Archive | kids

DIY watercolor wood blocks


Need a super simple project to do with the kids? This watercolor wood block project is perfect.

It’s also great for an unexpected baby gift or fun party decorations for a birthday party or baby shower or thrown in a bowl for chic accessory on your coffee table. Multi-use diy’s that are inexpensive and simple to execute are my favorite.

Here’s how to make these watercolor wood blocks:

wood-blocks-supplies-and-steps diy-wood-blocks-instructions

When you’re done coloring, you will have so much fun playing with the blocks – arranging by color, stacking and sorting. This one might look like it’s for the kids, but believe me, these blocks are for grown ups too.


They really do look pretty in a bowl (and make for an interactive coffee table accessory!).

Or of course, use them for actual play things.


Keep in mind that if you are using these for babies, make sure you seal in the color with a spray sealant (or several layers of mod podge).

Just for fun, I created this color-mixing chart. It’s fun to try out different combinations of liquid watercolors to get as many pretty hues as you like.



wood blocks small medium large / liquid watercolor / mod podge

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speaking your child’s language

We just returned from a weekend away at our favorite beach house on Whidbey Island. I’ve written about this magical place several times before, and posted a million IG photos (#theboathouse). Our good friends are gracious hosts and their hospitality provides the most cherished and memorable adventures for our kids. It is for sure their most favorite place to be.


I love the boat house for many reasons, but lingering at the top is watching the boys be boys. They have complete freedom. They can roam the endless beach collecting shells and digging for sea creatures. They cut down branches and make paths through the woods and whittle sticks with their pocket knives. They shoot bb guns and practice with their bows & arrows. They kayak or paddle boat and swim in the freezing cold water.  They build forts and bon fires and swing on a hammock. Continue Reading →

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our favorite children’s picture books

For as long as I can remember, I have adored children’s picture books. The sweet stories, likeable characters, clever plots and rhythmic cadence are all appealing, for sure. But my very favorite are the illustrations.


Our collection of picture books continually grows … I just can’t resist. And the kids enjoy us reading to them, so it’s a win-win. Over time, we’ve found that some books are worth reading over and over again. Their stories are great, the pictures are even better and reading them aloud is both fun to do and fun for the little ones to hear. Sometimes even the older two boys join in on story time.

So here are our (at-the-moment) favorite children’s picture books:


Let’s begin with this long-time beloved book, The Jolly Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. I loved it as a child, and all of my kids (ages 10,8,6,4) love it as well. The story follows a british postman as he rides his bicycle to different fairy tale characters delivering letters. The best is the envelope-shaped pages with actual letters inside to read. Such sweet fun.


I Had A Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn is Audrey’s pick most nights. I never protest because I just adore the pictures. It is the story of a girl who grows out of her favorite dress but her mother helps to ‘snip, snip, sew, sew’ it into a shirt, then tank top, then scarf, etc. It’s very cute.


The Birdie books by Sujean Rim are also Audrey’s most frequent choices and, again, the artwork is just beyond charming. Birdie is a sweet and independent little girl who makes style choices all on her own.


This one was a natural choice because of the name, but also because it was written by the first blogger I ever read, Angie Smith, and I kinda think she’s amazing. Audrey Bunny is the story of a bunny who worries that because she is not perfect, she will not be chosen. It tells a sweet story about how God has made us wonderfully and wants us to just be ourselves.


The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood is my third son’s absolute favorite. He can recite the whole thing and his voice inflections are the cutest.


Bear’s Loose Tooth by Karma Wilson is part of another series we all enjoy so much. The animal friends are darling and the rhythm of the words makes it feel sing-songy to read. If you’re just starting out with these books, begin with Bear Snores On or Bear’s New Friend or actually the whole set.


The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is one of my favorites. Again, the words are poetic, yet clever and the pictures are detailed, bright and silly. When the circus ship sinks, the animals swim to a New England shore and find a home with the townspeople, who cleverly camouflage the animals when the grumpy circus trainer comes searching for them. Love this one.


Also written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (which I didn’t realize until taking these pictures!), King Hugo’s Huge Ego is super clever and the artwork is wonderful. A pompous king learns a lesson about humility and kindness in this happy story.


The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett feels similar to King Hugo in it’s smart storyline and cheerful illustrations, but this time a pig and princess get mixed up and what happens is pretty cute.  A fun read especially for the grown-ups.


This oldie-but-goodie remains high on my list because it is just so simple and fun to read. We pat our legs and make swishing noises with our hands as the family goes on an adventure through tall grass, sticky mud, a swirling, whirling snowstorm, to find a bear. We’re Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is delightfully illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.


