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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Photo Blog Tag--I'm it!

I've had a couple tags on this one--but it's easy to handle and lots of fun. Since I can't get into Sean's computer right now, I choose to use my camera file for photo selection. (Good thing since the pictures are organized by year on Sean's and I have lots of old scans of pictures from my grandparents.)

It's easy to do--just open your picture files and select the 4th (fourth) photo. Then post it. Since it's an easy one, I'm tagging everyone who hasn't done it yet.

Here's my fourth photo:

Christmas cookie decorating. This plate of cookies was done by Andrew. Thankfully, Grandma had already baked and cooled cookies. She just whipped out the frosting kit she got from a school fundraiser, put out her sprinkles and let them go at it. They had a ball!

Here are Nathan and Andrew with their cookies. (Rebekah was sleeping because I can only take so much fun in one day and I don't find Rebekah and frosting to be fun yet.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Ringing in the New Year with Children

I'm sure many of you wonder what to do with kids on New Year's Eve. I don't have foolproof answers, but can tell you what we've done through the ages that seems to work best.

We made a choice to spend most New Year's Eve nights at home. We have gone out to parties at times, we've taken them to some parties for adults and kids, and other times we stay home. Of course, we aren't big party animals and I'm no night person, so it's never been a big deal for me to not party in the new year. When we stay home with our kids, here are some ideas of what we do based on their age.

For my youngest children, we usually put them to bed a little late, but not by much. I play their music/noise machines a little louder than normal to combat the fireworks and extra late-night noise. I put them to bed when they aren't cranky-tired, but worn out enough to sleep in a little in the morning.

For the preschool aged and young elementary, play it by ear. We sometimes have allowed them to watch the ball drop in New York, which isn't midnight for us. Then we put them to bed. Late, but not so much that they get over tired. Or, we'll have our own countdown with streamers, horns, hats and confetti (when I used to vacuum more--now, no confetti). We play games and count down and celebrate with clear pop in fancy glasses or with super cool silly straws.

For the even older child, you can let them stay up until midnight. My kids still don't really seem to care to stay up til midnight. They did it once, that was enough. So we go to bed when we're tired and try to sleep in.

Whatever you decide to do, my suggestion is to make it a little special for your kids. If we go out without them on New Year's, we leave them with fun noisemakers, hats, etc. and let them party with the sitter. We buy their favorite junk food munchies to enjoy through the night and get them a special video to watch. They have asked us at various times to go out so they can have fun. (What--are you saying I'm NOT fun to be with?!?!?)

Most of all, remember to be responsible in whatever you do. Please don't drink and drive. Get or be a designated driver or just call a cab. Your life and the lives of those around you are more important than driving yourself home.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Don't hate us because we're warm...

OK, I try hard not to rub it in when we have the chance to flee south for warmer weather...but I can't resist this one!
Here was how we spent Christmas Eve:

Here's what we did Christmas Day after the presents:

Here's the video of my kids on Christmas Day (remember to stop the music at the bottom of the page first):

Yes, it's warm. Yes, it's rained almost every day--but not all day so we can still get in the hot tub. Yes, it's relaxing. YES--I miss this when we stay home for Christmas.

Please--don't hate me because I'm warm...I'll be freezing with you in short order!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Bethlehem?

One of our mentor moms at MOPS shared a piece of trivia with us. She said that the reason God chose Bethlehem for the birthplace of His Son was more than the typical reasons we are aware of.

Did you know that the lambs raised in Bethlehem were some of the most prized lambs? These lambs were the purest of any and were raised so that the best of the best would be chosen to go to Jerusalem each year. From the best of the best of these lambs, select ones would be used as the sacrificial lamb in the temple to atone for sin.

How fitting then, for the Lamb of God to be born in Bethlehem? The One who would be sacrificed for all time as the atonement for sin born where only the 'best of the best' lambs were raised. Doesn't that make it more interesting to note that the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds watching over their flocks (of sheep and lambs) to proclaim, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people! For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:9-11)

I went online to look for more information and found a great article at this link. It was a Christmas reminder to me that God has a plan. Even when I don't get it, when I can't see how it could work out for good, He has a plan.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Reminder

I have always loved this photo reminding us who is the reason for Christmas. While we enjoy Santa, we point our children to the real reason for Christmas. Remember to keep Christ in Christmas.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Cherish

