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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gifts for Creative and crafty boys

I've been getting frustrated the last few years because I am having a hard time finding good gifts for my son. He likes being outside and riding his bike (which he's getting for Christmas this year :) ...but his favorite thing to do is to make stuff.  Ever tried to find crafts for boys in the stores?  good luck!  They are almost all girlie - with the exception of the token art set or wooden birdhouse/car/truck that they can put together and paint.  Bought it, done!  So, I am on a mission now to find some cool crafty things for my son that are cool to make...for a young boy!  If you are in the same boat as me and have found something that your son really enjoyed (and it didn't get thrown away in the next - it wasn't junk), please share it and I'll add it to the list!!

I looked on pinterest and found ideas for one time activities for boys to make - use a toilet paper roll to make a dinosaur, make a robot out of a paper towel roll, etc. but I'm looking for neat kits, activities...something he could do over and over - like bracelets for girls, and 1000 other ideas for girls.  I recently gave him a $5 potholder loom and bands and told him he could make some gifts for Christmas - he absolutely LOVES it!
this isn't the one I bought...i got a $5 plastic one from wal-mart...but it makes 4!

If only there was something he could make for himself.  I think we're going to mess around with it and try and make him a bookmark.  I have decided that he and I are going to get a lesson from my mom over Christmas on how to crochet (everybody needs to know the basics of sewing!) - so I'm on the lookout for possibilities there as well...

Here are some ideas I've found...(for the record, I found more items, but if its a one time kit to create one time...and costs more than $25, most likely I rejected it)
Balloon Modeling Kit
This one may seem silly, but I think it sounds really neat and I think my son would like it :)  Only problem is, what they heck would we do with all the balloon animals? ;)  Good thing is, he'd be the life of the kids' parties :) (box says 8 and up)
This sounds like a fun game - Watchamadrawit -quick! draw a rowboat floating on top of a mountain!! :)  I have Pictionary Jr as well which has been a hit with both my kids.  
This is a $20 kit that has 4 preprinted looms for beginner sewers...I LOVE that the 4 examples aren't super girlie!!  No hearts, princesses or barbies :)
oh man this is awesome!  I may get this for him and let him sew a little pocket on the front for his tooth pillow!!  so cute!  And it's on sale right now for $12.95! :)
Alex Toys Fold 'n Fly Kit -  Alex Toys - Toys"R"Us
I don't know if my son would be into the paper airplanes, but it looks pretty neat - and a good price!
Ah-hah! Just what I wanted - ideas for more loop projects! Don't think he'd do the purse :) but the frame and chicken are a possibility... If only it wasn't $20...
Make Your Own Opoly -  TDC Games Inc. - Toys"R"Us
Lol.  this is too funny!  We would have so much fun making this game :)  My son is a huge fan of Monopoly - and of making his own games!
This is awesome!! :)  My son would love this!!  He likes making up stories - now he can publish it! :)

The monopoly game above got me thinking...creating his own game would be so much fun!  I wonder if there's a kit out there for it?  Answer is - of course there is!! :)

Many,many different styles to choose from at this site - and an awesome price!! get a board for under $5 and a kit for just $8!  Oh man, a sweet gift for under $10...gotta get this one!
Here come some crochet kits...

Learn to make granny squares then put them together make a scarf or hat...
This one got mixed reviews and I think the book has more girlie ideas than unisex, but nevertheless, here's the link...
Ok, so not as many options as I thought there'd be, but there's a few ideas anyway.  

If I find anymore I'll add them on here - but this is more than enough for our Christmas! :) 
...forgot this one that is so popular right now!! For boys and girls :)
Rainbow loom and rubber band bracelets :)  my son is seven and can make the easiest one...but they are kind of difficult. 

 Happy Shopping and Merry Christmas!


