Sunday, April 30, 2017

Moments Matter: Photo Prompts for Moms

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A few years back, I shared a new Moments Matter monthly photo challenge.  The concept of the photo challenge is to focus on the small details of our days and to connect with our loved ones in the midst of our hectic lives.  Because it's in these little moments that life happens, love is shared, and memories are made.  With Mother's Day coming up, I've decided to revisit this challenge as a gift to myself.  I thought I'd share it with you all in case you want to join in.  As moms, sometimes we are rarely in pictures, I encourage you to be in the picture as much as possible.
 
There are several ways you can join me in this project:
  • Use the photo prompts to capture moments in your day that fit them.  Join me on Instagram and share them or keep them for just you and your family to enjoy.
  • Use the topics to hone your photography skills.
  • You can also use the prompts as inspiration for activities for you to do with your children. 
  • If you can’t participate every day, no worries.  Just post when the prompts speak to you and relate to the moments in your day.
  • Share whatever photos you like with the tag #momentsmatter to share the special moments in your day.
  Here are the photo prompts for this month:

 

Don't forget to use the hashtag #momentsmatter when you share!  See you on Instagram!
 
 
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Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.




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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When a Mommy Friendship Ends

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I just recently lost a friend.  There was no notice of a problem.  One day things were fine, and the next, she had blocked and unfriended me on Facebook.  I couldn't deal... Couldn't process what had caused such a major step.
 
 
The feelings surrounding a friend breakup are just like those experienced in a romantic breakup. When a friendship ends, it’s so personal in nature.  Here’s a person I’ve shared my concerns as a mom, my frustrations as a wife, and my struggles as a woman with.  And she’s freaking rejected me.  As naked and vulnerable as I could possibly be, I was with her through whatever.  Through all of her struggles, all of her crap, all of my struggles, all of my crap,  I tried to be there. This pain is real and fresh.  It gnaws at my heart as I go about my day.  Mostly because I have no answers, no reasons, no knowing what I did wrong to cause what I thought was going to be a lifelong friendship to be over.
 
I feel duped. I feel betrayed. I feel anxious about whatever I could've done that caused this fallout
 
And how do I explain all of this to an 8 yr old who wants to know why Mommy is so sad?  How do I tell him that sometimes people turn away from us and we never know the reason? 
 
The sadness over losing a friend is real and deserves to be validated.  That’s why I won't use the silly cliché “why would you want to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you?” on my son.  Because we can’t control who we feel connected to… who we perceive as a kindred spirit. 
 
Instead, I have to tell him this…
 
Everyone has a story.  Something they’re going through or have gone through.  We don’t always know what others are thinking and feeling or why they do what they do.  So all we can do is be kind and loving to them, even if their actions or words wound us. And we miss that person and their presence in our lives.  And we can pray that they’re happy with who they spend their time with and that their new friends love them just as much as we do.  And maybe things will change and they’ll want to be friends again.  Maybe not.  But at least if we end on a loving note, they’ll know that door is always open.




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Monday, April 17, 2017

How to Know if Your Teen is Ready to Drive

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Is your teen nagging you to get their learner's permit or to practice driving?  I started to feel like a mean parent when people asked her, "Are you driving yet?".  My poor girl would get red in the face and let out an embarrassed "nope" from her mouth. But we had some stipulations that she had to meet in order to get those keys.
 

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for teens, but I'm a firm believer that just because a teen turns 16, doesn't necessarily mean that they are ready to take on the responsibility of driving a motor vehicle. In order to even get her learner's permit, my seventeen year old daughter, Pip, had to:
  • have A & B grades
  • have $500 saved {our deductible}
Her grades were fine and she was working her way towards saving the money.  We decided that she could take her time as I was not ready for her to drive.  But was she ready?  Which leads to the question:

How do I know my teen is ready to drive?

To get fully comfortable with her being behind the wheel, I asked myself the following questions:

Are the choices they make in high pressure situations appropriate?
Reaction time is vital in preventing automobile accidents.  Split-second decisions can help to prevent damage to property, injuries, and death.  Judging this ability can be something as simple as their reactions to a glass of spilled soda on the table.  Upon asking them to quickly go get a towel, does your teen freeze up, run to grab the towel by the sink, or go down the hall to the bathroom to get a towel out of the linen closet?
 
Do they generally follow household rules?
If your teen struggles to follow the rules of the house (i.e. no friends over when a parent isn't home, obeying curfew, etc), chances are there will be issues will following your rules while they're on the road. 
 
