My Best $4 Investment

While buying Easter basket goodies for the quads, I spied small colored spray bottles at the Dollar Tree. I wasn’t sure quite how we’d use them, but grabbed four different colors and added them to the baskets.  I’ve been making my own produce wash and counter top spray and pouring them into empty spray bottles for a while.  Every single time the quads see me spraying something they request a turn.  In fact, they can spray the kitchen table down after dinner and any other area that needs attention.  They are expert sprayers!  I knew they’d appreciate having their very own spray bottles.

One morning I decided it was time to fill the new bottles with tap water and take them in the yard.  I laid down a few simple rules: NO spraying people, animals, or bugs.  Anything else in the yard was fair game.  The kids all nodded in agreement and set off to spray whatever their hearts desired.

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

I knew spray bottles had potential entertainment value, but seriously I had NO idea how much fun spray bottles would be for a bunch of toddlers.

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They sprayed my Gerber daisies…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They spritzed the flower beds…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They splattered the fence…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They bathed our caterpillar climber, “Happy”…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They misted the herb garden…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They washed the windows…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

They cleaned the sidewalk chalk from the house…

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

Though they looked menacing armed with spray bottles, they followed the rules really well- NO spraying people, pets, or bugs.

Dollar Tree spray bottles entertain toddlers and help with fine motor skill development

These spray bottles were some of my best $4 investments to date.  They’ve entertained the quads for HOURS!!!  The first day they played a solid TWO hours with them, the next day another 90 minutes (they may have played longer, but I got bored watching them spray), and they’ve asked for spray bottles every single day since I introduced them.  The best part is they enjoy spraying so much that bickering is minimal.

hugs,

Amber

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail

Last weekend felt like a whirlwind.  We started off by participating in our friend’s wedding, then we had our usual weekend errands followed by a birthday party, and Easter Sunday rounded it off.  In the midst of loading and unloading, one of the kids apparently switched an interior light on in the van.  Unbeknownst to us, it stayed on all night long.  After dressing everyone in Easter attire for dinner at Nisey and Poppa’s house our van battery flat lined.  Since the van is our sole family vehicle, either we’d go in the van or be marooned at home.  Naturally, the van was parked safely in the garage rendering the battery inaccessible for a jump.  Loading four toddlers into car seats isn’t an easy task so we had no intention of unloading until we arrived at our destination.  With all four kids loaded in the van, George pushed it down the driveway onto our street for a jump.  Though it was a bit of an ordeal, it did the trick and we were on our way.  The kids were good sports about it and sang the alphabet repeatedly while waiting.

IMG_4195

Easter 2015

Easter 2015

Almost immediately after arriving at Nisey and Poppa’s house the quads set out on an Easter egg hunt.  Thanks to the previous week’s practice, they knew exactly what to do.

Easter 2015

Rylin

Harper

Sydney

Mason

Even though he was capable of finding and collecting eggs independently, Harper asked GiGi to hold his hand, and she didn’t mind obliging him.

Easter 2015

Unlike last year when Rylin and Mason found the lion’s share, everyone collected a fair amount of eggs.

Egg hunt 2015

Easter 2015

Easter was the ideal opportunity for the boys to re wear their wedding threads, and the girls donned their wedding “back up dresses”.

Easter 2015

How did your family celebrate Easter?

Amber

Here Comes the Bride

On Good Friday, our friends, Kristin & JW tied the knot, and we had the honor of participating in their special day.  George officiated the wedding and the quads served as ring bearers and flower girls.

Several months ago when Kristin & JW asked us to be part of their wedding day, we gladly and confidently accepted.  As the big day approached, I think George and I both became a bit nervous about committing.  In fact, when we attended another wedding in September, George observed the ceremony and hesitantly proclaimed, “I can do this!”  At that point, I made it clear that our friends were counting on him and if he didn’t feel confident in his ability to officiate he’d better let them know right away.  However, when George puts his mind to something he perseveres and he was going to deliver.   For the past few months, George conferred with a pastor about officiating and began practicing.  In time, his confidence grew.

