Parenthood

Letter/Number Practice Pack – FREE Download!

The new school year is upon us! Whether you’re homeschoolers like us or your kids go off to school, there’s so much excitement wrapped up in the new school year! The teacher in me loves getting all the new supplies and curriculum. I’m kind of an eclectic homeschooler, in that we use a mix of a few things for our curriculum. This year my boys are in fourth, second, and first. Plus I have a preschooler and the baby (oy… he’s a whole post in itself!) We’re big fans of slow learning in the early years – I don’t push them to read before they’re ready, and we don’t do formal school until at least kindergarten. Because play IS learning for littles!! But sometimes my preschooler wants to “do school” like his big brothers, and my first grader could use some review. So I created this FREE download – a letter and number practice pack for preschoolers to first graders! Print it off and add a few materials that you already have on hand to give your kiddos some fun learning activities!

There are six activities in this Practice Pack, though you could easily use the pieces to create even more!

Here are the materials you’ll need to grab from your house:

  • Egg carton
  • Cardboard tubes (we used our Young Living tubes because we have exactly 13,000 of them)
  • Old magnets (the kind that people send you in the mail with calendars, business cards, etc.) – if you don’t have any on hand, you can buy magnet strips at craft stores or online here
  • Cheerios or other small manipulatives
  • Liquid glue and/or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Download your free  Letter and Number Practice Pack
  • Optional: cardstock or laminator

We don’t use a lot of worksheets for school in our house, but we do like hands on learning activities. When kids are learning about letters and numbers, having something they can hold in their hand helps their brains to make connections. Cheerios is a perfect choice for this! We already have them in our house (Honey Nut Cheerios is literally the number one food my kids beg for at the store!), I don’t have to worry about the baby choking on them when they fall on the floor, and cleanup is easy … it all goes right into their mouths! ;)

I made a variety of letter and number activities at varying levels. Some of them can be used more than one way depending on your little one’s needs.

Here are the different counting activities:
Have your kiddo count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the number of stars on each number card.

Draw a number card (1-20 available). Your child will place the card next to a star and fill that star with the correct number of Cheerios.

With so many kids and homeschooling them all, it’s important for me to have some learning activities they can do without a lot of direction. After I told them the instructions, they were able to do it all on their own!

Of course, your child will need to have a snack mid-activity. This is crucial to their learning. ;)

For this circle activity, your child will count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the numerals around the circle.

Place number cards in each section of the egg carton. Have your little one count out the number of Cheerios to match the numeral. Cut the egg carton in half for kiddos who are just learning numbers, so that it’s not quite so overwhelming.

Here are the activities for Letter Recognition:

This craft has a bunch of different activities you could do with it! Put your magnet strips on the backs of your cardboard tubes. Glue upper or lowercase letter cards to the front of the tubes.

Put the letter tubes onto a magnetic surface like your fridge or a white board.

Have your kiddo say the letter sound as they slide a Cheerio down the tube!

If your little one doesn’t know letter sounds, focus on identifying letters. Ask them to slide a Cheerio down a certain letter tube. This is such a fun activity – ALL my kids liked it, even my almost ten year old! Because who doesn’t love shooting Cheerios down a tube?? ;) I love that I don’t have to worry about my 11 month old getting a hold of the Cheerios as they fall, unlike a marble or some other small manipulative.

You could also print out another set of number cards and glue those onto the tubes if you want to focus on numbers. Then have them slide the correct number of Cheerios down the tubes!

Within each letter strip, have your child find the lowercase letter that matches the uppercase letter at the beginning of the row.

Whether you homeschool or not, these are easy activities to whip out on a moment’s notice with your kiddos. If your littles need a little extra help learning their letters and numbers or if you just need a few fun activities for them to do when they’re begging for some screen time, these are easy to pull out without a lot of prep. If you want your activities to last and be able to use them over and over, make sure you print or glue onto cardstock or get them laminated.

