Update!

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I’ve been an absent blogger for far too long…but I had a great excuse ūüėÄ

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So very delighted to introduce the newest addition to our family! Meet Babykins, the beautiful little girl, who has already nuzzled her way into our hearts and has 3 adoring siblings to prove it!

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Turns out finding time to blog (let alone bathe, sleep or eat) becomes increasingly difficult with each pregnancy and additional newborn! But I am¬†finally now feeling like I’m¬†returning to “normalcy” (which in my world is really just embracing the chaos!) and am carving out some time to get back to writing and sharing here!

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Photo credit: My wonderful and talented friend, Erin Petruska Photography

 

‚ô• 100 Acts of Kindness ‚ô•

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We are accepting the 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge 2015, a fun and wonderful challenge shared by some very inspiring Mommas on the blogesphere, Kristina of Toddler Approved and Megan of Coffee Cups and Crayons.

The challenge is to keep¬†track as you and your family complete 100 acts of kindness over the course of a month (today until¬†Valentine’s Day!). Seems very fitting if you ask me to begin a kindness marathon on Martin Luther King’s birthday and to wrap it up on a day focused on all things nice and lovey (see those inspiring Mommas are smart too!).

We participated in this challenge last year and it was very fulfilling for our family and pretty amazing to watch our children not only want to show kindness to others, but also begin to acknowledge and show gratitude to those who showed them kindness.

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This time around I REALLY want to instill in my kids that kindness doesn’t cost a penny and that it can be done without needing to purchase anything. Our family budget is currently very tight, so this is a necessity for us, but regardless I think it is invaluable to teach our children that giving of our love and time is very often much more appreciated than giving of any material items.

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We began our discussion today about the challenge and the kids decided they wanted to use a heart banner to display our acts of kindness this year. We thought it would be nice to use our acts to help wrap our own home in kindness. And so we will hang our banner around the perimeter of our family room tomorrow and begin recording all of the kind things we do.

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At bedtime tonight, Little Momma asked if we could write our acts of kindness down on her magnadoodle before saying prayers, so we listed them off – and I ran out of space, so we are off to a good start!

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Little Momma also wanted to make note of why she acted kindly today, (and to be honest I was a little worried she would say it was at my recommendation or to try and ‘win’ the challenge) but instead she very thoughtfully shared that she “really wanted to be a nice person”.

*Melt*

And right there¬†is a summation of why I LOVE this challenge and can’t wait to see how we grow in kindness and love once again this year!¬†‚ô•

“Frozen” ~ Birthday Party

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Somehow, though it only seems like I blinked, this little girl who made me a Momma is 5 years old – a whole hand, it’s crazy!

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Though there are many difficulties about having a child’s birthday around the holidays, it’s pretty fun when you find a way to work it to your advantage!

Little Momma has caught the Frozen-bug, bad…going on a year now! So we knew a Frozen-theme would be top request. I saw these cute DIY melted snowman ornaments on Pinterest¬†and thought they’d fit lovely with an invite to build a snowman!

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 We did mostly Target and Dollar Store finds for balloons, tablecloths, plates, napkins, hanging swirl decorations and the sign pictured above.

We also added an effect of Winter with some frozen marble balloons to line the walkway with, seeing as we had no snow here over the holidays.

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For snack we had these cute ‘Melted Olaf’ pudding cups with some blue lemonade we called ‘Frozen Waters’.

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For lunch I laid out some potluck-style items with little signs that read as follows:

  • “We finish each others…sandwiches” – assorted sandwiches
  • “Trolls” – meatballs
  • “Olaf’s Noses” – carrots and dip
  • “Sven’s Snacks” – cheese and crackers
  • “Olaf’s Arms” – pretzel sticks
  • “Frozen Hearts” – white chocolate dipped strawberries

The cake is always my favourite part. See, I got it in my head early on that I always wanted to make each child’s birthday cake, so it’s special for me. I feel like all of the birthday details and fuss will probably wash away in memories, but that the love that goes into these perfectly, imperfect cakes¬†that their Momma makes will be felt forever {I’m cheesy like that!}.

Our Frozen Elsa cake was created using three round 8 inch chocolate cakes stacked and covered with blue icing. The snowflakes were made using white chocolate piped onto wax paper and set. The ice shards in behind Elsa were made using this recipe for blue rock candy.

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It’s fun to get to an age where kids can play games at parties! Here are a few that we enjoyed:

Pin the nose on Olaf

I free-handed an Olaf outline and cut out one carrot per child. The kids had fun spinning and trying to pin on Olaf’s nose!

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We had planned to be outside for some snowball toss and snowman building, but alas the weather would not bring snow! And so we played a snowball toss game using baskets and styrofoam balls, along with this alternative snowman activity.

