DIY Suncatcher

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.com

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comThese sun catchers we made turned out really cute and I wanted to share them with you! This craft provides kids an opportunity to get messy and have fun.

You’ll need:

Pull out your smocks (which are old adult tshirts in our case) and get ready for some gooey fun! Grab some dollar store frames or frames you have around the house. Remove the glass and set aside the frame.

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comThe first thing you will want to do is pour glue onto the glass. And I do mean pour.  We tried squeezing it out the regular way and that proved tedious. The kids eventually got enough on the glass but it took alot of effort. Next time, I’ll just remove the lid and pour it on.

Once you have a good thick layer of glue, squeeze out one drop of food coloring in each corner using 3-4 colors. The gooey fun begins! Now, mom, this is a great opportunity to let your kids be kids and enjoy the mess! We tried using craft sticks to mix all the paint up but it just didn’t have the same effect as their fingers. Let them explore the colors changing and the fun shapes they can make in the glue. Rilyn ended up putting hearts in her design while Landon just went to town getting messy.

This part got me a little worried because everything turned black. My heart sank a little thinking about these botched sun catchers. I thought maybe thinner glue and keeping the colors separated would help, so I tried doing one on my own, keeping the DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comcolors separated. But mine did not look good at all.  It really needed that thick layer of glue and once they dry you can see all the awesome work your kids did blending all of the colors.

DIY Sun Catcher | EverydaySmallThings.comI loved how they turned out! They dried clear and the colors were vibrant and beautiful. Once dried, stick them back into the frame (without the backing) and hang them up  with suction hooks or Command window hooks (affiliate link), which is what we ended up using. 

These would make great gifts or just a unique window decoration for your home. We did this project with daycare kids and parents loved how they turned out! 

So, what do you think? Will you try this easy project with your kids? 

 

Color Coding Method: How I Organize My Home Daycare

How I Keep My Home Daycare Organized :: EverydaySmallThings.com

Affiliate Link DisclosureColor Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comMost days, I have six children running around my house because of my home daycare. There is one trick that I have implemented that has helped immensely: color coding.

Each child is assigned a color and everything from their cups and plates to their hand towels are in their color. This has been most successful with their cups. In the beginning, I would just hand a kid any old cup, but 10 minutes later I would find a stranded cup and couldn’t remember who I had given it to last. My younger children would just pick up a cup and drink out of it; no matter whose it was. This was not working in the germ department.

Color Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comSo I began searching for solid colored cups that were eco-friendly and BPA/phthalate free and found the Kid Basix Safe Sporter. After my baby gates, these are my next favorite thing around the house. We LOVE our water bottles. They are lightweight, durable and made of food-grade stainless steel which translates into “will stand up to daily use by a toddler”. In all of the spills and drops, only one of our water bottles has slightly dented. They are easy to clean, dishwasher safe, non-leaching and antimicrobial. Awesomeness all around!

Color Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.comAnother piece of having a home daycare is the towels used to dry hands. DCFS guidelines allow two options, paper towels or separate hand towels.  Paper towels negate my pursuit of reducing waste and being eco-aware, plus I can’t imagine the cost of keeping them in stock. Thus, I have opted for the separate hand towels.  Each child has a hand towel hanging in the bathroom, in their specific color. All I have to do is throw them in the wash with all of my other cleaning cloths and we are good to go!

Color Coding :: EverydaySmallThings.com

 

Do you have a system that you use to keep your day organized? I would love to hear about it!

Better Together Launch Team!

Better together Launch Team :: EverydaySmallThings.com

Better Together Launch Team :: EverydaySmallThings.comFriends! I am so stinkin’ excited about the launch of Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone (comes out March 1!). Never in a million years did I think I would be co-authoring a book.  That’s my mom’s thing. While I love to blog, my posts are only an average of 800 words. There’s something daunting about filling a book with words.  Thankfully, I partnered with an expert in the field of publishing books…my mom.

This has been an eye opening experience for me, seeing just how much it takes to get a book through the publishing process. I have so enjoyed a “behind the scenes” view!