In the meantime, the quads wedding day threads arrived.  When I pulled them out of the boxes, Rylin squealed in delight at her wardrobe.  Once I put it on her she began twirling and swaying as if the den was a ballroom.  Sydney, on the other hand, had a different perspective.  As I pulled her petti romper up, she instantly squealed in disdain and stripped it from her body.  I knew it was problematic. Feeling deflated, I put Sydney’s outfit back on the hanger and put it away to try later.  While Sydney seemed to loathe the frilly little number, it was a battle getting it off of Rylin for bedtime.  She would have worn the flower girl garb to sleep if I’d let her.

About a week later, I tried the petti romper on Sydney again and got the same reaction, but this time she was more passionate about her disapproval. She stamped her feet and waved a finger at me as she told me “No, Mommy.  No!!!!”  Knowing that Sydney tends to be sensitive to textures and clothing, I ran my hands on the inside of her outfit and agreed it was slightly itchy.  At this point, I consulted Sydney’s occupational therapist for advice.  She suggested that I hang the outfit in the girl’s room so Sydney could explore it daily, put a compression garment underneath, do a brushing technique to Sydney’s skin, and let her use a pacifier while wearing it.  I managed to find a nude colored leotard at a local dance studio to put underneath, but Sydney still told me she itched.  I followed the other advice and Sydney tolerated the dress for up to 20 minutes at a time.  I knew that wouldn’t be long enough for an entire wedding and reception, but hoped she’d wear it for the ceremony.  Just in case, I picked up a back up dress in the same color as the original frock.

Wardrobe aside, we had another challenge: to get four two year olds to walk down the aisle each carrying a sign.  I assumed they’d willingly do this for the rehearsal, but wasn’t sure how they’d manage with 300 people staring at them.  In preparation for this, I offered up some positive reinforcement (individual Pez dispensers) if they did their job as asked. I knew photographers liked using Pez with children since it doesn’t stain faces, and I thought it would take them time to empty the dispensers during the ceremony.  We talked about this reward all week long, and these kids were thrilled about it.

Prior to the ceremony, both boys happily suited up in their khaki pants, white dress shirts, pink bow ties, suspenders, and boat shoes.  They were dapper little guys no doubt!  Rylin happily put her outfit on and danced about the room.  Sydney was adamant she was not getting dressed.  In fact, she intended on wearing only diaper.  GAH!!!!

Kristin & JW's wedding

The bride and the mother of the bride told me numerous times Sydney didn’t have to be in the wedding, and I wasn’t planning to force her.  However, I was not about to take a screaming child clad in only a diaper to a wedding ceremony.  I knew she needed to be calm and wearing something, even if it was the back up dress.  At this point, we turned on a cartoon and as Sydney became captivated, I quietly slipped her petti romper on.   When she noticed she protested a bit, but was far more interested in the television than what I was doing.  It wasn’t long before I had her fully dressed and hair done.  It was as if a load was lifted from my shoulders!  We had a wardrobe victory.

Kristin & JW's wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Being a little ladies man, Mason snatched a kiss from the bride before the wedding.

Kristin & JW's wedding

With the pressure of having all four kids and the husband in the wedding, I enlisted the help of Nisey and Terri to manage the little people.

Kristin & JW's wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Nisey and I left the quads in the care of the bridesmaids and Terri while we made our way to the front of the congregation with Pez in hand.

Kristin & JW's wedding

As music began to play, I crossed my fingers everyone was cooperative.  When I spied Harper walking down the aisle with his “Here” sign in hand I felt confident about the others.  Oftentimes it only takes one to take the lead and the others will follow.

Kristin & JW's wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Sydney refused to walk, but was okay to be carried.  Thankfully, Nikki is a rock star who obliged.

Have flower girls and ring bearers hold signs saying "Here" "Comes" "the" "Bride"

Kristin & JW's wedding

Once all four kiddos were in my clutches, my nerves eased.  However, George still had a ceremony to perform and I had four kids to supervise.  Much to my dismay, they quads devoured every single row of Pez within a couple of minutes.  It would have been okay except that they started chattering LOUDLY.  They weren’t trying to be disruptive, but have no clue how to whisper.  I knew the people sitting nearby would be disturbed so Nisey and I ushered all four out of their seats to the outskirts of the congregation.  There, Rylin and Mason cut loose and began running with joy.

