Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twine Monogram Letter Wreath Tutorial - DIY Project #4

   Now all you Southern gals know that there is not a Southern home complete without some sort of home decor display featuring a's just a rule.  There is no use in arguing with it.  If you have a monogrammed wooden letter sitting on your bookshelf or a monogram wreath hanging on your front door, or monogrammed towels, then you can rest easy tonight.  But if you don't, you most definitely need to keep on reading, because I am going to show you one of the easiest ways to grace your home with the unparalleled presence of the infamous monogram.
        This DIY tutorial is for one of my favorite monogram projects I've done yet - the Monogram Letter Wreath.   More and more people are using wreath alternatives to hang on their front doors, and the Monogram Letter Wreath is one of those alternatives.  A Monogram Letter Wreath is not really a wreath... it's basically just 1 letter (your last initial) or 3 letters (full monogram) that are hung with ribbon on your door or inside your home.  Monogram Letter Wreaths can come in many different forms.  Some are made of metal, some wood, and some are made of other materials.  The one I am going to show you how to make is made using a wooden letter wrapped in twine. I really love this look because it is very classy, but has more of a shabby chic look to it....and the twine gives it a very natural feel.
       I made this particular monogram letter wreath for my good friend, Angela, as a one of my gifts for her monogram bridal shower.  It made a great gift for a friend, but I love it so much that I can't wait to wait to make one for my own home too!
 To make this wreath, you will need the following supplies:

    1) Wooden Letter (inital of your last name)
    2) Spool of Twine
    3) Ribbon (one spoool of wide wired ribbon, and one spool of  
         thinner wired or un-wired ribbon)
    4) Glue Gun
    5) Scissors

   I purchased my wooden letter, twine, and ribbon at Hobby Lobby for about $12.  So here's how to assemble your Monogram Letter Wreath....

       First, take your twine, and hot glue the end piece of twine to the back side of the top of your letter.  Make sure the hot glue isn't too thick because you're going to have to wrap over it.  Start the twine at the very top and just keep wrapping the twine around the letter. Keep pulling the twine very, very tight as you wrap!

    As I'm sure you can gather, the method in which you wrap the twine is going to be different depending on the letter you are working with.  This letter "H" worked particularly well, because it is one of the letters of the alphabet that is perfectly symmetrical. As you see in the diagram below, it took 3 separate pieces of twine to make the Letter H.  I started on the back side of one of the left part of the letter, kept wrapping the twine until I got to the middle section, continued the twine all the way around the width of the letter, and then went back to the left hand side and finished at the bottom. Then I had to use two other separate pieces of twine to finish the right top side and the right bottom side of the letter H (indicated by the purple and green).   You want to use as few separate pieces of twine as possible, so keep wrapping it as far as you can before you cut it and start a new piece.

  As you can see to the left, after you finish with a piece of twine, you can just loop it around another piece on the backside of the letter (so you don't see the knot) to secure it.  This must be done very tightly.  

  What you will notice is that on the top and bottom edges of the letter, it does not take too much pressure for the twine to slip off of the edges of the letter.  To prevent this, I just put a tiny bit of hot glue under the beginning and ending pieces of twine (on the edges of the letter mostly) so it would have more than just the knot to keep the twine on the letter.
   When you are done wrapping the twine around the entire letter and have secured the ends of twine, turn the letter over to the backside.  Cut two longer pieces of your wired ribbon and hot glue the ends of the two pieces of ribbon to each of the top sides of the letter.

    Hold up both pieces of ribbon and tie your bow.  Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time...ribbon is resilient! It took me like 4 times to tie a good one.  I'm a perfectionist, what can I say??

   My friend Angela's wedding colors are a deep purple and a charcoal grey, so that is why I decided to do two different ribbon colors.  I'm glad I did, though, because I think it gave it more depth - and the purple pops against the grey!

    To get the two-tone bow effect I tied a bow using the purple ribbon and then attached the already made purple bow to the grey bow with another small piece of purple ribbon . I just put the bows on top of each other and wrapped the little piece of purple ribbon around the two bows and hot glued them at the back side as you see below.  

DISCLAIMER:  Just in case you didn't know, HOT glue is very HOT, so don't let it drip on you... :(  You'd think as a teacher I would have learned this lesson already....but apparently not.  

  This little project was lots of fun, and the end result was especially worth the time and effort because it was for a dear friend.  Happy DIYing!
Sunday, July 28, 2013

