My kids love to play games. They love board games, building games, I-Spy games- any game really. They also love counting, matching and sorting. So, I thought I would make a few file folder games they could pull out any time!
Start by cutting out the squares and place the pictures of dinosaurs in correct order. Set the number squares aside. Then, adhere a piece of double stick tape on each edge of the square. Turn over and stick to the folder.
Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.
Next laminate both sides of the entire folder using clear laminate/contact paper. (Even easier if you have a laminating machine). Then laminate the number cards separately.
I found these Velcro squares at Lowes. You can also find them in the craft section at Walmart, or in craft stores like Joanne’s Fabrics and Michael’s.
Tip: cut the page of Velcro squares in half and then “sandwich” both sides of Velcro pieces together.
Pull the backing off and stick to the number square.
Then, adhere to the laminated folder.
To play the game simply pull all the numbers off of the folder and mix into a pile. The kids count the dinosaurs in each square and find the corresponding number to match.
These games are great to pull out before dinner, before bed and travel easy. Take them with you to grandma’s house or play while out to dinner at a restaurant. My girls couldn’t wait to play with their new game! These folders will be a great addition to our busy binder activities!
Got a kid who loves dinosaurs? Check out these DIY Fossil cookies I made for my blog at Hudson Valley Parent.
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.
My husband and I have officially been on two dates in the same month. This is rare. Very rare. The last time we had a “date” alone together it was 2012. I can’t really call it a date. A friend of mine stayed with the kids while my husband trained me as a substitute for his early morning paper route. We woke up together at 2:30 a.m. grabbed some coffee and hit the open road. The sun was about to rise as we clink’d our hot cups of coffee to celebrate a new day. I know it sounds kind of sexy until you hear the details. He drove us all over the twisty back mountain roads while I tried not to vomit. My lack of sleep in combination with car sickness did not make for a very pleasant experience. P.s. I never drove the route again.
As we were getting ready for our first official date night in four years I started thinking, can I remember how to act while on a date? Would I remember I could sit down in a chair, or a booth to chew my food, or would my sense memory kick in and I’d want to scarf my meal over the kitchen sink? What if my waitress drops some food? Would I immediately hand her a napkin and grumble, “pick it up” or would I remember that’s not my job here. Then suddenly, I worried, WHAT would we talk about?
Thankfully, once we were settled at our table we immediately set the ground rule of no talking about the kids or his job the whole night. Those topics weren’t off the table, but they were among a checklist of things to talk about. We also agreed the phones could be on the table in silence and only used if the baby sitter contacted us (and of course to take pics of our awesome food). Then something really amazing happened. I realized that even though my husband and I have very different interests I do find him interesting. His opinions have always been important to me. He can really be insightful in ways that I am not. I often take for granted that he does know me better than anyone else (he likes to look at the menu online before we leave to silently predict my menu choices, just so he can say “I knew you’d pick that!”). Our conversations were about how much we love the kids, how much we hope for them. We talked about politics, religion, education, current events- all the topics that are off the table at play dates yet I so desperately crave having conversations about. It was like when we first started dating. When we would stay up all night long and talk about our lives, our hopes and dreams for the future. It is nice to connect like that now and to remember we are people not just parents.
Here are 5 date night best practices:
1. Dress to impress. You don’t have to go over board here. (And, yes make-up is optional). It is nice to see my husband in something other than his work clothes. I’m sure he is happy to see me return to the woman he married vs. the scraggly mom in jeans and a sloppy bun. It fires up that chemistry between us.
2. Keep it simple. Coordinating schedules and bed time routines and date night details can be stressful. Don’t worry about all the planets lining up just right. Take advantage of the time you do have. If you have a baby sitter for only 2 hours don’t drive to the fancy restaurant out of town. Pack a picnic and hit the park closest to your house, walk the mall hand in hand and window shop, or grab a cup of coffee at that cute little bistro you’ve had your eye on.
3. Be your best self. We live in such a rushed state as parents. We shout from one side of the house with demands while chasing after kids. Our days are filled with noise. Slow down. Compliment each other. Open doors for each other and say kind things in a nice voice. Remember the softer side of your relationship and reconnect with those lovely people for a while.
4. Communicate. Put down the phone, or leave it in your purse. Make eye contact with each other and not a TV. Share your thoughts on your relationship and tell your spouse things you appreciate about them but maybe didn’t have time to say it. Remember this isn’t a time to share everything that pissed you off during the week. And for the love do NOT bring up your in-laws!
5. Enjoy this time together. You will spend the next twenty-one years rushing and trying to meet the demands of the little people in your home. It’s nice to press the pause button on all that chaos and connect with the person you will spend (if you’re lucky) the next 50 years with.
Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!
That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.
I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!
Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!
Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:
Frozen bread dough
Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
Paper lunch sacks
Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.
Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).
Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.
You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).
Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).
Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.
Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.
Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!
If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.
Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).
Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.
Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.
Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.
I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.
I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.
One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.
Tips for writing a love letter to your child:
1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.
2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.
3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).
