Effing Four Year Olds, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

The Elf on the Friggin Shelf

It’s easy enough to pretend the Elf on the Shelf is not a thing when your kids are little. Maybe you pass by them in the store, tell your kids those are dolls, and move on with your life. Maybe you have vowed never to take up with that foul creature. Maybe you’re just bitter you aren’t the marketing genius that came up with that thing. Whatever the case may be, you’re probably okay skipping the elf without anyone knowing the difference.

Until someone starts school. And then get ready to hop up on that bandwagon sleigh.

I knew “all the kids” in Lila’s class had elves, and had even successfully fielded some questions about why we didn’t get one at our house.  Santa knew Lila was nice enough already without sending an elf to spy on her, and all the elves were visiting other kids this year. She accepted it cheerfully enough and I thought we were out of the woods.

And then we had a friend from school over for a playdate, and they asked to see her elf, and Lila was like, “oh she’s on the roof today.” I was a Hill, “silly Lila, we don’t have an elf,” and she burst into tears, and I found out my daughter sits on a throne of lies (see what I did there?). She felt super left out when the other kids were talking about elves, and so she had told them she had one, too. She’d even told them stories about her elf’s exploits. So when she got busted? Yeah, she had all the feelings.

So we wrote a letter to Santa asking what the hold-up was in the elf department. Lila requested he “find a solution and send an elf to this house by Friday.” (She told me to write that part in a stern voice.) So it looks like I’m heading to Target and trying to find an elaborate backstory as to why her elf took so long to get here.

*******

So for others who might find themselves in a similar situation…we’ve compiled this list of resources to help you.  Or not. Because, despite what our kids would have us believe, you are still in charge and you can do what you want to.

And if you decide to take on the Elf on the Shelf

…Check out the Paper Heart Family’s Elf on the Shelf for Busy Mom’s Guide for the easiest way to accomplish the whole elf thing without driving yourself bananas

…And follow our Easy Elf Ideas pinterest board so you’ll be prepared

…Or read why it’s okay to love the Elf on the Shelf at A Modern Mom’s Life

… But don’t forget to have some handy excuses prepared for when the Elf Forgets to Move.

And if you are never doing the Elf, never not ever…

…Prepare yourself with this List of Reasons Why You Don’t Have an Elf 

…Or simply Indulge Your Hatred with TheEverydayMomLife.com.

And if you started Elf on the Shelf and regret it every day…

Do what this mom or this mom did, pat yourself on the back, and pour yourself a margarita. It’s the Salty Mama way.

 

The #ElfontheShelf- Love it or Leave It? Read the pros and cons- and tips for either approach!- at thesaltymamas.com.

 

Effing Four Year Olds, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks, Traditions

Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season

Last year at Christmastime, I had everything. I had a beautiful Christmas tree, home baked goods, the love of my family and friends…

And an entitled three year old who thought SHE should have everything, too. Everything from the Target toy aisle, anyways.

No matter how I tried, I could NOT convince her to pare down her list. Every catalog that came in the mail, every trip to Target for diapers, even phone calls to the grandparents seemed to unleash her inner Gimme Monster. On one particularly bad, trying-to-make-a-list-for Santa Claus day, this Mama had had enough. Continue reading “Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season”

Crafty Mamas, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

Achieving Super-Mom Status with a Busy Bag

This post contains affiliate links, but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. You can read more at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

You know those times when your kids have to just sit quietly for a really long time, and you are out of data and/or don’t have enough phones to go around and/or they’ve already watched 75 hours of TV today? Like when the doctor is running behind, or if you’re flying to Hawaii, or when your husband sends you and your two children to stand in line for a few hours at a Best Buy for a video game system at 6 am on fifteen minutes notice?

No? Is that one just me?

Well at any rate, I don’t always feel like a super mom, but the thing that is sure to make me give myself some major kudos is my fully-stocked, always-so-ready-it-lives-in-the-trunk Busy Bag. My bag of choice is the Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty One  (which I love because ALL THE POCKETS), but it can be done with any similar bag.

(Side Note: A fully loaded Busy Bag makes an INCREDIBLE family gift for Christmas, or when a new baby is on the way.  If you are giving this as a gift, I would definitely go with the Thirty-One Tote. It definitely gives it an extra polish, and can be embroidered. Yes, Christine sells Thirty-One. But I’m being completely objective here- it’s got Wow Factor.)

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The most crucial aspect of the Busy Bag, besides the bag, is the little tray that lives inside of it. It’s just a cheap cookie sheet from the Dollar Tree, but it operates as a desk, magnet board, flannel board, and snack tray when we are out and about. And as a bonus, it fits PERFECTLY across the armrests of my kids’ carseats during road trips.

So once you’ve got your bag and your tray ready, it is time to fill it with all sorts of cheap, won’t -break-my-heart-to-lose-it, engaging little activities for your youngsters. What’s in mine changes constantly, which is probably part of the allure of the bag for my kids. I am always on the hunt for little Dollar Bin finds to fill it with, and dollar stores are a surprisingly rich treasure trove of everything-included projects.

Here are a few of the items that make regular appearances or are permanent fixtures in our bag:

• Coloring Books and Crayons
Color Wonder Markers and Paper
• A PlayPack or Two
Playdough
• Magnet Letters and Numbers
• A few magnet puzzles, or small puzzles with magnets attached to the back.
• Beads and pipe cleaners for lacing
Sticker Mosaics
• Stickers and Blank Paper
• A Magna Doodle
Activity books
Water Wow Books
MagicInk Books 
• Non-Perishable Snacks
Laminated Eye Spy Pages, Connect-the-Dots, Finish-the-Picture Prompts, Tracing Pages, etc. with a dry erase marker
• Color By Number Pages
• A few pre-prepped craft activities and a glue stick
• Some of these Melissa and Doug “On the Go” sets
• Memory games
Magnetic tic-tac-toe
Paint-With-Water Books/Pages
• Duplo blocks for younger kids, or small bags of Legos for older kids

I’m telling you, this bag makes me look like I have my stuff together. And after the initial setup, it just takes a little refill here and there to keep it fresh and exciting. Beyond that, I am ready to look like one of THOSE moms at any time, in any place. Like while watching the sunrise in a Best Buy parking lot.

*****

Want to see the Busy Bag in action? Head over to Facebook to watch a video that shows the bag’s features and what I keep inside!

 

 

Looking for a gift for an entire family? This thoughtful gift will have you one and done. Read more at thesaltymamas.com. #familygift #christmasgift #giftideas
Road trips, appointments, flying with kids? We've got the perfect solution to entertain your kids anytime, anywhere at thesaltymamas.com #busybag #roadtrip #flyingwithkids

 

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Threenagers

4 Myths About Play-Based Preschool

When I first sent my son to preschool, he went to a traditional preschool – the kind I remember. A carpet with letters and spots for each kid to sit. Charts on the wall showing the alphabet, calendar, weather. Super cute crafts for every holiday, with a Pinterest perfect sample of what they would be making that day. But he wasn’t learning his letters. He wasn’t great at sitting. He wasn’t participating in the crafts. So we moved him over to a play-based preschool. And he LOVED it. But everyone else? Well, they thought we were crazy. And I learned there are a LOT of myths about play based education.

Continue reading “4 Myths About Play-Based Preschool”

Bouncing Babies, Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, Terrible Twos, The Salties, The Salty Mamas Bookclub, Threenagers

Our Favorite Books to Read to Our Kids

This post contains affiliate links.  In addition, a giveaway copy of The Hug Machine has been provided by Simon & Schuster. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own.  You can read more on our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

It’s the end of a long day, and you are one story away from watching Real Housewives in your PJs with a glass can of wine. You anxiously await your kids’ book decision. Will it be the borderline unbearable “5 Minute Stories” book with the stories that just don’t make sense and are dry as a bone? Will it be the longest children’s book ever written? Or will it be a book you actually LIKE?

You may not get to choose the book every night, but you can stack the deck in your favor by purchasing more books that are fun for YOU to read.  Feel free to start with these handy suggestions from The Salty Mamas. Continue reading “Our Favorite Books to Read to Our Kids”

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties

The Return of the Weekend

Of all the back-to-school posts that I’ve read (and pinned. And obsessed over), the one thing that no one ever told me is that it would bring on the advent of weekends again.

For the last three years, I have been engrossed in the life of a stay at home mom. Yes, weekends were different in that my husband was at home, and I had a full-time parenting partner, someone to laugh with, someone to talk to. But so much of the weekend was just the same as the rest of the week for me. I was cleaning house, and watching kids, and hitting up the park, and cooking dinner. These are all things that I signed up for, and not even things that I particularly mind. It was just that they were everyday things, Monday through Sunday, and every day was much like the one before it. Sometimes that was a good thing, but sometimes? It wasn’t.

And then came school, and suddenly Fridays had so much more meaning. We’d survived a week full of rushed breakfasts school drop offs and homework and packing backpacks! Now I’d get two whole days to spend with my girl! Parks were a novel thing again, lazy mornings watching TV on the couch were a treasure instead of something to feel guilty about, and our pace was just DIFFERENT. She was tired from a full week of school, and ready for some downtime. Where the weekends used to be full of sameness punctuated by birthday parties, suddenly we were all looking forward to a little rest, a little less structure, and a little more free time to spend together. I finally remember why Friday used to be a thing, why everyone talked about weekend plans, and how the promise of two perfect days is enough to get anyone through a stressful, boring, or even just a normal-old-week.

So here we are, and I’m fully ready to open up my arms and embrace the weekend again. Take time to rest, to drink an extra cup of coffee, to snuggle up and watch some cartoons, and to not worry about rushing out of the door to get to school on time. I’ll stay up late with my husband, and the kids might actually sleep in, and we’ll play and laze about and spend Sunday evenings getting ready for the week ahead. It may not be everyone’s ideal weekend- heck, it may not even be mine- but whatever it may look like, I’m just glad to have it back.

How to reclaim your weekends with your family, and make the most of your time together. From thesaltymamas.com. #weekend #familytime

 

Kids' Activities, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, Tips & Hacks, vacation

5 Tips to Survive Your Next Flight with Kids

This post contains affiliate links, , but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. You can read more at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

When Cole was a baby, we went on a lot of trips. Before he was a year, he’d flown to Seattle, New York, Baltimore, and Hawaii twice. And generally, it went really well. Then we had Evie, and when she was about 4 months old we decided to try a flight as a family of four. But after a 45 minute flight to Reno, we swore off air travel. It wasn’t for us. We would drive, we would cruise, but there was no way in hell we were getting back on a plane.

Until now.

As a family of 5.

Going across an ocean.

It was time to get strategic. This isn’t a simple toss a baby in an Ergo, bounce and provide snacks type of production. And lots of the tips for road tripping with kids is applicable, but a plane has all. Those. Other. People. So here are plane specific tips for traveling with your band of misfit monsters darling children.

Continue reading “5 Tips to Survive Your Next Flight with Kids”

Cheapskating, Kids' Activities, microhustle, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks, Traditions

Micro Hustle Monday: The Pumpkin Fairy

Today’s Micro Hustle won’t actually make you any money, but it can save you big bucks, and isn’t that kind of the same thing? Also, it’s a Hustle on your kids, which – I think it’s safe to say – we’re all on board for every once in a while! Enjoy! 

Ask any Mama what she loves about the fall, and nestled somewhere between a Grande PSL and putting on a cozy sweater will be taking the kids to the pumpkin patch. Because kids and pumpkins are adorable. Need proof? Fine.

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Moving on…

The pumpkin patch is AWESOME. Whether yours is in the middle of a city and has carnival style rides, a petting zoo and a concession stand or is out in the country and has apple launchers, a corn maze and homemade cider, every one is full of fun for the family.

Also, EXPENSIVE PUMPKINS.

Yes, the seedy underbelly of the pumpkin patch operation is insanely expensive pumpkins. And while you’re there for the adorable photo ops, your kids are probably there for the expensive stuff – like the rides, treats, and pumpkins. The pain that I feel in my heart – and my wallet – as I hand over a credit card to pay $20+ for a pumpkin that I can get for $3.99 at the grocery store is palpable. But what else can you do? It’s a pumpkin patch – you can’t just leave without a pumpkin!

But you can leave without a GIANT pumpkin…..

Enter…..The Pumpkin Fairy!

Oh you don’t know about the Pumpkin Fairy? Well let me introduce her to you! Because she may very well change your life at the Pumpkin Patch this year!  You see the Pumpkin Fairy is a beautiful and magical fairy that can turn tiny (read: cheap) pumpkins from the pumpkin patch into big, beautiful pumpkins – overnight!

Confession: The Pumpkin Fairy isn’t real, folks. But it can be real in your house this year if you follow these steps!

First – you gotta sell this to your kids. Start laying the groundwork immediately. Tonight, when you put them to bed, don’t forget to tell them about the legend of the Pumpkin Fairy! She’s beautiful, with orange hair and a dress made from pumpkin seeds and the stringy stuff inside the gourds! And every October she visits all the little children to turn their baby pumpkins into big magical pumpkins! (This may be harder if your kids are used to picking out a giant pumpkin at the patch, but you can talk them into it – I believe in you! I mean, who wants one of those big pumpkins, when you can have a pumpkin that has been made out of magic???)22523653_10214869927088050_2006313105_n

Then you go to the patch. Remind them of the new plan – tiny pumpkins kids! The cheaper smaller, the better! Let them pick any pumpkin they want out of that bargain bin!

When you get home, find a nice easy spot to put your pumpkins! Don’t do something stupid like put them under pillows. The Pumpkin Fairy is a LOT bigger than the Tooth Fairy and isn’t as good at sneaking around- especially after a glass of wine or two. The porch is an excellent spot.

Then, tuck the kids in.

Have a glass of wine and watch Real Housewives while you wait for them to fall asleep. You’ll be kicking yourself next year, and spending big bucks, if you get caught. Then – swap out those pumpkins with the grocery store ones you’re hiding in the trunk of the car. If you want to get REAL fancy, sprinkle some glitter around. Fairies are notorious for getting glitter on everything.

And that’s it! You saved a ton of money and made a Pinterest-worthy tradition that will have you looking like a) a money saving genius and b) Mom of the Year.

 

#fall #pumpkins #pumpkinpatch #pumpkinfairy #cheapskate #savemoney #momlife #falldecor
Let the Pumpkin Fairy help you save big bugs this year on your trip to the pumpkin patch!
Bouncing Babies, Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, Terrible Twos, The Salties, The Wonderful Ones, Threenagers, Tips & Hacks

9 Ways to Play with Rocks

My kids have thousands of dollars worth of games and toys and arts and crafts and I even am not above allowing some indulgent screen time. But the fact is, at the end of the day, they love dirt and sticks and rocks. Yeah, rocks. Which – don’t get me wrong – I love. I love SO much, I want to pass that love of rocks on to you! So here are nine fun ways for your little ones to play with rocks.

  1. Paint them. Rock painting is so in right now. Seriously. It seems that it’s t22447575_10102454468377797_269538747_nhe hot kid  craft on Pinterest. And it’s hot for a reason. Because kids love to paint rocks. Whether your kids want to paint ladybugs or pumpkins or just go nuts free form, kids will love it. Plus, you can do it outside, which is extra awesome because you aren’t going to ruin your dining room table. We even have some friends whose kids love to paint rocks with WATER. I mean, you literally can’t get a cleaner craft than that! It’s. Just. WATER. And rocks. World’s easiest cleanup ever.
  2. Tic-Tac-Toe. My 4 year old is obsessed with Tic-Tac-Toe right now. Which means there are sheets of paper all over my house like confetti with scribbles all over them. So you know what’s boss? A reusable tic-tac-toe board. Even better? One that’s in my yard, that I only have to draw once, and then can use rocks for our “X’s” and “O’s.”
  3. Stacking. All three of my kids love to stack things – anything! They also love to compete with each other. Who can make the highest stack of rocks? Who can keep the tower balanced? Who will knock it over? There are so many variations even in different ways to just stack the rocks. And endless entertainment!IMG_20170826_103408267
  4. Carrying them back and forth. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, this list just jumped the shark. These chicks think my kids will be entertained by carrying rocks back and forth across my yard.” And maybe you’re right. Maybe your kid won’t do it. But we’re here to tell you that we literally sat in Jaymi’s backyard and watched our kids carry rocks from a bucket to a pile AND BACK AGAIN for like 45 minutes last week. I think they made some sort of a secret game out of it, but they didn’t clue the adults in on the rules. All I know is those rocks were on the move in the hot little hands of our kids. Kids that got wiped out from all that rock carrying. So, SOLD.
  5. Rock Hunt. This one’s pretty simple: Do just what it sounds like. Hide those rocks and let the kids find them. As one of our kids’ friends announced the other day, “You don’t have to wait for Easter to do an Easter egg hunt!” True that, Muriel! Egg hunts are great one day a year, but rock hunts – those are a classic the other 364.
  6. Steal the Bacon. Remember sweating on the blacktop waiting for your number to be called so you could race to grab a blackboard eraser? Well, we’re fresh out of blackboard erasers at our house. But we got rocks! And whether it’s a group of kids at a playdate or just two of mine facing off head to head, a race for the rock is a big hit. More bonus points for this one being another tiring activity. With basically no setup, no cleanup and the only parental involvement being to yell, “GO!”
  7. Rocks as Cooking Ingredients. Stone soup isn’t just a classic story about a selfish
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    You can never have too many cooks in a stone soup kitchen!

    town that is tricked into sharing their soup. It’s also a culinary classic in our backyard. Stones, leaves, dirt all create a “delicious” base to be stirred with sticks. This one takes some more parental involvement (I admit I’m wayyyyyy over pretending to slurp soup and report how delicious it is) and can be significantly messier than some of the other options, but my kids are all about getting messy, so bring it on!

  8. Story Garden. A story garden is the perfect way to bring your kids’ imaginative play outside. This one’s a two parter, but worth it! First, see #1 and paint those bad boys. You can paint anything you want on the stones – houses, animals, boats, foods, cars, bugs, rainbows, shapes, people – you name it! Then, make stories! The possibilities are ENDLESS with what you can create! Here’s a few ways to play with them compiled by The Artful Parent and we’re partial to this cute Hungry Caterpillar set which is perfect for retelling.
  9. Rock Toss. Only to be played if you trust your kids won’t chuck the rocks straight at your head, their siblings heads, their friends heads, etc. Once that’s established, my kids dig this one. We use a hula hoop as the place to toss rocks and we start a foot or two away from the hoop. Each kid gets to toss a rock into the hoop. After they make that shot, they step back. And back. And back. And back. Until they miss at which point we start over. My competitive little kids love the challenge of this. Once the hula hoop has been mastered, you can always make smaller targets with anything you have around the house!

Now go find some rocks, and have some fun!

#rocks #paintedrocks #stonesoup #pretendplay #childhoodunplugged #toddlers #preschoolers #kids #outdoorplay #imaginativeplay #getoutside #letthembelittle
Get outside and have fun with these EASY ways to play with rocks – that your kids will LOVE!

 

Kids' Activities, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Threenagers, Traditions

Halloween Hysteria

As a proper 21st century Mom living in a Pinterest world, I start thinking about Halloween in about March. Not because I’m going to do anything crazy like come up with handmade family costumes that I’m going to start working on or anything. No, I’ve just got to come up with a concept so that by the time September rolls around I have a fully flushed out idea of what kind of family costume I’m going to buy. Because every year I have it in my head that THIS is the year that everyone’s going to want to collaborate on something. Plus, October is BUSY. Like, super busy. We have our wedding anniversary, my birthday, oh, and I was due to have a baby October 5th. So I figured if I could get us all organized, you know, BEFORE I had the baby that would be ideal.

Last year was the year of 1,001 ideas. We were going to have Mommy, Daddy, 3 year old Cole, an almost 2 year old Evie, and a tiny baby girl – who we estimated would be about three and a half weeks old. And man – OH MAN – did I have ideas!

Pitch ideas included:

Circus: Daddy – Ringleader, Cole – Strong Man, Evie – tightrope walker, Mommy – Lion tamer, Baby as lion!

Zootopia: Daddy – Chief Bogo, Cole – Nick Wild, Evie – Judy Hopps, Mommy – Gazelle, BABY AS BELLWEATHER! (Side note: I DIE for babies dressed as lambs!)

USC Inspired: Daddy -Coach, Cole –  Football player, Evie – Cheerleader, Mommy – Referee, BABY AS MY YELLOW FLAG!!!

Wizard of Oz: Daddy – Scarecrow, Cole – Cowardly Lion, Evie – Tin(wo)man, Mommy – Dorothy, BABY AS TOTO! How cute would that be???

But alas, NONE of my ideas stuck.

I spent hours, days, weeks, begging my kids to tell me what they’d like to be. Something fun, cool, creative! But Cole wanted to be a ghost. I took to Pinterest and showed him every ghost I could. I scoured Amazon, Costco and eventually Halloween stores. Nothing. That was not what he wanted. He wanted to be just a regular ghost. Not a scary ghost or a happy ghost or Casper the friendly ghost. He specifically wanted to be “a sheet ghost.” I tried to change his mind up until about 3:00 on Halloween afternoon. I just knew he was going to change his mind at the last minute. He swore he wouldn’t, so I went and found an old white sheet. I held it up and showed him and he said, “Yep, just like that.” I asked what to do and he instructed me to cut two eyes – and that’s it. That was how he wanted his ghost. We adjusted the length, and ended up cutting slits for his arms.

As we got ready to go trick-or-treating, I grabbed his Buzz Lightyear costume and shoved it in my purse – just in case he got tired of his ghost costume, or decided once he saw all kids dressed as Catboy and Spiderman and all the Paw Patrol dogs he’d be wondering why he was just wearing a freaking sheet.

But I was wrong.

LORDY was I wrong.

The kid was the happiest ghost you have ever seen. He ran from house to house, LOVING Halloween. He was soooo proud of his costume and would announce at every house, “I’m a GHOST! But not a real ghost – just pretend!” And as I watched him, and laughed, and just LOVED that little boy, I realized that’s what Halloween is about.

It’s not about the perfect family costume. It’s about finding pure joy in a busted old sheet.

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#Halloween #costumes #fall #kids #kidscostumes #familycostumes
The countdown to Halloween is ON. Read about how Christine got all kinds of caught up in the Pinterest Perfect Halloween last year. And why she gave up.