Classic Oaks Ranch Wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Thankfully, it was an outside venue so running around didn’t really cause a ruckus.  Once the ceremony ended it was time for post wedding pictures.

Kristin & JW's wedding

Classic Oaks Ranch Wedding

Kristin & JW's wedding

Sydney held it together all she could and was not happy when I requested a family picture.

Kristin & JW's wedding

At the reception, the quads took charge of the dance floor and had fun in the photo booth.

Classic Oaks Ranch Wedding

reserved seating signs and flower arrangement

Kristin & JW's wedding

ten gallon hat

photobooth with quads

kristin photobooth cici and matt

Looking back at the day, I am so proud of my family.  George received many compliments about the ceremony, and I think he delivered just what the couple wanted.  The quads managed to stay clothed the entire time, went down the aisle, and carried their signs as asked.  I am grateful for all of the help we had to make those things happen too.  Most of all, congratulations, Kristin & JW…we love you!

hugs,

Amber

On the Hunt

Since the kids were about 16 months old, I’ve been a member of our local mothers of multiples club.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the families with multiples that live within our community via an online group, play dates, and events.  The family events are a really nice way to enjoy toddler friendly entertainment nearby while also mingling with the group.  This weekend with the help of my friend, Jen, we went to the group’s annual Easter egg hunt.

In the week leading up to the event, we talked about the egg hunt each day.  In fact, we got our Easter baskets out of the attic and did a little egg hunting practice at home.   We also had fun creating Easter themed crafts (please visit my post on Twiniversity for our craft tutorials).  All of this pre-hunt chatter had the kids stoked for the big day.  The weather was stunning with sunshine and moderate temperatures.

The event coordinators did a great job organizing everything.  They cordoned off parts of the lawn by age group and spread out over 600 eggs!  Instead of filling these all the eggs, they set up a prize station where the kids could exchange the eggs for prizes. As we waited for the egg hunt to begin, the kids were entertained with a craft station where they decorated bunnies and eggs.

After the egg hunt, the kids exchanged empty eggs for prizes.

It was rather impressive how so many little ones stood behind the line awaiting the countdown for the egg hunt to begin.  Countdowns can be confusing…Sydney with her newly acquired counting skills counted up from one to ten.

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Yes, your eyes are correct, Sydney has a huge bruise on her cheek and a Cinderella tat on her bicep….She looks like a scrapper, I know.  Honestly, I don’t know where the bruise came from and the tattoo was a reward for using the potty.

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

After counting down from ten, it was a mad dash to collect the eggs.  The only problem is that my children seemed to think they should only grab their assigned colors, and therefore were off to a slow start.  They eventually got into the groove and found plenty.

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

After the hunt, Harper wasn’t too happy as his allergies flared up from all that time on the lawn.

Easter Egg Hunt 2015

Of course, snack time brightened everyone’s day.  The crew enjoyed packages of Annie’s bunny crackers and applesauce pouches poolside.

lcmom egg hunt snacks 2

LCMOM egg hunt 2015

If I were left to my own devices, there would have been no pictures of this day.  Thankfully, several of the moms at the event and Jen snapped these.

With all of this practice, the quads will be professional egg hunters by Easter Sunday at Nisey’s house.

hugs!

Amber

Sweet & Sassy

About a year ago, the boys enjoyed their first day in the salon, while the girls hair continued growing longer.  With their long wavy locks, they’ve become interested in choosing hair styles from pig tales to buns and embellishing with barrettes and bows.  And, I’ll admit I have fun styling them.  Even though we’ve been letting the girls hair grow, it started becoming scraggly and unkempt looking.

Next week the quads have the honor of serving as flower girls and ring bearers in a friend’s wedding, which meant it was time for the girls to visit the salon.  I wanted it to be a special day for them so I booked appointments at Sweet and Sassy, which specializes in children’s haircuts and princess glam.  Of course, I was also sure to print coupons from their website for $3 off weekday cuts!

A few weeks back I told the girls they would be getting haircuts, and Rylin jabbered about it almost daily until the big day.  Every time she brought it up, her eyes widened as she clasped her hands saying, “We’re going to the salon!”  Her excitement about receiving a beauty treatment was contagious, but can you blame her?  A trip to the salon is exciting.