I’m not even kidding when I say that my boys would eat cereal all day if I let them. Ha! I really appreciate that Cheerios has no High Fructose Corn Syrup (one of the biggest no-no’s in our house), and I love that they’ve removed the preservative BHT from their cereals.

When I was pregnant with my youngest, oh my goodness I craved Cheerios!! Unlike my kiddos, I’m not usually much of a cereal eater, but I think I have some childhood nostalgia around Cheerios, because I love a big bowl with bananas. So yummy! :) As we get back into our homeschool groove, having quick and easy breakfast options is important to me. We can toss them in a Ziplock bag for mornings when we need to leave the house early. Plus, can I get an Amen for Family Size boxes?? A total big family necessity!

So grab your FREE DOWNLOAD of the Practice Pack, grab some Cheerios from any local retailer, and have a smooth transition into the new school year!

Download your Letter and Number Practice Pack

Advertisements

Hiking With Kids: How to get started and what to bring!

One of our family’s favorite things to do together is go hiking! It’s something we’ve done together long before we had kids, and it’s been such a consistent part of our family’s routine that our kiddos have grown up hiking regularly. A lot of people are overwhelmed with the idea of hiking with kids, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds! Getting kids out into nature is an incredibly important part of their development and health, so I have some tips for helping you get started, including what you should bring along with you!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve never taken your kids hiking, you probably want to start small. Find a small trail at a local park and give it a whirl. Work your way up to longer, more challenging hikes. If you’re headed out for a short time, you probably won’t need all these supplies. But let’s face it, when we go out with little kids, it’s better to be slightly over prepared. ;) Depending on the ages of your kiddos, you might decide to leave some of these items out of your pack. Or you may add some more in depending on the weather or particular place you’re hiking.

Comfy, sturdy shoes – since it’s summer, Keens are my favorite shoes for shorter hikes. Longer hikes or cooler weather obviously require different shoes.

Baby carrier – the Ergo works nicely for us for the length of our hikes and having a small baby. It’s also great to stuff into a backpack for a toddler/preschooler who suddenly decides they can’t walk another step. If you’re going to hike really long distances or big mountains, consider getting a camping backpack carrier that gives more support.

Diapers and wipes (I like the Seedlings wipes, which you can buy here) in a pouch for easy locating in your bag

Portable changing mat, in case the ground is wet or rocky.

A baby toy or two for babies who are being carried is a nice distraction when they get antsy.

Sunglasses to protect those precious eyes!

Water bottles for the whole family.

Extra change of clothes for baby (especially little ones who are prone to blow outs!) During colder weather, you might toss in hats or gloves, long sleeved shirts or sweatshirts, or other warm clothing.

Burp rags – these are obvious if you have a baby who spits up a lot, but I toss them in even after we’ve passed the baby stage. They’re great for wiping up messes or big scrapes. Baby wipes are great, but these are so nice and gentle!

Snacks… because kids want to eat eleventy billion snacks a day, so they’re obviously going to be starving the moment you hit the trail.

Insect repellent, sunscreen, itch spray (the Lavaderm after sun spray is perfect for this), waterless hand purifier – all of these can be found here

Band-aids for the inevitable scraped knee, tweezers for slivers or ticks, and all the oils! These are my must-haves when we’re out for a hike:

KidScents Owie oil (for all those bumps and owies on the trail)

KidScents TummyGize oil (in case someone’s tummy feels icky)

Purification/Geranium (great for helping to keep away the creepy crawlies – add some to hair or shoes)

Basil (for those nasty stings!)

Deep Relief (for any aches and pains that happen while you’re hiking)

Lavender (to help calm any irritated skin)

Valor (for the inevitable meltdown … from you or your littles!)

*All these oils can be purchased here

I have to give a shout out to my girl Beth who has an amazing shop. Weepereas sells amazing oil pouches, baby shoes, and toddler backpacks. They are incredibly well made, and I carry my oil pouch with me all the time. It holds more than just oils too!

Not pictured: hats (especially for babies), baby bottles or sippy cups. I bring ours in a small cooler that fits in the bottom of my backpack. I usually toss some cheese sticks or other small snacks in, depending on how long our hike is. Then I also have an ice pack in case we need one on hand.

