Monthly Archives: March 2009

April Fools Fun

Today’s your last day to plan any April Fools Fun for your family.  Got any plans? 

Here’s a few ideas…

  • Let the kids take turns changing the answering machine to something really outrageous every hour or so.  Make up strange errands that you’re running, do funny accents, or even create a wacky fictional business that people have reached.  Then hope you get lots of calls (and no professional ones!).
  • Make up a couple of batches of Jello (or use gelatin and fruit juice) and pour it into heatproof glasses.  Insert a straw and chill, then serve the kids a "juice" drink later as a snack.
  • Have your little ones wear their clothes backwards or inside out, or swap and wear other family member’s clothes.
  • If you have sound sleepers, switch the kids into each other’s beds after they’re asleep.
  • Here’s an educational April Fools online scavenger hunt for kids.  They find the answers to the questions at a web site, then can go to another web site to read about history’s greatest hoaxes.
  • Use a marker to paint little red dots all over your face first thing in the morning.  Pretend you have no idea what they’re talking about when they notice.
  • Print out one of the world’s hardest puzzles (which are really unsolveable).
  • Together, look through the newspapers and online news sites to find hoax stories.  Most newspapers and many sites like Google like to get in the April Fools spirit with fake stories.  One infamous story ran at the Discover Magazine site about a new discovery of penguin-eating naked ice borers in the Antarctic and generated more buzz than any real stories ever had.  (Caution:  Older kids are likely to get a kick out of the "article" but younger ones could be distressed!)
  • Plan a silly prank to pull on other family members together.
  • Serve your child a magical banana!
  • Make a joke dinner like one of these.

Please share what you do with your kiddos, too!  Happy April!


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Salt Dough Fairy Doors!

Have you seen fairy doors and gnome doors?  We’ve loved them for years and even have a lovely wooden gnome door against our tree out front.  There are some beautiful ones out there but I decided yesterday that it would be ever so fun to have the kids make their own.

(Side note:  In real life, I don’t think I have ever once said "ever so fun"!  Really, I am not that dorky.  Okay, maybe I am.)

Anyway!   We made them and it made for a really darling craft!

Here’s what we did ~

~ Mix together 4 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of salt and 2 cups of water.  This makes enough for approximately 4 fairy doors, so make less if you don’t want that many.  We used our leftover dough for play dough and to make homemade beads (bake them on toothpicks to keep the hole).

~ Roll a chunk of dough to about 1/4" inch thick.
~ Use the tip of a paintbrush or a pencil to trace your door shape lightly in the dough until you’re happy with it.
~ Take a butter knife and carefully cut out your door, being careful to push down with the knife instead of just pulling, so as not to rip the dough or wrinkle it.
~ Add any grooves you like (for instance, press a paintbrush or pencil in every inch or so to mimic wooden planks) and a doorknob.  You can make a small dough doorknob or insert something heatproof like a glass or metal bead, a marble or even a small rock.  You can also make an indentation and then glue in a pretty bead after it has baked.

~ Bake at 300 degrees, checking every 10 minutes or so, until it is barely starting to turn golden and seems dry throughout.  Ours took varying times since they were different thicknesses, but averaged about 45  minutes.  If they start to bubble up, you can remove them and poke the bubbling part with a toothpick and gently press it back down.  One of ours bubbled up a bit but its owner decided that was just fine so we left it.  🙂  Let cool.

~ Paint!  We used acrylic paints but tempera would also work well.  You can also add things like glitter at this point.  You could seal these with something like polyurethane but we did not seal ours.  (Note:  even with a sealer these will NOT be waterproof, so these are inside fairy doors!)

~ Figure out how you want to affix them to your wall.  We used two loops of carpet tape and it worked well (do it sideways instead of up and down, so it won’t pull off).  For a more permanent fairy door, you could use some sort of heavy duty household glue.  We wanted to be able to move ours.