I’m even more excited that you, my friends, are able to be a part of the launch too! Moody Publishers has agreed to allow us to pull together a large launch team to get the word out. We’re looking for 400 moms who love Hearts at Home, love books, and love to share with their friends! 

This a book about friendship. No matter whether you feel like a friendship guru or a friendship flunky, Better Together is for you! As you read, you’ll learn all kinds of wisdom for moving your friendships from TBF to MBF to GGF to BFF (yes, you’ll learn what all those mean!) and you’ll exhale a deep breath and whisper, “Wow…I’m not alone.”

Isn’t this cover gorgeous!? I just love the vibrant colors!  Eek!

cb81a3b5-btcoverNow the book is in its final editing stage and we have an electronic version to share with our launch team so it’s time to put this in the hands of some moms who need it!

Let me give you the inside scoop on this launch team opportunity!

So what is a launch team? A launch team is a group of people who help spread the word about a new book. They read an electronic copy of the book, participate in a 6-week online discussion as they’re reading the book, and share along the way about the book in social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Periscope, on their blog (if they have one), on retailer sites like Amazon and Christianbook.com, and in person with friends, at their moms group, or with the random stranger she’s standing next to in the line at the bathroom at McDonalds.

What would I need to do if I’m on the launch team?

  1. Read an electronic copy of the book before everyone else! This is a pdf you can read on your computer, your phone, or even on your e-book reader (most e-book readers allow you to download a pdf!)
  2. Tell your world about Better Together during the month of February! Share quotes, graphics, and things you are learning as you read the book. (Don’t worry, we’ll give you graphics and some fun things to share plus we know you’ll find some of your own as you read!) You’ll also want to let your girlfriends know all the wonderful freebies they can get if they pre-order the book before it’s March 1 release!
  3. Post an honest review online. It can be on Amazon, Christianbook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Goodreads, or your favorite online retailer! This helps other moms find the book when they are needing the encouragement!

What do I get?

  1. You get to read the book first! Wahoo!
  2. You get inside scoop about the book and all kinds of goodies to share!
  3. You will have the possibility of earning all kinds of free stuff like a free signed copy of the Better Together book, free mp3’s of Hearts at Home conference workshops, free Hearts at Home conference tickets, and more!
  4. You’ll get to experience a Better Together six-week online moms group led by Anne and I where you’ll find out you’re in good company with both the joys and the challenges of being a mom and forging friendships!
  5. You’ll get the satisfaction that you were part of something bigger than yourself! You helped make a difference in the lives of thousands of moms!

How do I jump into the launch team pool?

You can apply HERE! We’re taking applications through January 15, or until all the spots are filled. There are 400 spots and we want YOU to have one of them! If you are selected you will receive an email from Hearts at Home by January 15 (check both your inbox and your spam box just in case it accidentally lands in there!)

If this isn’t for you but you think a friend would be perfect for the job, please share it with her!

We hope you’ll join the fun, because even when it comes to launching a book, we’re BETTER TOGETHER for sure!

A Mother’s New Year Resolutions

A Mother's New Year Resolutions |

A Mother's New Year Resolutions | I can hardly believe that 2015 is nearly over. It’s cliche but time feels like it is truly flying.  New Years is often a time when we reflect on the old and look forward to the new. Scripture even talks about taking off our old ways and being made new in the attitude of our minds (Epheshians 4:22-23).

This got me thinking about a lot of the old ways I need to take off as a mom. And what better time than new years to make some resolutions.


This year I resolve to take off impatience and put on delight.

“Come on! Put your shoes on, we don’t have all day!” Between the dilly dallying and the incessant “But why?”, all too often irritation has been my go-to response. And if I truly analyze those moments, I recognize the selfishness it stems from…the perceived dip into my time. My desires. My projects.

