Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Sunday!

Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious. Psalm 66: 1-2 KJV

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Retell Favorite Stories

An excellent way to reinforce sequencing and the parts of a story is to have your child retell their favorite tales. It is a fun activity that you can all work on together.

Choose a favorite story. Here, we used Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For younger children, find images you can print and let your children color. We have used coloring books and printed images from the internet. Have your child color in the characters (and get a good laugh when they choose to color Goldilocks skin purple) and mount the characters on popsicle or craft sticks. For older children, have them draw the characters on their own. If they are old enough to cut, this is also good scissor skill practice.

After you have your characters, you can create your setting. We made this house from several sheets of construction paper. We even added the chairs, beds and a kitchen table with bowls of porridge.

Gather everyone around and let your child retell the story! Help them put the parts of the story in the correct order. You can even point out that most stories contain a problem and solution. Discuss what these are for your story.

I hope that you can create some brilliant storytelling experiences with your children!


Friday, May 29, 2009

Turn the Music Up and Dance

When I was growing up, I remember my mom saying that I was growing up too fast. My reaction was always the same. How can I be growing up too fast? It seemed like I was always waiting for a milestone like getting my learner’s permit or my driver’s license. Then, I could not wait to be asked to the prom. To me, I was not growing up fast enough!

Now that I have two little girls of my own, I realize that time moves on quickly and little ones do grow up too fast. It seems like only yesterday we were having our first child and now our youngest is already one year old! Where does time go?

Knowing that time passes all too quickly and we won’t always be the people in our girls’ lives that make their eyes light up, we are enjoying every moment of their childhood. Sometimes when the girls hear music they start dancing and laughing around the room. They say, “Mommy and Daddy, please come and dance with us.” So, we get up, turn the music up, and dance.

Soak it up parents, time passes fast! Enjoy every minute.

- Robin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thrifty Craft Idea

I have a brilliant, thrifty craft idea for you! Did you know that both Lowe's and Home Depot offer children's projects on Saturdays? We are often too busy to stay and put the craft together, but they are more than happy to give you a kit to go!!

We take advantage of these programs as often as we are able. To extend the crafty potential, I will put out some acrylic paints for the kids and let them paint the pieces, or the finished project. Their dad will often step in and help with the actual construction, or we'll make boys vs. girls teams and race! They have made some wonderful creations and we have them proudly displayed in our craft space!

Visit Home Depot and Lowe's to see the dates and times in your area and get crafting!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Favorite Uses For Vinegar

I never thought I would say this but one of my favorite products is vinegar. I remember my mom cleaning windows with vinegar as a little girl. I used to think the smell was awful. Now, years later, I clean my own house and I have to be sure I am using the safest products around my children.

It seems like, in the past 5 years, there has been an extreme push for safe and eco friendly cleaning products. We are all becoming more knowledgeable about our health, the health of our family, and the health of our environment. I am glad that safe and eco friendly information is available to me at a time when I am raising my family.
I have started using a lot of vinegar to clean our house. It might smell, but it does clean and I feel it is a safe product to use. My favorite uses for vinegar are:

Cleaning the humidifier
Washing windows
Using it in the washing machine on the rinse cycle to take out odors
Cleaning the coffee maker
Deodorizing the kitchen drain

I like to look at The Vinegar Institute website for more ideas on how to use vinegar. I haven’t tried all of their ideas, but check it out and see if any of them are helpful to you.

My favorite thing about vinegar is that it is cheap!

See what everyone else is talking about at Works For Me Wednesday!

- Robin

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Organizing Your Craft Supplies

I am always working to foster creativity in my children. I consider myself to be an artist and a "crafty" person, and I am passing that down to my kids. In order for them to truly explore their creativity, I have found some ways to make their supplies more accessible to them.

Some of my favorite organizing for creativity tips:

- If you have a space where they can be free to be messy, set them loose! We have an area in our basement that has laminate flooring and we moved our old kitchen table there as well. This has now become their "art table" and they are free to ink, paint and glitter it up! If you don't have a space in your home, set them loose outside!

