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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gingerbread Man Science Project

Christmas time is my favorite time of year.  So, it's only natural that some of my lessons in December revolve around Christmassy themes.  While searching some holiday worksheets, I came across this adorable one on
It's an adorable worksheet you can buy/download, the involves cause and effect, prediction and science.  It's about what happens to a gingerbread cookie if you submerge it in water.

Here's what you need:
- Gingerbread Science Experiment worksheet (1/child)
- Gingerbread cookies
- Large clear glass
- Water


1. Pass out the worksheets.  Follow the instructions.  Children are to draw a picture of what the gingerbread man looks like originally.  I bought Little Betty brand gingerbread cookies.  They turned out to be perfect!  I used one for the experiment, then passed them out to the kids as a snack later.  After they drew their first picture, they were to draw a picture of their prediction of what would happen to the gingerbread cookie if he were put in a glass of water.  Most of them said things like "he'll get soggy", "his frosting will come off".  Time for the experiment!

2. Place gingerbread cookie in glass of water.

3.  Have the whole class watch what happens!  It's really cool!  They all helped narrate what what going on.  First the sprinkles dissolved and turned the water green.  Then the frosting started to come off, and then the cookie became all gooey; which the kids all got to touch.  Then, finally, he completely dissolved!

4. In the third box, kids were to draw a picture of what ACTUALLY happened.  Then they all compared it to their predictions.  All in all a really fun science project!  I highly recommend it.  My kiddos loved it! :)

10 Tips On Having An Elegant, Budget-Conscious Wedding

Hey everyone!
So, my handsome and genius brother is marrying his gorgeous fiancee in August.  We are honored, that they have asked us to be a part of their special day!  This does, however mean that I've been reminiscing, and thinking about our wedding.
Which brings me to my confession.  I am a wedding freak.  Dan has to remind me, whenever I talk to someone getting married, that unless they specifically asked for my opinion, I shouldn't be giving it.  I would never want to marry anyone but Dan, but I would be happy to renew our vows... as many times as humanly possible.  
I have entire weddings planned on pinterest, and I honestly LOVED planning our wedding!  We had a limited budget, but I was determined to have an elegant and unique wedding.  There is nothing that I would change, everything went off without a hitch, and we had the best time!
I learned a lot, and thought I would share my knowledge with you.

So, here are my 10 tips for having your own perfect, elegant, budget-conscious wedding:

1. Get a wedding planner (book- not person) - I found mine and Barnes and Noble.  It's called "Simple Stunning Wedding Organizer".  You can find it here.  It became a life saver!  I could put all my information in one place, and it even had pockets for things like business cards, fabric swatches, brochures, etc.  It had pages and pages for invitees, with boxes to check concerning their RSVP, gift, thank you note... SO HELPFUL!!!  It's a must!  

2. Find out/figure out you budget - and STICK TO IT - This one was a big one.  It sickens me, when I hear how much people spend on their weddings!  Between my parents, my hugely generous uncle, and myself we had about $5500 - $6000.  Considering the average wedding in America is over $20,000, that is a very small budget.  But keep reading, to find out how to make it go as far as it can.

3. Have a long engagement - but nail down a date as soon as possible!  Of course, this isn't possible for everyone.  However, I found that being engaged for 2 years was a blessing.  The reason?  Sales.  With that long to plan a wedding, I could track things as they went on sale, and buy them at their best price.  Best example?  My wedding dress.  It was originally an $800 dollar dress at David's Bridal, which I watched go on sale, all the way to $99.99!!!  What a steal!  This is a really great thing to remember if your colors/themes revolve around a specific holiday, or a holiday color.  For example, if you're incorporating pink, wait until the after-Valentine's Day sale to buy things like ribbon, candles, candies, paper, favor bags, etc.  If you're having a spring wedding, if you're already engaged at least a year in advance, you can snatch up those seasonal sale items.

My gorgeous dress!
I fell in love with the beaded back the minute I saw it!
I also liked that it wasn't strapless, like all the other
styles you see around.

4. Be smart about flowers - Flowers tend to take up a huge chunk of your budget.  So to keep things inexpensive, think seasonal, and local for your best prices.  Another great option, is to buy the flowers whole-sale, and have someone who is creative, or knows a thing or two about arrangements, put them together.  That's what we did!  I wanted these specific calla lilies, called Diva Maria.  I found a wholesaler,  I got ALL my flowers (all bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, pew decorations and centerpieces) for $500.  Pacific Callas delivered my flowers a couple days before the wedding, and then my mom arranged them.  Here's another quick idea concerning flowers; I just had callas as my pew decorations, and centerpieces (they're so elegant all on their own).  So, I had someone take off the pew decorations, and run them over to the reception before everyone else got there.  Got double use out of them! :) 

