A Mother’s Love: That Face

posted in: Parenting | 3
I’m honored to share another snapshot story with you today, one about motherhood, how quickly the time passes, and just how important it is to keep photos on display that remind us of how quickly our little ones grow into their own.Suzette Ladouceur is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. She blogs at The Joy of Homemaking about marriage, motherhood, homeschooling, and making the most of the life God has given her.

Thank you Suzette for reminding us of the importance of a mother’s love!

— Betsy

That Face... Love. Joy. Sentiment. - The Joy Of Homemaking @ BPhotoArt.com

That Face

When my son was just under a year old, we went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for Memorial Day weekend to spend time with some family. While there, one of our activities was spending time in their community pool. After a hearty swim, as we sat around to dry off, I looked over at my son who he had fallen asleep on my cousin. I took a quick picture, not realizing how precious the finished photo would be.

Every time I see this photo, it conjures up a whole host of emotions from my heart, but here are the three dearest to me.

Love.

I cannot believe how much I love my children. I never knew that I could love someone so much that even on my most tired nights, I would willingly wake up to care for the needs of that small person.

My love for them has caused me to evaluate my purpose as a mother and my goals for each child, spiritually and emotionally. My love for them causes me to pray and think about each decision I make because I know that my children will be affected by my choices in some way.

Joy.

I am so thankful that this little boy (and my daughter) is mine. He was a gift from God to me. Instead of looking at the blocks scattered across the house, hearing the noise he makes, or finding the negative in his 2 year old behavior, I choose to see the sky scraper he tried to build, hear the laughter in his play, and appreciate the point in time we are living in right now. I choose to experience the joy my children bring.

Childhood itself brings joy. Sadly, as we leave our childhood and enter the world of adulthood, we forget the joy of catching bugs outside, how easy laughter can come, and that the sounds of happy play and noise are two completely different things.

Sentiment.

He is growing so fast. It has been two years since that picture was taken, yet the time seems to have gone by so quickly. In two more years, he will be a four and a half year old on his way to Kindergarten.

I continually remind myself that time stops for no “mom”, and my babies will not stop growing. As much as I wish I could keep them where they are, each day is another step towards the growth that they must make. Each day takes me closer to the time when I will have to let them go. Looking at this photo of my son reminds me to appreciate each moment I have with my children.

Do you have a photo of your child(ren) that can serve as a reminder that our time spent as “mommy” is short? Can I encourage you to pull it out and keep it front and center? It will help in those moments when you forget what a gift you have been given.

— Suzette

Are you intentional in cultivating a mother’s love?

Do you find the days, weeks, and even months flying by far too quickly? How have you been intentional about cultivating and displaying a mother’s love to your children?

Do you have photographs on display, as Suzette suggested, that remind you of the brevity of childhood, and the importance of a mother’s love?

I’ve love to hear your stories, thoughts, and comments below.

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

posted in: Parenting | 2
Today I’d like to welcome Orlena of Snotty Noses.  Orlena is a British pediatrician who lives in Spain with her husband and four children.  Her website helps parents recognize when their child is ill …and know what to do about it (not meant to replace your doctor’s advice, of course!).

If you’ve ever struggled with getting your kids to eat healthy food, then you’ll definitely want to read on — Orlena gives some great advice for getting kids to make healthy food choices.

— Betsy

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

How to Help Your Kids Eat HealthilyKids are, well, what can I say…strange, inexplicable creatures. You’d think that if they all grew up being offered the same food in the same environment, you’d get little replicas of each other who would all eat exactly the same thing. If only! But then,  life wouldn’t be so interesting. I have 4 kids and they’re all different in their eating habits. Some children like some foods, while others don’t.

Take bananas, love them or hate them? I have two who love them and two who won’t touch them. Same with fish, two who can’t get enough of it and two who won’t touch it. And potatoes, I have a baby who doesn’t like potatoes. How does that work? It’s strange. I can’t explain it.

“But, so what?” I hear you cry. “Why not just let them eat what they want to eat?” (If only they could agree what that would be.) We’d live off spaghetti bolagnese (NOT any other type of pasta) and risotto with one child; and pasta (but NOT spaghetti) and cheddar cheese sandwiches with another.

And vegetables? Hmm, they don’t seem to feature much do they?

Is Feeding Our Children Healthy Food Really That Important?

So, THE big question is…Is it possible to feed (and get them to eat) your child a diet of healthy food AND enjoy life at the same time? Or perhaps, “why bother, is it actually that important”?

Is feeding our children a healthy diet really that important? Well, yes and no. It’s not important in the sense that they will get nasty illnesses like high cholesterol and bowel cancer (both linked to diet) if they don’t eat their veggies (those typically come later in life).  They might end up with constipation, which is really common in children. And we’re seeing an increase in weight problems in children and type 2 diabetes (which is normally seen in adults.)

Most children are thin, poo a lot and don’t like vegetables.  They aren’t in any immediate danger.

The problem is, when children grow older, they’ll still be eating the same stuff …and then they will be at increased risk of all those nasty illnesses. As adults, we can hugely reduce our chances of getting nasty illness by eating healthy food and exercising regularly, and if our kids are already in those habits, they’ll reap the benefits.

Acclimating Kids to Eating Healthy Food

So how do we go about doing that as parents? Well, as there’s no immediate danger, you can relax on the whole “eat your vegetables thing.” Yes, you do want them to eat their greens, but don’t worry about it, don’t stress about it. Keep working at it and they’ll get there in the end.

My main advice is to eat a healthy home-cooked family meal together whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Kids like fresh and simple. Vegetable pasta (or vegetable pasta sauce!) is a great way to start.  Teach your kids to enjoy food, to think of it as a time to spend with family and friends.

Orlena's kids enjoying healthy foods
Orlena’s kids enjoying healthy food (vegetable pasta – check out her recipe!)

Make food fun. There are loads of ways to make healthy food different and enjoyable for kids. You don’t have to be artistic or overly creative. Try eating in different places, or with different things, like chopsticks or toothpicks.

If you really want to go overboard, why not have a themed dinner “party,” all dressed up as pirates? Or cowboys. OK, so this isn’t going to directly make them eat their vegetables or other healthy foods, but it will help them enjoy mealtimes and think of it as a special time.

Conversely, if you’re constantly nagging them to eat their veggies, they’ll push their plate away, dig in their heels and ultimately stop enjoying eating and the fun family time that goes with it.

 

Phases of Fussiness Are Normal

Many parents despair when they see their previously good eater turn into the fussiest toddler on the block.

It’s normal.

Children go through phases (some longer than others) and hopefully they come out the other side unscathed. Try to work around their fussiness without pandering too much to their demands. Getting the balance right can be tricky, but once you’ve let go of the idea that they have to eat what’s on their plate, life should be much less stressful.

If you’d like more tips on how to help your kids eat their veggies, why not sign up for my great pdf: 30 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables?

– Orlena

Have Tips For Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food?

Orlena makes some great points, doesn’t she?  I also find it interesting how, even with the same child, a particular food can be a favorite (or a no-go) given the day and the circumstances.

Our son typically is a great eater.  In fact, he loves veggies (most of them).  If he is dubious about trying a particular healthy food, he’s usually convinced to take a taste when you tell him where it came from.  Veggies come from a garden, steak comes from a cow, venison comes from a deer — that sort of thing.  Odd, maybe.  But it works for us.   We also have a two bite rule that has worked wonders for the “no, I don’t like it” response to trying a new food.

Do you have any tips for getting your kids to eat healthy food?  Or stories to share about the struggles of getting kids to be interested in healthy choices?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Patriotic Painting + Artwork – Outdoor Fun

posted in: Parenting | 5
A Toddler's Patriotic Painting
A Toddler’s Patriotic Painting

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t materialize… and well, you’re left to improvise. And the improvisation makes things even better.

For this activity, I had plans for us to take a canvas, some red and blue paints, and a few paintbrushes out into the grass. I envisioned a toddler’s take on plein air painting, perhaps with even some Jackson Pollock style paint throwing allowed. Doing the painting in the grass would make cleanup easy, and the activity would cultures creativity and self-expression in my toddler son.

Here is the list of supplies we ended up using for the activity (#afflinks).  Links will open in a new window for your convenience:

Foiled By the Weather

Well, on the day that we decided to paint outside, the weather did not cooperate. I had checked the weather forecast, and miscalculated how much time there was before the storm came.

We saw the storm clouds rolling in as we were setting up to paint (on the driveway, with a splat mat — our lawn needed mowing).