Pack it all in a backpack that’s comfortable enough to wear for a long time:

Now go off and enjoy the adventure!

What do you take along when you hike with your family? Happy hiking, friends!

Want to learn more about essential oils? Join my private group on Facebook!

When Motherhood Isn’t What You Expected 

Anytime you bring a new baby home, your life is going to change. Most of those changes are so, so good. And many are just as difficult. But babies grow and (eventually) sleep through the night, and what was hard yesterday isn’t so hard today.

So when we brought home baby boy five, I expected certain challenges. I knew there would be countless sleepless nights ahead of me. I knew there would be crying – from both baby and mama. I knew there could be some rocky days as his brothers transitioned to this new person in our home. I knew that I should expect the unexpected.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

But this most recent season of motherhood has been more exhausting and more challenging than I was prepared for. In the nine plus years since I became a parent, I’ve been a proud breastfeeding mama. Not in an “I’m better than you if you don’t breastfeed” kind of way, but in an “I’m willing to work as hard as I can to make this work, because this is what I believe is best for my baby.” And it has been hard work.

So of course, I expected the same for our newest babe. After all, fifth babies come at least with the blessing of experience – every little thing isn’t new and confusing, as it was with my first.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

In the beginning, it was easy. He nursed like a champ, and we had very few problems. We settled into a groove and everything was going well. Until it wasn’t.

At a well-check, we discovered he wasn’t gaining weight. Even though I thought he had been nursing so well, he wasn’t growing like he should have been.

This felt personal. I’m the one responsible for this little life. I’m his sole source of nourishment. I’m the reason he’s not growing.

It took awhile to find the cause of his lack of weight gain, and in the process, we began to supplement. I cried when my husband gave him his first bottle. Not because formula was going to ruin my baby, but because I felt like I had failed him. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do – what I was made to do.

Through my own persistence and refusing to simply believe that my milk wasn’t “enough” we discovered our little one had a significant lip and tongue tie that had been over looked for months. Once we began down the road of supplementing (which was necessary, even if it was heart wrenching), baby decided he didn’t want to nurse anymore. Who could blame him, really. He hadn’t been physically capable of getting all the milk he needed when nursing, so when we introduced a bottle, he didn’t have to work so hard to fill his little belly anymore.

So my life revolved around feedings – pumping, attempting to nurse only to be met with screams and tears – his and mine, and bottle feeding. I felt like all I did was feed and pump, feed and pump.

My free moments were few and far between. When the baby was sleeping, I was pumping and homeschooling and trying to keep up with the daily tasks of mothering a small army of children. I was spending every second of the day – and throughout the night – caring for a child. I put all other things on the back burner – sewing, exercising, self-care. It was a hard and difficult season.

But because this was my fifth baby and not my first, I knew that it was just that – a season. Sometimes I would pump in my sewing room and look at my stacks of fabric, and my mind would fill with ideas for what to sew next. I would spot the half finished projects sitting on my sewing table, and wonder how long it would be before I could get to them. And then I would remind myself that it wasn’t always like this – and one day, it would get better. I would dust off my sewing machine and we’d pick back up like the old friends we are. This season was hard, but it wasn’t going to last forever.

About a month ago, I chose to stop pumping. Instead of feeling guilty for not nursing a full year or more like I had with my other kiddos, I knew that it was the right choice for me. I needed to step out of that hard season and create a little more margin in my days. My milk supply had been dwindling, and I knew that my body and my soul needed some restoration.

I’ve since returned to my trusty sewing machine and finished projects that I had begun months ago. My brain made space to create something new. I still have days or weeks where my sewing machine sits untouched. The dishes pile up and must be washed. The baby learns to crawl, gets into everything he shouldn’t, and suddenly I’m trading sleepy snuggles for chasing him around the house. Summer comes and we spend hours at the park.

