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5-tips-for-more-thoughtful-christmas-gifts

How crazy is it that we had snow four days before Halloween? Then, the very next day it’s a typical fall day? I expected a nice dusting of snow that we could simply leave a few foot prints in on our way to school, and then it would all melt away. But noooo. I had to break out the shovels!  While my kids were helping me clear the driveway they began singing Christmas carols and asking me when Santa is coming. They forgot entirely that we didn’t even get through trick or treat yet!

But all that caroling had me thinking about Christmas and our Christmas list. In the past I have shared my $150 Christmas spending plan with tips on how to spend less to get more. This year I am going for no plastic toys and all the crap that comes along with it. We have so much stuff in our house it is almost impossible to keep up with. No more toys with tiny parts. No more Lego sets that are eventually dumped all over the floor. No more extra pieces. This is the year we say no more crappy toys for Christmas!

It isn’t just the overkill of toys that I am looking to change; I’m looking to add more thoughtfulness to our holiday.  When I was growing up there wasn’t enough money to go around, so we put a lot of thought into what we did buy and dressed it up really pretty. Or we made it a funny experience by wrapping small gifts inside of a box, wrapped inside of a box, wrapped inside of another box. Sometimes we’d have to hunt for a gift somewhere on the tree.  And sometimes we even made gifts for each other.

Today it is just too easy to lavish our families with flashy electronics, or a brand new ride on toy, or toys with lots of lights and sounds. But what happens to those toys in the long run? You can hand them off to another child eventually, but plastic things never truly go away. Once they’ve outlived their use they get tossed directly into the trash. My husband and I decided to keep eco-friendly in mind when making our purchases this year.

As I put together my shopping plan this year, here are the questions I am asking myself:

  1. WHAT DO MY KIDS PLAY WITH? My kids really enjoy special characters like the Octonauts, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony. Instead of buying them the plastic characters and accessories (which we already have a ton of), I am keeping an eye out for plushy toys, puzzles and books and clothing sets with those characters. These are all more eco-friendly and still fun.
  2. WHAT DO WE DO FOR FUN? My kids love going to places like Fun-e-farm, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and eating at their favorite restaurants. Those places ALL offer gift certificates. Buying them tickets, or gift certificates for an experience to enjoy together means no toys cluttering up my house.
  3. WHAT DO MY KIDS NEED? Do they have enough warm shirts? Enough pants? Do they need shoes, or sneakers? Yes, it is the cliche mom thing to slide packages of wrapped socks under the tree in stealth like fashion. But why mess with tradition? And again, no tiny pieces to step on here!
  4. WHAT ARE MY KIDS LACKING? In our house it can be difficult to get enough time one on one with each kid. With busy work schedules, school routines and all the “adulting” we do as parents we often fall short on spending time together with just a parent and one child. I’m thinking those gift certificates will pair nicely with a calendar filled with special date days.
  5. HOW ARE MY KIDS SPENDING THEIR TIME? Right now we aren’t participating in any extra curricular activities. But my girls do like to take swim lessons during the winter to learn water safety skills as well as get some good exercise. Swim lessons or a membership to a Karate school or gymnastics school take up zero space in the home!

This year we plan to go with the less is more concept with a smaller quantity of better quality gifts. There may be a few toys in there to enjoy along side of the prepaid experiences we are putting under the tree. But with enough thoughtful planning we won’t find any plastic, cookie cutter toys among the gifts.

Stay tuned for my post next week where I share our actual gift giving list!

Do you plan your gift giving, or just wing it?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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Last week I shared my thoughts for putting less crap under the tree this year. I want to be able to manage the things we bring into our home, and still allow my kids the excitement of Christmas. First, I am taking a look at what my kids already own and how they like to spend their play time. We already have a bunch of play sets with tiny accessories that end up lost, or broken. I don’t want to add to them. With winter coming there will be more time spent inside, which means plenty of time to play with the mountain of stuff they already have. This year I am looking to give my kids thoughtful, personalized gifts that do not require me picking them up off the floor!

