Saturday, January 30, 2010

Valentine Traditions

I know some people LOVE Valentine's Day, and others reject it outright.  I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.  It's a fun day to focus on the people you love, and perhaps give a small gift to show that love.  And the last thing in the world I want my husband to buy me for Valentine's Day is a big box of chocolates.   I LOVE chocolate, but an entire box is way more calories than I need to be eating! 

Everyone has different Valentine traditions.   With 6 children, we like to make it a fun family day.   Last year we all went bowling, then came home and ate tacos by candlelight, then had ice cream sundaes for dessert!   How fun was that!?

We also like to give the kids small "love gifts" just to make it extra special.  Here are a few ideas I've found for unique, inexpensive Valentine gifts:

These Snoozies Peace Slumber Socks will be treasured by my daughter.  She LOVES fuzzy socks; she LOVES peace signs. 

I was informed recently by Mr. Luke's preschool teacher that Luke plays endlessly with Mr. Potato head at his pre-school.  So when I saw this Mr. Potato Head Valentine's Day Sweetheart Spud, I knew it would be just the right gift for him!

While shopping around, I came across this inexpensive I Love You Egg Shaper.  Since Valentine's Day is on Sunday this year, and our family likes to have a big breakfast after Church on Sundays, I decided this would be a fun thing to do.  I can't wait to see their faces when I serve their eggs.  Even though the kids prefer scrambled, I'm pretty sure I can scramble the egg, then pour it in the mold.  I wonder if it will work for pancakes???

When I saw these  My Heart Beats for You Pillow Cases I was pretty sure I was onto something! 

And the  Romantic Couple Coffee Mugs are pretty darn cute, too.

I was thinking this Norpro Nonstick Heart- Sicle Pan would be perfect for a special dessert this year!

And if I forget about Sammy the dog, I'll be in big trouble.   But these  Hugs and Kisses Valentine Dog Treats are so pretty and so inexpensive....he's gonna love them!

Now, even though I no longer have one young enough for a onesie, while I was shoppping I saw this Personalized Valentines Love Bug T-romper and wished I still had one that little!  

Oh, and if anyone knows My Better Half, could you tell him I would LOVE to have either of these Pink Peace Snoozies or Hearts Snoozies

Do you have any Valentine's traditions?  Do you exchange gifts?  Do you include the kids? 


Friday, January 29, 2010

World's Most Unique Valentine Cards Ever!

Luke's teacher sent home a note earlier this week with information about the upcoming Valentine's Day Party.  She told us how many children are in the class, and recommended that we have our pre-schoolers get started signing their cards now, so they only have to do a few a day.   This is really good practice for them.

Because I don't like to go with the hum-drum ordinary Valentine cards from the grocery store or WalMart, I was playing around on my computer a little while ago and came up with this (okay, I'll say it!) awesome, amazing design. :)

Luke LOVES race cars.  He also LOVES trucks.  (Last year we did a similar card, but with a big yellow dump truck with the back end full of hearts.)  I didn't get too goopy and sentimental -- in fact, I didn't put a single heart on the design -- because these are for his friends at school.

I decided to offer this service to anyone who is interested!   These are simply printed on 110# card stock.  (Not photo paper.) The back reads "To:  Friend"  "From:_______" (where you child can write his/her name).  Each card measures about 4 x 3 inches.  I can include envelopes if you want.

Here's the cost:  $5.00 for me to work up the design for you ... just tell me your child's interests, favorite colors, etc., email your child's photo (I can easily crop him/her out of a photo if you don't have an individual shot), and we'll work together to create the design.   Then each set of 6 cards (they'll arrive on a cut them) is just $2.00.  If you want envelopes, I can provide 4.5 x 5.5 white envelopes for an additional $.35 per envelope.   Shipping is extra, based on the number of cards and/or envelopes you wish to order.

Just email me at if you have any questions or wish to place an order.  You don't pay until you love the final design, then I'll email an invoice to you.


See more fun, unique Valentine gift ideas at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Confessions of a Former Neat Freak

Aside from being tax season, it's also the beginning of school Spring fundraising season and I'm as busy as.....well, I'm swamped. 

My "swampiness" is showing itself in many different ways, most notably is the HUGE pile of unfolded laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes.

