Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

A Week of Summer Fun On $20 or Less

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


I have to admit that our family doesn’t go on a lot of vacations, but we do love to make a wise investment into a great summer staycation each year that the kids will remember (hopefully) for years to come. A summer staycation does not have to cost a lot of money.  In fact, it is fun to see how far we can make our money stretch and still provide beautiful summer memories for our children.

Really, the possibilities for free and cheap summer fun are endless. There are free story hours at libraries and bookstores, crafts and activity days at local parks, church programs and sport camps, VBS, inexpensive movie programs at the theaters, reading programs, ice cream treats, and so much more. Each year it seems we are trying to top the summer bucket list from last year.

Today I wanted to showcase some of our favorite things to do and share with you ideas for making those summer memories fit snugly in your family budget.

Happy Hour Out (Cost $.50-$2 per child)- Our favorite thing to do this year has been taking advantage of those Happy Hour drink specials that so many restaurants are now offering. Sonic, for example, offers a Happy Hour between 2-5 PM where your family can enjoy half price drinks. Steak & Shake is another restaurant in our town that offers a deliciously cool and refreshing milkshake for half price between 2-4 PM.  Don’t be ashamed to inquire at your local restaurants if they offer any type of summer drink special that your family can take advantage of and allow your kids to enjoy a fun summer treat that your budget can live with. At Sonic, two small slushes for my children and one large Diet Cherry Limeade for me is a total mere cost of $2.18. Fabulous!

Happy Hour Time At Home (Cost $1  in supplies or less)- If you don’t feel like venturing out and want to enjoy a little slushie fun or milkshake fun at home, it is easy to do with your blender and a few items that might be lurking in your pantry already! My kids love to indulge in our homemade slushies and homemade frosty shakes that your whole family will flip for!  The cost for creating these is minimal, but make sure you make enough for everyone in the family. This is a happy hour that you definitely do not want to miss!

Have a Park Day (Cost- FREE) - Going to the local park to spend the afternoon is nothing new, but it could be something new if you decide to explore another local park. Pack a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, and your sunblock and enjoy a day of completely free fun. Go on a park adventure and visit a park that you have never visited before or venture outside of your own town into a neighboring town to explore a new-to-you town treasure. We love to load up the scooters, a ball, and a Frisbee to create even more opportunities for fun in the sun. This year we have made it a family priority to explore new parks that we haven’t tried before.

Have a Roast-Your-Own Dinner Night (Cost $5-7 in Food Supplies)-  One thing that we look forward to all summer long is the opportunity to roast some foods on our little campfire. Stock up on hot dogs and supplies to make s’mores and you can have a fun little night together that doesn’t cost a lot. I also love to keep the fire going after the kids hit the sack and make it into a fun little date night for me and my hubby.

Visit a Museum (Cost- FREE)- Free days abound at the local museums although I will admit that you do sometimes have to brave those crowds to take advantage of them. We always try to check the websites for local museums and find out when their free days are offered. If free days are not offered, call your local library and see if they offer museum passes that you can check out. Many local libraries offer passes that can get you and your family in for free!  Make it a family trip and take vacation days on those days so you can take advantage of those free admissions. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch that you can enjoy on the museum grounds or in transit to your destination.

If there is a special museum you have always wanted to visit, but they do not offer a free day, be sure to take part in the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. Tickets can be printed starting July 1st!  This just might be the perfect time to take a road trip to experience a free museum that will cost only the cost in gas.

Take a Visit to a Local Farm (Cost $0-$5 per child)- This year we got the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm that was just thirty minutes from our home. The kids had the best time learning about the animals and getting the opportunity to feed, touch, and even take a few of them for a walk. If you want to  find an alpaca farm near you, visit I Love Alpacas to find a new place to visit in your town!

For other farm animals, see if there are any local farms in your area that you could visit and give your children the chance to have an experience like this. It is one that will long remember and gives them an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from!