Motherhood always brings the unexpected: joys, tears, adventures, and challenges. But I always come back to sewing, even if it comes in 15 minute increments, because this is my self-care. When life throws something at you that you weren’t expecting, the small moments of taking care of yourself become even more important. I know that if I don’t take care of myself, there’s no way I can take care of these littles of mine. When the season changes, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for an uninterrupted hour spent with my sewing machine. Here in this season of sleepless nights and countless bottle feedings, though, I’m okay with slow sewing with a side of baby snuggles.

Thanks, Jodi, for inviting me to be a part of the Ease Into Motherhood series.

Planning a Family Vacation Without Losing Your Mind (plus FREE packing list printable!)

                                     
Summer is here! Schools are letting out and everyone starts thinking about pool days, park time, and family vacations! When you’re planning a vacation with kids, it can be easy to stress about lots of details: where to sleep, what to eat, what to bring, etc. I have a list of ten things to help you plan a family vacation without losing your mind (plus a free packing list printable, so keep reading!)

1. Don’t overplan.

Kids are unpredictable. You may arrive at your destination only to find that your kids are content with doing one activity the entire time you’re there! Have a few preplanned outings or activities, but keep your schedule loose and allow for flexibility.

2. Bring snacks.

This is basically a given when you’re traveling with kids, but it will make your life easier. Rather than having to search for food to eat when those inevitable hangry meltdowns occur, pack some healthy snacks that your kids enjoy. It also helps for those “You want me to eat WHAT?!” moments that happen a little more often when traveling. ;)

3. Schedule nap/rest times.

When you’re away from home and filling your days with activities that aren’t the norm, your kids are going to need some down time. And let’s face it – so are you! Plan to spend at least an hour each day (or more, depending on the ages of your kiddos) resting and doing quiet activities like reading, card games, or taking naps. This will help everyone to recharge and have more energy – and fewer meltdowns!

4. Pack light.

Unless you’re vacationing in a remote village somewhere, you probably don’t need to pack everything you own. Many hotels and water parks have laundry available, so you don’t have to worry if baby goes through all five outfits in the first day. When my kids were younger, I would pack lots of toys for them to play with, only to discover that they were so excited to be in a new place, they barely looked at their toys! So bring the bare minimum and know that you can always grab extra supplies at a nearby store if you find you absolutely need them. You’ll be happy to carry fewer suitcases!

5. Pack a few familiar comforts.

Whether it’s a lovey, an essential oil diffuser, or a cozy bathrobe for snuggling in after swimming, everyone likes to feel at home when they’re away. I always let my kids chose one stuffed animal or blankie to have on long car rides or in hotel rooms. That familiar feeling tends to help everyone sleep a little better!

6. Make a list.

I just looove lists. Whenever we take a trip, I make a huge list of everything I need, so we don’t forget anything. I really adore checking off boxes. :) I have a great packing printable for you free at the end of this post!

7. Choose a kid-friendly location.

Not all vacation spots are made for kids, so choose wisely. We love vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells, because there’s something for everyone. The Kalahari Resort is family friendly and has activities for all ages. They have both indoor and outdoor waterslides, so you can have fun even when the weather isn’t that great.

The Kalahari Resort here in Wisconsin recently added an awesome new outdoor waterslide, which just opened this Memorial Day. The new ride “The Smoke That Thunders” looks amazing! You can pile on these big rafts with your family and friends and thunder down the epic waterslide. I can’t wait to try it!

Over the years, my family has traveled to the Wisconsin Dells many times, and the Kalahari Resort is perfect for families with multiple ages. Since there’s such a wide variety under one roof, you don’t have to get in your car to go elsewhere unless you want to. One-stop vacationing is my jam. Because once I’ve gotten everyone out of the car, I really don’t want to get back in unless we’re going home! Mom can hit up the spa (um, yes please!!) while the kids are playing arcade games, then we can all meet back at the waterpark. There are water activities appropriate for every age level, so no one feels left out. That’s important for a big family like mine. ;)

Since there’s so much to do in one spot at the Kalahari Resort, you really don’t need to pack much. They have towels, food, fun activities, arcade games, and more. So you just need to pack a few personal items! I’ve made a free printable to help your packing go a little smoother.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING LIST PRINTABLE

If you’re not close enough to drive to the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari location, be sure to check out the Sandusky, Ohio location!

