DIY Hanging String Ball Decorations

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Last summer we moved David into his “big boy” room to make room for his new baby brother in the nursery. I wanted to make his room personalized for him without looking too cheesy (for instance, I just can’t get on board with the life-size cartoon character wall decals).

David is OBSESSED with balls, so a ball-themed room was a natural choice. I wanted to make some sort of decoration for his room–something that would look nice and be relatively easy to make since I really have very little patience for all things crafty. In the end, I decided to make these hanging string balls that I grouped together and have hanging over his dresser.

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Each ball took me about 15 minutes to make, and an easy 15 minutes at that. They are simple to put together and, since you don’t have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it, you can zone out and listen to music or an audiobook while you’re “working”. They were also inexpensive–I bought all of the supplies to make 7 string balls for less than $20 (and I had enough string left over to make about a dozen more, if I’d been so motivated).

I actually enjoyed making these balls so much that I would like to do this project again in the future (when I have time, which is never–so it probably won’t happen, but I would still like to.). It would be fun to work with some other fun colors of string and sizes of balls so I could have the balls on hand for party decorations.

Here’s the how-to if you’d like to make your own hanging ball decor:

Supplies:

  • plastic playground ball (Target had a wide variety of sizes, from wiffle ball size to beach ball size. Choose a ball that is the same size as you want your string ball to be).
  • 1 spool cotton crochet thread in your desired color (I used one similar to this and it was plenty for 5 small balls).
  • plastic sheeting to cover your work surface
  • 1 plastic tub (large enough to submerge your spool of thread in)
  • 2 16-ounce bottles of Elmer’s glue (just the typical white glue)
  • Paper towels
  • 1 can of spray-on glue
  • clear fishing line
  • 1 needle from a sports ball pump

Instructions:

  • Cover your work surface (and the floor beneath) with plastic sheeting or some over type of covering. This can get a bit messy!
  • Dump 1 bottle of glue into the plastic tub. Add a few tablespoons of water to the glue to thin it out just a bit.
  • Put the spool of thread into the glue mixture in the tub. Roll it around until the spool is completely covered in glue. If you don’t have enough glue to completely cover your spool of thread, add more glue. You want your thread really goopy.
  • Hold your plastic ball and start wrapping the thread around it in a random criss-cross IMG_2238pattern (leave the thread in the plastic tub, and just pull it to unravel as you’re going. Make sure all of the thread is saturated with glue.). Do NOT cover about a 2-inch diameter circle around the ball’s air valve (where you would pump more air into the ball). This is where you will remove the plastic ball after the thread is dry. Really go for it, and just keep wrapping. The more thread you use, the better your ball will stay together and the awesome-er it will look when it’s all done. This gets pretty messy, so that’s why you’ve got the paper towels on hand. Wipe up the excess goopy glue that’s dripping off the thread as you’re going.
  • When you feel that your ball is sufficiently covered in thread, loop the thread through some of your criss-crosses and tie it off. Cut the thread off of the spool and set your ball upside down (on the air valve that you didn’t cover with string) to dry overnight.
  • Once the thread is completely dry, take the ball pump needle and insert it into the ball’s air valve. This will release all of the air from inside the ball. Once the ball is deflated, pull it out through the opening you left near the original ball’s air valve.
  • Loop some of the fishing line through the top part of the thread ball and tie it off to make a “hanger” for your ball.
  • Take your thread ball outside and spray it inside and out with the spray-on glue (Hold on to the fishing line so you can spray the whole ball without getting your hands all glue-y).
  • Hang the ball up by the fishing line so the spray on glue can dry completely.
  • Once all of your glue is dry, you should be ready to hang up your thread ball for decoration!

I grouped 7 balls together for my son’s room, but you could do whatever you want with the balls. If you want to make multiple balls, you can either pump up the same plastic ball to use again as the ball form, or you can just use a variety of different plastic balls. I tried beach balls as the ball form, as well, but they didn’t hold their shape as well as the playground balls.

Happy crafting!

