Why Children Should Color Outside the Lines

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A dear cousin gave Jake this beautiful piece of art when he was born. We promptly hung it in his room.

Fast forward 4 years to this St. Patrick’s Day craft we were doing.  Jake spent a lot of time working on his project, putting the colors in rainbow order. He would add a few dots in different spots “for creativity”, and I was cool with that.

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Then I ran upstairs to get the babies, came back down and found this:

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At first I was very upset.  His picture looked so good and now he had ruined it. (Shamefully, in the back of my mind I was thinking “ugggh, I was planning to post this picture on the blog!”)  I started to yell at him, then I looked at his face. Full of wide-eyed innocence he said “I was seeing what happens when I mixed it all up” with such pride in his voice.  After all, we do LOVE the book Mix It Up!

I took a step back and the words “color outside the lines” kept flashing in my mind.  I had a choice- berate him because his art didn’t look like the cookie-cutter example, while squashing his creativity, diminishing his confidence (he is a perfectionist, so this risk he took was HUGE), and quelling his curiosity OR smile, tell him I loved all of the colors he used and proceed with a science experiment on how long it will take to dry. (For the record, he immediately deduced that we should put it outside to dry faster. Furthermore, I neglected to put paper under it, left it in the rain, and now have a green-stained deck, but that’s beside the point.)

This simple project meant as a holiday decoration reminded me of all of the the things I want for my son.

I want him to take risks and be unafraid of failure.

I want him to to express his creativity and individuality without pressure to conform.

I want him to think outside the box without repercussion.

I want him to be spontaneous and have fun without holding back.

I want him to try new things without the constraints of perfectionism.

I want him to act with passion not restriction.

In the end, it was a lesson learned for all. He gained valuable art, science, fine motor, and personal growth experience, and I learned to let go of preconceived notions and just let him be.

Life doesn’t have to fit neatly between the lines. Color it any way you want!

P.S.   I still despise paint and did not enjoy the mess, but it is so very worth it.

17 Great Ideas to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

All of these wonderful St. Patrick’s Day ideas have  put nutritious food in our bodies, creative activities in our hands, and a big dent in the Stroller Savvy Pin Challenge! Not bad for a non-Irish lass!

The Foods:

We have truly been eating the rainbow and feeling great!

Pinterest Challenge 4Rainbow Detox Soup

Consider this tasty detox soup I made last night. It was by far the tastiest I have had, and I would have been pleased receiving it from a restaurant. Tomatoes, red onion, carrots, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, kale, broccoli, celery, and purple cabbage along with many antioxidant-rich spices.

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Original Pin:  http://www.theglowingfridge.com/cleansing-detox-soup/

Keeper?  Yes! I doubled the recipe and froze some for later!

 Challenge5Pepper Egg

 

Sure to impress, this simple yet fancy looking egg-in-a-pepper dish adds a fresh twist on your ordinary fried egg. It was far easier than I expected and tasted great!

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Original Pin: http://www.sixonesixblog.com/2014/05/egg-in-pep.html

Keeper? Yes!

Challenge6Shepherd’s Pie

An Ol’ Irish favorite with a healthy twist. This low-fat, veggie-packed Shepherd’s Pie is topped with a cauliflower puree! The whole family loved it and the coconut oil added a nice flavor.

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Original Pin: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/cauliflower-not-carbs?utm_term=.edDvlMELD&sub=3566540_4609988#.ld89QlPJmy

Keeper? Yes!

Challenge7Rainbow Salad

This fabulous salad can be adapted to use any ingredients you desire. I used red beets, shredded carrots, yellow tomatoes/garbanzo beans (I intended to use yellow peppers, but Hubby and Jake at them before I could), a mix of spinach, broccoli and kale, and purple cabbage.  I didn’t follow the dressing recipe exactly. I didn’t use anchovies or capers, but my concoction of greek yogurt, dijon mustard, honey, garlic, seasoning mix, and olive oil was actually quite good on this. I love the use of red beets and purple cabbage since they aren’t foods I eat often, but they are so yummy and nutritious!