Sweet & Sassy

When we arrived at the salon, each of the girls was greeted by her own stylist and situated in a chair with purple cape.  To sweeten the deal, the girls received sparkling pink lollipops to enjoy during their treatment.

Sweet & Sassy

Poppa and the boys tagged along for the event, and happily enjoyed lollipops in blue and green while they waited.

Sweet & Sassy

Since the girls were only getting a tiny trim to even their baby locks, the actual cuts probably took about two minutes apiece.  However, their beauty treatment was not yet done (thank goodness!  I wanted my money’s worth on this deal).  After receiving hair cuts, the girl’s hair was braided to look like Anna and Elsa from Frozen (their absolute favorite movie characters!)  To finish up the princess look, each girl’s hair was dusted in silver glitter and a sparkling star was affixed to their cheek.  Knowing these braids would be adorable for the wedding, I watched the process of braiding hoping to learn the technique.  Unfortunately, I’m inept at braiding so we will be doing something else.

Sweet & Sassy

Sweet & Sassy

Once the girls were finished, they couldn’t wait to have pictures snapped with Elsa and Anna.  To prove I was part of this day, they had their picture taken with me too.

Sweet & Sassy

Sweet & Sassy

The best part of this day is that the girls clearly felt beautiful following the experience.  They beamed all day long and were thrilled to show Daddy their new hair dos when he got home.

hugs!

Amber

Class Party

The last time we enjoyed a play date with the Bell Quads, I mentioned feeling a bit sad that my kids don’t have the opportunity for class holiday parties. I don’t know why, that just seems to be something fun for little kids to do. Noting the fact that between us we have a full capacity Mother’s Day Out class, Amber suggested we have a little class party of our own for Saint Patrick’s Day.  Brilliant!

Originally, Amber intended to hostess this shindig.  However, her crew became extremely ill last month and was under quarantine orders for four weeks!  I started feeling a bit loony after our week-long escapade with a stomach bug so I can only imagine what she experienced.   I invited the Bells to our house in hopes of providing fresh scenery.

Keeping up with the party theme, I dressed everyone in assorted Saint Patrick’s Day attire.  Oddly enough, several of them came from hand me down bins.   Amber and her crew also dressed the part in shades of green.

Saint Patrick's Day "Class Party"

Amber brought themed plates and party decor while I served a green meal.  For the main course, I wanted to serve a new family favorite (it is a super easy recipe that also happens to be green in color #WINNER).  The recipe originally came from Picky Palate, but my family wasn’t fond of it as is.    After making several tweaks to the recipe, I came up with one my family demolishes.  Seriously, my kids eat 3-4 servings each when I make this meal so I knew Amber’s kids would approve as well.  To make the green menu complete, I served steamed broccoli, a tossed green salad, and key lime yogurt bites.

While I was tossing ingredients together for our class party, I prepped two more batches for freezer meals.  We have several friends with new babies, and I know freezer meals are among the most appreciated gifts for new moms.  In case you want to give this recipe a spin…

creamy pesto crock pot chicken

While I plated dinner, Amber introduced paint with water books she scored at Target’s One Spot.  It was shockingly quiet as these little artists went to work.  It really resembled a little preschool class.

Paint with Water is a low mess toddler acvity

When dinner was ready, both Amber and I marveled at how big our kids have gotten.  I couldn’t help but reminisce about our first play date that involved doling out several rounds of bottles, assembling four pack ‘n’ plays, and alternating kids through the quad table.  It was A LOT of work in those days.  Now the eight of them can gather around a dinner and feed themselves using utensils.

Green Dinner for St. Patty's Day

St Patty's Day1

Amber’s party plates were really cute, but I really loved them when it was time to clean up after dinner.  I simply tossed eight plates into the garbage instead of washing them.  After dinner, the kids spent time in the playroom before we changed all eight into pajamas.  And, just like “school” all eight gathered on the playroom rug for story time.  It was absolutely precious watching all eight sprawled out or crouched around to listen.

bed time story

bedtime story

When the bedtime hour approached, the quads bid their buddies farewell with hugs (ADORABLE!).  George and I tucked our four in, and then I helped Amber load her crew into the Suburban.  I’d say it was a “class party” quad play date success!

farewell hugs

Do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?

