Friday, August 31, 2012

Songs for Saplings Giveaway

Today's giveaway is something really special, and I'm so excited to share it with you!

Songs for Saplings is a music ministry that began in 2003 and has spread across the world from the US to Canada, the UK, Australia, and Malawi.

What is special about Songs for Saplings?  Dana Dirksen, the musician/songwriter behind Songs for Saplings, takes Biblical truths and combines them with lively and memorable music making it easy for children to learn it and take it to heart.  I have found it very profound how deep and theological these songs are, but how kid-friendly they are, as well.

Even my 11-month old loves them.  

We've been playing the music in our home for weeks now, and Kayleigh has taken to walking around with the CD cases clutched to her heart.  Her face breaks into a smile whenever I push "Play" on our CD player, and she absolutely loves dancing to the music.  I'm excited to know that as she grows, the truths in this music will touch her heart more and more deeply.  I can't think of a better way to gently lead her to follow Christ than to be singing His words in our home every day.

Songs for Saplings has generously offered 4 of their wonderful CDs for a giveaway to the readers of Happy Homemaker Me.  I'm so excited that one of you will get to share in the joy that has been in our household lately!

(Click the links below to listen to samples of each CD)

"Songs for Saplings 123" is designed to teach your little ones the word of God as they study their numbers.

"Songs for Saplings: ABCs" is designed to teach your little ones the word of God as they study their ABCs

"Volume One: God and Creation" contains the truths about God and His creation, included: what God did, why he did it, who we are, and how we should think and act.

"Volume Two: The Fall and Salvation" talks about what went wrong with the world, and what God did to fix it.

It explains where sin leads and how God saves.

 All four of these CDs are included in this giveaway.  There is so much sound, Biblical truth packed into these wonderful, kid-friendly CDs that I can't wait to send them off to one of you.  

One last thing that I want to share with you (it's one of the giveaway entries, so be sure not to miss it!) is this video of a recording of one of the Songs for Saplings tracks that was recorded in Malawi.  It blows me away every time.  How beautiful is it that the love of God transcends all languages, countries, and ages?  I just love listening to the children singing this song.  Their excitement and love is so evident, and I love that Dana's music is being brought to the country of Malawi through this special translation work.  Songs for Saplings has made a partnership in Malawi which means that more than 300,000 Malawi children will soon be learning these songs through the government schools!  How incredible is that?

Please stop by Songs for Saplings on Facebook and say hi.  Let them know that you appreciate their ministry, and please leave some encouraging words to let them know that you are praying for their mission work throughout the nations!

I hope you all enjoy these CDs as much as Kayleigh does ;-)

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The AMAZING Busy Bag Swap

I've recently become addicted to Busy Bags, and I'll tell you why.  Busy Bags are activities that can be stored in ziplock bags and brought out when the need for a quiet, peaceful activity arises.  Moms can use Busy Bags almost anywhere--during the wait at a restaurant, in church, in waiting rooms, or while they need to be helping an older/younger sibling and need something to entertain their other child with.  Kids love Busy Bags because they can choose new and entertaining activities, and moms love that their children are being active and entertained instead of bored and listless.  You really can't go wrong with Busy Bags!

Last month, I attended my very first Busy Bag Swap, hosted by a friend of mine.  Ten of us mothers of young children prepared ten sets of the same activity and then got together for a park day to swap the Busy Bags that we had made.  I came home with ten new activities for Kayleigh to play with, and I thought it was just the best thing ever.

And then I thought about all of you, and all of the creative minds we have together in this community.  How much fun would it be to do a Busy Bag Swap with you?  It takes a little more effort and organization on the hostess's end, but I think it will be so much fun, and I can't wait to get started!

How does a Busy Bag Swap across the Blogosphere work?  Well, honestly, I haven't seen it done anywhere else.  We might be piloting something brand new here, and I think that's super cool.  Are you with me?

Here is what I'm thinking:  for the next few weeks, I just want to collect interest and find out how many moms, teachers, aunties, and grandmas want to be involved.  The more, the merrier!  And we're gonna have a blast.  Once I know how many participants we will have, I will organize them into groups of 5-10 people who are interested in making Busy Bags for the same age group (for example, if you have a 2 year old, I will group you with other moms of toddlers so that when the Busy Bags are mailed to you, all of the activities will be age-appropriate).

