Kids

8 Easy Last Minute Dinner Ideas

So far this school year has been a whirlwind. There has been so much going on. I feel like from the time I wake up until the time I lay down again at night, I’m busy with something! Many families are probably in the same position, especially this time of year. Even in the crazy weeks, I like to sit down as a family for dinner. This has been especially important to me as our kids get older. We don’t often eat breakfast or lunch as a family, so the final meal of the day is where we can come together and spend some time. It’s not even about the food. It is about being together. It’s about sharing your day with people that care about you. As we sit down, we pray, talk, eat and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t get me wrong, it is usually not calm and peaceful at the dinner table with two little ones. However, it’s one of my favorite times of the day because we can be together!

But what do you cook on those crazy nights? Maybe you only have 15 minutes to throw something together. I’ve created a list of 8 last minute dinner ideas that can be put together quickly with little to no prep. My family typically eats at least one or two meals from this list a week. And that’s just fine by me!

1. Tacos

Um… this should be a last minute AND a regular planned dinner. Who doesn’t love taco night? These are so versatile that you can grab anything you have in your pantry, freezer or kitchen to a tortilla, roll it up and you’re done. Make it a taco bar so kids can choose what toppings to put in. Chicken, beef, fish, just veggies… it’s all good. Cheese, lettuce, and salsa with a little dollop of sour cream finishes it off. Put out a bag of tortilla chips and everyone is happy.

2. Quesadillas 

Super similar to taco night, quesadillas are a great anytime meal. My husband is the master quesadilla maker. He has been known to put anything and everything inside. Once, we had leftover Thanksgiving quesadillas, turkey and mashed potatoes included. All you need are some tortillas and cheese. Anything else is a bonus!

3. Grilled Cheese

This is a staple at our house during the week. Often, my husband is gone at least one dinner a week. Rather than cooking a full meal for my two year old and myself, I typically prepare a few grilled cheese sandwiches. Easy and yummy. You can turn a regular grilled cheese into something gourmet by adding a few simple ingredients. Sliced Granny Smith apple with cheddar, adding hummus, or even making it with mozzarella with some pizza sauce! The options are endless. Add some soup (canned or homemade) and it is a delicious meal for a chilly or rainy day.

4. Breakfast for Dinner

I am actually not a huge fan of having breakfast for dinner. I’m not really a huge fan of big breakfasts for breakfast either. But, my family loves it and I know many people love breakfast all day any day. Pancakes, waffles and french toast are classics. There are so many varieties of these that you can do. Add fruit, make it savory, add eggs or sausage to make a complete meal. You can even put your jammies on early and have breakfast for dinner the right way.

5. Salad with Chicken

I try to make a big salad to have with dinner early in the week, that way, it is available for dinners the next few days. However, in a pinch, add more to the salad, throw in some protein like cooked chicken breast (I’ve even thrown in cut up chicken nuggets… don’t judge) and boom! Delicious and healthy! If you have dinner rolls on hand, put them in the oven and have warm, bread ready to go in a few minutes.

6. Pizza

Oh man. Can you ever go wrong with pizza? This is a weekend must. And it doesn’t have to be take out! Our freezer is always stocked with a couple frozen pizzas. I also like to make homemade crusts ahead of time using this recipe from Momsbyheart.  You can freeze these crusts and pull them out whenever you need to whip up a delicious pizza. Sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings you like (and have in the house) make these easy to personalize. If you don’t want to make your own crusts, you can buy pre-made crusts, or use something a little more unconventional. We’ve made the pizzas on tortillas, bagels, English muffins, you could even put it on bread and make pizza grilled cheese!

7. Spaghetti

Always a classic. With meat sauce, without meat sauce, whatever you choose, it is a win. And I’m not talking about making your own sauce from scratch type of spaghetti. Boil the noodles, heat up the sauce from a jar, sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and there you go. Use some of the salad you made from the previous night to go with it. Butter some slices of bread (anything you have on hand), sprinkle garlic powder on top and put it in the oven for a few minutes on broil, and you also have toasty garlic bread.

8. Baked Potato Bar

This is another recipe that you can work with what you have in the pantry and freezer. Bake the potatoes (or you can microwave them in a pinch) and set out several possible toppings. Butter and mayo, broccoli and cheese, chives, salsa, sour cream, bacon…. Endless options! Add a side salad if you feel the need for more greens.

