Friday, July 27, 2012

Let the Games Begin!

In about an hour, we'll be watching the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games—and having an Olympic party! 

I admit, it was inspired not by the games themselves, but a walk through the grocery's international aisle, where I spotted the British food section, full of strange porridges and puddings, and thought, "who buys this stuff? Wait! I should buy this stuff and have a British party for the start of the London games!"

So that's what we're doing. I've been collecting food and activity ideas on Pinterest (see my Olympics board), and tonight's the night!

We're having bangers and mash for dinner (that's sausage and mashed potatoes) and these lemon-berry trifles for dessert!

And for opening ceremony-watching snacks: tea and some British snacks from the international food aisle. "Wine gums" and "Digestives," AKA "chocolate biscuits" or in American, cookies.

And for the kiddos, several Olympic crafts and coloring pages!

As Bryan Williams (or, "Brian Woman" as Kate says) just said, "the Olympics are the last television event that brings whole families together to watch." Indeed, and we're very excited! Kate has been obsessed with gymnastics since she started taking classes in January, and I've been looking forward all year to watching the Olympic gymnasts with her!

What Olympic events do you like to watch?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Family Fun with Preschoolers

We had a great Saturday packed with family fun. Lazy Saturdays, when we just lay around the house and play with toys are fun too, but I enjoy doing more active things outside the house too, and generally try to get at least one such activity into each weekend. So it's in light of that that I bring you this list of things to do for families with preschoolers (i.e. for whom movies, go-karts, and other big-kid attractions aren't good options) designed for those days when you're thinking, "We really need to get out and DO something!" 

Farmer's Market
That was this morning's stroke of genius. It's been ages since we've been to a farmer's market, and the first time the girls have been to Nashville's big Farmer's Market. Saturday is usually our grocery day, so instead we decided to start our meal planning with the fresh, local stuff, and build from there. It was great for the kids because it was stroller-friendly, there was plenty to look at, and it promotes healthy habits. Even though we went to the pool this afternoon, Kate said the "fruit market" was her favorite part of the day. Find a farmer's market near you with

One of my goals when we moved back to Nashville was to make use of our public library system more. And we definitely have! We have a branch just a couple miles from our house, and it fits my love for "free" perfectly. Most any book I want to read, I can request and have it waiting for me, and while we're there picking it up, Kate can pick out a few books for herself, and do some puzzles and play on the playground too! The library is a great place to go spend time as a family.

If you have a zoo in your town (or even within an hour or so—we joined the Nashville Zoo when we still lived in Clarksville) I highly recommend becoming members of it. Memberships typically pay for themselves in only about three visits. It's so freeing to not feel like you have to "get your money's worth" on the entry fee each time you go. If we only go for an hour or two, it's still fun and we don't feel we've wasted any money by leaving whenever we get tired!
Mommy and giraffe-print Claire with the zoo's new baby giraffe in the background.
Pet Store 
AKA the "poor man's zoo," pet stores are great diversions for kids, with bunnies, hamsters, fish, birds, and maybe even puppies and kittens on display. There's so much to look at in a confined, air conditioned space, and I've never seen a manager get upset at people coming just to browse, not buy.

One of the big draws for our house, when we bought it, was that the neighborhood pool is just out the back door. It's one of the best things to do during the summer since it's right there and it's free! If you have a pool in your backyard or neighborhood, this one is quite the "duh!" entry on the list, but if you don't, chances are there is a public pool near you, or a YMCA. Not free then, but still one of the best ways to have fun with little kids.

I love doing little crafty projects with Kate, and there are a gazillion ideas out there on Pinterest and elsewhere. Last weekend, I was about to throw out a styrofoam egg carton, and instead cut it into three strips (it was a carton of 18) so we could make caterpillars by painting each hump and sticking some popsicle sticks in for antennae (pipe cleaners would have been better, but you use what you have—it should be easy and low-key). We folded one strip in half and painted it green to be an alligator, with popsicle sticks for the eyes. The base of a bunch of celery also makes a great stamp, as it looks like a rose!

Ice Cream
Another "duh," but stopping for ice cream (actually, fro-yo at Sweet CeCe's) is one of Matt and Kate's favorite Daddy-Daughter Dates on the way home from school some days. And I love suggesting a spur-of-the-moment ice cream run after dinner some summer nights. Feels like vacation at home!

Local Events
Do you pick up those free family magazines that are available in your doctor's office or grocery store entryway? I love them, and it's not so much for the articles. The calendar of events in those magazines is the perfect guide to fun events in your area that you might not hear about any other way. And, the best place to find a complete list of consignment sales each September and March! (If you happen to live in Nashville, BlondeMomBlog posted a list of specifically-Nashville things to do this past week. Check it out!)