Monograms & Margaritas: A Bridal Monogram Shower

The lovely bride to be, Angela, with her sweet mom Jane.
     I am currently sitting in my living room for the 1st time in two weeks without bridal shower banners, balloons, and streamers gracing me with their presence! Haha. Whew! The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of wedding excitement for my little house.  I actually just got done throwing a bridal shower for my sister yesterday, but first I wanted to post about the fabulous shower I got the pleasure of hosting last Saturday with my friend Molly for our mutual friend Angela, who is getting married at the end of October.
    I have SO much to share about all the fun DIY projects that I got to work on for this, but I don't have the time to go into all the tutorials for everything, so I'm just going to give an overview of what Molly and I did for the shower and show you some pictures!
    Now....when my sweet friend Angela told us that she wanted a monogram shower I was a little nervous because I'd never thrown one before, and I wasn't quite sure where to start.  But when I finally sat down and started thinking of ideas and planning, I realized there was a world of possibilities for fun and creative DIY projects.
    The first step of throwing any shower or party is obviously the invitation.  The invitation sets the tone for any shower or party and it's the first thing that guests see, so I knew the invitation had to be cute, classy, fun, and of course "monogram" themed.  Molly and I discussed things and decided to go with a "Monograms and Margaritas" theme. beverages thrown in the mix never hurts anything, right?? And especially not with our crowd!! :)  I used some digital clipart, frames, and backgrounds I had purchased from Etsy and created this invite to send out to all of Angela's friends and family.

Silhouette Cameo
   The next step was decor!  One of my favorite things to make when I throw bridal or baby showers are party banners!  I think they are so beautiful and add so much to the decor....and they are a breeze to make if you have the right tools!!  One of my favorite new tools for making paper banners of all types is my Silhouette Cameo.  If you've never heard of it, it's basically a Cricut machine...but SO much better!  What sets the Cameo apart is that it is all digital!  No cartridges to store..  You just hook it up to your computer, choose your layout, load your paper, and cut away. It is quite the handy tool for making classroom creations too!  I made both of these banners with my Cameo.  I used scrapbooking paper from Hobby Lobby for the cut outs and photo mounting squares to attach them.  Then I used white ribbon and lavender tulle to tie in between each letter to make a little bit fancy.. :)

Doily scalloped lace banner.
    Another banner I made took no cutting at all and was SUPER easy to make!  All it took was string and doilies folded in half!   The end result was stunning.  Once you fold the doilies in half you get a beautiful lace scalloped banner...I love it!  How simple....why didn't I think of this before?? :)

      Now, you all know with my baking background that there was no way I could have a monogram shower without having monogrammed cupcakes and cookie favors!  I even wanted to pipe monograms onto the chocolate covered strawberries, but I ran out of time and that SOOO did not happen!! :( Sadness.....  But I decided to do monogram toppers for the cupcakes since it's kind of hard to monogram a cupcake.  So I used my Silhouette machine to cut out the purple scalloped circles, and then printed off the "H" circle on my printer and glued it on top of the scalloped cut out.  Then I just taped toothpicks to the back and stuck 'em in!

The cookie favors turned out great too!!  I did the purple icing for the background and piped Angela and her hubby's new monogram on top.  I wrapped them in clear bags and tied them 
with pretty purple ribbon to finish them off! If you want to learn more about how to make hand decorated sugar cookies, see my Step By Step Sugar Cookie Tutorial

    As far as food went, we had quite a smorgasbord of goodies! (I just had to use the word "smorgasboard" makes me think of Templeton the rat's song from Charlotte's Web! Childhood memories....).  Some things were homemade, like the Gluten Free Cheese Straws (will post recipe later), Mexican Layer Dip (recipe to come) and the Homemade Strawberry Lime Margaritas (OMG!!...They were DIVINE!)..and then some things were store bought like the Publix Chicken Salad on King's Hawaiian rolls and the deli meat/cheeses, veggies, etc. But it was all delicous!  I think the margaritas may have been the top hit, though.  And for good reason...

   To further the "Monogram and Margaritas" theme, Molly and I found these awesome chalkboard stickers at Hobby Lobby which we put on the margarita cups.  Then we got some colored chalk and had all the guests write their own monograms on their cups so we would know whose cup was whose. Much classier than Sharpie pens, huh?? :) Everybody loved it!  Who knew they made chalkboard stickers??

    Molly and I also decided that our gifts to Angela needed to be monogram themed too.  So we did some searching and came up with a few good ideas.  The first was a twine wrapped monogram letter which can be used as a wall-hanging or a door-hanging.  We also made a framed monogram display using Angela and Trey's married monogram.  They turned out super cute!  I will post the tutorials for them later.  They were very easy and made great gifts!

                As a fairly newlywed woman myself, (Is 2 years still a newlywed?? I dunno...) one thing I cherished at my bridal showers was some of the marriage advice I received from some of the ladies at my shower who had been married for many years.  Most advice I got was verbal, but I thought it would be cool to give Angela something to take home with her to remember the

important words of wisdom from all the old married ladies in the room...including myself! Haha.  So I decided to make a "Marriage Advice Tree."  I literally went in the backyard and picked up some sticks and put them in a vase with some pebbles and hung little card stock circles (the design was printed off my computer) on the tree for people to write bits of advice on.  After the shower was over I took them off the tree, bound them, and gave them to Angela.  It was really cute and she got lots of good advice for how to have a long and happy marriage!

