Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Your presence is a present

Dear Self,

It's the holiday season. And you know what that means. We are in full multi-tasking mode! You know what I'm talking about.

You've got a pie crust in the oven. Sweet potatoes boiling. Kale sauteeing. You're adding to your list of last minute grocery shopping while checking pinterest for preschool ideas. All the while your daughter is painting forty different pictures and you have to admire and comment on each one. You decide to start a five minute pick-up before hubby gets home. Then the baby wakes up and you decide during all of this that he really could use some good face time with you, since it's been a while.

And during all of this. You've forgotten something.

(Hint: It's the kale. It's totally burnt. Don't look at it. Definitely don't taste it. Just put the pan in the sink and run it under some water. Maybe count yourself lucky that you were able to use that particular item from the CSA box without actually having to eat it.)

And this isn't the first day something like this has happened. Yesterday you ruined the fancy cheese cakes because you were in too much of a hurry to let your cream cheese thaw out.

Suddenly you stop, to breathe, maybe for the first time since lunch. (Did you have lunch?) And you wonder what else you're missing.

Because tomorrow, it might not be kale or cheese cake. It could be that new technique Jane is trying with her art. Or maybe one of Max's crazy dance moves. Maybe it will be a chance to share your love or testimony with your children. Or just one of those so special cuddle sessions with a baby that will be grown all to fast.

Yes, you are an expert multi-tasker. But this holiday season you don't have to be. I'm giving you a break. In fact, I'm ordering you to take one. Because what your children want more than pumpkin pie from scratch, real cranberry sauce, scented paints, perfect decorations, and a sparkling clean house, is you!

Jane didn't care about your pie or sweet potatoes today. She just wanted you to help her hang her paintings around the house and then admire them.

And so this is your new goal for the holidays. To slow down and be still. It won't kill the holidays to take a break, sit down, and cuddle. In fact, it might just make the season.

Your presence, your absolute presence, is the best gift you can give your children. And the best gift you can give yourself. So sit down, breathe, smile, look into those faces that you love so much. And just be here!

Don't let your mind wander to the perfect facebook post for this moment. Don't pick up your phone to snap the perfect shot. This moment is perfect just the way it is. With you here.

You can't make memories for the future without being here now.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have crescent rolls and cranberry sauce to make all while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Much love,

PS Don't count on the crescent rolls turning out either.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cranberry Dough

I've decided to do a different sensory experience each week as part of our homeschooling. I'll probably get most of my ideas from pinterest and blogs, and I'll share and review them here.

Today we made Cranberry Dough. All it was is cranberry sauce and cornstarch mixed together. I added a little less cornstarch than the blog caleld for to make it kind of a mix between play dough and oobleck.

The kids loved it. They played with it for an hour and a half with the only interjection from me being, keep it at the table. They gathered cars to play in it and then Max kept adding other food like skittles and pickles. It smelled so good, and he kept trying to eat it.

Sensory play is great for kids and I just had to keep reminding myself that there is no wrong way to play with it. Even if that does mean adding pickles and skittles.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quotes from Max

Tonight Max was thankful for "Animal Mechanicals" and "the new vegetable." That new vegetable? Kohlrabi. He loves it dipped in ranch. I'm not making that up.

I told the kids they'll be getting flu shots tomorrow. Jane started whining and Rob said, "I give people shots all day."  

Max's eyes got huge. "Do you kill them?"

Haha, No. But sometimes they act like that's what's happening.

Meaningful Thanksgiving Traditions, Crafts, and Songs for Kids

The day after Halloween I turn on the Christmas music. It's tradition. It's fun. And I'm not going to stop. Ever.

But that doesn't mean I go straight to celebrating Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and an important one to get us ready for Christmas. What better way to prepare to serve our fellow-men, celebrate the birth of our Savior, and give and receive gifts, than buy remembering everything we are thankful for?

