Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Preschooling my Preschooler

There are many areas of life in which I fail, daily.  I'm not always as kind as I ought to be; I have selfish moments; the list could go on.  But one area I never wished to fail was at parenting, more specifically helping my daughter learn.  Recently, I came to the harsh realization that I haven't been keeping up with teaching her new things as much as I should.  This slapped me right between the eyes and I've felt guilty for weeks.  It all came about when a couple girl friends said their children could spell their name by the time they were 2...what??  Emilia has NO interest in spelling her name.  One friend even tried to console me by saying Emilia's name was unique so maybe it was harder...No.  That's not the case.  It is because I haven't actively worked with her on it.  And so many other things. 

Don't get me wrong, Emilia is a very bright little girl (if I do say so myself).  She knows her birthday, can count to 20, knows her colors and shapes, loves to play matching games, knows her alphabet (saying not recognizing or writing), speaks clearly and (mostly) correctly, can reason, and so on.  I'm not saying we have completely dis-serviced her (if that is even a word).  But, I feel very convicted that we aren't doing as much as we should be.  We have had LOTS of changes in the past few months and before we moved she had a great baby sitter who I know was working on different things with her too.  But now she is home every day with her dad- no other toddler interaction, learning skills, etc.  Now, we can't really afford to let her go to a half-day preschool or anything for toddler interaction, but we definitely can amp up the learning activities at home and help her continue to grow. 

On top of that, I am actively working on getting a curriculum together that we can start once we hit Saipan.  I decided not to try and start anything "formal" with her until after we have been on Saipan a month or two.  That is going to be a huge life change for her, and I want us to be a little more settled before starting in on structured learning.  I came across a couple great blogs this morning and I am excited to start getting everything together!  THIS blog has an entire alphabet series, with oodles of free printables, and I think you can even purchase the whole 26-week curriculum as a download for $10, which includes the weekly lesson plans.  She also has older children whom she home schools as well, and there are links to lots of other great stuff.  I feel like this is a step in the right direction.  At least a good starting point.

Is this me saying I'm going to homeschool Emilia forever?  No.  I truly believe she needs the social interaction of public school (or maybe private school)- she is like me and we get our energy from being around other people.  Am I saying I am against homeschooling?  NO.  I see the many, Many benefits of homeschooling and there may come a day when we consider doing it past preschool.  But I'm not there yet.  What I AM saying is that I am committed to helping prepare her for school and equipping her with all the knowledge she needs to succeed.  I know this will be a great challenge, and I am praying all the time that God blesses our time together learning.

For now, I think we will break out our gifted copy of the Letter Factory (thanks Jaime!) and add that to her tv time.  She's really big into Tinkerbell these days and since we don't let her to watch too much tv/movies, she always pick something fairy-ish when she does watch.  So, when she wants to watch something I think we will make sure Letter Factory outweighs good ol' Tink. ;-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

L.O.V.E. :: Scrabble Tile Pillow Covers

Good Morning!

I have been meaning to post about one of my favorite items I made as a Christmas gift this past year and today is the day!  My sister and I decided to do a "Pinterest Christmas" and make each others gifts based on our favorite pins.  We both are a little addicted to Pinterest (Okok, maybe only I am addicted, but anyway!).  It was really fun to watch as Clare posted new pins and I would "like" them instead of repinning to keep her from knowing which ones I intended to make.  I am glad I waited until now to write about this, because this craft is super fitting with Valentine's Day just around the corner.  What better gift (or just a decoration for yourself) than a set of these Scrabble Tile Pillow Covers:

These pillow covers do require a teeny bit of sewing knowledge, but are really quite easy!  To keep costs down, I used muslin to resemble the wood tone of scrabble blocks and black cotton fabric for my letters.  Because the muslin was so thin, I had to use 2 layers for the pillow form, to make sure the pattern on my recycled pillow forms didn't show through.  But even with doubling the amount of fabric needed, the cost was still less than purchasing a more expensive cotton fabric.

*Fabric for pillow covers- amount will depend on the size of your pillows (I used roughly 4 yards)
*Black fabric for scrabble letters and numbers
*Black embroidery thread and needle
*Iron-on adhesive
*Scissors and/or rotart cutter, ruler and cutting mat, sewing machine w/thread
*Four square pillows (Mine were 15x15)

I am sorry in advance, because I have no pictures to go along with this tutorial.  :(  When I was putting these together, I didn't really intend to use them as a tutorial post.  But, I really regret that...hopefully the instructions are easy to follow, sans photos.


