Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Fun!

Last week the boys and I were invited to join my friend's preschool group on a trip to pick pumpkins!  I am truly grateful, because it allowed the boys to get a true field trip experience.  Waiting in line, playing with other kids, taking turns.  The boys loved it... well mostly.  CJ wasn't too happy about being in the carrier.  He prefers to be on the ground ever since he found his walking legs.  Unfortunately, I wasn't interested in scooping him up and out of various obstacles around the farm.

We enjoyed a hayride, and picking pumpkins in a pumpkin patch of course, but we also had a blast feeding and petting the animals.

The boys had a blast playing in the world's largest sensory bin.  Just kidding, it was a shed filled with corn kernels, and lots of trucks, buckets, and shovels.  My boys were in heaven.  I had to literally drag Bear out.  

His disappointment was short lived, as it was off to a corn maze!  Ace had a great time leading the way!

I love when I get pictures like this!!
Needless to say the boys had a blast! and gave me quite a nice nap when we returned home... Winning!!

Having brought home a few good pumpkins, we of course had to do a few good activities with those pumpkins!

First we washed pumpkins.  This was a great water activity and we were also able to discuss sinking and floating.  Love these teachable moments!!

With our pumpkins cleaned, painting was our next activity.

Of course we had to make a Jack-O-Lantern!  His name is Silly Spooky Jack-O-Lantern.  Creative, right?  I should have followed the Pinterest directions for prolonging the life a Jack-O-Lantern, but...  After a few days on our counter, he was a moldy mess.  So he was relocated to the front porch until Halloween. 

Sorry Jack.

Anyway... scooping pumpkin seeds is one of Ace's favorite things.  I believe I've mentioned he is all for anything sensory.  Squishy, slimy, pumpkins seeds and flesh is right up his ally.  

Some of the seeds we used for this letter art activity.  Ace is getting better at squeezing his own glue.  It's difficult for me to let go and allow him to make his own (mess and all).  It takes a lot of deep breathing for me.  I still put Bear's glue for him... He's I'm just not ready yet.

I saw a super yummy looking idea on Pinterest for the remaining pumpkins seeds.  I'm hoping to try that recipe Next week.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Last, I made some pretty simple pumpkin puree'.  

Now, I must admit, I do not like pumpkin pie, AT ALL!!  I'm sure I'm not the only one!  I can't really pin point why.  I typically love a good custard pie, so it's not the texture, maybe it's just too.. pumpkinny?  Whatever, I did whip up some yummy pumpkin french toast, and I also want to try some pumpkin muffins, or pumpkin bread, amongst other things.  So after following The Pioneer Woman's recipe for pumpkin puree, I divided it up and placed it in the freezer to await the fun things I have planned for it.

Any ideas for some yummy (non-pumpkin pie) pumpkin treats
 I should try???

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Color Coded Discipline


I hope you all are enjoying this awesome fall weather as much as the kiddos and I are.  It's allowed us to enjoy outside activities without being overly hot or freezing cold.  We've gone apple picking, and tomorrow we have plans for a pumpkin picking field trip.  I am truly loving all the time we are spending together as a family.

With that said, allow me to keep it all the way real.  Sometimes, my kids are off the hook, and I'd rather not spend time with them at all.  I have been that woman in Target with a baby screaming, a 3 year old running wildly through the clothes, and a 4 year old having a melt down because he has been denied his latest request for something (ANYTHING) new.

How do I handle these situations?  Well, to begin with, I try to avoid these situations all together.   I know their triggers: tired, bored, or hungry (basically the same for any kid). I find that if my children are scheduled and fed, they are pretty good kids... actually very good.  When we go out, I try and remember to give them the "mommy talk".  Basically I break down my expectations, and consequences.  While home we have a routine (not so much a schedule) that they come to expect.  In the morning, Ace asks what we are doing for the day.  He's that textbook child who thrives on a routine.  I believe it makes him feel secure and safe, otherwise he can be a very worried child.  He reminds me of the book Wemberly Worried.  I can go into more details about our daily routine or plan in another post.

However, there are those times when for whatever reason, they act a mess, routine, "mommy talk" or not.  On one particular day about a year ago, Ace was having one of those days.  He was being a monster.  I thought I was going to loose my mind.  Screaming, yelling, slamming doors.  It was me vs. my (at the time) 3 year old.  Once the battle was over, and we were both calm, I knew something had to change.  I mean I was a teacher in an urban area, with often over 25 kids to keep in line.  How come I couldn't keep my own child in order.

