Pick your battles (and don’t choose these)

Pick your battles (and don’t choose these)

Pick your battles! 10 battles not to pick with your kids
Some battles are not worth picking

Pick your battles.  I’ve heard that phrase so many times, and while it has always made sense to me, its meaning is magnified now that I’m a mom of three boys.  Every minute in my M.O.B. house seems to teeter on the verge of rushing toward tenderness (awww, they’re cuddling) or destruction (do NOT throw those shoes at the window), and it’s hard to predict which way the moment is going to go.  With strong personalities like the ones in my house, I’ve had to learn to think fast and embrace the “pick your battles” mentality.  And here are 10 battles I never pick anymore, and which I recommend you don’t pick either.

  1. Snow boots on a hot summer day. ( Let it be!)
  2. Putting non-bath toys in the bath (Even if you cringe at the thought of Hot Wheels cars or Legos now being decoupled from the rest of their collection and sentenced to a life alongside gunky squirty toys.  No stuffed animals, though.  That would be gushy and gross.)
  3. Impromptu visits to the playground.   (They’re only little once, people!  The day will come when your child no longer wants to play on the playground.  Indulge now if you have the time!)
  4. Dessert after dinner.  Every single night. (because you secretly want it, too!)
  5. Ice cream FOR dinner.  Occasionally.  (Good calcium, you know.)
  6. Wearing socks outside.  (I’ve come to think of them as disposable!)

    Let them play outside in socks if they want. Look at that smile!
    Outdoor fun in socks?
  7. Underwear almost inextricably tangled within pants that were taken off and left inside out all as one piece.  (Someday, the kids will move out, and you’ll miss doing their laundry.  Maybe.)

    Undies inextricably tangled in pants
    All tangled!
  8. Nudity.  Very. Frequent. Nudity. (They’ll figure out the benefits of clothes someday)
  9. Nerf wars.  (We stick with the “belly and below” rule, but I’ve given up on shouting “Don’t bang that Nerf gun into the wall!” and instead I live with occasional gashes in our fresh paint and sheetrock.)
  10. Messy crafts.  Like finger paint all over the body.  (It’s ok.  It’s washable).
Messy crafts are fun. Choose washable paint for easy cleanup!
Messes can be fun. Look at the joy on those faces!

You may be thinking I’ve lost my mind, I’ve lost my sense of responsibility as a parent (Doesn’t she care about her kids eating healthy?  Doesn’t she care if they ruin things like brand new socks).  But I haven’t.  I’ve found my sanity by learning to LET GO a little bit!  Try it!  You only live once, and kids today have sooo many rules to follow.  They do so much right, that I like to be able to say YES to something they want to do instead of always saying NO.

What battles do you vow to no longer pick?

 

Cupcakes & Kindness: 5 easy steps to spread joy (and frosting!)

Cupcakes & Kindness: 5 easy steps to spread joy (and frosting!)

kindness projects
cupcakes and kindness – spread joy

Spread joy and kindness — it is key to how I’m wired, and something I very much want to instill in my boys as a natural, wonderful, automatic thing to do.  We do kindness projects whenever we can, try to model kind/good behavior, and choose charities to donate to in order to spread joy in simple ways.  Years ago, we started donating to Toys for Tots every holiday season, because I wanted my kids to understand that not all families have the same amount of money or things, and that we can make a difference and put a smile on others’ faces with a few simple acts.  I take my kids to the store, have them each pick out a toy for another child, and have them come with me to drop it in the Toys for Tots donation box so they understand a little more that it is not for them and will bring joy to another family.  Sure, it has led to a lot of questions like “Why does it matter if a family doesn’t have enough money for presents?  Doesn’t Santa bring the presents?” but I weathered through those and showed my kids an easy way to spread joy.

Last year, we changed it up a bit.  We created “Cupcakes and Kindness,” an event at my house where friends could come decorate cupcakes that they could take home and enjoy (yes, I baked a gazillion dozen cupcakes!), only if they brought a toy to donate.  It was so much fun, and gave us a good excuse to get together, enjoy some treats, and do “good” for others in the process.

We’re gearing up for our second Cupcakes and Kindness event in a few weeks!  Let the baking begin!  Want to host a Cupcakes and Kindness event to spread joy of your own?  Here’s how we did it, in 5 easy steps:

1. Invite:
This should be easy, but in my case it’s not.  I want to invite everyone I know!  But I recommend you decide how many people you want in your house at once, how many cupcakes you want to make, whether you want this to be an activity for parents AND kids or just kids, and then right-size your list accordingly.  Both years, I’ve whipped up a simple email invitation on evite, but if you want to be even simpler, go ahead and just text your friends!

