{Family Fun} Picnics work anywhere!

This is just a little reminder that life doesn’t need to be fancy.  You know how you can spend all that $$ on the fancy wooden organic oh so fabulous baby toy, but somehow your baby always wants to crawl into the Tupperware drawer instead??

Life with kids really can be just that simple.

And sometimes, just getting to eat your lunch on the floor sitting on blankets…a picnic in the kitchen if you will, is just what the day ordered.

It’s good to live outside the box a little.

Enjoy!

{Family Fun} Fishy Friends!

I can’t help but think that this is such an adorable idea! We host swim lessons at our home twice a year (more on this later), and today was the final day of lessons.

One of the families, who we happen to know and adore their nanny (who has become a dear friend of ours!) left this little thank you…

I’m fairly certain their 2 yo and sweet nanny made it. I LOVE that little hand fish…

And the google eye…and bubbles!!  So so so so so cute!

And once again, another fish inside the note!

With some yummy Swedish Fish! I happen to think this is a fun summer project. You could make an Ocapus Hand too (just not 8 arms). You’re probably all saying “Yea, yea, yea…been there, done that” But it was a new one for me, so I had to share.  Next time you get invited to a pool play date, think of the smile you’ll bring with this little gift!

Love it!  Happy swimming my little Fish Friends!

{Family Fun} 4th of July fun

I know today is July 13th, but I’m just getting around to talking about the 4th of July….you see I had decided that I was NOT GOING TO THROW A PARTY. Not that I don’t like to entertain, but well, Hubs had clearly said “WE ARE NOT GOING TO THROW A PARTY”.  We’ve had a few nights of hosting, and I think he might have been a little over worked from it them all….

Anywoooo, I sent an email out to our family basically saying “WE ARE NOT GOING TO THROW A PARTY”….

However, we will be going to our neighborhood parade, celebrating at the park festival, and then back at our house for lunch and pool in the afternoon…

And that I was planning on having a pulled pork for anyone that wanted to be there. Anyone was welcome, “BYO whatever,” and we’ll see ya there. No fuss, no frills, no fancy…no party.

Then I washed my hands of it all and went on my merry way.

Come July 4th, our fabulous extended family showed up right around lunch with fruit salad, Cuban corn, lemon tarts, fruit tarts, wine, beer, snacks and fixin’s.  I really couldn’t complain. Then my fabulous and amazing Mother-in-Law caught me with one from left field.

MIL: “If we have the pork for lunch, what’s for dinner?”

Me: “Huh?”

Oh, right, the 4th of July goes into the evening…as in fireworks…as in not just a day event.  Now in her defense, what she was getting at was that we had PLENTY of aps, so let’s just snack and save the pork for dinner. Except that I had timed the pork for lunch and it was hot and ready to go.  And really, since Hubs had asked that we not THROW A PARTY, I just hadn’t thought through the day.

Oops.

This is when a party can either turn out REALLY well, or you can over work yourself and it turns out, well, not so well.

Here are my tips:

1. Go with what ya got. People will love the improvising more than your fussing. In this case, I saved everything non snack like that everyone had brought, and pulled 2 flank steaks from the freezer, tossing them in a bag with Stubbs marinade. Grabbed a bunch of zucchini from the garden to grill and to make fritters. Done and done.

2. Don’t be afraid to pull out paper plates and plastic utensils. I keep a cute can  that holds both ready at all times. And I’m not afraid to use them.

3. Use parchment paper. I could say that I like to use either white or brown parchment paper because it makes everything look nice (line a chip basket, line a paper plate, etc) but truthfully, it’s because it makes cleanup a breeze. (OK, not true – I do it for both reasons.) Then I (or whoever is kind enough to clean up) just tosses everything into the trash.

3. Use a tablecloth and cloth napkins. This of course is not mandatory, but it always seems to dress up the paper products to me somehow. I don’t normally iron them either. Just pull em from the dryer as soon as they’re finished, fold em and put em away.  I’ve even been known to ask the Punks to help me pull raffia napkin rings on freshly laundered napkins so we can just pull them out ready when we need them.

4. Accept help and delegate. Everyone wants a job to do, so give them one. Let someone set the table. Ask your brother in law to take the trash bag outside, or refill the drinks.  Let someone open & pour wine.  If it’s not a formal party, it’s totally OK. I’ld probably do it at a more formal affair too. The more guests help out, the more easy going and fun it can be for everyone.

Loved this Cuban corn my mom brought. It came highly recommended from a friend.

Grilled corn from the garden (Piper’s friend above), topped with herb butter.

Tastiest squash fritters EVER. Using the giant zucchini…it fed an army!

