So… after a rough week with the kiddos I took my Whatever philosophy to heart and gave myself the night off. Which meant I didn’t get my Friday Facebook Roundup to you. At least you’ll have fun reading this morning!
Put the kids in front of the cartoons and check out these links!
So Halloween is over and it’s nearly Christmas already. Oh wait. Did we forget about that little holiday in the middle? The one where we are thankful for our families and friends before donning our sweatpants and stuffing our faces with cheesecake. Right, Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love all the colors, the food, the Macy’s Day Parade and the family stuff that goes with it. Growing up the folks at our table may have changed from year to year, and there was even a year we didn’t get to celebrate because we were all too sick; but I always had my brothers, my sister and my mom. It was a time of year when we really felt thankful. We had plenty of food (which didn’t happen for us every day), we didn’t argue (maybe one of the only two days a year we were angels), and we could just relax together. We never took a family vacation growing up so these holidays were our vacations and I think we somehow made the best of them. We watched a lot of movies, ate our favorite foods and shared a lot of laughs.
I grew up incredibly poor. My mom was a single mom to four of us and she worked three jobs. My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much until I was old enough to go to work and help out with school shopping. Even though things were tight my mom always made sure we had enough at the holidays to make up for what we were lacking throughout the year. Sometimes it even meant we were one of the families waiting for a food box from the local church pantry. Growing up like that hurt. It was often hard on all of us. But I think out of everything, we learned to be grateful. At least I know I have.
Now I am a mom to two beautiful kids who had more in their first year of life than I did in my entire childhood. I don’t want them to go without, but I worry about how to teach them to be truly grateful and appreciate what they have. Most of all I worry about teaching them compassion. Before kids I was frequently volunteered at a soup kitchen or as a board member of a few organizations and raising funds for local families. I did a lot of hands-on walk events that included pitching tents, standing at tables and making a lot of phone calls to local businesses. Once my babies arrived I assumed I would just take them along with me and it would be business as usual. Easy peasy. Nope. No can do. (You’ve read my blog about my kids public tantrums right?).
So, I have learned how to give back in ways my kids can participate in often without having to leave home. I hope by sharing these things with my kids and explaining why we do these things will really help them understand the importance of helping; and ultimately instill compassion for their world.
1. Operation Christmas Cheer is the easiest holiday give back you can possibly spend time on. In less than one minute and for less than $1.00 you can send a Christmas card to a child with cancer/terminal illness to decorate their room with. This began as a simple request from a friend of mine to send one card to a few local kids going through chemotherapy. I sent them each one card. But, then I thought why not ask my friends and family to send some cards too. Suddenly, girl scout troops and entire classrooms were getting involved. Over 65 of my friends and family members enlisted the help of their friends and family to send out cards and gifts to children they have never met. And, just like that my small Facebook charity was born. You could easily make cards for a children’s hospital or even a nursing home near you. Go simple with a handful of cards, or call your friends and family to action and get dozens sent.
2. Operation Christmas Child is a fun family project. Families fill a shoe box with gifts and supplies that are sent all around the world to children in impoverished countries. You can even track where your package lands. Little ones love to help select the toys and gifts that go inside each box.
3. Bonnie Boxes are similar in similar concept to the Operation Christmas Child shoe box program, but volunteers hand out shoe boxes full of gifts and activities to local cancer treatment centers. You can gather up a team to fill and wrap boxes to be delivered. You can create packages to go to adults or children. Perhaps you can open your home to organizing a packing event and the little ones can help!
4. Host a coat drive. Ask friends and neighbors for their gently used coats and winter wear. Your house can serve as a drop-off site until you are ready to deliver to a local agency, school nurses’ office or church. No big event to chair or to plan for. Families receiving a warm coat they thought they couldn’t afford is a huge help.
