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! :-)

Easy Apple Tree Craft

easy apple tree craft - adorable!

 

I guess I have a thing for toilet paper roll crafts!

The hubs is always razzing me for lining them up on our bathroom window sill for weeks on end as I save them for projects like this.

What you need -

apple tree craft 1

Large sheet of construction paper with cut out tree glued to the center

Red paint

Toilet paper roll

Instructions -

apple tree craft 2Step 1 - Have your child dip the TP roll in red paint.

apple tree craft 3Step 2 - Then press the roll gently on the top part of the tree.

apple tree craft 4Step 3 - Let dry.

I thought they turned out pretty cute!

**You can find all my other easy apple crafts HERE.**

Happy Easy Apple Tree Craft-ing! :-)

How to Make Homemade Applesauce With Your Preschooler

how to make homemade applesauce with your preschooler

I love celebrating apples with my students during the month of September because Johnny Appleseed’s birthday is on the 26th.

One of the brave things I chose to do this month with my preschool class was to make homemade applesauce in the crock pot.

It was kind of hectic and the end result probably had Hepatitis A, B, and C in it, but the kids had SO much fun.

And that makes all the chaos worth it!

Here is what you will need -

applesauce 1A large crockpot

8-10 apples (we used Golden Delicious), peeled and chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp cinnamon

What we did -

Every morning when my students walk in the classroom we have Table Time.

I knew that the applesauce needed several hours to cook, so I had all the ingredients set out on the table when they arrived.

I put a trashcan next to the table and began peeling the apples in front of the children (I would NOT recommend letting a preschooler use a peeler).

So that the children stayed involved, I asked them to peel the stickers off the apples, wash the apples in our sink, and help pick up any peels that missed the trashcan (I may have ‘accidentally’ missed the garbage more than I actually got the peels in – lol!).

Next, I showed the kids how an apple corer works.

They were completely fascinated (I think I went ahead and peeled an extra apple at this point because I did not take into account what hungry vultures my students could become at the site of neatly sliced apples).

Then we dumped the apples in the crock pot.

I opened the cinnamon and let the children each get a chance to smell this comforting spice.

We measured 1/4 tsp and one student sprinkled it in.

We did this with the brown sugar and water as well.

applesauce 2Then we covered the crock pot and I set it in a safe spot on HIGH.

One of the best things about making applesauce is how lovely it makes your room smell, which is always an added bonus when working with 2 year olds and one has a bad poop.

The applesauce smell kind of cancels out that sewage smell.

Around noon, I opened the lid and spent a few minutes stirring and mashing the apples.

applesauce 3Then I spooned a small portion in little bowls for each of my students.

Be prepared that your preschooler might bypass the spoon and just go for it – possibly even head first.

applesauce 4It was a hit!

I’m glad I took the risk and did this with my preschoolers.

I’m also glad I fed it to them right before they went home so that I didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

:-)

Happy Homemade Applesauce-ing!

We Win In the End

happy babyThe Happy Baby was freeeeeaking out the other day because he lost his favorite DVD and as his cries escalated into hysteria I found myself frantically searching the house and praying, “Oh, Lord please help me to find my boy’s lost DVD!”

And then I was immediately plagued by this thought -

“How can you pray about something so silly? There are women in parts of the world whose children are being beheaded.”

I get grumpy because I have to wake up early and make lunches for school…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I fuss about the tornado-like state our house is constantly in…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I find myself longing for that cute lamp I saw at Target.

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

Lately it seems like there is pain and evil and tragedy and darkness growing in leaps and bounds across the world.

These horrific events that pour out from every channel and website make me feel so unsettled and I find myself wondering why is God letting this stuff happen and what is my place in the midst of it?

Then the Holy Spirit whispers across my soul…

Read my Word.

And instead of spending so much time glued to the news channel filling my head with more things to fear, He invites me to spend time filling my head with Truth.

Light to obliterate darkness.

As I read, I am reminded that this wickedness we are hearing about in the news, it really isn’t anything new.

happy baby 2At the time of Moses’ birth, hundreds of Israelite babies were thrown into the river at the hand of an unrelenting and proud Pharaoh.

Then again when Jesus was born we read about the hundreds of baby boys under the age of 2 who died at the hand of jealous King Herod.

No, this evil – it’s not new.

And while I do not know the pain of losing a child to a heartless, wicked act, I vividly recall the feeling of watching my child suffer.

The night that we walked in and saw our child looking like this, I remember the gasp – the sob that racked my body and made me physically lean into my husband.

We watched in horror as a machine pumped hard and steady blasts of air into our tiny baby’s lungs.

I remember feeling so troubled by the way the machine pressed his nose upward – almost like a pig’s – and how the nurse casually said it might get stuck that way.

It was torture – to me.  And to him, no doubt.

But that same evening the elders and deacons and pastors of our church were coming to pray for us.

