Snow? More Snow?!? 6 Reasons to Savor More Snow in the Forecast

By: Martianne Stanger 

As I write this, the first day of spring is about to arrive with…. snow!

Yes, snow!

More snow.

And, for many, groans.

But, not for me.

Here, we’ve just been struck with the belly bug and as it makes its way out of our home, I am actually happy that we’ll be getting some more of the white stuff. Without a doubt, snow has a way of helping speed recovery around here. Indeed, I find there is little better for healing up than rest bracketed by a bit of fresh air. And, between shoveling, play and walks, snow always beckons us to get outside.

Snow, for us, has been less of a problem this year, but rather a panacea.

Seriously. It’s often acted as a cure all- as you’ll see below:

Kids a bit stir crazy?

Simply open the door and let them lead.

Sure you might end up thigh-deep in snow, but, oh the smiles you’ll see during your adventure.

nsow smiles
I learned this well one Sunday when my two youngest led me through our wetlands and into a neighbor’s woods.

Headache got you grumpy?

One had me feeling less than best the other day. But, eventually, instead of bemoaning it, I finally got out of my own way and invited my four year old to go for a walk down our street.

snow streams

His delight at simple things, like being able to traipse over melting snowbanks, finding “rivers” through “caves” (streamlets of melting ice running through edges of melting snow) and follow snow streams to drains did wonders for my outlook, if not for my head.

Need inspiration?

It appeared we did the other night when a beautiful sunset and hail encouraged my kiddos and I to step outside to exchange the air in our lungs and – surprise of surprises – resulted in my oldest breaking out in a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving for the beauty of nature.

flake

I have had my moments of snow-induced inspiration, too.

Got Sensory Needs?

Enjoy a snow-themed story time inside and then meet sensory needs with some snowy sensory diet activities outside.

painted-snow-angels-11

Want to cuddle with a story?

Enjoy some time exploring a classic snow-themed picture book and then, like the character in it, go for a jaunt in the white stuff.

luke fort

Sick?

As I said before, my family has had their share of sickness this winter. Yet, sickness does not make us begrudge the winter weather. Sure, I look forward to a traditional sunshine and spring melt coming eventually, but I also relish the snow’s beauty and benefits.

That’s why when the snow started this year, I challenged you to get outside. And, that is why as it persists, I challenge you to do so as well.

dscf8388

Spring time, snow, and smiles.

May the latter be yours no matter what weather this day brings.

Posted in Martianne Stanger, Snow, Spring, Winter Activites | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge

By: Kathy Trainor 

You have no idea how easy it is to make this three ingredient peanut butter fudge!

Screen-Shot-2015-02-22-at-8.11.25-PM

We have been stuck inside for a very long time. The temps have been below zero and I was looking for something extra to give my plow guy. He said he loves fudge, but I only knew how to make the fudge recipe that was on the back of the fluff jar.  I figured I would try something new since I love peanut butter. Thus, the recipe for easy three ingredient peanut butter fudge was born!

Easy Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge

1 (12 oz.) pkg. Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

MICROWAVE METHOD: In a 1 quart microwave-safe dish, combine chips with sweetened milk. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 minutes; stir until chips melt and mixture is smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread evenly into wax paper lined 9 inch square pan. Chill about 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board; peel off paper and cut into squares.

If want, you can substitute with a 12 ounce package of Nestle’s Semi-Sweet chocolate chips to make chocolate fudge instead. Make according to directions above with the rest of the ingredients.

Posted in Easy Peanut butter fudge, fudge recipes, Kathy Trainor | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Childhood Wonder