A Dozen Ingenious Ways To Entertain Your Kids At the Doctor’s Office

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I recently took Jacob to the doctor for his “well baby” check up and, as always, we had quite a wait for the doctor. It never ceases to amaze me that, even with an appointment, we can spend up to an hour waiting to actually do the checking-up that we are there for (which, by the way, only takes about 5 minutes of the doc’s time). With two kids under the age of 3, one hour of waiting can seem like an eternity. I’ve come up with a few ideas that help the time go a bit faster:

1. Blow up a (clean) exam glove and tie it off at the wrist. Use this as a balloon/ball/chew toy. For a little extra fun, you can fill it with water instead of air to make a squishy water balloon (it feels really neat! Just don’t let your kids chew on this one, please…).

2. Get a wooden tongue depressor and a paper cup from the exam room (they’re usually in plain view, so I consider them fair game for the taking). Poke the tongue depressor through the bottom of the cup–the cup can move up and down the stick, which is apparently quite entertaining to 9-month old babies.

3. Bring crayons and color on the paper exam table covering. There are lots of fun activities that you can do here:

  • Bring toy cars. Use the crayons you brought along to draw roads on the exam table for your cars to drive on.
  • If your kids are a bit older, you can play games like tic-tac-toe or hangman.
  • Trace your child’s body and let him color in his features, clothes, etc.
  • Draw shapes, letters, animals, etc. and have your child try to guess what you’re drawing before you finish it.
  • You (or your child) can objects that you find in the room (the bottom of a paper cup, your wallet, his shoe, etc.). Have your child decorate the shapes.
  • Draw 2 or 3 sketches of common objects and have your child make up a story that involves all of the drawn objects. Or, work together to come up with a sentence that uses all of the objects. If you have a reader, have him help you write the sentence below the pictures.

4. Read books.

5. Play with Play-Doh.

6. Bring a Ziploc bag of Legos and build something together.

7. Play doctor–this is even more fun if you are the patient and your child is the doctor

8. Eat a snack.

9. Have a scavenger hunt using the charts hanging on the walls: Who can find a picture of a hand? Who can find the letter E? Who can find a smiling baby?

10. Wad up some paper towels and have a “snowball” fight (lay out some ground rules first for this one or it may get a bit out of hand!).

11. Fill the sink or a paper cup with some water and play “sink or float”. Take turns putting small objects in the water (a cotton ball, a crayon, a paperclip, a penny). Guess if the object will sink or float, then put it in the water to see what happens.

12. And, if all else fails, hand over your iPhone and let them watch Blue’s Clues ūüôā

An Unexpected Week

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere this past week. It has been a crazy and very unexpected week to say the least.

Last Tuesday we had a family health emergency that required us to leave town right away (like, grab the kids out of bed and drive all night in our pajamas “right away”). Thanks to great health care and lots of prayers, things are finally looking optimistic here. We have seen reiterated time and time again this week that God is great, prayer is powerful, and miracles do happen. Thank you to all of you who do you know what has been going on and have been keeping us in your thoughts and your prayers–it truly does mean the world to us!

We probably will not be going home for another week or so, but since things are on the up-and-up here I have decided that it is time to start writing again. I have actually really missed spending time on this blog (and, of course, all of my amazing readers!). So check back tomorrow for a bit of what has been on my mommy mind!

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Rhubarb Custard “Dream Bars” Recipe

We went to my parents’ house last weekend, and the first thing David wanted to do was go to Nana’s garden. My mom always has some amazing new thing growing in her garden and David loves seeing what he can find. Plus, there’s something amazing about picking veggies straight out of the ground and then eating them right there on the spot.

