Tag: Family

Too Much Stuff

Too Much Stuff

There’s no other way to say it, my kids have too much stuff. Books, stuffed animals, clothes, and electronic toys are frequently everywhere. They like to make messes, but when they get bored with what they’re playing with in five minutes they’re rarely willing to pick it up. It’s a constant source of tension for us.

I don’t think any mom wants to admit that their children might have too much stuff. We want them to have everything, right? All the fun toys, learning materials, and warm and comfy clothes and shoes are so tempting!

I was recently confronted with this issue in a way that I couldn’t ignore. On a 3 hour drive to go camping my girls cried for toys and tv for about an hour. I must admit that we discussed a portable DVD player during this time, desperate for backseat contentedness. Once we got there their moods improved only marginally–they were bored. A lot of the day was filled with complaining and testing my patience until bedtime. The next morning, however, they began to settle down. They found leaves to run around in and collect, sticks to stack, and large rocks (dinosaur bones). Madilyn found a little metal nut and labeled it “robot finger” and spent the rest of the trip doing everything, including sleeping, with her robot friend. On the trip home they played with straws, pretending that they were musical instruments, and their socks, using them as mittens, bags, and “dinosaur eggs”. There was no whining on the drive home except to express disappointment that we were going home and not back to the campsite.

How can I ignore the message here? I was disappointed in myself for even considering the DVD player, when clearly they need less media and electronics, not more! Research even demonstrates this. Kiddos need activities and experiences over objects.

We have an overabundance of loving and well meaning friends and family, myself included, that like to get new stuff for the girls on a regular basis. While it’s something that I struggle to keep up with, we generally counteract the overcrowding in a few ways:

1. Toy Tub Rotation

Sometimes I just throw toys in tubs, leave one out, and put the rest away. Once they seem bored the tub can be swapped for another one.

2. Zebra Boxes 

I haven’t done a zebra box in a while, but it’s a great motivational tool for getting children to help clean up or cooperate. You can read more about it here.

3. Toy Auction

When things just get too out of hand I will pick up everything and hold a toy auction. Little buyers get a set amount of coins–in our case they’re poker chips from a thrift store–to buy their belongings back with. I usually do about 5 book coins (although their books are kept close by anyway, because reading), 1 large toy coin, 2 or 3 small toy coins, and 1 coin for building blocks or puzzles.

4. Disappearing and Reappearing Toys

Occasionally one of my kids will ask where a certain toy that they haven’t seen in a while is. This is when I pull out what they’re missing. They usually play with it for a day or two before getting bored, and I can put it away again.

5. Sticker/stamp Chart

I’ve written about the stamp chart before. This is such a great way to get kids engaged in keeping their belongings tidy(ish) and rewarding them for helping.

6. Toy Culling

Rarely I get so overwhelmed that I qill do a culling of toys. Anything they don’t play with, refuse to pick up, or volunteer to get rid of is donated. I did this in July, and the girls were actually so overwhelmed with clutter at that time that they helped decide what to get rid of.

7. TV Time

I’m really bad with the TV. I’ll leave it on when they ask and turn it on to try and bore them to sleep. I have to have some kind of controls in place to stop myself from thos, because I have definitely noticed that the less screen time they have, the happier they are and more imaginative they play. There are soem great learning shows for kids, but I still feel interactive play and outside exploration is better.

For now, our system is that they can watch as much TV on Friday as they do worksheets/workbooks. Today it was 40 minutes. They actually got bored very quickly and left before the time was up anyway. Still a work in progress.

Personalized Family Tree

Personalized Family Tree

Creating a visual representation of your family tree can be incredibly fun and rewarding. Whether you want one for yourself or need a special gift for someone you care for, this tree is a great personal project that’s sure to have lots of people smiling as they contribute their fingerprint leaves.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Supplies:

Colored buttons (I used these green ones for one and these orange ones for another)

Ink pads in shades of green (or whatever color you choose, I bought these ink pads)

Canvas (any size, I’m using 11 × 14)

Pencil and scrap paper

Embossing ink pen

Brown permanent marker

Needle and color coordinated thread OR hot glue gun

Embossing powder in shades of brown. I use Reflections embossing powder in copper, champagne, gold, and vintage mahogany. You can paint instead, but the embossing is really worth the effort.

Embossing heat gun

Directions:

  1. Make your family list and sketch a quick rough draft of the tree. The sketch isn’t important, you just need to have a general idea of where you want everything to go. 
    Number one terrible sketch.

    2. Using a pencil, lightly draw your tree on the canvas. Don’t overthink it! It’s okay for the lines to be wobbly and jagged, most trees aren’t perfectly straight. If you feel like you’ve messed up you can erase, but it might not all come off, it just depends on the pencil, eraser, and canvas. I like to write each person’s name on the inside of the branch. I also like to do parent’s names in a heart shape on the trunk with kids up in the canopy of the tree.