By: Jessica Aldred clover-445255__180

Within a matter of four weeks I will have worn fairy wings (twice), evaded gold coin laced traps and done the bunny hop. Between the Tooth Fairy, this new leprechaun situation, and the Easter Bunny, I think I’m having an identity crisis. I mean, I thoroughly enjoy the look on my kids’ faces on Easter morning, however, I keep wondering where I’m going to draw the line. I thought I had found that line this St. Patrick’s day, but as I found myself at the local pharmacy begging for gold/chocolate coins, I just wanted to slap myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I play my part in Christmas and Easter, and I’ll tip toe in and snatch those little baby teeth in the night, of course. However, now I find myself scheduling when and where to hide our Elf on Shelf for the better part of a month each year and this leprechaun business is just another thing on my to-do list. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of this new trend, it’s that I was hoping I could avoid feeding into yet another crazy holiday. However, when the children got word of leprechaun traps and gold coins tucked in their stinky little shoes, my plans began to crumble. I just couldn’t let them be the only kids to go to school with no tales of crazy green antics. I get it, it’s festive and fills their little minds with wonder and anticipation, but when is it enough? How many other holidays can we squeeze into the year? How many more times can I tip toe around my own house, praying I’m not busted? And what happens when they do discover my devious ways?

One of my most dreaded moments as a parent is when they find out that I’m the one facilitating their sugar plum dreams and they hate me for it. I figure I’ve got another year or so before my oldest catches on or an older kid at school spills the beans. By then my older boys will be 6 and 8 years old, but the baby will only be 2! How do I get them to keep the spirit of these annual celebrations alive for my little guy? Who knew that all these years of lying to my children to keep the spirit of the holidays alive would become so stressful? I certainly don’t want to be caught in a leprechaun trap, or worse, have my kids dreams of Christmas Eve ruined because I was too noisy dragging gifts down to the living room.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something they love. So, as I’m coloring my toilet water green and finger painting the very same walls I’ll wake up and scrub clean in the morning, I’ll do so with a smile on my face and a little sprinkle of the spirit in my heart. After all, I’d do just about anything to make them happy so picking all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms doesn’t seem like such a big deal at the end of the day. I’m interested to hear how other parents are keeping the spirit alive and also how you’ve handled the dreaded discovery process as they get older.

Posted in Holiday stress, Holidays, Jessica Aldred, Signature Moms Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Homework Blues

By: Jessica Aldred

I don’t know about you, but after school pick-up, extracurricular activities, dinner prep and baths the last thing I want to do is homework. After being on the go for ten solid hours, my son has no interest either. However, the unavoidable task of homework presents itself at least four nights a week.

We’ve got spelling, reading, math, and writing with the additional added projects. Everything arrives on different days and is due on different days. Oftentimes, it takes a two adult conference to understand exactly what he’s supposed to do. With the new core math standards aside, simply trying to understand what is being asked of him is often a challenge. Teachers claim our kids should take ownership for their homework and listen to the instructions while in class but how many six year old boys are 1. Paying attention by the end of the day and 2. Retaining what was instructed at that point.

We try and spread the work out the best we can throughout the week, doing the heavy portion of it on the nights we don’t have extra activities. It really shouldn’t take all that long, but when you add an exhausted six year old who has been doing similar stuff at school all day, often times it’s like pulling teeth. The poor kid acts like we want to be doing homework, as if we wouldn’t prefer to be playing a game or watching a movie as bed time approaches. We somehow become the homework law and power through to get it done. It might not be the neatest, and it might not be done as his teacher intends, but it’s done and in that backpack ready to go.

papers-262731__180Now this is only first grade. I can only imagine what the more advanced grade levels have to offer, or worse, when multiple kids have all different homework coming in and out on different days. I have no idea how we’ll keep who’s working on what and when everything’s due straight. I’ve heard rumblings of book reports and full dress-up presentations before they even leave elementary school and I’m dreading it!

Who do they think makes those poster boards so neat, prints those perfectly trimmed captions and sews their little costumes? I’ll give you a clue, it’s not the student. Now if I’m up late at night printing pictures and text for my kid to glue on his posters and sewing WW2 era jackets for his presentations, who is learning what? In sending home all this homework after a full day at school and the almost required sports/extra classes, how do they see this homework time going down? Sometimes I feel as though they’re trying to teach us, the parents, a lesson. We’re the ones grunting the bulk of the meltdowns and attitudes as we power through that last math worksheet. We’re the ones budgeting their time so that their projects are done on time or so they get that good grade and don’t slip to the bottom of the class.

I don’t disagree with homework in principle, however I do think there can be too much too soon. Children shouldn’t feel the stress of this excessive amount of work outside of school so soon. They should be able to come home and play with their siblings and relax after a full school day. In our case, this homework situation is discouraging my child from enjoying his elementary school experience. He doesn’t want to go to school because “all he does is work.” If all he’s doing all day is work, then comes home and is expected to do even more work, it’s no wonder he’s got a negative view of school. This is not how I’d like his early educational experience to go, however it’s the unfortunate hand we’ve been dealt.

I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject or how your family handles these homework blues?

Posted in Homework blues, Jessica Aldred, School | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Make a Worm Tank

By: Kathy Trainor 

Believe it or not, worm tanks are more common then you think. For a while I thought I was the only mommy blogger who made them, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that fellow Signature Moms blogger, Martianne, was also working on a worm tank with her children.  I use them for my garden each school year to start a Pizza Garden in my classroom.  Some people are grossed out by worms. The idea of having a worm tank is something rather unsanitary to them, but in reality, these little wiggling worms can save you time and money.

How to make a worm tank

You need:

Putting together your worm tank:

Step 1
Drill about twenty evenly spaced 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of each bin. These holes will provide drainage and ventilation for the worms to move and grow.  Make sure to do the top cover and sides evenly

bottom-screen-worm-bin-300x205

Step 2
Prepare bedding for the worms by shredding newspaper into 1 inch strips. Worms need bedding that is moist. Moisten the newspaper by soaking it in water and then squeezing out the excess water. Cover the bottom of the bin with 3-4 inches of moist newspaper, fluffed up. You will then want to take 3-4 large scoops of dirt or potting soil and place it on the newspaper.

Step 3
Add your worms to the bedding. One way to gather red worms, is to put out a large piece of wet cardboard on your lawn or garden at night. If that doesn’t you may want to buy some here.

Step 4
Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding and get it wet. Then cover the bedding with the cardboard. (Worms love cardboard, and it breaks down within months.) This also keeps things moist and makes it easy to tend to.  At this point, add coffee grounds to prevent a damp odor or moldy smell from developing in your worm tank.

Step 5
Place your bin in a well-ventilated area.  Places like a laundry room, garage, balcony, under the kitchen sink, or outside in the shade all work well.  You can use the lid of a second bin as a tray to catch any moisture that may drain from the bin if you want.

Step 6
Feed your worms slowly at first. As the worms multiply, you can begin to add more food. Gently bury the food in a different section of the bin each week, under the cardboard. The worms will follow the food scraps around the bin. This will give them exercise and allow them to move as they do in the environment.  This will also prevent odor.

img_0053-300x225

What do worms like to eat? These are the items you should put in your Worm Tanks.

Worms LOVE

Worms HATE

-Breads
-Cereal & Grains
-Coffee and Tea Grounds
-Fruits & Veggies

-Dairy Products
-Fats
-Meat
-Oils

Should you run into problems with your worm tank…

Troubleshooting

Problem

 Cause 

 Solution

Worms are dying
or trying to escape

-Too wet
-Too dry
-Bedding is used up

-Add more bedding
-Moisten bedding
-Harvest your bin

Bin stinks

-Not enough air
-Too much food
-Too wet

-Do not feed for 1-2 weeks
-Add more bedding
-Add more holes

Good luck!

Posted in Activities, Kathy Trainor, worm tank | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pinterest Win!

By: Rachel Ventura 

I’m always hearing about Pinterest fails. Some of the photos I have seen are pretty comical and I admit, I have tried a few ideas from Pinterest that did not come out as well as I’d hoped. But I’m here to tell you about a Pinterest win that anyone can do! It would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or Easter, the first day of Spring, or a birthday party. Or you could just make them for no reason at all, on a random snowy Wednesday, like we did last week!

So the idea is rainbow cupcakes. Obviously it’s a few extra steps, and takes a bit more time, than making regular cupcakes. But they really weren’t difficult, and the result is seriously awesome!! My daughter and I love to bake together, and these cupcakes took it to a whole different level of amazing! When you bake with a child, they experience so much- math, science, sensory, creativity, small motor skills, and best of all, it’s just plain old fun! Plus, you get a delicious treat at the end! It’s really a win-win for everyone.

Here are the steps to making these awesome rainbow cupcakes, that are sure to make your day a little brighter!