A Mother's New Year Resolutions | EverydaySmallThings.comIt’s as if life is a road trip and I’ve been taking my kids along for the ride. I want to make more stops along the way and just enjoy the view with them. I want to pause and ponder together when the question, “Why is the sky blue?”, is raised. I want to say “Yes!” when rain puddles are calling our name. I want to imprint the joy of my children on my heart and I hope a year from now my children will remember the delight found in my eyes.

This year I resolve to take off worry and put on faith

“Worry is when we start to look at the mountain, instead of the One who can move mountains.” (quoting my mom again)

Finances. Medical needs. Work. World news. All of it has the potential to begin wearing us down with worry and anxiety. My oldest, Rilyn, is very perceptive and notices when something is weighing my soul down. What a gift we can give our children in demonstrating how to operate out of faith despite the chaos of this world.

Something as simple as "Lord, I need you," is a great place to start.I’ve noticed that when I spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible, the easier it is to live in faith. If prayer isn’t a natural part of your life but you’d like it to be, I encourage you to just do it. Something as simple as “Lord I need you,” is a great place to start. Consider the faith you’d like your children to have and start living that way yourself.

This year I resolve to take off busyness and put on rest

When we say “Yes” to something, we are saying “No” to something else.  Saying “Yes” to another sport, may say “No” to family night.  Saying “Yes” to another volunteer opportunity possibly says “No” to having the time when a friend calls with a crisis.

In a Hearts At Home workshop, 10 Stress Strategies, it was encouraged to have one major and one minor responsibility. My full-time job as a daycare provider is considered my major responsibility and co-leading the greeting team at church would be my minor.

This doesn’t even include the yeses we say on behalf of our children. In our attempt at giving our children a great childhood, we often try to fill their time with activities instead of recognizing childhood as an opportunity to instill life principles through modeling in our own life. Rest is something valuable we can teach our children starting at an early age. In our home, “rest time” is a daily occurence — an hour in our own rooms, reading or playing with our room toys. It’s amazing how attitudes can shift after an hour of down time.

A Mother's New Year Resolutions | EverydaySmallThings.comThis year I resolve to take off guilt and put on grace

This is a big one for me this year as my anxiety and depression have been recurrent. I look back and instantly feel shame about all of the times that I was short-tempered or allowed my children to watch more tv over reading them a book.

Mommy guilt is real! It has a way of eating at the soul because we often battle it silently. Allowing Satan to whisper his lies of ineptitude into our hearts as moms.

It is so easy to lose sight of the fact that God doesn’t see me through the lens of depression and anxiety. He sees me as His daughter created with a purpose and He hurts when I hurt. He sees you the same way!

So, how about you friend? What are your new years resolutions?

 

4 Ways We Paid For Christmas

4 Ways We Paid For Christmas From Our Couch | EverydaySmallThings.com

Affiliate Link Disclosure4 Ways We Paid For Christmas From Our Couch | EverydaySmallThings.comChristmas always has a way of sneaking up on us financially.  We try to budget using Financial Peace University principles which includes putting aside Christmas money each month. But in all honesty, it typically gets used for something else.  Usually, this leaves us scrambling come December trying to figure out how to afford Christmas gifts.

But not this year! Here are four ways we paid for Christmas from our couch.

Acorns.com
This is an app I discovered in June and is our biggest Christmas contributor. Acorns.com rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar (or however much you decide) of any purchase you make using a linked bank account. So, let’s say I spent $13.65 at the store using my debit card. Acorns will set aside 35 cents into a savings account. This has been the easiest way to set aside money! The only downside is it’s not an instant transfer.  Transfers occur when you hit a minimum of $5.

If you sign up using my referral link, you and I will each get $5!

Swagbucks
If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks, you are missing out on easy earnings! This is a search engine where you get swagbucks earnings just for browsing the internet and then you can trade in your swagbucks for cash or gift cards.  I use this as my main search engine and even type in websites that I know I’m going to, just to get a better chance of earning swagbucks which are awarded at random, not per search. Online purchases through websites like Priceline and Vision Direct will earn you swagbucks per dollar spent. Easy peasy!

