The Snowman Kit Gift

Because of all the great friends made while living in Kansas City and the wonderful family we have living there also, we head down every December to visit and let all of the kiddos get together and romp around (with our group of friends there are 9 kids 4 & under…It gets a little loud and crazy).

We started out doing Christmas gifts back in the day (ha…probaby 4 yrs. ago) and quickly realized that we all did not need more and more toys to clutter up our houses.  So, last year it clicked…instead of bringing gifts, I was going to find ideas that would bring fun and a little more sanity for the moms of the group instead of another toy to have to find a place for and have to pick up every day. So, in a search for all things creative, I came across these three things for this year.

-The Snowman Kit 

The idea originated from this book and I took it and ran with it.

Basically a small storage tote that keeps all of the most important things Mr. Snowman needs to live a happy life. Our kits included: Image

-a hat (found at our local Family Dollar store)

-a “carrot” nose (a wooden dowel from our hardware store, cut to size with a hand saw, spray painted orange)

-a scarf (fleece I had on hand that I cut and “fringed” the ends)

-3 buttons for the snowman’s belly (found at Wal-Mart or your local craft store)

-sunglasses &/or bolts that I drew eyes on the head, the ends to be pushed into the snow (not pictured)  *one suggestion online was using bottle caps painted black for eyes…I didn’t have any

-a mouth.  I just realized that my kits are missing a mouth or pipe, or whatever you’d like in that spot.  I’m going to have to think on that.  Sorry to those missing a mouth.:)

Draw a little something cute on your container to label it (I used puff paint) and voila!, instant fun for snow days.

Our second gift is…

-Snowman Soup 

Thanks to my dear friend Sonia, who gave this gift to me years ago.  I kept the cute saying (yes, I really am a packrat) and came across it this year when cleaning out some things.  One instance where being a packrat proved useful!;)

I found cute little jars with locking lids at Family Dollar (it was the place to go this time around).

Inside we included:

-white hot chocolate mix packet

-15-20 mini marshmallows in a snack size zip baggie

-2 junior mints (snowman eyes)

-a candy cane for the stir stick

After packaging it all, we tied curling ribbon around the jar and tied this cute little saying to the outside.  Perfect to warm up a belly after creating a jolly snowman.

And last, but not least, is…

Kool-Aid Playdough Mix

My sister-in-law, Megan, e-mailed me this recipe with the idea in mind of turning it into a jar gift.  Great idea!

*photo by Pamela

We put the dry ingredients (flour, salt, cream of tartar, & Kool-Aid packets) into a gallon sized zip top baggie, sealed it, then placed it inside a cuter holiday decorated gift bag tied with a tag that tells the recipient what wet ingredients to add along with recipe instructions.

Kool-Aid Playdough

1. Add 2 cups boiling water & 3 T. oil to dry ingredients

2. Knead until smooth (careful– it’s hot!) Extra flour may need added for desired consistency.

3. Grab your cutters and rollers and have FUN!

One big hit of this recipe was the great smell due to the Kool-Aid.

*Sorry about not having pictures for the last two…I was creating in the wee hours of the morning so they were ready to go and just plain skipped that part.  Hopefully the fun ideas outweigh the need for visuals (coming from a person who is HIGHLY visual)!;)

Here’s to lots of fun, relaxing creating over the winter months.  Hope y’all enjoy!

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Giving Thanks and Creating Traditions

November is here and the countdown to my favorite holiday is on.  With the opportunity to eat lots of delicious food and take time to reflect on all of God’s blessings, who couldn’t love Thanksgiving?  For as long as I can remember we always did Thanksgiving with my dad’s family.  It was full of the best food taste buds can imagine and lots of family to fill my grandparents basement.  We gave thanks to God for our blessings, dug in to our completely overstuffed plates, because you couldn’t leave out any of the tasty dishes, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with family, complete with a few napping people on the couches because the food coma had kicked in.  As my family has grown up and gone our separate ways, we’ve come to appreciate the memories of Thanksgiving at Grandma & Grandpa’s.

I’ve taken on Thanksgiving the past few years (with the help of my mom!) and, of course, had to make sure all of the best dishes like my grandma’s infamous chicken noodles and my great aunt’s date nut tapioca pudding were included.  I’ve loved every minute of it and hope the love has shown through each dish, every decoration, and each new/old tradition.  But as growing up goes, things change and people go their separate ways and new traditions are formed.  Last year I started the countdown to Thanksgiving with my kiddos.  We did the Thanksgiving alphabet book.  

