Frugal Family Fun: Shaving Cream, Popsicles, Boats and Work

When I saw that Moneysavingmom is doing a series on frugal family fun, I thought, “Great! Whatever we’re doing tomorrow I’ll take pictures and that will be our Frugal Family Fun!” Turns out, we had several fun activities.

Maybe we have this much fun every day and I just don’t notice because I’m not looking forward to it with the camera ready!

No, probably not.

Fun Activity #1: Shaving Cream       Cost: $3 normally, but free since I had it

Let me start this by saying my mom is in town, so it’s not like we do all this crazy stuff every day. My goal was to keep the kids busy while I worked on serious decluttering. During my decluttering of the laundry room cabinets, I came up with a bag of junk fun activities that I wanted to get rid of/use up while my mom is here.

There was no writing of the alphabet in the shaving cream or anything educational. My thinking about the project was, “Whatever.”

My six-year old decided to paint her limbs, then announced, “I’m the White Witch. I declare my dominion!”

(Yes, she knows the White Witch was evil and wanted to rule the world, but she still wants to be her. This is slightly troubling.)

My sons worked together to paint the little fort with shaving cream.




And more fort painting  . . .





Then, more body painting . . .

You are not really seeing huge piles of trash in the background there. You’re just hallucinating because of the heat.*



This went on for some time, with the kids progressing to nakedness (toddler), then swimsuits, then to playing in the water. All told, the shaving cream/water fun lasted a couple of hours.

Fun #2: Boats                                     Cost: Free

At some point along the way I put the toddler (who is doing wonderfully on his potty training this week, by the way) down for his nap.

The older two then rummaged through the recycling box for empty milk cartons and made a fleet of boats (their own idea).




They had quite a time with normal old milk cartons, but you can also fancy them up with toothpicks and make flags on them if you want.

Here’s a picture from when we were studying Columbus a couple of years ago and made the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. That was really fun.

(The moss you see growing on the bottom of the pool is also a hallucination due to the heat.)

Fun #3:  Popsicles            Cost: $1-2






We just do paper cups with sticks in them, filled with orange juice, but somehow it is very exciting to my kids who ask for them constantly.

When friends come over who are used to normal popsicles they are wholly unimpressed, but my kids
don’t know any better and think these are great!


Fun #4: Work (Raking Plum Pits)              Cost: $2 (I paid him for 15 min of work)

I find that my kids often enjoy working on special projects, so I hoped that today they’d so something useful that was also fun. My angel mother was raking up the plum pits, so my son joined in and earned a couple of dollars.

My son really enjoys doing hard work and earning money most of the time.  (He complains sometimes too, but especially yard work he likes. I think it makes him feel tough.)

One thing I messed up on though was: SUNSCREEN!!! I forgot about sunscreen! This was one of our first days outside for hours, and I was in and out, so the kids got burned. :( Yikes. So be sure to remember that.

Also, if you do the shaving cream, make sure and tell your kids to be careful of getting it in their eyes. I don’t think it would cause permanent blindness, but probably would result in lots of screaming. My toddler got it all around his eyes and I kept
wiping his face off,  but it never seemed to irritate him. (The shaving cream, I mean. The wiping of the face did irritate him.)

Have fun!

* Okay, fine, you were seeing big piles of trash. Our backyard closely resembles a trash heap most days, but today my saintly mother actually managed to clean the whole thing  while she was out there with the kids. How did she do that? Normally I cheer myself with the knowledge that the awfulness of our backyard encourages all who see it that their own yards are gardens of delight by comparison.




Tissue Paper Flowers

We were in Texas recently, where my grandpa is in an assisted care facility. I wanted to give him something that would brighten up his room, but not die like real flowers. These are not hard, and sort of relaxing to make, something you can do while watching the kids ride their scooters. Unless you have a baby who’s into grabbing everything. In that case, wait a year or three. These would be fun and relatively non-messy for your kids to make for Mother’s Day or Grandparent’s Day.

Step one: cut some tissue paper and stack it up. Contrasting colors look nice.






Cut it into a "8" shape.