Building Little Snow-Girls

Using toilet paper, button and carrot cut-outs, along with some scarves, the mom’s wrapped up their daughters and turned them into little wadding snowmen – it was pretty cute!

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For lootbags, I found some plastic Frozen cups at the Dollar Store and we filled them with some blue jellybeans, a wand, some Frozen glitter temporary tattoos and a Frozen bracelet and necklace. They were wrapped in cellophane and tied with a note that said, “Thanks ‘snow’ much for coming”.

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Happy Birthday to my amazing Little Momma – we are so very proud of the girl you are becoming – may all of your wishes come true!

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And a BIG thank-you to all of our wonderful friends and family who helped us celebrate another year of loving you! xoxox

Adventures of Leezoo 2014

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Do you “elf on the shelf”?

We are avid “elf on the shelfers” and love the fun and joy it brings to our household each year! My hubby and I are forever thinking of new adventures that our elf, Leezoo, can get up too. It’s like¬†reliving a tiny bit of the magic and wonder that is Christmas when you’re a child (and we’re all about being kids again!!).

This year, however, I was really wanting our elf to be more than a threat or looming reminder that “Santa is ALWAYS watching”. Although I cannot say I’m not guilty¬†of ever using the Santa bargaining chip, I would prefer if my children learn to behave year-round, not because of a bribery for¬†presents, but because they are learning that that is the RIGHT thing to do.

After coming across The Imagination Trees¬†kindness elves¬†at the end of last year’s Elf on the Shelf season, I knew I wanted to incorporate an element of community service and kindness into Leezoo’s shenanigans this year! And so begins Leezoo’s adventures for Christmas 2014! Come see what he gets up to and find out how he is encouraging kindness, while still getting up to his notorious mischief!

Day 1: Leezoo’s arrival – Wrapped our Christmas tree in toilet paper

Day 2: Leezoo is covered in band-aids

Day 3: Leezoo is baking up a storm

Day 4: Leezoo is supporting the army men

Day 5: Leezoo is a bird on a bird feeder

Day 6: Leezoo hangs Christmas socks by the fire

 

Come back to see what silly Leezoo gets up to next!

I will be posting each day with Leezoo’s silly mischief and the act of kindness he has suggested ūüôā

Big Announcement from an Absent Blogger!

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As I slowly drag myself to the 13 week mark, I am happy to announce we will be welcoming a new family member in May 2015! I also want to apologize for my lack of blogging, this pregnancy has KICKED. MY. BUTT., and so I have been stuck in survival mode, just trying to make it through the day, which has meant the other activities I enjoy….like blogging and bathing, have taken a back seat. I will try to do better as I hopefully begin to regain some energy in the upcoming second trimester!

And as much as I’ve been feeling like poop, I am over the moon excited to be adding to our family. I have always dreamed of having a large family, (although Hubby and I have different visions about what number constitutes large!) and love watching as we grow, shift and evolve as a unit through the years! I love my clan like crazy!!¬†‚ô•

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Oh, and I will try to minimize the pregnancy spam (read:whining!)….but newborn baby spam, come Spring, holds no such promises ūüėČ

Becoming a Homeschool Mom

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Today I became an official homeschooling mom. After much discussion and prayer, we determined that Little Momma would benefit most from home instruction for her Junior Kindergarten year. This does not mean I think every other kinder parent who put their child on a bus or dropped them at school today made the wrong decision. It simply means that our children are different, our families are different and as a result, we may do things differently. So please don’t feel even for a moment that my decision passes any judgment on yours (and I ask for the same treatment in return please!). I am fully aware that each of us is on a mission to do what is best for our individual families and children, and you’re best, and mine is AMAZING!

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Our first day was not perfection…in fact it was far from it! ¬†Mr Man was a feisty terror, Baby Girl is cutting a million teeth and we had some extended family health issues and an extra canine family member to add to¬†the mix (nothing short of exciting over here will do!). And yet still, more than once today I stopped and commended myself for sticking with my gut and making this difficult, and against the grain decision. Although I’m still finding my bearings, I truly believe this is going to be a beautiful and fulfilling journey for all of us!

My *goal* is to journal daily for each child on what we touched on that day (for the assessment and reporting obsessed teacher in me!) and I must say I am flabbergasted at how much we covered for our first day. Check out our Instagram feed @mommyschool for details on today’s activities! And keep following along to see what we get up to in the coming year. I am looking forward to sharing our adventures!