It was great for my 3 & 1 year old as it helped with learning the alphabet, letter recognition, sound association, etc.  All I did was make a page for each letter on the left side of the book and a blank page next to it on the right.  Each day counting down to Thanksgiving we took the next letter, figured out something we were thankful for that began with that letter, drew a picture of it on the blank page next to the corresponding letter, and wrote the word of each picture…partly for the practice of writing letters, but more importantly so we could for sure recognize the pictures for years to come.:)  The kids loved it and by the end we had multiple pictures for each letter.  And, I love that it’s a keepsake that is easily stored.

This year, I’m a little late getting on the ball, but today I found a great idea at Make and Takes…great blog, btw.  

My turkey is made, feathers cut out, and we’re set to start giving thanks tomorrow.  I think I’ll write a verse about giving thanks on the turkey instead of “Happy Thanksgiving,” but other than that mine looks pretty similar.  Thanks for the idea Make and Takes!

And, because of my late night blog surfing and Dresses ‘n Messes, I have my idea for next year AND the time to plan it out!  I love the way it takes it to the next level and gives the opportunity to teach service to others along with realizing all your blessings.  Maybe we’ll actually get started November 1st.:)

I’m excited each year to share with my kids our reason for celebrating Thanksgiving.  Because of the love put into each Thanksgiving growing up, we’ve all missed our big family Thanksgiving and it looks like this year we’ll have the opportunity to get together with some of the family and enjoy each other’s company.  Every part of me, especially my eyes that will forever be way bigger than my stomach, can’t wait!

The Shapes of Monday Morning

This morning we needed something to do to start of our day and our week well.  A couple weeks ago I bought The Everything Toddlers Activity Book.  It was at Sam’s Club when I was doing our bulk shopping and as I flipped through the pages thought it would be a book to at least spur on ideas, if nothing else (I think it will turn out to be a great book).  And, today, it did exactly that.  While we were eating breakfast I broke out the book and in about 5 minutes I had our activity ready, yes I said ready to go, for the morning.  Here’s all it took…construction paper, scissors, crayons, & a glue stick.  The best part is that it taught/reiterated shapes, colors, and creativity.

The object was to create a person using the shapes I provided.  Those shapes are the ones I cut out within the 5 min. during breakfast.  I just stacked 5-6 sheets of different colored construction paper together and cut out squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, and hearts of all sizes…super quick way to get a bunch of shapes.  We then picked out black sheets of construction paper so that all the colors would show up and then started creating.

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The one thing I’d do differently next time is help my kiddos glue theirs on first.  My oldest made a great person, but then when he saw mine, he scrapped his and wanted to do one just like mine…not a big deal, but we lost a little of his creativity in the mix.

My youngest just had a blast talking about the shapes and glueing them wherever her heart desired.  She’s quite the little artsy child.  And, once I pulled out the crayons to finish the picture, she was all over it.  I’m just happy she colored on the paper for most of the activity.  She has a tendency to color on EVERYTHING…walls, her body, the carpet, the table, etc.  And, actually the phone rang during our activity and I came back to the bench of my table blue.  Luckily we were using dry erase board crayons so it just wiped right off.

The finished product was definitely fridge-worthy (if I had room on my fridge…I think ours will go on the wall;) )…

 

I also found plenty of extra coloring additions to my paper when I got back from the phone call.  Character was added:).  We also had to add his coolest birthday present…a remote control Francesco Bernoulli in the hands of his man and a basketball, so mine decided to be a golfer.   There are so many things you can do with just a few shapes.  Break out the scissors and go to town.

Teaching my Child to Nap

Currently, I have two sleeping children.  That’s right, they are both down for nap at the same time, which is allowing me to actually write this post.  If you haven’t figured out yet, I’m a little LOT excited about that fact.  And, I wanted to share my strategy that is currently working (not to jinx it!) just in case there’s another mom out there like me who’s needed something else to try.  Now, this post isn’t exactly for the mom who has read the books, followed them exactly, and has had their child sleep-trained since week two.  I would have no foot to stand on trying to write a post like that, as that is just not me.

With my oldest, I tried sleep training…the cry it out method, and any other suggestion that was sent my way because I was desperate.  He cried it out for far too long, too many days (possible week(s)) in a row).  After the many hours of trying to help him get the hang of it I realized it wasn’t for us.  It created too much stress in him and me and I accepted the fact that it is not for all babies.  What I’ve learned since then is that not everything works for all kids.  *Shocker!*;)  If I share one piece of advice with soon-to-be or new mamas, it is this: Don’t stress over something that’s not working for you and your baby, even if everyone else around tells you it’s the way to go, because one strategy is not for everyone.