The newest addition to our book collection is Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.  I’ll be honest … I haven’t read it yet. I saw it at the kids’ book fair and the cover caught my attention because, just look at that cover! It is the story of a prim and proper Mr. Tiger who decides that maybe going wild would be more fun. Can’t wait to read this one with the kids.

So there you go. All of our current favorites. Do you have a cherished picture book in your family? Please share!

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the kids’ bath mini makeover

Some people go to tropical places for spring break. Others spend their week redoing the kids’ bathroom. I wish I was in the first group, but as I look at my typing fingers, I see lots of dried paint which pretty much gives my spring break activities away.

I’ve posted about the kids’ bathroom before with before shots and some inspiration. And then I waited two years to actually do anything about it.  While driving home this past weekend from a little beach trip, I suddenly felt the urge to tackle the room. Nothing too intense, just a lot of paint, some hardware and a new light. My hope was to get it finished this week, for as little money as possible. So far, so good.

Here’s the before:


A nicely sized room with decent lighting and everything functions fine. But it’s just so boring. I thought a little bit of color, brighter walls and painted cabinets would make a huge difference and make the space fun for the kids.

So tuesday morning, the boys and I set to work (they only lasted through the priming).


This is the third time I have painted cabinets in our house; the kitchen was first – which received oil paint for durability and have held up very well and the laundry room was next. I used latex in there because oil takes forever to dry and I just wanted a quick fix. After a year, they are doing perfectly so I decided to go the easy route again in the bathroom and use latex. I shared the process of painting cabinets here.


To help the existing laminate countertop blend in, the cabinets were painted gray. I used leftover paint from our bedroom (Bedford Gray by Martha Stewart). The paint makes the cabinets look instantly cleaner and more modern and I’m so happy I finally painted them!


The walls are getting a much brighter shade of white (the photo was snapped after the first coat). I never thought of our walls as being dark, but once they were white, it feels so much lighter. The white is admittedly a bit sterile (pure white by sherwin williams) but hopefully once there is art and a few accessories, they will warm up a bit.

Next up:

  • finish up a fun painted wall (if you follow me on instagram, you’ve already seen it in it’s first stage!)
  • decide on the backsplash. I’m thinking white subway tile all the way up the wall behind the mirror and on the sides of the vanity walls. I’ll have to enlist the help of my handy husband for it, or learn to tile.
  • add a frame to the mirror. Originally I thought I would replace it with two separate mirrors, but I don’t really want to spend money on new mirrors in here and the big mirror actually works well when multiple kids are in the bathroom.
  • new light.
  • hardware for the cabinets.

My hope was to finish the room this week, but these things always take longer than expected – and turn into larger projects than intended – so I’ll take the next few days off to finish out our spring break doing more kid-friendly things like going to grandma’s house to play with her puppy.

More to come …

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tea party birthday

We celebrated our little Audrey-girl with a pretty tea party that was every bit as sweet and happy as she is.


Using a color palette of pinks, oranges, gold and black and white kept everything cohesive without being overly themed and made decorating really fun for me.

I started with these cute tea-bag invitations:


A little card tucked into a glassine bag folded to get that tea bag shape. The no. 4 tag attached with baker’s twine with glittered edges is my favorite part.

tea-party-birthday-invitation (invitation by me, no. 4 artwork by lindsayletters)

We hosted the tea party at our house and set up in our rarely-used dining room just to make it feel extra special.


The initial inspiration for the colors were pulled from a roll of wrapping paper (found at marshalls) that worked perfectly for a table runner. It gives cheerful pattern and bright color to the table and makes a big impact for only a few dollars.


The light fixture got a fancy treatment with tissue paper fringe (three colors of tissue cut into strips, fringed and then hung with scotch tape directly to the linen shade) and this ruffled crepe paper was draped across the window for more color.


I inherited my grandma’s mismatched set of tea cups and saucers and I loved pulling them out for the party.


Lunch was tea sandwiches, fruit and crackers.


For dessert we had striped chocolate pudding in mini glass jars with an extra dollop of whip cream and golden sprinkles.


Audrey’s little friends were perfectly polite and had a fun time drinking tea (with sugar cubes, of course) and celebrating.



And the birthday girl had a happy, happy day.


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a book recommendation from my ten year old

Our oldest son just turned 10 and loves to read. He’s not all that interested during the day, but at night, give him a good book and he will read hours past his bedtime.


I’m always on the lookout for good books for boys and bought the first book in this series at the school book fair based solely on the cover (I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but I totally do and the cuter the cover, the more likely I am to pick it up). I then found a boxed set of the whole series and again, I just couldn’t resist the great illustrations/lettering and bought him the collection for Christmas.


