Category Archives: Parenting

Traversing the path from Baby to Adult

Dyeing eggs

Fun Easter Celebrations for the Family

We have had more fun this weekend enjoying Easter themed activities together. It is so easy and requires very little additional effort to Google local events in your own area. But, if your family is more home-oriented, or you have guests in town, there are several at-home activities to choose from as well. Whether you choose local or home events this Holiday season, just be sure to include fun Easter celebrations for the family as a whole, in addition to activities geared towards different age groups. Do not forget that this weekend is for everyone’s enjoyment and spiritual well-being. Continue reading

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Oreo Cookie Balls Recipe

I received a batch of Oreo Cookie Balls from a dear friend for Christmas a couple years ago and that same day I asked for the recipe! I’ve changed it up a bit, added a few more steps and punched up the decor for an extra-chocolatey kick. You can eat these at home (they will not last long), share with friends and neighbors, or take to a work party. Everyone loves this dessert. If giving as a gift, dress it up on a festive plate or in a paper dessert box. These do get a little ‘melty’, so keep them refrigerated until ready to be devoured! I think the best way to serve these is to have a combination of flavors in a batch (mint, chocolate, strawberry) and different finishing decorations (crumbs, sugar, chocolate, sprinkles, etc.) so that everyone can enjoy the many flavors that are packed into one dessert. Continue reading

Fun toddler crayons!

Homemade Chunky Toddler Crayons

My daughter is nearly two and over the last few months at daycare she has begun finger-painting, sponge-painting and coloring with crayons. I am not yet brave enough to venture into the realm of toddler-painting at my home, but crayons do not seem nearly as daunting. The regular crayons at the PX here at JBLM are too small and fragile for her sweet, chubby little hands to grasp and use effectively. I saw some chunky toddler crayons online for a pretty penny. So, I spent an afternoon creating some star-shaped homemade toddler crayons. These crayons are great for regular, home-use but they also make fantastic party favors. Continue reading

Easter Care Package 2015

Happy Easter Themed Care Package

If you want to keep up with special events in the military, you really have to plan ahead. Easter may be a month away, but if your soldier is deployed then you need to HOP TO and get your Happy Easter Themed Care Package packed and shipped as soon as possible so that it will arrive at his/her APO in time for the Holiday.

There are so many ways to pack a Military Care Package. You can buy a bunch of junk food and pack it all up, send some much-needed personal care items or other hard-to-find sundries, you can be romantic or kid-friendly-fun. In some ways, a theme – like Easter – makes it so much easier to find goodies and pack a flat rate box to the gills. There are some months when bags of chips, gum, and chapstick are all that is called for. But, for a family-oriented Holiday like Easter, it is especially hard for deployed soldiers to miss out on family time and traditions, so I like to make Holiday Care Packages as special and personalized as possible.

For Easter, there are so many fun ideas you can imagineer yourself or HUNT for on the internet.

The first step is to get your package. For APO deliveries, you may want to ‘shop around’ for shipping prices at USPS. In general, shipping within the USA is cheapest for bulky/heavy packages if you use flat rate boxes. But oftentimes, when shipping to an APO, you will save money by using your own box and shipping ground with USPS; the box charge is for the distance to the nearest military postal distribution center. Keep in mind that you will have to fill out a customs form for any APO package. My care packages typically fit into the Medium or Large flat rate boxes. This really allows you to pack in a lot of goodies. Ensure that you double-check your APO address is correct and still in effect during the timeline you plan to ship your care package.

Next, choose your theme. I chose a fun, Spring and Easter Rabbit inspired theme for my box. I purchased some blue and green tissue paper and adhered it to the insides of my box with some Spray Adhesive (this is MUCH easier than tape or glue! Just make sure you are in a ventilated space and that you cover your counters to protect from over-spray). The blue paper I adhered to the box flaps for my spring blue sky, and the green tissue paper I adhered to the box bottom and sides, just slightly overlapping the box flaps. Next, I cut slivers into the overlapping green tissue paper for the ‘grass’. This makes the box a little less boring and more Easter-themed.

Easter 'grass' and blue skies

Easter ‘grass’ and blue skies

I decided to send an Easter themed box this month so most of the candy and goodies I purchased are Easter things. However, my deployed spouse has a few favorite things that I included that are not Easter-y, so I ‘hid’ those in the bottom of the box beneath Easter grass so as not to ruin the box aesthetic when it is first opened. I included trail mix, multi-vitamins, chapped hand lotion and gummy oranges.