Writing Cards
When we're grocery shopping, I let Kate pick out a few of the 50-cent note cards on the bottom row of the greeting card section, and together we write notes and draw pictures for people in her life, like her teacher at school, the nursery worker at church, and her grandparents. I try to get her in on the correspondence with our Compassion and World Vision sponsored kids too (though I admit even I am not as good about writing as I should be!) Sending cards to loved ones is a fun activity that, at the same time, teaches concern for others and delights other people. It's also a lesson in the art of "snail mail," which feels amusingly archaic when explaining to a child!

Indoor Play Places
Most of the "bouncy places" and other indoor activity centers I've found have been through Groupon. Snap those deals up to try different places and find your favorite. It's nice to have a place to go on a rainy Labor Day, like we did last year, and to get out energy during the winter when you can't play much outside. Monkey Joe's is my favorite in Nashville, since they have lots of seating for the parents and other amenities like massaging chairs and internet access. My dream is to find a place like this with a Starbucks inside. Fast food restaurants with play places, like McDonald's and Chik-fil-A are good diversions too, but generally a lot smaller and messier.

What are some of your favorite things to do with the little kids in your life?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Baby

I look through the photos I just uploaded, thinking "what do I need to share with the world?" and though I have other posts lurking around my mind, waiting for a burst of energy to actually write them, what stands out to me in these recent photos is Claire's smile.

It's nothing profound, but maybe these smiles will make you smile too :0)

Enjoying the zoo with Nala and Popi
Being pulled around the kitchen by Popi in Kate's little toy wagon
And, showing off the pretty ribbon-rosette headband Mommy made me!
(Kate has a matching one on a barrette, but she didn't want to pose for a picture.)
Can you see my one tooth? It's that teeny gray slit on my bottom gum.
Mommy thinks I'm super-pretty. Don't you agree? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails Baby Shower

Saturday, I hosted a "snips and snails and puppy dog tails" baby shower for my dear friend Nancy and sweet baby James. You may know Nancy as the mommy of Kate's BFF Becca, in which case you might wonder "why a shower for a second baby?" Since Becca was a super-mini-micro-premie, Nancy didn't get a "normal" baby shower for Becca (i.e. one while the baby was still in the belly!) and so we were all excited to celebrate this perfectly normal and healthy baby boy, growing right on schedule in mama's tummy.

You know how I go nuts with a theme, so once Nancy mentioned that Baby James' nursery would be puppy-dog themed, we were off and running!

I ordered the invites from Zazzle, and added a puppy paw print to the envelopes (using a balled-up piece of Play-Doh, since I didn't have a stamp that worked).

Like many people, Nancy and I initially wondered "what is a snip?" The consensus on ye olde internet was that the "snips" in the classic rhyme refer to the random little things boys might bring home in their pockets—twigs, leaves, etc.—so I used greenery clipped from a tree in our backyard in the decor as my "snips."

I decorated cupcakes frosted with snips, snails, and puppy dog paw prints. My platters were already being used for veggies and cheeses, so I dressed up a cookie sheet with a ruffle cut from one of the napkins and affixed with hot glue. (It peeled right off when I was done. Isn't hot glue great?)

A little snail made from a string cheese and strip of red pepper hid in the corner of the cheese tray.

I'm more into the thematic decor than cooking, so I just made my basic party fare—veggies, cheese, fruit, and spinach-artichoke dip with crackers, but added puppy chow to the mix, yes, just because it went with the puppy dog theme.

The mantle garland had paper paw prints and a snail, plus greenery snips like in the table arrangements.

We played a couple games and opened presents, of course. It was a lovely time celebrating this wonderful mama and her sweet baby boy!

I know a couple people were aware of my efforts to sculpt a puppy cake-topper out of fondant and are eagerly awaiting seeing the little guy! This was my first time working with fondant and I just couldn't seem to get it smooth, so he looked a little dry and crackly. He was so ashamed that he gradually lowered his head, once held high, down onto his paws to rest :0) I figured cupcakes work better than a cake you have to cut during the party anyway, so puppy stayed hidden away in his tupperware in the pantry.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Claire at 8 months

Claire is now eight months old! I think for Kate, I only did big updates at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months, and so forth, so maybe this monthly milestones posting for Claire makes up for whatever other "second child" shortchanging she gets.

She's a cute little stinker, learning and growing more and more. She didn't really have any new motor skills milestones this month, just kept getting faster and faster with her creeping, still mainly using her left arm and right leg to propel herself. We finally remembered to take a video of it the other day...

