Kiwi Crate; Inspiring Creative and Educational Fun

Kiwi Crate is an award-winning, monthly subscription service that provides all the hands-on materials to inspire creative, educational fun. With themes like Music, Color, Robots, and Safari, these crates deliver everything needed for unique activities that you and your kids can enjoy together. see sample crates ››
Delightful kids' crafts delivered right to your door. shop now ›› Creativity kits for kids!

And for even more crafty inspiration, visit their
DIY Ideas page to check out the latest and greatest on easy projects you can do right at home, right now!

Recently featured in InStyle, Parenting Magazine, and US Weekly, Kiwi Crate has also been awarded Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products of 2012, Parent’s Choice Gold Award, and an Oppenheim Gold Seal Best Toy Award. Kiwi Crate is already a celebrity favorite, and is sure to delight the little ones in your life!
Kiwi Crate offers a range of subscription levels, all shipped for free:
Monthly Subscription - $19.95 a month
6 Month Gift - $110
*If you click on my links and purchase a product I will receive a commission.

Learning at Home; Educational Activities You Can Do Every Day

Need some fun activities to do with the kids at home? I've come up with a great list of fun and educational activities you can do using things you probably already have on hand and broken them up into groups. Have fun learning and teaching!

1. Act out your favorite book.
2. Paint a picture that describes your favorite book and talk about what's going on in the picture.
3. Practice letter skills by creating letters with things around the house.
4. Pick a word of the day and look for it around the house, search it online (with care), and make up a funny song with it.

5. Draw on the driveway with chalk.
6. Decorate white shirts with acrylic paint. (Won't wash out if you let it dry well)
7. Practice with safety scissors (for little ones) and cut up construction paper and create a mosaic by gluing the cut up pieces on paper.
8. Make Play-Doh sculptures.
9. Pick flowers, leaves, and grass and secure them between sheets of clear contact paper for art with nature. Punch holes in the corners with a hole punch and using yarn, string them up.

10. Take a tortilla and talk about easy fractions. Talk about the tortilla as a whole, then half it and show that two halves make a whole. Then cut it into fourths. Count the fourths and pick one up and explain that, that is 1/4 of the whole tortilla.
11. Count items around the house that you have a lot of. For example, picture frames. Have fun searching for all the frames and count them out loud together. (or action figures, baby dolls, blocks, etc)
12. Practice adding and subtracting by counting items in groups and taking away or adding a few at a time.
13.Talk about numbers without counting objects. For example, tell your child you need three eggs to make a cake but you only have one. Then ask him/her how many more eggs you need to get so that you have enough to make your cake.

14. Sing several of your favorite songs and change the melodies.
15. Using different items around the house create music and talk about how different items make different sounds. (jars, boxes, plastic bottles, books, pans)
16. Look up different types of music on the internet and listen for different instruments. Talk about the differences you hear between classical music and popular music today.
17. Practice rhythm by clapping, stomping, and swaying to different music.

18. Melt some gummy bears! Here is some vocab to look up: Melt, Molten, Phase Transition, Viscosity, and Mesophase.
19. Make an easy volcano. Pour some vinegar into an empty plastic bottle and mix in a drop or two of red coloring for effect. Create a cone out of a piece of paper to place over the bottle with an opening big enough so that the mouth of the bottle is uncovered. When ready, carefully drop in a tablespoon of baking soda. Ta da! Look up erupting volcanos on the internet and check out some cool library books to show what a real volcano looks like. Vocab: Lava, Molten, Dormant, Magma, Volcanic Ash
20. While the vinegar is out try cleaning some pennies. Add some salt (about 1 tsp) to 1/4 cup of vinegar and throw in a few old, dirty pennies. Wait about twenty seconds, rinse the pennies in water, and watch the pennies magically come clean! Or if you want, don't rinse them and let them dry on a paper towel and see what happens! Vocab: Copper Oxide, Acid, Chemistry

Mama Bucks Review: Beautiful Bows and Accessories

Beautiful Handmade Bows

There is just something about big bows on little girls that make us oooh and ahhh! My friend Heidi, owner of Mama Bucks, makes hair bows, headbands, clips, sashes, tutus, custom shirts, and more! She sent me a package of handmade hair accessories when my newest daughter was born and oh my goodness! Heidi's headbands are simply gorgeous! I noticed right away that they are exceptionally made. No gluey strings, no loose materials, and even after my older daughter carrying one around most of the day saying "my pretty bow," there wasn't any sign of wear and tear. They are put together so well! (And they are put up high on a shelf now!)