Go Berry Picking (Cost $5 or more, depending on amount purchased)- One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to go berry picking. We usually buy around $5 in berries and then come home and create something in our kitchen together. With a variety of fruits for picking, the possibilities are endless for places and things to pick during the summer. Visit Pick Your Own to find places to visit and to take advantage of the foods that are in season.

Last year we went blueberry picking and then came home and created new things in the kitchen that the kids had never tried before. We dined on homemade waffles with blueberry syrup and even created a fancy blueberry syrup for our iced tea for a fun summer drink. We paid $5 in berries and we were able to make a whole day and evening of fun from just that $5 spent.

Sprinkler Fun (Cost- FREE)- Running through the sprinklers is a fun and free relief from the brutal summer heat. A good old-fashioned sprinkler or inexpensive sprinkler toy can keep kids entertained for days on end. More recently we have discovered that our town offers a lot of fun at the parks with the addition of splash pads and fun new sprinkler parks. The cost to visit these is free and can be a great way to keep cool in the summer. If your backyard sprinkler is starting to lose its luster, Google your town and the keywords “splash pad” or “sprinkler park” to see if you can find a fun new place to keep cool!

What are your favorite budget-friendly summer activities in your town? I would love to hear your ideas for inexpensive summer fun!

Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

(this article originally published on 06.30.09)

I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard all summer long. I will do anything to stay outside with my kids and hibernate in our big backyard. Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home.

Chores come first. We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

For work-at-home moms, I try to get up an hour before the kids and tackle any work priorities and I do most of my work on the weekend mornings. I encourage you to read my post on finding balance to work priorities to assist with figuring out a good work-at-home schedule.


Get the dinner prep done. After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.


Be prepared for outdoor excursions. The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

In our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.


Make the outdoors fun. My children will play outside for the entire day, but each summer we make an investment into outdoor activities that will help keep the outdoors fun. Some of my favorite summer investments have been a sandbox, a small water table, sprinkler toys, a new set of chalk, and a batch of homemade bubbles.

My children also love to create so I also put out a bucket of water with paint brushes for them to paint the cement or to paint their chalk drawings. We also make a batch of sponge balls to play with in their water table or for fun water play outdoors. Nature journals can help them document the changing of the seasons and what they see in nature. Homemade play dough with some cookie cutters and a rolling pin can lead to fun creations, without the mess, on an outdoor table.

Don’t forget that many activities that you can get your children to do outside can also help you. I have my kids use their water toys to water my garden. My children also love to help wash the cars and wash their own outdoor toys. Have them set their own table for lunch or help you clean up after an outdoor dinner.


Make easy evening routines. After a long day of playing outside, I bring the kids inside and we start tackling the baths. After the kids are bathed, they can have a small snack and watch a television show while I work on getting our dinner ready.

This usually leads to a little napping or general zoning out as they are usually so exhausted from playing outside. With this time, I tidy up and get our easy dinner together for us to dine outside. After that the kids play outside until bedtime and I am able to put them to bed earlier after all of their outdoor fun.

Outdoor chores are accomplished by my husband & I trading off the kids to get done what needs to get done. One of us mows in the front, while the other parent is playing with the kids in the back. As I have said before though, many of these chores are just done side by side with the kids while they are playing or helping.


Remember they are only young once. Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?

New Article: Great Board Game Recommendations

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Our family loves to play board games and we love sharing great game ideas with our friends. We hope you like our new piece on Great Board Game Recommendations for some added fun to that board game collection. There is nothing like a great set of board games to keep you busy on those rainy days. Make sure to check your local thrift shops for some fun board game bargains!

Feel free to leave a comment and share your own recommendation for anything that might not have made our list!