HERE IS WHAT MY KIDS ARE GETTING THIS YEAR

PERSONALIZED APRON

I am having a personalized apron made from one of my old dresses from childhood. I just love the print and I vowed to one day make it into something. That was 20-years ago. I discovered hand-made children’s aprons at Boudoir Baby in Saugerties. It seemed like the perfect way to re-purpose this dress, and I can have the aprons personalized with my kids’ names! The aprons will fold neatly and fit in the same drawer I keep my own apron.

KID SIZED COOKING UTENSILS

To go along with their special aprons we are giving them kid friendly utensils of their own. The set I found on curiouschef.com includes a kid safe knife. This makes me feel a little safer while teaching them cooking skills. I can easily store these items alongside our own utensils. No extra storage needed!

DIY KITS

We make a lot of fun crafts and cookies at home. So packing up the ingredients for a fun make your own sundae box, or ingredients for sugar cookies are a guaranteed hit! We use up all the ingredients and eat the cookies. There’s nothing left to store or maintain! Packing DIY craft kits or art kit means we use everything for one project and we are done. No left over materials to find a home for!

A YEAR OF DATES

I found this idea last year and I can’t wait to give it a try this year. I mentioned last week it is always a struggle to get enough one on one time with each kid. But stacking up date day coupons, gift certificates, or prepaid tickets to an event to use on those date days will really help us remember to schedule them in.  I found this post to be helpful in making this into a gift. TIP: be sure to check with your credit card companies, or bank for reward points. You can often trade in those points for gift certificates to restaurants or retail stores. You can get free gift certificates to pay for your adventures! We will have to leave the house for these adventures so there’s nothing left to clean up!

A DRESS UP STATION

We already have a bunch of dress up clothes in a bin. Everything gets mangled and pawed through. I plan on taking the time to sort through the old stuff and introducing a few new pieces (even if they are second hand) to bring new life to this area of the play room. A short book case with a tension rod quickly creates a whole new space for my kids most cherished play things. I am not even going to wrap this up. Just leave it off to the side and hang up new to them dress up sets. Since this replaces the messy bin, it doesn’t take up any extra space.

PERSONALIZED CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

Every year we buy a special ornament for each kid. This year I want something more personal and not the same expensive, plastic ornament every other kid has on their tree. I am in love with the classic look of silhouettes, but I can never get my girls to sit still long enough to make one myself. So, I asked Alexa of Personalized by Lexi Quinn to create a one of a kind ornament that captures my kids’ silhouettes and personalized with their name and date. These will be packed away year after year which means no stuff lingering in the toy room.

PERSONALIZED LAP DESK

These are perfect for my kids who like to read and create where ever they go. They can use them while sitting on the couch watching TV, or while sitting on the floor coloring. I asked local mom Jen Ward, from Just Round the Block, who creates personalized gifts to make these. No wrapping here either- just nice, pretty bows placed on top and leave them off to the side. My girls can fill the pockets with their favorite things they already have. This will help me round up the extra art supplies typically found around the house.

BEANIE BOO SLIPPERS

I am putting a ban on stuffed loves. If I even see another stuffed animal I might scream! Our entire home is overrun with fluffy lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Buuuut… my kids can never pass up a Beanie Boo. In fact, their love runs so deep they make me take their pictures with all their favorites while we are out shopping. Since they are due for new slippers anyway, and I can donate the excellent condition pairs they’ve out grown, I’ll allow this mash up of Beanie Boos and useful slippers.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Enchanted Lip Balm by Three Sisters Herbal will be one of our new favorites! I love using this for myself! There are other really great products Three Sisters offers that my kids are able to enjoy since they are all natural and organic. It is a very reputable, local company which is always a win.

Krause’s Candy is another one of our favorites. Every year we get a packaged bag of Christmas foil wrapped chocolates and divvy between the stockings. My kids look forward to these every year.

