11 Feb 2015

Creativity, Play Doh & Ikea

Today was a play doh kinda day. Our boys LOVE the homemade kind that my mom made me when i was little. A while back i printed out these Play Doh mats and had them laminated and we love them because they are a unique way to use playdoh in imaginary play. Our boys also have a fun play doh truck, george foreman grill and rolling pin that they use ALL the time.

Today we made 2 colours and i've finally found a great way to store it using these food storage containers from Ikea. They're only 6.99zl (about $2) and come in packs of 3!

Here's the recipe we use. I'm on a mission to find cream of tartar in Poland!

You'll need:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar (imported from N. America!)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • food coloring (4-6 drops)

Here's how:
1. Just dump all the ingredients into your pot and give them a good stir. {Using a whisk at the beginning helps stir in the flour, but take it out before the mixture gets clumpy} Our boys love to help add the ingredients!

2. Put your pot on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it forms into a ball. (My boys also like to stand on a chair and help stir!)

3. As soon as it joins into one big glob, take it off the heat and dump it onto your counter or some wax paper.  Make sure it is not still too wet!

4. Wait for it to cool, then knead it a few times until it is nice and soft.  

5. Store in an air-tight container = hours of fun!

* i think ours lasts about 6 months if stored well (aka. not left out)

2 Feb 2015

Training Our Boys :: On Respect

Train up a child in the way he should go;    
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

The topic of respect has been on my mind a lot lately... mostly because it's been a battle this past week. Respect is one of the main things we require from our boys at home. It's one of the things we are constantly talking with them about, correcting them in and disciplining them for. We're definitely learning as we go but here are some of my thoughts... (note: our boys are currently 4, 2 1/2 & 1)

Just now our son told me to "Get out of the way mommy". I was sweeping the floor and apparently in the way of him watching his favourite tv show. I kindly reminded him that he  needed to speak respectfully to mommy, that mommy was working hard to clean the house and that this was not respectful... to try again with "Excuse me mommy, I can't see." He did ask again in a respectful way, I moved and we moved on.

1. Respect is not natural - it must be taught!
A while back i read an amazing article on teaching toddlers manners. It pointed out that it’s good to get them into the habit of saying please and thank you from an early age, even though they won’t completely understand why in the beginning. Children learn through mimicking. It's not until they’re older that they'll actually realize what the words they’re saying actually mean! 

I think it's similar when it comes to teaching respect. It doesn't come naturally to toddlers, or to any of us really. That being said, for us it's really important to have strong boundaries and talk to our boys when then are disrespectful. In our house they are not allowed to:
  • tell mommy and daddy NO
  • yell at mommy or daddy
  • tell us they don't want to eat or that dinner is yucky (they don't have to like it, but they do have to eat it, at least as many bites as they are old!)
  • hit us, kick us or pull our hair  (sadly i've seen kids do all 3, and parents not knowing what to do... laugh or ignore it)
We ask our kids to respect our decisions, even if they don't agree and simply say, "Yes, mommy" or "Ok, daddy" and then we move on. When they receive discipline for disrespect we ask them to say "Sorry mommy for disrespect". We try to always speak respectfully to them. Modelling how they can speak respectfully has also been really helpful.

2. Respect for mommy & daddy extends outside the home.
We've noticed that it's a lot easier to get our kids to show respect in public when it's a daily expectation in our home. Fits or temper tantrums aren't allowed at home, so they're not as common in public (yup, they do happen from time to time). But when the boys get upset about not getting their own way and this displays itself in disrespect we address it.

They know our expectation of respecting mommy and daddy also applies to other adults and their teachers. I was asking our oldest in the car the other day who he needed to respect, and the second thing (after mommy) was his teachers. 

3. Respect for authority has eternal implications.
One of the reasons we're so passionate about teaching our kids to respect authority is the eternal implications that it holds. If our kids can't or won't respect the authority that God has placed in their lives, it will be difficult for them to submit to God's authority in their lives.

James 4:6-7 says, "'God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God."

Our ultimate hope is that our kids lives and spirits would submit to God, their creator, their maker, the One alone who can redeem their souls, save them from their sins and give their lives eternal impact and meaning.

If you're looking for more books to help you on your parenting journey here is a list of 6 books we've found really helpful! Here's a great resource for teaching on respect to school aged kids!

Blessings and keep on going. It's hard work but worth it!

29 Jan 2015

A Gift We Give Ourselves

Every year for the past 4 years we've made family photo albums. We've used a few different companies but the one i've settled on for now is Blurb. They have free downloadable software
BookSmart which is super easy to use and you can make the entire book offline! It automatically saves, which is great because life is pretty interrupted around here! Just a side note, make sure you have the most updated version of BookSmart (you can download the newest version any time) but i had a font issue with this years album, which was quickly resolved by updating my out-of-date version (oops). And by the way Blurb's customer service is fantastic!

I usually try to keep up with the year so that the book is ready to export and print right after Christmas.  I try to have July done by July... but come October i hadn't even started, gulp. Thankfully since I have my photos organized I got caught up in just 5 days (10 months!!!)