Shifting Your Focus to Thankfulness

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  ~Meister Eckhart

I have discovered a very annoying habit about myself. When I get nervous, I repeatedly say thank you. Not once, not twice, but usually around fifteen times.  When I was in labor, I had the nurses in giggles because each time they would ask me something, I would say thank you… even in the deepest pain and anguish of labor.When I got in a car accident, I said thank you to the lady who hit me. Not because I was thankful, but because my nerves get the best of me. I was once told this is a self-esteem issue and that I have a desire to be liked. That is probably true and I suppose I could act in far worse ways than expressing repeated thankfulness.

In reality though, living in thankfulness in a world of immediate gratification, speed of light technology, and the busy hum of our lives can be a practice that is often overlooked.  Each day as my kids get older, I find myself looking at the clock in the morning and glancing at in the evening, never realizing that so much time has passed or that I have not acted thankfully once the whole day.

Everyone has a different way of showing their thankfulness for what they possess and own. I know many who keep a gratitude journal where they take a moment to jot down a few things in life that make them happy. I attempted this, but found myself repeating myself over and over again. It is hard to say thank you without saying thank you for your spouse, your children, your home, your God, and for what you already have. I’d shut my little gratitude journal and say, “Well, that’s four.”  No, the writing process quickly bored me, but I still wanted to find an outlet that would remind me of all of the little things in life that make my world go round.

I needed a more creative outlet for my gratitude and a daily reminder of what I posses. Sometimes it is the big things- a new job that pays the bills, a new furnace when our furnace was going out, a financial goal that is met for our family. Other things are smaller, but are still absolutely special- movie nights with my family, freshly folded laundry, or just a great cup of coffee.

I decided to start a Things That Make Me Happy virtual photo album and began to add those super special moments and the perfectly ordinary that I find extraordinary in life. Behind the lens of my camera, I try to capture to me what makes me thankful each and every day.  Almost every single day, I try to find one thing that makes me happy and to take a picture of it.

I then loaded all of these beautiful things that make me happy into a digital frame that we had. It had been gathering dust in our office,  not loaded with pictures since my daughter was a tiny baby.  I put all of these pictures into the digital frame and put them in my front room where I do all of my best thinking.

As I see the images flashing before my eyes, I silently give thanks over and over again.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

If people find it strange that I have random photographs of waffles and library bags mixed throughout our family pictures, no one has ever been brave enough to inquire aloud. I am sure they chalk it up to the weird artsy mother who hangs pictures of shoes on walls and mistreats her home.

As Jacqueline Winspear has said though, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.  It’s a way to live.” I want to live thankfully, to be aware of every blessings (great AND small), and the more aware I become the more thankful I am. The more thankful I am, the more blessed I feel.  It is a richness that money can’t buy.

Try a little thankfulness today:

Find a New Way to Say Thank You- If you have a digital frame gathering dust, start loading it with pictures that make you happy to remind you of what you have to be thankful for. Other ideas could be updating your screen saver on your computer with images of thankfulness, starting a free Flickr album, keeping a small family journal on an online site like Cozi,  or printing out a photo album at a place like Shutterfly so you can glance through it with your morning coffee.

Give a Little of Yourself to Say Thanks- The best way to show that you are thankful to those around you is to let them know that you care. It could be bringing them a meal when someone is ill or needs caring for, it could be just sending them a card to thank them for something they have done, it could be as simple as sitting down and spending time with them. Put one person on your thankful list each week and do something that will make them feel special. Rinse. Repeat.

Compliment Someone Today- Want to make someone feel immediately special and at home in your presence? Give them a compliment. This past week, I got an hour to volunteer in my son’s class. Each child that came through, I tried to make them feel like the most special person in the world. I told them how smart they were, how amazing their ideas were, and would compliment them on something they were wearing or doing. The faces…beaming. The warm fuzzy I got from the experience… priceless. You may think that was just a child’s response, but if someone compliments me, I beam like it is the Fourth of July. You never outgrow the beauty of a compliment and telling someone they are special and that you are thankful for them is something that will last long after you have said it.