5. Collect supplies. Birthday parties are a great time to collect extra supplies for the food pantry, the local SPCA or a local family in need. People are already gathering in your home and there’s no shopping involved for you. At my girls’ second birthday we began requesting one canned good per family. My kids help me load the bag, take it to church and place in the collection box. Even if they don’t understand the full impact of giving canned goods, they understand their work is important.
6. Give of your time, talent or treasure. If you can’t write a check but still want to give back, donate a skill like crafting or painting. My mother used to take me with her to the hospital nursing home to paint ceramic pieces for the residents. Sometimes she would paint and I would wander the halls chatting with the elderly and help them play bingo. I learned the most about helping others from my time there. Perhaps you could donate crafts or decorations to a local nursing home or family shelter to help brighten the residents’ holiday.
7. Host a home party event and ask that a portion of the sales be donated to a charity of your choice. Ask friends in direct sales (think Tupperware, Mary Kay, Barefoot Books, etc.) to set up a table at your home. Invite all your friends and family. You get to do a little shopping surrounded by friends while your little ones get to play.
My friend and I joke about how we can’t wait for the day our kids are old enough to volunteer alongside us. I hope my kids get as much out of giving back as I do. With little ones who are still so reliant on a schedule/routine and sparse childcare, it can be a challenge to volunteer your time outside the home. With a little creativity you can still find a way to give back and impart some valuable lessons to your little ones. It is true that charity starts in the home.
October is here! We can officially get excited about pumpkins and Halloween! I LOVE decorating for Fall!!! (Can never have too many exclamation points when sharing my excitement for Fall!!!). Gone are the days I can display my intricately designed, hand crafted grown up tablescapes. The delicate ensembles of thin glass hurricane lamps and the hand carved gourd tea light holders could never hold their own against the power of two Tasmanian toddlers. So, I put away anything glass, all my large ceramic pumpkins and delicate wreaths (you know all the stuff you don’t want kids touching!) for now and found some more kid friendly materials to decorate with.
Here are our favorite ways to decorate for Fall and Halloween.
Make a Monster Impression:
This is simple, inexpensive and the kids can help! You can find everything in your dollar store.
Large poster board
Large round paper plates (any solid color)
Small round, black paper plates
Small square paper plates (white)
Cut poster board in half. Then cut small triangles out of one side of paper to form a hair line. Depending on your door width you may need one, or both pieces of poster board.
Next, make eyes by taping the small black plate to the large colored paper plate and attach to the door.
Last, make a toothy grin using the square white paper plates.
Feel free to embellish with glittery bats, or other Halloween shapes. We decided to go with a girl monster this year and gave “Henrietta” some sparkly bat barrettes. My girls enjoyed posing with their monster afterward for our annual Fall pic!
One of our favorite things to do in the Fall is to collect acorns that fall off the Oak tree in our back yard. This year I found a fun project that is easy and super cheap. We saved all our acorn caps in a cup and I pulled them out on a rainy day we needed something to do.
Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
Gems, or stones
Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place.
Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s ok!
Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!
Have the kids check back to watch the colorful transformation.
What you have left are smooth, colorful jewels! I leave these in a basket of decorative pumpkins for easy access for the kids to play with.
Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins!
You simply cannot have enough pumpkins this time of year! We eat them, drink them and decorate with them! We have baskets filled with little decorative pumpkins, we color pumpkins, paint pumpkins and even carve our pumpkins.
Paint brushes -OR-
Our carving tradition is spearheaded by my hubby. He helps the girls select just the right family of pumpkins. Then they pour over different pumpkin design ideas before making the first cut. My girls are not squeamish at all about digging right in and squishing the pumpkin guts through their fingers.
Here are last year’s creations:
Confession: we made a trip to a pumpkin farm for the whole experience of seeing a real pumpkin patch, but I purchased our carving pumpkins for $2.88 each at Aldi’s. Whatever my kids have no idea…and by not spending $20 for one pumpkin (our above grand total for our cute monster, colorful acorn jewels and 3 carving pumpkins is $14.68) I purchased a few extra pumpkin lattes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin flavored pumpkins. Did I mention we like pumpkin?
