Archive for October, 2009

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(Parenting) Quality Toys

As our thoughts turn towards holidays, many of us start to think about gift ideas for our kids. Yet as we look around at our full closets and overflowing toy boxes, we see piles of cheap and broken toys and the much-coveted, yet short-lived toy wonders. Most of us parents would agree that we would rather have quality over quantity when it comes to toys, but the application of that ideal often gets lost between the pleading eyes, the desire to shower our kids with with everything good, and well-meaning grandparents. But ultimately, quality does trump quantity. Most fad toys and almost anything with batteries won’t make it through the year, let alone turn into an treasured toy that lasts through the rest of the children or even grandchildren. As adults, we look back lovingly on what we refer to as “classic toys” because they come from an era where quality did prevail over quantity. They are from a time when children had fewer toys.

Here are a few tips to help direct your steps as you try to gradually build your supply of high-quality toys:

1. Lay out a long term vision for your toy collection.

2. Buy toy collections that can be added onto such as Legos, Playmobil, Little People, dollhouses, dress-up, etc. This gives gift-givers a general guide for purchases. It also allows the child to develop more focused play. By expanding their options within an already-existing collection, they will return more frequently to that toy set to expand, grow, and tweak their previous play experiences. This ultimately enhances creative play.

3. Find a couple of websites that sell toys of the more classic nature and forward those to extended family gift-givers. Additionally, you can usually request a free catalog from the company and pass those on to your children to look through. This helps direct your child’s thoughts away from the advertisements of this year’s popular toys and towards more classic toys.

4. Select toy collections that can be used across multiple age groups and can grow with the child.

5. Ask yourself if the toy requires the child to create something (mentally or physically) and move away from toys that simply entertain.

As you focus more on building a collection of quality toys, you will probably find that it grows more slowly, but look around you again. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.


(Cooking) Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

I discovered this recipe on the Crockpot 365 blog and it has become one of our cold weather favorites! It is packed with flavor and the avocado slices add a cool and creamy (and healthy!) touch. This is a recipe your whole family will love.

Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

soup1 lb chicken tenderloins

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

4 c chicken broth

1 c sliced mushrooms

1 c frozen corn

1 jar (16oz) prepared salsa

1 ½ t cumin

½ c sour cream

shredded cheddar cheese, avocado slices, cilantro (opt)

1. Drain and rinse beans. Add to the a 4qt or larger crockpot. Put in the chicken and add the broth and salsa. Add corn, mushrooms, and cumin. Stir, but don’t disturb the beans – let them stay at the bottom of the pot, closest to the heating element.

2. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

3. (Opt) To thicken the broth, use an immersible blender to blend some of the beans and chicken. Or scoop out 2 cups of the soup and blend in a traditional blender. Add blended soup back into the crockpot.

4. Stir in the sour cream before serving and garnish with shredded cheese and avocado slices.


(Breath of Life) In His Presence

When you look over your life and your interactions with God, what are some of the moments that stand out to you? What are some of the times when you most clearly felt God’s presence or that you most clearly heard from Him. Was it when you were singing? Writing? Hiking? Painting? Driving? Playing the Piano? Cooking? Making flower arrangements? Jogging?

Sometimes interaction with God flows the most easily when you are being active; doing something that you love or something creative. It is in those moments that we step outside of our expectations and rules, and we move past our critical thinking skills and our own knowledge.

Don’t assume that your time with God is limited to a quiet time. While time in the Word is so important, He has given you passions and gifts so that He may be glorified in your life. When you are using those gifts, you are in His presence. Find Him there.


(Comic Relief) Consistency is Important

It would be horrible the be caught liking something that you previously fought to hate.


(Comic copyright The Family Circus)


(Healthy Living) Vitamin D

With all the talk about the flu this winter season, many of us are on a quest for natural ways to boost our immune systems. If you are like me, classic Echinacea and good ol’ Vitamin C are among the first ideas that come to mind.

This year, though, I have made a new discovery: Vitamin D3. Many people have dubbed it the “new Vitamin C” in light of its high level of impact on the immune system.

Vitamin D3 is most naturally absorbed into our bodies via sunlight. A simple 20 minutes in the summer sun with legs and arms exposed, and no sunscreen applied, can feed your body up to 10,000IUs of Vitamin D3. (Note: the darker the skin tone, the longer you need in the sun to absorb a comparable amount.) With beautiful warm weather and time at the poolside in the summer, we are much more likely to meet our body’s requirements for this essential vitamin. Yet when we bundle up and stay indoors during the winter, a deficiency is much more likely to develop or worsen. This could be a contributing factor to the increased level of sickness during winter months.

Past recommendations put a daily Vitamin D3 supplements at the level of 400-1000IUs/day (some doctors still recommend this). However, more recently, research is starting to show that an adult body needs at least 3,000-4,000IUs/day to simply maintain a moderate level of Vitamin D, and many researchers are saying that you really need up to 5,000IU/day. Even the AAP now recommends that pregnant women take an additional 5,000IUs/day in addition to their prenatal vitamin to prevent possible permanent injury to the baby’s immune system due to Vitamin D deficiency. This recommendation is in light of research that has been pointing to the idea that Vitamin D also helps to prevent the development of autoimmune diseases.

