Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

This is the first time I have been aware of Leap Day. Obviously I know about Leap Year but I have never really given the day much thought. Well, today was Noelle and Noah's very first February 29th so we made a play date with my best friend, Kim, and her little guy, Christopher.

We met at a park in Kim's town and let the kids play, eat cupcakes, and make new friends.


I love every second I get to spend with Chris. His mom and I have been best friends since the 4th grade. I always knew she would be an amazing mom but watching her now with her son is delightful. She has more patience in her pinkie than I do even on my best days. 

I remember when Kim and I spent recess playing tether ball and 4-square on the blacktop at our middle school. Now we get together and watch our kids swing, kick balls, and run around the playground. She is due with her second in 5 short weeks. I can't wait to meet him or her! 


We laughed at this sign on the park. Why can Canadian kids play younger? Are they smarter? lol.


After about an hour of fun, we were chased back to our cars when rain clouds rolled in. The sprinkles soon turned into a full on downpour and later cleared to reveal some pretty sweet rainbows.


Unfortunately the busy afternoon and the sound of the rain put Noelle and Noah to sleep in the car almost instantly so they missed the colorful arches in the sky.
Noah is no longer watching the world fly by while sitting backward in the car. He loves his new car seat. Loved it from the minute he sat down and was able to keep his eyes on me. He talks and talks and laughs with his sister when she makes funny faces at him. Exactly how I imagined they would do when he was flipping around in my belly. I feel immensely blessed when I glance in the rear view mirror and see those sweet faces.


It was a good day. "A very busy day" as Noelle and I say every night after reading The Very Busy Spider. The spider works hard all day spinning a web and finally finishes at the end of the day and catches a fly. The book concludes with the spider sleeping because it had a very busy day. Noelle always says, "Goodnight, mom. It was a very busy day." 


A fun, memorable, and very busy day.

Happy Leap Day,
Amanda

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Target Trip - Dr. Seuss and Free Makeup

Today was the annual Dr. Seuss Read Across America event at Target. We went last year when Noah was a couple weeks old - 


and here they are just one year later (sorry for the blurry picture).


Once again we had a great time listening to some classic Seuss books and eating popcorn. The treat bags were awesome this year. There were toys (bouncy ball and squishy lizard), candy, a granola bar, juice, pencils and even a coupon for $2 off a $10 book purchase! The best part was the Starbucks lady handing out hot chocolate with whipped cream to the parents. Superb job, Target!

After getting all sugared up at 9:30 in the morning, I cruised around and picked up a few goodies with coupons. All of the makeup on clearance went 70% off this morning so I rummaged through my coupon booklet and pulled out all of the makeup coupons and looked around for a good deal. And deals I found.


Aveeno Sunscreen $9.94 clearance price $2.98
Used $2.00/1 Aveeno body or face product MQ
=.98 
Sunscreen never goes to waste at our house. Mr. G is in the sun all day, every day.

Rimmel Liquid Foundation $4.99 clearance price $1.48
Used $1/1 Rimmel Cosmetic Item MQ
=.48

L'Oreal Liquid Foundation (for my mom) $7.99 clearance price $2.38
Used $3/1 L'Oreal Face Makeup MQ
There's also a $1/1 L'Oreal Cosmetic Item coupon on the Target site here.
= Free + overage

Neutrogena Lip Gloss $7.99 clearance price $2.38
Used $1/1 Neutrogena Lip or Face Makeup MQ
=$1.38 and I LOVE this color!!!

(3) Up & Up 2-pack sponges .99 each
=Free

Up & Up All Purpose Cleaner $1.89
=.89

Welch's Natural Jelly $1.67
Used $1/1 Welch's Natural Jelly TQ (no longer available)
=.67

Total = $3.78 (before tax)

MQ - Manufacturer Coupon
TQ - Target Coupon

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How I spend Mommy Time.

Mommy time happens a couple of times a week and is usually sometime between the hours of 9pm and 12am when everyone is sound asleep and my mind is just not ready to settle down. My body, however, will tell you a different story. But if I attempt to go to bed before midnight, I'll just lay there for hours so why not be productive instead? And by "productive" I mean "do things I enjoy without anyone around to interrupt me."