How do they respond to peer pressure?
A teen's response to peer pressure is an integral part of judging their readiness to operate a 3,000 ton vehicle. Their ability to stand up to peers when asked to do something that is unsafe, illegal, or against the rules could be the thing that saves their lives.
 
Do they say they're ready?
This is an easy one.  Though it is definitely more convenient for us as parents to have our teens be able to handle their own transportation to school, work, and social events, it's also imperative that your teen is ready for such a big step. Which leads to the next question...

Are they confident and comfortable behind the wheel?
There's no point in even addressing whether or not your teen should drive is they don't feel comfortable behind the wheel. They should log plenty of practice hours prior to testing to get their license. This can be scary, no doubt. But many schools offer Driver's Education classes and there are many local driving instruction schools.

Do they obey traffic laws and family rules for driving?
Wear your seatbelt. Don't mess with your phone while the car is in drive. Follow the speed limit. Stay two car lengths behind bikers.  There are so many rules, both written and unwritten that drivers should follow.  Make sure that your teen is fully cognizant of your expectations for them. Some families even opt to create teen driving contracts.
 
Ultimately, there's not finite list to be crossed off in knowing whether or not your teen is ready to start driving. Using the concepts in the above list and your own knowledge of what your teen is capable of, you have to make the decision based on what's best for your family.





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Monday, April 10, 2017

Picture Book Scavenger Hunt

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We love visiting our local library. They have a vast selection of books and some really amazing storytimes and activity programs. And with this week being National Library Week, I thought I'd share this free printable picture book scavenger hunt so you and your littles can explore what your library has to offer.

I formatted this printable so that it is appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, or grade-schoolers. The easily identifiable pictures allow toddlers and preschoolers to "read" the pictures, interpret them as they will, and then find books. Even the youngest of readers can scribble out the picture after they find a corresponding book.
 
 
Click the link below to download 

I hope that this printable lets you and your kiddos or students explore and find new, exciting books at your local library!




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Sunday, April 9, 2017

25 Egg Decorating Ideas for Kids

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We're prepping for Easter and I realized that I think I've only dyed Easter eggs once with Bear in all his 8 Easters. And have never done it with Sunny. So I resolved myself that this year we would do it.  See, I'm really bad about traditions. I'm a self-admitted failure at being a Pinterest parent. I'm not sure if anyone can relate but, I have the best intentions... And then, before I know it, the holiday or occasion has arrived and I'm ill-prepared.


So this year, I'm trying to be better prepared.  To do that, I pulled some fun ideas for Easter egg decorating for us to try. Below you can see some of the options I'm considering.
 

Use crayon shavings to create unique designs.
Break out the shaving cream and create some unique designs.
Grab some silk ties from the thrift store and use this technique to create amazing designs.
Love scratch art? Create your own on Easter eggs with this tutorial.
Chalkboards never go out of style, which is why I love these eggs!



Go intergalactic and create these fun Star Wars Easter Eggs.
Explore other cultures and decorate Ukranian style eggs.
Grab some washi tape and create cute wrapped eggs.
Pair egg dying with a science activity using this fun tutorial
I had no clue you could dye eggs with rice until I saw this post.


 
Use tissue paper to create color patterns on eggs.
Go trendy and paint emojis on yellow eggs.
Tie-dye Easter eggs like these are so fun and gorgeous to look at!
Follow this tutorial to use rubbing alcohol and sharpies to create one of a kind designs.
I think both my kids would love to create these Minion Easter eggs.



If you don't want to use the stinky vinegar mixture, check out this koolaid dye tutorial.
Little gamers might have fun creating their own Mario inspired eggs.
Check out this tutorial to create these amazing marbled eggs.
Use googly eyes to make these heroes in an eggshell. Turtle Power!
 Create darling designs using fingerprints like these examples.


 
Craft some yummy looking eggs using this cheeseburger tutorial.
Use this water marbeling technique to create some amazing patterned eggs.
Get whimsical and create fun characters with your eggs.
These galactic eggs are out of this world and would be so fun to make.
There's nothing to be mad at with these cute Angry Birds Easter eggs.
 

How do you decorate Easter eggs? Do you go the traditional route? Or do something different? Tell me how you decorate them in the comments.



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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Helping Your Teen with College Prep

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When my daughter got her pre-ACT scores back in the mail a few years ago, she was disappointed. Her scores were just a tad below the cut off scores for several of the colleges she had been considering.  This was a shocker to her because her classes were surprisingly easy, so she was getting As and Bs in them. In today's day and age, it seems the race to get into a good school is even more stringent than it was when I was in college. Here are a few tips for parents to help their teens prepare to take the ACTs/SATs.
 