They also offer surveys, videos and other ways of earning swagbucks. I rarely utilize these avenues but more power to you!

UserTesting
Did you know that you could be paid to test out websites? UserTesting.com pays testers an average of $10 per website tested. I’ve earned $85 on UserTesting since February 2015. Typically, I log on after the kids get into bed and see if I qualify for any website tests. If you have the time and a quiet space, then this is a great way to earn some Christmas cash.

Ebates
I haven’t used Ebates as often as Swagbucks, but this has still contributed to Christmas. If you shop online, this is the website for you! They actually pay you back a percentage of your purchase. Make sure you install their Ebates Button so you instantly know if the website you are purchasing through qualifies for cash back. What an easy way to earn some extra cash!

So there you have it.  Four ways to start earning extra money for things like Christmas!

Paleo Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp | EverydaySmallThings.com

Apple Crisp | EverydaySmallThings.com

On a cold winter day, nothing says warm yumminess like Apple Crisp. This has always been a favorite dessert, well before our Paleo days. I’ve made a lot of different versions in my quest for a paleo version and this one has morphed out of a few different recipes. It is absolutely delicious! Even our non-paleo friends and family enjoyed this and I hope you do too!

Paleo Apple Crisp
Serves 12
A delicious warm fruit dessert
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Cook Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 10 cups peeled and sliced Fuji or Honeycrisp Apples
  2. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  3. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the topping
  1. 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  2. 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 1 teaspoon himalayan pink salt (or what's on hand)
  5. 2 cup almond flour, lightly packed
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Toss the apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and place in a 9x13 inch pan
  3. Combine coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and almond flour and spread evenly across top of apples
  4. Bake for 45 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the apples
Notes
  1. If you have some apples showing, cover with aluminum foil. Remove for the last few minutes to brown the top.
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The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need

The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need | EverydaySmallThings.com

This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase from these links you'll receive tried and true products I love While supporting Everyday Small Things at no added cost to you!

This post is in no way sponsored by Retract-A-Gate; they have no idea I even exist. I am just that big of a fan and wanted you to know about this awesome baby gate that makes a mom’s life easier!

The Only Baby Gate You Will Ever Need | EverydaySmallThings.comI’m not one to fawn over baby gates, but this gate is the best thing since sliced bread and I had to share it with you!

My biggest beef with baby gates is their awkwardness. When not being used, where does one store it? Behind a door? In a closet? Ugh…who has the time?! It would just end up being put off to the side and would fall over with the slightest breeze. (Maybe I’m being a little dramatic…but they were truly annoying)

With a home daycare and my own children being preschoolers, I only need baby gates for a portion of the day. At the end of the work day, I want to be able to put it away without tripping over it but that wasn’t realistic with the setup of my house.

I did a lot of research. A lot. Like a ridiculous amount of time spent researching baby gates. But I am so glad I did because I discovered the Retract-A-Gate.

These are my 6 favorite features of Retract-A-Gate.

  1. Retractable
    Yep, it does exactly what the name says! It rolls up into a nice frame that rarely gets in the way and you hardly notice it. I never have to “put it away” because it is always wrapped up nicely when not in use.
  1. Easy Install
    My dad came through on this one and installed all of our mounts. Super easy! The permanent install with hooks sticking out of the wall could be seen as a negative; but honestly, we don’t even notice them!
  1. Single handedly open and close the gate – quietly!
    There’s nothing like holding a crying baby and trying to get a gate open that is parent proof as well as baby proof. Squeeze here, then pull up, then push all while performing a rain dance…or something like that, and yet the darn thing still won’t open. Or naptime is in full swing and I need to open the gate but it makes so much noise that the baby wakes up. I never have to put a child down when opening up the Retract-A-Gate. I can single-handedly unlock, open and close the gate like a ninja.
  1. Move the gate around the house with ease.
    Retract-A-Gate comes with hooks that you mount to the wall. You can purchase extras so that you can move your gate around the house. We personally have two gates but 5 sets of mounts, so I can easily move the gate (again, single-handedly) to whichever room we’re in.
  1. Locks in place.
    This is probably where the most skepticism lies…does it really keep a kid from going through? If installed properly, I’m here to say, “Yes! Without a doubt!” My kids have pushed, pulled and even tried to climb under (yes, under) but were not successful. I have had these gates for a year now and have never had problems with a child escaping when the gate was locked.
  1. Great customer service
    Customer service isn’t something you normally receive with a baby gate, but this company is different! A few months after we received our Retract-A-Gates, one of the mounting hooks broke. It was a freak thing and Retract-A-Gate came through, sending us the new mount.

