Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reflecting on Christmas

School, activities, cleaning, laundry, cooking, visitors. Let's face it. This encompasses my whole day. Everyday. Well, minus the visitors. Our guests are usually here for special occasions or summer visits. In the case of this year it is for two things.
1. Gretchen Maria. Our newest, precious addition to our growing family. She brings such great joy to our lives and to those around us.
2. Holiday events. My two oldest darlings are performing in the Nutcracker this weekend and we are excited to be host again for that event.

And while the excitement of having visitors and fun things to do (like making Christmas cut out cookies, crafting gifts, sending packages, and decorating the tree) we should all try to remember why and what we are actually celebrating.

Christmas. It is not just a "Hallmark" holiday. We should try not to focus on the things. Let's remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ who chose to be born into mortal flesh knowing He would die on a cross to bear our sins. Christmas is a wonderful day to celebrate the greatest gift mankind could receive from our loving God. It is a gift I intend not to squander.

So, while my husband and I enjoy finding gifts for the girls and for friends and family (a lot of which I choose to make). That is just an extra perk. An extra joy in our lives. Stressful at times. Frustrating at times. Exhausting at times. But fun and worth it for the joy it gives the giver and the receiver. It may not be the biggest, most expensive, or most sought after gift but it comes from the heart which is truly the reason for the Christmas season.

This is why, with the holiday fast approaching, my list of things to do quickly growing, my patience clearly ebbing, I must slow down and say thanks. Thanks for the visitors, the dinners, and the events. And thanks for the greatest gift of all.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Crummy, Mundane, Amazing Day

Today started a little crazy.

Have you ever had a day like that? Where all you could think right from the start was, "Oh my gosh...this day is not starting out well and it's just going to get worse." And then it usually does.

Well, that is how my day started. After a very late night (like most of my nights these days-thank you, baby Gretchen) I had to start early. My 5 year old daughter had a doctors appointment that had all 5 of us girls leaving for the day earlier than normal. After some planning, I decided that an hour and a half should do the trick of getting everyone ready and out the door (this didn't include time for breakfast). So, I set my alarms accordingly...and yes, I said alarmS...as in the plural. I really didn't want to start my morning off badly.

So, this morning comes around and my oldest ends up with my phone (which is where my alarms are set) while I'm still in bed with the baby feeding her. I tell my oldest that she can use my phone quickly but needs to bring it back because I have my alarm set (I usually don't need an alarm thanks to my children). At this point, I'd had a nice long interrupted 3 hours of sleep, give or take. I was feeling wide awake. Hence the need for the alarms. I wanted to make sure I had back up in case I dozed off while feeding Gretchen. Which I did. I needed to have my phone to have my alarm to wake me up. Which I didn't...so I didn't...and I...didn't.Yep...when my brain fluttered back into full consciousness after being drowsy during the baby's feeding well, let's just say I knew something was wrong. I did not have an hour and a half to get everyone ready, I did not have an hour, I had about 35 minutes...

Oh sugar!! (That's my "bad" word-hey, I have kids people.)

That's where that phrase from earlier crept up on me. Crummy start to a crummy day. While getting ready I even inadvertently sprayed perfume in my eye...yeah. That felt great! It still does, in fact. I even got our dinner in the crock pot! In 45 minutes we made it to the van and onto the freeway. I made it to the doctor's office with about 1 minute to spare.

The rest of the day was running errands from one town to the next all seemingly just a touch behind schedule. Stress, frustration, stress. My 3 year old had many minor meltdowns due to a lack of nap, my 5 year old had some struggle with her sense of entitlement, my 7 year old was asking a billion questions that my brain and patience couldn't process not to mention her ability to pick on her sisters, and my one month old was sick of the carseat. All those things happened. All today. All with a very tired mamma.

But, I got to text and visit with a few friends that I haven't spent time with in a while. That was positive number one. And as I was driving home I realized many other positives. See, I have the privilege of being a mommy not once over but four times over. I get to see their beautiful faces every single day. I have the privilege of driving a mini van that I love (that my husband just did a bunch of work on and yeah, I know...I'm totally a mom). I have a wonderful husband. Period. And I have the grace of God who forgives my wrongs and guides me to do right, gently corrects me when I'm wrong, allows me to forgive and ask forgiveness, and literally fills my life with joy. 