That being said, I wanted to write this post to those moms out there that have a child like my oldest.  The type of child who cannot sit still for more than seconds at a time, literally bounces around the house all day long (sometimes off of his sister along with the walls), climbs almost everything and does it successfully,has a brain that runs in overdrive from the second he wakes up to the second before he finally crashes for sleep (and often while sleeping as he sings and tells stories while snoozing), and most importantly to this post, needs (or thinks he needs) little sleep and no naps.  Other than the carseat nap…my child has fallen asleep 6 times on his own in his life…that’s almost 4 years.  It is so few that I can easily keep track.  This just doesn’t happen often…It takes an entire day of Christmas celebration with 5 active cousins and a rambunctious sister to actually put him to sleep.

So, here’s the reason you’re still reading this post.  After hours, days, months, even years of figuring out how to get him to fall asleep, the strategy that’s working the best for me right now (at age 3 & 22 months) includes three simple rules and an ending that appeals to him.  First, the  deal…

Me: “If you can stay awake for three songs (we listen to calm, relaxing music before bed) following my 3 rules, you may rest instead of nap.”

My oldest: “Really!?”

At this point he is super excited, of course, because he loves the idea of rest time.  However, this mama does not!  We developed a fear of monsters one day, very randomly, and again have tried EVERY strategy known to man to nix the fear, but his brain won’t budge, so rest time (quiet play on his own) does not go well and this mama gets nothing done.  Oh, and his little body also still needs a nap, otherwise the grouch monster comes out right before supper sucking everyone into his terrible mood.  So, what, you ask, are the three rules?  Simple.

Rule #1: Lay still. (as in nothing moving except for maybe a stratch here or there, head on pillow)

Rule #2: Keep eyes closed.

Rule #3: No talking.

The outcome:  sleeping child, with hardly any fighting, 9 times out of 10

Now, it’s “Naptime here I come” instead of “I DON’T WANT TO NAP!”

It puts the ball in his court.  If he truly can stay away for three whole songs, he gets to rest.  However, that has only happened a couple of times, and he’s actually handled it well because his body really did not need the rest and he was a positive, fun-loving kid.

Now, here’s the disclaimer…

Is it a sure-fire way to get your child to nap?  No way!  We still have our days when he chooses to fight like the dickens to stay awake because heaven forbid you miss out on any minute of a day.  However, those days are way fewer and farther between than they once were and my sanity has risen tremendously when nap time rolls around.  I’ve started to welcome it…most days;).  One more tip for those “not gonna nap” days: if a rule is broken, he has to follow the rules for an extra song.  If this is sounding all too real, try it out.  I hope you have as much luck as I have.

On a side note, his little sister asks for naps.  I even caught her sleeping like this once…

…she’s the child for which more of those books I previously mentioned were written.  Each child is different.  And, months down the line, this strategy will probably have worn off and I’ll be begging y’all for your success stories.  Until then, I hope this helps one mama out there regain a little sanity.;)

For the love of the garden…

So, for a while now I’ve been wanting to start a “For the love of…” Fridays on my blog to keep active blogging, however with 2  active preschoolers and my mommy brain, Friday always passes me by and it’s Saturday or Sunday before I remember.  So today I decided I’m going to start it today anyway…a day late because that’s how my life functions right now.  Hopefully I can get on track next week, then again maybe it will just become another day of the week.  However, for now, here’s the first “For the love of…” post.

There are many things that I love about summer, but today my favorite is the garden.  I think mostly because, at our house, it’s a family affair.  I love going shopping for our plants with my agnerd and kids, even though my agnerd usually manages to convince me that we need a few extra plants that I usually end up just watching grow because I don’t take the time to figure out what to do with them!  My goal each year is to try and use all of what we plant.  And, I’m happy to report, I’m doing better than last year;).  One of these days I’ll figure it out.  Anyway, after the purchasing of plants comes the challenge of figuring out when to get the garden ready to plant and plant it working around a farmer’s schedule at one of the more busy times of year.  It always gets done and the wait is on until harvest time.

What do we do until then?…pick weeds…and more weeds…and more weeds…and my garden is still half full of weeds.:)  I know it may sound weird, but it’s relaxing.  There’s something about doing the same monotonous task over and over again knowing it’s going to help produce mouth-watering fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Sanity:).

The best thing about the garden, however, is the fact that this happens.

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Yes, that is a mouthful of broccoli, straight from our garden.  If you have picky kiddos who don’t like their fruits and veggies, try a garden…even if it’s just a window box.  You would be amazed at what kids will eat because they grew it or helped you make it/made it themselves (speaking from experience as a junior high home ec teacher as well as a mom:) ).  The accomplishment brings about the will to try new things.

