Thursday, February 28, 2013

50 Toddler Easter Basket Ideas

Even though here in Kansas City we have a solid 2 feet of snow on the ground...Easter is still around the corner!
I love Easter!
I am, first and foremost, so thankful for the reason we celebrate Easter. That my Savior died and rose again for me! To take my sins! That he conquered death! So amazing!
I also love the changing of spring. The pastel colors.
And the candy.
Oh the candy.

This is Levi's second Easter and I'm so excited for the Easter egg hunts (now that he can walk!) and making him a fun basket!
At first I was stumped at what to put in a basket for a barely-toddler. Then I walked around Target, WalMart and Michaels and got some great ideas.... 
You can really spend as much or as little as you like.
For me... since Levi has a Winter birthday, Easter is a great excuse to get some fun summer toys and clothes.

So here's some ideas:

* Stuffed Bunny or Chick
* Easter- themed books (see list below)
* Bible (The Jesus Storybook Bible is highly recommended)
* Chocolate Bunny
* Toddler Snacks (gold fish, fruit snacks, puffs, etc.)

Summer Fun
* New swimsuit
* Sunglasses
* Beach towel
* Water wings
* Pool toy
* Sand bucket and shovel
* Sidewalk chalk
* Kite
* Water/ Sand Table
* Lawn chair
* Tent

* Misc. board books
* Educational DVDs

* Color Wonder marker set
* Crayons
* "My First Paint Set"
* Construction Paper
* Stickers
* Apron

* Sippy Cups
* Bibs
* PJs
* Summer clothes
* Shoes
* Easter outfit
* Shampoo/Lotion
* Girl accessories (hair bows, etc.)

*Mega Bloks
* Bath toys
* Small instruments
* Little People
* Play food
* Mr. Potato Head
* Disney DVDs
* Small cars
* Slinky
* Stuffed animal
* Doll

* Tickets to the Zoo
* Membership to Gymboree
* Tickets to local children's museum

"What is Easter?"
"The Berenstein Bears and the Easter Story"
"Pat the Bunny"

Don't forget to check Etsy as well for great, handmade items for your child!

Do you have a tradition that gets put into your kids' Easter baskets?
Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Now Entering Toddlerhood

Levi is changing so much!
Everyday I see him growing into a little boy and losing his "babyness".
{insert tears here}

Seeing him grow is so amazing though.
He is now walking and talking like crazy.
He points at everything and asks, "That?"
His vocabulary now includes:
Dad, Mama, bye, hi, hey, Gigi (grandma), dogs, clock, duck, eyes, no (not too thrilled with that one..)

He loves to play.
{He loves playing peek-a-boo!}
He is all over his playroom.
{So thankful we have that to contain the mess!}
{He loves balls and anything with wheels!}

He is so silly.
He laughs whenever everyone else laughs.
He is quite the social creature.
He waves to everyone he sees.
And waits until they wave back.
{Levi and his friends having a PJ party while the grown ups watched the Oscars. Isn't this the cutest thing ever?!}

It's amazing to see how much he has grown and is developing!
We are also starting to see the beginning of his sinful nature coming out.
He currently likes to throw things at dinner.
We tell him, "No...on the table."
{He will dangle his sippy cup or handful of food over the edge of his high chair...looking at us waiting for a reaction}
Tonight, after we said "No....on the table." He shouted, "No!"
And that's when it hit me....
...we have a toddler.

So Mama's of toddlers (or former toddlers!)...I need some tips!
I've perused Pinterest for many ideas on activities, discipline, toys, etc. but I'd love to hear some insight from tried and true Mama's!
Any tips you have in raising a toddler (books, toys, activities) would be much appreciated!!

I absolutely love seeing his personality develop every day and so thankful to get to be his Mama!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Day

So, Kansas City has gotten a foot of snow and counting.
Possibly up to 15" by this evening.
Pretty crazy.

Needless to say, Mr. Free and I (and Levi, by default) have a Snow Day.
And I can bet, tomorrow too...