IMG_2155IMG_2159Original Pin: http://www.scalingbackblog.com/savory-bites/shredded-rainbow-salad-with-greek-yogurt-caesar-dressing/

Keeper?  Absolutely! We threw some rotisserie chicken on the leftovers for another delicious meal.

HChallenge8ealthy Green Eggs

A healthy twist on green eggs, these garlic and kale filled eggs were so simple and quite tasty! My 4-year old and 18-month olds even agreed.

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Original Pin:http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/03/01/recipe-green-eggs-and-ham/

Keeper?  Definitely! This will become a regular rotation in our breakfast repertoire.

Challenge9Avocado Shrimp Salad

This nutritious salad is an easy go-to meal anytime. The creamy avocado makes it dressing optional. Beware- the shrimp is spicy!

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Original Pin: http://www.thebestrecipesever.net/2014/03/shrimp-and-avocado-salad-with-miso.html?m=1

Keeper?  I will make some variation of it again, but I would most likely just grill the shrimp without all of the added spice and ingredients. It would certainly save time too!

Challenge10VEggie Guacamole Rainbow

We made this simple, delicious snack. I didn’t get a picture before the kids attacked it, so this one is from the Family Fun magazine. I made my own version of guacamole, which is simply mashed up avocados, diced tomatoes, a little minced garlic, and a splash of lemon juice.

Over the Veggie Rainbow: This Saint Patrick's Day snack provides a golden opportunity to entice your kids to eat fresh vegetables.

Original Pin: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615962366/

Keeper? Absolutely! Can’t go wrong with veggies and guac!

The Crafts and Education:

Challenge11No St. Patrick’s Day is complete without the appearance of leprechauns! Here is a cute, cheesy craft that we used as our seasonal wall decoration. It was fairly simple, but me being the genius that I am didn’t think to just buy orange plates and took the extra step of painting white plates orange. I probably spent more on the paint than I would have on new plates. I like to think the stiffness from the paint enabled us to curl the beards better…

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Original Pin:  http://happyhomefairy.com/tag/leprechauns/

Keeper? Yes! My son loved it. I love these kinds of cheesy decorations to put a fun twist on the holiday and capture a memory of this point in time.

Challenge12Nor is any St. Patrick’s Day complete without Fruit Loops!  Jake only gets to eat them when we stay at hotels with continental breakfast, so he was tormented all week looking at the box in the pantry. He was so excited that we invited some friends over to do Fruit Loop crafts with us!IMG_2170First we made the fruitloop necklackes. I recommend a large blunt tapestry needle to help thread the cereal on the string- especially for the younger children.  This kept them all quiet and actively engaged for quite awhile!

It also made for some hilarious conversations. Every few pieces J would inform me “this one is too big (or too bumpy, or weird…) and will look ugly on the necklace. I think I should eat it.”

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He later became a walking commerical. “I am hungry and don’t have time to go downstairs for a snack. I think I will take a bite out of my necklace, chomp chomp”.

Original Pin: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615851129/

Keeper? Definitely! He  has already made three! As he gets older he can work on creating interesting patterns.

ThChallenge13is activity was incredible for sorting and fine motor development. It kept his attention and turned out so cute! He wanted to do a second one with any color all over 🙂

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Original Pin: http://thebubblyblondeteacher.blogspot.com/2012/02/st-patricks-day-craft.html

Keeper? Yes!

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This was a simple, fun craft. The biggest challenge for me was cutting out shamrocks, because I am just that bad at drawing! I ended up tracing an image from the computer and cutting it out on construction paper. We cut up different patterns of scrapbook paper with varying shades of green, covered the shamrocks with glue sticks, and applied our “mosaic tiles”. Of course Jake added some TMNT stickers- they are green, right?!

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Original Pin from: http://www.happinessishomemade.net/2014/03/11/st-patricks-day-kids-craft-mosaic-paper-shamrocks/

Keeper?  Yes!!! Easy, cute, held interest. I even used them as a front door decoration in the middle of a wreath.

Challenge15This was another fun one. I cut out a pot from construction paper and drew lines on a piece of construction paper to help guide the shape. J and ROY G. BIV are on a first name basis by now. IMG_2142

Original Pin from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615978065/

Keeper?  Yes. It was cute and fun, but I REALLY despise paint. See why here. Oh the sacrifices we make for the sake of our children’s enrichment and entertainment!