- Make supplies easily accessible to little hands. Children will truly use what they see. You can repurpose many things from your home and great yard sale finds for your organization. We keep our markers and scissors in a long wooden box. Our colored pencils live in an old Ball jar. The stamps and ink pads are in a three-tiered basket. Paper is in a letter tray on a neighboring surface and other supplies are stored in boxes by theme (i.e. beading, tape/glue, a basket filled with bits and pieces like milk caps, feathers and popsicle sticks, etc.).

- Make clean-up easy. We keep a supply of baby wipes and a large trash can in our creative space. When the creations are complete, we sweep off anything we aren't going to recycle into the trash. We wipe down the table and put supplies back so we're ready for our next creative adventure.

- My biggest suggestion is to set up the space and then step back and let them create what they can imagine. I am a HUGE proponent of letting them guide their own creative expression and in giving specific feedback on their work (for example - "I love how you used those splashes of red in your painting." instead of "What pretty colors!")

I hope you that you and your kids have the time to be creative and get messy!

To see what everyone else is talking about, visit Talk About It Tuesday.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Fruit Lasagna

My husband is a great cook. One day while watching PBS, he saw someone make a fruit lasagna. Like a lot of people, he thought he could remember the recipe, so he did not take the time to write it down. Several days later he tried to make the recipe that he saw on TV, but could not remember exactly what ingredients were in it. After a little trial and error, he has come up with his own recipe for fruit lasagna. We make this all the time with different kinds of fruit.

Fruit Lasagna

Bread (any kind of bread, enough to layer your baking dish twice)
4-5 cups Fruit (plum, pear, apple, etc.)
¾ cup Sugar
¾ cup Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Chilled Butter
+/- Pecans and your favorite spices
½ cup Flour

Slice bread into ¼” thick slices. Then place bread on a cookie sheet and toast. Cut fruit into large chunks (peel fruit if desired). Coat fruit with ¾ cup sugar in mixing bowl. Butter baking dish then line with toasted sliced bread. Layer with fruit, then toast, then fruit. Combine 3 tablespoons of chilled butter with ¾ cup brown sugar, ½ cup flour and nuts if desired. Crush chilled butter with flour, brown sugar and nuts using a fork in order to make a crumble. Top layered baking dish with crumble and bake at 350 degrees for one hour uncovered. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. We have topped with caramel ice cream topping! Yum!
Hope you enjoyed the recipe. See more at Menu Plan Monday!
- Robin

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Sunday!

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

Proverbs 25:21 NIV

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Great Read For Stay-At-Home Moms

I really enjoyed reading the book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I have been a SAHM for the past 2 ½ years. During this time, I have enjoyed many great times with my little ones.

I feel very blessed to be able to stay at home with our girls. I know that some mothers are unable to stay at home for financial reasons and some mothers want to continue their careers. Whatever situation you as a mother are in, we all have the same goals to raise our children to be great citizens.

In her book, Dr. Schlessinger lifts SAHMs up and recognizes the challenges and rewards that come with our job. If you are a stay-at-home mom, pick up a copy of Dr. Laura’s book to be enlightened and encouraged on your journey at home with your kids.

- Robin

Friday, May 22, 2009

Family Friday - Game Night

We eat together as a family every day, but Fridays are special. On Friday evening, we have Family Night. We are currently in baseball/softball season, so our Family Nights revolve around a game and then a trip for a well-deserved ice cream cone. But, the rest of the year, Family Night usually consists of playing a game together.

One of our favorite games is Sequence For Kids and it is fun for all ages. Each player gets some cards with fun animals on them and your goal is to make a sequence of four on the board. In the beginning, the kids liked the cute pictures so much, they would save certain cards, even if they gave up a win! Now that they are getting older and more competitive, play has even gone into defense mode as we attempt to block a sequence someone else is forming.

We have LOTS of favorites in our game closet and I'll post more in the future.

Do you have favorite recommendations for my wish list?


