Quick and Easy Thanksgiving Photo Idea *Seriously Adorable*

Looking for a little something to send snail mail to the grandparents for Thanksgiving?

Need a fun thing to upload to your Facebook page or Instagram on the morning of Turkey Day?

Check out this adorable and easy photo idea I made for my students’ parents using PicMonkey…gavin thankful

STOP IT.  I seriously can’t even handle how cute this is.

Are you familiar with PicMonkey?

It’s a free photo editing site that’s really easy to use.  I use it to watermark my photos with Happy Home Fairy – which, ironically, I forgot to do to these photos.

Allow me to show you how to make this cuteness happen.

Step 1 – Go to http://www.picmonkey.com/.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.06.27 AMStep 2 – Click EDIT and upload a photo of your choice.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.08.33 AMStep 3 – Click the little butterfly from the menu on the left side of screen and scroll down to find COMIC BUBBLES.  Choose a comic bubble and move it to the spot you like on the photo.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 12.53.41 PMStep 4 – Click on the Tt from the menu on the left side of screen, choose a FONT, write ‘I’m thankful for YOU!’ (or whatever phrase you want), and resize it as necessary to fit inside the comic bubble.  I centered mine.

Save your photo, print at your preferred photo center, stick in an envelope and snail mail it to a beloved family member or post it to Facebook and watch the ‘likes’ pour in.

BAM.

You are done.

For those of you who aren’t super tech savvy {{ahem- ME}}, you will be feeling pretty good about yourself at this point.

Here are a few other Thanksgiving photos that I made…

vivi thanksoliver thanksbella thanksTHESE KIDS.

I am thankful for THEM.

Let me know if you try this and how it works out.  I really love helping you have a good holiday – thanks for following the Fairy.

Happy Thanksgiving Photo-ing! :-)

 

Gratitude and the Hard

gratitude 1The other day I was at a birthday party with my boys and while they were happily enjoying pizza and cake, I began chatting with another mom.

We talked about our kids and then I asked her to tell me the story of how she met her husband.  She spoke so sweetly about her man and went on to say what an amazing dad he is.

I asked her if she and her husband wanted to have any more children and she said, “Well, we have been trying but that just hasn’t worked out for us.”

My heart squeezed.  I know all about infertility.  It was 4 years before God gave us the Happy Buddy.

I said, “Girl, I am so sorry.  That is so hard.”

And you know what she said?

“Yeah, it is, I guess.  But I don’t like focusing on it because I don’t want it to seem that we are not thankful for what we have.”

She gestured to her adorable son who had cake icing and crumbs all around his mouth.

“He’s so great,” she said with a smile, “He’s enough.”

gratitude 2gratitude 3As we were driving home from the party I couldn’t stop thinking about her words.

I feel like I have become a very fussy person in the last couple of years.

At least in my heart, I know I have.

Whenever something difficult crosses my path (which is about 700 times a day) I find myself muttering, “UGH!  Really God???  This is SO hard!”

I humbly confess to you that in the most private pockets of my heart I think I have this prideful attitude that feels I have been through enough hard things and  deserve some kind of break or period of ease.

Ha!!

Life is not that way, is it?

There are still lunches to pack, kids to discipline and train, a husband to love and serve well, dinner to make, laundry to fold, toilets to scrub (oh wait, I don’t do that)…  There are still ants procreating in my car, bills to pay, my full-time job, sick kids, and the burdening business of figuring out how to reduce the size of my pores.

There’s still that UTI that came upon me suddenly while on my church’s women’s retreat and then the stomach bug that came only 2 weeks later.

There’s still that thyroid problem I have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Ah, but this precious woman’s words rang in my heart like the final chord of the worship team at church on Sunday.

Focusing on the hard of our day can close our eyes to all the good.

gratitude 5Yes, life is hard.  No doubt about that.

But I have to ask God for eyes to see.

Eyes to see that I HAVE KIDS.  2 precious ones.  Oh, raising them is no picnic and they make me frequently mentally escape to private islands in the Bahamas, but they give me purpose and joy every morning.