Fruit salad always pretties up a table.

Nothing fancy. Just simple things that made it feel like a party (even though we were NOT THROWING A PARTY.) The punks got in a little “Cars” racing too. It was a SERIOUS race I tell ya!

The perfect ending to the night???  That came from Dad’s lemon tart.  Kinda looked like an American flag, don’t ya think? All in all, sometimes the perfect parties are the ones not planned.  And since we were NOT THROWING A PARTY, I’m going to chalk this one up to a win!

Enjoy your summer, don’t stress over the details, and remember the fun is in the moment!

{Family Fun} Art & a snack…on a stick!

I can’t take credit for this fab idea, this one goes to La Jolla Mom, who through the blogging world has become a fun friend of mine!  I read this tip recently on her blog, and new it was an activity that would come in handy one day.

Sure enough, last week when the dinner/witching/toughest/waiting for dad/hour hit, I pulled out the banana stops!  This was really so simple and so much fun for the Little Punks…

Grab some yogurt, bananas, and candy toppings. {and sticks…not pictured, b/c I’m forgetful}

I poured plain yogurt onto 3 paper plates, and after reading La Jolla Mom’s recommendations, chose to go ahead and let the Littles pick colored sugar sprinkles to add right into their yogurt to give them some colored swirls BEFORE dipping.  We of course added our fair share of sprinkles after too. Just cuz that’s fun. And it’s summer. Sprinkles & frozen treats are mandatory.

This was a VERY exciting project for the Littles!  I used 4 bananas and cut each into 4ths. Basically to give them as many bananas to decorate as I could. I used some leftover coffee stir sticks that I had on hand, but a Popsicle stick, lollipop stick, anything would work.  We’re kind of “food on a stick folks”

There was also LOTS of dipping and snacking going on…which kinda made the project a two-fer. The Punks got a healthy snack AND made a snack for another day! Or maybe it was a three-fer since it kept them occupied for about 45 minutes too…hmmm.

Banana…..yogurt….sprinkles….yogurt…sprinkles….maybe a bite or two….

Hayden: “Yum. Me LIKE bananas mommy!”

The Punks hard at work.  Piper had fun smashing and eating, Hay & Addie were in SERIOUS project mode.  Must have their mama in them somewhere…just a little.

Their final masterpieces headed to the freezer…

And their masterpieces coming out of the freezer the next day at that same horrible not so fun hour of the day.

The frozen yogurt banana treats were loved by all!!  Thanks La Jolla Mom for such a fun tip!

What favorite Summer homemade treats do you like to make??

{Family Fun} Dr’s Office Games

I’m a glutton for punishment. Not really. Well maybe… Not I’m not. Yes, I am.

OK, let’s start again. I hate to do things twice. There is just not enough time in the day/week/month. So when the kids need well check appts (and thankfully because their birthdays are all with in few weeks of each other) I wait it out until I can take more than 1 at the same time. But as quickly and efficiently as the Doctor may run his office, I’m still going to be waiting for a bit…sometimes longer than I would like.

Do you know how easy an iPhone is to use?? My 3, 2 and now 1 year old are constantly showing me ALLLL that they can do for me on that little phone.  So the last office visit, I decided to use it to my advantage.

Let’s play “I Spy”.  I’ll “Spy” something, and then you find it and take a picture of it with the phone. WHO KNEW this would work out so well!!

We spied….a chair, a sink, mommy, Hayden, the floor, our feet, the wall, the scale…a whole world of possibilities. And frankly it was pretty amazing to watch my 2 year old and 3 year old share the phone and each scan the room and then take a photo….CRAZY! But a GREAT time killer!  I think this could work well at the grocery store too…just sayin.

What are your favorite tricks to pass the Dr’s office time??

{Family Fun} Making Ice Cream!

Our house is in the the middle of this year’s swim lessons.  Last year the girls started in April. This year, I choose to wait until May so that Piper would be the same age as Hayden was last year, 14 months.  Now while this post isn’t about swim lessons (It’s in the line up to come though) it is about the sweet rewards for being brave and giving it your all for swim lessons!

Mother’s Day was not the best memory of the year for me.  However, while Hubs was in his own bucket club, he managed to crawl to the garage where he had a pretty fun gift waiting for me from the girls. An Ice Cream Maker!! How cool was that!?  We love ice cream treats in our house…(but then again, who doesn’t??)

So Addie’s treat for a job well done on her first day of swimming this year, was to make ice cream.  While the other 2 Littles slept, we practiced our skills…

And while there is loads to learn about, you thankfully can’t really go wrong.  We’re on our third batch so far and each just keeps getting better.

