Polar Express Party

This our annual family Christmas get together. It is based on ‘The Polar Express’ movie. We have so much fun with this every year and it just gets better and better. It has become a fun family tradition here that everyone looks forward too!

Unfortunately we are not having a party this year but the following pics are from previous parties. I also have a Polar Express board and a Polar Express ‘Fish Fry’ 2015 board on Pinterest.

I will continue to update this page as I can. I may be able to add menu ideas as well. Last year we had a Fish Fry as the weather was really nice. Just have fun with it and build on it year by year.

Here is an example of the Facebook invitation I send out:

‘All Aboard! Our annual trip on the Polar Express Train is scheduled and plans are being made. We hope to see everyone there. Make sure you wear your PJs and get your tickets to board the train! We’ll have lots of food, hot chocolate, crafts, games, and of course a viewing of ‘The Polar Express’. I’m still trying to get through to the North Pole to see if maybe we can arrange a visit from Santa too!’

We always have lots of food and special treats which include chocolate covered marshmallows. Use sprinkles to decorate them and small stirring straws as handles. We also dipped pretzel sticks in chocolate and decorated those as well:

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We also have a ‘gingerbread’ decorating activity, among other activities, and each child gets to decorate a house or in this case a train. I used graham crackers and Homemade Buttercream Icing to make the trains. I make them a few hours before the party so the icing has time to set up a little before the kids try to add decorations.

I usually fill several small pastry bags with icing (no tips just a small angled cut at the end) and have an assortment of candies for them to decorate with.

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These were some of our party favors one year. Small pastry bags, red pom poms, hot cocoa mix, mini marshmallows, and brown pipe cleaners for the antlers. Use a black marker to make the faces. So cute!

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Paper conductor hats. The black conductor’s hat is worn by our ‘conductor’ when he comes through to punch the tickets for all of our ‘passengers’. I bought the hat at Dollar Tree one year. I used scissors, some sparkly ribbon, a couple of buttons, and a hot glue gun to transform it into a conductor type hat.

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Of course a visit from Santa will make any party extra special. I bought a Santa Outfit from Oriental Trading a few years back and it was well worth the investment. This unhappy child is the same one who has been begging to see Santa this year! (This picture is hard to see but we also had a couple of elves who joined us for the festivities as well. Those outfits were also bought from Oriental Trading.)

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You can also have a cookie exchange, a ‘Guess how many candies are in the jar?’, a gift exchange, or anything else your heart desires. These are just a few of the ideas that we have done. I was trying to locate some pictures from last year’s party but my phone died around Christmas last year so those pics may have been lost.

I try to have some small gifts as party favors. For the kids it might include train whistles, wind up trains, small games, coloring books, or a small stocking of treats. For the adults I usually have a variety of pocket calendars, small bottles of Bath & Body works products (that I find on sale), small games, or hand made items like jars of hot cocoa mix.

There are some more pics of some of the decor that we used from Oriental Trading on the Polar Express ‘Fish Fry’ 2015 . We went with a ‘Winter Wonderland theme’ and I plan on building on that theme through the years to come. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Just do what works for you.

After showing some of these pics to a friend last night I got so excited that I am thinking of doing a low key party for the kids this weekend. Just seeing the smiles on their faces is motivation enough for me to pull something together really quick. I’ll be sure to do another post on that. Now where can I find a Santa on such short notice?

December 6, 2016

What you did see…

Today was St. Nicholas Day and it was the first time we have celebrated this at our home. My kids were so excited as I had let them put their stockings out last night. They have also been anxiously waiting to put up the Christmas tree which was something I had promised we would do today. I posted some pictures of our St. Nicholas day so everyone could see how much fun we had. We did have fun and we made some memories that are sure to last.

What you didn’t see though was the chaos behind the scene.

You didn’t see me trying to stay calm while dealing with several issues  like a bad case of vertigo for the second or third day in a row.

You didn’t see how I spent several minutes trying to calm down a temperamental child who was upset because I had not come into the kitchen by 7:00.

You didn’t see how I dripped cool whip all over the floor while making the special Santa Pancakes for breakfast.

You didn’t see the drain that overflowed all over the carpeted bathroom floor.

You didn’t see when I spilled tea all over the freshly mopped floor and all over the fridge I had just wiped out.

You didn’t see when I dropped my lunch in the floor as well.

You didn’t see when my second attempt at lunch was a chocolate Santa.

You didn’t see when the chicken scraps got dumped before I even reached the chicken pen because the handle came off the pail I was carrying.

You didn’t see how close I came to just calling it a day, giving up, and going back to bed.