Hugs!

Amber

Toddler Beds, Take Two

big boy beds

At the start of the year, Sydney forced us to transition the girls from cribs to toddler beds.  Being a daredevil, Sydney escaped from her crib, which meant keeping the girls in cribs was no longer safe.  Since the boys are rather mischievous and had not attempted such an escape we kept their cribs intact. I was absolutely content with this arrangement.

Since moving the girls to toddler beds, they’ve done well, but naps are sporadic at best.   They tend to gab to each other as if it’s a constant slumber party.  Recently, Mason began trying to go to bed in the girls rooms and occasionally asked for a big boy bed.  He really tugged at George’s heartstrings on this one.  After some thought, George and I decided spring break week would be best for this change.  It meant I’d be home all week as we eased into toddler beds.

The day prior to the big change, George inspected the boy’s room for final toddler proofing measures.  All furniture was secured to the wall, latches were installed to the closet door and cabinets, electrical cords were secured, outlets covered, blind cords clipped, and the chair removed.  George then removed the front panel on both cribs.   We introduced the OK To Wake! Owl, and explained that the boys were to stay in bed until the owl illuminated green in the morning.

George read bedtime stories to the crew before tucking the boys into their new beds.

George read bedtime stories to the crew before tucking the boys into their new beds.

Following story time, both boys scrambled into their respective beds as if they’d done it a million times.  It was so easy.  Too easy.

toddler beds

toddler beds

Once prayers were said, I flipped off the lights and both boys snuggled under the covers.  About 30 seconds after we left the boy’s room, they both came charging into the playroom.  I’d forgotten to secure the door knob cover.  Once I wrapped it in a few layers of packing tape, they were set for the night.  George and I retreated to the den for some television watching and braced ourselves for protest.  I checked the baby monitor multiple times, and instead of finding distraught boys, I found two sweetly sleeping boys.   Much to my surprise, we didn’t hear a peep out of them until 7:30 am when Mason proclaimed, “It’s okay to wake!  The owl is green!!!”    I was even more surprised when I found their room totally undisturbed.  Though the room was toddler proofed and immediate hazards were removed, I anticipated a few trouble spots.  Fully expecting these things, I begged George to install latches on EVERY drawer.  His reply, “Let’s see what happens.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.”  While I want them to learn independence, sometimes my sanity is worth taking extra precautions.  I had a little side of crow for breakfast the first morning after toddler beds.

The first day they went down for nap without too much trouble, except they never actually fell asleep.  Instead they had great fun swapping beds and playing all sorts of imaginative games.  At the end of nap quiet playtime, everything in their rooms was in order.

When I went to get the boys up the second morning, I was greeted with a light citrus fragrance trailing from their room.  Undeniably familiar…GermX hand sanitizer.  Inside, I found Harper squirting the last few drops of a once full bottle of GermX all over the dresser.  It was one germ-free dresser that’s for sure.  Aside from the sanitizer, things looked good.

When I opened the bedroom door, I found Harper squirting the last few drops of a once full bottle of GermX all over the dresser.

On the third morning, I discovered socks in the diaper champ and diapers/ swim suits strewn about the room.  I was fed up with these shenanigans especially considering at least one was preventable with a strong latch.  I shot off an angry text complete with pictures for George to see.  His reply, “Mismanagement???”  Oh no, mister!  I was NOT pleased with this response.  I wanted some serious latches.

toddler bed mischief

The boys were different size diapers, which meant I had to sort through each one.

toddler bed mischief

On day four, the morning went smoothly even though George hadn’t yet installed any new latches.  I crossed my fingers for nap, but it did not go well.   About an hour into nap, I heard something suspicious.  Harper managed to dismantle the diaper champ and shredded the garbage bag inside.  Thankfully I emptied it just prior to nap so there were no diapers inside.  I suspected they may put things in the Diaper Champ, but never thought they could take it apart.  I ended up locking the Diaper Champ in the closet, scolded the boys, and put them back to bed.

