The Giving Tree

Over the past few years I have followed my beautiful cousin Aubrey’s journey in finding the Spirit of Christmas through service. Her ideas have given me inspiration to create better traditions for my family during the holidays. I hope that by sharing her story, others may be uplifted and inspired, and be able to make their futures bright. Here is her story about creating the #PaxtonGivingTree in green below.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

   “Three years ago on Christmas day 2013, after all the presents were unwrapped and the day was coming to an end, I turned to my husband and said, “I still don’t feel like it’s Christmas.” I remember all month long waiting for the spirit of Christmas to come, and it didn’t. There wasn’t anything really different that year. Christmas was the same day it had always been. I’d listened to the same Christmas music and ate the same treats that I love, so I knew that the problem was with me.

 

It was a busy time for our family. We had just added daughter #3 to our ranks the month prior, and I’m sure I was exhausted and caught up in figuring out how to run a whole new family dynamic…let’s be honest, 3 kids is hard! But it broke my heart that, because of my attitude, I had not only taken the true meaning of the holiday away from myself, but in doing so I was doing a disservice to my children.

 

So when December 2014 rolled around I was determined to make our house feel the spirit of the holiday! And the best way that I knew how to do that was by serving others. That year a friend and I had come up with an adorable advent calendar in the shape of a tree. I called it our Paxton Giving Tree! I put a little treat and a service opportunity in each box for each day of December leading up to Christmas. My girls were so excited to have a fun new way to count down to the holiday and I was excited to get the spirit of the holiday in our home, and it WORKED! Christmas 2014 was the best Christmas that I could remember having with my little family! Not only were we thinking about and serving others, but we were EXCITED about doing it! I knew that this was the start of a very fun and exciting tradition for our family!

 

This year, as I’m sitting down and coming up with ways that my family can serve others in December, I can’t help but think back over the last two years and the many awesome experiences we’ve shared as a family.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Doing a litter walk around the neighborhood.

I think my very favorite one came just this last summer during July. All summer long the girls had been asking to do a bake sale. I suggested that we could maybe do one, but wouldn’t it be fun if we decided that with the money we earned from it we could put toward helping out a family this coming Christmas for our Paxton Giving Tree tradition. My kids responses made me very happy! This is how it went.

 

Madison (7): But why would we need money for that?

Me: Well buying things for Christmas costs money, and there are some families that don’t have enough to get extra things at Christmas time. We could help with that.

Madison: But mom you don’t need money to have Christmas…isn’t it just about love and family? That’s the important thing.

Kennedie(5): And celebrating that Jesus was born!

Reagan(3): And Santa! (Haha we’re still working on that one)

This was the best conversation ever! It was totally a mom win moment! I’m so grateful that my kids know what Christmas is really about…even in July!

I truly feel like my kids are learning not only what the true meaning of Christmas is, but also what it means to love and serve others. It has taught them many lessons about others who are less fortunate, and they have compassion for others that I know has come as a direct blessing of our tradition.

 

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Supporting a local food drive by gathering supplies for those in need.

Like I said, this month I’m sitting down and making a list of things that we can do during our December service, but I would LOVE to hear any ideas that others may have! Please share! Also, if you want to keep posted about what my family will be doing this year, you are welcome to search the tag #paxtongivingtree on Facebook or Instagram.”

Isn’t this amazing? What a beautiful example Aubrey is to her kids about being Christlike. I love how involved her little children are in this wonderful tradition. Here are few more pictures and ideas for acts of service you could perform for your family’s giving tree.

I love this giving tree idea!What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Taking cookies and thank you notes to their primary teachers.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Leaving thank you notes for the mail carrier and trash collectors.
I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!
Placing quarters in all of the vending machines!

The possibilities are endless! Be Creative!

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

For more inspiration to come closer to Christ this holiday season check out this video in preparation for the #LightTheWorld initiative.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!

PS: If you want to check out Aubrey’s cute shop for girl’s hairbows, check her out on instagram.com @the.happy.squirrel.shop.

I love this giving tree idea! What a great way to make the holidays meaningful again!

 

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

This weekend, we celebrated my son’s 4th birthday. I cannot believe that he joined our family and changed our lives forever 4 whole years ago! Time is such a strange thing, it seems to stand still, yet circle around at light speed all at the same time. Something about this month is emotional for me. As his birthday comes around each year, I can’t help but reminisce on the events leading to his birth, and that beautiful moment when I first heard him cry. My life would never be the same again. In that moment, everything belonged. I felt my purpose, and the joy I shared with my husband as our son was born was more celestial than I could have ever imagined, or hoped it to be.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord
My loving husband did so much for me while I was pregnant. I am so glad, I had him by my side to help me through it all.