Our lovely toilet paper beautiful!! :)
     Now, you knew this was's the SHOWER GAMES!!  I mean, what shower is complete without totally cheesy show games?!?!  I have to admit I LOVE shower games!!  Even the ridiculous ones....they're just so fun! Our first game was a contest to see who could make the best toilet paper wedding dress.  We divided all the guests into 4 teams and gave them two rolls of toilet paper.  They were given 5 minutes to create the perfect dress!  Angela, of course, was the judge.  After the ladies paraded in, Angela picked her winner!
     Another hilarious game we played was called "How Sweet It Is."  It has the guests match candy bar names with certain wedding words and phrases.  It was too funny!! I can take no credit for this game though, because Molly found it.  But it was super fun and had everybody laughing.  We found the game boards on the Love and Weddings Blog.

      All in all, the shower was so much fun and we had a wonderful time!  It was such a pleasure to work with Molly to honor our friend Angela, and we wish her and her hubby to be the best!!  Less than 3 months to go til the big day!!  We love you!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Parenting Vision: A List of Do's and Don'ts

     Let me begin this post by saying that this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I have thought about it often, and when I’m out in public and see parents with very well behaved children AND parents with less than well-behaved children... I kick myself for not having done it sooner.  I wanted to do this before I get into the daily trials of parenting and can no longer think straight, and also so other people who know me can hold me and my husband accountable... and I mean that. I’m talking about my parenting vision....the vision I have for my children...the ones who have yet to be conceived.  :) 

       Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be a mother.  I don't know what the future holds for my husband and I as far as children go, but I can only hope the good Lord blesses us with the gift of being parents one day.  Here we are on our honeymoon over 2 years seems like just yesterday.  It is hard to think that we are already at the stage of our life where we are starting to think about that.  But as much as being a mother is a desire of mine, the thought scares me more and more sometimes, though, when I see the way some children are being raised in today’s society.  It saddens me.  What I see more than anything is parents raising their children to be “happy” rather than raising them to be servants of the Lord, respectful to others, and living examples of integrity and good character.  Raising your kids to be “happy” involves giving them what they want, when they want it.  Raising your kids to become the latter involves making decisions that may not be popular or easy.  And plus, I don’t want my kids to be “happy,” I want them to be joyful.  Happiness is temporary, external, and dependent upon one’s circumstances. Joy stems from within.
    I strongly feel that parenting is not something that you can do “on a whim.” It’s not a “fly by the seat of your pants” thing.  It’s not a “take it one day at a time and see how things go” thing.  You have to have a vision.  You have to “begin with the end in mind” as Steven Covey references in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Now, let me make it very clear that I understand that bad things happen to good people.  There is no "perfect parent formula."  I understand that you can be the best parent in the world and still have a child who ends up a drug addict or an atheist or gets pregnant at age 16.  I get it…  And of course there’s the flip side – the kids who have the worst parents in the world and still manage to rise above their circumstances and become amazing people!  Props to you, indeed. But, with that said, I feel like if your child starts out at Point A, and you want them to end up at Point B, then the decisions that you make in between the two points have to elicit the end result.  You can’t expect your child to be respectful to others if you don’t model that for them.  Or you can’t expect your child to value education if you make excuses to your child’s teacher that he or she didn’t do their homework because they had little league practice.  You get my drift…
    I also think it is important to learn from the successes as well as the mistakes of other parents.  I actually make it a point sometimes to talk to parents in my class who have really sweet and well-behaved children who can focus and pay attention.  I want to know what they did to get them that way!  And I’ve gotten some really good answers and ideas, which I have made notes of. I also make a point to find out what the parents of not so well behaved children do, so I can NOT do that.  But anyway, the following is basically a letter to myself as a future parent with a DO and DON’T list of the things I don’t want to forget when I’m a parent.  I know once I become a parent I may get in the trenches of the day to day mommy stuff and be tempted to “give in” on some things that I didn’t want to do, and not take the time to do some of the things that I think are important to do.  So hopefully when that moment comes, I can look back on my pre-mommy thinking and remember my reasoning for things.  I may do a great job of these one day, and I may not, but at least I will know I put forth my best effort.  So anyway, here goes….

Disclaimer: This is a letter to myself of things I want to think about as a parent to my own children.  This is not meant to offend anyone in any way. If you are already a parent and you read this and disagree entirely or think I'm an idiot, that's OK.  I know after I become a parent I will appreciate the hard work that goes into parenting a little more.  And if some of these do's and don'ts are completely absurd and you think I'm crazy, you may be right.   Then when things don't turn out like I had hoped, you can silently think to yourself, "I told you so..." But until then, it makes me feel better to have some kind of a vision....

Dear Mommy Self,
    I’m sure you’re busy trying your best to be a good Wife and Mother and don’t have much time to read this post, but just remember the following things:  Be strong, stand your ground, and don’t let the ways of this world get into the way of raising your babies to the glory of God.  And remember, get down on your knees and pray for your little ones each and every day. Turn them over to the Lord, and they will be just fine…  You’re doing a great job, even though you probably don’t feel like it.  Now go and kiss your husband and tell him you love him....
 My Parenting Vision
·         Go overboard with decorating your kids' rooms.  Get some nice things….but mostly only what you need.  You need a crib, a dresser, and some diapers/wipes, etc. I know it's really hard not to do this, but your kid won’t know the difference anyway. Kids are pretty low maintenance. Don't start the downward spiral of comparing yourself as a parent to the fairy tale land that people post on Pinterest.  If you can make a lot of the decor and cute Pinterest stuff yourself for minimal cost or re-purpose old things, great.....go for it.  If you have to pay somebody to do it for you, skip some of the fluff.  Your budget will thank you.

