Frugal Family Fun

I’d already begun this post before all the craziness of the last couple weeks happened, so keep that in mind as you read. However, I thought it might be of help to those of you who don’t quite know what to do with your little kids at home.

Right now, my kiddos are really young (2 1/2 and 6 months), and it’s challenging to just get out of the house some days. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy family activities and outings. However, this one-income family is on a budget, so we’re not dropping a ton of money on entertainment.

The biggest challenges for us right now are finding activities that we will ALL enjoy, and working around nap schedules. Because, let’s face it, when the toddler is cranky, nobody is having fun, lol. Both girls are under the age of three, so bonus points for activities that are outside, where they can be as loud as they want, and be free to move and play.

Many people seem to be under the impression that we always have to do BIG things to make memories with our children. Sure they’ll enjoy that trip to Disney, but they also love playing games, coloring, and going to the park with us. And I believe it’s the little, every day ways we play with our children that make the most lasting impressions.

$3 Target find. The Dollar Store usually has some, too.

Some things I do with my toddler (and infant) during the week are…

  1. Go to the library.
  2. Read.
  3. Color, paint, or craft.
  4. Blow bubbles. We love the no-spill Fubbles container we picked up at Walmart last year.
  5. Build/create, using blocks, blankets, playdough, etc.
  6. Go for a walk.
  7. Go to the park.
  8. Play make-believe, using stuff you have around the house: plastic food, blocks, pots/pans, clothes, etc.
  9. Play games/puzzles. We only have two games right now, Think Roll Fun and a Frozen II Matching game, but my toddler will pull them out pretty often; and thanks to my mom, we have a TON of puzzles.
  10. Sing/dance. YouTube is my friend in this instance. My toddler loves to sing–like her momma, lol–so she loves singing along with songs we find online (usually Disney and nursery songs). And we play the Freeze Dance game, as well.
  11. *Bonus* I plan to homeschool in the future, so we’ve been practicing line tracing, lately. You can find some activities on Pinterest, but I also picked up a Preschool workbook, from Aldi’s, a few weeks back. I make copies (since I have 2 littles) and place it in a dry erase pocket I purchased from Target while back-to-school shopping, last year.

It may look like I keep them busy, but I don’t really. They play by themselves (or with each other) and they watch some television, but they mostly watch educational shows (I’ll share a list of our favorites below). If they didn’t watch some TV I’d never get anything done around the house. Other times they follow me around the house as I cook, do laundry, or clean.

We’ve started implementing family movie nights on Friday or Saturday evenings, with pizza, popcorn or hot chocolate, and a Disney/family movie. Our toddler might get to stay up a little later to watch the movie with us; and we’ve only done this a few times, but she’s constantly asking for family movie nights, now.

When dad’s home from work, it’s easier to actually go places with both kiddos. So, we tend to save bigger/longer outings for the weekends. Our favorite place to go, so far, has been Maymont in Richmond, Va. We went a few weeks ago, toting along a picnic lunch. It’s free–supported by donations–and complete with animals, gardens, and lots of walking. Last time we went there were kids (and parents) rolling down a huge hill on the property, near the birds of prey exhibits. We have yet to make it inside the mansion for a tour (which is currently closed due to COVID-19), and the Nature Center–which we have visited previously–was under renovation.

If you’re in the area and looking for a free outdoor activity, we always recommend it. There’s a couple parks in the area, as well, but we haven’t been to them, yet. As my girls get older I can make further recommendations, but these are what currently work for us.

Favorite Toddler Television Shows

  • Daniel Tiger
  • Sesame Street
  • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That
  • Llama Llama
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
  • Doc McStuffins
  • Word World
  • Curious George
  • Super Why
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Wild Kratts
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Dora the Explorer
  • Max & Ruby
  • Wallykazam!
  • Dino Dana
  • Superbook
  • Owlegories
  • Veggie Tales

For His Glory

The first few months after having a baby are a whirlwind of activity. We’ve discussed this before, that as a new mom you just miss out on a lot, so I’m not going to go into it again. However, I do want to mention that when you’re running around with two little ones all day, it can be very difficult to focus on any one thing or task, so I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas and, probably more importantly, the TIME to write.

That being said, I have been using the Proverbs 31 app, First 5, to study the Word during the week, most days. (We’re currently studying the book of Ezekiel.) Although, to be completely honest, some days it’s a real struggle to get up before anybody else to read/study. Half the time I don’t succeed, and/or my 2 1/2 year old interrupts my quiet time, or the baby wakes for a feeding. But that’s life. And I just keep trying to remain in the Word during this season of life.

Anyways, the other night, as I was showering, I was brainstorming things I’ve been meaning to write about. (I always have ideas, but never have a pen & paper available to help me develop them.) But that night, I realized that, while I could write about about managing our home and/or finances, cooking healthy meals on a budget, music, or culture…my most important goal regarding anything I share here, is for me to reflect the heart of the Father.

