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What is fine motor skills anyway? Basically fine motor functions include the muscle groups needed for handwriting and hand eye coordination. Focusing on crafts and art activities that require kids to use small and coordinated movements helps build on those skills and develop those muscles.

My kids are still young and working hard on those fine motor skills. So we tend to focus on projects that help us work those small muscle groups and flex those fingers. When I found this project I thought it looks fun and like a great way for us to work some skills without it feeling like work.

heart-collage

Materials:

Paper plates

Hole punch

String or yarn

Scissors

Exacto knife

First you will need to cut out a heart shaped template. You can cheat (like I did) and print a heart shape to cut out, or simply fold a paper in half and cut out a heart. Next you trace around the heart shape, and last use the exacto knife to score (or cut depending on how thick your plates are) the shape. I did this part for the kids, but they used the scissors to cut out. If your knife does not cut all the way through use the scissors to cut the shape out of the plate.

heart-template

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After you cut the shape, use the hole punch to punch individual holes around the outside of the heart (go through the inside of the heart).

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We taped one edge of the string to the back of the plate so we could push the other end through the holes. Zig-zag your stitches to allow for a more unique design. If the ends fray a bit, just wrap in tape to give it a sturdier end, or if you have a kid friendly sewing needle you can use that to guide the string through.

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When you are complete this will make a really unique Valentines’ day decoration, or a fun piece of art to hang in your window to admire. How easy is this? You are done in ten minutes, no mess and your kids just worked on hand eye coordination.

My kids discovered this bonus craft. Punch holes around the outside of the heart shape you cut out of the plate. Attach a piece of string to the back and use it to lace around the outside edge. Viola! A homemade lacing card! It’s amazing what your kids will think of when you get them creating!

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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. 

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Last week I shared the Top 5 Fun Activities my kids enjoyed in 2016. This week I am sharing with you our most favorite places to visit. We did a lot more traveling this year than what I’ve shared on the blog. I just haven’t had time to update you all on the details yet. We tend to stick to local places of interest and make a few day trips through the year. But in 2016 we took a bonafide vacation and squeezed in some amazing museums and art! Keep an eye out for those future posts.

As I was digging through my posts to share with you today, I was reminded of my life with two very energetic toddlers who had two speeds: nap and full throttle. I spent a lot of time scouting safe places we could go and let them roam. Of course it also had to be educational, fun, and help them burn off some energy.  So, I’ll start by sharing our favorite fun local places to go with little ones. We often look for free things to do, but sometimes fun comes with a price tag. With any luck it’s a small price tag. If you click on the name of the place it will take you to my original post about our experience at each location and you can find additional info links there.

LOCAL PLACES

Storm King– has to be our most favorite local place for sculptural art. Not only are the sculptures larger than life, but there is plenty of room for the kids to roam and run free. The paved walk ways make it easy to get strollers and wagons through. There are bathrooms and a café. It is very family friendly for all age groups and mobility. During the summer months they have one free admission day per month!

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Trevor Zoo– this little local zoo is the perfect size for little people to enjoy. The paved path lends plenty of space and traction for little feet, and the exhibits are interesting. There are animals beyond our usual backyard habitats. Plenty of photo ops and room to burn off some energy!

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Mohonk Visitor Center– this adorable area is perfect for moms who need a break from chasing kids. If your kids really need to stretch their legs, you can take them outside to the paved trail. Open all year and free to explore. If you want to check out other trails you can get a free one week pass offered once a year to Ulster County Residents. Or, you can sign up for the annual park membership and use any trail at any time.

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Michael’s Farm– this private little farm located in Saugerties has a nice array of animals. There are farm animals, lamas, deer, ponies, emus and chickens. There are a lot of experiences to have in just one visit. They also offer camp sessions during the summer and school breaks. It is located off the beaten path and is very family friendly. We’ve enjoyed many visits and it is always a lot of fun!

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DAY TRIPS

Animal Land– this one is our absolute favorite! The park is so clean, the animals are well taken care of and there are so many play areas for kids to enjoy. It is very stroller friendly, and is mostly covered by trees making it cooler on really sunny days. We traveled just over an hour from home, but spent half a day there playing and interacting with the animals.

animal-land

Lake George – before this summer I had only ever spent an hour or two in Lake George. I was stopping through on my way home from another trip so, I had absolutely no idea how much this area has to offer. Returning with my little family was wonderful experience! We enjoyed local beaches, games on the main strip and found a little hideaway park that is perfect for little ones to burn off some energy.

