Pretty toes for summer

I guess I should have done this post a few months ago at the beginning of summer, but better late than never! 🙂

I love wearing sandals in the summer.  Especially cute sandals.  But I do not like how they look without painted toenails.  Of course, since I don’t want to spend $40 at the salon every few weeks, I do my own nails at home.  A few years ago, a friend of mine (Pam Hubble) gave tips to my MOPS group that I still use today.  She taught us how to do a beautiful pedicure at home that will easily last a month.  In fact, her method works so well my nails never chip.  I only have to change polish when the nails grow out!  I decided to put together some pictures (from my phone, sorry they are a little fuzzy!) to help you to be able to have a beautiful pedicure for the summer for a fraction of the price.  Here are the steps in order, oh, and don’t forget the cardinal rule of polish (which my kids ALWAYS seem to forget!) Never, ever leave the house with chipped polish!  It only takes a minute to remove the polish, but my kids don’t seem to care 😉

Ok on to the list:

  1. Soak feet in warm water for a few minutes.
  2. I use a little olive oil, and rub it on my cuticles.  Then I use a stone to gently push back my cuticle and I use a gentle grit nail file to file and shape the nails.  You can also use nail clippers to make sure they are all the same length.Image
  3. Use a sugar scrub to massage your feet and legs and remove any excess skin. Image Pay special attention to the side and heel of your foot.
  4. Rinse off well with water and pat dry.
  5. Start with nail gripper (the most important step!  The gripper will hold the nail polish to your nail.  This is what prevents chipping and will help you nail polish last!) Brush it on your nails and let it dry for a minute or two.  My gripper bottle broke because my daughter used it and since she was 7 at the time, spilled it all over the lid.  It “gripped” the lid closed!  On the next bottle, I will use this step for her 🙂Image
  6. Use 2 coats of any nail polish.  I have found that with the gripper, I can use cheap $1 nail polish and it lasts just as long as the expensive polish.  Using 2 thinner coats instead of one thick coat with help prevent smudging. Let dry for a few minutes in between coats and after the second coat.Image
  7. Use a good top coat to seal in the color.  This is also another very important step that most people leave out.  The top coat will add a nice shine to your nails and will also help prevent chipping.Image
  8. Be careful and don’t walk around too much for a few minutes after doing your nails.  The whole process only takes about 30 minutes and your nails will look beautiful for the next month!
  9. When you are ready to remove the polish, a nice acetone remover works really well to remove all the layers.  Just remove old polish and repeat at step one for your new pedicure.Image

Remember that even though it is a little pricy to buy all the items the first time, you will be using them for multiple manicures/pedicures.  I paid about $25 start up and have used all the items for over 2 years.  That is a huge savings!  I get most of my products from Sally’s Beauty Supply (Gripper, stone, top coat) and Target (nail file, remover, nail polish, sugar scrub).  I hope you are able to have beautiful nails and toenails for the rest of the summer!

6 weeks until our vacation. . .