Twist a pipecleaner around the middle; twist nice and tight.







Twist each "petal" up and around to make it flowerlike.







Poke holes in a coffee can lid and poke the pipecleaner through.







Put all the flowers through the lid and cover the can with tissue paper.




I don’t have a final picture of the can covered with tissue paper, but you get the idea. You just wrap it in a solid color of tissue paper, tape it in the back, and your child can write their name if they want. To: Grandpa From: your child.






Sweet little hands can help.







or use them for a fancy hat.








My aunt helped me string a garland of them.

This was for the light fixture over my grandpa’s bed. The room was so sterile, we thought it needed a little cheer.



And my son made this version, a poppy, in co-op.





I think the poppy is my favorite! Anyway, these are a fun spring or summer activity, and would be fun to make for a neighbor or grandparent, and I bet Grandma would love some for Mother’s Day. Not that we’re going to do that, as I’m getting ready for the Arlington Homeschool Book Fair and trying to finish up our school, but someday I’m sure we’ll do it again.

5 Ways to Train Little Hearts and Minds

My guest post on The Glamorous Life of a Housewife. Thanks Whitney!

My husband and I learned a lot of things with our first child (let’s just say our parenting philosophy has changed considerably). We have put those things into practice with our second and third, and things are so much easier and smoother than they were the first time around. I thought I’d share some ideas with you. God has taught me a lot through lots of older Titus 2 women around me, and I’m so grateful.  I tried to make these tips as practical as possible, since I always felt like, “Enough with the theories, just tell me exactly what to do!”
Read the whole post at The Glamorous Life of a Housewife >

Tooth Trauma (and Drama)

I was having a bad day. Last night I found a dark spot on my daughter’s molar, after all my meticulous tooth-brushing mania of late, and I was feeling like a failure at motherhood, wondering why someone hadn’t fired me yet.

I went through the stages of grief. (I think there are six, but I only remembered four when I was thinking about this and four is really all the energy I have to write about anyway.)

1. Denial-It’s not a cavity. It’s just a brown speck. We just went to have her cavities filled less than two months ago. It can’t be!

Okay, it’s not brushing off. Maybe it’s the filling! Maybe they make brown fillings! Maybe it’s an off-whitey brown.

(A bit of history: at the last visit my six-year-old daughter had FOUR cavities. I could sort of understand since it had recently been Valentine’s Day so we were drowning in candy, but I had also been vigilant about their brushing twice a day, with my husband or I finishing up afterwards. After that distressing month of fillings, however, we had been trying so hard! We’d been brushing twice or three times a day, plus eating hardly any sugar, and brushing after any sugar at all. The thought that she still had a cavity after all that work was completely depressing.)

2. Anger – How can this happen? I’ve been trying so hard! Why didn’t that dentist tell me what to do! Something’s wrong! Maybe she’s malnourished! Why aren’t they helping me figure this out!

This progressed to anger at myself: I am a terrible mother. I can’t even keep my kids’ teeth from rotting out of their heads. I can’t do any more than this. I’m going to give up. Wait, I can’t give up. Why can other mothers clean out their vents and closets and cook freezer meals and go running and homeschool and blog, and I can’t even keep my children’s teeth from rotting?

What’s wrong with me?

At this point I called my friend sobbing and she prayed with me and told me I’m a good mom. That helped a little. My poor toddler kept looking at me with tears running down my face and asked, puzzled, “Wha happen?” I felt even worse for traumatizing my children, but I couldn’t help it.

Okay, I realize I sound like a complete basket case at this point, but I’m so tired. It’s my husband’s last (maybe) hardest week at work, so he leaves before we get up and doesn’t get home until we are all in bed. Half of the lightbulbs in the house are burned out, and the back doorknob fell off this morning when my daughter tried to open the door. Things are falling apart all over the place.