I hope to find my groove in the coming weeks, but for now I feel a sense of peace, telling me that for the time being, we are exactly where we are meant to be ♥

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Happy Back to School (or not) to everyone! ūüôā

 

 

Family Fire Drill

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¬†One of Little Momma’s favourite things to do is practice our home fire drill plan. This kid is not only cautious, but also quite insistent on being prepared for all scenarios (much like her Momma ūüėČ ).

So when one of our good friends had his awesome firefighter-themed birthday party (complete with a tour of a fire station!), you can bet her little mind was spinning with how our own emergency plan added up against the pros.

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Following the party the kids thoughts and play were only of fire and rescue! And as soon as the little kids were up from nap, Little Momma ushered us to the table to get to work on creating a map of our fire and emergency plan, using the awesome templates we got from the fire station!

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We have 2 separate exit plans and have discussed a number of scenarios with the kids on when each one would be used. However, instead of having one central meeting place, we have one in the front yard and one in the back yard, seeing as our kids are still quite young and wouldn’t be able to leave our fenced backyard without help. We do plan to merge to one central meeting spot once they are a bit older.

We practiced our primary escape route first, which is out to our front yard, where we convene by the largest and furthest tree.

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Then, we tried a backyard emergency exit, where we meet at the furthest point by the back fence, until an adult is there, the kids know to wait.

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Every time we do a drill we are sure to discuss the importance of feeling doors for heat before opening them, crawling beneath smoke, staying visible (NEVER hiding) and calling for help if you’re trapped, as well as how to Stop, Drop and Roll should your clothing catch fire.

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         STOP                                                   DROP                                              ROLL!    

 

Although this can be a difficult topic to discuss, let alone role play with your family, as you never want to actually live this experience. The confidence it gives your children is invaluable, people who are prepared act faster and smarter under pressure in emergencies. You WANT your kids to be in the know!

Practice your family fire drill today and then again every couple of months to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind. Let your children’s questions help fuel your own preparedness in keeping your home as safe as it can be.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with such a sweet birthday party, contact your local fire department for a tour and some of their awesome resources!

The Conflict of Kindergarten

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I have been in¬†the throes of deciding¬†whether¬†to send my Little Momma to public school this September, or to unschool at home. A decision, I might add, I never thought I’d be considering!

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My Little Momma is a beautiful, intricate and often complicated soul. She feels so deeply, expresses emotion with such great fervor and masks uncertainty and discomfort in a way I wish she wouldn’t. She’s 4…it should be okay for her to feel and express, but she¬†is cautious and oh, so aware of watchful eyes, pretending all is well and fine until she feels safe to admit otherwise. In the last few weeks, this has resulted in multiple episodes of a sobbing, distraught preschooler in my lap, nervous and afraid of what’s to come. I can’t help but feel that this shouldn’t be a normal part of starting school, and thus I’ve been thrown into the thick of this inner turmoil.

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¬†I’m so conflicted. As a former elementary school teacher, I never doubted public school was the route my kids would go. I even turned my nose up at the thought of homeschooling (apologies to my Mother-in-Law, as I now stick my foot in my mouth!). But being a Momma does funny things to your heart and changes¬†the way we see even the most mundane things.

{And now I hyper-analyze my own childhood} I have always been shy and struggle with anxiety in social situations. And now looking back, I really don’t think that public school was the best place for me. I always felt awkward and never had¬†a real sense of belonging. Don’t get me wrong I did fine and was quite successful academically, but don’t we all just want a little better than fine for our own children??

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I don’t have an answer – just a heavy Momma heart.

I feel that homeschooling and unschooling are so very in-line with my parenting ideals, and yet I also hold the social experiences & real-world preparation of public education in high regard. But is my 4-year-old emotionally ready for this? I just can’t shake this feeling that I’m¬†shoving my baby bird from the nest before her time.¬†I feel like we should give Junior Kindergarten (JK) a shot and see how it goes, but I also feel so strongly that it just isn’t the right fit. I also have two younger children to consider in all of this. One thing is clear for sure….I’m conflicted!

So I guess I’m banking on an epiphany or some Divine intervention to guide me in this. I just want to do what is best for MY family. Motherhood has so many variations of best, that finding the optimal route¬†for us is so very blurry.

I don’t want to rush this. I just want her to soak up every moment of being little and allow her beautiful self to fully emerge in all the ways it’s meant to. In her own time. That can’t be too much to ask, right?!?

Please send clarity & decision-making mojo my way…clearly I need it! ūüėČ

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Teachable Moments ~ IKEA-style

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{Teachable Moments} 

When I was teaching in the classroom, I was always striving to be an intentional teacher, who pounced readily on teachable moments as they would arise. And now as a parent, my philosophy is much the same. I am fueled by seizing these fleeting moments and doing my best to make them memorable for my children (and me too!).