The rain held off for a time, but eventually it came — first a few sprinkles, then a gentle shower. Since Toby wanted to keep painting, I got out an umbrella and held it over him. But, the rain came down harder, and eventually the raindrops started washing away all the paint that had been applied. It was an exercise in temporal art, to say the least.

In the spirit of a true child-led activity, I let things go where they may. Toby started pouring water into his paint bowls, and scrubbing away at the canvas with the watered-down paint (well, at that point, colored water). It was fun for him, although didn’t leave us with a lasting painting.

An Unplanned Diversion — Rain

We watched the rain wash away the colors, and saw pools of purple form on the painting mat we had put down, then streaks of purple water ran down the driveway, carried away by the rain. Finally, the downpour was enough that I decided to put the painting supplies away. Toby, at this point, was filling up his water cup with raindrops, and getting wet.

The pragmatist in me thought “let’s go inside before we get any wetter” …but the free-thinker responded “no! now is a perfect time to play in the rain — we’re already wet anyways!”

So, the next time he darted out from under the umbrella for a few seconds, I suggested it might be fun to run around in the rain and stomp in puddles. Given the okay, Toby gleefully ran out into the rain, screaming in delight. He was getting soaked, and loving every minute of it.

Finishing Our Patriotic Painting

In the garage, before heading inside, we spent a few minutes mushing around what paint remained in our paint bowls — most of it went on the canvas. So, we didn’t end up with a nice piece of patriotic artwork to show you, but I think the point of this summer survival series is all about trying to adapt and find ways to get through the summer with kids. And adapting our activity… well, that was a good learning experience for me!

After the rain stopped, we came up with another idea to finish the painting so that we could have something patriotic to hang on our walls — adding stars! Initially I thought about cutting out stars and decoupaging them onto the canvas, but the more practical solution was to make a star stamp and use white paint. So, while my thrilled toddler looked on, I cut out a kitchen sponge into the shape of a star, and we headed back outside to finish our patriotic painting.

As I’ve mentioned before, my son is dubious of making messes for some reason. So he wasn’t too thrilled about getting paint on his hands while using the stamp. After a few stars were placed on the canvas, my mess-averse child became more relaxed, and we even covered his hand with paint to add a handprint to the patriotic painting! The smile on his face was priceless, and later that night he bragged to Daddy about how it was fun to get his hands messy with paint.

Creativity, Adaptation, And Letting Go

Sometimes the thing about parenting is we have to adapt our plans, let go of our schedule, and let what was unplanned occur. The best memories are sometimes created when we don’t try to keep an experience “under control.”

I will always cherish the memory of watching my son, his clothes drenched, run around our driveway and stomp in puddles. I’m so glad I didn’t make the rational decision to head inside, and instead thought to do the unexpected. Play in the rain, without boots, a jacket, or an umbrella. Clothes and shoes get wet, true, but they can be taken off inside, put in the dryer, and washed.

Kids today aren’t afforded enough opportunities for free play, to get messy, to enjoy being kids and be free from restrictions and limitations.

Patriotic Painting Activity - BPhotoArt.com

Patriotic Craft + Recipe Ideas

Here are some other patriotic ideas for your Independence day (or week) celebrations. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. Also, make sure to check out the other posts in the Summer Survival Series (this week’s focus is patriotic-themed, hence my patriotic painting activity).

Paper Plate Craft – 4th of July Hat

Summer Survival Series for Moms of BoysSummer Survival Series for Moms of Boys

This patriotic painting activity is part of the Summer Survival Series For Boys.

Every weekday through mid-August, you will find a new craft, activity or idea to keep your kids entertained when boredom strikes. You can also check out the summer survival for moms of boys Pinterest board!

Please note that while the series is geared towards boys, girls are welcome to join in the fun too!

Finding Balance as a Homemaker + Home Business Owner

posted in: Parenting | 2

Finding balance in life is tough, regardless of your calling, your job, or your commitments. This past week I guest posted over at KiddyCharts.com about balancing homemaking with running a home business — complete with tips for how to keep on top of both while still giving your kids the attention and activities they need.

Finding Balance As A Homemaker + Home-Business Owner - BPhotoArt.com

Here are some additional tips for finding balance when mothering a newborn amidst running a home business:

Give yourself a break

You need to recover from the birthing process, the experience, and the demands of adding another member to your family.  It’s ok to take it easy (that’s the point of maternity leave, right?  even work-at-home businesswomen deserve to schedule a break).

Plan and announce your maternity leave

Your break, or maternity leave, won’t be really effective unless you announce and publicize your plans.  Make sure to give yourself a reasonable window of time so that you won’t feel rushed back to work.

Accept help

Whether it comes in the form of meals being delivered, or relatives being willing to come clean your house, PLEASE do yourself a favor and accept graciously!  You don’t have to be super mom.  You don’t have to do it all yourself!

Be flexible

If things don’t go according to your initial plan, it’s important to be willing to adapt.  Maybe you decide it’s time to go back to work sooner than you expected… or maybe you aren’t quite ready to jump back in when you had hoped.  Either way, be realistic and make changes if needed to save your sanity.

Seek out community

Don’t isolate yourself, seek out the company of moms in similar circumstances in case you need someone to lend an ear, or give advice.  One of the downfalls of running a home business is that you don’t necessarily get out all that often.  So… make sure to venture out from your homestead, even if it’s for something frivolous!

Do You Have Tips for Finding Balance?

Where are you at in your quest for finding balance?

If you have tips for finding balance in a hectic week, or have found ways to balance homemaking and running a home business, I would love to hear from you!

Or, if you’re struggling with the concept of finding balance, know that you’re not alone. Is it tough to carve out some “me time,” or maybe dedicate enough attention to your kids? Perhaps you feel like your spouse is neglected because you’ve worn yourself out during the day and have little to offer at the end of a long day.

I’d love to hear what’s hardest for you about finding balance in your life.

Daddy Daughter Duo – A Snapshot Story

posted in: Parenting | 5
I love how the simplest of snapshots can tell an amazing story.  More than “a thousand words,” pictures bring us back to the moment — they let us re-experience the sounds and smells that are so strongly linked to a particular memory.

Today I want to welcome Cassandra of Raising Up Stones! She’s the mom of three kids, and has graciously provided me with this lovely memory to share with you from her childhood.  This daddy daughter childhood snapshot brings many wonderful memories to mind for Cassandra — as you’ll read below.

— Betsy

Daddy Daughter Duo - Raising Up Stones @ BPhotoArt.com

Daddy Daughter Duo

Every time I see this picture, I smile from ear to ear. That is me, in the red shirt and black shorts…no, not the salt and pepper haired stud, the little cutie with the black bobbed hair! It’s as if I am saying “this is MY daddy”! In fact, I know I was thinking that.

If you couldn’t tell by our ridiculously fabulous matching outfits, I was pretty mesmerized by my daddy and I’m pretty sure he thought I was something awfully special.

My dad owned a body shop and I loved going to work with him. I remember all the mechanics and body men treating me like royalty. They would buy me candy from the candy machines, bring me fun trinkets and give me “jobs” so they could pay me money.  I was a princess in real form but my best memories were when my dad was home from work and he was all ours.

Being Outdoors in the Yard

We had a nice, large yard most of my life and my dad always took good care of it.  My family and I spent many spring and summer evenings in the yard, picking up sticks, mowing, pulling weeds and playing in the sprinklers!

I can’t be for sure but I figure this was one of those times. I can still smell the scent of freshly cut grass and hear the sounds of the lawn mower as I watched daddy ride past me.

This picture was before my brother came along to steal the show, so it was just me, my sister and mom and dad. I’m betting some time before or after this picture I sat on my dad’s lap as we made each turn through the grass cutting those perfect lines that make every home owner proud! He would let me steer but I had no idea he was really doing the steering.

I’m sure after this picture dad grilled some steaks and chicken, and of course we had corn freshly shucked by mom! My daddy loved steak, and I loved steak because he loved steak! Just like I loved my red shirt and black shorts …just like daddy’s! I was a girly girl to the max, but who needs a fancy dress when you can match your #1 hero?

Countless MemoriesWhat About You?

Do you have an all time favorite family snapshot? Maybe a similar daddy daughter photo even? One that brings many fond memories flooding back, like Cassandra’s daddy daughter duo does for her?

I know I have a few daddy daughter snapshots from my own childhood that bring back many fond memories. Every girl, every woman, has a special place in her heart for her daddy.

What is your favorite daddy daughter memory? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Big Brother Kit (3 Busy Bag Activities)

posted in: Parenting | 4

Earlier this week I shared the fabric lovey for baby that we made as part of a virtual busy bag exchange — well, today, you’ll get to hear about the toddler-aged busy bag I created for my son. Since our new baby’s arrival is any moment, I thought a big brother kit would be the perfect topic for a busy bag!

