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This week my husband decided that we should do an impromptu trip to New York City to see the Christmas lights and the tree at Rockefeller Center before they are taken down for the season. Since we didn’t get a chance to see any lights this year and because a trip to the big city is always an adventure, I said, “Let’s do it!”

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Hannah and Jayden playing at the playground in Central Park in                     New York City.

New Yorkers Get A Bad Rap

First, let me start by saying that New Yorkers in general get a bad rap. It’s not that we’re rude; we’re just busy and the city is the prime example. I think the term “hustle and bustle” must have been coined by someone living in NYC. I’ve never seen little old ladies with walkers move faster than me before.

We met some pretty nice people too. Not one, but two people offered up their seats on a crowded subway for me and my toddler who was cranky from being confined to her stroller most of the day. One lady overheard my remark about “looking like we just walked in a big circle” and immediately offered to give us directions.

It was super crowded the day before New Year’s Eve. At one point while walking past some of the amazing light displays my family was caught in a human traffic jam.

Personal Space Panic Attack

I had to do breathing exercises to keep from panicking at all the people who were in my personal space. Then someone in a Mickey Mouse costume appeared in the crowd and I had to laugh, because this type of thing never happens in the Hudson Valley.

Our trips to NYC are always full of surprises and it is fun because you never know what will happen next, but here are five times I was reminded just how glad I am to be living in the Hudson Valley.

1. The Food Prices – Okay so we were in Manhattan and I get that it’s going to be expensive, but I almost choked when the lunch we got at a hot dog cart by Bryant Park almost required that we take out a second mortgage. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. Four hotdogs and what passes for chicken on a stick for $27, without drinks, was so crazy I almost left running for Grand Central.

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The most expensive hot chocolate I’ve ever had at $4.50 a cup.

Other highlights include the $4.50 a piece cups of hot cocoa that left a lot of chocolate to be desired. We did luck out for dinner and found a $1 a slice pizza joint, which almost made up for our pricey lunch. But my aching feet would have killed for just a place to sit down and eat. Not only is NYC the city that never sleeps, it’s also the city that never sits.
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2. The Fresh Air – There were quite a few moments I had to literally hold my breath. I’m not sure if it was sewer, garbage or just the sheer volume of people, but I was gasping for fresh air. It was definitely a little shocking to this country girl. Unless you’re driving past a farm, you never have to think twice about breathing deep the fresh sweet air in the Hudson Valley.

3. Space – The buildings in Manhattan are positively breathtaking. They are works of art just sitting there disguised at normal buildings. Even without the beautiful light displays, I could spend an entire day just staring at these amazing feats of architecture.

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That being said, it was an adjustment for this country girl to get used to not having space. Space is something we have in spades in the Hudson Valley. We have our own yards and we always have plenty of space to pass someone on the street without feeling like a piece of cattle being herded through a stockyard.

4. The Heartbreaking Homeless Population – I’m sure it’s different in the boroughs, but in Manhattan we were surrounded by either the rich or the homeless. I saw people literally freezing in the name of fashion wearing little more than thin leggings and fur coats or vests or people freezing because they were living on the streets.

One lady had a baby with her and was asking for diapers so we took out all but one of Sydney’s diapers from our bag and gave them to her. I’ve encountered so many amazing non-profits while working in the Hudson Valley. It’s a tough pill to swallow that people are living on the streets. It’s not something we see every day up here.Most people I know in the Hudson Valley are super heroes who want to help everyone. We know our neighbors. We work for non-profits, volunteer in our communities and care for each other. It creates a feeling of hopelessness to be surrounded by so much wealth and poverty at the same time. It makes me want to go back with care packages for as many people as we can carry.

5. The Commute – We drove down to Tarrytown and took the train from there into Grand Central Station. It took just a little over two hours, which isn’t bad considering I live up here in Sullivan County and we drive 45 minutes just to go to the mall in Middletown. I can understand how people in Orange, Westchester and Rockland Counties commute regularly to the city. I don’t think I’d want to do it every day, but it definitely wasn’t bad.