I have never really been one to over pack.  Even when my kids were little, I hated having to drag around diapers and extra clothes and all the little things you need to bring for a baby.  Now that my kids are older (and diaper free!) I am really excited to experiment with minimal packing.  We are loosely planning a trip to Europe for a year or two from now, and as a trial, we are going to pack light for our cruise and see how that works.  Packing light for a cruise actually can be an oxymoron.  You need a lot of extra stuff on a cruise that you normally would never take with you on vacation.  For example, we needed to bring pirate costumes and a princess costume for the activities onboard the ship.  We have to bring formal clothes and gifts for our gift exchange group.  When we take any other trip, all of these items will be omitted.  I am going to try to fit all the extras into one rolling suitcase, and not really “count” it as our packing light.  We will be carrying all the other items we are bringing (clothes, toiletries, camera, etc.) in our backpacks and see if we can manage lugging them around from the time we get to port (around 11:00AM) to the time we check into our room (around 1:30 PM).  This should give us a good sense of how heavy our bags would be walking around Europe.  We intend to only bring backpacks with us and not check any bags when we go to Europe to help the travel times to go smoother.  We have amazing backpacks.  I just love these things.  I will be posting pictures of all of my travel gear in my packing post when I am ready to ship everything to FL (Yes, it’s way cheaper to ship my stuff, than it is to check a bag on an airline!)  These backpacks are called the Mother Lode Weekender by ebags.  They have multiple compartments, and also close and open like a suitcase.  I also have the packing cubes by ebags which I like more than the vacuum bags. They are a lot lighter when filled and still fits everything you need. Everything fits perfectly in the cubes, and each person gets their own color.  No confusion and it all fits nicely in the backpack.  I am really excited to pack up and ship all our stuff out, because that means only 4 weeks left until our trip!  I am so excited.  I have researched so much for this trip, met wonderful people online that we will be exchanging gifts with, and the kids (and Nate and I) are bursting with excitement!  I love the travel site kayak.com to book flights.  They check all airlines and find you the best price.  The kids and I are flying to FL the day before Nate and staying a few days later, because I got a flight for just $100/pp!  No kidding.  It’s a cheap airline and not 100% reliable with their flight times, but we have nothing else to do so we booked it 🙂  Nate will be flying on a much more reliable airline due to his work schedule.  So we will be spending an unplanned week with our family in FL and taking an amazing cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.  I am not one to take a lot of pictures (hence the lack of photos on my blog), however, I have a feeling I will use up my whole memory card on this trip!  I love cruising and I’m so excited to be bringing the kids along with us this time.  I will be writing more on packing and organizing in a later post.  Here are some links to the backpack and packing cubes.  *I do not recommend the weekender for shorter people.  They have a junior one I am considering getting for my oldest daughter (she is 5’3″) but that might even be too large for her-it is 3″ shorter.  They are excellent if you are 5’9″ or taller)*. I have several cubes in all different colors and sizes, but this will give you an idea on what I am talking about:

http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/mother-lode-tls-weekender-convertible/143101?productid=1370034

http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/packing-cubes-3pc-set/13032?productid=949922

Top 10 Homeschooling Tips:

I am by no means an expert on. . . well, anything really.  However, these are some things that have helped me with homeschooling:

1. Take a breath.  When you are teaching a young child something and it seems tedious and frustrating because they just aren’t getting it, just close your eyes, take a step back, and a deep breath, and just remind yourself that your child hasn’t been doing this for years like you have.  Reminding yourself that this is new to them really helps you gain the proper perspective.

2. It’s ok to take a day off and just play with your kids.  So many times we have not “done school” but instead did silly art or science projects, tried making a recipe of our own without a recipe (sometimes this can be quite interesting!  Did I ever tell you about the time we made green rubber “brownies”. . . )?! Sometimes we get too overwhelmed and just need to laugh and make memories together!  When everyone is getting burnt out, take a day off and just have fun.  It will make the next few weeks a lot less stressful!

3. Don’t treat homeschooling as “regular” school.  Your kids don’t need desks and field trip permission slips.  The joy of doing school at home is the flexibility you have.  If your daughter loves to do her schoolwork outside on nice days, why not let her?  If your son learns better in the afternoon, let him do schoolwork at that time.  There are no “rules” with homeschooling, that is part of the joy!

4. Play with your children outside of “school”.  Yes, it’s ok to take a break for yourself.  Sometimes it’s hard being home with little ones all the time.  We crave adult interaction and quiet time for ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with that, however, don’t hole away in your room ignoring your kids all day long.  Cherish the short time you have together.  Before you know it they will be moved out and having families of their own.  Play, laugh and make memories with your kids.