This Summer, I have taken on the complete overhaul of our current playroom, in hopes of having both a playroom (downstairs) and a school & art/craft room (in the current playroom) come September. So this morning I packed up the kids and headed to IKEA for some of the storage units and accessories I will need. The trip to IKEA was an adventure in and of itself! But upon returning home there was work to be done ūüôā

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We’ve been going through a rough patch with my Little Momma as of late. We are pretty sure it’s a result of school anxieties creeping up on her, with her Kindergarten debut just around the corner. So I have been making a point to spend some extra one-on-one time with her and love her extra hard to help ease some of her jitters. And I do love an opportunity to teach some useful life skills…and who hasn’t needed to work their way though an IKEA assembly?!

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Move over Daddy, today the girly’s took on an assembly task of our own while the younger kids napped ūüėČ It was like our very own Goldie Blox¬†adventure!

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We began by looking over the instructions and exploring the hardware. IKEA instruction manuals are excellent for kids to follow along with – all pictures and numbered steps, no reading required.

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Little Momma was such a great helper, locating the boards we needed, inserting the plugs and aligning & ‘clicking’ the pieces together.

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And the fine motor practice involved in turning the screws into place and then using an Allen key to tighten them was an excellent addition!

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Little Momma especially liked comparing the screws size differences to show what she had achieved.

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She even helped type and print out bin labels on the label maker for our toy bins. Now to finish the basement floors so the rearranging can begin. I promise to post some pictures once there is an end result to show off!

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And to end things off, what better use for a large flat box then to transform it into a beautiful art canvas ♥

I urge you to soak in all of the wonderful teachable moments you stumble upon….they really are the greatest of gifts!

 

Making Friends: Teaching Social Skills

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 Little Momma starts Kindergarten this year and I KNOW she is ready curriculum-wise and she has had lots of exposure to other children, but I imagine every parent worries to some degree about their child making friends.

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Her whole life I have been setting the stage for friend-making opportunities, through playdates and activities. But putting yourself out there on your own is a whole new experience and takes a lot more guts than merely playing with the kids your mum has invited over! And so I went into this summer with a plan to explicitly teach friend-making skills for my Little Momma to take with her on the first day of school!

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Sometimes we expect that kids will come by social skills by pure osmosis or coincidence, and though they can learn much from the examples they are shown, it is only through their own action that they will find their real groove and comfort zone.

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Explicitly teaching kids how to make new friends may feel awkward, but can help them gain confidence and ease in seemingly tense or novel situations. This can be especially important for shy children, who may otherwise avoid people or circumstances that are new to minimize uneasiness.

 Here are the skills we have been working on:

1) Approaching someone new {with intention}. Kids often approach one another…and then they just stand and stare….so we have been working on going up to new kids with the intention to say hello.

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2) Introducing yourself. This one may seem basic, but it’s surprising how many kids shut down when approaching or approached by a peer.

“Hi, I’m _________. What’s your name?”

“My name is¬†{crazy dinosaur in high heels}. Do you want to play?”

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My only caution with this one is to review information that is okay to share with new friends and that which is best kept for those we know well (i.e. address and phone number). We have had many an occasion where Little Momma gets so excited in her introduction that she begins spewing where we live, along with an immediate invite. :p

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3) Simple playground games. Knowing how to play a few games not only allows your child to join in with others, but also provides them with some ideas or suggestions upon asking a new friend to play. Various sports, tag, Duck Duck Goose, hopscotch, ring around the rosie, follow the leader and I Spy are a few examples of the many games you can introduce to your children.

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4) Seeking out friends with similar interests. This one took a few tries for Little Momma (partially because I think she was working out what she was interested in), but she is starting to really get it. When looking for a new friend to approach, look for kids who are doing activities you like to do or playing games that you want to play. A little common ground is always nice when talking to someone new.

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5) Starting a conversation.¬†Often the conversation will surround whatever the kids start playing. Little Momma will also usually introduce her younger brother and sister since they are normally in tow, which can lead to some discussion and comparison. To add to this repertoire, given Little Momma’s love for humour, I have worked on teaching her a few jokes that she can share with her little friends. This small and seemingly cheesy idea has done so much for her confidence in conversing with new friends.

“What do you get when you cross a fish and an elephant?” – “Swimming trunks!”

“Knock Knock. Who’s there. Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce in it’s freezing!”

“Where do snowmen keep their money?” – “In a snow-bank”

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Making friends can be scary….especially when you’re little and the world seems so very big. Why not give your child the tools she needs to help her feel more comfortable, prepared and ready to surround herself with playmates! The joy she will exude is totally worth it Рand then some!

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