Friday, March 23, 2018

Gift Cards For The Win

Seriously, friends, gift cards are the bomb diggety.  (Yep, I am from that generation of slang!)

One of the things I talked about in a post about Living Deliberately was to have a more regular date night with my husband.  Let me tell you why that is often a challenge-
  • His schedule
  • My schedule
  • We are old and tired
  • We follow a budget
Seriously, that is my story and I am sticking to it.  The story, that is, but not the bad habit of not going on dates.  THAT I am determined to change.

Quite honestly, the biggest deterrent for our date night is the money.  It is not necessarily that we don't have the money to go out, it is that we are Dave Ramsey wannabes and dates fall under the entertainment category.  As do meals with our kids, including our almost weekly Sunday meal out with friends.  Having a limited amount budgeted means we pick and choose, and honestly kids and friends often trump husband and wife.

Still with me?

Here is where the gift cards part comes in.

Thanks to my mom and her Christmas gift to my hubby, we are using gift cards to go out.  It may seem like a little thing to you, but it is BIG for us.  Again, not that we couldn't do it otherwise, but just the fact that we feel like we do not have to deprive others to have fun ourselves.   It just makes it more fun and less of a guilty pleasure.

I know, I know, it is probably just me but work with me here.

Gifts cards make going out to eat fun.

For naysayers who say gift cards are the lazy mans' gift, don't you listen to them.

They are the bomb diggety!

Happy Date Night, friends!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Zirrly 3D Bead Fun

I haven't gotten the chance to do too many reviews this year that involved fun with the boys, so this Homeschool Review Crew review was a special treat!  What makes it more fun is that Super Beads from Zirrly is not just a homeschool product- it is a KID product, and a neat one at that!

Yes, we got to play with the Super Beads 3D Car and Truck kit.  I mean, what boy doesn't like cars and trucks?!

So what are Zirrly Super Beads?
Remember the days of ironing a bunch of little beads together to make neat designs on trays?  Well, those little beads are actually called Perler Beads, and when put together they can create some fun things.  The problem we found in the past was that those projects required the heat of a HOT iron to fuse them together.  A hot iron.  With a kids' project.  See the problem?  I am sure that somewhere it seemed like a good idea on paper, but the reality of it was it was dangerous for kids to do alone.

Enter Zirrly Super beads.  These are the same concept of design fun, but involve fusing the beads together with WATER.  Yes, you read that correctly- WATER!  How cool is that?  Just spritz the beads once you have them set in place, and wait 20-30 minutes for them to "set" and dry.

What comes in each kit?
Each of the specific projects kits, like the Jungle Animals, Birds and Jewelry Set, come with beads to complete the project (and extras), several work boards and the design(s) templates, a design tools, a spray bottle and a tray to help keep things contained.  And instructions, of course.  You can also just purchase a bag of 4500 beads of all colors.

Our Experience-
Colby, age 10, and I started the Super Beads 3D Car and Truck together.  We opened each colored bead packet and put them in the tray for safe keeping.  

He then put the design templates behind each tray and laid out the beads. 

Once the beads were laid out, he sprayed them with water.  Here is one place we struggled a bit.  The instructions do not indicate how much or how little water to use.  By trial and error he figured that out, but a couple of times had to go back and respray a section to fuse it better.

Once the beads are set properly you simply remove your project from the project boards.  For the 3D designs, now the hard part begins.  With a series of pegs that you put beads on, you attach the different flat designs together to create the 3D effect.  It can be a bit tricky with one set of little hands.

Luckily for us, my 16 was around and intrigued and was able to help sort out a few bits of confusion.  Mom stepped away and the boys finished on their own!

Note that we started with the truck, which we did decide was the harder of the two vehicles to put together.  Once we did that one, Colby was able to complete the car with minimal help.  

Pros and cons-
One of the neat things about these Super Beads is that they are more flexible than the original Perler beads.  When you pull them off the trays they tend to be softer and more pliable and therefore less likely to break, which is a huge advantage when you are dealing with the 3D sets.  