1.  Cut all the pieces of the pillow covers.  Instead of reinventing the wheel here, check out THIS tutorial.  It gives clear directions and is one of the best tuts for envelope pillow cases I have come across.  (If you choose to use muslin, as I did, you will need to cut double for each piece of each pillow.)  **DO NOT sew your pillow covers together yet- we have to add the letters first! (O:

2.  Prepare your letters and numbers.  Whenever I work on an applique project, I use Word to print my letters/numbers/shapes/etc.  Look through the fonts your computer has and pick one that is very plain and most closely resembles the letter from actual scrabble tiles.  The size you choose will depend on what size your pillow are.  I wanted mine to be very prominent, so they were roughly large enough to fill one sheet of paper per letter.  I typed all 4 numbers on a separate sheet, at a much smaller size.

3.  Trace your letters and numbers onto the paper side of the iron-on adhesive- Letters and Numbers BACKWARDS!  Yes, I just used caps and an exlamation point...I have been doing little applique projects for a couple years now and I still mess this up from time to time.  It's a really aggrevating "oops" and I don't want you to pull any hair out during this project. ;-)

4.  Iron your black fabric to the iron-on adhesive.  Once cool, cut out all letters and numbers and remove the paper backing.

5.  Iron your letters and numbers to your front fabric pieces.  I tried to be as scientific as I could, regarding getting the letters centered and the numbers all about the same height from the bottom.  You may not be as OCD as I am, so this might not bother you.  If not, just eyeball your letters and numbers, then iron into place. 

6.  Once you have all 4 square fronts ironed beautifully, it is time to stitch.  I don't have an applique machine so I do all mine by hand.  (I honestly prefer the quaint look it gives- something basic but pretty).  I like to use 2 strands of embroidery thread for a little extra thickness.  Do a basic running stitch along the edges of all the letters and numbers.

7.  Sew your pillows!  Refer back to THIS tutorial to complete the sewing part of this project.  My OCD kicking in again, but I was mindful to make sure all the envelopes were sewn to open in the same direction.

I had such fun making these for my sister and I knew she would love them.  One little side story about this gift that still makes me laugh:  I had asked my sister for advice on where to find cheap pillow forms for a "Christmas gift for my mother-in-law" and she said she had a set of 4 pillows I could have for the project.  I could barely contain my excitement waiting for her to open these pillows and realize that she GAVE me the pillows to make HER Christmas gift.  Haha, too funny.

I hope you found this (pictureless) tutorial helpful and good luck with your own version of these pillows!  I would love to see what you create!  (O:

*I am linking up to this great Pinteresting Party #23!  Go check it out for loads of other great ideas!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

10 Things That Make You Uniquely Beautiful

I was just hopping around from blog to blog when I came across something I wanted to share.  The blog is called "Beauty in the Storm".  The name caught my interested right away and I love this part of her welcome:  "Our true heart is shown in the storms of life"- isn't that so true?  I want to be a woman whose heart remains beautiful and pure during hard times.  I am thankful for this reminder.

Her post from Sunday has the same title as what I am posting now, "10 Things Things That Make You Uniquely Beautiful".  At first, I was unsure what this list would contain, if it was a letter to someone, something someone had told her or what.  After reading it, I'm glad to say that I find it to be a great reminder that we are all God's creations and we are ALL beautiful!

I want to list a couple of my personal favorites, but I also encourage you to visit her blog and read the complete list. 

4.  Your touch. Do you pat someone on the back when you hug? Do you rub their arm in support and love? Do your hands help a child up when they’ve fallen? Your touch shows your heart. And it’s a loving, beautiful heart.

6.  Your laugh. One of the most beautiful things on a person is to see joy and happiness in their heart spill out. Whether your laugh is high-pitched, loud, or full of repetitions – it’s  a reflection of all that is good and merry and right.

9.  Your personality. That sweetness, diligence, tenacity, patient and forgiving heart….that bubbly outlook on life, that inquisitive nature  - those are beautiful. God wants to use those in you – let them flourish.

Sometimes God blesses us in ways that seem random, such as happening upon a stranger's blog.  Who knows what blesssing He may have in store for you today! (O:

Friends, Flowers and Fun!

How are those for 3 Fabulous F's?  Now there are 4!  ;-)

This past weekend I enjoyed a great Saturday with 10 beautiful ladies and a couple of our kiddos.  As I mentioned here, my sister, momma and I are working on a really cool quilt for me to take to Saipan this July.  My sister had the awesome idea of asking all my friends and family to be a part of this project by helping to make the fabric and/or crochet flowers to cover the front of the quilt.  What a cool idea!  I love that I'm taking little bits of my favorite people half way around the world.  It will be a great comfort to have on tough days and a pleasant reminder every day of the relationships and encouragement I have so far away.