There are a lot of other articles, books, blogs, or vlogs on YouTube you could follow–and I follow a few–that focus on everything you could imagine. From beauty and makeup, to food and health, family, homeschooling, homesteading and homemaking, etc. But if we’re honest, they focus on what’s temporary. What I want, is for you, my readers, to experience the love and grace of God! I want you to know that our purpose is to glorify Him in all that we do. I want us to recognize that there is eternal value in the seemingly ordinary things of life.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a part of our church’s worship team, and we had a worship night and training a week ago. A question was asked about our definition of worship and this is mine: Praising God for Who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s promised, through all aspects of life. Including, but not limited to, music, songs, poetry, the raising of our children, in our marriages, work, etc. Basically, worship is a lifestyle.

Therefore, whether we’re discussing Scripture, finances, managing our household, or homeschooling, the underscoring theme is that everything we do, we do for the glory of God, as an act of worship, and to establish His Kingdom (Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Samuel 15:22; John 4:23; Matthew 6:33).

So walk with me on this journey, and feel free to ask questions, because I want you to understand that we’re not here to “live our best life,” as the world likes to say; but to glorify God with the life we’ve been given; and to honor Him in everything we say and do. And, as Paul said to the Philippians, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Motherhood: The First Season

Recently, I remarked to my hubby that I’m in a place where I truly appreciate everything my mother did for us, as children. She was a military spouse, whose husband went away for months–and once, a whole year–at a time, which meant she was at home with me and my younger sisters, without any help (or family nearby) for extended periods of time. And it’s not that I didn’t love my mother or appreciate her before, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), whose husband sometimes goes away for weeks at a time, I truly understand what this entails and appreciate the sacrifices she made.

Honestly, when I was younger, being a SAHM didn’t appeal to me, because I thought I’d be bored (HAHAHA). I didn’t realize the amount of work involved in being with your child. All. The. Time. It’s a never-ending routine of changing, nursing, feeding, bathing, reading, and so forth…and that’s not including all the household chores, grocery trips, or meal-making. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I love having the financial freedom to be at home with my Cookie Girl. It’s extremely rewarding, but can also be lonely and exhausting.

A week or so ago, our church organized an outreach in our neighborhood. I tried to sit through an informational meeting, beforehand, with a squirming toddler, and failed miserably. I ended up leaving early, frustrated. God and I had a good talk on my drive home, though; and I’ve come to the realization that things will not be the same as they were before we had children, at least not for a very long time. My place, for now, is with my child(ren) and sometimes I will have to stay back, or behind the scenes, in order to be of any service. At first, I was upset about it. It didn’t seem fair that I wouldn’t get to participate in things the way I used to (or how I want to). However, I’ve accepted that for now, W and I have to play tag until baby girl gets a little older; it’s just the season of life that we’re in.

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As I’ve written before, this season will not last forever, nor does it mean that I’ve completely given up on my own dreams or visions. As a matter of fact, God placed something big on my heart, after a visit to Philadelphia, with the passing of my grandfather. But I’m recognizing the need to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. The things He’s planted in me will come to pass, even if not right away. I just have to let Him continue to prepare me for these things. Interestingly enough, I heard confirmation of this during Sunday’s sermon: that we’re never too old to walk out the calling God has placed on our lives and that we must stay on the anvil of God and allow Him to shape and mold us.

Therefore, whatever God’s promised you, whatever He’s planted in your heart to complete, sometimes we just have to be patient. We have to continue to seek His face and His will for our lives, and allow Him to mold and shape us through the power of His Holy Spirit. There are tons of biblical examples of men and women of God who probably wanted to give up on their dreams as they ran away from their enemies (Moses, David, Elijah), wandered through the wilderness (Moses, Joshua, Caleb), or as year after year passed, without child(ren) (Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah, Zechariah & Elizabeth). As I’ve been studying Genesis–through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study–I realized that Noah was 500 years old before he had his sons, and 600 years old when he boarded the ark (Genesis 5:32, 7:6). It could very well have taken 100 years to build an ark for a flood that God promised a century before (we don’t know the details!). A hundred years…

David was just a teen when he was anointed as Israel’s next king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but it would be many years before he actually sat on the throne, at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:1-5). The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before Joshua or Caleb got to enter the promised land (Numbers 14; Joshua 1). And Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 17-18), and Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-24) were just two couples way beyond their child-bearing years, who gave birth to influential men of God! Jesus, Himself, didn’t begin His ministry until He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

As for me…this first season of parenthood is a tough one, requiring self-sacrifice, patience, trust, and complete dependence on God to get through each day; in fact, I am in no way the same person I was before our little Cookie came on the scene. But I know each season will be different, and each will teach me something new about myself, like what I can and cannot handle on my own, about the importance of flexibility, how to better manage my time, and how to show grace in different situations. And each season will change me for the better, and shape me more into the woman that God desires me to be, for which, I’m incredibly grateful.