So, we are snowed in...what shall I do with my time?

So far we have...

Enjoyed homemade waffles and eggs for Brunch
(Levi slept in....a Snow Day Miracle!!!)

I've made homemade hot cocoa (recipe here!) and sat and watched the snow as Levi took his morning nap.

What else is on the agenda over the next few days of being stuck inside?

....make a ton of laundry detergent. my booty off
.......lots of playtime
.....even more snuggle time
....and naps. Lots of naps.
And if I get really bored....may even clean my house! (haha)

Luckily, we have baked potato soup in the fridge, a whole pile of leftover waffles and extra hot cocoa.

I'm thankful (despite the dangerous conditions) for these days to simply be at home with my family.
Best wishes Kansas City!
Praying everyone is home safe!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Pouf Giveaway Winner....

There were lots of entries!
Congrats to Amy!

{Amy....shoot me an email at and let me know your fabric preference for your pouf!}

Thank you all who entered! And you all will not go empty will receive a coupon code via Facebook for 10% off your order!

Thanks and congrats!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated Family Schedule

Now that Levi is a bit older (technically a toddler....yikes!)
we have had to revamp our schedule.

I am not a naturally organized person, but I am weirdly into schedules.
Time is my thing.

Levi is now on a pretty strict 2 nap schedule.
When we deviate from the schedule, he has been having night terrors.
(If you've never experienced those with your child, be thankful. They are terrible.)
And his bedtime is now earlier than it used to be.

So our morning routine has changed, and I needed to get it down on paper.

Having a written schedule really helps keep me on track, helps me achieve my daily goals (quiet time, Etsy shop management, daily chores) and helps Levi stay on track. He is a much, much happier child when on a schedule.

And a big part of our daily schedule revolves around our daily chore chart.
I (and often Mr. Free) focus on one area a day to keep our house in order.
We do laundry as needed.

So do you keep a daily schedule? Does it help you or your little ones? Have any time management tips to share?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Love Story

I totally copied the idea for this post from Amy over at He Graces.
Sharing our love stories is the perfect idea for Valentine's Day!

Our love story is a total God thing.
I am forever thankful for the man He chose for me, and the lack of heartache I was saved from.
Praise the Lord.

So....the story begins in the early '90s.
Mr. Free was 5, I was 6.
We both began going to the same church.
The first 10 years of our lives knowing one another were pretty uneventful.
We had those kiddie church musicals together, we share the same friends, but nothin crazy.

In high school, my little sister actually had a crush on him.
I thought she was crazy.
I said he was "gross". Haha.

While in high school, I of course, longed for a boyfriend.
I was very set though, that dating should lead to marriage.
I shouldn't date someone I couldn't consider marrying.

And I had always felt that I would marry someone from our church.

I distinctly remember as a teenager laying on my bed, trying to "figure out" which boy at church I would marry.
I remember getting to Mr. Free, and saying "No...his dad has diabetes, and my dad has diabetes, so our kids could get diabetes. Won't marry him." (Little did I know a few years later, I'd have diabetes myself!) high school we shared the same friends.
His best friend, and my best friend began to date.

We went to church camp.

At church camp, there was trouble in paradise.
Mr. Free and I would sit together at lunch and discuss what we could do to help our friends relationship.

And somehow....we both began to be interested in one another.

I remember on the way home from camp...riding in the sweet church van, I looked at Mr. Free and just saw him differently. He was no longer like a brother. He meant more. we are in the year 2002. Instant Messanger was all the rage.
Mr. Free was all I could think of.
He was so dreamy.

I was IMing his best friend and happened to mention my feelings for him.
I felt silly.
Then, went and ate dinner and came back to the computer.
His friend has messaged back, "He likes you too."

I danced.

No boy had ever liked me.
At least, no boy worth my time.

I was giddy.

We spent so much time together.
Then, Oct. 18, 2002....he asked me to be his girlfriend.

