Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Favorite Preschool Apps Vol2

Bugsy PreK
I downloaded this when it was free, but it is a terrific app and well worth the money to buy it. I like all of the Bugsy apps but this one is head and shoulders above the rest and is my #1 all time favorite preschool learning app. It integrates learning letters, numbers, shapes & colors into fun easy activities.

If your child has already surpassed the skills in the PreK app Bugsy Reads and Bugsy MathK are both good "next step" apps.

The Bugsy apps are cheerful and practice skills in short bursts so your preschooler doesn't get too tired, frustrated or bored.

Endless Wordplay
I adored Endless Alphabets - which help teach letter sounds and vocabulary and has the biggest demo of all of the apps but I really love this one. It's more of a "learning to read" app than Endless Alphabets or even Endless Reader. There is a preview you can download for free and you can purchase a the full version or a starter pack for about the same price as an activity book at the book store. It progresses through the activities at a really easy rate so they are reading and spelling simple words without much effort. Eli is learning but it feels like playing.

Hooked on Phonics
The app for Hooked on Phonics is terrific.  The level one app has some crazy annoying songs but they are easy to skip. Basically this is an app that teaches my children to read in exactly the way that I would want to teach them myself. The app moves systematically. The graphics are adorable.

TODO math
There are a couple of things that make me love this app. One is that in the settings you can customize the app for a left handed child. Eli is left handed and it did make it easier for him when he was tracing numbers to have the box on the left hand of the screen.
The other thing I like about this app is that it has daily challenges which is a series of tasks and then a quiz at the end. The app is free to download and can be upgraded for 3 months or a year.

These are my favorite preK educational apps - what are yours? I'd love to hear in the comments.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


So I started up a new blog yesterday...

I've been wanting to change our diet for awhile. Daniel wants to try to transition to a vegan diet. I'm in  it more from a nutrition standpoint, I'd like to try it out, he is in it more for the animal cruelty/exploitation standpoint. So if you want to see me doing some incredibly awkward video blogs click over to my new blog.
protein bars I'm currently eating (they're not vegan)

My Favorite Preschool Apps

I thought I'd share some of our very favorite apps for the iPhone & iPad for my 4 year old. Some of Eli's favorite games drive me crazy but these are the ones I like to play with him.

Friends - by Sago Mini

This is the ultimate "while we are waiting" app. I keep it on the iPad and on my phone. It is perfect for when we have to wait for a few minutes. It's sweet and calm. Great for a variety of ages and for both boys and girls. I think it would appeal to the 2-4 age group most but it is a game younger children would enjoy watching and older kids (5-9) would be willing to play in a bind. I like to play this with Eli, even though he is perfectly capable of playing it in his own, it's a perfect opportunity to practice taking turns.

In this game you get to choose which character you want to be. I choose the puppy.
And you go visit your friends! At each friend there are different activities. Playing dress-up, eating a snack, blowing bubbles etc.
I'm a big fan of the Sago Mini games. Many of them are free to download and all of the ones I have used have been great for my preschooler.

Monster - by Sago Mini

This is a great app to keep my preschooler occupied (and whatever older kids happen to be around).  This is my go-to app when my preschooler is not really interested in what is going on, waiting for a school play to begin, staying busy while mommy is trying on a few clothes in the dressing room, stuff like that. This is also one of the first apps I whip out when I'm babysitting my friends kids. If we are all taking turns we can play this app for awhile. It's super cute and not very scary. It's a little bit gross but my kids love it. It encourages their creativity so I'm glad they like it so much.

Fairy Tales Tailor - Toca Boca

I'm a HUGE fan of Toca Boca. I am pretty sure I have every single one of their free apps on my iPad. The Fairy Tale Tailor is one of my favorites. There is also a regular tailor app that I have on my iPad which is really nice but the Fairy Tale one is especially cute so I have it on my phone as well.

Ultimate Easy Bake Oven

My son went through a phase where he was totally obsessed with making cake pops. He moved onto all things "making" cupcakes, cookies, slushies - you name it we probably have an app for it on the iPad. This was the app that got him started. It's pretty easy to use and is one of the least tacky of the cake pop maker games.

All of these were free to download when I downloaded them (or free to download a trial version). If you have a favorite game for 2-5 year old please share them in the comments!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Grayson: 2 months

Theses pictures were taken on Nov 11 after his 2 month well-check.

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today I mentioned to Grayson's pediatrician that his eyes have not been evenly dilating. You can see it pretty clearly in the picture above. We'll go to see a pediatric ophthalmologist soon. I'm still waiting to hear back about scheduling.


