Browsing Category: Stay at home moms

Are playgrounds too safe?

The playground at my elementary school was divided into two sides: the little kid playground (K-2) and the big kid playground (3-4).

It was a momentous occasion when one moved from second to third grade because it officially meant one was old enough, wise enough and mature enough to play on the big kid playground.

The big kid playground was home to two very prestigious pieces of equipment: The Witches Hat and The Maypole.

The Witches Hat was a large metal structure that resembled a witches hat (clever name, right?). Children would hold onto the bars, run in a circle and be swung high up into the air as the hat rotated. Great fun.

 

The Maypole was another metal structure consisting of chains and bars attached to a large pole. Children each grabbed a bar, ran around a circle like crazy people  and attempted to soar in the air.

Of course both pieces of equipment were made more fun when one could trick it up a little bit, by attempting to dangle by ones knees of the bars or standing on the bars or getting the big kids to hold down one side so the smaller kids were shot high into the air.

Fortunately both pieces of equipment were placed over a large strip of concrete, to break children’s falls as they flew off the metal bars.

There were many broken bones, at least four scraped knees and one bloody elbow a day and screams of glee as a result of such play equipment.

Although my elementary school is still alive and thriving (What’s up, Deener Dawgs??), the Witches Hat and the Maypole have since been replaced with the typical multi-level play structures and rubber wood chips of today’s youth.

Last week a study made headlines as it discussed the question “Are playgrounds too safe?”  The idea behind this study was looking at the notion some critics have regarding the extreme safety measures taken when designing playgrounds. Critics  believe that the “safe” playgrounds of today can stunt the emotional growth of children, leaving them with anxieties and fears (mainly the fear of heights since “monkey bars” and large climbing structures have become a thing of the past). Critics site new playgrounds as being boring and unable to provide ways for children to encounter and overcome their fears.

Opponents of this research on “too-safe” playgrounds say that there is no clear evidence that safer playgrounds have lowered the risk of injury. In fact, some believe that safety measures such as rubber wood chips give an illusion of safety and potentially put children at a higher risk of danger.

The question remains for today’s parent: Are playgrounds TOO safe?

In my opinion, no.

The structures are there for children to play and explore. We have all seen children climb to the highest peak of play equipment, regardless of the absences of traditional monkey bars. We have witnessed kids master rock climbing walls, something the playgrounds of my youth never had. Occasionally we stumble across an ancient merry-go-round (or in our case, the new version made for one) and spin our kids fast until their little world turns hazy and green. Although structures are different from days gone by, they can still be manipulated by a child’s imagination into something magical and entertaining.

And they still help children burn off all that excess energy, which is why most parents take their children to the playground in the first places.

What can (if anything has) contribute to the rise of fears and anxieties in children generated on the playground is the new phenomenon of “Helicopter Parenting.” Parents feel the need to be their child’s safety net as they navigate play equipment, letting out little gasps and muttering “Be careful!” at every pass and turn. We attempt to protect the children from their own play in hopes of creating a safe outdoor setting. In this attempt we can either make children anxious about their ability to maneuver on the equipment or we over-direct their play and stifle their imagination. My oldest fell from a piece of play equipment (one of these new “safe” ones) at the age of 2.5. One of the worst parenting moments to date, especially since I can be Queen Helicopter Mom on any given day. Although I was a wreck, he was fine after a few tears.

What do you think? Are playgrounds too safe? Are parents too anxious these days?

Should we bring back the two story metal slide and concrete playgrounds or stick with the tubular structures of today?

“Mom, I’m Bored!” Places to visit in Dallas to combat summer boredom

*Welcome to those of you who saw my segment on Fox 4’s Good Day! To learn more about me and my blog, go here*

 

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The month of July is settling in and the activities that held children’s attention at the beginning of the summer are starting to lose their spark. The normal go-to sources of entertainment such as local zoos, community pools and activity centers have been exhausted. Temperatures are rising, patience is wearing thin and everyone is starting to feel just a bit of the summer stir-crazies. Children are starting to whine “I’m bored.” before they even finish their morning bowl of cereal and moms only line of defense is  the haughty comeback of “Only boring people get bored.”

The result of this exchange: A grumpy family before the clock has a chance to reach eight o’clock am.