You can find tons of Turkey crafts on pinterest. I'm not going to give you that in this post. Not color-by-numbers, or construction paper pilgrim hats. Those things are great, but what I'm going to talk about are a few more meaningful things to do this Thanksgiving. Things to become traditions and memories.

The ideas I have here have been gathered over a lifetime. Some of them are traditions from when I was a child, the things I remember. Some of them are traditions in my family now, and others are traditions I'm trying to start this year. Still others are traditions from other people. Do not feel overwhelmed by ideas, or like you need to do EVERYTHING! Just pick the activities that speak to you. Traditions are supposed to provide connection, not frustration.

Service Projects

Doorbell ditch the Thanksgiving turkey on the front porch of someone who could use a little help this holiday season.

Set up a canned food drive in your neighborhood.

Help deliver food for a Food Bank or homeless shelter.


Make the napkin rings or nameplates for the table. Pinterest has tons of ideas

Make this

"Give Thanks" nature garland.


Make a pumpkin pie completely from scratch. (Meaning straight from the pumpkin)

Read "Cranberry Thanksgiving" and make the Cranberry bread recipe in the back.

Have your smallest helpers slather the butter on the turkey. Great sensory experience and they are "helping". 

Older kids can help peel potatoes, make the jello, etc. Do not slave away in the kitchen all by yourself!

Make these Rhodes "corn" rolls.

Songs and Fingerplays

Over The River and through the Woods


Make a "Thankful Tree" and add to it every night. There are lots of really cute ideas on Pinterest. But I just hand draw mine on a big piece of butcher/easel paper and cut rectangles from construction paper for the "leaves".

Follow this link, to download a Thanksgiving ABC book for your kids to illustrate. Makes a great keepsake.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Mother's Journal

I'm making most of the kid's presents this Christmas. This Waldorf doll for Jane is just about complete. I need to remake the dress. It's a little bit too tight to get on and off. But I think she turned out really cute. Can't wait to make a boy one for Max. Then I have to finish the superhero capes, stick ponies, and (start and finish) dinosaur tails. Almost there!

We're a house of boys now. Can you believe it? Sometimes I still can't. I think I always imagined myself with a bunch of girls. But I'm getting the feeling like Jane might be it on the girl front. So thank goodness she's pretty much 150% girl. But look at all these handsome guys. This house is going to start being VERY loud and VERY busy. I look forward to camping, hiking, fort-building, and potato guns in our future.

Oh this boy is the sweetest. He gets the biggest, brightest eyes. He never wants to be alone. A social bug like his dad.

Jane is such an artist. She so reminds me of her Aunt Kim. Check out the ensemble she put together today. This is totally something her Aunt Kim would wear (okay, the five year old version of it). She just has her own little sense of style. It's so fun to see her becoming this real, little person. All her own and nobody else. You see those shoes? We got them at "the mall". All week Jane has been talking about "going to the mall." As a mom who tries to never go shopping, I wondered where she heard about the mall? Found out. Her cousins have been corrupting her. And now she says things like, "I love the mall." Uh-oh, haha. So we had a mommy-daughter-Tommy date. It was fun, and now Jane thinks that a mall is pretty much where you go for candy dispensers and sparkly shoes. (Which is basically true.)

I opened my pantry tonight and found this. Looks like a party.

Speaking of parties. My kids decided it was their stuffed animals' birthdays this week. Jane had a birthday tea party for her unicorn. See him sitting at the table/basket in the background? These two are so fun and I love to see them play together. It makes me think about having another one close with Tommy. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Give Thanks Garland

This Thanksgiving garland was so easy and a fun project to do with the kids. We got to go outside, find pretty treasures, and then review our letters! That's like 4 birds in one!
You could make it say anything you want. And you could do it any time of year, using whatever you find on nature walks or in your backyard.

First, gather up your nature materials. Get lots of different things. We were able to get all of ours from our back yard. You may have to search a little more and go on a walk, or to a park. The picture below is how our table looked when we were finished. Get lots of stuff.