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Howe’s Caverns– this is a special place for me. I grew up visiting the caves during school trips and just for fun with friends. Before you go you have to read this guide for the inside scoop. There is a lot you should know before going down below. I was excited to see how many new activities they have besides the caves. Plenty for us to go back to experience!

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I hope this helps with planning out some fun trips in the new year, or maybe ideas for when you are feeling spontaneous. These are tried and true family favorites. We hope you enjoy them too!

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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So this was a crazy week at my house. I had a lovely stomach bug that set me back an entire weekend and made for a crazy week of catching up. As a result I was busy rushing around, maybe a little too fast, and smashed my hand. I thought I broke my thumb, but thankfully it is just a wicked sprain. Five days later and it is still swollen and really hurts. As a crafty blogger that kind of limits what I can do with one hand. I thought about sharing five different ways to splint an injury using only a Popsicle stick, but realize that doesn’t really qualify as a craft.

I shared with you last week 7 fun things to do with bubble wrap, so I thought I’d share what to do with all those left over shipping boxes!

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We didn’t make anything this week due to the aforementioned hand injury. But, we did do a little research!

My kids and I are hooked on watching videos on Box Yourself YouTube channel. What this guy can make from a box or cardboard tube is amazing! You need extra supplies like paint and a box cutter, but if you are in a serious project mode, or have an older kid, these could be fun!

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If you have really little kids you could literally give them a box to play with and they’ll magically turn it into something fun simply using their imagination. If you want to add some color without making a mess, just give them a box of crayons or washable markers and some stickers. Prepare for some quiet entertainment.

Here are 5 ways we’ve used left over shipping boxes:

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BOX TUNNEL – every kid loves to climb into a cardboard box. It feels like a little space just for them. Tape together several large boxes end to end and allow your kid to crawl through. If you are feeling really ambitious you can poke holes in the top and push through Christmas lights. This makes a fun starry effect inside the tunnel.

AUTOMOBILES– help your kiddo transform a plain box into a car or truck. Use paper plates for the wheels, duct tape to make lines for windows and doors (if you don’t want to deal with paint). You can make a steering wheel from a paper towel tube and another paper plate, or cardboard circle. Your kid will spend hours driving this car through their imagination. Throw in a pillow and blanket, park the car in front of the TV and you have an instant indoor drive in.

DIARAMA– building small scenes inside of a box can help kids really use their preplanning skills to imagine a small world inside an ordinary box. Once your child selects a theme they can draw a scene inside the box, or glue items inside to create a 3-D effect.

CITY SCAPES– set up a row of boxes and let your child paint a different store front on each. Again, if you don’t like paint hand them markers instead. Attach signs for Bakery, Grocery, and Barber etc. Your kid can pretend to run errands with their stuffed animals in tow.

TREASURE CHEST– let the kids decorate any way they like and use to store their favorite treasures in. My kids like to pretend they are pirates discovering hidden treasure. Super easy and super fun!

Hope you are enjoying the Christmas break with the kids and remember boxes are better than any toy at any age! But if your household has outgrown the magic of finding a good box, you can always use them to pack up donations in and send off to your local Good Will, OR other favorite charity. Here’s how.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Here’s to much healthy and happiness in 2017!! As always thanks for reading each week!!

Oh and p.s. if you are looking for a fun way to use those paper towel tubes, check out my post from last year, Pom-Poms and Cardboard, Expensive Toys Are Overrated.

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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So this is a record breaking Christmas season here at the “casa de Whatever.” Not only did my husband and I put the tree up and decorate it without a complaint, but this is also the first time in a decade he has his Christmas shopping finished the first week of December. I know… give that man a round of applause. What’s his secret? Amazon, baby! Yep, he finally caught up with the times and shopped for everything online this year and had it shipped to the house.

This may have saved him a lot of time, but now my house is filled with boxes and left over shipping supplies. And now, we have extraordinary amounts of bubble wrap! This is free entertainment! Popping it is so much, but I started to wonder what other fun I was missing out on.

Here are 7 Fun Things to Do with Bubble Wrap:

PRINTS

The bubbles on the plastic wrap make such a cool texture once you paint and print with it. You simply, lay a piece of bubble wrap flat, paint it and then flip it over to print on paper. Nope, you’re not missing a step, it really is that easy!

SHAPES 

You can cut out different shapes to paint and print with. This works great for making animal shapes, especially animals with scales like a fish, or lizard. You can also just make shapes that your little one can recognize and let them pop away for a multi-sensory learning experience.