I'm taking a little break during Christmas week, but wanted to remind everyone about the word cherish.
Webster's defines CHERISH as:
--verb (used with object)
1. to hold or treat as dear; feel love for: to cherish one's native land.
2. to care for tenderly; nurture: to cherish a child.
3. to cling fondly to: to cherish a memory.
Remember today and every day to cherish those around you. Cherish your parents, your spouse, your siblings, your friends and your children. I never understood how true it is that the days are long, but the years are short when you are raising your children.
Now the oldest is in middle school and I'm getting a glimpse of how short the years are. I sit in a unique place with a middle schooler and a toddler--and I wish I would have cherished the moments with the older two like I am with the youngest. I know I tried, but if you're in the place where you have young ones---TRY HARDER! I promise you won't regret times spent cherishing your children.
I want to take a moment and cherish each one of you who read this blog. I cherish my faithful readers and I cherish those who find me accidentally or through another.
Most of all, remember you are cherished every moment of every day by a Creator who loved you enough to send his son to die for your sins. As we celebrate the birth of that son, I hope you find all the peace and joy that comes from knowing Him...and I hope you know how cherished you God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting to Know You--Christmas Version

OK--I've been tagged and sent this version so often that I thought I should get around to blogging it. So everyone--PLEASE STOP TAGGING ME!!! Thank you.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy this entire post and paste into a new post. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then tag 4 people, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you......Tis the Season to be NICE !

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? It varies year to year. This year, about 95% wrapping paper.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial
3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the week after Thanksgiving. This year, we may not have a tree.
4. When do you take the tree down? House rules: The tree MUST be down by Valentine's Day. (The latest I've ever taken it down is Feb. 13--but usually by Feb. 1)
5. Do you like eggnog? No, thank you.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Stereo
7. Hardest person/people to buy for? The men in my life, sons, husband, father, father-in-laws
8. Easiest person/people to buy for? Me? Ok--Renee
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, several. One for kids to play with, one that's also an advent calendar type of thing, several scenes. Love them!
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I think I'll plead the 5th...ok, can't think of one. Did one of you give me a fruitcake one year?? If so, I'll pick that.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Holiday Inn (in it's original black and white)
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Dec. 26 for the next year. Try to be done by Eastertime
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Oh yeah--isn't that what we're supposed to do?
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? All the yummy cookies and desserts I only get once a year.
16. Lights on the tree? Yes
17. Favorite Christmas song? Hmmm---so many to choose from. This year it's a tie between Frosty the Snowman and Joy to the World (See
this post to understand why.)
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel south where it's warmer.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yes
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Morning
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People who refuse to choose happy.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Purple tree with purple ornaments and gold bows.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Cheesy Corn Casserole
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I'm still pretty blank on this one. I'm thinking a massage sounds great. LOL!
26. Who are you tagging? Not a single soul.

27. Who is most likely to respond to this? Nobody---because I'm Bah-Humbug and refuse to tag anyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Because I want to remember

I know many of you have already heard this story from me, but I never want to forget so I want it written down.

Rebekah is a little opinionated at the tender age of 2. In the morning, I'll ask a simple question, "Would you like Fruit Loops or a Cereal Bar for breakfast?" Here's how the rest of the conversation ensues.

Mom: Would you like Fruit Loops or a cereal bar for breakfast?
Rebekah: Ummmm--no, Uh-bekah key-knee (key-knee is candy).
Mom: No candy for breakfast. Cereal bar or Fruit Loops?
Rebekah: Ummmm--no....ummm...ok, sucker.
Mom: No, a sucker is candy. No candy for breakfast.
Rebekah: Sucker key-knee??? (OK--cute the first few days, but by month 2, you think she might just know that a sucker is candy. But she says it like she's stunned out of her mind that somebody changed the ruling overnight and a sucker---which was never candy before---is suddenly candy.)
Mom: Yes, a sucker is candy. No candy for breakfast. Fruit Loops or cereal bar?
Rebekah: Sucker key-knee?? (Indignant at the injustice of the world.) OK--umm...I know, Uh-Bekah chocolate!

Are you kidding me?? I feel like we should take our morning show on the road.

And here's a moment of time I want to hold forever. Rebekah put on Nathan's boots, Nathan's fall jacket with the hood up to be warm, and grabbed her toy. She was going to go to work to see dad. That's when I realized her toy was her version of Daddy's laptop bag. Too sweet for words!

Then I realized what shirt she has on. It's a monkey (for the girl who can't get enough Curious George) with a messy mouth saying, "Do I look like I know where the chocolate is?" Oh my, how appropriate was this purchase?????

