{Mama Reviews} Our 2019 Christmas Picture Book List

THIS POST CONTAINS AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS. :) 

If you’ve been around me at Christmas time, you know by now that one of my favorite things about the month of December is reading Christmas books to our boys! Each year, we discover a few new favorites, so I love to update my recommendations.

DSC_1346

DSC_1335

We do own all of the following books, but these first nine are the ones I would put on the must own list. :)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a beautifully written, tear-jerking, and happy tale with truly stunning paintings.
Christmas at Rumpole Mansion is a story that I grew up on with captivating pictures for little imaginations, and a sweet message about unselfishness. It is out of print, but occasionally hits reasonable used prices.
The Legend of the Candy Cane shares the gospel using the classic candy cane (and the original edition has gorgeous pictures).
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is new to us this year and became an instant favorite. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are fantastic as always, and this true story from WWI pulls at the heart strings.
Room for a Little One has magical, twinkly pictures that share about Jesus’s humble birth
Song of the Stars is a unique and poetic angle on the anticipation of Jesus’s arrival.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a Dr. Seuss classic that I literally have memorized after decades of reading it every Christmas! :)
Christmas Farm is a recent favorite of ours, the cozy and old-fashioned holiday story of an older woman and a little boy who plant a crop of Christmas trees together.
Who Is Coming to Our House? has become a favorite board book here, telling about the animals preparing their “house” for Jesus.

I love every single one of these as well, but if you’re on a budget this year, try the library for these. ;)

The Christmas Promise shares the joy of God’s promised Deliverer and how He came.
Winnie the Pooh’s Christmas is a rare Disney book that I really love, full of creativity and thoughtfulness and classic Hundred Acre Wood humor.
Josie’s Gift shares of a young girl’s struggle to remember the meaning of Christmas after her father died. The paintings are lovely.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer is a heartwarming story about a young girl who goes about training Santa’s reindeer the wrong way. Jan Brett’s elaborate illustrations never disappoint!
When I Celebrate His Birthday is just a classic board book from my childhood.
Christmas in the Manger is a simple board book poem with childish illustrations.
Happy Birthday, Jesus is a catchy board book poem about celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
The Crippled Lamb – is Max Lucado’s telling of a crippled lamb who is among the first to meet Jesus in the stable.
Christmas in the Big Woods is a summary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas account in her first book, with pictures reminiscent of Garth Williams’ original work.

Now I want to know–what Christmas books just have to be on your shelf in December?

DSC_1343

{Ordinary Joy Tips} Small Shop Christmas Gift Guide

Dear Friends,

I know I’m lucky to post on this poor, forgotten little blog more than once annually, and as such practically no one reads it, but with the holidays approaching, I really wanted to share about my favorite small shops! :) All the photos are mine. My reviews and recommendations are 100% genuine. With just one exception (noted below), these are not compensated collaborations. I am just sharing some of my favorite loved and used products that I think would make wonderful Christmas gifts. Some of the shops were able to provide me with a unique discount code to share with you! These discount codes are valid for a limited time, so be sure to take advantage of them before Christmas.

I’ve grown to see a lot of value in supporting small business owners whenever possible. They pour so much time, effort, and creativity into their craft, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to cheer them on. A small business may enable a mama to stay home with her kiddos, inch a family closer to realizing the dream of adoption, fund a missions trip, or help cover medical bills. And as a perk to shopping small, the quality we, the consumers, receive is often superior to what we’d find in the big box stores–and it’s more original.

Even if you do not choose to purchase from these shops, would you consider giving some of them a follow on Instagram? Following and engaging with their posts supports them more than you may realize!

So, with that said, here is my sweet list in alphabetical order. 

ArdenShaw Handmade

Instagram: @arden.shaw.handmade

You guys! Betsy has been the SWEETEST and gifted me a hat for my second and third babies, and if I had to pick a favorite fun baby product, it would have to be these! They are SO DARLING! Silas is 11 months old and I’m still squeezing his head into his 3-6 month hat, because it’s not like a future baby is going to wear it. ;) (She does have bigger sizes too!) You absolutely cannot go wrong with these for baby gifts. What mama doesn’t want to put a personalized night cap on her tiny one?!