STOMP & PAINT

Wrap your kids’ feet in plastic wrap and let them stop around to make a popping sound. If you want to level up a parenting notch, let them walk through paint and step along a sheet of paper leaving behind tracks.

ROADWAY

Tape squares of bubble wrap, or a long piece of wrap to the floor. Use blue painters tape for easy removal and tape along the edges. Let your kid drive their cars over it until they pop every last bubble.

SENSORY FUN

If you have a small piece of bubble wrap, insert it into a Zip Lock baggie and pour in a little paint. Seal it up and let the kids (or you) squish it around. This has a really cool feel!

UNIQUE GIFTS

I found this on one Pinterest. Making a stress relief pack requires bubble wrap and a label that reads, “For maximum stress relief pop 3-4 capsules several times per day.” Super cute and fun! Give out to your kids teacher, the mail man, your office partners. Anyone who could use a good laugh for stress relief.

A few years ago when the girls were just toddlers, I took them to a Little Picasso art workshop at a local library where we painted bubble wrap. The kids absolutely loved it! It was messy and noisy fun for everyone!   If you don’t want to get messy with paint, bubble wrap is totally fun on its own. Lay it on the floor and stomp on it, roll on it, go slow and pop one bubble at a time, or even roll it up and twist it. There is no wrong way to play with bubble wrap!

he 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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When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of traditions. We actually mixed things up year to year. There are a few traditions I keep up with my own children, and we introduce a new one here and there. But one tradition that remains the same year after year is our tradition of charitable giving.

I began our first charitable efforts at my twins’ second birthday party. I asked friends to donate one non-perishable food item.  As we were collecting items I told the girls where our donations will go. They probably did not fully understand. But they did help me make our final donations. Charity starts at home and making it an activity during the holiday season helps lay a strong foundation of generosity for my children to build upon.

This year we continue our efforts to send Christmas cards to local kids staying in the hospital and writing letters to soldiers stationed overseas. It isn’t always money that has the greatest impact; sometimes it’s just a thoughtful act that sparks a feeling of being remembered. Every human being wants to feel like they matter.

Here are some simple ways to give back this year:

Leave cookies for your neighbors.

Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing, books and toys.

Donate gently used household goods like dishes, linens and appliances to families in need.

Bring homemade cards and baked goods to your local fire house, or police station.

Have an ornament making party with friends and deliver to a local nursing home.

Shake hands with your mail carrier.

Greet your garbage collector with a hot cup of cocoa.

Hold the door open for an elderly shopper.

Let someone take your parking spot on a busy day.

Help your child write a personal letter to their teacher thanking them for their hard work.

We often think we need to buy gifts to show our appreciation, or show someone we care; when really it is the little things that add up to bigger moments. Someone may be having a bad day when they cut the line in front of you, or they may feel like no one appreciates their job collecting refuse. Offering kindness at Christmas and all year is the perfect gift!

If your children are older and want to help in bigger ways perhaps helping them earn money, or make a donation will fill their desire to give back. I shared this list with you last year, but I have found five more local charities to share this year!

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HUDSON VALLEY HERO PROJECT- A local non-profit providing aid and caring support to veteran’s right here in the Hudson Valley. 

CHRISTMAS WISHES ULSTER COUNTY– A local non-profit bringing gifts to families in need in Ulster County.  Accepting monetary donations through the year, and toy donations in November. 

GRANTING WISHES FOR CANCER KIDS ON CHRISTMAS – adopts families with children going through cancer treatment. Families paying health care coverage, premiums and co-pays for children with cancer often struggle at Christmas. 

ANGELS OF LIGHT HUDSON VALLEYA local non-profit whose mission is to provide Holiday Giving for Children and Families with life threatening illness in the Hudson Valley, NY.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY RESTORE– located in Ulster and Dutchess counties. The mission is to provide stable home ownership for members of our own community. You can donate $20 to purchase a board that will be used in building a Habitat home; or you can shop at one of their Restore locations. These thrift shops include appliances, furniture, home goods and décor at the fraction of retail prices. Recycling these quality goods into your gift giving saves you money and the planet, and proceeds are cycled back to your neighbors in need.

You don’t have to give big to give back. You can do small, age appropriate acts of kindness, or charitable projects with your children. If we all do one small thing for our community this Christmas it will have a big impact on our neighbors through out the year.

