Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First Visit to the "Family Store"

I shared our new Happy Saint Reward System last week.  (In case you'd like to learn more about it, here's the system overview, and here's how I made the coins & jars.)  

The first week of the reward system culminated in a visit to our new "Family Store."  The kids brought their saint coin jars downstairs to "buy" items from the 5, 10, and 15 coin bins.  For now, we're using laundry baskets.  Maybe we'll change it up after the big move.

First, the kids surveyed the goods.  The 5 bin had things like a big tub of play-doh, bubbles, small hand-held toys, and other small items.  The 10 bin had a monster book, a learn how to doodle book, a red phone, stamp markers, scented markers, and some other medium items.  The 15 bin had big ticket items like a Melissa & Doug Joey magnetic dress-up set, a box of stencils, ABC rubber stamps, and picture rubber stamps.  

Still checking out the goods...

Counting their coins with Daddy

They can pool their coins together for larger items, carry them over into the next week, or buy whatever they'd like for that week.  Jane and Walt both opted to buy!  

Here's Walt "paying" for his purchase.

He got this Hear Myself Sound Phone!  It's supposed to improve children's speech skills because they hear their own voices very clearly.   I think he said, "HELLO?!" 1,000,000 times that night!  

He was very proud of his purchase and had a few coins leftover.

Miss Jane went for the harmonica.  She couldn't get enough of it!

The kids continue to work hard to behave well and help around the house.  They love this reward system, and it seems to be working well for everyone.  The kids perform their duties with pep in their step and high hopes of getting saint coins along the way.  They love looking at the pictures of the saints and asking about their lives. 

When they don't behave well or forget to do their jobs, my new lines are, "Saints don't talk like that," or, "Saints are happy to help because it makes Jesus happy."  Jane and Walt definitely get it because they've started saying things like, "I clear the table to make Jesus smile!" and, "I want to be a saint!"  

The Family Store will re-open this Friday, and the kids can't wait!  They're already talking about what kinds of items or special outings they'd like to "buy."  A special family trip to the ice cream store might be on the horizon if Jane and Walt pool their coins together...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Saints Reward System: How To

Yesterday, I shared an overview of how our Happy Saints reward system works.

Today, I'll share how I created the Happy Saints coins and the kids' coin jars.  I *did not* receive any material compensation for linking to the products I used.  I simply thought I'd share this fun project with other families looking for a way to encourage their kiddos on their own paths to sainthood.

The Happy Saints Coins
The cornerstone of this project is the equally adorable and educational artwork of Victor Teh with Happy Saints.  Victor uses bright, fun colors in a kid-friendly way to capture the faces of saints and illustrate various Christian themes.  He has several ebooks with "badges" that I used to create our saint tokens.  Simply buy an ebook from Happy Saints and resize the circular badges to the size you're using.  I resized ours to 1.5".  

GREAT NEWS!  When I was linking to the Happy Saints page, I found that Victor is having an Easter Sale at Happy Saints.  All ebooks are 20% off from April 20-27 when you use the promo code EASTER20.  Check out the ebooks today!

We resized our images to 1.5" on PowerPoint.  Then, we printed them on this label paper

Then, I used this 1.5" circular hole punch to punch out the saint images.

Next, I separated the printed images from the label backing and stuck them on these 1.5" wooden discs.  

Then, Philip placed the discs inside a shallow cardboard box (thanks, Costco!), and sprayed them with two coats of a clear Mod Podge lacquer.

We added the lacquer so that the coins would be water resistant and the images would be sealed to the coins.

Saint Coin Jars

We purchased a box of pint-sized mason jars at the grocery store.  Then, we replaced the original canning lids with these coin bank mason jar lids.  (Note:  They fit the original size mason jars and not the wide mouth jars!)  Finally, we found some stickers to decorate them from Hobby Lobby.  Walt selected a Cars theme, and Jane selected Sleeping Beauty.  