·         Spent $500+ on your kids’ birthday parties. It's insane. Do a really big obnoxious 1st birthday party.  Spend money…have printed water bottle covers and a fondant cake.  Your kid only turns 1 once.  Then have a modest get together from that point forward.  After age 8 or 9, let your child and two or three friends go to the movies or somewhere special together.  You will spend so much less, not have to buy stuff and decorate and entertain people, and it will be much less stressful.  Don’t buy the blowup bouncy castle things....  That’s ridiculous and way too expensive.  There's nothing wrong with getting some b-day ideas from Pinterest, just hold yourself back from going overboard and don't get all stressed out over trivial details that your kid will never remember anyway... The purpose of a child birthday party is to celebrate a child’s life and honor them, not to impress all of your friends and family.

·         Plaster pictures of your kids face on your Facebook banner thingie AND your profile picture.  It looks like your baby has a Facebook page… and it looks like you’re not married anymore.  If you’re still married, then at least one picture at the top of your profile should have your husband in it….or the whole family at that.  You wouldn’t have that kid if it wasn’t for your husband.  Also, don’t send Christmas cards with JUST your kids’ picture on it.  Like... the whole card shouldn't be your kid's face.  I look at people’s Christmas cards later and say, “Whose kid is that, again?”  Put your whole family’s picture on the Christmas card so people know who the cute kids belong to!  Kids are amazing little gifts from God, but your life doesn’t revolve around them and your Facebook and Christmas cards shouldn’t either. 

·         Stop being affectionate to your spouse after you have kids.  Yes, children are known sleep deprivers and time suckers.  But how hard is it to hug, kiss, and cuddle with each other on the couch still?  Exactly…it’s not.  It takes minimal effort and time, and it helps you stay connected even when things get crazy!  Very important…

·         Feel the need to have professional photos taken of your child every month from birth to age 18.  Yes, professional photography is absolutely stunning.  No, there is nothing wrong with having professional pictures of your kids taken..just not every 5 seconds.  Yes, professional photos will be something you cherish forever….but so are the ones you snapped with your $150 Canon. If you happen to have a friend who does photography and will do professional photography  for you for FREE, at a deep discount, or barter with you for photography services, then please disregard this one.  But that stuff ain’t cheap!  Some people can’t feed their kids and take professional pictures of them too…  It doesn’t make you a bad parent.  Better yet, invest in a great camera, put it in the hands of somebody who can hold it remotely straight, get your kids to smile (or lie sleeping curled up inside of a boot or on a bench in the middle of a poppy field if you have a baby….haha..I know you're seen those), and you’ve got professional photos for free!! 

    Give your child your I-Phone or an I-Pad when you’re at home and they are getting bored or even more so when you’re out in public to make them shut-up so you can have some peace and quiet to do your grocery shopping or eat your meal in silence at the restaurant. What you’re doing is going cripple your children now, but even more so later in life.  Kids can’t learn patience if they aren’t ever made to wait.  They can’t learn to self-entertain if you shove an electronic device into their hands at the first sign of restlessness.  When your child gets in school, if they aren’t already, your child’s teacher is going to have to work tirelessly to undo what you’re doing, because whenever they have to learn something that isn’t the most interesting thing in the world (because not everything is) or perform a task that requires sustained mental effort and focus and/or is not their favorite thing to do (which we all have to learn to do at one point or another), they are going to get restless, fidgety, distracted, and become a behavior issue.  You are unknowingly causing them to develop the attention span of a goldfish…  Instead, give your kids puzzles, let them build things with legos, play board games with them, let them color, paint, and model with clay, and play outside…things like this not only develop fine motor skills (which children are sorely lacking, as evidenced by their poor handwriting skills) but they help to develop attention spans, creativity, and problem solving skills.  When they get restless at the restaurant, play a game with them.  Play eye spy, count the sugar packets on the table and sort them by color (building math skills here….), give them a coloring book, talk to them, or heaven forbid give them a REAL book!!  In the grocery store, play a rhyming word game or have a color, shape, or letter/word scavenger hunt.  Kids LOVE that stuff.  Yes, I know that there are “educational apps” out there.  Yes, I know kids CAN learn things from electronics. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that these devices are better for your child than actual interaction with the world around them and more importantly, with you.  These are the things that will build memories, give your child the quality time they need with you, and help develop thoughtful and patient young people who can entertain themselves and focus for more than 5 seconds.  (I already made a Facebook post about this one yesterday pleading parents to help us teachers out.)

·         Let what other parents are giving their kids influence you with the way you raise your kids.  If other parents are letting their kids do things or see things that you don’t approve of, have that child come to your house instead.  Don’t fall into the “keeping up with the Jones’” or “so-and-so’s parents got them this….maybe we should get our kid one too” traps.  Your child will not suffer if they don’t have everything that so-and-so’s parents gave them.

