful ideas.

3. Drop off Dinner-- Adopting into your family is a lot like giving birth.  Parents are learning to juggle more children.  Children are learning their parents' personalities.  There are a lot of emotions and not a lot of sleep.  Sometimes dinner is the last thing on their minds as the days is coming to a close.  And a meal can go a long way in bringing perspective.

4. Call--There have been many a time where my day has been saved by someone just calling.  A phone call and the willingness to listen and empathize can go a long way in providing some perspective.  Foster care is very draining, emotionally and physically.  Having someone call and just listen while you pour out your frustrations, knowing they're not going to judge you or minimize your struggle, really allows you pour it out and move past it to face tomorrow.

5. Offer to Babysit--Often times foster children need to go to a lot of appointments.  Visitations, assessments, evaluations, extra medical appointments can add up quickly.  And if you're a foster family with other kids that can mean moving multiple children around to various appointments.  If you know a foster family who has a lot on their plate, offer to take the other kids on an especially busy day.  Just knowing that my kids were playing at the park or enjoying some ice cream went a long way in easing my mind so I was able to focus on my foster child.

6. Provide Respite--Not ready to become a full-time foster parent yourself?  Go through the classes so you can provide respite for a family you know.  It's hard to invest time and energy in a child and not know the family that will be providing respite if, and when, you need to step away.  Be the safe family to provide respite for others until they can step back in as Mom and Dad.

7. Pray--None of us can do this on our one.  Foster care has tested everything in us.  If it weren't for all the people praying for us and praying for our kids, we wouldn't have the mental strength, patience, endurance we need to continue doing what we do.  So thank you!

There are so many ways to support the Fost/Adopt community.
We need you and value you.

What step can you take today?

Monday, June 29, 2015

10 Tips for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation

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We love Disneyland if you can't tell.  My kids have been spoiled to land in, not one but, two families that love vacationing there.  So we've traveled with big groups and small groups, grandparents and cousins, quick trips and longer trips, and have loved every minute of it.  These are just a few of the tips we've learned along the way for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation:

1. Choose the "best" time-- I personally love traveling in the fall.  School is back in and the crowds are thinner.  My in-laws like traveling in mid-spring.  I have a friend that swears by the week right after Thanksgiving.  Whatever you do, avoid summer and Christmas, and be prepared for heavier crowds around school holidays.

2. Choose the "best" hotel-- We've never stayed on-site and yet we've had good experience with all the hotels we've stayed at.  Look for hotels within the first couple of blocks as the blocks are loooooong.  Other things we look for are continental breakfast, free parking, and shuttle service.  At the end of a long night, shuttle service is pretty incredible.  :-)

3. Consider a travel agent--  Travel agents can often find deals that the rest of us can't.  Plus if you have a good agent, they'll keep an eye out for fluctuating prices and can get you a better deal as your vacation approaches.

4. Consider a dining experience-- Booking one or two Character Meals will ensure that you get to see several characters while you eat, maximizing your time.  We've dined at Goofy's Kitchen and Minnie's Breakfast and loved every minute of it.  It's a great way to see several characters and they come to you!

5. Book it-- Book those character meals several months ahead.  As soon as your travel agent gives you the green light, book them to get the best possible times for your family.  Be mindful of your child's schedule and your energy level.  We booked one for the beginning (while we were fresh) and one for the end of our vacation (when we needed a chance to sit).

6. Keep trying-- If you're preferred times are booked, keep trying.  Cancellations happen and you just might get into your time slot anyway.  Also check into your meal a few hours ahead and see if there's been a cancellation that you can get into.

7. Rent a stroller-- Even if you have older elementary aged kids, you will not regret renting a stroller. Disneyland vacations can include some really long days and even older kids will get tired.  Last time, we took our double stroller and even the 8 year old rode once in awhile.

8. Check the weather before packing-- Weather patterns change.  We once went in January and found ourselves running to Target to get t-shirts and shorts.  The weather had changed in the days leading up to our trip and I was caught unprepared.

9. Know the park schedule--Disneyland's park schedule is posted with hours, parades, fireworks and more.  Planning a few of these things ahead of time will help you prioritize what you want to see and what you're willing to miss.  It can help you plan what part of the park to enjoy throughout different parts of the day.

10. Be flexible-- While all this planning can help you enjoy a stress free vacation, you also have to remember to be flexible.  Traveling with kids will keep you on your toes and being flexible is key.  If someone needs a snack, veer from your plan.  Everyone will have a better time with a full tummy.  Flexibility is important in any vacation and will ensure that everyone has a more enjoyable experience.