You know the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention".  Well, I didn't invent anything, but I did tweek a system that I used in my classroom, and our color coded discipline system was born.  It is very simple.  I glued blocks of craft foam to a piece of white paper leaving about 2 or 3 inches of white on the top.  I fold over the top to create a place to slide a ribbon through and voila done.  I hung it with a Command Strip in our Kitchen Art Center.  I wanted it to be very visual.

How do I use this?  

Well, each child has a clothespin.  Their names are written on them with a Sharpie.  For the picture I flipped them so their names don't show.  I only have one for Ace, and Bear now, but at some point when he's old enough I'll add a clothespin for CJ.  In the morning the clothespins start at the top in dark green.  Everyday is new and they can start fresh each day.  I want to teach them that bad days happen, but we must move on and make the next day better.  The color chart is as follows:

Dark Green = Perfect Day: Dessert (Usually pudding, fruit, or fruit snacks), iPad or phone time before bath, plus a magnet on responsibility chart for Ace.  Ace has a Melissa and Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart, it comes with lots of pre-written responsibilities and also a few blank, so you can write your own.  I added a good listening responsibility.  If he gets 7 magnets (sunday through saturday), he is rewarded with a treat of his choice (with in reason). 

Light Green = Pretty good day: Dessert, iPad or phone time before bath, no magnet

Yellow = Okay Day: Dessert, no iPad or phone

Orange = Needs Improvement Day: No Dessert, No electronics

Red = Very bad, No good, Horrible day: Straight to bed after dinner, no dessert, no bath, no book, Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (a little Monopoly humor.. lol).

We have only ever had a Red day once, and rarely orange.  Every child tests the limits sometimes.

How do they move up and down the chart?

  When the boys get time-out, they move down from one color to the next.  On most days they stay in the green (dark or light).  I have on occasion, moved a clothespin back up a space.  This only happens for exceptional unsolicited behavior or actions.  For example I once caught Ace cleaning the playroom and getting Bear to help.  I didn't ask him to.  He was truly just being a good kid.  On the other hand there have been times he is in yellow, and will say "mommy, look, I just picked up my Legos.  Can you move me back up?"  Nope, doesn't work like that.  

I like this system because it allows me to have a concrete reference for their behavior.  My husband always asks how the boys were when he gets home from work.  Sometimes, by that time I am so tired, and brain fried, I don't remember the morning tantrum.  Simply seeing that someone's clothespin is in light green helps me to remember.  It's also perfect for small children, as it is a visual representation of their behavior.  

We've been using this system for about a year and it works for us.  What discipline systems (if any) do you use in your home?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Burlap Banner Tutorial

Hey there!!

Recently I took you guys on a little tour of my cheaply inexpensively decorated fall home.  One of the stops was my fall mantel.  It really makes me happy every time I walk in our family room.  Even when the pumpkins I so artfully set up are scattered all over the floor.  Can you tell I live with little people?

The banner that I added was super easy to make.  All I needed was a good movie, and what better movie to get me in the fall/Halloween mood than Hocus Pocus?!? Love Love Love that movie!!!

This was way easy to make.  So it hardly needs a tutorial, but I'll show you the steps I took to make mine anyway.

You'll need:
1 Burlap.  I bought 2 yards at Walmart.  1yd is enough, but I have plans for my leftover.

2. Some pretty ribbon to hold your pennants together.

3. Stop Fraying (I'm pretty sure glue would work too)

Things I already had on hand: Card stock, Marker for tracing, acrylic paint, hot glue gun

I started by printing my word.  One letter per page on card stock.  Sorry, I can not for the life of me remember the size, but I used Century Schoolbook for the font.

Next, I created a card stock template for tracing pennants.  Mine was 8 inches across the top and 12 inches down each slanted side.  I had to play around with sizing to be sure my letters fit.  Next I traced a pennant for each letter.  I chose autumn because I feel like fall wouldn't have been long enough for the size of my mantel.

Once the pennants were all traced, I cut each one out.  Be ready for some serious sweeping and vacuuming, as there will be strands and burlap particles all over.

Then, I immediately applied this Stop Fraying solution.   I used this entire bottle.

TIP: I used a paint brush to help spread it along the edges.

While I waited for the Stop Fraying to dry I cut out each of my letters.  I wish I had one of those awesome Silhouette cutting machines, but I don't.  So very carefully I cut out each letter, be very sure to keep the surrounding paper in tact.  I laid my letters out on my pennants one last time to ensure they all fit nicely.