Sunday, November 24, 2013


I wanted to get this up a while a couple weeks before Thanksgiving...but I guess a few days is better than nothing! I organized activities for my preschool class and our church thanksgiving festival so I thought I'd post some ideas here :)  Hope some are useful for you!
This first activity I started at the beginning of November during our circle time.  We called it our "Thanksgiving tree".  I precut leaves and then asked each child what they were thankful for that day.  I wrote their answer on the leaf then they put it up on the "sticky" tree (I taped contact paper to the wall so the sticky side was out).  I loved hearing their answers every morning and I loved that they always tried to think of something different :)  Afterwards, we would pray together and they would voice what they wrote.  I actually did this with my own little monkeys last year - but we had two for "Thanks" and one for "giving" idea I saw online.  Instead of a formal prayer at dinner we would alternate and put leaves on the trees - either giving thanks, or telling how we "gave" to someone that day.  Very nice experience :)

I have a personal problem with putting food in my sensory table.  It goes back to when I was teaching in Peru and I had a friend that went to Mexico on a mission trip.  She did an art activity using beans (maracas I think) and at the end of the activity when they were leaving, she noticed the parents coming in and picking the beans up off the floor and putting them in their pockets to take home.  After hearing that, and after my experiences in Peru, I told myself that I would try extremely hard to never use food for an activity.  When I search for fall sensory bins, that becomes more difficult (all the ideas had rice, beans or noodles!) - but I ended up doing this one.  Simple, but the kids really liked it - and I got to work with the older ones on counting to 20 as well as comparing and contrasting.  The younger ones worked on sorting, colors and counting as well.  Its a bunch of that Dollar Store raffia type stuff (not sure exactly what you call it) littered with foam leaves (also from the Dollar Store :)  You can put as many leaves as you want (you could even use tongs for them to use to fish them out) - I put ALOT because I wanted to work on rote counting.  You can see I had a dry erase board by the station.  During our journal time I took it to the carpet and we counted out each color and (the older ones) wrote down how many of each color.  Then we talked about which had the most, least, etc.  One day, I'm going to get all the sensory bin pictures I have and write a post about them...all non-food!

I found this idea somewhere on pinterest and adapted it.  You need a paper towel roll, something to cover it with (I used fall colored ribbon), scissors, leaf cookie cutters, glue, stapler (to staple the ribbon at the top) and pretty fall leaves.  You cut the paper towel about a third of the way down into "branches".  I let my Sunday school kids do this.  You don't really need them all the same size because branches aren't supposed to look the same!  I also had them decorate the yellow paper (green might have been better but I wanted something that would show the paint) with fall color paints and leaf cookie cutters.  Just for the record, I only had one leaf cookie cutter and I had 2 kids wanting to stamp, so I cut a piece off of the paper towel roll and bent it at the top and bottom so it was the shape of a simple leaf :)  it worked!  I also had some little apples and pine cones laying around so I glued them to the bottom.  They turned out quite cute and I got quite a few compliments :)  Next time I would probably staple the leaves as well - gluing took forever.

My favorite craft!  You need:  baby food jars, candy, googly eyes, colored construction paper, glue and tape.  I did this with my preschoolers and at our festival.  For my prek group I precut feathers, the beak and the waddle...however, I had each of them cut out ONE leaf so they could practice cutting.  I also wrote on the leaves what they were thankful for, but I made the older ones write on the one leaf they cut out :)  We filled them with skittles but M&Ms would work...or candy corns!  With my large group at the festival, everything was precut and prefilled - made it easier and faster.  A few things I've learned from this - you can't glue the feathers - they fall right off.  Tape them...waaay easier.  Glue dots would be awesome for the eyes, beak and waddle - but I didn't have any.  Just know that if you use glue, the eyes will slide down until they dry a bit :)  Also, I used 8 feathers for the prek but 5 for the festival.  Some kids have a hard time coming up with that many and need some prompts - I don't like putting ideas in their heads so I used general ones like:  Where is your favorite place to go?  What is your favorite food?  "Who" are you thankful for?  What is your favorite toy?  Where does mommy always like to take you to have fun? etc...

This was a spur of the moment stroke of luck but I took complete advantage of it!  A local school donated canned goods that were to be given out to the homeless for Thanksgiving.  It all arrived right when the kids did and our volunteers started sorting it right away - so we jumped in!  Preschoolers LOVE sorting and I took advantage of the opportunity to talk about helping those in need as well as making it a "following directions" activity.  We had so much fun!!