New York City is truly spectacular. There are so many museums, restaurants, shops and sights to see. People travel from all over the world to visit. Everywhere we went there were tons of people snapping photos.

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This country girl did have a good chuckle when I saw people taking pictures of squirrels in Central Park. I wondered what they’d do at the sight of our wild life, say wild turkeys just randomly crossing the road or a bear that tips over your garbage at least twice a year or deer who nonchalantly walk through your yard like they own the place.

We are indeed lucky to live in the Hudson Valley because we have so many amazing things and people here, but we can also easily hop on a train and visit one of the most intriguing cities in the world. We can have the best of both worlds and not everyone can say that.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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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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This week we’re finishing up a fairly large home renovation and believe me when I say I’ll be so relieved when it’s over. Having major work done can be stressful enough, but throw three cooped up kids into the mix and I’m really testing the limits of my patience. Here are some tips to survive the renovation process with kids at home.

1. Stay Away From Home As Much As Possible – If I could have afforded to take the kids away on a mini-vacation and return when our home was all finished, I totally would have. It’s not just keeping the kids out of areas of the home that are being worked on that’s hard, it’s keeping them happy in the now limited space they’re allowed to be in. We put in hardwood flooring on our whole main level which includes the kitchen, dining and living space which is a large open concept floor plan.

When we remodeled our basement into our master bedroom a few years ago, it was MUCH easier on the family because we hardly ever used our basement anyway. With the majority of our living space restricted this time around, it’s been a lot harder. For the most part we’ve hunkered down in our master bedroom with all the kids until bedtime when we take them up to their rooms.

The thing that’s saved my sanity and theirs the most was getting out of the house. I was so grateful the older kids had school most of the week except for Friday. Thankfully, my neighbor was home on Friday and we spent the day hanging out there.

My advice for making the process as stress-free as possible is to get out of the house as much as you can. If you have the money, go on a little vacation, maybe stay with some friends or family or just take some short local trips to places you’ve been meaning to check out.

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Our carpeted stairs got a makeover.

2. Keep Favorite Toys Accessible – The world would end if I didn’t have access to my two-year-old’s favorite doll Lisa. She literally MUST go everywhere with my child. Whatever your children’s must-have toys are, keep them accessible for them and you’ll both be a lot happier. My bedroom which had been a toy-free haven, has been covered in kids’ toys this week, but it’s a sanity saving must during a home renovation.

3. Back To Baby Gates – If you can’t keep your kids out of the house for the entire renovation, safety is a big concern. Even though we had stopped using baby gates a while ago, we borrowed a gate from a neighbor to put at the top of the stairs. This way the kids wouldn’t just come down on their own into the heart of the construction zone.

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Living room before.

 

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Living room after.

We used the baby monitor to tell when they got up in the morning and went and brought them safely downstairs. We also went and bought the kids slippers so that they wouldn’t hurt their toes on the subfloor before the new flooring went down. Whatever you can do to ensure they don’t accidentally get hurt on construction debris will not only keep them safe, it will help your stress levels tremendously.

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Dinning room getting a new sliding glass door.

4. Prepare For More – Whenever you do a home renovation project you can count on two things. It’s going to cost more money and take more time than you originally planned. The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is not give them a definitive date when the renovation will be over. Kids have a hard time waiting as it is and even harder time coping when things don’t go according to plan. Giving them a time frame of when your home and family routine will be back to normal is a better bet.

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Kitchen before new flooring and cabinets getting new paint. Cabinets will also be getting new pulls.

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Kitchen after.

Though it’s usually well worth it in the end, home renovation can be a stressful event for adults and kids alike. Making light of a stressful time can make it a lot easier. When we had to eat in our bedroom instead of the dining room, we had a picnic on a tarp. The kids thought it was fun and not worrying about the kids dropping food on the new carpet we put in a year ago made me a less stressed out mommy. Playing games or watching movies as a family can help ease tensions from being cramped up in smaller spaces. Happy renovating!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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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?

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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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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. 