No fear, mothers. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is home to a vast amount of places that will provide countless hours of entertainment for those restless children. Cries of “I’m bored!” will quickly transform into “Mom, you’re the best!” as everyone enjoys taking part in some of these fun, unique activities.

 

Cowtown Wake Park

 

Would you love for your kids to learn how to wakeboard or wake skate, but do not have access to a boat or a lake? No problem. Cowtown Wake Park offers kids the chance to learn a variety of water sports in a safe, contained environment. Utilizing a cable system, Cowtown Wake Park provides kids and adults with the chance to enjoy summer water sports without having to be pulled behind a boat. Located on an artificial five acre lake off the banks of the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Cowtown Wake Park is the family’s answer to unique outdoor summer fun. Summer camps, birthday party packages and individual teaching are all available.

 

Fall Creek Farms in Granbury

 

Summer is the perfect time to stock the kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. Fall Creek Farms in Granbury, TX (about a 30 minute drive from Fort Worth) allows families to come and pick their own fresh fruit. Berry picking season is already closed but their peach crop is ripe and ready for eager harvesters. This farm hosts over 500 peach trees on their property. Visitors can tour the orchard on a tractor-pulled trolley, stopping to pick whatever peach appeals to them. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead to confirm pick times.

 

Adventure Day Camps on Lake Grapevine

 

Many mothers believe if they have not signed up their children for summer camp before the beginning of July, then it is simply too late to do so. Not the case with Adventure Day Camps. Adventure Day Camps is a camp for children ages 4-13, hosted on the banks of Lake Grapevine. Parents can sign children up for summer-long camps, week-long camps, one day camps or even 1/2 day camps. Campers learn a variety of outdoor skills and games including archery, camping, Frisbee golf, kayaking and swimming. Arts and crafts and games such as treasure hunts are also offered. Day camps run now through mid-August.

 

Texas Geocache Challenge hosted by Texas Parks and

Wildlife

 

Have a GPS device and kids who love a good treasure hunt? Then the Texas Geocache Challenge is your family’s answer to combating summer boredom. Geocaching a popular type of treasure hunting where families us a GPS device to help them find treasures (Known as “caches“) hidden by others. This summer the Texas Parks and Wildlife commission is getting in on the geocaching craze and have hidden a large amounts of caches throughout Texas. Participants can search in their local area or canvas the entire state in search of these caches. Their website has detailed information, including printouts and directions for how families can get started on this challenge. The great thing about geocaching is that the whole family, regardless of age and size, can get in  on the fun.

 

Dinosaur World in Glen Rose

 

Glen Rose, TX is the tourist place for dinosaur enthusiasts. Dinosaur World, an outdoor museum, will not disappoint the Glen Rose visitor in search of some dino action. Dinosaur World has 22 acres, filled with over 100 life-sized models of dinosaurs for families to discover and inspect up-close. Children will enjoy the daily dino dig, a place where they can become paleontologists for the day and search for treasures (which they get to keep!). Rather than hitting the hot, crowded amusement parks this summer step into the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Glen Rose, Texas.

 

Summer Theater

Dallas/Fort Worth is home to many children’s theater companies. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy theater with the family and support local children’s performing arts. Many of these companies offer low pricing ($5!) and a variety of child-friendly show times. Some current summer productions include Cinderella, Mulan, Seusical the Musical, Dora the Explorer LIVE! and Pinkalicious. Have a performer in the family? A lot of these companies also offer summer camps for the aspiring thespian.

Local children’s theater companies include:

 

Step out and enjoy these unique summer boredom busters that DFW has to offer!

 

 

 

The Boredom Buster Jar

It was 104 degrees here at Casa de Phillips on Friday.

One hundred and four degrees.

Can I get a big ol “UGH!” from all of you moms out there attempting to entertain kiddos despite rising temperatures?

One thing we are about to incorporate here at our home is the “Boredom Buster Jar.” This jar will be filled with scraps of paper, each one holding a fun activity to bust us out of our boredom rut. I am thinking of having two jars, one filled with individual boredom buster actitives and another filled with family boredom buster activites.

Interested in making your own “Boredom Buster Jar”?

