Saturday, December 16, 2023

I'm God's Favorite

Just over a year ago, I started working full time. After spending 19 years as a mom first, photographer, editor, babysitter, artist, crafter, serial entreprenuer, etc second- it was quite the change. Here I was in a room full of grownups- a handful of whom were older than me, but most younger and I realized something. I kind of have a favorite complex. My nieces will tell you that I've always had it, but this was the first time that I realized it myself. I just really like to be the favorite. I tell people all the time that I'm my parents favorite child (just ignore my siblings when they say, "nuh uh, I'm the favorite"- to which I reply, "I'm the baby, gotta love me.").  During training, there were two of us and I continually found myself pushing to be the trainee that was most beloved. Ironic, because at the same time, I found myself loving those I was working and training with.
    As I progressed at work, moving seat locations and learning more duties, it would be the same; in every row, every specific manager, and every cluster. I just really wanted to be the favorite for each spot. I wanted people to be happy that I was there. I wanted people to notice if I was gone. I wanted to make each spot better for having come, having called, or having have crossed my path. Also in turn, the opposite would happen. I again, grew to love each person I sat next to, behind, across from, in a row with, and who I learned from. Turns out I was better for having been at each spot. My confidence also grew. I knew that I had a power to shape the feelings and attitudes around me. I wanted to be in a place that made me smile more? Well, then I guess I better make those around me smile more. I wanted to see reminders of gratitude on the wall- I guess I better get sketching and get some sparkly push pins.
    This came to a head in the last few months when the biggest work change happened and I actually moved buildings/job titles/coworkers. I was for sure the one there with the least education now working with people who before I had known (and maybe shaken my fist at) behind a computer screen. But I put myself out there and I let them know that I was the favorite. I told them that I was the favorite because I had decided that I was the favorite and it didn't really matter if they thought I was the favorite, I was just going to go move along and hunker down with the assumption that I most certainly was. And ugh, can you believe it? Turns out I'm learning to love these guys, too. I've been out of the office for a couple of weeks with health issues and gosh darn it, I can't wait to go back and see 'em all.
    What does this rather long declaration have to do with my rather bold assumption that I'm God's favorite? Well, I started the Book of Mormon again today- always bittersweet and I'll be starting it again in a few weeks with the New Year, but it's ok. But today, I started laughing a little bit because Nephi, who at 16ish years old, starts this incredible book of scripture out with....
    "Hey, I'm Nephi. I have awesome parents who taught me well and BTW, I'm 'highly favored of the Lord in all my days.'" He then, of course, continues to talk about the things he's seen, a story his dad told, and then finishes up the first chapter with something akin to, "so now I'm gonna show you all the reason's I'm the Chosen by God." Of course, those were not his exact words. He actually said, " But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender cmercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of ddeliverance."
    I want you to notice a couple of things. The first is that God never said He loved Nephi more than His other children. Nephi decided it. "over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith." 
    Sometimes Nephi gets a bad rap. He's so confident. He talks about having power over his brothers and cites some times where their dad was pretty rough on the older two. But here's the thing. Laman and Lemuel- they were also of goodly parents. They, too, had been taught in the language of their Father. They, too, had seen miracles and been saved from destruction and sent to the promised land. God loved them just as much as He loved Nephi. So why didn't they feel like the favorite? Faith. They didn't choose to see those miracles as such. They didn't recognize the tender mercies of the Lord. Chances are, they didn't love the people with the desk next to them the same way someone who has decided they are the favorite did. They instead became the victims of their own attitudes, unbelief, and refusal to recognize the light that's there. Why does it matter that they weren't vying for top spot? 
    I have another story that might seem like it doesn't fit, but it does. A few years ago, I was studying my patriarchal blessing. That was a challenge because I don't have all super positive feelings about mine, but it was time. I was discussing some of the words with a friend and how very generic it felt. My friend said, "Sometimes I think they aren't worded beautifully because God wants to tell you himself how He feels about you. You should ask Him. I think you are one of his favorites." She might not have used the word favorite, but it is the feeling of the word that resonated. After much trepidation, I did finally ask Him. I asked, "Is what this friends said true? Am I one of your favorites? Do you really thing that I am something special?"
    I fully expected that all over warm feeling that leaves you without a doubt. But I received a question in return. He asked me, "Does it matter?" It felt like a gut punch. Was he saying I didn't even matter?! But no, no. Remember that being offended is a choice. After much thought the second part of the question came. "Does it change how much I will bless you? Does it change how many of my commandments you'd keep? Does it change your faith in my Son?" and then there was peace. While still not a warm, fuzzy answer, it was much food for thought. It's taken me until today to realize that choosing to be God's favorite is so much more choosing to serve Him and love Him and be his right hand man than feeling a pat on the head saying, "Yup. You're a favorite."
    Favorites are the favorite because they choose to love the people they are with and the situations they are in. They know that you might have to do a little extra sprinkling of glitter to help someone feel loved for them to notice if you're in the hospital for a week. And while it can on the surface seem petty and selfish, that morphs so fast into a true and genuine love. Like Nephi, I want to tell everyone of all the tender mercies God has granted me. I have so much evidence of His love for me! Entire galaxies, oceans, forests, gardens, memories, temples, populations..... are PROOF that God loves me just so much!! But here's the can be His favorite, too.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

For Posterity

 This has been on my mind for days. I hesitated posting becuase it's a bit.... personal. Please note that this is NOT a pity party, boohoo post, but more of a "Let's get it all out in writing to see if I'm actually crazy or not" and "hey wouldn't this be cool to know in 50 years" kind of post.

Today I'm talking about the monies.

Background: Husband and I got married in 2002. We were poor college students living in a little college town. We only stayed for one school year and then moved in with my parents in California to have Xander (and to use the summer to figure out what we were doing for the rest of our lives). Roger worked hard labor all summer long for $8/hr. 

As summer ended, we knew that the next step for us was to move back to Utah, get an apartment, and Roger decided to go to ITT Tech. We found an apartment in a pretty ghetto part of West Valley, but it was close to the school. Roger also worked as a flower deliveryman (to date one of his favorite jobs) making minimum wage- which at the time was $6.55. I was at home with Xander and also babysat a few kids to help ends meet. I don't think it occurred to me how poor we were until my visiting teacher came over one day while I was pregnant with Juliana and asked if we had food. I was like, "Yeah! We have food! I have a half of loaf of bread, some potatoes, and sour cream, we're good!" and then she insisted we get a food order.