Heidi also made a barrette to match my daughter's Father/Daughter Date Night dress. It turned out perfect and looked adorable with her dress. Heidi's bows are so unique. She balances them so well and picks the most perfect color and texture combinations.

I loved all of these little beauties so much that I decided to order a handmade tutu and bow for my daughter's second birthday. When the package came I literally gasped when I opened the box. I asked Heidi to make the set blue and purple to match Laney's birthday decorations. Her items are always beautiful so I told her she had free reign. I'm so glad I did! She took the image from Laney's birthday party plates and made an adorable bottle cap for the center of her bow. I didn't let Laney see the tutu and bow until the day of her party and when I pulled them out to show to her, her tiny face lit up and she said, "For Laney-Bug?" When I said yes, she giggled. It felt good to know that she felt special on her big day.

If you have a special little girl in your life, you have to head over to Mama Bucks on Facebook and order some of these adorable products! I know what I'm getting for all the new little girls in my life! These make great gifts! Also, If you or someone you know is expecting a baby, Heidi makes beautiful sashes that are perfect for maternity photos. (See her sash in the photo below) Check out her photos on Facebook to see more Mama Bucks products!
Get to know Heidi and her business:
"Mama Bucks was started in the Fall of 2011.  It started out as a blog by the encouragement of friends who loved the money saving tips I shared.  I soon realized while I enjoyed sharing money saving tips with friends and family, I didn't exactly enjoy writing about them.  In fact, I found myself constantly drawn in by tutorials & DIY projects instead.  Enter the Fall of 2012.  Our High School football team was making a run for the State Championship and I was longing for my 3 girls to have cute team themed bows.  When I was unable to locate said items, I decided to make them myself.  From that point on Mama Bucks become a hair accessory, jewelry making, tutu loving, photo prop, birthday party essential, sash loving crafter.  My favorite part of what I do is uniquely customizing each piece to my customer's needs."  - Heidi

The Best Candy You'll Ever Put in Your Mouth

This photo is property of Costas Candies and Restaurant

Decadent, heavenly, divine, creamy, chewy, soft, and utterly delicious.
Have I got your attention yet? Today's review will leave your mouth watering! I have the upmost pleasure in presenting to you, dear readers, my all time favorite candy just in time for Easter! I would say that it is a guilty pleasure but let's be honest, I feel absolutely no guilt when I'm eating an incredible, handmade truffle from Costas Candies.  That's right! I'm not talking about those big "chain" chocolate companies that use so many preservatives that they can re-stock and sell their candy a year after it is made. I'm not talking about a company that mass produces caramels and chocolate hearts by the 1000s each day. I'm talking about what may be south Minnesota's best kept secret!

The Spring Line is Out!

Stella & Dot New Spring Arrivals

Spring is in the air... can you feel it? The days are getting longer, the birds are singing louder and the air just a smidge warmer. It is hard to contain the excitement, and Stella & Dot is happy to help you celebrate. Take a look at these new spring arrivals ! The Stella & Dot Rory Necklace - Blue is the same delicate blue as a robin's egg and looks so perfect with a scoop neck tee. The matching Stella & Dot Sardinia Bracelet - Blue and the Stella & Dot Aviva Chandeliers bring to mind a lively mix of sweet spring blossoms. Check out all of the Stella & Dot new spring arrivals and get ready to bloom!

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

You Know You Have A Defiant Toddler When...

1. As you ask her to not to do something, she stares straight into your eyes and does it anyway.

2. After giving her the bowl of popcorn or goldfish she's been begging for, she says "thank you," smiles, and then dumps it in the floor and proceeds to walk on it.

