Rainbow Rice Bin

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day (or as my kids call it ‘Leaf Day’) we made Rainbow Rice boxes with little gold gems. We already made the traditional paper crafts with painted hand prints and shamrocks. So, I wanted something a little different and interactive.

This is how it went down:

All I used to make the colored rice.
All I used to make the colored rice.

I was expecting a much bigger mess than we made, hence the double layering of foil and paper on the baking sheet. I did  not have parchment paper on hand, so I just cut open a couple of brown paper lunch sacks.

Baking sheets lined with aluminum foil and brown paper.
Baking sheets lined with aluminum foil and brown paper.

I filled 6 plastic zipper bags with 1 cup of rice.

Rice prep
Rice prep
After color mix
After color mix

I used 1 tsp. of vinegar and several drops of food coloring. I did not measure the drops of food coloring, but used a small amount to start and added more if I wanted more vibrant colors.

Layering the rice to dry
Layering the rice to dry

The kids helped me spread each colored rice onto the paper. I expected by adding vinegar and liquid colors the rice would be more wet. But, it just needed an hour to air dry. Be sure to spread it nice and thin one color at a time.

While the rice dried we added our gold pieces (gems) to the bins. We talked about St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland, Leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of gold while we cleaned and dried the gems. I was amazed by my kid’s questions. Our conversation felt like it was a lesson without being a formal lesson.  While we waited for the rice and gems to dry completely we hung our St. Patty’s decorations around the house.

Gold gems served as our gold pieces.
Gold gems serve as our gold pieces.
Separated for binx
Separated for bins

Once the rice was dry I separated it into two columns to divide between two bins (clear plastic shoe boxes).

Scooping the rice into bins
Scooping the rice into bins

The kids chose to use a spatula to scoop and dump the rice into their bin.

I remembered I had left over black paper cups! Thought it made a great “pot” for our gold.

Black paper cups become our pot of gold.
Black paper cups become our pot of gold.

I added small plastic shot glasses as little scoops for the rice.

Smaller scoop cups to sort our gold.
Smaller scoop cups to sort our gold.

The whole project took around an hour and a half- including drying time. My husband noted the rainbow rice looked pretty similar to Fruity Pebbles. If you really want to you can dump cereal in a box and throw in some gold gems and be done. But, we really enjoyed the entire experience!

Painting away the winter blues.

In case you missed it, it’s stiiiiill winter here in the Northeast! There have been a few sunny days since our last beating of snow. But, it is still very cold and hard to get outside with the kids. Moms in my circle are longing for the days we can meet at a park and let our kids run free, and not have to mess with layers and layers of winter clothes. Come on Spring!

To keep my girls busy (and to keep our sanity) we are visiting different libraries to take advantage of a variety of free programs. From story time to crafts to music and movement classes and so much more. This week we traveled to two new libraries. While at one story hour we discovered the Le Petite Picasso painter program offered each week. The mere mention of paint (and opportunity to make a mess) and my kids are all over it. We came back the very next day for our Picasso experience!

This little library has such a warm and colorful space for kids to play and create. We donned our painting smocks and were ready to paint … bubble wrap! Who doesn’t love bubble wrap?!

Painting a sunny yellow.
Sunny yellow on a winter’s day.

Of course they used their hands to mix the paints and pop the bubbles. It’s all a great sensory learning experience, and just plain fun!

Little hands love paint.

Little hands love paint.
Different sized bubbles offered variety of texture.
Different sized bubbles offered variety of texture.

Once the kids had a chance to play with the paints for a bit, the librarian leading the class placed plain paper over the top of the bubbles. The children pressed down on the paper and rubbed their hands over it. Pealing the paper back revealed a unique print.

Taking advantage of programs at different libraries is a great way for us to get out of the house on a cold day, make a mess that someone else cleans up and we make some new friends- all for free!  Paying for two kids to attend painting class, or private lessons is costly. Attending painting class at the library for free is a huge savings for us!

This is such a simple activity to do at home with your kids. All you need is a roll of bubble wrap, some plastic on the floor, paints and brushes. If you have those cute little painter pallets great- if not, just dump the paint right onto the wrap and let your kids go.

Does painting at home make you nervous? If you’re embracing the whatever philosophy  you’ve already wrapped your kid in plastic, moved away all the furniture and have plenty of wipes on hand! This of course is to alleviate our own stress by attempting to contain the mess. The beauty of this project is when the kids are finished you can roll it all up and toss it in the trash. If you want more Eco-friendly put paper on the floor and recycle.

Tip: I rarely pay for paper for my kids to paint on. I save the paper that comes in shipping boxes.  I just fold it neatly and lay it flat. Now I have paper any time we need it for painting, crafting, or to use as underlay to keep a project area neat.

What are some ways you save on art/craft supplies for your kids? Does your library offer any fun, free programs?