We only lived in that apartment for a year. I can't remember why Roger switched from flower delivery to the deli at Harmon's. There he made $8 an hour, but didn't love it quite so much. In that year we were in the apartment, my parents bought a house in Utah. My family helped renovate it and get it ready for my parents to move in, which they did in 2005. After being there for a few months, they were called on a mission to Florida. Timing was good because they'd be leaving about the time our lease was up. We moved into the house and then my dad had a little procedure that pushed back the mission a little bit. I was grateful they were there when we had Juliana. 

Sometime in that year, Roger switched jobs again to Albertson's- this time cleaning the backs of trucks for $10 an hour. He was absolutely miserable there. He finished ITT and graduated. Around the time he graduated, he got a call from Ensign Engineering. He started there at $11 an hour and we have been there ever since (minus a 3 month attempt working at a firm out here).

Through the years, I did what I could help financially. We bought a house in 2007 in Tooele with a USDA Rural Housing Loan- our house payment was $500 a month or something similar. The catch with that is that we filled out paperwork each year and they would adjust the payment amount based on our income. years we had babies, the payment went down. years we got raises, the payment went up, but we were always in the same boat. Roger always made enough for the house payment and our regular bills, but anything else was up to me. I babysat, sold jewelry, edited photos, did display set ups, and then eventually photography. 

In 2008, when things were bad for everyone and gas was $4/gallon in Utah and we had one car and Roger was commuting to Salt Lake every day- we saw miracles. The Tooele office opened. Roger could walk or bike to work. I ad steady extra gigs. It was hard. There was not any extra. But we were ok.

I stopped babysitting about the time I had Abraham in 2014. At that point, we were in the exact same financial boat as we always had been because although Roger's income had doubled, so had our house payment and the amount of kids had more than doubled. We did have 2 cars at that point, which was really nice since I had kids in school and all my side gigs. I started doing photography as full time as I could, while still editing photos and other stuff. 

Here's an ADHD thing- any hobby that I wanted to try, I had to monetize. I still am that way. I'm getting better, but if I wanted to try painting, I had to make a business about it. If I wanted to try crochet, I had to try to sell some of my wares. It's how I could justify to myself that it was worth the time, effort, and especially any money. I even did MLM for a minute, selling Lia Sophia jewelry. I don't know if any of my little things like that ever actually helped financially- until the hymn paintings. 

Anyway. Somewhere around 2018ish, we were tired of being in the exact same financial boat as we had been with the house and we finally refinanced. It felt so good to have that little bit of freedom, knowing that any income growth would finally be income growth.

During Covid, we were very blessed that Roger could work still. 

In 2020, the housing market in Utah was INSANE. We decided to sell. We had a 1900 square foot house, fenced in yard (with no surviving grass). It needed all kinds of repairs. The AC was about to go out, the cupboards had no doors, the floors needed help.... It had just been very, very lived in. And we couldn't afford to fix it up. Plus, we had so outgrown it. There were 4 actual rooms and we had converted the basement into our master bedroom. It was just very crowded. We sold the house for $255,000. It had only been on the market for 4 days.

We lived in a 3rd floor apartment in Tooele for 6 months. We originally had dreams to build, but that was going nowhere. Then, we started having thoughts of Elsewhere. We considered Texas, Kentucky, and Indiana. Roger got a job offer in Texas and we felt very bad about it. We dropped TX from the list quickly. Roger was never really sold on the Indiana idea, but we were both intrigued by Kentucky. We had friends who lived in Richmond KY and they loved it. All the pictures were so green and land was not crazy expensive. We had been feeling strongly about having a garden. It's a little silly since none of us garden, but I felt like we needed to anyway. 

We found a piece of land in Alexandria KY that was perfect. 2 acres. $30,000. Ready to build. Roger flew out and looked at it, felt good about it, and so we bought it. I flew out a couple of months later to see it, fell in love, and then we made plans.

Originally, we were going to move during summer. Our lease would be up about then, kids would be out of school, we'd have time to do all the goodbye things. The Spirit said otherwise. I would wake up in the mornings almost in a panic "GET OUT OF HERE" were some of the thoughts. "GO NOW"- but not scary thoughts. And they didn't start out that way. They started as "What if?" "What if we went before our lease was up?" "What would it take to go sooner?" and "Why are we still here?" (for real, 3rd floor with 6 kids was a bad, bad idea). I told Roger I'd been feeling this way, and he admitted he had as well. It was surprisingly easy to get out of our lease early. We found a rental that looked good on paper. Everything aligned. So we packed up our entire lives into a 16' Penske Truck and drove 1700 miles. 

The rental wasn't quite ready when we got here, so we stayed in a hotel the first couple of nights (another reason Robyn should not be the one making reservations for anything- I swear up and down the hotel said "pet friendly" and then when we got there..... it was a no pets hotel. We had a tender mercy and were able to keep Winnie with us for 2 nights). We had someone in our new ward willing to watch the Kitties until we were in the rental. After the first 2 nights, we found a hotel in Lexington that was pet friendly and a good price, so we reserved 5 days there. It was cheap because it was nasty, old, and the day we left, the Terminex guy was there, so there you go.

We settled into the rental- which was fabulous, by the way. Things were good and we started working on plans for building the house. Then we met with the builder. It was going to be more than 3x our budget and work couldn't start for over a year. To say that I was upset was an understatement. A lot of prep work, spiritual and otherwise, had gone into these plans. And there was no way in the universe we'd ever be able to afford to make it happen.

Then we found this house. After a couple of miracles, we got it for $333,000. This place is big!! It fits ALL of us. It still technically only has 4 bedrooms, but they are big enough to fit all of us. Plus there is space all throughout the house for people to be. We are so happy here. It's also 2 acres, though they are downhill and mostly wooded. We were able to sell the property for the $30,000 we bought it for, but the timing didn't match up quite right and we ended up using the 401k to put the down payment on this house.

Here's the thing. Moving is expensive. However expensive we thought it was going to be, it was double. Plus some. So when we got the money for the property, we did not put it back in the 401k. Instead, we payed off the debts that moving had incurred and also furnished our house. Not extravagantly, but the basics, anyway.