Big Brother Kit - 3 Busy Bag Activities - BPhotoArt.com
Big Brother Kit – 3 busy bag activities for while mom and dad are at the hospital.

The Big Brother Kit (3 Busy Bag Activities)

Since big brother may need a few days’ worth of activities, I together three busy bag activities for him.  I’ll briefly tell you about each, and then this post will focus on the third one: the “Waiting for Baby” busy bag.

1. Bookworm Busy Bag

The first busy bag I assembled, perhaps the easiest.  This is a selection of travel-sized picture books in a little carrying bag. Perfect for any reader, and the small size of the books makes it easy to bring a number of different stories along.  And, needed, given that my toddler chose to read 150 books this summer through the library read-to-me program.  That’s about 4 books a day, so manageable if we keep on top of it.

2. Big Brother Kit Memory Game Busy Bag

A simple busy bag, pairs of photos printed on cardstock.  For this busy bag, I went through our photo archives (see some of Toby’s first year memories), and selected images that grandma and grandpa (who Toby will be staying with his baby brother “comes out”) could use as a “big brother kit prep” activity.  You know, sleeping, nursing, first food, first steps… all the things babies do that my son will know soon enough.

3. Waiting for Baby Busy Bag

This busy bag activity kit was my tour de force.  I spent the most time on it, and there are two components: a spiral bound photo storybook, and some photo puzzles. Both feature our family maternity portraits.  Now, onto the details of how I made this busy bag!

Waiting for Baby Busy Bag Storybook

When brainstorming ideas, I remembered how much Toby liked looking through the baby photos of himself.   All kids love pictures.  Well, since we just did our maternity pictures, I decided to put together a little storybook featuring the maternity portraits.  The storyline is pretty simple, and focuses on waiting for baby, how my son will be a great big brother, how much mommy and daddy love him, and how our family will be changing as baby arrives.

I made sure to incorporate familiar phrases from our daily conversations to add familiarity for my son — as this will be his first extended stay away from both of us parents.  Reminds me of the Berenstain Bears and the Week at Grandma’s (#afflink).

I thought about making fancy printed text for each page, but since I was trying to get a lot of things done before baby’s arrival…I took the quicker route.

Here’s a sampling of the text I wrote to accompany the pictures, plus some images of the book’s pages.

When I check on my baby,
I know he is drinking and eating,
getting big and strong. He likes
to get kisses from me and Daddy.

I’ll always be Daddy’s little man,
but soon I’ll be a big brother too.

I don’t know who is more excited
to meet our baby, me… or Mommy and Daddy.

Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.

I was really excited with how this part of the busy bag turned out, and since my son is a bookworm, I know he’ll love it.  Kids always love seeing themselves in pictures, so the personalized aspect will be a bonus.

The benefits of this activity in the busy bag?  Well, first off, it gives my son something to do (as well as talk/think about) while he is with his grandparents and we are at the hospital.  I’m hoping that the familiar phrases from our daily routine will help lessen any anxiety or concerns he may have during the extended visit.  Honestly, he’s a pretty well-adjusted guy, so I don’t expect there to be many issues, but you never know.   So I wanted the storybook’s text to remind our son that we love him no matter what, and how excited we all are to be nearing the end of the “waiting for baby” phase.

I also love that this little photo book is just his size, so he can tote it around and “read” it whenever.

The perfect addition for a big brother kit, right?

Busy Bag Photo Puzzles

Onto part two of this busy bag… the photo puzzles.  Again, I decided upon using several of the pictures from our maternity family portrait session in case our son needed to see our faces while he is not with us.  I took 5″x5″ pictures, glued them with an  to a piece of cardboard, and then cut them out once dry.  I ended up going random sizes and shapes for the puzzle pieces, more of a free-form cutting activity for mom!  Depending on the kid, the number of pieces will vary; I think the most I made for a single puzzle was 5 or 6.

Each puzzle then got packaged in its own ziploc bag.  Let me give you a tip — if you make this busy bag and do multiple puzzles, be sure to label the back of each puzzle piece so you know which ones go together — without having to assemble the puzzles during cleanup (huge timesaver)!

One other thing — Since our faces are on the smaller side in the photos, and I wasn’t using the most precise scissors, I made sure not to cut through any faces.  This may not be practical if you use a photo of a large face, but for these images, it ended up working well.

Here is a list of the supplies used for the photo puzzle busy bag (#afflinks):

Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.

So far as the benefits of this busy bag activity, puzzles are great for brain development.  Our son loves puzzles, and having portable ones that would travel easily seemed like a great idea to me.  I know these will be a big hit because they feature our family, so he gets to see mom and dad as he’s putting the photos together.

Since the backsides are labeled with different letters of the alphabet (one designated letter for each puzzle) — this could be used as a more involved matching game too — find all the letter ‘A’ pieces, then assemble each puzzle once they’re organized by letter.

Now to Wait…

The hardest part of making this big brother kit busy bag activity?

Waiting.

Usually I get to share projects like this with my toddler as soon as they’re completed.  But, since this is going to be a special big brother kit — to be opened with the grandparents, I’ll miss out on my son’s reaction as well as his first experience playing with each item.

But, that aside, I’m hoping he’ll thrilled and that these busy bags will be a good diversion for grandma and grandpa (if they need one).  I’ll be interested to hear how these puzzles are received by our son, and what he ends up doing with them.

Big Brother Kit Ideas

Busy Bag Ideas for Toddlers


Virtual Busy Bag Exchange SeriesVirtual Busy Bag Exchange Series

This post is part of a virtual busy bag exchange.

Check it out for busy bag ideas that are portable for traveling, and more or less mess free. You’ll find busy bags for the following age ranges: babies, 1 year olds, 2 year olds, 3/4 year olds, 5/6 year olds, and school aged children.

Fabric Lovey for Baby (…a virtual busy bag exchange)

posted in: Parenting | 15

Fabric Lovey for Baby ...a virtual busy bag exchange - BPhotoArt.com

This week, I’m participating in a virtual busy bag exchange with kids! Today’s post is a virtual busy bag exchange for babies, and in addition to my fabric lovey, Nadia from Teach Me Mommy is sharing how to make a textured photo book for babies. I’m so excited to share this with our new little one! Later this week I’ll be doing a virtual busy bag exchange for toddlers.

Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera
My son with “Floyd”

Now, before we get into the fabric lovey, let me give you a little back story. Earlier this summer Toby picked out two sewing projects, one for him, and one for baby.

“Floyd,” the stuffed monster to the right, was the result of our toddler sewing project (see more photos and read about the pattern book).

Since we completed the first project, someone had been on my case to make baby’s sewing project too! And, since new babies don’t really do much except for eat, sleep, and …well… you know, this lovey-style baby gift will get at least a few good months of mileage.

Making the Fabric Lovey for Baby

Making a busy bag for a baby is more of a creative exercise, since the younger kids are, the less they need to be entertained. Since we’ll be welcoming a newborn to the family very shortly, I thought this fabric lovey would be perfect for baby. Toby helped pick out the pattern (from Sew Together, Grow Together) as well as the fabric for the project.

We used a navy cotton terrycloth for one side, and a flannel caterpillar print for the other side. The ears and heart embellishments were made from those materials also. We used some white acrylic yarn for hair, and embroidery floss to make the eyes and mouth. I wasn’t originally planning to add any stuffing, but both the boys here (dad and big brother) thought it needed some, so this fabric lovey has just a little “poof” to it. To help hold everything together and define the fabric lovey’s shape, I top-stitched around the edge of the lovey, and added some top stitching on the face, arms, etc.

fabric baby lovey, first side
fabric baby lovey, first side
fabric baby lovey, second side
fabric baby lovey, second side

Benefits of a Fabric Lovey

Toby had fun helping make this, so I guess it was a toddler activity of sorts too. But in general, fabric loveys are great for babies because of their tactile sensory benefits. Having something to chew or suck on, different colors to look at, and different textures to feel — all these things make an object interesting for babies. Our newborn, when he arrives, will have to grow into all these “busy bag activity” …but that’s ok since it will extend this fabric lovey’s “life” as a toy of interest.

One other thing you can do to help a fabric lovey be comforting for babies is to make it smell like mom. You can accomplish that by sleeping with the lovey yourself for a few days, or holding the fabric lovey close to you when you’re holding your baby. That way, when baby isn’t next to you, “l’essence de mama” will still be nearby in a subtle, comforting way.

