Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Am I the Only Mom Who... Second Edition

(To read the first edition, click here !)

...loves reading aloud, but wishes Clifford had never been written?!

...uses nursing as an excuse to eat a second helping?

...hasn't dusted in 3 weeks?

...has been tempted to give in and let the kids eat cake for breakfast?

...sends the kids outside so they can run and I can crash?

...loves to inhale the powder scent of Pampers?

...has been tempted to cut my long hair because there is spit up in it yet again?

...wouldn't trade what I do for anything in the world?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Christmas Cheer

I love baking-- and Christmas wouldn't be the same without tasty goodies.  Well, that's not true, but I certainly enjoy the treats that come with the season.  With little children (and little time!), I need recipes that are simple and worth the effort.  Last year I found these in an old Family Fun magazine and they were such a hit, we decided on an encore for this years' cookie list.
Holiday Pretzel Treats

Preheat oven to 250 degrees (yes, 250). Put a single layer of bite-sized pretzels on a baking pan.  Top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss.

Bake for 5 minutes, or until chocolates feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon.

Remove baking pan from the oven and quickly place a red or green plain M & M into the center of each Kiss.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then allow to see for 1 hour in the refrigerator (or eat warm!). 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Creative Christmas

I love that Maddie is old enought to join me when I work on projects now. It's fun to have a little helper that loves to create! We sat down one afternoon recently to tackle an idea I saw in a magazine.

First, I etched a simple design onto a white, unscented candle. (I used an empty lead pencil, but you could use anything with a dull point.) Since it is Christmastime, we decided to make tree and snowflake candles, but you could try other simple shapes.

Next, Maddie used a small paintbrush to color in the design. We used a wet Q-tip to wipe away any paint that went outside the lines.

We let our candles dry for 1-2 hours and voila!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- Rockin' Baby Pouch

It's time for another Slingin' Saturday! To read my intro on baby wearing, click here!

Thanks to Lisa McDaniel & Natasha Walsh at Rockin’ Baby Sling in Los Angeles for the donation of this week's sling!

When Ben was four weeks old, Brian and I had to attend a funeral. We decided to leave the older kids with my mom, but my little nursling needed to go along. Knowing my casual/trendy slings wouldn't do, I decided to try the classy Rockin' Baby Pouch. The sleek cotton looked dressy but not showy. Unlike the pocket slings I've tried in the past, this pouch required no folding. Baby simply fits inside the pre-shaped pouch opening. Great for babywearing newbies!

The feature I loved the best? The Rockin' Baby Pouch is equipped with a set of zippers behind the shoulder to allow for adjustment depending on size. The S/M sling I have fits those 5'3" to 6' and 120 to 220 pounds. You can also adjust the size according to taste. For example, Ben likes to be held loosely, not pressed tightly against my body so I let out some of the fabric and we were good to go! Best of all, after you adjust, the zippers are covered by a ring of fabric to prevent them from digging into skin or distracting from the look.

I also love that this sling is reversible so if I have a more informal occasion to attend, I easily switch to this more "splashy" print!

Rockin' Baby Pouches retail for $82-- a little on the high end of slings I've seen but expected for the superior quality of the fabric and the added features.

Like this sling? Keep checking back for my sling giveaway in February!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Maddie decided to channel our "inner Marthas" and make clove oranges to decorate our kitchen window sill for Christmas. They took a bit of time to complete because

  1. I was holding a baby while working.

  2. Those darn cloves bruise your thumbs!

The lovely fragrance and the precious mama/daughter time was worth it all, though!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Borrowed Idea

Allyson recently posted on her blog about making this lovely Names of Jesus garland. I loved the thought of incorporating the meaning of Christmas into my decorating. I originally decided to file this idea away until next Christmas (when I don't have a newborn!), but was so intrigued by the project that I worked on it in short intervals (with Maddie...and Brian's help) until I finished. We have it displayed in our upstairs hall.

2009 Update: Allyson is still willing to e-mail the PDF template for the names of Jesus if anyone is interested.  This year I used the template to make gift tags for my packages!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Nutcracker

Many have written interpretations of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. I've found most of them to be tedious and wordy for young children. Last year, Gavin and Maddie were fascinated by a video of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing in this classic ballet. I tried reading them a written version of the story, but they were bored before I finished. This fall while perusing the library shelves for books to take home, I came across this gem:

The Nutcracker

I was excited when it was finally the right season to check it out! Written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers, this book is perfect for the younger age group. Though a simpler version, it is not condescending! And what beautiful artwork! Maddie, especially, was captivated.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to take Maddie this year to a live ballet performance of The Nutcracker and was amazed how much of the story she remembered and pointed out to me!