5. If you don’t like a curriculum, get a new one!  I think my oldest was in 5th or 6th grade before I found the books that I would stick with the rest of the years homeschooling.  I do, for the most part, make my kids finish a curriculum before getting a new one the next year (there have been times where I chuck one in the middle of the year, but it is very rare).  Homeschool books can be expensive, so I try not to change too much in one year.  The first year I homeschooled I bought the Abeka complete grade level curriculum set because it was too overwhelming to choose from all that is out there. After that, I branched out buying only one subject from each “distributor”.  Ask for your child’s feedback, after all, they are the ones doing the work.  Try to find a curriculum they enjoy.

6. Buy in bulk during school sales.  Have you ever gone to Wal-Mart in August, only to be bombarded with school supplies?  Well, grab your cart and fill up!  This is the best time to stock up on art supplies, notebooks, etc.  The only thing I do not buy this time of year is pencils.  I buy packs and packs of pencils after Valentine’s day when they have the Valentine’s sets on sale.  A lot of the Valentine’s come with “treats”, and there are always an abundance of Valentine’s with pencils left after Valentine’s Day. None of the pencils I buy have hearts or anything to do with Valentine’s day on the pencil.  Most are Star Wars or Pirates Of The Caribbean!  I buy boxes of 16 pencils for $0.50 a pack.  I throw out the Valentine’s and use the pencils.  I have been doing it for years now, and it’s great!  I do have one box of #2 pencils that I keep hidden away for testing that needs #2 pencils, but for every day work, the Valentine’s ones work great.  For the rest of school supplies, you need to stock up when they are on sale.  That $2.25 box of crayons are only $0.50 during the sale.  I buy tons (and also I buy extras to put in my Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes every year).

7. Every child learns differently.  What works with one child won’t work on all of them.  It saves a lot of money to just buy the workbooks after buying the teacher book for the first child, however, don’t reuse curriculum at the expense of your other kids education.  If one child thrives on the computer and loves to do schoolwork there, don’t force all of your kids to do the same if they struggle with too much computer time.  It’s not worth the money saved if your child isn’t learning.

8. Put aside money for field trips/extra curricular activities.  Field trips can get expensive.  Not just the places you visit, but gas and food money can add up as well.  Piano lessons and sports also cost a lot of money.  Make sure you set aside money for these activities.  It’s much easier to put $20 aside a month than to be hit with a $150 soccer fee all at once.  Saving in advance can keep the stress to a minimum.

9. Don’t forget to include your spouse.  You may be the teacher, but your spouse is equally important.  Make sure they stay involved.  My husband doesn’t care what curriculum I use but I like to tell him what I want to get and how much it costs.  He doesn’t teach the kids the basic classes (even though they learn tons from him in other areas!) but I make sure they let him know what grade they got on their test and that they show him their artwork.  Keeping your spouse involved really bonds the family.

10. This one is most important to me.  If you sense that your child has some learning difficulties, address them right away.  Don’t wait for the “experts”.  For example, when my second child was in Kindergarten, I KNEW something was different.  She was not reading, spelling, or talking like she should be doing.  After hours and hours pouring over the internet to try and find out what was going on, I realized that she had dyslexia.  There was no doubt in my mind.  She had every symptom listed on every chart I ever read.  So I called dozens of “specialists” and got the same answer EVERY TIME!  “Sorry, we don’t work with dyslexic children until they are 7 years old.  That way we know it’s really dyslexia.” “WHAT?! You’ve got to be kidding me!” was my reply.  They all expected my daughter to struggle for 2 years, getting 2 years behind before they would even help her!  I was shocked, saddened, and almost felt defeated.  However, one of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to change (although sometimes the change happens slowly).  We struggled through Kindergarten, and then halfway through 1st grade, when she wasn’t getting any better at reading/writing, she was feeling stupid and I was very frustrated. We hugged and cried and then I did something for the first time ever.  I chucked the curriculum we were using…in the middle of the year.  What we were doing was just not working.  As much as I wanted to help her, the books I was using were not working for her.  I got a new one specifically helpful for children that learn differently (Sing, Spell, Read and Write).  Even with the new curriculum it has been very hard.  VERY hard.  But I won’t give up on my kids.  I tell my daughter to be proud of who she is. God made her this way for a reason.  When we move and go to a new church, she just simply tells the teacher she has dyslexia and doesn’t like to read out loud.  I have not had anyone make a big deal about it, and she doesn’t hate going to church for the fear of being called on to read.  She is still behind with reading and writing.  She probably always will be that way, but it doesn’t have to stop her from moving forward.  She can read a book to me.  It made me cry the first time she did it.  She can’t read chapter books and she still mixes up or leaves out words/sounds when reading, but she’s reading!  Trust your instincts, if you know there is something that needs to be addressed, find a way to address it.  You are the most important person in your child’s life.  You need to be their advocate.

