Every year, Crew and I have a tradition of assembling little treats for his classmates to celebrate Halloween. The past couple of years, I’ve shied away from anything edible (they get PLEN-TY of sugar that night anyway!) but I also don’t like just giving junk with a two-second shelf life. After we gave “Bugs and Kisses” two years ago, we opted to make Witch’s Brew bath bombs last year.
It’s tricky to come up with something of a little substance, but also economical to produce 24 times over. But after watching Crew recently string pony beads on pipe cleaners (a favorite quiet activity), I hopped on Amazon to see what sort of spooky themed beads might be available…bracelet kits it was! I love that there’s a little activity to do, and, because Des Moines is weird we trick or treat the night BEFORE Halloween (Beggars Night) I’m thinking we can send these with the kiddos on the 30th and they might still have the whole next day (ACTUAL Halloween) to wear them if they like.
I found the 3″ wide zip-close bags, black jewelry cord, and 500-packs of pony beads in assorted Halloween colors at Hobby Lobby and I added one of these bat beads and one of these pumpkin beads to each kit.
Grab the little bag topper printable HERE if you’d like to use it (just trim to a 2×3 rectangle, leaving the design at the bottom, fold in half lengthwise, and pop it on the closed bag with a staple or two).
Like many of you, we have both some air and car travel planned for the summer months, and I’ve been adding to my secret stash of goodies for keeping our almost 4 and a half-year-old busy. Today I’m sharing my list of some favorites I’d recommend again and again as well as some ideas from past travel during the toddler years. (You can also file these under “restaurant friendly” — not too noisy/large/messy and perfect for when you have to sit in one spot for a while – I keep a couple of these in my trunk for whenever we end up out to eat, and rotate them out regularly.)
Depending on your mode of travel, I love these decks of ideas for car and airplane time. Go through them and all pick, or draw a mystery card – either way, these are full of fun ideas that are appropriate for either environment. I would say these can be adapted for younger ages, but truly are for the 4 and up crowd.
We bought the Dog Pile version of this game ( a little older age range) and figured we can all work on it together as a family, but this younger version, Haystax, (recommended age says 6+ but Crew can totally do this) is the same concept on a simpler level, and again, if your littles need help, it’s fun to do it together. Everything packs up neatly into the little box it came in so it’s nice and portable.
The Water Wow tablets are all over every “must have” list for traveling with kids, but I’ve learned I prefer the Color Blast version with the marker, instead of the little paintbrush thing you have to refill (inevitably, we run out of water in the car mid-trip, or we get on the plane and realize we never filled it up post-security). That said, they only make these deluxe pads with the magnifying glass with that water style of pen so I’ll just have to get over it. I like the added element of search/find (something Crew is very into right now) coupled with coloring, but we only have to pack one item for both activities. As for the younger kiddos, the regular tablets have been a hit with Crew since he was a little past two.
Melissa and Doug definitely has the “busy activity” category down to a science. The latest thing Crew has been into when we get out art stuff is any kind of tape, so of course, M&D makes a tape activity book. The book was larger than I anticipated, especially when opened flat, so it may be more of an “on-the-floor-of-the-airport” item or for when we reach our destination, but I’ll report back!
I’m a closet math nerd, so I’m all over any excuse to turn math into play. This Tiny Polka Dot game is essentially a deck of cards, but SO versatile in that there are MANY different games to play with them, based on your child’s age, starting at age 3 up to adult. Crew loves any game because it means he has our full attention (ha!) so while we haven’t used this one yet, I’m anticipating it to be a hit several times over.
And finally, I switch out stuff in our busy bags. There are round-ups of ideas all over Pinterest (like this one) and we’ve used these every. single. time. we travel since Crew was about two. The clear bags are easy for kids to see and decide what they want WITHOUT dumping everything, and you can swap out the activities based on your child’s age or interest. You can put them on jump rings to make a “book” of bags — and for multiple kids you could ring together their individual bags to keep things separate but still organized. (I like that when on rings, in turbulence, they don’t all go flying in different directions!)
Our go-to versions have been beads and pipe cleaners (it used to be just about the motor skill of stringing them on when he was younger, now it’s all about creating his own patterns.) I also used some felt to create all the elements of a cupcake, similar to this post. But to take it a step further, I made illustrated “orders” on index cards so Crew could “fill” each person’s order by assembling whatever is pictured (three sprinkles, two cherry, pink frosting, etc). Other past favorites: the window clings from the dollar section (stick them all over the car window, airplane tray, etc!), a simple pad of paper and crayons, and colorful pom poms and a pair of kid tweezers – the activity was simply to practice picking them up and transporting them to whatever was around – an empty cup, a spare busy bag, etc. Sometimes the best activities are the simplest ones!
I’d be remiss to not mention to pack all. the. snacks. I used to throw them in my bags haphazardly and I’ve found sanity in using Crew’s lunchbox so that he can help himself unassisted and I’m not constantly passing stuff. Game changer! W also overdose on suckers, both for takeoff / cabin pressure for those little ears and also because, frankly, they last and keep little mouths quiet and busy! It IS vacation, right? 😉 Happy travels!