I’ve learned that there are 2 main kinds of ice cream ~ Custard Style that requires eggs, heating, and refrigerating overnight, and a Philadelphia Style that does not require any of that.  The Philadelpia style does not keep as long in the freezer and is not that creamy texture…more soft serve ice cream.  But it’s GREAT for INSTANT GRATIFICATION!! (Read fabulous for busy moms and antsy kids.) And tastes super yummy the first couple of days!

And seriously, at 3 years old (or 38…just sayin’) there isn’t a whole lotta patience involved.  I found this Vanilla Ice Cream recipe online yesterday and with 5 easy ingredients I knew we were in business.

For the record, this recipe makes A LOT.  I ended up pouring 1/2 in the Ice Cream Maker, and 1/2 in a Tupperware in the fridge.  This turned out to be very convenient in that we could easily make ice cream again the next day (though I think it would have been fine to store for 2 or 3 days at least….but again, we’re impatient!).

I love that it’s a fun activity to do with Addie, that she learns about smells, and measuring, and following directions. And that the whole process is so fast to put together, then it gets poured into the machine for about 25 minutes. She doesn’t need to wait long to see what she just made.

The self discovery, and wonder are great! And of course, so is the candy sneaking and eating…you totally get to be the “Cool Mom”…

The smell of vanilla was captivating for her!

And yes that is a tatoo on her arm….”they” lie when “they” say the tatoos last 2-3 days. And I’m lazy and never seem to get around to getting out the rubbing alcohol…

Addie: “Is it ready YET, Mommy!!??”

Wow.

A pile of goodness.  You can add treats to your ice cream about 5 minutes before it’s done.  I wait until it looks like ice cream and then pour in whatever goodness Addie thinks up, while the machine is running.  Yesterday it was leftover chocolate buttercream frosting, pretzels, & Nestle Crunch bars.  YUMMMMM!

Addie: “Just one taste??? Please??”

Me: “Well OK. 1 for you, 2 for me.  Why? Because I’m taller than you…”

Such a fun Summer treat!  Looking forward to trying lots of recipes this summer! I think I need to order this Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

So my tip?  Get yourself an Ice Cream Maker. Lots of fun (and loads of deliciousness) for you and your family this summer!  Enjoy!

Sometime it’s Better to Give on Your Birthday.

I have yet to write about the girls 1-2-3 Circus Birthday Party….so many photos to go through and share!  But I will, I promise! Such a special day and there were so many amazing people that helped pull it all together. It seriously NEVER would have happened without some very, very nice people that went to the ends of the earth for me! So stay tuned…

But today I wanted to tell you what we did in lieu of birthday gifts.  Months and months ago I had read a few posts from This Mama Makes Stuff about collecting toys, games, or books in lieu of birthday gifts. Because the party would be a pretty good size party to celebrate all 3 girls, I knew it would be a wonderful tradition to start!

We read all the time.  The girls have lots of favorites books. And there was just something about thinking of other little kids that weren’t getting to sleep in their own beds, or curl into their own favorite reading spot to look through a story.  So we decided we wanted to collect books for the children at CHOC.

We asked birthday guests that wanted to participate, to bring new books, and had one of the activities at the party for people to color bookplates to insert in them if they wished.

It was so fun to watch the basket grow…

And continue to grow!

And then to see this happy smile and to know we had made someone’s day that much brighter!

This couldn’t have been easier to do…drove a few miles, pulled up to the waiting room doors and met this beautiful smile at my car…

Definitely a favorite thing!  If you live locally, consider donating books to CHOC’s literary program. You can contact Emma the Reading Program Coordinator at 714.532.8656, or estrong@CHOC.org. If books aren’t your thing,maybe something from CHOC’s toy wish list.  If you live outside of my little  bubble, please, please look for childrens’ causes to get involved with in your area. The recipients are so grateful for the help, and it will give you a warm feeling, even better than your morning latte, deep in your soul.

If it looks cute…

Brushing teeth. You’ll probably tell me that it was easy for you to get your kids to start down this path. Not so much for us.  In the evenings, Hubs is a saint and takes over for bath duty while I straighten up. He passes off Piper to me when she’s done. While I put her to bed, he wrangles in the other 2 wild banches. The other night at dinner we were talking about how we really need to get lotion on them after their bath for their excema, and we REALLY need to work with them on brushing their teeth.

Hubs just stared at me from the other side of the table, bite in mid air, mouth wide open. I could just see the wheels going with “Dear Lord, now THIS??  How do I make THIS happen??”