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This week we found rhubarb. Lots and lots of rhubarb–a rhubarb forest, if you will. We picked a whole bag-full of the ruby red stalks…which I promptly forgot to bring home with us. All week I’ve been dreaming about the rhubarb I forgot, mostly because of this recipe. This is one of my favorite desserts of all time. If I were a rhubarb, I would be honored to find my end in such a sweet place. I now give you…

Rhubarb Custard Dream Bars

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
9 Tablespoons butter

Custard Filling Ingredients:
1/3 Cup flour
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1 1/2 Cups milk
3 eggs
5 Cups rhubarb, diced

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup fat-free cream cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup thawed frozen fat-free whipped topping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. For crust: cut flour, sugar, butter and salt into a coarse meal. Pat the crust mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

3. For the filling: whisk together the flour, sugar, milk and eggs. Add rhubarb and stir. Pour over the baked crust, and bake another 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the custard is set. Cool to room temperature.

4. For the topping: mix together the sugar, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth (I use an electric mixer for this). Fold in the whipped topping. Spread over the cooled custard and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

5. To serve: slice into bars of your desired size. Try to stop yourself from consuming the entire pan of rhubarb bars so you will have some to share with your friends. Keep leftover bars covered tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated.

Another Step Closer…

This morning we got some exciting news. Turns out that one of Jon’s co-workers has a connection at the Justice Department in Ireland (this is the office that processes expat visas). She was able to give them our visa application number and they moved our application to the front of the list! They started reviewing our application today and said that it should be processed (whatever that means) by the end of next week. Once we actually have our visas in hand, Jon will be able to schedule his last house-hunting trip out to Ireland. If all goes well, we may be able to move a bit sooner than we were originally thinking (move in July instead of August). Now we just have to pray that everything is in order and they accept our application on the first go!

How To Score A FREE Breast Pump!

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Are you a breastfeeding mom? Do you have medical insurance? If you answered yes to these two questions, then you probably qualify for a free breast pump! Wha-what?! Yes, that’s right, mamas–you can get a breast pump for FREE.

A couple of months ago a friend of mine enlightened me to the fact that, under Obamacare, breast pumps are now covered by virtually all medical insurance plans. There are mountains of research that point to the benefits of breastfeeding, so it is encouraging that women everywhere can now have access to breast pumps. I think this is a huge win for moms!

Since I am still nursing my 9-month old, I thought I would look into this whole “free breast pump” thing for myself. Every insurance company is a bit different in how they process the breast pump claims, so you’ll want to call them to see what their policy is.

Under my insurance plan, I am allowed one breast pump per baby. I had to place my order through their selected medical supply company and give them my doctor’s contact information. Then, 2 days later, I got a phone call from my doctor to confirm that I was still breastfeeding and wanted the pump. She had to “prescribe” the breast pump, so she had to verify that the pump was medically necessary. There are dozens of reasons that your pump may be medically necessary, including difficulty nursing, sore nipples, or you being separated from your baby (like if you’re returning to work or going on a long trip). I found this website useful because it lists all of the ICD-9 codes that the insurance companies will accept for breast pump coverage.

After I spoke with my doctor she submitted my “prescription” to my insurance company and the next day FedEx delivered a brand new top-of-the-line breast pump to my house. My cost: $0.

With my insurance plan I was not able to select which pump I’d receive–I just got the pump they had pre-selected (the Ameda Purely Yours double electric breast pump, the same one as in the photo at the beginning of this post). My friend who had originally told me about insurance-covered pumps, however, was able to select any pump she wanted from a breastfeeding supply store.

It really was an easy process, so I would highly encourage any other breastfeeding moms (or soon-to-be moms!) to look into what your insurance will cover. I haven’t gotten a chance to use my new pump yet but I’m looking forward to giving it a try soon!

A Clever Way To Give A Coffee Gift Card

photo (2)I was a classroom teacher for 5 years before I “retired” to begin my new career as a full-time Household Engineer (a.k.a. “Mom”). You may not be able to tell, but teachers look forward to the end of the school year even more than the students do. Much, much more. And it’s not because we teachers want to get rid of the kids, or even because we’re excited to go on fancy vacations (because, really, no teacher can afford to go on a fancy vacation even if she wants to). No, we get excited for the end of the year because we are exhausted. Teaching is a job that requires you to pour yourself out for your students each and every day– physically, mentally and emotionally. And, even though we love what we do, we need a break. A well-deserved break, I might add!