A Look Ahead to Spring- Let’s Get Messy!

The perfect day for puddle jumping!
The perfect day for puddle jumping!

There was a beautiful break in the winter weather for all of 3 days a couple of weeks ago. I’m talking 40 degrees, blue skies and sunny. Everything started to melt and it felt near tropical! Now, we are back to zero temps. Ick.

During the big melt there were puddles everywhere. Big, deep puddles just begging for the jumping! I loved jumping in puddles as a kid, but now as a mom all I can see is laundry, wet boots and someone’s going to cry because they are “too cold.” But, on this glorious day a friend’s words rang in my ear, “let your kids be kids for those who can’t. Let them jump in muddy puddles and make a mess!”

Last year my friend Gloria discovered a local charity created by a family who lost their little boy Ty to cancer. He was five years old and dreamt of jumping in puddles while he was stuck in bed. The Ty Louis Foundation http://www.superty.org/ has a wonderful way to raise funds for cancer research through The Muddy Puddles Project http://muddypuddlesproject.org/ . Each year the organization hosts a Mess Fest where children are encouraged to jump in the mud and make a mess.  It turns out anyone can host a party in their town, or even in their back yard and all proceeds go directly to childhood cancer research.

After finding this charity my friend immediately held a mess fest in her back yard. She literally flooded a spot in her yard and made a giant mud pit where the kids were encouraged to jump in. Afterwards everyone made giant messy sundaes. It was easy to see how much fun the kids had stomping in the mud with permission. It was also easy to see every mom cringe when they saw the amount of mud they had to clean up.

Backyard fun for a good cause
Backyard fun for a good cause

When I saw our street lined in puddles last week, I knew I had to dig deep into my ‘whatever’ philosophy to get passed the sight of dirty laundry and muddy shoes and just let my kids go have some fun. So, I dressed them in their snow boots, new rain coats and said, “Let’s go find some puddles to jump in!” The joy on their faces was beyond precious and the memories we made together was worth more than my worries of wet socks. (And, no one cried!)

I am learning that the messiness of childhood doesn’t last forever, but the memories those messy moments make will last a life time! No one has ever said, “remember that time we kept our house spotless? Yeah, that was fun!”

Spring time is the PERFECT time to host a Mess Fest of your own! To find out  how visit:  http://muddypuddlesproject.org/be-part-of-the-project/

To learn how to let go of the worry of making a mess, repeat after me: “What.Ever.” The dirt will all wash away, but the memories will remain!

Mid-Winter Play Date

Did you know private schools now host play dates? OK maybe this info is new just to me?

Over the weekend, my girls and I attended a free bread making class at a local Waldorf school. I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I know about the Waldorf philosophy is that it is child lead. That’s it.

This is by far the most beautiful school room I have ever seen. It is warm, inviting and full of sunshine. Everything is simple and clean. It is like being in someone’s small home. It’s a new school so everything in it is still perfect.

Beautiful sunshine for the winterscape on the window sill.
Beautiful sunshine for the winterscape on the window sill.

Our time began with circle songs before moving to the child sized table to make our bread. The children were encouraged to knead the dough while the teacher sang songs and quietly explained the steps. My kids are still singing, “Pat-a-cake Baker’s Man.” We rolled our dough into a long tube before rolling into the shape of a snail. It was so cute! I never would have thought to do that- the kids loved it!

Little hands patting the dough.
Little hands patting the dough.

After the snails went into the oven we enjoyed a snack with our new friends- warm bread with butter, apples cut into a spiral (almost like a slinky) and tea. Each child had their own perfect sized little pot of mint tea.

Tiny little pots of tea for each child.
Tiny little pots of tea for each child.

Everyone cleaned up their own area at the table and the kids were sent off to play while the moms were left to chat. I have to say that is always my favorite part of play dates.

Every toy in the room is exciting to a small kid, from the wooden doll house with realistic furniture to the excitement of packing a small suite case. There are no hard plastic toys, or anything that requires batteries. My kids especially enjoy the hand crocheted stuffed elephants and felted hats. I enjoy that my kids had a really wonderful time!

Wooden dollhouse.
Wooden dollhouse.

The girls could not wait to dive into their snail breads once we returned home. It was a really fun time spent with friends on a really beautiful sunny day!

Our finished breads.
Our finished breads.

Snow Day at the Beach

Here in the Northeast we are covered in about 30+ inches of snow. It’s safe to say I am over the snow. Every day I look out my window to a sea of white. It hinders my view at every stop sign and I have to tether my kids to the back deck before letting them go play for fear I might loose them. It’s seriously a lot of snow.

Every morning I wake up and think warm thoughts and remember my days at the beach. Ah… my toes in the warm sand and cool drink in my hand. I must be thinking about those days pretty hard because my daughter said to me today, “mommy I want to go to the beach!” I thought you and me both sister!