4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”
5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.
Many people ask me (on a near daily basis) is it hard having twins? My reply is usually “depends on the day.”
I thought I’d share a little glimpse into one of those days:
Thursday November 15, 2012
5:44 a.m. wide awake
6:00 roll out of bed to tackle dishes, laundry, breakfast and get dinner in the crock pot.
6:22 alerted by shrieking child who isn’t due to awaken for another hour. Quickly calculate approx. how long I can let her cry it out while I take a shower.
6:23 hop in shower while drinking coffee
6:24 get dressed while brushing teeth
6:25 walk in to get girls who are angrily emptying their crib in protest to my delay
6:30 give girls bowl of rice crispies and cup of milk
6:32 on hands and knees cleaning rice crispies off of floor
7:00 chase first child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.
7:22 chase second child and tackle her into outfit & do her hair.
7:30 engage in philosophical debate about why we wear clothes.
7:32 give up and let them run naked.
8:00 attempt to finish dishes while the kids empty dirty laundry from basket and scatter about the house.
8:10 pick up scattered laundry while the girls hunt for mischievous projects
8:15 pick up box full of dried pasta dumped onto kitchen floor while demanding, “don’t eat that!”
8:30 diaper change goes awry x 2.
8:45 Someone frees the kitchen drawer from captivity. I clean up the mess and kiss non-existent boo-boo.
8:50 attempt to make 2nd pot of coffee with a toddler attached to each leg.
9:00 Blue’s Clues TAKE ME AWAY!
9:15 Blue’s Clues is not working- spend next 10 minutes breaking up fist fight over who gets to be in mommy’s lap.
9:30 realize I didn’t eat yet. Quickly make scrambled eggs.
9:35 endure hostile take over of my breakfast.
9:36 begin cursing every person who’s ever asked me, “are you going to have another?”
10:00 both girls start rummaging in the cupboard and argue with me that the gallon sized vinegar bottle is in fact juice. Go ahead try it- I DARE ya!
10:03 attempted unauthorized potty break, assaulted by the toddlerazzi invading my privacy.
10:15 begin the great diaper chase
10:40 children mock my attempts to build with blocks by kicking over my tower and laughing.
10:50 drift off and quickly awakened by someone slapping me and yelling, “mommymommymommyyyyyyyyyyy!”
11:00 turn on Blue’s Clues and forced to participate in ritualistic wailing for mail.
11:15 held captive on the couch and forced to watch as Blue finds every stinking last clue.
12:00 prepared a lovely meal for the floor to enjoy.
12:30 on hands and knees again to clean up floor.
12:45 play let’s make a deal- if you let me change your diaper you can have a cookie!
1:00 toss children in crib with cookie… stick a fork in me cuz I’m DONE!
That’s only HALF MY DAY!!
This post made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. When I was in the thick of the insanity of taking care of two toddlers alone I didn’t always find the humor. It felt like those struggles were going to stick around for a long time. The good news is it is two years later and we have all survived and moved on to different dramas!
I wasn’t the most patient parent, and sometimes I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy (friends, family, kids, hubby) and forgot about myself. I really hated when people said, “you will miss these days.” The last thing I thought I’d miss is the nonstop screaming and crying and lack of shower time. I still don’t miss that part, but what I miss most is each unique little age and stage. I feel like I just didn’t get enough time to enjoy each kid during particular stages. It was just the three of us and not enough of me to go around. I felt rushed to get them through their milestones so I could check them off my parental to-do list.
Now that they are four, things are calming down in many ways. My girls are still a handful, and we still have our intense moments of battling wills. But it has only taken me the past four years to understand what it means to slow down, relax and don’t sweat the small stuff. The house is a little messier, the crafts get set aside and I’m happier to just sit down and hold my girls close. This is our last year together before they spring board into being a “big kid”: kids with their own opinions and mom just gets a little less cool each day. I already miss the spunky little toddlers they used to be with their chubby little bodies bobbing through the house, their tiny little giggles and the sweetness of their tiny head tucked under my chin.
Even though people warned me to slow down, take it easy and don’t rush- I just couldn’t understand it until I walked that path myself. I am not one to loiter with mom guilt, but there are days I feel completely guilty for wanting to hurry us through the roughest parts. I didn’t realize that would also hurry us through the sweetest parts too.
Enjoy the insanity- it doesn’t last as long as you think. And, one day when it is over you really will miss it!
My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.
I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.
It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!
Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
A pair of tongs
2 empty paper towel tubes
2 empty baskets
Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).
To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).
This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.
Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:
If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.
If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.
We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.
This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.
Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:
I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00
After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.
Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.
I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.
Total for decorations = $23.00
For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).
I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.
Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!
The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).
I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!
Total for activities = $45
I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that). Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00
Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).
Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.
After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.
The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!