Wondering about other ways to enhance the tactile/sensory benefits of a homemade lovey? You could add little fabric tags to the edges, more colors of yarn for the hair, or multiple colored embellishments. While we didn’t add any crinkle fabric or bells to the inside of this lovey, when making a fabric lovey it is really easy to put such “sound-makers” inside.

Fabric Lovey Photo Gallery

I wanted to share some photos of how we made the fabric lovey, and also detail shots of what the finished product looked like. Click on any image below to view it in gallery mode.

Busy Bags for Babies

Here are some resources and ideas for making a busy bags for babies!


Virtual Busy Bag Exchange SeriesVirtual Busy Bag Exchange Series

This post is part of a virtual busy bag exchange.

Check it out for busy bag ideas that are portable for traveling, and more or less mess free. You’ll find busy bags for the following age ranges: babies, 1 year olds, 2 year olds, 3/4 year olds, 5/6 year olds, and school aged children.

15 Ways To Have Kids Help Clean House

posted in: Parenting | 10

Getting your kids to help clean house… impossible? Maybe not! But even despite our best intentions, a well lived in house never seems to stay sparkling clean. Children cart dirt, crumbs, and who knows what throughout the house, dishes pile up almost as soon as the counter is clean, and there is never a good place to dump things when you come in from the garage from a day’s travels. Cleaning is an ongoing process, and a little further on I’ll share 15 ways you can have your kids help clean house.

15 Ways To Have Kids Help Clean House - BPhotoArt.com

My son is just a toddler, but we’ve been intentional about having him help with age appropriate chores for a while now. The funny thing is, he LOVES to clean — and sometimes will remind me that we need to take care of the “messy monster” in a certain area of our house.

What’s A Messy Monster?

We were given a children’s book from my husband’s childhood library called The Messy Monster by Michael Pellowski (#afflink). It’s a wonderful story about Sam the skunk, who, along with his friends, try to find the messy monster who ruined their picnic spot.

After reading this story, I realized we could tie in the “messy monster” concept to messes in our own home. If thhe play room is messy, I might say, “oh no, we need to take care of the messy monster in the play room!” Or my son, noticing the dishes piled on the kitchen counter, might exclaim: “Mama! There’s a messy monster!” It has become our way of identifying messes or cluttered spots around the home so we can take action to clean up the mess.

We’ve also talked about how a little cleaning here and there will keep the messy monster away. Which leads me back to those ideas for having kids help clean house!

15 Ways To Have Kids Help Clean House

So, yes, my toddler is smitten with cleaning.  We have a little chore chart for him on the side of the fridge, with drawings and words to describe each task.  Wondering what ideas your kids might enjoy?  Here are some ways to have kids help clean house that you might consider putting on their chore list.

A note — I always invite Toby to clean, but unless he’s made a mess, he’s not required to participate.  For example, I’ll extend an invitation to help with the laundry, or with the toilet cleaning.  But if he has strewn toys all over the living room, or spilled a drink on the floor, he is expected to clean up after himself.  Now, we do still provide direction and help as necessary; toddlers sometimes have a short attention span and need gentle reminding.  But it’s important to set ground rules so your kids know what is expected… and what is, for lack of a better word, optional.

Also, I’m not recommending you just dump these tasks on your child and walk away.  Engage yourself in conversation, explain how things work, and most importantly, supervise your child so that the cleaning can be done safely!

  1. Laundry – sort + load, even “fold” or put away, depending on the child
  2. Trash day – empty trash, gather recycling, help put at curb
  3. Dishwasher – empty when clean, flip clean/dirty magnet, load soap and close door
  4. Washing in sink – give soapy water, a sponge, and some dishes while you work in other half of sink
  5. Scrubbing stove – talk about stove safety, give scrub brush and let loose
  6. Keeping things tidy – messy monster discussion, pick up toys before next activity, have washrags accessible for independent cleaning of spills
  7. Vacuuming – toy vacuum can be used alongside the real thing
  8. Sweeping – a broom and dustpan, or even a hand broom, are great for cleaning up crumbs after meals
  9. Emptying cat litter – wear gloves, help scoop
  10. Wiping down counters – give wet rag, let them help
  11. Dinner Table – clearing dishes from table after dinner
  12. Give away old things – make room to play, teach about giving to those in need, help drop off donations
  13. Toilets – kids love to scrub toilets, and if you use dish soap with toilet brush, there aren’t any nasty chemicals to deal with.  Start by letting them help scrub while you do mirror and sink
  14. Beating rugs – give kid a tennis racket and let loose (this was a big hit for my son)
  15. Dusting – a dust rag or feather duster can be used to get kid-height spiderwebs; floorboards and windowsills are easier for kids to reach!

Kids Help Clean House? No Way!

“Ok, those all sound like great ideas,” you might be thinking, “but, really? it doesn’t seem feasible.”

Basically, I will always extend an invitation for my child to help clean. At this age, I accept his help, however imperfect it might be, and I also accept his decision not to help. But, if he chooses not to help, I will remind him I am cleaning and he needs to play by himself.

I’m not saying my son does all these things every time I extend the invitation.  But, in general, he does have the desire to keep our house clean, and to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.  Some days more so than others.

Seriously, my toddler asked to clean the toilet upon waking for the day...
Seriously, my toddler asked to clean the toilet upon waking for the day…

So, what can you do to encourage kids to help with chores like these?

  • Provide kid-sized cleaning tools (dust mop, dustpan, rags, spray bottle, etc)
  • Use eco-friendly products that aren’t packed full of chemicals.   The fewer chemicals, the better.  In fact, we clean most things with a homemade cleaning solution (white vinegar and water) specifically so that it is safe for my toddler to be present, helping, and engaged.
  • Make it fun, be excited, and express your gratefulness/thankfulness for the help you receive

Gallery – Kids Can Help Clean!

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Resources: Having Kids Help Clean House

Here are some resources for having kids help clean house.  You might want to consider chore charts, if that sort of thing motivates your child, or perhaps a more laid-back approach is more your style.  Make sure to check out my pinterest board on cleaning for general cleaning tips and ideas (not all kid-related).  Links will open in a new window for your convenience

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Cleaning on Pinterest.

How Do You Clean House with Kids?

So, you’ve seen my techniques. I focus on open-ended activities that my child is interested in, give him a little room to run with it, and just spend time cleaning together. When he was a baby, I’d clean with him in a wrap or carrier on my back. We both enjoyed that.

But what do you do? Have you found some great ways to clean house with kids? Any seemingly great ideas that flopped? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Cleaning With KidsCleaning House With Kids

This post is part of the Cleaning House blog hop. Make sure to visit these other wonderful articles on having kids help clean house!

Just Like Daddy – A Father’s Day Poem

posted in: Parenting | 7
A Truly Rich Man Quote - Father's Day - BPhotoArt.com
“A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.”
Father’s Day is finally here! We’ve been preparing a few surprises for Daddy over the past month, which I know he will enjoy. Take a peek at the handprint Father’s Day gift we made (also adapted for both grandpas).

Further on, you’ll find a poem I wrote in honor of all fathers, but based on one in particular. 🙂

As the parent who gets to stay at home all day, I try to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere for my husband when he gets back from a long day at work, which includes having our son welcome Daddy upon his arrival. When we hear the garage door opening, Toby will typically race to the laundry room to greet his Daddy… then there is an ensuing race to “steal Daddy’s spot” on the couch. I love being a spectator in this ritual.

Which brings me to this anonymous quote I found the other day. I had to pair it with a father-daughter portrait from last summer, it seemed too perfect.

How true are those words. While we, as parents, focus on what we can provide for our kids, we often forget about how children enrich our lives and bless us.

Here’s a poem I wrote in honor of Father’s Day, for my husband, based on the little things about him that light up my son’s life. I’m so grateful to have married this man, and I know our son just adores his daddy.

Just Like Daddy

Daddy is a giant
in his son’s eyes.
A champion to imitate,
a man to admire.

“I’m your little man”
exclaims an adoring son
who wants nothing more
than to grow up
to be just like dad.

Daddy is his hero,
his protector,
his lifelong friend.

Daddy is the best,
the greatest,
always stronger,
always bigger.

Following in
Daddy’s footsteps
becomes a goal,
a lifelong pursuit.

The highest compliment
a son can give
is to tell his father
“I want to be like you.”

Still Need Gift Ideas for Father’s Day?

Here is my pinterest board with gift ideas!

