Move: Visit Your Local Children's Museum

Children learn through play. So, I say, bring on the fun! 

Our local Children's Museum is wonderful...and I bet yours is too! This website will help you find a kid-friendly museum near you. Check it out...they're everywhere!

Here's a sampling of what we did at ours yesterday:

We made very colorful paper...

created a purple silk screened T-Rex...

built a box with some "real" tools...

learned about levees and dams...

and worked on some (very fun) leaky pipes. 

Learning through play...kid-tested, mother approved!

Made You Laugh: Mom Quiz

You Know You're a Mom if You've Ever...
MomSense Magazine 8/10
1. Have you ever spit on a Kleenex to wipe another person's face?

2. Have you ever excused yourself to "go potty"?

3. Have you ever danced and/or sung in celebration of someone else's potty success?

4. Have you ever carried on a conversation with an imaginary playmate?

5. Do you pack for a trip to the grocery store like you're preparing to climb Mount Everest?

6. Do you possess extensive knowledge of another person's bodily functions?

7. Have you ever performed an extraction of a piece of cereal from an ear/nostril?

8. Have you ever developed a weight loss plan that included avoiding eating food from your kids' plates?

9. Have you ever looked at your legs halfway through the day and realized you've only shaved one of them?

10. Have you ever gone to bed with one person, and woken up with three?

11. Do you remember the last time you went to the bathroom without an audience?

So...what was your score?

Munch: Molasses Spice Cookies

These are a yummy fall favorite in our family. The recipe is easy to follow, and there are several steps that are very kid-friendly. Landon and I just made a large batch of these tasty treats, and then tromped together through the fallen leaves to our neighbors' houses to deliver warm platefuls straight from the oven. Mmmm...we may need to make some more!

Ingredients (for 3 dozen cookies):
1 box spice cake mix
1 tsp soda
2/3 cup shortening
1 tsp ginger
2 eggs
3 Tbsp molasses

  1. Mix cake mix, soda, and ginger. 
  2. Stir in eggs, shortening, and molasses. 
  3. Beat til smooth (batter will be VERY thick). 
  4. Cover and chill 1 hour before baking. 
  5. Shape into balls...little hands are great for this! 
  6. Dip top of each ball into sugar. This is Landon's favorite part. 
  7. Place 2" apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cookies flatten quite a bit during baking.
  8. Bake at 375' for 8 minutes. 
  9. Let cool. Share with your little kitchen assistant!

Make: Fall Placemats and Suncatchers

I love decorating, and I adore spending time with my sweet little boy, so anytime those two JOYS can be combined, I am one happy homemaking mama!

This pretty Fall decoration is very easy, very affordable (which of course, also makes for a happy husband!), very festive, and, most importantly very fun to do with your little ones. 

Step 1: Go on a leaf hunt with your kiddos. Encourage them to find reds, yellows, and oranges. Pause to admire their beautiful findings (they'll want you to look at each one), and use the opportunity to teach them about how we can see God's hand in His creation. Landon decided that God must really like orange, because we happen to have a lot of that particular color on our trees right now. 

Step 2: Cut two similar-sized pieces of Con-Tact paper (about $4/roll).

Step 3: Peel the backing off one sheet of paper, and lay it sticky-side up. Show your child how to apply the leaves and fall flowers face down onto the paper. 

Step 4: This is the trickiest part. Peel the backing off the second sheet of Con-Tact paper, and carefully line it up (sticky side down this time) with one of the edges of the decorated paper. Then, using both hands, adhere the two papers together by slowly pushing the top paper down in a back-and-forth smoothing motion. Once the two sheets are one, smooth out all air bubbles. Sorry for the blurry picture...since my hands were busy for this shot, I had to rely on a four-year-old photographer.

Step 5: To Create Placemats-  Personal recommendation: Placemats go very well initially enjoyed over a nice cup of "warm" apple cider. Personal warning: Don't refer to the apple cider as "hot," or you will be enjoying the placemats for much longer than you intended, while you wait for the cider to cool down...even if it wasn't actually that "hot" to begin with.