(We also like Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening with illustrations by Susan Jeffers.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snuggly Soft

Prior to Ben's birth, I finished up all sewing and craft projects knowing my hands would be busy after he was born. Much to my surprise, we settled into a sleeping/living routine quickly-- much more quickly than I had with my other children. As a result, my fingers started itching.

A friend of mine had a baby in November so I decided that was the perfect opportunity to pull out the cloth and embroidery floss and get to work. I made a super simple no-sew fleece blanket and embroidered the corner with the baby's initials and a floral design. I am able to embroider while nursing which made things even easier! It only took a couple of hours from start to finish.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Please, Christmas, Don't Be Late!"

Christmas 2005
Gavin (3), Maddie (16 months)

Disaster #1: One morning while I was still sleeping, Gavin tiptoed down to the advent calendar we had hanging on the refrigerator. He opened every door except one and ate the little chocolates hiding in each compartment!

Disaster #2: While I was upstairs, Maddie climbed onto the kitchen table and ate the candy off of our gingerbread house!

Disaster #3: Gavin climbed under the tree and opened one of his Daddy's presents.

Note to self: Keep kids with me AT ALL TIMES!

Christmas 2006
Gavin (4), Maddie (2 years), Owen (3 months)

Disaster #1: One day while I laid down with Maddie (who had a fever) and Owen, Gavin took advantage of my sleepiness and went up to the "no-no" room, opened up multiple Christmas presents and started playing with them!

Disaster #2: As if #1 wasn't enough, I awoke at 3 am the next night to more sounds in the "no-no" room. This time, he had the presents out again, but this time was trying to wrap them back up for me!

Reminder to self: Keep kids with me AT ALL TIMES!

Christmas 2007
Gavin (5), Maddie (3), Owen (15 months)

Disaster #1: Finally remembering to keep the kids with me AT ALL TIMES, we averted disaster until December 19th. I noticed "things" on the wall by the Christmas tree but paid little attention. When Brian got home from work, he looked closely and discovered the "things" were teeny-tiny praying mantises that had hatched from our live Christmas tree! After killing hundreds (!) on the wall, packages, curtains, etc., we dragged the tree outside and went to buy a new one to decorate 3 days before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shoe Winners

The results are in! I've chosen winners at random for my 3 shoe giveaways.

Giveaway #1(Dominic boots): Commenter 8-- Sarah McKelvey

Giveaway #2 (Julie boots): Commenter 6-- (another) Sarah

Giveaway #3 (Paul shoes): Commenter 8-- Maria

Didn't win? Check out See Kai Run for these shoes and more great styles. When ordering, be sure to say you heard about them from Bits and Pieces From My Life!

And be sure to check back for "The Great Sling Giveaway" in February!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Today is Gavin's 6th birthday! Last week, I said to him, "Gavin, how can it be that you are turning six? I just brought you home from the hospital!" Ever the literal one, he said, "No, Mama, you did not!"

When I told him, I was going to take a special picture of him to put on my blog for his birthday, he said, "Special? Like this?"

That's a 6-year-old boy for you!

Seriously, though, time has flown and I'm happy to celebrate my energetic, math-minded, tender-hearted, not-so-little-anymore boy who six years ago today made me a mom!

Happy Birthday, Gavin!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- Hotslings

Welcome to another Slingin' Saturday! To read my intro on baby wearing, click here!

Thanks to Molly and Tickatoo for their generous sling donation!

This week I'm going to review the first non-ring sling I ever tried. When I wore Gavin and later, Maddie, I had a closed ring sling that I was given by my local La Leche League chapter. I also had a hand-me-down ring sling that my mom passed to me after my sister Bekah outgrew it. I wore Owen in those but never felt as though I had the right fit. I wanted something a little snugger. I did a google search one day for a fitted pocket sling and discovered Hotslings. It took a few minutes to decide on a size. Hotslings has a wide range of sizes, but since they are based on a combination of weight, height, bra size, etc., I wanted to be sure I was choosing the right fit. I ordered one and began using it as soon as it arrived on my doorstep.

Since Owen was no longer a newborn, I carried him in either a kangaroo carry (facing forward with legs crossed in front of him) or a hip carry. This sling allowed me to take all three kids out shopping or for a walk without worrying about a curious little one getting away from me. With Owen securely in the carrier, I was free to hold a little hand in each of my hands!

I was amazed at the comfort. Owen was a whopper baby-- 25 pounds at 9 months-- but yet I felt very little back or shoulder pain even when wearing him for extended periods of time. The sling certainly saved my tired arms since Owen was a clingy baby and enjoyed being carried most of the day. Despite its heavy (excuse the pun!) use, I found my Hotsling held up very well. If it got dirty, I washed it and hung it to dry, and then it was back in use.

