Archive for the 'parenting' Category

Dinnertime Gratitude

I like to do activities before Thanksgiving to reinforce the idea of gratitude and thankfulness in my girls.  But, that doesn’t always turn out for the best.  Remember the year that we were thankful for bodily functions?  Yes, while I am greatful for that, I don’t think that the girls were really getting the point.

This year I’m taking a different tact.  First, we are reading and re-reading The Thankful Book by Todd Parr, which has lots of fun examples, that are mostly not too silly, of things that you could and should be thankful for.

Also, after reading a great article about Thanksgiving Countdowns and Grateful Activities, I started an activity with the whole family that is a little of both.  Taking from a list of discussion prompts on this page, at dinner each night, we fill in the blank and/or answer the question about what we’re grateful for. For example, we discussed the prompt, “I love it when I get to do ____.” last night.  Clara said that she loved it when we got to play tickle monster all as a family.  So fun.  When we discussed, “Name one adventure you’re thankful for,” Nancy responded that she was thankful for going on roller coasters with Daddy.

Here’s a list of all the prompts that we are going to use:

  • I am thankful I am physically able to…
  • I am thankful I learned how to…
  • I am thankful I own…
  • I am thankful for my favorite…
  • I am thankful for my teacher ___.
  • I am thankful for this toy.
  • I am thankful for this family member.
  • I am thankful for this gift I recieved.
  • Name one adventure you are thankful for.
  • I love to listen to…
  • I love to feel…
  • I love when my tummy is full of…
  • I love when my mom does ____.
  • I love when my dad does _____.
  • I love when my sister…
  • I love this about nature.
  • I love when I get to do…
  • I am going to write ____ a thank you note.
  • I am going to tell ____ I appreciate them.
  • I am going to give ____ a hug.
  • I am going to tell ____ I love them.

Then I write down an answer from each family member on a fake leaf and we’re making a garland of thankfulness out of them.  I just put a strip of clear packaging tape up along the door frame and we each stick our leaf to it when we’re done with dinner.  Some of them fell off, so I’ve been reinforcing them with some staples each evening as well.  By the time Thanksgiving rolls around we should have quite the list of things to be thankful for.  And maybe we’ll all understand the point.


The summer begins…

This is our first official day of summer.  Clara’s last day of preschool was last Wednesday, but we had Grandmoo here and then it was the weekend, so those days don’t count.  But today… today was the first day for me to fill.  As my girls (especially the little one) are not very fantastic about filling their own time, this time of year strikes fear into my heart.  This is especially true since I have cut the girl’s screen time down to one hour or less per day.  I decided that at least a little bit of a schedule is in order.  Here is our very flexible schedule for summer days:

  • Breakfast
  • Curious George (1/2 hour)
  • Shower/get dressed
  • Gardening/weeding/outside play time
  • Morning activity
  • Lunch
  • Nap/Quiet time
  • Afternoon activity (Could be just playing in the back yard
  • Dinner
  • Movie (1/2 hour)
  • Bath
  • Bedtime

So far today it has worked out quite well.  You’ll notice that I did not include times on our schedule so that I can manipulate things as I want.  For instance, our wake up time was officially a bright and early 5:30 and we were outside for gardening and play time by 8:00 this morning, so hopefully it won’t be that early every day.

Our morning activity today was a trip to Dollar Tree and swmimming lessons at the community center.  Woo hoo.  There will be more exciting things to come.  To prepare for this, the girls and I created this year’s summer fun list this weekend.  Remember last years?  Well, it turns out that pulling a random stick out of a jar was just too spontaneous for me.  So, this year we have a list.  That way we can discuss and there is no expectation that we will do whatever is pulled out of the jar.  But there are still tons of fun activities to choose from.


The girls painted a piece of cardboard from a cracker box with about a ton of glitter paint (have I mentioned our current love affair with glitter paint?) and then two days later, when it was dry, I used a Sharpie to write out the list we had brain stormed.  Will we get to all of them?  Probably not, but at least we have somewhere to start to fill in our schedule.

