Activities, DIY, featured, Parenting, Uncategorized

The Simple Things

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Gardening

I can’t recommend gardening enough. It is therapeutic for the soul, and a GREAT learning tool for kids. Each spring, Neyland helps me clean out the plant skeletons from our small raised garden out behind our pool house. She plays in the dirt, digs, sifts, and creates a huge mess. More importantly, she has a blast. Last year she was too small to really distinguish between weeds and the plants we were growing, but this year, she is doing a great job helping me keep the weeds pulled. Gardening is such a great illustration for kids to show them what hard work and patience can bring! We live in a society where everything is instant. We want what we want NOW. Instant gratification is the name of the game. While this is very convenient, is this all we want to teach our kiddos? I want to remind mine that good things take time, effort, and a lot of patience. Working to grow food helps them see value in what you buy at the store. It’s so important for them to know where food comes from.

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We start seeds off in the spring in old cardboard egg containers and toilet paper rolls. She waters them carefully until they are big enough to be transplanted into the garden. This part can also be a fun biology lesson. It’s a great time to try the “place a Lima bean & a moist paper towel in a ziplock bag and watch it grow” experiment.

In addition to growing seedlings, we also recycle a lot of produce when we can. I usually purchase at least a few boxes of hydroponically grown artisan lettuces and some romaine to use in cooking. As I use the lettuce, I simply save the stem, cut the tip to freshen it’s ability to take up water, and place them in a shallow dish of water in the window until roots sprout.  It begins growing and producing more lettuce remarkably fast. I personally use the lettuce so much and so quickly that I leave the constantly growing batch right in the window. Occasionally I have transplanted them into the garden once the roots were growing. I’ve done the same with scallions, and other herbs. My only issue is that my cats want to graze on the greens if I keep them on the counter for very long!

We get to go out and check the garden daily. This is something she always looks forward too. She is super independent and always wants to water by herself. She gets to watch the plants grow and change, and finally to harvest what they produce. It’s also a GREAT way to get her to try some veggies that she might not sample otherwise. Growing it yourself always makes her more excited about trying things.

We also have a special “root garden” just so that Neyland can watch the veggies grow in the soil. We made our own, but there are a lot of commercially available ones on the market these days. The basic idea is similar to an ant farm. Create a thin garden, using plexiglass for the sides, so that curious eyes can watch all the growing action. (See below) We planted radishes, carrots, and scallions in it this year!

What are your favorite gardening projects to do with your kids?

Check out our harvest! It’s not a lot, but plenty for the two of us & loads of fun & memories!

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Activities, DIY, Parenting

Un “Four” gettable Birthday

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Food table layout. I scored the popcorn bags from the dollar tree, found the cardboard cotton candy holders at party city, I cut out her name on a black foam board from Dollar tree and inserted Christmas lights at measured intervals to make the sign.

 

How do I have a FOUR YEAR OLD?!?!

Seriously….how did this happen? Needless to say, like other year, I’m left wondering where time has gone and HOW my little baby got so big so fast. I always enjoy making a fun project out of her birthday parties. I start planning them months in advance….literally. This step is vital if you intend on not losing your mind, and getting supplies on a budget.

So how do you throw your kid an amazing un “four” gettable party?

Step 1: Pick a theme.

I always look at things that she is interested in. I try to stay away from “store bought” themed supplies and get CREATIVE. It’s more exciting for everyone. This year there was no question. She has been completely OBSESSED with “The Greatest Showman.” If you haven’t seen this movie, seriously make a point to do so. It is one of the best movies I have seen in years. Not trying to drop and spoilers, but it is a musical about the beginnings of the circus. So bright colors, amazing music, cool characters…..easy to see why my child is obsessed.