The kids love the satisfying clink that the jars make when they put their saint coins inside.  The coins are quickly becoming collector's items around these parts.  Jane and Walt love seeing the different saints' faces on the coins and asking questions about them.  Day 2 of the Happy Saints Reward System is going swimmingly.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Saints Reward System

I'm *finally* implementing the reward system that goes along with our kiddos' new chores.  

I found this fantastic idea to create a system using saint coins, chore charts, and a family store from Humble Dwelling.  I've tweaked the system to make it work for us.  

Today, I'll share how the system works.  Tomorrow, I'll share how I created our saint coins and the kids' coin jars.

How the system works

The saint coins are the currency for our reward system.  

The kids receive saint tokens for performing their duties well, being exemplary in their behavior, or for "getting caught" being good in some other way.  The token stash is stored on top of the fridge where (for now!) only Philip and I can get to it.  When we catch the kids being good, we reward them with one saint coin from the master jar.

The kids store the coins they earn in their personalized coin jars.  Jane and Walt received their saint coin jars in their Easter baskets.

This Friday night, our "Family Store" will open for business for the first time.  Our "Family Store" will have 3 bins labeled 5, 10, and 15.  

The 3 bins will contain items categorized such as: 

  • 5 bin: small items like candy or dollar section toys 
  • 10 bin: more desirable items like play doh, coloring books, markers, crayons, sticker books
  • 15 bin: trips to the ice cream store, movie rental, one-on-one time with Mom or Dad, apps, LeapPad games 
The kids will use their saint tokens to "buy" items from the bins.  They have the option of carrying their coins over to the next week or pooling their coins together for larger items like a family trip out for ice cream.  

I'll share pictures of the "Family Store" once I've actually made it!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Putting the Easter Baskets to Use Early

I got out some of our Easter decorations today.  The kids eyed the Easter some plastic Easter baskets and had to have them NOW.  

I thought it would be a good idea to put them to use early, so I asked the kids if they wanted to play a game with the baskets.  The answer to that question is always, "YESSSSSS!!!"

I said that we were going to have a "Color Scavenger Hunt."  It went a little something like this:

  • One person picks a color
  • Mom sets the timer for 5 minutes
  • Once Mom pushes, "start," each person goes around the house with their basket, collecting items that are that color
  • When time is up, everyone gathers around the ottoman
  • Together, we count the items that everyone found
We actually started with this bunny container that Jane's holding, but we quickly switched to the baskets after realizing that we couldn't fit much in the bunny container.  Here's what we found for RED.  (Walt picked the color first.  He picked red because of Lightning McQueen.  Duh.  Notice how Lightning is in the pile?)

After that round, I switched the time to 3 minutes.  Here's what they found for blue.

After two rounds, Jane decided she needed a tote bag for all of her discoveries.  Here's what the kids found for yellow.

Black was a little trickier.  We had to get a little more creative to find items that were black--a hanger, kitchen utensils, keys, a remote, etc.  In this picture, you can see Walt getting creative with his contributions.  He decided the undercarriage of Lightning McQueen's car counted as a black item.  Points for creativity, buddy!  I like it!

What fun activities do you do when you have free time to burn with the kiddos?  Do you have a use for your Easter baskets beyond holding Easter morning goodies or collecting eggs?

Monday, April 7, 2014

A House of Quinoa Converts. Jane says, "I can't get enough of this stuff!"

This house is full of what I call "equal opportunity eaters."  We love our food, and we love eating it!  I thought I'd share a simple, healthy recipe that was a big hit around here.  

We made this beautiful Mexican Quinoa Salad for lunch yesterday after Mass.  It's as tasty as it is easy on the eyes.  I found the original recipe from "The Garden Grazer" blog.  My only revision was adding some roasted chicken breasts that I chopped up.  I'm from Nebraska, so a salad doesn't really count as an entree around these parts unless there's meat in it!  ;)

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups black beans (or a 15 oz. can)
1 1/2 cups corn (I used frozen, thawed)
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 green onions, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (more to taste)
(Optional: 1 lb. roasted chicken breasts with desired seasoning, chopped)

{For the dressing}
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 tsp. salt

Rinse and drain quinoa. Add to pot with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes or until water has absorbed and quinoa is tender.
In a small bowl, add all five dressing ingredients and whisk together to thoroughly combine.
In a large bowl, add the cooked quinoa with all other salad ingredients.
Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine.
Can serve immediately or chill before serving.

