The Lunch Box Menu


The Lunch Box MenuLunch Box Menu

Well, its been a year since I last wrote a post, funny how life can get in the way. That, and finally having time and a topic that I was passionate enough to write about! What brings me back to the blog world? None other than the dreaded task of packing lunches! The past few years I’ve been blessed with an amazing sitter who provided lunches to my daughters when they were in her care a few days a week. That only left two days I needed to pack a lunch for my older daughter to take with her to preschool. Well, those days are over and now I have a soon-to-be kindergartner! I can barely wrap my head around the idea that my first born is beginning her formal schooling. Where has the past 5 years gone?? My youngest will also be in preschool four days a week, and needing lunches too. Time to get organized, and be prepared! Its one thing to physically pack a lunch and an entirely different monster to figure out what that lunch will be – provided you have all the ingredients in the house!

I’ve seen many wonderful lunch box ideas on Facebook, Pinterest, mommy blogs, etc. Although I need a blueprint I can turn to each week to help me grocery shop, outline a consistent, weekly meal plan, and offer varieties so it doesn’t get too boring for my girls when they eat their noon time meal.

I’m sure this idea exists out there, but I wanted to personalize a menu that would work for our vegetarian diet, be healthy, and something that didn’t take more than 15 minutes to pack up. I love all the amazing lunch/breakfast muffins, casseroles, roll ups, etc that I have seen on some creative blogs; but I also wanted to be honest with myself and face the fact that I would not be able to achieve such culinary treasures on a regular basis. I want simple but healthy, and every now and then I’ll try a fun, new, more labor intensive meal; however on a regular basis, time is of the essence.

Enter The Lunch Box Menu! So I sat down and drew up some ideas, enlisted my Instagram followers for help, and today I typed up a menu. Every Monday will be the same type of meal, every Tuesday will be “Dip Day” and so on…but the girls will get to choose their protein or dip or roll up each week. So yes, every Friday they will have a sandwich, but that will vary from week to week. After I created the menu I put it in a sheet protector, and I will have the girls sit down each weekend and use a wipe-off marker to select their choices ahead of time. I might even have them help me pack their lunches on some evenings too. Of course if we have leftovers from the night before I might pack those instead, or allow my oldest to buy school lunch on occasion, but most days I am hoping this might help my tired, night-time brain, and make packing school lunches just a little bit more fun!

I’d still love other suggestions, as I am sure I will revise it as the months go on, and add more ideas. So feel free to leave a comment with your input too! The only requirement is that it should be simple (think less than 5 ingredients), not need to be heated up at school, and require no more than 15 minutes to put together. I know there are awesome make-ahead freezer ideas out there too, and I will probably do some of that to supplement too, but I don’t want to rely on always having something in the freezer.

Click on the hyper text next to the picture above, and feel free to take the menu and tweak it for your own family. There are so many ideas out there, and without the vegetarian limitation, I’m sure you can add even more yummy lunches. Or for those who might be gluten-free (and maybe once my kids like salad!) one could add in lettuce wraps and other healthy options.

Here’s to hoping this helps as much as I think it will! 🙂

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DIY Activity Clipboard for Travel

Our coloring clipboards!We took 5 road trips this summer, spending more than 35 hours in total, in the car, and it took me until the last trip to come up with this brilliant idea! Made we wonder why I didn’t think of it earlier…had to learn from the first 30 hours of travel first, I guess! 🙂 To keep my two and four year-olds busy in the car during each trip we had lots of activities, and some iPad time too, but a lot of the sit-in-a-car-seat play required a coloring tool and book or paper. My girls like to color, but you can only color for so long, so we had mix it up with the tools. Magna doodle, color-fun Magic markers, stickers, coloring books, water brush markers, etc, and they were all great, and provided about a half hour of “keeping them busy” each.  What I was realizing was they the really enjoyed just plain old coloring too, but I had to hand them the crayons, and they for sure were not staying in their laps very well. So I came up with this coloring clipboard idea. I’m sure its already on Pinterest, but I like to think I had something original. 😉

It is pretty simple to make and inexpensive too! Here is what you need: pocket clipboard, string, tape (I used green painters tape for the fun color), crayons (or markers), and paper. IMG_5519






I originally was going to get a standard clipboard but when I went to do that, I found these pocket clip boards which were even better, because you can store papers and the crayons inside!