Of course, I also love that they are safer to use.  The 3D sets are recommended for kids 10 and up because of the complexity, but even at that age I would be hesitant to set a child loose with a hot iron so using this water method is perfect.  

Since these types of projects are often used in groups like school clubs or VBS, this allows for an easier and safer set up!

It is also nice that if a bead comes off all you have to do is spray it with water and stick it right back on.  Easy fix!

The only con I have for Zurrly Super Beads is the instructions.  Like many similar projects, the directions are all pictures.  Let's just say this momma struggled with that a bit.  I will say however, the boys seemed to understand them better- probably from lots of building experiences that come with pages of pictured instructions.  While I do not think this would affect the flat designs, since the 3D sets are a bit more complicated the adult in me would have loved to have seen a few words in the instructions. 

Overall, we loved using Zirrly Super Beads and would highly recommend them.  Think summer fun, VBS, or even birthday party activities.  The possibilities are endless and the choices for sets are plentiful!  Have some fun with your kids this summer!

Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Menu and A New Plan

Happy Monday and welcome back to Monday Menu!  If all goes according to plan, I will have two more weeks of menus for you before I unveil my Menu Masterlists!  I have been busy compiling complete lists of meals for you so that with a quick glace at a category (beef, chicken, pork, soups, etc.) you can very quickly put together a menu plan to suit YOU!

I also hope to be able to share with you a printable of my new Menu/shopping list to help you out with that planning!

Until then, and after a crazy busy Spring Break week, it is back to normal- well, as normal as this house gets.

Monday- Egg Rolls

Tuesday- Tacos

Wednesday- Angela's Stove Top Chicken

Thursday- Chicken Noodle Casserole

Friday- Italian Stuffed Shells

Saturday- Bacon and Eggs

Sunday- Veggie Beef Noodle Soup


Friday, March 16, 2018

Quick Lunch Ideas for Busy Moms

I have said it before and I will say it again, I do not like lunch hour.  Seriously, if I ever sent my kids to public school, it could very well be for the sole reason that I would not have to fix lunch for them.

I really do not mind cooking usually, but there is just something about lunch time that fills this mom's heart with dread.  It is tedious, it is redundant, and quick frankly, it is not rewarding in the least.  Yes, they do not starve, but no one sings mom's praises for a lunch well made.

I used to stress about lunch.  Notice the past tense.  No more, my friends.  Luckily for us all, my kids have gotten old enough to work some magic in the kitchen by themselves and I have stopped trying to be supermom.  I am all about the getting food in their mouths and worrying less about what kind of food specifically.  I have come to peace with the fact that they will not suffer ill affects from not so perfect, not so lovely, and maybe even no so nutritious lunches.

There, I said it.  Some of my kids' lunches are not the most healthy.  They are also not themed and they don't come in cute little divided plates.  Gasp, I know!

So WHAT do my kids eat for lunches exactly?  To make life easier on me, and them since they usually fix it, I made a list for quick reference that hangs on our fridge.  It is not complete, but it gives them some ideas to get started.

  • Left overs.  This is by far their least favorite thing, but the rules are if there are several leftovers in the fridge they must be eaten first.  Luckily for them their dad takes his lunch and we often do not have left overs, so you do not have to worry that they suffer often.
  • Sandwiches- Also not a favorite in our house, but an occasional go to, especially if we are in a hurry.  We stopped eating lunch meat many years ago for health concerns, and only in the recent years have begun to have lunch meat around more often.  They would both prefer peanut butter and jelly if given a choice anyway.
  • Mac and Cheese- Homemade or boxed- up to them.
  • Pizza- I try to keep pizza, big ones and mini ones, in our freezer and do limit them to one a week or otherwise this would be there go to.  BOYS!  We also make homemade pizzas as well as hamburger bun pizzas.
  • Stuffed baked potatoes
  • Cheese melts on tortillas
  • Soup- Usually chicken rice or chicken noodle using leftover chicken.
  • Chicken nuggets- Yep, we do.
  • Taquitoes- Sometimes homemade, but often frozen from a box.
  • Cheese-steaks- Yes, I occasionally buy the kits for a fun treat.