Have I convinced you yet? If you need to see it in action, check out this wobbly video that my daughter shot of me sharing how we use our Retract-A-Gate.

39 “Something To Read” Gift Ideas

39 Reading Gifts That Aren't Books | EverydaySmallThings.com

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39 Reading Gifts That Aren't Books | EverydaySmallThings.com“We have enough books!” my husband said to me when I asked him for ideas on what to get the kids for the “Something to read” category of Four Gifts of Christmas. This sparked a search for some “outside of a book” ideas. Ssshh…don’t tell them these are educational, you don’t want to spoil the fun. 😉

Regardless of reading ability: If, like us, you don’t live within city limits of a library a Library Membership would be a great gift idea!

PRE-READERS
Violet or Scout can read to your child with LeapFrog Read with Me

Wipe Clean: Early Learning Activity Book offers endless learning opportunities as you can wipe it off and do it again

Kids loves mail! How about a monthly Highlights High Five subscription?

Build listening and coordination skills with Lego Read and Build

Hot Dots Beginners Phonics Card Set can be used as flash cards or with any Hot Dots pen.

How fun and colorful is this Read to Me Tot Tower?! And bonus in my book…non-toxic inks!

Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game comes with pictures but can grow with your child as they learn how to read the instructions

Early Readers

They won’t even realize they’re practicing reading skills while playing this fun Super Why ABC Letter Game

What a fun way to practice reading with the uKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game

Zingo Sight Words is a twist on bingo

Let your child create their own book that is professionally bound with Lulu Jr. IlluStory Junior

Highlights For Children will be a monthly “highlight” (I’m here all week) in the mail.

a twist on an old favorite Boggle Junior Game

Hot Dots give your early reader autonomy and fun while playing Let’s Master Kindergarten Reading

Learning phonics is fun while playing Sequence Letters

Silly Sentences keep your child engaged in the fun of reading

Your auditory or visual learner will love Alphabet Bingo Game

Monthly Happy Mail in the form of Clubhouse Jr Magazine Subscription

Scrabble Junior is a great way to learn and recognize letters

Young Readers

There is a surprise at the end of the riddle with uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game

Scrabble Alphabet Scoop is a twist on a favorite game featuring a pot for scooping out letters to form words

Spark creativity with 642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition

Clubhouse Magazine Subscription is more monthly happy mail that reinforces traditional values and family closeness

Your reader can write and publish their own book with Lulu Jr – My Awesome Book

Ok, so yes Brain Games for Kids is a book, but it is packed with crossword puzzles, word searches, math puzzles, mazes, picture puzzles, and more

National Geographic Kids Subscription provides educational fun in the mailbox each month

Christmas Fun Mad Libs would make a great stocking stuffer!

Avid Readers

Bananagrams is fast, portable and fun (this would be great to keep in the purse to play while waiting at restaurants…speaking from experience)

A favorite Magazine Subscription

Mad Libs can be fun at any age (be aware that some can be racy)

399 Games, Puzzles & Trivia Challenges Specially Designed to Keep Your Brain Young…enough said

Crossword Book provides hours of brain games

Get the creative juices flowing with 642 Things to Write About

How fun is this Complete Scrabble Refrigerator Game Set Fridge Magnets?!

Daily fun with Word Search Desk Calendar

Scrabble Slam Cards is a high-speed game promising loads of fun

Learn a new word each day with 365 New Words-A-Year Page-A-Day Calendar 2016

 

39 Something To Read Gifts | EverydaySmallThings.comComment below with any other suggestions for “Something To Read” gifts that aren’t books.