What are your tips for Planning a Stress Free Disneyland Vacation?

For more Disney tips and tricks, check out our Disneyland tag.  You'll find everything from ride info to bucket lists to ways to save money on food.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

No Bake Eclair Cake

This is the perfect dessert for sharing on a hot summer day.  Easy and no-bake, this dessert will impress without heating up your kitchen.  And your guests will never realize how easy it truly is.

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No Bake Eclair Cake

1 box graham crackers
2 small boxes vanilla pudding
3 1/2 c. milk
8 oz cool whip
1 container chocolate  frosting
  (or your favorite frosting recipe)

1. Mix pudding and milk until completely combined.  Fold in cool whip.

2. Warm chocolate frosting until spreadable.

3. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.

4. Layer graham cracker, pudding, and frosting, ending with frosting on top.

5. Refrigerate overnight or 24 hours to soften graham crackers.

6. Try not to eat the entire pan. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Healthified Chicken Salad

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Summertime is here and the temperatures are heating up.  With these hotter temps, I'm really looking to lighten up our meals.  And this chicken salad is one of my all-time favorites.  It's ridiculously easy and full of flavor.  Plus if I swap out the red onions for green, my kids love it too.

This is the way I like it, but it's so adaptable.  Switch the craisins for raisins, almonds for walnuts, or celery for apples.  It's the perfect food for a light summer lunch and so quick an easy.  Enjoy!

Healthified Chicken Salad

1 can chopped, cooked chicken
2 stalks finely chopped celery
1/3 finely chopped red onion
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
2 tsp lime juice
slivered almonds
dried cranberries
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Finely chop onion and celery.
2. Combine all ingredients.
3. Season to taste.
4. Serve on sandwich, wrap, or salad.
5. Don't eat it all!  :-)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Power Salad

Well, it's getting HOT, HOT, HOT here and I'm turning more and more toward filling our menu with salads.  This salad in particular is a crowd pleaser in our house and one that's asked for on nearly a weekly basis.  It's quick, easy, and has something to please everyone.  More an "everything but the kitchen sink" salad, these simple serve as guidelines for developing your own Power Salad.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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Power Salad

Lots of Salad Greens (We love spring mix)
Red Bell Pepper
Sunflower seeds/slivered almonds
Dried Cranberries
Cooked Chicken (lightly seasoned with salt and pepper)

1. Cook and season your chicken.  We like our just seasoned with salt and pepper to keep it light, but you can season however you want.

2. Chop/shred your veggies.  I'm coming to liking my carrots shredding in everything.

3. Top with seeds, cranberries, and feta.  Add your favorite dressing.  I like Lighthouse's Blueberry Pomegranate while my husband just likes his dressed with Balsamic Vinegar.

4. Dig in!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Quick and Easy Disneyland Countdown

I had these photos on my hard drive waiting to share with you a quick and easy countdown I made for our trip to Disneyland last February.  It didn't take long to put together, but really built the anticipation of the trip.  It was fun to watch the kids get more and more excited every day.  Easy and inexpensive, I hope this countdown inspires you in getting ready for your own vacation.

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Disneyland Countdown

The header is just a simple piece of cardstock matted on a printed piece of paper.  Around it I decorated the header with cutouts and chipboard pieces.

Hanging is a Mickey Mouse head for every day.  I gathered red, yellow, and black paint chips and cut the MM heads with my circuit, but you could free hand or just a punch as well.

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Then I just used a silver pen to write the numbers on the MM heads and stapled them in a line.  Each day we took one off, of course, and it was fun to see the numbers decrease as we went.

Hope this project inspires you.  For more Disneyland ideas, check out the Disneyland tab on Creative2xmom.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: a super yummy chicken salad... some homemade ice cream... our video from our Lake Tahoe trip...

What I'm Reading: I actually finished the June bookmarks book and started Emma for July.  I'm loving it!

What I'm Doing: driving the kids to lots and lots and LOTS of swim lessons.

What I'm Watching: FRIENDS!  So excited that all the seasons are on Netflix.

What I'm Enjoying: Swim lessons... chicken salad... pilates class... 

What are you up to?