So, this was just confirmation in my mind that I was failing and couldn’t really pull this whole motherhood thing off. And, while I was thinking about it, why could I think I could homeschool my children when I can’t even take care of their basic needs? If I put them in school I could afford to spend an hour a day brushing teeth. (I know none of this is logical, and I knew it then, but I didn’t care. It was how I felt. )

3. Grief- I cried and cried, and cried some more. We had lunch with my husband and I told him the news, and that we had a dentist appointment at one o’clock, and that I was clearly a failure as a parent. He told me I did a good job and who cares about cavities anyway. He pointed out that my teeth are full of cavities and they still work, which is true. We’re doing the best we can. Which was nice of him and all, but he sort of had to say that; he’s married to me. It did help a little though.

4. Acceptance – As we drove to the dentists’ office, I resigned myself to the fact that she had at least one cavity, and I had to just try more to use that blue rinse I just ordered. And the plaque tablets. And the firefly toothbrushes. And the tiny flashlight to inspect. (And floss, and rinse, and three times a day supervision of brushing.) It was just what we needed to do. And I almost believed it didn’t mean I was a failure as a mother. I was getting there.

Then we went ahead and prayed it wouldn’t be a cavity, which is sort of a dumb prayer because either it is or it isn’t, but I figured God could retroactively answer my prayer and make it NOT be a cavity, because He is God, after all.

Then we went to the dentist, and I waited for the news, pretty certain that I wouldn’t cry because I’d gotten all my crying out. Guess what?

It wasn’t a cavity.

What? What else could a brown speck on the surface of her molar be?


I know! What?

Apparently some of the latest filling had “leakage,” whatever that is, and got stained, so they just scraped it off, put more filling on, filed it down, and it’s done. Even typing that, the whole thing doesn’t make sense to me, but the important thing is: it isn’t a cavity!!!

And I know that I’m doing the best I can and there’s more to being a good mother than dental hygiene, but I just wanted to tell God Thank You. That was really nice of Him. I really appreciate it. It was a very nice surprise.

And also, as all this was going on, we had to run home and put some milk in the fridge, and I had to check my email because I’m obsessive like that lately, and I had an email from San Francisco Book Review saying they had chosen my book for a review and it was ready. I was thrilled that it had been chosen for a review, because that is a feat in and of itself, but also terrified. This is the service our library uses for reviews; they review all kinds of general audience books, and they would probably tear it apart, I thought. They’d call me out as an amateur.

I was thinking, as I clicked on the link, that probably it would say that I had no business writing and that I shouldn’t quit my day job. But little did they know I was actually failing at my day job, I thought wryly. Then the page loaded.

Five stars.

What? Was I on the right review? Yep. That was it.

Again, relief. Again, thanks. Not feeling adequate, but very thankful and humbled.

Because… “They did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them. But it was His right hand, His arm, and the light of His countenance, because He favored them.” Ps 44:3

And I just wanted to say Thanks.

I am so grateful these days for so many things.

Character Books for Young Children

Rod and Staff Little Jewel Books

I absolutely love Rod and Staff Little Jewel Books. They are sweet, teach good character, and are about $3 each. My favorites are Molly Helps Mother (not pictured), Just Four, Helping Mother, and A Boy to Help.




Little Lights Missionary Biographies

I had been looking for something like this for a long time. These are missionary/Christian hero biographies, at a very young level. I love them. I got them from Grace and Truth books.



I saw these on a “19 Kids and Counting” episode and spent hours online trying to find them! They do a good job with character. No Bible verses are included, so I want to write one for each book on the first page just to remember to tell my
kids.  I find the writing a bit
long-winded, so I tend to edit a bit. My two-year old LOVES these for some reason! (When he saw me working on this he started shouting, “King of the POND!!!” And then clambered up on my lap so he could see. He loves his King of the Pond.) I ordered online: .


I got these at a used book sale. Sadly, they’re no longer in print, but you can be on the lookout for similar ones at used book sales or the library. Church libraries might have something like this as well.



You certainly don’t need to buy these, but as you evaluate books think: What character lesson is this teaching? What example are the children giving? Are they complaining and whining, or cheerfully obeying?

I was so happy to find Grace and Truth’s booth that I loaded up on LOTS of books for our shelf at home and for gifts. That’s how I met Dennis and Naomi, got to talking with them, and asked them to consider being a vendor for my book at the OCHEC conventions. They said “YES!” Hooray! Come visit us at OCHEC.