Busy Bag Swap

In December I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Modern Parents, Messy Kids, and found the best idea!  She proposed a busy bag swap– a group of moms who come together, each making a one set self-contained, portable activities that keeps kids engaged independently, and then switch so that each mom gets one of each activity to take home with her.  I put together a group of parents who wanted to do this and sent out an email with a few links to busy bag ideas (this one and this one were my favorites).

Then, a week ago, we got together, let the kids play, and set up a table with all of the busy bags on it.  When our kids were busy playing (and not getting in trouble), we all went to the table and made sure that we put one of each activity into our bag to take home.  Fun!  So, here is the bounty that I now have!  Thanks ladies for humoring me with this!
Button Snake
Magnetic Pom Poms
Color Shade Matching
Contact Paper Collage Kit
Robot Drawing Notebook
Counting/ Math Cards
Button Shape Matching
Lacing Cards

All of these activities are fantastic and Clara has been aching to use them all week. I’m trying to keep them out of reach for a while because I would like to take them with us when we fly to Maui in a couple of weeks. To round out our busy bag stash (and to give me more choices when I’m packing) I added a few bags that I made myself.
Tongue Depresser Puzzle
Paint with Water Sheets
Finger Puppets
Giant Beading Set

I will update if I come up with any other fantastic ideas before we leave on the airplane. Also, my brilliant sister, who isn’t flying anywhere right away, but did just wait for two hours with both her kids at a doctor’s office has decided that she may leave her box of busy bags in the car so she can grab one and go in just those situations.

Momma needs some Christmas cheer…


Remember those care-free days of college, where the only responsibility you really had was that fifteen page term paper and making sure you rent check somehow got paid?  When you could spend and entire night drinking and then sleep in until 10:30 when you stumbled out to the living room and laid on the floor with all of your friends who passed out there in the middle of the night?  Or maybe that was just me.  But, when I was in college, we had many drinks that we especially liked and one that I have been thinking about lately is Hot Buttered Rum.  In my mind, in this cold weather, I remembered this as a delicious warm-me-up and infuse holiday cheer drink that I loved in college.  And then, as I was rifling through my recipe binder looking for a Christmas cookie recipe, I found the recipe that I used to make I college!

While I know that I will not be able to sleep until 10:30 (or even 6:30) any time soon (well, actually, maybe one day in December with the help of my in-laws, my sister and my best friends Lisa and Marc, but I digress), and my friends, who have somewhat grown up won’t be waiting for me on my living room floor, I couldn’t help but wonder if this drink was as good as I remembered.  So, I made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum batter and as my sister and I exchanged cookies for our friends and family, we drank some.  And it was good, but oh, was it strong!  Apparently, a shot of rum used to be a lot easier for me to take.  In other words, I am now a light-weight.  But, I liked it any way.  And I will be drinking more.  Because my eldest daughter insists that we need to go Christmas caroling.  I can think of no better time for some liquid cheer.

Hot Buttered Rum

1/2 lb. butter, softened
1 lb. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cardamom (optional, as I didn’t have any and it still turned out delicious)

Mix all ingredients in food processor until well combined and smooth. Can be stored in the fridge for a long time… like a month, and would make a delicious gift for any other mother who needs Christmas cheering!

When ready to make a drink, put 1-2 tablespoons batter in a mug with a hot of rum. Add hot water to fill the mug, stir, and sip!

A stroke of brilliance…

Sometimes its the littlest things that I do as a mother that make my kids the happiest and my life the easiest.  This is one of those things.  It was a huge breakthrough.  Wait for it….

I created a snack box in the fridge.

I know.  You are just blown away by this.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this before.  Probably every mother that reads this blog already has one.  But I didn’t and my little girl likes her snacks.  Boy, does she ever.  And I could spend my entire day giving her snack options and making and serving them.

But no longer!  Since Clara has figured out how to open the refrigerator herself, I made a tupperware full of snack options and put it in the bottom of the fridge where she can get to it, look inside and choose for herself.  Momma doesn’t have to be a part of the decision at all!  Its brilliant!