I don’t know about you but I am filled with a great determination to get organized this year! (Maybe it is just coincidence that about 1.2 million other people have this same urge?). Now that my twins are 4 I feel like I am finally coming out of survival mode. I’ve taken a look around the house and wow is it a mess! Well, not that anyone would actually see it as a mess because like everyone else I keep it all hidden in the closets! *wink*
I was hesitant to write about the dirty little secrets I keep behind closed doors. I mean who really cares about MY messes right? Well, we’re all friends here so I think it’s OK to let you take a peek. It will be like the Whatever philosophy expressed in pictures. Alright, only two pictures. I know we’re friends, but let’s not over share.
I was ridiculously overjoyed when I found these little beauties at Sam’s Club:
Yes, that IS twelve clear-plastic, empty shoe boxes for just $9.94! (I admit I have a strange addiction to storage totes and office supplies). But, where to use them? Hmmm…
How about that crazy bathroom closet I CAN NOT keep tidy?! Here we go! My bathroom closet stores all our extra supplies, the kids bath stuff, my hubby’s stuff and just a bunch of stuff. It looks like this:
Every morning I go rummaging around for my deodorant at the bottom of one of these cute baskets I employ to keep me organized. It’s always the wrong basket and I always drop something. No more!
Let there be boxes!!! Glorious see through boxes!! (I won’t tell you how many boxes are just for my products alone). Now when I do my hair I can pull out just the supplies I need without having to rummage around and carry them in my arms. I can have all my make up next to me at once instead of pulling out three different bags. Now to find pretty labels.
~ ~ FAMILY SHOW PORTION ~ ~
I did say this is a family show, so here is how I plan to bring the kiddos in on helping me keep things tidy.
Neither of my girls will stick to a chore chart. I think the longest one has lasted is three days. BUT! They are amazing helpers. Most often I cannot finish a task alone because one of my littles will ask to help. Sometimes I just want to finish MY OWN task (like tearing apart a closet). That’s where these helping hands come in!
I have a love/hate relationship with stickers (as in I hate peeling them off the floor). I was happy when the girls let the sticker charts go. NOTE: If you notice a chair or rug that seems out of place in our house, it is probably there to cover a stubborn sticker that refused to be removed. (Cue my new strange addition: Goo Gone).
Here’s how Helping Hands work:
Trace your child’s hand on a colorful piece of paper. Allow your child to decorate with (cringe) stickers, or jewels, or just color with a crayon.
Write a chore or helpful task on a Popsicle/craft stick.
Glue the decorated hands to the sticks and allow to dry.
Display upright in a pretty vase or jar, or you can stack them in a … clear plastic storage box? [har har]
When my kids want to help, but I need space to do what I need to get done, I ask them, “you know what would really be helpful? Can you pull out a helping hand?” Maybe my kids are weird (Hello apple? Meet tree.), but they really love a good task!
Now, it’s your turn to share a pic of that secret cluttered mess!
I’m not one to make a lot of resolutions for the new year. But I do like to look back and think about all the good things that happened in my year. 2014 has been a pretty great year for the Whatever Mom. I started this blog less than a year ago as a way to keep friends and family in the loop of the fun things I do with the kiddos. Shortly after I started blogging I was picked up as a weekly blogger by Hudson Valley Parent. It has been such a great group of women to work with!
This blog quickly became my creative outlet–not just for crafting with the kids, but for the personal projects I have accomplished. I feel like the Whatever Mom represents the every mom–the mom who despite how hard she works feels like she just isn’t doing enough, and the mom who feels judged and struggles to keep up. Under all the chaos of motherhood, we are all moms. I am so grateful to the moms who joined the Whatever Army with me in my first major blog project!
After my initial project I continued to blog about crafts, cooking, organizing, the stressful parts of parenting, finding ways to entertain the kids and checking things off my bucket list. There were some awesome guest bloggers and prize giveaways!!
Read more about making your own freezer meals with Wild Tree here. (Giveaway is over).
On a personal note, this year I began my countdown to 40. I shared some personal stories about my family and my personal loss. Oh wait… did I forget to mention meeting actor Jason Lee and getting an interview printed in a local magazine?
(OK, I’m not a psycho- I know that picture of me with Jason Lee looks a little obsessive. Mr. Lee was kind enough to pose with my family. I don’t post pics of my children on the Internet so I had to crop everyone else out… no really.) I could write a whole blog post about both of these events, but I will spare you the gushing details.
Most importantly, I have enjoyed connecting with 350 new friends! I truly appreciate each one of you taking the time to sign up and follow me each week. I hope you will continue to follow and feel free to give me feedback on topics that are interesting to you!
I wonder what 2015 will bring? I am hoping it will bring me a ton of new followers and take my blog to the next level! (Pretty please!). I hope it will bring me more chances to connect with friends more personally (not just Facebook). I hope for more opportunities for creative projects that do not involved glitter and glue, a chance to travel and introduce my kids to new things and time to focus on my health. After loosing so many friends and family nothing is more important than staying healthy for my kids. 2015 will bring me to my 40th year. (Ack!).
Wishing all of you an amazing year ahead in 2015!
May each of you find much love, health, wealth and happiness in the New Year!!