I’ll also be at the Books Bloom booth at the convention, and I’m sure they’ll have awesome books too. I’ll probably end up buying some if I’m there very long, so I’ll have to do a post about what other treasures I find after the convention!

If you are not a homeschooler, you might check into a convention anyway. I know the OCHEC convention is offering FREE entry to anyone who’s never attended before. (For the rest of us it’s $30 or so.)  You can go, check out the books, listen to some speakers, and learn more about homeschooling or how you can incorporate some ideas, even if you aren’t homeschooling.

What about you? What are your favorite character books for young kids?

Beauty in a Juice Glass

White Peony, Pink Rose in Small Mason Jar

One of my favorite things in the spring is cutting a sprig of this or that and bringing some beauty indoors.  I wrote a post recently (and might actually be brave enough to publish it soon) about getting overwhelmed at the chaos that is my yard, but choosing to focus instead on the beauty that is already there.

Like roses. And peonies.

It really inspires me to keep my tables cleaned when I have a gorgeous flower to put in the middle of it.

It doesn’t take much. A few branches of some blooming thing: wildflowers, a flowering tree or bush, or one amazing rose. Here are some pictures from today. Everything’s in bloom, it seems.

White roses and pink Abraham Darby rose.

This pink one is an heirloom one called Abraham Darby. I only remember that because the name sounds so fancy and Jane Austen-ish. [Note: I read later that he invented smelting coke into iron, thus enabling the Industrial Revolution. So if I invent something that inspires a revolution, will they name a rose after me?] They are an heirloom variety, so they cost maybe $30 for a plant instead of $20. It’s worth it. The blooms are exquisite, and the aroma fills my kitchen. It’s rosey-lemony scent is delicious. (Despite the fact that my toddler takes a whiff and declares emphatically, “Pea-yuck!!!” He’ll grow into it.)

  I am told this is Privet. Two weeks ago I thought it was a weed. This week I see it has tiny honey-scented blossoms and apparently, is a butterfly magnet. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this the last nine years I’ve lived in this house.
One gorgeous rose in one beautiful glass (my grandmother’s juice glass). It doesn’t take much to brighten up a room.
Today we’re not doing school (other than a spelling page, listening to Little Town on the Prairie CD, and doing math worksheets), and I’m enjoying getting everything in order again after being out of town for a family camp over the weekend. And even though my toddler is potty training and things are a bit crazy with messes in the bathroom, we can still have a joyful kitchen and dining room with these friendly flowers smiling at us when we come in the room.
They make us all happy.

Here are the flowers that grow in our yard during the spring with very little involvement from me. This is the order in which they bloom.

  • Bulbs (Daffodils, Tulips)- March – we planted one fall about five years ago.
  • Flowering trees - March – Plum (others include pear, apple, dogwood, etc.)
  • Flowering bushes - March/April – Forsythia (Sadly ours is dying, but these are gorgeous. Others include Azalea or Privet.)
  • Roses/Peonies – April/May/June usually. I am in love with roses. I planted eight bushes three years ago (my birthday and Mother’s Day presents). They’re not thriving like I want, but they are working their best at it. At least one bush is blooming for most of April and May.

But, in almost any yard, I’d bet there is something blooming and lovely, if you look hard enough. Wildflowers in a tiny vase are delightful. Send your kids out with their safety scissors and they can probably find something.

What lovely things are growing in your yard? What do you enjoy in a vase? How do you bring God’s beauty into your home?

(I have to stop typing and get off the computer now so my daughter can do her Xtra math. Have you heard of Xtra math? I love it.)

Easter: Egg Dyeing

This was after the eggs had been soaking in the dye an HOUR.

I don’t actually like dyeing eggs. Every year I say I’m not going to do it. But then, about two days before Easter, I just can’t help myself. I keep thinking it’s going to be great. Maybe next year, I’ll just do it myself with no children. Yes, I think that’s a good plan.