During the month of November we talked about the harvest, what we get from plants and of course you can't have Thanksgiving without the FOOD!  So, we took things out of our play kitchen and my real kitchen to create works of art!  Too much fun :)

Another creation I found on pinterest...but dumbed it down for me :)  We did this activity last year, but didn't get around to it this year.  The site I found said to bake cupcakes inside - but that was just waaay too much trouble :)  My kids love nutella so I put some nutella around the edges inside and out as well as out the top and then put sprinkles on their plate.  They rolled the cone around in the sprinkles :)  Then they got a few pretzels to decorate the top. Easy peasy!

This is something else I did last year that I got from pinterest - perhaps I still get to it this year.  They turned out SO cute!  You paint their palm and fingers - no thumb (I pulled out a few colors for the palm they could choose from - but had many choices available for the feathers/fingers ).  You have to leave a blank spot in between to paint the headband (which you could do on their hand, but I let the kids paint it on the paper).  I also let them draw the face and hair :)

Hope you got some ideas and maybe you have something wonderful that worked for you this Thanksgiving!  Please share!!  I love getting new ideas!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Struggles of food sensitivities - after pregnancy

I have changed the title now a bazillion times and I'm still not sure what I should call this blog post -
Why don't doctors understand food sensitivities?
Developing food sensitivities after being pregnant
Low-Salicylate Diet
Are you having trouble losing weight too?
YOU know your body - trust your instincts!
and on, and on...

Whatever you call it, the story's the same...I've been debating on whether to write about this or not but after joining two facebook groups made up of people who have struggled with the same thing, I thought I'd share my story :)

Honestly, I've probably had this since birth; but, food sensitivities weren't even really a concept that was around when I was little.  Perhaps changing my diet would have helped my asthma and allergies as a child, but we'll never know...

I developed an intolerance to cow's milk in college.  It came on gradually and I still ate cheese, yogurt and ice cream.  It wasn't until after college that I started to gain a little weight.  I had weighed the same since my freshmen year of high school.
Jumping ahead, by the time I got pregnant, I was a little over 10 pounds heavier than in college.  Not significant, but annoying :)  During my pregnancy however, I gained 70 plus pounds.  That may sound like I ate like a pig...but I didn't.  I had nausea during the entire pregnancy and I also had major surgery.  Both of those caused me to eat less.  The amount of weight gain was due primarily to being bloated and swollen.  I had to go back and teach a month before I gave birth - and in that first week back I gained 10 one week.  I went to the doctor and the nurse actually rolled her eyes at me when I said I had eaten less that week not more.  You'd think they would've been concerned at me being so swollen...that was my first experience with a close-minded and accusatory doctor/nurse.

I lost all but the last 30 pounds before I got pregnant with my second - I told myself I would've lost the last thirty but I was still nursing.  I gained the same amount with my second and felt horrible the entire pregnancy. Again, I lost all but the last 25-30 pounds.  When my youngest was a year and I was done nursing, I figured I'd lose a little more and that I would feel better.  It didn't happen.  Honestly, I felt as though I was still in my first trimester - nausea, muscle aches, head aches every evening, bloating, mood swings and exhaustion.  I talked to my ob/byn - eat better and exercise...the mantra I would hear for the next three years from every doctor I met.  My general practitioner went a little further and did blood tests to see if i was anemic or something else was wrong - when everything came back was "eat better and exercise".
So, I did.  I ate very healthy and tried different forms of exercise.  During one particular stretch, I put myself on a strict diet and did some intense exercising videos every day for 2 weeks.  I was so run down and exhausted at the end of the two weeks I stopped.  So disappointing.
To make a long story shorter, this went on for three years...3 years of exhaustion, head aches, nausea and bloating - just to name a few things.  I saw a cardiologist and wore a heart monitor for a month - only to hear at the end - "everything is fine, you need to eat better and exercise more".  Seriously?  We moved and I got a new doctor - who said the same did the new ob/gyn.  They all had their theories, but when the tests would prove them wrong they would brush me off.  Then came the GI doctor.  I felt that for sure, he would be able to help me - give me some ideas.  He did some intense tests (and made lots of money) and came up with nothing.  I suggested that perhaps it was something that I was eating - I was ignored.  The next visit I said the same thing - ignored again.  I repeated myself...he rolled his eyes, sighed and looked at me with these eyes that said - you poor ignorant child - and said "No, it is not something you are eating."  Instead he gave me a prescription for some drugs - which I threw in the garbage on the way out.
That was 2 1/2 years after my second pregnancy and I'd had enough.  I gave up on doctors and turned to google.  People say not to do that...but those people must've still had faith in doctors.  I knew I didn't have celiac disease because I was tested for that - but I cut out gluten for a week or two anyway.  It didn't help.  So then I cut out dairy - helped a bit but not much.  After a few other experiments I started to get discouraged.  Then I remembered something about an "elimination diet" I had heard somewhere.  I got all the info and started.  After a little over a week many of my symptoms had magnified.  What?!  An elimination diet is supposed to be a healthy, easy to digest diet right?