Code: ASH10 for 10% off your order!

DSC_8912

DSC_2352.jpg

The Baby Abode (TheModernMomShop)

Instagram: @thebabyabode

I’ve owned two nursing covers from this shop now and they are my very favorite. Outstanding quality, really soft, and such fun patterns. This buffalo check my personal favorite, as a boy mama who’s had two Christmas-time babies. :)

DSC_8905

Brynn + Lee Designs

Instagram: @brynnandlee

I love this mama’s vision for imparting the Word of God to our kids and infiltrating our homes with truth, all in a way that is visually pleasing. She has so many beautiful products in her store, not the least of which are these Psalms of Praise cards that I purchased. Many of her products are available shipped or as digital downloads. Please take a moment to peruse all she offers!

Code: ORDINARYJOY20 for 20% off your order!

 

DSC_8963DSC_8965

The Crunchy Mama Bear

Instagram: @thecruncymamabear

I originally fell in love with these products in 2017, when Rebecca sent me an amazing bundle for free. I’ve since returned many times for birthday gifts and products for our family. Her line is non-toxic and truly natural, qualities Rebecca highly values and prioritizes as a Stage IV cancer survivor. I’ve loved every product I’ve tried, but my absolute favorites are her tinted lip balms, bug spray, and Tired as a Mother Eye Cream–hands down the best facial moisturizer I’ve ever used.

Code: ORDINARYJOY for 10% off your order!

DSC_8893DSC_8890

GraceUnfaded

Instagram: @graceunfaded

Christa’s handmade leather and clay earrings are so beautiful and quality. I’ve gotten a number of compliments on these black ones. Custom sizing is available, and the shop also sells beautiful personalized signs. She currently has a 2 for $25 code for leather earrings running on her site. P.s. I know Christa IRL and she’s awesome. ;)

DSC_8507-001DSC_8602-001

HeinenDesigns

Instagram: @heinendesigns

Last Christmas, Haley was kind enough to send me one of her handlettered pallet signs. Fast forward to this season, and it’s one of my very favorite pieces of decor, with a central spot on our mantel. She has all kinds of cute designs and products, including Christmas ornaments and clothing. Contact her for personalized gifts! Haley is donating proceeds from her “You Are Loved” mug to Comfort Cases through November 23rd in honor of National Adoption Month.

DSC_8899DSC_8896

Purple Rose Bows

Instagram: @purplerosebows

I’ve had the fun of watching Purple Rose Bows, owned by my friend Bailey, blossom (no pun intended) from its inception into the lovely shop that it is now. As a boy mom, I was so excited when she started carrying products for mamas, too. Adding her bows to a ponytail or messy bun is so fun and makes an imperfect messy do much more forgiving and cute. I just bought this srunchie scarf from her Busy Days collection and it’s my new favorite!

Code: ABIGAIL15 for 15% off your order!

DSC_8971.jpg

DSC_8968DSC_8929

Words By Heart

Instagram: @wordsbyheartco

This is the shop where I am a compensated collaborator, but I’ll let the fact that I wear my Words By Heart necklaces about five days a week speak for itself. I LOVE my custom bar and disc stacked together, and I have personally ordered a gift from this shop as well. The quality is great and the shop owner is so sweet!

Code: ordinaryjoymama for 10% off your order!

DSC_8951DSC_8950

 

There you have it! I hope you’ll take a moment to check some of these sweet little shops out. Merry Christmas! :)

{Mama Tips} Supportive Care for RSV in an Infant

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Last week, out little Silas made a full recovery from RSV, which he came down with at eight weeks old. It was a very scary ordeal and we are so grateful to God for watching over his body and healing him! Before I share some supportive care techniques we used, I want to make two things very clear:

  1. RSV is very serious and I am obviously not a doctor. Please consult your doctor if you think your baby has RSV. We stayed in close contact with our pediatrician through the entire week of sickness. (She called us twice a day after seeing him in her office!)
  2. God is ultimately the Healer of all sicknesses. I truly felt the reality of my complete helplessness to heal Silas apart from His sovereign plan. Although we did what we could to help Silas’s body combat RSV, this post in no way is meant to imply that our methods are what brought Silas back to health.

