Gray and Gloomy Monday

Woke up this morning to a very gray and gloomy day, which feels especially rough after yesterday was so gorgeous. I had a blog post planned and then… kind of forgot to write it? ha! So here we are with a few random thoughts that are on my mind this morning.

This weekend I was thinking I might start sharing weekly meal plans here. My family and friends are tired of hearing me talk about food, but it’s something that takes up a big part of my energy these days. I was thinking with meat most likely getting more scarce this summer, that I may share some family friendly recipes that focus on plants and seasonal produce. I may start next week.

I was reading about restaurants this weekend that completely disregarded our state’s reopening guidelines and looking at the pictures of people packed inside together, with no masks of course, acting like everything is fine and normal made me so upset. I’m worried  for what these next few months are going to look like and admit I’m feeling a little discouraged by humanity right now.

Same goes for all the people on the trail yesterday with no masks, or possibly worse, people with masks just hanging around their necks. Besides these people, our hike was great. We went to Three Sisters Park and hiked the sisters loop, which was gorgeous and ended up being about 3 miles. I was proud of the twins for keeping up and keeping good attitudes!

Next week is the twins’ birthday and Chris and I went on a buying spree last week and packages keep appearing at the house. I hope we can make the day special and fun, even during these weird times.

I hope all of you stay well and find some sunshine today!

Make/Play/Learn

Make Healthy Snacks

Ok wait. Let’s be clear. I just took brownies out of the oven and am trying to learn the art of making sourdough bread, it is not at all health central around here. However, last week when I picked up my groceries I realized that there were six, SIX, different bags of chips. I also knew they would be all gone by the weekend. So I’ve tried to offer up healthier snacks during the day so that no one gets hangry and maybe we’ll get like half of our daily nutrients by the end of the week. Here’s what I make

crispy chickpeas– roast chickpeas and then flavor however you want. They have a great crunch and I like to make them salty so, while no one would mistake them for Ruffles, they kind of fill that need

brown rice and nutritional yeast– I know, I know, what kind of hippie shit is this? But this was a weekly snack at my kids’ school and they love it. I make the rice first thing in the morning in my instant pot so it’s pretty easy to throw together. If you haven’t had nutritional yeast before it has a cheesy, salty kind of flavor and it’s delicious. Just sprinkle it on top of the rice and enjoy!

lentils- again, I know! But my kids love green lentils with cheese and salsa on top. Again I make them in the instant pot so they’re ready when my kids come looking for a snack

Peanut butter and apples– classic for a reason!

hummus and veggies and crackers

At least once a week I fill up a cupcake baking tin with all kinds of goodies. It works because I can mix in goldfish or chips with fruit, cheese, or some other kind of protein.

Play with Lovevery

I recently subscribed to Lovevery, a Montessori box catering to toddlers, and I have to say it’s a huge hit. The toys are really well made and the twins like helping Sam figure out whatever new thing we pull out that day is. Right now we love this Simon Says cube. There are different pictures showing an action on each side. You roll the cube and then everyone does that action. You could absolutely make your own or create a similar kind of game. It’s fun to see all three kids giggling over something together.

Learn about the states

My mom sent the kids this table cloth of the United States that you can color in with permanent markers. Each state has the state animal, bird, and flower in it and my kids have been loving looking them all up. So they are learning geography and biology while also getting absorbed in something without needing my help at all. It’s amazing!

We are on the final countdown of school and I have to say that I am ready. I know summer won’t look too different over here, but keeping up with Zoom calls and school work is getting old, no matter how many brownies I make. We’re at the point where if the kids get frustrated I just pack everything up and tell them to go play outside.

They also have a birthday coming up and I’d be interested to hear if any of y’all have done something special for an isolation birthday! I’m trying to think of fun ways to make the day feel important to two of my favorite people.

Go On A Family Hike

I started taking the twins on hikes and walks when they were about 5 on a regular basis. We had just joined our Wild and Free group in Dallas and at least once a week we were out in nature, in pretty much any weather. When they began attending a nature school we tried to get in family hikes as often as possible, exploring trails and paths around our city.

Since moving to Colorado I can say that our hiking has improved and become an almost every day thing. I know not everyone has a forest in their backyard, but I wanted to share some ideas on how to get out in nature with your kids, and have fun doing it!