Husband, trying to be responsible and get us out of debt as quickly as possible, set it up to repay the 401k in 5 years. Roughly half of his paycheck goes towards 401k. So I got a full time job to help keep us caught up on the house payment. We had a couple of water damage incidents in the house, however, that needed the insurance to help. You know, the insurance that is supposed to cover what you can't afford, even though it has a $1000 deductible? Yeah, that's the one. So we used it. Might as well, since we were paying for it anyway. Well...... between those 2 times we used the insurance and the taxes in this beautiful area, our house payment jumped 33%. 

I don't know if you've shopped for groceries lately, but it's not what it used to be. Here is the snippet of what groceries are right now- September 9, 2023

Loaf of bread: $1.32

Gallon of whole milk: $2.33

1 lb of ground beef: $4.96

1 red pepper: $1.48

12 pack of store brand toilet paper: $11.98

Ok, you get the idea. I have 6 kids at home right now (Xander is off in the Navy, but we have an amazing exchange student from Brazil). We don't qualify for free or reduced lunch, so if I have the kids eat breakfast at lunch at school, it would cost me $25 a day (Paisley eats free). We make home lunches. Shopping for lunch stuff looks like this:

Capri Suns (30 per week) - $8.50

Chips (12 units a week)- $6

Pretzels (1 big bag a week)- $2

Clementines (24 per week)-  $6

Sandwiches (bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato) (twice per week)- [2 loaves of bread $2.64, 2 kinds of meat $9, presliced cheese $5, 1 head lettuce $1.50, 3 tomatoes appx $3] $21ish

Pierogies or pizza rolls or chimichangas (once per week) $5 average

Leftovers (once a week)- $0

Apples (once a week) $4.50

Chicken Salad Sandwiches/Lasagna/Mac and cheese, etc (once per week) Appx $10-$15 in supplies

Nuggies (once a week) $9

So I guess I'm saving $10 a day by making lunches. YAY. 

But here's the thing. We still owe over $900 in student fees from last year/this year combined. So that's cool. Plus $500 for Marching band last year. And Paisley just got accepted into a choir group that costs $100.

I'm just saying, life is SO expensive that even though husband and I both make really good money- we only see half of his paycheck and inflation is eating the rest. I know we're not alone in this boat. I hope this post helped someone.  Here's your hope, though. As long as we have paid our tithing- we have NEVER been without a home. NEVER been without food. We have seen SO many miracles that I couldn't ever get them all recorded. We are happy. We are alright. And if money is the big challenge in our lives and we're always in this boat- THAT IS OK!!! I have so much gratitude for all of our blessings- and we have SO many blessings. There's not enough blog space in the world to count them.

Also, inflation sucks. LOL.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Date Night Gift

 I thought about monetizing this one- putting the stuff up on etsy with my printables. And maybe I will eventually, but we'll see.

The idea of this one is that you have a pre-planned date for every month of the year. You can do this with your spouse if you'd like, but I encourage it for the kids. Each kid should have a set of these. How you want to divvy it up is up to you.

If you are a single parent, then you would have a date with each kid each month.

If you are in a two parent home, you can take turns (maybe parent 1 takes the odd months and parent 2 takes the even, or if you have lots of kids maybe Mom has the boys on odd months and the girls on even months and Dad does the opposite). Maybe a couple times a year both parents can attend (birthday month, maybe?).

I recommend having a set date each month for that kid. Usually the day of their birthday, but that doesn't always work out. Maybe instead, flexible dates like, "first Friday of the month" for kid A, "second Saturday of the month" for kid B, etc.

What you will need:

Planning sheet (you'll notice it has 14 spots- two are backup) Right click, save as if you want to use mine.

Writing utensils

Manilla Folders (12 per kid)

Printouts or your own artwork

Date Outlines (the pretty much look like this)

"The Rest"

The first date is the planning date. Before you begin this, have your rules set. When we did this the first time, we said that only 2 dates could cost more than $10. Two had to be completely free. One date had to be outside. One date had to serve someone else. One had to be a getting to know you date.... I don't remember the rest- it was YEARS ago!

Prepare the manilla envelopes so that the kid's name and the month is on each one. You can use printables or do your own artwork or have your kiddo help with this part.

Have a list of ideas before you begin. You'll want to make sure they are age appropriate for each child. Your 14 year old probably isn't going to want to make macaroni noodle necklaces with you. Remember in the preparing of these that you're supposed to be enjoying the date, too. So if you absolutely detest the feel of grass on your skin, don't suggest rolling down the hills at the park. Here's a starter list of ideas for you, but do NOT feel confined to these, nor should you feel like you have to put all (or any!) of these on your list:

Playdoh Mats
Food Jewelry
Animal Charades
Sidewalk Chalk
Going to the Park
McDonald's Playplace
ABC Scavenger Hunt
About Me Pages
Photo Memories (esp if they are digital)/Making a chatbook
Splash Pad
Handprint Art (and fingerprint art)
Science Experiments
Games (Candyland, Jenga, Etc)
Building (Duplos, regular blocks, etc)
Making a Fort
Themed Movie Night (please don't be boring and just watch a movie)
Library (there are games you can play here, or go on one of their activity nights, or plan on doing the activities they have out for kids)
Whole House Cars (masking tape roads all over the house)
Getting dessert only at a restaurant
Sensory Activities
Blowing Bubbles
Bug Hunt

School Aged Kids:
Getting dessert only at a restaurant
Water Balloon Fight
Building a Snowman
About Me
Walk down Memory Lane
Squirt Gun Art
Cardboard Boxes (totally open ended)
Science Experiments
Themed Movie Night (same rules as every other age)
Would You Rather
20 Questions
Dance Party
Make instruments
I Spy
Fly Kites

Writing Games
Visit a Garden Center
Loving animals at the shelter (do NOT come home with a new pet without the other parents permission)
Make a YouTube or TikTok video
Workout Buddies
Wedding Plans (I'm not pushing kids to get married young, but you would be amazed at how much you can learn about your kid when you let them show you what they find beautiful, exciting, etc). This one just needs Pinterest, pretty much.
Make Slime 
Make jewelry
Dance Party
Themed movie night
Scavenger hunt 
Jump Rope/Hopscotch
Sidewalk Chalk Art
Learn a hand clap 
Mad Libs 
Make a fairy garden
Make Smores

Plant a garden
Themed movie night
Decades Date (80s- roller skating, wearing neon, etc. 90s- roller BLADING, going to the mall, etec)
photo shoot
scavenger hunt
YouTube game (finish the lyrics, try not to laugh, trivia)
Make a Playlist (yes, it will take hours)
Video Games
Create a recipe book
Polymer clay
Visit a museum
Go to a concert (free ones in the park)
Find an online tour of your city or one near you
Have a budget and shop for each other
Serve food to the homeless
Learn a TikTok dance
Family History
Let your kid teach you about something they are passionate about
Hang out at a campsite (roast stuff, tell stories, play card games)
Work Out Competition
Plan their dream room
"Life Plan"

Please come up with your own as well (I'd LOVE if you shared them here!!).