Here is a list of activities to get you started:

  • Host a bike and trike wash
  • Go for snow cones
  • Make fresh lemonade
  • Play a board game
  • Build a fort in the living room
  • Draw a map of the neighborhood
  • Study an artist and recreate a famous painting
  • Make s’mores
  • Turn on the outside sprinklers
  • Make leaf rubbings
  • Paint with corn syrup and food colors
  • Bake cookies for a local fire station
  • Have family movie night
  • Perform a random act of kindness
  • Make a book
  • Write a letter/draw a picture for a relative out of state
  • Cut up an old greeting card and make a puzzle
  • Blow bubbles outside
  • Make a movie
  • Create a terrarium
  • Catch fireflies
  • Put together a time capsule
  • Read a chapter book together as a family
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Host a paper airplane contest
  • Volunteer
  • Picnic in the living room
  • Make homemade play-doh
  • Trace your hand and then turn it into something else
  • Transform the driveway into a sidewalk chalk art gallery
  • Paint rocks
  • Have an indoor treasure hunt
  • Skype a friend
  • Have a “theme” day (PJ day, pirate day, princess day)
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a nap (Mom’s Favorite!)

Summer Schedule 2011

Let’s ignore the fact that June is winding down and I am just now posting my summer schedule. Instead let us focus on the fact that there are two more months of summer for the residents of casa de phillips, leaving us plenty of time to put this schedule to good use.

 

Before I reveal the summer schedule, let me explain the reasoning behind it. Without setting an intentional focus for the day, we often become lost in the hours between waking and going to sleep. Meaning, the kids and I seem to float about through our day. Sure meals are prepared and eaten, toys are played with, quiet time occurs. But at the end of those days I often feel a bit more tired and way less productive compared to days when our focus is set and a schedule is established.

 

Sometimes that schedule simply includes “Do nothing” and the focus is centered around just being. Although these things do not sound very different from simply floating through our day, there is a different mindset when we intentionally do nothing as opposed to simply doing nothing out of lack of planning.

 

I encourage moms to be intentional with their days. Some great books that really encouraged me in planning my days at home with the children include:
Steady Days

 

The Mission of Motherhood

 

Mitten Strings for God

 

And now, on to the Summer Schedule

 

 

4:40am

My alarm clock sounds. As I hurriedly attempt to locate and turn off annoying clock (as not to wake the husband or children…sometimes I am very unsuccessful with this venture), I have to give myself the pep talk of how I must get out of bed and get to Boot Camp. I stumble into the bathroom, usually drop no less than three things (again, so unsuccessful in not waking the husband at this hour) and get dressed for boot camp.

 

5:40 am

At this time I am right in the middle of Boot Camp, doing some crazy exercise no normal person could have created, wondering why? WHY? I ever believed this was a good idea.

 

6:00 am

Finished with Boot Camp and heading home from the gym. Super-glad my work-out is over for the day. Obviously my emotions fluctuate immensely during the hour before, during and after Boot Camp.

Arrive home to find the entire family awake for the day. The husband is getting ready to leave for work and the children are (supposedly) playing quietly in their rooms. The rule in our house is that children cannot get up before 6am (yes, the Lord blessed us with early risers. I am contemplating having both of them take on a paper routes to make use of this spiritual gift) and cannot come out of their rooms until 6:30am. This rule is not easily obeyed some days and can cause our mornings to start off in a grump. We are working on it though.

I shower, make the bed and start getting ready for the day during this time. The husband usually darts off for work and the children typically wander into the bathroom to ask if I can open something or get them something, despite the fact that I have a mound of shampoo in my hair and am (supposedly) unavailable at the moment. Ah, motherhood.

 

7:00 am

Breakfast is served. Children eat and watch a program on TV while I finish getting ready. Hey, it’s summer, right? Their minds will not be fried by a little screen time and I like to get ready in peace. Once the school season rolls around, we will go back to no tele88vision in the mornings. For now, I let them enjoy a show and I (greatly) enjoy putting on my make-up in peace.

 

8:00 -9:00 am

Get dressed for the day, clean-up (kids unload the dishwasher and tidy rooms), outdoor time. It is H.O.T. where we currently live and outdoor time in the summer has to be done early (unless one is doing said outdoor time in the pool). The kids have been getting in their outdoor time before 9:00am. This can look different on a daily basis. Sometimes I shoo them out to the backyard still clothed in their pjs, other days we go bike riding and still other days we head out for a park. However, by 9:00am the sun is usually quite hot and we have to retreat to the indoors.