She still doesn't get herself into a sitting position by herself, but easily takes off creeping from a sitting position. She likes locking her legs in a standing position when we hold her up, but she seems still a ways off from pulling up and cruising, it seems. Kate was pulling up and cruising all around the coffee table by 8 months, and walked at 9 months, which is interesting to note but nothing against Claire, of course. They'll do everything at their own pace!

With her increased mobility, Claire can exercise her social desires a little more, creeping toward whoever or whatever she wants, including big sister's toys and Charlotte, whom Claire seems to like a lot more than Kate ever did. Kate loves "Twaire" so much and is so sweet with her, but also a bit of a brute, too. We deal with a lot of hitting and squeezing, strangling and laying on top of Claire, and even Kate's attempts to pick her up by her arms or the back of her sleeper!

Claire continues to love any food we offer her. In addition to baby food (and tons of nursing, of course), she still loves bread products of all sorts, and has also tried "big people" peas, tomatoes, avocado, sweet potato, and egg casserole. She wasn't crazy about watermelon, but I think it's just because it was so cold. She loves Baby MumMums (a rice rusk biscuit thing, seen in the pic below) and is developing the dexterity to pick up Cheerios and puffs too.

And speaking of eating, her first tooth broke through yesterday! You can feel it more than you can see it, but I'd been noticing two lighter spots on her front lower gums lately, and she's had a little more inconsolable crying (inconsolable until we remember to get out the teething tablets, that is), and finally one poked through a teeny bit. Bye bye "gummy bear."

I love her smiling, I love her crying. I love her nursing, I love her munching solids. I love her on a train and on a plane, on a boat and with a goat . . .

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July!

It's one of my favorite holidays because, in addition to America's birthday, it's also mine! And my cousin's, actually, one year before me. I'm 31 this year, and not ashamed to say it. Last year, some people teased me about the big 3-0, but I thought, "I'm exactly where I would want to be at thirty, so no need to mourn it!"

Matt's mom's birthday is the fifth, so we had a little brunch this morning to celebrate our birthdays. My parents are in town as well, and our old friends Tracy and Thomasjohn, who just moved to town, came over as well. Kate greeted Granna at the door saying, "We bought you a present! We bought you a bracelet!" Guess we'll need to brief Kate on the purpose of wrapping paper.

We had chocolate chip muffins in lieu of cake, some egg casseroles (broccoli and ham), scones, fruit salad, and a "breakfast bar" serving mimosas and bloody marys.

 Granna opening her bracelet...

 I got some beautiful new wine glasses, a necklace, and a neat Nicaraguan vase.

Matt's mom gave me my birthday present early, by transforming our home office/scrapbook room while we were away at the beach in May. I now have a fancy, Martha-Stewartesque space in which to do my crafting and scrapbooking! The tabletop is about 4-5 feet across and two feet deep, with a gorgeous skirt that hides two smaller cabinets below.

This little butcher-block cabinet (maybe 2 1/2 feet wide) had been my scrapbooking table previously, and now it and a new cabinet form the base of my new table. I love it!

Thanks for having me, Mom and Dad, and happy Fourth of July everyone!

Tonight, Matt and I are fulfilling a fun "bucket list" wish I've had for a few years. We're going to see fireworks from the air! We're going up in a biplane to circle the city during Nashville's big fireworks show. (Yeah, I know—eek!! It'll be fine... It'll be fine... :0)

P.S.: Claire's 8-month milestones will be coming soon, including video of her creeping across the room. She's such a good creeper!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Most of What I Know about God, I've Learned from My Children

Most any theological reflections I write are based on something that being a parent has shown me about our heavenly parent. It's true on this blog, but it's also true in the writing I do for work, on Ministry Matters, a website for church leaders. And that's nice, because I can use pics of Kate and Claire rather than purchasing new stock photos to illustrate our articles.

Did you know that 99% of stock photos related to religion are of somebody in a field raising their hands above their head? I'm only slightly exaggerating.

That's why Claire is currently front and center on my author page over at Ministry Matters.

Other things I've written recently include blog posts about the best sermon on sin I've ever heard and my debate over leaving out the scary last couple verses from the passage I preached on a few weeks ago (and the resulting sermon on parenting as an act of stewardship).

There's also an article about a rite of passage experience for boys, which I thought would be like something out of Mark Driscoll's church, but was actually pretty cool. And an article about how my blog friend Kim's hubby formed a unique partnership through which to plant a great new church in Lexington, Ky.

If you or someone you know is in ministry in any way—preaching, teaching Sunday school, shaking hands at the door, heading up a mission trip, or whatever!—I hope you'll share Ministry Matters with them.

And the rest of you can scroll through my previous articles to spot my kids among the smiling stock-photo kids!


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