Take the the string  and measure enough length that they can get the right angle to color but not too long! Tie the string around the crayons and cover the loop with tape for extra security that it will stay on the crayon.IMG_5521

Repeat with desired number of crayons. I did five because I feared too many would make a knotted mess and too little would limit their coloring choices. Then for tying the string to the clip board I chose two different ways, and haven’t decided which is better. For one I looped all the strings together and made one big knot on the top of clipboard, and for the second I tied each string individually on the metal part of the clipboard. Note sure at this point which I prefer. The single, large knot has a cleaner look to it, and I think gets a little less tangled, I think, so you can decide.

In the pocket part of the clipboard I put some coloring pages of their favorite characters, that were new and fun to them, but really you can just put plain white paper.


I also put some stickers in to add more fun! When they are all done coloring you can also store the crayons inside so they are less likely to get tangled. Now voila, you are done! It is nothing amazing, but it certainly was novel and fun for the girls on our ride. They enjoyed feeling important with their own special clipboards! I’m only planning to take out these boards for travel trips to keep their novelty.  My older daughter enjoyed it for about 45 minutes, my younger one, maybe 20, but hey, it was that much more time of quiet in the car! 🙂



Posted in preschoolers, Toddlers, Traveling, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

15 Disneyland Tips and Tricks!

So it is safe to say my husband (and daughters) are a little obsessed over Disneyland.  I give in to this obsession, because it is so hard not to, and because their delight is infectious! That being said, we have gone 4 times in the last 2 years, and I would consider us pros when it comes to navigating the magical land of mickey ears! I had a friend email me and ask what she should know as they prepared for their first trip with their two little ones. So, I saved my novel of a response to post to the blog when I had a moment, and the time has come – so here it goes…tips we have learned about making the best of your Disneyland and/or California Adventure experience!

#1 – get there early. The crowds begin even before it opens, but you can actually get into Main Street a half hour before the rest of the park opens so that you can get right into some of the rides without long lines. We went on a Sunday just as the park opened and did Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Book Cruise all in 20 minutes without lines, and yes, both girls did all those rides, with our noise blocking headphones, of course.

#2 – pack lots of snacks, even a cooler with lunches. I buy those Horizon organic milk boxes that you don’t need to refrigerate for the kids, and bring water bottles. When we went we stayed in a hotel and had their continental breakfast and then brought stuff to make sandwiches and brought in lots of snacks, we really only bought dinner. And eat at CA Adventure, they have pretty decent food, compared to Disney. There is actually one nice place to eat at Disney – The Hungry Bear Cafe. Its the best location – way back by the Winnie the Pooh ride and Splash Mountain so less crowded and its on the “river” so the kids can eat and watch the ducks while you finish up, and its all shaded. Their fried green tomato sandwich and sweet potato fries are my fav!

#3 – Child Swap pass – if there is a ride that only one child can go on (the other being too little, or rather, none of the little kids can go, you ask for the child swap pass from the staff in line and they let you (and the kid) ride while the other parent waits and then when the ride is over, your child can go again with the parent who had to wait with the younger child without having to wait in line again. Fortunatly most of the rides all age children can go on and babies will be able to ride on your lap or in a carrier. JoJo was 4 mos the first time we brought her and we just held her in the Ergo all day, and only brought a single stroller because it was easier to maneuver with crowds. If you are bringing a more expensive stroller bring a bike u-lock as I was told there can be theft of nicer strollers in theme parks…never actually heard of it truly happening, but you never know.

#4 – See the parades/shows. The Disney Jr Show in CA Adventure is awesome, and so is their parade. The best place to see a parade in Disneyland is by the bathrooms across from the mater horn ride, right next to Alice in Wonderland – reason being, you sit against a wall, and there is no one behind you and you are up close to all the action, the characters will even come say hi and high-five the kids. Get that spot early though because people know when a parade starts and will reserve spots up to an hour before. We use it as a good rest time, snack time, and just sit and relax in our spot. 

#5 – Two secret air-conditioning spots to know. In Tomorrow Land the big round building Innoventions – next to Autopia – is a great place to walk around, sit inside to escape heat. Even better though is in CA Adventure, the Artists Studio ( I think that is the name) it is the lobby of the theater where you can see Turtle Talk (a cute little attraction/show) because it is a huge room with couches, dark/low lights, open space, and AC! I spent two hours in there with sleeping kids in strollers while adults swapped out riding roller coasters with Single Rider passes (another good way to ride some rides if you don’t mind going alone) and I ate ice cream…can’t mention enough of this place!

#6 – Wait time apps. There are a few on iTunes and they seem to change each time we go, but we do get a free one and use it to guide us on the wait times of attractions. They aren’t always 100 percent accurate, but they do show you a good idea of what to skip or try next.