Motherhood: The First 6 Months

Our little girl (our first child) turned 6 months a week or two ago. And although, I don’t want this blog to be solely about motherhood or parenthood, it is the season of life that I’m currently in. So, I just wanted to share some things I learned as a new momma.

  1. Being a parent is HARD.
  2. Being a mom is HARD.
  3. Being a stay-at-home-mom is HARD.

LOL. Talk about stating the obvious.

When I first began this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but then a friend of mine posted something on her FB wall that really resonated with me. She talked about feeling isolated as a stay-at-home-mom. I understood those feelings all too well. Then, after talking with a few working moms over the weekend, I realized it was most moms–regardless of working status–that felt this way.

While I love being home with our baby girl, some days are good and others are very challenging. Some days baby girl goes down for a 2 1/2 hour nap in her crib, while other days she won’t let me put her down. Some days she wakes up at 4 o’clock in the morning crying, for no apparent reason, and I’m wracking my brain to get her back to sleep; but other days she sleeps for 7 hours straight. We love our children, and love being able to stay home with them, but it can be lonely and exhausting.

I think it’s because, being a mom often means that our own needs are set aside for those of another. However, it’s far too easy to get caught up in this idea, and never put ourselves first. Which, I feel is a mistake. I love my baby girl, but sometimes I need time to myself. Whether that means asking the hubbs to watch baby while I go to the gym; do some grocery shopping; cook or clean; or take a nice, long, hot shower; I need some time unattached, if only for 30 minutes. (I’m going to be honest though, I know my husband doesn’t always understand this, and it’s frustrating; but I guess I need to just do a better job at explaining it to him.)

Perhaps that’s where our loneliness and exhaustion comes from…thinking we need to be able to do it all on our own. Maybe we think we’re a “bad mom” because we can’t do it all; or because we need some “me time.” We shouldn’t think this way. As I often tell baby girl, “Mommy can’t feed you, unless she feeds herself;” in other words, we can’t take care of another of we aren’t taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually speaking.

Instead, we need to ask for help when we need it; and as believers, it’s incredibly important for us to remain in the Word and prayer, and in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I understand that when you have a little one–or more than one–it’s sometimes difficult to just get out of the house, forget trying to get together with others. It takes a ton of planning to get everybody up and out of the house, but it can be, and should be done.

I realized this after the first few weeks of being a STAHM. So, here are some things I’ve recently begun implementing in our home…

  • Attending a Wednesday morning women’s Bible study, so I can connect with other women. (My husband attends Saturday morning with the men.)
  • Weekly library visits.
  • Monthly visits to the children’s museum.
  • We (my husband and I) have begun getting together with different couples from church each month.
  • Planning a family outing once a month.

Lastly, I mentioned this previously, in my Learning to Appreciate the Silence post, we need to be wary of our social media usage. First off, it’s a huge time sucker; you go to check one thing and by the time you know it, 30 minutes have gone by. Furthermore, it’s so easy to get caught up with things others are doing, to feel hurt or offended when we feel we’ve been forgotten or excluded. If we weren’t watching the every move of others via social media we wouldn’t even be worried about such things. Finally, it’s way too easy to go into comparison mode, thinking that others have it better than us; or that they have everything all together; or sometimes, even worse, thinking we’re better than another mom! We forget that FB, Instagram, etc. are just the “greatest hits” reel, where we usually get to see people at their best. We don’t often get to see their struggles or insecurities–and believe me, EVERY mom has them. We’re all different and just trying to do the best we can with what God has given us.

Although, it appears that I’m trying to figure this mom thing out on my own by creating schedules and getting together with others, I must reiterate the need for spending time in prayer and the Word. Ultimately, our peace and strength comes from the Lord; and try as we might, to do it all on our own, we’ll only end up exhausted, bitter, and feeling like utter failures if we don’t rest in His presence daily. So, let’s take a lesson from David, when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and seek refuge in the shadow of the most high.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed and weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]. For you have been a shelter and a refuge for me, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever! Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings! Selah ~ Psalm 61:1-4, AMP

Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

2017 in Retrospect

It’s that time of year, again! I was thinking and talking to my husband, just yesterday, about all that has happened this past year. We have been so blessed. My husband and I went on a babymoon, we purchased a car (with cash), we became aunts/uncles again (×2), WE had a baby (my Cookie girl!), I left my job be a stay-at-home mom, AND we became debt free.

Wow! There’s just so much to be thankful for, and yet, we know that there’s more to come in 2018. We have multiple friends who are expecting babies, my sister is expecting again, and we’re hoping to begin house-hunting in the next few months. 