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Just Pack Up and Go

If you wait until everyone feels like getting out, it will never happen. Pretty much every time I say we’re heading out there is at least one child who doesn’t want to go, who I have to poke and prod to get their boots on or to get in the car. And once we start the hike that same child usually gives me a bit of grief, but I’m near 100% on that same kid forgetting what they were complaining about and having a great time. Yes, it can feel like an impossible task to get everyone out the door, but truly that’s the hardest part. Get past that block and you’re golden.

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Have a Mission

I’ve found that just hiking to hike is not great with kids. They need a mission! Maybe it’s to find a picnic spot, to get to the rocks to climb, or to find as many butterflies or cool rocks as they can. The questions of ‘are we there yet’ are hard to answer when there is no ‘there.’ So make a goal and hype it up! And then, when everyone’s just having fun and doing something different, forget the goal and just enjoy the day. Rules are made to be broken!

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Stop and Notice

If your kids aren’t stopping to notice the small things, model it for them! Squat down and show them a flower coming up, have them feel the soft moss on a rock, point out an oddly shaped tree. Then when they start stopping to show you what they find interesting,  take the time to pay attention! It’s amazing what different things everyone in your family will notice, you will absolutely get more out of your nature walk when you all take the time to really see the world from one another’s point of view.

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Download a Nature App or Carry a Good Field Guide

After everyone starts noticing all that beautiful nature, they’re going to start wanting to know what it is. Either invest in a field guide or download an app. We love iNaturalist, PlantSnap, and the Merlin Bird ID. All of these are great because you can take a picture and then use their database to find what you’re looking for and then get a lot of information right then. Especially handy if you’re new to this and nervous about your kids possibly touching a poisonous plant (or finding a poisonous snake!). Everyone learning together is a great way to feel more confident the next time you go out.

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Have the Right Gear

Chris and I joke that Colorado is all about the gear. People here are serious with their hiking! I don’t think you need all the things, but make sure you’ve got the right shoes, water bottles, some snacks, hats and sunscreen, and layers to put on or takeoff as needed. I usually keep a bag stocked and in the car with extra socks, mittens, and hats, and then a couple of plastic bags to wrap up clothes if it’s summer and we happen to find a stream to play in.

Start Small

My last piece of advice is to start small. A walk around the neighborhood, a paved trail that makes a loop around a lake. Don’t venture out on a 5 mile hike for your first go around! Get everyone used to the idea and gradually build as you go. And if you find yourself in the middle of a longer trek and everything seems to be going wrong (we had a horrible incident with fire ants once), it’s ok to call it! Turn around and head back and later you can play up the adventure and laugh at your lousy luck. Learn from it and you’ll be more prepared the next time you head out. Your kids will take your lead on the experience, so show them it’s ok to call it quits but it’s absolutely worth getting out again!

I hope you get outside, whether it’s a manicured park or somewhere more wild. I can honestly say every city has somewhere, living in Dallas we were constantly finding places to explore that were sometimes hidden right in the middle of the city. Use this time of being at home together to start a new habit of nature walks and I promise everyone’s spirit will be lifted and your kids will cherish the memories of exploring with you.

 

Another Friday is Here

We made it to another Friday! Not that that seems to mean anything for those of us isolated at home, but a weekend is still a weekend, even if it just means we change into weekend pajamas instead of week day pajamas.

We’ve been getting along ok over here, some days emotions are high and there are tears (from everyone) and some days we are all in a little groove, working hard and having fun. It just depends and I’m sure all of you are feeling the same way.

My love list today is the stuff that’s getting me through, the things I’m looking forward to or that are helping me most on those days that don’t feel so great.

Bubble baths. Our bathroom has a great bathtub and a couple of times a week I soak in it with a face mask, a glass of wine, and either a book or my iPad and I don’t come out until I feel rested. It’s bliss.

Long Walks and Happy Hours. Chris and I set a time each time when he will be done and when that time hits we either go on a long walk or hit the patio for a little happy hour. Sometimes we do both! It’s a nice way to break the day before we get to parenting duties and it’s been a time to connect and talk to one another about something other than the daily tasks of keeping everyone alive.

Sewing. I’ve been sewing a ton over here. I’ve taken over the dining room and have just been hopping from project to project. I usually work in the afternoon when the kids are done with their main lessons for the day and don’t need much help from me. Sam is napping and I take the time for myself.

