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‘Cause Baby You’re a Firework

I can’t believe Fourth of July is right around the corner! Like in three days! It is one of our favorite holidays. We love having a cookout, playing at the beach, and watching fireworks with our friends and family. With that being said, we have started our celebration a few days early with some fun and slightly messy fireworks. Now, these fireworks aren’t as loud, but they are just as pretty.

What you will need:

  • A few toilet paper rolls
  • Scissors
  • Red, White, and Blue paint
  • Paint Brushes
  • Black Construction paper

First, I cut the toilet paper rolls to make little slits. If your kiddo has good scissor skills and you aren’t scared of getting your finger cut off, let them do this part. I would like to keep my fingers, so I went ahead and did this step myself.

Now to the fun, and messy, part. Give the kiddos a paint brush or three and let them go to town. As you can see my son wanted to add a little eye paint to his outfit today. It’s washable, so no worries. Let them paint the spindles and then press them onto the piece of paper.

Let them paint and stamp until their hearts are content. We made a ton of fireworks and they are already asking to do it again. Here are a few of their masterpieces!

We would love to see your kiddos masterpieces in the comments!

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Our House is a Zoo

I can’t imagine a house without pets. I have literally never had to. When I was born, there was my dad’s black lab, Jezebel. Then slowly we added cats. A good many cats, because my mom had to pass the animal shelter on the way home from work and couldn’t turn down giving them a good home. In middle school and high school came less cats and more dogs. And while we were in college my (now) husband and I got our first dog, Kenzie.

By the time my first daughter was born, we had somehow had accumulated three dogs. Three. I say somehow, but I know exactly how it happened. I should have seen it coming. See, we had every intention of breeding Kenzie when she was younger, and try we did, but she was not a fan. After meeting five or so male labs over the years to try and make that happen, we just decided to give up and find a second dog to keep her company. We found what were advertised as “snow white labs” a state over and became obsessed. Kenzie was a yellow lab, and we both remember the day we saw a portly white male lab walking through Bass Pro Shops and wanted to kidnap him, he was so perfect. We drove to pick out our new puppy and arrived in a very rural town in South Carolina. When we pulled up to the house there were two puppies left for us to choose from. Pro move: I hopped out of the car first and didn’t wait for my husband. I walked straight up to the puppy pen and one cute little dog with a cowlick on his nose jumped right up to me. The other literally turned away from me and faced the fence. My husband didn’t stand a chance in helping to choose this dog, it was decided. And that’s how we got Cotton. He was trouble from the start. And before we could get him fixed, right after his “coming of age”, he got our 8 year old lab pregnant. Go. Figure. And that’s how we have Olive, our pick of the litter. Cotton and Olive are less than a year apart in age.

So, my daughter was born into a house with three dogs. And as much as I love my dogs, our house is a zoo. I started to imagine what having a house without dogs was like. Do people without dogs even have to vacuum? What does their dirt even look like if it doesn’t have dog hair in it? Wouldn’t it be nice to leave the house overnight and not have to take the dog? Don’t get me started on keeping up with vet visits and heart medication and 15month well baby check-ups and dentist appointments…my head is a zoo too. I used to get really upset when people had kids and got rid of their dogs. I just didn’t see how they could do that to a member of their family. One of the FIRST members of their family. Because that’s what our dogs were to us, family. But now that I have kids, I do understand. Some days you barely feed and bathe yourself, so that means the dog is getting better care than even you are. But, while I no longer judge that decision, I could never do it. We love our little zoo.

When you see your 1 year old throw the ball for the dog and laugh and laugh and laugh, it’s worth it. When you find your 3 year old giving the dog a check-up with her doctor kit and he’s totally cooperating, it’s worth it. When you’ve had a long day and finally got the kids to bed and plop on the couch and the dog comes to cuddle with you, a soft, SILENT creature that isn’t asking you for anything, it’s worth it. And that may not be the case for everyone, but our house will always have dogs.

