Saturday, January 31, 2009

Charlotte has the best grandparents ever!

After talking to my mom on Thursday about how miserable I was feeling (and how miserable I had become to be around), she offered to come down on Friday afternoon and take Charlotte away so I could get a handle on my environment.

In the 3 hours they were gone I transformed my downstairs into a breathable space. I was even able to move the dining room table and vacuum really good underneath it.

It felt so good to sit down to dinner with them and feel good about having "company" in my house. I briefly considered posting before and after pictures, but no one should have to be subject to the horror that was my downstairs! So you will just have to take my word for it. :)

Thanks G-ma and Grumpy! Your visit meant a lot to me and I know Charlotte had fun with you at the museum.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Need Me Time

It is true... I don't functionwell  unless I have a block of uninterrupted time each day to just be, or veg, or do whatever I want to do.

Recently, my days have been arranged so that I am not getting that. I am not getting the nap time in the middle of the day to relax and make my home a haven. My house has become so overwhelmingly chaotic I really don't know where to start when all I get are 10-15 min intervals to even try. Each thing that needs to be done needs at least 30 minutes.

It is making me cranky. I yelled at Charlotte today. I don't really think I've ever done that before, at least just not like I did today. I even sent a mean text message to my husband because I thought he was ignoring me. He wasn't, he just had a meeting after school and hadn't had time yet to reply to my earlier messages.

Those last 2 events opened my eyes to how out of whack I am right now. It isn't just being tired or just being pregnant. I need to take some me time and get my house in order. When the world around me is in chaos, my spirit feels chaos and can't rest. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

National Security Mom

This giveaway is now closed.

I am giving away 1 copy of the children's book Everything We Need to Know About National Security We Can Learn From Our Kids along with a matching toddler t-shirt. This book is not available to the public, you can only win it online.

This book is based on the grown up version of National Security Mom Why Going "Soft" Will Make America Strong. When I first heard that title, I just knew I was going to hate the book. Why should we be "soft" on national security issues?! Then I realized the author was more interested in moving us out of "reactive mode" then letting terrorists vacation in Hawaii.

The author, Gina Bennett, is a Senior Counterterrorism Analyst and a mother of five. She saw the lessons she was teaching her children and realized they were applicable in broad terms to the war our country is fighting to remain safe and stable. If only we had been able to "clean up our mess," "tell the truth," and "not give into a bully" more often, we might be in a better spot. Ultimately though, if we start doing those things now, we can get to a safer place for everyone.

So, to enter, just leave a comment telling me you want in and a way to contact you in case you win. Easy-peasy. One comment per person. I'll pick a winner on Friday night and will need you to respond to me ASAP.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Announcing a New Blog

I've been sitting on this announcement for a while because I wanted to make sure there was enough content to make it worth your while, but I think we are ready now. Drumroll please....

Bruce and I (mostly Bruce) have started a new blog called Living a Wartime Lifestyle. Inspired by John Piper's book, Desiring God, we want to explore with our friends and readers what it means to live in a way that gives God all of the glory. If you aren't familiar with what we mean by "wartime lifestyle," then click over to watch a short video.

Bruce shared the following in the introduction,

Christians, Piper explained, should live with a focus on using their resources to win the spiritual war; we should live to fund missions; we should live to fight poverty; we should live to maximize the glory of God and our enjoyment of him forever.

My hope for this blog is that Christians who desire to live wartime lifestyles can share their ideas, theologies, encouragements and struggles. I know it's not always (ever?) easy for me to live a wartime lifestyle. But, I think it might be easier if I had a fellowship of believers who were in it with me.
There are already several posts that begin the discussion and we hope you will come over and join us. We would particularly encourage you to visit these posts on choosing a house, choosing transportation, and aesthetics during wartime.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

1st Trimester Knocks Me Out

I remember during my first pregnancy that I took a lot of naps during the first 3 months, but geez, I seem even more tired this time around. It could have to do with waking up with Charlotte a few times a night I suppose.

