Monday, March 28, 2011

Butterfly birthday

Natalie's birthday theme was butterflies, and I had fun coming up with ideas for her little party.

First of all, I made invitations using cardstock I had on hand. I used several different color combinations so that each person received a different butterfly. Here's a sample, along with this cute snack I made the kids for a party favor.For lunch, I served butterfly sandwiches*, and made pasta salad with butterfly (bowtie) pasta. Of course we had cake for dessert! I followed these instructions for making the cake into a butterfly shape, but opted to keep it simple with just frosting and colored sugar.
After eating, we played this fun game, which I borrowed from a friend. Kids and adults alike had fun trying to capture the butterflies!

Natalie received several butterfly presents, including several clothing items, a new cup, and this little backpack which she's been carrying everywhere!It was a special birthday, and we were glad to celebrate it with my parents, aunt, and grandma!

*A fun bonus of the cut-out sandwiches pictured above was taking the scraps to a nearby lake and feeding the ducks. I have fond memories of doing that as a child, and my kids loved it. I confess, though, that after we were done, we saw a sign on the opposite side of the lake prohibiting feeding the waterfowl. Oops!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Checking in

Thanks so much for all of your birthday wishes for Natalie. I plan to have a birthday post up Friday or Monday, but wanted to share a few updates before then.

We had a good time in Kansas City, despite the fact that Natalie, Nathan and I have all had various ailments. Hopefully, we're on the mend now! Here's the birthday girl with Daddy, Grammie, and Pepaw (who continues to amaze us with how well he's doing. Praise the Lord!)

The biggest news from our week is that we found out Nathan needs glasses! He had a routine vision screening at preschool that indicated the need for a more professional exam. I promptly made an appointment, but I admit I thought it was kind of a fluke because I've never observed any concern regarding Nathan's eyesight. However, like father, like son: Nathan has a lazy left eye, and will probably need glasses for the rest of his life. We are grateful this was caught early, and I think Nathan's done really well adjusting to wearing them. We let him pick out these blue frames. Of course he has to goof off anytime the camera is nearby these days. What a cutie!
Natalie received many fun birthday gifts, but she and Nathan have sure had fun with this kitchen from Grandma and Grandpa.That's some news from around here. Back soon with birthday pix!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy birthday, Natalie!

I can't believe this little girl is two today! You can see from this picture that Natalie has quite the sense of humor. She says funny things every day--I told Eric we should follow her around with a video camera, because her vocabulary and the way she enunciates words often cracks us up! She is still very petite, and as snuggly as ever.

We love our little peanut!We're thankful to be celebrating the day with extended family in Kansas City. I'll post pix and more details when we get home.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Natural cold remedies

Colds and other illnesses are definitely still going strong in our area, and I've been wanting to share all season about some natural but effective remedies. I intended to write this post a long time ago (like in October--oops!), but better late than never, I suppose.

If you are interested in natural remedies, you should check out this very comprehensive post covering many ailments. I was particularly interested in the link to 5 simple remedies, and tried three of them this past winter: 1) Mixing eucalyptus essential oil with a little olive oil for a homemade version of Vick's, 2) Making hummus with fresh garlic to take advantage of the garlic's immune boosting properties, and 3) Chopping an onion. According to Stephanie, the fumes offer much of an onion's healing potential, and one night when I was really congested, I even tried her suggestion of placing a small bowl of chopped onion beside the bed. I'm not sure if it helped, but I was willing to try pretty much anything at that point! Another onion remedy is this homemade cough syrup which I plan to try sometime (though hopefully not soon!)

Hydration is very important in combating colds, and I know it sounds kind of gross but you need to keep your nasal passages moist to help avoid infections. To help with this, I tried a neti pot for the first time this year. (I got mine free through an on-line offer.) Yes, it's a bit strange, but it really is effective--this post offers helpful information for trying one. I also run the humidifier every night from late fall to early spring, and I use a saline solution most nights before bed.

