Here's a Valentine's Day story playlist for your little ones!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Kick back with some art if you want. I always do.
Kids bored? Show 'em some art.
"Thanksgiving" by John Currin
John Currin's paintings are AMAZING but they always freak me out. Everyone is kind of scary. And just look at that nasty blood puddle under that perfectly-painted turkey! The lady on the left is all..."Dang it, Sheila. I just cleaned this table. Better go grab the bleach spray."
"Thanksgiving" by David Bates
Did you guys know he's from Dallas, Texas? Our DFW museums are RICH in Bates paintings. Not to be confused with the deceased British painter with the same name.
"The Christmas Hamper" by Robert Martineau
This one is fascinating. I keep seeing new things! It's actually a Christmas paining, but I'm including it anyway. 'Cause I'm a total REBEL!
The girl on the far left is up to something. What in the world is she holding? Probably a can of lard she's about to smear all over mama's expensive sideboard.
We like the tiny black kitten, too.
What's on the chair on the left? I can't figure it out.
Halloween Tune of the Day:
Halloween Tune of the Day-"Thriller" by Michael Jackson
It's the first day of the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac!
I read that New Year's is a big deal in China, and people celebrate for TWO WEEKS. On New Year's Day, families get together to clean their houses to "sweep away bad fortune".
It's traditional to give children red envelopes full of "lucky money", along with notes about how their want their children to grow up to be healthy. Aren't those pretty?
People do LOTS of decorating, similar to how we decorate for Christmas.
These can include red paper cut outs, banners, special red lanterns, and New Year paintings.
You'll see lots of Roosters, or whatever animal represents that year.
I've been reading about their New Year art customs. It's traditional to buy/display art relating to the new mascot of that year.
A common form is "banhua", or any sort of art based on a traditional woodblock print that creates a black and white outline, which is then colored in. The Chinese have been doing coloring books since before it was trendy! :)
There are many types of gods that are portrayed in these pictures, but a popular one is a "door god".
In some Chinese folk religions, these are divine guardians that watch over doors and gates. They keep evil from passing, and allow positive influences to cross.
In modern times, New Years art will also include women, babies, and kitchen gods. Do any of you observe Chinese traditions? If so, I'm curious to hear more about what you do to celebrate.
Did you have a good Christmas? This one was particularly nice for our family. My girls are at a great age to really enjoy the holiday.
Oh, my sweet, sweet daughters. See that green dress? My mom crocheted that for me when I was little. I wore it on my first day of kindergarten with cowboy boots.
They're bundled up for school, so excited for Christmas break to begin. So many holiday parties, then finally home!
This was Piper's first year to really help with ornaments.
This has to be one of the best days of the year. Violet is really good at decorating. I'm glad she likes to help!
Adam puts his train from when he was a little boy around the base of the tree. The girls set up the snow village this year...they did a good job!
I love those German Christmas pyramids. We add extra candles around the base so it zooms around fast.
Nom! Our traditional Christmas breakfast....salmon and bagels with fruit and mimosas (for grownups)
Then one foggy Christmas Eve...
We have an owl! I get so excited when an owl moves into one of our boxes. I always have my fingers crossed for an owl. One year, a rude duck moved in. What was he thinking??? I don't even know how that duck squeezed itself into the box. It seemed way too small for him.
The soft hooting of an owl mixed with wind blowing through the leaves sounds like home.
The girls worked on gingerbread houses for HOURS.
The gingerbread houses were a big hit. We'll definitely do this again next year.
Making sausage! It's such a chore, but Adam is good at it. The pork is from wild hogs from our place. I like them with extra garlic and jalapenos.
Pigs 'n blankets....homemade beef & wild hog sausage and homemade yeast dough.
We make them every year. Next year we may try making mustard, too.
Adam thought one of the pigs in blankets looked like a baby Ewok.
I don't know what Adam was doing, but this is our celebratory Swiss cheese! We get a little wheel of it every year to eat on Christmas Day.
Cat jammies! We always get matching pajamas for Christmas.
Stringing popcorn and cranberries. I gave my youngest daughter a real needle and she only stuck herself once.
We also used apple jacks to make garlands.
They both ate a bunch of the cranberries. So tart.
It's our Nature Tree! We decorate a small tree for the animals. We even made a star out of toast for the top. By the next morning, almost everything had been eaten.
Our friend Marcia sent us this pretty hand embroidered tablecloth. It's so intricate...it must have taken weeks to make, if not months.
Paintings wrapped up and ready to go to their new homes for Christmas. It's so satisfying to paint for people....I feel like an elf!
Our Girl Scouts troop won 3rd place in our local Christmas parade. We had a Night Before Christmas theme. It was brrrrrr cold-thank goodness we all wore warm jammies. I like any event where the costume is pajamas.
Not really reindeer in the meadow, but we like to pretend. Now I need to put away the last few decorations. I'll think I have everything done, then I find some random Santa or tiny tree. Does that happen to you, to0?
I'm now offering custom portraits here in my Etsy shop.
I can do pets, couples, whole families...whatever you want. These are great holiday gifts, but people like art all year long.
Consider a portrait for a wedding, anniversary, birthday, adoption, save-the-date card, retirement, holiday cards, invitations, and more! You can choose your outfits and details, or I can choose for you.
For the family above, I included some of their hobbies. Clem is into Wing Chun martial arts, Charlotte bakes and decorates cakes, and they enjoy spoiling their dog Moto. In the background, I also painted some of their favorite vacation spots, like Paris, Venice, and La Jolla Cliffs.
I can also create a separate image narrating your personal occasion or story.
You can tell he's totally posing for the camera.
I hope you and your dear ones have a happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is such a gentle holiday, sandwiched between the sugary riot of Halloween and the jingle rush of Christmas. Although I love the costumes and the candy and the wrapping and trimmings, I really cherish this time of people just enjoying each other, sharing a meal, and giving thanks.
Halloween's blowing in, and it finally feels like autumn is here! Which, in Texas, means that it's finally in the 80s.
We have butterflies all around the pumpkins, and it's finally getting cool enough to open the windows at night. Is there anything better than a soft breeze and the sound of crickets, coyotes, and owls while you sleep?
I'm spending a lot of time in the studio painting and drawing for a children's book illustration class. The Halloween Room is one of my favorite places in October. All those stripes make me happy.
When I start for the day, I'll go in, look up where all the stripes meet, and turn in a circle. It makes me dizzy, and that always makes me giggle a little. Sometimes I'll give the butterly/owl/bat mobile a gentle push and watch it sway. It's like the little creatures are saying hello and swishing some nice ideas towards my brain with their wings.
I usually decorate slowly for seasons...a thing here or there every few days.