All throughout my pregnancy I would envision how my labor would go. I planned to have a natural birth doing most of my laboring at home. Once I got to the hospital, I planned to labor without an epidural. I didn’t want to have an IV, but wanted a heparin lock to provide quick access to an IV in case of an emergency. I had taken a birthing class, and had a birth plan typed out to take with me to the hospital. Being a structured individual, having a plan comforted me. However, as many know, sometimes babies have a mind of their own, and labors do not always progress the way you think they will. Having my son was a very humbling experience. It taught me to really trust in my Father in Heaven, and how to act upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit, even when it was uncomfortable for me. I was able to stay unbelievably calm in what would normally be a very scary situation for me. I have no doubt that there were angels there comforting me along the way.  Here is how the story goes.

It was 5 days past my son’s due date, and at 1:30 am, my water broke. The fluid was clear and I was not having any contractions so I went back to bed. At about 2:30 am I woke up again to use the restroom and this time the fluid was a golden green color. I still wasn’t having contractions, and I wanted to do a majority of laboring at home, so I tried to contact my doctor to see if he thought it was safe, to stay home, or if I needed to go to the hospital. After trying to call several times and only reaching a voicemail, I decided to call the hospital. They said that the golden green mucus was meconium. This meant that the baby had passed his first stool in the womb. This can sometimes be an indication that the baby is in distress so they recommended that I come in. We gathered some last minute things and by 3:30 am we were off to the hospital. I started having very minor contractions about 3 min apart in the car. We arrived to the hospital by 4:00 am and went to triage.

The nurse in triage confirmed that my water had broken and we were admitted. She checked me and found I was 85% effaced and I was only dilated to a one. I was a little disappointed that I was not further progressed, since I wanted to do most of my laboring in the comfort of my own home. However, my highest priority was making sure my baby was safe, so it was comforting to know that I was in a hospital with people who were ready to assist if anything went wrong.

By 7:00 am we were finally in our laboring room where my husband gave me a priesthood blessing. We decided to take a nap since we only had a few hours of sleep that night. The contractions were too uncomfortable for me to nap, but they weren’t too painful yet. I was happy my husband was able to get some rest. I wanted him to have energy later on to lend support when the labor became more intense. I tried several positions on the hospital bed, standing and on the birthing ball. I began to feel exhausted from the contractions, and lack of sleep so I decided to take a shower to help me relax. I felt much better after the shower so I tried to nap again. This time my husband sat with me in the hospital bed with his arm around me supporting my tired body. Finally in my husband’s arms, I was able to relax enough to fall asleep.

Then things took a turn. We were only sleeping for about half an hour when suddenly the baby began kicking very hard. I had never been woken up by his kicks before so this seemed strange. I could hear his heart beat on the fetal monitor, and it started to slow and eventually stop. Though I was terrified for my baby, I was able to stay calm. I took a few deep breaths and tried to nudge the baby around, and change my position hoping his heartbeat would return. A nurse rushed in (the machine must have notified her that there was no reading on the heartbeat.) She tried moving the monitor around on my belly to get a better reading. It took four minutes before they found his heart beat again. Those were the longest four minutes of my life.

I tried staying as calm as possible taking deep breaths. My mama bear instinct kicked in.  If my baby was in distress, I couldn’t be in distress too, I needed to be strong for him. This thought kept me calm. While the nurse was looking for the heartbeat during those scary four minutes, another nurse came in and gave me an oxygen mask. She hooked my heparin lock up to an IV. It started to stinging, so I thought something was wrong with it. The nurse quickly responded and put another heparin lock in my other hand.

A short while later the reading on his heart beat was lost again. All I could think was, “My baby is suffocating in there, we need to get him out! I want him safe in my arms!” The nurse did an internal exam to see if I had progressed enough to try and deliver vaginally. She found that I was still only dilated to one cm after several hours of labor. The nurse called my OBGYN to give him an update on the baby and me. He wanted to do an Emergency Cesarean Section. When I heard this, I felt relief, and a very strong sense of calm came over me. I knew that this was what we needed to do to keep my son safe. It is insane how much your personal preferences change when your babies safety is in jeopardy. I would do anything to make sure he was safe! (Mom’s do hard things for the welfare of their children, even get C-Sections!) I knew he needed to come quickly, and I was so grateful for modern technology and capable doctors and nurses that were prepared to save my baby’s life.

