Friday, April 29, 2011

Toy swap

I've read lots articles over the past couple of years about swapping various goods, and the idea has been percolating in my mind for awhile. As a member of my MOPS leadership team, I decided that would be a good group to try a swap with. And since we're all moms with young children, I thought toys would be an easy item to target.

Here is how it worked for us:

First, I handed out the list of guidelines below at one of our meetings so everyone knew what to expect.

Guidelines for the MOPS Toy Swap

  • Please only bring toys that are in good condition—no broken or missing pieces.
  • In addition to “regular toys,” we will accept puzzles, games, sports equipment, and art supplies. DVDs and music CDs should be targeted to younger kids. (No VHS or cassette tapes)
  • NO books, clothes, or stuffed animals
  • Coloring books and small toys (Happy Meal, etc.) will be placed in a box labeled “Free”

You may bring as many items as you wish—everything must be dropped off at (church) between 7-9 p.m. on Monday the 21st. We will price each item, and on Tuesday you will receive tickets based on the value of the items you bring.

On the morning of the swap, you will spend your tickets to shop for items of your choice. Tickets have a $1 value, so if you have 4 tickets and want to buy a $5 item, you will need to pay $1. All items remaining at the end of the swap will be donated to (thrift store).

There were 4 of us who collected items the night before the swap, which was nice to have more objective input on pricing the toys we received. We then organized items by category (sports, games, baby, etc.) We counted the number of tickets each swapper earned, and then put those in an envelope labeled with the person's name, which we distributed the morning of the swap.

I asked a couple non-shoppers to serve as cashiers. For the first 3 minutes of the swap, we allowed all participants to browse and select one thing. This avoided grabbing and chaos, but also hopefully ensured that each mom walked away with at least one item she really wanted. Then we had "open shopping" for 15 additional minutes, and we encouraged those with extra tickets to give them to someone else, as only a quarter of the moms in our group chose to participate.

After 15 minutes of shopping/swapping, all moms present could browse and take home any remaining items for free. Items left were donated to the local thrift store. I noted that the majority of what remained were small baby toys, such as rattles and soft blocks, so in the future, I think we would discourage that category.

So that's how the toy swap worked for us. It was a lot of fun, and I'd like to do it again next year. For me, the brilliance of the swap is that I got rid of some toys my kids no longer play with, and I was able to bring home several new items without spending any money.

Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions, but please make sure I have your e-mail address so I can respond. If you're interested in a different kind of swap, my friend Kara just posted about one here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Checking in

Just checking in with a few random updates:

*Resurrection eggs--what a neat way to share this important Story with our children! I liked opening one new egg each day, and reviewing the parts of the narrative we'd already discussed. I also used Katie's suggestion of reading from our kids' Bible when the story matched what we were talking about with the eggs.

*We praise the Lord for two new nieces in one week (not twins!)--Lauren and Brylee. Can't wait to meet these precious girlies!

*I successfully made pancakes over the weekend. Woo-hoo!

*Thanks to all who commented about hymns. I'd never heard of one of Mer's favorites, but I looked it up on YouTube, and I've been listening ever since. Love it!

*Back Friday with toy swap details . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hymn sing

Several weeks ago, I saw an ad in the newspaper for an old-fashioned hymn sing at the local Baptist church, and I thought it would be a neat event to attend as a family.

Growing up, my parents were part of a hymn sing group. As I remember it, there were 5 or 6 families involved, and we would rotate houses each month. The host would acquire a stack of hymnals from the church, and of course there were refreshments provided after the singing. We'd fill the room with our voices, calling out numbers for the hymns we wanted to sing. One I most remember singing on these nights is "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus."

I am grateful to not only have a heritage of faith, but that my parents instilled in my sister and me a love of the old hymns. I love more contemporary praise music, as well, but there is a unique richness and history to the classic songs of the church.

I've always loved "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," so that's one I requested the night of the recent hymn sing. I was also thankful someone shouted out the number for "The Old Rugged Cross." What a meaningful song, especially today. This song is a favorite of my dad, and I always think of him when I hear it.

What are some of your favorite hymns?

*A bonus of attending the hymn sing was the pie social afterward. My goodness, those ladies knew how to make pie! They had such an abundance that we were sent home with an entire plate of peach pie. Delicious!

p.s. Several people asked me for more details about the toy swap I coordinated, but I don't have contact info for everyone, so I plan to post more about this next week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nest swap show and tell

Hooray for spring--and a spring swap! It's show and tell time . . .