My day started out crummy. It was full of the mundane. And it was absolutely amazing!

Pretty neat, huh?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Activities Planner

With the impending arrival of our fourth child, I've been working furiously to get things ready for school. I looked around and found a few different Homeschool Planners that I liked but really hated the price tag. Now, I love to get something for free, anything for free that I can use, but I'm also willing to pay to have a neat version of something done for me. I love to create but I hate to waste time. So, I continued to search and finally realized that I was not pleased with any of the planners I found. With that disappointing fact, I decided to make my own. I had a list of things to include but as I started working towards the completion of this planner, I realized I just couldn't include everything I wanted in one planner. It would just be too massive. So...I just included the basics. (Here's a few pics of the planner. They are not great shots as I was in a hurry but you kind of get the idea. There are a few other pages and details but these are the basics.)

After finishing, printing, binding, and labeling my homeschool planner I fell in love...and then decided I needed to make an activities binder to include all those things that I missed out on with my planner. My intentions are to include a birthday's and anniversary's two page spread, a party planning section with numerous copies for those numerous parties, a Christmas planning section, and a few other odds and ends that I would like to have. I'm nearly done with the party planning phase of this book and am getting excited to see it finished! I have to admit that I've been using odds and ends of freebies from the web for a few years to prep for all these times but there have always been things I didn't like about them. I suppose this is the case with any kind of planner you purchase or print. I have big plans for this planner (pun intended) and am hoping that others will like it too.

It will be an extension of my homeschool planner, meaning the same basic style and fonts. I like to keep the headers and typing simple for a few reasons: less space taken for style and more available for what it's intended use is. So here is a question: Would you pay for the digital copy of something like this? Or, like me, would you rather just download a free version or create your own? Or...would you pay to have someone else to print and bind it for you? I'm not sure I really want to create my own headaches by printing and binding for other people but it's always a thought.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Happy Creations!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crockpot Pork Chops

I am embarking on a new adventure that has been long in the making. I'm sticking to a budget.

Crazy, huh? Well, the darling hubby and I have always had the best of intentions but we always seemed to get a little away from the "budget". Something we never quite had planned perfectly. So, with this change in life (baby number 4 on the way and me no longer working) we have decided to really buckle down. I've been implementing many different things to help make that money stretch. With some determination, will power, and God's grace, I'm sure everything will come out well.

One thing that is helping immensely is the concept of monthly grocery shopping. I can't say I planned the last month out well, but I basically did one last shopping trip to stock up on needed items (like milk, bread, and eggs) and then decided I wouldn't go to the grocery store for as long as possible. While I have made a couple of trips to the store for small things (like bananas, spinach, and broccoli) I have stuck to the plan. One way to accomplish this monthly shopping is to plan a menu for a month at a time. Well, I hadn't done that. What I have done is make sure that we scrape the pantry and the freezers. I have found a few things I didn't know we had in there. And we're using it well.

One of those things is pork chops. I knew we'd bought some from Costco a long while ago and had made some of them up when we got them but I clearly forgot about the last three in the freezer. So, last night I put them in the fridge and this afternoon I threw them in the crock pot. I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do with them so I just threw some things at it.

They turned out great!! My kids had seconds and thirds and fourths!! I didn't take any pics since I wasn't expecting anything spectacular but I wanted to share the recipe anyway. So without further ado...here it is.

3 large pork chops
Barbeque sauce
Teriyaki sauce
Minced garlic
1 can Chicken broth

I didn't do a lot of measuring since I was just seeing what I could come up with but here goes.

Place pork chops in crock pot. Pour barbeque sauce over the top of each one. Add about 1 - 2 teaspoons of minced garlic per pork chop (I just put the garlic right on top of the barbeque covered pork chops). I then drizzled teriyaki sauce over each pork chop. Finally, add about 1/2 to 1 cup of the chicken broth to the whole thing.

Cover your crock pot and cook on high for about 2 hours.

Take off lid, flip pork chops over and add more barbeque and teriyaki sauce to each one. I also needed to add more chicken broth as the liquid was cooking down a little too much. I didn't quite use the whole can of chicken broth (I had 1/2 cup left that I used for a frozen chicken crockpot meal). Cook on low for another 2 - 3 hours.

During the last few hours I checked on the pork chops and flipped and flipped them so they would be nice and soaked in the sauce for flavoring. Serve with steamed broccoli and rice.