You didn’t see how DD17 and I worked hard to set up the train set under the tree only to find that the train was missing. (The kids didn’t mind as toy trucks work well on train tracks too.)

You didn’t see how frustrated and aggravated I got because of the slow internet when I had an important matter to take care of.

You didn’t see how I confided in one of my friends about how frustrated and aggravated I was feeling.

You didn’t see how I had to rush to finish dinner because I had an emergency errand to run.

You didn’t see me rush to the hardware store for some plumbing supplies 5 minutes before they closed only to find that they didn’t have what I needed.

You didn’t see me have to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction to the next nearest hardware store.

You didn’t see how my dinner consisted of a leftover cookie and a Coca-Cola. (I hadn’t had a soda in over a month.)

You didn’t see how long it took to clean up the mess from the backed up drain, the piles of dirty towels I had from cleaning up the mess, or the overflowing sink of dirty dishes because we couldn’t wash anything until the drain was fixed.

What’s important is that my kids didn’t see me frustrated, aggravated, or upset either. They didn’t see me lose my temper over things that happened.

They did see me keep promises even though unexpected disruptions kept occurring. They did see me staying calm and taking care of said disruptions as they came along.

I am human, I make mistakes, I get upset, and things happen that I have no control over. I can’t always control what happens to me but I can control how I react to them. I am not perfect and I don’t ever want anyone to think that I am or that I try to portray my life as being perfect.

When you look at the pictures on social media and you think about how perfect things look just remind yourself that you aren’t seeing the whole picture. You are just seeing one small moment of time. Don’t compare yourself, your family, your house or anything else with what you think you see in someone else’s picture.

Enjoy each moment and make the best of every situation good or bad. Life is so much easier if you do.

December 3, 2016

Good morning everyone! It is such a beautiful day, isn’t it? I hope you all answered a big ‘Yes’.God is so good to us each and everyday. My cup is truly overflowing this morning. He has blessed us so richly and many times we just take those blessings for granted.

I am thanking him today for my family, for our health, for a roof over our heads, for food on the table, for the clothes on our backs, and the shoes on our feet. He supplies us with all of our needs and so many of our wants. Thank you Lord for being so good to me, my family, my friends, and the one who is reading this right now!

Yesterday I finally managed to get all of the Fall decor down and out to the building. DD17 helped me to carry out the totes. While we were in the building, which is a big mess, we dug out the Christmas totes and carried them to the house as well. I also restacked some of the other totes to make it easier when we need to retrieve them in the future. I am in the process of color coding our holiday decor so we can immediately tell by looking at a tote what is in it. This will help when I assign future tasks for the kids to help me with.

I am sitting at the island right now drinking my cup of coffee, typing this post, and working on my To-Do list. ( I am also messaging my friend and listening to some Christmas music as well.) The kids are finishing up their breakfast, Dutch Puff, and discussing their plans for the day which makes me smile.We do have one case of the grumpies, DS3, who kept insisting that he ‘needed’ brownies for breakfast.

They made brownies last night with DS17. Then while the brownies were baking we worked on our Advent Study, which I still need to pull out the nativity scene, and then enjoyed some warm brownies. I am really thankful that I did manage to get some of it together as the kids are enjoying it. I know when I get the nativity set out and they actually get to do the activities suggested they will enjoy this study even more.

So now we have a mountain of green totes in the Living room. This makes DS14 crazy but I have assured him that they will be out of the way soon. My kitchen island looks so bare right now, actually the whole kitchen does as it held the majority of the Fall decor, but I will use this as a chance to give it a good cleaning.

My To-Do list for the day also includes getting my stack of Christmas card addressed and ready to mail. I really hope that I can get them in the mail but that will be a bonus if it happens. I have the cards, the stamps, and the addresses on my desk so it probably won’t take too awful long to get them finished up. It is just finding a moment to actually sit down and work on it that my prove difficult.

We also plan to put up a few of our holiday decorations today. Yesterday the kids did stick Santa in the yard but someone had pulled him off his stake before we managed to get all the totes in the house. So that probably needs some attention too. We decided to wait until St. Nicholas day (December 6th) to put up our tree and the anticipation is driving the littles crazy! I don’t really know if there is a ‘right’ time to put up the tree. I figured we would do a lesson on St. Nicholas and try to incorporate the tree decorating into the lesson.

I’ve also noticed that something got into the trash bin during the night. So that will be on the top of my list to take care before the wind blows it all over the yard. It is an unpleasant task but needs to be done. Sometimes taking care of the not so fun things first will motivate me to take care of the other things on my list.