Take something down, put something else up. It's a slow progression...kind of a quiet meditation on the seasons.
Trucks show up to pick up load after load of hay. The trees are starting to turn, but it's slow and subtle. I watch the leaves like a hawk, so I notice. It's not the fireworks you get in New England, but I'll take it.
I let the girls choose our costumes. We're the "Amazing Irrgang Bat Circus". They even have a little circus routine where they fly through the hoop and everything! Those kids.
I made that orange pillow last year and still get a little thrill when I see all those orange ruffles. It was the first time I'd tried singe-hemming...you can see how I did it here in this video.
Some recent gnoshing...mussels with garlic, autumn beans over farro, and butternut squash soup with chives and sour cream.
For a lot of people, Mother's Day is not an easy holiday. My heart goes out to all of you who have lost loved ones...either your mother, a child, or a person that felt like a parent. And not everyone has a great relationship with the mothers or children in their life. There's also a lot of anxiety involved for some people over the inability to have children, or the conscious choice to not be a parent, or sadness related to adoption. To all of you that find Mother's Day challenging, I hope you find some peace today.
There's a lot of creepy Easter stuff from days of yore.
Yup. That pretty much sums it up. Did I tell you guys I was an Easter Bunny for a photographer one year? That costume is hot, not to mention hideous. Poor kids. There was one little boy who had only recently moved to the US (I think he was from the Middle East) and he was TERRIFIED. He had no idea what the big creepy bunny was all about. That must have been really confusing.
Why the weeping child? Is the bratty kid whipping him with a cherry blossom branch? I guess this was what Easter was like during The Great Depression.
No Mommy-I don't want to ride the demonic chick with bloodshot eyes.
And now for oddities that I dooooo like:
Charming. I'd happily fill up his little goatie gut with jelly beans. Or as my youngest daughter calls them, "jellabeans".
I made this suitcase years ago and I still think about it. I really wish I'd kept it. Especially since Adam took me on a hot air balloon ride. What a happy day.
Here's a taxidermied bunny blowing a bubble. When you think about it, you realize that glass would be molten lava hot if it was being blown into a sphere, so that's yucky. But adorable. Delightful AND creepy.
These are a tad on the coffiny side, but I still like them. Nice soft palette and well-made, tiny costumes.
Eeeek! That one has hands!!! Imagine if this was your toilet paper holder.
Okay, that's all for now.
It's almost Turkey Time, guys! If you're in the mood for a story or need to keep the little ones busy while you clean or cook, check out my Thanksgiving storytime videos. I've also included links to my review of each book if you're into that sort of thing.
"Run Turkey, Run!"
by Diane Mayr
Illustrated by Laura Rader
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
by Wendy Silvano
Illustrated by Lee Harper
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
"The Very First Thanksgiving Day"
by Rhonda Gowler Green
Illustrated by Susan Gaber
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
"Thanksgiving Is Here"
by Diane Goode
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
"Thanks for Thanksgiving"
by David Milgrim
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
"Thanks for Thanksgiving"
by Julie Markes
illustrated by Doris Barrette
(For my book review and more story info, click here.)
Halloween comes and goes so fast! Our calendar was crammed full this year. Parties, carnivals, costumes, and way too much candy.
Piper's class got to scoop out the insides of a pumpkin. I did that when I was little, too! The smell of pumpkin guts snaps me right back to kindergarten.
We were a family of bunnies, and Adam was Farmer McGregor.
Uh oh...he got the littlest bunny!
When I woke up on Haloween, the girls had already dressed themselves for a (in their words) our special Halloween breakfast. That I got to cook for them. Ahem.
Pinata madness at a friend's party. We let the girls have all the candy they want on Halloween. It's one day a year. Piper went kind of insane....she jumped up and down beside the trampoline-not on it-, bit her sister, peed in her pants, then cried when we took away the gummy worms. Ah, Halloween!
That sugar rush is real, y'all.
Guess who got sprayed by a skunk on Halloween morning? Mooskies, that's who. He's so ashamed he can't even look at the camera. After much shampoo and vinegar he's bearable. But just barely.
It was a cloudy, rainy night. The leaves were skittering across the pavement in the wind.
Piper's class is so full of cuties I could squeal.
How was YOUR Halloween? Photos, please.
Want to see something awesome? Look at our new Secret Decoder Rings. You can find the rings and all kinds of other goodness from Uncommon Goods at this link:
Are you jealous? I bet you're jealous.
You spin your ring to find the letter you want, and each letter has a corresponding number. If I wanted to write "C", then the code would be "5". Easy peasy.
Adam and I each got one, and now I feel like a spy. Oh! A Bond Girl. Don't Bond Girls have secret decoder rings?
Adam looks slightly insane here. Ignore that. Pay attention to how cool these rings are.
I don't know about you, but I have a lot of trouble shopping for guys-my husband in particular. Uncommon Goods has a lot of neat things for men that won't end up in the Goodwill pile after the holidays. Full disclosure...they sent me these rings for free, but I've been searching for something like this, so I'm glad they did.
Check out some of their fun gifts for men on this page:
There are sooo much fun! Adam texts me secret messages and I use my sneaky ring to decode his love notes. These would also be really fun to use with kids. Put a secret message in their lunch and let them figure it out!
I have another really fun toy from Uncommon Goods, the Make Your Own Music Box Kit. I'll show you a video of it when I finish my musical masterpiece. They have lots of unique kids' items here:
Another nice thing about Uncommon Goods is that they support a lot of non-profits. My favorite is American Forests, the oldest non-profit American conservation organizations. Their mission is to restore threatened forest ecosystems and inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests. Woohooo! Go trees.
This squirrel thanks you.
P.S. The lowest paid seasonal worker at Uncommon Goods starts at 50% above the average minimum wage. That's the workers, not the squirrels. They're not illegally employing squirrels.
I'm trying to get in the Halloween mood so I can fire up my sewing machine and start making costumes.
Here's a playlist of spooky jazz and big band tunes on Youtube. That first song is crazy. My fave is number 3..."This October". You can't go wrong with Julie London.
"Shine on Harvest Moon" by The Dinning Sisters is pretty great, too. Those twins were so gorgeous, weren't they? I miss that old glamour.
Give it a click and grab some cider or a pumpkin spice latte and meet me back here. Go ahead...I'll wait.
I used to make a LOT of holiday decorations/toys/paintings. Then I had my two little ghouls and my production levels have dropped off considerably. When they're back in school full time I'll get to crackin' again, I'm sure.
Here's a little recipe box I painted. I'm addicted to recycling stuff. What would I do without thrift stores?
There's a "secret" candy corn in the bottom.