My kids aren’t in school yet, but we do go to a Bible study class every week. David has two loving teachers who spend countless hours every week preparing for his class, praying for him, and coming up with creative ways to teach a dozen energetic 2-year olds. Tomorrow is our last day of class for the year, so I wanted to get a little end-of-the-year gift for David’s teachers.

Now, here’s a little secret: teachers all want the same thing when it comes to gifts. Hint: it’s not something covered in apples, chalkboards or books. It’s not made out of crayons or tempera paint. It’s not purchased at Bath and Body Works or Yankee Candle. No, what every teacher really wants is:

A GIFT CARD!

I know, it seems kinda lame and impersonal–but it’s practical and something that she will actually use. Plus, she can use her gift card to pamper herself a bit–and for somebody who is used to taking care of everybody else first, that really is the best gift.

I decided to get David’s teachers some gift cards to Starbucks. Who doesn’t like Starbucks? And, since it is a gift, I wanted to package them creatively. I found several ideas on the internet for gift card presentation, but my favorite idea came from a website called Alphamom.com. She took a standard Starbucks cup and made a cover for the back of the cup where the barista¬†usually checks off what type of drink you’re ordering. Instead of the usual boxes for decaf, extra shots, etc. she replaced it with the teacher’s qualities (kind, helpful, etc.) and checked them all off. Such a cute idea!

I borrowed this idea and just made my own version on my computer so I could personalize it for David’s teachers. This is a quick and easy project (each cup took about 2 minutes to make) and costs nothing more than the gift card itself. ¬†I know that his teachers will love them! The instructions are below if you’d like to make your own Starbucks card holder:

How To Make Your Own Personalized Starbucks Gift Card Holder

Supplies:
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  • Starbucks gift card
  • “short” paper coffee cup (the size they use for a kid’s hot chocolate)
  • printable cup cover from Alphamom¬†or make your own (I just used a standard word processing program on my computer. The boxes I created say “Loves Jesus”, “Teaches God’s Word”, “Instructs me”, “Helps me have fun!”, and “Cares for me”)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • Sharpie marker
  • tissue paper or shredded paper for filler in the cup

Instructions:

  1. Create and/or print off your cup cover. Cut it out and glue it onto the cup.
  2. Use the Sharpie marker to check off all of the “teacher quality” boxes on the back ¬†of the cup and write your teacher’s name on the front of the cup.
  3. Fill the cup with tissue paper and tuck the gift card on top

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That’s it, easy-peasy! They turned out super cute and it’s such a clever way to present the gift card. I will also be including a card that David is coloring with the message “Thanks A Latte” on the front. Thank you to all of you amazing teachers out there!

Battle of the Squishy Food Pouches: A Product Review

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Perhaps the greatest invention since sliced bread is the squishy food pouch. If you have a child under the age of 5 you know exactly what I’m talking about. They are these little squishy pouches filled with fruit and/or vegetable purees. Simple, right? And sometimes the simplest things are the best things. As is the case with the squishy food pouch.

The great appeal of the squishy food pouch is that it’s easy to transport, it’s easy to feed to a baby (no spoon required!) and a toddler can feed himself with very little mess.This product has truly revolutionized the way baby food is transported and administered. Of all baby products on the market today, the squishy food pouch is probably in my top 3 of “items I could not live without”.

The popularity of the squishy food pouch seems to be on the rise lately. In the last few months I’ve seen several new products that are catering to people (such as myself) who love, love, love their squishy food pouches. I, of course, had to test a few of them out. Here’s my review in: The Battle Of The Squishy Food Pouches.