That being said, I might not be around too much for the next 4-5 weeks while I get through this part of the pregnancy. I need all of my energy for taking care of my family and there is barely enough to do that. So... if you have called me, left me a message, sent me an e-mail, or commented on a post, please don't be upset if it takes me a long time (and I mean like 3-4 weeks) to get back to you. I assure you they are piling up in my inbox as you read this. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Portable Insulin Pack Needed

Due to the steroids my mom is on, she needs to take insulin a couple of times a day. We have yet to find a good solution for packing her testing and dosing supplies. The insulin needs to be kept cold and we'd like one pouch/package that will hold the insulin, needles, alcohol swabs, and if possible, also has room for her testing supplies.

I've run out of luck searching online, but know that other people must have found something similar. If you know of anything at all, please contact me through my About Me page, or by leaving a comment on this post. Thanks!

Alphabet School - "B"

We had another fun crafty week with the letter B.

Our first art project of the week was to make binoculars out of tissue paper rolls. This was Charlotte's first experience with a paint brush and she worked it pretty well, but eventually she settled for smearing it around and getting the paint on her hands. Once the 2 rolls had dried, I just use packaging tape to tape them together. The whole family had a good time playing with them. Bruce or I would show her how to hold them up to her eyes, and then encourage her to do the same. Sometimes she did...and sometimes she didn't... she imitates us a little too well at times.

For some strange reason, I think I looked forward to the next craft the most this week - Ball Art. Basically, you put some paint on paper and then roll a ball around so that it leaves marks wherever it goes. It was fun to watch Charlotte's face as she saw paint appear where the ball had been. We did this twice, and yes, I realize I ended up with an orange and blue combo. I guess it is okay though since they did win the National Championship recently.

Blueberry bush - Next, we played with finger paints again, and tried to just use our fingers. Charlotte designed a blueberry bush by making little blue finger dots all over this picture of a tree. I confess a few of the "blueberries" were made with my finger, but I had to show her how to do it. I had intended to do this last week with apples and red paint, but we never got to it.

Coffee Ground Bears - I wasn't sure how the next project would go since it was our first time dealing with glue. I didn't have any Elmer's, so I made a paste up with flour and glue then painted it onto a bear shape I printed off the internet. Next, I gave her a spoon to spread coffee grounds over the bear. That didn't last long with her fine motor skills being what they are, so she just tried to pick it up between her fingers and sprinkle it on the bear.

Balloon Art - The last big thing we did last week also involved paste and shapes that I cut out from construction paper. We had a picture of a hot air balloon and first colored it with crayons, then, I brushed some more paste onto the balloon and let Charlotte place the shapes onto the balloon. I was surprised by how well she did placing the shapes and not overlapping them.

Also, just like our first week we played with fingerpaint (though we missed out on the sidewalk chalk because it was cold!). I am sure this will be a regular staple in our house now that I know how much Charlotte enjoys it. Even if Mommy isn't too fond of cleaning all that tempera paint out of Charlotte's hair! Again, we still didn't get to everything I had planned, but that is okay... we'll see if I can modify it for next week and the letter C.

I did some Google searches and also snaked some of Jane's sources, and these were the websites that helped us this week. First School Apples 4 the Teacher Everything Preschool Enchanted Learning

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Things I Do to be Green

  1. Use cloth napkins for meals and instead of paper towels.
  2. Dilute my dish soap to make it stretch farther and to add less sulfate to the water supply.
  3. Recycle used soda cans and try to just use 2-liters at home.
  4. Keep air conditioning set as high as my body will regularly tolerate (currently 76 degrees) and use fans to make up the difference.
  5. Purchase toys and clothing from resale shops.
  6. Gave up bottled water in favor of a reusable cup.
  7. Walk to the grocery store, drug store, and bank during day light hours instead of driving.
  8. Print my internet coupons on both sides of the paper.
  9. Drive a small car and my husband rides a motorcycle to conserve fuel.
  10. Live in a townhouse with a small footprint.
  11. Use electronic bill pay instead of paper checks and envelopes.
  12. Turn off electronic equipment at a central point to avoid phantom power drain.
Next week I will share with you the green things that I am not quite willing to do or am still on the fence in considering them.

What do you do to be green? Is there anything you think I should add to my list?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Chocolate Baby Doll

I recently bought Charlotte a new baby doll. She loves this baby doll and wants to have it with her when we leave the house. She even likes to pretend that the doll is drawing with crayons or she pretends to nurse her new baby doll. I think it is great that she is learning to parent the way I am.