Here's a small stand for a pumpkin or an extra-large cupcake.
Some silly appetizer pics.
A little cat doll on a swing.
This is a set of wooden salad bowls.
I liked their little metal pedestals. It makes your salads....fancier, I suppose. Because we all need fancier salads, right?
I took a fitted top and embroidered an orange owl with "Hoot hoot!" across the front.
Okay...now I'm in a Halloween mood.
It's Halloween thirty, you guys!
My children will NOT stick with one costume choice. Tell me someone else goes through the every year.
"Bunny! No...now I want to be a cowgirl. No, wait...a moth. I've changed my mind, Mama...I want to be an astronaut. No...a princess astronaut. No, a deer. Wait-I was a deer last year."
I'm setting a cut-off point. Pick by the end of the week if you expect me to make it. Tres reasonable, yes?
Adam and I took turns with the camera during the eclipse.
It was pretty cloudy, but we got a few glimpses.
The moon...sigh. It never changes and it always changes. It's so lovely.
Whenever I'm apart from Adam, or anyone I love, it brings me comfort to remember that we're all looking up at the same sky. Seeing the same sun, the same stars, and especially...the same moon.
And a happy 11th anniversary to my dear, dear Adam. I don't know what I'd do without you. We take a photo every year in the oak grove where we got married. When we're old and gray we'll have a progression of images from our life together. We also take a birthday shot of everyone in the family. Do any of you have photo traditions to commemorate special events?
silently if, out of not knowable
night’s utmost nothing, wanders a little guess
(only which is this world) more of my life does
not leap than with the mystery your smile
sings or if (spiraling as luminous
they climb oblivion)voices who are dreams,
less into heaven certainly earth swims
than each my deeper death becomes your kiss
losing through you what seemed myself;i find
selves unimaginably mine;beyond
sorrow’s own joys and hoping’s very fears
yours is the light by which my spirit’s born:
yours is the darkness of my soul’s return
–you are my sun,my moon,and all my stars
by e.e cummings
Nothin' says lovin' like the Jurassic period.
I made a whole batch of "Dinosaurs in Love" for Violet's Valentine's Day party.
I'm coordinating a party with all 4 kindergarten classes together...wish me luck! I've been really fortunate-this is one volunteering group of parents. They all sign up to help and seem happy to be there...yay!
Violet's class will make card holders out of big food canisters, so they'll look kind of like this. Oh boy...Valentine cards! I loved making a shoe box for mail when I was in school. I could barely sleep the night before, wondering what kind of cards I'd get. I always picked out the nicest card for the cute guy in our class, and I tried to make my friends' cards extra special. I'd bring them home and spend hours looking at every single one. Did you get all silly over Valentine's Day, too? Tell me I'm not alone.
That tiny ring was hard to make. So. Many. Glue. Burns.
Didn't we all grow up thinking that noodle slurping scene from Lady and the Tramp was soooo romantic? The spaghetti is embroidery thread and the sauce is nail polish.
T-Rex looks so happy to be getting his cards, doesn't he?
Dino Prom! He has a bow tie to match her hair bow. He's presenting a corsage to her. Adam didn't get it. My husband said he's NEVER in his life bought a corsage for a girl. Pssst...I'll let you pin one on me any day.
"Bye, Honey-have a nice day!"
I like long term, real life, husband/wife/family love best of all! There's no place I'd rather be than with Adam and my girls.
Baby Triceratops even has on a diaper, but you can't see it in this photo.
Gettin' pretty. I think she's going to need a lot of work.
Hot glue is our friend. Seriously...is there anything hot glue can't do?
Getting hungry yet?
"I'm so glad you called!"
Here's old Aunt Jane Austengosaurus penning her love poems. I made the pencil out of a toothpick and used a printer to reduce real Valentines and envelopes to teeny tiny scale.
Holding hands. Aaaaaw.
"I'd kiss me," thinks Velociraptor.
Adam came up with the tail hole. Thanks, honey.
I don't know if you can see it, but I wrote "Max Raptor" on the lipstick. Like "Max Factor"...get it? GET IT PEOPLE???? I think I've inhaled too much hot glue. Can you even do that?
I hope you and the hug-and-smooch-worthy people in your life have a fabulous Valentine's Day!
Did I ever show you guys this?
I think I asked you to guess what all this junk was going to magically transform into to.
Yay for recycling! It wasn't perfect, but we only have 30 minutes to set up everything for their parties, from decorations to food. So....simple and quick is necessary.
I think they had fun. Man it gets crazy with 12 classes in a cafeteria, add parents and it's extra noisy.
I also made some "snow globes" with salt, upside down salad bowls, mini trees, and cake toppers. These are shamefully blurry.
I get a little verklempt when holidays are over, do you?
Have you ever seen those crazy parades in Austria around Christmas where people dressed like Krampus walk down the streets scaring kids? Terrifying!
According to National Geographic:
"Krampus was created as a counterpart to kindly St. Nicholas, who rewarded children with sweets. Krampus, in contrast, would swat "wicked" children and take them away to his lair."
Anyhoo-I'm raising children who like to be stuffed in a sack. They think it's fun! Like I've said before, go ahead and send me money for a therapy fund if you want to. They'll probably need it.
VIolet squeals, "Daddy, daddy-wrap me up in the sack and run!"
What a good father you are, Adam.
And there they go! Notice how not cold Christmas is in Texas?
He ran off to the woods and dumped her. Good times.
Piper rolled herself up in her blanket, all ready to go. "My turn next, Daddy." She waited so patiently.
What am I going to do with these two?
We're not Swedish or Catholic (although I probably should have been), but we celebrate St. Lucia Day on December 13th. The Swedes choose a girl from each home/village to be that year's St. Lucy. In a home setting, it's the oldest daughter still living at home. She wears a crown of real or fake candles, and leads a procession through the darkened house, symbolically bringing light back in the dark of winter. The real St. Lucy was a martyr who met an unfortunate death. Some versions say her eyes were plucked out-eeeek! We skip over that part and go straight for the cookies.
All the kids wear white clothes and red sashes, and the younger siblings are "star girls". Or boys. They serve their parents special pepparkakor cakes and coffee, which are like spicy gingerbread cookies. In our house, the girls sing Santa Lucia while I play harp. This year, Violet sang while Piper did a dance. If you contact me privately, I'll share the video if you want to see it.
Look who snatched that crown the second her sister wasn't looking!
This was the first year we chopped down trees we planted. This is the tree in the studio. I've never had a tall tree before-it seemed like a fun luxury. I had to use a ladder to decorate it.
I decorated it with dolls riding in different sleds and carriages and things. It was our "girl tree".