Eyes to see that my job, while it is a different life than the one I had as a SAHM, it is still a good one.  I am able to see my kids and my husband throughout the day.  I am able to relieve my sweet, hard-working husband of financial stress.

Eyes to see my messy house as a place that is a reflection of a full and busy life being lived with people that I love.

Eyes to see that those $4.99 rotisseries from Costco are the blessed answer for those nights when I am mentally and physically unable to make sense of a recipe card.

Eyes to see that a persistent thyroid issue is simply another reminder to fix my gaze on Christ and the perfection and glory and hope of heaven.

Thank you, God.

gratitude 6gratitude 7My favorite story in the Bible is from Acts 16.

Paul and Silas have just been stripped of their clothes, beaten with rods, and flogged because of the Truth they were sharing and the miracles they were performing in the name of Jesus.

They were then thrown in jail – to the furthest, most inner cell – and their feet were fastened in stocks.

{{At this point, my fussing about exceptionally large pores and ant problems seems KIND OF FRIVOLOUS.}}

Paul and Silas could have sighed and cried and hung their heads and complained about how hard it was to be follower of Christ.

But do you know what they did?

Verse 25 says at midnight – at the darkest hour, in the furthest cell – Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns to God.

They weren’t focused on the hard.

They were focused on the GOD.

The God who had saved and rescued and comforted them time and time again.

The God who had given them {{given us}} His Word, His Presence, HIS SON.

The God who was and is absolutely enough.  Even in the hard.

Can we focus on that?  Can we stop grumbling about the things that we have been entrusted with and can we find something to sing about in the midst of it?

gratitude 4Like our little boy with the mouth full of cake.

And possibly a portable vacuum cleaner for my car.

:-)

Yes, thank you, God.

- Julie

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*You can find the FREE Printable ‘We Are Thankful For You’ tags and delicious pumpkin bread recipe over at The Larson Lingo.

Sharing is Caring – Teaching Kids to Share

Teaching Kids to Share by Happy Home FairyI teach a class of nine 2 year olds and we spend a large part of the day navigating the treacherous waters of sharing.

At any given moment throughout the morning, there is probably a tug of war going on somewhere in the classroom over a beloved item – like a pair of pink plastic sunglasses.

Because what 2-year-old can live without a pair of pink plastic sunglasses?

Or the purse that looks like Todo.  Or the Snow White dress-up dress.  Or the talking tea pot.  Or the Dora the Explorer Lift-the-Flap book.

Often the parents of my students come to the classroom hoping I will teach their kids the alphabet and Mozart and how to appreciate a dictionary.

While we are are busy learning about colors, shapes, and numbers, one of the main benefits of preschool is learning how to simply LIVE LIFE ALONGSIDE OTHER PEOPLE.

So as I encounter students fussing over a toy in my classroom or my own boys in a squabble over a small bar of soap in the bathtub (sharing is slippery business, people), I like to have a few key phrases to help them learn how to live life alongside others in a way that pleases God.

You might be surprised to learn that teaching our children about sharing is NOT about who had the wanted item first, it’s actually a matter of the heart that needs to be addressed.

Over and over and over again.

Here are a few key phrases I use and some ideas that I have found to work when it comes to sharing.

God’s Word

When it comes to behavior, I look to the Bible for wisdom on how to address it with my kids.  Usually I will share a verse with my boys and then make up a song for it so that it will get into their hearts quicker and hopefully for forever. :-)

It also comes in handy if they are in the middle of an escalating argument because I can interrupt with a cheery little tune of correction and we typically end up laughing (or the husband ends up rolling his eyes because he is a professional musician and thinks my original songs are sub-par).

This verse from Hebrews 13:16 is especially helpful as I am training my boys about sharing.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16.

Here is a little video of the song so you can learn it too!  (Email subscribers click HERE to see the video).

*Key phrases to encourage sharing -

Recite the verse together and then say, “It pleased God when you gave that toy back to your brother,” or, “It pleases God when we share.”

