Any links to Amazon are affiliate links. '

Little Artist Party

Kaitlyn turned 8 this year, and 8 is an age our children have a friend birthday party (for ideas on how frequently to have birthday parties at your house, see this post: Birthday Friend Party Tips). Kaitlyn wanted an "artist" party. Here is the invitation:

This post contains affiliate links.  I just used a clipart template I found online and put it into Photoshop Elements and filled in the rest. 

We had 14 8 year old girls (and one 6 year old McKenna and one 2 year old Brinley. Brayden played photographer for the party) and the party was two hours. We could have been longer--we didn't have time for most of the things I had planned.

As the girls arrived, they played in our backyard. I really think we could have had a party where they just played in the backyard! They were loving it and had a lot of fun just playing with each other.

You can see here some of how we decorated. I bought a bunch of those $1 table clothes at Walmart. We wrapped the poles of our deck with them and also lined the underside of the deck so it was colorful (the wind blew really hard and pulled some of the corners loose before the party started). I also had a bunting banner (the pattern is on the opposite side of what you can see) I got at Walmart for $1. I didn't realize how short it was. I don't think a child cared.

Our first activity was painting. I bought some canvas panels off of Amazon. I also got acrylic paints from Amazon--these were fabulous but for the number of girls I had, I would have done better with two sets of these paints. We put the paint into Paint Tray Palettes and spread them out for the girls to share. I had purchased a paint brush set that came in various sizes, but most girls wanted smaller brushes, so I also ended up using these paint brushes that I already had. We also gave each girl a cup of water and a paper towel. We had paint shirts or they could just use these Artists Aprons I got from Amazon and sent home with each girl (they are okay--they would be better for 4-5 year olds size wise, but they worked).

These girls painted for an hour. An HOUR! I think painting on a canvas just made it so they loved it. I have no doubt if I had done paper it would have been a much faster activity. Some girls were faster than that. If they finished early, they just played while the other girls finished up.

Our next activity was to quickly eat some dinner of pizza, oranges, and carrots. We hadn't originally planned on a meal, but Kaitlyn' soccer game got moved two days before the party to the exact time of her party, so we had to move it back, which put it over dinner time. 

After dinner, we did a cupcake decorating activity. They really loved this. I gave each girl a cupcake and had an assortment of sprinkles, sparkles, flowers, beads, etc. for them to use to decorate. I let them apply their own frosting, as well, which they totally loved and it of course saved me some serious prep time! This took a long time, and the girls really got into making their cupcakes fancy.

I was so glad the weather was nice so we could have this party outside. The paint and the cupcake thing were both very messy and could have been a sad thing in the house.

As girls finished up, they rushed out to play while the others finished eating.

After cupcakes were consumed, we opened presents. And that was it! Time was up and parents came. I will share my other ideas, though.

We had prepped things to play Pin the Petal on the Flower. It is an idea I came up with to have a cooperative pin game since the party was about art and creating things. We played it as a family the next day at Kaitlyn's family party.

I also had planned to play color tag. To play color tag, one person is it. Everyone else lines up on one side of the room or yard. The "It" person calls out a color. Everyone wearing that color runs to the other side of the room or yard and tries to not be touched. Anyone tagged joins the "It" person in tagging people. You continue on until no one is left. The last person tagged gets to be "It" next. 

I also had things prepped to play pictionary. We played this at Kaitlyn's party last year and the girls loved it. For the words to draw, I had just chosen art words and words that are related to things Kaitlyn loves.

Finally, I had planned to play sculpturades. This is where you have play dough and sculpt the word instead of drawing it. I bought some new dough so it would be fresh and easy to use. 

The girls went home with their canvas painting and the aprons. 

You can find some of these ideas and more art party ideas on my Birthdays and Parties Pinterest board.

Birthday Party Planner {Free Printable}

Every time I plan a birthday party, I make notes in my notebook and grid things out in a certain way. The other day I decided to make a cute version to print out--for nor reason other than it is fun. So I made one and here it is for any of you who want it. I always list out:
  • Activity ideas
  • To Do list
  • Party favor ideas
  • Guest list
  • Food ideas
  • Invitation ideas
Click here to access the document on my Google Drive. You can download it and save it there. 