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nathan's School Program

Last week was also Nathan's school program. (Three days, three performances, five people who are glad to have a couple days off.) Again, the pictures and videos are dark, but an improvement from the recital.

The music teacher did an excellent job of putting this program together. I enjoyed the whole program. The little kids (pre-k) doing the ABC song and 5 Little Snowmen (to the tune of 5 Little Ducks went out one day...) stole the show.

In this first video, they are singing, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Then they sang "Here Comes Santa Claus".

At the end of the program, the grand finale was the entire school singing and signing the song, "Christmas is a Feeling". This mom was pulling out tissues because she was bawling like a baby. We didn't get the whole thing on video, but here's what Sean was able to capture.

Here are the words to the song, "Christmas is a Feeling". Now you know why it makes this mommy cry.

Christmas is a feeling…filling the air,
It’s love and joy and laughter…of people ev’rywhere;
Christmas is a feeling bringing good cheer,
It reaches out to touch you as the holiday draws near.

It’s mistletoe and falling snow and candles burning bright;
It’s a baby in a manger on a cold winter night;
It’s glad noels and chiming bells and presents by the tree;
It’s the spirit of giving in you and in me.

For Christmas is a feeling filling the air,
It’s love and joy and laughter of people ev’rywhere;
But if Christmas is a feeling, bringing such good cheer,
Then why, oh why, don’t you and I…try to make it last all year?

Why can’t it last……….all year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Winter Fun Checklist or the Winter To Do List

This summer, we saw an idea on another blog to make a list of things to do during the summer. It was designed to give the kids options when they are bored as well as a sense of what they want to accomplish before school starts. (Keeps some of the whining about how 'we never got to do anything this summer' at a minimum.)

It was so popular in our house that we achieved 20 of the 22 things (that Fossil Dig will be back on next summer's list and we put Children's Museum down twice this winter to make up for not going this summer). I couldn't believe it when the kids asked to do a chart for fall/winter. We had a rough list going on the back of an envelope in my purse, but it took me until the end of November to get an official chart up on the fridge. So it's a Winter Fun Chart.

I admit that it was a little more challenging to find free things to put on the list when it's cold and you can't play outside. However, I thought we did a pretty good job making a list of things to do. Many of these things we would do without the list, but it really engages the kids when it's on the list and we go do it. They seem to pay more attention when we go places and do things because it's a big deal if it's on the list. They are working their hearts out to accomplish everything on the list. Not enough naps for this mom as of today, but I'm hoping.

To see the summer list, click here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Check out BlogHer Roll at Left

If you look under the BlogHer ad, I made today's roll call of blogs!! Woo Hoo!! (If you subscribe by email, you'll have to actually head over to the blog by clicking to see it.

It's the "Protecting Home Plate" article I wrote for our MOPS group. I've been taking screen shots of my article. One day only, you can see my blog highlighted.

Band Concert

Last week was Andrew's First Ever Band Concert--and official first Jazz Band Performance. It was so crowded at the school. The principal announced for the spring concert, they would split it and do two nights to help keep the crowds down.

We were in the bleachers not quite halfway up, but it's still a LONG way away for my super zoom. First is Andrew with the band.

Here's Andrew with the Jazz Band.

Here are a few videos of the performances.
The first song Andrew is playing the snare drum. He's standing in the back almost center with the white shirt on.

For the second song, he's playing the bell kit (looks like a big xylophone). Still in the back standing, white shirt. They are playing "Jing-a-Ling Bells".

For his Jazz Band performance, they played "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch". There are three pianists and only two pianos. So for this song, Andrew played the left hand and his partner played the right hand. The other pianist was filling in on the drums for the drummer who broke his arm. It's hard to see Andrew because one of the trumpet players was in front of him. It was so crowded, I couldn't move any to get a better view. If you see the two adults (administrators) standing in the back, Andrew is the 1/2 person you see behind the trumpet player in blue. He's standing to the right of the boy in the white shirt with the red tie.

Hope you enjoy our concert tour of kids programs. I'll put Nathan's school program up this week, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Piano Recital 08

Nathan had his first Piano Recital last night and Andrew chalked up his 5th recital. They both did EXCELLENT work! I have videos below, but the church was so dark that it's hard to see. You can hear the boys playing, though. Just turn off the music at the bottom of this webpage first.