Other things I put in their stockings include things they already need: tooth brushes, socks, extra gloves, a new watch, their favorite shampoo and conditioner, pocket packs of tissues, etc.  These items will replenish our supply and be used up. Ergo zero long term storage necessary!

There are 8 specially thought out gift ideas! No extra stuff to clutter up the house. No batteries required. I’m sure we will fill in the rest of the gift list with clothes they need and one special gift only Santa can bring- which we are still thinking about.  More than I want less crap at Christmas, I want my kids to understand that the real gift is in the giving. The thought we put into gifts can be greater than the actual gift.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

how-to-make-apple-pops-with-kids

I really love making candied apples in the fall. But that hard shell coating can be difficult for little ones to bite through. Chocolate, or caramel dipped apples can be so much easier for little ones to eat. Except that my kids never finish an entire apple by themselves. I usually cut it into slices so they can enjoy a portioned sized amount of sweets. It never occurred to me to slice the apples before dipping!

Saturday’s weather was all day dreary. All our fun activities for the day were cancelled so that left us home. We baked and cleaned because what else do you do for long stretches of time with no plans? Just as we were finishing up chores and the kids were begging for something fun to do I remembered I have everything we need to make chocolate dipped apple pops. My kids were in heaven!

Here is what you need:

3 Large apples- any variety

Wooden craft sticks, or skewers- without stain or finish

Chocolate chips

Decorative candies or sprinkles

Begin by washing and drying your apples. Next, slice apples on each side of the core so you have circles. Then you can cut the remaining sides into wedges and secure with a skewer before you dip. (You can remove the skewer before serving the dipped wedges to kids). You can use a small, sharp knife to make a slit in the edge of the apple just deep enough to add your wooden Popsicle stick.

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Next, melt your favorite chocolate chips in the microwave, or by using the double boiler method. Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot, and place chips in the bowl. Set the the bowl on top of the boiling water and continue stirring until melted. An important thing to remember is you do not need a lot of water, it shouldn’t even touch the bowl. And use a bowl that fits just a bit bigger than the opening of the pot.

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Then line a baking tray, or cutting board with wax paper. Insert the Popsicle stick or wooden dowel into each apple.

Once the chocolate is fully melted you can dip your apples into the chocolate. You can use a spoon or spatula to help coat the apples evenly. Place the dipped apples onto the wax paper and let your kids have fun decorating! You can go as simple, or as fancy as you’d like. We used what we have on hand- some M&Ms and Halloween themed sprinkles. You could also use crumbled cookies, crushed pretzels, a drizzle of caramel. Or you can get really fancy and use edible candy eyes found in the candy section of most craft stores.

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Pop these into the freezer for about 10 minutes or a little longer. Once the chocolate is solid you are ready to eat! We had so much fun making them on our rainy day, but this could really make a fun Halloween activity, or after school treat.

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What toppings would add to these apple pops?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

This weeks craft is short and sweet and it is inspired by my friend Anne. We were outside at a Halloween party this weekend when I mentioned I was in need of something fun for us to do this week after school. I wanted something different and artsy all at once. Her suggestion for paper lanterns had me intrigued!

Anne’s suggestion was to use crayon shavings because it has a spectacular effect when melted between sheets of wax paper. However, we opted for cutting tissue paper instead. My girls need practice with their scissor skills so cutting squares and different shapes was perfect!

Here is what you will need:

Wax paper

Scissors

Craft Sticks (we used a medium size)

Glue and tape

Colorful tissue paper

I am just awful at measuring when crafting. I often simply eyeball everything, or I find a way to measure without having to get all “mathy.” I rolled out enough wax paper to equal the length of four craft sticks. Then, I folded the paper in half lengthwise to make it just as tall as one craft stick.

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Next we cut out our shapes.

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Layer the pieces of tissue paper between the folded wax paper. Place between a folded towel, or on an ironing board with a pillow case over top. You don’t want the wax paper to melt to the iron, so it’s important to use a thin cover.