2. Bake:
Determine how many cupcakes you want each participant to decorate and take home, then get baking!  Be sure to make some extra in case someone drops one or if an unexpected friends shows up at the last minute.  It’s completely up to you whether you want to offer a variety of cupcake flavors or just one.  I learned the hard way at my son’s birthday party a few years ago that if I make vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, and some have chocolate frosting and some have vanilla frosting, the kids will ask for a very specific cupcake and whine if they don’t get it, putting me in an awkward supply/demand predicament.  I streamlined and went super-simple for last year’s Cupcakes and Kindness — chocolate cupcakes only.  And then I created some fun variety by having chocolate frosting, white frosting, and red and blue (white frosting dyed with food coloring).  I rely on the Hershey’s Cocoa recipe that is right on the container of cocoa, and we usually stick with Pillsbury frosting since it tends to be nut-free and we have nut allergies here to manage around. (Note: if you want to make this even simpler for you, BUY the cupcakes!)

3. Manage the Mess:
It’s time to lay out all the yummy things you’ve decided to decorate the cupcakes with.  Rather than have grungy little nose-picking fingers grab all from the same serving bowl, I made each participant his own tray of frosted cupcakes (everyone got the same set so there were no requests for specific varieties — “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”), along with little cups filled with a variety of toppings.  Each child had his own seat at the table with his tray of stuff, all atop a simple plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store!  Cleanup was so easy — the trays and cups were disposable, and so were the tablecloths.  I purposely avoided having sprinkles as decoration, because I knew I’d find them all over my house for weeks to come.  I used crushed candy canes, gummy bears, Teddy Grahams, Hershey’s Kisses, and chocolate chips.  I also put colored food-writing gels on the table for kids to share if they wanted to add a little design.

spread joy
cupcakes and decorations in simple trays and cups

4. Have Fun:
Time to decorate!  Let the kids take their time making their own cupcake creations.  Do they want to eat as they go?  Have at it!  Or do they want to take all 5 of their cupcakes home to enjoy later or even give to friends or family?  Great idea!  Spread more joy!

spread joy
time to decorate!

Once the kids are done decorating, set aside their trays so it’s easy for them to take them home.  Gather for a picture with the mountain of toys you’ve brought together to donate.  It was so joyful to see everyone happy with their cupcake creations AND the smiles on their faces knowing they were making holiday-time brighter for others as well.

spread joy
Fun decorating!

5. Donate:
Sometime shortly after the event, bring the toys for donation.  Confirm for the guests that you donated, and thank them for their contribution.  Do you have heart for donating something other than toys?  Cupcakes and Kindness has so much flexibility — make it whatever you want it to be!  Other ideas include requesting monetary donations for a certain charity, or food to donate to a foodbank.  Whatever you choose, it will spread joy within the participants and for those you are sharing kindness with.

spread joy
A group shot of some of the participants, with the bin of toys they donated

Happy baking!  Spread joy!

Looking for other easy party ideas?  Check out this obstacle course party or this animal-themed one!  Enjoy!

spread joy
Cupcakes and Kindness. Spread joy.
Thankful . . .

Thankful . . .

Being thankful, even when there’s a lot going on and sometimes it’s hard to see through it, is like finding the golden ticket in a sea of, well, I guess bronze tickets?

I’m thankful for this table, and all the mess on top
I’m thankful for my boys, and the chaos that won’t stop
When I’m tired and losing patience, all I have to see
is these boys and all their silliness smiling back at me
I’m thankful for the moments I wish I could freeze in time
I’m thankful for all this crazy, with these boys of mine

thanksgiving
So much to be thankful for, even when it’s messy

What are you thankful for this year? Each year, we try to capture the sentiment with a few easy activities.  We just completed our annual Thanksgiving traditions to capture what we are thankful for this year.  From friends to family to favorite foods to . . .  poop (because someone always seems to say it to get a laugh in a house of boys), we’ve got all sorts of things to be thankful for!

It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the moment and forget what matters . . . Look at that messy table.  It’s a mess!  But it’s covered with fun and togetherness, and even if it had three boys all around it talking to me at the same time and trying to out-shout each other until my head felt like it was going to burst, I took a look around and realized how thankful I am for that chaos.

If you can, take a moment out of your day to make sure you are truly present, no matter how much mess is around you.  Be there, really be there, and absorb it all.  Life moves fast, and it’s important to catch what you can of it before it passes you buy.  I’m thankful for all the memory-making going on in my loud M.O.B. house, and I’m thankful for family and friends, and for all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

thankful rocks

 

 

Nature vs. Nurture: When Ordinary Happenings Become Full-Contact Sports (plus, a GIVEAWAY treat!)

Nature vs. Nurture: When Ordinary Happenings Become Full-Contact Sports (plus, a GIVEAWAY treat!)