Thank Your Children- When was the last time you thanked your child? Praise is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids and I want to give it to them freely. I don’t always succeed, sometimes I really hate my nagging self or how easily I can lose focus on offering praise. The best way to raise a grateful child is to be grateful. I want to do this so much better and I want my kids to remember that I thanked and praised them often.

What are some ways you are practicing thankfulness? What is one thing you have done to show your thankfulness that you are really proud of?

Our Fantastic Holiday Staycation

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I can’t thank you enough for giving me a week to regroup and unwind with my family this past week. I think this is the first time that I have ever taken this long off of my blog, but it was so needed and has given me some time to think about new posts and ideas for our site. I will admit that at first I felt a little bit of withdrawal, but as the days went by it was so relaxing to not have to think about anything but my two beautiful children!

Best of all, while I was relaxing, hubby was frantically working on migrating our giant blog from Blogger to WordPress. We had nearly 2,000 entries with a billion photos to move and it turned out to be quite the process. I am hoping it will be easier for me to do some customizing, better navigation, and a lot less “power outages.”



We did a holiday staycation this year and filled it with lots of fun stuff for the kids to do! Our Advent Calendar was packed with activities until the big day and one of our favorite nights was getting out to see all of the beautiful holiday lights in our new pajamas. As a special treat, we took the kids to Steak & Shake to get a kid’s shake while they enjoyed the holiday lights.

This was an exciting year because Emily really got into all of it and it was so fun for us to all be of an age where holiday lights are so cool!




Another favorite activity we did was to take the kids sledding. Last year they asked for sleds from Santa, but they had yet to have actually been used. I asked my friends on Facebook to share with me their favorite places in town to sled and we drove to three different locations before finding our perfect hill.

The kids (and I!) had never been sledding before so it was quite exciting for all of us. I screamed like a little girl all the way down, dragging my boots to try and stop myself while my husband stood at the top of the hill grinning down at me. I could see him doing this as I would slide backwards, terrified I would run into the telephone pole. We later found the equivalent of an entire haystack stuck in my boot zippers from dragging my feet , but it truly was the most fun I have had in ages… Oh, and the children loved it too!

I suggested hot cocoa and pancakes for a snack afterward, but the children were in the mood for chilly shakes and french fries. Luckily, kids eat free at Steak & Shake on the weekends, so we found ourselves over there for the second time in a week. Luckily, with the free kid’s meals, we were able to come out of there for $20. We came home to deliciously big bubble baths and holiday movies.



Another thing that I had been wanting to do with the kids was to take them bowling. We met up with our best friends and headed over to the bowling alley to play two games and split a pizza for dinner.

One of us would not remove our dress-up clothes after watching a riveting Barbie Nutcracker movie that she got for Christmas. It was not worth the tears to try and get her out of it and, in the end, made for some really cute pictures of the bowling ballerina princess.


Best of all, there was time. Time to knit, time to read, time to bake… time to do all of the things I really wanted to do. No time to clean or organize though. Our house remained a disaster because I was on vacation too. It was bliss!

There were gifts too…lots of them! Some of them have been stowed away to be savored when the first round of gifts get boring. A tote downstairs houses half of my kid’s old toys to be saved for a snowy day when the days are long. I will report to you all of our favorite gifts after we have given them a really good try. I only like to report on the items that have longevity so it may be a month or so before I share our real favorites.

That being said, this “Awesome Mom,” travel mug was lovingly chosen by my son at his Christmas store at school. I have never seen him so proud as he was the moment we opened his special gifts. A set of tools was chosen for daddy, a glittery bouncy ball was chosen for his sister, and this sweet mug was chosen for his mommy who loves her coffee.

The best gift for me as a mom though was coming down on Christmas morning after Ethan let us sleep in until his sister woke up. Laying on the floor were two thank you notes for Santa to thank him for his gifts. “Did you love what Santa left you?” He smiled up and me and told me, “I didn’t open them. I just wanted to thank Santa for stopping by.”