I had just been diagnosed with type 1, so my life was a little crazy.
The huge blessing, was that his dad had type 1. 
The thought of a "diseased girl" didn't scare him one bit.
In fact, it was normal to him!

Our parents were already friends through church, and we knew each other's families.
Mr. Free and I dated through high school and at the end of college, we got engaged and married.

Funny facts:
-My mom gave Mr. Free trombone lessons in our living room when he was in elementary school. I'd sit at the top of the stairs and watch.
- I used to get Mr. Free's big sister's hand-me-downs. It was like we were meant to be sisters : )

We began dating 10.18.02
We got engaged 12.23.06
We got married 6.9.07
We welcomed our son 2.8.12 

Mr. Free and I have been "together" for going on 11 years now.
We've had many, many ups and downs.

High school
Finding Careers
Getting Engaged
Buying a Home
Fertility Testing
Our Baby Boy

God totally picked Mr. Free just for me.
He is such an example of a godly man.
He is a prayer warrior, and I am so thankful for that.
He knows how to love people.
He doesn't know a stranger.
He shows the gospel to others with hospitality.
He knows how to live and love life.
He fully trusts in God.

He has been my rock as we have gone through life.
I am so thankful God chose him for me.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013

motherhood: reflection on the first year

Now that we've entered our 2nd year of parenting, I thought I'd take time and reflect upon our first year as a family of 3.
Obviously, I am not an expert by any-stretch-of-the-imagination.
Any tips or tricks I mention, work for us.
Every mama, daddy and baby are unique.
Disclaimer over.

    Levi is 1!
That's a huge milestone!
He has had all his "first" holidays. This Valentine's Day will be his second! So crazy!
He is able to walk.
He still prefers crawling, but will walk short distances between things (maxing at about 8 steps).
He is really, really trying to talk.
He has learned several words: dada, mama dog, cat, duck, no, yes, hi, hey, clock (his new favorite), Jo Jo (one of his friends)
He has 4 teeth
He is fully weaned. Now eats fully like a toddler, and has sippy cups of whole cow's milk.

So, I've learned this past year that truly...the way a baby is fed is nobodies business.
Mothers need support.
Support and encouragement to try breastfeeding.
Support if supplementation is needed.
Support if breastfeeding just doesn't work.
All mom's want their babies to be healthy.
And the way to achieve that looks different for each mama and child.
I tried the full spectrum of feeding with Levi.
Nursing, supplementing, pumping, all formula, etc.
I tried.
Levi grew.
I felt so much guilt that I couldn't exclusively breastfeed.
And when people would innocently ask about nursing, it would often crush me. 
(hormones, anyone?)
I have a great little support system who I could turn to and talk about feeding issues, but when people whom I didn't have a strong relationship would give their "advice", it would often be hurtful.
So yeah.... as long as babies are fed and healthy...fine by me.
I will sure give breastfeeding my all if we have another baby, and I have learned a lot along the way with Levi.

With solids?
It worked great for Levi, and I recommend it as long as you are comfortable with it and your child has an interest.

I've done several posts on cloth diapering.
You can check them out here and here.
In a nutshell....we love it.
It's work. It's not always the most convenient. But it sure saves a lot of money, and his fluffy booty is adorable.
We will definitely cloth diaper any more babies we raise.

I still feel very blessed to be able to work part-time.
It has been a great balance for us.
God has provided for us financially, both through my teaching job and my Etsy shop.
Being home more with Levi and able to bless our home has been fantastic.
I wish I could be a 100% stay-at-home mom, but it just wouldn't work for us right now.
So I am truly thankful at how the Lord has provided for us. The perfect job and with more time home with my little man.'s what we personally couldn't have done without the first year. In no particular order.
1. Wubbanub. Levi loves, loves, loves his. Can't speak highly enough of them.
2. Breast pump. We had a very personal relationship this past year. I'm happy to say we've decided to break up for awhile : )
3. Baby gates. We have a wild man.
4. Toys. Any and every toy. This boy loves to play.
5. Cloth diapers. See above.
6. Diaper sprayer...again...see above.
7. Ergo carrier. Hands down the best carrier. Perfect for those times that he needed to be held, but I needed my hands.
8. Sound machine. 
9. Baby book. This has been worth it's weight in gold. It holds many details of his first year that I wouldn't be able to remember on my own.
10. Boppy. This was great during nursing as well as while he learned to sit up.