Nature vs. nurture?  Not even a question in my mind.  I was enlightened when I became a Mother of Boys (M.O.B.).  For anyone out there still debating nature vs. nurture, I know the answer.  It’s nature, people!  Nine years into being a M.O.B., I am still mind-blown by the otherwise ordinary activities that play out like full-contact sports in my house.  Things that my sister and I calmly did together as kids lead to instantaneous brawls between my boys.  Is it like this in your M.O.B. house?  Here are 10 examples of full-contact sports my boys engage in.  (and to think I had once said they weren’t sporty!)

boys will be boys

PUZZLES:

OK, boys, sort the edge pieces vs. the inside pieces, and . . . WHY ARE YOU SITTING ON HIS HEAD?  JUST BECAUSE HE’S HOLDING THE PIECE YOU WANTED TO PUT IN?

BUILDING WITH TOY TRAIN TRACKS:

Guys, this looks awesome — it looks like a roller coaster . . . WHY DID YOU KNOCK HIS TRACK DOWN just because you think it looks more like a real roller coaster than yours does?  DO NOT hit him with that plastic track!

FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT:

Awww, they’re cuddling . . . wait, no, it’s wrestling . . . no, I think it’s cuddling.  Nope, definitely wrestling.  And when someone gets hurt, I’m turning the movie off.

WAITING IN LINE:

KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF,  get off that railing, and don’t think I don’t see you kicking your brother. (clobber clobber, punch punch, subtle kick)

PLAYING STORE:

Awww, you guys set up a store!  OK, I’m here to buy this toy and some snacks if you sell any.  WHY ARE YOU CRYING AND SCREAMING AND PUSHING THE CASH REGISTER ONTO HIS FOOT?  You guys have work it out and take turns being the bagger and the cashier.

Nature vs. nurture
Playing store. Boy-style.

EATING BREAKFAST:

YOU THREW THE HARD-BOILED EGG AT HIM BECAUSE IT WAS THE EGG YOU WANTED?  Do you see we have a bowl of a dozen hard-boiled eggs here? What was so special about that one?

BAKING:

We set up an assembly line. One kid adds the flour, one adds the sugar, one adds the baking soda.  You get the idea.  Have you ever seen a bowl full of powdery ingredients get passed forcefully from one kid to the next?  It’s messy!  But the last time we baked our traditional pumpkin bread, everyone had fun, everyone behaved, until I asked them to get close and pose with the finished product.  PUNCH.

Nature vs. Nurture
Baking, Boy-style

BATH-TIME:

Me: Why is E lying on the shower floor?  R: “I guess he got pushed down as we were rushing ahead to see who would shower first.”

BOARD GAMES:

The game is called “Sorry,” but I haven’t heard that word come out of your mouths because you’ve been too busy fighting over which card pile is neater.

GETTING OUT OF THE CAR:

This one may be my favorite.  Three boys, big backpacks, multiple car doors.  Plenty of room.  But this is how they get out of a car.

full-contact everything
Nature vs. Nurture: Getting out of the car

What full contact “sports” have your sons mastered in your family?  Can we put this nature vs. nurture discussion to rest now?

 

GIVEAWAY!  Are you exhausted from being referee to these full-contact activities at your house?  YOU DESERVE A TREAT FOR YOU!  M.O.B. Truths has partnered with Real Cookies Bakery to give away two dozen delicious cookies!  Interested?  FOLLOW @mobtruths on Instagram, comment on this post in Instagram with a cookie emoji, AND FOLLOW @realcookiesbakery on Instagram. A winner will be randomly selected on Sunday, November 24, 2017.  Don’t follow if you plan to unfollow – we’re hoping you’re with us for good!

 

Thoughtful Thank-you Notes

Thoughtful Thank-you Notes

We all love to express thanks around the Thanksgiving holiday, but in my house, we try — admittedly sometimes without success — to teach thankfulness as a way of life regardless of what time of year it is.  That includes writing thoughtful thank-you notes.

gratitude
thoughtful thank-you notes

I know a lot of people who actually don’t bother with these at all.  They receive a gift and don’t acknowledge it.  Don’t get me wrong, when I give gifts, I don’t do so for the sake of getting a thank-you.  I do so to spread kindness or show appreciation, to show someone I truly understand them, or, of course, in celebration of a holiday or event.  But I can’t really think of a time when I, myself, received something and didn’t write a thank you-note in return.  Or a time when I haven’t enjoyed doing so.

I “force” my kids to do the same.  Yes, it’s a mandatory activity.  It’s not second-nature to them yet to think of writing a note on their own, though luckily they do often voice “thank you” when they receive something.  But I think it’s important for them to do more. I want them to acknowledge that somebody thought of them, gave them something, did something for them, and would likely be happy to know that my kids appreciated it.