Knowing I was expecting a fall baby this time around, I wanted to get a fleece sling for chilly errand-running days. Molly at Tickatoo donated an Oasis Fleece Baby Sling by Hotslings for Ben and me to try. I was immediately taken by the soft texture of the fabric. So cozy. I was afraid fleece might be too stretchy, but while it does give, the fabric is sturdy and durable. The pouch on a Hotsling is more shallow than some pocket-type slings so it took some getting used to, but with Ben tucked securely by my heart, he fell asleep quickly.

This fleece sling is so warm, I have no fear of Ben getting chilled out in the cool air. I did find that my fleece sling was cut a little smaller than my plain cotton one so choose a size bigger especially if you plan to wear it over a sweater or coat.

Hotslings range in price from about $35-$57. They even have a pool sling made of waterproof fabric with built-in UV protection.

Don't forget to keep checking back for my sling giveaway this winter where I'll be giving away one of the slings I review! Can't wait that long? Sign up for my shoe giveaway by Monday at midnight!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Works-For- Me Wednesday: 4 Kids, 1 Small Bedroom

We live in a 3 bedroom townhouse. With neither an attic or basement, we've chosen to use our smallest bedroom as a storage room. That leaves us with 2 bedrooms for 6 people. Gavin and Maddie currently share the "kid" bedroom. We have the little boys in our room-- Owen on a mattress of the floor and Ben in our bed. However, the "kid" room holds all kids' clothing and toys.

About a month before Ben was born, we realized we didn't have a place for his clothing and we set about looking for a solution. Gavin, Maddie, and Owen were currently sharing two dressers but they were at capacity. Not wanting to clutter the room with an additional dresser, we decided to start from scratch. We sold one dresser and moved the second downstairs. (More like an armoire, we decided to make it our TV cabinet.) We purchased one of these open storage units from Target. It fits into the closet so it takes up no space in the room. Each child chose a different colored bin and they keep their underwear, socks and PJs in their own compartments. (This system works well because Owen can put away and find some of his own laundry.)

We also purchased two identical "assemble-yourself" dressers for the room. We assigned each child two drawers and I painted the knobs to match the color bins they had chosen. Again, this makes it easy for Owen to find his own clothing. For that matter, color coordinating makes it easier for me, too!

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday, visit RocksinMyDryer!

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Can't Put Kids in a Box!

I feel so blessed that my children have the opportunity to be homeschooled. How wonderful to be able to learn at your own pace and not have the pressure to keep up with the rest of the class...or slow down with the rest of the class. You really cannot put children in a box and expect them all to conform!

Take for example my youngest sister, Bekah, who is 7 and in 2nd grade, and my two oldest kids, Gavin, almost 6 and in 1st grade, and Maddie, 4 and not formally in any grade yet. When this current school year started, Gavin began a 2nd grade math book. Bekah was finishing up the last chapter of her 1st grade math book. Maddie could count to 40 but couldn't identify written numerals. As far as reading ability, Bekah was starting to read a few books on her own while Gavin could stumble through and sound out a few words very painfully. Maddie picked up one of Gavin's phonics books and began reading on her own without any training!

In a classroom setting, would Gavin have been skipped ahead into 2nd grade or an accelerated group so he could excel in math or would he have been kept with his equals in reading ability and relearned math skills he was far beyond? Would Bekah have been held back since she had not completed her 1st grade work or would she have been allowed to continue flourishing in phonics with her peers? And what of Maddie?

A family member was telling me recently that her child was being made to repeat a grade because her reading was not up to par with the rest of the children her age. Her math skills were acceptable, but since she needed more phonics work, she had to be held back. The mother said it was upsetting to the child who wanted to move on with her peers and as a result, it was also upsetting to the mother. It saddened me to think of that little child becoming discouraged just because she was not moving at a predetermined pace.

It is not the public school's fault! How else can they handle classrooms of kids with varying skill levels? It is not possible to have one child in multiple grades. With homeschooling, there is freedom to let a child grow in their own timing.

Fast forward a few months. Today, Bekah is working in her 2nd grade math book and continuing to read more and more on her own (including words like "restaurant"!). Gavin hit a rough spot in his 2nd grade math book and took a break to try a book on counting coins instead. As far as reading, he suddenly caught on and is now starting to sound out and write his own stories. Maddie continues to amaze us with her ease in learning to read and continues to struggle to recognize numbers. Neither has felt pressured to slow or accelerate their learning.

Neither has been put in a box!
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