I began to think back to the few times in the past that I dropped weight quickly -once  was when I went on a mission trip to Peru. What did I eat?  Homegrown everything. When I lived in Peru as a missionary a year later, I couldn't GAIN weight!  Granted, most of the time I lived there I had some form of parasites or amoebas - but even when I didn't I couldn't gain weight :) Then I looked back at what I had eaten most during my elimination diet - sweet potatoes, blueberries and zucchini. I googled them and what popped up?  That all three were high in salicylates. My reaction was the same as what you're probably saying right now - huh?!  

Thus began my research of salicylates :). There wasn't much out there a year and a half ago - but it has exploded in the last year. I think that's partly due to the fact that they're finding that a low-salicylates diet is good for ADHD kids and Autistic children.  A basic explanation would be that salicylates are something that forms naturally in plants - and is higher in some than in others. More importantly, it's found in very high amounts in many herbs and spices, artificial colors, preservatives and flavors.  This is why I didn't have problems in Peru, and why I had more problems when I finished college and was cooking for myself :). I am also allergic to almost all plants, weeds and trees - so this actually makes sense. To doctors however, it's still foreign...evidently.

I've just joined two Facebook groups that I hope will give me some ideas on helping increase my sal tolerance as well as some foods to eat - because one is quite limited. 

I wanted to share this because I had read a few posts from mothers who had just had babies and were having similar problems. Evidently developing (or having an increased sensitivity) to certain foods after pregnancy is more common than I thought. If you're having difficulty losing weight and you've tried lots of different things - Don't. Give. Up.  Doctors don't always know what they're talking about. Friends and family members may not understand either... But You Know Your Body!  Are there some days where you feel better than others?  Keep a food journal and see if you see a pattern to what your are eating and your reactions. My problem was, sometimes my reactions were the next day - and any of my meals the day before could have triggered the reaction. 

After only one week of this diet of low-salicylate foods, I lost 10 pounds. I'm not kidding. It was all water weight. The bloating was gone.  I steadily lost the remaining weight I had gained and got back to my freshman year of high school weight (of course, after two pregnancies, the shape of my body will never be the same ;). In total I've lost almost 30 pounds - but that's not the best thing. The headaches are few and far between, my asthma has been almost non-existent, nausea has gone and I have more energy. Not to mention the mood swings are gone (I think my husband is most thankful for that :).

If you want more information on salicylates here are a few great websites:

Trust your instincts and try not to listen to the negativity around you.  And don't forget the power of prayer.  I LOVED to eat - everything - like a southern girl should :)  Limiting my diet was going to be hard - so I prayed.  I prayed that food wouldn't be important in my life, that I wouldn't crave, that I held it as a necessity (like most people in the world) and not a luxury.  It has worked.  I still love sweets - and I keep an emergency chocolate bar in my freezer :)  But I honestly haven't missed anything - even pizza which I loved. People ask me - isn't it hard limiting your diet to so few options?  My honest answer - "No, with God's help".   God is good :)

Good luck on your journey and know that others are going through the same thing as you.  Have faith and trust - I promise you it'll work out!