It is rare that inspiration and money come to me at the same time.  But today was my lucky day. We made a trip to the dollar store to get glass gems I want for another project I am dreaming about (you’ll have to wait for that post). While there I saw some glass sea shapes and I thought, “why not? I’ll figure out some way to use them!” We finished up our shopping trip which included some great bargains on plastic storage boxes.

We arrived home pretty close to dinner time and of course the girls were asking to watch TV. I knew that late in the day I’d never get them to turn it off to come to the dinner table. So, I did some quick thinking and just gave them the box with the glass sea shapes to play with.

Sea glass shapes in a box.
Sea glass shapes in a box.

The gems alone were just enough to keep them occupied while I put dinner together. They were so fascinated by the shapes and the smooth side and the bumpy side. I was so fascinated by no interruptions that I used the time to hunt through their toys to find beach themed items. I let them play until dinner was served and brought the boxes back out after dinner. I asked if they want to help me build a beach in a box. Well, of course!

Here is the little cast of characters we included in the box:

People, animals and things you see at the beach.
People, animals and things you see at the beach.

I tried to include things we might see at the beach.

Then we filled it with “sand.” Since I often use whatever I already have on hand I had to wrack my brain a bit for some sand. Then I remembered I had a bunch of salt left over from our salt dough Christmas ornaments.

Our white sandy beach.
Our white sandy beach.

Ta-da! A white sandy beach!!

This is what it looks like all together:

All our beach items in the box.
All our beach items in the box.

The girls had so much fun with these boxes it was totally quiet for a FULL GLORIOUS HOUR! The only reason they stopped playing is it was time to take a bath and get ready for bed.

I will WARN you- this project wasn’t wet or sticky but will get messy when the salt spills outside the box. And it did. A lot. I’d advise against it if you are not in favor of messes entirely, or superstitious about spilling salt. (I had to fight the urge to throw a pinch over my shoulder while sweeping it all up).

I’m not going to lie and say my favorite part was seeing the joy on my kid’s faces (that was a bonus), or that it won me some rare quiet time. Honestly, my favorite part was that it only cost me $5.05 total ($2.52 each box). And, I felt pretty awesome coming up with this idea on the fly.

So, here’s looking forward to warm sunny days real soon!!

Inside snow

In my previous post I confessed my deep feelings for snow. I really hate spending time in snow. It’s cold. It’s wet and it makes me a whiny mess. But, my kids do find the snow interesting and fun to play with.

Subscribing to my “whatever” philosophy means letting go of the drama and chaos to find a more peaceful existence. I don’t mean Zen like peace- although that would be nice and a bonus if it included wine, but more of an ease to our pace. If you’ve never had to dress two three year olds before, let me share that it can be a pretty dramatic process. One twin is ready to go before the other and starts to get antsy. That’s when the chaos sets in (and the whining). No one likes to sit and wait for help with their boots so they try to put them on without my help, which is a frustrating process when you have little hands. After 20 minutes of whining, kicking and crying (sometimes by me) I’m usually done with the whole process before we’ve even opened the door. Thankfully, Pintrest has a solution! Snow table!

A snow table means I don’t have to put on boots. I don’t have to rummage for hats and mittens and scarves. I don’t have to pretend to have fun when I’m really freezing! I LOVE YOU PINTREST! We usually stay in our jammies and play for as long as the interest holds. I try to throw in extra things to mix with, build with or change the color with to keep it interesting.

I pulled out the water table we had stored in the garage, recycled a left over plastic party table covering and rummaged through the house for some fun things to play in the snow with.

Reused our summer water table for a snow table.
Reused our summer water table for a snow table.

The plastic cover under the table catches all the over flow of snow. I can wrap it up and throw away, or if the mess is small enough wipe it up and I can use the cover again. I have this in the kitchen where the floor is tile so really if it goes passed the cover it’s no big deal.

Ice Legos in the snow.
Ice Legos in the snow.

Next: fill with snow! Now you can be done at the point and just hand the kids a few wooden spoons, or plastic cups. But, this time (since it was our 1 billionth snow day this year) I added in some rainbow colored ice cubes, penguin spoons and little toy polar bears. The girls loved it and I stayed toasty- win/win! My one daughter said, “It’s just like ice Legos!” Suuurre… yeah…that’s exactly what I was going for. *wink*

This busy fun lasted about 30 minutes before it was too cold to handle and both girls discovered their hands were now stained from the food coloring.

Food coloring does rub off on little hands.
Food coloring does rub off on little hands.

Whatever… it was 30 minutes of quiet with my cup of HOT coffee! Well worth the effort and mess!