I have never been good with needles. I tend to faint when blood or needles are around, or even when they are talked about too graphically. It is something that I have struggled with since I was a child. Throughout my pregnancy, getting blood work done was always very scary for me. I found that if the phlebotomist let me lay down during the draw, and if I had my husband there holding my hand talking to me and distracting me, I could get through it without fainting.

I told the nurse about my fainting tendencies, and asked if I could lay down and have my husband with me when they administered the anesthesia. Although they were grateful that I let them know my tendency to faint, this particular anesthesia had to be administered while I was sitting up. Also, my husband would not be allowed in the operating room until after the anesthesia had been administered. This information would normally have created much anxiety, but I was overcome by a great feeling of calm as they wheeled me away from my husband and into the operating room.

Though my husband was not permitted to enter the room, I believe that angels accompanied me. I felt God’s love so strong, and knew I was not alone. I was sure that there were ancestors that had passed on before me, there in that room by my side giving me peace. As they administered the anesthesia, they had a nurse stand in front of me and I put my arms around her neck until they were done. It was kinda like a big bear hug, and I didn’t feel faint at all.

My husband  was permitted to join me, and he lovingly stroked my hair as the doctor worked. We couldn’t believe that it was finally time to meet our little one. All of a sudden we heard a loud scream from our son. My OBGYN jokingly said, “Hey, you’re not out yet, you can’t scream!” We laughed and cried with pure joy. Life is such a miracle! I can’t believe that we had the privilege to create this amazing little child together!

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

The nurse took him across the room to make sure he was healthy. My husband was with him the whole time. Once they knew he was healthy, they brought him by my face and I was able to see him for the first time. He was so perfect. His eyes were open and he was just looking around. I cried and said “Mommy loves you so much, we have been waiting for you for a long time, we are so glad you are here safe.”

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

My husband accompanied him back to our room and they held hands while the doctor finished working on me. My husband waited to hold him so that I could be the first one to hold him. They kept him in the warmer to make sure his temperature stayed high enough. When the surgery was done, I joined them in the room and the three of us held hands. I couldn’t believe that we were finally parents! Nothing but joy filled my heart.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

The nurse said that instead of using the warmer, I could hold him with a blanket to keep him warm. I had waited my entire life for this moment, and it was as sweet as I had anticipated. There is nothing like holding your baby for the first time. I just loved snuggling him skin to skin on my chest.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

I was able to nurse him and daddy got a turn to hold him too. He was so proud to be the father of this little boy. What an amazing thing it was to finally have him there with us.

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord

Now 4 years have gone by: This boy has taken me on an emotional roller coaster. He has taught me so much. He has had boundless energy since day one. He has taught me about unconditional love, and patience, and most of all how to have fun. His personality is so different than mine in many ways, and he has taught me to laugh, and to find wonder in the beautiful things in life. In many ways he is just like me. He is stubborn, and is all about following the rules. Sometimes when I look at him all I can see is my husband, and other times he reminds me of myself. He is getting so big, adventurous and learning so fast. Oh how I love this boy!

A Birth Story- Finding Peace in the Lord
This boy has so much personality! He cracks me up. I am so lucky he is mine!

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Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

  • Scroll down for the August visiting teaching handouts.
  • If you are looking for a handout for the September visiting teaching message you can check it out hereimage

The August Visiting Teaching Message  is titled Nurturing Families Together. This message has so many wonderful quotes, and inspired several handouts for your choosing. If you like these ideas, and would like an email notification when the new Visiting Teaching Handouts are available, please Subscribe! If you are viewing this on a Computer you can enter your email into the side bar, or if you are viewing on a cell phone you can access the subscribe option by tapping the pull down menu at the top of the page. Thank you for joining our community!

In this month’s message, President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,

“The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service,”

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

Click The Home is God’s Laboratory for the Free Printable Download of the above handout.

I love the story Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared about the love that his father had for his mother. I won’t spoil it, I will let you read it, but his father shows an excellent example of love and service. After such a grand sacrifice, his wife must have known without a doubt that he loved her.

Sometimes it’s a culmination of the little things that help show love towards a spouse. My husband is not fond of Country Music, but he knows that I love it. When we are in the car together, he switches the radio to the Country Station. This small gesture goes a long way, and I can feel his love as he puts my desires before his own.