This morning, I hardboiled a bunch of eggs, realized I didn’t have any dye like I thought, so we went to Reasor’s, came home, and got started. I remembered my own advice and actually put my toddler in his high-chair this time, so that part went much better.

Then, the kids were fighting over who got to put in the vinegar, and they were all, “She put water in MY cup!!!” And, “He took my egg out of the yellow!!! That was my egg!”  Then, my daughter was all whiny and frustrated because, “They aren’t working. They’re not getting stripey! They’re terrible!” (Insert sobbing here.)And my arm is tired!”

And I’ll admit, that PAAS Easter Egg dye takes forever to dye the eggs. It’s not very bright. And it’s hard to make a neat design. I got that. So, I got out some glitter glue to let her paint a design on. No good. More sobbing and gnashing of teeth.


My eight-year-old son was actually doing fine, happily working away at his end of the table, and my two-year-old son was happily coloring on his eggs with marker, until he saw the paintbrush, then he wanted to do that too. Then he happily painted his egg, and his stomach.


The issue today was my daughter was so very sad about life. Looking back now, I think she’s exhausted. She’s been staying up too late and rarely takes a nap anymore, but she still sort of needs one. A good two-hour nap would probably help a lot.  And working on not whining.

Anyway, we (I) decided we’d just leave the eggs soaking in their dye, and the kids could go to eat pizza with their grandparents, and we’d finish tonight. We’ll see how the eggs look after six hours in dye.

Maybe I’ll clean everything up while they’re gone and pray they forget about it. But that’s unlikely.

{And that is my last post about Easter. Whew! It has occurred to me that in order to blog about holidays, I probably need to be thinking a few weeks ahead, which might be a tiny problem. We’ll see. }

How in the world do you dye eggs at your house? Is there a dye that works better? Do you put two dye tablets in a cup to make the colors brighter? Do you use paint or markers, or skip the whole thing all together? Tell me, what do you do?

Easter: Resurrection Eggs

I have three children, and at the time of this post they are ages eight (boy), six (girl), and two (boy).

A friend asked me the other day if we do any kind of Easter devotions, and I said, “No, not really.” But then another friend mentioned Resurrection Eggs.  Oh yeah, we do those. I forgot.



Then I remembered we usually also do Resurrection Rolls. And sometimes, a Passover seder dinner. And occasionally, dye Easter Eggs. Though I guess that’s not a devotional activity, but it’s a fun Easter activity.

It’s just that Easter sneaks up on me every year, and I end up pulling things out of our spring box in the pantry the weekend before Easter. I never feel prepared. Nonetheless, here are some of our favorites.

Yesterday was Thursday before Easter, and I needed an activity for my toddler’s “Busy Box,” something to keep him busy while I worked with my daughter on counting. (She was in the bathtub, so we drew chalk dots on the wall and practiced counting by tens up to 100. Highly recommend Math in the Bath. The kids don’t even realize it’s school.)

Anyway, I pulled these out for my eight-year-old to do with my two-year-old. It was great. My eight year old had to read the chart, tell the two-year-old what color to get out, and explain what it was, thereby reviewing the Easter story. My two-year-old was reviewing colors, learning about Jesus (maybe, not sure if he really got that), using fine motor skills to open and shut eggs, and playing with his big brother. It’s so nice to have big kids sometimes. It was so sweet to see my older son patiently explaining to his
baby brother, “No, buddy, that’s light purple. This is dark purple.” Precious.
(Things aren’t always so serene around here, so I really took notice. There’s a lot of screaming that goes on too. This was a good moment.)

We might go over the Resurrection Eggs again at dinner one day this weekend or next week (sometime it ends up being after Easter, but that’s okay), and really explaining each one, or having the kids see if they can explain each one. Some years my husband or I have read the Easter account from the Bible.

Anyway, this is a super-easy, fun activity that can be as involved as you want it to be. You could do one egg a day leading up to Easter if you were so inclined. I got these at Mardel and it’s not too late to get them this year, or I bet they’ll be on sale next week after Easter.  Have fun!

