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It's less than two weeks until Thanksgiving!

For my husband, that means turkey :)

For me, it means an extra piece of pie!

And for the kids, it means time off from school (yea!)  They are counting down the days until their Thanksgiving holiday.

As holiday time approaches, our schedules kind of go kaplooie -- you know what that's like, right?  You plan to have regular reading time and before you know it, it's 30 minutes past bedtime and the kids still haven't brushed their teeth.

And then there's those days off from school -- they can be so much fun and yet seem so long when Mom's cooking for a crowd.

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How many times a day do we reach for our phone when we see something awesome?

Think about it – most of us never even grab  a camera any longer.  “Oh, I’ll just use my phone”, right?

Because we always want to capture those AWESOME moments --

 

 pumpkin patch

That gorgeous Saturday afternoon visit to the pumpkin patch.....

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 This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

 

One of the holiday traditions that we look forward to the most in our family is having an Advent Calendar.  I remember having one as a child -- putting candy canes into the slots each day as we counted down to Christmas Eve.  And now we do one with our kids too.

Our countdown changes each year -- sometimes we have a traditional Advent Calendar where the kids open up the littles doors and peek in to find a riddle, joke or fun fact about the holidays.

And sometimes our countdown consists of hidden slips of paper that the kids have to hunt for in order to find out what we are doing that day -- an outdoor adventure, volunteer activity or easy fun at home with the family!

And then there are those years when I'll pull together an interactive Advent Calendar that not only helps us count down the days but also doubles as a decoration.

This is one of those years -- our oldest in a high school Senior this year so I know I won't have another countdown with him at home for the entire month of December.  It's a little bittersweet -- you love to see the kids grow up into confident young adults but you so miss those days when they would crawl up on your lap for a Christmas story.

So this year's Advent Calendar will include all of our favorite things from the past -- and best of all, I'm upcycling so many items as I create it!

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Have you ever read a book with the kids and thought "Wow!  I wish there was something more that we could do with the story." ?

Than boy do we have an awesome post for you today!

One of our amazing friends has created a book of extension activities to pair with the much loved story The Secret Garden. 

There are recipes, nature activities, fun things to make and great discussion ideas all organized by the months of the year.  It's a wonderful way to "bring a book to life" so to speak and really let the kids enjoy all the story has to offer.

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I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of #MC Influence Central for #MyLocker. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

 

The holidays are coming!  Yea!

I'm one of those people who loves the decorations, the sappy Hallmark movies, taking a walk in the first snow of the season and most of all -- finding a great gift that wasn't on someone's Christmas list.

Each year, I try really hard to find something unique for my family -- something they may have mentioned during the year or an item that will make life easier. 

You know, a unique gift that will put a smile on their face :)

So in the spirit of getting my shopping done EARLY so I can enjoy the weeks to come, I ordered a few custom t-shirts for my husband and daughter.

 

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My daughter is a HUGE fan of mysteries!

In fact, that will be our next book list which comes out later this week.  She enjoys scouring the pages for clues and trying to come up with a solution before the book gives it to her.

In real life, she asks a lot of those "detective" questions -- How, Why, Who? -- the perfect opening to creative problem solving.

During one of our recent mystery reads, she was intrigued by the idea of fingerprints. 

How are fingerprints made and where can you find them?

So I thought we would try to learn more about this since so many detective books refer back to "finding their prints!" :)

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Do you have a child who loves a good mystery?

Our youngest loves detective books -- in fact, when she first started reading on her own, that was all that she would read.

We would visit the library and search for any new mystery story that wasn't too scary.  She loved the mystery but not the spooky.  As the story revealed clues, it would draw her in as she tried to figure out what happened before she read it in the book.

Mysteries can be very appealing for kids, especially those who are just learning to read or might not enjoy reading.  They are usually stories that intrigue kids to keep reading as they uncover new clues and information with each page.

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I recently received an email with a question that caught my eye --

"Worried Your Kid Is Going To Break...Something?"

"Hell Yes!"  was all I could think because we have kids who are prone to injury.

Anyone who knows our family is not surprised to see one of the kids walking around with a cast or brace.  I swear that our family motto should be 'Play hard, get hurt, do it again'.

Let's see, the kids have suffered from a deep bone contusion while playing football, a broken wrist in basketball, a leg fracture with dance and four teeth knocked out during another basketball game.

And I only have 2 kids!

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We LOVE scavenger hunts and have shared quite a few --

our Playground Scavenger Hunt is fun throughout the year,

holiday hunts include a Halloween Scavenger hunt and Valentine's Day hunt

and the Zoo Scavenger Hunt is perfect for your next visit to see the animals.

 

Scavenger hunts are a great learning tool -- they help kids to hone their observation skills, practice reading and get out to explore the world.

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While I'm a BIG fan of Halloween and all the fun that goes along with it, I'm always bothered by the amount of candy we accumulate during all the holiday festivities.

Let's see, there's the trick-or-treat event at the zoo (we love the zoo in the Fall!), the kids' class parties, all the "You've been Boo'd" notes we find on our door and then all the candy from Halloween night.

We accumulate a lot of candy -- so much so that we donate quite a bit of it to a local charity.

So I am always on the look-out for some non-candy options -- especially ones that I can use as fun 'treats' for those special kids in my life (my own, neices, nephews, neighbors, etc).

