Category: family

Three Easy Ways to Green Your Family Today

Teaching our children to care for our environment is a responsibility, and one we work towards on a daily basis.  We try to make eco-friendly choices, but don’t always get it right.  One of my goals for 2014 is take more steps in greening our family and involve our children in those changes.  Thanks to the folks from Direct Energy for sponsoring this discussion.  They are planting a tree for every new Facebook like through the end of 2013.  Click over using this link do something good for our environment in less than 10 seconds.

1) Recycle Everything You Can
For many of you, this is obvious and second nature.  If you aren’t already recycling, start today. No excuses.  Check your city’s government website to find out recycling guidelines for your area.  Involve your kids by teaching them what goes in to the recycle bin and having them help with sorting.  Think beyond the basics.  Rather than throwing away old toys and clothes, donate them to a good cause, give them away through Freecycle or Craigslist, or sell them online.

2) Reduce Your Family’s Waste
We live in a throwaway culture.  If it isn’t useful to us at this moment it goes into the trash.  We create so much trash we are running out of places to put it.  Reduce the amount of trash your family creates by switching to something reusable this week.  We’ve switched to cloth diapers, cloth napkins, and cloth cleaning towels.  Next on this list is cloth baby wipes.  The amount of money we spend on baby wipes is crazy town, and I’m over it.  If you are intimidated about switching to a reusable product, trust me when I say it is easier than you think and you won’t regret it.  Pick one thing and go for it.

3) Get Out of the Car and Walk.
Living in DFW, I’m used to driving everywhere.  Our grocery store is less than a mile away, yet we drive there.  I’ve even driven to the playground near our house so the Bear can get some exercise.  What the what?!  Pick one errand this week and walk or ride your bike instead of driving.  You’ll reduce your carbon footprint and burn calories in the process.  If you don’t live in a walk or bike-able neighborhood, carpool with friends to one thing this week or park in one place when running errands and walk in between shops.

What green changes will make for your family in 2014?

Don’t forget to click over and like New Leaf Energy on Facebook to have a tree planted in your honor.

Entertain the Whole Family with Merry Christmas Loteria {Bingo Style Game} with **Free Printables**

The weather outside is indeed frightful, and cabin fever may be setting in among your family members. Today I’m sharing my own version of Loteria, the Mexican Bingo style game, perfect for entertaining the whole family.  My mom is a Spanish teacher, so she taught me how to play the original Loteria as a kid and I’m starting a new tradition this year with my family.  If you’ve never played Loteria before, the game is incredibly easy to learn and can be played by anyone ages 2 and up, and even younger with help. Toddlers and adults alike can get in to it and it would be a great game night tradition to start during the holidays.   I’ve created a set of twelve cards for you to print free of charge, as well as a call sheet.  This game is perfect for family night, long days during school break, and to teach matching skills with preschoolers.  Everybody loves bingo! 
Everyone gets a Loteria sheet and a handful of beans or candy to mark the objects called.  As the caller shouts out the object drawn, the player placed their bean on top of the matching picture on their card.  The goal is to get four in a row in any direction, much like Bingo.  You can also play cover all, four corners, and 4 square to mix it up. Beans are traditionally used, but I like to use little candies like chocolate chips or M-n-Ms, and eat them at the end of the game.  You could have a big game with prizes for the whole family or use it as a teaching tool with your preschooler.  
Click the link below each image to head to the file in Google Drive. Each image contains two playing cards.  Print each sheet and cut in half to create two cards.  You can leave the call sheet whole and just call objects out at random (marking them with a bean after they’ve been called), or cut it in to pieces and draw each object out of a bowl.  When a player gets four in a row they yell, “Merry Christmas!” and win that round.  I hope your family enjoys this fun little game and starts a new holiday tradition.      
Click here to open and print page 1.
Click here to open and print page 2.

Click here to open and print page 3.

Click here to open and print page 4.

Click here to open and print page 5.

Click here to open and print page 6

Click here to open and print the call sheet
How do you keep your family entertained during the holiday season?
If you like this post, please share it with your friends on Pinterest or Facebook.
My free printables are for personal use only.
Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Why I’m NOT Dreaming of a White Christmas {And Never Will Again} ~ A NickMom Inspired Story #Motherfunny

I am most definitely NOT dreaming of a white Christmas, and I never will again.  Sure, the idea of a snowy holiday season is romantic, but the reality was just a little too much for us last year and I hope we never have a repeat.  For those of you from the northern latitudes, this tale of woe will seem ridiculous.  My sisters from the warmer regions of the world will most likely empathize with our story of Snowmageddon 2012.  You should know that I am one who takes the holidays a little too seriously and longs for a picture perfect celebration that never quite comes to fruition.  If you fall short of the Martha Stewart mark like me, take a minute and head over NickMom and you’re guaranteed to laugh and realize you’re not alone.

