Monday, December 5, 2016

Encouragement For The Week


I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,
I didn't make the bed,
I took his hand and followed
Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,
My little son and I...
Exploring all the great outdoors
Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,
We wandered through a wood...
My kitchen wasn't swept today
But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade
And now my small son knows
How Mother Bunny hides her nest,
Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,
We climbed a sunlit hill...
Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,
We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,
That I didn't brush the stairs,
In twenty years, no one on earth
Will know, or even care.

But that I've helped my little boy
To noble manhood grow,
In twenty years, the whole wide world
May look and see and know.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Favorite Things

Usually when I see gift ideas for moms they are way too fashionable for me, or much more than I'd ever spend on myself, or things I just would never use. One of my most favorite things is my new vacuum I bought myself last year for Christmas for my husband to give me.  No kidding. But there HAS to be someone else out there that thinks getting a new vacuum for Christmas is exciting? Maybe?

Here is a list of my favorite things, lame or not:
I loved my first Dyson but when it bit the dust (we put that thing through hell) and it came to buy a new one I had sticker shock. Wow, those prices have gone up!  So I took my chances, read some reviews and bought something more budget friendly.  And I love this vacuum, in fact, I really think it has stronger suction that the Dyson (it puts vacuum lines in my Berber!). All the pieces and parts come apart also, in case a small sock or precious Lego gets vacuumed up or stuck. The cord is nice and long and the attachments are useful.

Image result for vitamix two speed blender
This Vitamix 2-speed Blender is not inexpensive, but I bought it only after going through a couple "cheap" blenders that broke.  I LOVE this thing. We use it daily-smoothies, shakes, and my favorite treat ever-banana ice cream, which I eat just about every night.  It has excellent reviews on Amazon.


Image result for cuisinart griddler panini and sandwich press
Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press
Another kitchen appliance that I adore.  We use this at least two times a week, maybe more. It is easier and quicker than grilled cheese on the stove top.  We make ham and cheese and turkey and cheese mostly.  The kids can use this easily also.


My oldest daughter wanted to buy a pair of these for me for years and years, and frankly I thought they were overpriced and ugly, and made everyone look like they have Big Foot feet, and also that I'm (a tad;) too old to wear them.  And they are expensive and they are sort of ugly and I am too old to wear them, but darn, she was right, I love them. I wear them all winter with everything and don't ever want to take them off.  I am always cold in the winter, but these keep my feet warm inside my drafty old house and outside too, and are so comfortable and easy.  The new gray ones are so cute too.

I don't wear perfume because I am sensitive to fragrance, but I found this lotion in Seaside, Florida a couple years ago and it smells wonderful to me-just like the beach.  That is the same bottle I originally bought-I only use a little bit and it's just enough.  You can find it here.

For daytime,  I have sensitive, dry skin and I haven't found anything that works better. It is light enough for under makeup, and strong enough that I use it in the evening too. It doesn't have a strong scent either. I go through about two bottles a year.

ANTI AGING SERUM - 100% natural, anti wrinkle, anti aging skin care with Essential Oils by moisturizing and nourishing skin
My face needs moisture, but it doesn't like all the chemicals in the drug store brands. Everything to me smells like a test tube of acid.  And NONE of it ever could keep up with dry skin. 
I found this brand on Etsy and ADORE this stuff.  I only put it on at night after I wash my face. It's straight oil, but has never made me break out once.  I won't say it took away all my wrinkles, but I will say my wrinkles look a ton better compared to when I was using the really expensive wrinkle creams and acids. (Which I will never use again!)  The $18 bottle lasted me almost a year.

Image result for elta sunscreen
Elta MD Sunscreen-I started using this WAY too late-like 47 years too late.  I tried so many different brands, but either it was once again too chemical smelling and feeling, or just really greasy. I was given a small sample of this and loved it.  It has a nice dry feeling to it, and this SPF works great for me, even on burning hot soccer fields.  It has excellent reviews on Amazon.

My hairdresser used this once on my hair, and the next time I visited she sold me a bottle.  Sometimes my hair has a tendency to get sort of fuzzy from highlighting and blow drying. I can't use much conditioner in spite of the tangles, or my hair gets limp. I just use a tiny little drop of this every two days, rub it into the ends of my wet hair before blow drying and then I have smooth soft hair that isn't limp or fuzzy or tangled.

Goody Round Brush-I was looking for something to give my hair more body when blow drying (I have fine, thin hair) and this inexpensive brush ($6) does a wonderful job.

My hardcover Little House series. When I opened them for Christmas, I read them all cover to cover over Christmas break...which is about the tenth time I've read them, the last being when I was probably in junior high.  When read as an adult (and as a mom), I gleamed more wisdom than I ever had as a child.