Share some inspiration: what family traditions do you have that make it feel more like Christmas?

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. 

 

Related posts: Granting Christmas Wishes for Local Families Give a Kid The Gift of Swag Charity Starts at Home- 7 Ways to Give Back With Kids In Tow

Throughout a typical stretch of homeschooling, we have productive days yet plenty of cringe-worthy moments.  Homeschooling is as much about the journey as it is the destination. It’s not just about what the kids learn, but how they learn it.  Ideally, with some passion, excitement, freedom, creativity, and self-led interest.  As my kids mature and their learning needs change, I sometimes feel like we’re reinventing the wheel.  When I really think about it, though, it’s more like fine-tuning, and I’m good with that.  I want our homeschooling experience to be ever-changing, and evolving to meet all of our needs. Yet at the core, I’ve hit upon certain nuances that help the process feel more fluid, less overwhelming, and minimize chaos.

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Organization

Organization serves as the backbone of how I make things work.  Like all parents, I’m wearing many hats, and plenty often, I’m overwhelmed.  A few subtle tricks have helped make life easier.  Just as I did when I was a student, I keep a detailed planner of assignments and projects.   Seeing what needs to get done in writing provides a visual that takes the burden off of one’s memory and allows for a concrete tracking of progress.  And who is a stranger to the delight of crossing something off of a to-do list?  Not only do I plan out what we hope to cover each week, but I break it down by day and subject.  It’s all written in pencil, because, you know, Life.  I took this a step further and we put a label on the front of each of the kids’ books, notebooks, and folders, marking not just the subject but the days of the week on which it is used.  Finally, each day when they are putting away their completed work, they prep the next day’s work and leave it piled on a shelf or chair. It allows them to begin their work after breakfast with minimal prep and fumbling.  We have a homeschooling bookshelf- top shelf for supplies and reference books, they each have a shelf of their own, and the bottom shelf is for joint subjects and manuals.

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The Library

The library serves as a the homeschooler’s hub for resources and community connections. Not only do we save an inordinate amount of money by utilizing books and online resources such as a foreign language program, but the library graciously allows us to meet there for homeschooling purposes whenever we’re working with other families.   Not to mention, there are always enrichment opportunities such as science club or art classes throughout the library system. Having this support has greatly enhanced our homeschool experience.

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The Internet

Once upon a time, I felt like I needed to physically obtain materials to supplement our curricula.  Little by little, I’ve discovered so many online resources that allow us to access what we want, when we need it.  Whether it be an animated video to demonstrate mitosis, sound clips of a composer’s work, or passages from a poet, we have found so very many fascinating items on the internet.  Equally as important, we’ve made great friends through online homeschooling groups, purchased materials at a significant discount by joining forces with other homeschoolers, and participated in awesome field trips that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Chores

Giving my kids some daily responsibilities around the house allows me just enough breathing room to focus on their schooling or gasp, myself (rarely).  The way I think about it, I give the bulk of my daytime hours to their schooling, and in return, they give back some of that time by doing chores.  When they grow up, they’ll know how to cook for themselves, keep things clean, and do laundry.  In the meantime, it helps our house run more smoothly.

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Color Coded by Child

Flexibility

If I had things my way, we’d keep to a schedule that would make the military proud.  Any parent knows that while goals are nice, kids have other plans.  Any homeschooling parent multiplies this by ten.  So while I have my daily expectations, I have learned to be flexible. Sometimes we need to get outside and run around.  Sometimes an important appointment or errand interrupts the school day, and our morning work becomes evening “homework.” Sometimes, things take too long, no one gets it, and we’re running behind.  And once in a while, we speed through everything and are done early.  I’ve learned to fit bits of work into whatever opportunity presents itself.  On weekend trips to visit friends and family, my husband drives so that I can read a chapter aloud.  A writing lesson might get done on Saturday morning.  Books on CD have turned our driving-to-and-fro-activities time into quiet, peaceful car trips while enjoying literature.  As much as I wish life would fit into clean, neat boxes on the calendar, I’ve learned not to stress (as much) and let things happen at their own true pace. This doesn’t come naturally, but after all, the process is about learning, not just checking off a to-do list, and I want my kids’ experience to reflect that.

Moms and dads, post in the comments below and share your tips and tricks with our HVP readers.  Whatever helps make your home run more smoothly and your school day a success, we want to hear about it.  Happy December!

diytooth-fairy-bags

I cannot believe my “twinadoes” are turning 6 already! The time has really gone by quick! This year instead of throwing them a big party we decided to treat them to a week long vacation. Smack dab in the middle of all that planning and packing, the first wiggly tooth arrived! My kids have been waiting for this moment their whole lives. All they can focus on is the magic! All I can focus on is the pressure to make magic.