This reminded me of an article I wrote a couple of years ago, just after I started my home business.   I hope you'll find it entertaining...and find some consolation, if you, too, have slipped from Neat-Freakdom to Motherhood.


When I rolled over in bed this morning and saw the bag of salad sitting on my night table next to me, I knew then that I had finally crossed the line. I’m not sure exactly where the line was, or even what it looked like, because it was no doubt covered with wet towels, stray socks, and perhaps, even, my oven mitt. But a line had, indeed, been crossed.

The change from neat-freak to the person I am today was slow and gradual. It snuck up on me, insidious, silent, like a bad smell that you somehow don’t notice anymore because you’ve grown used to smelling it.

In my former life, my best friend Diane called me Mrs. Applebee. I’m not sure where she came up with that name, but to her it represented prim, proper, neat, and organized. Diane made fun of me because I picked up my living room nightly before going to bed. She found it amazing that I vaccumed most every day, and made my bed every morning. She laughed because I washed, dried, and put away all the dishes immediately after every meal. She was stunned that I folded all the laundry the instant the dryer buzzed, before it even had time to cool off, and then put everything away. In the drawers.

I should have known I was getting close to the line when, a few weeks ago, I needed to bake a cake. Without giving it a second thought, I went straight to the kids’ bathroom toy tub and retrieved one of the beaters to my electric mixer. Another clue should have been when the pizza cutter went missing for several days. My teenage son was frantic (“I NEED that utensil, mom!), so I told him to check under the couch cushions. When my teenage daughter needed to use the cutting board, I nonchalantly told her, “It’s in my bathtub, next to the box of sanitary pads that Luke (our 2 year old) dumped in there the other day.”

Last week my husband was complaining that I hadn’t decorated the house yet for Halloween. “Just look around,” I told him. “There are plenty of cobwebs, why do we need to spend money? Besides, most of the decorations require a clear, flat surface on which to be set. We don’t own a clear flat surface.”

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I was a pro. Of course, our two children were at school all day, and baby number three was on the way, so it was easy enough to keep up. Each day of the week was spent cleaning and organizing the house. The play room had bins where each toy was categorized and lovingly placed. The kitchen floor was always swept and mopped. The kitchen cabinets were organized. Most afternoons, fresh baked cookies were being taken from the oven, just as the bus pulled up to drop the kids off after school. Dinners were balanced…meat, fresh vegetables, fruit, milk. And after dinner, the dishes were all washed, dried, and put away.

But then we had more children. And then more children. And now we have six. And then I had a great idea to start my own business from home. Soon, I noticed the walls of the house seemed to be closing in. Or maybe those aren’t the walls, but just the toys and shoes and books and Legos that find their homes around the perimeter of every room in my house.

So, why was the salad sitting on my night table this morning? Because my 2 year old loves salad, and last evening he brought it into my bedroom (where I was working) and asked if he could have some. I told him no, took the salad from him, placed it on my night table (fully intending to put it away when he was otherwise occupied), and didn’t give it another thought until bedtime. At that point, my husband told me he’d put it away when he got up after the news to take the dog out.

Apparently, either the dog didn’t get taken out, or he just forgot about the salad.


    Save for College the Smart Way!    

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lessons My Children Have Taught Me

Puddle jumping.  Kissing it better.  Don't take no for an answer.

I was thinking yesterday about how different each of my children is.   But in spite of their different personalities, each of them teaches me valuable life lessons every day.

This reminded me of an article I wrote about 3 years ago.   It's one I need to go back to and read more often!

I wanted to share it on my blog....because I think its message is timeless.  


I consider myself an educated person. I attended and graduated from college. I own my own business. I’m an avid reader. Yet, as a mother of six children, I find myself continually amazed by how much my children have taught me. And I honestly I think the world would be a much better place if we all followed the simple life lessons our children teach us.

Love your body. Have you ever tried to catch an 18-month old running naked through the house? My son’s new favorite game is to slip from my grasp after his bath and run, laughing, through the house. He’ll even turn and face me just long enough to do a little dance, before running off to another room, always keeping just out of my reach. He loves his body. He loves his bowed legs and his protruding little baby belly. He loves his stubby little arms that barely reach over his head. Too many of us are ashamed of our bodies. And while I don’t recommend running naked through the house (at least while the kids are home), I think we can all learn a lesson from a gleeful, naked toddler.