Step 2: Do some research & plan

Scout around online and on Pinterest for some basic ideas. I found some great decor and game ideas that I was able to modify and expand upon to meet my needs. Decide what is most important, and focus on those details. I made lists of what food I planned to serve, what games/activities I intended to have, what big decor items I really wanted, and what kind of party favors I wanted to have. I further broke each list down into items that I already had and that could be used vs. what I needed to purchase. Having a list of items to be “on the lookout for” a few months in advance can be a BIG money saver. I kept a list in my purse and was able to score a huge stuffed lion at a thrift store, a huge stuffed giraffe from a family friend, and a whole roll of tickets to give out for games from a random box at a yard sale. Make a basic outline of how you want the party to go. Be fluid with it and don’t set expectations too high. When will everyone play games? When will kids eat? When is the swimming? etc

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Photo Booth Area for Guests. I used $0.97 plastic table cloths for all the black backdrops and red/white “circus tent” decor. The stuffed lion was a thrift store purchase. The giraffe was borrowed from a friend. The Weight bar prop was a re-purposed wrapping paper roll painted black with 2 black balloons on the end.

3. Work & store

I spread the prep work out over a long period of time when I plan parties. Signs and other custom decor pieces that need painting can easily be worked on here and there when time allows. They really add a lot of visual impact to a party. spreading things out also allows you to spread out the cost of supplies over a few months. Keep a mental list of the things that need to be done the final week, the day before, and day of the party.

As long as the decor isn’t going to cause a problem, I start putting it up about a week ahead of the party. Adjustments can be made if more supplies are needed. For Neyland’s circus party it was really helpful to start putting things up early. I had been watching the weather, and there was a good possibility of storms the day of the party, which was going to make things difficult for many of the games/ signs/ decor that I had planned. I was able to plan out where things would need to go inside to accommodate unpleasant weather. Some furniture had to be moved, and a few creative adjustments helped shuffle things into a storm ready layout.

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Found a fun circus party sign available for purchase online, instead I used foam board from the dollar tree and a random old fencing plank to recreate it for my needs.

4. Delegate

When it gets down to the final few days of the party, it is important to delegate tasks that you simply can’t get done. Being a single Mom certainly complicates things in this department. Tasks like mowing and weed eating the lawn can be downright impossible for a single Mama with so much bad weather and party work going on. Thankfully my parents were kind enough to pitch in and help get yard work completed while i dealt with last minute party planning. Ask a family member to go get the ice to keep drinks cool. Ask a photo happy friend to grab some shots of the party while it’s going on, because you’ll likely be too busy to remember to do so. I am fortunate enough to have a co-worker who was kind enough to do so.

5. Party and Enjoy!

The cake is done, food laid out, kids starting to arrive. Keep to your general outline/timeline of the party you prepared. Be prepared to change and adapt that list as needed. For example: I planned to have the kids Eat first, and play games while their tummies settled, Swim for an hour or so, and then do cake, presents, and collect prizes. Due to the weather, that outline was forced to be shuffled around. When everyone arrived, the clouds parted and radar indicated that we would be storm free for an hour or two. To make sure everyone got pool time, swimming had to come first. A small price to pay for some really happy kiddos that had a great time. Be prepared to handle any food that needs to be cooked or heated, be sure to announce when food is being served, games are being played, and presents are being opened. Make sure to take time to enjoy and appreciate all the hard work you put into the party. It’s ok for Mamas to have fun too!

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The Prize Wall. Rather than making party favor bags, I thought I would let the kids pick their own favors using the tickets they won playing games. Dollar tree prizes put in ziplocks and labeled made the kids so much more excited!
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Make sure you utilize what you have. I used a random chair from Neyland’s craft table to create height and depth on the food table. It doesn’t matter what you use, just make it look like it belongs there!
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My one decor item that did get rained out was a popcorn balloon arch I had planned. I saved some big boxes from work and wrapped them in red/white paper to make them look like big popcorn boxes. I intended to us a long piece of flexible trim to make the arch and attach the balloons, but having it indoors meant there would be no arch, so i just placed the balloons inside the boxes.
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Neyland’s cake. I made it. This is the one area I might recommend hiring out. This cake took me quite some time to put together and the fondant was a pretty big headache to work with. Unless you have experience, maybe leave this to a professional.