Indoor Winter Fun | Holiday Ornaments

posted in: Parenting | 1

We haven’t ventured outdoors too much lately with it being so cold — the teens is just a little chilly to play outside for long. So, many winter crafts have ensued. I figured you might enjoy seeing a touch of our holiday decorations as they go up, and maybe these will inspire you to get creative with your little ones this week too!

Today’s craft was from a well-anticipated playdate; we improvised a gluten free dough recipe so both kids could participate. It actually turned out really well — the ornaments are adorable, don’t you think? Ok, I may be a little biased, but I am just glad the dough baked into something durable and non-breakable. Plus, Toby finally got to use his favorite cookie cutter, the train.

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The Power of Giving

posted in: Notes | 6

As the gift-getting mentality becomes ever more prevalent in our society, my husband and I have been taking steps to intentionally cultivate a spirit of gift-giving and sharing in our son.
Besides a more well-known favorite, The Giving Tree (*), one of Toby’s favorite books that illustrates what it means to share and give is one I received as a child: The Mouse in the Manger (*). It’s about Oscar, a young mouse who runs away from home because he wants a bigger bed of straw; he ultimately gives away his entire pile of straw and learns how freeing it can be to give unreservedly. Read More

Crafts and Artwork for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 5

It’s been so much fun crafting with my toddler lately. I found a lot of Advent and Christmas-themed craft ideas (thanks Pinterest, among other places). He has really been excited about an almost daily craft, and I’ve been grateful not to have to think up all these cute ideas myself. So far, we’ve made a family tree, a decoupaged candle holder, a “pocket” to hold promises (in our case, toddler-selected Bible verses), and today…well, we got sidetracked and just did free form painting on the computer. They learn so much from actual hands-on crafts, so I’ve been avoiding computer-related art for the most part. But I figure once in a while doesn’t hurt. He really enjoyed seeing how the “pen” made the paintbrush move and create colors on screen. Yes, I let him use my stylus and tablet; no, it didn’t get broken.

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Thoughts for Moms-To-Be and New Mothers

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Congratulations! Becoming a mother marks the start of an amazing journey, one which I’ve also begun recently. While I know they grow quickly, it’s hard to believe my little baby is already zooming towards the one year mark (and beyond).

Though I considered myself to be pretty well prepared for mothering a child, I made a point to never assume I knew everything. And, let me tell you… there is a lot I have learned already! I really could fill a book with stories and ideas, but for now, I’d like to keep it simple. And sweet!

Learn to take advice with a grain of salt. Everyone will have suggestions for you, or anecdotes to share. And usually, these people are genuinely trying to be helpful …even though the advice they give may not always be useful to you. I’ve found the best thing to do is smile, graciously say “thank you,” and make a mental note of it if you do find something you can apply to your life. If not, don’t sweat it!

There is a ton of baby stuff on the market. Relax, you don’t need it all. There are a few essentials, but the rest is just fluff. Some products will make your life easier, but others are just out there to profit. The trick is finding out which ones you need! I recommend asking other moms what they found useful, and what they could’ve lived without. For us, my essential baby items were as follows:

  • Baby carrier / wrap
  • Carseat
  • Swing (AC or batteries)
  • Cloth diapers, (via diaper service), diaper covers, and snappis
  • Layette (mostly onesies)
  • Cosleeper

We have loved babywearing, it has been a lifesaver for those fussy times when your little one needs to be held close. My little boy loves napping while I work or do chores. And when looking at swings, consider if you really want to be changing batteries all the time; we love that ours simply plugs into the wall (and can swing the infant car seat too). I bet you’re curious which baby products we found to be superfluous and unneccessary, right? For example, while a wipes warmer sounds like a neat idea, consider where you would plug it in… and more importantly, why it’s needed. You can quickly warm a wipe between your palms prior to use! We also didn’t use bibs (aside from at the table for food)…they just ended up being one more item of clothing to wash, fold, and put away. Use your judgment, and ask yourself how long a product might be useful (days, weeks, months?) before investing.

Using a cloth diaper service has been wonderful. Not only are we keeping diapers out of the landfill, but my baby doesn’t get icky chemicals against his skin for hours on end… and no diaper rash! What sold my husband on the diaper service was the ease of use. We don’t have to rinse or scrape the diapers, simply toss them in a hamper, and put the bag out once a week. Plus, it’s a fixed cost… and I never have to worry about running out of diapers.