My friend Margo, was gracious enough to open her home for our Crafty Friend Day!  We invited lots of lovely ladies to join us for a few lessons on flower making, chatting with friends, and yummy snacks.  Many of my friends were aprehensive about their levels of craftiness, but I assured them were many options that were all relatively easy.

I caught a few photos of my girls hard at work! (Erin came after I had already put my camera away, but she was there too!)  (O:

Sherry, Lacey, Margo and Michelle  (Michelle and Sherry drove 2 hours to join us!)

Elise and Jessca

Alyssa, Brooklynn, and Clare


Once we were all finished with our flowers, we laid them out on the sheet I'll be using to get an idea of what it will look like.  There are still many flowers to create, but I love how it is coming together!

On my way home after this super fun day, I really got lost in my thoughts about how thankful I am for these ladies.  God has blessed me with an amazing group of friends and it is sometimes overwhelming to think about how much we all mean to each other.  Like I said before, many of them weren't all that excited about making a flower, but they still came and tried (and Did Great!).  Because they knew it was important to me.  What God reminded me in that moment is that it doesn't matter where we live, only that we love.  I know I will use this quilt often while on Saipan and I cannot wait to get lost in fun memories of each friend who helped put this quilt together.  Once we are a little closer to completion, I hope to do another post remarking of the specialness of each and every one of these awesome ladies (and anyone else who contributes between now and then).  It will be a great reminder of the great people in my life.  While I may not be blessed with a good enough memory, I am Totally blessed with the best of friends!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Orientation = Overwhelmed, but Excited!

This weekend, Jason, Emilia and I loaded up the car for an overnight trip to the General Baptist Internation Missions Headquarters in Poplar Bluff, MO.  There was a meet and greet dinner on Sunday night for all SIX Missionary candidates who are currently working towards getting on the field.  According to the Missions Director, this is the most people to be sent out at a single time maybe in GBIM's history!  How awesome is that?!  What's more- none of these missionaries were recruited.  That means God has been stirring in each of our lives individually and brought us all together to start this journey together.

One couple is going to the Philippines, probably Fall 2013.  There is a single lady and a single college graduate man both going to Honduras- I didn't get a chance to ask them after their timeline meeting to see when they will leave.  There are a few events in the next several months that we will all attend together, so it was really great to meet them and start making connections.  Plus, it's really cool to be around other people who understand exactly what we're working towards.

Monday was a VERY informational day and my head is still swirling a little...the morning was spent going through some practical information regarding raising support- Dos and Don'ts of Fundraising, Prioritizing lists, Contact lists, Support letters, and so on.  It was a lot of great information- exactly what I have been trying to locate for a while now.  Jason and I have quite a bit of homework to start on!  We have our basic support list put together (thank you, Christmas card list!), but now we have to start looking at who to contact, how to contact and when.  In addition to that, one of the directors will be setting up meetings for Jason at area GB churches to ask for support as well.  By local, I mean Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and Minnesota.  Whew!  Do you want to see some pretty exciting numbers??

OK, our Launch Date is officially JULY 24, 2012!  That means 196 DAYS until we board the plane headed for Saipan.  WOW!!!  Another exciting number- the number of Shares we must raise in order to go = 200.  Let me explain how this works- a "Share" is $10/month or $120/year.  GB works their support in shares.  So, a person who wants to contribute $50/month to our ministry would commit to 5 shares.  Make sense?  (Different than what I've even been used to, but everyone in the General Baptist Association understands it, so why mess with a good thing!)  Our number of shares is exciting because we know through God's blessing, this is definitely attainable!  Yes, it is roughly 1 share per day until we leave...but we hope for our Support Team Members to each contribute at least 2 shares, and more as they feel led.  In addition to the 200 monthly shares, we also have to build up $20,000 in overhead.  This will cover our travel, shipping (yay!), other expenses once on Saipan as we get settled.  This number seems a little more daunting to me, but I know God will provide and I'm praying the churches we visit (as well as our friends and family) are as passionate about this ministry as we are!

Now, since our launch date is quickly approaching, and Jason has a list of 37 churches to hopefully visit, that means our time is going to start Flying.  Sam, the director we are working with, counted that we have 19 Sundays to visit churches.  We hope to be able to visit 2 in one day, depending on locations- one in the morning and one for the evening service.