When we love someone, it is natural to want to serve them, and vise versa. I find that serving others helps break down barriers and allows you to love them in a way you didn’t before. I remember camping one year, and there was an individual who offended me. After crying on my bed a little, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me forgive him. Immediately, I remembered a General Conference talk titled Your Mission Will Change Everything by Elder David F. Evans Of the Seventy. He told a story about President Hinkley when he was on his mission and feeling discouraged. President Hinkley’s Father wrote him a letter and said,

“You want to be happy? Forget yourself and get lost in this great cause, and bend your efforts to helping people”

I gained my composure and set out to serve this person. He was in charge of dinner that night, so I offered my help. As I served him my heart was softened. I was able to see him in a different way. I was able to learn how much work he had put into making this event happen. I quickly realized that the words he said that had offended me previously were not a direct attack at me, but rather a result of extreme exhaustion from his lack of sleep and hard work. I was able to forgive him and gained a love toward him instead. When we give Service to someone, we naturally learn to Love them.  When we Love someone, we naturally want to give Service to them. It is a beautiful cycle.

Here is a peak of the handout using the above quote about Love and Service by Elder Russell M. Nelson.

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

Click below for your Free Printable Download of this Handout.

Love and Service Visiting Teaching Handout.

The handout will look something like this when it is all put together.

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

Have your sisters combine the sprite and cranberry juice for a sweet summer refreshment.

Another quote that I loved from this months message was:

A “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.”

This is a quote taken from The Family A Proclamation to the World, so what better way to present it than with a picture of a loving family.

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

I thought it would be perfect to include a First Aid Kit or a “Love and Care” Kit with this Handout. I found a great tutorial on how to make some cute ones here at the Some of This & Some of That Blog.

Aren’t these adorable? I just love these!

For your Free Printable Download of this Handout click the link below.

VT Handout Aug 2016 Love and Care

Okay, Here is one last handout idea using the following quote by Elder Russell M. Nelson:

“Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage from the Lord.”

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016

Click the link below for your Free Printable Download of this Handout

VT handout Aug 2016 Faithful

You could easily include either of the following candies with this handout.

Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016
Ring Pops
Visiting Teaching Handout August 2016
Hershey’s Kisses

Happy Visiting Teaching! Hope you liked these ideas!

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5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question

We have all seen it, those corny sitcoms and chick flicks where the  proposal goes terribly wrong. The guy pops the question and the girl is so blindsided that she doesn’t know what to say. What could have been one of  the most romantic nights of their lives turns into an awkward hiccup in their relationship. Wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain that he is “The One” before he gets down on one knee?

If a couple can get on the same page about their future, that special moment can be full of excitement rather than anxiety, and hope rather than doubt. There will be nothing holding her back from squeeling that desired answer, “Yes!” while tossing her arms around his neck. Having some important conversations about the future can alleviate all that stress and allow them to enjoy that moment to its fullest, and remember it for years to come.

How to have the perfect proposal
Having a photographer there to capture the moment will help you to remember it for years to come. This beautiful photo was taken by Cydney Photography. You can view her page Here.

The best way for couples to get on the same page is to have honest conversations about their future. How and when to have these conversations will depend on the individual couple. Some may prefer to gradually discuss these things during their courtship as they naturally come up. Others may want to fill out a questionnaire like a worksheet and then compare answers. Some may prefer a combination of the two.

When my husband and I were dating, he created a game so that we could ask each other important questions in a fun way. We each wrote down questions similar to the ones below on sticky notes. After we placed the sticky notes down, we took turns rolling a dice. We had to answer the question that we landed on. It turned out to be fun, and really helped us to get to know each other’s hopes and dreams. On other occasions, we casually talked about what we would do if we couldn’t have children, and my desire to be a Stay at Home Mom. (read more about that here.)  We got to know each other pretty well.

Here is a list of some important discussion points to help get you started.

  1. Morals:
    1. What values do we expect each other to live?
    2. What religion will we practice?
    3. How active will we be in said religion?
  2. Education/Career:
    • Do we want to pursue higher education?
    • How will we pay for it? (Save up/cash flow/Student loans)
    • Where are you willing to live to pursue education?
    • What careers do we want to have?
  3. Money:
    • How will we earn it?
    • What are our savings goals?
    • What are we willing to go into debt for? house/car/education etc.
    • How will we Save/Spend/Give our money? We love the free Everydollar app.
  4. Children.
    • Do we want kids?
    • How many?
    • When?
    • How will we raise them?
    • Will one of us quit work to be a stay at home parent? if so, which parent?
    • Will me make them go to church?
    • Will we expect them to do chores?
    • Will we let them participate in sports. extracurricular activities?
    • What schooling do we want them to have? public/private/charter/home school etc.
    • If we are unable to naturally conceive, will we seek medical help/adopt?
  5. Family:
    • Do we get along with each other’s parents?
    • How close do we want to live to them?
    • How involved will we let them be in our lives?
    • Are we comfortable with them babysitting our kids?
    • Who’s family will we spend Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years with?