Once you know how many people will be in your group, you can begin making your Busy Bag activity.  An activity can be as simple as making a counting activity with beans and cardstock like this:

Or as intricate and lovely as making felt pieces like this:

Over the past few weeks, I've been scouring the internet for Busy Bag ideas.  I've collected them all on this Pinterest Board to make it easy for you to find inspiration.  Feel free to look through it, repin things, and come up with a fun activity!

We'll cover more of the details as we find out how many people will be participating, but here is some of the important info:
  • Each person can plan to make between 5-10 of the same Busy Bag
  • Depending on your child's age, you can participate in the INFANT/TODDLER Group  (under 2 years old), the PRESCHOOL Group (2-3 years old), or PRE-K (4-5 years old)
  • Once the groups are established and your Busy Bag sets are made, you can mail your set to me (with a few dollars for S/H so that I can mail a complete set back to you).
    • I have to do research to find out how much it will cost to mail the fully assembled Busy Bags, but I can promise you that it will not be more than $5.
  • I will organize the Busy Bags that I receive into complete sets for each age group and mail them back to each participant.
  • Once you receive your package, you will have brand new, educational and age-appropriate activities for your child to enjoy!

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!  This is going to be a blast!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coming Up!

We've got some really exciting things lined up for the rest of the week here on Happy Homemaker Me, and I can't wait to get started!

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing details about our upcoming busy bag swap.

I'm SO excited about this!  If you've been following along on Facebook, we've been talking about it and gaining interest.  The more people we have involved, the more fun it will be.  Keep your eyes peeled for a post about it tomorrow.  It's going to be a blast!

Then on Friday, I'm sharing a giveaway that I'm super excited about.

Songs for Saplings has generously offered a gift set of four of their CDs to one of you.  I can't wait to share with you about their ministry and the incredible work they are doing worldwide.  Kayleigh loves their music, and you will, too!  Stay tuned for this giveaway on Friday!

And then on Sunday, oh my goodness, it's September already!  That means it's time for our monthly Pinterest Party.  Are you ready?

 I've got something fun to share, and I hope you do, too!  Even if it's been a crazy busy month for you where you haven't been able to try a new pin, you're always welcome to link up with something that you've done in the past.  I hope to see you there!

We've got lots of fun lined up this weekend.  Let the party begin!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Frozen Puree Melts

I have one smart cookie.  She knows baby food when she sees it, and she wants nothing to do with it.  Kayleigh has decided that she is a big girl, and big girls certainly don't eat pureed vegetables.

So what do I do with all of the baby food that I have sitting around?  I've started making puree melts.  They're kind of like the fancy dehydrated yogurt melts that you can buy at the store, only much more resourceful since I'm using what I already have on hand.  (and I really can't get on board with the concept of dehydrated yogurt, anyway)

Whenever I can't talk Kayleigh into finishing her puree (which never has been her favorite thing since we mostly did baby-led weaning), I just drop the rest of it--whether it is a pouch, jar food, or homemade--into little rows on a cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

The result is little frozen dollops of puree that Kayleigh thinks must be big people food since it's solid and something you can pick up with your fingers.  She eats those suckers up like they're the only sustenance on the planet.

And I sit back happily because she's getting her vegetables in, working on her fine motor skills, and getting a new sensory experience by playing with frozen food.

Win!, *ahem* 
No one has to tell her that she's not the only one who's winning :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Set Free

Today is the first day of school at our church school.  The first day of school anywhere used to leave me feeling empty and discouraged.  As a long-term substitute for three years, the first day of school always reminded me that my dream of being a classroom teacher wasn't being realized.

All my life, I wanted to be a teacher.  When I was in first grade, I would round up the neighborhood kids as soon as school was over, sit down with them at my little plastic picnic table, and teach them what I had learned that day.  I give myself half the credit as to why my siblings are so intelligent :)

My favorite fictional characters were Anne Shirley and Christy Huddleson.  I wanted to be just like them: inspiring young minds everywhere through love and encouragement.  I pictured myself with classrooms full of grubby hands and jelly-smeared faces, little children lisping words and doing their best to reenact a scene from our history book.

I went to college and loved every minute of my education classes.  The dream of becoming a teacher was so close at that point.  So tangible.

The year that I graduated from college, 2 of my classmates out of the 25 of us who had worked toward our credentials together got teaching jobs that fall.  We graduated on a high of dreams and ideals into a world swirling with pink slips and tenure.  There was no place for us.

I blogged a lot in the next two years about the heartache and emptiness of waiting for a teaching job.  God didn't see fit to answer my prayers in the way that I was hoping--expecting--Him to.

