In Keeping with Goal-Setting (FREE PRINTABLE!)

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Teaching Kids to Set the Table – FREE PRINTABLE!

One goal of mine last week was to begin teaching my kids to set the table.  Now, seeing as I have a teenager, a pre-teen, an elementary-schooler, and a preschooler, you may be wondering what took me so long.  Well, I don’t know how things work at your house, but over here it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them–they always forget!  So this time I found the perfect solution.

I LOVE this printable placemat that I found at Parents Magazine website.  They usually have a lot of good resources for activities, crafts, printables, and plain old parenting advice.  I wasn’t actually looking for a placemat printable on their website; I just ran across it, and I’m so glad I did!  Click on the image below to download this FREE printable:

Printable Place Mat from Parents Magazine


After printing it out, I laminated it and set it out for Rapunzel and Tinkerbell.  They took to it right away.  It wasn’t much later that Cinderella discovered it and wanted one for herself, so I went ahead and printed one for both her and Wendy.  This is SO easy!  Not only do they have a fun new placemat, but they also have a visual example for when they DO set the table–hopefully this will help them remember when they’re gone!  Right now we’ve been on track putting everything in the right place, and the only question I received was, “Where does the bowl go?” (lol)

I’d definitely recommend this as a resource for learning to set the table–and now I know it goes for any age! Try it out yourself!

It’s Funny…

You know how I’ve been talking about flexibility lately?

Well this week was another one of those weeks.  I seem to be having a lot of those.  The funny part is that I was trying to catch up on my reading for the Bible study I’m involved in at church. Starting way back at four weeks ago (because that’s how far behind I am!), the lesson was on…FLEXIBILITY!  I think Someone is trying to tell me something.

My favorite lesson was “Day 5” of the study, entitled, “Follow God’s Plans”.  The lesson begins with the readings of Acts 10:9-48 and Acts 16:6-10.  In both of these stories, God leads His people where He needs them to go–not necessarily where they planned to go.  Wherever God has made His plan evident, He succeeds.  It is our plans, as humans, that fail.

The next reading comes from Psalm 33:10-11.

10 The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations
    and thwarts all their schemes.
11 But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
    his intentions can never be shaken.

And lastly, from Proverbs 19:21:

21 You can make many plans,
    but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Isn’t it true?  As much as we try to plan out our days, our weeks, our years, and our entire lives, it is rare that everything goes as planned.

I can’t even tell you how many times I made all of these great plans…only to be deterred.  I was going to go to a college four hours away; I ended up at a college close to home.  I decided on a major in Business Administration (I hated it!); I ended up in Professional Writing.  I planned to do whatever I wanted; I ended up with a baby.  And then a husband.  And two step daughters.  And then another baby.  And here I am.  I planned to be a lifer at my former employer; here I am seven months later, spending more time with my kids, getting more done at home, doing Gods work, and blogging on the side.  Oh, and selling Thirty-One!  (Can’t forget that!)

How different my plans were from God’s!

As much as it is frustrating to have our plans thwarted by circumstances we can’t control, try to remember that God may just have different plans than you do.  Hang on…you’re in for quite a ride!

Summer Scavenger Hunt (with FREE Printable!)

I know it’s been a while since my last post.  I must have had a crazy week, because it’s been a blur and now I can’t remember what on earth I did.  I can tell you I didn’t do anything I had planned, that’s for sure!

I did spend most of the day planning for the next two weeks at home, searching activities, creating activities, moving plans around, etc.  One thing I was looking for was a summer scavenger hunt.  I couldn’t find a whole lot online that I really liked, and I had my own things in mind anyway, so I made one up myself.  I’d love for it to be a little snazzier, but I don’t have great access to good graphics right now so this is what I have.

When you look closer at it, don’t freak out.  I’ve created this scavenger hunt to be a summer-long hunt.  This scavenger hunt is not meant to be completed in a day!  If you want to complete it in a day, by all means go ahead…but this is supposed to allow the kids to keep their eyes open all summer, notice certain things when they go somewhere different, and learn in the process.

Click on the image below to access the FREE printable!

Summer Scavenger Hunt - FREE Printable

PLEASE NOTE: If you’d like to share this printable, please do not post the PDF.  Instead, please link to my blog page.  Thanks!

