Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thursday Thoughts
      I am linking up with Jennifer at Ramblings of a Suburban Mom for Thursday Thoughts. I haven't participated in this link-up for a few weeks because I've either had nothing to talk about or we were busy. 

~ I am still loving my Ibotta app on my iPhone. It is completely free to download and is basically like using coupons without all the hassle of having to clip them out and store them and all that. The app lists coupon deals for various products you can buy at the grocery store and you can get credit for buying the items simply by submitting a photo of your receipt and scanning the barcode on the item. I just make sure to check and see if there are any deals on the things that I'm going to buy at the store before I shop so I can make sure to buy the brand that will get me money back. They also have other offers for additional savings, like purchasing four deals in a month will earn you an extra $2 on top of what you have already saved. I have earned more than $10 so far since I started. They pay you through a PayPal account once you've accumulated at least $5. If you are interested in signing up, click HERE. Also, I think if you sign up now using my referral link, they have a special incentive for new users where you can earn $10 when you sign up with the Share the Love Bonus. 
       Another recent accomplishment with another money-saving method is that I recently made over $50 with my Ebates account. If you're new to Ebates, basically you sign up for free and search for your favorite online stores on their site before you shop and you earn cash back on your purchases. You don't have to mail in any rebate forms or do anything else, it just comes to you in a check in the mail. It's such an awesome program! 

~ In case you've noticed it at the grocery store or in advertisements and wondered about it, MioEnergy is the real deal. I bought some using my Ibotta app earlier this week and had a glass of water flavored with it with dinner last night and I was awake until 3 a.m.! And I am normally not really affected by caffeine that much. Obviously I don't usually drink coffee before bed, but I didn't imagine at all that a glass of this with dinner would affect me the way it did. Ugh. I am dragging today. But at least I know what I can drink to get some energy... :)
~ While Tim's mom was in town last week, we took advantage of her free babysitting to go on a date night. We ate dinner with Owen and my MIL, but then headed out to see the new Star Trek: Into Darkness movie. We both really enjoyed it and just getting to see a movie in the theaters was really fun since we don't do that too often anymore. The movie was definitely action-packed and funny and I don't see any reason why non-Star Trek fans couldn't enjoy it. It was a bit predictable, but we were just out for a non thought-provoking entertaining movie and we got just that. 

~ I am hoping going to use cloth diapers with our baby-to-be so I have been doing  a lot of research over the past week or so. Tim is reluctantly on board. We failed miserably with Owen, but I feel a lot more knowledgeable this time around and there are so many kinds of cloth diapers that I didn't know about before. We used diaper covers and prefolds and just did not like the mess and hassle of them. Plus we had a crappy washer at the time and we were new parents who had no idea what we were doing and had very little help since we lived so far from family. Now, though we still live far from family, I feel like we are both more confident in taking care of a newborn and that adding a few extra loads of laundry with our newer HE washer and dryer won't be that bad. Plus, with pocket diapers and all-in-ones (AIOs), cloth diapers are so similar to disposables that we shouldn't have as much trouble if we use those kinds. Another thing I have found is that mothers in the cloth diapering community are so nice and helpful when it comes to giving advice on which diapers to choose and how to care for them, that I should have plenty of advice if I need it. I do love my Honest Company disposables, but saving money on diapers by using cloth would be really great and really help out our finances. Plus, we will most likely have two in diapers for a little while so I'd rather eliminate some of the expense of that. Do you cloth diaper? What are your favorite kinds? I am thinking about registering online for some cloth diapers and accessories since we don't really need much else for our baby-to-be. I would most likely register at Kelly's Closet because they seem to have a lot of great deals. 