What I wonder though is, what do other people think when they see her with her new baby doll? Sometimes I catch people giving us an odd look as we walk through the store. And I am sure if I still lived back in Frostproof, there would be people who wouldn't be afraid to tell me what they thought.

What I really wonder though, is where can I get an Asian and a Spanish/Latin looking doll for her? And no, I am no Angelina Jolie, I just want Charlotte to be surrounded by lots of color. If any of you know of a reliable source for ethnic dolls that are meant for toddlers, please let me know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Will Work for Food

In case anyone is interested in putting a little extra cash in my pocket, I have two opportunities for you that leave you with just as much as me.

First, you can visit my shop on and buy some books. I am a fast shipper and my item descriptions are always accurate. My seller rating is 100% positive and I have a wide range of books to choose from. There is probably at least 1 book in a genre you like.

Second, you can purchase Pampered Chef products from me. I am a new consultant (again), and am looking for local and distant customers to place individual orders or to hold catalog shows. If you are in Central FL, I could probably even come to your house and cook dinner for 10 of your closest friends and co-workers all while you add up how much free Pampered Chef stuff you will be getting!

I told you that you wouldn't just be giving me money. I have to work for either one of the options you choose.

Alphabet School - "A"

Inspired by Mozi Esme and her momma, I have decided to start 2009 with some fun learning activities for Charlotte. It won't be anything drastic like long division or compound sentences, just simple alphabet crafts and such to introduce her further to the world of letters.

Last week, we started at the beginning of the alphabet. I found lots of printable coloring sheets and craft activities for her to do. Just like Esme, not all of it worked for Charlotte, who is 17 months old now. But that is okay with me. We had fun anyway, even if we did get a little messy!

We started with a simple finger painting activity on some letter coloring pages I printed off the internet (sources below). Charlotte seemed to enjoy getting icky with the gel finger paints, but I wasn't too found of the color. So I went out and bought some tempera paint for the rest of our projects.

We also did a field trip to the grocery store. I didn't take pictures there, but we did look at and smell all the different colors of apples. When we came home, I turned one of them into a stamp to make apple prints. A couple of the prints came out really looking like an apple, but then Charlotte decided finger painting was more fun.

One thing that didn't work, was squirting the paint out on a paper towel, in an attempt to make an ink pad. The paper towel would stick to the apple after a couple of uses and everything got really messy.

Another new fun discovery this week was sidewalk chalk. We made it outside a few times to draw and color. I tried to draw A shapes, like apples, angels, ants, and alligators. After I drew the basic shape, Charlotte colored them in, sort of. We are still working on the lines thing.

Since we were already outside and getting chalk all over our clothes and feet, I made up a new game called Big A, Little A. I drew boxes and wrote a big A or a little A in each of them, then asked  Charlotte to stand in certain boxes. She was pretty good at it, and liked moving back and forth on the boxes quickly.

Reading was also an important part of this week, as usual. We read a Sesame Street book about Big Bird that emphasized A careers like astronaut, actor, and athlete. We also read more of our Atlas from Ikea, focusing on the Africa and Asia pages.

Another fun activity we were able to participate in was the Lakeland Rodeo Parade. I am tieing it into our Alphabet School "A" week because it had animals in it! Charlotte had seen a parade before so we knew she would like it. She waved to EVERYONE in the parade, and made sure no one felt left out.

There are two crafts not pictured. One was an egg-carton ant. That was a finger painting thing as well. And the other was an apple tambourine. I cut out 2 apple shapes from paper plates and let Charlotte color them. After she was done, I placed 4 bells inside and stapled it shut. She had fun playing with her musical toy all week long.

I didn't get to do all of the craft ideas I planned, but that is okay. We still had fun learning new art skills this week. It was also a good start for me to see where she was in her fine motor skills. Overall, I am really looking forward to next week when we study the letter B at the Alphabet School.

I did some Google searches and also snaked some of Jane's sources, and these were the websites that helped us out. First School Apples 4 the Teacher Everything Preschool Enchanted Learning DLTK-Bible

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Favorite Part of my Day

It used to be that the favorite part of my day (click link to see video) was coming up the stairs after bath time to a Charlotte that was super excited to see her momma. Now, she gets happy, but it isn't the same.