Last year, there was a lot of anticipation as Christmas approached.  I’m the oldest of four kids and all of us were finally going to share a holiday celebration after living spread across the country.  We all arrived in Arkansas at our parents’ house with our kids and dogs and spouses and presents and suitcases and got seriously amped up to celebrate. We glanced at the forecast, which was calling for snow, but dismissed it thinking it probably wouldn’t happen.  When you are from a mostly mild climate, everyone panics whenever snow is predicted and raids the grocery store buying all the things and then we get two minutes of flakes.  It is such a letdown every time.  So, you learn not to get your hopes up.  After all, it was in the 60s outside will full sunshine.  We hoped to wake up to a white Christmas, but just knew it wouldn’t happen.

Santa came and delivered in a major way.  Toys and boxes and wrapping paper littered the living room.  We ate a glorious lunch and then packed up two members of the family to make their flights.  The airport car returned and the storm rolled in, out of nowhere.  All of a sudden, it was raining, then sleeting, then snowing.  The sleet stuck to the tree branches and the snow stuck to it.  Branches started to fall, and the transformer in our neighborhood blew, knocking out the power.  Nobody panic, I’m sure it will be on again soon.  Little did we know, it was going out all over the state.  Craziness was about to let loose.

We gathered candles and made it a fun game at first.  Then it started to get cold.  Really cold, really fast.  We added layers and figured out dinner, thinking surely the power would come on soon.  The snow kept coming.  This type of weather is normal in Minnesota, but not down south.  Most towns in Arkansas don’t have sand trucks and most southern people wouldn’t know what to do with snow chains.  We just stay inside and huddle up.

What you need to know about a power outage, is that the first day is pretty fun.  You feel like you’re on a camping trip and the kids feel like everything’s a big adventure.  I pretended I was a character in a Jane Austen novel carrying my candle around and blowing it out before bed.  The FIVE dogs we had in the house where an asset, really, because they provided warmth.

A white Christmas may make you feel like this.  Be careful what you ask for.

Day 2 of a power outage, the fun quotient goes out the window.  Survival mode sets in and everyone is in a bad mood.  The carnage of our Christmas feast mocked us.  The dishes were unwashed and we were too cold to deal with them.  The toys sat abandoned as our children shivered and asked when the lights would come back on.  It was a Christmas disaster.

Did I mention the trees? Not the beautiful Christmas tree my mother painstakingly decorated.  Oh no, I’m talking about the trees in the backyard.  In the middle of the night, we woke to a huge crack.  It wasn’t a return visit from Santa’s sleigh, but a giant pine tree careening towards the house.  The fall was broken by smaller trees, and we all ran downstairs in a panic because my brother was asleep in the den directly in the tree’s path.  All of the adults stared out the glass door awestruck.  We woke my brother and told him the tree was coming for him.  He sat up, looked out the window, and then said, “Nope, it’s not going to hit me.” Then he went back to sleep.  Seriously, dude?  He is a decorated war veteran who lost a leg in Afghanistan, so his reaction to danger is a little different than your average person.  He’s not one to panic.  He was right, too.  The tree didn’t hit our house, but instead took out the neighbor’s fence.  And several other trees.  Good times.  

Branches in the backyard at the beginning of the storm.

By the afternoon of Day 2 we knew we had to get out of there.  Miraculously, we discovered the power was on at my great aunt’s house.  We loaded all of our stuff up, with 6 adults, 3 kids, and the 5 dogs.  We picked up my grandmother and headed over to camp at Aunt Freda’s.  Let me set the scene.  Freda has lived alone for the last 50 years since her parents died, and was in a rehab facility because of a recent stroke.  She was thrilled to help, but to move 10 people and 5 dogs in to a house where one person has lived alone doesn’t always work well.  We learned a lot about Aunt Freda that week.  For instance, the only things in her cupboard were 24 boxes of waffle cones.  And in the fridge… you guessed it, lots of ice cream and not much else.  Perfect for a snow storm {sarcasm font}.  The alarm system went haywire and Freda couldn’t remember the codes.  Jed had to get creative to get the endless beeping to stop before we all lost it.  The plumbing in the kitchen backed up because it was used more than it could handle.  My brother showed up after a grocery store run with a super intoxicated friend he didn’t want driving.  The Bear stepped in a pile of dog poop from one of the FIVE dogs we had in the house, and he FREAKED out.  It was an adventure.  

