The Dollar Tree

I know that I’m not able to resist a trip there and surely, if you’re someone who’s able to shop at high-end establishments, you share no such desire or interest with me.

Oh but how I personally love perusing the aisles for coloring, crafting, toiletries, office supplies and/or home goods!  I think the toys as well, are pretty neat for the price and they really run the gamut.  Keeping a small stash always comes in handy for little visitors or for extras inside of goodie bags.

There’s also a ton of early learning items to be found there.  For example, even with today’s technology, my child was still very excited when I showed him the item below.  He was able to conveniently practice letters during car trips and I myself enjoy this childhood relic on occasion.

My plan is to present my child with a twenty-dollar bill along with instructions to choose twenty items from anywhere in the store that he would like me to purchase.  Of course, the exact total will be a bit more than that after tax, but you get the idea.

If you have more than one kid with you, then divvy up the total as you see fit.

You can do this with a five or ten-dollar bill (we happen to have a $20 that his grandmother gave him to spend as he so wishes.)  If you have money to burn, then by all means, count up even higher.  I think I would personally go bonkers if I had $50 to spend in the Dollar Tree but that’s simply not in the budget.

Or go in the other direction.  If they only have one dollar to spend then maybe they’ll focus on picking a single item that is really special!

Another idea is to have them choose one item per each person they know for surprise gift giving instead.  They can put down on paper the names of each person beforehand as a way to incorporate writing practice to the project.  The options are endless.

For instance, they can also sort by category and collect things like faux flowers, cups, pencils or a notepad.  Speaking of, I simply can’t get enough of writing instruments, folders and clipboards (color coordinated at that!)

 

Sidebar.  I hope when I return they still have a jumbo eraser I spotted but forgot to throw in my cart that had a message on it about making big mistakes.  I want to display it for symbolism.  If only we could invent something that truly wipes out the real errors we’ve made in life (since Mr. Clean’s little white sponge is not really magical.)

Anyway, we hope you enjoy this outing/activity suggestion over the summer months (assuming you won’t be on holiday in the South of France) at the time.

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Old Photographs

I remember the days when we had to take pictures with our old camera.  When we used up the roll, I also fondly recall taking the walk down to our local drug store to get them developed.

20180428_105712_hdr-1-2045490735.jpgThe film was then sent out and we counted the days until the pictures were finally ready for pick up.  Often, we just couldn’t wait until we got home to see them and so we opened the envelope right there as we stood at the counter.  Only then would we discover if all those random shots taken in the weeks prior were actually in focus or if our poses “came out good.”

Some were so awful that we’d laugh hysterically on the spot and if it was really bad, snatch them away from each other to destroy or hide it.  It was not to be shared.

Eventually,  drugstore chains began cropping up that were able to produce photos right on their premises and whenever possible, we’d happily pay the extra fee to get them printed within the hour.  That option felt like lightening speed for us back then.

But as you know, there are no such steps required in today’s digitized and selfie-obsessed nation.  We no longer have to wait any time at all to view any of our images.  In fact, since we’ve been able to snap and share so easily, I have neglected all those older photographs taken way before this technology came along– only being confronted with them when I’m reorganizing closets or unpacking after a move.  So now, some of our old photo albums are buried in a closet and falling apart.  Any loose photos are simply stacked in a box, but all of them belong on a proper shelf for display.

With our usual daily life tasks that demand so much of our attention, who the heck has time to go through a photo pile?  Lest we forget that our digital photos are also collecting their own dust because even if they’re being uploaded elsewhere, many are still just sitting across all of our devices, either way.  I can bet that the average person has at least one thousand photos on their phone right now and counting.  They’re continually hogging up memory and isn’t that ironic?

Various online tools like Shutterfly have helped me to create special things with my photos, both new and old, in the form of calendars, books, greeting cards, canvas prints, etc. for myself or as gifts, but we’ll never catch up, will we?

No matter, as I will keep sorting and categorizing them.  I’ve simply accepted the fact that this will be an ongoing project with no end date in sight, unless I cease to take another picture and that ain’t happening.

I keep reminding myself that if I ever lost them in fire or in some other way, I would be totally devastated.  So, while I have them (and air in my lungs) I will take the time to keep honoring all of these old photographs.