I see so many moms on Facebook handing out $5 bills for one little tooth, or buying a pile of presents and throwing about pixie dust to celebrate. There are even apps that allow you to snap a pic of the tooth fairy hovering over your sleeping child. I am all for magic, but all of that just seems like too much for me to invest in. I’m not judging these other parents for their efforts, I just know it isn’t my style.

Thankfully, both of my kids believe with their whole heart the only thing the tooth fairy brings is a bag full of coins. Well, all chocolate coins and one real gold coin. I do not know where they heard this information but I am totally cool with it. To make it more “magical” I created these quick little bags to take with us on vacation should her first tooth fall out. Which it did. She almost lost it in the swimming pool. That story alone is worth more than the magic she’ll remember about losing her first tooth.

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Here’s what you’ll need: (Makes 4 bags)

4 Medium organza gift bags (you can find at the dollar store)

1 Piece of white felt

8 Googly eyes

Elmer’s glue

8 inches of string or yarn

Wax paper

*Optional pink paint for rosy cheeks

I did a quick search online for a tooth shape that I could print, cut and trace onto the felt. After I cut out my felt shape, I began adding the little face. Cut string into two inch pieces to start, then glue mouth and eyes to the felt. Allow to dry before applying to the bag. If you’d like cute little pink cheeks, dip a pencil eraser, small dowel, or the end of a paint brush  (whatever you have on hand) into the pink paint and apply at the ends of the smile.

Since you are working with a mesh fabric the glue is just going to seep through. Cut a small square of wax paper (small enough to fit inside the bag) to keep the glue from sealing the bag closed.

First, insert the wax paper into the bag.

Next, apply Elmer’s glue to the felt and apply to the bag. Wait a few minutes before pulling the wax paper out. Then hang the bag upside down over a pencil, chop stick, craft stick or whatever you have to allow to dry. Be sure the baggie is open and the glue is not touching the stick. Allow to try over night.

I made 4 at once so I can have one set per kid. I give my kid one empty bag to put her tooth in and place under her pillow. This way the tooth isn’t rolling around loose and I can find it quick. I fill the second bag with all her required coins and just swap out the bags once she falls asleep. We can reuse these for each lost tooth and I’m already ahead of the game for the next round.

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I picked up chocolate coins at Party City (15 for $1.00) and a gold dollar coin at the bank. In fact, I picked up 10 so I can have back up! Once that first tooth falls out, the next is right behind it! Three weeks behind to be exact. We currently have both kids wiggling a tooth just waiting for their gold coins. Having twins means double the magic and double the tooth fairy money. So keeping some pre-filled bags between payouts means I won’t be caught off guard the night a tooth falls out.

My girl woke up to find this cute bag filled with coins under her pillow and was on cloud 9 the rest of the day. She told everyone we ran into how the tooth fairy left her coins in the middle of the night. For her it is a dream come true. I have to say that alone is pretty magical.

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Do you go all out for the tooth fairy, or do you keep it simple?

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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Back in the day when I was just an auntie and had no children of my own, Thanksgiving seemed like such a warm and carefree holiday. I loved getting up early to get our feast started. I’d peel, boil and bake my way through hours of the early morning. I’d pass the time waiting for dinner with my nieces and nephews crafting, or head outside for a scavenger hunt. Our dinner arrived at the perfect temperature and in a fluid succession of flavors.

Today’s reality looks more like me running through the house in my pajamas trying to get everyone to settle down and leave me alone in my kitchen glory. I race through the side dishes listening to kids whining about how much they HATE sweet potatoes and nearly barf at the thought of eating gravy; in between complaints about how HUNgry they are. *sigh*

I remember one Thanksgiving when I was about five, my mom helped us craft a Native American headdress from construction paper, and no joke made EACH of us a vest out of a paper grocery bag WITH FRINGE.   My mom made fringe out of a paper bag for 4 kids (man I wish I had a picture of that!).  I think we’ll go a tad simpler this year.

5 (fringe free) super easy crafts to keep the kids entertained on turkey day:

PLACE CARDS

These do not need to be fancy. Using a simple index card folded in half, or a colorful piece of construction paper works too.  If your child can write, or is learning to write, make a list of names for them to copy onto each card. They can check off the names as they go and place the cards at each place setting.