For now though I am going to enjoy a few minutes with the littles. DS3 has brought his plate to the island and is sitting beside me. DS4 is dragging sheets and blankets to the laundry room and just informed me that he had wet the bed last night. That doesn’t happen often and I know that accidents will happen from time to time.

It makes my heart happy to see that he is attempting to help with the clean up and that he is admitting what he did and accepting responsibility for it. He knows that it does affect the way I feel about him. He knows that he is loved and accepted and that we will not belittle him or make him feel bad about what happened. He also knows that we will help him clean up whatever he needs help with. He just told me that he will try harder to remember to use the potty before he goes to bed. So he is attempting to learn from the situation and prevent it from happening again.

We can learn so much from this. Life happens, accidents happen, mistakes happen. When they do happen we need to remember that God still loves us and that He is there for us. When we come to Him and tell Him what we have done, when we repent and ask for His help He will forgive us. We can use our mistakes as learning tools and try not to make them again.

As a parent we can also use these accidents and mistakes as a model of God’s love. We can listen to our children and remind them that we still love them. We can show them the same mercy and grace that God has shown to us so many times. We can show them the power of forgiveness and not make them feel guilty about things.

We also need to remember to be quick to admit our faults and mistakes. We need to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness if we have done them wrong in one way or another. This sets a good example for them. They will see that we are not perfect and that we make mistakes too.

I pray everyone has a blessed day!

Getting Routines Started 101

‘Your first obligation as a parent is to not bring chaos into your kids’ lives.’

OK, I should’ve written this before I started on the other posts about routines. I didn’t realize, until I was writing another post, how complicated and daunting routines can seem. Truth be told we all have some kind of routine already.

**Please note this post does contain affiliate links to which I may, possibly, earn a small commission from if you click on and purchase an item. For full disclosure click here. Continue reading “Getting Routines Started 101”

Dancing barefoot in the kitchen

Yep, that’s how I am most days, barefoot, and that’s where I am most of the time, the kitchen. Why? Well that’s how I am most comfortable and that is where most of the activities in our house are centered around. I do keep a pair of flip flops at each door in case I need to run out for something like the mail man or chasing a pig outta the yard. For the most part I am barefooted though.

I’ve heard all the barefoot and pregnant jokes when I was married and pregnant. I’ve read the ‘dangers’ of going barefooted, especially the stuff you can catch from the ground. (I do usually wear shoes outside.) I have broken a few toes because of being barefooted and I’ve stepped on more Legos than you could ever imagine. The fact that there are still Legos in my house is a true testimony to the power of forgiveness!

The kitchen is the heart of our home. I really enjoy cooking so I am always trying out new recipes or letting the kids help me fix a snack or a meal. It is usually filled with good aromas coming from the crock pot or the oven. I always have sweet tea or hot coffee ready for anyone who comes to visit. Most days we can even rustle up a piece of pie or slice of cake too. If you come hungry I’m sure can find something in the fridge that can satisfy your hunger too.

The island is fairly good size for an older mobile home and it is used for everything from schoolwork, bread making, sewing projects, and vacuum repair. It is also the place where a lot of visiting takes place. The younger kids and Grandpa have claimed the playroom and the older kids have pretty much claimed the living room. So Momma has claimed the kitchen. When I have visitors, which isn’t that often, we usually sit or stand around the island to chat.

This island was also the center of activity during wedding preparations for my oldest daughter’s wedding in June. (See Who can you count on? for more about that.) My family and friends all gathered around this island to prepare the food and decorations for the wedding and reception. We shared lots of stories, caught up on news, and had a wonderful time. We made many memories around this old island with its peeling cabinets and chipped counter-top.

Our kitchen is a dine-in kitchen as we converted the formal dining area to a bedroom for my special needs son. We have a big kitchen table with benches. I love this table and I had prayed for a table big enough for all of us to sit around. My then husband and I went to the flea market, the first and only time I’ve been, and on our way out I spotted this table back in a corner. We found the seller and asked about the price and the cost to deliver it. Well, it was way more than what we had on us and over the budget I had set for a table. I was sure that it would be gone before we saved the money so reluctantly we left and came home.

A few weeks later he had went back to the flea market. He came home sooner than I had expected and he was really excited. He asked me to help him carry out the two tables we had in the kitchen. I wondered what he had gotten and soon I found out. A pickup pulled in with the most beautiful kitchen table on the back. (Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.) The man had seen him walking around and had asked him if we had found a table yet. Within a few minutes the table was bought for the exact amount that I had saved and set back for our table.The kids were so excited to eat their first meal together. Before this we had two smaller tables for the kids to eat at.