Good Fathers

father and two daughters

My dad, my sister, and I in the 1980s (I’m the little one)

Today wouldn’t be complete without a tribute to fathers.

I had considered writing a regular ol’ post just because I haven’t for a while and I wanted to catch up, but instead I decided it just wouldn’t be right to post anything different on Father’s Day.

I’m a lucky girl.  A blessed girl.  I have a wonderful father.

Sure, my dad has his faults.  For one, he is generally late.  Secondly, he is a terrible mess (some days I’m not sure where I come from, because I’m a neat freak and he is so…NOT).  And last, he has a tendency not to say things that need to be said.  Like that he loves his daughters.  That he’s proud of us.

If it weren’t for his random acts of kindness, I’m not sure I would know he does.  His phone calls during the day when he’s on a long drive and he’s “BORED” to the cash he slips me when he knows my family is struggling to the times he stops by my office to drop off a Reese’s peanut butter cup or a Pepsi just because…that’s how I know my dad loves me.

But most of all, I know my dad loves me, because he raised us.  From the time I was still an infant until I was ten years old, my dad was a single dad.  Even in the 80s and 90s that was unusual, but my dad did it.  And not just the kind of single dad who had his kids every other weekend.  He was the single dad who had us 24/7.  And my sister and I are 15 months apart.  I don’t know how he did it.  Thank goodness for babysitters and grandparents.

Speaking of grandparents, the second best man that ever lived is my grandpa.  If you ever wanted to meet a saint, you’d have to meet my grandpa.  I’m not sure if there is a single fault in that gentleman.  Maybe that he likes sweets too much.  🙂  When my dad would go away on business trips, we’d fly out to see my grandparents and stay with them for a while.  We had such fun.  My grandma is gone now, but we still have my grandpa, and I’m so glad my kids have had the opportunity to meet him.  He is a man that everyone admires and looks up to and loves.  I hope one day I can be as good a person as he.

I should probably get in trouble that Prince Charming is not #1 on the list, but at least he’s made the top 3!  As a single dad, my hubby helped to raise his daughters on his own.  While there were certain things out of his control, he certainly did his best to raise his daughters right.  He’s a great disciplinarian (when I am not), though when I go away…well…that’s a different story.  And even though he picks on our girls WAY too much, you can tell he loves them.  His fault is in that he is just like my dad and doesn’t tell them enough.  I just hope they see it in the way that I see it through my dad.  I’ve been blessed to marry a man who accepted my daughter as his own and was crazy enough to have another one with me.

And even though a few years ago, I never would have said this, I have to say Happy Father’s Day to Rapunzel’s father.  His is still very much missed and loved by many, and even though we went through some very difficult times, I have been so blessed to have Rapunzel.  I would not be the person I am today without him.

I’ve had many male figures to look up to throughout my life.  I’m blessed in that.  I know there are many who never have a father.  But I am truly grateful for the fathers who love and support their children and do whatever it takes to be there for them.  As much as they drive us crazy, the world is a better place with good fathers.

Hello Summer!

Well, as I announced to my Facebook friends earlier today, as of today we are officially parents of a preschooler, an elementary schooler, a middle schooler, and a high schooler!  I don’t know whether to be excited or scared!

No matter how you look at it, one thing is true: it’s summer, and the kids are out of school.  Now officially begins our Summer of Fun 2013!  I’m so excited for more first summer (mostly) at home!  You have seen my calendar already, so you know we are booked for more fun than we can handle.  We’ve already started some activities, as my last week’s posts have indicated.

Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to do a few activities this week, but after Tinkerbell’s end-of-year preschool picnic today, we were able to squeeze in some of those.

little girl playing Pop the PIg game

Game Day was supposed to be on Wednesday, but we were able to fit that in today.  Kids this young still have a relatively short attention span, so this didn’t take long.  Our first goal for Game Day was to play a favorite game.  TInkerbell loves Pop the Pig, so we played that one first.

Our next task was to play a game we had never played before.  Surprisingly enough, we found one.  Thank goodness–Rapunzel’s teacher sent home foam dice and a few summer worksheets, one being a dice games packet and one a card game packet (learning activities in disguise!).  We played one of each.