Write your letters on cardstock with permanent marker. Hand your kids some glue, and have them go for it. I only had glue sticks and a hot glue gun. The glue sticks worked great for the leaves. But the berries, and larger leaves and flowers required the hot glue gun.

All the letters looked great. But these were my favorites.

The kids actually did most of it. I did the H, N, and T, since they required the glue gun. I technically did the A, too, but it was Max's design and he brought me all the berries to hot glue.

This craft is basically free and really cute.Because we're in a rental, I didn't want to put holes in my wall, so I had to make do with hanging it from the stair railing. Yarn and clothespins look cute, but I'm sure there are numerous other ways to hang up your letters.

This was fun and the kids loved it. Try it!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Family Devotionals with Young Children

We have a family devotional, or scripture study, every night (ok, ok, most nights with very few exceptions. Nobody's perfect!)  We started doing this consistently about 4 years ago. It has become a wonderful part of our routine. After only a few weeks, there was a noticeable difference in the spirit of our home and even our marriage. Here are some ideas to help you get started or "freshen up" your family devotional.

Have your devotional at the same time every day. Not necessarily always at 6:00 pm sharp, but at the same time in your routine. Devotional has become part of our bedtime routine. Right after bath and pajamas...sometimes during the brushing of teeth (Hey, sometimes the patience just runs out.)

Don't make it too long, especially with little ones. A few verses is perfect! When we are reading through the scriptures, we aim for a column a night, but sometimes it's only a verse. Only you can gauge what you kids are able to handle that night.

Add a song! Kids love to sing and frankly, songs teach them more than scripture verses. Choose one song and sing it every night for the whole month. You can even have a monthly theme if you want, and have all your family home evenings go with the monthly song. We try to do this and I think it helps, at least with the planning if not the comprehension.

Finish with family prayer. Always. Always. Always. Hearing your kids pray is one of the best things in life.

So what should you read? We've done a few different things with differing success.

Just read straight through. This is our go to plan. We're nearing the end of our second round of the Book of Mormon. But Heaven's knows my kids don't understand a word of it. I figure it's the consistency and thought that counts.

Children's Bible stories. Get a book of bible (or Book of Mormon) stories, that tells them very quickly. Then read the verses that go along with the story. For a long story take a week to cover all the verses, but read the story every day.

Give each child a piece of paper and crayons and have them draw what you are reading about. We haven't done this yet, but it is something I would like to try when my kids are older. A great way to engage everyone.

Have your kids "read" with you. Everyone takes turns reading a verse. Even the littles, with some help of course.

LDS Bible Videos. This is my new favorite scripture study with the kids. We started it in preparation for Christmas and will probably do it again for Easter. There are about 60 videos so far, and they keep adding more. We read the verses listed under the video (or as many as the kids can handle) and then watch. This has been our best scripture study by far. My kids listen, ask questions. The videos are beautiful, and well done. I can't recommend this route enough!
Sermon on the Mount: Treasures in Heaven

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Ideas for Kids

So I had lots of ideas to celebrate Veteran's Day and teach my children more about the men and women who make this country great. Unfortunately half of us are sick with an awful head cold! So that rules out the parade we were going to go to.


If there is a parade in your area, you should totally go!

Other ideas.

Talk to your children about what a veteran is.
Tell stories about some of the veterans that may be in your family history.
For older kids, learn the words to "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful," etc.
For younger children, the songs on this page work well for introducing the concept of veterans.

I really liked this little mini-book to make and read to your kids. It's the poem "In Flander's Field." What's great about this, is that it is short enough to read to the younger set. You can explain what the poem is saying as you go along and then kids can color the pictures. The poem presents some good ideas and topics of discussion for the older set. It's a powerful poem. It's so important to introduce our children to quality, and classic, literature. Take advantage of this opportunity.

If possible, visit a memorial. Our city has put up 1000 flags in honor of veteran's day. We may go over today and practice some counting.

Looking for a service project? How about making cards for The Red Cross' "Holiday Mail for Heroes"?  You can find the guidelines and information here.

Happy Veteran's Day everybody!