That is a good memory and when I look at this table I am reminded of that day and how happy we were. It also reminds me of how God always provides us with what we need and many things we want. (See Are you needy? for more examples.)

Now the table is used for school work, art projects, meals, dinosaur adventures, monster truck rallies, play-dough sculpting, and so much more. It has the marks of being well-used and sometimes I contemplate having it refinished but I kinda like the character it has.

Our kitchen also has my roll top desk which is where I happen to be sitting, barefooted, at the moment. This is where a lot of my work gets done. I do a lot of planning for meals, school, budgets, outings, and other activities that must happen. I also take care of the bills and other household related things here too.

My kitchen is pretty much open to the playroom where the kids spend a good amount of time. I can cook, work on projects, make a grocery list, or just browse the internet for my next project while keeping an eye on them. I can also hear everything going on in the play yard from the kitchen.

If my kids come in looking for me they will usually come to the kitchen first. They know that is where Momma can normally be found. They also know that is where snacks and other goodies can be found. Unfortunately our cat knows this too and has developed the bad habit of jumping on the counters which we have been trying to discourage with a spray bottle of water.

When my kids have made some discovery outside or have created some interesting architectural structure that I need to come see they will come looking for me. They will bring my flip flops with them because they know Momma probably won’t have her shoes on. They keep me from having an excuse.

Another thing we have been doing is playing music throughout the day. There is just something about music that can calm the soul. It can reach deep inside a person and make their heart happy. It is not uncommon to walk in to the kitchen and find me dancing around while cooking or cleaning. If the kids come in and laugh then I will grab them and ‘force’ them to dance also. Sometimes a whiny kid will be ‘forced’ into dancing, as well. This has become a fun outlet that is an immediate cure for the ‘grouchies’. We all know that grouchies can’t survive for long around music, dancing, or laughter.

I want my kids to have good, consistent memories of their childhood. If seeing Momma dancing barefoot in the kitchen is a memory that is forever etched in their minds then I’m happy. If they break into a smile every time they hear ‘Walking in the Sunshine’ then I’ve succeeded at this mission. (This is also a proven cure for the grouchies that was passed along to me by a dear friend.)

So how long has it been since you’ve danced barefoot in the kitchen? Why don’t you give it a try and see what happens?

It’s Natalie not Octomom

I’m sure most of us remember the story about “Octomom’. The single mother of 6 who underwent IVF and gave birth to octuplets. There was a ton of media coverage and backlash on anyone involved in the controversy. It raised a lot of questions about a lot of different issues that I am not going to get into. Continue reading “It’s Natalie not Octomom”

God is EVERYWHERE, even at McDonalds

I just read a post on Facebook that really touched me. It was originally posted on January 20, 2015, by Gerrard B. Laidler. This is a very moving testimony and reveals how great and awesome our God truly is. Continue reading “God is EVERYWHERE, even at McDonalds”

November 26, 2016: Keeping the Spirit of Thanksgiving Alive

Today is another great and wonderful day! I want to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive in my heart and in the hearts of everyone around me. Sometimes it is so much easier to find things to complain about than to be thankful for what we have in front of us. Continue reading “November 26, 2016: Keeping the Spirit of Thanksgiving Alive”

When things don’t go as planned make a new plan

Making plans…

We all know how it is to be planning for something. We get all excited as the details are being made and the final preparations are almost finished. We had planned to go to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. This would be a good time for all of us to visit and enjoy our families together as two of my other sisters were coming also. Continue reading “When things don’t go as planned make a new plan”

November 20, 2016: God is so good!

Today is a good day! God is so good! He has blessed me far more than I ever deserved to be blessed. Continue reading “November 20, 2016: God is so good!”

November 18, 2016: Dealing with gossip and rumors

This week has been hard, really hard. It has been painful and upsetting. I have been dealing with a lot of gossip and rumors for what seems like an eternity. Every time things get bad I have tried to find the source to no avail. However, there has always been one person in the center of it who wants to know everything. Continue reading “November 18, 2016: Dealing with gossip and rumors”

Living the country life?

Original Blog Post-April 6, 2016

What does living the country life really mean?

I know I think of farms with cows and chickens.
I think of lazy mornings sitting on the back porch sipping my hot coffee while wondering
what to do to pass the endless amount of free time I have.
I think of working in a garden with lots of beautiful plants springing forth.
I think of my kids playing barefoot in the yard.
Then after a nice dinner, made from things we have grown on our farm, we sip some sweet tea and watch the sunset go down from our back porch swing.

Continue reading “Living the country life?”