(Are you feeling overwhelmed and/or excited yet??)  I am!!  On my agenda for today (besides working and paying bills, yuck) is putting the finishing touches on our support letter and update our support list with the additional names Jason and I discussed on our trip home last night.  Something that hit us during the training was that we shouldn't exclude people from our list because we know they "won't give".  How can God bless us through someone if they are never even asked?  Not to mention, we need the support and prayer of ALL our loved ones- whether they decide to support our ministry in Saipan or not is not up to us.  All we can do is explain all the exciting things we hope to do for God and ask them to join us and aid in this ministry.

Another task I have to start preparing myself for...Public Speaking (insert scary music here...).  It was my hope to let Jason do most of our speaking at the visits, and he definitely still will.  But, I need to be ready and willing to speak at Ladies' Groups, small groups, etc.  Not to mention, I will have a number of opportunities to discuss everything personally with my girl friends.  I don't need to push that all on J to talk to their spouses.  Plus, I have girl friends who aren't married- so if I don't buckle down and talk with them, who will?  My level of responsibility has increased, and I'm realizing I should have been working on that well before now.  (Scared!)

Ever present in my mind is making sure Emilia's life remains stable.  So far, we are working harder to keep our attitudes in check and good energy in our home.  Kids can sense Every emotion of their parents, and they feed on them.  We want to keep the enthusiasm and excitement of what we're doing, and hopefully those will be the emotions she clings to.

So, like I said, it was an overwhelmingly exciting weekend!  There is a lot, a LOT, to do, but God is faithful.  Now, let's get busy!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Bedtime Wake Up Call...

We have been back in Granite City for one month and one week now and if asked, I would tell you we've adjusted just fine.  We aren't completely "settled"- just ask the unpacked suitcases of underwear, socks and misc junk in all our closets- but I thought we were starting to feel at home here.  Did you catch that?  I *thought*...It was heart breaking to find out last night that Emilia isn't entirely sure of what is happening with our little family.

The past several nights, she has had a great deal of trouble falling and staying asleep at night.  We have to make several trips into her room to calm her down, get her to bring the volume down so we don't wake everyone else up, etc.  Last night, I was laying in her bed cuddling for our "Two Minutes", when she asked me when we were going home. (Pit. Stomach. Lump. Throat.)  That's when it hit me- she must think we are just on a long, LONG visit to Grammy and Grampy's.  She loves Grammy and Grampy (at times more than her dad and I, I fear), and so it hadn't really been noticeable that we Moved.  When I reminded her that we moved here and this was our home for now, she told me "Noo, this is Grammy and Grampy's home...."  Doesn't that explain so much?  All the late night fits and fights, the acting out due to confusion, and so on.  All the areas we have been trying to show EXTRA patience while we unravel all her little 2 1/2 year old thoughts and I missed this one- Big Time.

I laid with her for a few extra minutes that night, talking about Saipan.  I told her we were living with Grammy and Grampy until it got really hot out side and then we were moving to our new home in Saipan.  I asked her where Saipan was and she said "far, far FAR away".  You've got that right sister.  I went through the dialouge again about how we won't be close to Grammy, Grampy, Grandma Bonnie, etc. and we won't get to see them for a long time.  But I reminded her that we could Skype with them, like she used to do with her babysitter, Mrs. Vicki, and Mrs. Vicki's grandson, Lucian.  She loved getting to do that with them, and I know she will enjoy doing it with her own grandparents in only a few short months.

All of this to say, sometimes we think everything is OK, but it's not.  I know there are parts of this journey that Emilia will never understand completely or beyond what is capable of a 3 year old.  But, I needed this gentle reminder to talk things through with her- repeatively and often.  The information is sinking in, but it's a slow process.  I know she will always feel a stable level of comfort as long as Jason and I are her constants, but we need to do a better job of watching for the uncertainties in her little life.  She may be loud, funny and confident, but she has scared parts and confused parts too.

I think that translates into our every day, ordinary lives as well.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the hub-bub of social calendars, "me time", work, and so on that we forget our most fragile gifts.  I'm not saying I am against ANY of those things I just mentioned.  I'm trying to point out that our lives are all about balance and we need to keep our focus centered on Christ and see how we portion out our time accordingly.  I need to be there for Emilia every day in every way I can.

On days when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope with correcting her and teaching her what a Good Attitude is, I need to remind myself that her little life is just as much in an upheaval right now as mine.  We are going through all these crazy changes together.  While it's such a great experience, I need to remember that she cannot always voice her concerns.  I need to keep my eyes and ears open for her other cues and try to help her transition easily.  Lord, bless my sweet baby girl and please help me to always see her through your eyes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Saipan Blog!

