Monday, January 31, 2011


We had Isaiah's birthday party on Saturday. It really turned out cute! We were on a small budget, so I handmade most of the decorations and ended up having a lot of fun getting it all together. Here are a few pictures.

The invitation. Just in case you didn't see it yet.

This is the little emblem that I designed to go on everything.

I printed these out and pasted them on the backs of 4X6 pictures of Isaiah to give as party favors since it was a family party and I knew there weren't going to be many kids for "real" party favors.

And now for the party pictures.=)

Sweet Brub right before the party. He wasn't feeling well and looked all puffy, but he's still smiling!
I made the banner from two types of scrap booking paper which was on sale at hobby lobby and white card stock that we already had. It made me want a cricut as I hand cut each letter out, but it ended up looking SO cute!

Sweet brother. His shirt was an iron on also on sale at Hobby Lobby for less than $2.50.
I got the plain white shirt there for like $3.99. He also had on birthday boy shoes that I got at Babies R Us back when he was a newborn for $1!

The office set up to seat our guests while they eat.

The party table!! Snacks included: Animal crackers, pop corn, roasted peanuts, white chocolate dipped oreos, rock candy, dipped pretzel rods, jelly beans, grapes and blue berries, punch, cake, and ice cream.

The cake we made! I thought it turned out pretty cute and it matched really well.

Another picture of the party table.

Punch made from green Hawaiian punch and ice cream.

Green and blue jelly beans. The dang candy was the most expensive thing in the whole party!

Blueberries and Grapes

Rock candy.

White chocolate dipped oreos. WHAT A MESS, BUT GOOOOOD!

Isaiah's smash cake. It matched the little emblem I designed perfectly thanks to my cake decorating husband!

The party favor bucket. These pictures had the thank you notes on the backs. You can also see the dipped pretzels in this picture.

Momma, Daddy, and the party animal after he'd been changed from eating cake.

More pictures to come of the actual party tomorrow. For now I have minds to mold and children to train...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If You Sing a Song a Day, You Will Make a Better Way!!

You know you've got that song in your head now. You know the one. Be it the original form sung by Earth, Wind, and Fire or the spunky version by the girls of Point of Grace, that is one fun song to get in your head, but that's not what this post is about!
My children love music! They come by it honestly; Scotty and I both come from musical families and are musicians ourselves. They are usually heard throughout the house singing away. Usually several different songs are going on at the same time. They have their own stash of cds and a player in their room, musical instruments, a real working Dora mic with amp. These kids are musicians at heart.
Olivia recently learned a song that has us all singing it around the house. It's one that I'm pretty sure I sang as a child. It goes like this:

Now THAT is a FUN song to get stuck in your head.=) Well, a few days ago brother started singing it. Now, he's not into saying 4 syllable words yet, so he just sings the Ho's Ha's and He's, but he just sings his heart out! SO so sweet. I just love these babies.
Now play that video again and go out singing about the Joy of the Lord!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Insiders Scoop