The power was out for about 10 days, but we all cleared out as soon as the roads did leaving my parents to deal with the aftermath.  We’re jerks, I know.  Most of the state of Arkansas was without power for a week and the destruction was epic.  Lots of folks were in the same boat as we were, and I’ve heard many hilarious stories from friends whose holidays were affected by Snowmageddon 2012.

Our perfect Christmas went down in flames, or rather in a bank of snow.  We still had a great time together and spent more time talking and laughing than we would with the normal distractions that things like electricity bring.  I hope you enjoyed our snowy story.  If you’re looking for more holiday funnies, check out this post and this one as well on NickMom.com.  You can also follow @NickMom on Twitter and on Facebook for more giggles during this crazy season.

Tips for Taking a Baby to Disney World

 I love Disney and was blessed to go three times through my former job with Young Life.  Jed asked me to marry him in front of Cinderella’s Castle in 2008 and we were able to take the Bear with us on our last trip.  We are big fans.  I’m hoping and planning to go back when the kids are little bigger, but I want you to know it is possible to take a baby and enjoy it.  The Bear was 8 months old on our last trip, and still nursing.  We did some things right, learned from our mistakes, and had a fabulous time.
Five Tips for Taking  Baby to Disney World
1) Don’t try to do too much.
This was our biggest mistake.  We had a park hopper pass and tried to do 2 parks in one day.  It caused unnecessary stress and it would have been much better to spread the parks out.  Take time to relax and don’t skip out on nap and rest time for your little one.
2) Take your baby on some rides and ride swap on others.
It might sound crazy, but we took the Bear on some rides.  He LOVED It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion.  He had no idea the mansion was supposed to be scary and loved all the lights and the gently turning ride.  For more intense rides, ride swap is available.  One parent rides while the other waits with a cast member and the baby, then the parents switch out.
3) Plan ahead for meals. (for everyone)
This was our other big mistake.  We didn’t realize reservations were required months in advance and were laughed at by a haughty hostess at Epcot.  The walk up places are still fine, but we will get reservations next time.  We did bring baby food with us and planned our routes around when Bear would need to nurse.  There are baby care centers at all the parks and they are lovely.  I nursed Bear throughout the day in the baby centers and it was such a nice, quiet break for both of us.  They have everything you need there and the staff are amazing.  One of my favorite things about Disney Parks is how much each cast member seems to love their job.  These ladies were no exception.
4) Pack that stroller like you mean it.
Think through everything your baby might need and then double it.  Extra clothes all around, extra diapers, a blanket, a rain jacket for everyone, everything you might need.  The two best things we brought were a dark rain jacket to cover the stroller for naps and our iPhone with a sound machine app on it.  We turned on the white noise, covered the stroller, and the Bear napped three times and nearly slept through the fireworks.  I highly recommend bringing a sling or Ergo to carry your babe around in so they can have a change of scenery and get out of the stroller.
5) Know when to fold ’em.
You may have to go back to your resort in the middle of the day for a nap.  It is okay.  You may not get to see the fireworks every night of your trip.  Still okay.  Sometimes your baby can be pushed to stay up, nap in the stroller or in the carrier, and go with the flow.  Other times they will bend you to their will like a tiny tyrant.  Flexibility is the name of the game.  Relax and enjoy, but don’t stress out about missing out on the Dumbo ride because your sweet babe was done for the day.

Have you been to Disney World? What would your dream Disney vacation include?
Follow Becca’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

Babies in the Pumpkin Patch

Fall is my favorite.
Pumpkins and pumpkin flavored things abound and the weather eventually cools down.  
It makes me want to be outside all day every day.
My favorite pumpkin patch in DFW is the pumpkin village at the Dallas Arboretum.  We were members for years when we lived close by, but now only visit on occasion.  There are thousands of pumpkins and it is a festival of autumn delights.  We took the Pearl girl for her first time and promptly plopped her in the Bear’s lap for a photo shoot.  She was not sure what to make of the whole situation. 

The one below is my favorite so far.  Her eyes are filled with wonder and he is hugging her so sweetly.  It turned in to more of a headlock shortly after.  We’ve got to work on the brother/sister pose.

What is your favorite thing about fall?