Since I am nursing Silas, I took the following to fortify my milk:

  1. Vitamin D drops. It is a misnomer that Vitamin D does not pass through breastmilk. The reality is that most moms are deficient in Vitamin D, but if they take the right dosage, they can indeed pass it to the baby. I take this one because it has Vitamin K with it, which allows the body to fully absorb the D. Please consult your doctor for your correct dosage; I upped mine to 7,000-8,000 MIU/day during Silas’s illness.
  2. Vitamin C powder. I’ve been taking this one since seeing Wellness Mama recommend it a few years ago. It’s also available in capsule form. Again, I’d recommend doing your own research on dosage, but fairly high doses are generally recommended during illness.
  3. Kombucha (probiotics).
  4. Prenatal vitamins, as usual.
  5. Yogi Breathe Deep tea.
  6. Next time, I would try swallowing a few cloves of raw garlic each day at onset of the sickness; this is something I read about toward the end of the virus, and I really think it expedited the healing of Silas’s cough! Google the benefits of garlic and you’ll be amazed at all the healing properties and specific cold-fighting abilities it boasts.
  7. I would also highly recommend elderberry syrup, but I had used mine up a few weeks prior and not made a new batch yet.

As far as supportive care directly of Silas, here is what we did:

  1. We kept Silas held upright 24/7. We found that even if he didn’t cough when laid down, once we picked him up he had a horrible coughing fit because everything had settled while he was flat.
  2. We ran a Cool Mist Humidifier and Warm Mist Humidifier around the clock. Both types have benefits, and since we one of each, we used them together. I’ve been very pleased with the two I linked.
  3. I kept half a raw, peeled onion nearby. The “fumes” from this are thought to help clear the nasal passage (which makes sense when you think of how they can make you cry).
  4. We were in and out of hot, steamy showers with Silas many times over the course of the week.
  5. I really think we would have been in the hospital apart from the Nose Frida. I suctioned Silas’s nose and mouth as often as every few minutes during the worst parts of the virus.
  6. We used these Saline Nose Drops in combination with the Nose Frida. I also put a few drops of breastmilk in his nose a few times, hoping that might help keep it from getting as raw from all the suctioning.
  7. Knowing your baby’s temperature at this age is extremely important and was the reason we ultimately took Silas to the ER on day seven. We monitored his rectal temperature consistently using this Vicks ComfortFlex Digital Thermometer. I’ve had two providers now tell me this is the most accurate home thermometer on the market, and it’s around $10-$15! We found it to be reliable and easy to use.
  8. I gave Silas garlic mullein ear drops a few times to help prevent against an ear infection.

I am so thankful for God’s provision of natural substances that can help our bodies fight illness and for His kind and healing hand. I hope these ideas are helpful to you if you ever encounter RSV in your little ones.

{Mama Tips} My 2019 Reading List

Last year, I set out to read more, with a goal of reading 15 minutes a day five days a week. I was doing really well for the first two months, when I accepted a from-home job that demanded the 3-5 hours a week I had been spending with my nose in a book. Then in April, the debilitation of morning sickness took over any remaining time I had to read, and with the challenges of nine months of pregnancy and two moves, I just didn’t sit down to read very much at all for the rest of the year.

Although I am still enjoying that little side job I began last March, I am setting the same goal of reading 12 books this year, which isn’t really 12 full books because I’m already a few chapters or more into half of them. :) Lord-willing I won’t be pregnant anytime this year ;) and our moves are behind us for the foreseeable future, so I want to grow in self-discipline in this area. With that…here is my list for 2019! The asterisks indicate books that I have already begun.