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Use Elmer’s glue, or craft glue to make individual frames on the wax paper. This will create a unique block of print for each window of the lantern.

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Allow the glue to dry thoroughly before you fold in to form a square. Use clear tape to tape the edges together. Since this is made from paper and wood, which can be flammable, use an electric candle to light up from the inside of the lantern.

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This project was slow paced and really easy to do. It is more steps than I usually put into a project, but my almost six year olds tolerated it well and they loved the final results! Pretty spectacular for using just wax paper!

I could just imagine this with leaves pressed between the paper. What other things do you think would work?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

Living in the Hudson Valley means we have an abundance of festivals, street fairs, art shows, car shows and places to go every weekend. There are so many things to do all year long, but when fall hits it can seem like there’s just so much more to try to fit into the weekend! I always want to make the most of what the season has to offer as well as all the local events.

To help us enjoy the season we love to be outdoors. My kids love raking leaves into piles to jump into, collecting different colored leaves and sticks for a scavenger hunt, or decorating for each holiday. There is just so much to do in our very own back yard! In fact, we were just taking a stroll down memory lane and reading some of my older blogs where I share some of our favorite fun things. Here is a quick recap of some kid friendly activities to do with your little ones at home:

Acorn Jewels

This one is my absolute favorite! It is such a simple project, yet yields amazing results. You can read the step by step directions here. You can break this into two parts: gathering the acorns during a scavenger hunt, and then creating the jewels. Do it in the same day, or make it a two day event!

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Make a Spooky Door

Recreate this monsterpiece to give your front door a touch of whimsy. You can find step by step details here. Using all simple supplies from the dollar store you can have the cutest door on the block for around $5.00.

spooky-door

Pumpkin Painting

If you have little ones not yet steady with the knife skills, let them wield a paint brush instead. Use washable paints and put down a plastic cloth. Or let them paint outside and not worry about your clean kitchen table. Click here to find out how to connect art with nature.

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DIY Fossil Cookies

You don’t have to wait for any special season to make these. They are just fun to make! You can get your step by step guide here.

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Apple Painting

If you missed my post last week, here it is again for you to enjoy! This one is a classic fall art project. Be sure to check out the links to some cute stories to go along with this simple art project.

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The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

making-paperhand-puppets

The fall weather seems to have arrived in one fell swoop over the weekend! It was super-hot one day and the next, just as cool and crisp as a freshly fallen apple. I admit I was lured outside by the bright blue sky, the calming breeze and sunlight. There were so many different ways to spend our Saturday, but my husband and I decided to split up with the twins and go our separate ways to give each kid their own date day. My date and I started our day at the local farmer’s market where they have a sweet art corner.

Every week there is a new, free art project to create. One week we colored and cut out bugs and glued them to a cut out paper jar. It was simple, it was easy and the kids really enjoyed it. Now they look forward to stopping by the tent every time we make a trip to our home town farmer’s market. This week was no exception. Well, except I only had one kid to help make a project with.

This week we learned to make paper hand puppets. I can’t get over how easy these are to make and there are no limits to what your imagination can bring to life. My girl decided she wanted to make a red horse, named Ham. Oh five year olds. Once we returned home she was excited to share with her sister how to make her own little puppets.

So here is how you can make your own:

Materials:

8×10 sheet of paper

Glue stick

Extra scrap paper in a variety of colors

Crayons/Markers/Pens (which ever you have on hand)

puppet-materials

First fold the 8×10 paper, length wise, equally into thirds.

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Next, glue the long edge against the opposite long edge s to create a seam.

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With the seam side facing toward you fold the paper in half.

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Then fold the short edge toward the short edge on both sides.

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This is the base of your puppet, or its body.

Now you are ready to embellish and get creative! You can use the remaining scrap pieces of paper to make eyes, hair, ears, a tongue, a nose and anything else you can think of! Or just use a pen, marker or crayon to draw on details. Let your kids imaginations run wild!