1. Purchase your favorite brand of boxed cake mix. Be sure it is white cake mix, not vanilla.

cupcake1

2. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

cupcake2

3. Mix the cake as instructed on the box however, be sure to use egg whites only! The yolks will make the mix less white, and mess with the colors.

cupcake3

4. Get 6 bowls and spoons ready. We used Styrofoam for easy peasy clean up.

cupcake4

5. Divide the mix as evenly as you can into the 6 bowls. It does not have to be perfect. Then add food coloring to each mix, to make the colors of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

cupcake5

Don’t they look pretty?!

cupcake6

6. Here’s the part that is a bit time consuming, and can get a little messy if your child is helping…but my daughter loved doing it! Place 1 spoon full of each color into each cupcake liner. Just place 1 spoonful on top of another, until you have put all 6 colors into each.

cupcake7

Gently tap the pan on the counter, to even out the cake mix a bit.

cupcake8

Here’s how they looked going into the oven…..

cupcake9

And how they looked coming out. Reminds me of a tie-dye shirt!

cupcake10

And when you bite into them, a beautiful rainbow!

cupcake11

So yummy and so much fun!!

cupcake12 

Let me know if you try this recipe. I’d love to hear if it was a Pinterest win for you as well! Or if you have any other recipes to share!!

Posted in Rachel Ventura, Rainbow Cupcakes, Recipes, Signature Moms Blog | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Completing the Grieving Process

By: Jessica Aldred

Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult things we will go through in our lives. In my life, there is no exception when it comes to my fur-babies. After five long months without my beloved puppy girl, and an unexpectedly difficult grieving process, I finally felt compelled to visit the animal shelter we had originally adopted our her from over a decade ago. Not all people can understand the significance of this step- not only me, but for my family as a whole. My husband and I had grown up with at least one family dog all our lives, so to be without for these past few months has been awkward to say the least. I often heard a bark in the distance or caught something out of the corner of my eye that instantly sparked a memory. I even had a moment around the holidays when I literally thought I’d forgotten to get her a gift, only to sadly realize it was not necessary that year. So, needless to say, today was a big day!

I packed my family in the car and drove the hour and half to the shelter we know and trust. The children were aware of where we were going and we discussed names as we drove along. My stomach churned with a mix of excitement, nerves and sadness. I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to react when I went in there. Some of the puppies we’d seen available on their website looked so much like my girl. The strangest part is that they were all conceived right around the time that we lost our girl. I’m a realist, but I couldn’t help but think it was a soul circle and she was finding her way back to us.

When we pulled up to the shelter there was an unexpected line of cars. I looked at my husband with fear. Had I dragged my boys there with the hope of bringing a new puppy home only to disappoint? There were way more cars than the number of dogs I knew were available, so the fear was real. We received a number and waited for our turn to meet a puppy. As one after another was removed to go to their forever homes, we found ourselves standing in front of two cages. The dog that we had been eyeballing online was spoken for by the woman directly in front of us. As I turned to see what other options remained, I crouched down and found myself nose to wet nose with a gorgeous brown-eyed girl. She was the last of her litter, a calm and sweet little lady. When we were asked if we’d like to enter her cage and get to know her my children jumped at the opportunity. All five of us piled into a small cage and crouched down to meet this timid pooch. She looked nervous, and so was I. Would she like my crazy children? Would they like her? Would her temperament be a good match for three very active little boys? Would my old girl approve? As the minutes went on she warmed up to us. She crawled into my eldest’s lap and began sharing kisses. She allowed my rambunctious middle man to pat her and didn’t flinch at his enthusiasm for life. She even let the baby gently tug at her fur. As she nuzzled up to us, her new family, I knew in my heart that she was our match.

When we finally got her home, with all her puppy things in tow, she started to open up as she explored her new home. This puppy, who had only known shelter life, had hit the puppy jackpot! A warm home filled with cozy beds, lots of toys and treats, and a busy family eager to play with her. She by no means replaces my previous dog, but represents a big step in making peace with the loss. As I chase babies and puppies in opposite directions, I remember doing all these things for her. I can only hope that our new girl will become such a loved member of our family as we train her to be a good family dog. I’d love to hear how your family has dealt with these significant losses and moved on?

Posted in Jessica Aldred, loss of a pet, Pets | Tagged , , | Leave a comment