5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question.

These questions and many more will help a couple decide if they are a good match. Listening to the heart is essential as well. There is no equation that can be written to calculate a definitive answer. The Heart MUST be involved in a decision this big. All this while being careful to recognize the difference between lust and love. Ignoring warning signs because you “love” them, is a bad idea.

Communication is so important before a ring is placed on that finger. It is better to find out now if fundamentally different goals are desired before sacred marital promises are made, and before children are brought into the equation. On the other hand, (The one with the sparkly diamond! See what I did there?) having the same vision towards the future will create the perfect foundation for a successful proposal and marriage.

5 Topics to Discuss Before He Pops the Question.
Having the same vision towards the future will create the perfect foundation for a successful proposal and marriage.

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How to Watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

⇓⇓⇓Updated information in RED below.⇓⇓⇓

When I found out that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood would only be available on Netflix until July 1, 2016 I was so sad! I know it may sound silly, but Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has sentimental value to my family! It really is a part of our lives and a part of our hearts! Season 2 came to Netflix at just the right time! Episodes 1: The Tiger Family Grows and 2: The Baby is Here were just what we needed to help our son adjust to his new baby sister. Throughout the pregnancy we watched the episodes and talked about the changes that were about to happen in our family. I had a Scheduled C-Section planned so the day that we were going to go into the hospital to have the baby, we watched these episodes together. He even got his new baby sister a present and painted her a picture just like Daniel Tiger did for baby Margaret. When ever my daughter touches my son’s hand he says, “Look mom! She is holding my paw, just like Daniel Tiger!”

Help your toddler be excited about the new baby in the family by having them pick out a gift for the baby.
My son holding his present for his new baby sister while he watched Daniel Tiger on the day she was born.
Painting a picture for his new baby sister helped my toddler adjust to this change in our family. Daniel Tiger made a picture for his baby sister too!
Here he is painting a picture for her. I love how he sticks his tongue out when he is concentrating.
Siblings, and best friends meeting for the first time. Doesn't get cuter than that!
This was when he first met her at the hospital.
"She is holding my 'paw' just like Daniel Tiger!"
My mom helping him hold his sister. He was holding her “paw.”

Aside from our emotional connection with this great show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood teaches kids how to deal with everyday situations. The cute jingles in this show create a fun environment that kids respond well to. We sing at least one if not more every day! Some of our favorite jingles are:

  • One more time and then we’re done.
  • That was fun and now we’re done.
  • Stop and listen to stay safe.
  • While you wait, you can play, sing or imagine anything.
  • Use your words, use your words.
  • When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four. 1-2-3-4.
  • When you got to go potty, Stop, and go right away.
  • Flush, and wash and be on your way.
  • You can be a big helper in your family.
  • When you’re sick, rest is best, rest is best.
  • You gotta try new foods ’cause they might taste good.
  • Grown ups come back.
  • Thank you, for everything you do!

Somehow when you sing these jingles, amazing things happen! It can turn sticky situations into a game. It is like magic, really! We love the show. It will be really sad to see Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood leave Netflix. So When I found out, I thought, “Where else can I watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?” Here is what I found out:

I did the research so you don't have to. Find out where you can watch Daniel Tiger now that it has been removed from Netflix.