~ After getting our guest room cleaned out and ready to begin transitioning into Owen's big boy room last week, I made my first purchase for his new room: this quilt and sham from Pottery Barn Kids. They had a free shipping discount code on Monday so I took advantage of that on top of a sale to save about $50 on them. I really love the colorful pattern and I think that it will suit Owen for several years. I also love that they will match a number of different sheets so I can keep the same main bedding while switching out sheets based on Owen's current obsession (cars, trains, dinosaurs, sports, etc.) I really want to avoid having the whole Cars-themed or Thomas the Train-themed rooms since his interests will probably change over time. Plus, I just like the look of sheets like the ones pictured instead of Disney sheets, you know? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tasty Tuesday

       It seems as if at least a few people were interested in my menu plan last week so I decided to post it again this week. Again I have a mix of favorite meals and brand new recipes that we've never tried. And they aren't all from Skinny Taste! Shocker! 
  • Monday: Slow cooker hot fruit salad. We had our small group last night where we had breakfast for dinner. Everyone else had planned to bring pancakes, bacon and sausage, eggs, and cinnamon rolls so we had to think of something different. We ended up bringing this slow cooker hot fruit salad, which is super easy to make and tastes yummy on top of pancakes, kind-of like they do at Cracker Barrel. I found the recipe just by Googling slow cooker fruit compote or something like that. 
  • Tuesday: Bacon-topped petite turkey meatloaf. This is a recipe that I have made before and we liked it a lot. It uses vegetables in the meatloaf so I am able to sneak some healthy stuff in there for Owen without him knowing. (Not that he's much of a picky eater anyway). I made little muffin tin meatloaves for him when he was starting to eat grown-up food and didn't eat as much of what we ate. I don't think we've had this since then so it's about time. We will have it with roasted green bean bundles and maybe some roasted red potatoes.  
  • Wednesday: Skinny chicken fajitas. We had this recipe last week and it was so good that I already want to have it again. The funny thing is that it is so simple, but the flavors are so good! We will have these with black beans and corn. Owen is currently obsessed with black beans and will eat a ton of them. 
  • Thursday: Breakfast for dinner. I know we had breakfast for dinner on Monday night too, but I love it and it is such a cheap and quick dinner. We already have pretty much everything we need for it so I figured it would be a good way to save some money on our grocery bill this week. 
  • Friday: Grilled Hawaiian Teriyaki Burger. This is a new Skinny Taste recipe that was posted last week. I can't wait to try it. We have to wait until the weekend so Tim can grill it since he generally gets off work pretty late during the workweek. The burgers contain carrots (interesting) and have a pineapple soy sauce glaze. It seems super yummy and we all love pineapple, especially the babies. It's Owen favorite fruit and one that I have craved during both pregnancies. 

  • Saturday: Grilled pork chops with sauteed spinach and baked sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. This is just a dinner that we do frequently in the summer. Tim seasons or tops the pork chops however he wants and we have the same side dishes every time. 
  • Sunday: Bangin' Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Asian Edamame Fried Rice. I thought this seemed like an interesting recipe and I hope that it turns out well. It is not really something I would typically pick out to make, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. We'll see what the family thinks about it. 

What are you eating this week?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bump update: 26 Weeks

        According to my pregnancy app, the baby is about the size of a head of cabbage at about 14 inches long and between 1.5 and 2.2 pounds. His eyes are continuing to form and will soon begin to open. His eyelashes are now grown too. He is breathing in amniotic fluid to practice for when he is outside the womb. 
        I am enjoying my second trimester still, particularly in the late evenings and early morning when he is most active. Watching him kick and roll around in my belly is so amazing. He is still preferring my right side, which looks funny and sometimes hurts, but it's also kind-of sweet to imagine him snuggled up in there. I am hungry frequently and drinking a lot of liquids. Mostly I have been craving fruit, whether just cut up or in smoothies or popsicles. My favorite treat is a blueberry spinach smoothie. I just combine frozen organic blueberries, a banana, a handful (or two) of fresh spinach, a half a cup or so of Greek yogurt and a splash of milk in the blender. I also add ice if it seems to need it. It is so yummy and you can't even taste the spinach. 
       My belly seems super huge. Tim rubs BioOil on my tummy every night, which is a sweet moment that I enjoy. Generally baby boy is kicking up a storm at this point and seems to react to hearing his daddy's voice. I don't have any new stretch marks that I can see. And I only got a couple very small ones when I was pregnant with Owen so I'm not expecting to get many, but I am trying to be as proactive as possible. Sometimes if I'm lucky I get a little backrub thrown in. My lower back and the sides of my stomach are starting to get sore. My belly button is getting more shallow, but I doubt it will every completely poke out. 
       This past week, my mother in law came to visit and I was fortunate to be able to get some extra rest and get some things done around the house. It was wonderful. We also went shopping for baby boy and she bought him some really cute new outfits and a sweet baby blanket. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tasty Tuesday