Treasures in Heaven

What we really want is for our children to develop a generous heart.  Luke 12:33 says, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.  This will store up treasure for you in heaven!”  I love encouraging my kids to think about eternity and live with their eyes focused on the bigger picture – with the bigger picture here being that in light of eternity and the glorious gift of salvation we have been given through Christ, our stuff doesn’t really matter.  As we get overwhelmed by the love we have been shown by our Father, then our grateful hearts want to overwhelm someone else with the same love and generosity.  And that is how treasures in heaven are acquired.

When we fight to keep the toy we want, we get the treasure on earth.  But when we sacrifice the toy and give it away, then we are blessed with the treasure in heaven.

*Key phrases to encourage sharing -

“Who wants the blessing now, and who wants it in heaven?”

“People are more important than things.”

“Who are you loving most right now?”

 Great Expectations

I like to give my boys a little pep talk before we go into a situation where a potential sharing problem could arise.  We make up scenarios and practice how we would respond.

Say we are visiting Luke’s house.  I might say to my boys in the car on the way, “What would you do if Luke grabs a toy out of your hands?” or, “What if Luke has a toy that you would like to play with?”

You can get silly and make light of the bad behavior by saying, “Would you turn into a scary monster and roar in his face??” or “Would you snatch it away from Luke and then bop him on the head with it?”

Then I try to direct conversation to the encouragement of Luke 6:30-31, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

It’s also a good idea to set up a consequence in advance if your kids fail to share well.

*Key phrases to encourage sharing -

“May I have a turn when you’re done please?”  *HERE is a good article about these magical 9 words.

“I see how upset you are right now.  It’s hard to give up something you like a lot.  But you are a kind and loving boy/girl.  I know God can help you make the right choice here.”

“How would it make you feel if someone wasn’t willing to share with you?”

“Remember, if you make the choice to not share well with Luke, then we will need to leave the play date early.  Let’s make the right choice so we can have fun and bring glory to God!”

Model

It’s SOOOO unbelievably easy to fuss about our kids’ behavior but what about OUR behavior?  Are we being good examples?

When my husband has a plate of fries in front of him, do I swoop over and grab a handful without asking?

When my child is using the bathroom, do I command him to get out or do I politely ask for a turn?

When your kids ask for a bite of the chocolate chips you are wolfing down by the handful do you snap and say, “NO!  These are MOMMY’S!!!!”?

When one of my friends asks to borrow a book or purse or cute top and then they don’t return it, do I talk about it in front of my kids with frustration?

It might not always seem like they are paying attention to how we, as adults, share, but those little boogers are and we need to be humble and willing to grow as Share-ers, too. :-)

*Key phrases to encourage sharing -

“I am happy to loan you my ___________.”

“I love sharing with you!”

 Super Share-ers

In my classroom, when someone remembers to love a friend well and sacrifice something or handle a situation without screeching like a banshee and lunging for the other kid’s neck, I make a big deal and give them the title of, “SUPER SHARE-ER.”

So when your kids get it right – THROW A PARTY.  Seriously.  Woop and holler and toss confetti from your pocket.  We want to reinforce this behavior, right?  So lavish your little hero with praise.

And possibly some glitter.

*Key phrases to encourage sharing -

“I LOVE the way you shared your toys with Luke today!  I see God working in your life!

“YOU ARE A SUPER SHARE-ER!!!”

“Super Share-er Alert!  Super Share-er Alert!  This kid is awesome!”

“I’m giving you a hug this instant for the beautiful way you just loved and served your brother.”

A lot of these concepts are hard for small kids to grasp, but you just keep singing it in their ears and one day they will be so great at sharing that you will have to bribe them to ‘pretend fight’ over a toy for a photo shoot about sharing for your blog. :-)

Lol, just kidding.  3 seconds after I was done taking the photo, the Happy Buddy abruptly let go of the toy which sent the Happy Baby flying backward and onto his bottom which made him so angry that he stood up and slugged his brother.

Next ‘parenting’ post will be called Helping Hands, Not Hurting Hands.

- Julie

*I found a TON of great inspiration for this article from Jodi, over at Meaningful Mama.  I really love her counsel on parenting!  Check out her precious blog and tell her I sent you!*

Just Another Perfect Day at the Pumpkin Patch

pumpkin patch 1 pumpkin patch 2 pumpkin patch 4Well, we went to the pumpkin patch on Tuesday.