Writing thoughtful thank-you notes doesn’t have to be a frustrating ordeal.  Though I force the activity, I do try to make it fun for the kids, and try to add a personal touch.  Here are 6 quick and easy, creative thank-you note ideas:

  1. Trace your child’s hand with magic marker on paper.  Have them either color it in or write their message within the handprint.  It is quick and fun, and shows the child was actually involved in the thank-you process.
  2. Do your kids like Spin Art?  Mine do!  And after a few minutes of Spin Art, I find zillions of those little colorful splattered cards drying on my counter.  I save them and repurpose them as thank-you notes.
  3. If you have a lot of notes to send, for example after a birthday party, create a template/image related to the theme of the party, for example in Powerpoint, and print out several copies to use as thank-you notes.  You can type and print the message and have your child sign the note, or you can hand-write the note.
  4. Fingerpaint! Preferably washable.  We love making keepsakes with fingerpaint, including handprints on paper cards to use as thank-you notes.
  5. Stickers.  Simply fold a piece of paper into a card form, and have your child cover it with fun stickers before writing the note.
  6. Make a puzzle!  Write your thank-you note on it and then break it up to add some fun for the recipient.  We love these pre-made blank puzzles, but it’s just as easy to simply color a picture or write your note on paper, then cut it up into puzzle piece shapes.
Spin Art, Stickers, Puzzle Thank-You Notes

 

Not in the mood for any of these?  Simply write a note.  It’s the thought that counts.  🙂

thank you
Simple thank-you note

Wondering what to say in the thank-you note?  If my child has trouble thinking of it on his own, or is too young to write, we go through a simple series of questions to get the words out:

  • Who gave you the gift?  (Dear _________,)
  • What did they give you?  (Thank you for the _____________)
  • How did it make you feel? (I love it! OR It made me so happy! OR I’ve always wanted that! OR It fits perfectly! ETC.)
  • Anything else you want to tell them? (I’m so glad you could celebrate with me.  I hope you had fun. OR That was so thoughtful of you).
  • Who are you?  (Love, __________)

What are you thankful for these days?  I hope you can use some of these ideas shown here to express it.  I’ll be quite thankful if you do.  🙂

 

 

Things Parents Say: 15 (More) Things I Never Knew I’d Say While Raising Boys

Things Parents Say: 15 (More) Things I Never Knew I’d Say While Raising Boys

Things parents say.  We rolled our eyes at our parents while we were growing up, and now we say some of the same things they said to us.    But we also say things we never could have predicted, never expected.  Especially if you’re a M.O.B., like me.  Here are 15 more* things I never knew I’d say as a parent (I still can’t believe I had to say some of these!):  *See 15 others from last year!

  1. THIS is how you wash your butt
  2. Take your foot out of your cereal bowl
  3. Please stop licking your knee
  4. Get that cracker out of your butt.  (Kids: “Ewwww, I almost ate the buttcracker..  Get it?  Buttcrack . ..er”)
  5. Why am I the only one in this house who prefers to wear underwear at all times?
  6. We don’t cook naked
  7. I swear to you that you will have a much more successful life with more friends and less sickness if you stop eating your snot.
  8. No, we will not eat dinner in the bathtub
  9. We don’t answer the front door naked
  10. Let’s go see if your brother needs help getting off the toilet
  11. Put your penis away and go brush your teeth
  12. Just because you didn’t feel any farts or hear any farts doesn’t mean you didn’t fart
  13. Popsicles were not invented for you to draw with them on the wall!
  14. Take the Cheerios out of your nose
  15. Stop playing penis tag.  Penis tag is NOT a thing.

What unexpected thing have you said as a parent?  I’d love to know I’m not alone in this!

 

“Things Raising Boys: 15 Things Parents Say That I Never Knew I’d Say

 

Liebster Award 2017

Liebster Award 2017

Liebster Award?  You’re probably wondering what that is.  We’ll get to that.

Liebster for bloggers
The Liebster Award Seal: Discover New Blogs!

But first, a huge thank you to Ashley B, who blogs at  Live Whilst You’re Alive, for nominating me for this award that helps discover new bloggers. The Liebster Award is given to bloggers from bloggers.  It originated in Germany, and the word “liebster” translates to sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.  I thought this was fitting for Ashley, who nominated me, as her blog even has the tag line “If you love life, life will love you back.”  What a beautiful sentiment — and perfectly in line with the translation of Liebster.

The Liebster Award is an online award, and I’m excited to be putting its symbol on my own blog.  Starting a blog, trying to find a niche in the daunting cyber universe, and trying to connect with readers and other bloggers can be quite a difficult journey.  This award is a great way for new bloggers to recognize and — maybe more importantly, to encourage — other new bloggers.