The recital is always a fun evening, but it gets long. By the time everyone played and awards were handed out, it was 9:30. Then cookies and a drive home so the boys didn't get to bed until 10:30. Thank God, the neighbor girl across the street was available last minute to watch Rebekah. She stayed home, played and got to bed at a normal time.

The boys and their teacher.

Nathan at his first recital.

Andrew got a medal for participating in the State Music Festival. He also received two certificates of achievement. One was for a Superior Rating at State and one was for a high score on the State Theory Test (he got a 95%).

Here are Nathan's two pieces. First is Trumpet Song and second is Frosty the Snowman.

Here are Andrew's two pieces. He played Ceremony for Peace and Joy to the World. He was a little upset with himself that he made a mistake in Joy to the World. Afterwards, Sean figured out that it was past his bedtime by the time he played that song. Poor kid was tired!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Protecting Home Plate MOPS Article

Here's an article I wrote for our MOPS newsletter. Hope you enjoy.
I recently read an article about a couple whose wedding sermon linked marriage to baseball. Their pastor explained that you protect home plate at all costs and the goal is to get home again when you leave. The article was aimed in one direction, but my mind swirls around protecting home plate during the holidays. So many things begin to pull at me and try to take each member of my family away from home during December and January. We try to protect our time and ‘get everyone home’ as much as we can…or we try to keep everyone at home protecting the plate.

Some of our methods are simple and easy, yet often ignored in a high-tech world. When we are having family time, we do not answer our phone. No home phone, no cell phones, we ignore the ring knowing we will call them back later. We figure this is why we own an answering machine. The no phone rule applies to mealtimes as well when we are all gathered together.
We do some sightseeing in our own neighborhood as well as driving past certain homes every year. We love looking at the Christmas decorations. We either play Christmas music softly in the car—or we turn off the music so we can talk to each other about the lights. We also like to temper Christmas parties for grownups only with a family trip to the Children’s Museum or other kid friendly place. I cut back on play dates for the kids and Sean & I cancel a few of our extra outings to try to keep the balance centered on our home.

The one other way we try to protect our home plate is by trying to rein in the give-me’s and I want’s from our children. Not always easy because they are children! We go through gift catalogs as a family from places such as World Vision or Samaritan’s Purse to pick a special gift for our family members. (Our family gives one main gift to each adult and spends the rest of the money by donating to charity in each other’s name.) I try to do Christmas shopping all year long, but try to finish early. We emphasize to our children that a kind note is often better than a gift for a teacher or friend. Finally, we try to give each child a few meaningful gifts focusing on quality, not quantity.

Take some time to look at your home plate and find ways to draw everyone near. Some of our greatest family traditions were created as we focused on protecting the plate and getting everyone home. Snuggle close to your children this Christmas as the years fly fast, even when the days are long. Protect home plate and tuck away sweet memories to cherish forever.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I know many of you have seen the first video before, but I've got new stuff to go with it. This first video (turn off the music player at the bottom of the blog first) is the original "Momsense" song by Anita Renfroe. It's everything a mom says/does in a 24 hour period put to music. (The William Tell Overture.)

Here's a new one that another gal (not Anita) did at Northland Church in Florida. WOW!! Check out the TWO grand pianos going at it behind her. This version has the lyrics on screen if your brain can't hear fast enough.

Now--the newest and best piece yet! Here's the "Dadsense" song Anita came up with after receiving complaints from fathers across the nation that they also talk to their children. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Family Fun Day

On Saturday, we took time to have a GIANT Family Fun Day. The boys' swim lessons were over, but yesterday was Family Swim Day. We took everyone to the pool for an hour of swimming. I didn't take photos because it's too hard for one parent to watch both Nathan & Rebekah at the same time. It takes a team to raise our village. :-)

After swimming, we stopped by the house long enough to drop off wet towels and we headed back out. Ate lunch in the car on the road to the nearby Air Museum. What a blast! We knew there was a lot going on Sat. only, but we were able to:

1. Get pictures with Santa in the cockpit of an airplane
2. See a Star Wars enactment group (and there were 2 R2's as well)
3. Have fun doing the usual fun stuff there
4. See a Remote Control Car group doing their monthly meet and racing all over a hanger
5. See to-scale trains from the local train group

From there, we came home grabbing a snack/early dinner. Got everyone in bed EARLY as we were all exhausted!

Here are some great pictures from our day.