This is such a quick and easy project your kids can easily make an entire cast of characters for a small puppet show. It is a great activity to bring out for kid parties, rainy days or even a sick day. Or simply because it’s Tuesday and you need something fun to do with the kids. Enjoy!

Does your farmer’s market have an art tent for kids to enjoy?

puppet-friends

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

avoid-after-school-meltdown-through-art

Just as I was sending my kids off to Kindergarten some seasoned friends told me about the after school meltdown. I didn’t think it would be an issue since my kids already spent 5 half days a week in pre-K. They also meltdown about so many things how would I know it was just an end of the day meltdown? Well, turns out after school meltdown is a very real thing.

It takes a lot of energy for kids to process all the busy work expected of their little minds and bodies. On top of academic expectations, there is a lot of emotional interaction and learning that can be exhausting. To help my girls cope we created a calm down basket to help each of them transition from school to home routines.

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Each basket includes basic art supplies of markers and paper. The girls both picked out a spiral bound note book they can use to draw, doodle, or scribble in.

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We also included some soothing things like a squishy ball and a “magic” glitter wand. Each night I set the baskets out on the kitchen table so they can use after school. It turns out they enjoy using them before school too. My girls find coloring and doodling soothing, and it brings a nice quiet to our morning.

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Here are some other ways you can use art to avoid the after school meltdown:

  1. Provide your kids with a sketch book or journal. It becomes a safe space for them to dump their emotions and stress from the school day. There are no rules for this book and it isn’t something they need to show off for critique or feedback. It’s just their own.
  2. Put out some play dough for little hands. This helps kids let go of stress and switch gears. It has the same effect as a stress ball and warms up little fingers for writing and drawing.
  3. Leave art supplies out within reach for a self-guided experience. Whether your child enjoys painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., make sure all their tools are in a place where they can access without help. Using water based and washable supplies will make this a lot less worrisome for parents.
  4. Turn on soothing music to help set the tone for relaxation. It triggers the mind that something different is happening.Maybe bring out some musical instruments and allow for some unstructured play time.
  5. Art isn’t just with paint and paper. Help your kids make a healthy snack to refuel after a demanding day. Make funny faces with cheese and crackers, or craft ants on a log. Follow your kids lead in what they enjoy.

Engaging in something less restrictive and creative allows kids to feel like they have some control in their day. They get to follow the demands of their imagination for awhile before having to plug into the demands of chores, homework and the evening routine. So far my girls really like this part of our day. After a short walk back from the bus, we enjoy a simple snack and get to the work of relaxing.

How do you help your kids wind down after a full day of school?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

At the beginning of summer I shared with all of you a list of cool places to get free fun mail for your kids. I hope you and the kids are enjoying all your fun freebies. I know we are! In fact one fun package in particular helped inspire our seed bomb project.

I signed us up to receive a free packet of pollinator wildflower seeds at feedabee.com. Wildflowers attract bees and help feed the population of pollinating insects. You can read more about why this is important by clicking here. Our little packet of about 200 seeds will cover approximately 10 sq. feet. Now we could easily toss these seeds around the back yard and wait, or we could launch them with a sling shot. Why not?

I was flipping through the pages of one of our new kid magazines when I found this unique little project. It is perfect for kids age 6 or older. In just a few simple steps you can create a handful of seed bombs to toss out into the yard, or while out on a hike.

seed bombs materials 1

Materials:

4 pages of construction paper

1 packet of pollinator wildflower seed mix

1/2 cup of warm water per sheet of paper

Kitchen Blender

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Start by tearing each sheet of paper into tiny pieces and place in separate bowls. Next, pour 1/2 cup of warm water over the pieces. Allow paper to soak for 5 minutes before running through the blender.

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Pour mixture into  strainer and squish the paper with the back of a spoon to get most of the liquid out. You want the paper to be pasty, but not completely dry. Discard water and put paper pulp into bowl and add a palm sized amount of seeds. Roll into 1/2 inch sized balls and place on wax paper to dry.