diaper champ dismantle

The rest of nap did not go any better, the boys finagled a cabinet door open where George had installed a latch.  Once inside the cabinet, they had a hay day scattering undies, socks, and pajamas everywhere.  Harper informed me he was making a train.  To his credit, he lined the baskets up and it did resemble a train.   The only good thing about this mess is that it forced me to do a little spring cleaning.

toddler bed mischief

Despite the now daily shenanigans, George didn’t see a need for additional latches just yet.  On the fifth morning of toddler beds, I woke up to find all of the dresser drawers pulled out with pants scattered about the room.  The drawers aren’t terribly big, but for toddlers are slightly heavy so George finally agreed to latch them.  AMEN!!!!

toddler bed mischief

During nap on day five, Poppa stayed home with the boys so I could run errands.  According to Poppa, the boys sounded rather rowdy.  When he checked on them, both mattresses were off the beds and the boys were jumping wildly.  After a stern talk from Poppa, both boys fell asleep.  (I think I need a recording of Poppa telling the boys to go to bed.)

Today was the first morning when things were not in shambles.  Instead of trouble, I found Mason holding the owl so it would cast light on the door as Harper created shadow puppets.  That charade warmed my heart. The morning was smooth, nap not so much.  This time time they removed the sheets from their beds and got into the diapers again.

toddler bed mischief

Desperate for the boys to take a nap, I settled them onto pallets and rubbed their backs to settle them.  It worked like a charm!

sleeping on pallets

After a full week of toddler bed mayhem, I harassed George enough for him to install latches on the remaining accessible drawers.  Of course, these guys are a clever pair so I’m sure they’ll discover more mischief.  At least I can rest knowing we really exhausted all toddler proofing options available, and George can rest knowing I won’t pester him anymore.

toddler proofing

Even though the boys have created far more messes than the girls could ever imagine, I have to give them kudos for going to bed easily and staying asleep through the night.  The girls keep their room tidier, but getting them to bed is a bit more problematic.

hugs!

Amber

Frugal for Four

Adding four people to your family at the same time can be quite taxing on finances.  In our case, it meant income being reduced significantly with expenses steadily rising.  We went on a mission to rethink our spending and find places to pinch pennies.  It wasn’t terribly difficult since my own father is extremely thrifty.  In an effort to save money, we’ve begun making many of our most used household commodities.

Before the quads were even born, we began using Dad’s recipe to make laundry detergent.  We knew four babies would mean exponential growth in laundry and they would need a sensitive formula.  We found it surprisingly simple to make and also effective in cleaning our clothes.

DIY laundry detergent

To make our detergent, we mix 2 c. Borax, 2 c. Super Washing Soda, 1 bar grated Fels Naptha laundry soap, and 1 bar grated Ivory bar soap. We use a cheese grater to grate the soap, and store in a lidded container. We found it’s easier to grate soap that’s been out of the wrapper and air drying a few weeks ahead of time.  Use 2-3 teaspoons per load (tip: a medicine cup is  the perfect scoop!) Instead of using fabric softener on the kids’ clothes, we add about 1/4 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.  It helps remove odors and softens clothes too.

If you prefer a liquid detergent, check out Our Multiples Journey for a similar recipe that results in liquid form.   Also, if you’d like step by step directions, please visit The Littlest Lesnaus since Krista uses a similar recipe to us.

Before the babies arrived, we received many packages of diapers and wipes as gifts.  It was a huge blessing to us, but we eventually began to deplete our supply, and we also noticed problems with diaper rash.  Because of additives and chemicals, our pediatrician recommended we use toilet paper instead of wipes, but I wasn’t a fan of that idea.  Consequently, we began making our own baby wipes, which we now prefer to store-bought and we are saving quite a bit of money.

DIY Baby Wipes

To make baby wipes, cut a select-a-size roll of paper towels in half and stuff each half into an airtight container. Then, mix 4 c. water, 2 tablespoons baby wash, 1 tablespoon baby oil, 2-3 drops tea tree oil, and 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil scent (e.g. lavender, lemon, rosemary). Pour half of the liquid mixture over each half of the paper towel roll and pull the cardboard center out.

Once the babies began eating solid foods, I made baby food from fresh, frozen, canned, and dairy products.  It was surprisingly simple to make, and the babies really enjoyed it.  Consuming a lot of produce meant A LOT of washing.  That’s when I started using a two ingredient produce wash.  It’s simple: one part white vinegar and one part water mixed in a spray bottle.

Produce wash

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle to use a produce wash. Simply spray produce all over, allow to sit at least 30 seconds then rinse. It also works as a toy cleaner and all-purpose spray (add essential oil for scent if using for non food cleaning).

In addition to using my produce wash for fruit and veggies, I use it to clean toys and sometimes even the counter tops since vinegar contains antibacterial properties and is safe around toddlers.  Check out Texas Tales for a few other ways to use vinegar in your home.  I started using Amber’s tip of using vinegar/ water for mopping except I add a few drops essential oil for fragrance.  Vinegar is also an excellent substitute for dishwasher rinse aid!

It may not be a commodity in everyone’s house, but popcorn is a staple here.  It’s a guilt free snack with its high fiber content and ability to fill grumbling tummies.  Seriously, it is among my favorite snacks, and most of our friends have been served popcorn at our house one time or another.  For me, popcorn is nostalgic.  I recall family movie nights with my own parents and we always enjoyed freshly popped popcorn.  When I went off to college I developed an addiction to microwave popcorn.  I hadn’t mastered the skill of stove top cooking like my Dad, but still wanted to enjoy warm, fresh popcorn.  Several months ago, I considered the many additives that likely lurk in microwave popcorn and knew there must be a better option.  I still haven’t mastered the art of stove top popcorn popping, but I remembered a trick my sister used when we were kids: lunch sack popcorn.  It’s brilliant, and now enjoyed at our house almost daily!

Lunch Sack Popcorn

Put 1/2 cup popcorn kernels in a paper lunch sack (large size works best) then roll the top. Microwave 2 minutes (time may vary based on your wattage, ect). Once popcorn is popped, melt about 2 tablespoons coconut oil then drizzle over popcorn and season lightly with sea salt.  I love the coconut so much I haven’t been willing to try other flavor options, but I think olive oil/ sea salt or olive oil/ ranch would be delicious as well.

With the quads, yogurt is a major commodity for our home.  We go through an insane amount of it each day.  As in, they ate a large tub just today.  My friend, Becky, recently introduced me to Homemade Yogurt. It is simple to make and is definitely a money saver.  The only problem is we devour yogurt so quickly I cannot make it fast enough to keep up the pace.  Therefore, I only make yogurt when we are running low and won’t have a chance to replenish our stock.  It’s nice to have the ability to make yogurt even if we don’t make it regularly, however.

Crock Pot Yogurt

Pour 1/2 a gallon of whole milk into a Crock Pot and leave on low for 2.5 hours. Unplug the Crock Pot and let sit 3 hours. Whisk in 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt, wrap Crock Pot in a blanket and leave for 8 hours. Stir well, refrigerate and enjoy when cool. If your yogurt is thin, strain it through a tea towel/ strainer.  Flavor yogurt with honey, jam, or fruit.

What are your favorite money saving tips?  Do you have any great do-it-yourself recipes?

hugs!

Amber

Toddler Activities for Bad Weather Days

Today marked day three of school and business closures thanks to fickle Texas weather.  Another lovely blanket of snow (yes, real snow!) covered our lawns and streets.  Prior to that, we had an ice storm and several dreary, rainy days that kept us inside.  Ironically, after a few of these days I experience feelings of cabin fever (I’m sure those of you in cold climates are laughing, it’s ok).  I can’t stand it!!!  Since the arrival of the quads venturing out is a rarity, but when I feel as though weather traps us, I feel irritated.  We play outside every single day even if we stay home and we crave the sunshine here. The kids pick up on my feelings, and  their behavior deteriorates quickly.  Everyone gets cranky and demanding, which exacerbates cabin fever for me.  To keep my cabin fever at bay and behavior in line, I tried a few new activities to keep us occupied.  All are worth a repeat!

Indoor activites for toddlers when the weather keeps you inside.

1. Salt TraysMy Nearest & Dearest inspired this one (stop by her page for a few other ideas we are yet to try).  I sprinkled a thin layer of salt into Brookstone sand trays (a cookie sheet with sides or a lunch tray would work).  The quads used their fingers to create designs and also ran cars through the salt to create tracks.  It was a rather “Zen” activity that relaxed all of us.  I played yoga tracks from Pandora, which helped set the mood.