Our fabulous pew decorations.
My beautiful niece, and a great shot of my bouquet.
Bridesmaids' bouquets

Another great shot of my flowers. :)
5. DIY - Not everyone is crafty, and I totally get that.  But there are a couple things you definitely shouldn't spend a whole lot of money on.  One is invitations, and other paper products, such as programs.  Michael's and other craft stores have boxed sets of everything you need to do print your own.  THEN, if you use your coupons - even more savings!!! They always have 40% off one regular priced item ones.  (Download the Hobby Lobby and Michael's apps.  You can thank me later.)  I also made my bridesmaids', mothers' and grandmothers' thank you gifts.  I made them jewelry sets.  You can see them in the picture of the bridesmaids' bouquet.  If there's anything you're crafty at, put it to good use.

6. Choose what's most important to you - splurge there! - This also means cut back on things you don't feel are as important.  We splurged on the food (Dan's most important), photography (my most important), Georgetown Cupcakes and the calla lilies.  If you're smart about it though, even your "splurges" can be reduced. I already told you about the flowers.  Well, as far as the cupcakes, we got married in D.C., so the cupcake thing worked out well.  Their cupcakes are $35/dozen, we got ten dozen - so the cake was only $350!  Other wedding cakes can cost $1000 or more.  So, score!  Also, a friend of mine is a photographer, so she just charged us $500, and the plane ticket to get there.  I had miles saved up, and bought her ticket with that.  Voila! :)  So, be smart with where you spend your money.  Things that weren't important - music.  I know, I know, terrible!  But it really wasn't.  So, we had a playlist. No band, no DJ... saved a ton that way!  Also, our families don't drink, so we didn't spend money on alcohol, which is also a generally large wedding cost that we avoided.  We didn't rent a limo or car - my uncle has a really nice Infinity, and was gracious enough to drive us.  So, spend where it matters, forget about what doesn't.

Love this shot! 
One of my favorites!
Georgetown Cupcakes!!!
Our cupcake cake! (My cousin baked the top layer, 
and a friend built the stand)
7. Have your pictures taken before the ceremony - I love the idea of the groom not seeing the bride until she walks down the aisle.  However, people really dislike long waits between ceremonies and receptions.  So, when people get their pictures taken before the ceremony, it lets you and your guests go right to the reception.  Also, if you have your pictures taken before the ceremony, you will look your best.  All your makeup and hair will be fresh.  Also, you can go to more places, and take your time.  You won't feel as rushed as you would if you were doing it between the ceremony and reception.  We went to the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol Building, and even the actual Georgetown Cupcake shop!

8. EAT - make it your maid of honor and best man's job to get you and your new hubby plates of food.  Then, actually sit down, eat, and THEN make the rounds.  It'll help you stay calm, not jittery, and as much as you're spending on it, you want to at least try it.

9. Have a "Day of Coordinator" - ask an aunt, cousin or friend (not bridesmaid) you trust, to be your right hand on the big day.  Go over your schedule, have them direct people to the reception, run pew decorations over to reception (as mentioned earlier), start playlists, make sure people get seated, and things start on time.  Make sure it's someone who can make decisions, and whose decisions you trust.  Mine were two dear friends, who happened to be sisters.  One of them even did my makeup!  They were so helpful, and I appreciated them more than I can say.  Hopefully this goes without saying, but DO make sure you show your gratitude.  I gave gift cards, and thank you notes.

10. Relax on your special day! - The more you have planned ahead, the less you'll be worried about it on the actual day!  I wasn't at ALL stressed, because I figured, if hadn't been planned yet, and didn't go the way I wanted, no amount of planning would've helped.  At the end of the day, if you're marrying the man of your dreams, and your family and loved ones are around you, that's all that really matters!

You may kiss your wife!
So, basically plan ahead, be a savvy spender, and enjoy your day!
Please, share any tips or ideas, of what made your wedding day (or planning) perfect!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Becoming a Mother of Prayer

(Please understand, I am not trying to be insensitive to someone who has had troubled pregnancies, or has gone through the pain of a miscarriage.  I can’t imagine the hurt and heartache you must’ve gone through, and I am so sorry for your loss.  I am not trying to give an explanation on why God allows certain things in our lives.  I am simply doing some research on prayer through motherhood, and applying it to my situation, and hoping it might help someone else along the way too.)