I use this for reading every night.  Reading glasses, headlamp, turtleneck and flannel pajama pants.  That paints a pretty picture doesn't it?  

This is a cheap lens ($120) as far as camera lenses go, and takes beautiful photos, especially portraits.  It is a fixed lens, which means the lens doesn't zoom in and out, the photographer has to move in and out. It's nice and light.  It allows me to take natural light photos in low light-inside-which comes in handy in the winter months.

I love scented candles, and we have a Yankee Candle by our house, so often if I am lucky to find an hour to myself, I hit the bookstore, and then treat myself to a candle. They have great coupons if you sign up on the email list.  When the kids ask me what I want for my birthday or Christmas I send them to pick out a candle.  I love having the house smell nice and not like bacon or wet soccer cleats.

I bought this print from a cute Etsy shop and it sits next to my sink so I see it every morning. She has many beautiful sayings and I love the simple artwork.

I still use a wall calendar (I just can't transition to technology) and I have been buying Susan Branch for years. I can always count on this under the tree and then love spending time filling it out over Christmas break. It seems like I just bought this one yesterday, 2015 went so quickly!

Darn I wish I would have never tried one of these.  And Janey loves them too and says I have to share with her. It's the most I'll spend on chocolate, but they are heavenly, and they are also hidden under the broccoli in the refrigerator.  (This year they are a special Christmas treat since I have been eating healthy!)

Visit the updated versions of the popular posts
Our Favorite Toys, Books and Games where I list our favorite most-played with quality toys from the last twenty-one years of gift giving.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Guidance for Moms

Christmas:

I know I have posted some of this before years ago in different essays but I wanted to set it out again. (I sometimes I just wish I could tell my younger self these things.)  

Christmas is what we decide it will be and that means there is a need to guard our hearts and homes a little-relatives, the media, the neighbors, friends, stores, your church, etc, will all come into play as an influence so it is right and good to set out in our heads what we want Christmas to look like for our family.

---If we want to keep it simple and religious, then deciding ahead of time how we will go about "guarding our hearts and homes" is a necessity.  What we allow into our home, is what will influence those little ones in our home-from the gabs of toy magazines, and commercials vs. the Advent calendar and Nativity.  We will be the thoughtful filter, the idea-shaper for how we want our Christmas season to look for our families.

---Start small, very very small.  We all know a one year old will play with the box.  (And I have had eight year olds have just as much fun with a box too?:)  The more gifts equals the more shopping and wrapping and planning and DOING (and the more stuff in your house to clutter it!).  And when children start remembering what last year was like there is a certain expectation (not ill-willed-we all have expectations) to look forward to.  Things get more costly, and life gets busier as one adds children to the family.

It is much easier just to start as you mean to go along. There are SO many great ideas of how to keep things simple and the expectations in check, and all of them are neat traditions like the three gifts to represent the gifts of the Magi, or something to read, wear and play with, etc.  I've learned most of these cute little tidbits of genius through friends, but wish I would have learned them 22 years ago when I first started out.

---Find a way to make it relatively peaceful and fun.  It SHOULD be fun!  As I added babies in with toddlers and older children, my idea of fun had to become very simple I learned, because chaos day after day is NOT fun and the daily needs of children and the household still existed and must be met first. That means weeding out what made things chaotic, and narrowing it to a few traditions that really counted. We don't have to bake and craft and go to parties every day, maybe just once the entire month. If there is anything that we all have to struggle with today, it's too many choices, and opportunities and then there is Pinterest.  

---And expectations!  It isn't a requirement to make gifts for the entire neighborhood, and teacher's gifts can be very very simple and then after all guess what?  I have the best news!  There is NO Christmas elf that will come and arrest us and throw us in jail if we don't do teacher gifts or neighbor gifts or postman gifts or Elf on the Shelf, or if we skip taking your kids to visit mall Santa, etc etc etc.  We won't go to Christmas jail (but a day in solitary confinement might sound ok on December 26th? Will they serve hot cocoa and let us bring a book?:)

So we must learn to let it go if we can't do it, or don't want to do it, or can't afford to do it, or just had a colicky baby (hello Andrew!) or are due on Christmas Eve with your fifth baby (hello Patrick!). 

All of this extra stuff, like most of life, has gone hog wild in the last decade to the point where it's all almost laughable.  Such high expectations, such busyness, it's no wonder we feel overwhelmed. It should not be one bit about stress, but about peace and that comes in simplicity and discretion and thoughtfulness.  That is where the Christmas magic is found in the first place.