Family Fun in DFW: Visiting the Owens Big Orange Pumpkin Farm


Fall is my favorite. It might be 90 degrees outside in Texas, but we will set our babies in pumpkin patches and drink pumpkin drinks and eat pumpkin treats anyway, dang it.  One of the fabulous things about DFW is that even though we live in a giant metroplex, there are a ton of rural areas close by.  The Owens Farm is actually smack in the middle of Richardson, and is the original farm started by the Owens family of tasty sausage fame.  Sadly, the Bob Evans company that now owns the farm is closing it in November.  This was our last shot to visit the farm we drive past nearly every day.



The Bear was in farm heaven.  He loved it all.  The horses, goats, mini horses and donkeys, chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, and plethora of pumpkins all captured his imagination and he ran around with wild abandon.

We all loved the hayride.  
Bear talked about riding on the tractor for days after.
Apparently I dressed Ellie like a boy because folks kept asking, “How old is he?”, which reinforced my theory that I have a looser definition of gender neutral than most people.  I think she looks adorable in her cowgirl boot socks, pumpkin hat, and striped overalls.  

The Owens Big Orange Pumpkin Farm runs through the end of October and costs $7 on weekends and $6 on week days per person.  On week days you may run in to field trips, but you get a pumpkin with your admission price. On the weekends you get a hot dog instead of a pumpkin. I tried to negotiate for a pumpkin instead, but they said no. It is a fun day out, but not exactly frugal.  We thought Bear would get in for free because he is 2, but found out at the gate they charge for 2 and up.  We still had a blast, even though Jed and I were a little frustrated about the unexpected cost.

Do you like to visit a pumpkin patch with your family? Where is your favorite one located?
Don’t forget I have a great list of  fall festival corn maze and pumpkin patch discounts posted here.

Eleanor Pearl at Five Months

Time is flying, and our girl is already five months old.
She is so bright eyed and delightful.
She laughs at her brother all day long.
She is incredibly curious and always taking in her surroundings.
She is *this close* to crawling.
She pushes up and rocks back and forth.
Sometimes she even launches herself forward.
She can get pretty much wherever she wants by rolling.
Rolling and chewing, that’s how she spend her days.
Judging by the amount of drool and chewing,
I think her first tooth is not far off.
She loves to be worn in the Ergo or pushed in the stroller and is up for any adventure.
Floor time makes her happy, especially when it is outside on a blanket.
She is loving her “baby office”, and exersaucer from a consignment sale.  

Sweet Eleanor is still exclusively breastfed.
She refuses a bottle, so she is mama’s little sidekick wherever I go.
Sometimes I wish she would take a bottle, 
but I wouldn’t trade our precious nursing relationship for the world.  

We didn’t have a check up this month, 
so I’m guessing her weight is around 15-16 pounds.
Judging by her rubber band wrists and chunky little thighs
she is healthy and growing fast.
She wears 6-12 month clothes.
We are using cloth diapers almost exclusively, and it is so much easier now that the Bear is potty trained (except for nap & night).  One in cloth is WAY easier than two.  Captain Obvious, reporting for duty.
Every time she outgrows something, it breaks my heart just a little.

Our Pearl Girl’s eyes are still a bright, clear blue.
Her hair is still an auburn shade and her eyebrows are red.
I’m on the hunt for soft, handmade, red-haired dolls for Christmas.
Her natural mohawk went away this month as we battled cradle cap.

Ellie and Fisher are really starting to play together, 
and nothing is sweeter.
He loves to make her laugh.
I thank God every day for this precious angel baby.
She is sweet and beautiful and brings us such joy 
and we are so blessed to be her parents.   

Saving Kid Art {No Hoarding Required} ~ Make A Kid Art Mini Bunting

We have entered in to the classic parent dilemma.  What do we do with all of the treasures our wee ones create without ending up on the show Hoarders?  The Bear is quite the prolific painter, and can turn out 5-6 masterpieces in one sitting.  I know we don’t need to keep all of them, but my mama heart has a hard time parting with his first creative endeavors.  I’ve seen some great ideas out there I want to try, and came up with a few of my own.  I’ll share them all with y’all, starting with today’s mini bunting.  This project is super easy, taking less than one nap time.  Let’s be honest, that’s how we measure our free time.  

 To make the bunting you need a pile of your child’s paintings or drawings, a 2 inch circle craft punch, a hole punch, and a length of twine or hemp cord cut a little longer than the desired length of your bunting.

 Start punching circles out of the paintings.  Be strategic about your cuts and get the precious details: little finger and palm prints, great color mixing, etc.