According to my kids the straining step is the most, “boring part” of the project. If you have kids always in a hurry to move on to the next step, perhaps offering a wildflower coloring page, or a list of facts about honey bees to read, will help them while they wait.

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Allow your finished product to sit for 48 hours to dry completely. While the bombs dry you can help your kiddos create a sling shot if you don’t already have one. You can find a Y shaped stick in the yard and place a rubber band around the branches. Viola! Instant launcher!

Tips:

  • The recipe I found makes more bombs. I cut it in half to accommodate our limited supplies, so we only have six seed bombs to distribute. Which is perfectly even for two kids always assuring me, “she got more than me!” Using three sheets of paper and one seed packet yields approximately two bombs per page.
  • You may need to add just a bit more water to the blender when whirling the paper. This will keep the paper from bunching up around the blade. If you add a little too much water that’s OK, you will remove all the extra in the straining step.

When you are ready to launch, find a nice open plain field to fling the bombs into. Maybe a nice open space in your yard, or take a hike and launch into a flowerless area of a field. The bees will thank you for it!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

 

Creating Children's Thank You Cards

I know I am one of the last few moms on the planet that fully insists her children send thank you cards. We send them after birthday parties, for the surprise gift and for holiday gifts from friends and family. And now we send them to our teachers at the end of the year.

Everyone likes to be thanked for their hard work. My kids are NOT easy humans to deal with. I totally get it. I don’t own enough cash to throw at the teachers and therapists that have worked with us over the years. I would gladly go broke letting them know how much we appreciate their hard work. Sadly, I am already broke so that leaves me with heart felt, handmade gifts.

Kissing hand cards

Every day when I drop my girls off at preschool they extend their tiny hands out and ask for, “a kissing hand mama?” If you have never read the book The Kissing Hand you have to add that to your list of back to school must haves! A little raccoon is afraid he will miss his mom too much while away at school, so she gives him a kiss to keep in the palm of his hand to let him know she is close by.

This year the teachers at our preschool have given their hearts away to my kids each day. They have loved my little ones as their own and beyond- especially on those really trying days where I wasn’t so sure I even liked them. I thought a kissing hand would be appropriate for my girls to leave behind for their teachers.

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This will make a lovely project to make on a rainy day, or a really hot day over the summer. Make a stack to keep on hand. Should there be an occasion calling for a thank you, let your little ones sign their names or write a word of thanks on the inside. Since the inside of the cards are blank you can really use them any time even if is simply “Thinking of You.”

I purchased a set of colorful blank note cards on clearance some time ago because I knew they are perfect for making our own cards! Start by laying out a group of cards, or blank pieces of paper. Place foam heart stickers in the middle of the card.

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Have your child select a favorite color of paint and simply paint their hand. Then have them press their hand over the heart so that the heart is in the center of their palm.

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That’s it! Let the paint dry and your kids can start practicing their note writing skills and pop those beautiful cards in the mail, or deliver them personally. Today is our last day of school and we can’t wait to hand these over!

Why send thank you cards?

The rule of thumb for thank you cards is that you send a note only if the gift giver is not present to thank. Most often birthday gifts are not opened during parties any more. They are saved and opened at home. We only started opening gifts this last year and my kids thanked everyone individually. I was off the hook for thank you notes!

We often receive little packages of gifts from neighbors on our front door. So I make sure my kids make and write their own thank you cards each time we receive a surprise gift.

Little kids don’t send a text message or a mass Facebook post with a blanket thank you. Having my girls write their own thank you notes helps them connect to and really appreciate the person that gave them their gifts.

I think it’s cute when I get a thank you card on personalized kid stationary, but making it homemade just makes it feel more personal and less mass produced.

Hand written notes and cards of thanks are a much warmer way to connect. My girls may not grow up to share my love of note writing, but for now I think it is a wonderful and simple way for them to practice gratitude.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

Inner Peace

This week we have witnessed a cluster of very tragic events in our country. Some far away from the safety of our home and some locally in places we may shop regularly. I knew I couldn’t write this post as “business as usual.” It is hard for me to write about the fun crafty things we are doing when really what I want to do is just hold my kids tight and keep them close in my arms for as long as I can.  My mind is swirling with so many questions, concerns and worries trying to make sense of so much loss and pain.