- Keep the romance with your husband. Your roles have forever changed, but your marriage is forever and by far the greatest gift you can give your child. Keep dating. Keep surprising.
- Know that each season will pass. I thought not sleeping would be forever. Nope. 3 months into it all and sleeping was back to relatively normal. And you know what? A teeny tiny piece of me misses being up with that tiny snuggly newborn. So try not to focus on the negatives of the season, but the little blessings that will soon be missed.
- Take lots and lots of videos. Photos are fantastic, but don't capture the little baby's noises and gestures. Those little videos on my phone of Levi as a newborn are so so precious to me. His little sneezes and spazzy movements are so adorable.
- Don't buy too many baby clothes. They really, really do grow fast.
- Don't give into Mama guilt. So what if you give your child formula, had a c-section, work full time, don't make your own baby food, have non-organic baby sheets, and you haven't lost your baby weight. Your child is loved. You've done everything you can for them, and that is definitely enough.
- Pray. Pray for your child. Pray for yourself. Pray for your husband. Pray for anyone who will influence your child. Pray for their future. Pray for wisdom. Pray.
- Get your finances as stable as possible before baby comes. Because there will always be new, unexpected expenses.
- Get support. From your mom, mother-in-law, best friend, neighbor, whomever. You'll need as much wisdom as you can.
- Take care of yourself.  Go to Starbucks. Alone. Take a nice long shower. Let Daddy have some bonding time with his child, while you take care of you. A happy, calm, Mommy is by far the best Mommy a kid can have.

So yes. I am "that mom" that cries at everything.
I always thought "those moms" were ridiculous.
I cry rocking him to sleep...knowing he won't be this little forever.
I cry packing away his clothes that don't fit.
I cry looking at old photos of him.
I cry packing away bottles and "baby items" he no longer needs.
I am scared for my family for when he graduates high school.
I will be a blubbery mess that entire year.
You have all been warned.

Motherhood is such an extreme personal exercise.
You're pushed to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. All while recovering from childbirth and attempting a whole new season of life.
You learn so much about yourself and your spouse.
You learn a lot about your family.
You learn a lot about your faith.
It is the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge I have ever encountered.
And it's only begun.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cute Ways To Carry Your Cash

It's been working great for us, and has really gotten our budget on track.

The only problem........
How do carry all that darn cash and keep it organized!

I had done the multiple paper envelopes in my purse bit.
But that just got messy.

The envelopes got tattered, and it just didn't work.

Then, I moved to one of these accordion files.

But the change would slip through the cracks.

So...I looked around online for a solution.
There are several DIY ideas out there.
(feel free to google)

But this is what I came up with....

It is very loosely based on this tutorial here.
It has 6 Velcro closure envelopes.
Each envelope has a stiff felt "tag" on the side, to label each category.

These are our cash categories for our budget:
-Grocery (this is food, pets and household items combined)
-Giving (tithe, presents, misc. giving)

So....I have a bonus envelope which contains my check book and Costco card.

I absolutely love this little wallet.
It is so much cuter, and more practical then any of my other solutions.
And this cash system is so, so good.
I highly recommend it to any one!