What are you hoping to read this year? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

 

{Mama Journal} Jingle Baby’s Birth Story

This is the story of how Jingle Baby, due Christmas Day, came into our lives 10 days early. :) 

On Friday, December 14, Eli, who is normally a solid 7 PM to 7 AM sleeper, woke up at 3:30 AM and never went back to sleep—which meant Andrew and I were awake most of the rest of the night as well. When I headed out at 8:00 AM for a prenatal massage, I was having sporadic crampy contractions that were distinctly different from Braxton Hicks. I told Andrew that I was pretty sure I was experiencing pre-labor (which I knew could potentially go on for days). The crampy contractions continued for the rest of the day, and although they were not consistent, some were quite painful. I took a one-hour nap in the afternoon and watched movies in bed with Caleb until Eli woke.

We went to bed around 9:45. Andrew fell asleep immediately, but my gut told me that real labor was beginning, and I started timing my contractions. By 10:45, they were coming every 3-5 minutes; many were painful, and all were impossible to sleep through.

I was suddenly filled with intense anxiety and fear as I remembered what true labor is like. I wanted the contractions to stop—I did not feel ready to tackle the real thing. I texted a few family members and mom friends requesting prayer for my mental and spiritual state. Psalm 121:1-2 started playing on repeat in my head and brought me much comfort. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”

Around 11:30, I woke Andrew and updated him before calling Alli, my midwife. She recommended a shower to make sure it was real labor. If anything, the contractions picked up under the warm water. We agreed to meet at the birth center at 2:00 AM, and Andrew got our bags and supplies loaded up as my contractions ramped up.

Alli checked me around 2:15 AM and I was at 5cm and 80% effaced. I was encouraged to have made this much progress via contractions that were bearable. I got in the corner tub as things quickly intensified and after a few more contractions, felt an enormous pop and gush when my water broke. Just like with my first babies, I had a ton of fluid and it kept coming and coming.

With each new wave of pain, I poured all my mental energy into deliberately relaxing my body, starting with loosening my jaw, and visualized making space for the baby to engage—but the pain was so heavy that truly relaxing was impossible. Recalling specific encouragement from my friend Rachael, I thanked God aloud many times that the contractions meant my body was working as He had designed it to. I groaned to Him for strength. I also muttered things like, “Next time I’m going straight to the hospital for an epidural” and “Baby, you better be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” I could feel my baby’s body shifting down and engaging, and although it was a torturous sensation, I was encouraged to know that we were making progress.

As I hit transition, I began bawling and trying to make Andrew understand that I REALLY couldn’t do it this time while he and Alli continued to assure me that I REALLY could. Suddenly after one huge contraction, I conked out for a couple of minutes before the freight train of the last phase of labor overtook my body and I just tried to hang on for the excruciating ride.

Honestly, I can’t describe the intensity of the pain I was experiencing at this point. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. My body felt like it was splitting into little pieces. Everything hurt immensely even between the contractions, and no position or mental trick brought any alleviation. I yelled and groaned and cried out to God through every wave. Andrew and Alli did an incredible job supporting me through all this, verbally, and with ready sips of water and gentle touches. Andrew let me hang onto his hand with a death grip depending on the position I was laboring in and encouraged me through every second of pain. Although I did not feel like I coped well mentally, I did feel very aware of God’s presence and my utter dependence on Him and His design to bring my baby into the world. I knew He was right there with me the whole time, and His presence was a huge comfort.

The urge to push began coming on and I pushed through a contraction without telling anyone, then exclaimed, “I feel the ring of fire!” I asked Alli if she was going to check me. “I don’t think I need to,” she responded. “Your body knows what to do. Follow the cues it gives you.” This is one of the many things I love about midwives’ approach—they embrace that our bodies are doing what they were designed for, and they put a lot of stock in a mother’s intuition. It was a small thing, but Alli’s confidence in my body really filled me with hope, and gave me courage to finish strong.

