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Water Gun Painting

Sometimes using paintbrushes or our to paint can become mundane, so we switched it up. I found a pair of cheap water guns that the kiddos could use easily and an idea was born : Water Gun Painting.

Who said water guns should only be used for water? Not I, so we used them to paint. Neither kiddo had ever used a water gun, so I knew this would be a really fun experience for them. While Gray dove right in, Charlie needed a bit more assistance working her water gun.

What do you need to get started?

  • Water guns
  • Water
  • Paint
  • Large pieces of paper
  • Easel (or fence)

We used acrylic paint, but you can use washable paint to save your little ones clothes. First, you want to dilute that paint and create a 50/50 water to paint solution. You can just eyeball it, it is not an exact science.

Then you want to load up your water gun with the paint/water solution. I squirted the water gun in the sink a few times until the paint started shooting out. That way when the kiddos start spraying it works instantly.

I brought our easel outside, but you could also tape a piece of paper to your fence. Once your piece of paper is secure, let them go to down.

Gray noticed that when you sprayed the blue on top of the yellow he made green. If you had three water guns it would be a lot of fun to use the primary colors to show how colors are made.

I hope your little ones enjoy this activity!

XO Kate & Elizabeth

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Beat the Beach: How to Actually Enjoy Taking Your Kids Along

For starters, I’d like to take a moment of silence and remember what the beach was like without kids, when your biggest worries were tan lines and a solid beach read. A drink that you enjoyed cold, maybe even alcoholic, and listening to the soothing roar of the wind and ocean. Is it time to go home? Oh wait, doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to feed anyone but yourself. Stay as long as you want!

Okay, moment over, because the beach is much different now. Swim diapers, keeping mountains of sand out of every orifice of one’s face and vehicle, snacks snacks and more snacks, sunscreen applications, etc. Ahhhh, I feel relaxed just thinking about it. Even for those of us lucky to live by the seashore, a trip to the beach requires planning and bringing the right things, but we think we have figured out how to narrow down what is truly needed and still make sure everyone has a good time. Some of my favorite childhood memories take place on the beach, and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities to make their best memories too.

Baby Powder

If you don’t already know, this magic substance removes sand like a mofo. I keep a bottle of it in our car just for this reason, and it works perfectly for sweaty playground sand too. Just generously apply and watch that beige demon fall right off. Otherwise, as well all know, it clings to the car carpet and bathtub for ages.

Bucket & Shovel

You do not need to load up the wagon with a ton of beach toys. A simple bucket and shovel is all they really need. Between chasing birds, running from the waves, and playing with seashells, an exorbitant amount of sand toys aren’t necessary. Give kids the chance be creative in their surroundings and make their own fun. This also decreases the amount of things you have to lug to and from the beach.

Fitted Sheet

Flip that bad boy upside down, put something in each corner to hold the sides up, and just like that you have a little “sand free” area. This is great for when your little one isn’t mobile. It makes a safe area for them to lay, crawl, and sit without sand getting everywhere. Now, if you have mobile kiddos this will not stay sand free for long, but probably a little more so than a normal towel or beach mat.

Canopy

Our canopy has been the best beach accessory we have ever purchased. It is big enough for everyone to fit under and is a great retreat from the heat. Our lunches, naps, and breaks from the sun are all done under our canopy. All beachgoers know that umbrellas and tents can take some trial and error. Some work well, some don’t. You don’t want to always be battling the beach breeze. Canopies are the perfect pop up solution when you need a little shade for little people.

Snacks & Water

This may sound obvious, but bring a ton of snacks and water. Like how much you think you will need times three. From the heat of the sun to the nonstop playing, snacks and water are key. I know I get a serious case of the hangeries and so do my kids. So, I always make sure I have more snacks and water then I think I will need. Some of our favorites: Watermelon, cucumbers, goldfish, and strawberries.

Frozen Juice Boxes

One of my favorite childhood “snacks” was a frozen juice box, and they are so easy and portable. Take your favorite brand of juice box (pouches like CapriSun work too, but are a little harder to hold for little people) and stick a few in the freezer the day before. Take them to the beach with a few spoons and peel open the top of the box. (Save those tiny straws for another day!) What you end up with is a perfect little juice slushy in a disposable box that’s easy to carry around. They stay frozen better than popsicles due to the box, and you can pick sugar-free juice boxes if that is something you are into. A great beach hack to get your kids to slow down and hydrate.

