School Photo Memories

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Our school pictures are in! When we first started homeschooling, I thought this was one school activity that we would have to forego, especially since I’m no good with the camera. Thankfully, our church has a large enough group of homeschoolers that an organized school picture day is well worth it! My kids got individual shots as well as the big group photo.

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What I love about our photo sessions is that the photographer, who also happens to be our good friend, is great with the kids, and she also takes a few shots that we can pick from. Gone are the days when you have only one chance to make an impression with that camera!

So, I thought, just for fun, I would take a stroll down my School Picture Memory Lane, and showcase some of my most memorable school photos.

I started out in a private school, where school pictures were just large group photos, and since we wore uniforms, I didn’t have to stress about what to wear. When I transferred to a public school, I didn’t think about dressing up for school pictures. So, while all the girls had their pretty dresses on, I came to school in my E.T. shirt!

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My mom would always cut my hair, but this particular year, I needed a change. So, I grabbed some scissors and decided to cut myself some stylish bangs. How hard could it be? Little did I know.

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It’s out in the open. I had the big hair. It takes skill to get it teased up that high. Watch out!

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Ok, I just put myself out there. Now, it’s your turn! You knew this was coming.

If you accept the challenge, share one or more of your memorable school photos. Post it on your blog (or social media, if you don’t have a blog). Share a story about it … or not. Perhaps, the photo will speak for itself!

Add your link in the comments. C’mon! Don’t leave me hanging!

 

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Why It Wasn’t Easy to Have Little Kitchen Helpers

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The other day, I wrote a post about the benefits of having your kids help in the kitchen. But, I must confess … although it was always my desire to get my kids working in there, it was not the easiest thing to do once I started. It still isn’t sometimes.

The #1 reason why this was such a challenging task: I’m a big control freak!

The first kitchen task that my kids helped out with was putting together a gingerbread house. I know this is more of a crafty thing, but I thought this would be a good start because 1) no one will eat it once it’s done, and 2) it doesn’t involve any dangerous implements or appliances.

Not only am I a control freak, but I’m also a Wilton cake decorating “graduate” … a bad combination in this particular scenario. I felt myself tensing up when the candies were not being placed properly. This was a valuable lesson for me: if I’m going to train my kids in the kitchen, I seriously needed to loosen up.

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When having them mix means more flour will probably end up on the floor …. when adding in the next liquid ingredient means pouring it a couple of feet above the bowl … when making a favorite treat means half of it will get eaten before we even finish, it seems like such a hassle to have these little ones help.

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But, I’m learning to overlook the mess for the sweet memories that we share. Of course, I try to be realistic. There are times when I can’t always have them in the kitchen when they ask. But to replace those unplanned moments that cannot happen, I try to have prepared times of cooking or baking with the kids. Baking, of course, is their favorite, especially if it involves chocolate chips. :-)

Even now, this continues to be an important lesson for me in being less controlling in order to savor the simple joys in life. Sometimes, I still have to fall flat on my face to be reminded of this important life lesson.

The kids and I have spent some great bonding times in the kitchen, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Though there will certainly be more flour to sweep off the floor and more spills to wipe up, there will also be more laughter and chocolate chip cookies to look forward to.

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5 Benefits of Having Little Helpers in the Kitchen

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When I was a kid, I really did not spend that much time in the kitchen. I remember once, I intentionally stayed in the kitchen to watch my mom cook, so I could learn something. Honestly, I got bored, and I don’t think I really learned how to cook until I was in college.

I always liked the idea of one day having my kids in the kitchen, teaching them how to cook, even though this really wasn’t my own childhood experience. When I was a new mom, I was hanging out with a friend, who’s oldest daughter was already in high school. Her daughter had called during our girl time, asking about the whereabouts of a certain spice she needed to make a dish. After hanging up, my friend casually told me, “She’s making chicken curry for dinner tonight.”

I stared at her in amazement. Oh to one day pass the baton of dinner preparations to my children! When, oh when?

If you haven’t already started, here are five benefits of having your kids in the kitchen.

They will learn how to follow instructions.

In cooking and so many other activities, there is an order of doing things, and following instructions properly will yield the expected results. What a valuable lesson for children to learn when they are constantly asking why they have to do certain things! After those cookies come out of the oven, they will have something tangible to show them that it pays off to follow instructions.

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They will learn some math.

Understanding the difference between half a cup and 1 cup, between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, between more and less, is a school lesson in disguise. Math is useful after all!

They will learn safety.

I was so hesitant to have my kids near the stove or use knives. But, I want them to know that these things need to be used with care and attention. My blogger friend from This Pilgrim Life has some excellent posts about having kids in the kitchen. The one about teaching them knife skills is a favorite of mine.

They will learn how to serve others.