Once you've got your lists, your envelopes, your planning sheet and your kid, it's time to start.
Review the rules and let them pick which thing should go on which month. You may need to remind them that sidewalk chalk will be easier in June than January, etc. Or if there's a concert you are taking them to, make sure that is in the correct month. Once you've got your grand plan with the kid done, there is more for you to do. Depending on the kid's age and attention span, you can have them keep helping or you can do this part on your own. They can help you decorate the envelopes now, too, if you'd like.

You need to decide now what. supplies you'll need for each of the activities planned. Decide if you want to purchase all supplies ahead of time, have gift cards for them, or cash to purchase the items. If they are items you already have, get them now so they don't get lost (exceptions being like, legos or something that you use many times).

The rest is part of the gift.
-Fill out the specific date night outline for each date. 
-Gather your materials. If they don't fit in the envelope and you've decided not to do gift cards/cash, then put that month's supplies in a box and mark it appropriately. Make a note in your outline where you put the box, because you wont remember when it's time, I promise. Don't put gathering the items off. This is why we failed before. We inevitable couldn't afford the things we wanted to do. Buy the tickets, get the gift cards, withdraw the cash- whatever. The point is to take all the prep work out of what your'e doing. 
-Schedule the dates in your calendar. Get the time off work if needed. If there are conflicting things, adjust the dates. Have a contingency plan with your kid for if something comes up that conflicts with the date (maybe backup dates?)
-Make the invitations. Once you have all 12 invitations, mark in your calendar a week before each date and write in the calendar where you put the invitation. Be sure to give the correct invitation out for that upcoming date.
-Put all the envelopes together and wrap them however you'd like. Have some kind of trinket or something that they'll get to keep also, because you will be in charge of the envelopes. Put them someplace safe. And tell your kid where that is. And your spouse. And your best friend in a searchable Facebook Messenger chat. And write it in your calendar.
-Have fun!! Try to take photos during your dates so you can maybe make them a chatbook or something at the end to commemorate the good year you've had.

As an example, let's say that your 8 year old really wanted to go for a hike for their May date. In the manilla folder, you would have:
- a plan of where the hike would be 
- a game you'd play on your hike (or on your way to the hike if you'll be in the car for a bit)
- a note telling you where the box is that would have
    - bug spray
    - water bottles
    - a snack or gift card to purchase the snack (depending on how far away this date is)
    - a backpack in it. 
You'd have the date set aside on your calendar and be watching the weather (in case you need to adjust the dates). 
Let's say the date is scheduled for May 8th and the weather for that day looks good. You'd give your invitation to your kiddo around May 1st and glance over your needs, in case the bug spray and backpack got used elsewhere, giving you time to gather.
Then when May 8th rolls around- boom! You grab your gear, your kid, and go! 
Remember to take pics for keeping the memories!

Themed Boxes 101

 I should have done this in blog post form YEARS ago, because I don't even know how many times I've tried to type the idea up in a response to someone on FB or whatever.

This is ADHD gift genius right here. This is my baby idea.

Usually, this is a Christmas thing, but you could use it for ANYTHING- Graduation, birthdays, anniversaries, whatever. We're going to go with Christmas for multiple children in this post because that's my experience. The beauty of this is that you can do it on (almost) ANY budget!!! It's more fun if you have at least $10 per person and some crafty hands or friends with crafty hands.

The years we do theme boxes, we have our themes picked by July. We do this for a couple of reasons. #1 is that the kids can help choose their theme and then they've forgotten what it is by mid September. Reason #2 is you can take advantage of sales (yard or store or online), trades, etc. 

We've done the theme boxes twice now. The first year, the themes were D&D, Musicals, Pokemon, Barbie, Paw Patrol, and Rainbow. The second year, the themes were US Navy, Costume, Dragons, Amazonian Animals (mostly sloths and llamas), Minecraft, and Dinosaurs.

So what do I put in the boxes? First I make your budget. Or don't, it's totally up to you. If your budget is small, your plan will look something like this:

Small Budget Boxes:
1. Something to eat

2. Something handmade

3. Something to do

4. Something to display

and then you'd head to the dollar store. I will also post a list of practically free things you can do with different themes at the end of this post. (SQUIRREL)

Not that I ever had GIANT budgets, but let's be honest, I have zero idea how much I (or Santa) spent. When we lived in Utah, I was a stay at home mom and had DI at my fingertips and LOTS of opportunities to trade. So my kids got some really cool stuff that took lots of time by lots of people. When we moved to Kentucky, we had the sale of property and the guilt of making the kids give up so much to move here, so I may have gone a little overboard.

When I have a decent budget, the rules look more like this:

1. Something to eat

2. Something handmade (not necessarily by me)

3. Something to wear

4. Something to read

5. A cup

There are two ways to present these. The first year I did it, they each got ONE box that was just filled with their stuff. They did NOT have equal amounts of things and that was ok. I think. Nobody has brought it up in therapy to my knowledge. The second time, though, one kid requested that everything be wrapped because it's more fun that way. And so everything was wrapped and they then needed equal amounts of things. That amount ended up being 28. It took several hours to open things on Christmas. But some of the wrapping was fun, Wrapped things in wrapped things- it was great. 

Instead of breaking down every single thing that  was in 12 different boxes, I'll give you the highlights.

Paw Patrol: Dollar Store Activities, a blanket (gifted from a friend whose kids had outgrown it), a stuffie from DI, books, and more dollar tree toys.

Pokemon: A hat I had someone make, Pillows and blanket by grandma, cake pops by a friend, a tshirt made by a friend, some stuff from Wish, Pokeballs from DI that I filled with dollar tree toys, and a Pokemon Cursive book that I'm pretty sure he has never even opened. What I did NOT get him that I desperately wanted to but didn't have the money when I saw it and then couldn't find it after was this hand drawn Pokemon book that I saw at FanX. It would have been epic.