  1.  I searched on Amazon Prime Video, and sure enough it is there, but it is only available till June 30, 2016 so that doesn’t do us much good. This morning my friend let me know that Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is still available on Amazon Prime Video! When I checked a few days ago it said Seasons 1-5 were included with my prime membership until June 30. While this was true, it was a little misleading. I thought that this meant that Danel Tiger would no longer be available after June 30.⇓ 2016-07-01 07.29.10 When I checked it out today, this is what I found! I am so glad I was wrong! ⇓ 2016-07-01 07.37.12 Not only is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on Amazon Prime, but they added Season 6! This is great news! Since Amazon Prime is a valid option now,  here are some details on becoming an Amazon Prime member. Amazon Prime membership is only $10.99 per month and includes Prime Video, free two day shipping on all Amazon Prime products and more. My family has really enjoyed having this service. You can click here to sign up for a free 30 day trial . ⇓
  2. Of course there is the obvious, watch it on PBS. PBS is a free local station available to you on your TV if you have an antenna. You can get one here. Unfortunately we live too far away to receive a signal for this station. We live way on the edge of town so I think our circumstances are pretty rare. This may very well be a viable option for you.
  3. DVDs: There are several Daniel Tiger DVDs available on Amazon. I might have to buy the Big Brother Daniel DVD for my son.
  4. There are a couple of online forums that have Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood available, but in many cases you have to watch them on your phone, which drains your battery. Also your phone use is limited when your child is using it, which can be annoying. I have everything on my phone, my grocery list,  budget, To Do list, email, podcasts etc. I really do not prefer this method, especially since screen time for my toddler means I better be getting stuff done. For example, since my grocery list is on my phone, it kinda defeats the purpose of  distracting him with a quick show (on my phone) while I get it organized (on my phone). Too bad it can’t be in two places at once.  You could let them watch it on your computer or laptop, but then you have to worry about them pressing buttons they aren’t supposed to, or accessing sites you didn’t want them on. My solution to this problem is Chrome Cast. We got a Chrome Cast as a Christmas gift from my sister and brother in law a couple of years ago, and it has completely changed our TV watching experience. It just plugs into the HDMI port on the back of your Flat Screen and is powered by a USB. From your phone or iPad, you can ‘cast’ Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and several other streaming sites to your TV. You can also cast ANY WEBSITE from your computer directly to your TV. All you have to do is use Google Chrome Browser instead of the other popular browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari, or Firefox. When you use Google Chrome, a Casting option appears in the upper right corner of your browser, you just click on it and select the TV you would like to cast it to. Your phone or computer doesn’t even have to be in the same room as the TV. If my son has completed all of his morning tasks and I am still getting ready for the day, I can cast a show onto the TV downstairs for him while I finish my make-up upstairs. I can even use my phone for other things as it casts in the background. Your streaming experience is so much better on the TV than on a tiny phone or iPad screen, and you don’t have to worry about your child pushing buttons they shouldn’t on your computer or laptop. If you don’t get this now, I recommend buying it for a family Christmas gift. It is so worth it!
  5. PBS Kids website – As far as I could see there are only about 4 full episodes available at a time. They also have short clips in the PBS Parents page.
  6. Hulu Plus– This is a good option except it only includes Season 1, but it is better than nothing. The cost is $7.99 per month. which is comparable to the $8.99 that Netflix charges a month.
  7. YouTube: Full episodes are available here, but are $1.99 per episode. There are a couple of playlists that look worth checking out. Keep in mind, content on YouTube is constantly changing so what is available one day, may not be the next.

After all of this research, I think we will probably end up using our chromecast to watch playlists of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on YouTube. seasons 1-6 on Amazon Prime Video.  I may buy some DVDs of our favorite episodes on Amazon. DVDs are always nice for road trips too where streaming is not available. I hope you found this information helpful!

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We love Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood! Why did they remove from Netflix? Glad to have this resource to see where else it is available.

“Thank you, For Everything you do!”

My Mother’s Handprints on My Heart

Today I want to talk a little bit about my favorite Stay at Home Mom, my sweet mother. She was the first person who left prints on my heart. There is a little part of her in me. When I was little, I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be a mother. Being a Stay at Home Mom was my life goal and ambition. She was such a great example to me. As a Stay at Home Mom, she contributed much more to the family by being home than she ever could have by having a job and contributing financially. No amount of money, or elevated lifestyle could have replaced her. I loved having her there. I am so grateful for her sacrifice. When I was little she wrote this beautiful poem from a child’s point of view.

Handprints

Through the years my hands leave prints
at first they’re as cute as can be.
Until I climb upon your lap
and leave jelly prints on your knee.

You get mad at first, then look into my face
and cannot help but to smile.
You thank the Lord for your precious child
and wished you’d felt that way all the while.

I smile back at your loving face
That smile absorbs right through.
At that moment I know that you love me
and you know that I love you too.

Together we learn that material things
are not what matter the most.
even though your knees have been soiled
by my jelly and my toast.

My print on your knee will wash out you see
but the print that you leave with me
Will stay in my heart forever
and for all eternity.

My Mom has definitely left prints on my heart. I am glad that my mom taught me to be there for my kids through the thick and the thin, just like she was there for my siblings and me. Being a Mom is not always the most glamorous or clean job. But my mom instilled confidence in me. I have never once doubted my decision to be a Stay at Home Mom.

Being home has meant that I have been beat and battered by every tantrum, sickness and sleepless night. Although when I think of it, I wouldn’t want anybody else there in my place for each of those moments. No one else could possibly love my kids as unconditionally as I do. I have loved them through their naughty fits, picked them up when they fell, kissed them when they were hurt, and cuddled them close through their endless whimpers.