Food preparation is a good start in learning hospitality. Including them in the kitchen when you’re expecting some company for dinner or having them help you prepare a meal for another family who is in need will teach them a valuable lesson in serving others. Children (and adults) are naturally inclined to think of themselves first, sometimes to the neglect of other people. But, you can show your kids that cooking for someone else is a way to look out for the interests of others.

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They will learn how to be a part of the family.

Before they join any sports team or activity club, kids already have the opportunity to learn the importance of teamwork within their own family. Children need to realize that what they do as individuals will affect the rest of the family. By doing their share of the chores or helping with putting a meal on the table, they can see that they have a significant contribution in the running of the household.

What are other reasons for including your kids in kitchen activities?

 

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FREE Personalized Mug

I love free stuff, don’t you? Whether you’re a coffee addict or a tea lover, here’s a good one to add to your mug collection. Or, this would make a nice gift to someone who could use some sunshine in their life.

Tiny Prints Free Mug

This offer is only good until Tuesday, September 23rd. There is no minimum purchase required. Use MUGSEP14 at checkout.

To claim your free mug today, click here.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

 

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LEGO Toys for Rent: Let’s Pley!

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I honestly have never heard of LEGO® toys until I became a mom, and now I am surrounded by them. Almost every room in our house contains these famous interlocking bricks, whether it’s a model on display, a work in progress, or stray pieces on the floor that my bare feet always seem to find.

Now being better acquainted with this popular toy, I also know how over-the-top expensive they can be. My oldest son, especially, has a long wish list of LEGO play sets that will likely never be fulfilled in his lifetime. Sorry, son.

However, thanks to an awesome company called Pley, he may be able to assemble some of models on his list.

Pley is a company founded by parents that provides the well-loved LEGO bricks to children without their parents going broke.

This is how it works.

Once you sign up, you select a LEGO set that your child wants. There are over 250 to choose from, including the bigger Duplo blocks for smaller hands. Your membership level determines which size you can choose.

And guess what? Your first set is free! Once your kid is done, you ship it back to Pley (the shipping label is already included), and you can get another set. You don’t pay for each set you rent or the shipping costs. You are only required to pay the monthly membership fee and get as many LEGO sets as your mail carrier can handle.

You can even set up a “Pleylist” to make shipping even faster. When Pley receives the set back, they will automatically go to the next set on your “Pleylist”. How cool is that?

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I did have to explain to my kid that we don’t get to keep it. He wasn’t too broken up about it because he knows he can get another one in a few days. However, you may be able to purchase sets directly from Pley if your child cannot part with it.

There are other pluses with this program. The LEGO bricks are always cleaned and sanitized before shipment. They come complete with the instructions. And, if you lose a few pieces (within reason, of course), they are very forgiving … no extra charges. This is a parent-run company, and they know tiny blocks will get lost now and then.

So, we received our first set, and my boy was super happy with it! Can’t wait to get the next one!

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Are you ready to Pley? To start your free trial, click here.

 

 

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Helping Your Children (and Yourself) Memorize Bible Verses

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There are some tasks that you can accomplish better when you’re doing it with others … like exercise, diet, studying (well, maybe not studying …study groups didn’t work out too well for me in school). Another undertaking that is helpful to do with a friend is memorization … particularly for me, Bible verse memorization.

My kids have memorized verses in the past through our church’s children’s programs, but I have to admit that I was not always diligent about it for myself and for my kids. Memorizing was hard enough for me, and I just assumed that they wouldn’t be able to do it. Needless to say, my efforts were pathetic.

This month, we began the task of memorizing verses as a family, and the opportunity to do it together has renewed my desire and motivation. And, we’re not just memorizing but discussing what it means and how it applies to our daily lives. We don’t want this to be simply recitation, void of any meaning. We desire that God’s Word would have an impact on all of our hearts.

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119: 11

If you are thinking about memorizing verses with your children, here are some things that we have been doing, which may be helpful to you.

  1. We split up the verse into manageable chunks, so that we are learning it phrase by phrase.
  2. Sometimes, we say it in a beat or rhythm. I’ve never memorized this way. My husband is more musically inclined, so he would present it this way for the kids. We all found it easier to memorize when we could sing or “rap” the verse.
  3. We say the verse three times before every meal. At first, it is just me or my husband saying it. By the second day, some of the kids can usually say it with some help and prompting.
  4. A brief explanation of the verse is given, including defining some of the bigger words. Sometimes, this is done before bedtime in lieu of a bedtime story.
  5. We are watchful for ways to apply the verse. For example, one of my kids came out after bedtime in tears, saying that he’s scared of the monsters and aliens. We reminded him that those things are not real, but God is, and that He is more powerful than all the things that we are scared of. (The verse was about The Lord being God, a faithful God.)
  6. There are many different Bible memorization programs out there. One that I would recommend is the Fighter Verses app by Children Desiring God. Or, if you want to follow along with our family, I will be posting our verse of the week every Monday on Facebook. (Note: only the highlighted portion of the verse is what we are having our children memorize.)