     Tim's mom is in town visiting us for the week to spend time with us and Owen and help out around the house some. I haven't posted our menu plan for some time and while I'm not sure how many people like reading it, I know my mom is always begging for me to resume posting my meal plan and since I am trying out some new recipes this week, I thought I should go ahead and post this week. 
  • Monday: Chocolate chip pie. We have our small group meeting last night and it was taco night. In addition to bringing the lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa, I also brought dessert. One of the things that I love about small group (in addition to the fellowship), is that I can make dessert recipes that I find and crave without ending up bingeing on an entire pie. One of my Facebook friends posted a photo of chocolate chip pie over the weekend and I requested the recipe and tried it. It was good, but I wanted to find a similar recipe to share with you in case you are inspired to make it. This is really close to the recipe I used, but it has a few differences including the addition of brown sugar and pecans. I would not use the pecans because I don't like nuts in my desserts, but I think the brown sugar could be really tasty since it's in most chocolate chip cookie recipes. 

  • Tuesday: Chicken fajitas with corn and black beans. I am fairly sure that I have made this Skinny Taste recipe before, but the blogger recently reposted it with some updates. I love Mexican food and typically order fajitas when we eat out, but I love the idea of making this at home. It seems really simple and the lime juice and cumin seasoning sounds delicious. We will eat it with warm tortillas and sides of black beans and corn.  

  • Wednesday: Spring Stir-fried Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots. This is one of my favorite newer recipes from Skinny Taste. It is easy and quick to make and I really love that it's an easy way to get Owen to eat some healthy vegetables. He loves to crunch the sugar snap peas. Another thing that I really love about this recipe is that although it is Asian-inspired, it doesn't use that many specialty Asian condiments and spices. I hate when a recipe calls for sesame oil and rice vinegar and soy sauce, etc., etc. and you end up spending a fortune on groceries to make one meal. This has a very simple list of ingredients and tastes great! 

  • Thursday: Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. This is a super delicious and easy recipe that I love. Owen likes to help me bread the chicken strips for the salad and eats them up happily afterwards. The homemade dressing is really easy and tasty too, though I'm the only one who eats it at our house. Then I just make a big salad with whatever lettuce and other vegetables I have on hand and top them with this chicken and the dressing. It's such a great spring/summer meal!

  • Friday: P90x Island Pork Tenderloin with sauteed spinach and baked sweet potatoes. This is a really delicious recipe from the P90x workout diet. The pork is rubbed with brown sugar, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, and a couple other spices and then grilled. It is perfectly sweet and spicy and savory and matches well with spinach sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic and baked sweet potatoes. I highly recommend it.
  • Saturday: Hamburgers with summer pasta salad, baked beans, and chips. Tim will grill burgers for an easy weekend meal and I will make my mom's pasta salad. It's basically bowtie pasta mixed with tons of chopped up veggies and sliced black olives. And then the whole salad is marinated in Italian dressing. It's a great recipe and it always gets devoured when I take it to potlucks. Even kids like it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bump update: 25 Weeks

     According to my pregnancy app, the baby is about the size of a squash or a rutabaga, at about 13.5 inches long and weighing in at approximately a pound and a half. The baby is putting on more fat and rounding out his wrinkled skin. He is also growing more hair and if we could see him, we'd be able to distinguish hair texture and color. We're betting straight brunette again.
      I am feeling particularly huge already, but according to the doctor, I'm measuring right on track. Just an FYI for people who aren't familiar with it, but doctors measure a pregnant woman's stomach from her pelvis to the top of the uterus to estimate the growth of the baby. The measurement in centimeters should be close to the number of weeks that the woman is. At 25 weeks, I measured 24 centimeters so I was really close. This generally means nothing to me though because I typically measured pretty average with Owen and he was still a fairly large baby. I am pretty certain that I'm going to have another 8-pound plus baby. 
     I am feeling pretty good lately, though a bit fatigued one the weekends most of the time because I tend to wear myself out during the week trying to get a lot of stuff done while Tim is at work. This week in particular I sorted through everything in our guest room so that we can get it cleaned out and begin transitioning it into Owen's bedroom. We were able to take a box of stuff to Goodwill to donate as well which made me feel good because I know the house is going to seem like it has shrunk when we get all the baby stuff out of the attic in a few months. 
      My stomach and back have started to feel sore as my belly continues to grow. The baby seems to prefer the right side of my body better and my stomach typically looks lopsided when I'm lying down. Owen did the same thing. Maybe I have a wonky uterus that's more comfy on one side? 
       I am enjoying baby kicks more regularly now. He tends to kick around mealtimes and especially at night when I am falling asleep. Watching him kick and move from the outside is still one of the coolest experiences of being pregnant. 
       My next doctor's appointment is in early June and that is when I will be tested for gestational diabetes. I am hoping that I pass the test again. My mom had it and I do make big babies, so it's always a concern of mine. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Citrus Lane review (May box)