Product:
Pre-filled disposable pouches (There are dozens of brands available. Some of my favorites are made by Plum Organics, Happy Tot Organics, and Ella’s Organics)

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Price (*Note* All prices are an average of what I could find online or in my local stores. ):
$1.50 Р$2.50  per 4.2 ounce pouch (35 cents Р59 cents per ounce)

Pros:
Super-convenient–just grab one and go. There are a lot of flavors and varieties to choose from. Organic options are readily available. Varieties are available that would be suitable for older children and even adults (don’t tell anyone, but my husband likes eating the squeezy applesauce!). Coupons are readily available to get the price down a bit. No prep work or clean up required–just throw the pouch away when you’re done.

Cons:
Expensive (if you consider that a baby eats 3-5 times per day you could be spending upwards of $10 per day on pouches!). Creates a lot of waste because you are throwing away each pouch after only one use.

Product:
Beaba Babypote Reusable Food Squeeze Pouch

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Price:
$11.95 for the 4-ounce pouch, plus the cost of whatever puree you put in it.

Pros:
Reusable, easy to fill, fun colors, the mouthpiece is made of hard plastic (my 2-year old hasn’t destroy it yet despite constant biting), dishwasher safe. You can fill it with whatever purees you like, homemade or store-bought (applesauce, yogurt, rice cereal, and baby food all work well). No waste because it is reusable. BPA free.

Cons:
Food squishes out way too easily, so it’s not something you can give to a child who is still learning how to feed himself. ¬†Expensive for one pouch.

Product:
Squooshi Food Pouch

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Price:
$16.99 for a 4-pack of the smaller pouches (2.5 ounces) – $38.88 for an 8-pack of the larger pouches (4.5 ounces). This comes out to $4.24 – $4.86 per pouch. This means that after 3-4 uses, each pouch will pay for itself. You would also need to pay for the puree that you put in the pouch.

Pros:
Easy to fill with a ziploc-style opening on the bottom. Easy to clean up (use a bottle brush to scrub it out or put it in the top rack of your dishwasher). Fun designs. Feels and works just like the disposable pouches so it’s an easy transition if you’re used to those. You can put homemade purees in the pouches (which can be very cheap if you puree food you already have on-hand). You can also fill the pouches with store-bought purees so you don’t have to do any prep work for much less cost than the pre-filled pouches (you can get organic applesauce at Costco for about 4 cents per ounce). Food doesn’t squirt out too fast and my 9-month old can use it to feed himself (see photographic evidence below).

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Cons:
Not a lot, really. It’s slightly more time-consuming to fill a pouch and clean it when after each use than to just grab a pre-filled pouch and throw it away when you’re done.

Conclusions:
For ease and convenience go with the pre-filled pouches. If you’re interested in saving money in the long-run and/or are environmentally conscious, go with the Squooshi pouch. Since they both meet slightly different needs, I will continue using both the pre-filled and Squooshi pouches on a regular basis.

A Mother’s Job Description

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I have two sweet boys, ages 2 and 9 months, who are (almost) my whole world. I love them like nothing else and being a mom is the most crazy-awesome job I’ve ever had. And by crazy-awesome, I mean that it’s both crazy and awesome. Motherhood is the best “job” I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.¬†In honor of Mother’s Day this weekend I thought I would put out a little job description here for any of you who may be interested in taking on this role yourself.

Title:
Mother (also known as “Mom”, “Mama”, “Mommy”)

Term Of Contract:
Until you die.

Salary:
None. Unless you count heavenly rewards, in which case they are infinite and eternal.

Working Hours:
Depends on how much your children like to sleep. On average, you can expect your day to start at about 6:30 AM and conclude by 8:30 PM. However, you will continue to be on-call throughout the night and if you have a child under the age of 1 you can expect at least two periods of active duty between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Work is required 7 days per week, 365 days per year. There is no vacation time or sick leave built in to your role, so please just don’t get sick. Ever.