For prevention, I'm also a big fan of Emergen-C. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I drink 1-2 glasses each day. It may seem a little pricey when buying a box, but at 25-30 cents a serving, I consider that money well spent if we avoid doctor or prescription costs! In addition, when I have even a tinge of a sore throat, I use these throat drops, and I also gargle with salt water.

What are your tips for preventing and treating colds?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nest Swap!

The first day of spring is just around the corner, and we are pleased to announce that our next Sister's Shoebox Swap has a theme of Nest!

For those are who are unfamiliar with our swaps, my sister and I started these several years ago as a unique way to encourage others. Based on the information you send us, we match you with someone we think you will pair well with, and then we ask each of you to fill a shoebox with goodies tailored to the theme and your swap partner. It's a lot of fun!

Please read the following details carefully if you are interested in swapping:

1. In order to participate, you must either have swapped successfully with us before, or you must be a regular commenter on one of our blogs (The Homespun Heart/with all that I’ve been given). You don't need to comment daily, or even weekly, but we need to recognize your name when you sign up.

Before you send us an e-mail, please consider if you have the time and resources to fulfill your swap. We don't want anyone to be disappointed!

2. You need to fill out your questionnaire as part of the sign-up. In order to sign up for this swap, please e-mail sisterswaps@hotmail.com with the following info:

name
complete mailing address
e-mail address
blog site, if you have one

If you would be willing to ship internationally, please indicate that specifically. If you don't mention it, we'll assume it's your preference to ship within the U.S.

Also, please answer the following questions in your sign-up e-mail. The more thorough your answers, the better we can match you with someone complementary.

*Considering that your home is your nest, how would you describe your ideal nest? (bright, spacious, cozy, etc.)
*What is your favorite thing about spring?
*How do you celebrate Easter?
* What are your do's and don'ts of spring decorating? (for example: Favorite spring colors? Do you collect bunnies? How do you feel about religious decorations in your home?)

Sign-up entries must be complete to be included. Even if you’ve swapped with us before, please send all of the information requested above. Please keep the theme in mind when selecting items for your partner, and as usual, please limit your gifts to what can fit in a shoebox.

Important dates to consider:
Sign-ups due by 8 a.m. (CST) Friday, March 11, or when 40 people have signed up.
Partner info will be e-mailed to you by Wednesday, March 16.
Please send your shoebox by Wednesday, April 6.

If you have not received an e-mail with partner info from us by March 16, please check your “junk” folder first, and then contact us if needed.

Thanks, and happy swapping!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Little things

Lots of little things to say . . .

*I recently watched a segment on healthy breakfasts, and learned that old fashioned oats are more nutritious* than the quick cooking variety. I had no idea! We have oatmeal once a week, and I guess I've just assumed that the old fashioned kind would take too long to cook. However, I just checked my carton, and it said it only takes 5 minutes to cook--which is how long I cook the quick kind! (*I want to add, though, that I did a quick on-line search to back this up, and didn't find anything super compelling or decisive on the subject. Anyone want to weigh in?)

*Out of curiosity, I clicked on the "followers" section on my blog dashboard for the first time this past weekend. I browsed each name, and was surprised to be unfamiliar with a third of these blog readers! If you've been lurking for awhile, I'd love to have you leave a comment sometime. The same goes for some people I know in real life who I've discovered read my blog on the sly! =)

*I've had a recipe in my "try" file for quite awhile that I finally got around to making last week--cookies that have crushed potato chips in them. They are delicious! (I left out the pretzels and peanuts because I'm not a fan.)

*I came across this endeavor that starts today, and hope to join in for at least some of it!

More snow around these parts--bummer! I had to laugh when I was at the library this weekend and saw a local license plate declaring "H8 snow!" Back later this week--

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Five Love Languages of Children

I recently read The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. I'm sure that many of you, like me, have read The 5 Love Languages, but I was interested to learn more about how to apply the love language concept with my children. As the authors state at the beginning of the book, "A child's emotional tank must be filled before any effective training or discipline can take place."