 

9:00 – 11:30 am

Main Event of the Day. This is the time of the day when our “main event” usually occurs. Somedays it is a playdate with friends or a fun activity outside of the home, other days it is cleaning the house (for some reason, no one is ever excited about those days), and other days we run errands. This is also when we might do a project together or work on school stuff at the kitchen table. Snacks are consumed at some point during this time.

 

Noon

Lunch happens around noon. Sometime lunch occurs at home and other times it is a picnic at the pool. On occasion, we dine out with friends. Lunch is an informal affair at casa de phillips. After lunch, the kitchen is cleaned and everyone heads upstairs to get ready for quiet time.

 

1:00-3:00 pm

Quiet time.  Need I say more? (Actually I have said more about this time in our house. Read it here.)

 

3:02 pm

I suddenly have forgotten what a quiet house sounded like only minutes ago.

 

3:03 pm

In the summer, we swim a lot. Some days we hit the pool in the mornings and other days we go after quiet time. On afternoons we are not at the pool, I try to set out an activity for the children to do upon waking. Typically this is a craft. Afterwards, the children usually do their own thing and I begin dinner prep.

 

5:30 pm

The husband arrives home, dinner is placed on the table and we all come together as a family. I am big on eating at the table as a family every night during the week. When one child is crying over the type of meal served, another child is using the loudest voice possible and the husband and I cannot manage to finish a sentence, I do question the sanity behind sitting down at the table together. However, I know the importance of eating together as a family and so we carry on, even on nights when there are tears and no one really tasted any of their meal.

After dinner, everyone pitches in to clean the kitchen. We have a little family play time before time to clean up the house and get in the bath/shower.

 

7:00 pm

Bath for Miss E., shower for Isaac. Family devotional time, prayers, and then storytime. Each of the kids is allowed to stay up reading, as long as they stay in bed. Evelyn loves to wonder downstairs after she has been put into bed to inform us that she “just doesn’t like to sleep.” Yeah, we know. She then has to walk herself back upstairs and often quickly falls alseep amid her 25+ animals. Isaac usually falls asleep reading. The other night we discovered him up reading at 10pm. It is kind of hard to get onto someone for reading, but we managed. The boy needs his sleep.

 

8:00 -10:00 pm.

The husband and I hang out. It is nice to have time together to actually finish a thought uninterrupted or to watch something on television that is not animated.

 

10:00 pm

Bedtime. Set the alarm to do it all over again.

 

What’s your pin-terest?

 

For  about a month now I keep coming across people talking about Pinterest, a new way to keep track of things one reads on the Internet.

Currently I have a blog, a fairly extensive Google Reader account, two Facebooks (are YOU a fan of STPF?), Twitter, Stumble account, Linked-In profile and two children and a husband.

Clearly, there is no room in my life to add one more Internet distraction.

Then I looked at Pinterest.

And feel in LOVE.

I *heart* a good bulletin board. Pinterest is like a bulletin board for one’s computer, where one can “pin” all the interesting things they come across on the Internet. You can follow fellow Pinterest enthusiasts and see what they pin on their boards. Also, boards are classified by subject (Food, Crafting, Fashion, Mommy Ideas, etc.) or general area, which is like a balm to my Type A spirit.

Pinterest is like an idea explosion, my friends.

Fellow e Enthusiasts…find me and my boards (they are very small now…but are growing) so we can share ideas. Those husbands and kiddos can fend for themselves!

 

Simple Summer Style for the SAHM

I am a magazine junkie.

Perhaps it is the glossy pictures or the variety of articles or maybe the freedom of being able to dog-ear various ideas to return to on a rainy day that inspires my love for magazines.

Whatever the reason, I *heart* a good magazine (In fact, the husband just brought in two for me from today’s mail.)

This afternoon as I was browsing the latest issue of one of my “mom” magazines, I stumbled across a fashion article. This was not the standard fashion article, but rather one outlining the clothing options one should pack when the husband sweeps one away for a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Carribean.

Hmmm.

I am going to guess that about .004% of this magazine’s readership have ever/will ever be swept away on an impromptu trip to an exotic isle.

A neighboring city and a nice hotel? Quite possible.

A 3,000 mile away tropical location with no advance planning and adequate babysitter lined up? Not so much.

Aside from the slightly ridiculous premise of this article, the other humorous aspect that caught my eye was the fashion tips for the mom packing to head off on the romantic vacation with the hubs. Such tips included packing some of the following items: $300 tunic for the pool, a tiny two-piece (modeled on a size 0 body) and crisp white linen pants (Did the hubs remember to pack the iron for this impromptu second honeymoon? Nothing says “romance” like ironing.)

As I mentioned, I love magazines. I love fashion articles. I am a huge proponent of the SAHM looking cute rather than appearing as if she is perpetually going to/coming from the gym. However, the unrealistic fashion advice that is sometimes put out into the cosmos is what I believes drives the stay-at-home mom to hide behind her faded black yoga pants and sloppy pony tail. Purchasing a $300 tunic (albeit a cute tunic) for the pool seems absurd when someone under three feet tall is likely going to use it to wipe their hands, nose, or mouth during a swimming excursion.

In response to this article, below are some of my summer staples for the mom wanting to break out of the yoga pant rut and find a simple summer style that might inspire their husband to wisk them away to the nearest Carribean island.
Or local Hilton. Whatever.

Summer Glow

Part of the beauty of summer is having that sun-kissed look. Fortunately, gone are the days in which women slather themselves with baby oil and lay on aluminon foil to achieve such a look. The store shelves are filled with a variety of  lotions and creams designed to give that sun goddess look (minus the sun). The sunless look can be a bit tricky and might require a bit of experimentation, but the final glow can be worth the process. Personally I like a little Jergens Natural Effects mixed with a shimmer Bath and Body works lotion to give my skin a little summer kick.

Simple Summer Hair

It would be wonderful to be the gal who can have hair that goes from the pool to poolside and look glamorous. I am not that gal. Back when I had longer hair, I often braided it to keep it looking good for the entire day. With the short hair, I pull it back in a side braird or a clip on top to keep it from looking like a wet mess after time at the pool. Find an easy summer style that looks good wet or dry and ditch the traditional ponytail.

Check out this blog post for some great summer hair tips (By the way, I love the LC side braid. Both Miss E. and I have been sporting it this summer)

Perfect Mom Swimsuit

Finding a swimsuit that is modest, cute, child-proof and hides an assortment of flaws can be tricky. Since having children, I have come to prefer the tankini with the skirt. Last week in the pool Evelyn asked why I was wearing my cover-up. Hmmm. I might need to assess the suit situation I am working this summer.

My new favorite swimsuit retailer is Lime Ricki. Hello, modest cute swimsuit at an affordable price! LimeRicki has some great suits for women of all sizes. I am currently eyeing this one, paired with a yellow skirt. Cute enough for the community pool as well as an exotic isle. Find something that works for your body and makes you feel good, regardless of size or flaws.

Chic Cheap Sundress

I wear a lot of dresses in the summer, mainly because they are cool and because that can be found for a great price at a variety of stores. I can toss on a sundress, paired with some sandels and jewelry, and look completely pulled together for the day, even if my day only consists of playing with the kiddos, cleaning up spilled chocolate milk and checking the mail.

Some dresses that I currently love include:

This Maxi Dress from Forever 21

And this simple sundress from Wal-Mart (yep…Wal-Mart!)

 

A Positive Attitude

Sometimes I question why my children are being so very grumpy…until I realize that their mother is being so very grumpy. The easiest summer accesorty to sport: A positive attitude. Try it on…it will look great on you!

This summer, step up your mommy style and create a summer look that is easy, affordable and inexpensive.
Oh..and if  your husband sweeps you off to an exotic vacation at the last-minute so the rest of us can live vacriously though you…

A sneak preview of summer survival fun

Tick, tick, tick.

Summer is rapidly approaching. Are you ready?

Earlier this week I mentioned that I would be sharing the phillips family’s summer schedule next week. Until then, I wanted to give you a little sneak peak into one of my summer survival tips:

Reading Programs.

Last summer, the children and I participated in two reading programs. One at our local library and one at a Half-Price Books retail store. Through these programs, the children earned free kids meals to local restaurants, free ice cream, small toys and a stack of $3 gift cards. They also (unknown to them) learned accountability, responsibility and the pride in completing a task. Miss E. completed the programs as a “listener” while her brother completed them as a “beginning reader.” This year, E. will be able to do a combo of listening and reading while Isaac will be a full-fledged, chapter book-loving reader.