        My May Citrus Lane boxes came on Saturday and I wanted to share all the fun products that came inside. I was really excited this month because I signed up for a second subscription so we could get a box for our baby-to-be too. So this month we received both a box for a 25-month-old toddler boy and a newborn baby boy. We were so happy with both boxes this month and we really excited with everything we received. There were lots of things to play with this month which always makes us happy and a "mom" gift in each box. Citrus Lane continues to be my favorite subscription box because I am hardly disappointed with what we receive and everything is always useful or fun. Or both!
    Here's the description from the insert provided in the boxes: "We are super excited about this month's box, which includes some of our community's favorites brands! We love Barefoot Books at every age - from the beginning of life babies who love to hear you read to them, around a year they'll start trying to help you turn the page, and before you know it your child will be reading to you! We also love how Green Toys has something fantastic for every age of childhood - from teethers to stackers to vehicles and imaginary play. And in honor of Mother's Day, we're sending you a special treat for Mom. Happy Mother's Day from Citrus Lane!"
   Owen had a blast as usual opening his box and pulling out all the items. Though he was so excited about the first item (a book) that we had to prompt him to keep looking because he just wanted to read the book instead. 

            And here are the details on what we received in our box for our 25-month-old son (scroll down to see our newborn box):
  • Journey Home from Grandpa's Book and CD set from Barefoot Books ($9.99): In this I-Spy journey home from Grandpa's house, your little one will be introduced to colors, modes of transportation, and music through various landscapes. Our moms and babies loved the book and CD set that we sent earlier this year, so we're super excited to send a new set to you. We always value the opportunity to partner with Barefoot Books, a company that believes in empowering children through the love of reading. I cannot begin to describe to you how excited Owen was to see this book in his box. After we got Barefoot Books' "The Animal Boogie" in a previous box, we looked up several of their other songs on Youtube and played them for Owen. This one happens to be his favorite. He even began singing the song a little when we pulled the book out of the box and started flipping through the pages. They could not have sent a more perfect book for him from this company. I think we read it about 10 times the day we got it. 
  • Submarine from Green Toys ($14.99): This toy sub is a fantastic addition to the Green Toys line of bath toys. Made in the USA entirely from 100 percent recycled milk jugs, it features a spinning rear propeller, a flat bottom for stable water play and a wide-mouth opening for scoop-and-pour action. The cabin opens for air drying between baths, and the entire submarine can be run through the dishwasher to safely rid mold and mildew. We were really excited to receive this product. We have several other Green Toys products and we really enjoy them all. And because bath time is such a fun time with Owen, I know this will only add to it. We have the tugboat bath toy, but this one seems even cooler with the moving propeller. Owen really digs it and for some reason calls it his "acki-eeda." At least that's what it sounds like he's saying. 
  • Happy Munchies Rice Cakes from Happy Family ($3.19 on Amazon): A new snack from Happy Family! It can be a challenge to find healthy snacks that appeal to your entire family. But these tasty organic rice cakes are just right for all ages, from teething babies who are just learning how to eat with their fingers to older kids looking for a crunchy snack. USDA-certified organic and gluten-free. I don't typically buy these kinds of snacks for Owen because they can be a little pricey and hard to find where I live, but I gave these to him to try and he really liked them. We asked him, "Are they crunchy?" And he replied, "No, they're good." I gave one a taste too and they are pretty yummy.
  •  Moisture Stick from Deep Steep ($5.95): We thought this product was so unique and useful! This multipurpose stick - small enough to toss in your purse - is a great alternative to lotions. Formulated to melt on contact with heat from your skin, it glides on easily and hydrates with coconut oil to prevent flaking, while preventing premature aging. Never tested on animals, it's also free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, mineral oil, and fragrances. I enjoy getting a mom gift every now and then and I was actually pretty excited to see this particular product because many people got it in their Stork Stack box this month, while I received a snack bar instead. (Bummer!) I am really interested to try this because applying lotion can get pretty messy and this seems like a great alternative because you can just dab it on where you need a little extra moisture. 