Here's a layout from our family trip to Italy...

They also make great gifts... Do you and your family give yourselves a yearly gift?

Right now Blurb has a great deal on ~ 20% off sitewideIt's good until January 31, 2015.
Use coupon code: MYVALENTINES

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a very small percentage of the proceeds. But i post about BLURB because i really do love the simplicity & ease of their software and the quality and cost of their large books!

28 Jan 2015

BAJO Wooden Toys for Boys

We found this cute little toy shop with wooden toys in Krakow, when Ben was studying Polish. We later learned that BAJO is a Polish company and the toys are made just outside of Krakow. We made bought a few of our favourites right before we moved and each of our kids have received one on their first birthday. Here are some of our favourites:

1. Transport Truck with Stacker - Our middle son got this for his 1st birthday and loved it! We were pleasantly surprised with how much he played with it. It is great for colours and learning to stack and an extra bonus that it comes on a truck! What little boys wouldn't love this?!

 2. Tow Truck - One of the ones we picked up at the store before leaving. I loved the 2 little cars that stack on the back. Classic.

3. Rocket Ship - Our youngest got this for his 1st birthday and loves it! There's a cute little astronaut that holds it together. It's fun to stack and knock over ;) Only bummer is i think he threw the astronaut in the garbage :/

4. Snail Shape Sorter - Middle man got this for his first birthday from some friends and i love it as a stacker! Super colourful and solid. It works as a pull toy too once they start to walk.

5. Classic Bus - The boys love this bus. It's solid wood, great for little fingers. I'm considering getting a few more of these wooden cars to add to our BAJO car collection!
The thing I love about all of our wooden toys is their solid construction and classic feel. They don't feel junky or cheap and I already know they are 'keepers', the toys we will keep around even after the kids are grown for other kids to play with as they visit our home. But for now I'm happy that they are getting lots of use and that they are so durable. I'm optimistic they'll survive even our 3 boys! (As long as little man doesn't take any more of them to visit the trash can!)

{Note: BAJO is sending me a new astronaut man! LOVE this company}

26 Jan 2015

Family Life :: Our Top 5 Toddler Toys {2-3 years}

1. Wooden Stacking Toys - we love wooden toys, and honestly this one should have made the 1-2 year list because our kids play with it a LOT. Our second son got this BAJO truck for his first birthday and i absolutely love this company's wooden toys. They are based out of Krakow, Poland and difficult to find outside of Poland. We have several different wooden toys from this company, which i'll have to share in a different blog.

2. Duplo Lego - a great duplo starter set... our boys got this earlier, but honestly didn't start building untila about 2 1/2. We recently got this set to add to the building fun. The boys love {and fight over} the rocket.

3. Balance Bike - such a great bike for little guys. our son got this for his 3rd birthday and it's already gotten a lot of use, our second son will probably start using it a little before he turns 3.

4. 4 in 1 Puzzles - we have several of these 4 in 1 puzzles (jake, planes, cars). I'd say these puzzles are definitely the ones that get the most use in our house. They are great for little ones as they are developing puzzle skills!

5. LeapFrog LeapPads - all of our boys have these.  We use them specifically for long distance travel and rainy/sick days. They are super durable and educational and if you buy the online version of the game you can upload it to up to 3 devices! Score.

I know I said 5... but here's a bonus:
Chuggington Train Set - our boys love trains and they really like these sets that all link together. We got them this roundhouse, koko's icy escapade, and another stacktrack and some connector tracks. It makes for a fun afternoon to set them up in the living room. Currently we have about 6 trains, which fit perfectly for storage in the roundhouse. With 3 boys we're hopeful that they'll get lots of use for years to come!

If you have boys, what toys get the most use at your house?

24 Jan 2015

Lucas' Paw Patrol 4th Birthday Party

Seriously, what kid doesn't love Paw Patrol?! Our son first encountered it in Italy when he was in the hospital there for 3 days. He loved it right away... and he doesn't even speak Italian!

I love celebrating our kids lives with creativity. Their birthday's are great opportunities to enter into their world and create fun for them and their friends. I searched around for Paw Patrol inspiration for big boy's 4th birthday and this is what I came up with. You can find links to the free printables i used below. Enjoy ~

"sticks for dogs"

"dog food"
{this looks a little too much like dog food!}

{we also had "dogs in a blanket"}

Food Labels - Editable {mom's tot school}
Water Bottle Labels - Editable {mom's tot school}

Paw Patrol Banner {i made}

{i pasted the poster together in photoshop and had a local print shop print it on A2 paper}

{i just used glue to stick them on!}

{i pasted the poster together in photoshop and had a local print shop print it on A2 paper}
 - the kids loved this game!

PAW Patrol, PAW Patrol
We'll be there on the double!

Here was the invite:

And his present:
Cost of Party Supplies:
printing for 2 large posters - $5
2 dog bowls - $4
balloons - $1
party hats - $2
party plates - $4

total: $16

{all other printing was on our home printer}
{food not included}