So I stumbled from the room, anxious to go but yet longing to never leave my baby’s side, and the hubs and I headed toward the hospital’s conference room.

And as we walked down a long, cold corridor feeling utterly defeated and without hope, there was a sudden shift in the air.

I raised my head and saw about 20 men – tall and strong – walking in our direction.

It was like an army of God’s angels were making their way toward our desperate, thirsty souls – their presence alone tangibly redirecting the downward spiral of my weak and weary flesh.

While we did not receive an immediate miracle that night, nor were specific prayers answered in an instant, our spirits were reminded that we were not alone in the battle.

And that the battle we were fighting alongside our little baby was a battle already won.

Because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

That same power that conquered the grave was the same power with us in that NICU room.  A power that filled us with confident hope that God was, indeed, doing something in the midst of the CPAPs and chemotherapy treatments and feeding tubes and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of all the lost lives of innocent Hebrew babies -

God was raising up a deliverer named Moses.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of the deaths of all those innocent boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity -

God was raising up a once-and-for-all Deliverer named JESUS.

first day photo 2The enemy is doing what he does best – deceiving, confusing, hurting, destroying and making it seem like all hope is lost.

But his acts of cruelty WILL NOT destroy or interfere with the greater picture – the Greater Power that is at work.

Because He is a Father, after all.

The feeling of compassion and desire to help my boy find his lost DVD – the hurt and agony I felt with him in the NICU – on a small scale, is reflective of the way our Lord is stirred when ANY ONE of His children suffers.

first day photoSo, dear readers, let’s put one foot in front of the other, faithfully carrying out the duties He has called us to at this time – in this season (like searching for lost DVDs and making lunches and raising little warriors of Light and Truth and possibly staying away from Target for a little bit). :-)

And while we are doing these things, let’s pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters – pray for our broken, messy world.

Then let’s rise as Moses’ mother, who during a time of great uncertainty bravely trusted in God’s power.

Let’s rise as Mary and Joseph who chose to listen carefully for direction from the voice of the Lord rather than panic about the disturbing events around them.

And let’s remember that the battle is already won.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

Recipe – Super Easy Crockpot Lasagna

crockpot lasagna - SO easy! PErfECt for fall!

 On the first week back to school I came home admittedly feeling quite pleased with myself because I had actually put a meal in the crockpot before leaving for work.

I was seriously ready to give myself a gold medal for being so prepared in spite of a total life change.

I may have even said out loud,

“Work full-time?  Psh.  I got this.”

But fast forward 4 weeks and I am fairly certain my children don’t even know what a home cooked meal is.

If you happen to be better planned than me, then I know this recipe will be a blessing for you in the back to school rush.

crockpot lasagna 1crockpot lasagna 3crockpot lasagna 2crockpot lasagna 4crockpot lasagna 5crockpot lasagna 6crockpot lasagna 7crockpot lasagna 8

Crockpot Lasagna

Ingredients -

1 lb cottage cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 (26 oz) jars marinara sauce

2 lbs lean ground beef, browned and drained of fat (not shown in above ingredient photo)

1 (9 oz) pkg lasagna noodles

Directions -

 1. Place cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

2. Add a thin layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of slow cooker.

3. Add a thin layer of cooked beef and a layer of noodles, breaking the noodles to make them fit.

4. Add a layer of cheese mixture.

5. Repeat until all of the ingredients are used, ending with sauce.

6. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.crockpot lasagna 9

Enjoy!

Happy Crockpot Lasagna-ing! :-)

*You can check out some of my other favorite slow cooker recipes HERE.*

My Free Babysitters Are Leaving

SONY DSCOh, I kid.

(Well, kind of.)

:-)

But it’s true.

My parents are moving to Georgia.

Right now I am doing a great job of stuffing my feelings on the matter wayyyyy down deep.

I’m sure that sometime soon there will be a volcanic eruption of emotional chaos that might involve ugly crying, fist pounding, binge-eating… lots of fodder for a therapy session.

But for now I am trying to stay strong and civil for the sake of those around me (and because I can’t afford a therapist).

Ha!

In light of their departure, I thought I would share a few things about these important and precious people in my life.

Last summer the hubs was away taking classes at a seminary in St. Louis for 2 weeks.

While he was gone, I managed to find myself in a state of utter panic because my head was abnormally itchy.

Of course I convinced myself over a period of several hours and frantic Google searching that I had lice and even found the ‘nits’ to prove it.

This is what happens when my level-headed, un-fearing husband is not around to help me tame my inner beast of anxiety.

I called my mom at 10 o’clock at night completely undone by the fact that I probably had a scalp full of bugs and was threatening to torch every surface in my house that had potentially come into contact with my infected head.

I may have even said things including (but not limited to),

“THIS WORLD IS TOO DANGEROUS FOR MEEE!”

