Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Absolute Necessities for Little Boys: A Mother's Guide to Sanity

Little boys are adorable and fun, but any mother with a boy can tell you that sometimes they are a little TOO much fun (if you know what I mean).  As a mother of a girl AND a boy, I can tell you with a surety, boys and girls are different.  Boys are much more driven by a need for movement, and the movement is usually far more haphazard and rough than what a mother of little girls is used to.  Their ability to hold still and be quiet is far less than little girls of the same age.  On top of all this running, jumping, careening and what not, they also like to get their hands into everything.  Boys are very inclined to not just observe, but to manipulate their surroundings.  This usually leads to a lot of broken items and messes. 

I've seen a lot of lists, lately, of things every mother of little boys should know or do, or things every little boy needs.  I would like to add a list of my own, from my own experience.  It isn't a feed good, flowery, guide with 17 different things.  It is the short, down-and-dirty, mother's guide to having little boys and making it a little easier. 

In my experience, doing the following things leads to better days, happier boys, and a less-stessed mom.

The Absolute Necessities for Little Boys: A Mother's Guide to Sanity
1 - Go outside.  As much as possible.  Seriously.  Studies show an indirect correlation (meaning as one goes up, another goes down) between a boys risk of ADD and the amount of outside free-play he gets.  Sports are ok, but free-play is most important.  Make sure he is getting it, even in bad weather.  I read a quote from a very well-reknowned preschool saying "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate attire."

2 - Snacks.  Keep them on hand (lots of them) and be sure to feed him good, healthy meals.  He needs fuel for all that energy he is burning!

3 - When doing quiet activities or art projects, remember his need for manipulation.  Painting and coloring are fine, but you will probaby find that he tires of these projects faster than your daughter does.  In his world, finger painting is better than brush painting and sculpture is far superior to painting.  You might want to try craft projects that require tearing paper and getting messy (papier mache anyone?).

4 - Go outside.  This is a good first response anytime he (or you) is starting to go a little crazy.

5 - Let him get messy and even incur (minor) injuries.  Don't spend your entire day trying to keep your son clean and unhurt.  The way boys play, there will be lots of bumps, bruises, and muddy clothes.  Just remember, this is how he learns and explores.  Don't take that away from him.  Instead, buy stock in Band-Aids and Wet Ones. 

6 - Did I mention to send him outside?

What is on your list of absolute necessities?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting Back On the Wagon

Image found at

We all have a "good mom" groove.  A schedule and way of doing things that helps us have organized, productive, and special days.  If you don't have one, I suggest you read "Steady Days" by Jamie Martin for ideas.

However, sometimes we fall out of that groove.  It doesn't take much to throw us off.  Sometimes it is illness, an unusually busy week, an out-of-town husband, or an approaching major life-change.  These sorts of things happen, and they push us into survival mode.  Survival mode is never a great place to be, but often we continue to function in that mode long past the time when it is necessary.

Today's Monday.  It's a great day to get back on the wagon.  Whether that wagon is being a good mom, losing weight, limiting TV, or better time management.  Jump back into your groove TODAY!

Maybe you fell off the wagon because there was a flaw in your original gameplan.  If so, revisit your goals today and tweak some things to make it work in your life.

You can get back on track today.  Maybe not with EVERYTHING, but one step in the right direction is better than standing still.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Avoiding Mommy-Mushy Brain - Part 3

What are you reading?  For some of us the better question is, are you reading?  Books are a great way to enjoy learning.  We all know this.  That's why we read to our kids.  But we need to read, ourselves.  We also need to make sure that we aren't just reading junk romance or other escapist fiction.  I understand that picking up some light reading every now and then is really enjoyable.  But make sure that you are also reading books that make you think, stay with you, present another point of view, or teach you something. 

Try to intersperse non-fiction in your reading.  For some really interesting non-fiction reads, I suggest the following "starter" list.
"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson
anything written by Malcolm Gladwell
"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand

Historical Fiction can also be a great way to learn about history and enjoy a good story at the same time.  I don't have a starter list for you, just search historical fiction on amazon and you will find plenty.

I am also a big fan of good fantasy and science fiction, which can present interesting moral dilemmas and insights.  I personally love Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ender's Game and many more.

Then there are the classics.  You can find all sorts of lists on the Internet of things everyone should read.  But for a really thorough, well-rounded foundation for your mind, I think the list from Thomas Jefferson Education is a great place to start from.  They have a list for adults, youth, and children.

Remember, don't be afraid to look in your library's juvenile section for good literature.  Anything worth reading when you're 10 should be worth reading when you're 50.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Avoiding Mommy-Mushy Brain - Part 2

With the internet these days there is no reason not to continue your education.  Many universities offer online degree programs, but even if you are not working towards a degree, online classes are a great way to learn more about seemingly any subject.  (I even found that I could get my masters in chemistry all online!)