UPDATE: I should have said this was an easy freezer meal too. Just add all the ingredients (minus the chicken broth which will be added that day) to a freezer safe zip lock bag. If doing it that way, I would add about 2 cups barbeque sauce, and 1/2 to 1 cup teriyaki sauce and the regular amount of garlic. More can always be added later if you'd like or notice it needs a little more flavor to it. Just take the freezer bag out the night before and set in the fridge so it partially thaws before adding to the crockpot.

The pork chops were just delicious and nearly fell apart. We didn't need any knife to cut them, our forks did the job wonderfully.

Hopefully yours will be as good as mine. And let me know if you have any questions.

Happy Creations!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon gift card

I was just working on my finances the other day and came across a great deal. If you are a member of Pacific NW Federal Credit Union and a fan of accessing your banking info through your smart phone, there is a new app you'll want to sign up for.

Log in to your account at Pacific NW Federal Credit Union and you'll see a message about this very deal. All you have to do is follow the link they provide, fill out your info, then download the app. Once you do that, you'll receive a $10 Amazon gift card. You can't beat that!! It says you'll see it in  your inbox in about 4 weeks.

I already did this and will be on the lookout for the gift card. It's a great deal for just downloading the app (which I would have done anyway). Just don't wait. It's only good for a few more weeks!

I mean seriously, who doesn't love getting something for free?! And by the way, if you really don't want it just do it and send it my way! :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bows Galore

With this last day of school behind us for spring break I was feeling the need to be a little crafty. And let's face it...when that crafty bug hits you might as well let it fly. I had intended to run to town (quite a jont out here) to get a few ingredients to make some headbands, but decided it was silly to make such a trip. Wasting money on gas for an unnecessary trip when I have plenty of other projects that need to be done here convinced me to stay home. I'm glad I did.

I've been wanting to try my hand at making some bows for quite some time now and thought today was as good a day as any. It turns out, involving the girls made it more fun for all of us and now they're super invested in wearing them. Even better!!

I'm not going to be posting a tutorial here as there are gads and gads of tutorials out there already. Needless to say, it was pretty easy to do some of them.

For the majority of them, I just used flowers from any store that sells craft supplies, pulled all the flowers apart and put them back together how we liked. Then we hot glued all the layers together before hot gluing the whole flower, along with button, onto a hair clip. Easy peasy.

The others that were made with ribbon took me a little more thought, but again, quite simple in the end. I learned a few things along the way as well so the next time it should go faster and the blue and brown clip will be less bulky.

Honestly, I didn't use a tutorial for any of them but I had spent a bit of time reviewing tutorials quite a while ago. That and my crafty skills and here we go. A whole bunch of new hair clips at hardly any cost. I had everything on hand from when I purchased it a while ago. The only thing I bought new for this project was the clips and I think they were less than $3. All the ribbon and flowers were bought and left over from other projects. Yippee!! Hope you enjoy them!

So, do you and the kids have any great plans for crafting or fun for your spring break? I'd love to hear about it.

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Looking Towards Spring

It has been quite a while since I've last posted anything. I've been a little busy. So, a quick update. I'm pregnant! Yay!!!! Our family is anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby Tomka number 4 at the end of August. Sophia is cheerfully sharing her birthday (Aug 28) with her baby brother...mind you we have no idea the gender yet but she's convinced she's having a brother so we just let her think that. We have no idea what to expect but will be thrilled with either. The baby wasn't too kind in the beginning but now that we're in the 2nd trimester, both mommy and baby seem to be happier. For that, I'm totally grateful!

I've been playing catch up since I've been finally feeling better and I'm getting things accomplished. It's always a great feeling. I'm even finishing up those "gifts" that I never quite finished before the end of the holiday season. Ooops...sorry for the delay to everyone who was hoping for something. Check the mail in the next few weeks!

We've all had a long winter and I'm so excited for Spring. Though, I have to admit here in the Pacific Northwest we have not suffered anywhere near to what the Midwest has suffered. With Spring comes all the new life we've been waiting for. Plants and flowers are budding, the weather warms, and the days are longer. I'm excited to get some time outside and so are my kids.

So, that brings me to my question. Does anyone have Spring traditions? Projects? Activities? What are you looking forward to come Spring?