·         Buy frozen chicken nuggets, french fries, pizzas, or hot dogs for your kids to eat.  Those foods won’t be staple “kid foods” if your kid doesn’t ever eat those things.  Give your kids real food.  If they don’t eat what you cook, they don’t eat.  DO allow your kids to have a little less desirable food when a babysitter comes.  That way your babysitter will want to come back (because you haven’t instructed her to prepare a 3 course meal for your toddlers), and it will be a special treat!

·         Give your kids JUICE and SODA.  Only let them drink water and milk once or twice a day.  If they never drink juice and soda, they’ll never know it’s an option.  If they have to have flavor, put that Mio or Crystal Light stuff in their water.  You’ll save on grocery bills, and your kids won’t have diabetic blood sugar levels…

·         Have 10 million toys all over your house.  Kids have way too many toys and they take up way too much space and clutter up your entire house.  Most of your kids stuff should be creative supplies, anyway (paper, crayons, playdough, blocks).  But as far as toys go, every birthday and Christmas they should be required to get rid of the same number of toys as they were given to donate to charity.  That way they learn to help out the less fortunate and your house doesn’t get overtaken by Playschool and Matel. 

·         Think that just because your kid gets a toy as a gift that you have to allow them to play with it.  Hopefully the people that give your kids gifts kind of know your rules about what you do and don’t allow your kids to play with, but if somebody gives your kid a video game or a gun and you don’t want your kid to play with it, don’t.  There is no rule that says that just because your kid got a really bad gift from somebody that you have to let them have it. 

·         Listen to the top 40 station in the car with your kids..or even some country stations too.  There is nothing wrong with Usher, Katy Perry, or Maroon 5…for adults.  I actually love some of these artists.  I am also 27 years old.  But when your kids start singing, “I tried my best to feed her appetite..keep her coming every night…so hard to keep her satisfied, oh” you’ve got some problems.  Even the “Kidz Bop” songs are SO not appropriate for kids.  Just because you take out the explicit curse words, doesn’t mean singing about sex in a roundabout way is okay. Here’s Brittney’s lyrics to Toxic on the Kidz Bop Cd… "With a taste of your lips , I'm on a ride, You're toxic, I'm slipping under, With a taste of poison paradise, I'm addicted to you, Don't you know that you're toxic, And I love what you do, Don't you know that you're toxic." What?!  And that’s not even one of the worst ones…  If you don’t believe me, here’s an article to speak to that…

·         Sign your kids up for 4 different extra curricular activities that require you to chauffeur them across town 3-5 days a week…AND on weekends. And DON’T let other parents try to convince you that your kid won’t develop social skills or won’t be popular if they don’t get on the same team as all the “cool” kids.  The other parents might not phrase it exactly like that, but there IS a such thing as parenting peer pressure.  And don’t fall for the argument of, “Well, your child needs to be well-rounded so they need to be involved in lots of different activities.”  No, they don’t.  What adult do you know who plays baseball, soccer, hockey, and performs gymnastics, karate, plays the piano, and can watercolor paint?  Exactly my don’t.  That’s because everybody specializes in what they are best at.  Nobody is good at everything.  What makes you think your child will be either?  If you must try out different activities to see which ones your child is good at, do them one at a time.  If your child is under the age of 5 or 6 they probably don’t need to be involved in any organized sports or activities at all, for that matter.  Kids are so overscheduled these days that when they don’t have an organized activity scheduled to entertain them, they are bored and don’t know what to do.  Play outside…what’s that??! 
Another issue is the fact that the majority of extracurricular activities usually take place around dinner time.  Guess what that means…. …another trip through the drive through in order to feed your kids, because who has time to drive to the ball fields at 5:00, sit through a little league practice, AND have a healthy dinner cooked and ready to eat when your family gets home.  What, you say? You mean you can’t chop veggies and braise meats while you sit on the bleachers?  No, you can’t.  That’s why you get them happy meals on the way home from practice, which is why your kids won’t eat healthy food (because they know you’ll get them happy meals), and it’s also why your kids are starting to suffer from that common syndrome known as childhood obesity.  Yes, I know you can make a crock pot meal, but who does that EVERY NIGHT? Oh, and if you have more than one child, that most likely means you take one kid to one extracurricular event while the other parent takes the other kid.  Good…so now you’ve spent all day at work away from your spouse and now your family is still split up and you can’t spend time together, or eat a meal together.  That is a recipe for stress and poor family dynamics.  Not to mention, those t-ball games are often held on SUNDAY MORNINGS.  Good…let’s also send our kids the message that playing sports is more important than worshipping the Lord.  Yes, I know that learning teamwork is important. Your kid can learn that at school and by playing games with other children at school and family members at home.  Yes, I know that learning not to be a sore loser is important. This is also learned with Uno, Candy Land, and Mother May I. Yes, I know you want your kid to get a college scholarship. But since when does signing up your kid at age 3 for t-ball guarantee them a full ride to the university of their choice?  Exactly, it doesn’t.  Why don’t you focus more on making them SMART, so they can get an academic scholarship???  Being intelligent will serve them far better in life than being an athlete.  If you weren’t a star athlete, chances are your kid won’t be either…  And if you were a star athlete, it still doesn’t mean your kid will be one. Chances are, your kid might not want to follow in your footsteps.  All in all, sports can be fun and provide great experiences for your child, but don’t let sports (OR DANCE) run your life, your family’s life, your health, and your finances.  One more thing….you don’t need to buy your kid the $250 baseball bat from Sportsman’s Warehouse. It won’t make them a better athlete.  If you must have one, buy it on Craigslist.  And PLEASE don’t be that parent at the soccer  game who is yelling at the 6 year olds and getting snappy and aggravated at other parents for blocking your kid from making the winning goal.  Get a life!!! If you have nothing more exciting to look forward to in life than micromanaging your kid’s sporting event, then maybe you need another hobby.
       And don’t totally throw out music as a wonderful extracurricular activity opportunity.  Voice, piano, violin, etc. are wonderful skills for kids to learn.  And they are LIFELONG skills…   You can only play football while you’re young and less susceptible to injury (but as we all know, later in life you will have to have knee replacement surgery and will suffer from arthritis…but that’s beside the point).  You can play music and sing your entire life….and it’s not hazardous to your health. 
See article about how overscheduled kids = stressed out and broke families:

·         Let your kids watch the latest movies that come out just because they were created by PIXAR or DISNEY. Half of the “kid” movies that come out aren’t even really “kid” movies.  The majority of the humor is adult humor that your child wouldn’t understand anyway….. and farting noises, sarcasm, and witty one-liners are often cute and funny on-screen when OTHER kids are saying them, but not so much when your 4 year old starts to repeat them at inopportune times, like at school or in church.  Also, did anybody know that the movie industry is starting to phase out G Rated movies??  People forget that the movie industry is a business and that the wider an audience is for a film, the more money it will make.  ( )  This doesn’t necessarily mean the best viewing material for young kids.  Stick to the old movie classics that have respectful dialogue and no potty humor (Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, old Disney classics, etc).  Just because it’s animated, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

·         In relation to the above comment about movies, don’t think that because a TV program is on Cartoon Network, Disney, or Nickelodeon that it’s appropriate for children.  Use your judgment!  There is so much trash on those shows that promote violence, disrespect to adults, and even more inappropriate stuff that you don’t want your child seeing, repeating, or mimicking.  In addition, the fast pace nature of Spongebob and other cartoons like it have actually been proved to derail a child’s ability to focus and sustain attention after watching it.  See study… . TV Shows like that which feature frequent irony and sarcasm are also confusing to children. should be very limited, anyway.  But if they are going to watch it, it should be a slower paced show and educational in nature…preferably without advertisements. 

·         Make excuses for your child’s poor behavior…to anyone, but especially to their teacher.  Don’t say, “Well, she told me she’s really trying to tell the truth, so I know she’s working on it..” (No lie, a parent said this to me one time.) Um…no.  You don’t TRY to tell the truth.  You either tell the truth, or you don’t.  There is no TRY…  Honesty is an expectation.  And when your 5 year old child is up running around the restaurant don’t say, “It’s just so hard for him to sit still….but it’s okay though, he’s not bothering anybody.”  Yes, he is bothering people, because now, instead of focusing on their dinner conversation, the innocent bystanders are focusing on your child running around the restaurant.   I know sometimes kids have a hard time being still, so if your child is too young to be in a restaurant without a play area, then don’t take them.  But after your kid starts kindergarten (and probably before), sitting still and quiet for a period of time should be an expectation.

·         Sit with your child and do their homework with them…unless it involves you timing them for a reading fluency passage or calling our words for them to spell.  If it is a worksheet or reading homework, they should do that on their own.  If you sit right with them, they will continuously ask for help even when they don’t need it, and you will end up doing most of the work because you will get frustrated with them and realize that if you just do it, it will go faster, so you will. And then you’ve just defeated the purpose of your child having homework in the first place.

·         Think that just because your child asks for something from Santa Claus that you have to give it to them.  Explain to your kids that Santa Claus will get them some things that they want, but that he knows what is best for them.  Explain that Santa Claus will only get them toys that Mommy and Daddy allow them to have.  I never got half the things I asked for, but I knew that Santa would bring me what he wanted me to have, so I was always happy.  Half the things I got were better than  what I asked for anyway. 

·         Get carried away with the Elf on the Shelf thing at Christmas.  No, you won’t be a bad parent if you decide to do the elf....but don’t let it be a  “the elf is watching you so you better be good” thing.  Your kids should be good anyway..elf present or not.  Don’t hold the elf over their head or go to extreme measures to make the elf do ridiculous stunts or make messes.  If the elf makes messes or does naughty things, how do you expect your kid to not make messes and do naughty things?  If you do the elf, it should just be for fun and not a behavior motivator.