Brigham Yound University has a huge selection of online courses.  Available for a fee of course.  You can find the course listing here.

They also have some free courses to.  The courses range from religious to family life to finance, music, gardening.  Find the full list here.

BYU isn't the only university to offer this, so if you don't find what you're looking for, search around on the internet.  There are so many resources, there really is no excuse anymore!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Avoiding Mommy-Mushy Brain - Part 1

Let's face it.  A lot of what we do as mother's seems to be a never-ending cycle of laundry, dishes, changing diapers, cooking, and telling your toddler for the five billionth time that the toilet is not a toy!  Because of this, being a homemaker has earned a reputation for being excruciatingly mind numbing,  It doesn't have to be that way though.  Just think how much more freedom you have to pursue any areas of knowledge you wish.  It may take some effort, but I can tell you it is well worth it.

You may or may not have finished college, gone on for advanced degrees or had a successful career, but there is always something to learn, you just can't lose your curiosity.  You can read lots about parenting and other things that pertain to your career as a homemaker, but you are not bound to that!  Learn, explore, try something new.  I am going to write a few posts about how to not only combat Mommy-mushy brain, but really nurture and grow that mind of yours!

My first idea for you is to memorize poetry, important speeches, or famous quotes.  I like the idea of memorizing rather than just writing them down in a folder because then those words are right there in your brain for you to mull over and contemplate at any time.

In honor of Valentine's Day I chose Seamus Heany's poem "Scaffolding".  I bought some window crayons and wrote the poem on the window in my kitchen.  Every time I was cooking or cleaning in there, I would glance at the window and read this beautiful poem.  I had it memorized within a week. 

You can do this too!  Choose a poem or famous speech or whatever you wish to memorize and write it somewhere where you will see it often.  Read it as often as possible and soon you will have it down.  Just think of all the beautiful things you can have stored in your mind to pull out when you need encouragement or beauty.  The beauty can be inside you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fun With Felt: Pirate Hook and Eye-Patch

What kid doesn't want to be a pirate?  Fit them with an eye-patch and a hook and they will be sailing the seven seas in no time!
 1 - Draw a hook with a large, wide base.  Make the hook just a touch bigger than you would think since you will be sewing and stuffing it.  Cut out two hooks.
2 - Sew The two hooks together, wrong sides together leaving the base and the tip open.
3 - Stuff with fiber-fill until stiff.  Close end of hook.

4 - Cut out a large black circle and zig-zag stitch around the edges to reinforce.
5 - Open up the base of hook up to the beginning of the stuffing.  Sew each half of the base to the center of the circle, as shown below.

6 - Sew a small, thick strip of felt (reinforce with a zig-zag stitch) to the underside of the black circle.  This will be the handle for your child to hold.

7 - Cut out an eye patch and attach to two black ribbons or pieces of felt.  I tried to attach my felt to elastic to make it adjustable, but this only stretched out the felt.

 Ahoy, Matey's!  Arrgh!  Walk the plank!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fun With Felt: Heart Purse

This little creation takes about five minutes and is perfect for Valentine's Day.

Simply cut two identical hearts and sew around the edges of each individually.

If you wish two decorate your hearts with any sort of applique's, do so now.

Sew the two hearts together, leaving the edge out, from the bottom point up until bout the height of where the top comes down and splits.  (I hope that made sense!)

Cut out two long strips of white cloth.  Zig-zag stitch down the middle of each strip to reinforce.

Sew each end of one strip to one heart, so that the bag can open wide.

Fill with goodies for Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fun With Felt: Travel Road Set

This post is the beginning of my "Fun With Felt" series.  I love making fun things with felt.  The nature of the fabric and crafts you make with it don't require perfection, and in fact imperfections only add to whimsical character of your creations.  Another plus for felt is how cheap it is!  I bought two packages of assorted colors of felt at Wal-Mart for $5-$6.  I just used whatever color of thread I had on hand.  So far with those two packs of felt I have made three little toys/gifts for the kids.  Not a bad bang for your buck!

This first post is about making a travel road set.

It folds flat to easily fit in a diaper bag.  Take it to church or on an airplane for a great quiet activity.  Just don't forget the cars and trains!

 I didn't do a good job of taking pictures through the whole process.  But it shouldn't be too hard to follow along.