Interested in getting your children plugged into some great reading programs? Check out the list below.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pizza Hut: This reading program is for kids in K-6 grades. It offers kids a chance to win a large sweepstakes once they have met the reading requirement. Although winning a sweepstakes is not going to happen to every reader, the website for this contest is a valuable source of book suggestions, literacy activities and fun learning games.

 

 

  • Build-A-Bear: In the past, Build-a-Bear had a summer reading program for kids. Although their website does not yet have details regarding this year’s program, it should still be in operation. Read books and earn fun Build-A-Bear prizes!

 

  • Public Library. Most importantly, do not forget the public library. Take advantage of reading programs and special events hosted by your public library this summer.

PBSkids.org (a favorite website of ours) has a campaign devoted to developing strong literacy skills in children. Sometimes as parents we want our children to accomplish a task (i.e. reading) but do not know how to help them with such an accomplishment. The Raising Readers campaign is a great place to start!

Happy Reading this summer!

If you know of a reading program that I left off of this list, please be sure to share it in the comments section. Thanks!

**Wondering why my oldest child is sitting outside in May under a blanket? Well, he had a fever the day this picture was taken. Bless his sweet little heart. I was sad for his fever but my mama heart always loves to see my babies wrapped up in quilts from their infancy.

Little Chefs Birthday Party

The baby in our house turned four this week.

Four years old…practically on her way to a driver’s license and a full time job.

This year, we choose a cooking theme for her party. Over the past twelve months, Miss E. has really displayed an interest in helping me in the kitchen. Her cooking skills are coming along nicely and she really enjoys pitching in with supper. I figured a cooking party would be a great way to celebrate her entrance into her fourth year of life.

Because our children are still young (ish), I like to keep the list of attendees low at birthday parties. This year the children switched to a new preschool, where the culture is for everyone to invite everyone to their parties. I love this new school but the idea of inviting over 34 preschoolers to cook in my kitchen seemed a bit absurd and sounded like a recipe for disaster. Instead,  we invited a handful of friends to join-in on the cooking fun.

For decorations, I decided to go with a vintage/kitschy look. Everything was a mix of spring colors and floral prints. Nothing really matched, which gave it that vintage feel. The children and I worked on a massive paper chain that we hung from the ceiling of our front room. This was an easy, free decoration, which happens to still be hanging from the ceiling.

Anyone need a 12 foot paper chain?

Once our party guests arrived, they went on a scavenger hunt for needed kitchen items. This proved to be a fun game that helped ease into our time of cooking. Once the hidden items (such as measuring cups, small bowls and spatulas) were retrieved, everyone washed hands and then put on their serious cooking attire.

Nothing is cuter than a kid in a chef hat, in my opinion.

I purchased these chef hats and aprons, along with some other party supplies, from the dollar section of my local Michaels.

Once everyone was dressed as a chef, we headed to the kitchen to cook. Cooking with preschoolers is a lot different than cooking with older children. Before the party, I had pre measured all the ingredients and set them out on trays. I also covered my granite island with a plastic tablecloth to protect it from spills and messy hands. Finally, I had set small stools around the kitchen island to provide a safe place for children to stand and cook.

For this party, we cooked:

*Sparkle Sandwiches

*Fruit Salad on a Stick

*Yogurt Dip

*After-school Granola

I made and laminated recipe cards for each item we were making. After the party, I put the recipe cards in with the kids’ play kitchen items to be incorporated into future creative play.

The children really enjoyed cooking. Knowing that I was working with preschoolers, I made sure each recipe did not take more than 5-10 minutes. We moved quickly through the cooking exercises, being sure to place each newly prepared item on the children’s plates to be eaten for lunch.

The finished product:

There was also a table of “real” food for all of the adults to eat. After the children finished their lunch, we decorated pre-made shortbread cookies, which we paired with cake and ice cream (the sugar rush all of those foods created later came back to haunt me in the form of very hyper children).

The cake was a simple two layer, white cake (per the request of the birthday girl) with yellow frosting and polka dots (per the request of the birthday girl’s mother). The polka dots were simply candy I added in a random fashion to the cake.

After cake and ice cream, it was present time.

Miss E. loved all of her gifts but was a big fan of her new bike and Leapster. Both of these toys signified (to her) that she is now a Big Kid!

After all the gifts were open and all the food consumed, our guests left and we collapsed. Hosting a party is exhausting.

