Busy Book Activities for Travel

While planning our fights to Turks & Caicos, I came across these wonderful worksheets.  Thank you mommy-bloggers for your grace, here are some of the worksheets I had packed in our carry-ons.  With Memorial Weekend fast approaching, and summer trips to the cabin and beach, I figured these would work just as well for the road warriors of summer!

I used a three-hole punch and some folders that I snagged at the Dollar Tree.  Not all of the worksheets got used, so some of the activity books ended up with our "in-home" coloring books and some made it into the baby bag for restaurant distractions.  Brilliant!

Tracing Shapes
download here
Six shapes that can be traced with stickers, colored in, drawn on and otherwise decorated.  Printable provided via {Confessions of a Homeschooler}

Tic Tac Toe
download here
A game that never ends, so long as the child is always winning.  These printable pages have pre-drawn boards which can account for several rounds of activity.  Maybe mix it up with different colored markers.  Go nuts.  Whee.  Printable provided via {Tip Junkie}

Traceable Numbers
download here
Anything to keep the fingers moving.  They can do this one, two or ten times.  Print off a bunch, mix them in between other sheets.  They'll be proud of what they're able to teach themselves through repetition.  Printable provided via {JDCodeMad.Net}

Traceable Letter
download here
Works the same way as numbers.  And it's free.  Nuff said.  Printable provided via {Freeology.com}

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So What Wednesday

What a week.  I can't even remember last week, that's how long this week has felt.
Or maybe, that's how long last week felt and that's why I'm still in recovery mode.
I'm going to do my best on this week-in recap but like I said, it's kind of a blur at this point.

So What Wednesday

  • When I start to type "life" into my web browser - Life After I Dew is what pops up first instead of Lifetime Fitness.  This means my ass is getting bigger, but my love for Shannon is as well.
  • I smelled like vodka Thursday morning after a Wednesday night happy hour(s) with an OLD friend.  And old being long-term, not age wise.
  • The best part of my week was hearing this interaction:
    • Liv:  Avery, here, you have this toy back.
    • Avery:  Thank you, Eya.  Best.  Friend.  Ever. {in broken toddler speak}
    • Mom's heart bursting that I'm doing ONE thing right.  For the moment at least.
  • We took down Avery's crib and make her sleep on a mattress on the floor.  This is in preparation for a new bunk bed, not because we're cheap and/or cruel.
  • I can't decide if The Following or Hannibal is a creepier show.  Either way, I prefer to watch them in full daylight with my feet on the floor.  I'd never consider NOT watching though.
  • I took the Wife of the Year award because I took my husband on a (free) brewery tour.  Best. Date. Ever.
  • Avery had her 2-year well-baby doctor visit:  30 lb, 37 inches.  She's one of the biggest two-year olds out there.  At least that means I'm feeding her and keeping her heathy (score one for mom.)
  • If I'm too lazy to give the girls a bath at night, I have them stand in the shower the next morning after I'm done.  I see it as somehow saving water, right?

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the painful quiet

We are expecting MORE snow here in Minnesota.  In fact, by the time this posts, we are likely to have a few more inches of snow, slush, ice and tears from all the residents weeping over the loss of their springtime flooding our streets and souls.

Being that I work on Mondays and my girls spend that time with my parents, my parents graciously offered to take them overnight and save me the trip, in what will be a longer morning commute.

We dropped the girls after church, gave kisses and didn't look back.
The afternoon was OURS!
Nate watched baseball, uninterrupted.
I napped, uninterrupted.
We watch last week's Survivor, uninterrupted (HOLY CRAP!  DID YOU SEE THAT TRIBAL COUCIL!?)
We even ate (hot, fresh from of the container) Chinese take-out , uninterrupted.
We did A LOT of things, uninterrupted!

But as the sun set, and the house got darker, it immediately quieter.
And not the good kind of quiet.

I thought to myself, this is what our life was like all the time before we had kids.
We didn't know any different on a Sunday afternoon.
We'd veg, and couch, and nap and mentally prepare to enter to working world the next morning, bright-eyed and full of wonder.
The main task of the weekend was to wash the only two loads of laundry we'd need all week, walking through a toy-free hallway to have everything neat and complete in less than two hours.
There may have been a Target run to restock dinner makings, and a change of the sheets, but really, the extent of our actual responsibilities (or those TIME SUCK items) were extremely minimal.

The quiet was unnoticed.
The quiet was expected.
The quiet was taken for granted.