We couldn't figure out why the kids were really 'over the top' about the Star Wars stuff. I mean a full Darth Vader (including realistic sound), the Sith, R2D2 AND an R2CM, Storm Trooper everywhere, a Jedi--this is pretty cool stuff. Then we realized we've never let our kids see any of the Star Wars movies. Hmmm--no wonder they are clueless about how cool it is. So Sean & I went back and got OUR picture taken with the crew. It was loads of fun.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Nathan's Piano Solo

We had a Family Fun Night at church (over a month ago) and I realized I never posted any pics/video from that night. There was a "No Talent Talent Show" and Nathan decided to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano.

Here is Nathan's first public piano performance. Be sure to pause the music at the bottom of the webpage before you play the video.

After he finished playing, Pastor Lida explained that Nathan wants to be a substitute pastor when he grows up. So she asked him to tell everyone what he will say when he's a substitute pastor. I missed the very beginning when he says, "Praise God!!!" In case you can't hear it, Pastor Lida asks him why he says that when he's practicing being a pastor. He told her, "Because that's what Pastor always says." She thought about it and agreed, that's what our pastor always says. So, go Substitute Pastor Nathan---Praise God!

Vincent Van Gogh's Family Tree

I got this in an email and couldn't resist sharing. I know I was laughing out loud!

From my inbox:
I know some of you won't get it because you do not know who Vincent Van Gogh was. To help you out, he had a painting company in France in the 19th century and sold hearing aids on the side. He coined the term. "Lend me your ear, mine is not working". Became very, very rich after he died.

The Family Tree of Vincent Van Gogh
His dizzy aunt ---------------------------------Verti Gogh
The brother who ate lots of prunes --------------Gotta Gogh
The brother who worked at a convenience store --Stop n Gogh
The grandfather from Yugoslavia ----------------U Gogh
The cousin from Illinois -----------------------Chica Gogh
His magician uncle -----------------------------Where-diddy Gogh
His Mexican cousin -----------------------------A mee Gogh
The Mexican cousin's American half-brother -------- Gring Gogh
The nephew who drove a stage coach------------- Wells-far Gogh
The constipated uncle ------------------------- Can't Gogh
The ballroom dancing aunt --------------------- Tang Gogh
The bird lover ----------- -------------- Fla min Gogh
The fruit loving cousin ----------------------- Man Gogh
An aunt who taught positive thinking --------- Way-to-Gogh
The little bouncy nephew ---------------------- Poe Gogh
A sister who loved disco ---------------------- Go Gogh
His niece who travels the country in an RV ------- Winnie Bay Gogh

I saw you smiling! . . . there ya' Gogh!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Steam Mops

I have a friend from college who called me yesterday to tell me all about her new steam mop. She swears by it and wanted me to spread the word.
I did a little side research and found there are a lot of brands of steam mops. The most well known, because of their infomercials, is the Shark steam mop. The Shark got a lot of mixed ratings. My friend owns a Shark and said it works great for now, but she uses it several times a week and expects it to only last about a year. Her intention is to upgrade to a higher quality model when this one goes. She wanted to try it out with the less expensive model before investing the big bucks. I found a Bissell Steam Mop at the HSN website. It only cost $10 more than a Shark. There are several other brands available so do a little research if you plan to invest in one.
She said that one tip for use is to pre-wet the cleaner pad with hot water before using. Then it takes a lot less time to hit maximum cleaning power. If you wet the pad, it will take a little longer to dry--about the same length of time as an ordinary mop--but the results will be better. I can't tell you how excited she was about the tile, linoleum and hard-wood floors. She's got all of them in her house and she has a dog and two cats. She said it picks up the animal hair really well and she never knew how beautiful her wood steps really were.
So there's a product testimonial from my girlfriend. I haven't tried out the steam cleaners yet, but after talking to her, I'm intrigued and interested.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have never a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
~Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Traveling with Kids Part Two

Today's list of travel tips mainly deals with airline travel. I've braved airlines with one, two and even all three kids by myself. It takes a little extra planning and preparation, but it is possible to do!

Airline Travel Tips
Over the years, I’ve learned to travel on airplanes—all by myself—with one, then two, now three kids. It can be done and it doesn’t have to be a nightmare! Airline travel is getting more costly (and more difficult) in the respect that it’s hard to understand the new rules and how they apply to children. I’m hoping that by sharing tips and tricks that I’ve learned, airline travel with small children will be less frightening and more manageable.