#7 – get the souvenirs before hand. Whenever we go I hit the dollar bin at Target and other stores and try to find Disney toys/treats/t-shirts and a bag of goodies that I give to the girls when we arrive so they don’t want to buy every thing they see in the stores; because they just got a loot of new stuff that cost less than half of what you will pay in the theme parks. Oh, and glow sticks are great!  I give them to the kids when it gets dark instead of paying gobs of money for the light up toys the sell everywhere.

#8 – shortcuts. The shops on the right hand side of main street (leaving the park, if you face the entrance) all lead into each other, meaning there are no walls separating them, so if you get stuck at one end of Main st after fireworks, make your way into one of the stores and weave your way to the last shop, and it sometimes can be faster than trying to get out with the crowds down main st itself. Though, the stores can get crowded too.

#9 – Fast Passes. Defninitely get fast passes for the rides that offer them. Beats waiting in line for them. The Cars Land ride runs out of the Fast Passes early in the day so try to grab it soon after you go in. And you can only hold one fast pass at a time…meaning if your fast pass says to return at 10am, you can’t get a fast pass for another ride until 10am.

#10 – World of Color. If you are going to stay late, see World of Color at CA Adventure. worth the wait to get a good spot. This one you also need a fast pass for, but it is more for an area to sit in. We do a late dinner/snack and just go in early sit down and eat while we wait.

#11 – Meeting Mickey. If you want to meet him, the characters are often in the front plaza on main street first thing in the mornings and around 2 (at least the last time we went) but Mickey is always at his house in Toon Town, which opens an hour after the rest of the park. So if the park opens at 9, we make our way to Toon Town at 9:45 to be there right as the gate opens, and head straight to Mickey’s house. It can be a long wait to see him if you don’t go pretty quickly after it opens. The rollar coaster in toon town is perfect for preschoolers too.

#12 Photo Pass Plus- if you are going with a large group, and going to a character lunch you might consider purchasing it. We did because we split the cost of our pass with the family we were with. I think it is $70, but you get all the pic files and a 8×10 and wallets and 5×7 of the character meal photos. At many places around the park there are staff who will take your pic ( like in front of the castle) and they will just scan the card and load all the pics onto one account. They use nice cameras and can do fun effects to the pics too. We did it for our most recent trip and it was nice, and we have all the files now. Not necessity, but nice with a big group.

#13 – speaking of pics – best place to take a pic of the castle with you in front is actually off to the right side (near Snow White’s well) because you get the view of the castle without a ton of people behind you (and there is rarely a wait to take pictures either!) – it is where we took this pic:

Our favorite spot for pictures in front of the castle!

Our favorite spot for pictures in front of the castle!

#14 – be flexible. Not everything will go as planned, don’t have too much of an agenda, but do a have a possible plan of attack so you don’t end up going in circles, and try to roll with the punches. It can be a stressful, not the happiest place on earth, if there is too much stress on getting to here or there. Remember, you will (hopefully) come back so if you don’t get to it, oh well. Our first trip we tried to cram too much into, and everyone just got fussy. Its good if you have other kids with you to occupy your kids in line. We have found that going with other families is great – parents can take breaks together while others ride, and kids enjoy company.

#15 – Plan at least a three day trip if you can, and do both parks. If you are coming from outside of Southern California you will want to spend at least 2 full days in the park in order to really feel like you made the trip worthwhile. And it is worth it to do the dual park pass, both Disney and CA Adventure. There is a lot about Disney that wasn’t done the best (like lack of seating and shade) that CA Adventure does well. Needless to say, all the awesome attractions CA Adventure has to offer, especially for the younger crowd. It is expensive enough, that to spend that much and not really make it worth your while is a waste.  We like to travel to Disney one day, go to downtown Disney, do a character dinner and then start the next day bright and early at one of the parks.  There are often magic morning passes that allow you to get in an hour early to parts of the parks if you have a three day pass and stay at a certain hotel. Another option is to do a character breakfast on the morning you leave so you can finish the trip with something fun! We have done 3 of the 4 character meals, and the best food so far was Goofy’s Kitchen, but the best overall experience was Mickey’s Surfs Up Breakfast. They are a great way to see a lot of characters at one time instead of waiting in lines at the park.  Weekdays are always less crowded than weekends (except during the summer) so if you can go on a weekday, lines might be a bit shorter. Summer is always super crowded, and if you don’t like heat, don’t go in the summer. Anything over 90 degrees and the day just turns into misery, trying to escape the heat and keep everyone happy. On our first trip to Disney it was 104 degrees when we got there! We had fun, but keeping little ones happy in the heat isn’t always easy. When we went back in February, it was a thousand times more enjoyable! I should also mention there are crowd predictor websites for planning your trip. If you have the flexibility, you can plan your trip when the crowds are predicted to be lower than other days. Crowded Disney just means more time waiting in line, more people to maneuver and less time to actually enjoy the attractions. If you are going to spend that much on a ticket, its nice to be able to get the best experience you can!