He read the prequel (The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict) and couldn’t put it down. He insisted that I must read it, and he was sure I would love it. I always wanted to be that mom who read whatever her children were reading, but so far, this kid has lapped me a thousand times and I haven’t even attempted to keep up. This was especially true during his infatuation with those ridiculous comic-type books like Captain Underpants and Big Nate. Sorry … this mama has no interest in 8 year old boy humor.

But this book – this whole Mysterious Benedict Society series – this is something I can get in to.


I finished the first book yesterday while feeling kinda sick and even though it is written for kids in grades 3-7, it was a perfectly captivating, intriguing, charming read for me as well. My 10 year old was right – I did love the book.

Now on to the next one …

If you are looking for a good series for your kids (or you!), this one comes highly recommended by both my son and I.


Learn more about the books here or purchase the set here.

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the {never before seen} bonus room decorated for christmas

Like many homes built within the last 10 years, we have a large bonus room above the garage. It has served many different purposes in our home – playroom, media room, office, bedroom – but we’ve landed for now on making it into a comfortable family room.  It is where the kids play xbox, build forts, watch movies and play board games. Occasionally I’ll sit in there to fold laundry and watch a show, but it is mostly a room for the kids to enjoy.

This year we decided to spread the cheer and decorate the room for Christmas.


I’m not using any red in our christmas decorations downstairs, so it was fun to put all of our red ornaments, pillows and accessories in here.


We’ve had the little artificial tree for years and it was nice to just pop it together and plug it in.  The tree is decorated with favorite ornaments and all of the kids’ special ones they have made at school.


On the opposite wall is this most creative and precious sign the kids and their cousins made last weekend. It is one of those things I’ll roll up and bring out year after year.


The big map {from ikea} is embellished with a simple garland made with cardstock letters strung on green gardening twine.



Favorite christmas books and a few cherished nutcrackers from my childhood collection bring cheerful holiday touches.


The kids and I had a great time putting the room together. They have been so in to decorating this year … can’t wait to show you what else they came up with!

I’ll be joining Lindsay from The White Buffalo Styling Co. for a Christmas tour of homes next week with photos of the rest of our house so stay tuned…

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how we do christmas gifts in our family

Last year we tried something different with our gift-giving.

Usually, we call Christmas an excuse to buy our kids a whole load of things they want and things we want them to have. We don’t go completely overboard, but with four kids and a handful of gifts each, our tree is usually overflowing with festively-wrapped presents. Christmas morning is a whirl of torn paper and squeals of delight and new clothes tossed to the side – because, who am I kidding – no six year old boy cares about a new tshirt.

We have really great kids who are {mostly} kind and thoughtful.

But they are not always grateful.

I don’t blame them; it’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea what it means to do without.

Jami wrote about it so beautifully and convicting-ly a few years ago after Christmas. I remember laying in bed reading her post and just crying because even though she was writing about her family, she was writing about mine, too.

We are spoiled beyond measure and yet we still want more.

So, last year, we gave something new a try with the hope that by reducing the number of presents, we would be more grateful for ones we received.

Here’s what we did: each of the kids woke on Christmas morning to four gifts under the tree.

We prepped the kids ahead of time, created wish lists and they seemed surprisingly excited about the idea.

The most difficult part, I will readily admit, was the restraint it took me in my gift-purchasing. I love buying things for my kids. There are a million fun gifts they would be happy to open but this system forced us to be intentional – only buying four things for each child.

Last Christmas morning was the best we’ve ever had. Without fail, every single present was opened with wide smiles and excited oohs and ahhs. Each of the kids received four gifts that were thought-out and purposeful and they were grateful.

We’re doing the four gifts again this year. No modifications. The kids just wrote out their wish lists with multiple items for each category. Ryan and I will choose from the list or come up with a special gift on our own. We don’t really pay close attention to spending equally on each child, but we do try to give items that will make them equally excited.

To be fair, I must admit that our kids receive more than four gifts for christmas. Between grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts & uncles and cousins, they open plenty of gifts. I’m sure you could ask your family members to refrain from gift-giving to keep the gifts at four total, but some people {like my mom} find such joy in giving gifts that we didn’t want to take that away.

If you’re wanting to try something new, simplify and be intentional about your gift-giving this year, this system might be great for you.

 To get you started, print out this fun printable for your little ones to jot down their wish lists.


And then if you want to label your gifts, feel free to use these tags.