~ Now comes the fun part!  Pick your location!  Keep in mind that fairies like to be in places that are rather out of the way.
Jack picked the upstairs hallway

Anna picked a shelf in the basement by the washer and dryer
(I asked if they should be on the floor and she pointed out that
fairies of course can fly!)

Victoria picked the top of the basement stairs
(BTW, she says hers is not a fairy door but
"currently a goblin weapon closet"
…with flowers, of course!)

Here’s close-ups of the three finished masterpieces

(doorknocker added later)

It was a fun, basically free project and we now have some sweet little bits of whimsy in various parts of the house.  You could obviously really go all out with these and make them very extravagant, too! 

(Please note the dust, dirt, chipped paint, messy children and other flaws!  I have decided that it’s my place in the world to balance out all of those blogs with perfect, tidy houses and perfect, tidy children.  It’s like a public service.)  😉

Next time you have a free bit of time and are looking for something magical to do with the kiddos, I highly recommend making your own fairy doors.  Perhaps some morning we’ll even find a small trail of glitteror a tiny trinket to show that a fairy has moved in…..


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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Hello magical people and happy Monday!  Time for a list then, isn’t it?  Let’s get to it!  🙂

10 Ways to Make Today Magical….

1.  Take a small, barefoot child and then find some mud.  Instruct small child to step and squish and savor the mud and get really messy.  (You should too– squishing in mud is super good for the soul.)  Squish to your hearts’ contents.

2.  Wait, there’s more!  Carry your muddy-footed small child inside and find a big, strong grown up (this could be you, I’m rather short and wimpy so I go find Daddy).  Have your big, strong grown carefully hold your muddy (probably giggling now) small child carefully upside down and "walk" along your lovely clean ceiling.  Don’t clean it all week.  Let people wonder.  🙂 

3.  Mix tempera paint with dish soap and make some window paint.  Let the kids paint flowers on the windows or another happy spring scene.

4.  Make today a Monster Day.

5.  Assume a double identity.  Head out with the kids to someplace public and have everybody choose a new name to go by.  Make up new life stories as you go (the wilder the better!) and hope people eavesdrop.  Create your story together as you talk and make it as zany, exciting, funny or glamorous as you all like.

6.  Get the biggest cardboard box you can find and make something wonderful out of it together.  What should it be…   A rocket ship?  A time machine?  A fairy house?  A secret hideout?  A racecar?  An office?  Decorate it and stock it with some fun supplies for an afternoon of imagination and fun.

7.  Start a treasure nook.  Designate a small space in the house (such as a windowsill or small table) as the treasure nook.  Be sure the kids can see it and touch it.  Gather up some meaningful items together to display in this special spot.  They can be natural items like seashells, rocks and pinecones and personal items like little handmade crafts and favorite photos.  Let the kids pick anything pretty, sentimental or just plain cool and arrange it nicely.  Change the treasure nook every so often and fill it with new treasures.

8.  Make quick and easy Colorful Marshmallow Truffles together.  Gobble some and deliver a few to someone special.

9.  Find some good joke books and write up a bunch of goofy jokes on little slips of paper.  Leave them in public places to be discovered and brighten someone’s day.

10. Put on party dresses, superhero outfits or other favorite costumes and head to the park for a truly magical picnic.  Be sure to bring a camera!

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Bath Time Fun

I love this idea from Little Hands, Big Work!  She froze colored water in muffin tins for the kids to play with in the summer time but then thought of adding them to the bath.  She says her little guys had a blast with the swirling colors and also got to talk about concepts like color mixing and temperatures.  Head on over to this page to read all about it.

Be sure to browse the rest of her blog too.  She has tons of wonderful ideas for "the baby to 5 crowd."

And speaking of babies, it looks like she had one Friday.  Congratulations and I hope all is well.  🙂

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On Celebrating Differences

Everybody is a genius. Einstein quote at

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Balloon Plants: Update

We planted our balloon gardens the day before yesterday.  The kids each picked a different sort of seed even though the instructions said to use peas (which I’m sure would grow big quickly).  The germination rate is supposed to be around 7 days, so hopefully we’ll see something in about a week.