Jane like it so much she said, "I can't get enough of this stuff!"

Here's Walt crying after he dropped a spoonful on the floor and Monty ate it.  "Monty!  No!  THAT'S MY QUINOA!"

We liked it so much that we had it for lunch today.  Walt thought it was equally delicious the second time around, and so did the rest of us.

After yesterday, Philip is a quinoa convert.  He says he's going to create a BLT quinoa salad.  If it has bacon, I'm sure we'll all adore it, because, ya know, bacon.  Maybe the bacon will negate the nutritional goodness that the quinoa offers, but I vote that it'd be worth it.  We'll go low sodium on the bacon!    

Do you have a favorite quinoa recipe?  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nostalgic for Now

Every now and then, I get this feeling that the days and weeks are flying by and that the kids are getting too big too quickly.  This was one of those weeks.  

I took a ton of pictures of the little, everyday things that happen around la maison Boucher.  

Philip's mom (aka "Mimi") got the kids the Frozen soundtrack, and it's been on repeat ever since they got it.  Walt loves it even more than Jane, and he always requests "the Frozen song."  That's his name for "Love is an Open Door."  As far as Walt's concerned, there is no other Frozen song.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie (what?!), "Love is an Open Door" is a cheesy love duet between Anna & Prince Hans.  Walt loves, loves, loves the song, and the highlight of his week is dropping Jane off at preschool so that he can pick the song we play and sing a cheesy duet with moi.  

Walt: I mean it's crazy...
Me: What?
Walt: We finish each other's--
Me:  Sandwiches!
Walt:  That's what I was gonna say!
Me:  I've never met someone--
Both: Who thinks so much like me!  Jinx!  Jinx again!

I love the time with the boys while Jane is at preschool.

But then I get nostalgic for time with Baby Jane.

Going with the Frozen theme, the mailman delivered the piano songbook to the movie a few days ago.  In all of the excitement, one of the piano legs fell off.  Whoops!  We've fixed it since, but we settled for three dining room chairs in the interim.  The kids like to plunk the keys and sing along.  One little guy may or may not have joined big sister in a tutu for the dance portion of the sing along...

It hit me this week that next year we won't have anymore "quiet mornings at home."  By that, I mean having all three kids at home at the same time in the morning.  I don't know why I call it a "quiet morning at home" since the loudest mornings are the ones with everyone home.  Regardless, I realized that next year Jane's going to MWF preschool, and Walt's going to T/TR, so we'll have one missing kiddo until lunchtime Monday-Friday.  That, my friends, makes me sad.  

No more leisurely weekday breakfasts like the one we had on Friday morning.

Mr. Harry is learning how to crawl, and he is a squirmy wormy!  Walt struggles to hold the not-so-little guy these days.  It'll be fun to see how they compare size-wise as the years go on.  

Ever since Harry started sitting in the highchair, he's become Monty's best friend.  Monty never leaves his side so long as he knows a yogurt puff, Cheerio, or miscellanous food item might be coming his way.  When Philip picks Harry up out of the highchair, he says, "Monty!  Come on!  It's your payday!" as he shakes the food off of Harry's clothes.  Can you spy Monty in this pic?  

I'm afraid Mr. Walt has a bad temper just like his mama.  Usually, like his mama, it's related to exhaustion (or hunger!).  I sent Walt to his room to cool down the other day.  When he didn't come back after a few minutes, I went to check on him.  The guy was passed out cold!  He might have a bad temper, but he also has a big, tender heart.  Such a cutie!

All of our babies have been very happy and easygoing, but Harry takes the cake.  Here he is, smiling away in the stroller during our visit to the park yesterday.  Let's hope we can put the snowflake infant carrier cover away pronto!  C'mon, spring!

Even though he likes being a squirmy wormy, Harry still has his cuddly moments.  Here he is, just hanging with Dad on the couch.  Oh, those rolls on his arm!  I can't handle the cuteness!