Along with the willingness to try new things, the garden also teaches responsibility, hard-work, and reaping the fruits of your labor.  What’s not to like about that.  Here’s my daughter with a basket full of lettuce ready to take home and chow down.

 

 

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As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to have all the space in the world to have a garden, and you live and you learn each year.  Our backyard itself is fairly small.  We decided to give up some grass and till up a space behind the garage along with a little over a foot of space all along the fences and house for planting.  It makes mowing a lot easier!  I’ve tried a number of things.  Watermelon, for example, was not the best idea behind our garage.  It turns out it grows through the fence, through the mulch pile, and into the neighbor’s yard, who spent the whole summer hacking off the vines so it didn’t take over his backyard, which was once featured in the town paper…oops!  Watermelon is now reserved for the farm.

Currently, however, we have raspberry & blueberry bushes, strawberries, garlic chives, basil, parsley, rhubarb, dill, & mint around the edges.  Then, tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots, lettuce, spinach, snow peas, & green beans in the garden area.  I’ve found myself landscaping with edibles, which makes it easy to cram a lot into a small space.  Here’s a few pictures…

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One other opportunity we’ve been blessed with is a community garden half a block away.  This gives us ample garden space to play with, which makes it easy to fit in those trial plants my agnerd finds while we’re shopping.  We even made it in the paper for growing celery the first year.  Who knew celery was not common around this area…we didn’t and gave it a go despite the fact we had no idea how to grow celery.  Many great crops have come from trial and error.  That’s what makes it fun.

So, for the love of the garden…I hope you’re inspired to develop your own green thumb and enjoy the deliciousness that comes with a summer garden.

Bringing the Cows Close to Home

After spending close to a week back home, I came to full realization that I have “farm kids.”  Even though we live in town, my kiddos are the most relaxed and at home out in the country, on the farm.  So, this week when we got the opportunity to help out a cousin with feeding bottle calves, I jumped on the opportunity knowing my kids would have a ball.  It turns out they were more “help” to us than we probably were to them, but it was a great time.

Little did we know, we got in on all the farm chores.  You see, their home place is like what you see in a children’s book of what you find on a farm.  They currently have calves, chickens, lil’ chicks, horses, cats, & dogs…all that’s missing is the pigs and they might be getting one this summer.  My kiddos LOVED it.  We started out checking out the chicks inside.Aren’t they cute?!  My daughter loved them.We then mixed up the milk for the calves and fed all ten bottle calves.  They were super appreciative and friendly.:)After the calves had full bellies, we moved on to collecting farm fresh eggs.Three beautiful eggs from their “free range” chickens…they rule the backyard:).  

Then, of course, we had to feed the horses.Say “hello” to this guy!And last but not least, we had to get in on a little introduction to the rodeo world.  And, as long as bull riding is no part of it, I’m good with that.  It makes me super nervous to watch perfect strangers ride bulls…can’t imagine what watching my own offspring would do to me!And when all the chores were done, I had kiddos that wanted to stay forever.  Thanks Tedd & Coleen for letting us in on the fun;).

Totally Tangled…

Disney has done it again…created a classic movie that’s great for kids and adults alike and we have decided to plan a party.  We can’t wait for Tangled to arrive on Tuesday!  This one, in my opinion, is up there with the classics that I enjoyed as a kid…Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, Little Mermaid, etc.  What’s more fun than looking forward to a movie arrival by planning a party full of fun food and crafts?  And so the brainstorming begins…

Thanks to family.com we put our heads together and we have a few ideas…

Orange Biscuit Braid

Check out these biscuit braids.

Love the idea of the orange braided bread, but after my agnerd’s suggestion of spaghetti (resembling Rapunzel’s hair) for supper I think we might have to tweak the recipe for Italian.  Yum!

And, we have to include Rapunzel’s pal Pascal into the mix…debating between these Pascal Cupcakes

or taking the healthier route and turning this into our own little apple Pascals

Fruity Frog

I think we can tweak it so it can be done.

Now onto the crafts…

Create your own tower like Rapunzel’s…keep those paper towel rolls and butter tubs and bring out the contruction paper!  We’re just going to let the imaginations roll.

Because my 3 year old boy loves the movie as much as the rest of us, I’m thinking of this craft, Pub Thug Armor,Pub Thug Armor

And, recreating Rapunzel’s crown for the girls of the house.

We’re still brainstorming, so shoot your ideas our way and take on a few Tangle themed recipes/crafts of your own.  Can’t wait to see the ideas!