What packing tips do you have to help keep your sanity?

SaveSave

SaveSave

A Baby to Snuggle

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve heard the news, but I’ve neglected to share it here. Baby five has arrived!dsc_8962-copy

Little Ezra joined us about two months ago, though it feels like he’s always been a part of our family.

dsc_8995-copy

He spends his days being adored by his big brothers. And I spend my days keeping his big brothers from smothering him with their love and affection. ;)

dsc_8901-copy

Now I have an adorable model for my baby pants and baby hat patterns (which are both free, if you haven’t snagged them yet!)

dsc_8917-copy

The hat has gone from wide cuff to narrow cuff as he’s grown, but he’s been wearing it since he came home from the hospital.

dsc_8957-copy

The pants were a little big on him when he was first born, but they fit him perfectly now. He’s on the smaller side for his age, so he’s getting a little extra wear out of his itty bitty sizes, compared to some of his brothers.

dsc_9009-copy

I haven’t been doing quite as much sewing as of late, but I’m squeezing it in when he lets me.

dsc_8887-copy

These baby days will be gone before I know it, though, so I’m going to soak them up a little bit longer.

Real Mom Confessions: How to End the Toothbrushing Battle

                                  

I think it’s fair to say that parents everywhere have experienced the same struggle at least a time or two: the dreaded tooth brushing battle! Whether it be a toddler who refuses to open her mouth or a preschooler who hates the taste of toothpaste or an older child who just can’t remember to brush, the struggle IS real. With four tooth-bearing kiddos, we’ve gone through our fair share of brushing battles. If you’re nodding your head, saying “Yes! This is me!” I have some toothbrushing tips to make brush time a little easier.

how-to-end-the-tooth-brushing-battle

Some of my kiddos have fought tooth brushing more than others, so I’ve used my fair share of tricks to try to get them to brush. I’m sure you parents can relate to this video:


(Click here if you’re having trouble viewing the video)

Here’s how we ended the tooth brushing battle in our house:

1. Make it silly

When you make a silly face, act like a monkey, or bring out the goofy voices, your toddler will have a hard time holding back his smiles. This relaxes you both and makes it more of a game, less of a battle.

dsc_8688-copy

2. Don’t push it 

It’s important to brush your kiddos’ teeth,  but sometimes we just need to back off for awhile. If your little one is suddenly refusing to brush, take a few days off (her teeth won’t fall out!) and come back to it with a fresh approach.

dsc_8660-copy

3. Give them control 

Kids love to be in control! Let your preschooler squeeze the toothpaste himself. Ask your elementary aged child to be the tooth brush monitor. Give your toddler a choice of toothpaste flavors.

dsc_8629-copy

4. Buy a really yummy toothpaste

This kind of seems like a no-brainer, but honestly? Some kids’ toothpastes don’t taste good! Many have a fake taste that I wouldn’t enjoy using, so why would they?  Some of my boys are really picky about food, and they don’t care for traditional toothpaste flavors. I’ve truly never seen my kids like a toothpaste as much as they like this hello toothpaste. Sometimes they brush their teeth three times a day, without me even asking. What?!

dsc_8563-copy

The unique flavors (watermelon and bubble gum are the kid favorites here) really get them excited to brush. And the toothpaste is naturally friendly, which makes this mama excited! I love when our personal care products say no: no dyes, parabens, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, triclosan, or microbeads. I’m super conscious of what we put in our bodies, so that’s all really important to me.

dsc_8691-copy

Something else I love? These toothpastes have fluoride and fluoride free options. Personally, I love the natural sweet mint flavor (fluoride free!)

dsc_8559-copy

I love anything that can make my mom life a little bit easier (can I get an Amen, mamas??), and eliminating brush time battles with hello toothpaste has made a huge difference in our house.