TV shows. Chris and I have always watched tv together but during this lockdown we’ve been very into watching one show at a time. We finished Deadwood (loved it), finished Shitt’s Creek (adored), and now we’re finishing the Americans. Something we used to watch but somehow missed the last season of. We don’t watch tv during the day and it feels like a treat to look forward to in the evenings. Especially when there’s no real bedtime anymore.

Hello Fresh. Listen, people in this house eat non stop and I lost the joy of cooking and meal prep real early on during this whole thing. However, my Hello Fresh subscription is keeping me sane. 4 nights a week I have a meal planned, everything I need for it, and step by step instructions that I can follow even at my most tired.

Signs of Spring. Spring is coming to Colorado and I’m loving seeing signs of it. Seeing green shoots and cactus flowers pop up is enough to lift my spirits on the lowest of days. Also I’m having fun watching what’s coming up in my flowerbeds and have bought some seeds to start inside this week and see if I can grow a garden this year.

These are the good things keeping me going, along with family and friends facetimes, happy mail, and lots of snuggles with my favorite people in the world. What’s on your love list?

Make/Play/Learn

Make

These lemon squares from the NY Times. For some reason I have an abundance of lemons (I think a weird substitution in my grocery pick up?) so I made these and everyone is happy that there are plenty of lemons to make more. Simple to make and the perfect balance of sweet/tart flavor.

Play

Outside! We got Sam a toddler swing and he loves it. He likes being able to play outside with the big kids and his chuckle when we push him is adorable.

Learn

I just happened to check out this book, Women in Art by Rachel Ignotofsky, right before the libraries closed. Then the author began sharing some of her art work as coloring pages (check them out here!) so I printed off her art principles and a lesson plan was born. Each week we will work our way through the elements and principles, try them out to create our own artwork, and then read about a woman in art history.

We had a lot of fun with this Friday and it was easy for me to set up so I’m looking forward to continuing. Search through books and resources you have, I bet you’ll be surprised what you could use for a simple lesson!

Make/Play/Learn

 

Make: Masks

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I spent last weekend making masks. I had a friend that works in a rehab clinic request masks for her and her colleagues and when I got making them I couldn’t stop! I made some for my family, my parents, and my brother. I really was able to get an assembly line going and if I needed to make more I think I could whip them out fairly quickly.

I used this pattern from State the Label and got creative with what I used to tie since I ran out of elastic. Strips of knit fabric turned out to be a great solution- and really comfy.

Play: GoNoodle

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I’ve seen a lot of people share different things and GoNoodle is one that is absolutely worth putting on your radar. It’s an app (and a website) full of silly dances and games and they are perfect for when your kids need a wiggle break during the day. Our favorite is the guacamole song, it will get any of us out of any bad mood pretty quickly!

Learn: Zoom

Real talk, this past week was all about figuring out zoom. I set up each child with their own account, figured out their unique class schedules, and taught the kids how to operate it. Whew. They’re already almost pros and we’ve even had a family zoom and all the parents and cousins and siblings are pros too! Thank the Lord for technology and being able to stay connected right now!

Make/Play/Learn

Make An Art Wall

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We always have a lot of art around here, but right now it’s a bigger collection than ever! We decided to have a designated wall where we could keep new art on display. I hung up some favorites and then used this curtain wire from Ikea to clip up work that we can change out.  We also put up a map, some posters, and a favorite picture from when they were babies. Makes for a great space to gather round and start our school days!

Play Board Games

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Sunday we decided we needed a completely screen free day. We told the kids they each got to pick a board game and we would play games all day. This is our pile above but we only got through the kids’ picks, Life and Throw Throw Burrito. Then we had a nerf gun hike, a long walk, and time to set up the rest of our school room. Go through your stash of board games or order a few new ones and declare a gaming day. There might be moans at the beginning but I promise by the end there will be a lot of laughter. And maybe, like us, it will just naturally turn into other fun things to do together that don’t involve screens!

Learn: Greek Mythology

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Last Christmas I got the kids the book A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology by Heather Alexander. (I’ve linked to Amazon for ease, but please order from a local bookstore! Most are still making online orders and if they don’t have it, see if they could order it for you!) I found it when I was unpacking and thought it would be a great addition to our morning time together. Once a week we read a page or two and we’re all loving it. The book is organized in a way that makes a lot of sense and has wonderful illustrations and a lot of humor mixed in. It also comes with a family tree, stickers and a pronunciation guide.