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

Sew Together, Grow Together – Sewing Activity

posted in: Parenting | 21

Sewing Activity for Kids - a creation from the book: Sew Together, Grow TogetherI don’t remember when I learned how to sew.  I know it must have been pretty young; my mother probably had me on her lap when she was working on projects, much as I’ve done with Toby.  As you might guess, my love of sewing has been passed on to our son.  He was thrilled to receive dinosaur sewing boards and colored sewing beads for gifts.  He often pretends to sew or knit when I am doing so, and he absolutely loves to help use the sewing machine.  I think Toby’s favorite part is putting in and removing pins.  It’s a tie between that and using his scissors to cut things.

Sew Together, Grow Together (Book Review)

At any rate, I recently had the pleasure to review a lovely parent-child sewing activity book by Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons: Sew Together, Grow Together.  Trixi’s book has an assortment of 20 whimsical creations that will capture any child’s fancy.  The projects are designed for children as young as five, with the help of an adult (even one who doesn’t know a thing about sewing!).

Okay, so I know you’re thinking, “wait, you don’t have a 5 year old!”  And you’re right.  My son is just a toddler.  But, he is interested in sewing and I figured this could be a work-together sewing activity for him.  The projects are definitely age appropriate for the aforementioned age range, but if you’re comfortable sewing and helping a younger (interested) child through the creation process, I’d say, go for it!

A Child-Directed Sewing Activity

Toby and I perused the book, and while the white koala bear on the cover initially caught his eye, ultimately he settled on Floyd, the center green monster.   A second project was selected for baby brother (still in utero) — but that’s a story for another day.

While I did guide him towards specific selections, ultimately all the decisions were Toby’s (yes, I gave options to make life easier for him).  He chose the project, he decided what size to enlarge the pattern by (250% rather than 150%), he selected the fabric and embellishments too.  A purple denim was chosen for the main body (probably because his cousin’s show riding outfit was made from the same color), and white muslin for the eyes and our first attempt at a mouth.  Ultimately, we switched to embroidered features as it worked better that way.

Toby picked the colors:

  • black and white eyes
  • red for the mouth and outlining the eyes
  • yellow eyebrows
  • green hair

While this project is simple enough to be completed completely by hand, I have a sewing machine — and know that toddler attention spans can be limited.  So, after cutting out the pattern pieces (I adapted it for placement on the fold), we sewed it together with our serger.  Toby helped to turn it right side out, then helped  me hand stitch some of the embellishments before bedtime.  I completed the stitching for Floyd’s face that night, and got our supplies out for completion of the project the following morning.

Ready to finish the sewing project
Ready to finish the sewing project

In the morning, Toby was thrilled with the progress on Floyd.  He was a big help adding rice for the arms and legs as well as stuffing for the main body.  I let him decide how “huggable” Floyd should be (i.e. how much stuffing to add), then we sewed the final opening shut.

It was very gratifying to see how excited my son was to complete this sewing activity with me.  While his age necessitated a little more “participation” on my part, Toby was so proud to show off Floyd — that HE made — to daddy that night.  I have not heard such excited squeals of delight coming from him in a while.

Sewing Teaches Life Skills

The process of sewing is really vital, I think.  It teaches skills that are useful for everyone, regardless of age or gender.  And you end up with a tangible representation of your efforts.  However imperfect — a hand-sewn creation is a labor of love.  Sewing is a learning process, an activity that will be useful later on in life.

And, sewing is a creative outlet.  You have a pattern, yes.  But it’s there as a starting point.  Once you get comfortable, you can depart from any pattern, making adaptations that please you.  It’s part of the joy of sewing — making alterations as you see fit.  I always joke that I work best when I’m not working from a pattern ;).  But the truth is, when you get to more advanced sewing projects, alterations are often necessary on the fly.  So, learning to depart from the pattern at a young age isn’t a bad thing at all.

Let your child think outside the box.  Let creativity blossom.  Allow for an alternate interpretation, and see where it takes you!

Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera
Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera

My Thoughts on Our Sewing Activity

Sew Together Grow Together - Trixi SymondsOverall, I really enjoyed this sewing activity.  I know my toddler did too.  While we only completed this one project for the purposes of the book review, I did skim through the others and found them to be of a similar skill level.  These creations truly are feasible for someone with minimal or no sewing experience to tackle.

The book layout is designed cleanly, with a visual table of contents and large photos for each sewing activity. Perfect for helping young children decide what creation to tackle! I found the directions to be very easy to follow, and appreciated the simplicity of the numbered list step-by-step breakdown of the project.

Overall, the sewing activity was a big success, and I think we’ll be creating more from this book in coming months (as time allows, of course!).

Sew Together, Grow Together can be purchased through Trixi’s Etsy shop, either in physical book form or PDF format.  While I typically am a fan of physical books, I enjoyed how easy it was to print out the pattern and instructions from the PDF,  a departure from the norm of having to photocopy a pattern from the book.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Sewing Activity – Gallery of Snapshots

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Working in the Garden with Kids

posted in: Parenting | 8

Today I’m blogging about Gardening With A Toddler over at In All You Do.  As you know, when kids are in the picture, chores and tasks just take longer. Now that we’re not restricted to indoor gardening (i.e. growing romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps), it’s been great to get outdoors and really work with the plants.

Our son loves working in the garden — but maybe that’s because he has lots of cool kid-sized garden tools, and even a neat digger that our neighbors gave us.

Working in the Garden With Kids - BPhotoArt.com

The weather took a while to get warmer, so we had to delay planting some of our seedlings. But my son was thrilled to help care for them as we set them outside each day, then took them in for the night. We even had to take in the hanging plants I got for Mother’s Day several times as it dropped to almost freezing several nights in a row.

Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Working in the garden with kids can be such a great learning experience though. When we were at a friend’s house to get seedlings, I learned a lot about heirloom tomato varieties and hybrides. Interestingly, this same friend who gave us our tomato seedlings was able to give us a black cherry tomato variety when Toby choose black as the color tomato he wanted (over pink or orange). We’ll see how things grow!

Plaints Waiting to be put into the ground - Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Here are some photos of our spring gardening; click on any thumbnail to enter gallery view:

Gardening Tips + Resources

If you’re looking for gardening tips and resources, here are some of my favorites.  I’ve listed specifically links for working in the garden with kids, but make sure to check out my Pinterest board too — I’m always pinning neat ideas about gardening there when I find tips online.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Greenery + Gardening on Pinterest.

Working in the Garden with Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Do You Have Tips for Working in the Garden with Kids?

Do you have any go-to ideas for getting kids to work well in the garden with you? What about suggestions of things to NOT do? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments section!

Imaginative Play With Tunnels

posted in: Parenting | 10

Imaginative play is so important for kids! They get to use their imagination, problem solve, and adapt everyday items to be used in new and creative ways. We have a colorful tunnel that came with an indoor play tent — that more often than not, gets turned into a giant caterpillar, a silly outfit, or a sled.

PlayDrMom featured my ABCsI’ll share photos in just a moment, but first let me tell you about a related blog, Play Dr. Mom. Laura is a psychologist and registered play therapist here in Michigan, she has a lot of neat activities you might enjoy if you’re a parent (or even a grandparent). In her words: “I want it [my blog] to not only share the fun things we do, play, and create … but also WHY those things are SO important.” Today Laura is featuring the ABCs of BPhotoArt at her blog! You can get to know me a little better by reading the ABC style interview (there’s also a linkup of kid-friendly blog posts.)

Ok, now, onto the tunnel snapshots.  My toddler loves to hide in the tunnel and have someone find him.  But, you’ll notice the tunnel isn’t set up the “proper” way.  He prefers to make it a free-standing tube and wiggle it crazily.

Giggling Toddler in Tunnel - imaginative play - bphotoart.com

Here we are again, another snapshot of him inside the crazy tunnel.  Reminds me a bit of hiding under the big parachute as a kid when it is moving wildly about.  Can’t tell he’s having fun, right?

Toddlers + Tunnel Play - imaginative play - bphotoart.com

Calming down enough for one “say cheese” snapshot… with the promise of more peekaboo play in the tunnel.

Tunnels are Fun for Toddlers - imaginative play - bphotoart.com

Finally, the tunnel was laid on the ground — used as a sled ride.  Good opportunity for a phone conversation while enroute!

On the phone in the tunnel - imaginative play - bphotoart.com

Handmade Father’s Day Gifts

posted in: Parenting | 4

Father's Day Gifts - Handprint Craft - BPhotoArt.comWe had some fun this week making handmade Father’s Day gifts for Daddy. Amanda from Fun Handprint Art put together a printable for us, based on one of my son’s frequent sayings about Daddy.

I love how it turned out — you can get the Father’s Day Handprint Craft Printable to do this craft with your kid!