UV Shirts

My preschooler could hang out at the beach all day long. She loves it and never wants to leave, but one of the challenges with having little babies too is that they can’t hang in the sun as long. One of the best beach investments I’ve made are these UV shirts. They are 50 SPF and lightweight, plus I bought them in white to keep my kids as cool as possible. Of course always use sunscreen, but when we have been at the beach for awhile I tend to throw one of these on my youngest to make sure her less-experienced skin doesn’t get too much color.

Trash bag

This may seem like a no brainer, but a trash bag is always a must when packing for the beach. There is already so much trash on our beaches that we do not need to add anymore. Bringing your own trash bag allows you to easily transport all your trash and anything that you may find while walking the shore from the beach. Help safe those cute little sea animals and help our beaches clean.

Seine Net & Kritter Keeper

If you have little nature lovers like we do, a seine net (or casting net) is a great thing to have. On my family beach trips my dad always brought one along. We would set up a glass tank on the deck of our beach house and have a little aquarium to watch for the week, and then we’d set them all free. For a day trip option, bring along a portable Kritter Keeper. There are so many creatures right there in the waves- seahorses, shrimp, small fish, hermit craps, pipe fish…your little ones will LOVE IT and you almost always catch SOMETHING with a seine net. It’s a great way to slow down and take the time to touch and learn on the beach.

Sunscreen

Apply before you unleash your kiddos to the beach, then reapply, and reapply again. Sunscreen is such an important part of going to the beach. If you apply before they see the waves, you have a better chase of them staying still long enough to cover their entire body. Then once snack or lunch time rolls around reapply again. They will be too focused on eating to escape. Finding a good spray sunscreen is great for quick and mess-free reapplication.

Make-Up Brush

This is a wonderful beach hack that I have to credit my husband for! Our oldest always gets sand in her eyes, but hates hates hates water in her eyes, so trying to flush out the sand is a NIGHTMARE. We have started throwing an unused make-up brush (just a cheap, soft one I grabbed at Target!) and using that to brush sand from eyes and eyelashes. Usually it does the trick! For rubbed-in sand you may have to break out the water bottle too, but this has definitely saved us a few tears on multiple occasions.

As you head to the beach, go with an open mind. Know that the beach with kids is a completely different experience than going alone. There will be so much sand, in bathing suits, their mouths, and your car. Don’t stress it, it will eventually disappear. Just think of sand as the glitter of the beach. So, go and enjoy making those memories with your little ones, and we hope some of these ideas helped make it that much more fun!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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Ice Pop Painting

It’s been hot here in North Carolina, super hot actually. With the heat comes short trips outside, so that everyone doesn’t overheat. These ice pops melt just in time to head back in for some relief from the heat.

I would recommend doing this activity outside because may get messy! Bonus, you can paint the concrete when they are tired of coloring on the paper.

What you will need:

  • Ice cube tray
  • Water
  • Food coloring or washable paint
  • Clothespins or Popsicle sticks
  • White paper

You can do this with either food coloring or washable paint, whichever you have handy. How I made them was by putting two drops of food coloring in each container. Those two drops were more then enough to create the bright colors we were looking for.

Once you have your colors made place a popsicle stick or clothespin in each color. Now for the hard part, throw them in the freezer until they are frozen. This took about two to three hours for ours to fully harden.

Those of you with small children, the clothespins seemed to be easier for my 1.5 year old to hold onto. As soon as the popsicles were set down the kiddos went to work. They painted the paper, the concrete and even themselves.

It did get messy, but most of the dye washed off in the bathtub!

Here is one of their masterpieces!

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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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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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

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Little Memories

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.”

The Sound of Music is a childhood favorite of my husband’s, bringing back warm memories of his mother, so this song gets stuck in my head often. When I was in high school, (giving away my age here but) before the days of text messages, my friends and I used to write notes back and forth more religiously than we completed our homework. They were elaborately folded or sometimes cradled in their own special notebooks that we passed back and forth. One such notebook contained a list of our favorite things. The only one I really remember was my friend Sarah’s love for the smell of Bradford Pear trees. If you’re not from the South, where Bradfords commonly dwell, they have beautiful blossoms that tend to smell like walking into a fish market on a warm day. Not everyone’s warm and fuzzy. But something about them is a favorite to someone! And every so often something happens or my kids do something and I just smile and think, “I love that. I want to remember that. When I am old and grey, I will miss that.”