Musical Theater: T-Shirt and Cup I traded for. Game I made myself that took hours but I still think is genius (if I do say so myself), music (she doesn't sing anymore), a gift card to see a couple of plays at Empress in West Valley- naturally right when it shut down. DVDs, Cookies that I painted to look like playbills. Art that I painted for her.

D&D/Stranger things: The poster!!! There is a company that has special needs kids make art and then they are sold in malls for whatever you want to pay. I think I paid $20 for that poster and one of the Savior with a kid. Such a cool thing. Dice bag I traded for, 3D printed cookie cutter, DI Special movies, a game, Cup and T-shirt I traded for, and a Funko. Oh, I did attempt to make some little felt stuffies of the Stranger Things guys, but they were way harder than I thought, so I think he only got one. The most special of those gifts, though, was a book I got at FanX- the author drew him a personal D&D character when he signed it (Xander was with me when I bought it).

Barbie: This one was special. My Daddy built her this dollhouse. It is still one of her prized possessions. She had several 3D printed things here, a book collection, doll furniture made by friends across Facebook, and supplies to decorate the house the way that she wanted (including a gift card to Michael's for paint, etc) and supplies to make her own doll stuff with the help of My Froggy Stuff Also- some of the fanciest doll dresses Wish had to offer

This was my favorite. I LOVE the idea of Montessori projects, but have never had the ability to reel it in and get stuff like this made. So I enlisted the help of some friends. Gosh, I loved this one. She had a peg doll matching game, sorting trays, rainbow fairies, and all kinds of little learning activities.

Before I show you the next ones, beware that it's a little bit gluttonous. And honestly, it was too much. While it made me so happy to DO, when i saw everything put together, I was a little sick to my stomach about it. Nobody needs this much stuff. But again, they had left so much behind, I wanted them to just... I don't know. Have the things.

I did Bengals for the husband. We went to a Bengals game at the beginning of the season, their only Thursday game that year, to see how we felt about being in this new area with a new team. We hadn't watched much football in the previous years because we weren't attached to any team and had no way to watch the games anyway. Needless to say, I don't think that date will ever be topped and we are Bengals Fans for life. Roger's was mostly food. The merch I got mostly at this store called Home Buys- it's like a Walmart surplus, lol. There are some playing cards in there, too. But mostly food that I bought a pack of black reusable lunch containers and slapped some stickers on the top.

Yes, Abraham IS cryin in that pic. and yes, it DID break my heart because I think I physically worked the longest and hardest on his. But to be completely fair, this kiddo was so overwhelmed. I made him the minecraft boxes, hand did that stiff plastic canvas bag. I traded for the crochet creeper, found a clearance t-shirt or two, and the best- a joke book. This kid LOVES to tell jokes. And I found a minecraft one. :D

I had my nephew, Austin living with us for this Christmas and let's be honest, my siblings pretty much bought his stuff. It was so fun to put the list together and he may have been my favorite to watch open them. His theme was cars. We introduced him to the Fast and the Furious just before Christmas. He got a car detailing kit, car accessories, projects to do (model car, etc). I did crochet him a scarf. I think his favorite (mine, too) was a set of pens that all looked like tools in a stack of tires.

US Navy- I'll be honest, my heart is aching writing this because I miss my kid SO BADLY right now, but I'm so proud of his decision to do this hard thing. His box was a lot of fun. You can see the blanket. I had a friend make him some shirts. His "something to eat" was my favorite- I found out which countries have Navy Ports and headed to Jungle Jim's- there's something from each of those countries in that box. The books were donated by my brother. He does have a tumbler in there, too. And, one of the cheapies that's also a fav- a yellow submarine tea steeper thingy.

Lorelai's theme was dinosaurs! I traded for the crocheted dino. He favorite was something that was surprisingly affordable- it was a set of dinos that you "build" with "power tools". Lots of shirts- either on clearance or from Once Upon a Child. Some stuffies, school supplies....I can't even remember.

Jules was the easiest and hardest box. After Halloween was awesome for costume bits and pieces. Lots of makeup (that she gave to her sister because she doesn't like anymore). But my very very very favorite- which I can't remember how we tied into the theme, but my fried Ruby at Mama's Little Shop of Herbals let me send her some custom artwork made by my friend's daughter so that they all fit with the Lunar Chronicles. Seriously, they are incredible.

Paisley's theme was Amazonian Animals. We were kind of all over the place on this one. Used clothes, new stationary, handmade jewelry, notebooks, some kits to make cookies and brownies, and so many little trinkets. Three stuffies, which are still her favorite.

Dragons!!! I had his shirt and tumbler made for him, found some amazing art at FanX, made a box for his dragon egg, dragon gummies, a stress/stretch dragon thing, and I just don't remember all the things!

Anyway, I hope these help! OH! And here are somethings you can do for literally any theme.
1. "Paint" cookies- the recipe for the paint is food coloring and milk. You put a stiff white icing on any cookie and boom- you have a canvas
2. Notebooks. There are several different ways to bind- if you want to find someone with a binder, cool, but you can also stitch them closed. All you need is either printed pages in the theme (for real, google some coloring pages), or a patterned piece of paper in the theme (craft stores have paper per piece), printer paper, and boom.

3. Food. Pick a color scheme. Somethings already have them- for example if you're doing iron man, you're going to use yellow and red. Get a food container in one of those colors and put treats in, handmade or otherwise. If you want to splurge and put a sticker of the the theme on top, there ya go (water bottle stickers are the best because. they can handle being washed). Bonus points if the treat inside is another color in the theme!

4. Artwork. If you are not an artist, you know someone who is. I guarantee it. Please don't steal art by printing out images from etsy. But if you post on FB that you'd like some artwork in a certain theme and you're willing to trade or have an extremely limited budget- you'll probably find it.

5. Perler Beads- if you can't find a pattern on their website, head to pinterest and look up embroidery patterns for the thing.

6. Books-  bet your library has a booksale fairly often. You can find books for less than $1 or again, ask on FB. 

7. Stories or Story Prompts- you don't have to be a writer to spark your kids' imagination. Peruse the internet and you'll get some really cool quotes or ideas. Type up a list of those quotes

8. Coloring books- if you can't find them at the dollar store, you can print them. If you have a little budget, there are some beautiful ones on Amazon for literally any theme. LITERALLY ANY- you can buy a farting animals coloring book.