Homeschooling can be overwhelming, but it can be very fulfilling as well!  Try not to worry too much about picking the “right” curriculum.  You can always try again next year if you are not happy with what you purchased this year.  Happy Homeschooling!

Encourage your kids

One thing I have learned as a parent is that every child is different.  You can parent them all the same, but they all have their own special talents and their own set of emotions.  This may be obvious, however, parents still tend to try and raise them all the same way.  What works for one child in discipline does not always work with another.  What one child finds interesting may frustrate another.  Learn to read your children and see what works best for each child, and what each child enjoys.  For example, all of my children are creative, however, one loves to write their own stories, one loves to draw and one loves to build things.  I try to encourage each of them in the areas that they love (another great part of homeschooling!).  It can make for more clutter in the house, which I do not like, but if it helps them to grow and develop their skills, I will deal with it gladly.  I have a ton of “how to draw” books, “write your own story” books, Lego building plans and an assortment of arts and crafts items.  I try not to cringe when the kids grab the expensive printer paper to use for artwork instead of their cheap dollar store construction paper, because they “need” that type of paper for whatever project they are doing 🙂 Instead, I try to go with the flow and praise their hard work.  They are all so creative and talented in their own ways.  Try to encourage your children, praise them for their creativity and help them to learn and grow.  Don’t discourage them and wish that they were more like their siblings or your idea of the perfect child.  Find something that they love and encourage them.  There is nothing a child loves more than feeling that their parents are proud of them.  As a Christian, you are modeling Christ.  When we do something that pleases the Lord, it makes us have a sense of happiness and accomplishment.  Share that feeling with your child today.  Compliment them on something, (not their looks but their talent).  Every person has something they are good at, share some encouragement today.

Psalm 32:8

 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

Being Thankful

Do you remember to be thankful for what God has blessed you with, or do you grumble and complain over what you don’t have?

My life has not been perfect.  There have been times where I felt we were well off, and didn’t “need” anything, and there were times that I prayed that God would provide food for my family because the budget didn’t seem to stretch far enough.  There have been times of health, and times of extreme sickness.  Times of joy and of great sorrow.  No matter my situation, I try to thank God for the things I do have, and I try not to complain about the things that are missing in my life.

The next time you find yourself in a bind, either physically or financially, try to focus on the spiritual aspect of your life.  If you are a child of God, then you should be focusing on the many blessings He has given you.  It can be very difficult to find joy in times of sorrow, but with God all things are possible-Matthew 19:26.  We can do anything if we have Christ.  Life may not be perfect on this earth, but are you keeping your perspective in focus?  This life is temporary.  The possessions you have will turn to dust.  You can’t take your money with you.  Keep your focus on God.  Thank Him for the things you have, and thank Him for your trials.  We don’t grow as much when things are good, it’s the struggles that make us stronger.  Remember when things get tough, that God has a purpose.  He has a plan, and His plan is far better than our own.  Try to remember to thank Him sincerely for the things you have.  Even the poorest American is very rich by the world’s standards.  Find something to be thankful for, keep your attitude positive. Most importantly of all, if you are saved, thank God for your salvation.  That is the most important gift God has ever given us. 

Romans 10: 9 (KJV)

That if thou (you) shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him (Jesus) from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”