Before our little chefs departed the party, they were given a party favor.

I found these cute shopping baskets and stuffed them with measuring cups (perfect for the upcoming pool days), lip balm, stickers, and crazy straws. The chef hats and aprons, along with the laminated placemats, went home with guests as well.

All in all, it was a great party.

The funny aspect about dealing with preschoolers is that the main thing they want to do it play. The kids enjoyed the cooking. They had a blast with the scavenger hunt. They consumed way too much sugar.

However, they had the most fun just running around and being silly.

Happy Birthday, Miss E!

Rainy Day Survival Tips

It is raining, reader.

The rain began here yesterday as we were leaving a local restaurant after Sunday brunch.

As Miss E. attempted to navigate the cold, hard rain while wearing shoes that mysteriously became too big overnight, she cried “Don’t get my dress wet!” to the drops that fell from the sky.

That sweet little girl, already understanding  how some rain can upset a girl’s day.

The rain has continued to fall all night long and is predicted to be with us until tomorrow morning. Rainy days can be both a blessing and curse to the stay-at-home mommy. They allow us a chance to stay home and enjoy our sweet babies. Rainy days also allow us a chance to stay home and be driven crazy by our sweet babies who are being driven crazy by the confinement of an indoor space.

Bless all of our hearts.

Having a plan for a rainy day cuts down on the craziness, the whining and the fighting. (Notice I said “cuts down.” I have no cure to completely eliminate the craziness, the whining and the fighting.). Below are some fun activities and ideas for surviving a rainy day at home with young children.

  • Host a birthday party. This is a Mommy  trick that works every time. Have children select a favorite stuffed animal or doll and throw a birthday party for it. Children can make invitations, set out decorations and help bake a tasty treat. This activity is also a great way to make use of those random leftover party supplies sitting around the house.

 

  • Create an indoor zoo. My children did this activity back during Snowmaggedon 2011 and loved it. Haul out all the stuff animals and have children arrange a zoo. Create zoo keeper vests out of old paper bags. Teach children how to classify animals and set up various exhibits. Once the zoo is established, Mom and Dad can be the visitors and be taken on a tour by their lovely little zoo keepers.

 

  • Bake a treat for someone special. I love to bake, but hate having the temptation of cookies sitting around the house. Baking for someone else gets kids in the kitchen and the yummy food out of the house. Baking for others also teaches children about hospitality and sharing with others.

 

  • Read a good book out loud. Currently the children and I are reading Peter Pan together, after finishing up Around the World in Eighty Days last week. Today is the perfect day to snuggle up on the couch and read a few chapters together.

 

  • Encourage a time of independent play. Children need to learn to play alone in a room by themselves. Have a set time when everyone plays quietly in their rooms. This gives mom a break and teaches independent play skills. Remember, it is OKAY for kids to be bored. Boredom can really ignite one’s imagination when given the chance.

  • Measure the house. I love this activity and my children are about to take part in it right now. One can also Count the House, an activity that we did a few months ago (and might repeat depending on how long today starts to seem!).

 

  • Make a productive craft. Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week are all upon us. Take a moment to have kids craft something with purpose. I love these Tin Can Treats. As for our house, this morning we are working on decorations for Miss E.’s upcoming birthday party.

 

  • Map the Neighborhood. Haul out some large craft paper or even unused wrapping paper and help kids draw a map of your neighborhood, being sure to include fun landmarks like one’s house, the local park and important roads. Once the map is complete, use small toys and cars on the map to create an interactive experience.

Embrace the rain today and spend time with your kids. Teach them something, provide a quiet moment for them and do something productive for others. Remember that God not only gives us a day of rain to nourish the earth but to nourish our own spirits as well.

Making Use of the Public Library

The public library is my friend.

Despite the fact that I once harbored a book from a library in the bottom of my closet during the majority of my childhood, I am a frequent patron of our local public library. Once the husband and I married and settled into suburbia, USA we quickly got our own library cards. We routinely visited the library after work in search of fun and exciting reads.

The moment my first born could be stuffed quietly into a stroller, he was introduced to the library. There were many times that I hurried through the aisles, attempting to find a book and pacify a fussy baby all at one time. The boy came to love the library as well. By the time his sister came along, that love of the library ran deep. We often tell the story of the day I loaded both kids into the car and set out to return a few books. Not wanting to do the whole unloading/loading process of a baby and a very young toddler, I opted to merely return our books through the drive through window.