After 3 years of praying for a teaching position, 3 years of being a "nobody" as a substitute, I gave up and returned to the life of being a preschool teacher.  What a year that was!  The day that I was hired was the day that I found out that I was pregnant.  God works in funny ways, doesn't He?  I worked up until 2 weeks before my due date, and then I came home indefinitely.

And now I have a job that I'm happy to get up for at any hour.

I love being a mom.  Taking care of Kayleigh makes every feeling of emptiness and inadequacy melt away.  I'm doing what I was called to do.  I thought God created me to be a teacher (and someday, I still hope to be one) but now I know.  God created me to be Kayleigh's mom.  Jesse's wife.  The homemaker of our family.

I don't need to feel like less of a person because I never got to put my credential to use.  I have it, and someday I'll look forward to being in a classroom full of little ones again.  But I can honestly say that this is the first "First Day of School" where I'm not wondering why God hasn't put me to use in a classroom.  I'm not arguing with my Creator and trying to convince Him of what a great teacher I would be if He would just give me the chance.  I'm thankful for where I am and what He has given me.

I've been set free.  Free of guilt, free of wondering why, free of feeling inconsequential.

God hasn't given me a classroom full of little ones, but He has given me this little one.

And she's just about all I need to know that God has given me purpose.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

11 Months

Stop the clocks, wake me up, and please, someone tell me that my child won't be one year old in 30 days.

I'm not ready for this.

But at the same time, this month has been one of my favorites.

Kayleigh is learning so much these days.  And she is just so much fun.  I'm loving it.

I love watching her waddle around in her funny high-step fashion, I love the way that she tries to share her food with me.  I love that she squeals with joy whenever she sees an animal--or a flower--or a brightly colored sign.  I love the way she presses her forehead against mine when she's ready to go to bed, and I love hearing her say "Mama" when I'm all that she wants.

I love how playful she is, and the way she giggles when we play hide-and-seek or chase her across the room.  I love what a goofball she is with her daddy.  I love how delicately she picks up each piece of food when she's eating, the way she claps/signs "More" and the way she whirls her arms in  frantic circles to say "All done."

I love her serious talking face.  She nods her head up and down, uses her big, expressive eyes, and strings together full sentences of Kayleigh talk.  She thinks she's so big.  She loves thinking she's big.

My Precious Girl, 
The last 30 days of your first year are so bittersweet.  How can my baby be so big and yet so adorably little at the same time?  My heart breaks to know that we are closing the chapter of the year you were born.  It has been such a wonderful year!  And although I've treasured so many things in my heart, I wonder if I've done it enough.  Will I look back and regret not spending more time cherishing every pruny wrinkle of your fresh-out-of-the-bath toes, or the way your cheeks jiggle when you dance?  I hope that I've kissed the tip of your nose and pressed my finger into the dimples of your skin often enough to last me a lifetime.  I don't want to look back and wish that I had.  I know that I  will look back and wish that I could hold your newborn body again just to cherish the newness of it, and I'm sure I'll find a thousand more sweet moments that I wish I could return to.  As much as I already miss what you have been, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm excited to see what you will be. You are so precious to me--such a joy!  I love imagining all of the things you will be showing me in the coming days.  There are so many fun things ahead of us, Baby Girl.  I pray every day that we will be given enough time together in this life to enjoy them all.  I love you, my sweet Kayleigh Grace!

Love, Mom  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby Sister: College Bound

“Goodbye, said the fox. And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Last week, I hugged my youngest sister for the last time until Christmas.
Today she is setting off on her newest, biggest adventure--attending an out-of-state college.

I shake my head and wonder how I'm old enough already that my baby sister is in college.  And then it scares me because I realize that soon enough, I'll be shaking my head wondering how I'm old enough already that my baby is in college.  

It's bittersweet saying goodbye to Laura.  She has big dreams, and I'm so proud of her!  She's the only one out of the four of us who went beyond the lines of Southern California to attain her college education.  She wants big adventures, new challenges, and unfamiliar places to explore.  I hope she finds all of that.  And I hope her adventures lead her home again often :)

I'm sad that it will be so long until Kayleigh sees her again.  She adores Laura, and it's crazy to imagine how much Kayleigh will grow and change and learn before she sees her auntie again.

But one thing that I've learned this year as a mom is that time flies by way too quickly, and I know that a day will be here soon where I feel like I just blinked and suddenly it is Christmas.  And Laura will be back home again, upstairs writing in her room, or singing along to her guitar, making up a silly new dance with Kate, or driving around in her funny little red Honda.