And last, the most important thing:

One day a mother's Christmas will change. And it hurts our hearts I assure you. It will make us shed tears of reminiscence and nostalgia and sadness for what will never be again.  PLEASE, if you have little ones, just enjoy it.  Soak it all up.  Don't run yourself ragged and miss the "sparkly eyes" because you are too busy and tired.  Don't waste time striving for perfection or stressing about incidentals. If you have believers in your home, treasure it.  If you have shouts of joy on Christmas morning as a child unwraps a present that cost $7.99, revel in it. One day things will change-and not change for the terribly worse, but it will change.  Surprise and joy and wonder are at their height in the young childhood years and one day you will wish them desperately back if just for a moment. 

Set the path before you, walk slowly and carefully, and keep your head clear and focused and have a simple vision.  

Some past thoughts on Christmas here and here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Our Favorite Games


Favorite Toys here.
Favorite Books here.
Teen Gift Ideas here.
Ideas by age/interest level here.

After reading my favorite toys post a week ago, Jeff informed me that I "forgot" to include all of the games the kids love.  I put "forgot" in quotations because I think I might have done that accidentally on purpose subconsciously.  I am not a game person-I can play a few: Scrabble, Candy Land,  Zingo.  Pretty much that's it.  I just don't have the patience, or the attention span, or maybe it's the lack of competitive spirit.  I am terrible at logic and deduction and all that fancy stuff.

So here's a guest post written (and updated every year) by my husband, game nerd extraordinaire, who never ever takes a pass. Most of these games are for the five, six, or seven year old and up crowd, and quite a few are one-player for when Jeff's not around.

Here's Jeff:
I grew up playing games, cards and puzzles.  Sarah grew up reading books.

Like a Tetrus puzzle, there are different challenges to fit the wood pieces into the grid.  Six and up-the games adjusts to make it easier for younger kids.  All the kids in the family enjoy it.

2,837 Five Star reviews!!!
An awesome fun game that the whole family enjoys.  For two to five players, the object of the game is to travel to as many cities as you can in just seven days.

Like an old-fashioned top, that needs to navigated through the maze by tilting it.

We have four of these and they are ADDICTING!  So much fun.  You guide a marble through the maze by tilting the ball in your hands.  Ages six to adult.  These are great to set around the house-they are irresistible. 

This if for ages 8 and above and it IS difficult. The edges of each tile must match black to black and white to white.

All Think Fun Games get great reviews-they cater to all different ages from toddler to adult also.

Shake the cube and then match the pattern as fast as possible to win-a two-player game.


This is a great two player game where you try and trap your opponent before they trap you.  What is nice about this game is my 9 year old gives me a strong challenge every time we play.  It is very easy to learn, but once you play a few times you start to understand different strategies to win.  This is great when you are tired of chess or checkers.  Each game takes only about 5 minutes to complete.

Rubik's Cube- Our kids have viewed tutorials on YouTube to help solve the cube.  Isaac can solve it in under a minute and Andrew under three minutes.  I tried to solve it 25 years ago without any technological assistance, but never did, until YouTube!
Boggle-Our kids got onto a big scrabble kick this past year.  Andrew liked Boggle better.  You make up as many words as you can in three minutes.  We play together at night before bed and help each other try to set a new record for words found.  We sometimes re-shake it if the letter that come up are too tough.  
LONPOS Rectangular and Pyramid Puzzle-This is really two puzzle/pattern games in one.  Each puzzle is gradually more difficult.  The pyramids are fun to build.  

Rush Hour-We have Rush Hour and Rush Hour Two.  You just have to drive the red car out of the game by moving the other cars out of its way.  I think I have played this game more than the kids.

Solitaire Chess This is also a puzzle game where you use chess pieces and moves to capture and remove all the pieces until there is just one piece left.  You do not have to know how to play chess to play it, but you do have to know how the different chess pieces move.  Like Rush Hour, the easy cards help you learn how to play and get you hooked. 

Monopoly Deal-A fast way to play a game of Monopoly using playing cards.  I think this was the "in" game sweeping the country last year-our kids learned it from friends out in Colorado, and as soon as we left their house, they all begged us to stop and get a deck.  It has been worth every penny.

Qwirkle Cubes- This is a great game where both adults and kids can have fun together.  We have both Qwirkle and Qwirkle Cubes, unless Qwirkle found its way into one of Sarah's 40 black bags.  

Our kids still play this game four years later.  It is hard to not get addicted to attempting to beat your time again and again.

Guess Who Mix and Mash-Andrew is Mr. Game.  He is Jeff Junior.  This is one of his favorites.

Chess, Checker and Backgammon Set - It folds up and latches, and all the pieces fit inside which is why Sarah bought it. 


This year we bought a new chess set, as the chess playing moved to the low table on the porch that was constantly getting bumped by younger siblings.  For Father's Day we bought this magnetized version and a timer (to prevent the constant arguments over who was taking to long.
This clip on ping pong net is another new addition and fun-fits on any table.