So how do I spend those precious quiet hours to myself?

These are my favorite ways:

Blog. Write a post or two - or jot things down for future posts, like Noah's monthly updates or Gardner Grub recipes.

Craft. You probably could have guessed that one. If two weeks pass by without any crafting going on I start to get anxious. Right now I'm working on some new wall art for the dining room.

Plan Parties. Noah's Red Wagon Party kept me busy the past couple of months and now I'm on to the next parties on my list. I'm throwing a baby shower for my best friend in April, a "Honeymoon Shower" for my other best friend in May and Noelle's 4th Birthday party in June. Party planning usually requires browsing on Pinterest and Google images. I haven't gotten to the DIY stages for these parties yet but I've started lists and Pin Boards!

Read. My favorite author is Max Lucado and I'm currently reading his book God's Story, Your Story. I'm also reading Andy Stanley's The Grace of God with my small group and I recently starting reading Have a New Husband by Friday by Kevin Leman.

I get lost in this blog. I've been reading Kelle's blog for about 2 years now and enjoy every post that she perfectly composes. Kelle has a beautiful soul, two fabulous girls, and incredible photog skills. Read it and you too will be instantly hooked. If you've never visited Enjoying the Small Things - Start here. I'm actually a very picky blog reader. There are only a few other ones that I read regularly. I stay away from anything negative, whiny or controversial. I like Mommy Time to be positive so I only fill it with things that make my heart happy.

I organize my coupons - usually every other week - and look around for new coupons on coupons.com and target.com. 

Now that Picnik is closing (soooooo sad), I try to edit a few pictures a week that are going into Noah's 1st year album and Noelle's 3rd year album. I'm going to try to get as much done before the last day of Picnik in April. 

While I'm pinning, blogging or crafting, I like to watch TV. My favorite shows are Castle and Modern Family. I never watch "regular TV." Only what's recorded.

And speaking of pinning - I like to peek at this page every once and a while. It's everything that has been pinned from Growing Up Gardner. I found it when I came across a picture from my blog on the Everything page. I clicked through and was amazed. I had a great time reading all of the nice descriptions.

I'm also very lucky to get quiet time during the kids' afternoon nap but that hour is almost always spent cleaning and cooking. I really enjoy the "me time" that I get and am so thankful that I get to spend a couple hours to myself - like this very moment.

-Amanda

Monday, February 20, 2012

Red Wagon 1st Birthday Party

My little man turned one! For his very first birthday Mr. G and I threw him a Radio Flyer wagon party! It was an absolute blast to create and it turned out classic and fun, just like Noah. I started several of the projects for the party back in January, DIYing almost everything. In this post I'll share the details of the party as well as how I used coupons and thrifty shopping to pull it together for less than $150. 

The first thing I did was order the Little Red Wagon Party Package by Dimpleprints. The $30 package included the invitation and 167 pages of everything you can think of for throwing a party. 

I'm excited to share the pictures from his big day with you...so here we go!


"Sweet Treats!" I made the cupcakes myself the morning of the party. Here's my secret to fantastic cupcakes - only use the butter cupcakes, in my opinion cupcakes made with oil don't turn out as moist. For fluffy frosting I get whipped vanilla frosting, put it in a bowl with a couple drops of vanilla extract, whip it for a minute and then pipe it generously onto the cooled cupcakes. Total for dessert - $5.


I received a coupon code from My Publisher for a free photo book and decided to write a children's book for Noah. I was a huge hit at the party. I read it to Noah every night before bed. He loves looking at the pictures of himself.


Mr. G's co-worker made these adorable red wagon cake pops. The wheels are M&M's and the wagon handle is black licorice. They were delicious! 
The week before the party, Michael's released a 50% off coupon so Mr. G and I purchased most of the little filer items using that coupon. The brown paper crinkle was $2 - one bag goes a long way! 


{Favors}

A few weeks ago, Michael's also had a coupon for $5 off any purchase of $5 or more. I used it twice to purchase two packs of bubbles and 4 pinwheels for free!
The favors had bubbles, red licorice and a sucker. I bought the candy for half off the day after Valentine's Day. Total for all of the favors - 4 bucks!