If I decided anyone was dressed inappropriately, I made them "snow suits" out of quilt batting. There. Doesn't he look better now?
The dolls taking a ride around the base of the tree.
This one sings When You Wish Upon A Star.
I had an old carousel horse/riding toy I finally painted. I couldn't decide between gold and silver. The gold paint gave me better coverage, so gold won.
My Fiesta Room.
More Fiesta Room. Can't get enough Fiesta Room.
The studio is my happy place.
Our friend Magic Mouse (he lives in the wall behind the red door) sent us a gift. He said he was working in New York and found this mouse replica he thought we'd like. It plays a bunch of different Christmas carols and sings. We discovered Magic Mouse is an antiques dealer, so he travels a lot for work.
Little bits of green.
I have four David Delamare Fairy Processional prints...one for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This is the winter version. I look forward to switching them out every time the seasons change.
I can't believe this was a year ago. Last year, I took Violet to see The Nutcracker. Someone was teasing me about dressing all of us in matching outfits. What are you talking about, Amy? I would never...oh, wait. I look like an overstuffed polar bear, but it was cozy. It looks like Violet is throwing gang signs. I figure I'll only have one or two more years of Mommy & Me outfits before my children say NO.
Violet was so itty bitty. Why are my babies growing up?
Waaaah! Christmas is over for another year. I'd better get busy enjoying January. I feel like it's always half over before I'll allow myself to realize it's a new year.
I thought I'd try to post some holiday photos before it got too far away from Christmas.
Piper and I visited Violet's school-isn't that a nice tree?
Violet's piece for Art Night, made of tissue paper. They did a segment on the work of Eric Carle, author of The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar.
We went to the Twelve Days of Christmas display at the Dallas Arboretum. They had twelve giant glass gazebos depicting scenes from the song. These are totally out of order, but here are the twelve drummers drumming.
We're being silly in front of the ten lords a'leaping.
The displays were in order at the gardens, by the way. Just out of order here.
Eleven pipers piping. I love kilts. And bagpipes. There was bagpipe music, of course.
Isn't that partridge lovely? Like a Klimt painting.
Each gazebo even had a corresponding weather vane. Here is the tippy top of three French hens display.
The eight maids a milking were so funny. The cows' tails even swished.
Violet, being glamorous.
Nine ladies dancing. They all rotated around that circular track. The dresses were so detailed-a costume lover's dream!
The seven swans a'swimming were my favorite.
Squeal! That TIARA!!!
So many details...like this bunny peeking out from under a tree.
The five golden rings-they all rotated, too.
Violet dashing off through the crepe myrtle allee.
She's loved those spitting frogs since she was a baby.
All right...more holiday photos coming soon.
Fa la la. I'm tired of decorating now.
I love it up to a point, then I think...I'm going to have to take all of this DOWN soon! I like it when Thanksgiving is earlier, then we have another week to enjoy the holiday stuff.
Notice anyone's first school photo?
I finally cleaned off the top of the piano, just to add more stuff back.
We cut down our own trees this year! It was fun to choose one from the baby trees we've nurtured for five years now.
Thanks again to Stacy for our weirdo portrait, Leonard. May he watch over our festivities for years to come.
Adam has been scary lately. Okay, not scary exactly, but getting even bigger. I didn't think that was possible. He's still winning lots of trophies and such. He's obsessed with this arm wrestling, I tell you.
I'm not sure where this is going, but I'm suspicious. I see Mooskies, Christmas weasel, squirrel baby, and twist ties.
Are you guys knee-deep in holiday stuff? I feel behind this year.
I'm so grateful for 50 wonderful years of this show. Here's a great clip about it on NPR today--->click here for link.
I love what Charles M. Schultz's (Peanuts creator) widow Jeannie Schulz had to say about the special:
"It points out our greed, our commercialism," she says. "And it points them out with humor so we can laugh at them — laugh at ourselves."
Not like anyone cares about my Halloween shenanigans halfway through November, but I'm going to get these dang photos posted so it's not hanging over my head.
Beautiful Medusa descending the stairs. In the reading nook underneath, there are oodles of fairies and butterflies floating overhead. The girls love to nap and dream in there. More photos soon.
I really like this deep purple variety of morning glories...they're called "Grandpa Ott".
See the pretty purplish candy cane pucker they make when they close?
Bowling for Barbie. Or Bratz. Those dolls aren't good for much else. It's satisfying to knock them over with a bowling ball.
Good old fashioned "bite the apple on a string".
That game is harder than it looks.
After years of starting seedlings, I finally got a moonflower to bloom.
The spinner board is covered with vintage beauties in costumes. This is from a game I made called "Halloween Hullabaloo".
It's hard to explain this when people aren't playing, but you stand on either side of the pumpkins facing your partner. You have a butterfly net, and toss 3 rubber bats to each other, trying to catch them.
My sloppy scoreboard. Let's see, we played all sorts of stuff...darts, tic tac toe, mini golf, bowling, archery, vile vials, bat catch, ring toss, costume contest (my friend Laura the well-loved-doll won!), Halloween pictionary, movie guessing game, spider sumo wrestling (don't ask), broom races, and the rest is a blur.
My pogo stick. What? You don't have a Halloween pogo stick? Why not?
Hear all the ladypeople cackling?
I'm going to eat that pie pumpkin soon. Mmmmmmm.
See all the paper bags on the table? Those were my Tricks or Treats. Throughout the evening, everyone got one trick and one treat. If you were good, you got things like pumpkin scented lotion, or a small painting. If not, well then.....a rock, a broken calculator, or a scorpion in a jar for you!
I set up a not-so-ambitious mini golf game.
I'll have to put more thought into that next year.
But hey...can I get points for the empty pumpkin can buried in the ground for the hole?
The Arabian Nights room, waiting for guests. We finally hung all those lanterns! More photos of that later, too.
Food. Because hey...it tastes good.
Adam was a love to grill chicken and shrimp and veggies and whip up margaritas.
We made rice bowls with black beans and a bunch of veggies. And a sage-y pumpkin sausage soup that I could eat every day if someone else made it.
"Vile Vials" game...I filled a dozen beakers with a variety of smells, and you had to guess what was in them. This one was hard, apparently! The best score was 6 out of 12, by our resident soap maker, so she's used to sniffing stuff. I had things like wintergreen, patchouli, lavender....I should have used vinegar, nail polish remover, motor oil, and nasty stuff. Maybe next year.
I spray painted some tall candle holders black to make "pumpkin stands". I need to repaint those red drums. I just dread using industrial paint stripper to get the stuff off. It smells terrible, and will take your skin off if you're not careful.
Boy, that was fun. Sniff! Only three hundred and forty eight more days until next Halloween.