It is incredibly difficult to make sense of “senseless acts” or random accidents. As parents we struggle with how to process all of this information as it unfolds. We try to keep the gory details to ourselves to protect our children and we worry that sharing too much will destroy their innocent little world. I am deeply saddened by the events that have taken place around the country this week- from the court rooms to the night clubs to Disney and local grocery stores it may feel like there are very few places left that are immune to violence.

I know this is a much deeper blog post than my usual upbeat “just recycle it and make a mess” artsy posts. But this week I am really struggling to find a way to help myself and my kids cope with all of the negative recent events, and I am sure you are too.

Art, music and literature are always a place of solace for me. Delving into the arts may not help my kids and I make sense of this crazy world we live in, but it can definitely help us cope with our feelings about it. And it can help me teach my children about compassion, tolerance and diversity.

Here are a few simple ways art can help you and your child cope with senseless violence:

LITERATURE

Escaping into the imagery of a good book allows your child to unplug from their worry and anxiety over safety. Spending time in an imaginary world may sound like avoidance, but it really does help promote positive feelings and the reader can forget about real world stress for a short time.

Build your child’s understanding of inclusion, tolerance and just plain being nice to people by adding a handful of books about these topics to your home.  I know it can be confusing about where to start the tougher conversations with our kids about things like differences of religion, gender identity and ethnicity. An age appropriate book can be a great tool in starting a conversation. Select books that illustrate ways they can love and help. Choose books with a hero who picks compassion and justice over doing what feels good.  Sometimes what we fill our minds with becomes the script for how we see ourselves and interact with the world.

If your child is old enough to write, encourage them to keep a journal where they can write about or draw their worries and fears. They can take refuge in the pages to express what they need. Make it an interactive journal that allows them to ask questions and you can reply with answers.

ART

Art is a very safe place for children to express their feelings and emotions. Try not to dismiss if they draw a picture that makes you question, “Where did you hear that?” or “Where did you learn that?” They may be sharing something important about their thoughts and feelings. I often wonder if I need to have my kids’ hearing checked, but turns out they can perfectly hear (and absorb) everything I am saying. If I discuss in front of them the details I’ve learned about a shooting or tragedy they are going to hear it. Kids process things very differently than adults and they don’t always know how to say, “Hey mom, guns scare me.” If your child is anxious it may show up in their art work. If you want to give your child a safe place to process all these big fears and feelings pull out the paper and crayons. Let them create on the page what’s happening inside. Then use their creations as teachable moments.  You can reassure them they are safe and they are loved and even empower them by sharing ways to stand up to others when necessary.

Visiting a museum or art gallery will show your kids there is still plenty of beauty in this world. Hand your kids a camera and let them find something beautiful on their own.

MUSIC

Music can be a very soothing way to for kids to find calm, or to simply focus their energy in a new direction. You don’t have to listen to the wheels on the bus another 14,000 times you can play music that you like too. Music is a powerful healing tool for anyone. Turn off the news and fill your home, or your car with music that is uplifting to your child and keeps you all in a good mood. Allow them opportunities to create music and sounds as a way to channel energy and emotions. Starting your own rock band in the living room, or a spontaneous dance party on the deck can be a great distraction from the media and shift kids out of an anxious state.

I wish we could all wake up tomorrow in a world where love and tolerance dominates instead of watching decades pass us by waiting for change.  Providing safety and peace in our own homes will help our children cope with the unimaginable events happening around us. We don’t want to isolate our children, or teach them to give up on living out of fear, but we do want to teach them ways to balance their emotions when they are bombarded by so much sadness. Filling our homes with positive sights and sounds can help reduce their anxiety. And I know it will work for you too moms and dads.

Much love to the families who are mourning the loss of their beautiful children this week.

 

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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