For some, it was a very emotional experience.

pumpkin patch 3pumpkin patch 5 pumpkin patch 6 pumpkin patch 7 pumpkin patch 8 pumpkin patch 9The Happy Baby wasn’t exactly thrilled about our ‘fun’ family outing.

Although he did stop crying once someone gave him the stickers (note above).

But by then the Happy Buddy was losing interest (note facial expression).

Ha!

You know every year I give it the old college try and every year someone cracks under the pressure of having a camera in their face.

My children clearly do not have a future in child modeling.

They are just way too cooperative. :-)

Even with the Happy Baby’s fluctuating mood, I decided to be ambitious and go for the whole family shot.

pumpkin patch 10 pumpkin patch 11 pumpkin patch 12And that was as good as it was going to get because then the memory card on my camera was full and I’m pretty sure Happy Baby got a pumpkin stem in his eye.

Ahhh… Who needs perfect photos when these ones are so much more entertaining?

Of course as soon as we got in the car the Happy Baby said with an enormous grin,

“Pumpkin Patch?  Again????!?!?!”

Did you get the ‘perfect’ pumpkin patch shot this year with your Happy Home?

Happy {{early}} Halloween!  Don’t forget to add these FREE Printable Witnessing Stickers to your Halloween candy!  And you might want to try some Trick or Treat Practice before you head out tomorrow! :-)

- Julie

Recipe – Prize-Winning Chili

prize-winning chili - the perfect recipe for fall!

 I am planning to make this on Halloween for our family to enjoy after a crisp, fall afternoon of Trick or Treating in 80-degree South Florida.

:-)

Prize-Winning Chili

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

29 oz. can tomato sauce

2 cubes beef bouillon

2 (1 1/4 oz) pkgs. chili seasoning mix

7 oz. can diced green chiles

16 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

16 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Garnish: shredded Cheddar, cheese, sour cream, minced onion

Directions:

Step 1 – Brown beef, onion, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat; drain.

Step 2 – Mix remaining ingredients together and add to beef.

Step 3 – Cover and cook on low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Step 4 – Top servings with shredded cheese, sour cream, and minced onion.

amazing chiliIn case you are wondering, I didn’t win the prize for this delicious chili recipe.

Some lady named Jan from one of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks did.

I think you will find that the prize was, indeed, well deserved. :-)

Happy Chili-ing!

*This chili tastes EXCELLENT alongside my famous cheese biscuits!  Recipe HERE!*

Why We Say Grace

why we say grace at happyhomefairy.comWhen the Happy Buddy was born I was completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for a HUMAN.

There were ridiculous amounts of what I thought were life or death decisions to make.

I would go online to try to find information about how to best care for my baby and I would end up walking away from the computer ready to take a Valium.

A simple Google search brought me tons of articles about the atrocities of GMOs, the shocking truth about pesticides and the Dirty Dozen, the ever-evolving conversation about carbs are bad vs. good, why diapers could cause cancer, how Johnson and Johnson corporation is run by the devil himself, why breastfeeding and making homemade baby food is the ONLY WAY, photos of kids happily guzzling green smoothies, and detailed horrific videos about where our grocery-store meat and milk actually come from.

The pressure these ‘voices’ put on me to do the perfect right thing for my kid was a very large burden in my life.

And I am already a bad combination of Perfectionist and Person-who-used-to-have-an-eating-disorder, so the level of fear and expectations I had going was kind of nuts.

I found myself frequently wishing that I was an Israelite who never had to wonder if manna had antibiotics in it.

Then one day I was hanging out at my in-laws’ house and was feeling quite depressed that I wasn’t doing what I thought was a good job of feeding my family.  I think that one of my friends had just started grinding her own wheat for bread and making her own yogurt and was also considering buying a cow for her condo and suddenly the Publix-brand sliced whole wheat bread and vanilla yogurt from the tub I bought seemed insufficient and downright toxic.

Seeing my despair, you know what my father-in-law said to me?

He put his hands on my shoulder and said this,

“Julie.  Everyone is going to die one day.  GOD knows that date and what you feed or don’t feed your family is not going to change that date.  You do the best you can to eat a balanced diet, and then you trust that when you pray before a meal - He hears it.  He is in control.  He loves you.  The end.”