For more ideas on planning parties, see this post: Birthday Friend Party Tips

Brinley Toddler Summary {32.5 Months}

This is a summary for Brinley from 32-32.5 months old.

Sleep is pretty unchanged. The only change is that now before each nap, she wants to have Frozen songs sung to her. She runs to her room and shuts the door and wants you to stand outside it and sing "Do You Want To Build a Snowman." Seriously. She has the movie memorized, word for word. It isn't like she watches it all the time. But she is obsessed. I shared last time, but I had the fortunate circumstance of having one child (McKenna) totally obsessed when the rest of the world was obsessed. Then she cooled off. Soon after, Brinley got old enough to decide to be obsessed. It has been a long Frozen obsession. Fortunately, I like the show and don't mind it.

One note sleep-related, I have been talking to Brinley each day about how fun it would be to sleep in a big girl bed. She is coming around to the idea. I don't mind her being in her crib, but age 3 is the recommended age for size/weight to be out, so I want to make sure she is ready to be out by then. I think we are close. One bad thing about her wanting the crib is that you have little leverage for staying in bed. My plan has always been to tell them they will have to go back to the crib if they don't stay in the bed. The older three all did well (Kaitlyn had a couple of times getting out). Brinley is quite obedient, but she hates naptime and she is in a major boundary testing phase right now. So I really want her at a point where she really wants the big girl bed and it isn't me talking her into it. 

Eating is good.

Things are going well. Brinley loves to dress up. Dress up is definitely a favorite activity. She usually puts on a fancy dress and informs me that her name is now Princess. She also loves playing with the Magic Clip Dolls. She also has a major obsession with regular LEGOs, especially these LEGO Disney princess sets. McKenna got two for her birthday. She often sneaks into Brayden's room to play with his LEGOs. She has her Duplos, which were good enough for my other children as two year olds, but she is really wanting to play with regular LEGOs. 

Playing Memory with McKenna
One issue with independent play right now is she is testing boundaries of getting out. She will come to me to ask with help getting on a certain dress or putting an accessory on a Barbie. I knew this would come. Brayden did the same thing (he might have even been the same age, though I did think he was 3.5 when he started instead of 2.5). She is so much like him in certain ways that I knew this day would come. At this point, she comes out once and I tell her that she needs to stay in there. I tell her if she can't, I will put a lock on the door (one of those handle covers used in child-proofing). She stays after that. I will keep that up for a bit as she is learning the limits. If she continues too long, I will go straight to the lock as a consequence for getting out. I would guess I will have to go there, but I am hoping to teach her to stay without a lock if possible. 

Right now is soccer season. That means about 6 games a week, and my husband coaches 4 of them. Brinley is so good. I am so glad. This age can be really hard at games. I am glad that she will watch the game or play with the soccer ball on the sideline and I am not chasing her everywhere (knock on wood!). 

This is her typical daily schedule.

8:45 AM--Wake up/Breakfast
9:15 AM--Get ready
10:00 AM--TV time
10:30 AM--Independent Playtime
11:45 AM--Help get lunch ready/hang out with me doing stuff
12:15 PM--Lunch
12:45 PM--Learning Activity
1:00 PM--Sibling play with McKenna
1:30/2:00 PM--Nap
4:30/5:00 PM--Wake up and Free Playtime
5:30 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Family Time
7:30 PM--Get Ready for Bed
8:00 PM--Bedtime


Stillbirth: Still Painful 9 Years Later

9 years ago, I delivered our second child, stillborn, at 20 weeks. It was a little boy we named Braxston. You can read more about it here: Baby Braxston and Miscarriage and StillbirthI have been trying to decide what to write on really for months. Posting about the topic has become part of my tradition in recent years (see more on Traditions for Lost Child's Birthday here). I have been blank.

Two years ago, I wrote about how the pain doesn't lessen, you just get better at handling that pain (see Not Less Painful--Just Better At Handling It). You learn to manage it. You learn to live with the pain that is always there in the background. Even so, I am blank. 