9. Movie and Book Lists- all it takes is a little time and internet research. You can even talk to your librarian about what they've got available (don't give the library books/movies AS the gift, though, in case it is not understood that they need to be returned)

10. Online experiences- you might have to be creative for this one. It might be making a Pinterest board with your kid. It might be a free online class. It might be an interactive website.

11. Jokes- again, you & Google can make it happen.

12. Recipes- Pinterest is your bestie for this one. 

A little something for you planners-

 It's finally hot outside!!! At the Fish house, that means time to plan Christmas!!! I know, we were just there! But normally by now I have a pretty good plan and this year, things are a little different.

So I had started doing the themed boxes every other year. It was nice because they can be done on any budget. But when we did it in 2021, we went way too overboard. And guess what? The kids' interests haven't changed much (I'll do a different post on theme boxes if I haven't already, for those who would like to use that idea).

This morning I woke up and was browsing Pinterest a bit and came up with these ideas for Christmas 2023. I'll talk to the kids today and see what they are thinking. I'm pretty sure I know which ideas they'll love most, but we'll see if they prove me wrong yet again.

A. A trip during Christmas, probably to Utah

    1. This will mean probably no gifts, unless Santa brings them one

    2. I do have to figure out the work schedule thing.

B. Serve a Family

    1. We'd either pick a family with at least half as many kids or choose some angel tree cards

    2. Again, this would mean instead of their gifts- which I would LOVE to see them pick, but I don't know if the littles are at that maturity level yet.

C. Christmas Bucket List- Imma be honest with you- we don't do traditionally fun stuff hardly ever. I'm so tired and broke during Dec because I'm trying to make their gifts or wrap their gifts or whatever that all the stuff we've wanted to do- rarely happens. So instead of Christmas morning gifts in the traditional sense, all of Dec would be a gift

    1. We could do 12 Days of Christmas for someone

    2. Bake/make candy/ deliver

    3. Gingerbread Houses

    4. The lights at Coney Island

    5. Making snowflakes

    6. Popcorn and Cranberry Garland

    7. Whatever else I pretend doesn't exist during Dec because I"m too tired

D. An Experience

    1. A future trip to Utah. Or to see some historical stuff, but it would be Utah.

    2. Zoo membership

    3. Mini Trip Plans

E. Give to Our House- I am pretty sure they won't pick this one. But I love this idea!

    1. Paint for the bedrooms & the Bengals Den

    2. A better carpet cleaner

    3. Outside furniture/toys

    4. Stairs slide

    5. Organizers

    6. Small Furniture (desks, bookshelves, etc)

    7. Artwork

F. Date Nights. I'll do a post about these, too. We've done the planning part of this, but the follow through was a little bit sad because we ran out of the funds. So this time, we'd do the planning NOW and present the dates WITH THE FUNDS/SUPPLIES for Christmas

G. Family Business Startup- My kids are always trying to earn money for this or that. This would be an actual plan on how to do that.

    1. A little Dave Ramsey business book for the whole family/charts/planning pages

    2. Ideas by Age

    3. Startup supplies/Funds

    4. Vending opportunities

I'm 99% sure they are going to pick a trip to Utah. I highly doubt we can swing it AT Christmas because of the way my work goes, but maybe they'll be ok with the plans to go for Spring Break. We wanted to do spring break 2023, but couldn't swing it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Quiet Church Activities

 Alright, friends, it's time to air my laundry. It's not dirty laundry, don't worry. HAHA. Ok, so Abraham is 8, has ADHD, and struggles. He can't take meds (the gag reflex is strong on this one) and I haven't had the chance/guts/mental ability to get him tested for autism. He does ok at school, but he also has pretty much a whole team there helping him out.

He struggles at home when watching TV (he destroys anything around him, esp remotes).

He struggles in the car.

He struggles in class at church.

BUT!!! I have amazing people in my life who love him and love me and together we've come up with some support and solutions. Many are a work in progress. I feel like we need a decent variety of options because with this kiddo, nothing is going to work more than 3 weeks in a row. We've got to be careful with sensory toys because they can easily become distractions. I will still be using some, but a little more carefully.

Here are the things we've come up with so far.

1. A fidget seat. 

2. A stretchy band across the bottom of his chair for his feet

3. A fidget blanket- this one will be like a smaller version of a weighted blanket with hooks to add keychains. Then we can switch out the fidget toys we attach to the keychains and they won't be thrown.

4. Calm Strips

5. I'm making my own. I don't know what to call it, but I plan on taking altoid tins and keychains and doing designs with my leftover diamond dots since they feel so cool.

            Here is one of the ones I made yesterday:

               And I made these, more for around the house than church because I'm pretty sure he's going to pick off the diamond drills, which is 100% ok and half of what it was made for. If it saves my remotes from being picked, I'm down with it. 

6. Worksheets. I'm making generic ones. Ones to him listening and also creative. Like this. You can use it, too, if you need. This one is specifically for New Testament. I will be making more later, but right now, it's all I got. (the graphics are from ones I've purchased, the jar from Pretty Grafik, the calculator and notebook are from Little Fox, and the tiger is from someone on etsy that didn't include their name in the file or folder, sorry)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

January Family Box

 I'm getting ridiculously excited about this one and figured I'd share what I've got with you in case you have any desire to do it also! As I explained in the big grand post, January is supposed to be about cleaning, organizing, and menu planning. The way things have gone down, I've narrowed it down to mostly menu planning with just a couple other things thrown in there about the others (I purchased an ADHD cleaning book, so.... :) )
Ok, so for the menu planning part, I have a giant binder- like the 3" kind and pockets for each month. I'm just going to fill it with regular binder paper because I'll need to be able to tear pages out for when I go shopping. I designed some basic menu pages (you can buy other people's versions on etsy! Like this: 

Anyway, we want this to be fun and family friendly, so I made up a few games. Some I mentioned in the other blog post, some that we've just added tonight. But in case you want them, too...

Game 1. Dart Board. There are 3 Dart Boards per round. One is PROTEIN. One is VEGETABLES. One is STARCHES/BASES. I was a little creative in the last one, including things like waffles, chow mein noodles, and crackers (along with regular stuff like rice, tortillas, etc). We'll throw a dart at each one and it's then the responsibility of whoever's turn it is to make a meal out of it. It's going to be great fun. We may get some strange creations, but who knows, maybe we'll discover the next favorite.