Challenge16This was another simple one. All we did was cut the tops off of peppers, dip them in paint, and stamp them onto the paper. The babies were able to do this one, and all three kids really enjoyed it! We skipped the step of drawing stems, so they don’t really look like shamrocks, but that’s okay 🙂

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Original Pin from: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2012/03/peppers-and-shamrocks.html

Keeper?  Yes! I look forward to experimenting with all different types of materials- acorns, apples, leaves, etc. I love that all ages can enjoy it. As they get older, challenge kids to form more intricate designs.

Jake also had a blast doing educational worksheets. I remember loving thematic worksheets as a kid- it is a “break” from the traditional learning and even though you are reinforcing the same skills it doesn’t feel like it.

Challenge17He amazed me with how easily he was able to identify which word did not fit into the the word families and got some great reading practice in with this one:

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Challenge18This counting one was a little too basic for him, but he still enjoyed it. It was fun for him to be able to do it completely unaided.

IMG_2233Original Pin: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-St-Patricks-Day-Literacy-and-Math-Printables-1109851

Challenge19He had a blast with this domino activity. He would pick a domino from a pile, tell me how many dots were on each side and then add them all together. I was impressed when he didn’t flinch at the higher sums!

IMG_2237Original Pin: http://myfabulousclass.blogspot.com/2014/03/crafty-sundaywith-some-freebies.html

Keeper: Of course! I will always seek out thematic educational activities to meet their current academic level.

Challenge20He absolutely loved this craft. He put it together quickly and finished with an impromptu play about how clouds change for different types of weather. It was awesome.

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We will do a few more activities on St. Patrick’s day, but I wanted to make sure you had some ideas to prepare yourself for the holiday. Have a Pintastic time!

Don’t forget to add your pins to the Group Challenge and #strollersavvypinchallenge

 

 

 

 

 

Bring it on, Pinterest!

Pinterest is a metaphor for my life, taunting me every step of the way. I hear the quiet whispers- “you wish you could do this”, “you are all talk”, “so much to do, so little time”. It is yet another giant to-do list, filled with lofty goals intertwined amongst the easily achievable. And like my Instagrampinchallengecrazy, messy life, I love it.

As with any other obstacle I’ve faced in life, I am not going to let it bring me down. I am going to take control of it, one tiny image at a time. Why? Because I WANT to! Unlike my typical monstrosity of a to-do list, these are things that I actually want to do.

This ingenious social media tool has taught me some hard truths about myself. It has also motivated me to overcome these realities and strive to improve upon them.

 1) I am a creative person trapped in a 1st grader’s body.

Seriously, ask my college art methods instructor. He asked us to draw a tree, so I did. He then held mine up and illustrated the point that my art instruction must have stopped around 4th grade, as exemplified by my art skills. It was harsh, but he had a point.

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So you can imagine the problem this poses to a Pinterest addict such as myself. I see so many awesome ideas I want to implement, but when I go to make them they are horrible. Yet I still WANT to make them.

I see every craft, experiment, etc. as a creative outlet that is further developing my skills. I see the projects I have made and feel a sense of pride in whatever minute accomplishment I achieved. I am still that kid who wants her work displayed on the refrigerator! Once I learned to let go of the perfection aspect, I realized that painting actually relaxes me. Sometimes I literally just make a mess of brush strokes on a piece of paper just to have a little meditative moment. (Adult paint by numbers are another awesome invention!)

I also believe my children will cherish the keepsakes I am making for their rooms. After all, when deciding what to keep from my own childhood home, it was the personalized items that I saved. It didn’t matter if it was ugly, outdated, or amateur, it was made by someone who wanted to show their love.

2) I used to have a brain.

Really, I did. However, now thanks to Pinterest, I hardly ever use it! Incredible ideas abound on Pinterest, so why reinvent the wheel?