Step 6: To Create Sun Catcher- Follow steps 1-4. Then, hole punch the two top corners. Decide where you want the artwork to hang, and tie the appropriate length of fishing line from one corner to the other. 

Step 7: Hang the sun-catcher from your window. These are beautiful on a nice fall day, and your kids will be so proud to see that you've hung their artwork for all to see and enjoy throughout the season. 

Make: My Very Own Dry Erase Board

I know. It's kind-of a strange picture. BUT it's a really fun tool-turned-toy. Stick with me. 

Several days ago I was digging through some of my old teacher boxes, and came across my full classroom set of personal dry erase boards. I had forgotten about them, but remembered in an instant how much my students had enjoyed them over the years! Sure, we used them for solving math problems and practicing spelling words, but each child had a board of their very own, and was allowed to "play" on it in their free time. They loved them...and they were ten and eleven years old! 

That afternoon I pulled a couple of boards out for Landon and I's Special Time, and sure enough, he was captivated too! He actually entertained himself with it while I was making dinner that night...nice little added bonus there!

To make your "Very Own Dry Erase Board":

1. Buy a panel of Shower Board from your local hardware store (such as Home Depot). It should cost you less than $10. Have an employee cut it for you...12"x12" squares work well for personal use. You will be able to get quite a few pieces out of one panel...probably enough for each of your children to have their own boards, and a large one for you to use somewhere fun in your home (be own funmom, Bev, hung a huge piece of Shower Board on one of our playrooom walls when I was a kid...we LOVED it!). 

2. Find a fun sock (my moose ones are legendary in our family) to use as a "handy" eraser and as practical storage for the markers.

3. Let the creativity begin. I bet you'll be amazed how long this keeps your kiddos entertained...and how many fun uses they find for their Very Own Dry Erase Board. 

Move: Apple Picking

Happy First Day of Autumn! 

One of our favorite ways to celebrate the start of this season is to go... APPLE PICKING!

Apple Picking is fun and easy, even for toddlers, because there are usually low fruit-bearing branches, and the apples come off very easily. Gathering a bag or a "bushel" can be done in a fairly short amount of time...which is also a good thing when little ones (and little attention spans) are involved! Apples can also be used for SO many kid-friendly crafts and recipes. Stay tuned for a few of those in the coming weeks! I have some fun ones up my sleeve! :)

This year I also taught Landon this song to sing while we picked: 

I love you a bushel and peck
A bushel and peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and I'm talking in my sleep
About you, about you

To find an apple orchard near you visit

Manage: Screen Allowance

"L" with one of his Screen Allowance Coins
 Written by: Katrina from Callapidder Days

My tween has never been particularly enthralled by screens. Oh, don’t get me wrong — he watches some TV and plays a couple video games. But I’ve never had to convince him to step away from the screen. He’ll use a screen for a little while, but then head outside or pick up a book.

My four-year-old, on the other hand, would sit and stare at screens all day long if I let him. There are a few DVDs and TV shows he likes, but what he really loves to do is use the computer and play games on my iPod touch. It seems the requests are endless. “Mom, can I use the computer? Can I use your iPod? Can I watch a DVD?”

For a long time, I did my best to monitor and restrict his screen usage on my own. I’d glance at the clock and estimate how long he’d been staring at the computer. I’d announce “Screen Breaks.” I’d shoo him outside. And he would listen, but it was often a struggle. There was whining, there was begging, and there was scowling.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try something new: Screen Allowance. Here’s how it works.

Every day, I give my preschooler some coins (we have some large, plastic, gold “treasure” coins that work perfectly). Throughout the day, whenever he wants to use a screen — of any kind — he has to turn in a coin. When he does, I set the timer and he can use the screen of his choice until the timer beeps.

At that point, he can turn in another coin to continue playing, or he can (and often does) choose to do something else for a while.

Usually, the coins are worth 30 minutes each. However, I’ve been known to add a little extra time if he’s doing something I consider educational or creative, as opposed to staring blankly at a TV show.

When the coins for that day are gone, that’s it. No more screen time that day.