About a year ago, when our kids were 2 years old and 5 months old, Kenzie passed away. Our first dog, our fellow adventurer, our kid before kids. Because yes, dog mom is a thing. She passed away suddenly in her sleep. When we found her outside, we had just put the kids to bed. I hugged her and cried. And cried some more. I told her I was sorry over and over. It just poured out of me, because since having kids she hadn’t gotten my attention. I didn’t have as much patience for dog things. She hadn’t been taken to the beach, or in the boat, or anything we used to do. She hadn’t been played with as much in the backyard. She’d slowed down, and so had I. That was a brand new form of mom guilt that hit me like a wave. I know she had a good life, but I feel like I dropped the ball at the end. And I didn’t know it was the end until it was. We called a pet crematorium and sat in the driveway with her under the stars until they arrived. The next morning, when our two year old asked where she was, we told her she was an angel now. My tiny little toddler said “Oh, I wish she would come back.” And it’s worth it. She won’t have memories of Kenzie, just like I have very few of the black lab I was brought home to, but we will remember those things, like how Kenzie sniffed the carseat on that very first Spring day.

Just like kids, dogs teach us so many things about the world around us, and they teach our kids so many things too. Responsibility, compassion, friendship, trust, loyalty. It seems so true of everything in life that there are seasons. Childhood is a great season. Pets are a great season. When they run together, it’s amazing. Seasons may reoccur, with new pets and new babies, but you can never go back. It’s also true that sometimes the hardest things are the most rewarding, and while pets and kids are HARD, I wouldn’t trade it. I love they they have furry best friends to hug and whisper to when we, their parents, make them mad. I love that they can dress them up and involve them in their games. I love that the dogs will sleep at the foot of their bed when we let them, watching over them as they sleep. They are a comfort of childhood, and it warms my heart to watch these seasons. Two very different seasons that go by way too fast.

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Easy Paper Tunnels

Sometimes we overthink and over plan activities for our little ones. The simplest of activities can result in hours of fun. These super simple paper tunnels were just that and Grayson loved them.

Grayson loves cars, trains, and airplanes, so our road became many different things. “Look Mama a race track!” to “Check out my runway!”. His imagination went wild!

While his little sister was napping, we often try to find quiet activities. The idea of tunnels popped into my head and thus we created his tunnels.

All we needed was some construction paper, tape, and painters tape. Oh, and a hard surface to attach them to. First, we created our road with the painters tape. Then, all we did was grab some construction paper, fold up little tabs on each side, and tape them down to the floor to create our little tunnels.

Easiest activity EVER! Grayson collected some of his automobiles and started playing. It’s still on our floor now, ready to use after nap time.

Because the tunnels are made out of construction paper Grayson had to practice being gentle and slow with his cars. This is not a task that comes naturally to him, so I little practice goes a long way.

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Teaching Comparisons

It’s officially summer break, and while we love the pool, the beach, and park dates with our friends, sometimes we have to stay home, stay indoors, and most importantly KEEP BUSY. Anyone else find that a challenge sometimes during the longest, hottest days of the year? We have plenty of indoor activities but sometimes I yearn for an opportunity to teach them new things. I often forget how easy (and impactful) it can be without even leaving the house. Or maybe, without leaving the backyard.

Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the house ready for bed. I had to pull a few toys in from outside and saw a little toad on our back step. One day this past April we let Addie stay up late and “hunt toads” outside, knowing there were two hopping around. She had the best time and has been asking about hunting toads ever since, but we haven’t seen any, plus it gets dark SO LATE. So I scooped this little guy up, put him in our Kritter Keeper (one of the best kid-oriented purchases I’ve ever made) and let him hang out in the kitchen until the morning. Excited is an understatement. He ate breakfast right beside her. And me, being the worrisome mom I am, felt bad for starving him all night. I tried to find a cricket or moth outside and ended up finding a green tree frog (and an unlucky rollie poly) and a summer lesson was born.