TSA Rules—One big question I always get is regarding babies, bottles and formula/breast milk. I find it very hard to wade through the mounds of information at the site. Here are some things I learned along the way. It is now permissible to carry with you formula, juice or breast milk for your children. It does not have to be under the 3 oz. Limit nor does it have to fit inside a quart-sized baggie. It does need to be inside of a baggie and declared to the inspection officers. You will not have to drink any (or force your child to drink any) to prove it is safe. However, the TSA reserves the right to take a sample and check it for explosives. Chances are they will never do this, but it is allowed. For that sample, they would pour a little off of the bottle/cup and not dip into the bottle/cup.

I always take one extra bottle or one extra meal of baby food for each layover we have along the way. If we fly direct, I take one more than I think I will need. The TSA site clearly states that only ‘reasonable amounts’ will be allowed. Use good judgment when you decide how much to pack. The only time I was ever questioned was on a trip where we had two layovers. I explained we’d have almost an 8-hour travel day if there were no delays so I brought enough food/milk for an entire day. The man checked my ticket to confirm I had two stops and let me pass without a hitch.

It is not required, but I find it makes them wave you through much faster if you also put into gallon baggies any jars of baby food, children’s snacks and formula—I use the formula travel tubes (powder for a 4oz bottle in each tube) when we travel. Having it all together in your carry on makes it easy to pull out all bags and put into a bin. Shoes must also be removed—even for infants/children. I would leave the baby’s shoes off until we made it through the checkpoint. Or we would wear slip-on shoes/Robeez that are easy to get off/on. Make sure you pull out all food/liquid items before the bags go through the x-ray or they can be confiscated.

One final TSA thought—I do my best to pick the longest line when going through security. Most people avoid the line when they see me and my stroller and kids in the line. I make the big kids take off their shoes while we wait in line and when we get to the front, if I have an infant I will stand there and ask NICELY for help. Sir/Ma’am, can you help me load this stroller or these bags? (As my momma always said, "You catch more flies with honey." These TSA workers are worked hard and put up with a lot of anger issues from travelers. I try to be a bright spot in their day--even though I know I'm a little bit of a pain.)

Two useful TSA weblinks are:

Gate Check—Use Gate Check to your advantage. I have a junky stroller I got at a garage sale specifically for travel. I paid $10 and if the airlines damage it, I’m really not out anything. I also gate check the car seat if I’m unable get a free seat for my under 2 aged child. Ask when you check in your luggage and again at the gate to see if there might be an open seat if you have a non-ticketed lap-sitting child under age 2. I pile the stroller high with everyone’s carry on bags and the car seats and carry the baby while making the other two hold each side of the stroller. I’ve also had wrist leashes and most recently the backpack halter leash for my kids. Depends on how much you trust them not to dart and run.

What to carry on—Each child is responsible to carry their own backpack with their toys and books and diapers/wipes/pull-ups if they weren’t potty trained. We take a couple matchbox cars, a couple small action figures/dolls, and a couple coloring/activity books. Add colors, pencils and some books and you have lots of entertainment for a flight. I also will pack a small notepad of blank paper to color on as well as a small stuffed animal friend. I save up some coveted kids meal toys that are hidden and stay that way until we get on the plane. I’ll pull them out from the bottom of the backpack and tah-dah, mom’s a hero. My kids also know the Sky Mall is a free magazine that they can take with them. I let them circle what they want (yes, I’ll look into that $25,000 gold plated Jacuzzi for your Christmas present) and take them off the plane in their backpacks. I recycle them back at home.

Boarding/disembarking—Make sure you tell the gate personnel that you need extra time to board the plane and they will generally pre-board you. When you arrive, we allow every person to get off the plane before us. This way, the kids can take their time meandering down the aisle of the plane, our gate checked stroller is waiting for us and I’ve had time to unbuckle the car seats and double check our area to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind.

Bathrooms on Planes— We try to potty before we board and let the big kids take one potty break in the middle. I know babies will almost always poop during takeoff. It seems to be Murphy’s Law for flying. Just be prepared for changing time. If they are very small, change them on your lap if you can. When they get a little bigger, you have to use the awful changer in the tiny airplane restroom. Yes, almost every plane has one—you just didn’t know where it was. The right wall above the toilet has a latch. When you release the latch, there is a drop down changing table that is as wide as the bathroom. Use your can opener to squish the child on the changer and change quickly. Bring hand sanitizer because trying to hold an infant while messing with those airplane faucets is almost comical enough to sell tickets to the event.