Punch holes at the top of each of your tiny circle paintings, and string them on to your cord.  Tie a knot after each one to help them stay in place.  Leave extra room at one end of your bunting to add more later.  
Because I’m a tad bit ghetto fabulous, I used duct tape to secure my bunting to the back of the mirror in the Bear’s room.  It is hidden, so know one knows except the internet.  I can easily adjust the length and add or subtract as needed.  
This project could easily be one your child helps with, or a surprise gift for them.  I surprised the Bear with it, and he LOVES it.  He calls it his rainbow upside down.  Precious boy.  Below you can see a bit more of his room and how mini the bunting looks next to his gigantic wall art.  My plan is to add additional layers of bunting as he creates more art work.  
How do you save your child’s artwork? 

I love linking my ideas at these blog parties.  Click the links to check them out and find crafty inspiration.  If you’ve never visited a blog party, you will be blown away by the creativity shared and imaginative ideas.
Monday: CraftOManiacMad in CraftsSew Chatty,  Keeping It SimpleC.R.A.F.T.Boogie Board Cottage, and Sumo’s Sweet Stuff   
Tuesday:  Hope StudiosToday’s Creative BlogCoastal Charm, and New Nostalgia
Wednesday: The Trendy TreehousePolka Dots on ParadeLil Luna, and The Thrifty Home
Thursday: All Things with Purpose, Somewhat SimpleThe Shabby Creek CottageThe Girl Creative, and House of Hepworths
Friday: Sugar and SpiceKojo DesignsDiana Rambles Pin Me Party, and The Shabby Nest
Weekends: Sweet Tea Social @ Texas Women BloggersTatertots and Jello, Serenity NowButtercream Bakehouse, and Candace Creations

The Love of Grandparents

I love that she looks as though she is breathing her in.  
My parents are the best.
Obviously, I’m biased.
They came to visit last week and we had so much fun.
We didn’t do anything exciting, but spent the whole time playing.
They get down on the floor with my kids and don’t miss a minute.
The effort they make to love on my babies means so much to me.
Both kids absolutely adore Dede and Poppy.
It was such a great reminder to be on the floor, in the moment with my kids.  They don’t need anything fancy, or big experiences, or money spent.  They need love.  A quote hangs on a friend’s wall and keeps coming back to mind daily of late.  “Children have only one childhood.”  So true.  This one childhood is so fleeting as I’m reminded while packing up the tiny clothes they’ve so quickly outgrown.  I want to spend it with them, every bit that I can.  I want to be in the moment, on the floor, soaking it up.  

Look at those little toes! Can you even handle it?
What are you soaking up today?

Vintage Blue Mason Beach Memory Jar

I am blessed to have a small collection of vintage blue Mason jars from my paternal grandmother, my Meme.  Most of them have their original tin lids and are in perfect condition.  I display them all over our house and am constantly changing out the displays.  Every time I help host a bridal or baby shower, the jars come with me to add a bit of vintage flair to the decorations.  After our recent beach trip, I decided to add to the beach memory jar I started a few years ago.  It is a simple and affordable way to preserve our special finds and remind our family of our amazing travels.  I filled the bottom of the jar with the pure white sand of the miracle strip of beach we visit in Navarre Beach, Florida.  It looks like sugar and reminds me of one of my favorite places in the world.  Next I carefully drop shells into the jar one by one.  I use the tines of a fork to arrange the shells.  It is a bit tricky to get everything positioned the way I want it, but worth the effort.  I love that I can easily add to and rearrange my little collection with special finds after every trip.  
How do you preserve travel memories?

If you would like to start your own collection of blue Ball Mason jars, the company recently re-released a heritage collection.  You can use the link below to get a set of 6 for around $2 a jar.The link is an affiliate link, which means you pay the same price but your purchase helps support our family.  We appreciate it any time you use a sponsor or affiliate link.  Thanks for reading!
  

I love linking my ideas at these blog parties.  Click the links to check them out and find crafty inspiration.  If you’ve never visited a blog party, you will be blown away by the creativity shared and imaginative ideas.
Monday: CraftOManiacMad in CraftsSew Chatty,  Keeping It SimpleC.R.A.F.T.Boogie Board Cottage, and Sumo’s Sweet Stuff   
Tuesday:  Hope StudiosToday’s Creative BlogCoastal Charm, and New Nostalgia
Wednesday: The Trendy TreehousePolka Dots on ParadeLil Luna, and The Thrifty Home
Thursday: All Things with Purpose, Somewhat SimpleThe Shabby Creek CottageThe Girl Creative, and House of Hepworths
Friday: Sugar and SpiceKojo DesignsDiana Rambles Pin Me Party, and The Shabby Nest
Weekends: Sweet Tea Social @ Texas Women BloggersTatertots and Jello, Serenity NowButtercream Bakehouse, and Candace Creations