Children can also benefit from a Vitamin D3 supplement, particularly during winter months. They are available in both drops and gummy form. A standard rule of thumb for children is approximately 1,000IUs/day per 25lbs. But please note that I am not a certified nutritionist or a doctor, so you should to do your own research on the topic to decide for yourself what the best dosage is for your individual family members. Although it is relatively rare, it is possible to take too much Vitamin D3.

Foods such as fish, milk, and eggs also contain Vitamin D3 that can be absorbed by the body.

So as you research ways to fortify your immune system this winter, consider Vitamin D3. It is one of the more natural and cost-effective ways to build your body’s defenses. Remember, your body is created to fight sickness. The best thing you can do is equip your body to accomplish what it was created to do.


“Not Me” Monday

We all have those days…or weeks. “Not Me” Monday was created by MckMama to give us an outlet to laugh at our own imperfections. Will you join me? When you are done here, you can head over to her blog and read about what everyone else has “not” been doing.


It was not me this week that took my kids for a doughnut treat before church on Sunday. If it had been me, I wouldn’t have fallen for the cute pumpkin doughnut, complete with cute little eyes, nose, and mouth. I would definitely have realized then and there that even the smallest amount of black icing is a very bad idea. Especially when combined with kids in church clothes. So, I did not turn around in the car to see Samuel like this….


I did not then proceed to bathe my child with diaper wipes. Nope, not me.

What did you not do this week?


(Home Management) A Completable “To Do” List

There are infinite ways to set up a “To Do” list. Categorized, prioritized, or itemized. However you organize it, a “To Do” list increases productivity. It brings direction, focus, and intentionality to your day.

“To Do” lists can also be overwhelming. When we begin to fill our lists with “could do” items (a.k.a. “ideals”), the lists can become impossibly long. When you feel overwhelmed with your “To Do” list, it has already lost its effectiveness. There are only so many things that you can accomplish in a day and your daily “To Do” list needs to reflect that.

How many tasks could you easily accomplish today? Five? Seven? Ten? Make your list completable. Find a number that you are not overwhelmed by and make your list.  If you complete your list with time to spare then you can create a second list that is completable within the remaining time. However long it is, the list should free you emotionally and mentally to focus on the tasks that you deemed important enough to make the cut. The endless list of ideals can wait.

What will you accomplish today?



(Living Love) Saturday Solitude

Moments of solitude become rare once you enter parenthood. We adore our children, but those quiet mornings of sleeping in and waking up slowly while sipping coffee are often missed. Sometimes as we wish for a few quiet minutes to ourselves, we can forget that giving some time of solitude to our spouse just might be the breath of fresh air that they need.

Arrange to give your spouse a Saturday morning of solitude. Get up with the kids, close the door, and let your spouse catch up on some much needed sleep. And then take it a step further. After letting them get some extra sleep, sneak in with breakfast, coffee, and the newspaper and create an atmosphere for them where they can relax and have an easy morning away from demands and expectations. By allowing them some extra time tucked into the sanctuary of your room, you will breath a little bit of life into them, and certainly a little bit of love.

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(Deep Cleaning) Outdoor Toys

outdoortoysAfter a summer of fun in the sun, our once-shiny outdoor toys have lost their sparkle. Or maybe it is just hidden beneath the muddy hand prints. Whatever the case, if you are like me, their loss of appeal might lead you to just ignore them and leave them on the back patio for most of the winter. Here they endure more wear-and-tear from the elements and lose even more of their appeal as they attain the “unused clutter” status. Then by the time spring rolls around, the kids are less than enthused about playing with most of them or they are ruined, leading you to purchase more and start all over again.

On one of the few warm days that we have left before cold weather is here to stay, spend a couple of hours outside sorting and cleaning the toys. Some outdoor toys are short-lived and seasonal by nature, so go ahead and throw those out. Give the rest a good scrubbing or wipe-down and then put them away in the garage or attic for the winter. This will extend the life of the toys and remove the clutter from your backyard.

And the best part? When warm weather comes back around and you pull the toys out of storage, they will hold a fresh appeal to your kids and the adventures will begin again.


(Money Saving Tips) Insulated Outlets

switchOutlets and light switches on outer walls can be a hidden source of heat loss. When an outlet is installed, a hole is cut in the drywall, creating an opening for cold air. To make matters worse, there is usually little to no wall insulation behind the outlet.

For pennies a piece, you can purchase thin insulation pads that are made specifically for outlets and light switches. They are available at any home improvement store. To install them, you simply remove the outlet plate and the insulating pads will easily slide in around the socket or switch.

It is a simple and cheap improvement that you can make this winter to help keep the warm air in and the cold air out.