Somehow Toby did not inherit my love of making messes and getting dirty, so I’ve had to be intentional about helping him get messy in ways that can be cleaned up after the fact. It’s an interesting dilemma, encouraging a child to be *more* messy, I have to say. We’ll get there sooner or later (hopefully!).

Anyways, because of his hesitance about getting hands-on and messy, I opted to do this craft with watercolor paint, figuring it was easier to clean off little fingers than, say, acrylic or other media.

Here’s the painting station I set up for my son’s activity time. Watercolors, a coloring page, a blank piece of paper (for the handprints), and a bowl of water with black watercolor paint (for making the handprints).

Handprint Craft for Father's Day - painting station - BPhotoArt.com

We actually completed the Father’s Day handprint craft with bribing — the promise of getting to clean hands off and paint the coloring page.  Here’s the first hand getting ready to make a handprint.

Father's Day Handprint Craft - BPhotoArt.com

Then it was on to the more reserved watercolor painting part of craft time. Toby was happy to have his hands clean and to be using a paintbrush for “proper” watercolor painting. He painted for quite some time, happily, with the black watercolor paint.

Painting - BPhotoArt.com

Toby announced this art project would be for Daddy’s office. It was immediately delivered to its recipient, upon the condition that it be displayed at the office.

Painting - BPhotoArt.com

Overall, we had a fun time making the handprint Father’s Day gift, and I bet there will be two excited boys on Father’s Day (assuming my littler one can keep a secret. Doubtful.) If you’d like to download the printable, or learn how I magically turned the black paint into green, head over to Amanda’s blog and read more there!

When I Grow Up - Big + Strong Like Daddy - Handprint Craft - BPhotoArt.com

Inspiration for Father’s Day Gifts

Need some inspiration for helping your kids make Father’s Day gifts? Here are some gift ideas for Father’s Day — links will open in a new window for your convenience. Also, you may enjoy the pins on my Gift Ideas Pinterest board!

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

Photo Memory Gifts for Father’s Day

Handcrafted Father’s Day Gifts (Kid Friendly!)

Thoughts on My Second Pregnancy

posted in: Parenting | 8

My second pregnancy has been a bit more laid back than the first. Instead of consulting checklists and making sure we are prepared and so forth, I’ve been enjoying the daily moments and continuing to parent our toddler. But I’ve been aware of the differences between my second pregnancy and my first. It has been interesting to see how we’ve prepared differently for our second child. We’ve let go of a lot of preconceptions, been able to avoid a lot of the pre-baby planning stress that new parents undergo.

As parents, we already have a lot of this stuff down. We have the clothing already, we have the equipment, we have our prior experience to help us.

Since this is my second pregnancy, I kind of know what to expect, and it’s actually relaxing to be able to let go of all the hype surrounding pregnancy and focus on what matters.

Thoughts On My Second Pregnancy - Maternity Silhouette - BPhotoArt.com

What Matters During a Second Pregnancy?

I have to tell you, a lot more priority is placed on someone who was the center of attention for the first pregnancy. Preparing a child to be an older sibling can take time. We’ve been fortunate in that our son is excited to be a big brother. I’ve heard (and seen) other moms have a tough time during their second pregnancy because their first child was either in denial about things, or outright angry about having a little sibling. But not our son.

In fact, he was so excited that a couple month ago, Toby told me he was going to help pull the baby out “now.”

We had a talk.

About how baby needed to grow and get big and strong, and how baby would come out in good time.

Now, when people ask if he’s excited to be a big brother, he replies: “No. Baby has to grow bigger and can’t come out yet.”

Ok, so back to the differences have I noticed between my two pregnancies:

First Pregnancy

  • Tracked every pregnancy milestone, knew what happened in which week
  • Shopped for maternity clothes
  • Read lots of books (including “What to Expect”)
  • Took Lamaze class
  • Signed up for hospital tour
  • Took new mom class at the hospital
  • Met with pediatrician(s) and decided on one (months ahead of time)
  • Took a carseat safety class
  • Attended a cloth diapering workshop
  • Signed up for cloth diaper service
  • Took prenatal yoga
  • Researched a lot
  • Registered for everything we could think of for baby
  • Made sure we had everything on the baby item list
  • Attended multiple baby showers held in our honor
  • Painted and decorated the nursery
  • Packed and repacked my hospital bag
  • Attended a few La Leche meetings
  • Took naps liberally
  • Confident throughout the pregnancy
  • Took lots of maternity and belly photos
  • Planned out how to reveal baby’s gender to the future grandparents
  • Took a couple weeks to peruse and decide on baby names

Second Pregnancy…

  • Had to be reminded by others what week of pregnancy it was
  • Pulled out the maternity clothes I kept from kid #1 (gave away what didn’t fit)
  • Read a couple books (Birthing from Within, Beautiful Babies)
  • Filled out pediatrician paperwork (a couple weeks ahead of time)
  • Took pilates (much better for me than yoga!)
  • Donated everything (well, a lot of things) we never used for kid #1
  • Moved kid #1 to his big boy room (white walls), switched up the name letters on the nursery wall
  • Threw together some stuff for a hospital bag
  • Put together a “big brother kit”
  • Lucky to get a nap once in a while
  • Fears arose during the pregnancy (related to prior cesarean)
  • Researched VBAC, natural birthing resources, etc.
  • Thought about how few maternity and belly photos were taken this time around (comparatively)
  • Toddler announced baby’s gender to grandparents immediately after ultrasound
  • Decided on baby’s name in one evening

Postpartum Differences

I’ll do a postpartum comparison of my second pregnancy to the first when we get to that stage.  But as of now, I know there are some things we’ll be doing differently.  

We had a LOT of baby stuff that we didn’t use or need.  I have to tell you, we donated probably 100+ baby items in the past year — while still keeping plenty of things for kid #2.  We donated a swing that was used no more than two times, a bunch of baby toys that weren’t practical went elsewhere, and a ton of baby clothes left for more needy homes than ours.

Final Thoughts on My Second Pregnancy

I think being a parent already makes the second pregnancy easier.  Not necessarily in a “been there, done that” kind of way… although for some moms I guess that could be true.  My experience through both pregnancies has been wildly different.

The first half of this latest pregnancy was harder for me (morning sickness, etc), but the second half has felt easier and my body hasn’t been as stressed by the weight and balance shifts. It might be from the pilates, which focuses on strengthening the core. or it could be the diet and lifestyle changes that I’ve implemented since then. Or maybe, it’s just the fact that I’ve been kept busy and active with my toddler’s antics…

Emotionally, I’ve felt like more of a wreck this second pregnancy — but that might be because I’ve been processing the birth experience and worrying about a repeat. I’ve had to be intentional about letting go of my fears and assumptions (something that I didn’t have to deal with at all the first time around).

Letting Go is a Process

To the Mom Who Didn't Want a Cesarean Birth - Second Pregnancy - BPhotoArt.comYou can read more about my process of letting go at Wildflower Ramblings, where I’m guest  posting about my unexpected cesarean birth – To the Mom Who Didn’t Want a Cesarean Birth.

Here are some other posts about being pregnant for the second time (links will open in a new window for your convenience). You may want to also check out my Pregnancy + Birth board on Pinterest.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Pregnancy + Birth on Pinterest.

What About You?

Have you noticed differences in subsequent pregnancies? What was most noticeably different for you in your second pregnancy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Close-Knit Family – Long Distance Grandparenting

posted in: Parenting | 4

As the weeks wind down and my second son’s birth looms ever nearer, I thought it was fitting to share this image from my family archives. It’s of me as a newborn in the hospital, with both my grandmothers. I’ve written about one of them so far (Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), but both were a big part of my life while I was growing up.

Betsy with her grandmothers as a newborn

Proud Grandmothers

This photo is meaningful for me even though I don’t remember that moment. I see my grandmothers as I remember them in childhood — loving, caring, warm and comforting.

I remember the soft texture of my paternal grandmother’s hands, the silky smooth wrinkled fingers that floated over piano keys. I recall the vibrant smiles that both grandmothers frequently flashed — a conveyance of their inner joy.

I wasn’t the first grandchild for either of my grandmothers. But still I was loved. They were proud of all their grandchildren, eager to hear our stories and listen to our childlike chatter.

Both teachers, my grandmothers instructed me when I was older — one piano, the other English.

My paternal grandmother’s favorite hymn was “The Old Rugged Cross.”
My maternal grandmother’s favorite book was “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

It’s interesting what things you recall when looking at a simple snapshot.

How the memories flow, disjointed at times, but all the while bringing back fond memories that make the distance of time seem less far.