Non-Easter goodies hidden in box bottom

Non-Easter goodies hidden in box bottom

Easter grass layer

Easter grass layer

Nestled in the ‘grass’ are plastic eggs filled with Maltball easter eggs and chapstick, Cadbury creme eggs, and a chocolate bunny. The box did not seem quite full enough so on top, I packed in a couple boxes of Peeps and a bag of mixed chocolates.

Easter themed goodies on top layer

Easter themed goodies on top layer

Fill the box up!

Fill the box up!

To finish off the box, I hand painted a fun phrase on the inside box flaps. I chose “We Can’t Wait to Spring into Your Arms.” Some other ideas include “Have a Hoppy Easter!” and “Some Bunny Loves You!” For inside the Easter card, I painted my toddler’s hand (after covering her head to toe in a smock) with white and gold paint and placed her hand print on one side, and then I traced its outline with a sharpie to give it bunny characteristics, eyes, whiskers, etc.

Decorate Box and Include a Card

Decorate Box and Include a Card

Kid's card to Deployed Spouse

Kid’s card to Deployed Spouse

If you have kiddos, it’s always a good idea to include artwork, cards, and/or photos of them in every care package. When I’m feeling particularly well-organized, I include iMovies too. Deployed soldiers miss out on so much at home; try to do every little thing you can to bring everyone closer, especially during the holidays.

What do you include in YOUR Easter Care Packages? I’d love to hear from you!

Baby Shower Gift Bag

Gender Neutral Baby Shower Gift Bag

My peer group has reached the family-starting, baby-making stage of it all, and it seems there is a never-ending arrival of adorable Baby Shower invitations in my mailbox. Some are pink, others blue, and a growing number are yellow, green and rainbow – the gender neutral party…

Sometimes it seems a daunting task to shop for a gender neutral baby shower gift. So many items are geared towards the pink wearing princess or the blue wearing sports fan. However, if you steer away from gender specific items, it is actually very easy to fill a sure to please baby shower gift bag.

A few tips to get you started:

1) Purchase everything from the same store – this not only makes shopping easier on you, but it makes it very convenient for the mom-to-be to return any unwanted (*crazy concept*) or duplicate items.

2) Always leave the tags on and include a gift receipt – unless your item is from a boutique store out of town, or is monogrammed, assume the items may be returned. It could be a duplicate, defective, or the wrong size.

3) Purchase several, lower-cost items – baby showers are all about the oohing and awing, so prolong the fun with several, lower-cost items instead of going for one or two high-priced gifts (of course, if the mom-to-be is a dear friend or family member this may not be practical!)

4) Shop for items that your own children have enjoyed – new moms typically crave advice, at least I did! So, purchase items that your children have used and that held up to the rigors of babyhood and that wash well. Let the mom-to-be know any secrets about caring for the items.

5) Steer clear of clothing items and baby blankets – it seems these items are the most frequent gifts at showers. Who can resist shopping for adorable baby clothes?!? But, clothes and blankets are very personal items that parents may prefer to pick out for themselves, and it’s more fun to have a diversity of gifts at a shower.

6) Include items for parents and baby – although it is mostly all about baby, remember mom and dad too.

7) Consider a hostess and sibling gift – do not forget to thank the party host(ess) with a small token of appreciation like a candle or a small gift basket of baby shampoo, lotion, etc. if the hosts are the grandparents-to-be. Also, older siblings may feel left out in all the fuss surrounding the new baby, so a little coloring book or pack of stickers can go a long way to ease some of that party tension.

Even when the baby’s gender is known in advance, I still opt for items like the following because they are tried-and-true, durable, and useful. I typically include a bottle of my current-favorite baby shampoo or body lotion because that baby smell is just glorious. I like to mix in some practical items along with mommy items and toys. For the practical side, the Baby on Board sign makes me feel a bit more comfortable that other drivers may be more considerate near my vehicle (and be forewarned that there is a protective mommy driving precious cargo – don’t mess with me!). Some dishwasher safe spoons and bowls are a must-have for introducing baby’s first foods and The Mommy Hook for the stroller comes in so handy when your stroller sling is full of a diaper bag, dirty diapers, your purse, etc. It really makes keeping up with grocery and shopping bags a great deal easier. The children in our family have all loved the Bug-a-Loop teether; all the shapes, colors and textures keep babies enthralled for a lot longer I’ve found than a simpler water version. Strollers and car rides can be a little boring for babies so a fun, engaging toy like the turtle mirror pal is a great distraction with the different fabric textures, crinkly sounds and the mirror component so baby can smile at herself. I would have been lost, along with several toys, without the plastic links; this one doubles as a toy and teether itself.

