Archive | kids

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.

whidbey-morning

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.

whittling-sticks

See what I mean? It’s a boy’s delight.

whidbey-teepee

Usually, after breakfast is over and with the kids happily occupied, I spend my days lounging on the deck or beach chatting with our friends, occasionally glancing through a magazine or reading a book. It’s a pretty dreamy day for me as well.

sitting-on-beach-

But every once in a while, I make an effort to play with the boys. Since Audrey is the littlest and basically my shadow, I find I get lots of time with her, but the boys don’t always get undivided mom-time doing what they love to do.

And the number one thing they love to do at the beach?

digging

Dig.

Dig deep holes. Build dams. Divert the stream.

With shovel in hand, these boys are happy for hours.

And so, on this particular day, I dug.

Dug deep holes. Built dams. Diverted the stream. Dug until I had blisters on my hands and had completed the best sand fort ever.

Midway through our digging, No.1 looked up at me and said, “mom, thanks for being this kind of mom.”

whidbey-digging

And that made missing out on deck-sitting time and those blisters on my hands totally worth it.

Sometimes speaking your child’s language looks like wielding a shovel with jeans rolled up and bare feet.

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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.

favorite-childrens-books

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:

jolly-postman

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

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.

birdie

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.

audrey-bunny

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.

big-hungry-bear

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.

bears-loose-tooth

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.

circus-ship

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.

king-hugo

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.

princess-and-pig

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.

going-on-a-bear-hunt

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.

mr-tiger-goes-wild

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:

boys-bath-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).

boys-painting-bathroom-cabinets

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.

painting-cabinets-ig

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!

kids-bath-painted-cabinets

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.

tea-party-table-with-light

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:

tea-party-invitation-little-girl

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.

tea-party-table-in-dining-room

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.

tea-party-table-chalkboard

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.

tea-party-fringe-tissue-light-and-pleated-crepe-paper

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

tea-party-place-setting

Lunch was tea sandwiches, fruit and crackers.

tea-party-stripe-pudding

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

tea-party-pudding

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

kids-at-tea-party

tea-party-boy-and-girl

And the birthday girl had a happy, happy day.

birthday-gril

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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.

the-mysterious-benedict-society-books

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.

the-mysterious-benedict-society-series

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.

reading-nicholas-benedict

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.

mysterious-benedict-society-series

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.

playroom-decorated-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.

playroom-christmas-tree-god-is-good

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.

playroom-kids-art-on-wall

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.

kids-christmas-art

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

playroom-christmas-tree

joy-to-the-world-on-map

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

nutcrackers-in-the-playroom

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.

wish-list

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

four-gifts-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.

Enjoy!

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

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