I hope these tips have provided a little bit of help in planning your Disney vacation! There are lots of blog posts about Disney out there, so read others and learn their tricks too! Every time we go I learn another thing to remember for future trips! Ah Disneyland, why do you have to be so intoxicating…all in a good way!


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Gift Ideas for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

So I guess it has been awhile! When you are a teacher and mom you only have so much time to devote to all the facets of your life! Let summertime commence, and maybe some more blog writing! 🙂

So I have been “researching” this blog post for awhile, and I think I have a good list to get started. By research, I mean going through my girls’ old and new toys and remembering what some of their favorite gifts were at each age. As I  sat on my computer on Amazon last night ordering birthday gifts for the next three weekends of birthday parties, I realize I need to research the next set of this list – birthday gifts for school-age children! In time…but for now I don’t want to forget what were good gifts when my girls were little, and as more of my friends begin to have children I will need to look back at this list for my own recollection!

For now, here is a list by age, of appropriate and mostly gender-neutral gifts that are also more educational in nature (I mean, I’m a teacher afterall, its only expected, right?)

Age 6-mos – 1 Year

My First Words book – both my girls LOVED and still LOVE this book. My youngest will sit for at least 15 minutes and just stare at the pictures. There are many books like this, so no need to get this exact one, but the pictures and categories, plus tabs in the book are great!

Ball Popper – lots of fun, who wouldn’t love this! This will keep them occupied well into two years of age. Again, there are many versions of this, so choose the one you fancy.

Water Table/Sand Table – there are tons of these on the market, it is hard to choose which one is the best, so find the one that your family would appreciate based on what works for your space. We got one that had two sides, one for sand and one for water, and it worked well because it didn’t take a lot of space in our backyard.

Birthday Cake electronic toy by Leapfrog – not sure the fascination with this toy, but it never fails to capture their attention, again for more than just the first year.

B. Squeeze blocks or B.Hi-phone. – first off, I just LOVE this toy company. Pretty much anything in their line is awesome, and we have been given many of their toys. You will see them in my list for other ages too. They are a good start if you are unsure of what to get a child.

Farm Match Up – this toy is so versatile for the early learners. It has the matching componentfor creating the animals, it makes the animal noises, and comes in a bucket – toddlers love spilling things out of buckets! The older version was a magnetic one but I had a hard time finding it still being sold.

Tractor Toy – one year olds seem to love animals, and this, like the magnets, makes the sounds of the animals and has the added element of wheels! It goes on its own when you push the front horn…great incentive for crawlers. So I might even suggest this for the under 1 crowd.

Poke-a-Dot Books/ “Pop” Books. These kept my girls busy on a long road trip in the past and still do during the day at home too! My four-year-old still enjoys popping the plastic bubbles! There are a few versions – Old MacDonald, Ten Little Monkeys, and more!

Musical Instruments – this is the age when they really begin to love hitting, shaking, and making noises! Drums, shakers, bells, cymbals, are all great first instruments! Of course, as they grow, guitars, recorders and even a microphone can be fun!

The Birthday Book – this is more for the parents of the little one, but if you are like me and love documenting special memories, this is the book to get! It has cute pages to store  cards and write memories of the birthday, as well as interviews when they are age 3+.  I have one for both my girls, trick is just remembering to pull it out each year and complete. 🙂


Age 2

Dress -Up Items – during the third year of life children begin to explore roles, their place in the world, and they do so through imaginative play. It is so sweet to see this stage begin, and it will last for many years. For my daughter’s second birthday I got a paper suitcase and went to JoAnne’s where they had a variety of inexpensive dress-up vests (doctor, nurse, police, construction worker, magician) and a few hats, and put them in the suitcase. She LOVED them, and still does! They make great pretend play props.  There are many places to find dress-up items and accessories, even start in your own closet!

Pretend Play Items – In addition to dressing up, toddlers enjoy mimicking what the adults around them do. A play kitchen is a favorite of this age. Pretend food, and other kitchen accessories are fun. A baby doll is great at this age. Other items like shopping carts, cash registers, doctors sets, etc, are all great pretend play items.  You can also find things in your home that you don’t need that your children will love to play with. I often kept old cereal boxes, or food containers after the were washed, and they were great fun in the play kitchen.