Now, that’s not to say that 2017 didn’t knock us back a few steps here and there. A broken down car; sleepless nights with a new baby; one of my sisters lost her home in a fire; my brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia; family in Puerto Rico were affected by the two hurricanes that passed through; and my husband’s grandmother passed away. But God continues to provide and prove His faithfulness over and over again. 

So as I sit here, with a napping baby on my lap, I’m jotting down some goals for 2018. They’re different from what I’ve desired previously, mostly because I’m in a new season of life. Yet, the same, in that I desire God to be at the center of all that I do. (You don’t realize how difficult that can be once you have a little one vying for all your attention.) If I were to write everything down here for you, it would take forever to explain, but I’ll go ahead and share a bulleted list of four areas I’d like to focus on for 2018.

  • Relationships…with God, spouse, baby, and friends.
  • Finances…budgeting, saving, and home buying.
  • Ministry…my family, homeless, worship, hospitality, and this blog.
  • Health…eating/cooking healthier, exercising, and taking time for self.

    As I look at this list, I know I’m going to have to be intentional, organized, and very diligent with my time. However, I also know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

    So, what are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in 2018?

    Babies, Budgets, & Faith

    It’s currently around 2 a.m. and I’m beginning this post as I feed my 5-week-old baby girl, whom I affectionately call my Cookie Girl. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we discovered last Thanksgiving that we were expecting, and since then it’s been a challenge to write because I’ve had baby on the brain, lol. It’s no joke; once you discover you’re pregnant, that baby is all you can think about for the next few months and it’s a real challenge to discuss anything else.

    Angelica&Wilfredo(1of39)Pregnancy is one of the most faith-testing things I think a woman can face; at least it was for me. I’m someone who likes to plan and be in control, and pregnancy is so outside your control. Everything is completely in God’s hands. From the timing of conception, to the sex of the baby, the health of mom and baby, and to the circumstances and time of the delivery; He plans and knows every detail, leaving us with no choice but to trust Him.

    I thank God for a healthy and smooth pregnancy and delivery. I know not everyone has a good experience during pregnancy. I had some nausea during the first trimester, but nothing too serious, and not until my last trimester did I have a ton of difficulty sleeping and swelling in my legs and feet. I gained a pretty healthy amount of weight by mostly sticking to foods high in protein throughout, not giving in to every craving, and drinking lots of water. And when my water broke at 5:30 a.m., in July, we were blessed to welcome a precious, healthy baby girl into our arms, just 12 hours later.

    When we found out we were pregnant, we were just a payment or two shy of paying off my husband’s car. So we finished that, and then, just as Dave Ramsey suggests, we paused our baby step two–paying off debt–to save for baby.  However, while we were adding to our emergency fund, my car’s power-steering gave out on me one night, just as I was merging onto the highway. This pushed up our timeline to purchase another vehicle by a few months, and we were able to purchase a new used vehicle with cash, in May. Then we went back to putting money into our emergency fund for the rest of the pregnancy.

    To be quite honest, I wasn’t as on my budget game as I should have been during this pregnancy. The biggest budget buster for us was food, since nothing ever sounded appealing to me, lol. But we did save in other ways. An area I recommend to save money on is maternity clothes. I suggest only purchasing a pair or two of maternity jeans; two pair of dress pants, if you work outside the home; two maternity shirts; two tank tops; two or three pairs of maternity leggings; and three or four maternity/nursing bras. I also picked up a few stretchy, flowy, dresses from Ross to wear as tunic tops with my leggings, and my sister sent me a few beautiful dresses she’d found on the clearance rack, as well. Dresses, leggings and tunic tops were my best friends towards the end, and I’m still wearing them post-pregnancy, since my pre-preggo pants aren’t fitting just yet.

    Baby clothes are another area to save in. We realized early on that there are sooo many cute baby clothes out there that it would be very easy to go overboard. I had to remind myself, more than once, that our new baby wouldn’t need all that many clothes. Baby’s outgrow them really fast; and clothes tend to get laundered every few days anyways. Most importantly, God really instilled in me that our children are not toys or fashion accessories; Cookie Girl has been entrusted to my husband and I to raise and train for His glory, not to put on display. Besides, what would we be teaching her if we were overly concerned about her appearance? The Lord, Himself, says that it’s our hearts that matter (1 Samuel 16:7), not outside appearances, and we would do well to instill that in our children.

    I thank God that He’s given us this opportunity to love, teach/train another human being about Himself. It’s quite a responsibility to raise a little person that will ultimately become a full-fledged adult. My husband and I find ourselves praying quite often for direction, and we’re only in the first few weeks! We may still be learning about this whole parenting thing, but I’d like this to be a shared experience, so intermittently I’ll bring up challenges and things we’ve learned along the way with y’all, just as I have regarding other areas of my life. I love y’all and pray that God continue to use me and this blog for His honor.

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