I am blank because it feels too painful to me right now. The pain management is raw right now. I don't know why. It has been 9 years! Shouldn't it be a dull memory by now? It isn't. And in all honesty, even though I think we should Allow Grief to Be Felt, a lot of times my way of dealing with the pain is to not allow myself to dwell on it. Don't get me wrong, I think about him throughout each and every day, even 9 years later. He is my son. But I don't allow myself to feel that pain. I push it aside. Most of the time. It is hard to do that at this time of year. I reflect back on my excitement 9 years ago at knowing I would soon find out if I was having a boy or girl. I had no idea what was coming. 

I have moments where I wander down the path of what if. What if he hadn't died? What would life be like for us? How would life be for Brayden to have a brother only 14 months younger than he is? I know the Lord knows all. I trust in Him. But I still wonder sometimes.

It still hurts. Some days are hard and some days are full of optimism about the whole situation. The hardest days are the days of significance. The day you found out. The day the baby was born. The day that was supposed to be the due date. The day you found out you were even pregnant. These are really some of the only things you have to "hold on" to that represent your child. I am fortunate that I do have some pictures and other mementos, but not all people do. 

If you, too, have lost a baby, I think it is normal to still be sad at times (I hope so!). I do find it comforting to write about it (I actually feel better already). Try it yourself (you can write in a journal--let it all out). 

If you haven't ever lost a baby, please don't expect people to "get over it." How can you get over something like that? Allow people to grieve in their own way. Allow people to be comforted in their own way. Respect their individual needs. Some like to talk about it and some do not. Everyone is different. 

Dr. Mercola Supplements {Giveaway}

This post is sponsored by Dr. Mercola. Today we have a great giveaway package of supplements from Dr. Mercola. Dr. Mercola products are premium quality. You can read more about Dr. Mercola here. Today you are entering to win:
  • Organic Greens: This is a way to add vegetables to your diet each day. I have been adding it to my smoothies each morning. It is advertised as having no strong "green" taste, but I actually can taste it in my smoothies. My husband can not and only notices because the smoothie is green. I am willing to have some green taste to get the nutrients, though.
  • Joint Support Gummies: These are great if you don't like to swallow pills. I didn't get these so I can't say what they are like.
  • Fermented Black Garlic: This potentially helps to maintain blood pressure, support immune function, and maintain cholesterol that is already in normal range (and you know supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so the benefits have not been proven). I also did not get this so I can't speak to what it is like.
  • Purple Defense Capsules: These are pulverized grape seeds. They might improve memory and concentration, boost effectiveness of vitamin C, promote healthy heart, and bolster immune system. Again, I did not get this product so I do not know what it is like. 
Great package right? Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I did not receive any financial compensation for this post. I received free items to try. Opinions expressed are based on my own experiences.

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight May 1, 2014.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US or Canada Shipping addresses only.

Laundry Tip: Stain Fighting with Fels-Naptha

This post contains affiliate links.  Chances are you have heard of the soap Fels-Naptha. It is a common ingredient in home made laundry soap. Many years ago, before the home made laundry soap became all the rage, my mother-in-law gave me a bar of Fels-Naptha. She said it was fantastic for fighting stains. It really is! If you haven't tried it, you must get a bar and try it out! 

Above you see Kaitlyn's fleece pants. She wore them to a soccer practice. I didn't notice the grass stains until after I had washed and dried them. I was folding her pants and saw the stain (this is a major hazard of having kids sort the laundry to be washed). At first I thought, "Eh. Oh well." They are just fleece pants and really the purpose is for things like soccer practice. So they are stained. Plus they had gone through the dryer and it would be a tough battle if I chose to take it on.

Then I remembered my Fels-Naptha. I decided to give it a try.

Above is the after. There is still some green there, but it isn't so noticeable. I actually gave it another scrubbing and it is even better.

Above you see leggings. These had matching stains on each knee. I decided I would do Fels-Naptha on one knee and not the other to see the results. Pretty amazing right? I have since used Fels-Naptha to get both knees looking good as new. 