Take time to recharge. I’m a busy person. I’ve got six children and I run my own business. It’s not uncommon for me to get up at 3:00 a.m. just so I can get some work done before my children wake up. But I find that when I keep a schedule like this, I tend to be more than a bit crabby by about 6 or 7 p.m. Not long ago, I strapped my toddler into his high chair and turned my back to prepare his lunch. When I turned back around, he was sound asleep -- sitting up in his high chair. And just last week, he was walking through the living room, walked up to the ottoman, laid his little head down on it, and went to sleep. Standing up. Well, he was tired. And when we’re tired, we need to rest. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, does it? I now find time during each day for a 20 minute “power nap.” It does wonders for my patience factor when my older kids all come home from school each afternoon!

Get back up. Have you ever watched a child learning how to walk? Or even a child who’s been walking for several months, who isn’t really steady on his feet? His determination wins out over his pride every time. And that’s why he succeeds…because he never gives up. So you fall down. Big deal. You can’t just lie there! Stand back up and start walking again. And if you fall again, get up again. Eventually, you won’t fall as often, and you’ll get where you were heading.

Laugh from your toes. There’s nothing better than a room full of laughing children. One of my favorite things to see is my husband lying on our living room floor with our children, rolling and tickling and laughing. A child’s belly laugh is a sound to behold. We all need to remember to lighten up a little bit. Laugh a little more often. Laugh all the way from our toes!

If you can’t reach it, build a ladder. Yesterday, I watched with amazement as my toddler built the most elaborate ladder of pillows so he could reach his sister’s sippy cup that was sitting on the kitchen counter. You see, he knew it was there. He could see it. And he WANTED that sippy cup more than life itself. He tried reaching. He tried standing on his toes. He stretched and stretched and stretched! But when even stretching didn’t give him the desired results, he walked to the living room, got a pillow off the couch, and placed it on the floor next to the counter. Yes. He GOT that sippy cup. And even though it belonged to his sister, and even though it had more sugary juice in it than a good mother should allow her 18 month old to drink, I let him have that cup. He earned it.

Don’t take no for an answer. Anyone who has children will agree with me that kids are the most strong-willed creatures on the face of the earth. In all the years I’ve been raising children (my oldest is now 18 years old), I’ve never ceased to be amazed that “No” never seems to really mean “No” to a child. We should follow that counsel. “No” might just mean “not today” or “not exactly that way” or even “Okay, okay, yes, I’ll buy it!!!” So don’t ever take no for an answer.

What you say is not always as important as how you say it. My 18-month old has a very limited vocabulary. Mainly “mama,” “dada,” and “no.” But somehow, we always seem to know what he wants. He smiles and coos and snuggles and points and, usually, he gets whatever it is he wants. So I try to remember when I’m dealing with my employees, and when dealing with my customers, that what I say isn’t always as important as how I say it.

Kiss it better. One of the most amazing parts of being a mother is when my children come to me, with tears in their eyes, and ask me to “kiss it better.” No, I’m not happy that they’re hurting, but it’s astonishing to me that a simple kiss from someone who loves you can make the hurt go away. Just knowing someone cares about us goes a long way in determining how we feel. So I take my friendships very seriously. Because when I’m down, or having a bad day, or something hurts, it’s great to have someone to kiss it better.

Jump in a few puddles. My 5 year old is my puddle jumper. She is my mud magnet. She doesn’t care what she’s wearing, or where we’re going, if there’s a mud puddle, she’s going to find it. I’m learning to follow her guidance. I’m teaching myself to lighten up a little bit. I’m learning that life’s too short to never jump in a puddle.
My thought for today....go climb a few pillow ladders, jump in a few puddles, and don't take no for an answer!
~Lisa Save for College

Monday, January 25, 2010

Simple Way to Save a Few Dollars for College

As a WAHM with a houseful of kids who will eventually need to go to college, and a husband in sales in a poor economy, we are battoning down the hatches and looking at every way possible to not only save, but to spend smart.  

I recently learned about and signed up for a free program called Upromise – Save for College the Smart Way!