Recently, I've discovered a new favorite moment. It is when I lay Charlotte back in her crib after nursing her at night. I know I should just be tired and wish I didn't have to get up with her again, but...

When Charlotte snuggles into me and then I feel her body go limp in my arms, I look down into her face (which is perfectly angelic when asleep), I can't help but melt into a big puddle. I literally have to fight off the urge to cry at least once a night.

I don't know if it is the pregnancy hormones or the knowledge that she is growing up and just won't need me in the same ways much longer. Whatever it is, I wish I could bottle it up.

But don't offer to buy it, it's not for sale. :)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Charlotte is quite the climber these days. Even knowing that, I didn't think she'd be able to make it up on this shower bench. It comes up to about mid-chest on her, but after playing on it for the last 2 days, she figured it out. Make sure you stick around to the end of this clip to see her winning scrunchy smile.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough from Jennifer S on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Shake, shake, shake...

Shake your maraca!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, there will be fewer reviews on Family Musings in 2009. One of the products I committed to reviewing in early December though, is something I would have told you about eventually even if no one asked me too. Charlotte likes it that much.

It is the Critter Conga (available at Costco, but not online, anywhere) from Parents, the same people who produce the popular magazine of the same name. Charlotte has never had a Parents toy before but when I read the literature and about their commitment to "beautiful quality toys that are fun and safe," I was eager to try it out let Charlotte play with it.

This is a musical toy, and a loud one at that. All of the instruments you see pictured fit inside the Leopard Conga Drum. Plus, there are 2 Snake Drumsticks that you don't see. Those are Charlotte's favorite part of the whole thing. She plays the drums on just about anything!

The loudest part of the toy is the Tambourine Lid. The bells on it are huge and you can hear it any where in the house when Charlotte is shaking it up.

There are three different types of whistles - Antelope Slide Whistle, Rain Bird Whistle, and an Elephant Recorder. Daddy and I tried to show Charlotte how to use the whistles and when it was her turn, she put the whistle to her mouth and blew, all while making a high pitched noise with her throat. That cracked us up that she thought she had to make the noise herself.

I really dig the Parents philosophy that "When the toy does less, the child does more." I will definitely be looking more closely at the Parents toys next time I go shopping for Charlotte.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Guest Review: Trigger Memory Systems

I have started teaching Charlotte how to clean up around the house and for now, she generally enjoys helping mommy do various tasks. I've been wondering how I can sustain that when, well, I'm not really the best housekeeper there ever was. This week, Tess shares a solution that worked for her family. Since a new year is starting, why not make a fresh start with your own kids!

When I was growing up I never saw my mom do laundry or clean the house.  I didn’t know how it all got done while I was at school and I never asked.  Well, I wish that someone had told me how much laundry a family of 5 can generate.  I wish someone had told me about how dirty a home can get and how it really should take everyone’s help to keep it clean.  My kids are home schooled and with me all the time.  They are never gone so that the house cleaning fairies can come and do their job.  Nope, my kids get to witness this from the front line and their hands are getting dirty. The help I needed to teach my kids was found in Trigger Memory Systems.  I had been using it with my kids already and knew the benefits before I was asked to review this product.

Trigger Memory Systems has three wonderful books.
image image image

Take your pick.  They are all great.  The pictures are just as cute as the covers.  Your child or children just flip the pages and do the task on that page.  Step by step….The only one that is different is the Zone Cleaning.  This book is a little longer and can be marked on with a dry erase pen.  It covers the kitchen, living room and bathroom.  The books can be purchased separately or in a set.  I highly, highly recommend these books.

image Another truly unique book put out by this company is Times Tales.  Great book for kids having trouble with memorizing their times tables.

This book uses cute, simple stories to help recall the multiplication facts.  My son thought they were a little silly, but his mind isn’t always as open as I wish it to be.