"Thanks for Rolling By" tags from Dimpleprints. I also used the 2-inch wagon tags for the center of the pinwheels. And if you noticed the cute little pennant banner on the picture frame - I printed out a banner from the Dimpleprint package at 25%.


One picture from each month of his first year. 


{Mantel}
The tiny pompom strings were the easiest things to make. I got out my sewing kit and thread the pompoms through the middle with a needle.
The pennant banner is another printable from Dimpleprints. I printed them out at 60% and put 2 on each page to save on ink and paper.



{Let's head outside}
The morning of the party I woke up and saw a dark sky and trees whipping back and forth. It was crazy windy and so, so cold. I prayed all morning for it to turn into a nice day and the good Lord answered my prayers. The wind calmed and it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
The set of 3 teal lantern balls were on clearance at Party Works for $4 and I ordered the mini Radio Flyer Wagon on Amazon for about 18 dollars - totally worth it!


We borrowed tables and chairs from my best friend's parents. 

{Centerpieces}
These babies gave me a little headache. I knew exactly how I wanted the centerpieces to look but finding a teal tin bucket and red gerber daisies wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I finally found the buckets at Michael's a couple of towns away for 30% off - $3 each and the daisies at JoAnn's for half off - total of $9. I wrapped the pinwheels with polkadot ribbon to compliment the scrapbook paper (4 for $1 at Michael's).


My sister throws incredible parties and has gathered many supplies from the shindigs she has hosted. This is great for me because I can call her up and say "Hey, sis, do you have ------?" The answer is usually yes. For Noah's party I borrowed her burlap table runners, teal and red platters and bowls, and cupcake stand.

A fun craft table for the kiddies - coloring pages, stickers, crayons, foam shapes and bubbles.


{Food}
Burlap is a very cheap and useful fabric. The food table backdrop was one of the first things I planned. I wanted to hide the unattractive side yard and shield the food from the sun in a pretty way. My hot glue gun came to the rescue for this one. I glued twine to the top of the burlap and folded it over to create a "seam." The "Happy 1st Noah" banner is also from the Dimpleprints package.
I mentioned that it was windy in the morning - so windy that it was impossible to keep the table cloths (97 cents from Walmart) on the tables. My mom came up with the genius idea of tying the corners of the table cloths to keep them on.


I kept the menu simple for the party - hot dogs, fruit kabobs, "wagon wheels" (vegetarian), potato salad, and BBQ chips. 
Can you spy the invitation on the table? I had them printed at Costco for $7. 


I found the little white buckets at the dollar store. They come in a set of 3 and are labeled as favor containers. I stuffed them with paper crinkle and taped the food labels to cake pop sticks.




Silverware - folded napkin and a fork tied with twine.

{Drinks}
Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Soda & Water
I wrapped almost everything I could with burlap and ribbon! It's all in the details :)

I love this little wagon! I had big plans for it to hold the hot dogs but somehow it ended up on this table and I didn't bother moving it. 


A few of the gifts for the birthday boy!


Opening presents

{Happy Birthday, Noah}







{Cousins}
Ages 1, 2, 3 & 4!

{Family}




Noelle doing some coloring. She was such a big helper for mommy during the party.


Me and my sweet boy.

{Welcome}


The party was a few days after Valentine's Day and as I was removing the heart wreath from the door I got an idea. I wrapped leftover burlap around the wreath and tied the printable welcome sign from Dimpleprints around it. I can't believe it actually turned out cute! 


And that's the party! I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed putting it all together. I know Noah won't remember it, but I will. It's his first one - the first time since his birth family and friends gather together to celebrate his life. And I can't wait to celebrate many, many more.

-Amanda

Pin It

Target Trip - Spent $4.28


I hung on to the $3 Merona coupon that expires on 2/25 and watched the clearance racks for 70% off items. Today the long sleeve shirts I've been eyeing were marked down and I picked them up for 60 cents each! This is why it's so hard for me to buy clothes at full price (which I only do for my children and husband on occasion). 