“IF THE BOYS GET LICE I’LL JUST DIEEEEEE!!!!”

“I CAN’T GO ONNNNN!!!!!”

My mom somehow talked me off the ledge and offered to drive out with my dad to take a look through my hair.

At this point it was almost 10:30.

But they came anyway.

My mom wasn’t afraid to touch the bugs and my dad offered to run out and get me some dandruff reducing shampoo at the local 24-hour pharmacy.

Because that’s all it ended up being.

Just some dry, itchy scalp.

And for some reason this whole story has become one of my favorite memories of my parents.

Maybe it’s because it accurately sums up the whole Parenting gig:

Even when your child is 30 years old – you are still obligated to check their head for lice.

:-)

In all honesty, though, being a parent is a never-ending job that often calls on you at random times of the day or night to be there for your kids – especially when they’re adults.

Like maybe the Holy Spirit wakes you up for a middle of the night prayer session on behalf of your child.

Or maybe you know your daughter could use a therapy trip to Target to buy new underwear or shoes.

Or maybe when you stop by to see the grandkids you bring a roll of paper towels or toilet paper just because.

Or maybe you wash the dishes while your daughter and her hubby are on a date.

Or maybe you help them paint the nursery (and the master bedroom, and the porch, and the dining room…).

Or maybe you show up at your daughter’s speaking events even when you have a full time job.

Or maybe you take your daughter to see that new chick flick her hubby refuses to be subjected to.

Or maybe you pick up a Costco rotisserie for her whenever you’re there shopping.

Or maybe you take the kids for the day because you know your daughter needs to get some extra sleep (or simply stare at a wall for 3 hours without interruptions).

Or maybe you put an encouraging note on your daughter’s pillow one day when you are over.

Or maybe you mow the lawn for her when her husband is out of town.

Or maybe you drive down to the church at 10 pm to help your daughter finish decorating for an event.

Or maybe you accompany your daughter at the school’s talent show.

Or maybe you build closet shelves for her.

Or maybe you help tighten the teeny tiny screws on your daughter’s glasses whenever she comes over.

Or maybe you host sleepovers for them when her hubby is on the church men’s retreat.

Or maybe you replace the burned out light in the garage.

Or maybe you come over to clean the house and dust the ceiling fan blades when your daughter is 400 pounds and 42 weeks pregnant and can’t move.

Or maybe you go with her on a trip to Ikea just because it is safer for everyone involved that a 2nd adult be present.

Or maybe you give really great bear hugs when things are hard and there just aren’t any words.

Or maybe you arrange a trip to Disney for your daughter and her husband using your timeshare points and you watch their kids.

Or maybe you have an awesome paper shredder and offer to shred all of your daughter’s old documents that are taking up 13 bins in the garage.

Or maybe you’re there for birthdays, holidays, and Grandparent’s Day at the grandkids’ preschool.

Or maybe you drop off a new shirt from Macy’s on your daughter’s doorstep.

Or maybe there’s the Easter Dress Tradition.

Or maybe you take her to get a surprise manicure a few weeks after her NICU baby finally got to come home.

Or maybe you hear that the Toys R Us by her house is going out of business so you rush in time for the liquidation and buy 50 new things for the grandkids.

Or maybe you get tears in your eyes and tell your daughter how proud of her you are after she sang the solo at church.

Or maybe you brought a check by to help pay for your grandson’s swim lessons this month.

Or maybe you offer to babysit again.

And again.

And again.

And all the love and all the time and all the presents and presence you give your child gives her the strength and vision she needs to keep pressing forward in her own calling of parenthood.

That is what my parents do for me.

They show me how it’s done.

The feeling I get when they save the day – when they come to my house at 11 to check my hair for imaginary lice – that is the feeling I want to pass on to my own kids.

Mom, Dad…

Even though you won’t be 15 minutes away anymore, I know that a 10-hour drive won’t stop the love and inspiration you pour out on me and my family on a forever basis.

And there’s always FaceTime for the scalp checks.

:-)

Georgia – our loss is your enormous gain. <3

Love you so much and miss you already.

- Julie

“Let the Lord watch over us while we are separated from each other…” Genesis 31:49

Easy School Bus Craft

Such an easy and adorable craft for the beginning of school!

We have been celebrating school buses all week in my preschool class.

That Wheels on the Bus song just never gets old! :-)

This little craft is so fun and easy.  I know your kids will enjoy it.

Supplies:
bus craft 1

Yellow, Black, and Blue construction paper

Glue

Scissors

Black Paint

Toilet Roll Tube

Directions:bus craft 2bus craft 3bus craft 8bus craft 4bus craft 5bus craft 9bus craft 7bus craft 6

That’s it!

I hope y’all are getting back into the Back to School groove without any bumps!

Happy School Bus Craft-ing! :-)