So time for your own real mom confessions… what crazy things have you done to get your kids to brush their teeth? What tips do you have to share??

Preparing for Baby: Portable Diaper Changing Mat Tutorial

We’re preparing for baby number five over here, and while we have most of the big things, there are a few things I’ve had on my to-make list. Somewhere along the line, I lost our portable diaper changing mat, and I really missed it with my fourth baby! And since you spend about thirty trillion hours changing a baby’s diapers, I had to make a new one.
Portable Changing Mat Tutorial

 

I just hit my third trimester, and I’m in full baby prep. I still have a ways to go before baby arrives, but you just never know when he will arrive! So I’m stocking up on everything we might need: clean onesies, pacifiers, nursing pads, and of course, DIAPERS! Walmart Neighborhood Market has everything we need for baby and more.

DSC_7881 copy

When it comes to a portable changing pad, I wanted to have something that I could grab from my diaper bag and have everything I need. I don’t always like to take the diaper bag everywhere, so having a pocket for diapers and wipes was very important to me.

DSC_7899 copy

One side of the changing mat is waterproof PUL (I also used that when making this wet bag), the other is cotton, with a layer of fleece in between.

Supplies:

  • 1 piece of cotton, fleece, and PUL fabric, each cut about 29x12in. (You can change this to suit your needs, of course)
  • 1/2in wide double fold bias tape, approx. 66in.
  • 1 small lingerie bag
  • KAM snaps
  • 1 button
  • 1 small piece of 1/8in. elastic
  • pins or Wonder Clips

1. Cut your three pieces of fabric to about 29x12in. My PUL was not long enough, so I pieced it together to get my desired length.

DSC_7801 copy

2. Stack all three layers together. The fleece should be sandwiched between the cotton and PUL. The wrong sides of the PUL and cotton should be facing the fleece. Fold the fabrics in thirds as shown:

DSC_7802 copy

3. Decide where you want your snaps to go – these will hold your mat closed. Unfold one third and mark where you’ll place your snaps.

DSC_7810 copy

4. Apply your snaps. The snap in the PUL layer should ONLY go through the PUL. The snap on the cotton should ONLY go through cotton and fleece.

DSC_7816 copy

5. Round out the four corners of ALL layers.

DSC_7823 copy

6. Clip or pin the layers together.

DSC_7827 copy

7. Take your lingerie bag and cut a few inches off the bottom (this will depend on how long your bag is and how large you’d like your pocket – you want it to be no bigger than 1/3 of your changing mat)

DSC_7822 copy

8. Lay the lingerie bag down on top of the cotton side of your mat – the end WITHOUT the snap. Cut around the edges to round it to the same shape. You will cut off a small bit of the zipper on each side, so make sure your zipper is open slightly.

DSC_7834 copy

9. Sew a small loop of elastic to the center of your lingerie bag (don’t sew onto your changing mat fabric, though!!)

DSC_7872 copy

10. Hand sew one button onto the cotton/fleece fabrics. Do NOT sew through to the PUL.

DSC_7875 copy

11. Now begin sewing on the bias tape around the edges. The bias tape and the mat should be right sides together. Fold 1/4in of your bias tape back as shown, and begin stitching it down along the first fold.

DSC_7848 copy

12. Sew all the way around, taking care to sew the edges of the lingerie bag too, until the ends of the bias tape overlap 1/4-1/2in.

DSC_7854 copy

13. Now fold the bias tape over the raw edge of the mat, clipping or pinning it together. Stitch it down carefully.

DSC_7860 copy

Now you have a changing mat with two pockets, ready to be stuffed!

DSC_7936 copy

Here it is, folded up and stuffed to the max with Huggies diapers, Huggies wipes, and anything else we might need.

DSC_7896 copy

Over the years, we’ve used just about every type of Huggies diaper there is – we currently have kids wearing Good Nites to bed and one nearly-completely-but-not-entirely potty trained kiddo using the occasional Pull-Ups. And in a few months, we’ll be adding a newborn to the mix. Goodness…. so. many. diapers. I’m so thankful for diaper coupons!!