I love that I don't have to wrestle my kids out of bed tomorrow, and ready them to trek the snow (again!) before going in to work.
I love that I can eat a hot meal with my feet up (hooray!)
I love that I can pick up the toy room and have it stay that way while there's still daylight.

Despite stuffing myself with spring rolls and fried rice (twice) I'm going to feel incredibly empty when I walk past their open, dark, empty bedroom on my way to sleep.
I groan a lot.
A lot.
And I know it.
So I guess it's true - you never know what you have until it's gone.
Or at least gone for the night.

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Free Redbox {updated for 2013}

Awhile back, I did some research and posted a bunch of coupon codes for Redbox.  I had mixed reviews on the "fairness" of it all, but being that there are actual WEBSITES set up with these codes, I I'm good with my sharing a few tips with readers.  If you are someone who wants to pay full price for everything, that go ahead and skip this post.

However, I suspect that most of my readers have been known to use a coupon from time and time, and enjoy a free movie on a Friday night.

I will share that these codes are good for one use per credit card - so if you're like me and have a few cards to choose from, you can cheat the system a little longer.

It seems that these codes still work in 2013 (so if you've already used them, move on to the next list):

New codes that I've found for 2013 are:

Enjoy some time with your family, or even a chick-flick by yourself.  Pay full price for the pizza and beer, take the dollar movie for free!

The first post is {here}

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Spring, Come Back!

Remember this post from a week or so ago?  We played out in the sunshine in light sweatshirts and had a grand time.  It was awesome.

And then, our yards were blanketed with inches of snow - measurable amounts of ice and slush and cold came.  Again.  In April.  There are so many expletives I have for this cold and yuck, but I'm trying to keep this as light and family-friendly as I can!

In an effort to make lemonade from these lemons, or iced lemonade, at the very least, we made a snowman.

Might as well let the kids enjoy the snow, even if the adults had a hard time finding joy in it.  We find our joy in them sometimes.

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So What Wednesday

Happy Hump Day!  Half way to the weekend - but wait, I'm a parent so it's not like I get time off.  I do, however, get to sleep in on Saturdays because Nate is kind enough to read the paper with the girls watching Disney Junior.  He can be a good egg every now and then (love you honey!)

So What Wednesday
  • I am concerned I am suffering from SADD in April.  We have snow and cold and yuck.  The high is maybe 40 degrees, this is criminal.
  • Liv lost her first tooth on Wednesday and we only gave her a dollar.  She doesn't even know what to do with it; I think she thinks it might be play money.
  • Liv also gave herself a little haircut on Saturday and I lost my shit over it.  Not a proud mommy moment, I will admit.  {read more here}
  • I still get a little giggly when I hear from people that they read my blog.  I know the stats and check on Google Analytics, but still.  I'm always flattered to hear that people read what I have to say.
  • Ask me how much I love to hate Don Draper.  What a awful hottie.
  • I need the weather to brighten so I can get to the Farmers' Market and eat more veggies.  I was getting fit for vacation and then kinda fell off the wagon.  Come on Liz, summer is eventually coming.  Or at least, I think it is!
  • Oh, and as a total whore for praise, I also check out to see what's been pinned from my blog (which is also my top traffic driver!) using this little trick!  So awesome to see my little pics out there in cyberspace!  Top pin by far is this recipe for {crack bread}

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The Milestone I Could Have Skipped

Olivia is only four-and-a-half-years old.  She won't be five until September, though her attitude sometimes suggests that she's going to be more like 14 or 18, or whatever age it is where girls make their mothers want to pull their hair out.

The child's, not the mother's.

On Wednesday, we were eating a quick lunch at Target's Food Avenue and Liv pulled some gross, white thing out of her mouth after biting into her hot dog.  I was too busy mopping up the milk that Avery had spilled, and just told her to just put it down and keep eating.  I was sure it was some awful, fatty part of a hot dog that makes them taste so good, but really gross to think about when you're actually eating them.

Now we're all calm and settled and eating, and wait - what the hell is on your tooth, Olivia?  Wait!  Where is your TOOTH!?!

She lost her first tooth and could have swallowed it or flicked it away, gone forever on the dirty floor of Target, or worse:  down the drain so to speak, and I am NOT digging for a silly tooth!  I was so in shock, I almost cried over the excitement.  She was thrilled to death, knowing the Tooth Fairy was going to come and visit.

This is not the milestone I wish we avoided.
It's certainly early for her to lose teeth, but from my Google research, kids who get teeth early tend to loose them early.  Makes enough sense.  Liv broke her first two teeth before she was four-months old.  (An awful experience, let me tell you.)

On Saturday, Olivia took her kid scissors and gave herself a little trim.  And when I say trim,  she recounts that she took four chunks out of her head on the right side (which means that she's apparently a lefty when it comes to cutting.)

Here's where I share some things that I am not proud of, in the hopes that someone in the world will have felt the same so I'm not a total bitch.

The vanity in me came out, and I was completely beside myself for the rest of the night and into the next day - and we had a Mother Daughter photo shoot, mind you.
First I had her goony, toothless smile, but I could handle that.  This giant chunk of hair that we now needed to rush to a salon before pictures to have cut and fixed so she didn't look like a complete wild animal.
We'd spent the last two years trying to grow out her bangs to a point where they tucked behind her ears and out of her face.  We were finally getting to a good point so she didn't look like Cousin It most of the day.
The hair disaster discovery happened while we were out to dinner, and I was just so - so dumbfounded and upset that I couldn't really even enjoy my steak sandwich.  And, I mean, come on:  it's meat and cheese and bread - these are the things I live for.
I'd spend not one, but two shopping trips trying to pick out cute clothes for us to wear, and thought this would be so great, and now she'd gone and spoiled it.  I guess, I can only be thankful that the chunk she took looked more like layers than anything else and left long enough that they can tuck behind an ear or back in a clip.  And even more, she left Avery out of it.  That poor babe doesn't have any hair to spare!!

And here's where I share that while I was genuinely disappointed, the actual gravity of the situation (which was none) eventually came to me.  Surely, I really wish it didn't happen, but the rational part of me knows that it's not a big deal and life, as it usually does, will go on.

Just with a little less hair on the right side.

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Dipped Oreo Pops

For Avery's birthday, we did a brunch this year, which meant that on top of the pancakes and syrup, I didn't think people would want to pack down one or two cupcakes at 11 in the morning.  (Maybe I'm wrong, but just a thought.)  But we had to have a sweet treat of some kind, right?  If I left it up to Avery, she'd want a bowl of frozen peas.  But for the rest of the normal kids of the world, we did cookies.

Oreo cookies.  Double-stuffed, of course.
Dipped in white chocolate.
Topped with sprinkles.
And the a sucker stick, to give the chocolate mess a handle, though it didn't save any faces from being totally covered by the end of it!
Totally easy (except for the fact that I suck at melting and dipping chocolate.  No one needed to know it was my second attempt!)

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Six Favorite Things in My Home

I forgot about this link up, but it's a fun one!  Check out Lauren and Tiffany too!

The Austin Family Diary

If I had to name my {current} favorite things, they would be:

{this blanket} from Pottery Barn.  It is my absolute favorite thing to cuddle with - even compared to my kids.  It's incredibly soft and warm.  And because of our split-level living, we have two living rooms and two places that I MAY want to be warm, so of course, I have two of them.

The flip-down step stools that Nate built for the girls.  We don't have a breakfast bar, but the kids turn the counter into one with these guys.  They can eat a snack, play with messy toys and projects (in my control) and even help cook.  They're awesome!

My TV.  Or more importantly, the DVR that's attached to the TVs.  We have DirecTV, and the whole-home DVR is amazing.  Maybe I sound silly for loving this as much as I do, but I don't care.  I like to unwind with TV.  Sure, I read and play Candy Crush on my phone, but I like TV.  Don't judge.

Our toy room, and it's chalkboard wall.  A place for the clutter to gather, even though it will creep out into the living room and up the stairs, I love it.  And the chalkboard, talk about an awesome thing for kids to play with!  It's floor-to-ceiling, wall to wall.  100 square feet of imagination!

The deck and pergola.  We don't have long summers in Minnesota, so we have to make the most of them.  Patios and decks are everywhere, and even though they are only open for 4 months out of the year, they get a lot of mileage.  Being able to sit in the sunshine, read my US Weekly and watch my kids play in the grass - not a bad little spot.

Our fake mudroom in the garage.  Nate built up a little platform where we have a bench and some coat hooks.  Being that we have about 6 square feet inside the front door to put on shoes and coats, this is an area we try very hard to utilize to keep the mess outside where it belongs.  I have to admit, it didn't get used a ton in the winter because it's very hard to convince a 4-year old who takes 12 minutes to get her boots and jacket on to do it outside in 20 degree weather.  Again - can't wait for spring to finally get here so we can move outside again!