So, when I started blogging on here again I decided that this blog would be used mostly to journal what the kids are doing and saying so that I'd have it all written down. I'm not one to scrapbook, so I also like to do picture posts and retell stories of our life. Very often, though, I get questions from others about the logistics of how we do things, so I thought from time to time I'd offer an insiders version of our daily life. I don't want to take up too much space on my blog for it, but I also would love for my "insiders scoop" to be able to give you new ideas for things to try in your own homes and with your own family. Know that what I'll share here won't work for everyone, but is just OUR way of doing things.=)
Four our first peek inside I thought I'd talk a little more about our Family Worship Time, and specifically our Family Prayer Time.
Children have such sweet sweet hearts. Teaching them to pray isn't hard because they love to ask for help for friends and family. Teaching them prayer structure, however is a good way to teach them that everything comes from God. There are times that we have sat for 20 minutes listening to, "Thank you God for..." Kids just LOVE to pray. I love that. Stop for a minute and soak that sweetness up!
SO, after reading a wonderful book by Elizabeth George, A Mom After God's Own Heart, I realized that while we were doing good letting our kids pray, we could do even better by giving them some structure to go by. Here are a few of my tips and below some of Elizabeth's too.
  • Allow your kids to hear YOU pray. They learn by imitating. If they never hear you pray they won't know what prayer really is.
  • Teach them to stop and pray when they are upset or angry.
  • Teach them to pray scripture. There are LOTS of Psalms that are quick easy verses to memorize that will help them in many ways. For instance there are lots of verses about sleeping in peace that we taught Olivia when she was younger and having terrible nightmares.
  • Teach them to be thankful to God for every good thing because every good thing comes from Him.
  • Teach them to stop throughout the day and say short prayers for things or people that come to their mind. I love this one, because I think that it teaches kids to learn to listen to God. I know for me personally the Holy Spirit brings people to mind throughout the day for me to lift up in prayer and I want to teach my kids to be aware of that mindfulness.
  • Allow your kids to pray for meals. They love that responsibility.
Elizabeth says to really help a child along in prayer by giving them prayer prompts. We've been using these in our prayer time and have really seen a difference in the direction of our kids prayers. I love them because they point everything to God, and also teach a well-rounded prayer of thankfulness as well as the ability to ask for things for themselves and others.
Prayer Prompting 101
  1. Jesus, thank you for...(something specific that has happened in the day or for something they are especially thankful for that day.)
  2. Jesus, please help me to...(this is something that we talk about before hand in "prayer request time." I write down the things that we need to work on as a family, then the kids think of things they'd like to ask for help with. It usually consists of, "Jesus please help me to make good choices when I play with sister." or "Please help me to have a good attitude in school tomorrow.")
  3. Jesus, please help                            (This is where they are able to pray for others. Usually Baby Amelia, Nana and Pop, friends, family members who are sick, our pastor, that sort of thing, which also gets written down in our prayer request notebook.)
Let them see the results. There have been so many times where we've prayed for something as a family and seen a response from God and been able to thank God for answering our prayers with a yes or no. Make sure that all things you spend time praying about get written down so that when an answer comes you are able to thank God for listening and answering. This is a BIG deal for kids.

I'd be happy to answer any questions or respond to any thoughts, but for now that's all. I hear the pitter patter of Smittle feet coming down the stairs...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Brub's Special Picture Post!

Because it's his birthday tomorrow and because pictures are the best!!!
Below is a walk through Isaiah's life so far.

January 2010
This is Isaiah on the day he got to come home from the hospital. Such a blessing his little life was and is. He had a bit of a rough start, but recovered so quickly because he's so strong. We're so thankful that God spared us the heartache of leaving the hospital without our baby and that we were able to all leave together.

February 2010
Lulu Photography gets up close and personal with Brother. I love all the pictures from this session and am so thankful for the gifts God has given my friend Becke'. Seeing Isaiah captured so sweetly takes my breath away now looking back on how tiny and precious he was!

March 2010
Isaiah's first Easter. Yes, we all match. I like it that way.=)

April 2010
We started to wonder about Isaiah's eyes at this point. It seemed he would be past the newborn eye crossing stage. No one would talk to us about it until he was older though. He was such a little ham and oh so sweet! Look at that adorable smile!

May 2010
On Mother's Day we dedicated Isaiah at church. I LOVE this little outfit on him. SO sweet!

June 2010
Isaiah goes to his first baseball game. It was SO hot!

July 2010
Isaiah decides if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

August 2010
This is the month Isaiah had eye surgery. This picture was taken the evening before the surgery.
This one was taken the day afterwards.

September 2010
Isaiah went on his first trip to the Memphis Zoo. We had such a great time!

October 2010
Halloween. Isaiah was Hamm, Olivia was Bo Peep, and Addison was Jessie(from Toy Story) Emma Claire was Mike, Scotty was Sully, and I was Boo(from Monster's Inc.)

November 2010
Isaiah learns that Fall is the BEST time of the year! Swings at the park are FUN!

December 2010
Christmas time in the Smittle house. We LOVE Christmas and were so excited to welcome a BOY into the mix this year!

January 2011
As we prepare to celebrate your first year this week we Thank God for your life, brubsy. We are so glad God chose to put you in our family! You are such a blessing!

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FUN to be ONE

Getting ready for Brub a Dub's party in a few weeks. He'll be one in less than 2 weeks! BOOO!
It's been so fun doing a BOY party after all these princess parties and pink things! I'm looking forward to how it'll turn out. Pictures to come, but I don't want to spoil it for those who will be in attendance!=)
Here is a picture of his invitation. SO cute! All the information is blotted out, but you still get the picture.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Whoa! You ARE reading.