18 Gifts that Give Back

Gifts that Give Back | EverydaySmallThings.comThe gift giving season is upon us.  Honestly, it is one I dread because the love language of gifts is so incredibly foreign to me. I have to really work and think hard about it, it doesn’t come naturally.

Several years ago, Matt and I reconsidered traditional gifts we would give our loved ones for Christmas. While physical gifts can be wonderful, we also believe that there are eternal ways we can give as well. For example, Matt’s dad referees every sport possible.  Sports are a big deal to them both.  One year, we decided to donate towards a Compassion International Sports Camp in his honor.

Here are some ideas of gifts that can be given in honor of a loved one. Some even have printable cards that explain what this gift will do for someone in need, but you could always make your own.

Gifts of Compassion (My Personal Favorite)
World Vision Gift Catalog
A Gift from the Heart – Habitat for Humanity
Operation Smile Giving Catalog
Partner’s International Harvest of Hope
Changing the Present
Give-A-Tree
Heifer International
Donors Choose
Operation Christmas Child
Bible League
Any Soldier

Shop With Meaning

Maybe you’d still like to give a physical gift, but also like the idea of helping. Check out these organizations that give back when you purchase through them!

Amazon Smile – 0.5% of your purchase price goes to an organization of your choice — like Hearts At Home!
Toms Shoes
 – For every pair of shoes you buy, one is donated to a child in need
Fashionable – Beautiful products made by women who have overcome
Ten Thousand Villages – Your fair trade purchase of handmade jewelry, home decor and gifts helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East
Better World Books – Book for a book
CommonThreadz – For every tshirt you buy, a school uniform is donated in Africa

Any other ideas for Gifts that Give Back? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Please note, aside from Compassion International, I have no personal experience with any of these companies and cannot vouch for their integrity. If you are concerned about where your money is going, please do your research! 

How Four Gifts Could Save Your Christmas Spirit

Four Gifts of Christmas | EverydaySmallThings.comIt’s just about that time for Christmas trees to be put up, lights to be strung and budget conversations on how much will be spent on gifts. *cringe*

Matt’s love language is gifts…mine is quality time. An ideal Christmas morning for Matt looks like a ton of gifts under the tree waiting to be unwrapped; while I could really care less how much is under the tree and more enjoy the sentiments behind the gifts given and time shared (for this reason I also do not enjoy making Christmas lists).

Three years ago, it was our first Christmas with two children who had plenty of toys, more than enough clothes and limited space to add more. I was dreading the idea of spending money on things that we truly didn’t need and I would just have to find a home for when I am already clutter challenged.

We began having a conversation about what we wanted our children to experience on Christmas morning. We agreed that we wanted to be purposeful in the gifts given, rather than buy a ton of stuff to fill the bottom of the tree. It was important to both of us that we instill in our children that Christmas isn’t about the gifts given but about remembering Christ’s birth and his ultimate gift of his life.

Four Gifts of ChristmasWe finally came across an idea (thank you Pinterest!) called the Four Gifts of Christmas. Within our family, each person unwraps:

·      Something they want

·      Something they need

·      Something to wear

·      Something to read

There are a lot of ideas out there for labeling each gift if that is your thing…personally, it takes the fun out of it for me to know which category I’m opening.

We still do a stocking for each family member that includes an ornament representing something that happened in their life that year and other goodies like crayons, markers, chapstick, a small toy, Play-Doh…you get the drift. Side note, the ornament is one of my all-time favorite Christmas traditions because decorating the tree becomes a walk down memory lane!

The Four Gifts of Christmas have saved our sanity during the holiday season! It has simplified the gift-buying process, helped us stay within our budget, encouraged us to be purposeful in our gift choices and allowed us to truly enjoy Christmas morning with one another.

How do you do Christmas gifts? Ever tried doing the Four Gifts of Christmas?

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