Talking Heads

Anyone remember those stuffed talking heads from the 90’s? The ones that look like little cartoon heads with tiny arms and legs- you’d hit them and they’d say things like, “yadda, yadda, yadda” and “whaateverrrr!” I remember my brother gave me one because apparently I said, “whatever!” a lot back then. It was my catchphrase before I even knew it was my catchphrase!

I was thinking of this little talking head the other day when I saw picture after picture posted on Facebook of my friends taking their kids out in the snow to play. I felt a little guilty for not taking my little ones out. I hate the snow and cold so much. I hate how long it takes me to get all three of us dressed. Ugh. So, I posted kind of a joke question asking if I was horrible parent for not taking my kids out in the snow. I didn’t really expect anyone to answer the question. I obviously don’t think I’m a horrible parent. I thought I was being funny and sarcastic. There were actually several replies; some agreed the snow is overrated. But, one comment stuck with me. It actually said I was “taking away my kids choice” to have fun.

So here’s how it really went down. Me: “Hey kids look at all that snow!” Kids: “Wow!” Me: (in silent reluctance I ask) “would you like to go outside?” Kids: “No! We want to stay inside where it’s warm!” Me: “Ok then!” I asked, they replied with their choice.  Why would I now spend 20 minutes forcing them into snow pants and boots all the while crying they don’t want to go outside? Whatever. We watched Disney princess movies and ate a popcorn in our jammies. I didn’t post any pics of that. I didn’t want anyone else to feel guilty.

How many times do you feel like other parents opinions and comments make you sway in your own parenting choices? The guilt we feel as parents can be a powerful thing. Having twins I feel like the mommy guilt tag teams me, and it could easily take me down if I let it. So now I’m going to grab on to my trusty catchphrase the next time I feel that guilt well up and think, “whaateverr!” and let it go.

The Day I Became the Whatever Mom

January 31 018

I think it is important to share that I am afflicted with a type “A” personality; which basically means I am very high strung and I want things done my way. I tend to fall apart when things do not go according to plan. And, by fall apart I mean I have a full systems meltdown (which I did when my girls were around two and a half).  I am very lucky I get to stay home with my twins. I do not however have access to family, back up child care and my husband works 98% of each day. So, most days I am out numbered.

Now, let me share with you that having twins as your first born is hard work. There is already a major learning curve to being a first time parent, but you throw in that extra needy little human and things get tough. Whether you have one, two or several, that first year is all about getting your parental bearings. Even with all the curve balls I hit that first year, it was still the easiest so far. Both kids were on the same eating and sleeping schedule. Juggling feeding and bathing two babies alone was difficult, but I managed. By the grace of God they both took two naps a day which gave me approximately three and a half hours to complete my household chores, maybe rest and watch TV. They were in bed by 6 p.m. and I had three more hours to get things done (and drink some wine). Since they were so portable we went for a walk three times a day. Errands were nearly effortless when I only had to pick up their carrier and lock it into the stroller. I was able to get things done, maybe not as perfectly as I could before kids, but my house was orderly, my kids were clean and dinner was on the table every night. I felt like I was THE domestic goddess. My type “A” was happy!

It all changed when my twins started walking. In opposite directions. I could no longer keep them contained and everything they touched was now out of place. They started protesting against diaper changes, wardrobe changes, bath time, car seats, the stroller and what was on the menu. It was exhausting. But, somehow I was determined to continue operating at a level of perfection only I had created. Until one day I landed myself in the ER with my first ever panic attack (a fore mentioned full system melt down). I hated it. I hated feeling like I did not have control. That was the scariest part. After meeting with a neurologist (I was convinced it must be “a tumah”) I realized I needed to make some changes. I needed to let some things go- namely my expectations.

My kids deserve a healthy mom. So, “whatever” became my mantra. I started saying “whatever” to the dishes now and then. I started saying “whatever” to the crumbs on the floor and the splatters of paint on the table after art projects. I even started saying “whatever” to keeping every single thing perfect. I lowered my standards from unattainable perfection to “whatever works.” I’m not going to lie. It was and still is difficult to do. I still get a twinge of “oh man I should be doing THAT!” when I go to other kids parties, or see friends awesome Pintrest projects. I get in a rush to make things bigger and better than I have planned. Then reality sets in that the only extra hands I have are little ones and I call upon my mantra of, “whatever” and I let it go.

I started this blog to give moms permission to do Whatever it takes to get through the day as a parent. You don’t need to keep it all together and make perfect crafts. You don’t need to put perfectly hot meals on the table every single night and hand deliver perfectly folded laundry. So, give yourself permission to leave the dishes in the sink a little longer while you play dress up with the kids. Our little ones actually want to be with us and shower us with kisses for a very short time.

Is your mail piling up? Is the laundry calling your name? Does your neighbor give you funny looks because you feed your kids out of a squishy pouch while driving to school? Repeat after me, Whatever! It works for me!