Happy 4th of July!

A Roundup of Toddler 4th of July Hand print (and foot print) crafts!

Most people enjoy the middle of summer holiday with some good food on the grill, time off from work, and watching some fireworks. But if you have littles at home, fireworks may be too loud or too late to see! Instead, you could make your own holiday crafts. And of course, include the hand or foot prints of the kids! Here is a quick round up of some 4th of July handprint (or footprint) crafts for your littles! Why not try one of these for the holiday?

Flag and footprints

House of Burke has some great ideas for flags or footprint fire crackers! Super cute!

From houseofburkeblog.com

Patriotic Hand

Krissy from B-inspired Mama shows a super cute patriotic hand print. If you can get your child to sit still long enough to paint it, do it!

Patriotic Hand Print Craft 1
From B-InspiredMama.com

Hand wreath

Really, you could do this project for any holiday! For the 4th, use patriotic colors and arrange the hand prints around in a wreath. You could do different hand prints of all your kiddos! Thanks for the idea, Decorating with Dodi!

From dodi47.blogspot.com – Decorating with Dodi

Hand print fireworks

The blog Ava’s Alphabet shares step by step tips on how to get a great hand print with a youngster. I LOVE this fire work idea and will have to try it!

Handprint Fireworks
From avasalphabet.com

Hand and Footprint Canvas Flag

And lastly, this adorable idea from Sewing for Sanity. I love the hand and foot print combo! Super cute.

From http://littlethingsbybeth.blogspot.com/2011/07/american-flag-art-4th-of-july-kids.html (Sewing for Sanity)

Try these out! Create a keepsake for your family! If you like these hand print ideas, you can check out some of my other holiday hand prints here!

Here is how one of our projects turned out (my son painted the background fireworks!)

Happy 4th of July!

Potty Training Begins!

Last week, I started officially potty training my son. Now, he had been wearing a pull-up and using the potty for several months. At his day care, during the school year, he would also go on the potty fairly consistently. We had even tried him wearing underpants once this spring. However, he only lasted about an hour (with a few potty trips) before an accident. He was mortified by, “My peepee so hot!” and he would not wear underpants again for awhile.

After letting it go for another couple months, (and after turning two and a half) we thought he was more ready. All we needed was to be super vigilant about it for a few days. In fact, I had heard 3 days is all it takes. 3 long days, but only 3! I could handle 3 days… maybe.

I had told myself that when summer came and I was home with the kids, that was the time. The first few weeks of summer involved quite a bit of traveling for our family, as well as conferences and meetings for me. When I looked at the calendar last week and saw that nothing was scheduled for me, I thought…

Potty Training Begins!

I always thought I would read up on all sorts of methods, possibly look up some apps to use to encourage him, and find multiple special treats or prizes as bribes. But let’s be real… when was I really going to do all that? And though I was doubtful it would only take a few days, I figured, might as well just start!

The night before, my husband and I both made a big deal about wearing underpants. We had been talking about underpants for weeks, so when I asked my son if he was ready to wear them again, he was actually excited. He went to bed saying “I wear underpants like a big boy!” This was a good sign!

Day 1

After breakfast, I let him choose which pair of underwear he wanted. We are fully stocked with Disney’s Cars underwear, ready for anything! He put his little Elmo potty seat on the toilet, and we were set to go! Because I didn’t have much time to prepare anything fancy, I simply took a crayon and paper and made a chart with about 20 boxes. I also quickly pulled stickers out from my stash of scrapbooking supplies (it’s not like I’ve been scrapbooking recently…) and dug around in our candy bin for one small pack of M&Ms.

Here were our guidelines:

  • Every time he went potty, he received a sticker for the chart
  • If he also had dry pants when he went potty he got a single M&M
  • Once he filled up the entire chart (20 times of going potty) he was able to pick a “special treat” from our candy bowl. The bowl contained things like mini Milky Ways, smarties, Hershey Kisses, etc.
  • Naps and night time he would still wear a Pull-Up or diaper for now

    The potty charts. We will just keep adding charts as necessary!

The first day was definitely the longest. Pretty much every minute I would ask him if he had to go. Every 15-20 minutes I would take him. Obviously, he got sick of this interrupting play time, so there were several times I had to bribe him with the stickers and M&Ms. Most of the time this worked. He had one minor accident before lunch. I thought that would be the end of it, but he agreed to wear a new pair of underwear and continue on! By the afternoon, I was sick of being in the house on such a beautiful day. We ventured outside, only to make sure to come in every 20-25 minutes to go potty. He had one other accident that afternoon because he was playing hide and seek with daddy and got a little excited.

 

Day 2

This day was a little easier. My husband was home to help a little more and we allowed my son to go closer to 30 minutes before trying to go. He did have one accident because he had to go #2 and is still very suspicious of doing this on the potty. He pretty much holds it in until a pullup or diaper is on. Oh well. For nap time though, he had a dry pull-up and woke up telling us he had to go potty! Success! By the afternoon, we were playing outside much more. I still constantly asked him if he needed to go, but let him have more of a say of when we took a potty break. Stickers and M&Ms still worked, but he was starting to forget about them. There were a few times he went and forgot about getting a sticker afterwards!

Day 3

Our third day I let him direct when he needed to go (most of the time). I kept reminding him that we wanted dry underpants! He did great! Sometimes it was almost an hour before he said he had

to go. Other times, he had to go after 10 minutes. But he was directing, and we had no accidents! After dinner we even braved the store. He told me he had to go there, which was fine (but gross)!

Going strong!

Three days and I feel like we have a great head start on this potty thing. I know we aren’t completely free of problems, but so far so good! So what is my advice?

  • Keep it simple. You don’t need a whole lot to make a 2 year old excited.
  • Make sure to continually tell him or her how proud you are of what they are doing! My son LOVED hearing how he was being such a big boy.
  • It’s ok to have setbacks, but keep encouraging!

Next step? Going number two on the potty…

 

The Greatness of Garage Sales

The last few Friday mornings, at least one of my kiddos and I have been hitting up local garage sales. I have always had a love of finding special treasures for cheap and I believe my son is learning to love it as well! In fact, last week, I asked him, “Would you like to go to a garage sale with me?” And his 2 ½ year old response: “No, Mommy, FIVE garage sales.

So what is the greatness of garage sales?
  • I think as a mother and a teacher, garage sales are the best way for finding things you may need (or just like) for your home, kids or classroom without breaking the bank!
  • By reusing someone else’s things, you are being more environmentally friendly! This may seem like a stretch, but really, if you think about what would happen if we all just through away our stuff when we were through with it (which some do) how much waste we would have? By reselling and buying used things that are still in good condition, we are reducing our need for new products, and recycling!
  • You get to know people in your community! Just the other day, my son and I went to a neighborhood garage sale a few blocks away from our house. In that neighborhood alone, we talked to someone you attend the same out of state college as me, a woman whose daughter shared the same name as mine (and it is not a common name!), and discovered that a close relative of one of my students lives just around the corner from me. Get to know your neighbors. And their junk.

But where do you start? I know some people just like the thrill of the hunt and have no set plan. Usually I like to have an idea of what I’m looking for at the start. This way, I can drive by and scope out whether it is worth it to stop and get out (especially with two kids).

Here are the top things I currently look for when I’m garage saling:
  1. Kids Clothes/shoesThis, right now, is my number one purchase at any garage sale. If there is a chance someone will be selling toddler boy or baby girl clothes, I stop. I’m discovering that most times, girl clothes seem hardly worn! I’ve purchased brand new or like new clothes for $1 for my baby girl. However, rarely do I find this in toddler boy sizes. Why? Going by personal experience, it is because boys wear out their clothes so much faster than girls. And trying to find boys gym shoes in good condition? Good luck!
  2. Books – I know several other teachers at my school get almost all their classroom library books from garage sales. Not only does it save the teacher (and the school) so much money, but you can find a variety of books, genres and reading levels for super cheap! When most people buy books, they read the book once and then are done. Almost every garage sale I’ve been to has some sort of book section. It does take some time looking through the titles, but if you have the patience, you can find some classics, or some great new novels! Also, board books for the littles are popular to sell, so sometimes I grab one or two for my own kids.
  3. Storage containers – These are not very expensive to buy new in the store, and I often do that. But I’ve found some really cute, unique or just super cheap containers that will hold anything and everything. I’m always looking for tubs to hold my children’s outgrown clothes or a place to hold some toys. In my classroom, having tubs, buckets, and containers for everything from scissors and colored pencils to marbles to leftover owl pellets is a must (And yes, I do have a container of leftover owl pellets).
  4. Toys and games – Typically my son finds at least one thing he just loves at each garage sale. Typically, I let him pick just ONE thing that is less than a dollar or two. A truck, a new Minion sippy cup and a Nemo watch have been his latest finds. Board games and puzzles priced low (and with all the pieces) can be perfect for those rainy day recesses.
  5. Those random, yet perfect items that you weren’t expecting to find – It’s all worth it when you find that one thing. That thing that you didn’t know you were looking for, but found! Or that thing that you did not know existed until you saw it. For me, that was a camera tripod a few summers ago. My purpose for it wasn’t for a camera, but for a solar system lesson in my classroom. I think I bought it for $3 and I was expecting to have to pay close to $20. Awesome! My husband (who doesn’t garage sale much) happened to stumble upon landscaping rocks at a sale by our house. He had just started to fix up our backyard those were a perfect fit. Who knows what your treasure will be… a beautiful, antique tea set? A like-new piece of furniture? Something completely random for your classroom?