Friday, June 12, 2015

10 Things That Were Great About Our Tahoe Weekend...

Last weekend, we rented a house in Lake Tahoe with my in-laws.  My husband's parent, both my sister-in-laws and their families, and our little family took a trip out there to spend the weekend together.  We did it last year and had such a great time that we decided to do it again.  There were really more memories than we could ever list, but here are just a few of my favorites from the weekend:

1. Playing pool

2. Making crafts


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4. Swimming in the hot tub

5. Making s'mores

6. Playing in the lake

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7. Ice Cream at the park

8.  Going to the Renaissance Fair

9. Big Family Meals 

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10. Hanging out with Cousins

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird {Review}

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird attempts to address an age old question.  We know we're commanded to love our neighbors both in word and deed.  But how do we live that out in such an independent society?  How do we love... without being "weird?"  

Lively comes at this dilemma with personal testimony, practical ideas, and passionate love for her own neighbors.  Having felt the command to love those around her, Lively set out on her own journey to share the gospel through love and practicality.  It's through her own story that we are challenged to know our neighbors and how best to reach each of them as individuals.

This book reminds us that it's not about "saving" others, but about "loving" others.  Evangelism is so much more than standing on a street corner shouting out the woes of hell.  It's about loving our neighbors enough to enter into their world and know them. 

Many of us dream about sharing the gospel in exotic places.  Traveling the world and winning souls.  But what about the lost and hungry among us?  Many of whom live right on our own street.

While I don't agree with all the authors methods (inviting neighbors to a Bible study), I do agree with her heart.  We have to enter into our neighbor's world and love them before they'll ever want to hear about the gospel.  The saying holds true that people won't care how much you know till they know how much you care.

This book would serve as a great catalyst for women who want to reach their neighbors.  It provides a good dose of humor and practicality, as well as the kick to get started in pursuing the Great Commandment.  It would also be a good book for a small group to discuss and put into action together.

What's your thoughts?

How do you love your neighbor without being weird?

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

15 Important Manners for Children (Really, for all of us)

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1. Say hello when someone greets you--This is a tough one sometimes if you have a shy child.  But it's important to acknowledge others when they say hello.  We're also working on making eye contact.  Baby steps.  :-)

2. Politely answer questions clearly-- We live in a fast paced world where our answers can be mumbled, rushed, or sound irritated.  So we're working on POLITELY answering questions.

3. Say please, thank you and you're welcome--This one's easy.  It just takes time, but hearing "Please and Thank You" going a long way in valuing other people.

4. Learn to loose gracefully--It's hard to loose, especially when you have a competitive personality.  So loosing gracefully is a real skill.  Our goal is to not just loose without tears, but to loose still being able to offer a heartfelt congratulations.

5. Keep unfavorable comments to yourself--Remember Grandma's saying, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?"  That's a great life lesson to benefit all of us not only in relationships, but in the work place as well.

6. Avoid gossip--Is it true?  Is it helpful?  Is someone in danger?  Do you have this person's permission to share their business?  If the answer is no, please consider it to be gossip and keep it to yourself.

7. Look at the person talking to you--This one goes back to #1.  Acknowledging others shows that you value them and value what they have to say.  Making eye contact goes a long way in building relationships.

8. Say good-bye to guests/ Say thank you to hosts--This one is especially important when they are invited into someone's home.  Making sure to say "Thank you" shows appreciation for someone else's time and preparation.

9. Wait for others to be seated before eating--It's so hard to wait for dinner, but being patient, again, shows appreciation for someone else's preparation and enjoying a meal together.

10. Use utensils appropriately--Learning to use utensils properly, especially a knife, can be a skill that  takes time and practice.  So we practice with lots of patience.  But we do practice so that our kids have appropriate dinner table manners.

11. Ask to be excused from the table--Asking to be excused gives parents a chance to acknowledge that the child has eaten well and cleaned his spot appropriately.

12. Ladies first--This is an easy manner to practice and typically one of the first that my children master.

13. Pick up after yourself--Being able to pick up and take care of one's belongings shows appreciation and can lead to healthy self-care.  It's also shows appreciation and care for common areas of the home.

14. Be appreciative--If I haven't said it enough time already, APPRECIATION, APPRECIATION, APPRECIATION!  Teach it, Practice it, Live it!

15. Apologize--Learning to look others in the eye, feel empathy, and take responsibility for one's actions is based a lot on maturity.  But if we wait for maturity, we've missed the opportunity to teach empathy.  Start teaching now for the pay-off later.

These are just 15 Important Manners we are teaching our kids every day.  