  • Hot dogs and chips- This is another food we walked away from years ago.  The girls did not miss them at all.  The boys thought I was deliberately torturing them, so we have slowly allowed them back into our lives on a limited basis.
  • Fruit, cheese and meats- OK, admittedly this is one in my dreams.  I see parents of young children getting by with this, but I have to tell you when I have tried this in the past I have received looks like, cute, mom, where's the real food.
I am sure there are more, but you get the idea.

In our house we check off the lunch box and move on.  Rumbling tummies stop rumbling, mom is happier, and the day goes on!  I promise that our breakfasts and dinners are more nutritious and well thought out, but I also promise that now that the lunch stress is off me, I am a happier momma!

Score one for me and one for the kids!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Resources I Need

Most of the time I review things that are geared towards homeschooling and the kids.  This review is different thanks to Parenting Made Practical!  This one is just for parents.  And because being Product Manager of the Homeschool Review Crew has its privileges, I received several products this time, two that I want to share with you today- Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think (DVD and book) and Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate, WHAT WORKS?

For the record and in case you are new to Family, Faith and Fridays, I am the mom of four kiddos: two older kids (college and up) and two boys still at home, ages 16 and 10.  I have been parenting with my cute hubby for 24 years now and yet sometimes I feel it is still our first rodeo.

You know what I mean?   Just when you think you have it down, someone, or some child, changes the rules.  And on top of that, each child is different and often requires an additional set of rules.  Or two!

Which takes me to Taming The Lecture Bug.  I wasn't going to read this initially, I mean, I am a pro at parenting after all.  Ha- NOT!  But I have done it for a while now and have my methods down pat.

Including some maybe not so good methods, if I am judging by my recent rants.

I admit it.  I am a lecturer.  And quite honestly, I am just now realizing the extent of it.  This book sat on my desk and stared me down for a week.  Each day I would look at the title and think hmmm, that is not for me, I am sure.  And then one day after a particularly hard day with my youngest, I decided to pick it up and take a look.  Then I did not put it down.

Well, I did put it down after about chapter 4, because I could not read it fast enough for my liking.  Instead, I popped in the video for more instant gratification, via an hour of viewing.  And then I picked up the book and finished reading throughout that week.

What did I learn?

I am a lecturer!  Have I mentioned that already?

According to Joey and Carla Link, founders of Parenting Made Practical and authors of Taming the Lecture Bug, we as parents lecture because we do not know what to do.  Our kids misbehave, SIN, and we somehow think our amazing words of wisdom are going to change their ways.

Guess what?  It doesn't happen.  No surprise there, right?

So what should we do instead?

According to the Links, and I totally agree, instead of focusing on the behavior, or the WHAT, we need to focus more on the whys, the REASON behind what has taken place.  When we reach the heart and fix the heart issues, often pride or stubbornness, we are more likely to be able to change the behavior.

In the book and again in the video, the Links walk you through better approaches to misbehavior, giving specific scenarios and how they think they should be handled.  They even act out a scene with their now grown daughter, Amy.  One of the techniques they use and teach is the art of asking questions.  "Why did you do that?"  "How do you think that made me feel?" and  "What could you do differently next time?"  are just a few.