Some other activities/groups that I highly recommend:

La Leche League – there are many local chapters that meet on a monthly basis, and there’s also an online forum. I have found my La Leche group to be a wonderful source of support. If you can find the time to attend while you are still pregnant… do it! You will be able to get any birth or early nursing questions answered before you are in an urgent need-to-know situation.

Prenatal/postnatal yoga – I can’t say enough about how my yoga class helped me survive through rough times. It was a weekly escape where I could focus on restoring my inner peace and allowing my body to let go of tension. The best part about taking a class geared towards new and expecting moms is that the poses are adapted for your body’s needs and abilities. Instead of focusing on general well-being, I was able to help my body cope with the changes of pregnancy; and later, to help my body recover and heal.

Babywearing International Groups – I discovered my local babywearing chapter by chance. It has been one of the best assets, providing me with an opportunity to get out on a weekly basis, while enabling me to keep my baby close at hand. Chapters usually have extensive libraries, and you can borrow all sorts of different baby carriers to figure out which works best for you. It’s amazing when I consider that only a year ago, I thought that my only options for wearing my baby were the Baby Bjorn carrier and the Mobywrap. Far from it. In fact, I discovered how poorly the Baby Bjorn fits both mom and baby. My favorite carrier is varies depending on the day and my mood, but I like my Boba soft structured carrier, my BabyHawk mei Tai, and my new favorite is a Didymos woven wrap. There is no comparison to the comfort and support I feel when wearing my little boy in these baby carriers!

Baby Portraits – I am a bit biased, but as a visual person, I loved documenting my pregnancy and my child’s first moments. Let me tell you, there is no comparison between the snapshots we took and the professional portraits we had done. It is wonderful to feel pampered and to be photographed beautifully. We had newborn portraits done within the first week, and while I was physically in poor condition….none of that hits me when I look at my son’s portraits. He is beautiful; I feel beautiful and motherly in the portraits that include me. So, is it worthwhile to splurge on a newborn portrait session? I say yes!

Well, I think that’s a good start; as I said before, I really could go on for hours about this topic. Your best resource is other moms who have been there, done that. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, you deserve to be well informed and know all your options!

Your birth experience will likely be different than mine, but the important thing is for you to take ownership. You can plan all you want, certainly! Take Lamaze, read books, but keep in mind that birth is a chapter in the book of motherhood. I wish I’d read fewer pregnancy books and more parenting book while pregnant, if you know what I mean. Birth is the beginning, and your journey will be what you choose to make of it.

Here’s to motherhood! Enjoy the journey!

Crafts + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained!

posted in: Parenting | 0

crafts and activities: easy ideas to keep kids busy - betsy's photography - http://bphotoart.comSo we were watching “Super Nanny” on TV the other day, and I realized that some of these parents don’t realize how important it is to play. Isn’t that one of the best parts about being a kid?

Getting to play, whether outside or inside, is related to many of my favorite childhood memories. Of course, along those same lines, getting to make things, or create, is equally important.

Maybe that’s why I became a photographer — I love the process of creating. At any rate, I’ve compiled some ideas for you that might help you in a pinch if you need ways to keep your kids occupied. Some will depend on how messy your kids are, of course — so do plan for that in advance!

Make Your Own Play Dough

If you have flour and salt on hand, then you’re probably equipped for this project. Depending on the age of your kids, why not let them help MAKE the play dough before they play?

Chances are they’ll love it even more than just playing with the store-bought or pre-made stuff.  I made play dough with my boys, and we didn’t even bother to put food coloring in it. They like it “plain.”

You can also make store bought play dough colors “stretch” further by taking some of your plain play dough and blending it with those tiny colored packages for even more fun.

Don’t have a recipe? Get play dough recipes here.

Make Popsicles

This is another easy activity that your kids will probably enjoy. Making popsicles can be as complicated (or simple) as you want it to be. Just make sure you have some popsicle molds!  We found a set of silicone popsicle molds ad used them to talk about diversity (the popsicle molds were all different colors, but inside they were all the same).

Anyways, from there, you can let your kids make lemonade popsicles, pineapple-orange juice popsicles, or even yogurt popsicles.  My kids enjoyed making applesauce popsicles the other day as well.

If your kids want to make something more creative, why freeze different layers (colors,flavors) into the popsicles!

Make a Map

Get out the crayons or markers and start drawing! Maybe your kids could make a map of the backyard, or if they’re a little older, they could do something a bit more ambitious — like make a map of your neighborhood!