Desired Qualities and Skills:
Seeking a loving, nurturing, compassionate individual. ¬†Must be able to tolerate sounds up to 500¬†decibels (approximately the same loudness of a train whistle)¬†for prolonged periods of time. Applicants should have a strong¬†familiarity with all children’s programming on PBS and Nickelodeon (if you can sing the theme songs to “Blue’s Clues”, “Sesame Street”, “Dora The Explorer”, and “Bob The Builder” then you’re on the right track). Ability to speak and understand a foreign language (i.e. “Baby Sign” or “Toddler-ese”) is highly desired. You must be able to operate at full-capacity on 5 hours of sleep per night, and you should be able act cheery when your darlings wake you up at 4:30 AM. Applicants should be high-energy and ready to conquer the world. Applicants should possess an immense amount of patience (this will come in handy for cases of your childrens’ whining, complaining, crying for no reason, and tattle-taleing. It will also be helpful when you are cleaning up spilled milk and Cheerios for the 100th time in a day.). Backgrounds and training in the following are strongly desired: Teaching, Cooking, Laundry Services (especially stain removal), Taxi Driving, Juggling/Balancing Acts, Pastoral and Counseling Services, ¬†Crowd Management, CPR, first aid/first-responder, EMT, Brain Surgery, Rocket Science.

Job Description and Duties To Perform:
There is a 9-month training period in which you will receive little- to no-preparation for the job you are actually beginning. Your hands-on duties will begin at about week 40 of the training regimen. Your duties will initially include feeding, bathing, changing diapers, dressing, snuggling and spying on your adorable child while he’s sleeping. As your child grows, you will be required to attend to additional responsibilities. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to: teaching, guiding, disciplining, encouraging, helping, supporting coaching, respecting, protecting, scheduling, talking with and listening to, hugging, laughing, and loving your child.

Benefits:
Butterfly kisses, a full heart, a happy disposition and a rewarding life. And love. Lots and lots of love.

Mother’s Day Thumbprint Flower Craft

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As you can tell by the content of this blog, I love being a mom. “Mom” is really a title of honor, and I wear it with a lot of pride. You can imagine, then, how excited I get for Mother’s Day. But it’s not just for me. I have an amazing mom, the mom who taught me how to be a mom. She has inspired me, encouraged me, prayed over me, and loved me my whole life–and now she is continuing this legacy with my children. This weekend we get to honor all of the wonderful moms out there, and that’s something to celebrate!

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I usually make cards for my mom and mother-in-law on Mother’s Day, and this year I wanted to get my boys in on the action. Since they’re so young, I wanted to do something simple that would also be somewhat personalized. I found some cute ideas for thumbprint crafts and poems online, so I just melded them all together to create this craft. I will be making mine into cards, but you could just as easily frame the artwork to make a keepsake gift. Enjoy!

Thumbprint Flower How-To:

Materials:

  • White paper
  • Green marker or crayon
  • Paint (green and at least one other color)
  • (Optional) Crayons to decorate
  1. Trim a piece of white paper to your desired size (I just cut a piece of printer paper in half so I could make two pictures per card).
  2. Use a green marker to draw a stem/stems on your paper.
  3. Paint a small circle slightly above your stemIMG_2149
  4. Put a small amount of paint on a plate. Dip one of your child’s fingertips into the paint and dab it around the painted circle to make the flower petals. You will probably be able to make 3-4 “petals” before you need to get more paint on your fingertip. You can use one color for the petals or a variety of colors. When you are done painting the flower petals, wipe off your finger (unless you like your 2-year old having red fingerpaint up his nose. Just sayin’.)
  5. Put a dot of green paint on a plate. Dip your child’s thumb into the green paint and use it to make leaves on the flower stem. Now wipe off your thumb.
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  6. After your flower has dried completely, you can decorate your picture. Older kids may enjoy drawing grass, sunshine, sky, clouds, birds, etc. to complete the artwork. I also typed up the following poem to attach to my flowers:
    A piece of me I give to you
    I used my thumb and fingers, too.
    I made you this flower so you will know
    How much I love you as I grow.
    A mother’s love and tender care
    Make happiness bloom everywhere!
  7. Sign your child’s name and the year, wrap it up all pretty-like, and watch your mom swoon!

To all the moms and grandmas out there, Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you feel honored and blessed on your special day!