The premise behind Upromise is that you've got to shop, you've got to buy groceries, so why not shop and buy from retailers registered with Upromise, who will then give you a percentage of every purchase.

Here's how it's explained on the website:

Simple Idea:

■Create a college savings service that harnesses the purchasing power of parents, extended family, family, and students to make it easier to pay for college.

■Members direct their spending to Upromise partners—including more than 600 online stores, 8,000+ restaurants, thousands of grocery and drugstore items—and earn money for college.

Powerful Results:

■Everyone can earn money for college—parents with young children; family and friends that want to contribute; students and graduates with eligible student loans to pay.

■Many members have earned hundreds even thousands of dollars for college with their everyday spending, and have been able to use those earnings to contribute toward college tuition, expenses, or loans–quicker and easier.

Plus..Upromise is Giving Away $250,000 in College Scholarships!

Remember, it costs you nothing to join...and every qualified item you purchase is money in the bank.  Just thought I'd share.... let me know what you think!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Creative Art: Sensory Learning

Often, Luke's pre-school teacher will send home a written explanation of what the pre-schoolers are working on and what that experience is teaching them.

Since my business is all about turning a child's artwork into gifts and apparel, when papers come home that pertain to the subject of art and creativity, I pay special attention.

I wanted to paraphrase some points that Luke's pre-school teacher highlighted reagarding Creative Art, because I think it's so important:

Our art program is designed to promote your child's creativity.  We focus on the PROCESS, not the end product.  It is OK if your child's dog doesn't look like a dog, or if he colors his apple purple.  That is your child's work (not the teachers) and that is his/her level of understanding of the real world right now.

If your child's art project looks like a big gooey mess, keep in mind that it was a good sensory experience.  He/she probably had a ball making his/her own creation.  That is what's most important.

Many projects your child brings home are craft oriented, and we do not have a particular end product in mind.  These are projects, not art. They are designed to enhance skill and cognitive development, rather than promote creative abilities.

REMEMBER: Our number one priority in art is that your child did it all by him/herself, he/she enjoyed doing it, and is proud of his/her work.

While my oldest daughter has some artistic talent, the other five pretty much just enjoy being creative, and as I've written in previous posts here on my blog, I LOVE nurturing that creativity in them!

So, as with most weekends, I plant get out those paints and markers and colored pencils and scissors and glue this weekend and have a sensory development/cognitive development-fest!

Now I've just got to find an empty vertical space on a wall where I can display the end product...


Here are some fun things to help get your creative juices flowing....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Middle School Drama

To my middle schooler, popularity is king, and friends = life.   At the age of 11, she's already begun the early evening ritual of secluding herself in her bedroom to talk on the phone, listen to her music, or do her homework.

All of my kids attend a very small private school.   There are only about 8 girls in my 11 year old's class.   This means that the heirarchy of popularity is pretty narrow.

At the end of last year, THE MOST POPULAR girl in the class left our school to attend the public school.   This opened the gateway for my 5th grader to slide (quite happily) into the top echelon in her class.  She is now 'BFFs' with THE CURRENT MOST POPULAR GIRL in her class, making my daughter A POPULAR GIRL.


I know as parents we want our children to be liked.  (Trust me, I have an Aspie son, and his social awkwardness breaks my heart sometimes.)   But the drama that goes along with THE POPULAR CROWD is almost more than I can handle.  

My concern is not only that she will GET hurt, but that her actions may hurt others.   Nothing has happened yet....I just remember being in the 5th grade (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and everything was in black and white, as my kids like to remind me).

I recently came across a book series by author Annie Fox (if you Twitter, you can follow her at @Annie_Fox) called "Middle School Confidential"

The books look right on target for what my darling daughter is currently going through (especially the "Real Friends vs. the Other Kind") and I've ordered them hoping they will spur some good mom/daughter conversation.

We can always hope, can't we?


Turn your child's artwork into unique gifts!  Visit

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Making the Connection: "Getting It"

I love the Helen Keller story.   For me, the most powerful scene in the movie is when Helen "gets it."  When the water is running from the well onto Helen's hands, and Annie Sullivan is signing those letters W-A-T-E-R furiously into Helen's hand.   I think I read that book the first time when I was in the 4th grade, and it still gives me goose bumps to think about it.