I know there are a few books in this series on different topics and I would highly recommend checking them out!

 

A Quarantine Sanity Saver: Chores!

My kids have always helped out around the house but they’ve never had designated chores every day. They go to a Montessori school and part of their day is practical life, where they each take turns taking care of their school room.

I decided to add this is to our days and I’m kicking myself for never having done this before! I assigned a chore every day and they will switch off who does what. I made this chart and knowing ahead of time what’s expected is helpful. I picked chores that they mostly knew how to do with a few new skills thrown in and if it keeps going as well as it has, I may add more to the list.

I know there are a lot of scheduling ideas floating around out there, but this one is worth putting in if it’s not something you already do. We are all at home and we can all do our part to make our space peaceful and functional. Trust your kids to take some ownership that, it will save your sanity and teach them important skills. Here are some chores your kids can help with!

Water plants

Feed pets

Laundry- mine do theirs once a week and put it away

Put away clean dishes

Vacuum

Dust

Wipe down surfaces in bathrooms

Clean up their rooms

Watch younger sibling

 

Go for a walk

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How was your week? Mine was weird if I’m being honest, I’m looking forward to my children’s school starting up virtually Monday. We started a kind of schedule, and some things went really well!, but there were a few times where I found that we had done everything I had imagined for the day and it wasn’t even lunch time.

Wednesday morning the kids woke up in Moods. Like, by 7:30 they had been sent to their rooms and Chris and I weren’t technically out of bed yet. After a breakfast with tears and bad attitudes I declared a reset. I told the kids to get dressed, we were going outside. I was going to go on a walk and if anyone wanted to join me they could, but no one was allowed inside until I got back.

It was a gorgeous morning and it didn’t take long until we were pointing out animals to each other (a woodpecker, a rabbit and chipmunks!) and drooling over a neighbor’s tree house. By the time we got back home we had done it, we had reset the morning and the rest of the day was really good.

So that’s the only advice I have. When you find yourself in a Mood and nothing seems to be working, go outside. Even if you’ve been on more walks this week than you have in 5 years, take a new trail or turn right instead of left. Try and see where you are with new eyes and imagine yourself pressing the reset button (my kids’ are on the tip of their noses if that helps you find yours!).

It’s the weekend! Let’s stay in and watch a good movie! We’re doing the right thing and think how amazing it’s going to be when we have multiple options of where to go on a Friday night- I can’t wait!

Make/Play/Learn

Listen. I woke up yesterday proud of myself for making it through half the week and then realized it was only Tuesday. I’m not here to pretend that this has been all wonderful, but let’s talk about the highlights and celebrate that now, today, it is actually Wednesday and we’re still here, still laughing, only occasionally breaking up fights, and the sun is shining. Here’s our first edition of Make/Play/Learn

Make: Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies

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I know baking with kids isn’t everyone’s favorite, but let me sell you on why these cookies are great for it. You see, I make the dough while the kids are doing something else because it has to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then when everyone’s getting cranky and telling you they’re bored you say ‘let’s make these cookies!’ and you pull them out and let them have the task of rolling the dough into balls, dipping them in powdered sugar and baking them. Less messy than having them do the whole thing, they get to lick chocolate off their hands, and these cookies are so hard to mess up that you don’t have to stress about them all being even and can let the kids have at it. Plus, and this is the best part, then you have cookies!!!!

Play: The Floor is Lava

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Even if you don’t know this game, your kids do I promise. It’s just like it sounds, the floor is lava and you can’t touch it. So the kids set up intricate obstacle courses to get around and made a big mess and had a lot of fun. I was able to have a Zoom call because of it and am going to add it to the list of things to suggest when everyone is feeling bored and cooped up.

Learn: Zaha Hadid

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We subscribe to Bravery magazine and I can’t recommend it enough. Right now they are putting out a 4 week curriculum to go along with their magazines and I’m pulling from it to add to our low key homeschool (virtual learning starts next week!). This week the focus is on Zaha Hadid the architect and we’ve been reading about her life and doing at least one of the activities they suggest for the week. We’ve cut out shapes and created our own buildings and animals and today we’re going to be measuring objects around the house. Friday my big plan is to try and construct bridges out of different materials and see how much we can get them to hold.

We’re doing it! Keep going guys, we got this!