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.03.48 PM

Your Walmart Neighborhood Market has coupons for Huggies Diapers and Wipes, because with as many diapers as these babies use, we could all use a few coupons! But Walmart Neighborhood Markets have great prices to begin with, so the coupons are a bonus.

Huggies diapers and wipes

I forgot how teeny baby diapers are! Eek!!

DSC_7906 copy

Is it weird to be excited about changing diapers again?? Probably. ;)

DSC_7890 copy

I’m so glad I have a portable changing mat again! It will be perfect for throwing in the diaper bag or stroller and giving me a nice clean, soft surface to change baby wherever we are.

DSC_7914 copy

I love that I can stock up on all our baby diapering needs at Walmart Neighborhood Market, grab GoodNites for our bigger boys, and find whatever else we might need for all the kiddos – all at the same spot. One stop shopping is a busy mama’s dream!

Portable Diaper Changing Mat Tutorial

Before I know it, there will be a real baby lying on that mat!

Finding the Lovely in the Chaos

Motherhood is a chaotic business. Each day is filled with noise, lots of messes, and countless challenges. The days can be monotonous and exhausting. When faced with all the chaos, sometimes it can feel anything but lovely.

DSC_6243-2 copy

Some days it’s easier just to focus on the challenges. To simply clean up the messes, change the diapers, and do the same things over again the next day.

DSC_6249-2 copy

But every day has something lovely. Every moment. Even in the midst of a tantrum-throwing toddler, there is something lovely. The tear-stained hug when the crying stops, the laughter during the tickling that diffused the moment, the triumphant moment of standing your ground and not giving in to the kicking and screaming.

DSC_6252-2 copy

“There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance. It feels like beauty might be knots in the rope you are climbing, gas stations along the cross-country journey, the water stations strategically set up on a racecourse. Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.”
-Annie F. Downs, Looking for Lovely
looking for lovely book

Motherhood is a long-distance marathon. A test in endurance. An uphill climb. When you’re in the middle of the race, you feel tired. Your feet hurt. You can’t breathe. But as you keep going, you see the beauty in the persevering. You find your stride, you get your second wind, you drink some water and feel refreshed.

DSC_6246-2 copy
Annie F. Downs recently released her latest book, Looking for Lovely. It is, in every sense of the word, lovely. I read it in two sittings, absolutely unable to put it down. This book reads a little like a memoir, as Annie shares her struggles and the loveliness she fought to find in the midst of them. Because sometimes you need to actively pursue the lovely. You have to ask the Father to show you all the good gifts He has put in your life, to open your eyes to what’s around you that you maybe haven’t noticed yet.DSC_6251-2 copy

That doesn’t mean that the chaos disappears or that suddenly life and motherhood become a walk in the park. Or that the messes are magically cleaned and the kids will never fight with each other. But looking for lovely can give you – give me – the change in perspective you need to embrace the chaos.

I don’t know about you, but I can always use more lovely in my life. Looking for Lovely is all about collecting the moments in your life that matter. In these days when I’m knee-deep in motherhood, I would much rather set my mind on what matters – the lovely, not the chaos. The snuggling on the couch, the basketball in the driveway, the “I love you” scrawled across the heart-shaped paper.

looking for lovely

Will you look for the lovely with me? Check out Annie F. Downs and her new book Looking for Lovely. I promise, you won’t regret it.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

15 Gifts for Crafty Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, gifts that encourage creativity are always a safe bet. They love anything that allows them to express themselves. And I never have a problem buying them sewing and crafting supplies, because we are all about raising creative kids over here. Here are 15 gifts for crafty kids, that you still have time to get!

15 Gifts for Crafty Kids

15 Gifts for Crafty Kids:

(this post contains affiliate links – purchases through these links cost you nothing extra, but I receive a small commission, helping me to run this site!)