Playdough – store bought, homemade, doesn’t matter (although you can make a ton if you make your own – I’ll have to post our recipe). This is the age when they really begin to appreciate molding and manipulating the dough, and are less likely to eat it! (Some little ones still do like to put everything in their mouths, but it is more likely they won’t do it too many times after they taste it – hopefully!)

Bristle blocks – these are the comb-like blocks that stick together and come in fun shapes and colors. Many companies make them, and call them a variety of other names, but they are all essentially the same. As toddlers begin to enjoy creating structures and stacking, these are great because they stay connected more easily. This is also a great gift because it can be enjoyed for many years to come. My four-year-old is not creating vehicles and other creative items with them, whereas when she was younger she liked to simply stack them.

Peg Board – Anyone else remember playing with one of these in kindergarten? I loved them then. We got one for our older daughter for the holidays when she was two and she still really enjoys it. My youngest has also now begun to play with it; she will stack many pegs on top of each other or just fill the board. It is great for fine motor skill development, as well as imaginative play.

Magnadoodle – many companies make one now and they have been the best backseat activities for long drives – especially since the pen is attached to the board, so it can’t roll on to the floor. Even before age 2 this is a nice toy, but they really enjoy putting pen to paper at this age, and this is a nice, and cleaner substitute. As they grow older they will appreciate the stamps that many come with, and make more actual pictures, but they are great to scribble on!

Musical Instruments – had to include this again, as it is always a fun idea!

Outdoor toys with wheels – bikes, Cozy Coupe, Strider bikes, are all great at this age and beyond.

Age 3

Jigsaw Puzzles – it was at this age that my older daughter really began to enjoy doing puzzles. It started with 24 piece puzzles and has now advanced. The shape puzzles where you have pictures that you put in specific cut-out spots are great for younger tots, but jigsaw puzzles (especially with favorite characters) are now a fun activity.  My daughter will do the same ones over and over too!

Memory Game – this is a fun activity for both you and your child to do together. There are many versions of this game out there. Preschoolers are now at the age where they can use some of the spatial recognition and memory to locate pictures. My favorite was a gift we made for Daddy’s birthday – a personalized memory game with pictures of our family.  We made it at: Printers Studio, and it was reasonably priced too. They love seeing pictures of themselves in the game!

Uno Moo – at age three they are beginning to be able to play games. This is a great first game, and one that will be good for preschoolers age 3-6. There are many other great games out there for this age group, these are just two of our favorites.

Magna tiles – these are a favorite of both my girls at preschool. And so much so that I didn’t want to spoil that fun by making them available at home too, so I held off putting it on their wish list. They are fabulous though! This is an item that has enjoyment for many ages, even beyond preschool years, so it is a gift that will last for awhile. They aren’t cheap, but are lots of fun for the little ones who love to build.

Legos – smaller legos or duplos begin to be fun at this age, as the preschooler can manipulate them into structures and buildings, verses just stacking them.  There are tons of sets out there with all kinds of characters to attract kids, but plain old colors are just as great too!

Art supplies – art supplies are great for two year olds too, but I have found that by age three they are a little less apt to paint the walls or table and stick to the paper or project. At three they can also do a lot more by themselves and stay attentive to their project for a longer period of time. Just be sure whatever you get is WASHABLE!

Battat Take-A-Part Toys – there are a few of these, not just the airplane as I put in the link. This toy has its own power tool, which is always fun! An electric screw driver to screw in the pieces and create or take apart the vehicle.

Quercetti Color Peg Board – think of it as an introduction to light bright! Colored pegs you push into a board with a picture behind it to match the colors. It says age 2+ on it, but I’d be worried about the small, round pegs ending up in a a two-year olds mouth, so I put it in three years. It was a hand-me-down from a friend, and my older daughter still loves playing with it!

Age 4

Fiddle Sticks – there were called tinker toys when I was young, but it is the same. Wooden rods, pegs, shapes, that stick together to create an array of creative structures. I debated about where this was good for three or four year old birthdays, but I have found the older set to be more adept at using these and putting more pieces together.

Imaginets – these are like magnetic tanagram pieces. They are colored shapes that stick magnetically on a board with pictures of diagrams to try to copy. It says 3+ on the box, but my four-year-old is just now able to really begin to copy them. They are fun to create designs with regardless.

Stomp Rocket Jr. – this is one that is fun for the whole family! I think even younger than age four, but I’ll leave it in this list for maturity sake, and get extra rockets, as they do fly far and often land over fences or on rooftops!