I do try to have a variety of choices available for her each day (fruit, veggie, and healthy whole grain carbs).  If she eats all the carbs, then she has to move on to the veggies or fruit, so I don’t really even have to monitor all that much, just restock at the end of the day.

Here are our favorite snacking options:


  • Yellow or red bell pepper slices
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Edamame
  • Grape tomatoes (or even better, tomatoes from the garden)
  • Raspberries
  • Blue berries
  • Apple slices
  • Whole peach
  • Whole pear


  • Mini muffins (We like these blueberries ones a ton!)
  • Homemade granola bars (I like these ones with dried blueberries and pecans for the nuts)
  • Trisuits (they’re whole wheat!)
  • Leftover homemade pizza slices
  • Alphabet cookies (I like the Trader Joes ones that have no high fructose corn syrup)
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn (I know, its a choking hazard)
  • String cheese (okay, this isn’t a carb, but I didn’t feel like creating a new category)

I’m sure that you all can add a ton of good snacking ideas that I have neglected to mention, but these are our ultimate favorites!

Birthday Party!

For Clara’s third birthday, we had a barbeque birthday party with all of her best friends invited.  It was quite the bash and Mama was pretty tired afterward, but it was all worth it.  Here’s a pictorial review of the shindig…

We gave out whistles to everyone just to up the excitement and noise factor. I’m sure they were a huge hit in the car on the way home, too!

We had an art table with painting of butterflies and dragonflies that could be stuck into pots later or just flown around as their wings are on springs and flap as they are “flown.” I set it up on a “table” that was really a carboard box with a $1 table cloth on it so I didn’t have to worry about spills or wet at all. We just recycled the entire thing when we were done.

We had the slide, tunnel and a “baby” swing out in the backyard as well as a bowling set, a box of balls, and a basket of sidewalk chalk.

There was a “water table” that was really just a large under the bed kind of tupperware filled with water and water toys. The water wheels were from Target’s $1 bins and then I added various measuring cups and bath toys (like rubber duckies).

Then I had a bubble station out. It was good fun and nobody thankfully got clobbered in the head with a wand. I used my favorite bubble solution and put it in a couple of cookie sheets for dipping with the wands. Apparently if you stir it up with the wands, it stops making bubbles, but then is great for a late evening soap fight!

We also had impromptu dance parties and princess dress up:

And don’t forget the food! For snacks we had the toddler top picks: olives, pretzels, and watermelon. For dinner we had black bean or beef burgers and corn on the cob (plus more watermelon). Then there was of course cake (in a yellow dinosaur shape!), and after dinner the kids watched a movie (Winnie the Pooh) and ate popcorn. Then they came back outside and ran around like mad! The chickens were in heaven, too since anytime anyone had a finished watermelon rind or corn cob, a kiddo would throw it in the run for them. Come to think of it, that was an activity for the kids all of itself!

Overall, this was a great party. It was a good balance of different activities for the kids, and the grown ups were given some space to talk at least a bit. Even though there were ten kids there, it didn’t seem overwhelming at all. Everyone had fun, more importantly, and the birthday girl had so much fun that she couldn’t fall asleep because she was so wound up. The next day when I asked her what the best part was, though, she answered, “The cake!”

Dinosaur Train

Oh my, this is an obsession.  Worse than birds nests or the color yellow.  Way worse.  Because its television.  Clara loves Dinosaur Train more than any other TV show.   And boy is that website I just linked cool.  I don’t think I should show it to her or I may never hear the end of it.  But at least Clara can tell you all about various dinosaur species, what an herbivore and carnivore are, and has decided that our family is called “Team Pteranodon.”  Its educational, right?  And its only half an hour a day.

But, I decided that pretending dinosaur train on our own can’t hurt anything.  Its good imagination and storytelling practice.  So, I got out our Ikea train and all of the little dinosaurs that Nancy bought for Clara as a big sister present and we started pretending.  Who says that TV stunts your imagination?

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