For little ones who cannot write, making thumb print turkeys can be fun! You, or another adult, will have to work with your kiddo to dip one thumb in some paint and place it on a card. This does not have to be perfect, or even resemble a turkey. It just has to be fun and out of the kitchen area.

GRATITUDE CHAIN

We love making paper chains, and I bet you have all the supplies you already need. Use whatever paper you have on hand, colorful construction paper, plain white printer paper, it doesn’t matter. Cut the paper into strips and have each kid write something they are thankful for.  Start the chain by bending the strip into a circle and stapling, or taping the ends to close up the loop. Repeat until you have made a chain. Your kids will feel proud when you hang it up near the dinner table.

COVER YOUR TABLE IN ART

I love to put out a fancy table cloth for special meals. It just feels a little more special. But kids are messy and it can be stressful watching your nice things get destroyed. So we roll out brown packaging paper and let the kids create their own table “cloth.” They trace their hands and color in to look like turkeys, practice letter writing with holiday messages and drawing whatever comes to mind. Now if they spill I’m not so annoyed. The paper gets tossed in the recycling bin and there’s no mess for me!

PAPER BAG PUPPETS

Again, using whatever you have on hand works. Raid your pantry for small paper plates, or reuse paper shopping bags. Have kids cut out feathers to glue to the back of the bag, draw a face and now you have instant puppets.

ART KITS

If you read this post before dinner starts, there is no shame in buying a ready to use kit with all the supplies inside. Get out to the dollar store or Target and pick up those play packets with stickers, a coloring book and some crayons.

I set hubby and the kids up with the supplies, show them how to get started and I quietly float away to finish off the green beans. Whether you are hosting, or traveling to visit the in-laws your kids will enjoy getting to help make decorations for the feast. Having a little quiet time to think is one more reason to give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

You may also enjoy reading Friday Favorites- Kid’s Mini Travel Activity Pouch before you travel this holiday season.

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. 

 

christmas-wishes

Last week I shared with you 8 No Crap Christmas Gift Ideas that will leave you with very little to take care of after the wrapping hits the floor. Actually, I leaked that post one week earlier than planned. I was leaving for vacation and technology was not my friend when I tried to schedule my post to arrive while I was away. Whoops! Oh well, you know how I roll without perfection these days.

This week I want to introduce you to a really fantastic local charity that is helping families all over Ulster County receive their Christmas wishes. This non-profit organization was created in 2014 by Melissa Banks who was looking for a simple way to pay it forward. Melissa had just come through some difficulties as a single mom and had just finished up her degree. She really wanted to share her gratitude by helping someone else. Melissa posted a request for families looking for help in a local moms Facebook group. The response she received was phenomenal since she was only expecting one or two names. As the list grew she began asking for help making these Christmas wishes come true. Before she knew it Christmas Wishes Ulster County was created.

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Melissa doesn’t receive any direct funding for gift purchases, or supplies. She relies solely on the generous support of volunteers; all funds raised goes directly to serving local families.  What began as a do-good deed for around 70 families has grown to serve over 600 families in 2016. It takes a lot of donations and volunteers to help sort and wrap the donated gifts. It also takes a lot of time to vet and cross check each application with other local agencies offering holiday help.  This year Melissa and her team are moving to a larger location to accommodate the amount of gifts, approximately 3-4 per child, needed to help so many families.

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Christmas may be Melissa’s favorite time of year to help families, but she actually helps collect, pack and deliver back packs and school supplies for the new school year; and Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. She also hosts fund raising events at Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and holds a birthday raffle for one family per month.  When I asked Melissa what has kept her reaching beyond the original families she began helping she shares, “I do it for the end result. One year we had a mom with cancer and we were able to help her get gifts for her children. She was so grateful. People’s reactions can be deeply touching.”

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Melissa also shares how much her son is learning and growing by participating in her altruistic venture. If you would like to help contribute to Melissa’s vision of making Christmas wishes come true, or bring your young child to volunteer, please contact her at christmaswishesuc@gmail, 845-853-0496 or like the Christmas Wishes Ulster County page on Facebook for updates and details. All toy donations must be in by December 5th to allow for enough time to disperse the gifts to families on December 10th. Any financial contributions made will receive a letter for tax deduction.

If you are looking for additional local organizations to donate to this year please find my Hudson Valley Charitable Giving Guide. You can print it out to make your charitable planning even easier.

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. 

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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