We wrapped up Crew’s time in the 3-4 preschool room with conferences last night, and one of my favorite bits of feedback to hear was how MUCH this kid loves books. As we make the move up to Pre-K (as in pre-kindergarten, yes, I’m in major denial!) I’ve rounded up some favorite current titles and some that are on the to-read list for the coming summer months!
Jabari Jumps has been on our bookshelf for a while, but it has surfaced again now that swimming season is here, with all its moments of bravery.
Brick was recommended by a fellow blogger, and I love the introductory level to different types of architecture, and the idea that “home” looks different around the world.
Crew is trying so hard to grasp telling time right now, so after flipping through What’s the Time, Clockodile? recently at our local toystore, I’m definitely heading back to pick it up. The clock hands actually move and the book itself is large and well-constructed.
We all love this new addition, Iggy Peck, Architect. The rhyming text is fun and witty, and relays a positive message about following your interests. The companion activity book would be so fun in another year or so!
I’ve seen this title floating around Instagram on some of my favorite book accounts, and I love that A Boy Like You appears to be breaking down the stereotypical “tough guy” approach to what it means to be a boy. Perfectly timed for this phase when Crew is truly developing from a toddler/preschooler to full-blown kiddo.
We are ALL about the Pigeon books (Mo Willems is the best!) so the minute I heard about the latest title, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School, I pre-ordered it pronto. (Releases July 2nd!)
After purchasing The Night Before Christmas by the same author/artist, I had to have America the Beautiful in time for the 4th of July last year. These are, hands down, THE most beautiful pop-up books you will ever see. And a great introduction to the lyrics of the classic patriotic tune.
I’ve been longing to start teaching Crew how to follow a recipe, beyond our simple chopping tasks and our go-to chocolate chip cookies. I love that cooking introduces him to math basics and logic and sequence — but it’s been hard to find a cookbook with recipes that fit the fine motor skills of someone under the age of eight. Enter Kid Chef Junior (their other Kid Chef titles for older kids look awesome, too!) Bring on the summer cooking projects!
And finally, our first read-aloud chapter book! Starting with the ultimate classic, Charlotte’s Web. Everyone says that 4-5 is the sweet spot to begin reading simple chapter books aloud. I’m anxious to see what he thinks of the story!
I’m no cook, but I do love a pretty dish – especially when it’s dessert. Whether it’s Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or just any old summer day, you must try this simple treat. I love it as a way to include kiddos in the kitchen — they can wash and chop fruit, scoop Cool Whip, and of course cut stars out of the poundcake!
You don’t even need directions or an ingredients list — just slice up a frozen Sara Lee poundcake (and cut into stars!), add sliced red and blue berries (I used strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries), and add a tub of Cool Whip. Light and refreshing and oh-so-patriotic-summer!
When we built our home four years ago, we had an idea of what we wanted to do with our basement level, but we weren’t in a huge hurry with so many above-ground decisions to make in the meantime. Page drew out a rough idea and our builder framed it for us, and stocked it with drywall. And that was how it sat for a year or so. Slowly, we’ve been moving it forward over the last couple of years.
We’ve been using this lower level so much now that it’s complete, starting with our living room. The leather couches moved down here (finally!) and they are perfect for family movie nights. I love that we kept it light and neutral down here (paint is Sherwin Williams “City Loft”, trim is SW “Extra White”) since our only natural light comes down the stairwell from a window, and from the two egress panes on one end of the house.
The play area is as getting as much use as ever (and the Ikea Algot toy closet has paid for itself in spades!). You can see more of the toy closet and the inside of the playhouse here.
Crew’s under-the-stairs playhouse is one of my favorite projects to date!
We tried to maximize the daylight by going with glass doors to the gym. Page picked this wall color (SW Oceanside) and I admit I was skeptical at first, but I love the change of energy and mood when you walk in here (which I need to do more often than I am right now. Ha!)
This black metal plaque from Magnolia is my favorite detail in here.
The last pieces of the puzzle were the bar and golf simulator. We bought stock cabinets which I painted (SW “Cascade”) and we built the counter from butcher block stained Carbon Gray by Varathane. We debated adding a dishwasher down here but after so much up-and-down in our last basement bar with dirty glasses and snack bowls, we opted to include one this time around. We did vinyl flooring because of the nature of basements -it’s from Home Depot and the color is Weathered Wood.
Page used remnant pieces from the counters to create floating shelves and found the hardware on eBay. The faucet and cabinet hardware all came from Amazon.
The golf simulator is by SkyTrak and Page installed it himself. We had to walk on many, many 1-foot squares of turf before he found “The One” 🙂
I love how all the textures and tones came together in this area. The stone isn’t the exact material we have upstairs, but it’s so darn close and carries the vibe from upstairs down to this lower level.