A few photos from my Halloween party. My friends do Bunco or GGN (Girly Game Night) once a month. I hosted in October, and decided to throw a Halloween Carnival!
Crows on scissor tree.
Skeletons saying hello above the door.
I vant you to turn on the light.
I was a pinata.
The main studio.
I made a vintage style game....Feed the Cat!
The squeaky rats to toss through the cat's mouth.
No surface left un-falled.
Poor shivering Mooskies.
My flowers finally bloomed just before my party---whew.
I made the garlands. I'll put up a tutorial soon.
I love being outside this time of year.
I even painted the watering can.
Pennants blowing in the breeze.
A "training broom".
My Fiesta Room, full of sewing and gift wrapping stuff.
A peek into the Halloween Room.
We had great weather-I'm so relieved.
Pumpkin vines creeping all the way up to the porch.
Time for the guests to arrive!
And always, always...caramel apples!
I like apples on the smaller side.
I like them with real sticks. Seems more...haunted poison witch apple. Ish.
Sprinkle with sea salt...mmmmm.
Those might not be bad with some chocolate drizzled on them, too.
She likes the mirror aisle. It's fun to watch her dance up and down it. Fun to me, anyway. We probably just annoy everyone else.
Nana met us at the Pumpkin Patch. We took Violet when she was little, so it was Piper's turn.
I have no idea why, but Piper loves to get into this position. Sort of a downward dog yoga thing. Strangers often applaud.
She announced this was the "potty pumpkin". Ah, toilet training!
Hmm...I think I'll take this one.
Look at the big pumpkin "flowers" behind us!
These pumpkin houses were amazing.
The insides of the houses depicted fairy tales and stories about pumpkins and fall.
Aren't these pumpkin houses amazing?
Some of these pumpkins and gourds were huge.
So many color variations.
I was impressed with these corn shuck horses pulling Cinderella's carriage.
My little ham. She picked that jacket out herself. We were at a thrift store, and she saw the tuxedo jacket and said, "Ooooh....nice coat!"
I sure love this baby. The big baby, too.
On the bridge with Nana.
...and donkeys. And like Piper enjoyed pointing out, lots and lots of poo poo.
Someone's getting sleepy.
She closed her eyes and was so still! Did I tell you guys I used to do face painting? I'd do parties and events dressed in fairy clothes...the Face Painting Fairy. It was fun! I loved seeing the little kids so happy.
She wished her lips were orange, though.
The new children's garden is fabulous! Just look at those mushrooms. Very Alice in Wonderland.
She was flapping her wings like a bird.
I officially want these.
I'm a fan of over-sized sculptures.
Hello, little turtle!
We finished off the day at a greasy spoon cafe. Piper had a double order of bacon. Just like Daddy.
If you guys ever get the chance, don't pass up a visit to the Dallas Arboretum! Check their website for discounts, too.
Ready for some Halloween overload?
I'm a little behind this year, but I'd rather be doing than blogging most of the time. Especially if it involves my kiddos.
Violet wanted us to be a family of deer, so they are fawns and I'm Mother Deer. One of Violet's favorite games is to pretend I'm a mother deer and she's my fawn. Her name is Honeysuckle, I'm Mother Deer, and we live in the woods. OR...she's Violet, and I'm the deer who doesn't understand the ways of people. Like...I'll ask why she doesn't eat grass, or I always forgot the word for "shoes", or I get confused about light switches. She thinks that's hilarious.
Violet has been friends with Brylee since they were two. I'm so happy they're in the same kindergarten class! Also-Piper's photo bombing cracks me up.
I'm glad I got to be her class room mother this year. I made our carnival game..."Feed the Cat". We had the kids throw those rubber squeaky rats through the cat's mouth. We had a bunch of great parent volunteers from the class-thanks, other parents! This is the lovely and very involved Shawna, mom of another sweet girl in Violet's class.
I am such a fan of carnival games. Good ones, bad ones, hokey ones-I love 'em all!
Spinner games are fun! I want to make one for myself.
This is a bit blurry, but I wanted to show the back of their costumes. I love the little white spots. I just painted them on with craft paint. I made the ears with felt. I took old Santa hats and dismantled them...the band became the cuffs and the ball on top became their tails.
I dressed up, too, but we only have one shot of us together. I was making a ridiculous face and having a major costume malfunction. But darn it---I had on antlers! Getting sugared up kids to be still is nearly impossible, isn't it?
I like the sound Plinko makes.
Violet and her friend Lily Rose...such cute flower names!
There were a bunch of Elsas!!!
Our friend Marcia made a lovely version for Violet. She was so happy she held out the "prissy hand".
Violet had trepidations about the "Nose Picker Game".
"What was that?" She was horrified when green silly string "snot" sprayed out on her hand. "I do not ever want to play that game again."
The bouncy house made things better.
Bouncy fawns. Poor Piper can't stay upright very long in the bounce house.
Violet kept lunging. I have no idea why. Maybe she thought she was getting on all fours like a deer? She'd just suddenly bust out into a lunge all night.
Did you guys go to a carnival? We're about to watch Charlie Brown-it's not Halloween without it!
Do you have a favorite Halloween special? Le snort. Like they even have "specials" anymore. You have to be fairly *cough* mature to even know what a "special" is.
To me, it's not Halloween with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
This is the Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
I'm not sure who this Paul Lynde is, but he is something else. He has that heavily made up, frantic, slightly fruity and smarmy air that men who hosted these things only seemed to have in the seventies. It features Margaret Hamilton in her only reprisal of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. And Betty White, KISS, and Danny & Marie Osmond.
Oh, boy! "Paranormal Texas" is out just in time for Halloween. One of my favorite guidebook authors and all-around awesome person, Tui Snider, shares a knockout bunch of spooky sites in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
It's available here, so grab a copy for this haunting season.
I was intrigued by Arlington's Lost Cemetery of Infants. "A surprisingly cheery tale," says Tui. Go take a look at Tui's blog.
Hello Halloween pals! It's a flurry of activity at my place...how about yours?
I'm sewing costumes and painting everything that isn't nailed down with orange and black paint. I think Adam's motorcycle would like nice in orange and black, don't you? Maybe I should surprise him. "Look, honey...it's from the Great Pumpkin!"
Anyone else addicted to Pinterest? I thought so.
(Thanks to the Bad Joke Eel from Quickmeme.com)
I'm putting together some links to my autumn and Halloween-themed Pinterest boards here. Grab a pumpkin spice latte or some apple cider, and sit down for some serious pinning!
(Click on the titles to go to the Pinterest Board.)
Good grief...I have so many photos backed up on my computer I just threw in the towel a few months ago. "I give up!" I yelled at my ridiculous storage folder.