So, I got a pretty amazing response to my last post on feeding your family in healthy, yet budget friendly ways. I was so excited to get your responses back and learned so much about how you do what you do. If I haven't replied back to you it's not because I didn't like what you sent. I've just been going through everything with a fine toothed comb so I don't miss anything you've suggested. I'll plan on trying to talk more about meal planning and budgeting in the near future. It's so important for our families to eat well, and doing it on a well organized and working budget makes it oh so easy!

SO, this last weekend was a rough one for us. I was in a terrible funk, which usually means that EVERYONE is in a terrible funk. =) I'm not sure what happened, but it was just a rough weekend and I am so glad it's over. There were several things that made me laugh about the weekend, though, so I thought I'd share a bit of the GOOD things that happened instead of filling you with a negative post about how BAD our weekend was. Hey, sometimes, with a large family, there are just going to be rough patches! Today has been a GREAT day and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. Now, on with the show!
  • While we were sitting in our family worship time Isaiah had a stinky wet diaper(I'm sure you know the kind or maybe you don't, but can imagine). It smells a lot like maple syrup to me, and I can always tell when he's peed through a diaper even if I can't feel it in the morning if he smells "syrupy". I wanted to wait the 10 minutes to change him until it was time for bed, so he was just stinking it up in the living room while we were having family worship time(which just means family devotional time, but we like to label it Family Worship Time for training our kids to sit quietly and calmly as they would in a church worship service. More on that another time). Scotty was trying to keep us on track with prayer time and we were both trying to keep Addison and Isaiah from tearing up Bibles and crawling and rolling around on the others when all of the sudden Emma Claire(who's mind is always on food!) shouted, "WAIT A MINUTE! I SMELL SYRUP! ARE WE HAVING PANCAKES?" Now, at any other time this statement probably would have been looked over, because seriously she is always talking about food, but in the moment, and after the rough day we'd had and were having it made me start laughing and I laughed until I cried. Scotty didn't know what to do and I'm pretty sure the kids were a little scared of me in the beginning, but they all ended up laughing with me by the end of it. We had to apologize to God for interrupted prayer time, but I'm sure that he didn't mind the little distraction. We ended up putting the kids to bed on a happy note instead of the dreaded way we'd spent most of the day.=)
  • Scotty and I have been playing games a lot recently. I LOVE it. He somewhat HATES games, but puts up with it for his lady. We got a few games for Christmas, so we'd been playing those, but they were all number games(which he hates) like Farkle, dominoes, and uno. SO, he said, "Let's get scrabble! That's a word game! I can win at that!!" He'd been loosing pretty terribly at all the other games, so when I saw scrabble at goodwill with all tiles for $2 I snatched it up and brought it home for us to play. After we'd gotten the kids to bed we sat down with coffee(or in my case cocoa) and got everything set up. It was fun for both of us, but sadly, I slaughtered him! He was so mad I didn't think he'd play with me again (not in a sore looser way. In Scotty's sweet anger way.) I talked him into a rematch yesterday while the kids were taking a nap and let's just say the tables were turned and  did NOT win that game...
  • We give each of the kids their own Bible for family worship time so that they can "look" at the passage while we read it. Olivia actually looks it up and reads it for us, but the others just pretend. The girls and I got down to get sat up before Scotty and Isaiah. Addi was sitting on the couch thumbing through her little New Testament when she announced that she'd be reading from "Frank chapter 6" tonight and that's where we needed to turn in our Bibles. I don't know what was better: Her making me laugh, or Olivia's confused face soon followed by erupted laughter when she realized pretty quickly that Addison "did NOT know what she was talking about!" because there wasn't a FRANK in the Bible.=)
  • My husband has been looking for us a new van(a larger one) since we can't really fit into the one we have now once Amelia is here. He found us one alright. He drove me by it later to show me. It's a 1990s YELLOW party van complete with disco ball and laser light. He actually called about buying it! I told him he was CRAZY, but he said with a little work it'd be in great shape. Not to worry. We won't be buying the party van. A girl's got to put her foot down sometimes!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feed that family right!