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I've shared before about some of the struggles we had when our kids first started reading independently

If you have kids who are learning to read on their own then you know any parent who makes it through this stage deserves a freakin' medal of honor!

I am not kidding about this -- the loooong sessions on the couch, the tears and yelling "I can't do this", the way the kids will voluntarily offer to clean their room instead of doing 5 minutes of reading homework -- it's all true.

Helping kids learn to read can be one of the most challenging activities a family needs to do.

Did you catch that word?  NEEDS -- yep, a totally necessity.

Because once a child learns to read independently, a whole new world opens up to them!

And that other word - family.

Learning to read independently will not "just happen" during school hours.  It's so important for parents (and every other adult in a child's life) to assist with this activity.

But back to the issue -- learning to read is a struggle.  So how can we make it more enjoyable and entice the kids to WANT to practice?

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We were compensated for this post by Blickenstaff's as part of a campaign with The Mom It Forward Blogger Network and are thrilled to be working with them to share more about family traditions.

 

This is the time of the year when I always revisit our family traditions. 

I don't know if it's the approaching holidays or the fact that the kids are back at school and I yearn for more time together. 

Either way, I always have a goal of re-establishing some of our long standing traditions or creating new ones that fit our lifestyle.

Creating family traditions doesn't have to be any big, elaborate task.  On the contrary, many of our most loved traditions came about because they are simple, enjoyable and stand out in some way.

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 This post is sponsored by BuyCostumes and contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are always my own.

 

I did a little math this week and came to an odd realization --

We have 2 kids and somehow over the past 17 years, I've helped them to create more than 50 costumes!

I know -- there's some crazy math there since Halloween only comes but once a year.

However, in the kid world, costumes aren't only created at Halloween.

Sometimes one is needed for a play or fun day activity.

And on some years the school sends home a note letting you know that the costume your child chose that year won't be accepted in the "themed" holiday parade they've decided to host in place of the normal party.

So in addition to cook, chauffeur, barber and chief planner, I can now also add "costume-maker" to my resume ;)

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This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

 

Sometimes kids so want to make a difference in the world and do something AMAZING – yet their age can get in the way. 

Like many kids, my daughter is a HUGE animal lover. 

She's in  love with dolphins and whales (yet we live in the middle of the country).  She loves to pet sit for our neighbors (which we do together).  And she’s been asking to volunteer at an animal shelter for the last two years (but is not yet old enough based on their rules).

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The kids are telling me that October begins this week (where the heck did September go?!)

Which means it's time to countdown to one of their most favorite holidays -- Halloween!

Dressing up, candy, carving pumpkins, candy, decorating, more candy...

As I'm sure you know from reading some of our Kids in the Kitchen posts, I'm not a big fan of the whole focus-on-the-candy part of the holiday (even though chocolate is a wondeful thing ;)

Instead, I love to surprise the kids with a fun paper craft, word game, scavenger hunt or other quick & easy Halloween-themed activity!

So here's 31 fabulous non-candy activities to countdown to Halloween this year! 

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I'm not sure if I've ever told you this but I am NOT a morning person.

Really, not at all.

Unlike my husband who's up at 5 every morning (I know!  He's crazy :), I would rather snuggle under the covers in hopes that the world will reconsider it's notion of early starts and just let us all get a little more shut eye.

I'm not the only one who thinks a little more sleep is needed -- have you read the new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to let middle school and high school students start their day later

Where's the petition?  I'm signing!

So what do you do to wake up a non-morning person and get her ready for a crazy day?

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This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

 

I’ve been in a parenting quandary lately.

My oldest is a senior in high school (I know – when the hell did that happen!

And as we are doing college prep and visiting campuses, it’s really hitting me that he will soon be on his own.

Wow!

They just grow up so quickly -- I look at this tall, lanky teen and remember when I would walk him into Kindergarten class.

And now we're walking around college campuses!

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I looked at the calendar today and realized that October begins next week.

Yikes!

Because as soon as the calendar switches over to October, kids begin to plan for their biggest Fall holiday -- Halloween.

They plan their costumes.

They plan who to "Boo!"

They plan their trick or treat route.

They start to bug me about whether I'll be handing out candy this year or pretzels AGAIN (really, I only did that one year and they were pumpkin shaped pretzels that I thought were adorable :)

And I will very frequently hear "How many more days until I can wear my costume?"

Can you related?

So, I thought a little pre-emptive planning on my part would be a good thing (cue the spooky music and creepy, squeaking door...)

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It's time for our AMAZING, AWESOME and INSPIRING ....

Fall Blog Hop and Giveaway!!!!

Yes, it's all very exciting -- 100's of ideas on fun things to do with the kids this Autumn,

great crafts for Halloween,

engaging ways to connect with the kids

AND

$$$$$ (which is always a great thing to have as the holidays approach ;)

I've partnered up with some of my awesome blogging buddies to bring you LOTS of fun ideas for Fall along with a wonderful giveaway which you can enter below.

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I've been trying to find a fun way to get all of our Autumn activities into one spot.

There's always so much we love to do at this time of the year -- apple picking, getting pumpkins, fall hikes, baking (and more baking)!

Last year, we created a fun and colorful Fall Fun printable list -- but this year, I wanted something new. 

I started with a list but it just didn't feel right. 

I was looking for something more visual, something the kids would want to read and choose from each week, something like a game.

And that's when it hit me -- why not make it a game?! 

So Fall Family BINGO was born :)

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