In Christ,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Advent Angels

In the first church where I worked they did something called Advent angels. I don't think they came up with it - they probably got the idea from somewhere else, but I loved the idea so I've done it at every church I've worked at! The idea is for the children (all ages), to make four crafts-one for each week in advent. Then, each child is either assigned a shut-in or someone in the church who is sick or going through a hard time (or they may know of someone in need in their own neighborhood). During each week of advent, the children deliver their gifts to their assigned person...BUT, the catch is, you can't let the person know who you are until the last week! :)  I can't tell you how much fun my kids have sneaking around, leaving gifts and running :)  And to see the gratitude on the faces of the recipients during the last week is priceless :)  So, I thought I would share this idea with everyone this year-in plenty of time-so if you wanted to do it, you could!  Here are a few activities we've done in the past and a few we're going to do this year.
   In actuality, we try and use stuff around the church.  I am also a bargain shopper so I shop after Christmas and get things for the next year.  We don't have a large budget so creativity is key :)
  Also, you have to remember, we make them all at one time - and there are four to they can't take long (and unless you have a lot of helpers, some of them need to be quite easy and self-explanatory).  I like to have one station a Christmas card station where they make a simple but neat card to send on the first Sunday to explain what is going on.  I also assume that many of the people that we're sending our gifts to are stuck in their rooms or houses a lot.  So, for the four gifts, I try and make one an ornament, one a table decoration, one that includes food and then an extra one.
  So, here are some ideas to kick off your Advent Angels :)

I got some flower pots on sale at the end of  summer so I'm looking for a project with these...
I like the simple red pot with the black belt - might let them put some sequins on it to "bling" it up a bit :)  But what to fill it with?...
table decoration:  We did something similar one year.  This one is quite ornate and ours were not :)  We bought styrofoam trees (on sale :) and wrapped garland around them and hung small ornaments (from the dollar tree) on the garland.  It proved harder than I thought so I would suggest spray painting them all green beforehand and then decorating like the one above.

DIY Candy Cane Card- cute!
Christmas Card:  Cute idea for the front of the card - except you would obviously write "Merry Christmas" :)
Reindeer water bottles and popcorn bags...would be cute for the Holiday party at school!
Food:  We did this Rudolph water last year, in addition to our own
variation of the trail mix pictured as well.  I used plastic containers for
our mix.  The only problem I had was the nose falling off the water bottle - I think glue
dots is your best choice.

DIY Christmas gift - snack/trail mix.
All you need is Pledge Floor cleaner, glass ornaments and fine glitter.  Swirl a little floor cleaner inside the ornaments and it kills the static allowing the glitter to stick to the sides!  Add glitter and let dry.
Ornament:  We have tons of little glass ornaments like these laying around so we might do this ornament this year.  It's pretty simple according to the "pin" (website is no longer functioning).  Just swirl Pledge floor cleaner inside to take away the static, then pour in glitter!  I hope it's that easy!
DIY Giant Advent Calendar Sticker Scenes
I got these advent calendars from oriental trading on sale one year.  Even my three year olds could do this with minimal help and they turned out quite cute.  I'm not a fan of "mass produced" crafts - but with so many to do, I end up doing about one per year.
Cute Christmas gifts - snacks
Food:  This is always cute to do.  Red hots, what looks like an empty squished baggie (no link from pinterest), a baggie full of hot chocolate and mini-marshmallows!  and dont' forget the googly eyes :-) not too hard...
Child's Art Advent Calendar for Granny
This is pretty cute.  You could go many directions with a DIY advent calendar!
Great DIY ornament idea from Martha! Choose patterned papers or color-photocopy pictures onto card stock. Trace cutter on top; cut out. Dab white craft glue along cutter's edge. Press paper in place; let dry. Thread narrow ribbon through needle; poke between paper and cutter, and wrap ribbon around top of cutter. Slip a bead over ribbon's ends; knot.
Ornament:  very cute.  I did this once with preschoolers and put their picture in it :)  I let them roll the cookie cutter in glitter as well - always better with glitter!  
7 Days of Love. If someone is going away for a week or something send a week's worth of encouragement/verses in a box like this
How darn creative.  I love this - on SOOO many levels!!  I'm thinking, teacher gifts, when my husband goes off on trips, advent angels, you NAME it!  Pill cases like this are $1 but sometimes I see them on sale and sometimes in packs of  two.  I'm thinking, give this on the last week of advent so they can count down until Christmas - put Christmas related Bible verses in each day, maybe a Christmas joke or two, a few Christmas candies (wonder if hershey kisses would fit?) and a few notes from their little angel :)
Pour melted candy into spoons, press in cake decorations while warm. Fun kid's party idea.
I did this once with a group of preschoolers.  It's very quick and easy.  Let it dry and wrap it in a baggie.  You could tie a ribbon around it and slip it in a gift bag or goody bag.
Candy Cane Poem and coloring page: Read the cute poem about Jesus and color the candy cane!
Cute tag that you could attach to any gift...or you could include it in the card above :-)