For little ones not yet trustworthy with knives, give them a paint brush and some paints and let them paint their pumpkins!
All these crafts are fun for kids, easy to make and indestructible! Happy Fall Ya’ll!
What would your toddler think of a front door monster?
Greetings on this rainy 4th of July! If your day is starting out like ours, you may need some ideas on how to spend this rainy day inside with your little ones. Below is a recap of some fun things to do while stuck inside.
Today is the perfect opportunity to check off some of those summer bucket list items! If you haven’t made your summer bucket list yet there’s still plenty of time! Or you can just use this 2014 Summer Bucket List printable.
Arrrr ya ready for an indoor Pirate adventure? Take some time to make a map then hide treasures around the house and find them using your map.
Did you miss my post on making pinwheels? This is a quick, fun activity to do with the kids. Use whatever paper you have on hand!
How about simply bringing out the paints and paper and let the kids run wild? Here are some easy, fun July 4th craft ideas.
So you just blew through all the crafts in less than an hour, now what? Who says you have to stay inside ALL day? Why not let your kids run outside to play in the rain? Every kid loves dancing n the rain! They are only little once! Maybe it will inspire you to host your own Mess Fest later this summer?
However you choose to spend your day I hope it is relaxing, safe and enjoyable. Happy July 4th everyone!
Here it is right smack in the middle of Summer and I am going to talk to you about Christmas. I know it’s 6 months away but as I mentioned last week, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t long after the smoke from the fireworks clears that my mind starts making Christmas plans. This week I am going to share with you how I made Christmas happen for $150. That’s not a typo. I only spent $150 on two kids for Christmas. We didn’t need to take cash from our household budget either. Find out how I make extra income without leaving for work.
First, start planning early (like July) and hit up the garage sales. Yes, I said garage sales. I was inspired by a friend of mine who shops garage sales for toys for Christmas gifts. At first it didn’t sound right to me, but then I realized I buy toys from garage sales all year long. My kids don’t seem to notice, or care where they come from. What makes Christmas different? And really isn’t it the same as re-gifting?
Now, let me clarify here my kids did not get used junk for Christmas (leaky Jell-O mold anyone?). I was very selective about items I purchased. The toys I picked out for them were either brand new in package or were very gently used. My biggest score was two copy paper boxes filled with pristine condition children’s books for only $8.00. That was more than enough to give each girl a wrapped book every night as part our Advent countdown.
Second, set your budget and stick to it. I thought $150 sounded reasonable, but you may want or need to go a little higher. once I reached $100 I felt like I had enough big stuff. I then set aside $20 for stocking stuffers and spent the remaining $30 on new pajamas and one new outfit for each kid. Of course shopping online for these items and avoiding any holiday traffic is what worked for me!
Third, plan for a better tomorrow: buying second hand helps save the planet (you’re welcome); buying from local families helps them afford to buy for their little ones and by planning for savings you can afford to be generous with your favorite charity.
It might sound crazy to start planning this early since most of us can’t even think about what we are having for breakfast tomorrow. But the time I saved by getting things done early really paid off. I had all my shopping, gift wrapping and stockings stuffed before the Thanksgiving turkey hit the oven. My weekends in December were free for creating a fun old-fashioned family Christmas. We baked cookies for our local firemen; we watched Santa jump from a plane (our new favorite tradition); had our picture taken with Santa; decorated the tree; crafted a whole bunch of stuff; drove around to check out the Christmas lights and spent plenty a snowy day snuggling in our jammies.
By not focusing on what went under the tree, we were able to truly enjoy the season. My kids won’t remember what their favorite Christmas gift was when they were 3, or that mom only spent $150 on used gifts. But, my hope is that having the extra time to focus on the feeling of Christmas will instill a lifetime of warm memories for us. There is no price tag on memories.