Something like this is so hard to start, so I’m just going to jump right in.
When we first found out about being pregnant, we did so, because I was in excruciating pain, and we’d just started trying, and we wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking any medication that could potentially hurt a baby.  Well, as it turned out, I was pregnant!  I chalked up my pain to the pregnancy, because I’d never been pregnant before, I’d never had these pains before - ergo, that must be why.
The pain didn’t go away however, in fact it got worse.  The only thing that would help was laying in the bathtub under a warm shower, until it passed, which was anywhere between 20-90 minutes.  I so wanted the pain to go away, but I was willing to endure it, for the baby.  When you’re pregnant, and emotional, you worry about things that don’t even make sense- like wishing the baby away.  So, one day, I was laying in the bathtub, crying from pain, whispering “baby stay, pain go, baby stay, pain go”.  I felt a sense of peace, and warm, comforting words filled my heart, “I have not given, only to take away”.  I cannot tell you what those words meant to me!  
In the end, we had to go to the E.R. (we were worried about a possible tubal pregnancy).  They said everything with the fetus was okay, but I had a bad UTI, that was causing all that pain.  I finally got the right kind of medicine, and slowly but surely, the pain went away.  But that promise, that hug from my Heavenly Father stayed with me, and got me thinking about how I wanted His voice to be a constant during this pregnancy, and into my baby’s life.  About how I wanted to be a mother of prayer.
I started thinking about mothers in the Bible.  (This is a side-note, and not what I’m focusing on today, but I think it’s so interesting, how prominent infertility, and the promise of a baby is in the Bible.  Check it out, it’s really powerful.  Sarah, Hannah, Samson’s mother...)   I decided to take a closer look at Samuel’s mother, Hannah.  I’ve always found her very interesting, and of course knew the basics of her story.

 1. Hannah prayed before she became pregnant.  

In her case, it was because of infertility.  If you look at 1 Samuel 1, you will see the picture of a woman, who is deeply beloved by her husband, in spite of her infertility (which basically would’ve made her of “no value” to most other men).  She is one of two wives (something I don’t have to deal with, haha).  The other wife has given their husband many children, and openly taunts her with it.  Although this “sister wife” situation is not something we as women deal with today, we can all understand the feelings of inadequacy, and longing.  So Hannah prays.  She prays for the deepest desire of her heart, which is a baby.  

I love this part.  God has a special place for a mother’s prayer.  Eli comes over, thinks she’s drunk, scolds her.  So she tells him about her wanting a baby.  As we know, by this time, God isn’t speaking through Eli anymore.  So, when Eli tells her “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”, he’s not giving her a “thus sayeth the Lord”.  He’s basically saying, “good luck”.  But you know what?  Hannah didn’t need a priest to be a go-between.  God heard her prayer, and like it says in 1 Samuel 1:19, God remembered her.
Dan and I prayed long and hard before we decided to start trying to have a baby.  Were we ready to be parents?  Is “now” a financially responsible time to do this?  (Not “Can we afford this?”, because if you wait for that day, you probably will never get there.  But I always say, God gave you a brain to use it.  If you’re barely able to put food on the table, and are about to get evicted, wisdom says you should probably hold off on adding another person to that mix.)  I don’t think as a Christian you can take any step like this without prayerful consideration.  

2. Hannah prayed before the promise came true

In 1 Samuel 1:19, it also says that Hannah praised the Lord.  Even before the promise came to fruition, she was praising God.  That’s how I felt in that moment I described earlier in the shower.  Although I was feeling worried, and wasn’t sure of anything, God promised me a baby.  He promised me that he wasn’t just toying with my emotions.  
With Sarah, you can see the opposite.  When God and the angels went to visit Abraham, to give him the promise about Isaac, Sarah laughed in disbelief.  Instead of believing God, and praising him for the promise, she didn’t have faith.
It’s hard to have faith without any evidence, but at that point it’s not faith anymore.  However, when we do have faith, and we see God’s promise fold out, what a testimony that is to others, and to ourselves later on!  When something arises that we need faith to believe, we can look back at this time, and know that God brought us through, and that he will do the same again.  It’s like in Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me in my unbelief.”

3. Hannah dedicated Samuel to God

Hannah didn’t only accept God’s gift of a son, she gave him back to God.  In this story, it is a tangible, physical “giving back” of Samuel, where he moves into the tabernacle, and essentially is raised by Eli.  However, in our situation, it is a much more spiritual, emotional, yet just as real situation.  Just like it says in Deut. 11:19, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  We need to remember, our children are not only ours.  As followers of Christ, how can we accept a priceless gift, such as a child, and simply leave it at that!?  It is our duty to take that gift, and raise our baby in the knowledge of God. 

4. Hannah prayed after Samuel was born

There’s a whole section in 1 Samuel 2, that is dedicated to her prayer.  It’s so beautiful, I’m just going to let you read it.

Hannah’s Prayer
Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.
“There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
“Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.
“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.
“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.
“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
“It is not by strength that one prevails;
    those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

That’s the kind of mother I want to be.  A mother of prayer.  And that’s my prayer for our Baby Boy.