The Importance of Close-Knit Family

We were, and still are, blessed to have most of our family nearby. And by that, I mean within 10 minutes by car. Both sets of my grandparents lived 10 minutes away from my childhood home.

And now that I’m married with kid(s), we are likewise blessed to have both sets of parents within 10 minutes of our house. And then when you add in aunts, uncles, and cousins, the map of nearby relatives gets ever more crowded.

But crowded in a good way.

Family is important to us; my husband and I were very intentional in settling down near family. We didn’t want our future children to grow up not knowing their extended family. And I can say that so far, we’ve managed to fulfill that desire for family bonding.

Our son knows the street names where his grandparents live, he talks about his cousins all the time, and loves to call on the phone to “invite” family members over to play with him.

We are a close-knit family.

Long Distance Grandparenting

One of my nieces, though, lives multiple states away. I haven’t met her yet, even though she is almost a year old. My parents are long-distance grandparents to their second grandchild.

It’s different.

It’s tough being distant when you want to be close.

I often hear a tinge of sorrow in my mom’s voice when she talks, excitedly, about her granddaughter — my niece.

Thankfully, technology has helped somewhat with long distance grandparenting. There are video conferencing options like skype and facetime. Facebook allows distant family members to keep up to date with the daily antics of little ones as they grow.

Tips for Long Distance Grandparenting

  • Video Chat – use video calls to chat with your grandkids.  You could even set a weekly phone date!
  • Send postcards – kids of all ages love to get real, old-fashioned mail.  My toddler is thrilled to receive simple postcards when his grandparents are on vacation.
  • Compile care packages – even if the goodies aren’t all that fancy, kids love to get packages.  You could probably acquire some finds at the dollar store for younger kids.  You could do care packages seasonally, or make themed holiday care packages!
  • Share photos – even a toddler can recognize their grandparents in photos.  Send them pictures of you so that your grandkids can talk about what you’re doing and “relate” to you.  It doesn’t matter whether you choose to send cell phone pictures or prints.
  • Visit ….but respect boundaries – it’s important to respect your child’s wishes, so make sure to ask and approve any trips before planning an impromptu vacation to visit your grandkids.
  • Celebrate birthdays – even if you can’t be there in person, you can always send a card (or if you’re more ambitious, a present).  Again, back to the whole “kids love getting stuff in the mail” thing.
  • Make audiotapes – read your favorite stories aloud so that your grandchildren can listen to the recordings whenever they need grandma or grandpa time.

And this next tip is for parents.  Talk about distant relatives with your children!  Repetition and visual references will help your children to be familiar with their long distance grandparents, great-grandparents, or other far-off relatives.  Even though my grandfather (memories of painting with Grandpa) lives a plane flight away, our son knows his great-grandfather, and recognizes him through photos, and fondly remembers the activities they did together two Christmases ago.

Resources on Long Distance Grandparenting

Here are some resources for those faced with long distance grandparenting.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

How Do You Cultivate Closeness?

What tips do you have for those with relatives who live out of state? Are there ways you’ve managed to encourage close relationships between your immediate family and your far-off family?

How to Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 7

What better way to get outdoors than to plan an outdoor photo scavenger hunt for the kids? Scavenger hunts can be a lot of fun, and if you opt to do a photo scavenger hunt it lines up with the wildlife preservation philosophy: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”

Whether we’re in our backyard or in our local park, I’ve tried to explain this concept to our son. The idea of leaving a place nicer than you found it can be explained a number of ways to toddlers. My frequent comment is something along the lines of: “if everyone took a rock, there wouldn’t be any left for anyone to enjoy!”

Ok, so onto our outdoor photo scavenger hunt for kids!

Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

When planning a photo scavenger hunt for kids, you can keep it really simple, or go all out with fancy printables and photo checklists. When doing this activity with my toddler, we opted for the simpler, more impromptu, method. But if you have an older child, make sure to check out some of the resources at the end of this post, as I found a lot of neat checklists and printables for photo scavenger hunts for kids.

Our Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt

Since our son is three, and can’t read yet, we didn’t make any printed lists (I’ll share a list of ideas later on though). We just went outside in the backyard with a camera! We walked around, I pointed out nature items and our son spotted and/or identified them.

Toby wasn’t too interested in taking the pictures himself (wow, that’s a once in a lifetime occurrence!), so I took pictures of either the objects themselves, or him with the item of interest.  The key is being flexible so it’s fun for your kid!

Later, I got the pictures off the camera and onto the computer, where we enjoyed looking through the pictures and talking about what we found in our backyard!  If you’re trying to limit screen time, I could see printing out the photos and putting them in an album for a future “find it from the photo” scavenger hunt.

Spring Backyard Photo Scavenger Hunt – Photos

Here are some of the things we found on our scavenger hunt!  A little further on, I’ll give you a list of things we were looking for, but as you’ll see from the images I’m sharing, my son was focused on spring flowers and other greenery during this outing.  Just so you know, we took more pictures, but I’m just sharing a sampling of the photos from our scavenger hunt to give you an idea of what we found (click on any thumbnail to open the large view gallery).

Photo Scavenger Hunt Checklist

If you’re looking for a list of ideas, here are some things you could put on the photo scavenger hunt list!

  • Flowers/Plants: daffodil, black-eyed Susan, daisy, marigold, peony, rose, strawberry bush, tomato plant, garlic, chives, oregano, mint, dandelion, ragweed, milkweed
  • Trees/Saplings: maple, oak, pine, apple, pear, cherry, dogwood, willow, blue spruce, birch, poplar
  • Seeds/Nuts: acorn, walnut, mushroom
  • Insects/little things: bumblebee, mayfly, dragonfly, housefly, ladybug, aphid, ant, pillbug/rolypoly, millipede, centipede, earthworm, praying mantis, walking stick
  • Birds: red-winged blackbird, robin, chickadee, oriole, blue bird, mourning dove, Canadian goose, swan, great blue heron, turkey vulture, sparrow, barn swallow
  • Animals: deer, squirrel, rabbit, fox, coyote, chipmunk, garter snake, field mouse, groundhog, skunk (hope not!)

With older kids, you can print out the list, hand it to them, and have them venture off with a camera to photograph all the different things they can find.  I chose to keep the list on the shorter side by grouping all flowers into one item.  Multiple photos could be taken for bonus points!

Younger kids, such as my toddler, will need the photo scavenger hunt to be adapted based on their current temperament and interest.

Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids – Resources

Here are some other posts I found, some of which include printables, that should provide inspiration for your photo scavenger hunt! I’ve also included some more scavenger hunt goodies from Pinterest! (Links will open in a new window for your convenience)

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Scavenger Hunt (for kids) on Pinterest.

Have Ideas for a Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids?

I’d love to hear your ideas of things to look for, what activities worked for you, and thoughts on how activities like this can be tweaked for different age groups.

And, if you do try this photo scavenger hunt idea, make sure to report back as to how your kids liked the activity!

Backyard Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids - Flowers - BPhotoArt.com

The Backyard Games Series - Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt - BPhotoArt.comThis post is part of a series celebrating Backyard Games week (May 19-26).

Thirteen bloggers, including myself, are sharing some great backyard game ideas to help get you outdoors!

Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera

posted in: Parenting | 13

It is so exciting to watch your child try something new for the first time. Milestones are a big part of growing up, and babies have *a lot* of growing to do in their first year. While looking for images to share with this post, I was reminiscing over so many fond memories and milestones. It’s amazing how quickly they grow, and how quickly we forget those things which were a given at the time.

I’m going to share some tips for capturing your baby milestones on camera, how to document the moments that will matter to you down the road. And you’ll see some snapshots from our son’s first year too!

Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera - Baby First Year Milestones - BPhotoArt.com

Choose a Camera You’ll Actually Use

Have a camera at the ready — seriously. I am so thankful that we invested in a nice pocket camera, a Canon G12 Digital Camera (#afflink), before our son was born. A lot of people ask me what camera I use to take photos of everyday milestones, and it’s interesting to observe how surprised they are when I don’t reply that I carry my DSLR and lenses with me. Yes, I love photography, but no, it doesn’t dominate my life. There are more important things in life (It’s The Little Things In Life).

I knew that the best camera for documenting my son’s milestones would be the one I could carry everywhere with me, one with a good battery life and self-contained lens so I wouldn’t have to worry about sensor dust or changing out lenses. More importantly, a pocket camera can go anywhere with you. There isn’t the temptation to leave it behind because it’s too big and bulky, and you can more discretely capture moments that matter to you. The best camera is one you will actually carry with you. And, bonus for me, the one we selected also does HD videos. Perfect for capturing baby’s first steps, or those adorable giggles and murmurs infants make.