The month of September is designated as Pediatric Cancer Awareness month which is a cause very near and dear to my heart. My niece is a 14 year cancer survivor and I saw first hand just how deeply this disease effected her and my entire family. To honor her and the many thousands of children fighting today we #gogold every September.

We also pick a childhood cancer charity to support and raise funds for. This will be our third year supporting the Miles for Mac Charity 5K Run/Walk. The event takes place in Dutchess County, and is scheduled for Saturday, October 8th – 10AM Mill Road Elementary School Red Hook, NY.

Besides the 5K portion of the day, families can expect to find food trucks, raffles and fun photo ops. Since it takes place at an elementary school there are several playgrounds for kids to enjoy. Everyone is encouraged to participate in their favorite Halloween costume in honor of Mac. In fact, there are awards given for best costume! With a touch-a-truck, DJ, face painting and games there is a little something for everyone.

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Even though we participate in the many fun things offered at this event, the reason behind it is heartbreaking. For the last two years teams have gathered to run or walk the event in honor of a little boy named MacAlister, also known as “Mac” to family and friends. Mac was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma (an aggressive cancer) at age 16 months after his parents noticed some unusual patterns in his sleep and moods. At a very tender age he endured several surgeries, 14 rounds of chemo, radiation, and clinical drug trials. This beautiful little boy named Mac battled for eight months before he passed away at age two.

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His mothers Emily and Lyndsey, along with their community, honor Mac’s short life each year at this Run/Walk and family fun day. They also work hard to raise awareness about Neuroblastoma and much needed funds for Neuroblastoma research. In just two years, Mac’s family and friends have donated over $30,000 to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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Pediatric cancer research receives less than 4% of the billions of dollars dedicated to cancer research each year. The chemo therapies used are not designed for small children and are at least thirty years old. There are long term effects such as learning disabilities, infertility, weakened immune systems, heart defects, and skeletal defects- these only top the list. So if a child survives cancer there is no guarantee they won’t relapse, or face permanent health issues for life. Research teams need funding to develop less invasive drug treatments and therapies, to discover ways to increase quality of life after treatment and obviously, a cure.

You can register your family to participate in the 5K event, or make a donation directly online. You don’t need to do the run/walk portion of the event. You can make a donation online before you arrive and enjoy the family friendly festivities. There will be a chance to purchase raffle tickets for items provided by local merchants. Every dollar taken in through this event is sent directly to research. There is no overhead or salaries taken from the money raised by this event. Donations are tax deductible and you can request a letter to document your donation.

Donating locally ensures you are helping local families. Donating to cancer research ensures you are helping find a cure for everyone. Get all the updates about the event and find a listing of raffle items by following along on the events Facebook page.

You can register for the event but clicking here.

To learn more about Neuroblastoma click here.

To learn how you can be a voice for pediatric cancer, watch this video and sign the petition at the end:

 

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. 

Photography 101

Like most kids today, my children don’t know what life is like without mommy snapping 50 million pictures of nearly every minute of their lives.  So it is only natural that they are curious about using my camera. A few summers ago, I picked up a small Fuji digital camera at a garage sale for around $50. It isn’t a great camera, but it is small and I didn’t invest too much money into it. So I handed it off to my kids and set them loose in the back yard. That might sound like a crazy idea, but part of photography is developing a natural instinct to capture a moment, or tell a story in one single frozen frame. That only happens with practice.

Some people have a natural spark or interest for photography and children are no exception. At first I sat back to watch what kinds of things my kids want to take pictures of. They seemed to want to take action shots of each other pretending to be animals in the wild, “now be a Cheetah and run at me!” Or they took close up shots of bugs and flowers. I tried to offer only a little guidance on how to hold the camera, using the strap for safety and how to use the zoom.

I have to say not every photo is worth a million bucks, but sometimes even a young kid can really nail a shot. It is simply amazing to see what they see through their lens.