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Healthy, Waste-Free Lunches

I have chosen to pack my children's lunches because I find it to be healthier than what the school offers.One of my major goals last year was to eliminate waste in their lunchbox. Now, we do not purchase any individually packaged snacks and I do not use plastic bags when packing for their day.

I found the answer to my search here:
Laptop Lunches

I am not connected to this company at all, but I would highly recommend their system. We purchased two complete systems and one extra set each of the interior containers. Now, I can have one set in the dishwasher and the second in the box. I hand wash the box as necessary.

Pictured in the lunch above is a natural peanut butter sandwich, baby carrots, grapes and strawberries, and baked cheese crackers. As you can see, my kids can eat their lunch and then they have no waste to toss as they leave the cafeteria. I also pack a washcloth in their bag to wipe up any messes. And, they carry a safe, plastic water bottle that we refill each morning.

Green, healthy and frugal. The best of everything I'm aiming for.

Have you found a healthy, eco-friendly way to handle your lunches?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anidote To Boredom

For WFMW, I thought I would discuss our favorite antidotes to boredom.
Sometime in the course of life you are bound to find yourself sitting idly on a bench in a shopping mall, at an amusement park, or even in a hospital with your children who could easily deteriorate into a tantrum. While waiting on somebody to finish shopping, finish eating, get out of the bathroom, or simply waiting for some news, your children may not understand why they have to wait, too. Although I have had to deal with my share of tantrums in public as well as private places, activity has been the key to help minimize the chaos. Crayons and paper aren’t always in my purse, but kids can be entertained for variable periods of time depending on your luck and practice. Here are some possible suggestions:

My kids love to let me know what they know. I can have them count, say the alphabet, tell me the names of their relatives (e.g. Aunt Julie), show me where their right or left elbow is located, or recite whatever else we have been working on recently. Sometimes your child may even sing you a song. Books that we have read to the point of having them memorized, “The sun has set not long ago. Now, everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub…” can be recited with pauses for your child to insert the next word.

When mental focus starts to drift, use the power of touch. Games like patty-cake are interactive, and the tactile stimulation escalates the battle against an unfocused child. Sesame Street Patty-cake book has several touch filled, interactive, and easy to remember games that you could try. If your child knows shapes, have them close their eyes and tell you whether you traced a square or a triangle on their belly. If they know numbers, have them count the number of times you tap their shoulder - - and try to trick them by faking a tap!

My kids love to play with other kids. Sometimes in order to be the best parent I can be, I have to be a kid. Hold hands with your son and jump over all of the black tiles in the shopping mall floor. Prove that you can stand on one foot or your tippy-toes longer than your daughter. Don’t be afraid to let the passers-by see you dance or ring-around-the-rosie. Silliness may be the ultimate antidote to boredom. Much like the recent release from George Strait “I Saw God Today,” you never know whose day you may brighten by public displays of vivacious happiness. But even if a passing curmudgeon doesn’t like our behavior, I’m raising self confident kids who know their mother is in love with them, and that same observer would be even more disapproving of a child on the ground screaming.

Of course, a sucker could work too!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yard Sale Tips

Yard Sale Season is here! We have seen signs all over and recently participated ourselves. I thought I would share some of our best tips to help make your sale successful as well for our Talk About It Tuesday post.

- Join in with neighbors if you can. Larger sales draw larger crowds.

- Find out which days are most successful in your area. Here, it happens to be Thursday. Other areas it might be Friday or Saturday.

- Start collecting your items. We began right after Christmas by pulling aside decor we didn't use this season and then went thru our home room by room. If you have an area where you can temporarily store your items, pool them in one space.

- Give yourself plenty of time for pricing. Price low, but leave yourself a little negotiating room. I've found that all yard sale shoppers are eager to find a bargain and they love to have your price reduced.

- Gather tables from friends and neighbors and showcase your treasures. We have a few tables of our own and we borrowed two from a friend. We also created one additional table by using sawhorses and placing a sheet of lumber on top. This worked especially well for items that were too heavy for a card table, such as dishes.