Well, that’s it for this review.  I love these books. You can learn more about Trigger Memory Systems by visiting their website or the TOS Oldschoolhouse Crew blog

Take care.   Tess

Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act

There has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about whether or not the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act will put thrift and consignment stores out of business. After reading the summary, I am not sure that is the intention of the law, but decided to contact my Congressional representatives anyway. I can't afford to lose access to consignment and thrift stores, not in this economy!

This is the text of the message I sent them:
After reading news reports about this law that goes into affect on February 10th, I am concerned that it will put thrift stores and consignment shops out of business.

As a mom with one small child and another on the way, I can not afford to lose access to gently used clothing and toys. In this economy in particular, I can't imagine the Congress really meant to pass a law that would make it harder for citizens to clothe their children.

Additionally, what is to become of all gently used toys? Will they end up in landfills? Perfectly good toys should be allowed to be resold.

Please review this act and let me know if there is anything you can do to save our thrift and consignment shops.
I would encourage anyone who doesn't want to lose access to second hand stores or who doesn't want to put millions of toy and clothing articles in the landfills to please let your representatives in Congress know about your concern. Also, here is the link to the government's own website about this act.

It was easy to find out who to contact. For my Senate representatives, I visited this site to look them up. And to find out who my representative in the House is, I went to the Write Your Representative page to look her up. Everyone has 2 Senators and 1 Representative.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Power Wheels is a Big Hit

Charlotte's favorite Christmas present this year was a pink Power Wheels from her Grumpy. When he pushed it out of the bedroom door so that she could see it, she actually let out a little shriek and ran straight to it. I have no idea how she knew she was supposed to get excited, but she did.

And somehow, she knew exactly what to do with it. She hopped right on and once Grumpy showed her the button she took off across the living room!

Since we were staying at a resort, her Daddy took her out into the breezeway to let loose her inner Nascar driver. Apparently, she is pretty good at it too. Everytime she wants to play on it, she signs car.
One other special gift we received were matching aprons. I love aprons and it is a real treat to have one that I can share with my daughter. Charlotte really liked hers too and wore it for a couple of hours before she would finally let me take it off of her.

Friday, January 02, 2009

January Scrapbook

Each month, the lovely owner of the Shabby Princess makes a free calendar desktop background. I've been enjoying these for several months now and can't remember if I've shared them with ya'll. I especially love the soft colors of the new January background. Here is the desktop I made for my family.

As a review of 2008, here are some of the other backgrounds I enjoyed. It is fun to see how Charlotte has changed since May when I first started making these backgrounds.

If you don't have any scrapbooking software and need help figuring out how to make this for yourself, let me know. I'd be glad to post a tutorial. I actually use Microsoft Power Point to make these. Otherwise, Shabby Princess has some instructions on her site too (for scrapbooking software users).

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What is my blogging motivation?

I've really enjoyed the last couple of weeks while I took a break from blogging. It, along with a few other events in my life, has caused me to reexamine why I blog in the first place.

In April 2007, I wrote that wanted to keep a journal of my pregnancy. How I went from talking about how my life might change with a baby to reviewing technology tools is beyond me.

OK. Not really. I know how it happened. I like to be good at stuff. And by getting companies to give me things to review and giveaway, I was able to prove how good I was at being a blogger. It was validating, particularly after I quit my job to stay home with Charlotte. But I didn't quit my job to become a famous blogger. I quit it to become the best mom I know how to be.

So, it is time to ask, why will I be blogging in 2009?

Will it be so I can increase my number of Feedburner Readers? No. I love having new friends to share our life with, but I won't be blogging to make my little button numbers go up. If someone finds my blog and likes what I have to say about being a SAHM or the stories I tell about Charlotte, then great. I hope they stay and add to the community (and leave comments, I love comments!).

Will it be to score free toys for Charlotte? Sometimes... I'm too frugal to not want some new, cool toys for my daughter. I won't be giving up reviews and contests completely, particularly since I am committed to a couple from early in December. But expect them to be fewer and farther between. If they aren't, then don't be afraid to call me on it. Accountability is important.

Will it be so I can chronicle another pregnancy?
You bet! Bruce and I found out on Christmas Day that we are expecting another Baby Sabin in August and I want to journal this pregnancy much as the first one.

At the end of my blogging life, I want to look back on my blog and read about the memories that we made as a family... that is my blogging motivation.