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Photo Credit: My 5-year-old (No filter)

Here is how you can help your kids get comfortable behind the camera lens:

PHOTO GEAR

You don’t need a fancy camera, or invest money in a child specific camera they will outgrow. You can hand your child your cell phone, or a simple point and shoot camera. Starting with a digital camera makes the most sense as your child will take random crazy pictures of their toes and you can easily delete all of those. As your child matures in technique and style, learning to use an old school camera that requires film can be pretty cool.

camera gear

CAMERA PARTS

If you still have your camera manual, review it with your child. Teach them the parts of the camera from the lens, to the dial, to the flash. Once they learn the individual parts they can learn how they all contribute to creating a photo. Younger kids just need to know the parts they use the most like the toggle, the flash, the shutter release (button you press to take a photo), the lens and the on/off switch.

SCAVENGER HUNT

A scavenger hunt at any age is a great way for your child to look for photo ops. Create a scavenger hunt of about 10-20 things for your child to take a picture of. If you are out and about in the car they could snap pics of street signs, or mail boxes that they see out of the window. If you are hiking they could snap pics of leaves, sticks, something red, something blue, etc. Even a rainy day at home could produce some really fun photos.  For older children they could capture textures, colors, letters, signs, buildings and architecture, or even a self-portrait.

COMPOSITION

There are some rules or guidelines for creating a great photo. Show your child how to split the screen into three sections. When taking close up images help your child identify the foreground and background. These simple techniques will help them learn to fill the frame for a more interesting photo.

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LIGHT

Besides having a great subject, lighting is probably the most important way to create a great photo. Lighting can change the mood of a photo and how well your camera captures details. Have your child take photos in different areas of the house to compare how light effects their images. Then step outside to take photos to see how differently the light changes an image.

PHOTO DISPLAY

You can print out a few photos to display as art in your home, or create a photo book your child can show off to friends and family. You will be amazed how even kids can create some beautiful, frame worthy images. It could also be fun to host a family art show where you all show off your favorite prints.

The number one rule to remember is to let it be fun. Taking over the shot or telling your kid how to make the picture better takes away from their own creativity. Allowing kids to play with a camera and take photos on their own helps them develop their own creative instincts behind the lens.

Have you let your child unleash their inner photographer yet?

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 end of every summer I am left with a big pile of ticket stubs, mini golf score cards, park maps and parking passes from all of our adventures. I hate to throw them away because they make a fun touchstone to all the fun we’ve had. I love to look back at them and remember the stories of each adventure or activity. So how do I preserve our summer mementos and keep things tidy? Here’s how:

PHOTO BOOKS

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At the end of each month I upload our photos to a website with photo storage such as Shutterfly or Snapfish. My photos are stored until I am ready to sit down and order prints, or organize into photo books. I try to create a photo book at the end of every season, or big event. We already have a collection of photo books from my kids’ first birthday, our first family vacation and so on. We love to make a night of looking back when the final book arrives.  If you are not someone who likes to keep your ticket stubs, or park passes you can easily take a photo of them to include in a photo book before tossing.

PHOTO DISK

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I like to feel like I have a backup system to our digital memories. I did not grow up with the instant gratification of digital pics and digital storage. We had to wait a week before we could see every blurry shot, or thumb print we captured. Even then we had a negative to hold onto in case we lost any of those printed images. If the Internet crashes tomorrow and my computer melts down, I still have all our memories in hard copy. This also works for a SANS Disk or USB drive.

PHOTO SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

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I have not yet tried this, but there are several apps available that allow you to send photos from your phone to print. For a small monthly fee, the service mails the prints to you and you can then put them into albums or other storage.  GrooveBook sends 100 bound photos in a small book and Recently sends magazine style books to you each month. Prices vary per service. Order your prints before you head home from vacation and have them waiting for you when you arrive.

MAKE A SMASH BOOK

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This is one I can get behind. I absolutely love the informal and imperfect way to stash our little pieces of summer. It reminds me of the scrap book I kept through high school. I would just tape my ticket stubs, birthday cards, photos and newspaper clippings to a page. And that’s exactly how you make a smash book.