We did find out that a little bit of dirt doesn’t go far once the balloons are blown up!  Hopefully the seeds won’t mind and will at least do something.

Warning:  small boys cannot resist bopping these.  🙂

I’ll let you know if anything happens!

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Everybody Needs a Rock

Our family has been rock collecting since even before we had kids.  Daryl used to take me out to river bank and other good rocky areas and we’d spend an hour gathering treasures.  Then we’d sit side by side and show each other our finds and toss back all but the neatest. 

Daryl is especially good at finding fossils and petrified wood.  I am especially good at finding really sparkly, pretty things.  😉

When we moved to this house, some of our rock collection came with us.  I’d repurposed an old coffee table to hold the rocks and had a piece of plexiglass cut to fit the top.  Eventually the rocks were moved outside to become mulch for the herb garden by the back door.  Neighborhood kids used to come over and pore through them.  We’d let them take one home each visit and they’d leave with agates and fossils and rocks that looked like cows and cookies.  We got a kick out of how happy these kids would be to get a rock!  We also got a kick out of passing on such a fun and simple hobby.

Now we have 4 kids of our own and they’re all rock hunters.  Jack always has rocks in his pockets and lined up by his seat in the van.  We can pass time even in parking lots, just by getting the kids looking at the rock filler around the trees. 

There is something almost zen-like about rock hunting.  You lose yourself.  You forget to worry about things.  You become a part of your surroundings, part of nature.  You find the best rocks when you are lost in the act of not looking, not thinking, just seeing. 

If you have not discovered the lovely little book Everybody Needs a Rock, I highly recommend finding a copy at your library or local book store.  It is a treasure, with wonderful illustrations and just the right combination of seriousness and silliness.

Rock hunting is one of those equal opportunity activities.  Anybody can do it.  It costs nothing. 
There’s something for everybody.  You can also do it just about anywhere, though areas around water can be especially nice — the stock is always changing, there’s often a big variety, water can carry different sorts of rocks from long distances away and rocks tend to just look prettier wet.  🙂

Those of you near coasts can go beach combing and look for shells, too, of course.  That’s our favorite thing to do when we’re on vacation by the ocean.  Since we live smack dab in the middle of the country, though, mostly we have to settle for rocks. 

Which works for us.

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Dragonfly Craft

I love this dragonfly craft from Craftscope!  Click here for the printable template and instructions for this easy, whimsical little project.  Be sure to browse the blog for other fun projects too.  The "flower garden" looks sweet and fun too.

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Fun Letter Games

Here’s some fun games to do with a child who’s just learning her letters or phonics, and some more advanced ones.  These are a nice way to pass the time in the car, waiting room and such.

Play "I Spy" with letters….  Tell your child you’re thinking of something in the room that starts with the letter c and ends with a t, for instance.  Or "I spy something with oo in it."

Another fun game to convert into a phonics game is charades.  Take turns going through the alphabet and acting out something that starts with each letter.  First you act out an A word that you think up, like anteater.  Once your child guesses it, she acts out B and so on.

In the car, try to find something that starts with every letter of the alphabet, in order!  Words on billboards count.

For more advanced spellers, take turns thinking of words that contain two consecutive letters…. first a word that has an a and then a b somewhere in it, then onewith a b and then a c…….  absolute, because, code, develop, effervescent……  it gets tricky at times!

A nice way to look at things…

"All the masterpieces of art contain both light and shadow.
A happy life is not one filled with only sunshine,
but one which uses both light and shadow to produce beauty.