- Get change before your day begins. I like to have $100 in a variety of bills. And, as I gather more cash from sales, I take larger bills inside for safekeeping.

- Gather any unsold items and take them to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. What better way to recycle? Don't bring unwanted items back into your home.

If you have additional yard sale hints, we would love to hear them. If you have an upcoming sale, we wish you the best of luck!

- Julie

Monday, May 18, 2009

Our Favorite Salad Dressing

We love adding fresh salad greens to our meals and have recently found a homemade salad dressing that we all enjoy. If you have young children, you understand what a miracle that is to find something that everyone agrees on!

We like to use fresh baby greens. The darker the leaf, the healthier it is. We also use grape tomatoes, halved, and slice English cucumbers when we have them on hand.

The kids help me make this dressing because I use every opportunity I can to have them help in the kitchen and learn valuable life skills.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Honey
Minced Garlic to taste
1/2 C Olive Oil

Whisk together and pour over your favorite greens.

We would love for you to link us to your favorite salad dressing recipes, too!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Sunday!

May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Family Fun At The Zoo

My little girls love to go to the zoo. Every time we go, it is new and exciting. Our 2 year old talks on and on for days about what animals she saw and what they were doing. At the Birmingham Zoo, they have a fantastic water park! The kids splash and jump around in the water and have a blast.

There are a few reasons why I like the zoo. First, my kids like the zoo. Second, we paid $80 for a zoo membership that lasts all year long! We have definitely gotten our money’s worth. Birmingham is very warm, and we get to use our pass most of the year. During the Christmas season, they have a great lights display complete with a snow maker to put you in the holiday spirit. We love the zoo for family fun at a great value.

Is anyone else a fan of the zoo? What are your favorite ones to visit?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Family Friday - Staying Local

We have recently been working on adding a little color to the exterior of our home now that our snow is gone (finally!). I requested flowers for the pots we use outside for Mother's Day and we went together to a local nursery to choose them.

We have found many advantages to staying local with our greenhouse choices, as opposed to heading to a chain or big box store. We found the prices on the plants to be lower and the quality to be higher. Local stores seem to take much more pride in their work with and knowledge of the plants. And, you are ensured to get plants that will work well for your region. In our continued efforts to be green, we want plants that don't need that much water and will handle the temperature variations here (and we added mulch to this pot when we were finished to help retain moisture).

If you're looking to fill your flowerbeds or a few pots, I would urge you to check your local nursery first. And, don't forget to get the kids involved in picking out their favorite plants, getting their hands dirty, teach them to use some garden tools and how to care for your new plants.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beauty Marks

I have lots of “beauty marks” that I do not feel are beautiful at all. It has been a couple of years now since I have had a formal skin cancer screening, but I have been thinking about it this month. May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Awareness Month.

With the many beauty marks that I have, it is necessary for me to keep a close eye on my skin. A few years ago, I had some dysplastic nevi or precancerous moles removed. I normally do a regular check of my skin every few months. This is what I check my “beauty marks” for:

A- Asymmetry
B- Border- irregular and scalloped
C- Color- mottled, haphazard display of brown, black, pink
D- Diameter- large- greater than a pencil eraser
E- Enlargement or growth in size and elevated

Of these, a change in size or appearance is the most important.

This is the mnemonic that I use for my Melanoma self screening approximately every month. Since you can not see all of your own skin, you should have someone look in areas that you can not see. If you would like more information, go to Some dermatologists offer free screenings in May!

Don't forget sunscreen for the entire family this summer!

Have you or a loved one been affected by Melanoma?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teaching Your Children At Home

As a trained teacher, I definitely value education. I send my children to public school, but I also consider myself to be a homeschooler. I have a schedule that I follow with them to fill in gaps that I see in their school's curriculum, and I work ahead with them and supplement in areas that interest them.

In future posts, I'll discuss in more detail things that have worked well for us and some of my favorite books and projects. We touch on all areas with our homeschooling and I think it has been such a benefit to my children and myself. My children actually look forward to our work together and it has led to some of our best memories and our favorite times together. Working on academics with your children can be so much fun!