Game 2. Favorite Characters. I'll post this one here so you can use it if you want. Have each person pick their favorite character from their favorite book. Then use this chart to decide the menu item.

Game 3. Pinterest Dice Game. You'll need a screen with Pinterest on it and a set of D&D Dice, like my children are obsessed with.

Player 1 Rolls a 6 sided dice.

Player 1 then counts to whatever number was landed on.

While Player 1 counts, Player 2 scrolls through pinterest. When Player 1 stops counting, Player 2 must stop scrolling and leave the screen as is.

Player 2 then rolls the 10 sided dice. Whichever number is landed on, that row is chosen (unless #10 is rolled, at which point Player 1 gets to pick the row).

Player 1 then rolls the 4 sided dice. Whichever number is landed on, count down from the top of the screen to that many numbers. The number chosen is the menu item. If the number rolled is higher than the amount of options in the row, Player 2 gets to choose the item in the row.

Click the link- if it's good, that's the menu item. If the link is no good, start over from the place where the screen was last left.

Game 4. Phone a Friend

I'm still working on this one as far as visuals, but I've grabbed an incomplete deck of cards from my box and on each one will attach the name and phone number of a friend we know that also cooks dinner. You pick that card, you get to call (or text) the person and ask for the recipe of what they are eating that night. We may have a bonus friend where each person with texting capabilities sends out a mass text and whichever person answers with a recipe first wins that time slot (and recipes that come trickling in later will be used elsewhere on the menu)

Game 5. Restaurant Menu

This will just be a menu. Of the our favorite dishes at our favorite restaurants. The at-home version, you know?

Game 6. Appliance Roulette

Ok, I'm not actually calling it that because I don't have a roulette wheel, lol. I'll just make a spinner with our different appliances (let's be honest, I'm just dying to use the fancy cookwear husband won at his Christmas party). Spin it and find a meal using that thing. At our house, this will include toaster oven, instant pot, steamer basket, Ninja blender, waffle iron, stove, oven, and microwave.

Game 7. Family Cookbook: Guess Who

This one will feature family recipes. Still working on the details of how it will go. Perhaps like a Guess Who board. It'll be fun and I'm sure it'll come the rest of the way to me in the middle of the night.

Game 8: The Usual Suspects

Think Clue or something similar. The things we eat all the time, but with suggestions to mix things up a bit. Like instead of just Mac and Cheese, you could choose the option to add ground beef, taco seasoning, and some salsa for Taco Mac. Or instead of just Hot Dogs, maybe this time is Pigs in a Blanket. Boom, baby.

I hope some of you enjoy!!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Family Boxes for Christmas

 The original plan this year was to get everyone subscription boxes, but DANG! That adds up fast. So I had a better idea- Family Boxes. Not that I'm subscribing to, but that we will each open on the 1st of the month. The idea is that you'll have everything you need that month to do the thing. LOL. I've decided to post about these ideas for you and your family if you're interested in doing something like this, too. On Christmas, they'd get a little sample of what each box's theme was, but not the full surprise.

We started with a list of a TON of theme ideas, then budget required that I simplify. In this post, I'll try to give ideas of as cheap as cheap can get to what I wish were going in the boxes, k? It's up to you to make them your own. I'll also include the discarded subjects at the end in case you need to further customize for your family.

To give you an idea, I have 6 kids, 5 of them living at home (one is off doing amazing things by serving in the Navy). The kids at home range from 17 years old down to 4, so I tried to have stuff we could all appreciate. Here we go:

January: Goals/Organizing/Cleaning

This box will include questionnaires to se what the kids goals are for the year. I'm hoping to have a little bucket for each kid to gather their stuff around the house in. If money permitted, I'd have what I call "cleaning toys"- like these (I get nothing if you buy these, I'm not cool enough to be linked with that):


What I will include, however, is a Menu Making Game. I know, it sounds lame. But here's the thing. Menu's are legit the hardest thing for my family. We've tried emeals. We've tried buying everything and sorting them for the week. We've tried all kinds of things. But most of my family members have ADHD, so nothing seems to stick for more than a week. Will this? Who knows. But the idea is that we're going to create a whole year's worth of menu. We'll leave room for the days when plans change and we'll work with our busy schedules. Games will include things like, "Pin the protein on the donkey" where each kid gets a tail with a different protein on it and whoever gets it closest to the right spot gets to pick a dish with their protein. We'll have a dart game where one dart board is all proteins. One is country of origin. One is vegetable. One is starch. Person A gets to throw one dart at each board. Whichever label is in that circle must be combined with the others to create a dish Like this:

Another game is "Favorite Character Generator" and I'll even add that game here if I remember. Pretty much, it's a spoof on those shower game and facebook data mining games where you take the first letter of your first name and the second letter of your last name and the last 4 digits of your social security number and create your unicorn name. Except mine will not be a breach of security. And I can't use our actual names because all of our last names are the same. So I'm going to do a list of 26 veggies and fruits. A list of 26 starches (it's finally your turn quinoa) and then 26 something else. The kids will pick their favorite character from any genre of anything and we'll do something with one of the letters in their first name, their last name, and where they are from.
We'll also play a "phone a friend" type game where they have to rely on OTHER people's recipes. And a heritage version where we make something an ancestor would make.
I have a Pinterest game in the works with scrolling through pinterest and rolling D&D dice, but I legit haven't thought more about it than that.
What I do know is that in this box will be a 3 ring binder, printed out monthly and weekly menus, binder paper (so we can write lists and not feel guilty tearing them out), and page protectors to put our recipes in. I'm weirdly excited about this. Hopefully my kids don't make too big of a stink about it.
Truth be told that if money were no issue, I'd just hire a chef. And a housekeeper. And I'd organize my whole house with a professional organizer. Notice I didn't say reorganize because...... that would infer that it had once been organized.

Clearly I don't know how to use blogger enough to make everything go back to the left side lining up. Oh well.

February: Love and Service
Last year, most of the kids and I had an opportunity to volunteer at A Child's Hope International. We all loved it, so we're going to do it again. I wish we could do stuff like this more often as we are very blessed to have what we need.
I'm also planning on including stuff to make old fashioned valentine's and a calendar of ideas of services siblings can do for each other. Maybe I'll have a bribe in there for if they do a certain number. I'm still working on that one. I just really want my kids to show love to each other and the world as best as they can.