We definitely experienced an adjustment period. It took a while for my son to realize that when he used up all the coins, he was done with screens. No more coins magically appeared for his use.

But now that we’ve been using Screen Allowance for a few weeks, he’s getting the hang of it. When he sees that there is only one coin left, he thinks twice about using it right away, realizing that it might be best to save it for later.

Some advantages to the Screen Allowance approach:
  • It puts more of the decision-making in the child’s hands. For the most part, he can decide when he wants to use the coins, and how quickly he wants to use them. He’s learning to evaluate his options and choose which activity he wants to do now and what he wants to save for later.
  • It provides natural breaking points. When the beeper goes off, my son is often ready to switch to a different activity. Rather than having me announce a screen break and dealing with the ensuing drama, he listens for the beeper. When it goes off, it feels natural to do something else for a while — Legos, bike-riding, and reading are his usual picks.
  • It teaches him the concept of budgeting. It didn’t take my son long to realize that if he used all his coins before lunch, he was really out of luck that evening when he wanted to play a game on my iPod. Now, if he’s used a couple coins in the morning, we talk about how it would be a good idea to save some for the afternoon or evening. More often than not, he quickly agrees.
  • Mom’s not the bad guy! Instead of me putting an end to screen time, our handy kitchen timer does the dirty work for me. While we feel strongly that the parents are the authority in the home, and that kids need to obey, we also see the value in avoiding battles by implementing systems. Just like he starts getting ready for bed when the clock says 7:15, he puts aside screens when the beeper goes off.
  • It’s flexible.You can modify the Screen Allowance system to work for you. Coins (or whatever “currency” you choose to use) can be worth whatever amount of time you deem appropriate, and you can distribute as many coins as you want, up to the limit that you, as a parent, have determined makes sense for your child.
We don’t use the system perfectly. Earlier this week, I was sick and while I spent the entire morning on the couch with my eyes closed, my son went over his screen allowance for the day. (As I’m sure you can imagine, he didn’t complain one bit about that!) But these things happen, and we just got back on track the next day.

I know “screen time” can become an even bigger issue as kids get older. By having a system in place now, we will be ready to modify it as needed to keep battles to a minimum and to help our son continue to make wise decisions about using the computer, TV, and video games as he grows.

Munch: Les' Get Well Soon Soup

Cold/Flu/Just-Feel-Yucky Season has officially hit our family. Landon was so sad today to miss out on two different family and friend get-togethers due to a 100.4 temperature. I was sad too...staying home meant that I had to figure out dinner! 

I am not a recipe follower. Generally speaking, I don't really like following steps, reading instructions, or having to stick to set perimeters. But, I love to create (surprise, surprise). So, I'm happiest when I'm "inventing" my own recipes. Today seemed like a great day for something like a...Get Well Soon Soup. With a sick kiddo, there was no time for a trip to the store, so I just used things that I found in the pantry and fridge.

While I'm wholeheartedly hoping that your family feels great throughout this season, I promise this soup will hit the spot if (oh, let's face it...when) they do come down with a case of Just-Feel-Yucky. My little patient happily gobbled up three bowls!

Baby Carrots (cut into pieces)
Canned Chicken (shredded)
1 Can: Cream of Chicken Soup  
1-2 Cups of Water 
Celery (cut into pieces)
Zucchini (cut into pieces)
3 T of Basil Pesto

Make pastina. Add everything else to the pot. Heat. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Serve with toast and applesauce. 

Move: Back Porch Camping

Yesterday was a cool, rainy, fall day here in Pittsburgh. Rather than be stuck inside (and have the day drag on and on and on...) I decided to surprise Landon with an extra special afternoon. I kept him distracted while I set everything up, gave him a bag of "gear" to put on, and then asked him to come meet me on the back porch. 

THIS is the kind of "Special Time" reaction that I live for! He was so excited to see a mock campsite right outside our backdoor!

We "roasted" marshmallows...

over our toasty little fire....

Made "River Rock" Picture Frames (dried beans and tacky glue)...

which turned out great...

Listened to crickets chirping in the middle of the day...