Grumble. I'd better get back to organizing stuff or I'll lose those photos and never ever see them again. How do you guys manage your photos? I take so many it's crazy. Then I don't want to deal with them. It's like my virtual junk drawer.
I never shared our quick visit to Long Beach with you guys. This was the tail end of our trip to Washington this spring for Adam's grandfather's 100th birthday celebration. After we left the party, we headed for a stop at the beach. Unfortunately, everyone was struck with a hideous stomach bug. Except for me. I spent most of my day driving and pulling over to assist sickies.
In between stomach bug bouts and violet car sickness, she was still excited about her first glimpse of the Pacific. As soon as I could, I pulled over and we made a mad dash to the beach. I tried to explain that unlike Texas, it's more of a...winter beach. "It's c-c-cold, Mama!"
We found an adorable Victorian beach cottage called The Wrecktory, run by a retired Episcopal priest and a writer/journalist/teacher. It was charming! My biggest regret of the whole trip was that I didn't get to spend more time in this cottage and in Long Beach...was a delightful beachside town!
I got everyone tucked away in the cottage with some Gatorade, then Violet and I headed out to explore. We borrowed a sweatshirt from the cottage because it was much colder than we'd expected.
When I say it was windy on that beach, I mean it was windy. See proof in our videos here and here, but turn down the volume because it was, well....windy. Adam ventured outside with Piper and took the second video. I think I would have put her rubber boots on instead of mary janes, but I'm just glad they felt a tiny bit better so that they could go outside for a bit.
When I returned, everyone was tuckered out and green again. Daddy was extra green. The sick husband is sad, but how about that little square of stained glass? Made me happy.
This cozy chair and camel saddle footstool were right next to the most wonderful little library of books. That trove of reading material was worth the visit alone! I stayed up long into the night sketching and reading by the fire while everyone took turns being so, so pathetically sick. My poor family! And if one of us was well, I'm glad it was me because Mama is usually the best person suited for playing nurse, don't you think?
Long Beach has tons of info about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, along with this fabulous statue of William Clark contemplating a sturgeon. I had to read that twice to make sure I didn't spell "surgeon". That would be a much different statue.
More natural wonder than you can shake a stick at. I'd be scared to swim in that water, though.
I am so verklempt I didn't get a family photo in front of the world's largest frying pan.
Also, we left the day before clamming season opened...waaaah! Maybe I'll get to dig clams next time we visit.
Here are some modern day Razor Clam Queens from Long Beach's Clam Festival. It's held every year in April. I highly approve of any event that produces kitschy royalty.
This vintage photo makes me so happy I could squeal. I love how it looks like he's about to beat them both over the head with a shovel. 'Cause that's how fancy misogynists rolled back in '48.
I suddenly need a clam tiara. Don't you?
The girls shared a room as tiny as a ship's cabin. They said it was cozy.
Check out that porthole in the closet. Tomorrow, my favorite part of the trip...our visit to Marsh's Free Museum, home of Jake the Alligator Man!
It's kindergarten time!
My sweet little Violet went off to kindergarten this week. I cried, she didn't. I suppose that's better than the other way around. Adam went with us to see her off to her first day of school. (You're a good Daddy, Adam.) Her first week is going well, thank goodness. She was ready. She also seems to have a great teacher.
Poor Piper misses her big sister already.
This is me, back in....*cough*. Mrs. Muckleroy (far left) was my kindergarten teacher in Comfort, Texas. Mrs. Castro (far right) was her assistant. I'm in the top row in the middle in a red shirt. This wasn't my first day, but it was my Easter party. I think I was verklempt about my Ruffles or bunny hat or something.
I was so excited about kindergarten. I couldn't wait to go! I wanted to ride the bus, too. It just seemed like what big kids did.
She wanted a BIG backpack.
We got up early for a family breakfast. Violet requested sunny side up eggs, cinnamon toast, and fresh blueberries.
See her bow? I made it out of violets, because....well, her name is Violet. I thought it might help people remember her name on the first day.
I let Violet help me pick her first day of school lunch-pickles wrapped in turkey, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes. As a special treat, the night before school started, we made Rice Crispy bars. I let Violet put as many sprinkles and chocolate chips on top as she wanted. After her first day, I was shocked to hear her say, "Mama, those were too sugary." Yay-our healthy food habits are paying off!
(Piper calls Violet "yah-yit".)
"Don't worry. I'll come back."
I'm so glad these two get along. I love you, little girls of mine!
We visited Charlotte! You can visit her at Seahorse Ranch Life blog.
We stopped by after Grandfather's 100th birthday party. Charlotte's home is as elegant and interesting as she is. (Which is hard to do.) There was something in every corner that caught my eye and made me want to linger.
We're not related, but Violet actually reminds me of her fairy godmother a bit. Thanks for letting us pick you for our tribe, Charlotte. Some of my favorite people out there are my "chosen family members".
Back on the road, heading to Allyn, Washington.
Ever just have a good feeling about a place? Hans and Dorothy's guest cabin had a good vibes. They were lovely-he's originally from the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and she is an artist and teacher. Their own two girls have grown up and gone off to lead their own lives, but they were wonderful with my babies. Here is a link to their cabin on Air BnB if you're ever in Washington. Great hosts!
Check out that tree!
It's like something out of a fairy tale. And the cabin came with its own cat!
Makes me miss Clyde.
Hans and Dorothy let the girls play dress up, and the cabin had a nice selection of well-loved teddy bears.
This is Sol. Or maybe it was Saul. We weren't sure. He had his own perch/porch outside our window. Piper identified that he was a cat, and told us over and over to look at the picture in the frame.
Isn't that cute?
He politely let us know when he wanted in.
What a well-behaved little friend.
Saul/Sol the cat would disappear occasionally into this magical little door. The girls weren't allowed to follow him in there. I just noticed Adam and Piper are dressed alike. That wasn't on purpose.
Quirky stuff everywhere.
I liked the decoupaged bathroom door.
lsn't that neat?
This is pretty lit up at night-a bottle wall.
VWs and bears.
A charming chicken coop.
Poor sick little girls. They wanted to sleep in the closet, so we let them. It was the very first time they'd slept together.
Dorothy's intriguing array of sculpture and ceramics tucked into every nook and cranny. I love a place with art and books, don't you?
Adam's grandfather, Otto Roderick Irrgang, passed away last week.
We were glad to have the opportunity to see him one last time at his 100th birthday party back in March. Both girls got to meet their great-grandfather, which is a luxury most people don't have.
Otto, or Grandfather as Adam and Eric call him, was a career officer in the Navy. He was a Lt. Commander and served on the U.S.S. Ormsby during World War II.