Before I can officially include the seal on my site and say I’ve earned the Liebster Award, I need to complete a few tasks that Ashley assigned to me.  The tasks:

10 facts about me:

  1. My middle name is Leigh.  When I was learning how to spell it, my mom told me “It’s the fancy spelling” since it clearly made no phonetic sense.
  2. I am colorblind, which is incredibly rare for a female.  The way the genetics work, this means my three sons are also colorblind.
  3. Because of Fact #2, we actually need to rely on my husband for decor advice in the house.  Gulp.
  4. I won my hometown’s town-wide Spanish spelling bee in 5th grade.  I came in 3rd place in the English spelling bee!  Maybe because English has strange spellings like “Leigh” pronounced as “Lee.”
  5. I cannot say no to milk chocolate.  It can’t be done.
  6. I co-founded my university’s first-ever tap dance troupe during my freshman year, and it’s still going strong today (24 years later!).
  7. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, during college and learned firsthand that the saying is true:  “Sevilla es pura maravilla.”
  8. I always thought I’d be a mom to girls, but I’m a mom to THREE BOYS.  It’s quite an adventure — it’s why the blog was born! — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  9. I once met Robert Plant in an elevator.
  10. I run into people I know almost everywhere, and I LOVE it.  (this includes finding an old friend in Grand Central Station, running into someone from high school who arrived in London the very day that I traveled there from Spain to see my college roommate, and sitting at a table next to two long lost friends from college — who were on their honeymoon — just hours after I arrived for a 2-week vacation in Greece.  It also means running into my ex-fiance at a car dealership.  But that’s a story for another blog post.  😉

Answer these 6 short interview questions:

1.  What is one place you haven’t been that is on the top of your bucket list?

Italy!!!  During my semester in Spain, I took the opportunity to travel around Spain, visit London, Paris, The Rock of Gibraltar . . . but I ran out of time to visit Italy!  I would love to go see the beautiful countrysides, the quaint cities, and of course to enjoy the food and wine!  Someday . . .

2. What is the most daring experience you’ve ever had? (For example: sky diving)

Well, let’s see . . . I am the mother of three boysTHREE BOYS!!!  That’s pretty daring!!!  Or how about riding Space Mountain at Disney World for the first time when I was 23 years old, and screaming the entire way?    (I’m not big on roller coasters).  But, seriously, my answer is actually similar to Ashley’s:  zip-lining over trees in Costa Rica.  It was so invigorating, but scary!  Definitely very daring for me, especially since I don’t like heights!

3. What is your biggest accomplishment?

Did I mention I’m raising three boys?  I’m doing my best to be a strong, loving, joyful role model for them, and so far, I think I’m doing pretty well with it!  I try my best to make sure each of my sons knows how much he is loved, and how special he is to this world, all while balancing being a wife, having a full-time corporate job, and basically being pulled in a zillion directions every day.  I know, that’s the same story for most moms.  We all should be proud of it.  We all should celebrate it.

4. What’s your biggest fear?

Being forgotten.  It’s that simple.  I have fear of people not remembering me now (like when someone says “Nice to meet you,” even though I’ve met them before!) and fear of being forgotten when I’m gone from this world.  Kind of sad to think about.  And another great reason to try to be such a good role model for the kids, so they carry me in their heart and pass along who I am to the generations beyond me.

5. What’s a hidden talent you have?

I’m a tap dancer!  One of my favorite quotes from the movie tap is “Sometimes, no matter what, you just can’t escape the rhythm.”  It’s true!

6. What’s an activity, craft or sport that you want to learn how to do?

Photography.  I got my first camera when I was 6 years old — it was the old kind with a rotating flash cube and film.  It was my dad‘s, and he gave it to me when he got a new camera.  I was known for always having a camera with me from that day onward, through college, always capturing moments from events, candids to catch memories in the making, and simple pictures that document the course of my life.  I think I often have a good eye for cool angles or subjects for the pictures, but I’ve never actually taken a photography class, and I’d LOVE to!  I have a DSLR camera that I love with multiple lenses, but I’ve gotten lazy in the last year or so and typically just take pics on my iphone instead.  If I could find time for a photography class, I’d be so excited!

Nominate 5 Bloggers:

I nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award:

Tasks for the Nominees:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to her blog in your post.
  • Upload the award seal to your blog (in your post or on your blog page or both)
  • Share 10 facts about yourself
  • Answer these questions:
    • Why did you start a blog?
    • If you could swap places with one celebrity for a day, who would it be, and why?
    • If you could shadow one of your friends in his/her occupation for a day, who would it be, and why?
    • Beer or wine?  Coffee or tea?  Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?  Morning person or night owl?
    • What is your biggest fear?
    • If readers could sum up your blog in one word, what would you want that word to be?
  • Nominate 5 other bloggers for the Liebster Award.
  • Notify the nominees so they can write their post and accept the award.

Happy blogging, y’all!  🙂

Liebster
LIebster Award: Discover new bloggers. Make bloggers happy.