    3. Trace over your pencil with brown permanent marker. If you mess up you can use a cotton swab and alcohol or nail polish remover to very carefully remove the errors and correct them. 4. Using your embossing pen, draw some (many) lines through the branches of the tree and down the trunk. We’re emulating bark here, so it should be sort of erratic and natural looking. Once you’re satisfied with the amount of ink down, sprinkle with the first embossing powder color. I use copper as my first color because I prefer it as the dominant trunk color. 

    5. Repeat this step with the rest of your brown colored embossing powders, filling in empty spots with ink, dusting the tree, and then pouring it off. You might want to keep a paper towel next to you to wipe off the embossing powder that sticks to the embossing pen as you fill in the tree. 6. Now for the really fun part. Using your embossing gun, apply heat. Start at the bottom and work your way up. You will see the embossing powder flash in golden glory as it transforms. Move up the trunk and across the branches. Once you’re finished and all of the powder has been transformed, everything should have a wonderful golden shine.7. Grab your buttons! Pick some places that look to you like maybe there should be some leaves there to fill out the tree. Be sure to leave enough space that fingerprints won’t be obstructed. Sew into place or hot glue. I sewed onto this canvas, but my orange tree is on a board canvas (because I was worried that cats would rip canvas) so the orange buttons were hot glued on. 8. Add family fingerprints! I did one at home with just the kids and cats as an example. The green tree is going with us to our next family gathering to be filled in there.

Low Carb Gummies

Low Carb Gummies

One thing that’s easy to miss when you go low carb or sugar free is candy. There’s something uniquely satisfying about biting into a chewy, soft gummy bear that doesn’t compare to much else.

The good news is that these treats are easy to make at home and can pack quite a nutritional punch! These are great treats to keep in your fridge for summer when you or the kids might want a quick sweet treat that is healthy.

 

Low Carb Gummies

Author Kristy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gelatin I like Great Lakes orange label
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 20 drops liquid stevia
  • Flavoring I used Tazo passion tea and some lemon juice
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

  1. Steep herbal tea in hot water. In a separate cup, pour gelatin, salt, and cream of tartar. Add cold water to gelatin mix and whisk with fork until evenly dissolved. The mixture should start to bloom, becoming a gooey mass. 

  2. Once your tea is steeped, remove the tea bags. Pour into the cup with gelatin mixture and whisk with fork. It will take a minute or two for it to dissolve. Add liquid stevia. Taste to make sure you like the flavor (otherwise you won’t want to eat them!)

  3. Place your silicone molds on a flat tray. Carefully fill your molds with a spoon or dropper. I filled six whole molds with mine, but the kids ate the gummy bears before I got a chance to take pictures. Once your molds are full, place them in the refrigerator. If you don’t have silicone molds, you can simply pour into a Tupperware or Pyrex dish and let set.

  4. Remove from the fridge and take out of the molds or, if you used a dish, cut into small squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. 

I originally posted this on Instructables:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Low-Carb-Gummies/

Fun Summer Hats

Fun Summer Hats

Well it’s pretty hot here. I’m really not used to the Texas heat, so I’m just staying inside most of the time, which is a bummer. This means lots of indoor activities and crafts.

Today we made fun, colorful summer hats by repurposing old hats whose decorations had fallen (read: were pulled) off.

This was a lot of fun to do with the girls.

Supplies: Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

An old or cheap hat (these and these both look like great starters to me!)

Decorations: ribbon, bows, feathers, flowers, butterflies, pom poms

A hot glue gun (for adult use only)

 

Steps:

1. Place ribbon around brim. Glue in place.

2. Add some flowers or butterflies. Hot glue them in place. I used butterflies because I’m not sure where all my flowers are, and really like how it turned out.

3. Glue some feathers down on the “front.” You can add more flowers and such on top of the feathers. It starts to look really cute here.

4. We also put pom poms on the brim for a fun and silly addition.

Happy kids, happy life.

 

 

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Learning about nature and understanding the outdoors is an important and often underestimated component of a well rounded education. My children love to be outside, but on the rare occasion that they need a little bit of motivation to get moving, this is what we use!

A nature scavenger hunt is an ideal way to get kids outdoors, moving, and engaged in the world around them. It encourages development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and identification skills. I am always astonished at their ability to identify and remember information about plants and animals that we do this with.

My girls are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, so short and simple works best for us right now. If your children are older a longer list will work better.