Start by selecting a notebook. It can be as fancy as you’d like, or simple.  Then when you return home from each adventure you tape all your mementos to a page. You can come back later to add photos, doodles, drawings and stories. There is no right or wrong way to do it! Every member of the family can take a turn adding in their own pieces and writing their own memories on the page.

This process is less fussy than creating an intricate scrap book page. Although I think those are super cute, I personally don’t have the time to scrapbook, or shop for supplies.  A smash book is like a journal meets photo album. So easy!

How do you store your summer memories?

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. 

Back To SchoolTraditions

The new school year is officially twenty days away from today. I am ready with all of our school supplies, back up supplies, lunch menus and first day of school outfits. Every year I print out a fun little photo prop for my girls to hold while I take their picture in front of their new school. This year they begin elementary school and it feels more official, like I should do something a little bigger. This is after all the beginning of a greater adventure.

I asked around in some of my local moms groups for ideas on back to school, or first day of school traditions. It turns out everyone has something special they repeat every September to celebrate the start of a new school year, including homeschooling families. Here is my round up of back to school traditions.

BREAKFAST

Start off the day on a hearty note by serving a special breakfast. Maybe save the cereal for day two and serve pancake sundaes, or fruit and scrambled eggs arranged as a smiley face on the plate. It’s a fun way to start off the day and adds a little extra love to your morning before everyone heads out the door.

LOVE NOTES

I leave the kids a special note in their lunch boxes all year, but they only had lunch at preschool two days a week. Perhaps a note a day for the first week will give the kids a little extra boost of confidence during the transition back to the school day demands.

AFTER SCHOOL TREATS

It sounds so cliché to have fresh baked cookies and milk waiting for your child when they get off the bus. But it turns out it’s a very popular practice, at least on the first day of school. Several moms share they make a special cake shaped like a school bus, or cupcakes shaped like apples. In general the popular choice is to celebrate with a special after school treat.

DINER’S CHOICE

Let the kiddos pick the spot for a special picnic, or a favorite restaurant for dinner. One friend of mine allows her kids to eat ice cream for dinner on the first and last day of the school year.  If serving dessert for dinner is not your thing, perhaps an upside down dinner works. That’s eating dessert first, then dinner.

PHOTO OPS

Some families take a photo every year in the same spot in front of the house, or a special tree. Something they can mark year after year to show how much their child has grown or changed. Maybe take a picture of your child holding a sign with the date, their age and name of school. You could take a last day of school picture in the same outfit to compare the changes.

A SPECIAL BOOK

The night before starting school can make kids feel anxious and maybe a little excited. Reading a special book before bedtime might help ease those feelings. One mom recommends, “The Kissing Hand” which portrays a young raccoon too afraid to go to school because he will miss his mom too much. My kids enjoy this story so much we give Kissing Hands on the regular. Another couple of our favorites: “Are You Ready for Kindergarten Stinky Face?” and “Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.”

HOMESCHOOL TRADITIONS

For families choosing to homeschool, the hoopla of the back to school rush may feel a bit empty for them. Each family is different and may choose to create traditions of their own, or they may not celebrate it at all. Here is what some local mama’s who homeschool shared:

HAPPY NOT BACK TO SCHOOL DAY

Several moms shared they celebrate with a special activity, or picnic to mark the transition from the summer routine to the academic routine. They may gather together with several other families for a community picnic or a special party to celebrate.

SPECIAL MEALS

Spending the day eating their favorite foods, or making a special meal together helps some families observe the new school year.

SPECIAL VACATION

Since most homeschool families are not locked into a hard start date on the calendar, some families have the chance to take late summer trip to ease into the change of season. One mom says it’s nice to take advantage of the shortage of crowds with school aged children back at school.

Some moms don’t celebrate the new school year at all. They actually miss their kids leaving them each day. I for one am willing to see what all the fuss is about by missing my kids. *wink* I love my girls and I know I will miss them, but they are so excited to start school and begin their journey as big kids. It is my joy in watching their excitement that makes this next milestone one to celebrate.

How do you celebrate the new school year?

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

seed bomb tears 1

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.

seed bomb strainer 1

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.

seed bombs 1

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. 

 

 

 

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