Pour a little salt onto trays and let kids trace designs or make tracks in it

2. Colander Game– Borrowing from Learning and Exploring Through Play, I used wooden skewers to create a maze through a colander then the quads took turns dropping pom poms through the maze.  They worked on turn taking and recognizing attributes (e.g. color, size, texture) for this one.  It involved maybe a minute to prep and clean up, and they were entertained about 15-20 minutes.

Colander/ Pom Pom Game

3. Tea Party- We hosted several tea parties when the quads had a cold this winter and it’s always a nice distraction.  It’s also the opportune time to practice table manners and drinking from open cups.

Tea Parties are great for practicing manners and when the weather keeps toddlers inside

4. Bring the Snow Inside– Typically I’m in favor of bundling the kids to play in cold weather, especially if they’ll have an opportunity to play in snow.  However, I didn’t feel up to the challenge again.  Instead, I brought the snow inside.  Scooping, shaping, and coloring the snow kept all four occupied for a solid 45 minutes!

If you don't want to bundle up to enjoy the snow, bring a tub inside for sensory play.

bring snow inside for a sensory experience

5. Window Clings– I periodically snatch gel window clings from the Dollar Tree or Target’s One Spot and now we have a decent collection for each season.  I pulled the den blinds up and let the quads loose with sheets of them.  I was surprised at how they independently sorted them by attributes and reassembled several of the designs including a snowman, Santa, and penguins. It involved zero prep on my part and took less than five minutes to clean up.  They played happily for about 30-40 minutes!

Window clings are fun for toddlers to arrange.

What are some of your favorite indoor activities for bad weather days?

hugs,

Amber

Authentic Snow, in Texas!

Early last week we experienced an icy blast, and made the most of it.  Here in Texas we primarily experience freezing rain and drizzle during winter.  It’s not picturesque nor is it fun.  Very rarely do we see a snowflake and even more rare, a snowy accumulation.  Mid week our ice thawed and everyone was back to business as usual.  I went back to the office and our babysitting crew returned to manage the quads in my absence.

My Friday morning commute was typical and I gladly began knocking out tasks lingering on my to-do list.  Mid morning I noticed snow flurries outside my office window, and it wasn’t long before the ground was completely covered in a soft snowy blanket.  Not expecting much accumulation on the road, I attempted to type reports.  I was notably distracted by the lovely snow drifts dancing outside my window, however.  By lunchtime it wasn’t looking good road wise.  There were 75 wrecks within a small radius around my office.  Parents shuffled into the building to retrieve their children, there was mass confusion whether schools were closing or remaining open.  Not wanting to make up a workday, I planned to hold strong and continue.  I ended up taking a half day, and of course wasn’t too upset that it meant my kids would experience legitimate snow for the first time.

The roads weren’t terribly treacherous since it was snow rather than an ice skating rink; I made it home in under an hour.  At home, I found my mom snuggled up with a fussy Sydney peering out the window.  Much to my Nisey’s dismay, I insisted that we bundle the quads to play in the snow.  Nisey loathes cold weather, but for the kids her persistent eldest child, she helped me bundle everyone and braved the frigid temperature.

snow day

Harper did not head my warning to stay off the play set and managed to lumber up snow-covered steps, and later insisted on riding the glider.

snow day

snow day

Nisey tried her best to form snowballs and to build a snowman.  However the snow was so dry it wouldn’t stick together.

snow day

snow day

Rylin unearthed the sand toys and would have stayed in the snow hours scooping and pouring if we let her.

snow day

snow day

Sydney wasn’t a fan of the snow and wailed almost the entire time we were outside.  Nisey seized the opportunity to soothe Sydney and skip the snow play.

snow day

snow day

George was dismayed when he found out we were playing in the snow.  He managed to make it home in just enough time to play with us.

snow day

The boys tried their best to pull me in our saucer sled, but Daddy had to come to the rescue.

snow day

snow day

Now that we’ve experienced both ice and snow in 2015, I’m ready for spring to arrive.  This white stuff can take a hike until next year!

hugs!

Amber