Color Forms – Anyone else play with these as a kid? Now you can get the simple shapes, or even more fun, characters and play sets of your child’s favorite person. My daughter loves the Daniel Tiger one, and acts out scenes with the “stickers” quietly on her own. They are great to bring to a restaurant!

Board Games – this is the age where children really begin to enjoy board games and being a part of a team. My daughter has a variety of different games she enjoys playing, even by herself to just set up the pieces. Daniel Tiger has a great one for learning social skills, and there are many others out there for early phonics and letter or number exposure.  I know the are iPad apps for all that too, but there is something fun about an actual game piece in your hand at this age.

Marble Run – this activity is one that can require some adult guidance, but they will get the hang of it quickly. It is also a toy that can last for a few years of fun, for as they get older and understand the physics behind it all, they get better at creating different runs.

Character Sets – this is the age where preschoolers really love imaginative play by acting out scenes with little figurines or dolls. You can get a favorite character from a show that a child might enjoy, although there is a good chance they might already have it. We have a bin filled with little figurines from various shows and movies, what will we ever do with all of them! 🙂

And of course, BOOKS!! They are great at ANY age! See my children’s bookshelf for some of our family favorites!

So there you have it! A beginning of a list of some great items my family has loved! I know there are many more, and as I clean up the house and play room I’m sure I’ll find many more I could have added, but I hope this gets you started; and will be a nice reminder for me when I have to get another birthday present for a little one. Now I need the list for ages 5 and up! I haven’t gotten to there with my children yet, so I can’t speak from experience like I could with these items…what were some of your child’s favorite gifts at younger ages?

Here is my oldest opening a game on her third birthday!

Here is my oldest opening a game on her third birthday!










Posted in Birthdays, Helpful Products, playroom, preschoolers, Toddlers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

‘Tis A Gift to Be Simple…

As the holiday season is upon us, I am reminded of the many life lessons I can teach my daughters during this time of year. For us, Hanukkah starts tomorrow, which means we have been talking a lot about the holiday, as well as gifts, for a few weeks now. Being that it will also be Thanksgiving the day after Hanukkah begins, we have also been discussing with our older daughter about what people really need in life to live, and what we appreciate having in our daily lives. We went shopping for food together to donate to a food pantry and she was ever so thrilled to choose items to fill our shopping cart! This trip to the store actually reminded her of last year when she choose one toy she felt she no longer played with, to donate to children without such fortune. Its funny, because she often references this toy and the occasion, though she was only 2 1/2, it must have made a big impact on her. Whenever we talk about donating, she thinks of this toy. We had planned last year to make it a yearly ritual before the holidays, to go through our toy bins and choose a toy or two to donate. I occasionally go through the toys and do so myself, but now realize how important it is to make children part of this process too (at least sometimes!). By engaging my daughter in the process, the learning is two-fold: that we don’t need to keep everything forever, and that there are others who might appreciate our things but cannot afford them.  In Judaism we teach of the virtue of tzedekah, charity or righteousness, and are encouraged to involve children from a very young age. I was taught when I was young, and I only hope my daughters will learn the importance as well.

In addition to finding used toys, last year we also made a special trip to Target to purchase a new toy which a child her age might appreciate. I encouraged her to choose a toy she would like, but that we would donate. This year, we will do the same, but I will encourage her to help be a part of the buying process and possibly use some of her savings towards the toy. She has recently started filling up a piggy bank, and is beginning to understand the value of money. Here she is with it – it also happened to be the first purchase she had saved up for!

She is was so excited to enter the world of consumerism! :)

She was so excited to enter the world of consumerism! 🙂








It is one thing to model for her the importance of giving, but now that she is older, I think it would be good to try to incorporate her into the process as well. A long time ago I bookmarked a website about how to teach children about money, in developmentally appropriate ways. Check it out:, I found it helpful, especially now that I have an inquisitive three-year-old!

Each year during this season I am always contradicted inside with a feeling of wanting my daughters to witness the joy of getting special presents, as well as the materialistic idealism that it fosters in our children.  I try to limit gifts to one toy, one book, and one piece of clothing; and then for family and friends we make an Amazon wish list to help guide them in gift-giving choices that we (and the girls) would appreciate. Asking for experiences/museum memberships is also nice. Since we also celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family we actually don’t get the girls gifts from us then, we leave that to the rest of the family, which is more than plenty! I know it is a balance, and I don’t want to be a grinch about the holidays, because I too, love getting a few items from my wish list, and even more so, getting (and making!) gifts for family and friends. Our economy needs it too, right? 🙂 I just don’t want my girls to loose site of the true items of importance in our lives, and many of those are priceless.