My house is finally still and here I sit in the dark and quiet of my kitchen with all of these thoughts rolling around in my head trying to get out. It's been a crazy couple of weeks and I feel like I've been walking around in a fog. No time to just sit, no time to think, no time to write the little bits and pieces that come into focus while I'm driving my car or taking a shower or listening to a sermon. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about freedom and healing. I wrote a lot last month about finding my brave and I guess that's just another word for freedom. Free to live out from under the bondage of fear. It is also another word for healed. Even though my heart has been broken my God has been my healer. Even though I feel like all I have is ashes he comes near to me, draws me close and breathes new life into the hollow places.

And as I have been moving forward these last few weeks there has been a big question at the front of my mind... Now what? So you have found freedom and healing and brave - so what? 

We have a saying at my church "freed people free people" When we find freedom we pass it on.

Here is the truth: I do not always feel free. Not really. I am very much aware that I have a very long way to go. I tend to be more aware of my remaining brokenness than I am aware of God's healing. I tend to focus on all of the ways that I am still bound up instead of celebrating my freedom in Christ. 

Sometimes this awareness of brokenness is helpful - if I'm able to speak about it honestly I think it encourages others who are struggling that what they feel is more common than they might think, and that they are not alone. 

But I also think that this awareness of my brokenness sometimes leads me to hang back from serving others. I don't feel qualified for X, Y or Z because good grief I'm still struggling with A B & C!! 

I believe that if I have been loved by God I need to pass that love along. I have been healed and I need to be willing to let people get close enough to see the scars. I have been freed and I need to be willing to make myself available to those who are taking their first baby steps out of bondage and say " I've been there. Our God is so very faithful. Yes, you'll fall. God never leaves you because of it. You might not make a lot of progress in a day or a week or a month or a year but give it five years - watch what God will do - He has done amazing things for me and in me and through me and he isn't finished with me yet. He's not finished with you yet either."

God hasn't set me free just for me. He set me free to be a message of freedom to others. He hasn't healed me just so that I can feel more comfortable or so that I can sit up on a shelf as a trophy of His awesomeness - He healed me to be an example of healing and to be a living breathing testimony that God can do anything no matter how big or small. 

Once my heart changes, my eyes start to open and my hands start to find the first steps. I don't know what all that will mean in the coming seasons.

I heard this song again on the radio yesterday. Every time I hear it I get chills because it took me such a long time to understand the truth and the beauty behind this song. On the surface this song seems to be about a marriage relationship but I think it applies to all of our other relationships too:

Monday, November 9, 2015

brave in burnout

Recently I wrote about feeling like I was trudging through the mud. I would say that this year, more than maybe any other year, I have felt burnt out in my parenting. Totally exhausted, and ready to give up the fight.

One of my friends on Facebook posted a link to an article about motherhood written by someone who had a two week old. I had a really hard time with my emotional response to that article. I was like let's talk again when you've been sleep deprived for years not just weeks. In my head I believe that every mother who writes about her experiences has a valid perspective. There's something really sweet about the new mom glow. It just feels a little hollow to me right now. It's easy to gush about how wonderful motherhood is when you are not dealing with the tantrums of a threenager, when you haven't woken up at two in the morning to find that your four year old, who makes his way into your bed most nights has wet your bed. It's easy to write about how wonderful motherhood feels when you haven't faced your hormonal ten year old or had to walk the minefield of boy/girl relationships at school or talk through mean-girl-moments or lock into battle over boundaries with electronics.

Motherhood is one of the biggest blessings of my life. I appreciate the way it has shaped me, I treasure each one of my children. However motherhood doesn't often feel that awesome. It doesn't matter what stage you're in. Babies are exquisitely exhausting, toddlers are this terrific combination of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion and soul-crushing boredom. Preschoolers are baffling, school aged kids keep you on a constant learning curve, pre-teens are hair-tearing-out hard to know how to respond to, teenagers bring out our worst fears... but teens can also been wonderful helpers and awesome friends. I love that my oldest and I can enjoy some of the same books and movies. I love hearing her perspective on life, even thought sometimes I just want to scream at her immaturity and thoughtlessness there are moments when I am surprised and challenged by her vision of the world. I have learned so much about the power of perspective and denying fear power to control my responses from raising hormonal pre-teens. The middle-years (like 5 or 6 to around 10) have these moments that are pure joy. I love that the pre-5 years are so simple. And who can resist the cuddliness and sweetness of a baby? Every stage is equally soul-crushing. The pressure-cooker years when I had four kids six and under were tremendously difficult, these years when my kids are a little older give me perspective, but also create an exhaustion in my soul. I'm just so tired of the fight to keep that perspective. I want like a year off to re-group and tank up but in parenting you just don't get that kind of space, you get five minutes (if you're lucky) of crying in the shower, or an hour over coffee with a friend, or a weekend retreat.