Reminders—Most passengers on airplanes are very patient with your children on the plane. A few may grumble, but I’ve found it to be pretty rare. Most have traveled with their own small children and feel sympathy for you. One kind man told me, “Don’t worry if they cry, only the three rows in front and in back of you can hear them.” I learned to remove shoes during the flight so little feet can’t kick the seats in front of them. I do discipline and try not to ever allow any sort of seat kicking. We make sure sippy cups (or pacifiers) are ready for takeoff and landing. Little ears don’t like the pressure changes and drinking or sucking (candy and suckers works, too) will help the ears to keep popping. Even when I breastfed, I tried to use a bottle or cup or paci on the plane. I find it to be almost impossible to breastfeed well on a plane. I end up with a strained back and it’s too hot to cover up well. I also usually had the baby in the car seat and I never let them out once they are in.

The biggest tip for airline travel—RELAX!! The more uptight and anxious you get, the worse your children will get. Try (I know it can be tough) to keep your cool. We try to change our toy/activity every 20 minutes on the plane. Even if we rotate and do the same thing every other time, it breaks up the trip and provides something new to distract them.

Try to have fun. And remember, down the road, you might even be able to catch a snooze with the kids on the plane or even read a book. For children who have a basic grasp of discipline, I lay out expectations of behavior and consequences before we go. If we all know what to expect, it makes a much smoother trip.

Happy flying!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Date Night for Dad & Mom

Just got our tickets to go see Jeff Dunham! For those of you who missed it, you should check out Walter for President.
Jeff is a ventriloquist who has cracked up Sean & I for years and years. We just watched another special on TV last night. After seeing the special and laughing all night and morning, I opened the paper and saw an ad that tickets were on sale.

It's our Christmas present to each other to go have a date night and laugh our heads off! We even snagged main floor center seats. Woo hoo!
For those of you who know us well...was anybody surprised that we love the title of the new tour?? It's the "Spark of Insanity" tour. LOL!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Say NO to Drugs!

The end of October brought "Say NO to Drugs!" week at school for Nathan. They had PJ Day because 'drugs kill your dreams' and hat day to 'put a cap on drugs.' The final day was Inside Out day because 'drugs turn you inside out.'

I tried to get pictures of Nathan in his inside out clothes, but Rebekah would NOT leave him alone while the camera was out. Guess she wanted to take a stand against drugs, too. If you look closely (or click the photos to open in larger format) you'll notice that the pants and shirt are both inside out. He also wore his shoes on the wrong feet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Indoor Swim Park

Just found these photos in my computer from the indoor swim park. We went the end of September. I only took a few photos because it was hard to get enough light and I wanted to spend time swimming and playing with the kids instead of protecting and using the camera.

Rebekah loved the lazy river. We made her wear a life jacket (mostly to keep her from freezing) and she would sit on the edge with her feet in the water. She wanted to go around and around for hours. I seriously think she spent four or five HOURS in the lazy river during the day. I happened to grab the photo when everyone was in the lazy river. There were also slides, a hot tub (yea!!), basketball, obstacle course and a kiddie section with a tiny slide.

Here Sean is following behind Andrew & Rebekah to make sure she doesn't try to jump ship. This was early in the day before we realized her love and devotion to the lazy river. Nathan is following in what looks like 'stealth mode' but is really how he can touch the bottom with his feet. I got to take a few laps with him in a double tube. We had a lot of fun.

Andrew is taking a spin with Rebekah. The second photo is waving (not 'talk to the hand'). Since it was early, she was a little hesitant to let go. Eventually, she became princess of the lazy river waving at all her subjects.

I didn't get the camera for it, but Nathan was the first to attempt the obstacle course. He worked at it for at least 10 minutes trying to get across. He wanted to do it himself and managed the first time with almost no help from a nervous mom. The second time, I had to stay against the side of the pool and not help at all. Andrew came over to see Nathan crossing and started doing it himself, too. I had to leave because it was too nerve-wracking for me. I would not be able to watch if they were on a show like Fear Factor.

This was the last item from our
Summer 08 checklist. We did everything but dig fossils (that will be back on next summer's list) and the children's museum (will be twice on the Fall/Winter list). I'm working on a Fall/Winter chart to take us through spring. I was amazed that we were able to check of 20 out of 22 items. I knew it would help us prioritize some of the things we wanted to do, but it really gave us purpose in going and doing things and having fun as a family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tips on Tuesday: Traveling with Kids Part One

Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is next month. This means many of you will be traveling with small children. Through the years, we've found a few tips and tricks to help us travel. Please note, we DO have a video player in the van, but we DO NOT use it constantly when driving. Sean & I believe that children need to learn to entertain themselves some and they need to learn to handle boredom because all of life will not entertain you. So using the "TV is a privilege, not a guarantee" attitude, here's a few tips.