To download the files, I invite you to join our library of freebies, templates and digital files. archive-free-access

It’s our best way to organize all of the favorite downloads and make it easier for you to find and access them. Simply click on the image above to join.


Any other questions about how we do gifts? Let’s chat …

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a note to my children


When I was a little girl, all I could dream of was being a mommy. Your aunties and I played dolls until we were way too old for it. We crafted baby books with photos torn from clothing catalogs to document our imaginary children’s lives. I spent hours daydreaming about how many children I would have, what their names would be, what color hair they would have and, most importantly, what I would dress them in for family pictures. Once I was old enough, I spent my time babysitting and playing with kids in the church nursery, then later nannying for a family and falling in love with those children.

My friends in college would sometimes laugh at me because I just wanted to get married and have kids. I wasn’t looking for a career path, I didn’t have a strategic post-graduation plan. I had a boyfriend {your daddy} and the dream of marrying him and becoming a mommy.

Now that I’m here – on this side of my dream – with four healthy, bright, happy and unique children, there is something I want you to know.

My darling children, you have made my dream come true.

In my young mind, I wanted kids to dress up and cuddle and show off. I do that with you sometimes and it’s fun, for sure.

But, as it turns out, that is not my favorite part of motherhood.

From the moment I realized you were going to be part of our family, you each captured my heart. That love developed through the months of growing you in my tummy, holding you for the first time, staring at your perfect little face, admiring how you looked so much like your siblings and yet so very different. Each of you have your own personalities, you own talents, your own struggles and needs. As you grow, you become more and more of your own person and I get the best view to watch it all play out. I see things in you that remind me of daddy, you have mannerisms that you get from me. Then there are those things that are all your own and I get to find ways to encourage you, protect you, understand you … those are the best parts of being a mommy.

You are mine; we are forever connected, and I love you so much deeper than I ever knew was possible.

Yesterday a mama duck and her little ducklings started crossing the busy road. I slowed down and came to a stop {on the highway!} to avoid hurting them. After a few moments, their mama turned direction and her babies followed quickly after her.  It was the sweetest sight watching those tiny baby chicks waddle after their mama. They needed her and she led them confidently towards safety.

Sometimes, that’s how I feel. I feel like the mama duck with my little ducklings following after.

Sometimes I feel confident and walk with my chest held high, confident of where I’m going. I have four well-behaved, darling little babies and parade you proudly. Look what I’ve done!, I say. Look at these amazing children who call me mom!

But sometimes {okay, maybe a lot of times} I feel exhausted. I feel selfish. I feel ill-equipped.

Sometimes I feel like I’d rather not have four little ones following me at every turn. Sometimes I want to turn around and tell you to sit still or leave me alone or find someone else to follow. Sometimes I actually say those things and I’m so sorry for that. I’m not always the nicest mommy to you and I hope you will forgive me for my times of impatience and rudeness.

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m very good at motherhood. Am I answering your questions? Am I nurturing your heart? Am I teaching you to love people more than things? Are you well-rounded? Are you kind? Am I praying for you enough? Reading to you enough? Saving for you enough?

What I have learned over and over in my short years of being a mom is that as hard as I try to lead you confidently, I will let you down.  I am still a work in progress – I’m still figuring out how to be less selfish and well-rounded and kind right along with you.

So, my babies, here’s what I want to say to you today:

thank you.

Thank you for making me a mommy. For being a dream come true. For teaching me about selflessness and forgiveness and my unending need for grace. For making me laugh and being my companions. For following after me like those baby chicks. For wanting me and needing me and accepting me. You are the best children ever.

I love you, my darlings. Oh, how I love you.



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paper crowns {tutorial}

A party hat is always a festive touch for a child’s birthday party. For Audrey’s fancy/crown/girly party, I made these paper crowns for the guests to wear. They were so simple to make and very cute on the little ones.


Here’s what you’ll need:


:: crown template {download below} printed on metallic gold paper
:: scissors
:: thin elastic {found by the yard in the fabric store}
:: hot glue gun
:: glue dots, glitter, silk flower to embellish

STEP ONE: cut crown from template


STEP TWO: if you’d like to embellish with glitter dots, randomly place glue dots on the front of the crown


STEP THREE: sprinkle fine glitter over dots


STEP FOUR: shake off excess glitter


STEP FIVE: cut elastic to size {approximately 13 inches} and hot glue to back of crown


STEP SIX: add a silk flower with hot glue {if desired}


Just a few simple steps and you get a darling paper crown.


Fun for birthday girls … diy-party-crown-with-flower

… and brothers, alike.


Please feel free to download the crown template below.



If you make these for a party, be sure to send me photos!