This month, I celebrate with you our SIXTH year of existence as a site. January 1st was our anniversary and I am so proud. Even after this fantastic break, I still could not wait to come back to all of you! It makes me know that I am in the perfect profession for me and I am so happy to share another year with you!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Use What You Have: Handmade Advent Calendar

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!

Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins

I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.


Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.


Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.

Our Activity List

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Going to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack (possible visit for the tree lighting ceremony in town).
5. Going to a Christmas Concert.
6. Decorating gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for our special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa and a trolley ride through downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Color a holiday picture.
17. Holiday party to attend.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights.
20. Deliver holiday treats to our friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Big bubble bath with holiday music.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Watch a holiday movie.
24. Celebrate our family Christmas.

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

Ten Great Children’s Books to Give This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

My favorite gift to give and to receive around the holidays are books for my children. I love seeing my sweet kids curled up with a good book and enjoying a quiet moment reading. Thanks to our frequent library trips and making our own reading a priority, I have raised two readers with ferocious appetites for a good book. I am so proud!

This is our list, created with my children, of our favorite books that we have read this year.


1.) Alice the Fairy by David Shannon- My daughter’s favorite book this year has been, “Alice the Fairy.” I had found a paperback edition at my son’s book fair and the pages have already been lovingly worn after being read almost every single day by myself or by her.

Alice considers herself a temporary fairy because she has not gone to fairy school yet to become a permanent fairy. Her super fairy powers include changing her dress colors (by spilling her juice) and making cookies mine (by eating them). Fairies never eat food that has been poisoned by the “wicked duchess” (broccoli served by her mother) and she has yet to learn the one super fairy power that her mother wishes she did…making clothes dance away into the hamper.

This book will make you giggle out loud and has the sense of humor and comedic writing that David Shannon is known for. If you are at the library, just pick up every book by this author and enjoy every single book he has written! (Amazon Price- $11.55)

2.) Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer- Last year one of my last minute holiday purchases for the kids included the book, “Olivia Helps with Christmas.” This immediately became an instant holiday classic in the Clark house and I know that your children will love it just as much as we have. It was the book that we kept out on the coffee table that got lots of giggles from grandparents and children alike.

This book focuses on all of the holiday traditions and planning that the family does to get ready for the holiday festivities. Olivia helps her mother by setting the holiday table (by removing the top of the Christmas tree for a centerpiece), burning the holiday cookies, and overfeeding the baby (until he pukes).

More than that, it perfectly captures the nervous excitement that children go through waiting for a visit from Saint Nick and the disappointment with those boring holiday gifts. I guarantee that this will be a book that you read over and over again- the perfect addition to any holiday book basket! (Amazon Price- $11.10)


3.) Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea- One of my son’s favorite books this year is, “Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime” and I am sure it will get a giggle or two out of you too. This book is ideal for a beginning reader or for a child with a short attention span.

The book is a simple concept, can a dinosaur conquer and win matches against anything from a bowl full of spaghetti to a room full of talking grown-ups? In each round, the dinosaur wins with a giant, “ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!”

He conquers everything there is to conquer, but then has to face his toughest match yet… bedtime! Will he ever win it? As the dinosaur winds down, even he admits that bedtime is just one thing he can’t conquer.

This is a fantastic bedtime story that is nice and short…with a goodnight and sweet dreams finish! (Amazon Price- $10.87)

4) Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems- Our family is in love with Mo Willems! My son loves his easy readers and my daughter adores the Knuffle Bunny series. He is one of those author’s that has a fun book for everyone in your family.

This year our new favorite book was, “Naked Mole Rate Gets Dressed.” If the title doesn’t make you laugh, then this book might not be for you!

Wilbur is a naked mole rat who doesn’t like being…so naked. He loves to wear clothes and adds variety into his wardrobe with everything from his space suit to his tuxedo. He hates feeling naked, but no one in his naked rat community agrees.