I was going to find a good Resurrection verse, but this is the one that was on Bible Gateway just now, and it’s perfect for today, Good Friday.  Isn’t that great? I think we’ll memorize it. We’ve been having severe fighting issues lately and could use some reminders of brotherly/sisterly love.

“This is how we know what love is : Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16


Chapter Book: Winnie-the-Pooh & Boxcar Children

“I hate Winnie the Pooh!” was my son’s comment when I told him I was putting in that CD at bedtime. He’s eight, you know, and he’s way too old for such babyish things. But, that was before he heard it.



This is the real thing, the original from A.A. Milne, not a watered-down Disney version.  A friend recommended this audio version to me and it’s great! The British actors are just perfect for the voices and it cracks the kids up!

I tried Pooh before, and it was always over their heads. I think age 6-8 is just about right to understand that world of childhood that Milne describes, and to actually get the jokes. I know I tried it earlier with my kids, like ages 3-5, and they had no interest whatsoever. Anyway, I bought this on Amazon, but maybe your library has this version.  Here’s the
link for the info
. Judi Dench and Stephen Fry are two of the narrators.  I also really like Milne’s book of poems Now We are Six, but I can’t find my copy currently. I think my kids are at the perfect age for it, so I need to go figure out what I did with it!

I’ve requested  These Happy Golden Years from the library, but haven’t gotten it yet, which is fine with me because I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about Laura growing up and getting married. Laura! You were just a five-year-old sitting on pumpkins in the attic in Wisconsin! You can’t get married yet! So, while I wait on the library copy and adjust to the passage of time, we also started The Boxcar Children.

I’ve been feeling neglectful of my children lately, and missing that snuggly reading time. Every time I tried to get everyone to cuddle up on the couch, my toddler would start squirming around, cracking skulls, flinging himself off the back of the couch, and lots of other really restful, peaceful activities. So, I’m going to try to have a thirty-minute Tea Time with my six- and eight-year old during the toddler’s nap time. Yesterday it went really well and we read four chapters of The Boxcar Children. They were begging to keep going!

I’m trying to get my eight-year-old son hooked on a series of chapter books. I don’t think he’s quite ready for the Hardy Boys or my dad’s old Tom Swift; I don’t really love the Magic Treehouse series, though I know many do; so maybe this will be a good one. We’ll see. Any suggestions for good boy books are appreciated!

In other news, can I show you the cutest thing ever?

Rainbow socks. My two-year-old likes to wear them as knee socks. And, in order to see their stripey-stripeyness, we must roll up his pant
legs so he can see them. Very Important! And, it turns out, I love the whole ridiculous outfit! Those chubby knees poking out are just begging to be gobbled up. I think I’m dressing him in lederhosen from now on.  You think I’m kidding.

I haven’t discussed this with my husband yet, but I’m sure he’ll be on board.


And, look at that baby! Doesn’t that make you
want to just buy some red knee socks and go backpacking in Austria with your
kiddos? Sigh.

Spring really makes me want to live in a mountain village in the Alps. Or go on a train ride through the misty English countryside. Does this happen to other people? Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to just stay still.

Have a lovely rainy spring break, friends!

Gardening with Young Children

Here’s my guest post today over at Like a Bubbling Brook…
(Those aren’t my kids at the top of the post over there, by the way.I think the blog host used a stock photo.)

Planting a garden is a great way to teach kids about healthy food, how plants grow, and the spiritual lessons of God bringing a harvest. March is just the time to begin!

It’s okay if you don’t know anything. Go to the nearest farm store (preferably one where they actually know something, not a big home improvement store), find a man in overalls, and he’ll help you. The people at farm stores or nurseries are usually very knowledgeable. If you don’t have a farm store or nursery, you can try a university extension office for seed planting charts and people who know something.

Just start; you’ll figure it out as you go. It will be a fun adventure and you’ll know more at the end of the summer than the beginning! Think of the fun you and your children will have learning all this together!  Read More >

(And if you read the book, you’ll see some of the irony of this post, but that’s just my life. I have a sometimes-fresh-from-the-garden, and sometimes McDonald’s approach to dinner. Sorry.)