My partner Amy put together a fabulous box of goodies for me: a pink and green bag (love that color combo!), cupcake mix with festive papers and flags (I will definitely make those for Easter!), daisy planter (the friendliest flower), garden gloves, flower lollipops, tin candles, bath fizzies, notecards and shopping list, matching plates and napkins, and a cute box with jelly beans inside. Thank you so much, Amy, for the fun box!
I sent Amy some plastic eggs, a spring picture frame, throat drops (random, yes, but cold season hangs on here in the Midwest where we both live), glittery candle, butterfly sidewalk chalk for her daughters, notecards, a pottery cup, a scented diffuser, lotion and fun sprinkles.Now it's your turn--please leave us a link so we can see your fun swap boxes!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Project Simplify

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was hoping to participate in the Project Simplify initiative from Simple Mom. I worked on all 5 assignments, so here are some notes about each:

Clothes--having just done my 32 challenge, I didn't think I'd have any clothes to get rid of. Well, I was wrong! After going through my closet again with a little more scrutiny, I culled a dozen additional pieces. Some are things I've been holding onto for a long time, like a black silk wrap skirt that just doesn't quite wrap around anymore. =(

Paper clutter--Yikes--reading the instructions for this one scared me! Though my piles look reasonably neat, I hang on to way too much paper. I spent a couple of afternoons going through 4 of my most used paper areas. I found some random or humorous items in my stacks, including a tourist penny from San Francisco, nearly 6-year-old wedding gift receipts, and some Rainbow Brite trading cards (?!), which I passed on to Monica's daughters. =) I still have one more paper zone I'd like to attack sometime soon. One of the biggest offenders for me is articles I tear out of magazines. Any advice on how to store them in a way that they're neat but easily accessible?

Kids' clothes and toys--With garage sale season upon us, I've been wanting to sort through the kids' clothes anyway, so this gave me a push to do it earlier. As for toys, I'm a big fan of rotating, which is a system that's worked well for us. The toy sorting assignment was well-timed, too, because I coordinated a toy swap for my MOPS group that week. (The swap went really well, and I was thrilled with what I received in exchange for toys my kids were ready to pass on. I'd be happy to pass on details if anyone is interested in hosting something similar.)

Fridge and pantry--I check my pantry on a pretty regular basis when I do my meal planning, but my fridge was overdue for a good cleaning, so that's what I did for that week. I did finally part with some spices I'd purchased in metal tins that clumped together in last summer's humidity.

Choose your own disaster =)--I was interested to see computer files on Tsh's list of suggested areas to work on, as I'd actually written that on my April to-do list. It felt great to get this done. It only took me a half-hour to comb through all the documents on our computer and delete or re-file them. Isn't that often the case with tasks we put off?! Because that job went so quickly, I also re-organized our card catalog (below), which holds an interesting assortment of craft supplies, hardware, etc.I had a lot of fun participating in the challenges, and getting some areas of my home in order. Thanks, Simple Mom, for the inspiration! Did anyone else participate in any or all of these challenges?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family Fun Night: Charles F. Cheddar

Weird title? Yes. But I was trying to think of a spin-off name for this. =)

I was pretty pumped about this theme, which was inspired by one of the items I scored for free at the recent toy swap I coordinated. I had never seen a toy version of this fun arcade game, so I snatched it up at the swap. That game was the catalyst for the rest of the evening. We also did two other games: timed basketball shooting (30 seconds to see how many times you could score while standing behind a marked line) and animal bowling (using a little set we already have).
Eric's brother, Ryan, joined us for the evening (that's him above), which added to the fun. However, I endured some teasing from both brothers for my enthusiasm about the details! Eric, for example, said at one point, "I definitely married Monica's sister!" Thanks--that's a compliment!

We kicked things off with (What else?) pizza, and then I gave each of the 4 players 3 tokens--one for each of the three games mentioned above. I did a practice run of each game in advance to come up with a little scoring system, because they earned tickets based on how well they did. (Obviously, the games were modified for Natalie, but she did quite well!)

After everyone competed in the games, I had one more activity for them while I set up the prize area: I hid some pieces of candy in a box filled with balls, and each person took a turn (blind-folded!) at digging through and finding a treat. As for the prizes, I had fun coming up with a set of kid and adult prizes I hoped they'd all enjoy.
For the kids, I found 5 books/toys that I've been saving. Some were gifts, and I found the map puzzle for a dollar last year. For the guys, I bought a few things I thought they'd both like. The cake mix and cereal include a coupon for me to make that treat upon their request, so of course, those were the first prizes to go! =)

We finished the evening off with a special dessert of mud and worms, which was obviously a big hit, as was the rest of our time. I think this night will become an annual tradition!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Special gifts

I wanted to share with you about a couple of special gifts I've received recently:

1. For my birthday, a family member gave me a check, indicating that the money was to be spent in mission. Two of my friends went on mission trips overseas last month, so I divided the sum between them, sending half to eastern Europe, and the other portion to Haiti. Both of my friends reported that they were able to bless someone special with the money they'd brought over. What a neat gift that kept getting passed on!