He retired in Washington State after countless adventures in the Navy and beyond.
Adam got him a plaque for the big day. I thought that was an odd gift, but Grandfather loved it.
He seemed really happy to get out and celebrate.
I think Adam came by his love of lawn mowers naturally.
Grandfather loved to swim-here he is in Guam. My grandfather, Oliver Smith, also served in the Navy in Guam during WWII.
Violet was quite happy about the delicious 100th birthday cake.
Piper giving Uncle Eric a hug.
Grandfather had a small family, but here we all are, minus his wife. Grandmother Nina wasn't able to join us for the party, but she still resides in the Belfair area.
Make a wish!
We hope he got lots of honks on the way home.
Here are Nina and Otto in Bahrein in 1955. Aren't they cute? Adam remembers being in high-school and being unable to keep up with Grandfather's swimming at age 82. Grandfather swam regularly into his nineties.
Adam's grandparents with Adam's father, Michael.
Otto Roderick Irrgang, 1914-2014
We spent some time with Adam's family in and around Seattle.
Uncle Eric (Adam's brother) flew in from Michigan to visit.
My poor Violet. Getting greener and greener.
The boys were excited to spot a Delorean.
It's the Back to the Future car!
We fed some ducks near the Boeing factory in Seattle.
We took the Bremerton Ferry. It was the girls' first time on a ferry.
Poor, poor Violet. Ginger lollipops, seasickness bands, Dramamine...not much was working. Motion sickness on top of tummy trouble-ug.
Piper and Daddy had a nice breakfast inside.
What the heck? THIS AREA. Yes...what about it?
Adam took the girls outside to point out the...whatever all the technical ferry stuff is called.
It was chilly. And windy. But Violet seemed to feel a little better outside. It's weird how the ferry drifts sideways. It's kind of disorienting.
The nice captain waved and waved to the girls from his tower.
We stayed at the Growing Thyme Farm on our first two nights of our trip to the Pacific Northwest. With small children (or big ones!) a working farm is a fun place to stay.
(photo by GTF owners)
Violet was thrilled to stay in the tippy top room by herself. I would have loved that when I was a kid, too.
Our hosts, Duane and Tanya, have an organic farm where they raise sheep, chickens, goats, veggies, have an orchard and berries, and on and on and on. They're a former military couple who moved to the country and are living off the land. I really admire such dedication and self-sufficiency.
The view was gorgeous. You can barely see them, but you can see the Cascade Mountains from the backyard and Mt. Rainier is visible from the front.
Their home was so...homey. I don't know why anyone stays at hotels when b&bs are about the same price. This ended up being the same price as a local Super 8 or Motel 6, once you add in hotel taxes.
Piper couldn't get enough of that stroller.
Aren't those gorgeous flowers? I love how the glass in really old houses is all wavy.
We took a farm tour the next morning with Duane and Tanya and their little girl. Look at the size of that rabbit! It was sooooo soft.
FYI, Piper wasn't crying. She was trying to meow at the rabbit. We kept telling her they don't make any sound, but since we visited, she always meows when she sees a picture of a rabbit.
More in Part Two!
More travel tips!
Pack flat books.
Pack several flat, small books. You don't have to buy brand new ones...I hit the local Goodwill and found several for a quarter each. Babies and toddlers really like to open flap books. Older kids like complicated images they can look at for long periods of time like the I Spy and Where's Waldo books.
Use them as rewards. Let the kids cash in their Good Behavior Bucks for a new book.
Individual drink mixes for post-airport security.
You know how they don't let you have any liquids in your carry-on stuff? Well, that can make for thirsty kids and/or an expensive airport stop for drinks. I don't like paying $5.00 for a bottle of juice, do you? Bring an empty water bottle and refill it from the water fountains past security. If your family doesn't like plain water, bring along some individual drink mixes. They're very small and packable, and come in a wide variety of flavors. I like lemonade, but they have all the Crystal Light flavors, Wyler's mixes, and Kool-Aid choices, too.
I pack an individual ziplock bag of snacks for every family member. Don't forget Daddy. Ours prefers beef jerky, Jolly Ranchers, and more beef jerky.
My girls love those crazy-flavored jelly beans. I cut the identification guide off the package and taped it to the ziplock so they could play "which flavor did I get".
Keep the unhealthy bits to a minimum.
Although I do let them have the occasional bit of candy, I prefer to pack healthier choices like fruit, whole wheat goldfish crackers, whole grain pretzels, string cheese, and the like. However, who doesn't love a bite of candy?
To keep the teeth-rotting to a minimum, I pack only a small candy stash. I cobbled these together from leftover Halloween/Christmas candy languishing in the pantry. Try an oversized vitamin box to store one type of candy in each compartment.
Since my kids don't get candy very often, they think it's a big deal when the Candy Box comes out. You'd be amazed at how much adults perk up at the sight, too.
You know how kids always want what the other one has? I found identical zippered pouches to distribute their "prizes" in. Although I do give them different items, something about the visual of "exactly the same bags" being handed over the back seat seems to make them happy. Perhaps they're assured that it will be fair that way? Kids are weird.
Are you wondering where I'm getting all this crap? A lot of my treasures came from those Jars I found several years ago.
Short version: I found about 50 huge pickle jars filled with crazy stuff at an estate sale. Long version: read here.
I kept one quart sized ziplock bag of toys for each girl.
Toddler: tiny board books, soft animals (that are *cough* totally disposable upon arrival, in my opinion), toys that rattle or move
5 year old: small jewelry, party favor-type games, cards
Just so you know, I probably spent less than $10 on kid entertainments for the whole trip. I always keep little Happy Meal toys and favors from parties. They come in handy, I swear, and your kids think it's a brand now toy. Mine do, anyway.
Don't forget stuff you have lying around the house, too. Your baby will be just as happy with a few rubber bands and bright key chains as they will a purchased toy.
GAMES-print out lots of car games!
I place these games in the Travel Binder inside clear protector sheets. Use dry erase markers and you can use them for years.
By the way...
Make the Travel Binder and use it OVER AND OVER.
Leave all that stuff in there and next time you're ready to grab-and-go.
Here's a Car Scavenger Hunt from Living Intentionally blog.
Tip-print these out on two different pages. I forgot and they had to play side by side. We also enjoyed the Airplane Scavenger Hunt.
Car Brand Check Off game and Find Something in this Color game.
Violet's favorite part of flying is when the flight attendants come around with the drink cart. She ordered very politely. Apple juice. She loved putting her tiny glass of ice in the indented circle on the fold-down tray. I swear...airplane seats are kid-sized, not adult-sized.