Over the last few years I've worked really hard to create a healthy meal plan for our family. After Scotty and I got married and I could cook all of oh....TWO meals, we ate mostly already prepared meals in the frozen food section. Yes, we were out of shape and overweight. Yes, we felt terrible. But it was all I knew how to do, so that's what we ate. When I was pregnant with Emma Claire I started feeling really terrible and I started wondering if it was because of our diet or(MAYYYYYBE just maybe) my lack of exercise. I was attending a Bible study for women at the time, which included a section on feeding your family in a healthy way on a budget. THERE'S the kicker, I thought. Now you and I both know that eating whole foods and HEALTHY foods is more expensive than the JUNK in the frozen food section, but this study claimed to help me do it on a budget! Turns out, they were right!
We quickly started turning things around and I started learning to cook on my own. Turns out I was really good at it. I just needed to give it a try! AND, I was learning when to buy things on sale and when to buy store brand products, when to but organic, and when it was OK to pass on organic(this was before the HUGE fad on organic stuff). Now, all of this isn't to say that we didn't still have an occasional box of fishsticks or chicken patties, but overall, we cleaned up our menu and QUICKLY started seeing the benefits! By the time Emma Claire was born I was around 20 pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant. How's that for loosing baby weight! Ha! I started running every night on the Tony Little Gazelle(YOU CAN DO IT!) and quickly started loosing even more weight. Scotty joined me on this quest to get healthy, and between the two of us we lost a PERSON!=)
We started feeling healthy, our kids were acting and feel better, and we weren't out a huge amount of money in our grocery budget. Now, this is where you come in. I've been doing all my shopping WITHOUT coupons. We always just make a STRICT menu, go to WalMart, and buy ONLY what we need. We never buy extra snacks or food that's not on the menu or my shopping list.
I've recently been exposed to, and have really enjoyed watching all that she does(and her contributors)to save money in the area of groceries and toiletries. I've never been one to spend time cutting coupons and most of the time I'd find when I did I could get the store brand for cheaper than the coupon anyway and I'd feel like I just wasted my time. THEN, last month happened. I decided to go on a thirty day challenge to spend less money on groceries and...I DID! I mean, we talking stacking coupons and this is something I knew nothing of. We went to Kroger(which I've always hated, but we gave it a try!), which also saved Scotty money at the pump(I can't use Kroger gas in the ol' grocery grabber). I ended up saving so much money that we were able to go OUT to eat  a few times and still have money left in the budget for the rest of the month expenses!
Since I'm so new to this I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips of saving money at the grocery store. Do you do the whole store hopping option? Do you go to Walgreens? How does Walgreens work? I'm confused about that whole register rewards or whatever it's called. Groupon? Coupon Mom? What programs do you use? Do you get the paper or just do printable coupons?
I want to be the best I can be at both feeding our family and being frugal, and I know I'm doing a pretty good job, but I always think there's room for improvement! Let me know what you've got! I'm listening!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brub has a rough life ahead

So, being the only boy in a family with FOUR sisters is going to be a rough road for the little brub a dub. The boy loves his sisters, but often I think the thought going through his head is 'enough is enough already with all the girls!'

He's been picking up bad habits from them lately including shrieking to the top of his lungs when he hears them screaming while playing. He's also learned to swat at them if they get too close. He'll scurry up the stairs right along with them then cry at the gate to want to come down when they decide to come back down.

All the girls want to be his momma. All the girls want to be his "best friend." All the girls want to carry him around. I can't imagine what the poor baby's life will be like when they all get a little older! He'll never be allowed into the bathroom to do his business, he'll be scared to ever bring a girl home to all these ladies, he may never even want to go out of the house.=)

I've been thinking about him as an older child and teenager this week and my prayers keep going back to protection. It seems so easy to pray for God to protect our girls, but praying protection over our son is just as important. I've been praying for protection of his heart, protection of his body, and protection of his spiritual life.

It seems now, more than ever it's important for us as parents to pray protection over our kids well being. There are so many trials and temptations they will face that I never even dreamed about as a child. There are so many falsities that await them that weren't around while I was growing up.

I want my son to be a strong, courageous man. May Isaiah be willing to stand up for his faith, to take care of his sisters and momma, and future wife, to stay healthy, and be a kind compassionate father some day just like his own daddy.

These days I've also been praying that God would be Isaiah's "vision." Most of you know that Isaiah was born with strabismus or congenital esotropia to be exact.

When he was one day shy of being seven months old, he had corrective surgery. While this isn't a "cure" for Isaiah's type of strabismus it is the only treatment for it that has been proven to help.