You can even suggest they explore or make “excursions” to the places they’re mapping out — so that they don’t forget the best places!

Make Board Games

If your kids love to play boardgames, why not encourage them to make up their own? It can be based on the traditional board games, or even something more original! Make sure to provide your kids with lots of craft materials, like cardboard, colored paper, and maybe even some clay so that they can sculpt the board game pieces or dice.

An old shirt box, once decorated properly will make a great place to store the new board game and its accessories. Next time you have game night, make sure to pull out the new addition to your collection — your kids will be so proud!

Make a Meal

If your kids are a little older (and responsible), why not teach them how to cook? It could be something simple like a favorite dessert, or they’re ready, even a batch of pancakes (make sure to be careful around the oven and stove).

While it’s up to you to decide what your kids are ready to make, they’ll probably love helping make meals if you can make it fun! Of course, desserts also call for decorations, which most kids particularly enjoy doing.

More Resources

If you’re looking for some crafty websites, why not try a few of these websites…they look promising! And remember, if you run out of ideas, it can’t hurt to ask your kids’ opinions!!

Things to Do This Summer!

posted in: Local | 0

School is out for the summer (or will be soon) — and in case you’re thinking, “now what?” — we’ve got some ideas that will help keep boredom at bay.  Need activity suggestions? We’ve got resources. Want to find something to do as a family? yup, there’s ideas for that. Looking for an online educational game? Check.

We’ve even listed some outdoor activity sites (state parks, trails, and more), as well as some local resources if you’re in the Ann Arbor area. Yes, that includes Dexter, Chelsea, Manchester, Saline, Ypsilanti, and even a little something for Tecumseh. So go on, take a look — and prepare to have a blast this summer!

First of all, why not stop by Homeschool.com to find out 101 Things to do this Summer. Don’t worry, most of them don’t involve “school” — there are things like “Make an Obstacle Course in Your Backyard” (#32), “Have a Picnic” (#2), and even, “Become a Photographer” (#7). What a great resource! If you get through all 101 things, be sure to let me know!

Child Portrait at Mill Creek Park Playground

Activity Ideas

If you are still having trouble finding things to do or looking for something the whole family can enjoy together? Check out these resources that have activities and ideas for having fun!

  • About.com’s Summer Arts & Crafts for Kids. Make big bubbles, Find a recipe for playdoh, and get inspired with more ideas on how to use those art supplies you have around the house!
  • FamilyFun.com has ideas for you! Arts + Crafts, parties, recipes, games, and more! You can even search the site by age group, or by your child’s interest (e.g. princesses, barnyard pals).
  • Kaboose has summer craft ideas, outdoor games and activities, recipes, and more — visit their Summer Guide to get started.
  • DIY has some neat craft ideas, so if you’re stuck indoors or need a quick activity, this might be a good rescue activity!

Online Fun

While I was looking for these resources, I also found some websites that are interactive, educational AND fun.

  • PestWorld for Kids is all about pests, what they are, how to avoid them, and even games and e-cards.
  • Black Holes: Gravity’s Relentless Pull lets you journey to a black hole, and see the night sky in different ways. You’ll learn about the different objects in our universe, and whether they are visible with x-rays, visible light, and/or radio waves.
  • Mouth Power is an interactive site about taking care of your teeth. You’re bound to learn a few things as you complete activities to “earn your teeth.”

Outdoor Fun

Of course, there is always the option of spending time outdoors. While these sites will require you to spend some time indoors (mostly planning), the main focus is to get outside and to experience the world around you.

  • Michigan State Parks — with around 40 state parks, Michigan has plenty of opportunities for you and the family to enjoy yourselves outdoors. Use their “Find a Michigan State Park” feature to search by county, campground type, or activity (e.g. biking, fishing, picnic, wildlife). Also, consider the Explorer Program, where you’ll be able to learn about forests, insects, night hikes, animals, and more.
  • Trails.com is a resource that will let you search trails and trail maps in Michigan — depending on the type of outdoor recreation that you’re interested in. Whether it’s hiking, biking, or fishing, you’ll be able to find some great trails!
  • Beyond Your Doorstep with Peter Schriemer is a great site — your kids will learn stuff about backyard critters and animals, be able to play games, color — and with your help, complete some outdoor activities that will increase their understanding of the wildlife around your home.

Local Resources

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