When do you start planning for Christmas? Are you an early shopper, or are you just sliding in under the tree Christmas morning?
I wanted to do something really fun for the girls Easter pics this year. Short on time and money for a professional photographer, I decided to create my own funny bunny photo booth. But once I made the booth it was too cute to keep to ourselves. So, we invited a few friends for an impromptu bunny bash. Luckily, my very awesome (and talented) friend Danielle brought her fancy camera along to get some great pics of our little party goers. A total bonus!
I selected a fun background to give our photo booth a casual feel. I used a chevron designed wrapping paper taped to an extra piece of paneling we had lying around. You could tape it to your wall, but hanging the paper on the wall is a two person job and I am a one mom operation. Using the panel was easier and allowed me to hide the back drop so I could surprise the girls in the a.m.
I strung a line of foam shaped chicks across the patterned paper. I simply taped some twine to the back of each chick. You could easily skip the paper and just hang a string of fun themed shapes to a clean colorful wall inside your home. Or, move outside and hang the shapes along a fence, around a tree, or on the side of your house.
This time of year you can find bunny ears at every dollar store- a must have for a funny bunny photo booth!
To make a bunny face I used a wooden mustache prop I found at Michael’s. I added a fuzzy pom-pom nose and some colorful pipe cleaner whiskers for a touch of whimsy. I tried to use Elmer’s glue, but the hot glue gun worked the best. Of course I had to add in some recognizable bunny teeth. I used white craft foam with adhesive backing and attached directly to the mustache.
I situated our photo booth in the sunniest spot of our house. Natural lighting makes for the best photos! Then, we handed the kids the props and let them have fun! I wasn’t worried about them posing angelically; I was just shooting for nobody crying. My goal was to make some fun memories with our friends. Mission accomplished! How cute are these kids?
For less than $10 I now have some fun pics to commemorate our Easter holiday. I can print as many photos as I’d like and email copies to distant relatives (thank you Danielle!).
A themed photo booth is a great alternative for kids who are afraid of the Easter bunny, or maybe too little to meet the EB yet. It’s also an easy, affordable, fun activity to do for birthday parties, play dates, or holidays. Just change up your props!
Have you taken your own kid pics at home? What do you do to make it fun?
Last year I discovered the simple beauty of plastic Easter eggs and fuzzy pom-poms. With Easter right around the corner I’m bringing these back! It usually buys me at least 30 uninterrupted minutes. I can almost hear my own thoughts while finishing the dishes!
First, I picked up some plastic eggs and pom-poms at the dollar store.
Next, I dumped them into a deviled egg tray for easy access and storage. That’s it! Done! The kids will take care of the rest! (If you don’t have pom-poms you can use cotton balls).
You can find an egg tray similar to this one at the dollar store. I just happened to have one on hand. You can also recycle an egg carton to store the eggs in. Use whatever works for you.
The first things my girls do is sort and match the colors by placing the pom-poms into the matching colored egg.
Next they enjoy using kid sized plastic tweezers to count out the pom-poms and fill the eggs. (This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills).
Then they just like to make up their own games through pretend play. They grab handfuls of pom-poms and pile them up and mix them up. Sometimes they pretend to go shopping for eggs and fill up an empty shopping bag.
No matter which scenario they choose, we almost always end with – you guessed it- an Easter egg hunt. They like to take turns hiding the eggs and finding them. Of course I have to help look for the eggs too.
Last year when I first introduced this to my girls they were 28 months old. I was worried they’d eat the pom-poms, so I sat nearby while they played with them. They also enjoyed taking them into the bath tub, dumping the pom-poms into a bowl to mix with a spoon, and just comparing the fuzzy feeling of the pom-poms with the smooth feeling of the eggs.
This year they found a new way to play- Pom-pom soccer!
The first one to blow a pom-pom into an egg using a straw wins. I love that there are so many different ways to play with these simple things many of us already have around the house.
Got a favorite simple (mess free) activity you’d like to share?
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