Dry Erase EVERYTHING
I'm a firm supporter of dry erase markers when traveling. You can use anything to clean them up and they don't stain. In a pinch, use the inside of a skirt or sleeve.
Print outs- Find your kids' favorite characters online. There are many sites that offer free coloring page downloads. Violet particularly likes complicated patterns like the owl above.
Magic Paint and Bead Kit
Magic paint kits are a hit with my 5 year old. You can "paint" without making a mess. Simply use a q-tip dip it in a tiny amount of water, then smear the color on the black and white picture. It's a good way to use your left-over ice and apple juice on the plane. When you're done, roll it up and dispose of it in the can.
Make a simple bead kit before you leave home. I threw a handful of beads in a ziplock bag, along with a few feet of dental floss wrapped around a scrap of cardboard. Kids love making necklace. Let tiny kids do it with cheerios or fruit loops to make an edible necklace.
I wouldn't recommend this on the plane or in the car. This is better for the hotel or other time when kids are confined and want something to do.
Highlights Magazine Online has fun Hidden Picture puzzles available to print out from their website. Use a dry-erase marker, wipe clean, then hand off to another kid.
Older kids might enjoy making a "passport" and documenting flight statistics. My kid wasn't interested in this, but yours might be.
Hangman with age appropriate word list.
(From Living Intentionally Blog. That blog rocks on travel suggestions.)
Alphabet search game
State Facts pages make the trip educational as well as fun. Quiz kids on state flowers/animals/trees and learn to identify flags.
Scrapbook for kids. Use a blank page for every destination or point of interest. Let older kids write a description and younger kids paste in brochure photos. Kids love collecting those travel tri-folds you see along the way.
Okay...that should give you some ideas.
Let me know what works for you and your family!
Has anyone ever told me I'm a control freak? Anal-retentive? Crazy? Of course not. Why would someone possibly in a million years say that?
If you're bordering on having that problem, you might like some of my tips for traveling with kids. Or you might not. But I'm going to share them with you anyway.
Just so you know, a few of these are original ideas, but most of them have been borrowed from moms all across the interwebs. (Thanks, other mamas.) To find any of these games, just do a quick Google search and print them out.
Now, before I get a few emails saying, "But Laura, you should teach the children to entertain themselves. But Laura, this is too much trouble. But Laura, you're stupid because you don't parent exactly like I do." ...let me just say:
(To that last lady...shut up. Quit reading my blog. Go bother someone else.)
This is primarily for long stretches in an airplane and/or in a rental car. Everyone in my family gets extremely car sick, and a happy, active kid tends to be less verklempt about puking in the backseat than a sad, bored kid. And, many aspects of travel, especially flying, can be kind of scary to some children, so distracting them can help.
All right...on to travel tips:
(What? You don't want to sit next to us?)
Whiny/crying/misbehaving kids on an airplane are a nightmare. We can all agree on that, right?
Get seats together.
Again, sounds obvious, but doesn't always work. Flights fill up quickly, so book early to get a block of seats together. For big families, book seats across from each other on the aisle rather than in front of or behind you. It's much easier to hand snacks and whatnot back and forth, and it's handier for keeping an eye on your kids.
On most airlines, children can fly for free until they're two years old if they sit on your lap. Boy, that can be challenging.
Fortunately, Piper was an angel on the trip up to Washington. She conked out pretty soon after takeoff. Since we had three seats together, she could stretch out across our laps.
Make a Travel Binder!
You know all that info you need, all the documents and bits and bobs? I know this sounds obvious, but it's a lot easier to access if it's all in one place. They really rush you through the security line, and it's nice to have this all together while you're taking off all jewelry, your shoes/kids' shoes, taking batteries out of laptops, and shoving six bags through the x-ray machine.
I make a basic itinerary page at the front, then sections for each day of the trip, and a tab for Kid Stuff.
Pack a small, easy-to-access medical bag.
Everyone in my family gets extremely car/air/sea sick, so we need all this stuff. The acupressure bracelets helped Violet a lot on the plane, and Adam and I both like crystallized ginger. The girls think it's too spicy, but older kids might like it.
Pack gum and/or lollipops for takeoff and landing.
Little ears are extra sensitive to pressure changes, so give the older kids gum and the younger ones lollipops. It keeps them swallowing and distracted. The rest is up to your child's personality. Violet loves to watch takeoff and talk about it, but Piper was more interested in being held by Daddy. If your kid thinks this part is scary, distract them with earphones or a story.
Make their luggage special.
(Shameless personal plug since I make decoupaged suitcases-ha!) If your kids can have fun with the luggage, they'll be busy even while waiting at the airport, shuttles, car rental place, etc. There are lots of cute kid cases with their favorite characters and/or in bright colors. A unique suitcase is also a lot easier to pick out at the baggage claim. Another idea...if you have one of the bazillion black suitcases at the airport, wrap a bright piece of tape or fabric around the handle to help you identify your luggage.
Let them burn off some energy.
Before and after flights and car rides (and if possible-during car stops), let them run around. Within reason, obviously. Violet danced her heart out while we waited for our rental car paperwork. If you're lucky, they'll be so tired they'll sleep on the plane/on the boat/in the car. (Yeah, right.)
See? Tired. Actually, I think she was just dizzy from all the spinning.
Offer good behavior incentives.
When possible, I prefer to reward rather than punish. Obviously, there will be a little of both, but it works better for us to start on a positive note.
1. Good behavior bucks-I used Monopoly money and handed out a dollar every hour. On the plane (where keeping kids buys tends to be hardest), I did it every half hour.
It only takes one missed buck for them to shape up. Once, Violet did something questionable and she immediately looked at me and said, "Will I still get my good behavior buck this hour?"
Let them trade the money in at the end of the trip to buy souvenirs. If you have to hand out a bunch of bills due to a long trip, make an exchange rate of 4 bucks=$1.00. Or whatever.
2. Time it-We're trying to teach Violet to tell time, so she received her first watch for this trip. We concentrated on the hour and half hour. Violet would identify, say....two o'clock, then two thirty, when we'd hand out good behavior bucks.
3. Travel tickets-Hand out carnival-style tickets during the duration of the trip. I gave out tickets in the morning, and had Violet give me a ticket every half hour. When all the tickets were up, we'd arrived at our destination.
Here's how I did ours: We left our home at 5:00 a.m. and our flight was due to arrive at 11:30 a.m. That's 6 1/2 hours, or 13 half-hour increments, which equals 13 tickets.
Some people GIVE the child a ticket instead of taking one. I prefer to COLLECT the ticket because for young kids it's easier to process the concept of "all gone". Since it's hard for kids to picture how long a flight/drive will take, this aids them in seeing how much farther they have to go.
Okay...more ideas coming up in Part Two!