·         Have a united front with your kids.  Don’t make major (and even some trivial) parenting decisions without consulting your spouse.  If you know your husband or wife has told your kids no candy before dinner, for example, then don’t go behind their back and give it to them so you look like the “nice” parent.  If you know your husband or wife doesn’t let them listen to a certain type of music in the car, don’t say, “Oh it will be okay this one time…I’m sure mommy won’t mind.”  It undermines the other parent and makes them loose credibility.   If you let that happen, your kids will be the first to notice and will use that to drive a wedge between you.  And don’t ever say anything negative about a parenting decision your spouse made in front of your child.  That is deceitful, hurtful, and disrespectful to your spouse.  Do not let your kids ask you one thing (and get a no answer) and then go ask the other parent hoping for a different answer.  If one of you says no, that means no, and a consequence should follow if your child tries to ask the other parent. 

·         Pray with your kids every night.  Yes, it will be awkward sometimes. Yes, you may say the same things every single night.  No, your child may have absolutely no idea what you are saying.  Do it anyway.

·         Read your children bedtime stories and just stories in general.   Talk with them about the story…what lessons did the characters learn?  Have them make predictions, inferences, etc. as you read.  Read chapter books to them.  Read them Bible stories and talk about how God worked in people’s lives. 

·         Teach your kids bible verses…. and recite verses to them for encouragement during hard times, comfort during scared or unsettling times, and teaching when they get in trouble. 

·         Pray with your spouse every night.  Like the saying says, “The couple who prays together stays together!”  And plus, your life probably needs all the prayer it can get.

·         Let God and His Word be the source of wisdom for raising your children, and not the ways of this world.  What the world says and what other parents say may not be what God says.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how “cool” you are as a parent or how “popular” your parenting style is. At the end of the day, what matters is that we are raising our children to love the Lord, serve the Lord, walk in His ways, and teach others to do the same. If we can’t honestly say that, then we need to do some major re-evaluating of our priorities.  

   Involve your children in service opportunities and raise them to have a servant's heart.  Let them draw pictures and make cards for friends and family in the hospital, let them make cookies to give to the mailman to thank him, let them take goodies to the fire stations on holidays to show gratitude toward our service workers.  Bring them to volunteer at a soup kitchen, and take them on a missions trip to somewhere less fortunate than our own community. Help make them aware of how blessed they are and never let them forget it!

·         Practice handwriting with your child at home around age 4.  Teach them the CORRECT way to form letters.  Unfortunately, teachers don’t have enough time to teach handwriting effectively, and your child’s teacher will love you and them forever if you take the time to do this, because they will actually be able to read their work.  Nobody cares how awesome your child’s story is if it isn’t legible.  

·         Let your child hold pencils, pens, markers, crayons, scissors, etc. at an early age.  Yes, they make a mess. No, they will not cut on the lines at first.  But no one got good at anything by not practicing.  If you never let your kids do this, they will never be able to color in the lines, cut on the lines, or draw a straight line, and you will end up doing their school projects for them.  Not cool.

·         Buy your kids clothes at Goodwill and thrift stores….especially baby clothes.  I have found more perfectly beautiful smocked dresses than I will ever need for $5 or less at Goodwill.  Take it home, wash it, and put it on the baby.  No one will ever know….the baby will never know…  and everyone will just think that your child is very well dressed.  If you must, monogram it… and then it looks even more high class!   And don’t buy expensive shoes for your kids.  Their feet grow like weeds, and it’s just not worth the money.  

·         Bring up your children with an appreciation for nature.  Walk around the neighborhood and pick up pretty leaves.  Come back and sort them by color or make a leaf wreath. Look at rainbows and remind them of God’s promise.  Teach them to notice sunsets, breezes, the way grass feels underneath their toes…  teach them flower names.  Take them to nurseries and let them pick out plants for the yard.  Take them for walks in forests and pastures and let them see how beautiful rivers, lakes, and streams are…  Take them outside at night and let them look at the moon and the stars.  Point out constellations and teach them to find them.  Take your kids fishing. 

·         Plant a garden with your kids.  Let them pick out the veggies and fruits they want to try.  They will be more likely to eat them if they know they had a hand in growing them.  There is nothing more humbling than bring forth food from the soil.  And you will have organic produce for free!!  Budget friendly indeed.

·         Put your kids to bed at a decent hour…preferably 7:45 or 8:00.  Yes, your social night life won’t be as “happenin” but your kids will get a good night’s rest and therefore be better behaved in school. (I can’t tell you how many behavior issues I’ve solved by asking a parent to put their kid to bed 30 minutes, like adults, get cranky and irritable when they’re tired).  Also, you and your spouse will be able to have time together in the evenings, which you need to keep your marriage spicy! 

·         Go out on a date night at least once per month.  There is no excuse not to do this.  If you don’t have family that lives close by (which you do) to keep the kids, trade nights with a neighbor who also has kids (no $$ involved).  There are also a million and one blogs that have date night ideas that cost absolutely nothing!!  Your kids will be perfectly fine without you.  You are doing them a favor by getting away and spending time with your spouse.  Don’t convince yourself otherwise.  You can’t have a happy home if your marriage is on the brink of divorce.  Take all means necessary to put your marriage first.  Your kids will thank you later.