As a parent, there is nothing more exciting to me than to be helping one of my children understand a complicated concept, and see that "get it" moment, that instant when the light bulb comes on and everything clicks into place in his/her brain, and the information makes sense.

Many years ago, when my oldest daughter (who is now a sophomore in college) was in kindergarten, her kindergarten teacher suggested to all the parents that we label common household items in our home.   This was a great way, she said, to visually teach your children the connection between all those 26 letters they've struggled and successfully learned, and the written word.   It's such a simple thing to do....

and 5 year old Luke feels so proud when he walks through the house reading and spelling words:  "Clock.  c - l - o - c - k.  Door.  d - o - o - r."   In fact, he's even pointed out some items in the house that we should also label, and he's labeled them in his own handwriting (with me spelling the "chair" and "shelf" and "refrigerator").

Just a tip I thought my readers might want to works for me!



Monday, January 18, 2010

Study Tip for Grade Schoolers: Homemade flashcards

Remember flash cards?   I remember using them at school to practice memorizing my multipication tables and other math-related facts.  I also remember not liking them very much!

However, flash cards can be more than numbers.   Every child learns differently, and I've recently discovered that for a couple of my kids, they LOVE flash cards.

I started using them last year when I realized that one of my children is a particularly strong IMAGE person.  Let him watch a movie or a television show, and the information seeps painlessly into his brain.   Draw him a picture of what you're trying to teach him, and the same thing happens....easy, simple understanding.

Recently, rather than send my image learner to his bedroom with a notebook of facts to memorize, we've sat down together and reviewed his notes and his chapter.   Then I help him put the important information into picture answers.  His recall on tests is amazing!   In fact, he's not just memorizing a fact, he's understanding a concept!

Oh, and I'm not talking about buying expensive sets of pre-made notecards...I'm talking about 250 notecards for $1.00 at the Dollar Store.

Here are a couple of flash cards we made recently while he was preparing for a Social Studies test:

On one side of the card, he wrote:  Q:  Why did Columbus sail west?

Q.  What was the  Columbian Exhange?

I've now started using this flash card idea with one of my daughters who has reading comprehension problems.

And the best part we've found, is that it's easier to split up the studying. For instance, if the test is in 3 days, and they know they've written 30 cards, they break their studying down into 10 cards per day.

Do you have any study tips you use with your school-age children?   If so, please leave a comment.   We can all learn from each other!


Looking for a truly unique Valentine's Gift idea?  It doesn't get any more thoughtful than this...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fridge Phonics is Fun!

Refrigerator magnets have always had a special place in my heart.   Twenty years ago, when my oldest was a toddler (yes, yes, I know, it's hard to believe I have one that old, go on, please, please, oh, thank you!), I bought my first set of simple refrigerator magnets.  I was amazed (and thrilled) that such a simple, inexpensive toy could keep my son (and my husband, and myself!) entertained.

For some reason, these brightly colored letter-shaped objects are able to hold the interest of babies, toddlers, grade school children, and even adults. 

Even today, 20 years later, I sill have a set on my refrigerator for Luke to play with.   There are a couple of letters missing, and I know they're under that refrigerator.....I think I'll get those out today, now that I'm thinking of it.

Last weekend we were having dinner at a friend's home, and they had on THEIR refrigerator the latest version of the simple refrigerator magnet, and I couldn't pull Luke away!    They had the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet Set and this toy is so much FUN and UNDER $15!!!

It helps teach the alphabet, phonics, even fine motor skills  (and who doesn't love learning fine motor skills!?!).   And Leapfrog says it can even be used as a speech development tool.

Your child places a letter into the reader (oh, and all the vowels are RED, to distinguish them from the consonants) , and then presses to hear the letter's name, sound, and a SONG!  That's right, a SONG!  In fact, this little gizmo also teaches the Alphabet Song....but relax, because there's a volume switch, and even a "sound off" switch, for when you've heard the song 20, 40, or more times, and just need a little "sound time out."

Luke's Fridge Phonics set has been ordered and is on its way....   I can't wait to play with it!


Have you seen my selection of Big Brother and Big Sister shirts?