I almost forgot that Jason had this blog going...whoopsie daisy!  We(HE) started this blog right when we made our official decision to go and started sharing the news.  It has the story of how we came to understand God's calling and everything that has happened since.  You really should check it out- there are so many little "coincidences" that all add up to one Awesome "God Thing". 

I'm still deciding whether I will keep my personal blog as well as take over the updates on our "Thoughts From Tomorrow" blog once we are on island...I have a tendency to neglect this poor little guy, but I also will have more time to keep up with both of them- I plan to actually mark it as a To Do on my calendar!  I like having my own personal blog to help track my personal growth as well as blog about things I find interesting, etc.  The Saipan blog will be mostly for our support partners to keep up with how our ministry is going.  Plus, I don't exactly have a huge following over here at Love.Laugh.Live, so it's a good place to keep my thoughts separate.  There, it's decided.

Anyway, I hope all 5 of you will check out our Saipan blog, if you haven't already.  And hey!  Tell a friend! ;-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lovely Weekend

Good Morning~

I had to take a moment away from work because I wanted to reflect over our past weekend.  There were SO many fun times and my heart is full of joy.  God never ceases to amaze me by how He knows our needs and provides for them above and beyond our expectations.

Friday night I loaded Emilia and my fabric flower crafts up in our car and drove out to my Momma's house.  My sister, Clare, was meeting us there too.  I can't decide what my favorite part of the evening was:  Chinese food from my FAV take out place, my old bedroom remodeled into E's dream playroom (she gasped "Oh my Goodness!  This is beautiful!" when she first saw it...LOVE), laughs with my family, parenting tips from Mom, Mom and Clare's dogs behaving SOO well as E wrapped them in blankets for nap time and gave them *strong hugs, or crafting together.  Suffice it to say, it was an awesome evening!  And for once in my life, it was ME showing THEM something crafty.  Who would have thought we would see this day?!  ;-)

Saturday was the Warren Family Extravaganza Day!  I think I usually call any day where the whole Warren clan is together an extravaganza, and I don't think that is an over-statement.  With nearly 50 of us, anything we do is super-charged!  We had several families that weren't able to make it this year, but we still had a blast.  We started the party around 10:00 a.m. with a full line up of yummy breakfast foods.  We played the "game" in the early afternoon and stayed together until 8:00 p.m. that night!  Actually, that's just when Emilia and I left...there were several that stuck around to ring in the New Year together.  I was fast asleep by 9:30 and have no regrets about it!  Especially since I got to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. the next morning!  Yessss!

Sunday was PJ day, woo hoo!  E and I vegged most of the day and it was perfection.  We had no plans until that evening when we headed out to our friend DJ and Margo's house for dinner.  DJ is an awesome cook and he is one of the only people that can get Jason to try new foods.  We are never disappoined!  It was fun to spend a few hours just chatting with our friends and watching our kids play together.  Their son, Daniel just turned one in November and is such a cutie!  He and Emilia played pretty well together- he's too young to fight back at my sometimes-bossy 2 1/2 year old. ;-)

I had yesterday off and was able to catch up on laundry, etc.  It felt so nice to actually get some of our clothes out of suitcases and storage tubs!  I feel more human when my clothes are put away in the correct places and I can see part of the closet floor.  It was another PJ day and very relaxing (or as relaxing as laundry day can be...).  That evening we met up with my old college roommate for dinner!  She and her family are from Louisville, KY and were in town for a wedding.  We ate at QDOBA (yum!!) and then went back to their hotel and let the kids swim!  It was so so great to catch up with her; it was like no time had passed.  Her some, Emerson, is only 2 months younger than Emilia and they are Definitely two peas in a pod.  One would dish is out and the other would sling it right back.  Oh, the joys of 2 year olds.  But it was really great to watch them interact and Mandy and I both agreed that it was nice to see that our kids are NORMAL.  Sometimes one can feel like their kid is out of control or that their parenting skills are lacking...but seeing the two E's together, we realized that sometimes toddlers are just that- Toddlers!

So, like I said, God definitely blessed me this weekend with exactly what I needed!  My soul is refreshed.  Anyone who knows me can tell you I am very much a people person, and it had been way too long since I had interaction with friends and even family.  I could feel myself getting ever-so-slightly depressed because I felt alone- working long hours, coming home for a couple short hours with my family before back to sleep and redo the next day.  I know these are short-term sacrifices, and I am happy to make them because I know God's plan is BIG.  But, I am also very very grateful that He gives my heart what it needs, even when I'm not sure what that might be.  He knows because HE is in charge.  He loves me and has filled my heart with joy once again.  God is good!