Child’s Play for the soul

After a long hard day, sometimes you hurriedly push yourself through things just longing for bed.  You barely have a moment to unwind, but you have to tend to your child, no matter how tired you may feel.

Aside from all the mundane tasks that always require our attention, we must still set a moment aside for some quality time with our kids.  I make an effort to connect with my child, that is my duty as a parent.  But, more often than not he will have his own ideas on just how we should do that.  The timing isn’t always great, like the days when I’m so bone-tired.  That’s when I might possibly hear these terrifying words,

Mommy, will you play with me?

Depending on how your children are spaced out, maybe you’ve only heard your very first child make this request before their siblings came along.  Once those built-in play mates arrived, perhaps your services were no longer required.

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The pile up! It beats stepping on Legos, I guess.

When I catch myself on the ground pushing monster trucks with my son for a pretend race, I realize it is a very different experience from when I was growing up.  Speaking for myself only, I could sit calmly in a corner with my coloring book or combing my doll’s hair as a little girl.  If you had older brothers (unlike me) then you have a leg up.

Nevertheless, my point is that while I truly enjoy playing with children through a wide variety of activities, this would be my least favorite thing to do– but I do it anyway.  Sidecar: I’m always in awe when he makes statements out loud that pertain to the imaginary worlds he creates for his toys, period.

Sometimes I try to thwart the plan by suggesting we sort the cars by color, size or model.  As the incessant organizer that I am, I can get with that.  Or, I mention that we should count them all one by one and see who comes closest to the number we guess.

Nice try, Mom.  That’s just my pesky penchant for early learning instead of allowing for some good old fashioned free play which in itself is learning, duh!  So, I must often remind myself to stand back and let him have his fun without my interference.

Thankfully, he has never taken me up on my offer and as requested, wants us to just move the cars around while on all fours instead.  But, first things first.  We must meet and greet each other and speak in our car character, much like they do in the cartoons we watch.  Sometimes he lets me choose my own car, but he always decides who has won the race.  My baby is in charge of this game.

20180503_110122_burst01-1-1896674846.jpgI have managed to interject the routine of adding some writing practice to this by having him utilize our chalkboard wall for keeping score.

Moral of this post is that I know the day will soon come when he’ll stop asking his mother to play with him at all.  The sudden wave of this realization whenever it does hit me in the face has helped me to engage with him better and on his own terms.

Besides, we could all benefit (even as adults) from a little child’s play.

 

Chalkboard for Childhood

You’d be hard pressed to find a good old-fashioned chalkboard nowadays and even if you did, depending on the size, it will cost you.

So, what’s the next best thing?  If you don’t already know, it’s chalkboard paint.

Perhaps your response is a firm, “No thank you.”  Or, maybe you’re simply asking yourself why on earth would you want to paint any wall like that.

Well, not everyone wants to that is for sure but if you have small children you just might be interested or so inspired.  Kids are notorious for scribbling on all types of surfaces so here’s one place they can dedicate such efforts.

The Inspired Treehouse shares the learning benefits as to Why Kids Should Work on a Vertical Surface that might sway parents as well.

To my surprise, most elementary schools have done away with them (opting for white dry erase boards) so children today may never use one in class like we had the chance to while growing up.  Can we agree that even though it’s still vertical, it’s just not the same?  I fondly recall volunteering to clean the erasers and the boards often for my teachers.

Even small children who cannot yet work with chalk in their small hands can use their fingers or paint brushes dipped in water for writing or coloring practice on them.

When I took a trip to Home Depot, that’s when I first realized that there are many other color options available so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a blackboard, either.  Although, that’s exactly what I wanted.  I also noticed that the cans are small, so you might need more than one (I did.)

Lastly, if you don’t want to commit to this by sacrificing a wall in your home, you can paint a large piece of plywood instead.  The Artful Parent will show you How to Make Your Own Chalkboard and you really don’t need a backyard to put it to good use so, don’t let that stop you.

Even as an adult, I simply get a kick out of grabbing a piece of chalk to jot down my own life reminders, to do lists, meal plans and any sort of random family lesson planning.  Not to mention the games we play such as Hangman, Tic-tac-toe , drawing things or just keeping score. When we celebrated my son’s last birthday party, the board was used as a guest book for his friends to sign upon arrival.

The possibilities are endless.