It can be the most physically exhausting and emotionally draining thing you will ever do, but it can also evoke such strong feelings of love that you never imagined were possible. Being a Stay at Home Mom has also meant that I have been there to see my sweet son’s very first intentional smile,  first words, first steps. I was there to see my daughter discover her hands, react to new foods with a funny face, and learn to pull herself up to standing position. I have been there for all of their new discoveries. I cherish those moments, and wouldn’t trade them for the world.

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Barbara Bush Gave a beautiful Commencement Address at Wellesley College on June 1, 1990.

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.

I will never regret putting a career on hold for my kids. There will be plenty of time for that when they are up and out, grown and gone. Right now they are growing and changing so fast. I don’t want to miss out on their life, and I don’t want them to miss out on me. I like to think they want/need me around.

My mom kept just about everything from school when I was little. I have several binders full of Memories from Elementary, Middle and High School. As I was looking through them a few years ago, I found a questionnaire from elementary school. As I read it, I was so proud of my 6 or 7 year old self.

Q:What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: A Stay at Home Mom

The desire to be home with my children has penetrated deep in my heart my whole life. I have never even considered my years as a young mother any other way. Before my now Husband and I got engaged, I had a conversation with him about it. I asked him what he thought about Stay at Home Moms without disclosing my opinion on the matter. I needed to know that my husband would be supportive of that decision without my convincing. If he said he thought that Mom’s should continue to work, it honestly would have been a deal beaker for me. I remember exactly where we were when we had the conversation. We were drivingin his car  and I was super nervous about bringing up the subject. I really liked him, and I wanted it to work out between us. I gathered up my courage and we talked about it. I was so glad when he said that his mom was a Stay at Home Mom and he always liked having her home. He said that he would want that for his kids too. That was just one of the many reason’s I married him.

I am so grateful for all Stay at Home Mom’s out there making the world a better place by raising the next generation. I am grateful for the example that Stay at Home Moms set for me as I was growing up. I am grateful for my Mother in Law who raised my amazing husband, and I am especially grateful for my Mom and her dedication to stay home with us kids. We are pretty dang lucky to call her ours. Her influence didn’t stop with us. Like I mentioned before, she left prints on my heart, and now I am leaving those same prints on my children. How lucky am I to be living this dream!

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Hanging out on the grass with my Beautiful mom and daughter. I love spending time with my mom. I just can’t get enough of it!

 

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Friday French Toast with the Family

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This morning the boys requested French Toast for breakfast. My little helper and I got everything gathered and went to work. I am a firm believer in letting children help out in the kitchen. As long as you teach proper safety and cleanliness it can be a great learning experience for both you and your child. My son learns new skills each time we work together in the kitchen. Each age brings new abilities in the food prep process. Today Big M helped me with cracking the eggs. He does a much better job now than he did a year ago. Back then, eggs were cracked in some less fortunate places. Cooking with a helper definitely requires patience, but has created so many great memories for both of us.

This french toast is delicious. Here is how to make it. First mix the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg in a shallow bowl.

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Place your whole wheat bread in the egg mixture.
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Coat it real good.
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Flip it to make sure both sides are covered evenly. Little helpers may need some assistance with this part. We probably wash our hands 10 times throughout the whole process.
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Once coated, place the bread on your skillet and top each piece with coconut oil (healthiest option), butter (tastiest option) or margarine (cheapest option).
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Then sprinkle on some cinnamon.
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Carefully flip the french toast so it can cook on both sides.
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It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. They won’t learn if you don’t let them try. I am really proud of how good Big M is at this.
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Now it is time to flip them onto the plate.
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The perfectionist in me wants so badly to rearrange the french toast in a beautiful pattern on the plate. But what kind of message would that send to my son? That it wasn’t good enough! I would never say that to him! So I shouldn’t say it with my actions either. Actions speak louder than words, especially to children.
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Besides, look how proud he is! Look at his beautiful accomplishment and creation. Little kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for.
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I have to refocus my perfectionism sometimes because my life isn’t just about me anymore, it is about my family. Instead of perfecting things, I try to perfect myself. I can do this by being patient, loving my son unconditionally, and instilling confidence in him. This can be very hard at times, but I keep trying, and I like to think I am becoming a better person because of it.

 

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Today, I just want to soak up the fact that he is interested in spending time with me. They grow up too fast!
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Besides, I can make it look pretty on my own plate.
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Baby B wishing she could try some of this delicious french toast.
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Patience beautiful girl. One day you will eat solid food.

One day I will have all the time in the world to make my food perfect and beautiful. Today is not that day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The smiles on my children’s faces are far more beautiful than any food will ever be, and I know I will look back on this time and wish I could relive it. So right now, I’m just going to soak it all in. Life is good!