The naked mole rats decide to have a town meeting with the most naked mole rat of them all.. Grand-pah. Much to the town’s surprise, Grand-pah arrives in his own seersucker suit to address the issue at hand and the town realizes that sometimes it might be okay to be dressed. (Amazon Price- $11.55)
5) Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann- My daughter’s favorite colors in the world right now are pink and purple. Luckily, there is a book out there for a child that is obsessed with pink, w
ith purple
, and even with gold.

Pinkalicious is a book about a little girl that is obsessed with pink. Everything she uses and eats must be pink which leads to a horrible case of pinkitis, a condition that turns her physically pink. Is too much of pink a bad thing? This cautionary tale shares how even our favorite things in the world are best in moderation.

The book is a delight for the eyes and perfect for the perfectly pink princess in your life (Amazon Price- $10.52)


6.) Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy by David Soman- If you are not acquainted with the original, “Ladybug Girl,” be sure to check out that book, but for a household that has both boys and girls, the new, “Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy” strikes the perfect balance.

Ladybug Girl is an endearing little girl who is all about girl power! She is a positive little girl that can do anything including counting to infinity and jumping over sidewalk cracks. When her mom brings her to the park she is unable to figure out how her and her friend Sam can play together. Noticing his yellow and black striped shirt, they decide that the he can be bumblebee boy and they can save the day together. As other children want to join in, they give them their own character names and Ladybug Girl realizes that they can do so much more good working together as a team rather than separately.

This is a book that not only your girls will love, but your boys can love too! Don’t overlook this book for your family (Amazon Price- $11.55)


7) Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing & Coloring Book- Want to get your child to read and use their imagination too? The Scribbles drawing book is the perfect book to encourage your child to read and draw together.

Instead of having you simply color, each page tells you something that it would like you to draw. One page will tell him that the alligator is angry and have him fill in his face. Other pictures are exactly alike, but may request colors and patterns to make each of the pictures different. My favorite series is a simple line that is drawn and then it asks you to draw different animals all sitting on the pole. It is truly the best drawing book I have ever come across for allowing children to use their own creativity and imagination to fill in and create pictures.

The book is very durable and it is truly giant. My son still has many more pages to do and with the durability factor, I plan to tuck this away with his age on it as a keepsake of his creative talent at this age. Because the child is doing all of the drawing, you could buy the same book again another year and see what different things they come up with. (Amazon Price- $13.59)


8) Charlie & Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Lauren Child- My kids both really love the Charlie & Lola series. This book in particular is a new favorite as it teaches children the importance of recycling and how you can do your part.

Charlie convinces his little sister, Lola, to recycle her old toys instead of throwing them away. When Lola discovers there is a recycling contest at school that can earn the school a free tree, she begins learning and doing her part to do everything she can to recycle.

The book is printed on FSC-approved paper and includes recycling tips as well as a tree poster just like Lola’s, so kids can keep track of their recycling projects and help to save the planet all on their own. (Amazon-$11.55)


9) Finn Throws a Fit by David Elliott- Do you deal with crazy toddler tantrums in your house? We have had all too many in our home with our children, and maybe that is why this book is so laugh-out-loud funny.

Finn loves peaches, but on this particular day, he hates peaches. Finn goes into a tantrum that is unlike any other tantrum you have ever seen. The illustrations of his tantrum will make you and your children laugh from the bottom of your toes. His tears flood the floor so much that his mom has to stand on a table so she doesn’t drown, his tantrum creates real storms and avalanches, and the drawings set the book up perfectly for the perfect tantrum storm that is brewing in Finn’s house.

This is a great book for kids, but a fantastic gift to give to a mom that is dealing with those terrible twos and threes that will shed a little humor onto a stressful parenting situation. (Amazon Price- $11.55)


10) Twimericks by Lou Brooks- This is a book that I actually received as a sample copy to review, but will be a fast favorite in our household. Our son is in first grade and loves telling jokes, tongue twisters, and
riddles. If you have a child like that in your house, then this book is for them!