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Picture Clock

My oldest daughter, now 3 1/2 has recently become interested in time – when things take place, how long they will last, etc. I’ve been trying to explain things to her in kid-friendly ways that she can relate to. My mom would always tell me how they used to explain how long a plane ride was based on how many Seasame Street episodes long it would be! I will tell me daughter it will take 3 songs to get somewhere when she asks, or that when the short hand on the clock is pointing to the 10, we can go (we have a big analog clock in our kitchen).  Recently I came up with an idea that I thought might help her understand when repeating events occur throughout the day – I like to call it our Picture Clock!

Our Picture Clock!

Our Picture Clock!

You can make this at home very easily. While my younger daughter was sleeping the other afternoon, my oldest and I made the clock together. Didn’t take much and we both had fun working together to do it.  Any inexpensive, easy to read, clock will do. I happen to be at Ikea and they have one for $2.  Then my daughter and I went searching online with Google Images and found clipart to represent different activities of our daily routine.  She helped me choose a sun for waking up, a moon and stars for bedtime, grapes for morning snack, crackers for afternoon snack, a lunch bag for lunchtime, a  funny face making the quiet signal for nap time, and macaroni and cheese (of course!) for dinner. You can add more or less to your clock, of course! We printed out the small graphics, cut them out, and then “construction” on our clock began!IMG_0918

First we took off the plastic cover on the face of the clock so we could glue on our pictures at the right time. I had my daughter use a paint brush dipped in Mod Podge, but regular glue would work too. I chose Mod Podge because I wanted to cover the entire face of the clock with a coating to be sure the pictures stayed well on the clock and Mod Podge is great for providing a clear coating. You can find it a crafts stores. IMG_0920

After all the pictures were in the right place I needed a way to identify which hand on the clock (the hour hand) was the one for her to focus on pointing to the pictures. So with a bright green paint pen I coated just the hour hand.  We discussed each hand on the clock, but for a preschooler, simply understanding the hour is a good starting point.

We let it dry, replaced the cover, and voila, we had our picture clock! My daughter was so excited to use it. When it was bedtime she happily got on her pajamas because the clock was pointing to the moon and stars! Now, this is probably just the novelty of the picture clock for now, but if it is also teaching her when to expect certain things to happen during the day, and how to make sense of time, then I’m happy! Now hopefully it will keep her in bed till 7 on weekends because the green hand won’t point to the sun (wake up time) until then! 🙂

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So long, farewell, nap time is no more (to the tune from Sound of Music :)

Yes, its true. She has given up naps. Well, not just her doing, I partially made her. My oldest daughter, now nearly three and a half, is truly entering the world of kid status.  I’m sure you are wondering why I on earth I would make her give up her naps, my glorious “free time” during the day! Well, luckily for me, I still get that time during a 1 and a half to two hour time period we like to call quiet time. I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago my husband and I started noticing a trend in the amount of time it was taking for her to fall asleep at night. Longer and longer, she was up late chatting to herself, singing, happy, staying in bed, but awake. We would be in bed around 8 pm and she wasn’t getting to sleep till 9:30 or even sometime later. At the same time, it was hard to get her to fall asleep at 1 pm and she tended to chat to herself till close to 2, then finally fall asleep till 4. Upon waking she was so cranky and unhappy that it was another half hour of whining and crying until she got out of her post-nap funk. I thought to myself that it just might be time to eliminate her naps.So over Labor Day weekend we had a trial run. Each day at nap-time, I would put my younger daughter down (who is also now on one nap instead of two, which makes for a nice long afternoon nap for her) and then had my oldest pick a few quiet activities, like books and puzzles, and in the playroom she went for quiet time. She was told we expected her to play by herself, without us, mainly staying on our playroom couch, until the timer went off, or her sister woke up from nap. We told her she could fall asleep if she wanted, but that most important was to stay quiet and in the playroom. Magically, it seemed to work. I think she liked the idea that she didn’t have to nap, and was given a new opportunity to have “big girl” quiet time.  We are now one week in, and so far, so good. She konks out right at 8pm or before, and will sleep till somewhere between 6:45-7:30.  Another reason I needed her to get on a better sleep schedule was due to my returning to work and preschool starting. On those days we need to by out of the house by 7am, which meant waking a cranky girl who hadn’t fallen asleep till late, would be no fun.  When my husband and I decided to take the plunge and move from naps to quiet time, I took out my favorite book on sleep guidance, Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, and he had a chapter will some guidance about naps. I was surprised to read that only 80% of two year old’s still nap (I thought nearly ALL two year olds would, and by their third birthday, 57% of preschoolers nap. That is still a high percentage, but lower than I thought. By the time they are 4, only 26% of kids still nap. I was glad to know my little one wasn’t the 5% of kids not napping who were over age 3. I’m just hoping we continue to have success with our near two hours of quiet time, while my younger one still has a two hour afternoon snooze….what on earth will I do with myself with both children not needing my attention? 🙂


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Some summer reading…not for fun, but it actually was!