Because his type doesn't have to do with the muscles, but a part of his brain that never quite developed, it's a tough road to go down as far as his eyes go. One day he may look with both eyes, and the next he may struggle to get one of his eyes to properly focus, the next he may ignore one all all together. For the most part, he's looking great and we KNOW we made the right decision to do the surgery, but some days it's hard to trust that God has this all in his plan for Isaiah's life.  I don't want him to ever be made fun of because of it, and it's always such an easy joke to cross your eyes at someone or use that gesture to be funny to someone. There's just so much I want to guard him from as his momma!=)

I often will look at him up close and say, "Isaiah! God gave you TWO eyes to see!" The girls and I have even made up a little song to sing to him about it. I know that seems silly, but I always want Isaiah to know to be thankful for his sight and the eyes God gave him. Please join me in praying that God would be Isaiah's vision.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I just saved a bunch of money on my...VACATION!!

So, back a few years ago Scotty and I dreamed up this plan that we wanted to take our family to Walt Disney World one day. At that point we were hardly making enough money to eat much less take a vacation, so we decided that when Olivia turned 5(she was probably about a year old at the time) we would take her to WDW. As that time got closer the thought of going sometimes seemed like a pipe dream. We found out that Emma Claire was on the way, we moved to Northwest Arkansas, Scotty got a new job, Scotty went to graduate school, Scotty got another new job(with much better pay/benefits), we found out that Addison was on the way to join our family, we had Addison, Scotty got an EXCELLENT new job with the same company he'd been working with, and we moved back to Central Arkansas.
It was just past Olivia's fourth birthday when we decided to take a look at the disney website and order the free vacation planning DVD. We knew that if we took one of our kids for their fifth birthday we'd need to take them all on their fifth birthday, and we also wanted to spare no expense in the trip. We wanted to go and do everything we wanted and have money to spend on all things disney. At that point Disney was running that affordable vacations package where they said there was a trip on every budget. Once we looked at it we realized it would be tough, but we could do it. SO, one day in November we decided to book the trip for February 2009! The trip was a dream come true and we all had the time of our lives. Most people thought we were crazy for taking three under five, but we just pushed through and had the time of our lives.
There were several times on the trip when my eyes would fill with tears at the thought of what all we'd been through in the past several years that made up our life. There was so much hard work that went into us getting there. There was one point in the trip that I looked over at Scotty and we were both crying while we watched Olivia twirl and dance with the Disney princesses who all knew her name and that it was her birthday(thanks to a nifty pin they gave us to put on her when we got there). Seriously, I still get chills thinking about what a fantastic time we had while we were there. It was indeed a blessing from God. A perfect time spent with our family.
As Emma Claire's fifth birthday is fast approaching(I CAN NOT BELIEVE it's coming up!) we decided it was time, once again, to visit the disney planning site. We planned and booked our vacation a few weeks ago and are SO excited to get to go back with our, now much larger, family! Today I was looking back over the site and saw a new special offer of kids stay and play FREE! I called the Disney travel people and they quickly changed our reservation and saved us $719!!! What a huge blessing! We are so excited for Emma Claire's special trip! She's already decided on some special places she wants to go and things she wants to do!=)
SO, I wanted to share with all my 4 readers about the deal we got so that maybe YOUR Disney dream can come true!
Simply go to the Walt Disney World website. Scroll over to the tickets and pricing tab and select special offers from the drop-down menu. This will show you all the special offers that they have going on right now. Just click on the one that's best for you and go from there.
My tips for planning a trip for cheap:
  •  Stay in a value resort(they have family rooms in the music resort)
  • Always plan a trip in the off-season.
  • Look at the dining plans and see if you think it is worth it for your family to get one. It was for ours.
  • Plan to set a budget and stick with it as far as buying items while there and snacks and so forth.
  • Plan ahead, book now, and pay it out. This allows us to use our "extra" cash each month to make payments on the trip and keeps the thought of paying a huge amount at one time much less scary!
  • Do everything you want to do on the trip! Just make sure and look at all the possibilities and make sure you are doing it the cheapest way!
And now, a look at our crew the LAST time we were there.

Our family in front of Magic Kingdom

The girls and I on the shuttle bus on the way back to our hotel to rest.=) Yes, they are all asleep.
Look at tiny Addison! She looks like Isaiah!
Daddy and the girls. We took our double and another stroller so that we'd have enough space for everyone to sit. This time we are planning on taking a sling, a front/back pack, a double, and a single stroller. We won't have space for everyone all the time, but we'll have enough room for most of us.=)