2. A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find a big, colorfully decorated box on my front porch. The sender was a dear blog friend of mine, who asked to remain anonymous. Though we've never met, she was ready to pass on some of her daughter's dresses and other clothing items, and she decided to send them to Natalie. It was a very generous and thoughtful gift, and we are grateful. Here's a picture of Natalie in one of her cute "new" dresses, followed by the stack of all the lovely hand-me-downs we received. Thank you, friend!
Have you received or given a particularly special gift lately?

Note: You may have heard me mention before that Eric and I have chosen 3 traits to pray for each of our children beginning before they are born. One of the traits we pray specifically for Natalie is that she would be a person who gives meaningful gifts to others!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homemade Resurrection Eggs

My post earlier this week talked about introducing children to God and spiritual Truth. The idea I'm sharing today did not come from the book I just reviewed, but rather from a fellow blog. With Easter right around the corner, I'd been looking for a way to share the story in a more intentional, visual way with Nathan in particular. Enter Annette's post about homemade Resurrection Eggs! (You can purchase a set for about $17 on-line, but I loved the idea of making ours.)

As directed, I took an egg carton and scrounged around to find the 11 necessary items to put in each egg. (The 12th egg is appropriately empty!) Each item, such as thorns and coins, tells the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. I spent nothing to put this together, and I think it's neat knowing our set is one-of-a-kind! Annette lists not only each item, but also the corresponding Scripture passage. I took it a step further, and compiled all of the verses in a document for easier reference, which I would be happy to e-mail to anyone upon request.

We are planning to start walking through the story next Wednesday, introducing a new piece of the story each day (and building on what we've already discussed). This means that we will open the 12th egg on Easter morning. I love the symbolism of that!

Here is the set I put together:
I'm excited to walk through this with Nathan. Though he has a basic understanding of the Story, I think this will be a powerful way for all of us to observe this important season!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1001 Ways to Introduce Your Child to God

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Last month, I stumbled onto a book at a local church library, and immediately knew I wanted to bring it home for further reading.

I love the Scripture passage the author shares at the beginning as her basis for teaching even babies about God and His character: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 3:14-15

The book is divided into chapters that each focus on a different characteristic, such as trust, obedience, kindness, and even witnessing. Within each chapter, the author gives lots of ideas (songs, crafts, and games) for parents to implement with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

To be honest, I found many of the ideas to be too cheesy for my style, but I love the intention behind the book. I wrote down a couple dozen ideas to try with my kids, and I will plan to share those that are effective at a later time.

The book ends with a parent's prayer: "O Lord, You have graciously given me a tiny child to teach and to lead to a personal knowledge of You. I first give my own life to You as my source of forgiveness, salvation, security, and strength. I am not sufficient for this task, but You are . . . through me. Use me, enable me, guide my steps, and graciously provide the godly wisdom and power that I will need daily. Keep me consistent in word and example, and please compensate for my inevitable errors. I am totally dependent upon You to introduce Your Infinite Self to my child, O Lord, my strength and redeemer. Amen."

If that prayer wasn't inspiring enough in our role as the spiritual leaders in our home, then surely this is:

"We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands." Psalm 78:4-7

Have any of you heard of or read this book? What did you think? I look forward to sharing more specific examples from the book soon.

Note: When linking to the copy I've reviewed above, I noticed there's a companion book for introducing kids to the Bible, so I plan to look into that title as well.

P.S. Another of my book reviews was featured in this month's edition of Comfort Cafe. Check it out here!

Friday, April 1, 2011

No foolin': a flossing update

It's been nearly a year since I admitted my remiss dental hygiene habits. Since that time, and having had an overdue check-up last May, I am proud to say this is an area I have finally improved in. I have gone from flossing a couple of times a year (!) to 2-3 times a week. Still room for growth, obviously, but this has been a long-time goal of mine and I'm glad I've finally kicked things up a notch! Monica gave me some of these she scored for free, and I find them easier to use than traditional floss.

As for the teeth grinding, I have a mouth guard that I wear most nights a week, which is pretty significant for me. I put off wearing one for years, and it took awhile once I started last spring for it to feel more natural and even comfortable.

I have another dentist appointment next month, and I'm hoping they'll notice some positive results! For the month of April, I want to be even more diligent in this regard, so my goal for the next 30 days is to floss daily. Maybe I'll even try the calendar trick again since it worked so well for my exercise challenge!

As for March, whew! The two biggest things: I'm wrapping up the big project I've been doing for the college, and I coordinated a toy swap for our local MOPS group last week.

Since I mentioned March Madness a few weeks ago, I have to share that at one point in the tournament, my bracket was ranked 895 out of over 6 million entrants! I feel it's OK to brag about this a little, because since then my rank has plummeted. =)