How do you organize your cash system?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

To My Sweet Baby Boy

Dear Levi,
I can't believe tomorrow you are 1! You have grown into such a big boy!
You have been the biggest blessing to your Dad and I. This past year has been the best year by far.
We were nervous to become parents. We didn't know what to expect.
But we fell in love. With you. And each other.
The road to getting you here was hard. Daddy and I cried a lot before you. (Mostly Mommy). We wanted you so badly. We prayed and prayed. When we found out you were coming, and that you were healthy, we were so thankful. So thankful to God for the blessing that you are.
The day you were born was the most beautiful day. To hear you cry and that you were healthy was the most fantastic moment. And seeing just how adorable you were was the icing on the cake. So many people commented on just how cute you were. I agreed.
You have been the sweetest baby boy. You snuggle with me when I need it most. You love to smile and wave 'hello' to people. Everyone who meets you falls in love with you.
All the ladies at church think you are pretty special. They often argue on who got to hold you during nursery :)
You are the most loved child I know. Your Dad and I love you to the moon and back. You also have the most amazing family who would do anything for you. You are blessed with many grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncle and cousins.
You also have many "aunts" and "uncles", who may not be related to you by blood, but love you like they were.
So many people pray for you, sweet boy. You are covered in prayer constantly. Prayers for protection, health, and most of all, a heart that will love the Lord.
Even though you turning 1 is bittersweet, I am beyond excited to see you grow. To see you learn new things, to see your personality, and to see you know Jesus as your own savior.
I thank God every day for the privilege of being your Mama.
I have tried to cherish each moment and season as it comes. From the sleepless nights as a newborn (special cuddle time), to playing together (you love peek a boo!). I know that each phase that passes will only bring an even better phase.
You are very special. You are very loved.
I love you forever, sweet boy.
Your Mama

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Levi's Airplane 1st Birthday Party: Time flies!

This past weekend we celebrated Levi's first birthday.
(He actually turns one this Friday, but it worked better with our schedule)

It is so crazy he is one!
On one hand, it went so fast.
On the other, it's hard to imagine life before him!

It was great! Our tiny home was packed!
We had around 40 guests in our teeny tiny home.
It was very 'cozy'.
But it warmed my heart to see how many friends and family love our son so much.

So, a few months ago I decided on an Airplane Theme party.
"Time Flies....Levi is 1!"

I got to work looking around Pinterest and blogs for ideas.
And here is how it played out:

I decided on Red and Aqua. It seemed a lot of airplane things were in those colors, and those were the colors of his bedroom too.

And amazingly, Target had a whole Christmas selection of entertaining items in these colors that didnt look like Christmas at all! I scored all our paper goods and decorations for 50-70% off!

For invitations, I made boarding passes in Google Docs, then cut them and made little ticket holders out of scrapbook paper and ribbon.
Really easy, and cheap!

I made party hats for all the kids.
I bought plain party hats, then used wrapping paper that was in the same collection as the paper goods and "wrapped" the hats. I then punched out coordinating scrapbook paper and attached the child's first initial. I then took a bit of red garland and glued it to the top. Levi's had extra garland and a '1'.

Let's look at the decorations:

{I loved the balloons}
{The favors were airplane shaped cookies and glider planes for the kids.}
The chalkboard sign was made using cardboard, chalkboard contact paper and a chalk pen.
{Mr. Free made this adorable little plane for the kids to play with out of a box and some spray paint}
The Little Prince's throne

The Food
We decided to keep it simple.
We were having a large amount of guests and couldn't afford to feed a full meal.
We decided to just do cake and ice cream with a few snacks

We had "in flight snacks"
{pretzels, cheez its, cookies}
Birthday cake balls
"Jet Fuel" punch

And, aside from Levi, the stars of the show:
Levi's awesome birthday cake and smash cake
A good friend of mine makes custom cakes, and did a phenomenal job on Levi's cakes!
We were absolutely thrilled!
They were just as delicious as they were cute!

Now, party pics
A house full of people!
We bought an airplane book and had all our guests sign it for him.
We want to do that each a book that goes with the party theme and have guests sign it.

Opening presents
Poor buddy got so sleepy opening all his presents

Smash Cake Time
Pretty good...
This hat is slowing me down...
....and so are these hands!
All done...ready for a bath!

The party went so well.
All the kids seemed to have a great time.
It was so awesome to celebrate this amazing little boy and surviving our first year as a family of 3!