In general, I recommend sticking to a $40-$70 budget, depending on your relationship with the expectant mother. The following gift bag idea should cost around $65 dollars (bag, tissue, card and tax included) and was put together for an office party shower.

This post contains amazon affiliate links; click here to read my disclosure.

Many of these gifts are available on Amazon, links to purchase are included here:

Packing List for Labor and Delivery
© 2014 The [non]Active Duty Spouse

Packing List for Labor and Delivery

Moms-and-Dads-to-be, as you get ready for your delivery date, do not forget to pack a suitcase or two for the hospital. When you arrive at Labor and Delivery or the birth center, you will receive with basic necessities (like a dressing gown and socks). Anything else you feel you want or need with you during labor you should pack in advance and keep handy either by your back door or in your car. This packing list can help you decide what is necessary and what you may find useful at the hospital. Continue reading

13 Holiday Activities for Kids on a Budget

13 Budget-Friendly Holiday Activities for Kids

What school-age child doesn’t look forward to Winter Break with exasperated impatience? The last day of school, they sit on the edge of their seat, watching the clock second hand wind its way around until the final bell rings and they win their freedom. The reprieve only lasts for a couple of weeks, but to kids, it’s a time of endless possibilities (and presents)! On the other hand, to parents, who suddenly have a house full of children again and in need of entertaining, Winter Break brings a slew of challenges. Working parents must rearrange schedules, childcare, or vacation plans, and homemakers experience a drastic interruption in their daily schedule. Do not let your kids’ boisterous energy over the holidays overwhelm you. Rather, funnel that energy into some fun and frugal activities to engage your children and create lasting memories.

Continue reading

Homemade Melted Snowman Ornament or Gift Tag

Melted Snowman Ornament Gift Tag

With the holidays quickly approaching, I am getting a head start on my decorating and wrapping projects. This fun Melted Snowman makes a fantastic tree ornament or as a present from your child to your spouse, or as a quirky gift tag for your wrapping projects. Making it is very simple and is great for kids aged five and up. Note: It does involve a low-heat glue gun, so adult supervision is required!  Continue reading

Christmas Books and Activities for Every Day Leading Up To Christmas

A Christmas Book and Activity for Every Day Leading Up to Christmas

Around the holidays I am always looking for a creative and engaging way to spend time with my niece. The smells of fir-tree and cocoa in the room, the twinkle of Christmas lights, and the strong sense of tradition and family make this a very special time of year. As she loves being read to and getting messy with glue, markers and baking supplies, I was hunting for a Christmas activity that embodied all these things, and I came across this creative and engaging list with a Christmas book and activity for every day leading up to Advent by The Crafty Crow, which includes 24 classic books and step-by-step tutorials. Continue reading

Blue Star Card Program

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The Blue Star Card program is available to Army families in Hawaii. It is a “discount and activities program intended to enhance the well being of families during the stressful time of separation from your soldier.” It provides discounts for Family and MWR events, facilities and childcare. Examples of discounts include 10% off on post restaurants, 10% off craft classes, pool passes, bowling fees, and at outdoor recreation, and 12 free days of pet care, and various childcare benefits.

To be eligible, you must:

  • be a spouse of an army active duty/reserve/national guard soldier or DA civilian on orders overseas (includes deployment, unaccompanied PCS and TDY)
  • if applicable, register your children with Child, Youth and School Services (CYS Services)

To register for your Blue Star Card, bring the following materials to Army Community Services (ACS) at Schofield Barracks or Fort Shafter:

  1.  copy of your spouse’s orders
  2. your Military ID
  3. Completed Blue Star Card application (Available online at the Blue Star Card website)
  4. Completed Photo Release waiver (also online)

For more information, read the Blue Star Card program overview brochure.