We’ve tried cute battery toothbrushes, we’ve let them pick out any number of character toothbrushes and toothpastes, we’ve tried brushing when they are in the bath, we’ve tried making games….we’ve tried loads of things, but nothing really sticks with them. So  the next morning I decided since they are 1/2 me, and if it was ME, I would want the bathroom toothbrush set up to LOOK cute, that I needed to do just that!

Go with me on this…it’s how my brain works, and since they are part me, I think their brains do too!!

I took Addie to Target and asked her to pick out (yet another) NEW toothbrush and toothpaste for each of them. Then I wandered over to the home section and picked up some cute plastic soap dispensers for $4.99. And a bamboo tissue box cover for 14.99, and I  found some fab plastic cups (loved em so much in fact that I got a few more to use for cocktails outside…just sayin’).

When we got home I thanked my lucky stars for a pink azalea plant a sweet friend had given the girls at their birthday party, along with a field trip to TPT Home I had taken a couple of weeks ago that landed me a blue flower pot (about $11)…and set it all up on their bathroom counter…

And then I waited for bed time…

And what do you know, they saw everything as they headed in for their baths and IMMEDIATELY wanted to brush their teeth! Who knew!!???!  This has continued every night for the past 2 weeks (a RECORD in our house!). It has also caused spontaneous teeth brushing during the day when they head to the bathroom to wash their hands…not going to complain about this.

So, tip for the day, if at first you don’t succeed, think about what would make YOU happy. After all, they are half you :-)

Good Luck!

Hours of fun!

I have been so behind in life, that I actually had over 700 photos to download (upload?) to my computer from my camera last night. When I came across this one, all I could say was, “Huh!?!?” For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what Hayden was doing or where she was, or if I had even taken the photo…

Then I remembered we had bought these giant “Berries” at Costco. I’m clueless as to what the real names are, but in our house they are “Blueberry” and ” Raspberry”.   They are $29.99 each at Costco. There is a hole that you can’t see in the photo below at the top and at the bottom. Kids can roll on the grass like a hamster wheel, or you can push it around the yard while the Littles play “Popcorn” inside. We have LOVED them!

All you need to do is blow them up (which helps if you have a compressor….just sayin’ it could take a while).  We bought one last summer too and it was LOADS of fun! Every friend that visited our house was in that thing lickity split.

Both times we hosted swim lessons, all the kids were ALL over it! Because so many kids played on it, by the end of the summer, most of the “cells” had a hole or 2 so we sadly tossed it. But when we saw them again this summer, we quickly scooped up two!!

I’ll cross my fingers your Costco carries them too! Go now and pick one up!

A little Valentine’s Love for the Littles

We had this little impromptu Valentine’s party this past Sunday.

Well I should back up.

When Hubs and I were newly engaged and talking about the YEARS ahead of us when we may have kids, he said:

“The only thing I care about is that they don’t have birthdays in February”.

He said this because 2 of his brothers, his mother, and I all have birthdays with in a 2 week period in February.

Well…..

Hayden is February 16th, and Piper and Addie are March 9th and 14th….needless to say February and early March are pretty loaded!

Back to the Valentine’s party.  My sweet Mother-in-Law likes to do a little party for all our birthdays in February…and it is slowly turning into a Valentines party. Last year we did a Chinese New Year/Valentine’s/Birthday.

We had the party at our house this year and for some reason I thought it might be fun to hang some lunch bag “mailboxes” on our glass doors for the kids to fill with Valentines. It was a hoot!!  Grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles….the doors looked like “Valentine’s Day meets Christmas stockings”. Super cute, easy and fun!

Loads of cousin love!

The next morning, the Littles opened a book each as a Valentine gift (dressed in the heart PJs of course!).

Love this little book! Another new favorite! Do Princesses Have Best Friends Forever?

Hay loved her Pinkalicious: The Perfectly Pink Collection.  I think we’ve read it about 8 times each day…

Pipe’s got one too

Now, these are not my pancakes.

I mean I did make them. However….I actually only remembered Valentine’s Day ON Valentine’s Day. I walked into the house from working out at 7:15….Littles were still asleep…I did an “OH NO!!” shriek to Hubs and quickly wrapped gifts as the Littles were LITERALLY walking into the room! We made it, but it was tight! Then I went to make pancakes and realized I didn’t have ANY of the ingredients, other than about 3/4 cup of the pancake mix Hubs uses….so the mix we used and made JUST enough for the kiddos.

Phew!

I think they liked em…

(I just had to include this bed head pic ~ hee, hee!)

But this, THIS is what melts my heart! The girls picked out their own outfits…and Addie, of course, wanted EVERY “purple cip” we have…

But it’s the holding hands and hugs that kill me.

Because THAT is what Valentine’s Day is about!!

Hope yours was a loving one!