Here is the first part of the article I wrote regarding travel. More coming next week:

Do the words “Family Vacation” strike terror in your heart? With the holidays approaching and many people traveling, I wanted to give you some simple ideas to help make traveling with children easier.

For car travel, get some inexpensive toys/games from garage sales or dollar stores that you use only during travel. If you put them away for non-travel times, these toys will become an exciting thing for your children.

Don’t forget the snacks. My kids know that Pringles and Twizzlers are always packed for our car trips. Not healthy, but a family memory and something to pass the time. Besides, how else can they learn about using Twizzlers as a straw in your 7Up? Yum, yum.

The best travel tip I’ve ever received is to stop a little early for lunch at a fast food with a playplace. Let the kids run around and play while you eat. The rule is, “When you want to stop and eat, we leave.” When the kids are done playing, the adults have eaten a quiet meal. One adult takes kids to the bathroom, one orders kid meals to go for them and we load up. The kids eat and play with their new toy for about a half hour. Then they are full and tired and will remain quiet or sleep for a while. We will never again try to force them to eat in the restaurant when they could be burning off all kinds of energy.

No playplace available? Grab food and find a park (or rest stop) and force them to run. Make the kids run races and do exercise competitions (jumping jacks, best high jump) while you eat. Then feed them when you get back on the road.

Some other fun things are window clings for them to put on the windows (carseats, backs of seats, etc.) and silly games like find the alphabet in signs you pass or sing silly songs. Get books on tape/CD from the library to entertain. We often check out the book as well so our reader can read along with the tape.

A few other random travel tips:
One of our former MOPS moms told us to get a jellyroll pan for each child. It looks like a cookie sheet but has the sides all around it. Since it’s metal, magnets stick to it. For boys who love cars or trains, you can attach contact paper that you ‘create’ into roads or tracks. Then they can drive their cars/trains on it and they won’t roll off because of the raised edges.

Take it a step farther and pick up those inexpensive sticker books with scenes that you attach the stickers onto. (Usually found at airports, Cracker Barrel restaurants, etc. for about $1-1.50 per book.) If you attach the stickers to any magnet—might I recommend the freebies you get all over town—and cut out around the sticker, you can have a baggie of each sticker/magnet book. The kids can place the scene on their tray and put the magnetic stickers on the page. Pick up and put away when done.

These trays are also great for coloring (even at home when not traveling). Colors don’t roll off and if you have an enthusiastic scribbler, the color will only be on the tray.

It’s not always possible to do, but if you can plan extra time into your travel, take a little break to stop along the way at those various green sign sightseeing places. While a Pony Express Station might not be the most fascinating thing you’ll ever see, it’s fun to talk about history while you’re standing in the place. Stopping helps break up the driving a little and does create a memory that lasts a lifetime. A thirty-minute stop can make the next several hours of driving go much smoother.

For driving to the same place all the time (such as Grandma’s house), create a special map for your child. For example, when we go to our Grandma’s house, our map (hand-drawn by me) has: our house, windmills, the water tower that looks like a balloon, Exotic Animal Farm, a certain funny city name (because the kids like the name of the town and say it over and over in a sing-song voice), ice cream cone (we stop for a treat), buffalo (we pass some buffalo signs), toll booth (we take the toll road on the way), a windmill we pass, Grandma’s house. If you prefer to go high-tech, you can take photos when you go and create a pictorial map for the next trip.

I encourage you to move away from using only DVD’s to entertain kids in cars. We have a movie player in our van, but our kids are well aware of the rules. We will watch one video and then the machine goes off and screen goes up for a minimum of one hour. My kids have been forced to learn goofy songs, play silly license plate games and they have learned that sometimes, you have to be bored and happy at the same time. They have learned to read in a moving car. They have invented all kinds of their own games and ways to entertain themselves.

Turning off all screens (including gaming devices and cell phones) has also taught us to communicate with our children on a deeper level. When you’re trapped for 9+ hours together in a vehicle, you can turn that into some amazing teaching time and sharing time without the kids realizing it. We work Bible stories into the day or scriptures with the kids. Especially when we pass incredible scenery and try to teach them about all the beauty in God’s creation. We know where the Llama farm is and where every windmill can be found on our route.

Part two--air travel--coming next week.

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