The kids really enjoyed my Thanksgiving Joke Teller / Cootie Catcher, so I decided to create another one for Valentine’s Day. Great entertainment for their classroom celebration and perfect way to connect with friends and family over Zoom this year.
We visited Utah a couple of years ago and took a day hike with llamas at Capitol Reef Resort. Avery got paired up with Woody (the smallest and sweetest of the bunch) and absolutely FELL. IN. LOVE. She lead Woody on our hike with the confidence of a well-seasoned backpacker, and soaked up every minute of the 5 mile trek.
Since our trip, she understandably has become llama-obsessed and learned about alpacas as well. After discovering they are smaller than llamas, she concluded they are “even more adorable!” and decided alpacas are her new favorite animal – with llamas as a close second.
Avery asked if I could make llama/alpaca-themed Valentine’s Day cards for her class celebration this year, so we brainstormed some options and I showed her a few cute favor ideas from Amazon:
- Llama and Alpaca Straws
- Alpaca Pens
- Llama Bookmarks
- Llama Alpaca Stamps
- Llama Alpaca Stickers
- Alpaca Backpack Keychains
- Llama Notebooks
- Llama Alpaca Stickers
- Alpaca Rings
- Llama Alpaca Temporary Tattoos
We went with the straws and designed a Valentine to include a cheesy picnic joke.
If you love llamas and have a chance to visit Utah, I highly recommend checking out Capitol Reef Resort. Staying overnight in their covered wagons was a one-of-a-kind, unique experience. We had such a blast and walked away with memories to last a lifetime.
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As of today, schools in the state of Illinois are officially closed as a precautionary measure to slow the spread COVID-19 Coronavirus. In order to make this unprecedented time with the kids at home less stressful and more enjoyable, I definitely plan on coming up with projects to keep them occupied. For me, projects like this are not only bonding time to create fun memories with the kids, but I find them especially helpful when their abundance of energy needs to be diverted to something other than going out of their way to annoy their siblings.
For starters – With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, I created the below Faux Stained Glass Shamrock Printable Template.
Note: This step is optional, as you can use the Printable as a coloring page as well.
After the glue dried, we used water colors to paint the image. This gave it a beautiful, uneven, glass-like effect.
Sticking with the Irish theme and in context with current world events, I also created the below Sláinte Coloring Page. As a standard way of saying “cheers” in Irish, “sláinte” [SLAHN-chə] translates to ‘Good Health’ in English – an Irish expression that derives from the Old Irish word slán, meaning “healthy” or “safe”.
Cheers to you and your family during this time of social distancing…. or should I say, “Sláinte!”
“Good luck be with you wherever you go & may your blessings outnumber the shamrocks you grow.”
As a parent, I feel it’s an essential part of my job to teach my kids how to help out around the house and learn how to become a productive member of the household. They all attended Montessori Preschool, which I feel really jumpstarted them to recognize most “chores” as “practical life skills”. Whichever term you choose to use, I’ve found that most children enjoy helping out with these daily tasks and it’s a great way to teach them responsibility, independence, and self-sufficiency.
Although my kids have been great at wanting to be involved in household duties, as they’ve gotten older it’s been more of a challenge getting them motivated for regular chores — and nearly impossible to get them enthusiastic about completing them on a daily basis.
We’ve tried a good handful of ways to motivate our kids, but the most successful has definitely been the regular use of a chore chart. It not only provides motivation, but has also begun helping us teach them financial responsibility. One key to being successful has been getting the chores organized in writing – then there’s no question about who’s responsible for what on a given day.
After quite a few trial runs and alterations, below is the Magnetic Chore Chart we now use to keep us organized and help our family life run just a bit smoother.
With the understanding that as the children grow, our household expectations may change and their chores will be reevaluated and tailored to their age level. I designed this chart so it can grow with us – easily being able to change and swap out chores as needed. In the future, perhaps adjust allowance amounts as well.
One of the most important things we are trying to teach them right now is that money comes from work, so rather than freely receiving an allowance, our kids earn their money by completing tasks. After they complete a chore, they simply move the corresponding Magnetic Pin to the jar with their name. On Sundays – payday – the kids trade in their pins for the cash they’ve earned.
They each get ONE daily task and ONE weekly task. Having three children, that has been the most realistic expectation for us, as well as not overwhelming to track (for them and myself). Since they also sometimes ask to help with additional chores, I listed those in the ‘Bonus’ section. These are not expected, but an extra way for them to earn cash.
- CLICK HERE for the above Free Printable
- You can purchase corresponding Magnetic Pins HERE
- Looking for a personalized or custom chore chart? I’m happy to create one for you! Visit my Etsy Shop and if I don’t already have what you are looking for, simply send a request.
I have to say, it has been nice to pass some responsibility over to my kids — waking up to an empty dishwasher has been glorious! Most importantly, I love seeing them learn new practical life skills and confidently contribute to the household.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley
I’ve always encouraged my kids to “be kind” and “use kind words” but when there was an excess of crabbiness and bickering in our household, I invested in a book called ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud‘. It literally changed our language around the concept of kindness to the point where “You are dipping in my bucket!” and “Did I fill your bucket?” have become common phrases in our house.
Using a simple metaphor and explaining kindness in a way that children can grasp immediately, this book encourages positive behavior and explains how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis. It’s the perfect introduction to self-awareness and feelings, and beautifully helps kids visualize how their actions and words impact others.
To immerse ourselves a bit deeper in the concept of this book, I created a worksheet for the kids to help think through and specifically list out what “fills their bucket” and “dips in their bucket”. It was fun discussing the results as a family and interesting discovering what differences they had based on their individual personalities and/or love language(s).
