Apr 16, 2014

Last Minute Easter Ideas that Point to Jesus

* Make Resurrection Buns. These are SO easy! Even toddlers can help make them - and I've yet to meet a kid who wasn't delighted with how the buns turn up empty when they bite into them.

* Make Empty Tomb Cookies. These are slightly more involved, but still fun.

* Make Resurrection Eggs for the Easter hunt. It's really easy if you use the printables found here. Or take it one step further and create 3-D items for the eggs. A similar idea is to put together an Easter basket with elements from the true Easter story.

Found on Pinterest. Original source unknown.
* Put a little forethought into the food for Easter. For example, by arranging cut fruit into a cross, you point to the true meaning of the holiday. Or turn donuts into empty tombs. (See other examples here and here.) Or make pretzels into crosses. Or make the bread into a crown of thorns.  Or make a simple breakfast of bacon and eggs something to remember.

* Have the kids make an easy Easter playset, complete with Jesus, angels, and Roman soldiers.

* Make a cross "wreath" for the front door. Here's a nice example.

* A lot of children's Easter crafts forget to explain why Easter is so important to our salvation. Remedy that with this simple "paid in full" craft that turns pennies into a cross.
Via Mom on Time Out.

* Make a simple paper chain garland with your kids. Write the many names of Jesus - one on each chain.

* Provide an Easter treat for a family or children in need. It doesn't take much time to put together some Easter baskets for the children, or a box with meal fixings for the whole family. Be sure to include something that tells the true story of Easter and what it means - perhaps a tact or a children's picture book.

Apr 14, 2014

Read All Food Labels. Every Single One.

We avoid processed foods because we've come to the conclusion all those ingredients you can't pronounce aren't very good for our bodies. Our rule is that if man made it, we'll take a pass.

Recently, though, it seems it's more of a challenge to find good, wholesome food. I think some of this is due to skyrocketing food prices. Our local stores, knowing nobody around here is terribly affluent (at least by U.S. standards), tries to keep our food prices low-ish. But in doing so, it seems I must be even more rigorous than usual. Case in point:

We've been buying frozen salmon. I felt good about this because it was sold at a reasonable price, in my opinion, and was wild caught, making it healthy (or so I thought). But after months of eating the salmon, I happened to look a little more closely at the smaller print on the bag. Here's the label, with the important part circled in red:

That's right. Our "healthy," wild caught salmon had an added ingredient! I wish you could have seen my face when I read this, because I was so sad! Go ahead and look up sodium tripolyphosphate. I found it particularly depressing because it's only real use is to make the product look fresher and increase the weight of the fish. Who needs that? Not me!

Thankfully, the next time I went to the store, I found another brand of frozen, wild caught salmon that contained no added ingredients. (Now my face looks happy!)

And now I read ALL labels. Every single one. Because sometimes unlikely foods are processed.

Apr 11, 2014

Letter of the Week: T

T is for Tractor, via Our Crafts-n-Things.
This week, begin by showing your child an upper- and lowercase T. "T says t! Like teddy!" Then consider playing a game that lets you review all the letters she or he has learned so far: The Teddy Bear Letter Game. (Take turns being the growly teddy bear.) There are also lots of T foods you could eat today, including turkey, tuna, toast, tortilla chips, tomatoes, tarts, tapioca pudding, and tea.