Portraits of Baby’s First Year

When it comes to capturing baby milestones, there’s nothing quite like having professional portraits of your child’s first year. As much as I might be biased 😉 — images like these speak to me in a unique way. Looking back, I’m glad we took the time to schedule in regular portrait sessions throughout our son’s first year. Click on any image below to view them as a gallery.

My Memories of Our Baby’s Milestones

So, back to my personal archives from our son’s first year. What memories stand out to me now? Frankly, most have blurred into a conglomeration of thankfulness, wonder, and parental pride. I don’t remember the specifics of each milestone, the dates new things were said or done. For that, I’d have to consult my baby’s first year calendar (#afflink), or peruse my snapshots to spur my memory.

Life is so full of new experiences, new discoveries — we have to be intentional about living in the present, and sometimes that means letting the past become faded and obscure. That’s why I’m grateful for the memories and milestones I’ve documented. The stories and snapshots I’ve saved from our son’s first year. They help us to remember those moments that were so amazing, that made us realize what a blessing it is to be parents.

What memories do I cherish? Remembering how tiny our son was, recalling those moments in the hospital when I finally got to meet the child who had been so wiggly inside the womb (may I add, nothing compared to #2 — what a wiggle worm!). As they grow, you forget how tiny newborns are, how peaceful a sleeping newborn looks, and how much you loved every stage of growth, every development and milestone.

We celebrated our son’s birth with in-hospital newborn portraits. I’d forgotten that we took him home on opening day — in a baseball onesie. Both sets of grandparents came to visit us at home, as did countless other friends and relatives. We were showered with love and food, support in the ways we needed it most.

Our son held his first toy on our living room floor. He didn’t like being on his tummy once he accidentally rolled over for the first time. He smiled so much we called him Mr. Smiles. We built our deck while our son “supervised” from his stroller (one of the few times we used it). He was a trooper for his first plane trip, when we visited friends in DC. His baptism was held on our newly built deck, with friends and family in attendance. Learning to sit, stand, first steps — we have snapshots of them all. So many memories, and so few words to describe them. That’s the reason I love photographs. They bring the emotions and memories of a moment back to the forefront of your mind, allow you to experience the joy and wonder once again.

And what’s more, kids love looking at pictures of themselves as babies. While I was gathering these images, my son was giggling in delight at the photos, telling me about what was going on in each one, and asking me questions. Click on any image below to view them as a gallery.

What Milestones Will You Document?

What baby milestones do you see as being most important to you? Are there memories you’ve documented for each of your kids that you have been intentional about recreating?

Resources On Baby’s First Keepsakes, Moments, and Milestones

Here are some resources on capturing baby milestones, moments, and how to celebrate baby’s firsts throughout the year! Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby’s milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.

5 Things New Parents Really Need

posted in: Parenting | 14

Now that we’re getting ready to welcome kiddo #2 into the world, I thought it might be helpful to recap some of the things we really appreciated after the birth of our son.

What do new parents really need? To know you’re there for them.

It’s vital to have support as you enter parenthood. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” has historical roots. In the past, new parents had their families nearby, their neighbors, and many hands willing to help in the rearing of their child. Today, though, that sense of community isn’t a given. New parents can face raising a child completely on their own, without the support of nearby relatives or friends. It’s really important to avoid becoming isolated.

Newborn family portrait with hands - new parents - bphotoart.com

1. Fellowship/Support Groups

There are a lot of options when it comes to fellowship and support groups. You’ll find there are local groups that meet weekly or monthly — these are a great opportunity to get out of the house and feel like a person again. Not sure where to find any such groups? A number of international groups such as La Leche League, Mothers of Preschoolers, and Babywearing International have listings of local chapters near you.

Once my husband went back to work and I was at home with our infant all day long, I found these support groups invaluable. It was nice to get out of the house, to sit and talk with other moms who were going through the same things I was going through, and just to be someplace where no one cared if I was dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt.

2. Homemade Meals

When you have a new baby, there is nothing better than having people deliver homemade meals to your front door just before dinnertime. Having a meal registry really takes the stress of “what’s for dinner” out of the picture. Plus, it’s a great way for your friends and family to have a chance to meet the new baby when they stop by. We were blessed to receive meals from a number of local moms and our relatives too. The moms typically dropped off the meal, said hi to baby, then left. Our relatives would bring over enough food to feed both us and them, so we had time to relax and let someone else hold the baby for a while (and usually take care of dishes for us afterwards too!).

If you’re thinking about delivering a meal to new parents, keep in mind — any meal is appreciated, no matter how simple. It’s never a bad idea to have leftovers either — so don’t worry about making too much… it won’t go to waste. One of our favorite meals we received was pepperoni cheese bread and salad. Simple, but good. Make sure to ask about any food intolerances or allergies — I know some nursing moms who’ve had to cut out dairy for their baby’s sake. Freezer meals may be an option to consider too.

3. Offering/Receiving Help

Some new parents are really reluctant to ask for help, but are more than willing to accept help if offered. Trust me on this one, I am stubborn and don’t like to ask for help. With my first, I had a particularly difficult recovery (cesarean *after* 24 hours of labor), and learned that I really did have to ask for (and accept) help. My mother and mother-in-law were such a blessing to my husband and me during the postpartum weeks.

After the hubbub of the first week or so, life started to settle into a routine for us, but we had some friends who would regularly touch base just to see how we were doing and to ask whether we needed anything. Remember to reach out not just immediately following the birth, but in the weeks, or even months after as well. Some couples take longer than others to adjust to the new demands of parenting, so they may be appreciative of your staying in touch.

Sometimes the best help is offering to hold the baby so that mom can get a shower or nap; other times it might be to take care of the dishes overflowing from the kitchen sink. Really, the most important thing is just letting new parents know that you’re there for them.

4. A Break (Date Night)

As the days and weeks fly by, new parents can get caught up in diapers, feeding, and all things baby — neglecting themselves and their relationship in the process. Some say “baby comes first,” but do you remember how in airplanes you’re told to put on your own oxygen mask so you can then be able assist others around you? Make sure to keep your marriage, your relationship, a priority. By nurturing yourself, you will be better energized to care for your child.

But how to do things as a couple when baby makes three? It can be tough, particularly if your infant doesn’t take to being left with others. Fortunately, in the newborn stage, babies are pretty portable. You can take them out with you for dinner at a restaurant, or go on a walk together with baby in tow. Once you have a general idea of when your baby naps and sleeps, it may be possible to plan a date night “in” at home — even if it’s just a movie.

5. Experience (It Takes Time!)

As with any new thing, adjusting to parenthood takes time. Don’t worry about parenting perfectly — there is no such thing. You’ll do the best you can with what you’ve got. And yes, you WILL make mistakes. Everyone does. But, the great thing about parenting is …it’s a learning process. We learn through experience, by listening to the experiences of others, and by remembering to be flexible. You don’t have to set your parenting rules in stone, you can change and adapt along the way. Take what works, and toss the rest.

What are some good sources of advice? Well, those who’ve been there, done that… parents and in-laws, for starters. We have a bunch of parenting books, but most of them I haven’t read, to be honest. The best sources of advice are really tidbits gleaned here and there, through conversation with other parents.

One tip we received from good friends of ours? Parenthood will only change you as much as you let it.

You don’t have to lose yourself in parenthood. You can keep your identity, expanding it to include parenthood. Being a parent is an addition to your life, a new phase of life — not separate or compartmentalized. You are still yourself, so don’t forget to keep on doing what gives you energy, what revitalizes you and makes you feel excited about life.

BONUS Item: Photos of Baby

Sometimes new parents get so caught up in “surviving” they forget to take snapshots and have professional portraits of baby taken. Despite our plethora of photos from my son’s first year, I just realized that aside from our professional newborn session, we have no photos of the three of us. There are plenty of dad with baby, mom with baby, and baby all by himself, but the three of us? Not so much. I am so glad that we have the portraits from our session (thanks Liz of Oh Baby Photography for visiting us in the hospital and creating lovely newborn memories for us). Here’s my favorite of all of us from her session:

Newborn family portrait - new parents - bphotoart.com

Resources on Taking Care of New Parents

Ultimate Guide to Taking Care of New Parents ~ Lemon Lime Adventures

Taking Time For Mom

Gift Ideas For New Parents

  • Helping Hands
  • Frugal Tips for Parents

    Tips for Parents of Multiples/Preemies

    The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

    • taking care of new parents
    • feeding baby
    • taking care of baby
    • baby’s milestones
    • baby play
    • baby spaces
    • celebrating baby

    Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.

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