At some point in all this, our friend Carolyn arrived. She’s a very experienced doula who is training to be an assistant midwife, and we had arranged for her to come and learn from Alli’s assistant. Having another believer walk into the room brought me such comfort and I asked her to pray for me. Her prayer was so uplifting to my heart as I fought feelings of discouragement.

I pushed through parts of the next few contractions before Andrew convinced me to try the birthing stool. Climbing out of the tub was excruciating. Andrew held me up as I hung from his body and half-heartedly pushed for another horrible contraction before hobbling to the stool. He sat on the bed behind me and wrapped his arms around my torso to support me.

As the next contraction came on, I pushed with everything in me and suddenly gravity took over. Alli urged me to slow down and pant to give my body time to stretch, but although I did exactly that, the baby’s crowning head wouldn’t stop and I had to follow my instincts and push again, albeit with measured control this time.

If there is one experience in life that captures the full meaning of the word “relief”, it is the sensation of a baby’s head emerging from the birth canal. I distinctly knew what that feeling meant as I delivered my baby’s head, and eagerly gave another push as his shoulders and body slipped out. It was over, and he was hereI laughed and cried in utter relief and joy as I heard our baby’s first squawk. It was 3:27 AM on December 15.

The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but we were not alarmed since he had cried out and was also a really healthy color. It took Alli and her assistant some finagling to free his neck before they could hand him into my arms. Clutching his little body against mine for the first time, I kept saying, “You’re here! You’re my baby and you’re here!”

We called my mom into the room and everyone buzzed around us, taking baby’s vitals and monitoring my bleeding while Andrew and I just treasured this moment with our little one.

Within a few minutes, I was lying in bed with our baby on my chest, listening to his little noises, admiring his dark hair, and relishing the feeling of his sticky skin against mine. I delivered my placenta with no trouble and Andrew cut his cord. I had only a small first degree tear that did not even require stitching! I had violent postpartum shakes and intense afterbirth contractions, but nothing compared with the level of joy I was experiencing with our child in my arms. He latched very easily and nursed to his little heart’s content before we took his measurements.

We all knew he was much smaller than Eli (9lb with a 15” head) but we were still surprised at the difference—this baby (unnamed at this point) weighed 7lb 3oz, measured 21 inches long, and had a 14.25” head circumference. No wonder he was much easier to push out! I was so thrilled to have a little peanut and had even specifically hoped he would have dark hair.

As we took some time to reflect on the labor, I was astonished to realize that I had gone from 5cm to holding my baby in about an hour and ten minutes. Knowing how fast I had progressed made me feel more validated with how much I struggled to cope. Andrew and Alli tried to convince me that I hadn’t actually been very loud, but my voice box hurt later in the day, so I am not sure I believe them. Either way, I’m thankful that at least I didn’t say anything nasty or mean that I had to apologize for later. ;)

I am so grateful for the people who were praying for me before and during labor.

I am grateful for the assurance that God was right there with us through the whole process. I praise Him for His truly miraculous design of childbirth and the strength He gives moms to do what He created their bodies for. I know that He was watching over our baby and keeping the cord from choking him. I credit Him 100% for giving us this safe and healthy delivery.

I am deeply thankful for Alli, whose competence, expertise, confidence, encouragement, and general demeanor and presence were exactly the right fit for both Andrew and me. If anything makes me want to have more babies, it’s the thought of having her for my midwife again. :)

And Andrew…I can’t adequately express the incredible support that he has been at each of our sons’ births. He is truly my rock, and all my labors would have been so different apart from his steady presence through every moment of each one.

Our sweet Silas Andrew, we will never forget the day God brought you into our lives. We praise God for the miracle that you are and look forward to watching you grow and loving you through each age and stage.