·         Be affectionate in front of your kids.  Kiss, hug, and embrace your spouse in front of your children. If anything makes kids feel more secure (as much as they deny it with the “Ewww gross!” comments) it is knowing their parents love each other. If your children learn any lessons about marriage it should be from you.  If you never kiss in front of your kids they will think that husbands and wives aren’t affectionate to one another, which isn’t true.  If you know you’ve hurt your spouse’s feelings, say you’re sorry in front of your kids.  It will help them to see that even adults make mistakes, but that you have to own up to your mistakes and make amends.  

·         Play music for your kids….from Day 1.  Instead of the TV being on in the background all day…..put on Pandora or a CD.  Let them listen to classical, jazz, etc.  Teach them what oldies music is.  Let them love Frank Sinatra!  Get them used to listening to the Christian radio stations.  No, don’t let them listen to old school gangsta rap…..until they are way older (and even then no explicit lyrics).  Some Jock Jams & Ace of Base may be appropriate at upper elementary age (think skating rink music..). No, don’t listen to the Top 40 radio station in the car with your 5 year old.  They have ears… and they can talk.  It is not “cute” or “funny” when your kid starts reciting Lady Gaga and Eminem lyrics at school.  Lyrics about drugs and sex should not be coming out of your kids’ mouths.

·         Make your kids play outside.  Yes, it is hot sometimes.  Put a pitcher of cold water and some cups on the back porch.  Buy a $10 blow up pool from Wally World and put 6 inches of water in it.  Or better yet..let them run around barefoot and naked (with underwear on, of course… and sunscreen).  It builds character.  Yes, it is cold sometimes.  Put them on a jacket and let them come inside periodically for some hot cocoa.  Tip:  Have a designated hold digging area in the yard.  Then you can’t get mad about it…   Also, see idea on Pinterest board about putting a chalkboard on your fence outside…great writing and drawing practice. 

·         Let your kids play in the rain.  Why not?  It’s fun and FREE!

·         Make your kids do chores.  No, do not ASK them to do chores.  Chores aren’t a choice.  They are an expectation and part of living in a home and being a contributing member of a family.  Do not bargain with your kids to do chores. They either do them, or there is a consequence. Make chores fun…like a race.  Whoever can match up the most socks wins!  Whoever cleans up their room the best (with no stuffing things in the closet or under the bed of course..) gets an extra glass of chocolate milk!  I mean…simple stuff here, people.  See article about appropriate chores for every age:

·         Spank your kids if it is necessary.  Don’t overuse this technique, though, or it will lose its effectiveness.  Time out is a joke in most cases.  Don’t keep too many toys in your kid’s room, because if you send them to their room it will be fun.  You want it to be boring.  If it’s boring they won’t want to get sent to their rooms and they will think twice about misbehaving.  Don’t ever be afraid to give a consequence if your child is out in public and misbehaves.  If kids think you won’t punish them when you’re out in public, they will push their limits, which they do.  If they know you’ll jerk them up, take them out to the car or the bathroom (no matter who is around or what they may think of you), and give them a spanking, they will be less likely to push the limits. 

·         INSIST upon good manners!!!!!  Insist upon Yes Ma’ams and No Ma’ams and Yes Sirs and No Sirs.  Insist on pleases and thank yous.  If they don’t say it there should be some kind of a consequence.  Or if they say potty words or worse, curse words, they should get the soap in the mouth treatment or maybe a spoonful of vinegar….that would be nasty (but also good for you according to Dr. Oz).  Manners matter.

·         Follow through with what you say you’re doing to do.  If you tell your kids they can’t go to so-and-so’s birthday unless they clean their room, then don’t take them.  Even if so-and-so’s mom is your BFF and YOU really want to go to the party, still don’t take them.  Or if you told your kid that if they didn’t get smiley faces all week long at school that they couldn’t spend the night with a friend, and they got smiley faces 4 out of 5 days, but not 5 out of 5 days like you originally said, don’t say things like, “Well…I know you tried your best this week, so you can still go.”  That’s basically telling them that you’ll settle for mediocrity and that doing just enough will get you by.

·         Cook at home at lot and eat dinners as a family.  After your kids are old enough let them help cook.  Eat our minimally.  This will help the budget, and it will make eating out a BIG DEAL! If you eat out all the time, it’s no longer a novelty.  We never ate out growing up.  So my mom made it this huge deal.  We were always on our best behavior because we wanted to make sure she took us out again.  She was so smart…

·         Take your kids out on date nights occasionally.  Daddy Daughter, Mommy Daughter, Daddy-Son, & Mommy Son dates are a must!  This will build personal relationships with your kids and special memories.

·         Make your kids write thank you notes.  I am bad about this sometimes...  Maybe I can redeem myself vicariously through my children. :) 

   Well, in summary, I think that sums up the major points…. There may be more to come.  But basically, be smart, use common sense, and trust in God’s grace.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and you won’t be any exception to that rule.  You will make mistakes, and you will learn from them.  But above all, show your little ones they are loved and do what is BEST for them….not in the moment, but in the grand scheme of life.  Things may not turn out like you planned, but everything will always be in God's plan...which is even better.
         Love, Pre-Mommy Self

PS:  If any of you have additional helpful Christian parenting tips and ideas, I’d love to hear!