Observing how things around us are alike and different is such a good exercise for growing minds. How often do we ask our littles critical thinking questions? So today we learned about frogs vs. toads. We started with the differences. I asked her which was the frog and she got it right! When I asked her to tell me about the frog. What does he look like? What color are his eyes? And then I just asked “What else?” letting her connect the dots and think of more things she could tell me about the frog. Then we did the same thing with the toad, and we started looking at how they were different. At the end of our “lesson” she was pointing out similarities herself. My favorite was that they both hop and say “ribbit ribbit.” When talking about differences, she noticed their toes the most of all things. Is that something we, as adults, would focus on?! But toddlers do. The frog’s toes were round, smooth, and sticky. The toad’s toes were pointy and “furry” as she said, but we decided she meant bumpy. She wanted to hold the frog first because she concluded that the toad’s toes would hurt. I assured her they wouldn’t, but how amazing are children?! I love how they look at the world and how they put things together.

We spent about an hour talking about the frog and the toad, naming them, and then playing with them outside before letting them go. Some quick research on the internet over breakfast gave me some facts I could share with her, like the fact that toads don’t have many predators since they taste terrible, but frogs have several predators. Frogs also like to live near water, but toads don’t have to. This helped us decide where to let them go and we talked about what bugs they like to eat. Before I knew it it was lunch time and I felt like we had a very successful summer morning!

If you don’t have an abundance of wildlife around you, this is still an activity you can do with your children, with anything! The difference between mommy’s & daddy’s car, the difference between two stuffed animals, the difference between seashells, etc. It may sound like a silly start, frogs, but it has really made me ask my daughter more prompting questions. WHY is that your favorite doll, WHY do you like strawberries, WHAT do you love about your sister? It gets their hamster wheel turning and gives my chatterbox something new to talk about.

We also pulled out the books we had which talk about differences. One of my favorites is Hello, Hello which shows how very different animals still have things in common. Another is You’re All My Favorites, which is about three bear siblings who are different and wonder who is their parents’ favorite bear. Several of the kids books already in our collection reinforced differences in animals and people, so we rode that wave all day.

How do you teach kids about differences? What are some of the questions you ask? What conversations do you have? We are all about teaching our kids the most we can about the world around them, people and animals alike, so please share your words of wisdom! Happy summering!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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EASY Birthday Cake Cookies

Let me start off by saying, I am by no means a baker, but I do love cookies. When I found this super easy recipe, had to give it a try. It looked pretty fool proof and it turns out it was. The cookies came out so good and stayed soft and chewy for over a week. So, lets get started!

Ingredients

  • Birthday cake mix
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Rainbow sprinkles

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.

While your oven is heating up, combine the cake mix, chocolate chunks, oil and eggs. Mix until they are combined.

If you have a melon baller, use that to form the cookie balls. We don’t have one, so we used our hands. Right before the cookies go in, garnish them with sprinkles!

Pop the cookies in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Toddler approved. He picked off the sprinkles first!

Just like that, you have delicious cookies for everyone to enjoy.

This recipe yielded 24 cookies. I stored mine in a Ziploc bag with a piece of bread to keep them soft!

We hope you enjoy!

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Father’s Day from the Kids!

Summertime. The time for cookouts, sushiney holidays, swimming, and FATHER’S DAY! Anyone else struggle to find good Father’s Day gifts? Trying to find the perfect thing to fit in to his work/home/hobby balance that he will actually use? Tricky! But we think we’ve been pretty clever over the years.

A Swanky Badger Wallet

I gave my husband this wallet last year and he cried! It is the perfect practical gift with a twist. You are able to personalize the wallet with their initials and a cute engraved note. It has held up well to daily use and is going to be hard to top this year.

A Personalized Watch or Bracelet

You are somewhat restricted with what personal effects you can wear in a military uniform, but I wanted to get my husband something he could wear with a personal message from us. I settled on a leather bracelet with a latin phrase on it and our kids’ initials. He can wear it under his sleeve. I was iffy about this gift, because again, he isn’t one for jewelry, but he loved it and wore it throughout deployment as a reminder of us.

Kids Mad Libs

There are a ton of free and cute Father’s Day themed mad libs all over Pinterest. We have done this with our kiddo the past two years and the answers are always adorable. They are a free and fun way our showing your spouse how special they are to the kids in your life. It is also easy to store away and read years down the road.