All you need is some stained clothes (you probably have some of those if you have kids), a bar of Fels-Naptha, and some sort of brush. The brush pictured to the left isn't ideal for all fabrics--it is very hard. I use it when there is a bad stain and I will either be getting the stain out or the clothing item will be moved to play clothes only status. You can use something like a toothbrush if you have more delicate fabric.
Here is how I do it. 
  1. I get the stain wet. 
  2. I get the tip of the bar of Fels-Naptha wet. 
  3. I rub the bar over the stain. 
  4. I then rub the soap in with the brush a bit.
  5. I then run the stain under water for a bit again. This is so the fabric will get more wet.
  6. I rub the stain with the Fels-Naptha again. 
  7. I then use the brush and really scrub it out. 
  8. I toss it in the washer and wash it. 
This works even on old stains that are set in. You can get a 4 pack for less than $10 on Amazon (see link below). One bar will last you a really long time, so find 3 friends and go in on it together. It is so worth it!

See Also:

Vinegar and Laundry

Making Laundry Easier (and more tolerable!) {5 Tips}

Quick Cleaning: Laundry Day

Poll Results: Dropping Naps

Here are the results for the poll on dropping naps. You can see the original answers here.

  1. What age did your baby go from 4 naps a day to 3 naps a day?
    I don't remember: 2
    4 months: 1
    5 months: 2
    6 months: 1
  2. What age did your baby go from 3 naps a day to 2 naps a day?
    7 months: 1
    months: 3
    9 months: 2
  3. What age did your child go from 2 naps a day to 1 nap a day?
    N/A: 2
    14 months: 2
    15 months: 1
    16 months: 1
  4. What age did your child start to not always fall asleep for the 1 nap each day?
    N/A: 4
    2.5 Years: 2
  5. What age did you move from one nap a day to rest time?
    N/A: 4
    2.5 Years: 1
    3 Years: 1
  6. What age did you stop having rest time consistently?
    N/A: 5
    3 Years 3 Months: 1
  7. What method worked best for dropping naps for your child (cold turkey, more of a weaning process, shortening other naps, something else?)?
    Cold Turkey: 5
    Weaning Process: 1
  8. What signs did you follow that it was time to drop a nap?
    Hated the Nap: 1
    Poor Sleep at Other Times of Day: 3
    Waking Early: 1
    Not Sleeping: 1
    Taking a Long Time to Fall Asleep: 2
  9. Any words of advice for dropping naps?
    - You'll have to adjust the strategy to each child and possibly each day during the process. Some days my kids needed the extra nap if we were extra busy, or if the other naps were shorter for some reason. -Erin
    - Switching schedules is always rough in the beginning, and eventually it will sort itself out. -Erin
    - Know that when you drop the 2nd nap, the afternoon nap might begin much earlier than you plan for it to be. With my son, we were lucky if we could keep him awake until 12/12:30 in the beginning. Then when he started to struggle falling asleep at that time, we moved it back to 1:00. Now it's more around 1:30/2:00 because I aligned it with his younger sister's second nap. Luckily, by that age, they're a little more flexible! -Erin
    -I agree with Erin... When going from 2 to 1 naps, you will most likely need to move that nap time (and lunch) up quite a bit. Then they will slowly move it back over a few months. -Jennifer

    -Don't be too eager to drop them. Sometimes they just go through phases of not sleeping well or taking a long time to fall asleep but that doesn't mean to give up on that nap right away. -Lisa

    Take it at the child's pace. Have an early bedtime for as long as they need it. -Becky
See Also: 

Kaitlyn Child Summary {8 Years Old}

This is a summary for Kaitlyn from 7.75-8 years old. This is a really big birthday for us since it is the age children can be baptized in our church.

Eating has been great! She is eating well.

Sleeping is also going well. 

Kaitlyn still takes piano lessons and dance. During this period, she also played basketball. At the end of this period, soccer was just starting up. She loves playing sports. 

Kaitlyn also did the Willy Wonka Jr. musical I directed at the elementary school. She was an oompa-loompa. She enjoyed it a lot. Kaitlyn doesn't love having a lot of attention on her, but she doesn't seem to mind being on stage. I don't know how she would feel if she were a soloist at all, but she enjoys ensemble situations.

I really want to find Kaitlyn an art class/teacher I think. I feel bad that there aren't a lot of resources for artists. She did an art camp last summer, but it is two weeks and I would love to have something more regular for her since it is her real passion in life. If I can't find anything, I think I will see if I can find instruction books and see what I can help her learn on her own. I am not an artist at all though!