What funny cooking experiences have you had with your kids? You know the ones where you are forced to laugh so you wouldn’t cry? We have these canisters on the counter that I keep all our baking staples in, flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon etc. One afternoon, I came into the kitchen to find a  chair pulled up to the counter, and Big M was no where to be found. I always get suspicious when there is a chair by the counter. I took a look at the canisters and all of them were empty, except for the large flour one. Yep, you guessed it! He dumped all the contents of all the canisters into the flour! When I asked him about it he said,  “I Mixa Mixa it real fast!” No Shame for that little guy! He kills me! Tell us about your funny cooking stories!

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French Toast

French Toast

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 -8 pieces of sturdy bread (I like whole wheat, or sour dough)
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs, milk, nutmeg and vanilla.
  3. Butter/ grease griddle.
  4. Dip bread one at a time in egg mixture and place on griddle.
  5. Top each bread slice with about ½ tsp butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  6. Flip when bottom of bread is golden brown.
  7. Allow both sides to become golden brown.
  8. Top with butter, syrup, fruit, strawberry compote, whip cream etc.
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WORK It’s a Four Letter Word

WORK. It’s a Four Letter Word. Well you don’t say… Of course it is, anybody who knows how to read and count could tell you that. Why do people like to tell you how many letters are in words? I don’t get it. I can imagine myself having a conversation about that with my 3 year old, but it just sounds weird coming from a grown man. He says, “WORK. It’s a four letter word.” I’m all like, “Wow! This guy really knows what he is talking about! I better listen real carefully… He probably has something important to say.” I wonder if it is kind of like when people ask themselves easy questions to make them sound smart.  Let’s try it.

Do I want to go grocery shopping with two kids again? No.

Do I think having my 3 year old go potty before we leave  the house is going to keep him from having to “Go!” three more times at the store? No.

Am I going to make him try anyway? Yes.

Why? Because I am a mom. It is what we do.

Okay, now I get it. That was fun. I do feel smart!

Anyway, I don’t have a job outside of the home. But I still work. I am a full time stay at home mom. I am my kid’s mom and my husband’s girlfriend. (Thanks Dr. Laura!) I am on the clock twenty four hours a day, seven days of the week. Many days I work through lunch, and sometimes I get literally screamed at when I take a potty break. My job description includes, budgeting, paying bills, doing dishes, folding laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, meal preparations, changing diapers, wiping tears, rocking children to sleep, nursing, entertaining children, taxi driving kids to activities, teaching preschool, lots of hugs and cuddles, repeat, repeat, repeat! Sometimes my job is lonely, sometimes it is fun. It can change from calm to crazy in seconds, but it is always worth it. I love my job!

My husband works incredibly hard so that I can stay home with our two kids. My family is my treasure and we feel that our family benefits best when I save my energy for them rather than being distracted by work. This week has confirmed to me that I am exactly where I need to be right now. This is in no way a slide to working moms, I think you are incredible! This is just what we have decided for our family. Having a hardworking husband, and budgeting with the everydollar app have made it possible for me to stay at home, and I feel very blessed to do so.

I am really grateful for the opportunity I had to work this week. My Husband and I have some financial goals we are working together to meet, and this brought us a little closer to reaching them. That is another story for another time. All I am going to say about  our financial goals today is;

  1. Taxes are the worst!
  2. Hiring a tax man is worth the money.
  3.  I am so glad we take advice from Dave Ramsey

My dad was in a bind this week since he had a 2 man job he needed to do while his business partner was out of town. He actually asked my husband Anthony if he could do it, but he has had so much extra work lately that he just didn’t have the time. It was only a 3 day job so we figured, I could step in and help my dad out. Plus the paycheck would push us closer to our goal. We did outside labor in direct sunlight with the temperature reaching 106 degrees. It was exhausting, but it felt good to work hard. It felt good to see the project when it was completed. It felt good to earn money. But most of all, it felt good to be home with my family when I was done.

Me and my dad at the end of our last day of work together. It feels so good to be done!

While I was working, the hubby caught up on kitchen chores I didn’t have time to complete, fed the kids dinner, and put them to bed. All after working a full day. He is Super Dad! We both did double duty this week. We both were stretched thin. We both were tired. But we did it! And next week we will go back to our normal routine. Hopefully our 8 month old will start sleeping through the night again. It is crazy how much it rocks these kid’s world when I am not around for 5-6 hours. I am their world, and they are mine! I definitely feel important and needed at home, and that is a good feeling.

My life may not always be glamorous, but it is real. I especially love the way my husband is looking at our daughter in this photo. My kids are so lucky to have a dad that loves them so much!