Building Memories with Legos

Both my husband and son love Legos, so this was perfect for them. Just find a mason jar, some big Legos, and brainstorm some activities with your little ones. We used twelve Legos, so they would get to pick a fun activity each month. It was truly the gift that kept on giving. To see exactly how it’s done click here.

Hand/Foot Art

I mean look how cute these are! You can make a card with any theme that suits your family. The best part, you can do this with the smallest of babies to older children. Just grab some paper or canvas, paint, and paintbrushes and you are ready to go. I love to look back at all of their hand/footprints art over the years to see how much they have grown. Sometimes we forget just how tiny they once were.

Scavenger Hunt

Have your kids help make a scavenger hunt to find his gift that includes some of dad’s favorite places. Stop by a hiking trail, park, coffee shop, sporting goods store, etc! This is something you can do in a pinch with whatever gift(s) you already have and your kids will love being involved.

Create a Dad-worthy Snack

Get kids in the kitchen and make dad a custom snack mix, just for him. Get a mason jar or other container and they can even design the label! Sweet tooth? More of a savory fan? Add in chex, cheese puffs, gummy bears, M&Ms, etc! Anything dad would like to sit down on the couch with while he relaxes. Then have your kids name the snack. This one is fun and super easy to do last minute. Plus he will probably get a good laugh from whatever name the kids go with!

A Fishing License

Father’s Day gifts don’t have to be something tangible you can hand Dad on the day-of. We sprung for a long overdue gift, a lifetime hunting and fishing license. While the lifetime license costs more, an annual permit can be purchased online for as little as $15 and let dad fish his heart out all year! Plus the money spent for these permits goes back into helping our state and our wildlife. Win-win! Check our the options for your state, or if he’s not a fisherman or hunter, consider another membership he might like! Crossfit? Golf Club? Coffee of the month club? Magazine subscription?

Get Sentimental

While maybe not every year, sometimes it’s fun to give dad a sentimental gift like us moms get often. Even if it’s not something practical. I found this music box on Etsy and had a picture of the girls from our last Father’s Day camping trip put in with it, and it plays his favorite song. It also has to do with a childhood memory of his, so checking all the sentimental boxes! Picturing our kids taking this off the shelf and playing the song for years to come made me tear up a little, I’ll admit!

Quality Time

If nothing else catches your fancy, DO SOMETHING DAD LIKES! Go to a baseball game, sleep under the stars, hit up a (family-friendly) brewery tour, take a hike, find a food festival. The possibilities are endless! But sometimes the best gift is simply time together and memories made.

If you have any other fun or creative Father’s Day gift ideas drop them below. We love seeing how everyone celebrates the holidays.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

crafts, Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Color Hunt

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

As we came inside to take a break from playing in the rain, I noticed all the colors dancing around our playroom. I realized that the toys we play with day in and day out are, in themselves, a learning tool. So, we went on a treasure hunt, well, a color hunt. You’ll see what I mean.

What you will need:

  • Two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll cut in half.
  • Tape
  • A large piece of paper 
  • Markers

Grab your big piece of paper and divide it into equal sections. I did 9 squares, but you can use as many or few based on what is best for your child. Next, write down the names of the colors using the corresponding marker.

While making the grid, have your child color the toilet or paper towel rolls. Once they are done coloring, take some tape and tape the rolls together. Now, you are ready to go on a color hunt!

Place the piece of paper in the middle of the room and let your kiddo go to work. Have them look around and find anything they can that matches the colors in your grid. Gray loved looking through his binoculars to find each new item.

Some colors can be a little tricky, like those teal puzzle pieces. He switched them between the green and the blue a few times, but either would be have been correct. Let your kiddo problem solve and search without interference, unless they ask for help of course!

Gray looked around the playroom for almost an hour, adding and taking away things as the grid filled. This is something that we will do again in the near future.

If you want to add more literacy, this fun art project pairs well with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It is one of our favorites and a great way to explore color learning.

What are some of your favorite color projects?

Take a look at some more fun activities for your kiddos.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a small affiliate commission. Regardless, we give our promise that we only recommend products or services we would use personally and believe will add values to our readers.