For more about Letter of the Week activities, click here

* T is for Turkey (see also)
* T is for Turkey (2)
* Turkey hat craft
* Turkey lunch
* Turkey counting
* T is for Treasure (this would tie in with a memory verse: Matt. 6:21)
* Treasure letter maps
* T is for Tire Tracks
* T is for Tiger (lowercase; this is a craft kit, but you could easily fashion this yourself; see also)
* T is for Tiger (uppercase; see also; and this, also)
* Tiger's Teeth paper plate craft
* Tiger paper bag puppet
* Tiger paper plate craft
* Tiger toilet paper roll craft
* T is for Train  (see also)
* Train name writing craft
* Train shape craft
* Train printable craft
* Train colors activity
* Train lunch
* T is for Table (see also)
* T is for Turtle
* Turtle paper plate craft
* Turtle counting
* Turtle lacing, size sort, etc.
* Turtle weaving craft
* T is for Tree (see also)
* Tree shape activities
* Tree life cycle activity
* Tutu hand print craft
* T is for Tea
* T is for Telephone
* T is for Tractor
* Teeth craft* Teddy bear counting and more
* T is for Tulips
* Tulip hand print craft
* Truck counting
* Teddy bear color game
* Teddy bear mask craft
* Teddy bear drawing
* Teddy bear lunch
* Teddy bear snack (see also)
* Phonics: The Letter T
* Sesame Street: 10 Tiny T's do the Tango
* Sesame Street: The Missing T's (part I; part II)
* Sesame Street: Limerick Letter T
* Sesame Street: Cookie Monster and Letter T
* Sesame Street: T Words
* Sesame Street: T Dance
* Sesame Street: T is for Turkey

Apr 9, 2014

A Christian Mom's Guide to Cleaning for Company

The living room floor was covered with toys. I desperately needed to vacuum and mop. The kitchen was obviously disorganized. There was toothpaste and muddy hand prints all over the bathroom counter. But I had guests coming - a mother of a toddler and her husband - so I drove myself to get the house clean. As I scrubbed away at the floor, though, a sudden, strong thought hit me: Why was I driving myself so hard to have a tidy house for company? Did it really benefit my guests? Or was it really about me and my self image? An even stronger thought came to me: "You know, if you really want to help a younger mom, you won't tidy up at all."

Hmmm...I reduced my to-do list a bit, and continued mopping.

Fast forward to when our guests arrived. And at one point, as we stood in the kitchen preparing strawberries for dessert, my guest commented with no small bit of regret: "Your house is so clean and creative! I wish I could do that."

I was taken aback for a moment. (I don't think of my house as clean or creative.) Then I laughed and said, "This is from the Lord! Let me tell you what came to me while I was trying to whip my house into shape for company!"

Here's what I think God was trying to tell me: If, as a slightly more experienced mom, I want to help other, younger mothers who are struggling, showing them a spic-and-span house (or as spic-and-span as my house gets) isn't at all helpful, is it? This just makes other moms feel like they aren't doing enough, or are doing something wrong. On the other hand, if I show them how we really live...that's a lot more helpful! They see that none of us are superwoman, and that focusing on our husbands and children is a lot more important than keeping our homes spotless.

So next time another mom wants to visit my house and I look around disparagingly at muddy hand prints and messy floors, I will resist the urge to rush about cleaning. I will stop being a too busy Martha, and instead try to be more like Mary, hanging on Jesus' every word, ready to serve him in more important ways. How about you?

Apr 7, 2014

Equipping Your Kitchen - at the Thrift Store

Kitchen tools can be costly. A good mixer is over $200. A good bread machine, over $100. Even smaller tools like strainers and spoons add up quickly. And yet good tools can save you a lot of time and effort in the kitchen, making healthy, from scratch food much more do-able.

When it comes to equipping your kitchen, if you're on a budget, thrift stores are your best friend. In January, I made a list of kitchen tools I wanted to acquire, and by shopping at thrift stores, I've already obtained most of them - and for very little money! I've purchased an electric knife to make my homemade bread much less crumbly ($3; savings $17), a salad spinner ($1; savings $20), a manual beater (50 cents; savings $19), and a Food Saver that looks like it's never been used ($9; savings $151). My total cost? $13.50. Total savings? $193.50!

Of course, this takes a wee bit of dedication. I visit a thrift store at least every other week - once a week is better. It's smart to get there on a Friday, before the stores are inundated on the weekend - but I rarely get to go before Saturday or Sunday, so this isn't a must. Some weeks I walk away with nothing. Other weeks, I seem to hit the mother load.

Not all thrift stores are created equal. Those in my town (which is not prosperous) have much slimmer pickings than a thrift store I frequent in a nearby town that's a bit more affluent. Some thrift stores have higher prices than others. Some thrift stores seem to have a better selection of kitchen gear than others. So you need to be willing to explore a bit.

And, frankly, some items are very difficult to find in my local thrift stores. For example, I haven't yet found a coffee grinder or the large stainless steel bowls I'd like to add to my kitchen.