In an effort to encourage more “bucket filling” behavior into our daily life, as well as help visualize and reinforce the book’s concept of how “filling other people’s buckets also helps to fill our own”, I created these Gem Jars.
Supplies for DIY Gem Jars:
General rules for our Gem Jars:
- Mom or Dad rewards an individual for “bucket filling” behavior / acts of kindness with a big or small gem – at their discretion, based on the specific act.
- There is no removal of gems for bucket dipping behavior. This is meant to detour any tattling on negative behavior, as our goal is to focus on and encourage positive behavior.
- It is perfectly acceptable to perform a bucket filling act specifically to ask for a gem. However, Mom or Dad may deny the gem for any reason (you’d be surprised at some of the stuff they come up with, lol).
- Children are encouraged to inform parents of their sibling’s kind acts so the bucket filler can receive a gem.
- When a child fills their Gem Jar, they receive a reward. Reward options are provided by Mom or Dad. Example rewards include: A specific toy/book/gift we know they want, 1:1 time with Mom/Dad like going to a movie, dinner at their favorite restaurant, out for ice cream, etc.
We have been using our Gem Jars for almost a year now and I’m happy to report that there has definitely been an increase in kindness and helping behavior around these parts. While I can honestly say I saw an immediate impact on my children’s behavior after reading this book and using our gem jars, I’m not going to pretend it’s some kind of miracle fix. I am just happy that it helped them become more self-aware and realize how their behavior impacts the people around them. Sure, sometimes they go out of their way to do kind things only because they want a gem – but hey, that’s the point! To be honest, I am especially proud of those moments when I see them clearly making a conscious effort to do something kind, when otherwise they may not have done so. When they are actively trying their best to be kind, everyone is happier. By putting happiness into terms the kids can understand and use, I think it really has helped them understand the effects of their actions and words on their own well being, as well as the well being of others. I couldn’t be more proud of my little bucket fillers!
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” -Dalai Lama
The other day, Jacob was jamming away on his toy piano singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ – eyes closed, head bopping, slamming random keys on the key board… I loved the enthusiasm and figured the boys are probably old enough to start reading beginner sheet music, so I decided to put together a few songs for them.
I am by no means a musician, but I did play piano back in the day and remembered some of the basics. I wanted to keep it simple with what I feel is a reasonable goal for toddlers and preschoolers: Find Middle C and play a simple song with one finger (not at all insisting on proper finger placement). I’m not trying to raise Mozart – I just want them to have fun and become comfortable with the basics of sheet music while doing so.
POST UPDATE: I originally cut down circle dot labels I had on-hand (as seen in my photo below), then upgraded to these Color Coding Dot Labels which coordinated perfectly. Once we upgraded from their Fisher-Price Keyboard to an electronic piano, I created these Removable Color Coded Piano Key Labels – Now the colors coordinate exactly and I love that they have a less harsh, easily removable adhesive.
Using the color-coded labels, I created coordinating sheet music for a couple of their favorite songs. Click on below sheet music image to download a FREE printable.
For more song selections and coordinating color-coded sticker labels, please visit my Etsy Shop.
As simple as that – now my boys understand the concept of reading and playing music on the piano. With or without an accurate rhythm on the keyboard, watching their faces and sense of accomplishment after completing a song is absolutely priceless!
Meet the Goofballs:
Jacob (left) – Enthusiastic and strong willed 3-year-old who’s favorite activity is making coffee for mom and dad.
Avery (center) – Sweet and silly firecracker of a 1-year-old who loves to play with rocks.
Evan (right) – Playfully clever and caring 3-year-old who has the memory of an elephant.
Lucky Parents of These Adorable Children:
Cory (aka Dad – although the boys sometimes like to call him “Lex Luthor” when they want to be chased down by an evil villain) and myself (aka Julie/Mom).
Realistic Family Portrait:
Pretty much sums up my experience of being a parent.
A little about me and why I decided to start a blog:
I exited Corporate America three years ago to take on the self-appointed assignment of raising my kids full-time. I’m not a fan of calling myself a “stay-at-home mom”, as I feel it discredits my regular expeditions with 3 kids in tow, so I’ll call myself an “occupational mom”.
Walking away from my career was a huge adjustment for me. I found myself managing motherhood similar to a job – goal driven, ambitious, organized and detail oriented. This may sound rigorous, but I guess it’s a little (or a lot) of my Type A personality coming through. Thankfully I have a creative and adaptable nature that seems to balance me out a bit. In the end, I’m glad I decided to stop working because I love being able to experience every little moment of my children’s lives with them – the good, the bad and the unbelievably chaotic.
As if raising three kids isn’t time consuming enough, I tend to keep myself extra busy with little things I like to call “projects” (going back to my business roots, it seems like a natural term to use). Whether it’s homemade Halloween costumes, photo books, seasonal crafts, organizing fundraisers, or remodeling our basement. We also just started the process of building a new home to be closer to our family – because the current 15 minute commute just isn’t close enough! 😉
I wanted to start this blog as a creative outlet to post some of my artsy projects. I thought it would be a great way to keep friends and family up to date on some of our adventures, as well as share fun ideas for kid crafts/activities, creative ways to document life with photography, and general DIY projects. I should also mention that, by no means do I consider myself a writer, so please excuse any incorrect punctuation or lack for brilliant and witty literature. Either way, I hope you enjoy my blog and maybe even find some inspiration for a parenting project of your own!
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein