Last Minute Holiday Treats

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I like to give homemade treats for the holidays.  I get the cute little tins and fill them with goodies.  This year the kids handed some out to our whole neighborhood of 2 dozen houses, plus teachers, friends, the mailman, and even our pediatrician’s office.

It’s nice to have a variety of treats, but it’s a pain to make a large quantity of a lot of different things.  I kept it pretty easy this year.  I made some of The Best Cookies Ever.  They are a variation on spritz cookies, so they work up quickly.  If you don’t have a cookie press, you could always make the dough and then form balls and press them on to a cookie sheet with a half pecan on top.  Yum.  And then I made fudge and turtles.  The easy way.  And threw in some mints for good measure.

I’m not a food blogger or a food photographer.  I didn’t come up with either of these recipes, but they are so easy I have to share them.  Each requires only 3 ingredients and a few minutes of time and turns out beautifully.

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Color Coding Kids

I have been thinking about organization a lot recently.  One of the tricks I use I learned from my mom, who learned it from her mom.  Each kid is assigned a color.  My mom and her sisters were red, green, blue, and yellow, in that order.  My siblings and I were red, blue, yellow, and green.

We assigned colors at birth, kind of accidentally.  They were each given a blankie knit either by my sister (#1, #2, and #3,) or myself (#4 and #5.)  That color stuck.  In order, R has yellow, Big A has blue, O has green, Little A has red, and Miss C has purple.

The main reason this is useful is because kids can learn to identify their color before they learn to identify their initial or name.  It’s also often easier to mark something with a color then with a letter or name.

We use the kids’ colors around the house: on all the bathroom stuff, on the laundry baskets, one the lunch containers, and so on.

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School Lunches

This year we have three kids in elementary school (3rd, 2rd, and K.)  That’s 15 school lunches a week.  Yikes.

Someday, we will have two in middle school (8th and 7th) and three in elementary school (5th, 2nd, and K.)  That’s 25 school lunches a week.  Really yikes.

Or, 13 years of school (K-12) times 180 days of school times five kids is 11,700 lunches.  That’s scary even without factoring in 11 1/2 child-years of preschool.

I could have them buy lunch at school, but that would be almost $50 a week for mediocre meals.  Plus, making lunches for school is a great chance for them to learn something, I’m sure.  Probably nutrition and frugality and to not leave packing 15 lunches until after dinner Sunday night.

Last year each kid packed his lunch and snack every night.  We had a good system, so I will share it even though I decided to change it this year.  We had a bin of Greek yogurt and string cheese, and hummus and chip packs, and baby carrots and such in the fridge.  In the pantry we had bins with reusable plastic containers of salty snacks (goldfish, pretzels,) sweet snacks (graham crackers, teddy grahams, fig newtons,) nutty snacks (granola bars, trail mix, peanut butter crackers,) “fruits” (applesauce, peaches in fruit juice,) and desserts (fruit snacks, cookies.)  They were allowed to pack a few things from the fridge and one thing from each bin in the pantry.  That covered lunch and school snack.  It worked, but it generated a lot of reusable containers to wash and wasn’t as healthy as I would have liked.  But, it got us through the first few months of five little kids.

This year we’re doing something different.  I got a bunch of 3 compartment lunch containers (often called bento boxes.)

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On Sunday we pack all 20 lunches for the week.  Twenty, because Little A wants lunches, too, so he can be just like his brothers.  First I present the kids with a entrée menu and they each choose five lunches for the week.

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Then we spread containers all over the kitchen table and work together to make the lunches.  It takes about an hour.

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Each lunch has an entrée, a fruit or veggie (baby carrots, grapes,) and a dessert.  It’s much more efficient to make them all at once.  R likes to make the sandwiches.  Big A likes to make crackers and cheese and chips with hummus.  O likes to put in carrots and grapes and desserts.  Little A likes to try to eat everything as we make it.

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Twenty lunches is a lot of food!

Each kid has a color which we use around the house.  It happens to also be the color of the baby blanket I knit when he (or she) was born.  R has yellow/orange (or rainbow here,) Big A has blue, O has green, little A has red (or pink sometimes,) and Miss C has purple (but no lunches yet, obviously.)

On school nights all the kids have to do is choose a pre-made lunch pack and add a water bottle (reusable,) napkin, and a snack (fruit and a baggie of cracker type snacks.)  It takes about two minutes, is healthy, and involves much less whining than last year.  And because they chose, and packed the lunches, it should all be food they like.

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Apparently O was in a pretzel mood when packing his lunch for today.  He chose a hummus and chips/pretzels lunch and took applesauce and more pretzels for snack.

At lunchtime Little A knows where to find his “lunch box” and enjoys choosing something.

Note: I haven’t sent PB&J to school yet because my mother-in-law used to pre-pack PB&J for my husband and apparently they got really soggy by the end of the week.  You can avoid the sogginess by putting PB on both slices of bread and jelly in the middle so the jelly doesn’t touch the bread.  I know that works for a day or two, but I want to do a five-day test before sending any with the kids.  I made a couple for Little A this week.  We’ll see how they last.

Also, this year we are only using neoprene lunchboxes because they are machine washable.  I am so tired of scrubbing yogurt, soggy cheese, hummus, and other goopy, malodorous gunk out of non-washable lunchboxes.

Chalk Paint

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Yesterday son #2 asked me whether he could paint.  We used to do a lot of painting.  But with five kids, including a baby who has apparently given up sleeping at night, not so much recently.  I had just gotten the baby down for a nap and was taking a few precious moments to sit down with some tea and a book.  I desperately wanted to tell him “No.”  Painting involves way too much set up, supervision, and clean up.  There’s never anywhere to put the drying paintings and I never know what to do with them once they are dry.  But, he had been asking a lot.  And I really do try to be a good mom.

And then it hit me.  I could let him paint without most of the problems.  And I could use up some mess at the same time.  It did get me out of my chair, but it was worth it.

We took some of the kids’ broken pieces of chalk.  We have a lot of them because son #4 went through a phase of throwing chalk so he could watch it break.  We took 2-4 small piece of similar colors and ground them up with a rock.  We mixed in a little water and… chalk paint!

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It worked surprisingly well, especially on such a hot afternoon.  Grandpa even came by and collaborated with son #2 on a pumpkin.

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I even made a pretty sunset to try blending

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and, of course, a rainbow (no fall stuff for me yet!)

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This is far too easy to be a novel idea, but I did come upon it by myself.  I love that it helped use up the little ends of chalk.  And that any mess will wash away with the next rain.

Newborn Clothes

Miss C is quickly outgrowing her 3-6 month clothes.

While going through her room, I recently found a laundry basket full of her newborn clothes (yes, the house gets that messy.)  I don’t know about you, but I have trouble parting with any baby clothes, but the newborn ones are the hardest.  I can’t believe she was ever that small.  I really can’t believe the boys were ever that small.  I want to keep the whole basket of clothes, but how do I justify keeping clutter?

Believe it or not, this doesn’t involve a craft.

Really.

It doesn’t.

We have a few baby dolls from when I was preparing the boys for various younger siblings.  I was smart and got 18-20″ dolls.  So I’m just going to hang on to all the newborn clothes, and my favorite 0-3 months clothes, and label the box “doll clothes.”  When Miss C hits her doll phase (if she ever does) I’ll give her the dolls and the box of her old baby clothes and she can dress her dolls in them.  It will be adorable, I’ll love seeing the clothes again, and she will probably prefer “real” clothes to cheapo doll clothes.  It’s a win all around.  And in the meantime, the boys can put the clothes on their dolls.

Here is Miss C, at 4 months old, cuddling Little A’s dolls (Rose and Violet) who are wearing her old clothes.

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Here is a picture of Miss C at 2 days old wearing the sleeper, and at 2 weeks wearing the skirt.  I can’t believe how quickly she is growing.

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I have a bunch of newborn boy clothes leftover from the boys, too.  But Little A’s dolls are both girls right now.

 

Split Lips and Frozen Treats

One thing I have learned while raising my kids is that it’s good to always keep some freezer ices* in the freezer because there is no better way to treat a split lip.  My toddler reminded me of that one last night when he tripped over his own feet.

*Freezer ice, freezie, freeze pop, ice bar… you know, like a popsicle (ice pop, freezer pop, ice lolly, etc) without a stick?   Or whatever you call them where you live.

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Note: I’m sure this is not an original idea.  It’s still brilliant and I was very proud of myself when I first came up with it, years ago.

Thoughts on Socks

One of the most useful, time-saving, parenting things I have ever done was getting rid of all of my kids’ socks.  They had white socks, colorful socks, socks in all different styles.  I replaced them with all the same brand of socks (Hanes, because they brilliantly put the word “Hanes” in a different color on each size of sock).  And I got them black socks.  Now their socks don’t get that terrible dirty “when did you walk in mud with just socks on?!” look.  (Black socks, they never get dirty…)  And it’s super easy to sort them.  #1 gets socks with blue letters on the toe.  #2 and #3 split the socks with green letters on the toe.  #4 gets socks with red letters on the toe.  And #5 has white socks because she’s a baby and doesn’t get them dirty.  And after doing all the laundry, at most I have four socks leftover.  I just shove those in the owner’s drawer and go on with my life.  No more laundry baskets full of socks waiting to be matched.

That’s my thought for today as I embark on tackling the mountain of laundry baskets which has piled up.