Here are some things that have really stuck with me-

  • First make sure your child's attitude is right!  If they are closed minded and have a closed heart, you need to wait.  Send them to a quiet spot to regroup and then come back and try again.  This drove my youngest crazy but it did work.  If nothing else, it diffused the tension or just plain wore him out with multiple trips to the steps to regroup.  He may have a hatred of steps by the time he is 18, just saying.
  • By lecturing, I am taking responsibility of the situation, while still not solving anything.  As the Links stated, it is not like the rules are new and unknown.  They really do not need to be restated, no matter how eloquent I think I am.  They just need to be obeyed.  
  • My son may not love lecturing, but he loved the questions even less.  :)  At one point he even asked me, "Why do you keep asking me questions?"  It almost made me laugh.  But it DID make him stop and think about what he was doing and why!
  • "I don't know" is not an appropriate response.  Neither is "maybe", or "sort of" or "probably".  When you ask a yes or no question, require a yes or no response.  This, too, drove my son batty a few times.  If he started to argue or give excuses I would remind him it was a yes or no question.  I won't tell you exactly how many times I had to repeat that in a row one day.
  • Disobedience IS sin.  Not a whoops or an uh oh, but a sin and needs to be treated as such.  Just by adding the name sin to a behavior added more weight to it in my son's eyes.
  •  I am not responsible for my child's actions, he is.  Lecturing takes that ownership away from them, asking questions gives it back to them. 

Final thoughts-
If you are not a book person, watch the DVD!  It is perfect for auditory learners and it is fun to see the humor and interaction the Links have.  If DVDs are not your thing, read the book instead.  The information is pretty much the same in both, although the book does have a few additional examples and each chapter ends with a letter from parents who have learned and used this system with success, which I greatly appreciate!  It encouraged me to hear I was not alone in a few of my struggles and that other parents have seen changes, even after years of parenting.  Also at the back of the book is a great chart for kids to use for retraining a stubborn heart, that is for them to fill in.  We have not used it yet, but I have made copies.  Just in case.

It is never too late to start something new and have it work.

And about that Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate...WHAT WORKS? video and workbook-

As I mentioned, my oldest two are girls, ages 20 and 24.  We had pretty strict dating rules when they were in highschool- as in, NO!  Times change, people change- you know the drill.

Right now we honestly float in the "we have no idea what we are doing" pool.  They are older now and make their own decisions, but quite honestly after walking through a few bad dating experiences with them we have thrown up our hands in defeat.

No, we do not want our kids to casually date every random person that crosses their path, nor do believe that "courting" in the old fashioned sense of the word works either.  It's a tough road and one that I dread being on again with our boys.

In Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate, WHAT WORKS?, Joey and Carla Link introduce a concept called friendship dating that is closer to a middle of the road compromise I am more comfortable with.  Instead of focusing on dating rules, they focus on the concept of getting to know someone without too much emotional attachment at first.  The Links talk about four stages of a relationship leading to marriage-
  • potential
  • possible
  • probably
  • and proposal
With each of these stages they encourage asking a lot of questions specific to that stage.  (yes, more questions)  It's about setting appropriate boundaries and sticking to them.

So let me tell you my 2 biggest takeaways from this workbook and accompanying 2 hour video.

Kids must eventually take ownership of their own relationships.  If we are so involved with their relationships and the decisions they make, when do they or will they ever learn to make decisions on their own?  Yes, I know one must take age into account here, but I would argue that if you are afraid they are not old enough to make decisions, they are probably not old enough to be in a relationship either!

The second thing that really struck me was the concept of a girl's father becoming THE mentor in her suitor's life.  This is a HUGE deal in the courtship community, this idea that you must take a young man your daughter might be interested in and "mold" him and "train" him.  While not bashing the courtship model, the Link's shared their opinion that while all of us need and can benefit from mentors, there is NO man that should ever take the place of a young man's father, if he has one in place.  When our sons are interested in a relationship with a girl, we do not simply hand over the reins to someone else to guide them.  That is a job given to us by God, not to someone else.

I will admit, this is still a muddy pool to me, but one I am at least a little less fearful to swim in.  After watching the video myself, I am hoping to now sit down and watch it with my older son and allow him to complete the workbook pages.  It is my prayer that it will help facilitate much discussion and maybe help us come up with a more clearly defined plan for our family.

You can find many more Biblical based parent resources from the Links and their Parenting Made Practical website.  Next on my list is the one entitled Mom's Notes, with 40 teaching presentations in 5 volumes of parenting advice and training.

Again, it is never to late to learn!

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

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