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a fancy party {audrey turns three}

Our little darling turned three last week and we threw her a fancy party.

{the invites as seen here}


The theme was a mix of fancy/glitter/crowns/gold/silver/girly/ruffles/polkadots.
How’s that for a concise theme?


The table was set with a ruffled tablecloth {made painstakingly by me}, place setting paper placemats {from here}, silver vessels filled with inexpensive carnations, and a homemade cake on my favorite beaded silver cake plate. It turned out fancy and pretty without being over-the-top.


We served tea sandwiches, fruit, sparkly lemonade and the cutest sugar cookies in the shape of a crown for dessert.






The birthday girl had the best time at her little party. I think she felt pretty special.


and we loved celebrating our sweet Audrey.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Want to see what happened after the guests left?


Atlas felt left out and decided to help himself to the cake. Bad puppy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Coming up this week … a few tutorials for projects seen at the party.

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book week: favorite books for baby


This week is devoted to books. Each day I’ll share my favorites in different categories and I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments. On friday, we’ll do a link party.


I’m really excited about this one. It will be a great way to hear about new books our internet-friends are crazy about.  So start your blog posts {or start reading a book!} and we’ll share at the end of the week.


Today’s category is favorite books for baby.


{mama & No. 1}

Even though they are too little to fully understand, reading sweet board books is so good for babies.  My No. 1 loved books from the very beginning. No. 2 couldn’t make it through an entire book until he was about three years old. Each kid is different, right?

This collection of books are our family’s very favorites:


These have made it through all four of our kids and some of  my favorite things to gift to new babes.

Please share … what are some of your favorite books for babies?

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how to make playdough

Playdough is one activity that keeps my kids busy for hours {okay, fine, minutes}. But it does hold their attention for longer than many activities and I actually enjoy playing it with them. Every month or so we make a new batch of fresh playdough using a very simple recipe.

Just a few pantry ingredients are needed and it takes less than 10 minutes to cook up a batch.

{see below for a printable recipe}

Pour all ingredients into medium saucepan over medium heat.

After a few minutes, the dough cooks itself into a ball. Remove from the heat.

Pop the dough into a ziplock and add food coloring of your choice. The kids like this part.

Now squish together until the color has mixed through.  The dough is still very hot, so be careful if you let your little ones help with this part.

Then start playing!

We love playdough.

For your convenience, I created a recipe card for you. Just click on the image below to download and print.

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weekly wrap-up

Let’s start this week’s Instagram snapshots with this pretty image.

One of the best parts of living where we do is the abundance of daffodils – which makes them very cheap. And that makes this girl very happy.

After church last weekend, the kids and I spent the afternoon at my happy place.

No. 2 gave modeling a try:


and I couldn’t help taking a photo of the Trophy Cupcakes window display.

Pretty, pretty confetti.

Afterward, we had dinner with Ryan’s family and did a little wii dancing.

Even great-grandma got in on the action. Fun times.

Remember how I mentioned wanting a white watch in this post? Well look what my sweet husband ordered for me.

I should mention wanting things more often …

It is fun watching a friendship form between No. 3 & No. 4. Because their big brothers are often away at school, they spend most of their days together.

As much as I moan about how tiring this phase of parenting is, I will miss the days of putting puzzles together at the library with little ones. This is a really sweet time in our lives that I don’t want to forget.

You know what else I don’t want to forget? That Easter is more than just about this madness:

My bible study girls decided to watch The Passion of the Christ this week. It was my first time.

There were lots and lots of tears. A little hyperventilating, maybe. It is seriously such a hard movie to watch. I’ve been holding out because I knew it would take me down an emotional path that would wipe me out. And it did.

But it is such a good depiction of what we hinge our entire faith on – the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I wish I could comprehend what He did and make it tangible in my every day life. I get so distracted and go about my day keeping Him to the side. I wish I didn’t do that.

This week I’ve been reading the story of His last few days on earth from the perspective of each of the gospel writers, and in a few different versions.  It is not a happy story. There are terrible characters who do unfathomable things to a man who is innocent of all accusations – and yet He takes it. Not because He is weak. Not because He didn’t have the power to come down from the cross. But because He did it knowing it would save us.

 You and me.

I don’t understand it, I’ll be honest. But I love it. And am so grateful.

The last words Jesus offered on the cross are my favorite:

It is finished. Even death couldn’t hold Him down.

May you have fun at the Easter egg hunt, enjoy the Peeps {I’m a fan} and Cadbury Creme Eggs {also a fan} and know that you are treasured by the God of the universe.

Happy Easter!

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