We finished our first week memorizing Deuteronomy 7:9.
“Know therefore that The Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness.”

Our 3 oldest kids memorized it perfectly by the end of the week. To our pleasant surprise, our 3-year-old was also able to say the verse on his own just from hearing it spoken multiple times this past week.

You’re never too young or too old to memorize God’s Word!

 

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Sweet Corn Tomalito (Corn Pudding)

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There was a time when my friends and I would frequent a particular Mexican restaurant in town. When the server brought my two-item combo plate to the table, I would devour the meal, except for this little scoop of yellow stuff at the corner of my plate. I had no idea what it was, so I just avoided it. One day I was brave enough to try it, and there was no turning back, I was hooked. But they give you such a small scoop of it with your meal! I was tempted to pass on my usual order and just ask for a large bowl of that yellow mush.

Thanks to my sister, who shared the recipe with me, I can just make it myself. And now, I also know the proper name for this yummy side dish: Sweet Corn Tomalito.

Sweet Corn Tomalito is a steamed corn pudding that needs about an hour of steam to cook through. But this moist and soft corn side dish is well worth the wait! Here’s how to make it yourself.

Step 1: Cream softened butter (or margarine) with masa flour and sugar in a mixer. It should be like grainy playdoh.
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Step 2: In a blender, blend corn kernels (frozen corn kernels that have been thawed are ok) with cornmeal and water until smooth. Meanwhile, put water in a double boiler*, and bring it to a simmer.
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Step 3: Mix the blended corn, baking powder, salt, milk, and more corn kernels with the masa flour mixure. Put the mixture into the double boiler. Cover and steam for 50-60 minutes. Give the pudding a quick stir at the end for a more consistent, moist texture.
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This recipe makes about 7-8 small scoops, but if you love this stuff as much as I do, I would make one batch for yourself and one batch for the rest of the family! Kidding! I don’t do that, but there’s certainly no shame if you decide to do it. My kids would hate me, though, because they love this stuff more than I do.

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*Note: If you don’t have a double boiler, put the pudding mixture in a glass baking dish (8×8), cover it tightly with foil, and set it over a pot of simmering water.

Sweet Corn Tomalito (Corn Pudding)
Print
Ingredients
  1. 5 tbsp butter, sofened
  2. 1/4 cup masa flour (masa harina)
  3. 1/3 cup white sugar
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed (divided)
  6. 1/2 cup cornmeal
  7. 1 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 4 to 5 tsp milk
Instructions
  1. In a mixer, mix together butter, masa flour, and sugar.
  2. In a blender, blend one cup of corn kernels with water and cornmeal until smooth.
  3. In the mixer with the masa mixture, stir the blended corn, baking powder, salt, and milk until batter is smooth.
  4. Pour the pudding mixture into a double boiler with simmering water.
  5. Steam for 50-60 minutes. Stir the pudding just before serving to give it a consistent, moist texture.
  6. Serves 7-8.
Less to More http://less2more.com/
 

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Can You Keep a Secret?

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Before we started dating, my husband and I were already friends. I wanted to be more but had no clue if he was even interested in me in that way.

I confided in my sister that I liked him a lot and made her swear not to tell another soul. Little did I know at the time that my future husband also had a similar conversation with my brother-in-law. And, until everything was finally out in the open, my sister and her husband remained true to their promise and kept our secrets safe, even from each other.

When you are asked to guard a secret, do you follow through? Or is the tidbit of information just too juicy to keep to yourself? What are some things to keep in mind so that you prove yourself worthy of the trust that has been placed on you?

Remember what you’ve been entrusted with

Once, we were invited to have dinner with my husband’s boss. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted by a sign “Valet Parking Only.” When we handed them the key, we were entrusting our car to them. We didn’t expect them to take it out for a joy ride. We just wanted them to keep it safe. When your friend shares a secret with you, it still belongs to her. You are simply being asked to keep it safe.

Remember the value of privacy

People sometimes pay a price for privacy, like paying a fee to get your information unlisted in public directories. But, really, its value can’t be quantified. Privacy is worth far more than any amount we can place on it. So, when you hold on to a friend’s confidence, you are holding on to something priceless.

Walking Women; Swimming Dogs

Remember how fast gossip can spread

You might think it’s harmless to tell just one person, especially if that person is a good secret-keeper, but the best of them are still fallible. And, you know what I’ve observed? Private information received secondhand will probably not be so well guarded.

Remember how you want someone to handle your secrets

You would never want someone to broadcast intimate details of your life to the world. So, how could we be so careless about letting those confidential information slip out? Remember “The Golden Rule”.

Remember the treasure of a trusted friend

What a privilege you have to be someone’s confidant! A trusted friend is a rare treasure. Don’t trade in that shine for the dross of a broken confidence.

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”
Proverbs 11:13

 

Important Note: Someone may share with you something that you need to tell someone else. For example, you may not know how to advise them, but you know someone who can. Let your friend know you would like to tell so-and-so to seek some counsel. I’ve asked friends if it’s ok that I tell my husband because he’s had some experience with counseling others. Or perhaps, it’s a more serious issue, like the person may be physically abused. Encourage them to seek some professional help, and offer to go with them if they’re afraid.

 

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Tips on Giving Your Child a Haircut

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I have three boys, and much to their dismay, haircuts happen pretty frequently. One easy way for us to save money is by giving them haircuts ourselves … or I should say, my husband is the one who gives the haircuts.

You can do this too! Invest in a good set of hair clippers. For a girl, you’ll need a comb with a pointy end, some clips, a spray bottle, and some haircutting scissors. These items are not very expensive at Walmart or other big box stores.

If you’ve never given a haircut before, fear not. That’s what YouTube is for!

If your child seems resistant, here are some tips to help keep this a pleasant experience for you and your child.

  •  Give advance notice with a nice pep talk. You don’t want to catch them off guard by suddenly appearing with clippers in hand while they’re playing, announcing, “It’s haircut time!” That’s just scary!
  • Having a haircutting cape is helpful, but sometimes, the little hairs still get in there, making them itchy and wiggly during the haircutting session. You can take some toilet paper, enough to fit around their neck. Fold it lengthwise a couple of times, so it looks like a long, thin piece of paper. Wrap it around their neck, then put the cape just on top of the toilet paper, which acts as a barrier
  • Use a barstool. This makes it easier on your back. If you’re concerned that they might fall off, you can try a highchair or booster chair.
  • Play a favorite movie. Even better, let them pick one out. This may help the squirmy types. Also, if your child is afraid of the humming sound of the clippers, turn the volume of the movie way up.

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  • Have a treat ready during the haircutting. We don’t do this anymore, but we did it a lot when our boys were younger because they were scared of the clippers. Our treat of choice was M&M’s. Pop one in their mouth when they start to fuss, and it’s like magic. It also helps when they have to tilt their head a certain way because you can hold out the candy in the direction you want them to turn.
  • Give them lots of praises and encouragement, and when it’s all over, be sure to squeal over how cute they look!

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Have you ever given your child a haircut? Share your experience!

 

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7 Ideas for Free Field Trips

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With school back in session, you may be seeing some long faces around the house. Bye-bye to those carefree summer days! These kids will start daydreaming in class, wishing to hear those two magic words … “FIELD TRIP!”

Why leave it to the teacher to plan the field trips? You can do it too, and you don’t have to homeschool either. Get some good bonding time as a family! And, it really doesn’t have to cost you a thing. Here are some ideas for free field trips that may be available in your area.

Restaurant Kitchen Tour

Some restaurants give a free tour of their kitchen during less busy hours. Make some calls and see if there are any establishments in your area that are willing to do this. What a great opportunity if you have an aspiring chef!

Fire Station

We were fortunate enough to be related to someone, who was related to someone, who was married to a firefighter. We received the star treatment: a full tour of the firehouse, a fire safety lecture, a demonstration of how firefighters put on their gear, and a chance to sit in one of the fire engines. But, even if you don’t know anyone at the fire station personally, most stations welcome visitors, even drop-ins.
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Museums

Many museums, including aquariums, offer free admission days certain times of the year, some as often as once a month. Go to their website, and check their calendar. When going during one of these free days, it’s best to plan to be there early, in case there’s a long line to get in.
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Local Farm

Some of you may already live in rural areas, but for us, suburbanites, visiting a farm is a big deal. If you’re planning a farm visit, check their website for some learning resources. The one we went to had a fun scavenger hunt game online that you can print out ahead of time.
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Factory Tour

Many factories offer tours during the week. The funnest one we’ve been on is a tour of a candy factory. Some of these places are hidden in not-so-attractive industrial areas. A Google search might turn up some interesting factories that will allow you to visit at no charge.

Walk/Hike

I tend to think that going on a hike means having to go to the middle of nowhere, but I learned there are a few places in our area that are great places to hike. The most recent trip we took was on a nice paved path, so no special shoes or gear needed. There were also some interesting finds along the way, like an old cemetery, which sparked some questions from my kids.
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Military Base

If you live near a military base and know someone with access inside, this is a great trip to plan. My son was excited when we drove past the large planes and he spied soldiers in marching formation. There may even be museums, that are rich in history, open to the public. The kids had so much fun that they didn’t have a clue they were “doing school.”

What are your ideas for free field trips?

 

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