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

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.

Book Review – Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, I was still working at a Christian Bookstore part-time, and came across this book for expectant parents. I only read two books during my pregnancy;┬áthis one by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, and Pregnancy: The Best Time to Submerge Your Baby in Prayer,┬áby Edna Rivera. (I discussed the other one with my husband, but decided not to review it here because it was originally written in Spanish and we think some of it was lost in translation. I’d give the English translation 3 out of 5 stars.)

20170911_195623I enjoyed Gosselin’s book because it wasn’t about how to take care of a baby; I grew up with four younger sisters, so that’s not the part of parenting that scared me. Instead, this book discusses not only some of the changes your body will face during pregnancy, but also things like your changing marriage/relationship; how your finances or career decisions may be affected; and social challenges you may face.

A few of my favorite chapters are those directed at dads, surviving the social sides of pregnancy, and the chapter on fitting in and finding community.

My husband isn’t much of a reader, but I convinced him to read the “Being a Dad” chapter. And I didn’t realize how beneficial the chapters on surviving the social aspects of pregnancy and finding community were, until we found ourselves planning our own baby shower and, later, bringing our precious bundle home. Our family doesn’t live nearby, so we don’t have the familial support like many of our friends. Now, 7 weeks in, I’m searching for a mommy group and/or women’s bible study.

In conclusion, if you’re an expectant parent I recommend adding this book to the list of parenting books you’ll want to read.

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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