Merona Top $14.99 - clearance $4.48
$3/1 Merona TQ 
$1.48

(3) Merona long sleeve tops $12.00 - clearance $3.60
$3/1 Merona TQ
$.60 each



(2) Steamfresh Corn - sale price $1.00 each
$1/2 Manufacturer Coupon
$.50 each

Spent - $4.28

If I paid full price for the shirts alone the total would be over 50 bucks! That's crazy.
FYI - I'm wearing the striped shirt right now and it is super comfy! Probably even more so because I know I only spent .60 cents on it and I won't get upset if it (inevitably) gets spit up on, "accidentally" drawn on, spilled on or used as a snot rag.

-Amanda

Couponing - Getting Started

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Noah is ONE!

Happy Birthday Noah!

Just one short year ago, at 5:13pm, I held you for the first time. 


And now you are one year old!


Here's what Noah has been up to lately:

Noah can stand unassisted and even pick things up while standing. He has taken several steps on his own (I think the record is 6) walking from couch to ottoman, back to the couch. I can't wait for him to be a full-time walker - he is getting SO heavy. It was a breeze when he was an infant to brush my teeth, cook, clean and play with Noelle one-handed, but now it kills my back to hold 20+ pounds while doing all of that.
Here's a peek of his walking skills:

video



My little man still nurses 4 times a day (when he wakes up, before his 2 naps, and before bed time). I'm not sure how long I'm going to continue nursing him. Ideally I'd like to continue until he is around 18 months, but now that we've made it to a year I won't be too disappointed if he weans himself earlier.

Noah finally learned how to drink from a sippy cup! Actually he figured out how to drink from a bottle first so for a week last month I was giving him a 3 oz bottle of milk twice a day and when I offered a sippy cup, he took it without hesitation. And eating is going perfectly. He tries everything we put in front of him and usually finishes it all - if not he throws it overboard for Brinkley (the dog).


Noah has a silly and loving personality. Here's a recent video of my giggly boy.

video

Noah's 1st Birthday Party is this weekend! I'm excited to celebrate his life with family and friends. Pictures to come!

-Amanda

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homeschooling Noelle

I briefly mentioned that I started a new homeschool curriculum with Noelle but before I shared it with you I wanted to make sure it was a good fit. Noelle completed the Letter of the Week program by Confessions of a Homeschooler at the end of last year. She loved every printable and activity that we did so I wanted to find a similar curriculum that would be challenging and entertaining for her.

I decided on You Can Read from 1+1+1=1. Noelle has completed 4 weeks from this program and so far she loves it. It is amazing how much she has picked up during the past month. The Letter of the Week program taught her the alphabet and the sounds of each letter and now she is memorizing sight words and sounding out words. She currently knows 16 sight words and can read many sentences with those words.

A few minutes after learning the 4 sight words this week (love, mom, dad, as) she read this sentence (I may have teared up a little).

video

Noelle loves the printables from You Can Read. After printing them I place each page in a clear page protector and she uses dry erase markers so she can do them over and over during the week.


Instead of buying tons of homeschool props, I make my own. Here I taped 6 words to a rubber block and we play "roll the block." This game really helped her with the words she was having trouble with.


Another game we play is called the "box game." I write one word on each box lid and put a "prize" in each box (pretzel, m&m, cracker, sticker, etc). If she gets the word right she wins the prize. This is a fun game to play during homeschool time and also after dinner as "homework." 

video

We are also doing several printables each week from Raising Rock Stars Kindergarten. Noelle is only three and a half but she loves doing math, memorizing Bible verses and tracing. It doesn't seem to be over her head so we're going with it.

Other things we do daily:

Noelle enjoys the Starfall website. She completed ABCs and is now on Learn to Read. It's also a great site for preschool aged kids who are just learning the alphabet.

She is working her way through the Teach Me Kindergarten app. It follows the Dolch Pre Primer and Primer Sight Word lists just like the You Can Read program so Noelle doesn't get frustrated with words she doesn't recognize. The math portions have been great for her. Since she started playing the app a few weeks ago, she has wanted to add and subtract objects all over the house.

That about sums up what Noelle is doing right now at "school." We only do 30 minutes to an hour each day but that is plenty for a three year old. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. My email address is growingupgardner@yahoodotcom.

-Amanda