 

 

 

Last-minute Halloween costumes: (easy, low-cost, DIY, fun)

Last-minute Halloween costumes: (easy, low-cost, DIY, fun)

Last-minute Halloween costumes are a reality sometimes even though Halloween rolls around the same date every year.  I remember when I was in grad school, I was supposed to be out of town the day my friend was hosting a Halloween party.  But I ended up being in town, costumeless, just hours before the party.  So, what did I do?  I wrapped myself in aluminum foil (it’s actually great for keeping you warm!) and turned myself into a fork, proving that last-minute Halloween costumes are doable and can be super-creative, fun, clever, and best of all — easy and low-cost.

easy Halloween costume
Last-minute Halloween Costume: Fork!

10 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes (for kids . . . or adults!):

Using Stuff You Probably Have:

  1. THE FORK.  What you need:  tin foil, cardboard, scissors, a head band, transparent tape.  Cut the cardboard into the shape of the fork tines, and cover the cardboard with tinfoil.  Adhere the cardboard tines to the headband and place on your head.  Wrap your body in aluminum foil (after one final potty break!), and fasten pieces together as needed with clear tape.  I think I used packing tape.  Scrunch the foil around joints to help it keep its shape and stay in place, even through movement.
  2. FRIED EGG.  That same day when I transformed myself into a fork, my sister gave me another idea:  a fried egg.  What you need:  White clothes, yellow construction paper, scissors, tape, and a friend willing to dress up as bacon (that’s optional, of course).  Simply put on the white clothes, cut out a big yellow circle and tape it onto your belly.  Voila.  I suppose you could be fried or sunny side up.  What a good conversation starter.

Using Boxes as the Base:

  1. RUBIK’S CUBE:  I was so excited at how this one came out, and at how simple it was to create.  What you need:  a box that fits around your body, lots of construction paper, black electrical tape, scissors or a box cutter.  Cut out the bottom of the box — that’s where your body/legs will be.  Cover the rest of the box with all different colors of construction paper, overlaying them in the configuration of the colored boxes on a Rubik’s cube.  Separate the colors with black electrical tape.  It’s your choice whether to create a Rubik’s cube that is solved (you show-off!!!) or jumbled (up for the challenge).
  2. FISH TANK:  This one is similar to the Rubik’s cube idea.  What you need:  a box that fits around your body, scissors, markers, clear packing tape, blue construction paper to cover the box, other colored paper for fish, coral, underwater plants.  Cut out the bottom of the box.  Cover the rest with the blue paper (it’s the water).  Cut out a variety of fish, plants, coral, bubbles, etc. and tape or glue them onto the box.  Cut out arm holes and a hole for your head.  Add some flair with a treasure chest if you want!
easy Halloween costumes
Rubik’s Cube and Fish Tank

Super-easy Poster Board Costumes: (maybe the easiest things on Earth for last-minute Halloween costumes)

There is almost no limit to what you can do with this costume-making convention.  What you need: Two full-size pieces of poster board (or oak tag, as we called it when I was a little kid!), whichever color suits your costume theme.  You’ll also need scissors, some extra poster board to use for shoulder straps, or some ribbon, tape, possibly a stapler, and colored paper for if you need to add detail to your piece of poster board.  For each of the below costumes, you decorate one poster board, which will serve as your front panel.  Decorate the second poster board if needed, as that will be on your back.  Connect the two together with ribbon or with strips of extra poster board, creating shoulder straps.  Just be sure to leave space for your head so you can easily slip this on/off.

As I mentioned, the ideas here are endless.  But here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. A CANDY BAR: When I spent a semester in Spain during college, I dressed as a Kit Kat (the way they look in Europe) for a carnival.
  2. PLAYING CARDS:  See picture below of my husband, the Ace.
  3. REMOTE CONTROL:  I started making this one tonight at 6:11pm and finished at 6:57pm.  That’s pretty quick, especially considering that during that time, I cut out shapes in the dark while my kids played with flashlights, I broke up a wrestling match, and I poured at least 16 drinks for my kids.
  4. SMART PHONE:  I haven’t made this one, but you’d do it the same way as the remote control.
  5. MARTIAN:  I had fun creating that costume with my mom in 1984.  Yes, I’m that old.  I remember thinking the aluminum foil was so cool.  I’m starting to see a trend in costumes and foil and me.  Hmmmm.
easy Halloween costumes
Poster Board Costumes

Using Streamers:

  1. RAINBOW: This is even more simple than the poster board ideas!  What you need:  Streamers in the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), and tape.  Start wrapping red streamers around your ankles and continue up your body with each color so that you end up looking like a walking rainbow.

A variation on this could be to dress like a PIXIE STICK:  What you need:  a roll of streamers, white clothes, tape.  Wear all white, wrap your chosen color of streamer into diagonal stripes on your body.  You’ll end up looking like a walking Pixie Stick, or maybe like a candy stick.