I guess somewhere along the way I had gotten the idea that what I did or didn’t put into my child’s body (or my own body, for that matter) was going to determine his future health.

Like he’d become terminally ill if he didn’t have organic this or straight-from-the-cow’s-udder that AND IT WOULD BE ALL MY FAULT.

But my father-in-law’s words opened my eyes to an aspect of faith and trust in God that I had let go of in my quest of what I perceived to be the ‘perfect’ mom, wife, and homemaker.

God will not say to us when we get to heaven, “Did you grind wheat for your child’s sandwich bread?”

God cares about the condition of our hearts.

When my heart gets filled up with fear about things like the pesticides and refined flours in this world, I am no longer trusting Him.

Most of the time, we cannot afford to buy organic meat.  So I am learning to buy the regular kind, prepare it faithfully and lovingly for my sweet family, and then when we hold hands around the table and say grace, pray that God will have the final say on how that meat is processed in our bodies.

Now, hear me out.  I am NOT saying you should just scrap everything, buy KFC every night and think that grace will cover all the blocked arteries you have coming in about 10 years.

No, we still need to be responsible.  We need to make good decisions for our families and feed them the best we know how.  We need to strive for balance in our eating.  We can learn to listen to His voice if we think He is calling us to try something new (like making bread from scratch, cutting back on processed foods, exploring Paleo, or the Mediterranean Diet, or finding the best menu options for an ill child’s struggling digestive system – like Happy Buddy had to go mostly dairy free after THIS happened and I was having a ton of tummy trouble awhile back, so gluten free helped me get back on track).

But we cannot get into the idol of thinking that WE carry the burden of our loved one’s or our own health for the rest of life on this earth.

Because what happens when you see things on the news like those bags of organic frozen berries from Costco that made 119 people sick with Hepatitis A?

Or what happens when you hear of a bunch of people who were enjoying some spinach (SPINACH, for crying out loud) and ended up with E. Coli?

Or what happens when you take all-natural pre-natal vitamins and eat 98% organic food during your pregnancy and your child is born with life-threatening health issues and has to stay in the hospital for 96 days?

Are we going to shake our fist at God and get angry at Him because we thought we were doing everything ‘right’???

Our world is BROKEN, dear ones.

BROKEN.

The point is, eating (like driving a car, getting on an airplane, and pretty much everything else) is an act of faith.  We could eat as ‘clean’ as we possibly could and there would STILL be disease and sickness.

At the end of the day, our job is just to do our best to be good stewards of the body Christ has given us (and those of our children) – the bodies that Christ died for – and then we allow GRACE to fill in the gaps.

Remember, whenever Jesus sat down to eat, He gave thanks to His Father.

He acknowledged the Giver of ‘daily bread.’

How awful would it have been if the people on the hillside said to Jesus as He passed out miraculously multiplied loaves of bread and fish, “Does that bread have gluten in it?” or “Does that fish have mercury contamination?”

Instead, they were thankful.

So when you sit down as a family to eat peanut butter sandwiches on store bought bread, don’t forget to bow your heads, close your eyes and truly give thanks.

He’s got this.

The whole baking your own bread works for some super amazing people.

But this mama prefers to buy hers at the store.

I’d rather use the time I’m not kneading dough to blog. :-)

- Julie

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Luke 12:29-31 (NLT)

Making Lunch Boxes Happy

I am not a Bento-boxing mama – I am half asleep when I pack my kids’ lunches, so there isn’t enough brain power going on to mold their cheese cubes into porcupines or spell out their names using fruit leather.

But I do like to use the lunch box as an opportunity to throw a little love their way by adding in a special surprise or treat now and then.

These are some of the things I have done in the past to bring a smile to my boys’ faces in the middle of the day.cute lunch ideas at happy home fairySince I am working full-time this year, I won’t have time to do my annual Lunch Box Week, but I can confidently say that this site has more than enough inspirations for you to pick from!

**You can find all my Lunch Box Ideas and FREE Printables HERE.**

Happy Lunch Box Happy-ing! :-)