I have felt a lot of burnout in the parenting department this year. I have felt not-listened-to a lot. I have felt conflicted about how to balance letting go and giving freedom on the one side and discipline on the other. I have felt a lot of moments of just flat-out exhaustion from having a lot of the same conversations and discipline issues over and over and over. 

Sometimes being brave means letting go and walking away, but being brave as a mother mean hanging on, even if it's only by a thread. Being brave as a mom means knowing at the core of your being that even if today feels crappy and pointless and just another endless succession of negotiating screen time between all of the kids and balancing if you should intervene in this sibling squabble or let them try to work it out on their own, the sum of these days is monumental. All of this nothing adds up to the greatest something you could ask for. All of this mundane is really a miracle.

I think burnout is a great moment to step back and see what I can do better. Where am I over-parenting, over-directing, over-discipling? Where have my expectations become unrealistic? What of this everyone-is-one-the-verge-of-crashing-down feeling is real and how much is just that I didn't sleep well last night? It's hard for me to find perspective in the middle of it all. Sometimes you need to have an hour, or a day, or a weekend to back up out of the middle of things and find some room to just breathe and sometimes you just have to take a deep breath right where you are and do what needs to be done.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Grayson - 8 weeks

These images were taken on November 3
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Grayson was sleepy but woke up after just a few pictures...

See also Grayson - 4 weeks & Grayson - 2 weeks


Monday, November 2, 2015

31 days of brave: boundaries & my kids

Yesterday I wrote about boundaries and my feelings about perfectionism. Today I want to write about boundaries, perfectionism and my kids.

I totally obliterate boundaries with my kids - like I said yesterday, I didn't grow up with the idea of healthy boundaries, I had this lightning bolt of clarity as I was thinking about my own lack of boundaries, perfectionism and my big issue with regret.

If we sat and talked about my real honest parenting goals and values somewhere on my top 5 would be that my kids not have the same regrets I do. I regret not taking advantage of the education my parents offered me. I regret all of the time and effort I put into my crushes. I regret not going to college or having any space between when I was a child in my parent's home to when I was a wife in my husband's home. I don't know - maybe that saved me a lot of wasted time and grief. But I want that for my kids.

 I tend to not give my kids the space to make their own mistakes. I deny my kids the power of regret - making mistakes and learning from them. To learn the process of dealing with their own small mistakes, recognizing shame and dealing with guilt in a healthy way. To move on from "I am a failure" to "I failed, now what an I learn from this failure and move on."

I find it easy to adopt this :I am a failure" mentality as a mother, feeling stuck under a rock of shame. My kids need to feel that there are boundaries - that there is authority but not superiority. They need to have some sense of their own power, they need to have space to recognize their own values.

I want to be the kind of person who lives my values, not just professes values and then does whatever is easy or convenient. To live my values means to be brave in the face of my own fears and failures to accept that this is a journey of falling on my face, that "I ought to know better" needs to be replaced with "what can I learn from this?" and that this grace that I need to offer to myself I also need to extend to my kids.

To live my values means taking back responsibility for my own life and not valuing peace at any price.

Not just another rainy morning

Fall is usually my favorite season. The colors of the leaves, the sweaters, the hot drinks... this fall, less so. It's been rainy and warm, with a few nice days here and there, but mostly it's been a wet dreary fall so far.

Today I had plans, but a call from the school nurse cancelled all of my plans and has me home-bound with a kiddo down for the count. Not exactly how I planned to spend today. So I put a movie on for the kids and put the kettle on.

I hate waiting for my kettle to boil. That's one of the reasons I enjoy drinking coffee so much. I just brew a cup and it's ready to go. With tea I have to wait for the kettle, and then it's always too hot to drink right away. Hypothetically I could make tea in my Keurig but I find that unless I'm using a K-cup (which we never do) the water has way too much coffee residue to use for tea, so here I sit, writing this post... which really is going somewhere, I promise.

unrelated: this is the face Grayson made when I was taking him out of the van today

I started my "month of no coffee" today. Sometimes I've called it a coffee fast, it could be called "no-coffee November" but it's something I've done three years in a row now, always during November. This time around I'm mainly taking a break from coffee to see if it helps Grayson fall asleep more quickly. Some days he seems to have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep and I wonder if it has something to do with all of those Venti iced coffees I've been enjoying. So we'll see. Hopefully this helps. 

But God is amazing and sometimes he uses the things we do for the sake of something physical to accomplish something spiritual. I wasn't especially seeking God through this coffee fast but I'm finding today that in this fast I'm finding God anyway. I feel like my spiritual eyes are opening wider and God is showing me things I wasn't noticing before.