I hope you find these last-minute Halloween costume ideas helpful!  I’ve made a lot of them, had fun doing it, and got some great comments on the results!  Now here’s what I need YOUR help on!  After my boys spooked themselves out the other day, they’re rethinking whether or not to wear their scary zombie costumes (I hope no!).  So, R was brainstorming alternatives, and he jokingly said he wanted to dress up as a toothbrush.  I assumed it would be easy — wear the same color shirt and pants, tape on a piece of paper with a brand name on it, and make a toothbrush head out of a shoe box.  Easy, right?  Well, I have a hilarious and horrible attempt at the toothbrush head.  We laughed HARD.  And he won’t be using this alternate costume.  Do you know how to make a cool toothbrush costume?  If yes, please let me know.

easy Halloween costumes
Toothbrush Head Attempt. At least he’s laughing!

Happy Halloween! In need of a last-minute Halloween costume?  Now you know, it’s no problem!

easy Halloween costumes
Last-Minute, Easy, Low-Cost, DIY, FUN!

 

 

Family Photo: 10 Tips for a Great Family Photo Shoot, plus a GIVEAWAY!

Family Photo: 10 Tips for a Great Family Photo Shoot, plus a GIVEAWAY!

Family photo:  It’s the time of year when when we practice our perfect smiles and get the kids new perfect outfits for a family photo, right?  Well, not in our case.  We try to do a professional family photo shoot every few years (for holiday cards, or to frame in the house, or to simply capture some moments of all of us together, without seeing me with a triple chin since most of our shots are family selfies taken by me and my long arms from that awkward angle where I for some reason pull my head back and end up with multiple chins.  Does that happen to you, too?), but we have been most successful in not taking these too seriously.  Here are my top 5 tips for a stellar session with a photographer, followed by another 5 tips from professional photographer, Cara, at BabySky Photography, and then the GIVEAWAY details.

family picture
Family Photo Shoot
  1. Coordinate, but don’t force matchy-matchy.  Don’t overdo it with matchy-matchy clothes!  Yes, I know those matchy-matchy pictures can be adorable, but for our style, we try to be somehow coordinated but not the same.  For example, “everyone wear something blue” or, in the case of this year’s shoot, we were all tied together with some neutral-ish color.
  2. Forget the fake smile.  Most of our favorite pictures capture a moment in time when there was actual emotion, and if there are no smiles in those pictures, that’s ok!  Capturing real moments helps to bring back those feelings every time I see the picture, whether it shows laughter or frowns or sleeping babies.
  3. Relax your bodies.  I remember having a family picture taken with my grandparents when I was 8 years old.  I had to stand nice and straight, interlace my fingers as the photographer told me to, and place them gently on my grandma’s shoulder as she and my grandpa sat in the middle of a sea of their grandchildren . . . because that’s how I stand . . . never.  Again, there is a time and a place for this type of more formal picture, but — especially with my three silly sons — that time is not now.  I love it when the photographer captures genuine hugs, real silliness, giggles, and kids in motion.
  4. Respect your photographer.  I assume that if you’ve hired this person, you know the quality of their work or they have been referred to you by satisfied customers.  Respect that.  Let them change lenses or dictate what background to use when, because while you’re working on keeping your kids from wrestling in a mud-pile in the beautiful park you’re shooting in, the photographer is going through a mental checklist of shots he/she is hoping to capture, gauging the personalities of the family members, all while accessing a universe of photographic knowledge on lighting and angles and time of day and shutter speeds.  Let them work their magic!  That said, I think it’s fair game to also ask for a specific shot if there’s one you want, but I have more often loved the pictures I didn’t ask for than the ones I dictated myself.
  5. Bribery is OK.  No, not bribing the photographer in any way!  Bribing your kids.  Nothing major, but I will say we all enjoyed some yummilicious ice cream after our recent family photo shoot with Cara from BabySky Photography, not because it was a hot summer day (it wasn’t!), but because we promised the kids that they could have ice cream (after dinner, or with dinner, or for dinner . . . whatever was going to work!) if they’d just cooperate and have some fun getting the pictures done.
family photo tips
This is us. For real. Photo by BabySky Photography.