Do you ever get nostalgic for now?  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why You Should Oppose LB485

The Nebraska Catholic Conference opposes LB485, and my goal in this post is to share why.  After reading this post, whether you are Catholic or not, I hope you will be opposed to LB485 if you are a champion of religious freedom.

First, what is LB485?
"Legislative Bill 485, in the form of Amendment 1771, would add 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' as protected classifications for purposes of the law used to punish employers (of 15 or more employees) for decisions deemed to be discrimination in hiring, firing and terms and conditions of employment. In addition, it would apply the same prohibitive standard to all contractors and subcontractors of the state and political subdivisions regardless of the number of employees."  (Taken from the PDF "Background Information on LB485 from The Nebraska Catholic Conference")
Why is this a problem for religious liberty? 

LB485 does not make the essential distinctions that the Catholic Church makes when it comes to sexual immorality.  The Catholic Church teaches that it is not in and of itself sinful to have same sex attraction.  In other words, someone should not be unjustly fired "just for being gay."  (I have all kinds of problems with the phrase "being gay," but I'll save that for another time.)  While the Church does not teach that it is sinful in and of itself to have same sex attraction, it is sinful when one acts on that same sex attraction.

Catholics are taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2358 that those with same sex attraction "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."  The argument I'm reading everywhere that "the Nebraska Catholic Church thinks you can be fired just for being gay" is malarkey.  (By the way, there is no "Nebraska Catholic Church."  It's just the Catholic Church.)  If the Catholic Church really taught that we ought to unjustly discriminate against those with same sex attraction, we'd all be rightly outraged.  

We need to make an important distinction that LB485 does not.  While Catholics are called to never unjustly discriminate against someone with same sex attraction, Catholics uphold the never-changing tradition of the Church that "homosexual acts are intrinsicially disordered" and that "under no circumstances can they be approved" (Emphasis mine.  Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2357).  

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.

LB485 doesn't allow for that distinction.  By using the umbrella terms "sexual orientation" and "gender identity,"
"This proposed law to prohibit and punish discrimination based on “sexual orientation” extends far beyond unjust discrimination based on any employer’s mere belief that any applicant or employee is sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. It extends legal protection and state governmental affirmation to public activities intended to endorse, promote and facilitate sexual conduct (i.e., lifestyle activities) outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Employers who, because of their religious and/or moral convictions, do not wish to accept or affirm lifestyles that involve sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman will be subject to state-imposed punishment for claims of discrimination." (Emphasis mine.  Taken from the PDF "Background Information on LB485 from The Nebraska Catholic Conference")
In practice, this means that Catholic parishes and schools in Nebraska would no longer be protected by their morality clause when it comes to "sexual orientation" or "gender identity."  

When I became an employee of a Catholic school in Nebraska, part of my contract asked me to sign a "morality clause," meaning that I agreed as an employee of that Catholic school to abide by Catholic Church Teaching.  If the school learned that I somehow violated Church Teaching, they would have the right to fire me under their morality clause.  

Under LB485, religious and private organizations following adherence to Church Teaching on sexual morality in their workplace and employment practices would be subject to legal action and penalty.  

A Catholic school in California is already experiencing legal scrutiny.  St. Lucy's Priory fired Ken Bencomo for violating the school's morality clause when pictures from his "wedding ceremony" to his same sex partner were published in a local newspaper.  Mr. Bencomo is firing the school for "wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract."  Lawsuits like Mr. Bencomo's will continue coming in against religious and private organizations trying to uphold their own moral codes.  St. Lucy's Priory and other private or religious organizations will be forced to choose under legislation like LB485: violate your conscience or face legal punishment.  Just laws do not force individuals to violate their consciences.  

Nebraskans, please join me in opposing LB485.  Call or e-mail your state senator, and urge them to oppose LB485.  To find your state senator, click here.            

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Consignment Shopping RULES!