         My verdict on Owen's box? A home-run for sure! The book alone almost makes the whole thing worth it because he loves it so very much. The retail value of this box is $34.12, about $10 higher than the cost of the box (though I paid a bit less because I purchased a multi-month subscription which is discounted.) The value of Citrus Lane's boxes are always pretty good compared to the price you pay for the items. And since I have never had a month where I didn't use everything in the box, I always feel like I'm getting good value for what I spend. 
         Our newborn box for little brother was great too. Here's a photo of all our goodies and a list of what came inside:

  • Rattle Keys from Green Toys ($7.99): A new launch from Green Toys for Spring 2013! We love this adorable set of rattle keys. Unlike other play keys, these are made in the USA from 100 percent recycled plastic milk jugs. With rounded edges and plenty of textures to soothe sore gums, these four "keys" provide clean, eco-friendly teething relief. BPA, phthalates and PVC free, just toss them in the dishwasher for safe, easy cleaning. I am super excited about this toy for our baby-boy-t0-be. We had a set of the traditional keys for Owen, but these seem so much nicer and I love that they can be sanitized in the dishwasher. How awesome is that?  
  • "Bear Takes a Trip" from Barefoot Books ($6.99): From the best-selling series of books chronicling the adventures of Bear, this book follows Bear on his exciting journey to the mountains. Our babies loved the Bear adventures we sent earlier this year, so we're excited to send another story from the series. Again, we are never sorry to see books in our Citrus Lane boxes and a new book for little brother is great. Especially because it has yet to be torn apart or chewed on and bent like many of the other books he will inherit from his big brother. Owen is a major book lover, but he can be a little hard on them. This one is super colorful and cute. 
  • The Mommy Hook ($9.99): A Citrus Lane Award finalist! Many moms consider the Mommy Hook an indispensible essential. Made from lightweight, heavy-duty aluminum with rubber guides to keep it from sliding. It accommodates bags of every sort, from diaper bags to shopping to camera, plus purses, clothing, and anything else you can hang. It hooks on virtually any stroller handle and you can even use it on a shopping cart. I have never seen or tried this before, but I think with the amount of baby stuff that I carry about to double, this should certainly come in handy. We'll see if it's as essential as some moms claim it to be!
  • Travel Size Dish Liquid from Dapple ($1.99): A Citrus Lane favorite, you'll be amazed at how well this soap works to get your baby's feeding items clean, while feeling great about the simple, all-natural ingredients. It took two moms, several experienced pediatricians, and a team of seasoned green chemists to create Dapple - a company that offers a full line of cleaners made for homes with young children. I have received samples of this dish liquid in several subscriptions boxes over time and can't remember actually ever using it. I never knew that the company made other products so I think it would actually be pretty prudent of them to send out samples of some of their other products. Actually now that I think of it, we may have gotten a sample of their detergent before too. Nevermind.
  • Gripe Water from Mommy's Bliss ($9.34 on Amazon): There's nothing worse than an upset stomach, especially when it's your baby who's suffering. Pediatrician recommended, Gripe Water is a safe and effective all-natural herbal supplement that eases the gas and stomach pain that goes hand-in-hand with colic, hiccups, and teething. So gentle and effective, it's become the number-one natural remedy for colic and gas. Somehow I never heard about this when Owen was going through his "colic-y" stage. And we tried every remedy on the Internet. I am so happy that we got a bottle of this to try with our second baby in case we have to go through that same stage again. It will be great to be able to give it a try and see if it works without having to buy it ourselves. 