The Little Prince holds a special place in the hearts of all of my family members.  Laura has loved it for years in both French and English.  I love thinking that when she looks up at the stars on lonely nights away from home, she can think of us.  So much love is being sent her way--much more powerfully than the speed that any star's light can travel.  We love you, Lou!
“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems... But all these stars are silent. You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them... In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night..You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me... You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure... It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh”
 ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Make a Laundry Room Air Freshener

Oh, laundry if the chore of doing laundry wasn't enough, sometimes the odor of dirty clothes (especially after Handsome Man's gym clothes are added to the mix) is enough to make me want to lock the door and never go in again!  It's amazing to me how much dirty laundry the three people in our little family can generate...and I know I'm only in trouble from here on out as our family grows.

Something that has helped make doing laundry a little more pleasant, however, has been the addition of my little homemade air freshener.  It's just a simple project, but its deodorizing abilities are sure to impress you :)

1. Take an old frosting container and remove the paper label.

2. Poke air holes in the top.  The plastic lid is soft enough to use a nail, toothpick, or large needle.  You want the holes to be big enough to let this little can work its magic, but not so big that if it tips over, you'll have a big clean-up job ahead of you.

3. Use scrapbook paper to dress up your little container.  Make it into something that will make you happy.  Write a Bible verse on it, a favorite quote, or just a simple reminder that you want things to be CLEAN!

4. Fill your container about halfway with baking soda, snap the lid back on, and set your new air freshener on the shelf in your laundry room.  Let it work its magic while you stand back and smile.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cory and Cora's Wedding, and Going Back in Time

I cheated a little bit by posting pictures of Lake Tahoe before sharing pictures from the wedding of these dear friends.

Cory and Cora's wedding was truly a reunion of friends that I haven't seen in years.  We all went to high school together (I only attended the school for one year) and are spread from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Chicago to Oxford these days.  

Here we are from our freshman year of high school! (don't laugh!)
(in case you can't read the gel pen!) Ruth, Cory, Anya, Jessica, me

Sigh.  Whenever I feel like I'm having a bad hair day, I'm just going to remember to look at my hair in these pictures :)  

Thanks to my friend Ruth who sent these pictures over to me within 20 minutes of my facebook shout out to my old high school buddies looking for old pics of us!

Alina, me, Cory, Nithya, Anya

(Cory didn't meet Cora til college, but I've been blessed to get to know her since then)

What a happy day it was to be able to join together again and celebrate Cory and Cora's beautiful day!

Their San Francisco wedding was the beginning of our Northern California vacation two weeks ago.  We drove up and spent the night with another high school friend, Anya, and her husband and twin baby girls {not pictured because of privacy reasons}.  The next morning, we all caravaned to San Francisco and braved the one-way streets and hidden signs.

When we parked at the church, Jesse and I were both surprised to see the cathedral behind us--we had performed in an concert at Saint Mary of the Assumption during our orchestra days in college!

*ahem* Back to the wedding :)

Cora was absolutely lovely in her vintage gown and radiant smile.

And Cory was so happy--it was hard not to run up there and hug him just to share in his happiness.

The ceremony was beautiful.  God-honoring and filled with love.  So perfect!

During the reception, it was time to catch up with old friends.  I thought I would burst from being so happy!

Can you recognize us from the pictures above?  :)
Nithya and Anya


so thankful for the 12-year-long friendships with these girls!

And of course, our faithful buddy, Cory.
Welcome to the Married Club, friend!

What a walk down memory lane!  
Cory, Nithya, Ruth, me, Anya, Alina

It was so wonderful to be there to celebrate with dear old friends and reminisce about old times.

At the same time, when I watched Jesse and Kayleigh out on the dance floor, I was struck with the realization of times that are waiting ahead of us...

And now I need to go grab some tissues!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Lake

My family has been coming to Lake Tahoe every summer since I was 14.  It's always been my happy place.  I hadn't been back to the lake with my family during the summer since before Jesse and I were married.  It made this summer a very special one--not only getting to bring my husband for the first time, but our daughter, too!

My mom, dad, brother Jon and his wife Megan, and my two sisters, Kate and Laura were all there.  It was so wonderful to be back as a bigger family--three more people than the last time we were all there together.  What a happy time.

Jon, Megan, Kate, Laura, Dad, Mom, Kayleigh, me, Jesse
This summer was the last time that we will be there all together for a long time.  I wonder what our next family photo will look like when we are able to come back to Lake Tahoe again?