When I found out that my favorite area consignment sale was happening this week, I asked my girlfriend Kelly to watch the kiddos for me so that I could shop.  Having a gal pal that stays home with sweet kiddos that love to play with my kids is such a blessing!  Thanks, Kelly!  You're the best.  :)

Thanks to Kelly, I was able to be at the consignment sale as they opened the doors to the public.  I was ready and raring to go with my two empty laundry baskets and cross-body purse so that I could be efficient and hands-free!

I'm still relatively new to this consigning stuff, so indulge me as I share my pictures.  I can't get over how great the clothes are for the price!

Check it out.  Here are my two overflowing baskets:

Let's get a little closer so that you can better appreciate the sheer quantity. 

And the second basket:

It's not just about quantity, people.  Let's look at a few of my favorite pieces up close and personal.

Here's a skirt from The Children's Place with the tags still on it.

A Ralph Lauren romper for Harry.  The only way I'm buying something Ralph Lauren for my baby to crawl in and vomit on is if it's a gift or second-hand!  $3.  THREE DOLLAH, people!  

Harry scored a "Future Freshman" Sesame Street Husker outfit, too.  Can't wait to see his chunky legs crawling around in it this summer!

OshKosh overalls are always a favorite at this house!

Harry's new Baby Gap lobster swim trunks.  Pass the sunblock! 

Here are a few pics of the kids' clothes grouped together.  

I bought Jane:
Shirts: 14
Skirts: 2
Shorts: 6
Pants/Leggings: 3
Dresses: 1
Jammies: 2

I got Walt:
Shirts: 18
Shorts: 9
Jammies: 4
Swim Trunks: 2
Swim Shirt: 1  

Do you think he's into Cars?  I only got him two Cars t-shirts, but I indulged on the swim trunks and swim shirt!

I got Harry:
Rompers/onesies/shirts: 12
Overalls: 1
Shorts: 4
Jammies: 1
Swim Trunks: 1

I'll have to fill in the gaps with things like socks, underwear, jammies, swimwear, etc., but I got almost all of the 3 kids' spring & summer clothing needs met in 2 hours.  

The best part?  This is the pricetag for all of those clothes:

That's 65 items of clothing!  

$253.20 / 65 = $3.90 per item

So, yeah, most of my kids' clothes are second-hand, but I DON'T CARE because we're saving buckets of money.  Most of the clothes that I purchased at the sale were from The Gap, Carter's, The Children's Place, or Gymboree.  We still buy some stuff new from nice stores so that they can be passed down from one child to the next (coats, shoes, etc.), but I'm quickly learning that most clothes don't survive one child's wear--at least in my family!  

Questions for you:
Do you go consignment shopping?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Do you sell at consignment sales?  How does that work?  I've never been on the selling end before.  How do you handle clothing storage at your house?  Do you have a system for rotating things out seasonally?  Share your wisdom, friends!      

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What happens after 5T?

Tis the season to go consignment sale shopping and get the kiddos their spring/summer wardrobes.  One snag: I'm struggling to figure out what size to buy Jane.  Her winter clothes are 5T, so I was planning to get the next size.  Turns out kids' clothing sizes are just as wackadoodle as women's.  There's no real universal sizing system, and I want to make sure whatever I buy fits for the whole season.  Help a mama out, and tell me what to do!

Jane's stats:

  • Weight: 39 lbs.
  • Height: 40"
My confusion:

Here is the size chart from Carter's for toddlers:

5T is definitely too small for her.  So, where do we go from here?  The toddler and kid sizes overlap.  Here's the Carter's kid size chart:

Can someone please explain how the children's clothing industry decided to go from 5T back to a regular 4?  And what's with the 6X?  Here's the international clothing size chart for kids from Overstock:

Everything was just peachy with kids' clothing until we outgrew 5T, and now I don't know where to go from here size-wise.  The problem with consignment shopping is that you gotta get it right the first time (no returns!), and I'm not bringing the kiddos with me because I actually, you know, want to shop.  God bless my sweet friend who is watching the kids for me.  :)   

I'm thinking she's a regular kids size 5 if I want her to be able to wear these clothes until August.  Whatcha think?