    This month, the newborn box retailed for $36.30, which is more than $10 over the cost of the box. This is a great value for all the items inside, which we found to all be useful and interesting. We were just as happy with our newborn box as we were with Owen's toddler box. This was a great month for Citrus Lane!
   For those of you not familiar with Citrus Lane, it is a subscription box company that offers a monthly box of 4 to 5 full-sized products tailored to your child's age and gender for newborns to age 5. Boxes cost $25 a month, but currently, new members can save $10 on a subscription if they sign up through a referral link from someone who is already a Citrus Lane member. The Citrus Lane member will also receive a $10 credit. My referral link can be found HERE. Additionally, the coupon code TAKEHALF can get you half off your first month's box if you want to do a monthly subscription where you are charged each month. According to Citrus Lane's Facebook page, there is currently no discount code for a longer subscription other than using a referral link to sign up (though those subscriptions are already discounted some to reward people for ordering a longer term subscription). 
      Do you subscribe to Citrus Lane? What did you think about the May boxes?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Totally Trying It - The April Edition Results

      Here are the results of the April Edition of I'm Totally Trying It. I am linking up again with Jennifer at Ramblings of a Suburban Mom. Check her blog to see her opinions on the things she tried this month. 

  • Expecting More: Sara Haley's Daily Sweat Pregnancy Program: This is the best pregnancy workout DVD that I've ever done. I really love the variety of workouts (six total) and the calendar included to tell you which routine to do each workout day of the week through every trimester. Sara Haley is motivational without being too cheesy or irritating like some workout DVD instructors. The workouts are tailored to pregnant women and are difficult and challenging, but moves are modified so that they are safe for pregnant women and several modifications are shown so you can decide what is best for you. This workout DVD is pretty expensive compared to other pregnancy workouts, but I think it is totally worth the price because it is basically six workouts DVDs in one. Each of the workouts lasts between 30 minutes to around an hour and they are all fun! My favorites are Salutations (think yoga-type moves and stretching) and Synergy (a combination of strength and cardio intervals).
  • Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo: I decided to give a drugstore brand a try and I was relatively happy with the results. It does take some trial and error to use it correctly. Spray too much or too close and you have a thick white powder in your hair and you look like you're wearing George Washington's wig. But once I got the hang of it, I found that it worked pretty well. I didn't always feel like it soaked up the oil all the time, but it definitely added some volume to my hair which made it looked like I had freshly washed and styled it that day. 
  • Boscia BB Cream SPF 27: I am officially a BB cream convert, especially during the spring and summer when I need to be more proactive about wearing SPF on my face. The Boscia BB cream did a really great job. It blends well with my skin tone, goes on pretty smoothly, and feels velvety on my skin. I also was happy that it didn't break out my skin. I was a little worried that might happen. On the downside, Boscia is pretty expensive compared to drug store brands, so I may give a cheaper version a try just to save a few bucks. 
  • "The Honest Life" by Jessica Alba: I have really enjoyed this book. True, it makes me afraid of all the evil chemicals and stuff in everything in my house and it does bum me out that I would have to drive us to debt by implementing everything that Alba discusses in the book. We can't afford to buy organic everything, but I did learn which items are the most important to buy organic along with some other fun tips. And it was actually really interesting to read, particularly the sections on food, baby, and cleaning. 
  • Chobani Flip Greek yogurt: I really love these new (ish) Greek yogurts. I tried these flavors: Key Lime Crumble, Vanilla Golden Crunch, Honey Bee Nana, Almond Coco Loco, and Raspberry Choco Fix. My favorites are the Almond Coco Loco and the Key Lime Crumble. They do have a pretty decent amount of sugar in them and more calories than your lighter yogurts. But it has a ton of protein (about a fourth of your daily value) and I can have one for breakfast and it keeps me full until lunch unlike most other yogurts. The only downside is that they cost $1.39 each at my local Kroger, so they are a bit more expensive than what I normally buy. So I stocked up the other day when they were on sale 10 for $10. Also, Tim liked them a lot too and he is not a fan of Greek yogurt. 