Those are my tips as a Mother of Boys who loves to capture moments.  But let’s hear from a professional photographer!  Here are 5 more tips (some similar, some not!) for a great family photo shoot from Cara at BabySky Photography:

  1. Dress for the elements.  If it’s cold, add sweaters, vests and even hats and mittens look adorable.  If it’s hot, don’t wear flannel shirts, lose the tights and cardigans, switch out boots for sandals.  If it’s windy, tie your hair back.  If it’s muddy, wear rain boots instead of suede shoes.  We can’t control the weather and outside photography is always going to be unpredictable (especially here in New England!) so the more prepared you are for the weather, the more cooperative everyone will be.
  2. Make sure your clothes fit properly and anything you’re wearing is okay to see in the photo.  If your bra strap keeps showing, pin it to your shirt.   If your pants are lose, belt them.  If you don’t want to see your husband’s hot pink socks in your photos, make him change them.  If you don’t like the Nike logo on your son’s shirt, don’t wear that shirt.  You will be running around and chasing your kids and chances are you will not remember to keep adjusting or hiding the things you don’t like.
  3. Make sure your kids eat BEFORE your session.  It’s okay to promise ice cream and treats after your session but I promise you the kids will do so much better if they have a full belly.  I think kids are always happier when they’re not hangry.  Plus all they will be thinking about is getting the session over with so they can eat instead of relaxing and having a good time.  Doesn’t have to be a full meal, pretzels and a cheese stick will go far.
  4. Don’t ask your kids to say “Cheese.”  It does work for some kids but most kids will think that as long as they are saying the word then they are doing all they need to do.  Then you end up with forced smiles and roaming eyes while saying “Cheeeeeeeeeese.”  Give them a tickle instead or my favorite…say a potty word, works every time 😉
  5. And most important, do family photos for you and your family, not the Christmas card.  Try to make your session about your relationships with your children and magical things will happen.   Don’t feel the need to only do photos in the fall since that is closest to Christmas.  Try a different season.  Remember that one day these photos are going to be your memories and memories of laughing and fun will mean more than the perfectly posed photo with everyone looking at the camera and fall foliage in the background.

With all those tips, you’re ready for a family photo shoot now, right?  You’re in luck!  For M.O.B. Truths’ first GIVEAWAY ever, we have a $50 discount off of a family photo session with Cara from BabySky PhotographySubscribe to my email list, and you’ll be automatically entered to win.  Winner will be randomly selected on October 29, 2017 and notified by email.

family picture tips
All smiles in black and white. Photo by BabySky Photography.
Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe: Baking with Boys (a fall tradition)

Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe: Baking with Boys (a fall tradition)

Making this easy pumpkin bread has become a fall tradition for my boys and me.   The weather is starting to get cooler,  leaves are changing color, and pumpkin spice everything is everywhere.  Every year, we make this together — which usually involves fighting over who sifts vs. who pours, licking the batter before I say it’s OK, and a lot of flour on the floor.  Oh yeah, we devour the delicious treat, too (I even somehow justify that this is OK for breakfast!), and the house smells amazing for hours after we bake it.  I hope making this easy pumpkin bread becomes a fall tradition for your family like it has for mine, and that you can get through baking without it becoming a full contact sport.

pumpkin bread recipe
Easy pumpkin bread. So easy! So yummy!

If you’re like me, you love baking with your kids, but you cringe a little every time you deal with a fight over who will crack the egg (because it inevitably leads to shell in the batter or an actual battle between the kids) or dealing with savages begging to eat more of the batter laden with raw egg (note:  I begged my mom as a kid, too).  Here’s an easy pumpkin bread recipe that has NO EGGS, is fun to make, and is even more delicious to eat!

This recipe has a special place in my heart.  After my second son was born, I baked this for the first time with my 2 1/2 year old son on the first day my husband went back to work.  It seemed like a huge undertaking because it involves sifting (so advanced when you’re sleep deprived and suddenly have twice as many kids as you did the week before!) and what seemed at the time like lots of ingredients (I remember having to borrow a cup of flour from a neighbor the night before, to make sure I had enough!).  I measured all the ingredients in advance and put them in sealed containers so it would be quicker and easier for my toddler and me to just dump them into the bowl when we were making the recipe.  We’ve got it down to a science now, and the kids are 9, 7 and 4.  We measure together and then take turns pouring in the ingredients and mixing.  This year, the whole process went surprisingly well . . . until the very end, when I said, “Guys!  Smile with our freshly-baked pumpkin bread!” and I caught this full-on, spontaneous punch in a pic instead.

easy pumpkin bread recipe

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 1/3 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil (I use canola)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin (I buy two 15-oz cans or one 16-oz can and have some left over) (I usually use this kind of pumpkin)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I use Nestle semi-sweet, but I’m sure any would be fine)

pumpkin bread recipe ingredients

And here’s what to do:

Grease THREE 9×5 loaf pans (I use butter).  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix with spatula until smooth.  Fill each loaf pan approximately 1/3 full.  The recipe says to bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean — in my oven, they are done in just 35 minutes, so I recommend checking frequently after 35 minutes or so, since every oven is a bit different.  Cool on a drying rack, and then ENJOY!!!  (these are also great as mini breads or mini-muffins)

Don’t forget to grab a spoon and finish off every last drop of the batter — no raw eggs = gobble it up!

pumpkin bread yumminess
mixing pumpkin bread
pumpkin bread batter in pans
pumpkin bread batter in pans