The book says that you can't really expect to identify your child's primary love language until they are age 5 or older. (The book also mentions that love languages are not set in stone, and your child's primary language can switch at different stages.) However, after reading the chapter about quality time, my "suspicions" were confirmed that this is Nathan's primary love language. The authors define quality time as "focused attention." Nathan will often say to me, "I want to do something special with you, Mommy." I have also learned that when he is having a hard day, it is really calming for him to snuggle with me on the couch and read books together. I have been trying to be more intentional about doing a little something with him after Natalie goes down for her afternoon nap and before he begins room time.

As a mother with two young children, I needed and appreciated this insight: "As you express your love by acts of service to your children, doing things they may not be able to do for themselves, you are setting a model. This will help them escape their self-centered focus and help others." The book also suggested in this section that we teach our children how to serve others.

In addition to the individual chapters on each of the five love languages, the book contains an entire chapter about discovering your child's primary love language. The authors state that one of the languages will speak most deeply of love to your child; conversely, when that same language is used negatively, the child is very hurt. Some suggestions given for determining your child's primary love language: 1) Observe how your child expresses love to you. 2) Observe how your child expresses love to others. 3) Listen to what your child requests most often. 4) Notice what your child most frequently complains about. 5) Give your child a choice between two options (for example, a gift vs. an outing together).

Why go to all the work of figuring this stuff out? "The supreme value," the authors say, "of discovering your child's primary love language is that it gives you the most effective means of communicating emotional love."

The chapters on the relationship between discipline and anger and the love languages were interesting. I admit I'm not sure if I agree with the authors on all of their points, but it was definitely food for thought. I did appreciate the distinction between "making requests" and "issuing commands," and there was a particular quote I liked in the discipline chapter: "Being pleasant but firm not only conserves your authority, but it enhances your authority, because you are gaining your children's love and respect as well as their gratitude."

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Speaking of the love languages, I was thinking back to my birthday a couple years ago when Eric blessed me with all five gifts in one day. What a treat! You can click here to learn more about the love languages, and to take a brief quiz that will help you identify your primary language.

Has anyone else read this book? Have you identified your own primary love language, or that of your child(ren)?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Walk on

Remember my challenge to get in shape during the month of February? Well, I am proud to report that I surpassed my goal of working out 20/28 days, and I was able to put 22 stars on my calendar! Woo-hoo!

I was amazed how motivated I felt, and the variety I incorporated made exercising a lot of fun! I did lots of walking--two days it was actually nice enough to walk outside, and on cold days, I walked on the treadmill* at our local fitness center (I had a punch card with 5 free passes). In the warmer months, I walk a ton outside, but my favorite new way to walk in winter is DVDs like this one and this one. Thanks to my friend Kelly for suggesting these--I'd never heard of them! I borrowed both of them initially, and liked the first one so much I bought it on-line. I may order the second one at some point, too--love it!

In addition to all the walking, I tried a couple other fitness programs a few times each--one was a cardio dance workout that made me feel less-than-coordinated =), and I also tried a walking DVD by a different instructor; however, I was not a fan and won't recommend that one. Isn't it awesome to be able to borrow DVDs from the library or a friend before you make an investment?

Even though my challenge is technically over, I know I will continue making more of an effort to walk inside while it's still cold because it makes me feel good and helps to beat the winter "blahs." Spring is just around the corner!

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I have a lot of projects going on right now (my own version of March Madness!), so instead of tacking on an additional challenge this month, my desire is to work diligently on each of those tasks, and to do so with excellence!

*I would like to add that until a month ago, I had NEVER walked on a treadmill! The professional who helped me get started couldn't believe that. It was a little awkward for me the first few minutes, but then I found a rhythm and just enjoyed myself. Walking really is a great way to exercise!

I also want to add that I had to get creative with fitting exercise into my day. I often got up earlier before the kids were up, but sometimes I did my workout during the day, and a few times I fit it in the evening.