-Billy Graham

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Favorite Parenting Books

I just stumbled on this page of books about Positive Discipline and thought it was a good idea to share favorite parenting books.  Here’s my list of books that have helped me the most when my personal toolbox seems empty.  🙂

Parents, Please Don’t Sit on Your Kids! by Clare Cherry
In the category of "worst title, worst cover," this little unknown book is still a winner.  Cherry has a very pro-child outlook and offers advice and insight that is really helpful.  You can buy it used for a penny (plus too much shipping) if you can’t find it in your library.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline:  The Seven Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation by Becky A. Bailey
This book is not a light read.  Truth be told, I have never made it all the way through it, even though I have gone back to it many times because I find it so good.  It is extremely helpful though, particularly in helping me view things in new ways.  It is one of those books where I need my own copy and a highlighter, because there are so many points to ponder and helpful pieces I want to remember.  If you want a book to help you feel less stressed as a parent, this is one to check out. 

Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This is another book I reread in times of trouble.  I love this book and think that it should be a required purchase the minute you find out you’re having your second child.  It’s short, simple and effective.  It’s even illustrated with cartoons of what to do and not to do, and why!

Anything by Dr. William and Martha Sears
The Searses are like the godparents of Attachment Parenting and pro-child parenting.  They have tons of great advice and a wonderful outlook in their many books.  That said, I tend to go towards the books above more often than Sears books.  Sears books are great for new parents and those new to AP principles, but they can be a little light on the nitty gritty of problem solving real problems.  I think sometimes they fall into the common trap of making things look a little too rosy in an attempt to sell people on the idea of Attachment Parenting.  While it is important to tell people how truly lovely children can be when they’re happy and raised lovingly, this can have the effect of making parents feel that they’re failing at it if their kids go through perfectly normal, not so loveable stages.  This sort of goes along with the "Strangers with Compliments" post from the other day.  Despite all of this, I still love the Sears books and how dedicated they are to happy children.

The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Stock Kranowitz
While I do not have any children with sensory disorders, this is a book I absolutely love and frequently recommend.  The projects and activities are designed for children with issues like autism and sensory disorders, but they are just plain wonderful for ALL children.  These inexpensive, fun ideas are really creative and wonderful and work all of children’s senses.  All children have sensory needs and there are ideas here for any child.  Some examples of projects include stuffing a duvet cover with pillows to make a crash pad, making a fishing game with paperclips and fish shapes, writing and drawing in hand lotion on a tray and using flour to mark an outside obstacle course (plus a million more).  This is also a great book for activities to get you through rainy days and cabin fever.

Your XX Year Old by Louise Bates Ames (some titles by Ames with Frances L. Ilg)
This series is decades old but I have still found it very helpful in understanding my children at each age.  Ames and Ilg don’t embrace any particular parenting philosophy as much as they simply attempt to explain what’s normal at each age (physically, emotionally, behaviorally and more) and give some good tools to deal with common problems.  I found it extremely helpful to read that lying was a normal behavior for four year olds when I was suddenly faced with one (and my previous 4 year olds had not gone through that stage), for instance.  In many cases, I come back thankful that my kids aren’t going through many of the worse stuff that’s typical!  🙂  DO keep in mind that the books are dated and the authors have opinions that may not match yours.  One reviewer on Amazon of the 4 year old book had some very good points about issues she had with the books.  Despite the drawbacks, I find the series extremely informative.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn
Oh boy.  Prepare for some strong feelings!  🙂  This is a great book to really make you think and challenge even your most basic parenting ideas.  I did not agree with all of this and I found it lacking in giving real advice much of the time, but I found it thought provoking and a great addition to my "inner library" (you know, the thoughts that stay with you and make up the patchwork of your own personal philosophies).  This book is like a really potent herb– it won’t make a meal of its own but it can add wonderful flavor if you add it to a mix of other good stuff.  Approach it with an open mind.  Kohn has some really insightful thoughts about kids and what they really need.  

Those are some of the books that have had a big effect on me or get me through the tough parenting days.  I also enjoyed Kids are Worth it by Barbara Coloroso, but it’s been a while and it was a library copy so I don’t remember it well enough to review it much more than that!  🙂  It’s one I’d like to get back to and read again.

What areyour favorite parenting books?  Please share!


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