DSC_1917DSC_1921

 

{Mama Tips} Our Boys’ Christmas Wish List

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

It seems like whenever someone asks me for gift ideas for the boys, I can never remember what I’ve thought of in recent months. So… I’ve taken up adding items to their Amazon wish list right when they come to mind so I’m not under a time crunch trying to send inquiring relatives a list when the holidays hit. In the spirit of planning ahead and sharing tips, I thought I would post what’s on my boys’ wish lists this season. (Besides Christmas, they also have November and December birthdays!) Clearly they won’t receive all of these, but I like to include a good variety of options so that it’s still fun for those wanting to shop. :) My little guys are currently ages four and almost two.

*An asterisk indicates an item that is $20 or less on Amazon at the time of posting.

Toys

  • Magformers Basic Set (30 Pieces) – The guest home we stayed in from January through June had these, and both boys loved them. They’ve also played with them at friends’ houses since then. You can build your own creation or follow step-by-step guides, and the magnetic aspect is really intriguing even for very young children.
  • Magnetic drawing boards* – I thought these looked like fun for road trips.
  • Kinetic Sand* and Kinetic Sand Beach Toys* – I’ve seen this in Instagram feeds and I am hoping it might be a fun rainy day activity.
  • Brio Expansion Pack – The boys got their first Brio train tracks for Christmas last year and they both LOVE building tracks! I have other Brio accessories on their wish list as well.

Puzzles / Games

Stocking Stuffers ($10 and under)

Books (these are all favorites that we keep checking out from the library):

That’s it for now…Merry Christmas! :) 

{Mama Reviews} Our Favorite Children’s Christmas Books + A New Tradition

THIS POST CONTAINS AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS. :) 

Many of my fondest memories from the holidays are those of my mom and dad reading Christmas stories aloud to me and my brothers, and now it is one of my favorite things about having children at Christmastime! This is the first year that I’ll have two children who are excited to dive into pages that have become some of my dearest friends.

This year, I’m doing two different things with Christmas books: keeping out all our very favorites from now (Nov. 10) through Christmas (which I’ll share below), and working on a list of 25 Christmas books that I will individually wrap so that we can open and read one daily during the month of December (thanks, Pinterest).

DSC_1346

For the latter list, I’ve been placing holds this month on miscellaneous Christmas stories at the library to “preview” them so I know if they’re worth checking out in December. I’m hoping the timing works out with the holds and such. I figure I can wrap them as they come in from the library throughout the month. :) I’ve also got a small stack of holiday books that we own, but that aren’t on our must-read-almost-every-day list, to contribute to the wrapped books. :) I plan to share my list of 25 later this month!

DSC_1335

Below are the books we really love, and I would say I couldn’t imagine December without the first four, in particular. :) Some of these stories are centered around Jesus’ birth and the gospel, while others are simply heart-warming tales involving snow and twinkling lights. I’m listing them in roughly my favorite order.

DSC_1343

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – a beautifully written, tear-jerking, and happy tale with stunning paintings
Christmas at Rumpole Mansion – a well-written book that I grew up on with captivating pictures for little imaginations, and a sweet message about unselfishness
The Legend of the Candy Cane – the gospel, clearly told using the classic candy cane (and the original edition has gorgeous pictures)
Room for a Little One – magical, twinkly pictures that share about Jesus’s humble birth
Song of the Stars – unique and poetic
When I Celebrate His Birthday – a classic board book from my childhood
Christmas in the Manger a simple board book poem with childish illustrations
Happy Birthday, Jesus – a catchy board book poem about celebrating Jesus’ birthday
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – you know this classic :)
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger – a quirky and fun tale about a mouse who takes up residence in a nativity scene
Christmas Farm a cozy and old-fashioned holiday story
The Crippled Lamb – the story of a crippled lamb who is among the first to meet Jesus
Christmas in the Big Woods – a summary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas account in her first book, with pictures reminiscent of Garth Williams’ original work
Snowmen at Christmas – a creative poem about snowmen enjoying holiday festivities

Now I want to know–what Christmas books just have to be on your shelf in December?