51Ad2jt-gtL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_

Crafty Chloe – this book is ADORABLE. My boys absolutely love how Chloe makes gifts and clothes and all sorts of fun things!41cRbnczNrL._SX450_

Janome Mini – I highly recommend this sewing machine for kids! It works really well (I’ve used it in a pinch ;) and it’s built for even young kids to use safely.

91pY07RoRdL._SL1500_

My First Sewing Kit – this kit has all your kiddos need to hand sew crafts!71fIRkDbHPL._SL1500_

Self-healing Cutting Mat – protect your kitchen table from scissors and scratches

716JzDIV2JL._SL1100_

Sewing Kit – a must for any kiddo learning how to machine or hand sew

81TUTiaX7yL._SL1500_

Yarn Craft Kit – your kiddo can learn to knit, crochet, and make super fun accessories!

510oGSjbJ6L

Easel Accessory Set – this art set is perfect for many ages. I love sets like this where everything comes all together. These paint cups are so great too and prevent a lot of messes!

61w9xEJ7tXL._SL1050_

Double-sided Easel – every artist needs an easel!

71yKRI714eL._SL1000_

Drawing Set – I like how this set has different mediums for drawing, giving your littles the opportunity to use many drawing methods. Perfect for all ages!

81LHjC9SW+L._SL1200_

Sketchbook – this is the sketch book that I use to plan out new designs and ideas, and I get them for my boys as well. They like having their drawings all in one spot, and I like not having a thousand different papers lying all over the place. ;)

51DCliRMUzL

Craft-A-Day – this book is FULL of ideas for your crafting kiddos!51+2PgDb4TL

Felt – this is a must for crafting! There are so many things you can do with felt: sewing, crafting, gluing, cutting…

81AiD2m1kNL._SL1200_

Stained Fabric Markers – my favorite fabric markers! Pair these with some plain t-shirts or aprons for hours of entertainment.

81+y2mahcOL._SL1500_

Assorted Craft Supplies – pretty self-explanatory ;)

A1yL7J0Fp0L._SL1500_

Embroidery Floss paired with Embroidery Hoops for hours of stitching fun!

Happy crafting, friends! :)

12 DIY Lunchbag patterns and tutorials (sew and no-sew!)

I’ve been sharing a few tutorials lately for DIY lunchbags, but I wanted to put together a roundup of a few more different types. So whether you want to sew or not, make something complicated or simple, insulated or not, you can make exactly what you need!

DIY Lunch Bags 12 sew and no-sew patterns and tutorials
1.  Cloth Lunch Sacks from If Only They Would Nap – tutorial includes a lined or unlined versionDSC_0697

2.  Reusable snack bags from Girl.Inspiredreusable-lunch-bags16
3.  Star Student Lunch Box pattern from Peek-a-boo Patterns (affiliate link) – these look just like store-bought lunch boxes!

IMG_8013__86712.1436982321.1280.1280

4. No-sew Leather {Paper} Lunch Bag from All the Good Girls Go to Heaven – this is perfect if you can’t or don’t want to sew.

DSC_0540
5. Insulated Lunch Tote from Zaaberry – this one has a zippered top and will keep those lunches cold

lunch tote
6. Simple DIY Snack Bags and free lunch box notes printable! My tutorial over at Craftaholics Anonymous. A no-sew alternative to plastic bags, plus you can let them know how much you love them with a little note.

lunch-bags-9
7. Reusable Lunch Bag from CraftbudsDSC_0027-685x1024

8. Peas and Corn Lunch Box pattern by Sew Sweetness – this version sewn by Hawthorn Threads

6a0120a9720256970b01bb08410ceb970d-800wi
9. Free Lunch Bag pattern from The Long Thread

lunch-bag-pattern1
10. Another cloth lunch sack from A Lemon Squeezy HomeDSCF0904_thumb[7]

11. Monster Snack Bags from HaftaCrafta – so adorable!

IMG_4237
12. And completely no-sew, Lego Lunchboxes from If Only They Would Nap – we use them for traveling, but how fun would this be to include in your kiddo’s lunch with a small bag of Legos?

DSC_0158_zpsd909da50
Happy back-to-school!