My summer reading!As the school year drew to a close and I began thinking of some of my summer projects I might attempt (and by attempt, I mean, wish to start!), I came across a neat article that mentioned a fabulous parenting book and workshop. This was actually a book I had already purchased and was sitting on my bedside table, barely opened.  The book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen to Kids Will Talk (further noted as the Listen book) by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish,  is an oldy but goody in the parenting and child development world. My daughter’s preschool teacher had recommended it during one of our parenting discussions, and I had fully intended to read it.  What motivated me though, was that the article I had read, spoke highly of the parenting workshops that accompany the book and which you can do on your own.  I knew if I was really going to read the book, and stick to utilizing the strategies, a workshop would be much more motivation for me to do so. Seemed like a good project, and very worthwhile.

The workshop materialsSo, I gathered seven of my mommy friends whom live near me, and we ventured into our first, self-lead, parenting class. We purchased the DVD that facilitated the discussion, the participant handbook, the Listen book, and also Liberated Parents Liberated  Children also by Faber and Mazlish.  The workshop was taught in six, two-hour sessions, guiding us through the books we were reading concurrently. Each session had a reading assignment and a participation component involving us to put the strategies we were learning to use, and record our experience. The reading was doable, for the most part, and if anything, I was accountable to my friends, which forced me to get it done. Beyond that, I really did enjoy the reading, and how much I could utilize what I was learning when dealing with my children – mainly my three year old. (Although some of us even joked how we could apply it to interacting with our husbands too!)

I can’t say everything in the book applied to parenting a one and three-year-old, yet at the same time, it gave me ideas for how I might appreciate using some of the strategies as my daughters grow and become teenagers. It certainly did expand my tool box of parenting techniques, especially when dealing with getting a preschooler to cooperate, or calm down. The second book, Liberated Parents, was also awesome. I think I enjoyed it even more, yet the Listen book had a nice layout to the concepts and had many components of the participant handbook imbedded in it already.  The Listen book has great comics to illustrate the correct ways to use the strategies, which for my husband, was his kind of reading! Beyond the reading however something else really awesome happened. The seven other mothers and I had a nice built in discussion and support group to help each other tackle the woes of mothering young children. The book could easily be read alone, utilized, and possibly even forgotten. Yet, having the DVD to watch, the participant guide to record in, and the discussion group for chatting together, it really helped ingrain the learning I was doing, and forced me to remember to try out what I was reading.

At the end of the six weeks we all felt the class was worthwhile, and are hoping to continue our discussion group on our own in the future. Our next book is another Faber and Mazlish book, Siblings Without Rivalry, as all of us have, or will have, two children, and sibling relations is high on our list of parenting skills to tackle.

The key to reading and truly using many of the self-help books is, I find, practice, and remembering to practice. This workshop really engaged me in doing so, and I was also impressed by the authors take on dealing with children.  Some of what we learned we already did as parents, and other things were new and not as common-sense as we had thought.  To help us really remember to practice what we read, the Listen book has a handy page at the end of each chapter with bullet points of the main ideas. I decided I needed to refer to this often if I was going to remember to continue to use these great strategies. So, I made us all a handy flip book with each of the chapter highlights. I hung it on a nail in my bathroom next to our mirror and every morning and night I read one of the highlights while brushing my teeth, and it is all I need to help refresh my mind, and keep me practicing. If anything, my husband reads it too, and as so many moms know, parenting is a team effort. Both captains have to have the same rules and be aligned as much as possible.  So far this has been a helpful “playbook” for both my husband and I to refer too, and I hope we continue to do so as the girls age. Our "playbook"

At first glance the books target parents who want their children to listen and cooperate, and of course, who doesn’t? Yet as we really delve into the books content, it is about raising confident, respectful, happy children who make good choices as the grow into adulthood, and their independence.  How we as parents foster those skills comes a lot from how we discipline them and model those skills as well.To do that, we need to treat our children with the mutual respect they deserve. That was my big take away message from it all, and well worth this project!

If you have any questions about the book or the workshop series, send me an email, I’m happy to help!

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