{Mama Tips} Grocery Shopping With Little Ones

Grocery shopping with little ones. It used to be something I dreaded, but I’ve come to actually enjoy this time–having my children close to me (and each other) in the shopping cart, experiencing a big piece of everyday life as a team, and answering a million questions about what they spot on the shelves. I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned that serve to make our grocery trips together more pleasant.

I realize that we’re all in different situations. At the time of writing this, I have just two littles who have recently turned three and one. I am also blessed to now be living in a home where I can pull the car right up to the front door. Take these tips for whatever they’re worth in your current season. :)

Limit the Number of Stores per Trip

I used to think it was best to just knock out all the shopping in one big trip, but I’ve since changed my mind. I try to buy my groceries at a maximum of two stores per week, and I usually split those into two trips. It may not technically be as efficient to go shopping twice in one week, but I find that we are all generally in better spirits if we put our combined energy into one store at a time. I’d rather have more hassle and less grumpiness. :)

Park Near the Cart Return

Parking as close to a cart return as possible means I can take my kiddos straight out of their seats and into the cart, and it makes returning the cart after unloading much easier.

Shop on Full Tummies

It is never a good idea to take hungry little ones into a grocery store. It seems obvious, but sometimes we moms need things like this pointed out to us, and I’ve made this grave mistake too many times (and ended up with Lara bars that weren’t on my list). And while you’re at it, make sure you’re not “hangry” yourself. ;)

Give Your Little Ones “Jobs”

Enlisting children’s help with holding groceries, setting produce on the scale, or unloading groceries onto the conveyer belt makes this outing a team effort and keeps little hands busy and little minds feeling important.

See Shopping as a Teaching Opportunity  

Is it fun to take little ones down a dozen grocery aisles full of appealing boxes and cans that are all within arm’s reach? No, it’s not. But it is an excellent opportunity to teach them about stewardship, work, wisdom, frugality, generosity, healthy eating, serving, self control, discipline, planning, efficiency, and many other important character qualities and life skills. Seize the moment!

These simple tips don’t make shopping with little ones a breeze, but they do generally help our trips go a bit smoother. I wish you many sweet shopping memories with your kiddos! Thanks for stopping by and be sure to let me know if there’s anything you’d add to this list! :)

Celebrating God’s Love with a Valentine Tree

In mid-January, I began casually thinking about Valentine’s Day. Holidays and events tend to sneak up on me and then I wish I’d given them a little forethought so I could do something special. Even simple things–like an easy craft–often take planning to have the needed supplies on hand, etc.

As I was considering options, I remembered how my mom made Valentine’s Day a memorable time for my brothers and me, and I knew I wanted to do the same with my boys this year. I recalled a little white tree she pulled out various years during my childhood. On its branches, we used yarn to hang construction paper hearts that had Scripture references written on them. At meal times, we would take turns getting to choose a heart from off the tree, and my parents would read the verse or passage.

So this year, I am planning to do something similar. I will begin with a bare tree and a box of hearts. Each day in February leading up to the 14th, Caleb will choose a heart from the box and add it to a branch, and we will read the love-themed Scripture passage written on it. On Valentine’s Day, our tree will be complete and we will end by reading “the love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13.

DSC_7423

Caleb and I found a tree on my parents’ property this week, and I used twine and pink and red yardstick for the hearts.

I thumbed through my Bible and chose references I had highlighted in it for the passages we will read. The references are listed below. I am so excited about this simple activity, which will hopefully spark some sweet discussions about our Savior’s love, and how we are to show that love to those around us.

DSC_7428

What have you done or are you planning to do to make Valentine’s Day special for the whole family? I would love to hear your ideas!

Romans 12:9
Psalm 13:5-6
Psalm 37:28
Ephesians 2:12-13
1 Peter 1:8-9
Titus 3:5-7
Romans 8:35-39
Psalm 40:10-11
Philippians 1:9-11
Colossians 3:12-14
Ephesians 4:32
Psalm 36:7
1 Peter 3:18
1 John 4:10-11

BA029AFE-9C33-4932-9A46-33791EEA3701