That said, I find that my creativity is inevitably unleashed when I start on a project. With the exception of recipes, since I am truly a neophyte in the kitchen, I try to use Pinterest ideas as more of a starting point. I often gather 20+ ideas for one project and use these ideas as a springboard for my own creations. If I try to copy something verbatim I am always comparing it, seeing all of the flaws. If I stray and create with my own interpretation, my own vision, or even just my own color scheme, the comparison takes a backseat to the excitement and anticipation. Sometimes that means crapping it up and making a terrible mess of it……. but, it’s about the journey, not the destination, folks!

 3) I am a woman of the perpetual to-do list that never gets done.

Pinterest has only magnified that. I currently have 4,365 pins. Four Thousand, Three Hundred, sixty-five. But unlike my massive list of household chores and extraneous things that need to be done, I actually WANT to do these things. I think that makes it bother me even more. I want to do them, and I still don’t!

4) I can’t cook.

A recipe can sound so simple, but I always seem to muck it up. I am impatient in the kitchen. I don’t really want to wait for things to simmer, but I am starting to see the reason for it, for “layering” flavors rather than just throwing it all in one pot. I want food to taste good, but despite my best efforts, it is usually just okay.

However, this is one that I am not going to back down on. Feeding my family wholesome clean foods is one of my utmost priorities, and that can’t happen with prepackaged grocery items.

As with anything, the more I practice, the more comfortable I become, and the better I will be. Pinterest is a great place to find and store recipes and has motivated me to try things I never would have tried in a million years.

 5) I was spoiled growing up.

I wasn’t spoiled financially or with material things; I was spoiled by the fact that my parents took care of the housework and didn’t force us to do chores or tasks that didn’t interest us. (Due to unfortunate events, they never got to teach us these things as we got older as they had planned to do.) So as a result, I have a lot to learn as an adult! Things that come easily to some have been quite the learning experience for me! Ask my poor husband about the time I put dish soap in the dishwasher in our first apartment…..

Laugh all you want, but I really do want my laundry to be clean, my closets organized, my life to feel more structured. I want to be comfortable going into someone’s house and just helping, but that is hard to do when I am not confident in my own abilities. I can give you workout tips, create a lesson plan or jump into most physical activities without batting an eye, but ask me to put dishes away in someone else’s kitchen and I freeze. Pinterest is helping me to improve in so many of these areas!

So I am declaring a two-fold Pinterest Challenge. The first one is personal, the second is universal.

Stroller Savvy Pin Challenge

Personal Challenge:

My personal challenge is: 1000 pins.   I was originally going to set the time frame at 1 year, but I am hesitant to do so. I think it’s a great goal, but here is why I left it off:

I don’t want to do pins just for the sake of doing pins. I know myself. If I am simply trying to reach a target number, I will start choosing the quickest, easiest pins just to reach that number. That will have far less benefit on my personal growth and defeats the purpose of the challenge.

My intention is to implement these great ideas that I have pinned for one reason or another. These tiny images struck a chord with me and I am going to see where they take me. Some will take a half hour, some will take weeks. I am going to focus on the ones that make sense for me and my family at the time without being pressured by deadlines.

Universal ChallEnge:

The Universal Challenge involves YOU.  Think about what challenges Pinterest poses to you. What do you want to work on? What have you been avoiding? Which pins stand out to you? How can you grow as a person through this challenge?

Since the year is 2015, let’s see how fast we as a community can accomplish 2015 pins. I say “fast”, but the same rules apply.

strollersavvypinchallengerules

1) Challenge yourself to try new things. Only pins you have not done before count for this challenge.

2) Choose pins from a variety of genres in order to grow in different areas of your life.  My personal Pinterest page includes ideas for travel, recipes, workouts, crafts, education, books to read, decorating, refurbishing, new skills (sewing, knitting), cleaning, organization, etc.

3) Be creative! If you create your own pin, it counts as 3 points.

4) Don’t just do pins for the sake of doing pins. Choose pins that reach out to you for some reason. Seek out pins that work towards your personal goals or make you feel good. (For me that entails healthy eating, fixing up the house, and spending quality time with my children.)

5) Follow @StrollerSavvy on Instagram and add your completed project. I will update our running tally. Be sure to #strollersavvypinchallenge and any other relevant key words. Share the challenge with friends!