Girls definitely have more issues come up with friendships than boys do--at least I have found that true with my kids. It is also stereotypical, and stereotypes are usually started for a reason. Kaitlyn is a major people pleaser, peacemaker, and she hates contention. She is very friendly and kind and has a lot of friends at school. She is a person who is genuinely very happy for others when they do well--she has always been the type to cheer on a fellow student when the teacher points out something they have done well. She is the first student I have seen do that in helping in classes over the years. Because of these characteristics, I pretty much assumed she wouldn't really be involved in any drama.

Not so.

Kaitlyn has a good friend who gets jealous of her having other friends. She doesn't like Kaitlyn to play with anyone else at recess, even if she isn't out at recess. For a couple of weeks, Kaitlyn stopped going out to recess at all. Since I help in class, I was able to observe this and asked her about it. She had also started up pinching her hand--a nervous habit she does when she is feeling insecure, worried, or stressed. My husband had the thought to ask about a certain friend. She confessed it was because the friend got mad at  her for playing with anyone else, so she found it easiest to just stay in from recess and read. This is her non-confrontational side coming out. 

We talked to her and told her it was okay and even good for her to have lots of friends and that she can play with lots of people. We made sure she wasn't excluding anyone from play and talked about how it can be fun to play with a variety of people. She got some courage up to face the situation. It has been a couple of months and it really isn't resolved fully. There was a time she had some dramatic episode with the friend every single day. Things seem to be cooling off, but I am not sure how this particular friendship will hold up through it all. 

I don't want Kaitlyn being exclusive and playing with just one person. I am okay with having a best friend, but I am not okay with her not being allowed to also have other friendships. I really want to strive for everyone being friends with everyone. It sounds idealistic, but really my graduating class was very much like that. Of course it some people bugged other people and not everyone was super tight with everyone else, but everyone was accepting and friendly toward everyone else for the most part most of the time. It can be done. All it takes is a few people willing to make that happen and people follow suit. Everyone is happier when everyone is friends. Kaitlyn has the talent and disposition to be a person who unifies, but she can't do it if she is only allowed to play with one other person. 

Kaitlyn is doing very well in school. She enjoys it. 

This post contains affiliate links. Kaitlyn has really gotten into the Little House on the Prairie series lately. She has read them before, but is reading them again and appreciating them more than when she read them last. Brayden is reading Fablehavenwith her. It is his favorite book. She isn't loving it like he does, which does surprise me. I can't quite figure out what her favorite genre is. She loves unicorn and dragon books, so you would think she would love fantasy, but then she doesn't latch on to a book like Fablehaven like you would expect her to. It is hard to buy/rent books for her with confidence. She isn't all that into girly books, but with McKenna getting the Fancy Nancy: Nancy ClancyWhatever After, and The Never Girls books, she has read them all and enjoyed them.

Here is her schedule on school days.

7:00--wake up. Eat breakfast. Get Ready, practice piano, chores, then sibling play.
4:00--back home. Snack if needed and homework. Then free play.
6:00--Family time
7:30--get ready for bed



Surviving Allergies

image source
Allergy season is upon us! I asked you all how you survive allergies on Facebook. I wanted to know everything from food allergies to environmentally caused allergies. This post contains affiliate links. 

Seasonal Allergies
  • Bath. Take a bath each evening to wash off allergens. One person pointed out that with nightly baths, you are making sure the allergens don't get onto the blankets and pillows you will be breathing all night. 
  • Remove and wash clothes. By the same reasoning, remove clothes and wash them after being outside.
  • Essential oils. Oils like lemonlavenderpeppermint, and RC.
  • Claritin/Zyrtec. Take a Claritin, or some other antihistamine, each morning. You will likely have to rotate brands every few months as your body can build up a tolerance. Allergies are often easier to prevent than to treat. 
  • Benadryl. Take this as needed.
  • Neti Pot. Use a Neti Pot to flush the nasal passages.
  • Nasal spray. Read labels carefully because many can only be used for 3 days before causing issues.
  • Antihistamine eye drops
  • Take shoes off before coming in the house.
  • Keep windows closed. 

Food Allergies
  • Train Child. One mom shared that with her young daughter, she is training her to ask if the allergen is in the food before she eats anything.
  • Stick with Brands and Restaurants You Trust. Once you find those brands and restaurants that you know are safe, stick with those.
Do you have more input? How do you survive any type of allergy?