I love these packets that the teacher sent home–they’ll keep the kids’ brains working over the summer so they don’t lose that important segment during their time off.

Last thing today: dance party!  This didn’t last very long either.  The kids didn’t want to do a whole lot right away, but once they got into it, it was dance party turned ring-around-the-rosie slash horseplay followed by some rest time on the floor.

I’m looking forward to the park’s fun day tomorrow. it’s supposed be chilly but not rainy and the kids always have fun there.

What did you do with your kids on the last day of school?

Why We Celebrate Lent

To put it simply, Lent, according to, is the forty-day period leading up to Easter (it’s actually more than forty days, but it doesn’t include Sundays).  Lent is supposed to be, for Christians, a time period where we reflect on the past year and confess our sins.

Why forty days?

This forty-day period represents the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his ministry–a time in which he was tried, tempted, and tested by Satan.  Typically, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  The day before, “Fat Tuesday,” is the day when everybody consumes the fat remaining in the house in order to cleanse during the next forty days.  Where I’m from, we eat Fastnachts.  I’m not a big Fastnacht fan, so I eat donuts (because they’re so much better for me–HA!)

Many Christians don’t even celebrate Lent.  For instance, Prince Charming doesn’t celebrate Lent.  He can’t make it forty days.  Some people don’t see the point.  My parents never celebrated Lent.  As far as I know, my extended family doesn’t either.  But my church does, and I find it to be a good time to reflect, as we are supposed to, on the past year, identify the places where I struggle, and work to right these wrongs.

I have celebrated Lent for about eight years now.  One year, I gave up secular music (this was really hard!), one year chocolate (even more difficult!), caffeine (that didn’t really work out so well), soda…this year I’m thinking about either ice cream or soda again.

Why do I celebrate Lent?

Jesus gave up His life for me.  Can I sacrifice forty days out of my life to give up something in His name?  To better myself?  Prince Charming may not celebrate Lent, but I hope to instill in my childrens’ lives the same value–of reflection, self-improvement, and sacrifice: a tiny sacrifice compared to the sacrifice given for me.

Friday Family Movie Night Review: ParaNorman

Every Friday night is movie night at our house.  Pizza and a movie in the living room.  I don’t know when or why exactly we came up with this, but we like it (most of the time) and it works.  Tonight we rented ParaNorman, which I thought might be a doable movie, but I was highly disappointed.

First of all, with this movie having been rated PG, I thought that it’s scariness would be limited to that of, you know, something more like Monsters, Inc. scary.  Boy was I wrong.  Twenty minutes into the movie, we had to turn it off, because Rapunzel and Tinkerbell were too scared.  (Luckily, I convinced them not to watch Care Bears: The Movie instead.)  I mean, we were okay for a little while, but the beginning of the movie shows a crazy homeless man swallowing a bottle of pills.  A little further into the movie (because Wendy and Cinderella did finish later), several sexual innuendos appear, which was also surprising.  And to top it off, the ghost of the grandmother blatantly, straight-out says “Jack-a**”.  That’s when I knew for sure we were done with it for the little ones.

Thankfully Rapunzel is pretty good about asking about a word before she says it.

If I had to pull out something good about this movie, I’d say it teaches us that bullying is not acceptable and that empathy is the best way to handle difficult people.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it.  At least not for young children.  Keep it for children probably 10+, who you know won’t end up with nightmares and won’t repeat the language.

Finding Gifts for Toddler Boys

Look what is this
So a few weeks ago, I received an invitation to my nephew’s 2nd birthday party.  And as I was thinking about his upcoming birthday, I was reminded of a dilemma that I encounter annually: I don’t know how to shop for boys!

I first ran across this issue when we attended Tinkerbell’s friend’s first birthday party.  We went the store all ready to shop, and that’s when it hit me.  After shopping for girls for so long…I haven’t a clue how to shop for boys.  Especially toddler boys.