A few sidenotes:

1) I started my personal challenge in February and will be updating my progress soon. (Technical difficulties!)

2) I will be adding pins that I feature on this blog to the Stroller Savvy Pinterest board in order to make it easier for you to locate pins that interest you. Follow me there!

3) You can follow the challenge by:  Signing up to receive email updates, following me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Happy Pinning!!!

Tons of Fun

Pinterest Challenge Post-It

We completed our first DIY project in our new house, proving that even the unartistically inclined can create something pretty sweet. Since our babies didn’t have their own room in our old house, we decided to start our home improvements with making their nursery a priority. We broke the project into multiple steps over several days. It was a ton of work, but it didn’t feel like it because it was a ton of fun.

I searched Pinterest for inspiration, but in the end we designed this one ourselves. Since we didn’t copy another pin and had no instructions to follow, it counts as 3 points on the challenge.  (For more information, click here.) Here I will share the steps we took so that you can personalize and adapt your own dressers for any room in your house!

We started off with an old dresser that we received from somebody for FREE! It was in decent condition, but as you can see, it needed some work.

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Step 1: Remove the dresser handles. IMG_0593

Step 2: Clean it! We scrubbed and wiped down every nook and cranny to ensure a clean slate both literally and figuratively.

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Step 3: Paint the entire dresser one color. We chose a very light gray- it looks more white, but we decided we were okay with that. We used a rolling brush on the large flat surfaces and a regular rectangular paintbrush to get inside the divots, sides, and harder to reach areas. IMG_0599

Step 4: Paint all of the handles to match. You can skip this step if you plan to replace the handles with new ones (hardware store, Amazon, etc.) IMG_0855

 

Step 5: As everything dried over night, we focused on our design. This is a multi-step process:

  1. Choose an image. We used Google Images to find one that we liked.
  2. Download the image to your computer.
  3. Open a new canvas in photo shop. We made ours 20 x 20.
  4. Create a “new layer” in Photoshop and paste the image. Your image will appear very small. Transform/cut/adjust the image to fill the entire canvas.
  5. Save your new image as a pdf.
  6. Open your pdf. in Adobe reader.
  7. Click on File, Print, and select “poster size”. This will print the image over multiple pages out of your printer.
  8. Cut out the individual pieces and tape them together to create a large 20 x 20 image.
  9. Tape this large image to the dresser and use it as a stencil to trace your image.

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Step 6: Reattach the handles.

Step 7: Paint the images. We chose to do pink and blue for our girl/boy twins’ nursery. Be sure to paint the handles as they fit into the image. As you can see, some of our handles are half white, half pink. Do two coats.

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Step 8: Add the details. Since this design was very basic, all we added was an eye. Our giraffe (coming soon) is more in-depth.

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Step 9: Line the drawers. I bought sticky shelf liner on Amazon. It proved much harder to get it to stay flat than I imagined! IMG_0903

Step 10: The piece de’ resistance if you have young children- INSTALL DRAWER LOCKS so the kids stop pulling all of their finally organized clothes out of the drawer!

BONUS: This dresser also doubles as a great changing station for the babies. Attach a changing pad, organize a basket with diapering supplies and you are good to go!

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Stay tuned for the rest of our twins’ nursery DIY projects!

 

Put Your Heart Into It

This Valentine’s Day, save your money, spare your waistline and give a truly priceless gift- the gift of love and memories for the entire family. (Note, this works just as well whether you are single and dating or have a huge family). This idea is so simple, that even the artistically challenged like myself can quickly and easily execute it. What it lacks in difficulty it makes up for in its substantial benefits.

I plan to start this on February 1st, so that everyone will get a warm fuzzy each day leading up to Valentine’s Day. If this seems too daunting, you could always shorten the time frame to one week or even just a few days.

“Everybody likes a compliment.”   -Abraham Lincoln

1) Cut out 14 hearts for each family member. If you don’t remember how to cut out a symmetrical heart, channel your inner grade school self and take a trip down memory lane:

Valentine Blog Post

2) Write the person’s name on the bottom corner or back. You can assign a color to each family member or do it at random. I chose to color-code so it will be easier for the kids to hone in on their own hearts on the wall.

3) Put the hearts into a bin.      IMG_0824

4) Each day, have each person close their eyes and pull out a heart. (We plan to draw in the morning to give us the day to think about it and work on it as time permits.)

5) Write something on the heart that you love about that person. Try to be specific. Instead of “you are a great father”, say “when J needs help you patiently give him your undivided attention.” Obviously you will have to help younger children write, but let them provide the ideas. For the non-talkers, put yourself in their shoes and think about what they would say. (Daddy, I love when you hold me high in the air and make me feel so special. Sister, I love when we play blocks together. Brother, I love that sometimes you hug me in the middle of playing. )

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” ~Mark Twain

4) Display it. I plan to post them after the kids go to sleep so they can wake up to see their new heart each morning. I chose to display it on a wall by the kitchen table where everyone is sure to see it at least three times per day. It doubles as an adorable seasonal decoration!

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Many simply do the project and stop at that. Have you ever considered what really goes into these seemingly basic ideas? This simple project benefits each person in so many ways. Not only do the warm fuzzies boost our egos and strengthen our love, but they also provide myriad other benefits. Here is a sampling:

Children:

Children thrive on positive reinforcement. They beam with pride upon receiving a compliment and it motivates them to keep doing those great things. Each day they will wake up in eager anticipation to see what compliment their new heart holds. Making the hearts for family members teaches them selflessness and thoughtfulness while further developing their writing, drawing, literacy, creativity, language development, and fine motor skills. The notes from siblings will validate them as big(little) brother(sister).
Today I asked my 4-year-old what he loved most about his little brother. As he pondered it, a slow smile crossed his face, and he emphatically drawled out, “everything!” <3

Babies:

Okay, I’m a realist, they will have no clue what is going on and will most likely try to eat it. But I promise, this WILL benefit them too. It will serve as a great memory source providing a glimpse back to what they were like at this moment in time. This is a great way to record the minutiae that may not get recorded in a journal or baby book. Instead of writing “you are sweet” to my baby girl, I am going to write “I love that you say ‘tank oooo’ when you hand us something”. When I look back years later, I will vividly remember her waddling up to us with a toy, handing it to us and saying “thank you”. It is also an opportunity for their older siblings to really look at them as people on the inside rather than just playmates. If they are able, let them hold a crayon and scribble on their heart to work on their grip, fine motor skills, focus, hand-eye coordination, and self-expression. Remember, they are little sponges at this age. They are just taking it all in, so continue to set good examples!

Adults:

Let’s face it, being parents is a pretty thankless job sometimes. And when you are caught up in the daily insanity of raising young children, the compliments don’t always roll off the tongue. (Can I get a ‘holla’ from anyone who has ever said “mmm, this dinner is good, isn’t it?” or “Did you see that I cleaned the house today?”) The sad truth for adults is that if you don’t ask for it, you don’t always get it. But a compliment is a compliment, so fish away! This will be a great way to show each other that we DO notice the little things and that we appreciate those just as much as the big ones. It will be insightful to hear how the kids see us and a great opportunity to share the unseen with one another (like how happy C looks when he is atop Daddy’s shoulders.) Perhaps this little project will rekindle something between us, as compliments and acknowledgements are something we desperately need to work on. Just the other day we were discussing how authentic our four-year-old’s compliments are (“Wow, you look AMAZING”) and how forced ours often seem. It will make us slow down and reflect on all of our blessings. It will warm our hearts to see the appreciation on our children’s faces. It will provide a creative outlet.

If done well, this project will capture a moment in time. It will provide memories that can’t be seen in a picture. I never want to forget that Tink makes a purring gurgling noise when we rock in the glider, that Cubbie stops whatever he is doing to run up to us with a huge hug and smile when we enter the room, or that Jake’s quick-witted comments crack us up daily.

When you finish them, and are ready to take down your Valentine decorations, remove them from the wall, and make them into a keepsake book.

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I feel like it is Christmas Eve. I am so excited to hear what they say about each other. I can hardly wait to get started on this tomorrow morning!

Seems much better than over-priced roses and chocolates, doesn’t it?