And hey, I’ll be the first to admit that I personally had to have one, kids or no kids (much like the old-fashioned pencil sharpener nailed to my desk.)

No more kisses

Some mothers cannot wait until their children are much older, or at least old enough to start doing things without their help. But for some others, a heavy cloud follows us around as we push the stroller because we’re in no rush to move beyond the baby phase.

If you routinely look back and stare at pictures of your babies when they were little, then I’m talking to you.

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Oh yes.  I miss the mittens!

In the days when I was out and about with my very own newborn, I could sense how these women (maybe most whose children were already grown) felt by the sight of us.  Nostalgia immediately took hold of them and they would begin,

I remember when my child was that small…

Even before I gave birth and was just showing, it would elicit similar reactions from total strangers.  A pregnant woman is an unavoidable reminder of such a past, but I’m no fool. I knew my days were also numbered.

If you have several children then perhaps you get to hold on to it longer but eventually, even the last one will grow up too. I’ve heard that it doesn’t matter how many kids you have, the thought of any of them (from way back when) still takes your breath away. Sigh.

One afternoon while at an amusement park, the female attendant helping my baby exit a ride squeezed in a hug for herself before handing him over to me.

I suppose it’s just a delicious stage to sniff and squeeze without protest that has a fond place in our memory bank.  Their sweet and affectionate ways delight us deeply during this most precious season of our lives.  But, their refreshing innocence is fleeting.

With every step they take, they shed their former self to make room for a new look. After my child has reached the next milestone I keep asking myself, “Where has my baby gone?” because the one in front of me, is not the original I once held in my arms.

I will also undergo a metamorphosis, eventually.  The mother he remembered will become elderly. I’m sure I won’t recognize myself by then either and will miss what I once was, too.  Appearances aside, I’m sure all parents want to hang around for as long as they possibly can to see it all.

I do try to keep myself in the present.  However, I have my weak moments.  When we’re playing together for example, I can’t help but think about how the time will come when he’ll no longer be interested in my company on the same level.  On another occasion, I’m simply focused on the sound of his voice when I hear him speak, that until puberty still belongs to that of a small child.  I don’t want it to ever go away.

But, the reality is that upon adolescence and beyond it will and that our interaction with our former babies will be very different in general.

For now, I remain thankful that he still engages me with pretend battles while announcing that he is Darth Vader and I’m Yoda as we wait for the school bus.  This won’t last forever and I’m well aware.  It’s an underlying sadness that joins some of us on our motherhood journey.

Well hey.  I am happy that we still have so many more years together before any big changes occur, even though my child has been telling me this a little too much lately,

No more kisses, only hugs.

Sure, I’m grateful for the latter but ugh.

 

 

Paper Planes

For as long as I can remember, no napkin was safe from my father. He would always turn them into paper planes. Actually, any paper.

As a young child I enjoyed watching them fly. As I got older, we’d make them together. I guess that’s why you’ll always find paper planes in my home, too.

Sometimes I wait patiently for my own child to look up at me so I can send one straight in his direction. He tries to catch them as we laugh. It sure gets his attention.

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Recently, I was tearing off the end of February from our large desk calendar when the idea first hit. By the way, these giant sheets also work well in a variety of other ways (for protecting surfaces during coloring, painting, or play dough sessions; tracing objects; sketching; drawing big pictures or words; homemade game boards; signs and so much more.)

The opposite side of the calendar sheet basically doubles as a very large blank canvas. I have even used them on kitchen counters for easy clean-up after meal prep. I’m planning on creating an early learning display with one next on how to set the table. You’ll find there’s ample room for outlining a real fork, plate, knife and spoon.

Fold one and keep it handy on the go because you could probably change a diaper on that thing in a pinch!

But, it was creating a paper plane with it that’s been the most fun. It’s the biggest and best, by far. I mean, it soars well above the furniture and if it’s aimed at you I suggest you duck so quack-quack.

I always repeat that this ain’t Pinterest perfection so don’t expect fancy Origami but rather, your standard-old-fashioned-classic paper craft plane. Maybe next time I’ll give it some life with crayons and markers. For now, I’m just getting a plain kick out of flying them in the air, as is and maybe you will too.

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Oh and one last thing just between us grown folks, I do like to call it a big ass plane. (When the kids are not around, of course.)