You will need:

Paper (I use standard 8 1/2 x 11)
Colored pencils, clip art, or printed pictures

Google for some quick facts

Pen or dry erase marker

(Optional) Laminator or water protective sheet cover and tape

Making the List:

Choose the objects, plants, or animals to be found. I enjoy doing plant hunts, so a plant themed list for us might look like this:

Acorn

Catbriar

Elm leaf

Oak leaf

Dewberry leaf

Wood sorrel

A mixed list might look something like this:

Squirrel

Cactus pad

Sunflower

Flint

Cardinal

Butterfly

Have fun and be creative. The more fun you have the more they will enjoy it, too.
Hand draw, insert clip art, or print pictures and place them on a sheet of paper as a visual guideline. I like to hand draw, even though I’m not the best at it, because it helps demonstrate that what you’re looking for will not always look the same and encourage critical thinking. Print the name of the object next to the image.

On the back it’s great to include some information about the things that you’re looking for. Hit up google or Wikipedia for two or three interesting tidbits. I find that engaging in conversation about the hunt really excites my 2 1/2 year old and stimulates her curiosity much more than just telling her what to look for. So, for example, I might put:

Acorn: Nuts of oak trees. Can be processed to make flour.

Catbriar: climbing vine with tendrils and thorns. Soft tips can be eaten.

Elm: Grow very tall. mistletoe likes to grow on elm trees.

Oak: Oak trees grow acorns. Wood is used for building.

Dewberry: small, thorny shrub. Relative of blackberries. White flowers turn into edible berries.

Wood sorrel: commonly mistaken for clover. Has heart shaped leaves. Leaves and flowers taste like lemon.

Laminate:

Laminate the scavenger hunt page if you have access to a laminator so that you can check the list off with a dry erase marker as you go. You can forego laminating if you want to use a plastic sheet protector and tape the top. I like to reuse these, and they can be customized appropriately for your location. In California, for example, we found pine cones and sweet gum seed pods, but in central Texas those things are notably absent, so they’ve been replaced with local flora.

I skipped this step because I do not have a laminator and can’t find my sheet protectors.

The Hunt:

Take your (hopefully) eager participant out into the great outdoors and turn them loose.

If you are on private property it’s really fun to collect the items that are collectible as you go. Afterwards we set the page down, lay the objects on top over the pictures, and talk about everything we found. This is a great way to engage in active learning with the kids–lots of times I’m learning along with them!

If you’re in a state park or other similar location, however, you may have to simply check your list off as you go and take pictures if you can. My daughters really love talking about everything we saw on our walks, so I highly encourage you to review afterwards.

Safety Tips:

I do think that a list of things to be cautious of is very important to cover at some point. Snakes, scorpions, ticks, wasps, and centipedes are obvious dangers, but some inconspicuous aggressors may lurk in the underbrush. Plants that might be listed include poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cactuses, agave, giant hogweed, and hemlock. Things like lilies, oleander, datura, and azaleas are commonly used in landscaping and are lovely, but toxic. Children as well as adults should be aware of this.

Use caution with any kind of foraging/edible information with kids. I’ve had problems with my older girl wanting to eat stuff outside when I’m not looking, so I’ve been withholding that kind of stuff for now or only under supervised situations.

It’s always a good idea to have a safe word for when you’re out and about. We use “hot” as an all-encompassing signal for danger. (This was a tip from Merriwether at http://www.foragingtexas.com/)

Happy Hunting!

Originally written as an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Educational-Nature-Scavenger-Hunt/

A Family Announcement

A Family Announcement

Hello everyone!

Today I have a little family news. No, it’s not another baby–I know you were thinking that.

We are moving to San Antonio! We are hoping to be there before March. We’re super busy packing for a move a month away (plus the usual kid stuff) so questions, comments, or just general excitement is best expressed through text. At least I usually answer in writing, haha.

This means we have a thrilling 20 hour car trip with 2 small kids and 4 cats in the near future. Super exciting (read: exhausting).

Love you!

Kristy

Festive Fall Centerpieces

Festive Fall Centerpieces

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If you’re like me and prepare everything for the holidays at the last minute, then this is for you.

I tend to buy flowers, change the water a few times, and then leave them dying in the vase. Today this tendency actually proved itself useful when I decided to make fall decorations for Thursday:

You can do this alone or with your kids, up to you.

Supplies:

A mason jar (or many of different sizes)

Fresh, dried, or dying flowers

Optional: coordinating ribbon

Steps:

1. Cut the flower heads off of stems. Discard stems.

2. Pluck the petals from most of the flowers. Leave some intact for variety and dimension. My kids liked this part!

3. Arrange flowers and petals in mason jars. Have fun! Top with a large flower.

My Sweet Kids

My Sweet Kids

I never knew what I was in store for when I became a mom.

Karissa was fun, curious, and energetic. We read, played, laughed, and loved for 13 months. We had our struggles, too, but it was amazing. But I was so scared. People would tell me that she was going to hate and resent her little sister. I was terrified that she would hate both of us, that she would hate me.

I wanted her to have a sister though. I wanted her to experience that form of love–a sister is a unique, special bond that is ineffable. I can’t imagine life without my sister.