I used double sided tape to hold my letter templates down while I sponged on my brown acrylic paint.

Mostly I only had to do one coat, but there were a few I went back over.

Once they were all painted,  I lined them up.  I left about a fingertip's worth of space between each one.  

Last I used my hot glue gun to glue on a pretty crocheted ribbon I picked up from Hobby Lobby.

I have since fixed my rose, that appears to be unraveling. 
After I had hung my banner I decided it needed a little something, so I made cute little ribbon roses.  I hot glued them on, then added a small brown pearl accent to the tips of each pennant.  I had those in my stash.

I finished a little before the movie went off, but missed the ending due to the fact I was staring blissfully at my new banner.  Sigh... I'm in love.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cheap Fall Home Decorations

Hey all!! 

October is well under way and I am loving the crisp fall air and beautiful colors.  I have not always been a fan of the fall.  I typically only saw it as the end of summer, that glorious season in which I was off work and basically played at the pool or beach.  However, as I have grown, so has my love for all seasons, including the fall.

As a child I loved dressing up for Halloween, but as a young adult, the holiday lost it's appeal.  Now, this mother of three, loves it all over again.  I can't wait to dress my kiddos up, take 65,000 pictures, and go Trick or Treating!! This will be the first year I get to be creative during Halloween.  Ace wants to be a Spy, not the trench coat and sunglasses kind, a secret agent spy with cool gadgets.  He's kind of obsessed with SpyKids.  I've got some great ideas up my sleeve for him!  Bear keeps saying he wants to be a pumpkin.  If he gets his way, it will be his 4th... yes 4th year as a pumpkin.  Haven't decided on a costume for CJ yet, traditionally I've dressed the youngest in the pumpkin costume we have, but that may not work out this year.

Thanksgiving is another fall holiday I have a new found love for.  As a foodie, it has always been dear to my heart (especially while in college).  I have so many things to be thankful for and I love a holiday that celebrates all of those things.  This year will be extra special because my little turkey (CJ) will be turning 1 very close to Thanksgiving this year.  We brought him home from the hospital last Thanksgiving.   I've decided to host a huge Thanksgiving this year so our family can all give thanks and celebrate my baby's first year together.

In years past, I wasn't a huge seasonal decorator.  When the Christmas holidays rolled around my husband and I would go all out, 13ft tree and all, but the fall was typically passed over with the exception a Jack-O-Lantern on the front porch.  Last year I began collecting and making fall decorations for my home.

Today, I want to share some of the things I've made and collected.  Hopefully in the next week I can do a tutorial or at least point you in the direction of some really good ones.

These little scarecrows welcome guest at the front door.  This is one of the few items I've had for a few years.  It's seen better days, so I spruced it up with some Dollar Tree glitter accents.

I added simple little metal pumpkins on this table.  I bought them for $3.99 at the supermarket.  I have yet to add little tea lights.

I've been in love with burlap banners since I've seen them popping up all over the blogosphere.  Of course I had to make one.  UPDATE!! Here's my Tutorial!!

A closer look.  I love this, especially since it was pretty simple and inexpensive to make.

I added mini pumpkins to a cylinder vase I already had, and topped my candle sticks with  dressed up Dollar Tree pumpkins.

I made these last year (or was it the year before last?).  Quite simple, I painted them the same color as my family room walls, applied a crackle medium, then topped with white paint.  The jewel and ribbon came this year.  I thought they needed a bit of bling.

Moving on to the kitchen, I made and hung a new burlap wreath on my pantry door.  All my searches for burlap banner tutorials lead me to burlap wreath tutorials and I couldn't pass this up.  They were both so easy and like I said before, cheap.

I found these happy little guys at Walmart for $1.99.  I love them, of course I had to get three!! I added them to one of my kitchen windows.

I added 3 little pumpkins to my window by the sink.  They make me happy.

I put together a small platter of candles (which I already had), small pumpkins, and foe leaves for the kitchen table.  At some point I know I will be making a fall flower arrangement, but for now this will do.

I made a similar platter in my dinning room.  I bought those pumpkins last year from Hobby Lobby at %50 off towards the end of the fall season.  At the end of this fall season I will be going back to shop for cheap decorations again.

I had to add these pictures of the two Softsoap dispensers I bought.  I added one to the kitchen sink and one in our downstairs powder room.  When Ace first saw the Jack-O-Lantern, I was promptly given the best mom ever award.  I gladly accepted of course.  I love this age when it truly is the little things that make them so happy.