And snuggled in a very tiny pop-up tent to read some "camping" stories together.

Rain, rain, go away...or stay. 

Manage: Taming the Family Calendar and a GIVEAWAY

 Winner is Comment #7 ( KELLI
By: Bev

It wasn’t that long ago we had a houseful of kids, and a full calendar to match. Three kids, busy with all sorts of activities, was a challenge to keep track of.

I bought a large, refrigerator-style calendar, skipping the type that had a nice picture and instead going for one with large blocks. It was our only calendar, and I was the only one allowed to write on it.

Each family member was assigned a color. Dad was green (he brought home the paycheck), I was red (the heart of the home), daughter #1 was pink, daughter #2 was purple, and our son was blue. I bought highlighters in those colors, and put them in a magnet-style basket that was attached to the fridge, next to the calendar. Any activity – a sports practice, cheerleading practice, football game, orthodontist appointment, sleepover, birthday party, was written down on the calendar in non-smearing ink. Then I ran a streak that matched the family member whose appointment it was over it. 

A white marker board might work well if you can post it high enough that little fingers won't smear / erase it.  I could easily see, even from across the kitchen, if anyone needed to be anywhere at a specific time.

Simple, inexpensive – who doesn’t love that? - and it worked for over twenty years. 
It might tame your calendar too.

Wanna win a free set of Sharpie Highlighters to start taming your own calendar? Enter by leaving a comment below. Winner announced Saturday morning. 

Munch: Purple Cow

A tasty (and easy!) treat to cool off the last, lingering, hot days of summer.

                 1/2 Cup:    Thawed Grape Juice Concentrate (or Grape Soda)
                  2 Cups:     Vanilla Ice Cream
                  1 Cup:       Milk 
                  2 Cups:      Ice

My little boy loves much for the fun name as for the yummy taste! Blend ingredients together and enjoy! 

Make: "Box" Car Train

No craft supplies on hand? No problem! For some spontaneous fun, help your little one make a box car train. Ours was free, and only took a few minutes to assemble. 

toilet paper roll
scissors or exacto knife
hole punch

1. Find several boxes of similar size. 

2. Pick two boxes to be the engine (make sure one fits inside the other). Trace and cut out a hole for a smokestack (toilet paper roll).  

3. Add the smokestack, and push one box inside the other. 

4. Cut off the "windshield" (so that a conductor can fit in there), and then fold and tape the flap to the front of the engine. 

5. Use a hole punch and string to tie the boxes to each other. 

6. Decorate (we used crayons and markers) and fill with fun! 

Choo Choo! 

Munch: Party for Pooch!

Well, the infamous Smokey (click here to find out why...) turned one on Thursday. So...

Landon and I made him a little cake. We used this recipe. It's puppy (and people) friendly. 

We invited over a few sweet neighbor kids, sang "Happy Birthday, Dear Smokey," and (pretended) to blow out the rawhide that we used in place of a candle.

We, of course, gave the Birthday Boy the first piece. He loved it! 

And, though eating it LIKE Smokey certainly wasn't a requirement of the partygoers, little Makaylee just couldn't help herself! :)

Manage: A Leash for Lovey

It's bedtime. 
Do you know where your child's lovey is?

Anyone who has suffered from Missing Lovey Syndrome will wholeheartedly testify that it is a very serious condition. At it's onset, it generally causes great distress, much panic, and quite a bit of crying (this can be contagious...beware, Mom). These symptoms are usually followed by hours of searching, sleepless nights, and therefore, very often, unsightly dark under-eye circles. Never fear though! There is a "vaccine" to prevent this awful ailment....a Lovey Leash!! The one pictured above was actually intended for child/mom use (I believe from Babies-R-Us); we just trimmed it to make it suitable for lovey/lover purposes. 

Motivate: Fun Dad September '10

We here at thought that it would be, to recognize one SUPER fun dad each month. Our September winner of this (soon-to-be, we're sure of it...) prestigious award, and a
  $10 Sears gift card is....

DAVE CHRIST from Pennsylvania!!