Then Madilyn was born. My second all natural birth, how lucky and amazing. Karissa didn’t like seeing another baby nursing, but she slept in the hospital bed with us. She was curious and excited. She was also jealous and still is sometimes. No big deal, she is human. She fell in love with her little sister. So did I.

Madilyn, my love, I had no idea how awesome you are when you were born a year ago; you were this screaming little mess that had been resuscitated and handed to me. You are adventurous and fearless, you are smart and strong. You have an amazing big sister. You are always happy and your laughter is music to my ears. Your sweet smile makes my heart melt.

I am so thankful that those people were wrong. I am so happy that I had both of you 13 months apart. You spend every waking moment together, and nearly every moment of the day is pure joy. I never knew how much love I would feel. I never knew how protective and scared I could be. I never expected that you two would change my life in different ways and make me into a new person. I am stronger, better, and wiser because of you two.

A year ago tomorrow our family grew one stronger. Happy birthday little miss Madilyn.

Madi’s Birth

Madi’s Birth

Madi had me in pain for weeks before she was born. I was constantly feeling that weird uncertainty that comes with a transition between worlds. Unproductive contractions and aches persisted night and day, and we were sure that she would come at any moment. However, she was holed up in her little uterine fortress and didn’t want to come out. At 41 weeks I finally had my membranes stripped, and labor started that night. It probably started very slowly around 5 in the evening, and labor was extremely mellow. The contractions weren’t bad–nothing like the horrible back labor I experienced with her older sister–and I joked with my husband the entire time. I tried to just lay in bed holding Kari, knowing that soon she would not longer be an only child. I was so afraid that she would be angry and hurt. Maybe around 10:30 things got a little more serious, and an hour or so later I was getting in the bath when suddenly the contractions got closer together and I looked at Matt worried. “It’s been a while,” I said. “We should probably go.”

Every single bump on the road hurt horribly, and I told him, “don’t speed or anything, but I think we’re having a baby soon.” Once we got to the hospital, faithful birth partner Matt moved me into a wheelchair, set Kari in my lap, and wheeled me off. She giggled as he wheeled us in and I screamed through contractions. Once we were in the ER, however, she no longer thought that my screaming was funny. Her grandma removed her from the room as I started to push.

“Don’t push yet!” One naive, but well meaning nurse instructed.

“Why?”

“The doctor doesn’t have gloves on.”

“SHE CAN PUT THEM ON WHILE I PUSH!” I cackled. I’m not very nice when I’m in labor.

“We’re running an IV.”

“Why?”

“So that we can give you drugs.”

“No you’re not.”

“Sweetie, if you bleed you’ll need pitocin–”

“You can shove a needle in my leg like you did a year ago, I don’t need an IV.”

It was just my luck that we ended up there on the one night that there were no midwives available. Anyway, my grouchiness aside, things went alright. I pushed for a while, she came out, no bleeding or tearing. The doctor was great. Madi was 9 pounds 9 ounces! At first she was unresponsive, and I saw worry on my husband’s face. “What’s wrong?” I asked, totally exhausted and out of it.

“Uh, they’re just going to stimulate her…” He looked at me and back at her.

Then I hear them calling for NICU and can’t comprehend what is happening. I look over, see her unmoving, and just think, please don’t die before I get to meet you…and then she wailed. It was the best sound I ever heard in my whole life. Madi latched herself immediately and had no trouble nursing at all. She was big, beautiful and sweet with big gray eyes and a head full of dark hair. Because of her size they wanted to give her formula, which I not so kindly refused–it might have sounded like a rude, hazy “Nooooope, no formula.” When the nurse said but she needs to eat I continued, “she can nurse.” (Really, I’m not nice when I have to deal with what I perceive to be counterintuitive stupidity.) They insisted on testing her blood sugar via heel prick for 24 hours, which went just fine. No eye ointment or vaccines at birth.

Her older sister was brought into the room and was super excited until she saw Madi nursing, then she lost it. The first few days were hard, coddling my 14 month old baby girl while she processed the new addition to the family, and I must admit I cried a lot that first week. I was so happy to meet my new daughter, but so sad to see her older sister’s jealousy and so scared that she would always feel resentful and hurt. Within days, much to my delight, the jealousy waned and Kari began smothering her little sister with kisses and snuggles in the morning. She loves snuggling and kissing her sister! Sometimes she wants to be held too if she sees Madi being cuddled, but she’s a great big sister and I’m really happy that they have each other.

So now I spend my days cooking, changing diapers, nursing and singing silly songs to my daughters. Kari wobbles around the living room, stacking and activating every toy imaginable and Madi usually stays in my arms. We go on family hikes and adventures together when daddy is home. It’s great, tiring, extremely rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And so that is how our family of four came to be.