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Ruben Rolls

I am know I'm a little (or OK a lot) late to the St. Patty's Day game, but I don't care.  A Ruben is good year round!  In fact, I was introduced to the Ruben sandwich by my sister in the summer, on a patio with a big mug of LITE beer.  Gasp my Irish-loving heart.

I did make these on March 17th (or rather the 16th when we had friends over) along with the spicy 1000 Island sauce that goes along wonderfully with them.  We did not have leftovers.

My version requires frying, but if you're cooking skills or desire to clean up spatter prohibits you, you can certainly bake these with a little egg wash too.

Spicy 1000 Island Sauce:
3/4 c 1000 Island Dressing
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 c red onion, minced
splash Worcestershire sauce
splash hot sauce (like red Tabasco)

Whisk all ingredients together and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Ruben Rolls:
8 oz corned beef, chopped
6 oz swiss cheese, shredded (or chopped)
1 c sauerkraut, drained well
12 to 15 egg roll wrappers
2-3 c vegetable oil (or enough to give you about 2" of oil in your frying pot of choice)

Mix together your corned beef, cheese and sauerkraut.

Lay out egg roll wrapper in a "diamond" position.  Add about 2 tablespoons of filling into the middle and wrap according to the package instructions, using water on the edges to act as glue.  Lay seam side down until you're ready to fry them.

Heat oil to about 325-350 degrees.  Drop 2-3 rolls at a time and fry about 2 minutes on each side, getting each side an even brown.

Drain well on paper towels and serve with your yummy dipping sauce.

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Winter is Over

Winter has been long.
Too long.
Yesterday, I was reminded why I wanted to stay home with my girls.

This Minnesota spring has been so cold.  Some oddly-tanned TV meteorologist kindly reminded us through bleached teeth all that this was the coldest March in eleven years.
Shut up, shorty.
Yeah for breaking records.
But the sun has been trying.  There were days you could tell the Earth just pulsed to melt the mountains of dirty snow that have stacked up over the months.

Then today, it happened.
The three of us piled out of the car after a Target run and the sun felt WARM.  Actual warmth that was coming from something other than winter jackets.  And even though the girls looked glossy and sleepy, bellies full of McDonald's french fries and apple juice, I dared to ask:

Wanna play outside?

Their squeals echoed throughout the neighborhood.

This is why I wanted to stay home.
To play.
To hear their laughter and games, rather than hear about them.

The grass was forbidden because it's still soaked (and partially under snow still) but the driveway served as more than enough running room.  Certainly more than the length of our hallway - a game that ends in 14 seconds with my voice hollering "Stop running in the house!!"

This is why I am home.
I still work.  I still work on Mondays even, so I get to complain with the masses.
I still get to use my brain (the one that accrued all those tuition bills.)
I still get to provide income for my family.

And I get to sleep in some mornings, too! (Or at very least, lay with my eyes closed while the girls watch Phineas & Ferb in bed with me.)

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Happy Birthday Avery {part 2}

I am having a bit of mom guilt being that Avery's birthday was about a week ago, and I still haven't recapped things.  There are bloggers out there who would whip out the laptop after the birthday kid hits the pillow that night.  Not me.  

Plus, it was Easter weekend too.
And I just didn't have the energy yet.
But a glass of wine, a few crackers and cheese and playing catch up with the DVR... I'm good to go!

On Friday, Avery's actual birthday, Nate took the day off and we took the girls to Sky Zone - a warehouse filled with trampolines (read:  a kid's happiest place on Earth.)  For one hour, we bounced to our hearts content (and I did't pee my pants!)  The girls had so much fun and were sweaty monsters by the time we left.  Total win for the day!

Friday night, we did our usual pizza/movie night.  Nate took the girls to pick out the pizza at Papa Murphy's.  This was mostly a ploy to let Liv go and feel a little special - it's hard to have your little sister (who really doesn't care one way or another) get 100% of the special-ness for a day.
We had lots of hugs, and lots of "I love yous" and a LOT of "you're always special to me, even on your sister's birthday."

And then there were cupcakes.
Wreck-It-Ralph style

Saturday, we celebrated with family and friends for a Mickey Mouse-themed brunch.  Mickey pancakes and egg bake.  It was awesome.  Woke up, got things ready and the house cleared out by nap time (I took one too!)  The morning was a bit of a scramble, but when it was all said and done, it was really awesome to have the rest of the day to RELAX.

Happy birthday sweet girl.
I hope you had a wonderful day/birthday weekend.

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