 
Prepping before the test
There are several national learning centers that offer ACT and SAT prep courses.  We looked into those. We also ordered an Act Prep book.  It seemed to help her get a better grasp of what would be on the test and provided several practice tests for her to take.

Make sure your teen gets a good night sleep the night before the test. Tired brains do not function the same as well-rested ones.

Feed them a healthy breakfast. Nourished brains and silent stomachs make concentrating easier.

Remind them that there are always re-takes. Anxiety can often get the best of students when they realize how much is at stake in regards to their test scores.

Give them a pep talk. If your teen starts talking negative about their abilities, remind them of the successes they've had in difficult academic situations in the past.

Chew gum during study sessions. You'll find out the answer below.

Tips for teens during the test
Answer every question. New scoring standards don't penalize for wrong answers.

Don't waste time on questions that are challenging. If they don't know the answer, skip it and come back later.  This way, they're able to possibly get correct answers on the questions easier to them instead of them remaining unanswered.

If unsure of the answer, use process of elimination to narrow down which one or two answers could be the correct one.

Before starting, students should read and re-read directions to ensure they understand them.

Look at how many questions are to be answered in the given time. This allows students to calculate how much time they should spend on each question. Time management is key.

Chew the same gum during test taking. Studies show that there are cognitive benefits to chewing gum. Also, there are many theories that flavor recognition helps with memory retention. Crazy, right?!
 
After the test
Lower than expected scores can have a sobering effect on teens. But they allow them to see where they stand in the process.  Scores reflect what areas they excel at and where work is needed.

Remind your teen that their test scores aren't who they are. Some students excel in their high school classes, but don't do as well as expected on college prep tests.  This can be an unnerving experience.
 
The Princeton Review also offers some great information for college-bound students and their families. You can find SAT info here and ACT info here.

 



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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beauty & The Beast ToysRUs Party: Build a Lumiere on March 25th

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(this post may contain affiliate links at no extra cost to you)
 
On March 25th, from 1-3 pm, select ToysRUs locations will be hosting a Beauty & The Beast Launch Party where participants can build and take home their own  LEGO Lumiere. We're planning on going because the Belle's Enchanted Castle Lego set is already on Sunny's birthday list.
 
 
 
Such a fun event for kiddos excited about Disney's new live action take on a classic fairy tale!
 
 



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Friday, March 10, 2017

Toddler Playschool: Z is for Zoo Animals {free printable}

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This is the last week of our Toddler Playschool lesson plans. Z was an easy letter as most kiddos this age LOVE the zoo! So I planned lots of fun toddler activities based on the zoo and the animals it houses.  This is our last free toddler activity printable for this alphabet series... and it's definitely an awesome one!
 
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. There will also be exploration of different themes each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides a flexible framework of activity ideas that can used in the home or classroom. Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Please see here for more info.
 
Books
The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Long Bostrom
Zoo Looking by Mem Fox
Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle
The Zoo is Closed Today by Evelyn Beilenson
 
Songs and Fingerplays
The Animal Fair (Laurie Berkner Band)
 
5 Little Gorillas
Five little gorillas jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
The zookeeper called the doctor
And the doctor said,
"No more gorillas jumping on the bed!"
(repeat until no more gorillas are left)
--Traditional, altered
 
Old McDonald had a Zoo
(sing the traditional Old McDonald, but with zoo animals)
  
Literacy
Z Page for Alphabet Book
Create a page for the alphabet book. Each page is blank except for the week's letter. Children can be provided with an open-ended activity to decorate the page of their book.  Or you can use the suggested activities to set up an activity to create the page. Once done, pages can be laminated and bound with spiral binding or rings. You can find a template for this book here.   
 
 
Click the link below to download 


 If you missed any of the other lesson plans in this series, you can find them here:
 
I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!
 



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I'm Lucky Because... St. Patrick's Day Activity for Kids {free printable}

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There's something so jovial about St. Patrick's Day.  It's a day filled with legend, whimsy, and magic. On St. Patrick's Day, the leprechauns leave a little special something for each kiddo, but I wanted to do something special for them in the days that lead up to the actual holiday.  So I created this fun printable that I can use for the kids and that they can use for each other if they want.  The wall behind our dining room table is an odd shape due to a slanted ceiling so I hang a festive garland at an angle that coincides with whatever season/holiday it is. It is in this space that I decided to display these shamrocks.