March: Escape Room
I have zero details on this. Whether I'll be able to afford to buy one or I'll be putting Vaughn (my 14 year old) in charge and letting him do it or whether I'll find one for us to go to..... all unknown.

April: Rainy Day Indoor Fun
You know all those books out there where they have things like, "1001 screen free activities" and you buy the book and then don't turn the TV off long enough to read any of the book? Yeah, that's the idea here- skip the book part, turn off the tube, and have activities thought out for you already. Fun activities. This box will include masking tape (LOTS of it) and empty toilet paper tubes and PVC Pipe parts and marbles and cars..... Two big projects I'm thinking are a marble run. We have lots of wall space! The older kids can help as much as the little ones. We can tape a bunch of stuff to the walls and see where the marbles go.
Also, the mega track. Using the masking tape again, the older kids can help the younger ones have tracks all over the main level of the house. They can have a ramp on some of the stairs and together they can use the various Lego, Duplo, and whatever the other weird block things we've got to build cities and towns throughout the level. I hope they let me play, too.
I'd also like to include a fort building kit. I've made a few of these before, but I'll send you OVER HERE TO LEARN HOW.
This box might end up being the biggest, depending on how our budget ends up.

May: Time to Go Outside
This is kind of part 2 of the "screen free activities" book you never read, but with a definite change of setting. We are blessed enough to live on property with a forest out back, so Pinterest has given me some pretty cool ideas of activities we can do there. This box will have those activities spelled out for the kids a bit. I'm also hoping to include things like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and that kind of stuff. If budget allows, then possibly a car cleaning/detailing kit. That would be cool.

June: Camping
Remember how I told you most of us have ADHD? Well, one thing that we ADHDers struggle with is time management. So even though our family HAS a bunch of camping equipment. And even though we SAY we want to go camping, if nobody sets a date or a reason..... it just doesn't happen. So we are SETTING that date and reason. Specific to our family, we are going to go to Natural Bridges State Park and camp with some friends who live a couple of hours from there.  The box will include some fun stuff, though- recipes for what we're going to eat, stuff for Smores, camping games to play (I'll probably end up making my own version of this:

July: Trip or Patriotic

That might sound confusing, but this July will be our 20 year anniversary. Again, if budget were no option, we'd fly with the kids to Salt Lake, leave them with my parents, then Roger and I would fly to Groton, CT to see our Navy kid and explore Boston and do all the history geek stuff I dream of (I even started another History Geek podcast, but then had to get a job, so there went that). But considering Navy Kid just paid over $1,000 for one plane ticket at Christmas.... I'm going to just kind of assume that won't be happening. I'm going to dream a little for a second and tell you what I WOULD put in this box if that were to happen.
If this were a trip box, then we'd make sure everyone had luggage, stuff to do on the plane (or in the car), and questions to ask Gma and Gpa. There'd be travel sized all the things and a version of their ticket that it wouldn't matter if they lost.
BUT..... It'll probably be a patriotic box with stuff to do for the 4th of July and maybe some Hamilton stuff.

August: Back to School
Ideally, this box will have their school supply lists already to go, new lunchboxes, and a gift card for clothes and shoes.
In reality, I'll print out those cute "first day of school" photo props and have some washable, reusable, personalized sandwich and snack sized bags, plus plans to have a fun Back to School Party (just family, I don't have the time or energy to invite people right now). Plus, invitations for Back to School Father's blessings.

September: Retro Family History
This is the one I'm pretty excited about. I really want my kids to be excited about Family History. I already love it (though maybe not the way that's helpful to anyone) but especially so since realizing we're descendants of Israel Putnam. And Abner Stocking was one of my relatives- and it's because of him we know as much as we do about Benedict Arnold and the Quebec campaign. Anyway, I want my kids to get excited, so I've been gathering games we can play, questionnaires for their own personal history, plus questions to ask living relatives.
But the best part- is that we want to have a Retro Party. Did you know that to be considered "vintage" a thing has to be 20 years old. I left vintage a while ago. SO- Roger and I thought it would be way fun to have a dinner/party (again, prolly just our family, but who knows how we're feeling at that point) featuring the 90s and early 2000s. Ideally, this box would include Tomagachi pets, skip-its, micro machines, TMNT, original Ninetento and Sega games...... all the good stuff from when we were kids. We fully plan on including Bonne Belle Lip Smackers,  Bubble Jug, Gushers, and Clearly Canadian. It's gonna be rad.

October: Fairs and Festivals
Honestly, this is the one I'm most nervous about. We don't really go out and do the things. We should. We want to. It's just hard when you know the kids are going to ask for this and that and especially Oct-Dec, there seems to never be any extra. Like, ever. So, in an ideal world, where money were no issue, there would be a few gift cards in here for like $100 that we could use going to like, the Wool Festival. We could use that for treats and horse rides and all the other fun stuff fairs have to offer. In reality, it'll probably be a list of free events in our area next October and we'll find a way to get some apples or pumpkins at some of them. And who knows, maybe me having a full time job will actually have next year look different than it always has before. I just kind of have a hard time hoping that when it seems that no matter what we do, nothing really makes a difference in the finance department. Sorry. I don't mean to whine. But let's be honest, like 2 people will read this far, so, sorry you 2.

November: Movie and Game Nights
It's time to freshen the game box, see what new version of Monopoly Deal is out that year, and stock up on candy that doesn't have red40. We'll pull out the popcorn recipes and spend some time cozying up together. If you were wanting to go big, this would be a good way to get your family a big ol popcorn machine- or this, which I have and LOVE, btw. I don't think it's that specific brand, but whatevs. It's awesome.

If your'e into cozy socks or individual blankets, 5 Below has fun blankets!

December: Advent Calendar
Maybe this one's selfish. LOL. But I have had my eye on this specific advent calendar for like 3 years now. I'm hoping this year, just after Christmas, to be able to get it for next year. Otherwise, we'll do an envelope advent or something we can make for free.
(They actually have several versions I love, but dreaming)

I told you I'd include other themes here that you could go with if it was more your family's speed:
Baking Day
County/State Fair
Put on A Play
12 Days of Christmas for another family
Clean Car
Neighborhood Block Party
Art Night