Yet even if you only acquire a small portion of your kitchen tools from thrift stores (or, for that matter, garage sales or Craigslist), you'll still save a lot of money!

Apr 4, 2014

Letter of the Week: S

S is for Snail, via Totally Tots.
This week, try having a breakfast that includes strawberries. Say: "Sssstrawberries start with an S. S says sssss, like a snake. Ssssnake starts with S, too!" Then brainstorm other words that start with S. Be sure to show your child what an upper- and lowercase S look like. Later in the day, you might eat salad, spaghetti, a sandwich, seafood, sherbet, soup, spinach, squash, or stew. Be sure to also chose one or more S crafts or activities, below:

For more about Letter of the Week activities, click here

* S is for Spider
* S is for Spider (2)
* Spider hand print craft 
* Spider counting printable
* Spider hat
* Spider leg counting
* Spider Oreo treat (A healthier alternative: Instead of a cookie, use crackers with peanut butter or cream cheese filling.)
* Spider krispie snacks
* Spider individual pizzas
* Spider deviled eggs
* S is for Superhero (see also)
* Superhero unit
* S is for (Spotted) Snake
* Number, letter, or color Snakes
* Toilet paper roll Snake craft
* Spiral paper plate Snake craft
* Paper chain Snake craft
* Snake snack
* Snake snack (2)
* S is for Swan (see also)
* S is for Scarf
* S is for Spaghetti
* S is for Snail
* S is for Squirrel
* S is for Snowman
* S is for Snow
* S is for Snow (2)
* S is for Squares and Stars
* S is for Seahorse
* S is for Seahorse (2)
* S is for Shiny Silver
* S is for Stripes
* S is for Seeds
* S is for Sand
* S is for Sewing
* S is for Skunk
* S is for Swirls
* S is for Sunshine and Sailboats in the Sea
* Phonics: Letter S
* Sesame Street: Letter S
* Sesame Street: Sammy the Snake
* Sesame Street: Bubba's Word Emporium: S
* Sesame Street: Grover and Letter S

Apr 3, 2014

Imagine Your Life Without a Bible

Imagine your life without a Bible. You hear about God from your pastor - whom you may see only infrequently - but you can't read God's word. Not when you're frightened or sad. Not when you are thankful and wanting to praise Him. Not when you want to deepen your faith and your knowledge of the Lord.

Imagine how different your spiritual life would be under these circumstances.

Sadly, this is the reality for Christians living in certain parts of the world where owning the Holy Bible is illegal.* If Christians want Bibles in these restrictive nations, they must obtain them illegally. Their Bibles must either be smuggled in or printed in secret; Bible smugglers and printers risk their very lives bringing God's word to these people.

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a charity that's been helping persecuted Christians since the 1960s, works hard to provide Bibles for Christians in restrictive nations. Currently, the charity says 191,267 persecuted Christians have asked them for a Bible - a Bible that may lead to their imprisonment or death, but a Bible which they long with all their hearts to read.

You can easily help. For only $30, VOM can give five Christians a Bible. For $60, they can give Bibles to 10 Christians. And for $120, 20 Christians who long to read God's word can own a Bible.

To donate, visit Voice of the Martyrs.

* To learn about countries where Christians are persecuted, visit The Voice of the Martyrs' "Prayer Map."

Apr 2, 2014

Mason Jar Plant Protectors

Early each spring, I set out my hardy, winter sown seedlings in our garden. The only trouble with this is that sometimes the slugs and snails - thriving in spring's wet weather - eat my seedlings before they have a chance of growing bigger. And if I set seedlings out in an area where the chickens scratch, I can say goodbye to those, too.

This year, I realized there was an easy way to protect these seedlings from slugs, snails, chickens - and even frost: Glass or plastic jars.

I used pint sized canning jars, but you can use any type of glass or plastic jar. Just place the jar over the seedling, open end to the soil. To make them more stable where animals might knock them over, just press the jars into the dirt a little, so the rim is buried.

So easy! As a bonus, the jar works like an old fashioned cloche, keeping the seedling warmer so it grows a little faster. Click here to read about using milk jugs to protect seedlings.