Being intentional with Owen

       At the end of last month after Owen's second birthday, I began looking into free Christian preschool programs so I could begin to be more intentional about teaching Owen and have a little more structure to our day. I eventually settled on ABC Jesus Loves Me because it has a curriculum for two year olds and everything is offered online. For a small fee, you can purchase the printed curriculum to save yourself the time and expense of printing it yourself or having to pull up the website each time you do an activity. I chose to do that and am really happy that I can plan lessons from the book and not online. Though I do go online still sometimes to find additional ideas or links to other tools. 
       Here's a little more information about ABC Jesus Loves Me:
  • Lessons are divided into weeks. Each week focuses on a color, shape, letters, numbers, Bible lesson, song, Bible verse, fine motor skill, gross motor skill and self-care and manners. There is also a book of the week based on the creator's list of top books for two-year-olds. 
  • Lessons include ideas for art projects, games and other ways to teach each of the concepts for the week. I typically pick and choose which of these I think Owen would like and plan my lessons each weekend before the start of the next week. We only do the structured lessons three days a week and just do a bit of review in our everyday routine on the other days of them week, i.e. pointing out letters or shapes while going on walks around the neighborhood. 
  • A list of supplies needed for each week is also included so you can make sure you have everything you need for the crafts and other activities. 

      After looking through the curriculum to see what supplies I would need, I made a quick trip to Wal-mart to pick up art supplies like crayons, construction paper, glue, paint, flash cards, a dry erase board, and a plastic tote to keep it all together. 
      I then scheduled our first week and I'm happy to say that it went so well. I schedule our day, but I don't have any problems moving things around or changing things up if we need to be a little spontaneous. I divide our "lessons" into little 15 minute segment throughout the day so Owen doesn't get bored or frustrated. In case you're curious, here's an example of what a typical ABCJLM day is like:
  • 7 a.m. - I wake up, do my Bible study, workout and shower.
  • 8 a.m. - Owen is typically awake by now and I get him dressed. 
  • 8:30 a.m. - Breakfast and brush our teeth and wash Owen's face.
  • 9 a.m. - Bible story/Bible memory verse/Song/Poem.
  • 9:30 a.m. - Owen plays independently while I do daily chores (I basically deep clean one room each day of the week, i.e. Master bedroom on Mondays, bathrooms on Tuesdays, etc.)
  • 10:15 a.m. - We practice the alphabet letters of the week and the number of the week.
  • 10:30 a.m. - More playtime.
  • 11 a.m. - We practice identifying the shape and color of the week.
  • 11:15 a.m. - We do a craft that pertains to either the Bible story of the week or the book of the week.
  • 11:45 a.m. - Fix lunch and eat.
  • 12:30 p.m. - Playtime/Take a walk outside.
  • 1 p.m. - Read book of the week and a few other books before naptime.
  • 1:15 p.m. - Naptime/Mommy time.
  • 3 p.m. - Snacktime.
  • 3:15 p.m. - Outside play/Gross motor skill activity.
  • 5 p.m. - Start dinner and eat once Tim gets home.
  • 7 p.m. - Bathtime followed by storytime and bedtime around 7:45 p.m. 
      Here are some photos from our first week:

This is Owen doing a craft based on our Bible lesson for the week: Creation Days 1 and 2. This is the second day of creation, when God separated the water and the sky. We made clouds by pulling apart cotton balls and gluing them down and then Owen painted the water with a mixture of blue finger paint and shaving cream. 

Our gross motor skill for the week was a game called Put the Fire Out. It required me to draw a ladder with a fire at the top (I drew the entire house because it just looked silly without it). Then I filled a bucket with water and gave Owen a sponge so he could soak it and then go up the ladder and squeeze water onto the "fire" to put it out. 

He had a blast playing this game. 

Run, run! Put out the fire!

Cutest little firefighter ever!

This is a great game for a warm day.

Another art project we did this week was to create planets by drawing with blue and green markers on a coffee filter and then spritzing it with water so the colors bled together.

They turned out really pretty. 

Owen knows pretty much all his uppercase letters already, but I am still working on reviewing them with him before I start on lowercase letters. I use these flashcards during our lessons.

I also use these Schoolhouse Cookies from Trader Joe's that we bought while we were visiting our families a couple weeks ago. I wish we had one nearby so I could restock. 

Learning with cookies is extra fun. 

One of the things I love best about the curriculum is the inclusion of Bible lessons. Owen loves reading his children's Bibles and he is even doing really well with his memory verse. Hearing my sweet boy recite scripture is one of the sweetest things. Even if he did say, "In the beginning, God created... penguins."