 
I printed out the "I'm lucky to love you because..." sheet and colored in the shamrocks in different shades of green for each child. That way they could easily identify which was theirs.  My plan is to put a new one up every day from the 1st of the month until St. Patrick's Day.
 
Aside from this being a great activity to promote family love and unity, I thought it could also be used in the classroom or just as a little token to give extended family and friends. So I also made alternate versions for those purposes.  (You can get them below).
 

  
Click the link below to download 
 
Click the link below to download 
  
Click the link below to download 

 



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Monday, March 6, 2017

25+ Beauty and the Beast Activities for Kids

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Is your family as excited about the new Beauty and the Beast movie coming out as ours is? I'm not gonna lie... Myself and Pip (21) might be more enthusiastic about it than the younger two are. But, in preparation for the movie and for Sunny's first cinematic experience, I thought we'd do some Beauty and the Beast preschool activities. In planning, I was able to find some amazing examples of the ideas I had in my mind.
 
 

Here are some of the things we plan to do, plus a few more for older kids.
 
Belle and The Beast
 
Make a felt/fabric princess bag inspired by Belle.
Decorate princess "mirrors" made out of cardboard with paint and plastic gems.
Create felt princess crowns. You can even glue on gems if you like!
Make Princess playdough using this sweet smelling recipe and glitter.
Visit your local library and pick out some books sure to please Belle.
Break out the paint and make some Beauty and the Beast footprint art.
Perform an act of kindness (unlike the Beast did) with your children.
Make a Belle-inspired bracelet with pony beads.
Decorate a journal (composition notebook) that Belle would write in.
 
 
The Rose

 
Use celery to stamp some enchanted roses. Maybe you could even add some red glitter to the paint.
Visit a local botanical garden and see the varieties of plants and roses present.
Explore the science of color and roses with this classic science experiment.
Cook up some tasty fun with these yummy apple tarts.
Use real or synthetic rose petals to create a rose sensory bottle or sensory bin.
Create your own enchanted rose jar with this craft tutorial.
 
 
 
The Castle
 
Make a stained glass window like the one in the Beast's castle with tissue paper.
Make a castle for the Beast out of sugar cubes.
Use Duplo Blocks to create a castle fit for a Beast.
Stamp out a castle blueprint with building blocks.
Build a castle out of homemade moon sand.
 

 
 
The Help

 
Learn how to welcome others to "Be Our Guest" by practicing proper table setting.
Let children decorate their own tea cups using this tutorial
Use your empty K-Cups to make this darling Chip craft.
Have some quiet time with these coloring pages of the help and other B&tB characters.
 Set aside some time to have a tea party.
Recycle empty paper rolls into this Lumiere candelabra craft.
Play musical chairs to the tune of "Be Our Guest".
 
I'd love to hear about any activities you've done to celebrate this new movie or your thoughts after you see it.
 




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Friday, March 3, 2017

Toddler Playschool: Y is for Yum! Food is Fun {free printable}

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For the letter Y I thought we'd explore something that most kids like: food. Food is a fun topic for kids because it's something familiar, but also presents the opportunity to explore new things. So I culled our books and found our top five favorite books on food and planned activities around them. Check out the toddler activities on food that I put together in this free lesson plan for the letter Y.
 
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. There will also be exploration of different themes each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides a flexible framework of activity ideas that can used in the home or classroom. Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Please see here for more info.

Books
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
Do Not Eat the Color Green by Lynne Rickards
 
Songs and Fingerplays
If You Mix Red and White
(If You're Happy and You Know It tune)
If you mix white and red, you get pink
If you mix white and red, you get pink
If you mix white and red, you get pink, that's what I said
If you mix white and red, you get pink
--Andie Jaye
 
I'd Eat it Anyway (Imagination Movers)
 
5 Little Peas
(Five Little Ducks tune)
Five little peas sat in a bowl
One pea said, "I'm getting cold!"
It rolled over onto a spoon.
Four little peas said, "We'll be there soon!"
(repeat until no little peas left)
--Andie Jaye
 
Literacy
Y Page for Alphabet Book
Create a page for the alphabet book. Each page is blank except for the week's letter. Children can be provided with an open-ended activity to decorate the page of their book.  Or you can use the suggested activities to set up an activity to create the page. Once done, pages can be laminated and bound with spiral binding or rings. You can find a template for this book here.  
 
 
Click the link below to download 


 If you missed any of the other lesson plans in this series, you can find them here:
 
I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!
 



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