Twimericks are what happens when tongue twisters crash into limericks. It is an adorable book that will be perfect for a long car trip or read aloud and passed around at your child’s birthday party.

The illustrations are deliciously old-fashioned and funny which make this book already look like an instant classic. Don’t forget to put your name in the cover where it says, This Beak BooLongs To…” Seriously hilarious and highly addictive, this book is perfect for children and adults alike (Amazon Price- $8.95)

What are your kid’s favorite books this year? Please share your favorite picks of the year here!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Movie Review

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009


I had the unique experience of attending a fantastic movie premiere of a great family film that I know you are going to want to see! I was given the opportunity to have a round table discussion with the stars and directors of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” and earned a small place of honor on the red carpet to interview and photograph the stars.

Sony hosted a wonderful event for bloggers to learn more about their products and offer in-depth photography tutorials from the amazing Me Ra Koh. For someone who is still figuring out the world of photography, I was more than willing to participate in such a fun event. We got to take our cameras out on the Sony Studio Lot and even gained a little behind-the-scenes access on sets that were being built for future movies.

All that being said, I really want to focus on what a wonderful movie this was for children and adults alike.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is about an aspiring inventor, Flint Lockwood, who is the socially awkward genius behind some pretty bizarre contraptions. His inventions include everything from a pair of spray-on shoes to a monkey thought translator. Flint is determined though to create something that will make people happy.

When Flint’s latest machine, designed to turn water into food, accidentally destroys the town square and rockets up into the clouds, he thinks his inventing career is over. Until something amazing happens… cheeseburgers begin raining from the sky.

Unfortunately, the people in the town become increasingly more greedy and the mayor decides to change what the town was once famous for (sardines) to a town that is famous for raining food. The greed and demands from the people force the machine to begin making more and more food and the town is threatened to become buried in a food avalanche. To save his town and reputation, Flint has to figure out a way to stop it and save them from certain disaster.

The movie is a delight for the eyes and will make you hungry just watching it. The animation is superb and food highlights include the raining cheeseburgers and a fantastic animation sequence with orange Jell-O. In other words, be sure to have lots of popcorn to feed your children or suffer through the whining for food through the entire show!

Anna Faris
Mr. T
Neil Patrick Harris

The film features the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, Lauren Graham, and Will Forte. The film is written for the screen and directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller.

The directors were fantastic and truly kid’s at heart. Sitting down with them and hearing the excitement in their voices was contagious. It was truly a delight to see the pride that they felt about this project and see their favorite childhood book in animation form.

What Parents Need to Know:

- The character of Sam Sparks will be a winner for your daughters. Sam Sparks, played by Anna Faris, is the local weather girl who is hiding just how intelligent she is. This movie will show your little girls that it is totally cool to embrace your inner geek and that you should never hide how smart you are for anyone.

- There are no death scenes. Many children’s movies have death scenes which frighten my small children. The mother is in a scene in the beginning of the movie and then it is later said that she has passed away, but no heart wrenching scenes that you wish had to fast forward through. Of course, no death is ideal, but Flint’s sequence with his mother is an important one and shapes the character of Flint.

- This movie is timeless. The directors purposefully decided to create a movie that could be enjoyed years and years down the road so they omitted pop culture and anything that would not be enjoyed for years to come.

- Your whole family will love this movie. I appreciated the funny sense of humor and comedic timing in the scenes. I know that my hubby will appreciate the fantastic graphics that can truly be appreciated with those 3-D glasses, and I know my kids will love just how cool it is to be smart!

Catch this flick with your entire family when it premieres on September 18th! In the meantime, be watching for some great reviews and information from the other participants at this event:

Alli Worthington @ Blissfully Domestic (Represented by Cassie Boorn)
Beth Blecherman @ Techmamas
Darcy Cruwys @ Mommy Pie
Karen Bodkin @ Karen Sugarpants
Kimberley Blaine @ The Go-To Mom
Kristina Sauerwein @ MOMformation
Melinda Roberts @ The Mommy Blog
Monica Villa @ The Online Mom

I give this two mommy thumbs up for fun entertainment and a thoughtful discussion about how cool it is to be smart and believing in yourself!