What other manners would you add to the list?

Monday, June 8, 2015

10 Goals This Week

Here's how I did last week:

  • 1 baseball game, 1 gymnastics, 1 dance, 2 swim, 1 teacher's meeting
  • Do 2 science experiments with the kids (only 1)
  • Scrap 2 pages in baby book
  • Finish 3-4 drafts
  • Complete 3-4 vlogs

  • Try one new recipe
  • Finish birthday invitations

  • 3 workouts
  • Start the new chapter book
  • Journal
These are My 10 Goals for the Week:

  • Swim lessons for Lydia and Josiah, 2 swim practices for Noah, 1 gymnastics, 1 dance
  • Do 2 science experiments with kids
  • Scrap 2 pages in baby book
  • Finish 3-4 drafts
  • Complete 2 vlogs
  • Photograph 2 recipes
  • Work on party
  • 3 workouts
  • Get 3/4 done with book
  • Journal

What are your goals this week?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: I finished the kids' baseball videos.  They are so much fun to make.  Love re-living those memories.  Also worked on invitations and adoption announcements, but didn't get a chance to finish.

What I'm Reading: I'm starting the June bookmarks book and loving it.  So good!  Also finished The Bun which I reviewed earlier this week.

What I'm Doing: So much swimming.  It's warmed up here and she's out so it's time to SWIM!

What I'm Watching: We're still catching up on the last couple of episodes of Amazing Race and watching Masterchef.  But Masterchef is making me hungry.  :-)

What I'm Enjoying: The pool... reading time... my clothesline... 

What are you up to?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Burn {Review}

Let's start with the Pros.  This diet book for focuses on three different blocks to weight loss: inflammation, digestion, and hormones.  I think this is so important 'cause no two bodies is alike.  Everything we put into our bodies affects us different and can cause or solve different problems in our health.  This book provides a description of each type of blockage as well as a specific diet tailored toward that issue.  For the most part, the ingredients are universally available and easily recognized.

Now let's get on to the Cons.  I've had this book for two months with full intention of trying the hormone correcting diet.  But after two months, I've had to admit defeat.  No matter how long this sits on my self, I'm not going to be able to convince myself to try any of these recipes, let alone successfully complete this diet.  While the dinners sound yummy enough (picture Rosemary Chicken and Roasted Veggies), I can't stomach the idea of drink 3 cups of diet tea and 2 servings of veggie soup a day.  While I love my vegetables, such a restrictive diet doesn't sound healthy or beneficial.

While everything is laid out clearly in this book, I don't believe this to be a very balanced approach to weight loss.  Admittedly, this plan is to be followed for only 3-10 days, depending on your area of focus.  However, I just couldn't bring myself to push through this plan due to its restrictive nature, time consumption, and cost.  I would love to hear from someone who's attempted this plan and what their results were.  For now, I remain skeptical about long term affects.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 1, 2015

10 Goals This Week

Here's how I did last week:
  • 2 baseball, 1 gymnastics, 1 dance, 2 swim
  • Finish LP6 grades
  • Schedule dates

  • Complete 3-4 vlogs
  • Finish 2 drafts

  • Return school library books
  • Order baseball photos

  • 3 workouts (2)
  • Start the new chapter book
  • Journal
These are My 10 Goals for the Week:

  • 1 baseball game, 1 gymnastics, 1 dance, 2 swim, 1 teacher's meeting
  • Do 2 science experiments with the kids
  • Scrap 2 pages in baby book
  • Finish 3-4 drafts
  • Complete 3-4 vlogs

  • Try one new recipe
  • Finish birthday invitations

  • 3 workouts
  • Start the new chapter book
  • Journal
What are your goals this week?

Local History Field Trip

The kids and I have been easing our way into this summer vacation.  As we all know, once May hits, it's a free for all of tying up loose ends and squeezing in last minute fun.  One of those last minute fun items for us was taking a field trip through a nearby town.  We learned a lot of history about how our local area was found and what life was like during the ensuing gold rush.

My favorite part of the tour was visiting a store that was set as it would have been over 100 years ago.  Lots of items in the store authentic and it gave the kids a clear idea of a general store.

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In addition to the store, we also took a tour through the old courthouse learning about some of the local history and the layers of people who settled in the area.  And Josiah went to jail!  :-)

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This really was a great field trip for combining gold rush and local history.  We all learned a ton and agreed that it was a fun morning that we wouldn't mind repeating.
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