Last night I was brushing my teeth, feeling like I just wanted to cry. Feeling overwhelmed with life and at a loss for how to make any of it better, and then I remembered. I remembered that my Novembers are just really hard. They are the anniversary of when Daniel de-converted eight years ago, and as much as I don't want to remember that, I do. November feels oppressive, it feels full of spiritual attack, it has me feeling like I've hit a wall. 

As I brushed my teeth last night I reminded myself that I've been through this before. I've been through worse even. Much worse. And God has been faithful to me. I have hit my Jericho wall and I have watched God make those walls crumble.

We don't wrestle against flesh and blood... it might feel like it's the husband and the kids and these hormones that are driving me crazy, but I know better. And I remember that my feet stand firmly on the Rock. I know that in Him I won't be greatly shaken. I try to remember that on the other side of the season of storm when it feels like my world is falling apart it is really falling into place.

I lift my heart to heaven and cry a "how long, oh Lord" thankful for words from the Pslams to echo what is in my heart, I feel God whisper "wait awhile longer." I wrestle with it a bit until I recognize the comfort and I could just laugh at the beauty and simplicity of it.  

The kettle boils, I set out butter to soften for cookies. I'm thankful for a moment of perspective on this rainy gray Monday.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Read/Watch/Listen October

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks so much for supporting my blog!


Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project)
This is the only book that I read this month and actually enjoyed. I started a couple others but didn't finish them and sped-read through a novel just to find out what happened at the end. But THIS BOOK so good. It's all about understanding yourself and learning how you can start creating habits that help you lead the life you want. It was fantastic. I learned so much about myself and also about my husband and kids through this book. I don't buy many books but this book I plan to buy. I also hope to blog about it in-depth soon.

Jurassic World - it was kinda meh to me. I can not believe so many kids were taken to see this movie. I won't let my kids watch it. Mostly because the kids were so central to the plot. It was about as scary as I thought it would be but not as funny as I'd hoped a Chris Pratt movie would be.

Terminator: Genisys - Daniel was in a movie-watching mood one weekend and we watched this movie together. I liked it pretty well. Not awesome, not awful. We have watched every Terminator movie (except for the first one) together so it was pretty neat to see these characters again.

On a side note: this month we re-watched Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron  and the whole Infinity Stone thing took on a whole new meaning. You know how at the end of Age of Ultron there is that purple dude and he says "fine, I'll do it myself" well, he is also in Guardians of the Galaxy. I didn't realize it until we watched Guardians of the Galaxy again.

TV on Hulu:
This month I've decided not to watch shows on TV when they air, mostly because my favorite shows air late and I don't want to stay up that late but also you end up watching fewer commercials when you watch on-demand.
Blindspot is my favorite TV show this season. I have loved every episode, the plot is interesting but it is the relationship between the two main characters that is my favorite part of the show. It hits me in my emotional sweet-spot.
The Player is another show we're watching. It's been pretty good so far. Daniel and I are watching it together, so that's nice.
Quantico is one we started watching mid-season (are we mid-season yet?) we enjoyed watching an episode or two every night. I think this might be a better show for watching the whole thing with back-to-back episodes. It isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea (it starts up with two of the characters hooking up in a car) but it is the one show that Daniel really look forwards to watching with me and I like it pretty well. It's not as scary or intense as the other shows Daniel has watched recently so I'm happy for a show we can both be into.

To watch with the Kids:
Paper Planes is the best kids movie I have seen in a long time. It was every bit as adorable as the preview suggested it would be. The whole family enjoyed it.

Liz Longley - Daniel downloaded this album and I have enjoyed it a lot. So far Memphis is my favorite song. Weirdly enough it makes me want to get in the car and drive to Tennessee. You can pretty much preview the whole album on YouTube, you can also find it on Spotify
Andy Grammer has also been playing on repeat at my house. Eli and I sing the song Forever to each other all of the time.
Pentatonix has a new album that is every bit as awesome as I had hoped it would be. My favorite song from it right now is Where Are U Now
I've also been listening to a lot of Bethel Worship lately. Here are my favorites: Over My Head, Ever Be, No Longer Slaves, Shepherd

The Lazy Genius Collective is my new favorite blog.
The Faces of Grief is also a great new blog(ish) that shares the stories of loss. What I've read there so far has been super-helpful.
My kids are just in love with this new song from Disney

Kristen Bell's sloth meltdown had me laughing so hard I cried. After this I think I watched half a dozen interviews with Ellen, Kristen & Dax.
I also stumbled upon this humorous news report.

 I blogged some pictures of Grayson

A few more random pictures from my phone:
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notice the  coffee?! these were not back-to-back days. I haven't been a Venti iced coffee person until this month.
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we made it to the park!!

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