We also use Chapbooks, which allows you to pull photos from Instagram (as well as other social media and your own photo library) to make a book with captions to document daily life.

Last month we had a string of warm Spring days and we decided to go ahead and break out the backyard pool that Addie received for her 3rd birthday from Grayson. It was a bit chilly when the wind picked up, but they had so much fun. And Ella, being a bald-headed beauty, needed a little sunscreen on her peach fuzz to keep the sun away. When the afternoon was done and I carried them inside, I kissed the top of Ella’s head and breathed in that warm baby hair mixed with sunscreen and dirt and fresh air and was in heaven. She smelled like a tropical island. When Addie was a baldy, I did the same thing. I smelled the top of her head all day long, especially on those summer days. And that is one of my favorite things. If I could bottle it up I would. When their hair grows long, it’s not the same. Sometimes when one of those things catch my attention, my mind just spirals into ALL the things I want to remember. Fat baby toes, gummy smiles before teeth come in, the tiny little hairs all over baby faces. How do you save it all? How do you keep all of those little treasures for a rainy day when your house is empty? As someone who is forgetful in nature, this is something I think about almost constantly.

Whenever we get together for holidays, now that I have babies of my own, my grandmother and aunts and even my parents watch them play and it stirs up memories of raising babies for them. And I hear a lot of the same ones over and over, can anyone else relate? But it’s just how things stick with you. Some memories you always remember, and some you may laugh until you cry at the time, but it goes forgotten. My oldest has a new affinity for bugs and it has been an ever preset part of our days. In my spare time I find myself looking up which caterpillars can sting and weather centipedes are bad to hold, because these are things I need to know now. In the morning, we look for bugs. In the afternoon, we look for bugs and lizards. At night, we catch fireflies, and the first time we took her out to catch fireflies is one of those I always want to remember.

I walked outside after sunset on a warm May night and noticed the treeline behind our house was just lit up with fireflies. I mean it was mesmerizing, like a distant lightning storm or seeing the first Christmas lights. And it was only May! Didn’t fireflies usually come out in the summer? I was amazed. I grabbed my husband and my oldest (the youngest was already in bed) and dragged them outside. Then the three of us ran around trying to catch hands-down the biggest, fastest lightning bugs I’ve ever seen. We caught two, and were trying to find one more as they drifted into our yard from the trees. Addie and I were standing together, looking, when all of a sudden my husband comes speeding up behind us and basically pounces on the ground, trying to catch another firefly which, to his surprise, was the jar. Addie and I were cracking UP and inside I was just beaming with how hard her dad was trying to collect bugs for her, all the while feeling like a little kid myself. It was a great memory. It was a great day. And it warmed my heart to watch her go to sleep with a jar of fireflies by her bed as a nightlight. Even if there were only two in there.

All of these little memories I want to remember. I know it’s not possible, but every time someone tells me my kids will grow up before my eyes and I will wonder what happened, I just want to scream “No!” These feel like the best years, and I want to be able to tell them these stories when they are older, even if they roll their eyes at me the whole time. One of the best little gifts I have gotten for myself are Line A Day memory books. The ones I picked out for my girls capture 5 years of memories, one line a day. I’ll admit, it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up with, and I am currently a little behind. Sometimes at the end of a long day I don’t remember to write in them before I crawl in bed, so I text myself a memory that I can write in later. When I decided to get them, it was because I wanted to catalog all of those cute little things. Not just for me and my husband, but for my kids. There is something about me as a mom that just really wants to capture the years of my kid’s lives that they won’t remember. These tiny years are SO SPECIAL, and everything is new and exciting, and they won’t remember much, so I just have this urge to help them remember one day. Maybe I will gift these books on their wedding day, or when they have their first baby, or maybe I won’t be able to part with them at all!

How do you keep up with childhood memories? I’d love to hear what other parents do!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate