Three Sensory-Filled Pumpkin Seed Crafts

I am SO excited to share these fun crafts with y’all! I really contemplated what I wanted to do. I sat for awhile with my notepad trying to think of something a little creative to give y’all. Lately, my creative juices have been super low. For some odd & random reason, pumpkin seeds came to my mind. Then the juices started to flow! I’ve come up with three different art activities you can do with your littles [or just yourself- not gonna lie I did one of these all by myself after my kids went to sleep 🙂 ].

No. 1 Pumpkin Seed & Confetti Painted Pumpkins

Painting pumpkins is the new thing. I thought of putting a different spin on it. I love to add different touches to things 🙂 You can buy bags of pumpkin seeds at your local grocery store for dirt cheap & use them to decorate up your little pumpkins! I also found this super cute halloween themed confetti & I just couldn’t resist.

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The kids had so much fun painting. Paislee was obsessed with the glitter glue….so was I. Not gonna lie, it got a little messy. But we had so much fun & the paint washes off so #yolo.

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I love them! They turned out so cute! A great sensory activity 🙂 I liked painting the white pumpkins too, the colors really pop out more.

No. 2 Pumpkin Seed Outlined Pumpkins

I wish I could come up with fancy names for these, but like I said, my creativeness is a bit low these days. This was the first thing I thought of when pumpkin seeds came to mind. It’s an awesome fine motor activity & we got to use more glitter glue, so everyone wins!

I just found a pumpkin coloring page on google, printed it out, cut it out & had the kids help me glue it on the paper. Then we outlined the pumpkin with glitter glue & the kids put their seeds on. Now that I look back, it might be a little easier to color the pumpkin first then cut it out. But I had them color it after because I make life more difficult than it needs to be sometimes.

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About this time in our crafting shenanigans we had a bit of a bee fiasco. Paislee got stung by a bee earlier this week & now she is terrified of them [I don’t blame her, I’m terrified too]. Long story short, Mr. Bee showed up to our arts & crafts club & caused us both to scream our oh-so-girly screams. So we went inside, I gave the kids a bath & had them finish up their little pumpkins with some fun halloween puffy stickers!

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I. Can’t. They turned out so cool! Also, these stickers had glittery stars in them that you could shake around. You’d be surprised what you can find in the card/gift wrap section at the grocery store!

No. 3 Fall Themed Sensory Bottles…with pumpkin seeds 🙂

THESE ARE MY FAVORITE! I find any excuse to make sensory bottles. Seriously…ask my husband. This was the thing I did by myself after the kids went down. We have so many I’m thinking of just taking some to work because it’s getting a little excessive. If you want, you can go buy empty bottles made specifically for sensory-bottle-making at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. But I just used what we had at the house.

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The first one I made was halloween themed. I had some spider rings I had bought for our teal pumpkin bowl that I just cut the rings off of. I added those in there along with the orange & black glitter glue. I used about a tbsp of each if I had to guess. It’s up to your own discretion on how slowly you like your sensory gadgets to move around the bottle. I also added in the Halloween confetti & pumpkin seeds left over from our pumpkin painting from earlier. Fill the rest of the bottle with water & you’re good to go! Googley eyes would be cool too, but we were fresh out.

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The second one I made was very similar but I added in some different sensory gadgets. I found some fall-y leaves from our trees outside & added those in. Then I put in some leaf confetti I found at the store as well. I left out the black glue & just stuck with the orange. This was actually the only craft here that does not include pumpkin seeds. But it was my favorite out of all of them. It turned out really pretty.

And the last one I used a cute little mini bottle & did not use any wet ingredients. I used the leaves from our trees, pumpkin seeds & some hay from our little hay stacks by our front door. If your littles like to make music or just like noise as sensory input, these are perfect!

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I would love to see y’alls crafts that you do for fall if you have any special ones. Or comment below with pics of these if you try them out 🙂

HAPPY FALL Y’ALL!

As always, God bless †

Brittany

How We Potty Trained Our 2 Year Old with a Token Economy

Potty training is a BEAST. Plain & simple. I won’t sugar coat it for you. Our journey with Paislee was a long one & it took a ton of patience to get through it with her. Every kiddo is so different when it comes to potty training. I heard of parents having their littles trained in like 2 days….um what? HOW is that possible?

The answer I’ve gotten is candy. Candy, candy, candy. “We gave our kiddo an m&m or skittle every time they went potty.” I wasn’t totally against the fact as I’ve used candy as reinforcers for clients I work with as an ABA therapist. Plus, I’m a huge candy lover. But I guess I wanted her experience to have some other type of reward. Something more natural. My thought process was that, eventually, the candy will not be given after she goes potty. I felt that the weaning from that might be too much of a headache. I won’t lie, there were a few times she was rewarded with a cookie or gummies after she went potty. But it was not our go-to.

We started her training around when she was 19 months. Her pediatrician told us at her 18 month check up that she could start potty training. So we went out & bought her a little potty. We just started out with her sitting on the potty. We PRAISED her like crazy for sitting on that potty. And she soaked up every little bit. She actually went a few times. But she just wasn’t quite ready. We would still encourage it but we took a little break for a few months.

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We started back up again once she turned two. I tried everything y’all. We sang potty songs, read potty books, dry erase markers on the potty, went & sat on the potty every 30 minutes. None of it seemed to be working for our girl. She wasn’t showing any initiative to go to the potty. She went through a phase for a couple months where she just flat out didn’t want to go. She would start crying when we told her it was time to go potty. We thought that maybe she just wasn’t ready. We did not want to force her & make the experience aversive. So we stopped. Again. We also had a lot of things going on in our lives at this point in time. We were getting ready to move. We had lots of family coming to visit us during the holidays. Too much for her to focus on going potty when she needed to.

Once we moved into our new house I decided that it was time to get really serious about it. I was home every day during the week. We were going to be in this house for about 4 months. I thought now was the best time as any to crack down on this! So I started the every 30 minutes thing. She was starting to do much better. She had some big girl panties I had her wear most of the time during the day but she was still having accidents. Then I had the greatest idea!

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m an ABA therapist. One of the many reinforcement tools we use with our clients is called a token economy. Token economies are used to reinforce very specific behaviors. That behavior can be anything that a certain child is working on. At work, it’s usually when a client gives a correct response to a certain lesson/target being run or it could be reinforcing every instance of them having gentle hands with their peers during play. I thought this would be perfect for Paislee while she was potty training. So I got to work. Token economies that I usually work with are easily portable & can be carried around. But I wanted to make a big one. One that Paislee would notice & be excited to see every time she went potty. Plus we were almost always home, so we didn’t need to take it anywhere [but a portable one would also be helpful if you’re on the go a lot!].

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One thing that I think really helped make this method effective for us is that I included her from the get-go. I had her pick out the tokens she would earn. Of course, Ana, Elsa, Shimmer & Shine were the obvious choices. Including your child in anything really makes them feel important & special. This experience should not be aversive! It should be fun & rewarding! I also had her help me pick out the colors she wanted to use on the board. I put everything together once she was asleep. I wanted her to start this new system on a brand new day. Fresh start.

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After lots of velcro, cutting & laminating, this was the final product! I love how it turned out & I couldn’t wait for Paislee to see it.

She loved it y’all. And I can’t tell you how much it helped. It was like a light switched in her that day. She was 1000 times more motivated to use the potty because she wanted to put her tokens on her board. I still did the 30 minute rule. I did this so she could really associate the tokens with using the potty. I added a few other goals to make it easier for her to start earning them. The goals I set for her were:

“I sat on the potty when mommy or daddy told me to”

“I told mommy or daddy I needed to go potty”

“I went pee-pee in the potty”

“I went poo-poo in the potty”

“I went 30 minutes with NO accidents”

I added incentives for each goal too. Like if she went & sat on the potty every time we told her to for a whole day she could have any preferred item or food she wanted that day. If any of y’all are ABA therapists reading this, I hope you can relate. I totally do ABA with my kiddos at home too! Eventually those goals were made a bit more challenging to reach as she progressed in her training. Like having zero accidents in a whole day, & eventually in a whole week.

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IT WORKED y’all. Don’t get me wrong. She still had accidents here & there. But they significantly decreased when I started this reinforcement system. I loved it because it was still tangible for her & a great visual to motivate her through this huge milestone. One thing that also helped I think was tossing the diapers & pull-ups. When we started the token economy she only wore big girl panties during the day. We put her in pull-ups at night, but after a few nights she didn’t ever go in her pull-ups. Slowly but surely we had her in panties all day & all night. Pull-ups can be a crutch when trying to potty train. Littles are much less likely to go poop in their cute little undies rather than a pull-up that they know will be thrown away anyways.

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Fast forward a few months during our move & this girl rocked it. We drove from California to Texas. Four days on & off the road. Never wearing pull-ups & she had zero accidents! We did have a little setback when we arrived at our new house. There was a lot going on around her & new surroundings. Any big changes can affect the potty training journey for any kiddo. But we have made it to the other side. The entire journey lasted about a year & five months. Once we started the token economy, it was over in 4 months.

All the praise hands for those parents who speed train their kiddos. We were not so lucky. This is what worked for our family, & everyone is so different! I do truly believe that if you incorporate your child’s choices, wants & preferred activities/items you can get them potty trained in less than 6 months! I feel like this is a much more realistic goal rather than trying to get them trained in a week. No matter what big changes might be going on in your lives. Being a military family, it is sometimes hard for us to have a steady routine. Especially when there are moves coming up, husbands or wives are gone, or relatives in town, what have you. There is probably never a “perfect” time to potty train. Just grab the beast by the horns & run with it!

We are so proud to say that our girl is fully potty trained & our awesome token board is no more!

As always, God bless

Brittany

Items related to this post:

Raising Superheroes

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What do you envision when you think of a superhero? Does your mind wonder off to Marvel & the Avengers? Do you picture Superman flying through the air or Catwomam sneaking through the night fighting bad guys? First responders & our military? Or maybe you think of a particular person in your life or someone you may not know personally but know of their accomplishments through the media.

Have you ever stopped to think how they became so heroic? I mean if you’re Superman, you’re kinda born that way, with super human powers & strength. But even Superman could have used those powers for evil or unethical things. It’s all in how he was raised. That goes for most of us. And I said “most” because there are some heroes who grew up not having a healthy, respectable role model to look up to & learn from. The majority of our lives can all be connected back to our upbringing with our parents and/or caretakers.

So how do we do this? How do we raise our children to be heroes? And what is a hero? It can mean so many different things to each person. For me, a hero is anyone who overcomes adversity with faith, dignity, kindness & humbleness. An adversity can be anything that creates a challenge, turmoil, or grief in a person’s life. I started thinking about this after watching the movie I Can Only Imagine. It’s a beautiful film. I highly recommend it. Tiny spoiler alert though, it may trigger some stuff if you’ve ever gone through/dealt with abuse in your life. It’s about a father-son relationship & basically how it created a powerful testimony of God’s love & purpose in these two lives.

Photo from https://www.courageouschristianfather.com/i-can-only-imagine-movie-review/amp/

The movie is extremely encouraging to any parent, in my opinion. I related to it in the fact that I struggle with guilt after disciplining my children. My husband & I would never physically or emotionally harm our children. We would never harm them in any way. Period. But I always think, “Maybe I could’ve handled that differently.” Or, “I shouldn’t have yelled.” But my husband is always so great about reminding me that we are just trying our best to raise strong, loving, independent & rule-abiding adults. Our littles get upset when they get in trouble & I just hate seeing them cry. But we get down on their level & explain why we can’t do certain things- for theirs/others’ safety, it’s not kind, they’ll get too full & not eat dinner. The list goes on.

But then it happens. It clicks with them. Whatever the lesson may be. And you see them implementing them in their day to day lives.

One thing I have learned being a momma is that children, especially little bitties learn best by their environment. So lead by example. SHOW them how they are expected to act & speak. That’s how you raise superheroes. This is not to say you can’t ever be angry or sad or what have you. But it’s in the way you handle yourself & cope in those situations. You raise heroes by being a hero yourself. Be the best version of you. And you may not feel like it. But just by taking the time to play with them. Putting their dolls clothes on. Get on their level. Opening their juice [it really can be that simple!] or making them lunch. You do everything for them & they see it. Holding them when they have a bad dream & reminding them it will all be okay. It all matters. Much more than any of us realize.

Related: He’s Not Just a NICU Survivor

My kiddos are my heroes. Hands down. My Noah has overcome some huge obstacles even before he was born. And same with my baby girl. My Paislee. She is so full of life & knows no stranger. God is working through them both in so many ways already.

Related: My Beauty and the World’s Beasts

Making them feel loved, important & heard is the most heroic thing you could ever do for them. I promise you they see it. You are their world & it’s your job to guide them down the right path so they can survive in this world of sidekicks. A great leader creates more leaders. Why do you think God created us?! So we can lead others to Him!

Just some food for thought on this quiet Sunday 💕

As always, God bless †

Brittany

Our Family Favorites: 17 Children’s Books Your Littles Will Love

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Every family has their particular bedtime routine with their kiddos. I mean evenings would be pretty chaotic without them right? They’re pretty chaotic even WITH them. Our routine with our littles has always included a bedtime story. We started incorporating books into our routine with Paislee when she was a brand new baby. It took us a little while to get Noah into reading, but he loves it now. We all like to cuddle up on the couch after bath time with their lovies & read a book they pick out. Sometimes Tommy & I will tag team it & he will read to one kiddo while I read to the other. Other times we will all read together as a family if the kids are into the same book that night.

I recently started thinking about new parents & how sometimes it can be a little overwhelming how many books there are out there. I decided to go through what my family already had on our little bookshelf & share our favorites with y’all. My hope is to help any new parents kinda narrow their search down a bit to ones I know my littles love. Some of these books I’m going to share with you are classics & ones you may already have in your home. I have a few categories I’ll break them up into & tell you our faves & share why they can also be important for developmental reasons.

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Touch & Feel Books

These are amazing! Especially for those really little guys. Using those sensory input skills by touching and exploring their curiosity with the different textures. Seriously, whoever invented these is a genius. There are a plethora of different touch & feel books to chose from. For this one, I’ll give you Paislee’s pick. Because this is her favorite book right now. We read it pretty much every single night.

That’s Not My Princess- Usborne Touchy-Feely Books

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There are many different versions of this books as well if you have a little boy. That’s Not My Monster, That’s Not My Dragon, etc. This one has velvet, faux fur, & silky fabrics inside. Paislee absolutely loves it!

Literally laughing out loud to the pic on the right.

Books About Hard but Meaningful Topics

You might think this category is weird for littles & babies. But our goal as parents is to raise our kiddos up right. In the most loving & intentional ways possible. I have found that teaching our kids manners, coping with their emotions, & following the rules at an early age has really set them apart from others at times. I don’t mean to sound boastful or say in any way that my kids are better or “perfect”, but not only do we teach them these things every day but we read about them too. These next four books are our favorites that our littles enjoy too. The first three are all by the same author. Todd Parr. Who, if you haven’t heard of him, does an amazing job portraying difficult topics into fun & colorful life lessons.

It’s Okay to be Different
The Feelings Book
& Do’s and Dont’s by Todd Parr

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I first was introduced to these books in college when I attended a camp for adopted children & their families. It’s Okay to be Different was one of the books that was read to the children at camp because it talks about being adopted. Some illustrations are so silly & kids really eat it up. There are also a few more “serious” examples of being different in the book as well [i.e. being adopted, being in a wheelchair, saying no to bad things, etc.]. It’s all incorporated in a tasteful way & really educates kids about topics you may not even think to talk with them about.

He leaves it open too. Like saying no to bad things…you can relate that to real life situations with your kiddos. Something they can understand. I just love these books so much. They’re awesome!

The fourth book is Tommy’s (my husband) pick. Growing up he loved the Berenstain Bears books. Their whole collection is great for teaching all kinds of useful life lessons. They also have a lot of Christian based topics & stories. Our favorite right now is this one.

Please & Thank You Book by Mike Berenstain

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This book is a simple illustration of using please & thank you during every life. And it’s great at showing how it makes the other person feel when you use/don’t use them. This is something we started teaching really early on in our kids’ lives. Now Noah, our youngest, will say please & thank you 90% of the time without us having to prompt him. It really helps y’all!

Sing-A-Long Books

Our kids LOVE music. They love to dance around to their favorite song, but lately they have really loved sing-a-long songs. I think because they do a lot of these at school. Baby shark is all Noah sings. Our two favorite sing-a-long books are also by the same author [we’re pretty consistent in this house].

Pete the Cat Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
& Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm by James Dean

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I feel like children learn best through songs. Especially at young ages. We have a song for everything. Brushing teeth, going potty, feeling mad. Pete the Cat is just so fun. There are so many other PTC books out there. Some even have CD’s that sing along with the books. I also like the “groovy buttons” one. I used to sing that one with my preschoolers. But these are great for starting out. Paislee used to read these every night too. She would fall asleep singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It was the most precious thing. You could even incorporate instruments into storytime. More sensory input! How fun!

Flap Books

These books were the very first ones we introduced to Paislee when we began to read to her. So many developmental skills can be used with these. Fine motor skills, object permanence, problem solving. And again there are so many different versions depending on what your littles are into. These two were our favorites!

Animals
& Things That Go- Lift-a-Flap Books

A couple of flaps may or may not have been ripped off. The excitement of reading must have gotten a little out of control.

Books about Faith & Jesus

I have a lot of these! Teaching our littles about God’s undenying love & our faith in Him is extremely important in our home. If you share the same values, I have some really precious books to share! The first is a prayer book. It’s a collection of bibles verses, poems, & prayers you can read with your kiddos every night before bed. We usually read through a few because they can go by pretty quickly. Or you can pick out a main book to read & then pick out a prayer to read from the book. Either way it’s a great way to encourage prayer in your child’s life.

Bedtime Bible Promises by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

The next three are all a little different but have important messages that your littles need to hear all the time. You Are Special & God Gave Us You are very alike in their theme. It teaches kids that no matter how sparkly someone else may seem or how much more they have than you, you are special in your own way. God made you special, for a special reason & a special family, because He knew you would do great things. A Very Thankful Prayer is based around the season of fall and Thanksgiving. It encourages kids to give thanks for the things around them. No matter how big or how small. The author is the same who wrote the prayer book above! We have many books similar to these but these are our favorites!

You Are Special by Max Lucado
God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
& A Very Thankful Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

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Our last Christian based book is my pick! This book made me cry the first time I read it to the kids. It is so sweet & not only portrays my love for them, but more importantly describes God’s love for them. It is so special to my heart & I will keep it & read it to them until they won’t let me anymore!…& even then I still will.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

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Randoms

These two don’t really fall into any of these categories, but are still worth mentioning nonetheless. They really are some big favorites in our house. The first one is a classic. This one we literally read every. single. night. for almost 2 months. No joke. Goodnight Moon might seem like a simple, short & sweet little bedtime story. But you can really turn it into a learning experience. We would have Paislee point to certain things in the “green room”. It’s a great book to learn basic items you might find in a house or bedroom. The black & white contrast has also shown to be very incising & healthy for little eyes.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

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This one is Noah’s pick. He is obsessed with Llama Llama right now. He loves to read these books. We only have a couple versions right now, we need to stock up though because he is just all about them! These are more fun books, but are pretty repetitive. Which can be really great & helpful for speech development. They mostly teach good morals & manners.

Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney

This last one that I’m going to share with y’all is more of a gift you might give to your littles. We gave this to Paislee for her first Valentines Day. She was only 6 months old & we couldn’t give her candy or anything else really “Valentines-y”. We lived in California at the time & didn’t see our family much. I thought of this idea to make her a book with her family in it. Something that she could look at all the time & know who everyone was. I just started with a blank board book & added each member of our immediate families. They each have their own page with a picture of them & Paislee next to their name [or what she calls them]. It came out so cute & you can tell how much she loves it because it’s really worn out already. It’s great for military families since, most of the time, we are away from our families for long periods of time. I really need to make a new one that has both of the kids in it. Maybe a Christmas gift for this year!

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In case y’all want to order one for your littles, I ordered & created it at http://www.pintsizeproductions.com

I’ll leave picture links below for y’all for all of the books in this post if you’re wanting to purchase any 🙂

Books mentioned in this post:

 

As always, God bless †

& keep reading 🙂

Brittany

How to Create the Ultimate Kid’s Birthday Party Without Breaking the Bank

This past weekend we threw our little girl the most fun birthday party! We had the family over & it was such a great time. But let me tell ya…planning for & preparing for a kid’s birthday party is so much work. And stress, I’ll add. What’s the number one cause of stress in situations like these [at least for most of us]? Money. After going through a few birthdays with my tiny ones, I’ve learned a few things. Everything from how to decorate, gifts, food, treats, games, you name it. All for a reasonable price. Especially for us. Our kiddos’ birthdays are so close to each other, so it’s important that we try and spread the “wealth” around if ya know what I mean. I am totally not a party planner, but I will share with you what’s worked for us & hopefully they will help y’all have an awesome party for your kiddo too!

Let’s get this party started! 🙂

No. 1 Make a New Best Friend…PINTEREST

I got ALL of my ideas for my daughter’s party from Pinterest. If you have a super creative mind, by all means go for it. But if you want to create less stress & thought on your part, just search what you’re going for on Pinterest. If you don’t have an account it’s super easy to create. Paislee, my daughter, wanted a My Little Pony party. My first thought was, “I’ll just go to Party City & get all the themed plates and such.” Once I started searching on Pinterest though, I found a ton of cute decorations that I knew would cost so much less. It’s your one stop shop for anything & everything you could ever think of! Most things you find you can just make yourself, which is SO much cheaper than going out and buying it all. If you want some cute party ideas and decorations, you can follow my party board 🙂

No. 2 Make your Own Cake

Birthday cakes can be so incredibly expensive. The year Paislee turned two and Noah turned one [so, last year] I started the tradition of baking their cakes myself. I know what you’re thinking…”how does this cause me LESS stress?” Well for starters, it’s much, much cheaper. So you won’t have to worry about the expense of paying someone else to make your cake. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. I even used boxed cake mix. don’t be ashamed. My favorite thing about making the cake myself is that I know it’s baked with love. I pray my kiddos appreciate this gesture I make for them each year & it makes for precious memories. Plus, the theme is usually something my kiddos are already into and they have toys I can use as toppers! Nothing better than using things you already have. Less money out of your pocket. I have never spent more than $20 to make their cakes! And the materials you build up over time making the cakes can be used for years to come, so go you for being proactive! 🙂

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I found this rainbow cake recipe on Pinterest…duh. You can find it here. The only difference from this recipe and the one I made is that I used pre-made frosting. But homemade frosting is so good and super easy/cheap to make too!

No 3. Your Second Best Friend….Dollar Store

All of our decorations came from the dollar store. Serving bowls, scoops, streamers, balloons….E V E R Y T H I N G. You would be amazed at all the decor they have. Granted, our “theme” for Paislee’s party was super easy to create things with. My Little Pony is easy to make into a “rainbow” theme as well. Rainbow Dash all the way! Some decorations were ones you put together yourself, but they were only a dollar so it was totally worth it. And the balloons we got were ones you blow up yourself, so we didn’t have to pay for someone to blow them up with helium. Perfect.

Even all the table clothes were a dollar a piece & made for a great pop of color that went with the theme!

My mom made this adorable little piece for the fireplace where her presents were placed. She got the fabric from Joann’s & the ribbon from Michael’s. Two places that always have coupons available online- you can go to the RetailMeNot website. They also have an app for your smartphone. I use it almost everywhere I go, it’s very convenient.

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No. 4 Use What You Have at Your Disposal

I am always about using what you have. Close family and friends are usually always willing to help out if you’re needing to use something for a big party like this. We borrowed my Nana’s big tables & my cousin’s fold up chairs for everyone to sit on/at while eating. My mom has this beautiful milk glass collection that went really well with our candy bar.

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The less you have to go out and buy or rent, the better. When you’re looking on Pinterest, look for things that you can incorporate with materials you already have. It makes your life so much easier. And cheaper.

No. 5 Make Your Own Games & Activities

This kind of piggy backs off of my previous point. Try to use things you already have & turn it into something fun! We live in Texas, so it is crazy hot right now. Originally we talked about getting a bounce house or some type of blow up water slide for the kids. Those things run anywhere from 100-300 bucks. It gets pretty pricey. When it comes to children, you really don’t have to try so hard. They enjoy the littlest of things. It’s like when you buy them that nice, big electric four wheeler & they’d rather play in the big box it came in. We decided to blow up the kiddie pool, set up the slip n slide & filled the kid’s water table with water beads. The kids LOVED it. They end up making up their own games too. So this is something you really don’t need to stress about! Kids aren’t complicated! Especially little ones.

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If you’re on the artsy side or have someone in your family or friend circle who is willing to help, take advantage of that! My sister is an awesome artist & I had her make this cute little “pin the tail on the pony” game. We used some cheap little thin ribbons as the tails. The kids had fun with it!

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The other thing we decided to do was a candy bar for all the guests! It was such a cute idea that I found on Pinterest. My mom was more than willing to help & totally took it on. Again, use what [and who 🙂] you have! I liked this idea more than giving the kid’s a goodie bag. My Little Pony is a pretty girly theme, so this was a good way for us to let everyone take something home & wasn’t gender specific.

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The recipes for the treats we made can be found here:

Fruity Pebble Rice Crispie Treats

Unicorn Popcorn

Chocolate Dipped Wafers

No. 6 The Gift

Last but not least, don’t stress too much about the gift. Chances are that if you’re throwing your kiddo a party, they will be showered with gifts. Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money or get them a ton of gifts. Because that will happen anyways. I don’t even remember the gifts I got at my birthday parties growing up, but I do remember the party and people that came to celebrate with me. That’s what matters most! We had Paislee open our gift to her on her actual birthday. It was more intimate for us & she was able to enjoy it before she got her other gifts during her party.

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This was such a fun party & day. I will always remember it! Some of the decorations we used can even be used again! Some are hanging in Paislee’s room because she loved them so much 🙂 A birthday party doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple decor & treats will do the trick, I promise! As long as there’s free food for your guests, they will be happy! I tried to link up all of the recipes & other helpful things you might need, but if I forgot something or if you have any questions just shoot me a comment below!

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As always, God bless

Brittany

THE BIG MOVE

Long time no see, friends! Howdy FROM TEXAS!

I have missed writing these past couple of weeks! Needless to say, our little family has been busy busy busy. We have travelled over 2,000 miles, seen majestic national landmarks & made it back to our home state of Texas. And can I just say, “Ahhhhh it feels so good!” We have only been back for a little over a week but it feels great to be home. There’s just no place like it!

I am so excited to take you through our whole moving experience- especially the road trip. It was all a huge whirlwind at first. Let me fill you in a little bit….in case you are just now tuning into the blog, my husband, Tommy, is a Marine and just recently graduated from recruiter’s school. The anticipation of waiting to hear where we would be stationed next was intense. Tommy had put in a special request for Fort Worth, Texas, where we were born and raised. We prayed hard for it and had tons of prayer warriors behind us through it all. I remember Tommy calling me the day he found out and he said, “Are you ready for this?” At this point I had no idea what to expect. The Marine Corps is so incredibly unexpected [my fellow spouses can attest to this]. So, honestly I was expecting the worst. He just sat there for a minute and said, “Killeen, TX baby!” I was sitting at the table eating lunch with the kids & I jumped up so high with pure excitement and joy flowing through my body. I was crying tears of happiness and relief. We were finally going back H O M E.

The next couple of weeks after we found out, we were basically just chillin’. Tommy was finishing up his school & I was constantly looking for houses to rent in the new area we would be living in. The amazing thing about this whole set-up was that we didn’t have to pack or move ourselves. The Marine Corps was going to do that all for us…or so we thought. About a week and a half before our expected move date, all of the Marines in Tommy’s class found out that the movers that were supposed to be scheduled to move all of us were backed up, therefore would not be able to move anyone out until middle or late July. That was just not going to work for us. We had a house lined up, a road trip planned to see all of these awesome places in almost a week & NOW you choose to tell us this?!

IO mad guy

You’d think I would get used to things just not going my way after almost 4 years of being a Marine Corps spouse, but no. I was livid. And extremely stressed out, to say the least. After getting some advice on what to do from a family friend of ours who is also a Marine, we decided to go ahead and move ourselves.

So I had about 5 days to pack up our house. Which in hindsight was not bad at all, but in the moment it was immensely overwhelming to me. All the while, my husband was working on getting the moving truck, towing trailer [for my car] & making sure we had all the funds necessary to make this move of ours happen. If you have ever or plan to ever rent a moving truck out of California to anywhere else in the U.S., I have a little tip for you…don’t do it. It’s so insanely expensive. My husband ended up buying a cheap flight to Vegas, picked up the moving truck there, drove back to our house [about a 5 hour drive] & we packed up and moved out 2 days after. See…whirlwind, I warned ya. It was way more inconvenient on our part, but much less in regards to money [like 3 times as less]. It was definitely the smarter route.

A friend of ours joked that we were proof that Murphy’s Law truly does exist. The journey leading up to our move & even some happenings on our road trip was just one chaotic mess after another!

DAY 1

Then we headed out on our trip. Once we knew we were going to have the moving truck we debated on whether or not we wanted to still make our stops along the way. I was so looking forward to seeing the Hoover Dam & the Grand Canyon. We finally decided, “Why not?!” We had four whole days to kill [what my husband “rates” for this particular move]. The first day, our goal was to make it to the Hoover Dam. Tommy was especially excited about this stop. We were all packed up & ready to head that way!

It took us a good 7-8 hours to get to the Hoover Dam. Another little road trip tip- if you are going to be traveling a long ways with toddlers in a car, just be prepared to stop A LOT. Especially if one or both of those toddlers is potty training. Both of the kids did amazing in the car. We watched Coco maybe 30 times, but they were calm & kept themselves entertained the whole way. Paislee had zero accidents the whole time, too! We were & are still so proud of her for that! Huge milestone in her potty training journey!

Anyways, back to the Hoover Dam…it was a huge heartbreak. TIP- check the websites of any major landmark or stop you plan to make before you go on your road trip. I say this because we failed to do this & we were not able to see the Hoover Dam in result. The Dam closes at 5:30. They are currently doing some construction & they close from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. What really sucks is that we literally pulled up to the gate at 5:30 on the dot. Tommy was so bummed. I felt terrible. So, do your research people. Learn from our mistakes!

We were still super excited about the Grand Canyon the next day, though. We drove a little more to our hotel in Kingman, AZ & called it a day. The kids also slept really well in the hotels. They went to bed a little [sometimes much] later than their usual bedtimes, but that’s just all part of it. We weren’t too concerned about bedtimes & nap times. The kids never have trouble sleeping in the car either. So sleep was not an issue on this trip!

DAY 2

We woke up the next morning & made our way to the Grand Canyon! The kids were in such great moods that morning! And so were we. We got some decent sleep & were very excited to get back on the road again.

This is the day it started to rain. It rained almost the entire day. Except for the time we were actually at the Grand Canyon [we can thank God for that 🙂]. I will try not to spam the next portion of this post with the beautiful pictures we captured, but I can’t make any promises! It was so majestic & serene, y’all. I can’t begin to explain how big it actually is. There are no words to describe it. It was true proof of God’s handy work. We are so blessed to have been able to take the kids [and the dogs] to see this.

It’s like you almost feel like you can touch Heaven. That’s how magical & peaceful it is there.

Tommy went out on this cliff where you could get some awesome shots of the Canyon. I was too much of a chicken to go out there myself, although I did try.

It was a wonderful day. The kids are still so little & couldn’t really appreciate the beauty, but it was still such a memorable moment for us as parents & something we will always remember doing with them!

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But you better believe that Paislee remembers this! It was the highlight of her trip to the Grand Canyon, if you ask her.

And of course we had to get the kids matching shirts! I got the smallest sizes they had…I just couldn’t help myself.

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Day two was our favorite road trip day! It was filled with tons of fun & lifetime memories!

DAY 3

This day was filled with lots & lots of driving. This is the day we made the most time. And it rained all. day. long. This is the day we finally made it to Texas! This was the hardest day for me. I was getting so tired of driving. And although the kids weren’t having any real meltdowns, they were constantly dropping something that I couldn’t get for them. Their snacks, their blankets, the cups, their toys. Everything. And I was driving, so it was hard for me to pick whatever it was up for them.

Something that made the drive so much easier was the walkie talkies that we bought before we left California. So if the kids did drop something, I could let Tommy know immediately & we could both pull over to the shoulder really quick so I could grab it. It was so much easier & safer than picking up the phone & calling each other every time we needed to stop. It was also helpful in just keeping the other person in the loop of cars passing or something coming up that I couldn’t see because the huge moving truck was in front of me the whole drive there. I would highly recommend getting a pair if you have to drive separately on a road trip with someone. The ones we purchased are down at the end of this post 🙂

Then we made it. To Texas. The homeland. The promiseland.

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We were a little excited, could you tell??

We started the day in Albuquerque, NM & ended the day in Abilene, TX. We drove a lot, but it was so worth it. Because the next day would only be a 3ish hour drive to our new home!

DAY 4

The final day had come! We were going to see our new house today! No more driving. We would get to sleep in our own bed. It was going to be a glorious day! Abilene is only about a 3 hour drive from our home in Nolanville. It seemed like the longest 3 hours though. Probably because we were just so darn excited. When we arrived, my dad and one of my younger sisters was there to greet us! A huge sigh of relief & thankfulness came out of me when we saw our home. It was beautiful. And it was in Texas. What could be any better?!

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DAY 13

Jump ahead a little, & today we are just loving our new home & town. It just feels right here. We are still unpacking & trying to get in all of the quality time we can before Tommy starts his new position as a recruiter & I start my new job [which I just accepted last week, yay!]. It is so nice being so close to family. We can spend the big holidays together, & even the weekends that nothing is going on. We are cherishing this time in our lives & love that our kids are finally getting some real Texas time. God has answered our prayers. Like He always does. The road was surely bumpy & stressful along the way [when is it not?], but we got here. Welcome to the next chapter in our life! We hope you keep reading 🙂

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As always, God bless

Brittany

How to Prepare Your First Born for a New Baby

Let me start by saying that there is no “perfect” way of preparing your first born for a new baby. A new baby who will steal away mommy & daddy’s attention. A new baby who will get all of these new clothes, furniture & toys. A new baby who will mostly cry & sleep, but not play with them. It can be a really rough transition not only for the parents, but your little one as well.

It all depends on age! For us, our daughter was just barely 1 year old when we found out we were pregnant with our second. Besides the fact that it was a total & complete shock to us, we had no idea how to prepare her for the changes to come. She was our baby. Our first baby. Our baby who was literally still a baby. She’s not going to understand when we say, “You’re going to have a baby brother or sister!” Although we did tell her this, we are almost 100% positive she most definitely did not understand that. But once my belly started getting bigger, we would point and say, “Mommy has a baby in her belly!” Then she would point to my belly & say, “Baby!”

In our case it was hard to find ways to prepare her for this big change. Little did we know, Noah would be born 3 months early and would make that transition a little more difficult for us. Most people don’t know that if your preemie is born at a certain time of the year, there are very strict rules on who can come into the unit. During “RSV” season (which is when Noah was born) only parents & grandparents were allowed in the unit. So Paislee was only allowed to see her brother two or three times before that rule came into play. And he was in the NICU for 3 months. It was really hard to balance all of our time between the two babies with them not being together. The times she did get to meet and see him, she was so so sweet.

 

The first time Paislee met Noah ♥

Related: The Littlest Warrior: An Inspiring NICU Story

 

I also have to show you this video because it’s just too darn cute. This was when Noah was still in the NICU & Paislee loved to talk to him. She was so sweet & careful around him. She would sometimes touch his head and was so gentle. My heart, y’all.

Given that our case was a bit different, I have collaborated and spoken with a fellow blogger of mine! Krystal Klassen with the Quarter Mile Lane blog has been so gracious to be a guest here on Dogtags, Dolls & Dinosaurs today! Krystal and her four sisters have an amazing blog that they work on together! They have everything from homemaking tips, gardening, recipes, & awesome parenting advice. I am a devoted reader & love their content. They also post some fun & engaging statuses on their facebook page. They are super funny & relatable for all parents!

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Krystal (far right) & her beautiful sisters!

After speaking with Krystal a bit, I asked her some questions about her experience when her & her husband found out about their second baby. Our experiences are different in so many ways, & similar too! So happy to introduce her to everyone & share with all of you!

1. What was your first thought when you found out you were having a second baby?

Our second was planned, so we were so excited to be welcoming another little one to our family. After the excitement of finding out we were pregnant, my thoughts immediately turned to worry of how our firstborn would react to a new baby.

Not only was she our first child but she had spent the first 3 years of her life as the only grandchild on my husband’s side. She was also the only great grandchild during that time. With a lot of nearby family, she was the center of attention at every family event. I was really nervous that becoming a big sister was going to absolutely turn her world upside down!

2. How did you break the news to your first child?

We waited quite a while to tell anyone, including our firstborn. Luckily, I didn’t show very quickly so it was pretty easy to keep it a secret for a few months. Once we found out we were having a boy, we told our firstborn that she was going to be a big sister.  It took a couple weeks for it to really click that there was a baby in mom’s tummy. During that time we kept reminding her how much fun it was going to be to have a brother to play with and what a great helper she would be.

3. Do you have any special advice or tips to help prepare first borns for a new baby?

My biggest advice would be to stay positive (as much as possible during pregnancy). Kids pick up on negative ideas and conversations really easily. The last thing you want is for your firstborn to have negative ideas about the baby before he/she even arrives! Help your firstborn realize all of the things that they will be big enough to help with when they are a big sister or big brother. We got this book called I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole and read it frequently. It was so helpful in reminding our daughter how fun it was going to be to be a big sister. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone welcoming a second child. There is also a big brother version.

We also did some fun activities with our daughter during the last few months of my pregnancy. We took a little weekend getaway and did things that she was interested in like going to the zoo. We also took her to a movie with just mom and dad. I think these opportunities for one on one time helped her feel like she was important even with a little brother coming soon.

4. Is there anything you didn’t do that you wish you had?

I wish I would have gotten the nursery put together sooner. Honestly, the nursery never happened! Our son was born 5 weeks early, so there just wasn’t time. I think this would have helped my firstborn realize sooner that there was really a baby coming. I think it would have helped if she was more familiar with these new surroundings sooner and better understand what the different baby items are for. This would have been another way to prepare her to be a “big helper”!

5. Once the baby arrived how did your first adjust? How are they now?

Oh goodness! I can’t say enough how all of my expectations were exceeded when our baby was born! When our son was born early and spent two weeks in the NICU, my concern of how she would react to a new baby escalated. She was shuffled between family and friends while mom and dad were trying to get baby brother out of the NICU. It was a crazy 2 weeks, but the whole time she was so excited to finally meet her baby brother! When we finally brought baby brother home, she was so happy to meet him and didn’t want to leave his side. I gave her plenty of opportunities to help with baby brother by getting diapers, giving him a pacifier, singing him songs, etc.

Fast forward 4 years, and they still get along as well as any 4 and 7 year old would. My firstborn really likes to play mom and tell her brother what to do, which he doesn’t always appreciate. Often, I have to remind her that she isn’t the mom and that mom can take care of the discipline. She loves to protect him and is quick to help him if he is hurt or sad.

Krystal shares some great tips in there, right? We too read a book to our daughter that explained what the role of a big sister was & Paislee loved to read it almost every night! Now when she reads it, she calls the baby “Bubba” (what we call Noah). It’s so cute. Krystal also brought up a good point with putting the baby’s room together beforehand. With a preemie baby, that can be really hard because you don’t know that your little one is coming so early, so I can definitely relate with her there! But that can be a really great way to help your first born transition into sibling-hood.

Some other transitional ideas to get your first born ready for a new baby:

  • Practicing with a baby doll- show them how to help change diapers, go on walks, feed them, give them a bath, etc.
  • Showing them your sonograms & general pictures of babies
  • Taking them to appointments with you when possible (I remember doing this with my mom before she had my sisters & it made me feel very included and important)
  • Watching a tv show or movies that involve a new baby coming into the family (wouldn’t recommend Boss Baby lol- not very realistic)
  • Having a “baby countdown”
  • Putting the new carseat in the car before the baby arrives

If y’all have anymore ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments!

Also, if there’s one piece of advice I can bestow upon you, it’s this- always make time for EACH/ALL of your children. I understand this is sometimes easier said than done, but it is so important for your children to feel individually loved, appreciated & seen. After you’re all settled in, pump some milk or get the formula stocked up, and go out with your first born. Being the first born, I know first hand how much I loved hanging out with either my parents without my little sisters around. DONT’ GET ME WRONG, I love my sisters so, so much. But it’s nice to have all of the attention. Children need it. Babies tend to get most of it, especially when they are brand new. Because they require so much TLC.

Trust me, making time for all of your babies & taking the time to transition them in a healthy way will set everyone up for success in the long run. If you are preparing for this transition, I wish you the best of luck!

May-the-Odds-Be-Ever-In-Your-Favor

Happy Hunger Games!…haha jk

As always, God bless †

Brittany

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