Dave blew up a whopping 480 balloons for his daughter, Maddy's fourth birthday. They filled the hallway and living room, so that when little Maddy left her bedroom on that oh so special morning she was greeted with a sea of color and fun!

Got a Fun Dad in your family? 
Please send your story and pictures to

Make: Fall Flyers

My absolute favorite place to decorate in my house is above my kitchen sink. There's something about adding a punch of personality where it's least expected that appeals to me, and it's a great place to show off some of my little guy's artwork. Here's how I decorate it for FALL:

1. Draw Fall shapes (such as leaves, apples, or pumpkins) on four pieces of construction paper. Don't worry..."abstract" will work for this project! Make sure to leave a couple extra inches at the top of each one for hanging purposes. 

2. Outline each shape with a thin line of glue. 

3. Allow your kids to "hide the glue line" with multi-colored dried beans and/or corn kernels. If you have several kids, perhaps each one can do a flyer. Remember to join in the fun yourself though too, and create right along with your kids! Have each artist sign and date their work.

4. Once dry, hang the Fall Flyers up by folding the top few inches over a strung line. You may want to tape the folded flap to the back of the artwork to secure it. 

This keepsake will be a great conversation piece with guests, a reminder of warm memories, an endearing decoration for years to come, and a great show-and-tell opportunity for proud little ones

Motivate: Lunches PACKED with Love

Ten Ways to Send a Little Lunchtime Love:

1. Include a short love note or written pep talk. 

2. Pack a present...Wrap up a fun set of pencils or erasers. Don't forget squiggly ribbon!

3. Substitute traditional (jelly) for terrific (Fluff, Nutella, or honey).

4. Include a homemade ticket for an after school activity the two of you can do together (such as a trip to the local bowling alley). 

5. Toss in an extra dollar for ice cream.  

6. Cut sandwiches into fun shapes (hearts, dinosaurs, stars, happy faces, etc). 

7. Pack an extra special sweet treat.

8. Pack an extra special sweet treat for all of your kid's lunchtime friends. 

9. Tuck a funny comic strip inside the napkin.

10. Tape the note, "Look to your right," inside your kiddo's empty lunchbox. Then, be standing across the cafeteria with a McDonald's bag in your hands. 

11. You're turn! Please share!

Make: Thank You Notes

Thank you notes. Three little words that can make even the most grateful groan. I seem to remember deeply dreading the 200 or so that loomed over me while on my honeymoon. Even more telling, I recall explaining to my mom very matter-of-factly that, "Emily Post says you don't have to send one if you thank the person face-to-face," right before my largest baby shower. Yikes! I ended up writing a thank you card to each person anyway...just in case someone hadn't read that particular page of Post's renowned book on proper etiquette. 

Last year, after Landon's third birthday, I decided to change the game plan, at least temporarily, for my kiddo. Instead of writing, why not make? (This revelation was very convenient, considering the fact that my preschooler couldn't write, and the duty would have fallen on a certain somebody else.) In seriousness though, while I'm teaching him how to show appreciation, it seemed logical for him to actually have a grateful heart, while thanking others for the gifts they had given him. It made sense to me. So, we packed a bucket full of some of his most interesting arts and crafts supplies, grabbed a large picnic blanket, and found a shady spot in our yard to begin creating.  I explained to him that he was going to get to make a beautiful picture to thank each of the sweet people who had given him his fun, new toys that he already loved so much. He was actually excited to get started! While he created we talked about specific people that had attended the party...what they had given them...what part of the "thank you note" they would like the best...why the ants seemed to really like his scented markers... Well, we tried to stay on topic. :)

During naptime that afternoon I took a picture of Landon's creation, and uploaded it to I choose the "postcard" option, typed a sweet, general thank you message in Landon's "voice," added our return address, and clicked purchase. Four days later, I added address labels and a stamp to each one. They were affordable, relatively handmade, personal, but practical, extremely original, very well received, and (add drumroll here)...FUN to make!  

Landon turned four on Saturday. 
Guess what we're doing for Special Time tomorrow? 
Hope it's good weather...we've got a date with a picnic blanket and scented markers! :)


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