1 - Choose two dark green pieces of felt.  Sew them together like the binding of a book (right sides together about 1/8-1/4" seam allowance).
2 - If you want to make your road set sturdy, cut out two pieces of poster board slightly smaller than the size of each "page".
3 - Cut out a road from the black felt.  Cut it in the shape you wish it to take on the felt.  Don't just try to cut a straight line and curve it to fit your needs.
4 - Sew each edge of the road to the green felt.  Don't worry about the unfinished edges (unless they are really large and need to be trimmed).  This is handmade and the felt makes the unfinished edge look cute.
5 - To make the bridge cut two straight pieces of brown felt slightly longer than the desired length of your bridge.  Remember you are going to make your bridge pop up, so cut it the desired length once in it's rounded shape.
6 - Sew three edges of your bridge together leaving one narrow end open.
 7 - Cut at least three strips of posterboard to fit inside the bridge, leaving about an inch of space the end.  You may want to cut more strips to get your bridge to the desired stiffness.  Insert the posterboard into the bridge.
8 - Sew the unclosed end of the bridge to a piece of velcro or attach it to a snap.  I used a snap, but I think velcro would work better with the felt.  Make sure that the bridge is now completely closed.
9 - Attach the opposite piece of velcro or snap where you want the bridge to attach on the green felt.  Sew the other end of the bridge to the green felt where you wish it to start.  Now you can detach the bridge to close the road set and put it back in place whenever it is in use.
10 - Cut out several very thin strips of dark brown felt and sew right down the middle to create the railroad tracks.  Sew the long pieces on first before attaching the cross-pieces.
11 - Take a brown paint-marker and draw the track onto your bridge.  (You could put the track onto your bridge before you sew it together, but this was just easier for me.)
12 - Add any other decorations to your set as you wish such as lakes, sand, town, etc.
13 - Choose a color for the "cover" and sew those two pieces of felt together just like you did thie two green pieces.  If you wish to attach pockets for cars and trains, do so now on the right side (not the side with the binding sticking out).
14 - Sew the cover to the gren felt right down the middle of the book to create the fold. 
15 - Place the posterboard pages between the green felt and cover on each side of the binding and sew around entire book.

You're done!  Hand it off to the little boy in your life the next time you need him to be quiet or hold still!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rainbow Heart Crayons

If you are like me, you probably have a lot of broken crayons in your house.  Instead of throwing them away, turn them into a fun Valentine's (or any day of the year) activitiy!

First, remove all the paper from crayons and separate into colors.  I just did the basics, if there were two different greens, it didn't matter.

Heat about 1/2-1 inch of water to boiling.  Place a liquid measuring cup in the boiling water.

Now put a group of crayons in the measuring cup and watch them melt.  If you don't stir the melted crayons you get more of a swirl effect than a new color effect.  So experiment and have fun!

Pour the melted crayon into a rubber ice cube or candy mold.  I just happened to have a heart one on hand, but you can find all sorts of fun shapes and molds, especially around a holiday.

Wipe out your measuring cup with an old cloth and repeat the process with a new color.  Pour each new color over the last to create a layered, rainbow crayon.

 Let the crayons set.  This doesn't take long, but it goes even faster in the freezer.  Pop out the crayons and color away!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bread in a Bag

 Make yummy homemade bread with your kids and no mess!  Mix up the bread and knead it all in a freezer bag!  I got this idea from "The Waldorf Book of Breads".  I used the recipe in the book, which I will share below, but I don't see why you couldn't do it with any favorite bread recipe.
1 cup flour
1 package yeast
3 TBS sugar
3 TBS dry milk
1 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
3 TBS oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
Put the 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, milk and salt in a gallon freezer bag.  Zip close and let your kids shake up the ingredients to mix.  Add water and oil.  Close again and have children squish bags to mix.  Now add last two cups of flour.  Have children mix and knead.  Bread should pull away from sides of bag.  I needed to add a little bit of extra flour to our dough.  Knead 2-4 minutes.  You will have to help younger children a little at this point to work the flour all through the dough.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Remove dough from bag, shape into loaf and put in greased bread pan.  Cover and let rise until double in size.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Makes 1 loaf.
Here is a little snapshot video of this fun activity.  The kids love squishing and shaking, and they especially feel proud of helping make dinner.  The bread was tasty too!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love Notes Chalkboard

Valentine's Day is coming up and you know what that means...Getting mushy!
This easy to make chalkboard is perfect for writing love notes to all the "wild things" in your life.

1.  Choose a piece of smooth board and have it cut to your desired size (most of your home improvement stores will do this for you free of charge).
2.  Ask the person working in paint to show you where the chalkboard paint is.  At Lowe's they will even make it in any color you choose.
3.  Tape off the section on the board that you want to be the chalkboard.  Decorate the edges however you want.  We used paint markers so that the kids could help.  You could easily make yours fancier than mine if you did it by yourself...but where is the fun in that?
4.  Now remove the tape and place it over your edges.
5.  Apply chalkboard paint.  Several coats.  I put on 2 or 3, and I think it could still use one more.  Wait 24 hours after the last coat before writing on the board.
6.  Start expressing your love!