And I’d be remiss in not pointing out the barn door we had built as a solution to the noise of both the simulator and if we want to watch a movie down here after Crew goes to bed. It’s hard to convey in photos but this thing is massive. You have to love a talented trim carpeter – this is perfectly cut at the bottom to hug up and around the skirt trim that comes down our stairs for a sealed closure.
Another favorite little detail is the angled corner step down into the simulator. I will never forget showing up late ONE TIME to our builder meeting and noticing they had marked a sunken foundation. I knew exactly what had been decided without me – ha!
Thanks for following along. I’m so happy to have this big project checked off our list, and we’re finding so much validation in how frequently we are using the space!
In case you missed it, Life in Yellow is now 29th and Delight and I’m jumping right back in with a tour of our updated main living area! After finishing our lower level, we moved the existing furniture downstairs to make way for some furniture we scored on Black Friday. I love the way this space has come together over the last year and we’ve spent a lot of family time in here playing games on the coffee table and snuggling on the sofa.
All traces of toddlerhood are long gone — full on kid mode and it’s all about blasters, all day every day. You will ditch us in a heartbeat for your friends, which means any kid in the neighborhood.
We kept your birthday low-key this year, having a couple friends over for pizza and cake, then heading to the nearby bowling alley.
You are daily out on the trampoline or swingset with all of them. You get intensely embarassed if we dare to correct or discipline you in front of anyone else and we frequently refer to you as “emo” right now. You’re not napping very well at school which makes for draining evenings but on days you’re home, you can still easily clock 1.5 to 2 hours and go to bed as usual.
We finally kicked a habit that went on for a few months where you’d come into our bed if you stirred at any point in the night — often around 1am or so. You’re not bad to bunk with (you hardly move) but as you hit four, it made sense to try and get you staying in your own bed again. With the promise of a bike you filled in a chart of seven nights of staying in your bed, and with the help of a no-wake nightlight you now happily stay upstairs until at least 6:45 when it lights up. Life changed for all of us!
You’ll easily sit through a full movie now and are into Jurassic Park and Star Wars with Dad. You’re much more into drawing lately and will get out markers on your own without me even around and I’ll find you drawing for tens of minutes on end. You have rediscovered mazes and are devouring workbooks of them. You can write your name and several other letters without example, and most numbers. With a little prompting, you can spell mom and dad and write both out. You are desperate to read, but also get frustrated quickly if it’s not perfect. You aren’t overly into the “intro to reading” series books, but would prefer to read “real” books. I do love that you still love to be read to, and frequently you’ll ask to read aside from our routine of reading at nap or bedtime.
You are SO excited about Easter and more than the basket, the hunt for the eggs. I don’t know if you even really care what’s inside, you just want to find them. So of course, I went overboard on that part and there are three dozen plus a gold one to find ha! But I figure that way at least the fun will last a few minutes. 🙂
Chalk it up to the the new year, Netflix, or the mass hysteria that is Marie, but the Kondo bug bit me, like so many others. I’ve been purging and organizing (something I’ve always loved to do anyway!) and coupled with the hot topic of minimalism at every turn, I’ve been assessing what’s important — not just the stuff, but the way we spend our time, our money, our energy. As a result, the minimalism mentality has spilled over into my tech life — I’ve unsubscribed from dozens of email lists, deleted 1/3 of the apps on my phone (side bar — I highly recommend the above-pictured color coding of your apps, if you’re visual like me!), and in a rather unplanned but awesomely needed move, I removed myself from most of social media.
Just weeks ago, I was managing multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts for the blog, my photography business, and my own personal accounts. I found that I was constantly picking up my phone and when I did it was often in a feeling of “what do I need to address now”. Not bringing me joy. Right? So for the time being, this break has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve changed my perspective on things being perfect or lovely enough to snap a photo and share on Instagram, and in general, I spend less time around my phone or mindlessly scrolling content. I vacillated on whether or not to “announce” the break, but that felt a little egotistical — like I assumed someone might miss me. As it turned out, I probably should have said something, judging by the emails that found their way to my inbox from perfect strangers wanting to simply know if all was well. (Thank you, by the way — you can’t tell me the world isn’t good – people you’ve never met, just checking up on you?!) So here is my delayed explanation and assurance that YES, all is well.
There are moments I want to snap a pic or post a thought to the world, but for now, I’m fighting those occasional urges, and enjoying some time essentially cocooning a little, and prioritizing. It’s a complex and somehow very simple time right now — there are lots of happy things going on in our world and I do want to share them sometime. There is also a lot of emotion right now, tied up in the ending of a decade-long career with an employer and my team and we disband in April and all go our separate ways — coupled with figuring out what I want my “way” to be. The radio silence on the blog and social media wasn’t really planned, and it’s not forever…but in this season of a new year, a new career landscape, and frankly, a little finding of myself — it’s so needed and I’m thankful to anyone still reading along and waiting patiently.