Whatever you decide to make for your person, it will be appreciated!  I hope you participate in Advent Angels and have a very meaningful Advent season!  Make sure and remember those in need and suffering this Christmas season - it's such a happy time for most of us, but there are some that will be dreading the season.  Do something to make someone smile! :-)

In Christ,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

10 Reasons South Florida ROCKS!

Ok, as promised...yes, I miss the south, but South Florida has it's good points (VERY good points!) so here's my list :)  Btw, one of my things that I missed from NC was the bar-b-que...well check out where a friend took me!!  Sweet!!  It used to be called "Carolina Barbeque but now it's something different.  Still advertises "authentic Carolina Barbecue" though!  I was pleasantly impressed :)
I cut off the pig in the picture because I wanted to make sure and get the window clings on the left :). Can you see them?  Another thing I miss from NC - Go Heels!!!  They also had State, but luckily, no Dook ;)  I am now a fan of this restaurant :)

And now...
10 things I LOVE about South Florida!!

10.  The weather.  Sure, it's hot in the summer, but no hotter than NC.  The only difference is there are a few more HOT months in So Fla than NC :)  The other 6 months make up for it though...and then some!

9.  No dress code!

Yes, the quality in this photo is bad, but all you need to see are my shorts :)  None of this, "no white after labor day" nonsense!  I wore this yesterday (Nov. 1) with white sandals and got no weird looks :)  

8.  ONE wardrobe!  Summer clothes and then some jeans and a few long sleeve shirts...and maybe a jacket.  I don't have to switch out my closets or buy my kids a new wardrobe every 6 months!

7.  The beach.  ahhh...not only is the beach only 15 minutes away and pleasant almost year round, there are 5 beaches nearby that are pleasant almost year round :)

6.  Public pools!  Didn't see this in NC.  If you wanted to swim in a public pool then you had to join some swim club or country club.  Here,  I have 3 choices within 10 minutes of driving AND have waterslides, splashpads and lifeguards - free of charge.

Diversity.  I LOVE that our church has 15 countries represented.  I LOVE that there is no majority at my monkeys' school because there is such a beautiful mix.  Our neighborhood is also mixed and asking "where are you originally from" is pretty commonplace here.  Ft Lauderdale is a great representation of "the world" :)

4.  No allergies.  This is big for me.  I had trouble in spring and fall (and sometimes summer and winter) in NC: asthma attacks, allergy attacks, daily medicines.  My son did as well.  Here, I take allergy medicine when needed (sometimes I go weeks without it-but then something will be "blooming" and I'll need it for a week or so).  Guess I'm not allergic to palm trees ;)

3.  Ikea, Sawgrass - two awesome places to shop. If Sawgrass isn't THE largest shopping center in the US its in the top 3.  And Ikea, is...well...pretty cool :)  And, being so close to miami - I don't think you could name a store in the world that doesn't show up somewhere down here!  Not to mention restaurants - you in the mood for Indian? Thai? Colombian?  Peruvian?  You can find it...we even found a Chinese-Peruvian!!

2.  Gasoline.  Yes, it's freaky high down here...but everything is so close, I fill up my car every 2 1/2 weeks!  On some months I fill up every three weeks...once a month - not bad :)

1.  The weather!!!!  Yeah, okay.  I said that one already, but it bears mentioning again :)  Seriously, picture the most beautiful fall day - low in the upper 50s, high in the mid-70s...ahhhh.  That's pretty much November-April here :)  And the other 6 months?  Well, refer to numbers 7 and 6 ;)

Sure, So Fla has its bad points - crime, very high cost of living, rude drivers, lots of homeless, no Cheerwine - but the good points help balance it all out :)  Haven't been to So Fla?  Come on's beautiful :)

God Bless,