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13 Halloweens


13 Halloweens

Warning: Halloweens make me cranky.

When we celebrate Halloween this Friday, it will be my 14th one since becoming a mom. Every year I moan about it. Do I really have to retrieve that box of crap in the attic with all of the witches and skeletons? Do I really have to drape spider webs over the bushes and scatter the yard with tombstones? How do people even like this holiday? Black and orange aren’t anywhere close to a pretty color combo.

And most tiresome of all…what are my kids going to BE for Halloween?? The conversations start early, like in August when the Halloween catalog appears in the mailbox. But I’ve learned my lesson not to buy (or make) costumes too early. Kids change their minds, don’t they.

The first Halloween with our new baby daughter, I made her a cow costume. The photos are somewhere in an album, taken with a real film camera. I’m pretty sure we stayed at my mom’s during the trick-or-treating hours so that little baby girl could sleep undisturbed by noisy doorbell ringing. Those were the days! No decorations to put up or take down. If not for the little cutie pie cow, it’s like Halloween never happened.

Then she was two, and I don’t remember what she was. At three, her baby sister was born. Again, not sure if we did any trick-or-treating. I still think I might have been able to pretend it didn’t exist.

Then she was four. Four-year olds talk to other four-year olds. She started asking about Halloween, and so it was all over. No more pretending it didn’t exist. Bring on the cavities!

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

She wanted to be a princess, so I made her a beautiful Cinderalla costume. I bought shiny blue satin, sequins, tulle. It was quite magnificent. We gathered as a neighborhood, all of the little kids in their adorable costumes. It was 4:30pm, just before it would get dark (daylight savings time). As we were about to move as one big unit to knock on the first door, my daughter decided to run inside to change. CHANGE?! I totally acted cool because that’s what I was supposed to do. But seriously, I spent like 83 hours sewing her costume, gluing on sequins. I wanted to lecture my four year old, if you must know the truth. And badly. She came back down in some polyester piece of garbage from Toys-R-us. Whatever! Lesson learned. Spend minimal time on costumes, and leave it until the last minute.

{Photo above of my second daughter wearing a costume made by me, the only other one I ever sewed again.}

trick-or-treat

I should say here that Halloweens in our neighborhood are epic. Picture a cul-de-sac with houses close together in the center of town. It is a mecca for all of the people outside of town with their four acre properties and no neighbors. Without exaggerating one bit, we have about 450 kids come knocking on our door each year. (Now you might understand my need to flee those first few years.)

Each year after that Cinderella fiasco, I learned to embrace Halloween more and more. How could we not? We would make it a party with beer, wine, hot toddies, chili, pumpkin muffins, crafts. And TONS of candy. So much candy that I just had to let go and accept the fact that I would not be able to control my kids. I didn’t know what they were eating because most of the time I didn’t know where they were!

Some years the costumes were made (bubble gum machine, Annie), some years they were slapped together the hour before (worker guy, cowboy, mini me), but more and more they became store bought. I embraced this, too. Less work for me! And another addition to the dress-up closet, which was becoming legendary.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

Even my husband and I dressed up from time to time. Bjorn Borg and Billy Jean King, if you’re wondering.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

Pumpkin carving became a family affair, and every year I felt the need to out-do myself. Our house was becoming known for the artistic pumpkins. With 450 people each year, the word was out.

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

the one reason why Halloween will live on as the best holiday

I scoured the internet for the best vintage decorations. I went with a Star Wars theme one year which we used over and over again for, like, five years. Star wars stayed around for a loooong time. (How cute is little Han Solo?)

So here is the clincher: We moved. We no longer live on the most famous street in town. We now live in a house that has no neighbors. It’s a rented house that has only one outside light. It’s old, very old. It’s actually….well, kind of creepy. The perfect house for Halloween.

If I’ve learned anything over these fast thirteen years it’s that KIDS LOVE HALLOWEEN!!! My own three would be heartbroken if that box stayed in the attic. They never want to stop being a kid, they want to dress up forever and eat candy like there is no tomorrow. How can I end this now?

I have not decorated yet. But I will. I will do it while they are in school. I’ll surprise them. I will buy candy and put it in a big basket, even though we won’t have anyone come knocking. I’ll fill the house with the smells of apple cider and chili. I think this year it will be more important than ever to keep the traditions alive.

I wonder if nostalgia will drive me to decorate even after the kids have moved out? It’s ironic that my least favorite holiday might some day be the one I can’t let go of. Or at least, the one that will fill me with the most happy memories.

In truth, Halloween lives on as the best holiday because of one reason: the photos! Every year there is that one photo that tells a thousand words. The pacifier in my sons mouth, the snow on the ground, the two lost teeth, the year Halloween was canceled! It’s impossible to look at Halloween photos and not smile.

Time to go to the attic.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

xo, Bar

PS: To find out what my kids will be wearing, or if I stay true to my promise to decorate this creepy, old house, follow me on Instagram. My other happy place.

 

A Painted Branch // Collaborative Art with Kids


A Painted Branch // Collaborative Art with Kids

This week for art class I tried something new. Our neighbor (a church) cut down some branches and left them on our property. They’d been there a while, actually. We kept thinking they would clean them up. As I was staring at them from the kitchen window Monday morning I thought that I should really make a phone call. But then, a lightbulb went off in my brain. I’m quite certain it wasn’t an original thought (is there really such a thing anymore?) but maybe I could drag one of the branches inside and the kids could paint it for art class today? So I did it. Broke off a piece and put it on the art table. Voila! Easy peasy. I mixed some paints, put them around the branch and just hoped and prayed that the kids would think this was as brilliant as I did.

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

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Supplies:

Tempera paints (I mixed colors and added a little white to each for opaqueness, except for the gold and silver)

Glass jars

Paint brushes

Elmer’s glue

Pom-poms

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

There are really no instructions, no rules. Other than, don’t splatter paint on other people on purpose, share the paints, and be kind!

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

After the branch was flipped over and painted on all sides, I brought out the glue and pom-poms to create some more texture. The glue got very drippy, which the kids loved, but it was all good because the tables were covered and everything is washable!

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

kids will love this format, especially if they find their own branch // great project for a group

It’s hard to photograph such a long, skinny piece of art! After letting it dry overnight, I couldn’t wait to lean it against a wall. My own kids and even my husband were all like, “mom, that is so cool!”. I want to figure out how to hang it from the ceiling. How awesome would that be?

I love collaborative art with little kids. It’s such a good way to foster teamwork and social awareness. Sharing with your neighbor, listening to conversations, taking turns and complimenting another’s work are very important skills for the little ones to acquire. What better way to learn these important character traits than through art?

Let me know if you try this one!

xo, Bar

 

16 Sensory Recipes for Squishy Play


16 Sensory Recipes for Squishy Play

We make squishy mushy recipes all the time. I have a few favorites, and many that I still want to try. I thought it would be fun to do a round-up, and perhaps as much for me as for you! Now I will have all of the best recipes in one place. Here we go…

the best recipes from Pinterest for mushy, squishy sensory play

1. Edible Gluten Free No Cook Playdough – Fun at Home with Kids

2. Scented Slime (oh my!) – Modern Parents Messy Kids

3. Wonder Dough – Growing a Jeweled Rose // or try making your own Model Magic from Artful Parent

4. Basic Glitter Play Dough – Art Bar Blog (this is our fave go-to for play dough with or without glitter, lasts months and months) // you can also try pumpkin pie play dough from Tinkerlab, or sand dough from Blog Me Mom

the best recipes from Pinterest for mushy, squishy sensory play

5. Polka Dot Slime – Fun at Home with Kids (we’ve made this, it’s awesome)

6. Sparkly Gold Slime - Frugal Fun 4 Boys // and another similar recipe with fewer ingredients from Fun at Home with Kids // or try ocean slime from Buggy and Buddy

7. Fluffy Slime (add a secret ingredient to slime) – Sow Sprout Play

8. Flubber for Party Favors – Art Bar Blog (we’ve made this a hundred times and it never gets old for any age)

the best recipes from Pinterest for mushy, squishy sensory play

9. Frozen Shaving Cream Play – Learn Play Imagine

10. Erupting Sand Foam Dough - Learn Play Imagine

11. Ice Cream Dough – Bath Activities for Kids

12. Fizzy Cloud Dough – Powerful Mothering

the best recipes from Pinterest for mushy, squishy sensory play

13. Edible Paint for Babies and Toddlers – Meri Cherry (i’ve witnessed the little ones eating this paint and it’s an incredible multi-sensorial experience)

14. Rainbow Spaghetti and Meatballs – Meri Cherry

15. Water Balloon Painting – Meri Cherry (we’ve done this, it was one of our fave summer art camp collaborative activities ever)

16. Shaving Cream Paint – Learn Play Imagine

If you want your child to experience a squishy sensory material but you are adverse to mess for whatever reason, then one alternative is to make sensory bags. Teach Preschool made some good ones.

But I will say that getting messy through sensory play is really something all children should experience. Exploring their environment, working collaboratively, developing their creativity and problem solving are just a few of the reasons why messy sensory play is so important. For me, I do it because it just makes the kids so happy. The expressions on their faces and the way they engage with their friends or siblings is worth every bit of clean-up (unless throwing is involved, then I might get cranky). And honestly, making play dough isn’t messy, and once the flubber is made it’s not messy either. So there are options whereby you can cut the mess but still allow your child to experience the joy.

Do it!

xo, Bar