So here’s what we came up with around Christmas.  Granted, you might want to make sure you know something about this kid.  Is he really boyish (into tools, sports, cars, trains) or is he artsy (into books, crayons, paints)?  I’m sure there are all sorts of things you could buy for a little boy.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • Play-Doh: This stuff is good for boys and girls of many different types and ages.  You can even make this yourself.  We got a bucket of Play-Doh toys at Wal-Mart at Christmas time for $5.  Can’t beat that!  Cheap and fun.  🙂  And thankfully it’s non-toxic, so if he eats some behind your back, you don’t have to worry too much.
  • Trucks and Cars: Our nephew is into the Disney Cars movies, so he was happy with a couple of these toys.  Just make sure there aren’t any small pieces for children under 3.
  • Doctor Kit: This another one of those timeless toys that kids of many ages like to play with, no matter the gender.
  • Fisher Price Little People toys: This is one of our favorite go-to items.  Our girls loved them.  Our nephew has them and likes to play with them.  Timeless.  No gender boundaries.  And sometimes you can get a really great deal on them.
  • DVDs: This will depend on your viewpoint of the tube as well as the parents’.  If you want to buy the child a DVD, make sure the parent lets him watch TV at all; otherwise, you’ve just wasted your money.  We personally love Veggie Tales, Backyardigans, and of course just about all of the Disney movies.
  • CDs: This will also depend on the parents.  We let the kids listen to their music as soon as they had CDs, but of course now that everyone has an iPod this may soon be obsolete.  Again, we like Backyardigans, Veggie Tales, Disney, and there are a whole host of other kids CDs out there.  Rapunzel’s favorite is her Zumbatomic CD.
  • Books: If the child you’re buying for likes to read, this is my favorite option.  I’m all about reading.  If you can, find out what the child likes and get books that have to do with his interest.
  • Tool Bench/Tools: For the child who loves tools, this choice is obvious.  There are many different variations out there that should work.
  • Trains: This seems to be one toy that most boys like to play with.  The con to the Thomas the Tank Engine toys is the price, unfortunately.  But if you can find Thomas and his friends for a good deal or some other train toy, this is generally a hit.  Just make sure you get one marked 3+ if you’re buying for a toddler.
  • Building Toys: Boys and Girls alike also love these toys.  Lincoln Logs, MegaBloks, and Duplo are some of the most popular ones.  We have both MegaBloks and in our church nursery, and the kids play with both.  Make sure you’re not buying regular Legos for kids under 3.
  • Sports Equipment: For the sports-minded child, balls of any kind (baseballs, basketball, soccer ball) will do the trick.  If you would like to spend more money trikes are a good bet.  I wouldn’t get into scooters just yet.  You may want to invest in a helmet with the trike though.  Safety first.
  • Art & Music: I gave our nephew a coloring book and crayons for his birthday when we celebrated as a family.  My sister-in-law was thrilled.  Crayons are good for just about any age that has the dexterity.  I personally hate markers, because they draw all over themselves and everything else.  Musical toys are a good choice too, if the parents don’t mind noise.  We once were given a toy drum with a tambourine  drum sticks, a maraca, and a flute inside.  The kids still love this toy (although the flute gets pretty annoying sometimes).

And if worse comes to worse, make sure you get a gift receipt, and the child can exchange it if necessary.

What are your best go-to boys’ toys for toddlers?

If You Could Sum Up 2012 in One Word…

…what would it be?

For me, I’d have to say conflicted.

Initially, I wanted to say that it was “discouraging”.  It was disappointing, frustrating, sad.  I was appalled by the insensitivity of people who were supposed to protect me.  I lost my job.  Many of our friends separated and/or divorced.  My uncle was diagnosed with cancer.  Money was tight.  We spent over $950 on Prince Charming’s truck, our dog has ear mites, my medication costs went up, and our dishwasher broke.  When it rains, it pours.  Children died.  People were killed.  We lost some friends to vicious diseases.


I recalled that it was also a year of opportunity.  I was blessed with the opportunity to stay at home with my kids, to attend Polar Express Day and Kid Writing and a field trip to the fire station.  I joined Thirty-One–one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I got to see my grandpa and my aunts and uncle, and my grandpa met Tinkerbell for the first time.  Our kids did great in school.  Wendy and Rapunzel excelled ridiculously in soccer.  Cinderella matured SO much, and Tinkerbell, well, she’s Tinkerbell and she’s cute no matter what happens, the little stinker!  God gave us a year-end miracle with our finances and we were able to break even.

As I look toward 2013, I hope I can make it a much better and hopeful year than 2012.  If you could sum up 2012 in one word, what would it be?