I have already seen the benefits in my daughter's school career as she has excelled academically. I am also seeing those seeds take root in my son and know that he will do even better as we continue to build more on his core skills.

If there are any specific areas you would like to hear about, please let me know in the comments. I am looking forward to sharing our journey with you on future WFMW posts.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


It's Talk About It Tuesday and strawberry time here in the South. My husband and I recently took our children strawberry picking. We had so much fun! The girls were eating them just as fast as they could pick them. Our goal was to pick a few gallons of strawberries so that we could have strawberry shortcake, strawberry sorbet, and have enough left over to freeze and eat later.

When we got home from picking, I washed them well and took the tops off. We let them dry on towels in the kitchen. After refrigerating and freezing some, we pureed enough to make sorbet in our ice cream maker. The sorbet turned out great! This is the recipe that we came up with after looking at several choices.

Strawberry Sorbet

10 c. fresh strawberries
1 ½ c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. salt

Clean and slice strawberries. Pour sugar over strawberries and stir. Cover strawberries and place in the refrigerator. Stir every 15 minutes for one hour. Strawberries will make their own syrup. When sugar is completely dissolved, add lemon juice to strawberries. Puree the strawberries and their liquid until smooth. Strain, puree, remove unwanted seeds and place in your ice cream maker. Use the ice cream maker as directed. The recipe makes about 6 cups.

The sorbet was excellent and my kids loved it. Picking strawberries made for a fun filled day and a delicious treat! This was so fun and easy, we would like to try other sorbets.

Do you have a favorite sorbet or ice cream recipe to share?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I have found a great economical and delicious way to make pizza! My family loves pizza, so we have it about every two or three weeks. At first, we were using store bought crusts and pizza sauce, but now I have learned to make our pizza from scratch. If you make pizza from scratch, you save money by not using store bought crusts and sauces .This is how I do it:

1. I make the hot roll mix from my Make-A-Mix book. This is a dry mix that uses a 5 lb. bag of flour. You will have a lot of hot roll mix to store in your cupboard and use next time.

2. Make the dough by using the pizza crust recipe in your Make-A-Mix book.

3. In the Super Baby Food book, there is a list of recipes. One recipe is for economical pizza sauce. This recipe costs pennies to make and saves money instead of buying pizza sauce already prepared at the store. The recipe calls for a 15 oz can of tomato sauce and a 6 oz can of tomato paste. I buy generic of both for a total of only $.80! You then make a mix of spices that you probably already have in your cupboard.

Homemade pizza can be made for pennies on the dollar. Try it and see for yourself!

Does anyone else make their own mixes?


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day - and welcome to our new blog! We are very excited about our new endeavor and hope that you join us often.

"We" are Robin (a Physicians Assistant turned Southern SAHM of two young children) and Julie (an English Teacher turned Midwestern Mom of two school-aged children). We also happen to be sisters-in-law who have a lot in common -- most importantly our dedication and devotion to our families and the future.

We both came from strong families and are blessed to have wonderful examples of motherhood in our lives. We realized that we had learned many things from our own mothers.
  • We learned the importance of compassion and patience.
  • We learned the value of a strong education.
  • We learned that family time is sacred.
  • We learned that you should not jump in front of the stove when Mom is baking a cake.
  • We learned that sometimes Mom hides in the bathroom just to get away.
  • We learned that the most precious gifts are handmade.
  • We learned that Mom is always right!

When you look up the word "brilliant" in the dictionary, you will find:

brilliant –adjective
1. shining brightly; sparkling

2. distinguished; illustrious

3. having or showing great intelligence, talent, quality, etc.

Our goal is to be Brilliant Moms and embody these qualities. We hope that our children always see the sparkle in our eye when they enter a room. We hope to be wonderful partners to our husbands. We hope to be shining examples in our community. We hope to use our intelligence and skills to better our families, our neighborhoods, our lives.

We hope that you will join us on this journey and learn that you are a Brilliant Mom, too.