HOT TIP: Get a FREE movie ticket to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when you purchase any Spot Shot product! Great deal, there’s even a $1 printable coupon you can use on your purcha
se. (Courtesy of Heather at Freebies 4 Mom!

(Disclosure- My travel and airfare were covered by the Sony team. To read more about how things are handled by MomAdvice.com, be sure to read our full disclosure.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geVxQo4jD78]

Back to School Celebrations

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

In our house, we celebrate just about everything. If there is a reason to do some celebrating, our family will find it. We had to break out the celebration plate twice this past week to celebrate our first day of school. Ethan started on Tuesday and Emily started on Thursday. Next year I plan to combine the celebration into one because doing this twice was a lot of work in that busy first week of school. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, but I wanted to share with you some pictures from our parties.



For Ethan’s big day, we all worked together to make the Family Fun school bus cake (there is also a video tutorial here). This cake was absolutely adorable and will be the new Clark family tradition. We found angel food cake loaves at Aldi over by the bread which helped make this cake a little bit lighter. Four people fit on the bus, so we added our family on the bus, complete with a hair bow in Emily’s hair! The kids adored this cake. After we cut into it, we headed over to the neighbor’s house to share it with the other little boy in our neighborhood who just started his first week of school.

Served with the cake, I made my simple pizza crust in the bread machine so that we could enjoy a little pizza with our cake.



In case you missed Emily’s theme for her school year it is purple and flowers. Unbeknown to me, as we sat down for the “back to school party” on Tuesday night, Emily said she could not wait for her perfect purple flower cake for her party. With weary eyes, I looked at my husband over our pizza. “I hope you like pizza,” I said.

For her party, I just used store-bought cake mix and frosting. I used tip #129 to pipe flowers and then used tip #4 for the center dot in white on each flower. Prepared icing is a pain to work with, but the day had been too crazy to make a batch of icing. She is three so I didn’t think she would mind that the flowers were not as perfect as I hoped.

I love to pipe a little border on the cake plate to go along with the toppings on cupcakes. I think it pulls it all together. Just as her brother’s party, Emily’s flower cupcakes were served with my simple pizza crust in the bread machine so that we could enjoy a little pizza with our cake.

I am thinking we will be skipping our Friday night pizza routine this week!

What are your back-to-school traditions? Do you do anything special for the big day?

And Then There Was One…

Thursday, August 20th, 2009




Her face is pressed against the window and tears are rolling down her face. “I want to go to school. Why can’t I go to school?” Gently I tell her, “Sweetie, you can go next year, I promise.” For one entire month, this was part of our morning routine, as her brother would ride away on his school bus.

We would talk about what her perfect first day of school would be like when that big day came. “I will have a flower dress. I will have flower shoes. I will ride a flower bus. I will have a purple backpack.” We would play pretend school and talk about what she would learn.

To Emily’s delight, her year is finally here. I drove all over town to find her flower dress, her flower shoes, and her purple backpack. I couldn’t find a flower bus to drive her in, but everything else was exactly as she envisioned it.

As we pulled up, my eyes filled with happy tears for her. This was her big day that she had waited for. As I opened her door and leaned in to grab her backpack, she put her two hands on my cheeks and said, “Mommy, I will be right back!” It was a voice I did not recognize. A voice of a little girl who has suddenly become independent. A girl who won’t always hold my hand, who has to get in her seat by herself, a girl that would rather wear her clothes backwards then let her mom assist her.

My big girl grew up and her big eyes were filled with delight when she arrived. There were no tears and barely a nod in my direction as I left.

Yes, this was her day and my day too. We worked hard for this day.

And then it was just me, in a house by myself. I have not been alone in my house like that for over three years. It felt strange and very quiet to be alone.

A new stage in my motherhood journey is here.