Once it became painstakingly clear to a particular not-quite-two year old little boy riding in the backseat that we were not actually going inside the doors of the library, he wailed “LI-LARRY!!!” all the way home.

Bless his sweet little book-loving heart.

These days the library is a standard errand. Now that we have three readers and an emergent reader living in casa de phillips, I often swing by the library at least twice a week. Sometimes these visits are long, drawn out affairs with everyone taking the time to enjoy the many facets of the library. Other times I am simply dashing in to return a stack of books in exchange for a new stack of books.

Like I said, the public library is my friend.

If you think the public library is simply home to a few old dusty books circa 1974, think again. Libraries are staying true to the times, keeping up with popular trends and staying in touch with the latest technologies. Below are some ways that today’s family can make use of the public library.

Books, Books, and More Books

Obviously, a public library is home to books. I find an abundance of books in the shelves of my library. Often times, I check out popular online book sites, such as Amazon, following trends for my areas of interest. I then scoot over to my library’s website to see if they have the same titles waiting for me on their shelves (which they often do). I am able to read my way through a variety of books for free. My children have both discovered new and exciting books in the vast children’s area of our library. As their reading levels have developed, they are able to experiment with a variety of leveled reading books. Again, for free! Isaac is a fast reader and is currently plowing through several series of books. The library is a great way to encourage a love of reading in children by providing a large quantity of books for children to explore and enjoy. (Did I mention that it is free?)

Activities

Most public libraries offer more than just books and the preschool story hour. They offer a variety of services and activities for citizens of a community. From classes on parenting to seminars on finances to family craft night and tween movie time, libraries are stepping up as a place for those in the community to come and interact. Check out the local library’s website to see if they offer clubs for kids and adults, weekend activities, seminars and events. One might be surprised to see that the library is a hot spot of family fun.

Key to the city’s history

Casa de phillips is currently located in a city rich with history. The husband and I became very interested in our town’s history upon moving here. Our library is active in preserving this history and in housing resources that help patrons learn more about our fair city. Often times it is easy to take the presence of one’s town for granted. However, all of our towns and cities have a tale of origin and founding fathers who decided to settle in a particular area for a particular reason. Utilize the public library to learn more  about the place where you live.

Tool for teaching children

Everyone remembers learning about the card catalog system in grade school. For most, it was boring and dull to learn what random fact was placed where on a small manila card that was stuffed into an old wooden drawer. The library can be a place to teach more than the card catalog system to children.

 Use the library to teach manners. The library is a great place to teach children how to be quiet, sit still and pay attention. The basic rule of a library is that one must be quiet when inside. Teach children this rule from the very beginning. Another basic rule of a library is that one must sit and listen when a story is being read. When they were younger, my children were both removed from story time on more than a few occasions because they simply could not sit still and listen. However, we kept trying and trying until they eventually learned to sit and listen. We started this training young and the hard work has paid off.

Use the library to teach responsibility. Although library books are free, they come with a price tag. Usually an expensive price tag. A great way to teach children to be responsible with belongings is to use library books as a teaching tool. Teach kids that library books are simply borrowed and must be treated gently and returned in a timely manner. And never, ever let them sit on the bottom of one’s closet for three years  (gulp).

Use the library to teach computer skills.Most libraries are equipped with a computer area. Our library has one specifically for children. It was on these computers that I taught both my children how to navigate a computer mouse and keyboard around basic educational games. We have made trips to the library just so the children can use the computers. Take advantage of the technology a public library provides and share it with your children.

Use the library to teach the Dewy Decimal System. Although the wooden card catalog is obsolete ( I would LOVE to have one for my home), the Dewey Decimal System is still alive. I recently have begun teaching my oldest the basics of this system and how to use it to find books of interest. Children need to understand that books are placed on shelves for a reason. This allows them to find books on their own and to understand why the librarian glares at them when they randomly pull books off the shelves and then stuff  them into empty spaces.

The public library is an excellent resource in one’s community. Take the time and make it a friend of yours as well.

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Just for fun, here is an interesting story about something the New York Public Library did to inspire their patrons to look at books differently.

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Yes, the pictures in this post are books checked out just today. We check out about 20-30 books at a time. Did I mention they are FREE???

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How does your family use the public library?

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