3. Her favorite room in the house is your bathroom and her favorite toys are your make-up bag and lotion.

4. When it's much, much to run as fast as you can to the diaper changing table knowing that's where she'll be...her face coated in Desitin and the floor covered in baby wipes.

5. Most of the rooms in your house stay locked.

6. At the ripe young age of nearly two years old, she can say her ABC's and count to twelve yet she "can't" understand the hundredth time you've asked begged her to "please, please stop taking the baby's paci out of her mouth."

7. Even though she mostly speaks in complete sentences and has a pretty good vocabulary for her age, she doesn't understand the concept of "We don't eat play doh or legos!"

8. You find yourself putting her in the bath just to keep her contained for a few minutes so you can brush your hair and put on make up....only to discover half of your makeup is missing.

9. Every time you go to the bathroom, you take her with you because pottying by yourself is less important than the anxiety you get by not being able to watch her every move for 1.5 minutes.

10. Your nightly routine consists of teeth brushing, singing, reading, and praying with her and then listening to her beg and cry to stay up longer or for you to sleep with her.

And when she is finally asleep and the day is over, you feel like this:

"It's about how much you can take and keep moving forward."

What would you add to the list?

It Was Meant To Be; My Amazing VBAC Experience

On the evening of my due date, our family met up and went bowling for my cousin's birthday. I had been experiencing contractions on and off for weeks and didn't really think I would be going into labor any time soon. Actually, that day I was hit with a big energy burst and even told Jon that I didn't feel 40 weeks pregnant. I spent the day with the kids playing in the snow, having a dance party in the living room, signing up for my first 5k (aaahhhhh!), and looking up natural labor induction methods. When we got the invite to go bowling, I was like, "okay, why not?!"

Toward the end of our game I started having low, shooting pains in my abdomen. They didn't feel like contractions but they hurt pretty bad. I thought it was ligament pain from the bowling. Then, the pain started coming on a little stronger and I got to where I couldn't walk through them. Jon made the decision that I should go get checked at labor and delivery. To be honest, I didn't want to go. I was worried about the hospital keeping me a long time to monitor me and then sending me home over nothing. Also, we had the kids to worry about and it was freezing outside. But Jon won the argument and we headed to the hospital. We decided that I would go in alone and he would keep the kids in the car. I was sure I was going to be sent back home within an hour and there was no reason to bring everyone inside.

When I reach labor and delivery a nurse takes me straight into a delivery room and has me undress and put on a gown, skipping triage altogether. She then checks my cervix, which hasn't been checked by my OB yet. She says I'm 4-5 cm and 70% effaced. I was surprised but I knew that this didn't necessarily mean anything. I sat at 3cm and 80% effaced with my son for almost three weeks. After checking me, she hooked me up to a monitor to watch my contractions. They were about 7-10 min apart so she called the doctor on call. My doctor was on his way back from Vegas.... great. The doctor on call came in, checked me, and confirmed that I was about 5cm. He said I wasn't going anywhere tonight and that he thought this baby would be arriving soon. Because I was having a VBAC, he didn't want to take the chance of me going home and going into full blown labor at 5cm.

I couldn't believe it. I was uncomfortable but not in any real pain and I did not think I was truly in labor. So, I called Jon and let him know we would be staying at the hospital and to take our children to my aunt and uncle. Then I decided I should call my parents. I was hesitant about calling anyone because I was still in denial that I was actually in labor. I told my dad not to worry and that I didn't think Remi was coming any time soon and that we would update him as things changed. I could tell he was torn and that a part of him wanted to come on to the hospital to be with us, bless him.

After Jon took the kids to my aunt and uncle he had to go home to grab a couple of things. Although we had packed the hospital bags and an over night bag for the kids in the car just incase we were out when I went into labor, we didn't have the camera and we needed to take care of our pets. He didn't really want to go, but I insisted he go ahead and run home. Meanwhile, I'm sitting at the hospital by myself getting poked and prodded by a nurse who admits she is really bad at putting in ports and drawing blood. She actually told me not to look while she tries to find my vein because she "tends to make a mess." Awesome. She blows a vein and I literally almost pass out....twice. I did talk them into just putting in a saline lock since I loath having an i.v. and I wasn't anywhere near getting an epidural. I absolutely hate being tied down to a bed. I feel like I can't move with an iv.

Alright, so Jon finally gets to the hospital and gets settled in. My aunt comes to see how I'm doing after getting Laney down to sleep and we just wait....and wait....and wait. My contractions become sporadic into the late hours and by morning they have all but stopped. My new, thank the lord, nurse checks me and says I've only dilated slightly. At this point I'm just thinking that I want to go home. I want to labor at home. Just as I'm starting to feel overwhelmed, my midwife arrives. I can't describe how much I needed her in that moment. I was exhausted and anxious.

She swooped in, looked over my chart, checked my cervix, and decided they needed to augment my labor. A little hesitant, I agreed to a low dose Pitocin drip. Because I hadn't eaten dinner the night before, and I was feeling low on energy, my midwife allowed me to have some jello and Gatorade. Thank God for midwives because they make the world of difference! She also had me go out onto the floor and walk for about an hour. I felt so refreshed after that. I even brushed my hair and put on a little make up! My contractions also started to pick up a little.

At 9:00 am they started me on 4ml of pit. A little while later they doubled it and that's when things really started to happen. My contractions became regular and painful. My parents were there at this point which gave us some company. After a few hours of Pitocin I decided to get my epidural. I was a good 6-7cm at this point so I felt good about going ahead and getting it.

Am I the only one who has a traumatic experience every time they get an epidural? I tremble and cry uncontrollably while it's being placed. I've been told this is a normal experience but sheeeesh, it's awful and I always end up feeling like a complete sissy. Okay, back to the story.

After my epidural is in, the nurse suggests that I try to sleep and hold off on having any visitors for a little while. I'm glad to oblige and I'm soon off in sleep land. Jon said that I slept so hard and so peacefully that he got nervous and went and got the nurse to make sure I was doing okay. While I was sleeping my contractions got much stronger and much closer together. Jon said he just stared at me and my monitor the whole time.

Next thing I know I'm waking up with a large amount of pressure down below. I tell Jon to "Call...No...GO GET THE NURSE!" Two nurses come in within seconds and I tell them that I feel like it's time. They quickly examine me and one says, "She's got hair!" They decide not to let me practice push because they feel the baby will come. I ended up having to sit like this for about 10-15 minutes until the doctor arrived.

The next 45(ish) minutes were amazing.

The doctor arrives and gets into action. The room fills with nurses and all sorts of gadgetry is pulled out of cabinets. The doctor looks at Jon and says something to the effect of, "are you ready to get in the action?" to which Jon says, "sure." He had no idea what the doc had in mind. Next thing I know, Jon has on a gown and is running through five pairs of surgical gloves because he keeps ripping them or touching things. All the while I have a bowling ball sitting between my legs...but I'm trying to wait patiently because I know this is going to be epic.

Jon looks like a giddy child who has just had candy for the first time as he sits down to help deliver our baby. Then I watch him transform as he puts on his "game face" and follows the doctors instructions. As I push I steal glances of my husband. For a moment it felt like it was just he and I bringing our baby into the world. We were doing this together, as one. I felt so close to him in those moments. It's something I will never forget.

After a final and extremely hard push our baby girl finally emerged, guided by her daddy. Jon then laid her on my chest, where she rested against my skin, and he cut her cord after letting it rest a moment. Jon kissed me, kissed her, and told us he was proud just as he did with all of our babies.

Remi was gorgeous. Different from our other babies, her hair was dark. She had a little pink stork bite on the tip of her nose. She was tiny and perfect and simply glowed.

I nursed within moments of giving birth and Remi knew exactly what to do. She only left me briefly to be weighed, measured, and foot printed. It was perfect. We were perfect. It was an amazing VBAC experience and it went so smoothly, Pitocin and all.

Jareth and Laney were the first to come in and meet Remi. They LOVED their baby sister and our family of five became complete. We are all so happy we brought our little love child into the world. I can't imagine not having her in our life. It was meant to be.