So get in the spirit of treasure hunting. The Greatness of Garage Sales is only truly great if you go out and search. Get some more use out of other people’s things. Start talking with your neighbors and learn more about those you live around.

Happy hunting!

Toddler Travel Idea Roundup

Our first big plans for the summer involved taking a trip out east that would take 12 hours in the car… one way. Needless to say, doing this with a 2 ½ year old and a 7 month old is a big endeavor. My littlest is easy – eat, sleep, give her a toy or two and she will be fine. But my toddler??What were we thinking planning this?

So in preparation for the big “Toddler Travel” trip, I have rounded up many tips from other experts!

Let’s start with a packing list. I’m forever trying to remember everything that I need to remember! Whether it’s a two hour trip or a 12 hour trip, there are some essentials that need to be packed. This was helpful for me to remember those! TodaystheBestDay has many helpful tips on how to travel with a toddler. It also includes this awesome packing list that I used. Simple, but covers everything.

Packing List for A Toddler
Source: Todaysthebestday.com

 

Snacks

Pre-packing snacks on a road trip is a must for the children. And let’s be honest, even more important for myself! This idea helps make sure the car is well stocked with snacks. Prepping and sorting these healthy snacks into smaller bags prevents extra pit stops for junk food, keeps messes to a minimum and will reduce the risk of eating a whole bag of something because of boredom. (That’s my problem!) Cupcakeskissesncrumbs does a great job showing how to prep snacks for the week when you’re not traveling too!

Source: Cupcakesncrumbs.blogspot.com

 

Activities

Since school just let out, I have not had time to properly prep extra activities. If I had a couple more days to prep, I would make a few more of these fantastic busy bags from HandsOnAsWeGrow. There is a great explanation of what makes a busy bag and SO many ideas.

Even though I don’t have much time to create kits, I will be doing some of these activity ideas! Tunemyheartblog contains a few fantastic ideas for toddlers. There is a link to free printables that can be used with dot stickers. I will raid my teacher closet for a binder with page protectors and complete an awesome letter book! Hopefully that can keep my busy boy entertained for more than a few minutes! 

Purchasing a new cookie sheet from the dollar store also has been added to list of things to do before leaving. I’ll put some magnets we already own in a bag and boom! He can play with his letters! It can be used as a table for eating, coloring, or book reading too. Playdatecrashers lists a few other great ideas for the cookie sheet! 

And lastly, I found this brilliant idea. Whoever came up with this is a genius!! I know my toddler will think a bucket pulley system is the coolest! It will also prevent me from spending half the car ride facing backwards and getting car sick… maybe. Now I’ll just have to make sure to rig it up right! I do teach science, so I should be able to figure it out… Thanks Kidsactivitiesblog.com!

I know at least a few of these ideas will keep our “big” kid entertained for awhile. And our little one will then hopefully be entertained by the big kid! We will just take it one mile at a time and remember that seeing family will make it all worth it!

Spring Break Stay-cation – 5 Places to Visit with Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

We finally made it to spring break! It always feels like an accomplishment to make it to spring break, doesn’t it? I mean, those winter months are tough. At school indoor recesses for cold, rainy, windy or who knows what kind of weather make you bonkers. The kids can’t play outside quite as much. It’s dark and dreary. Kids get very antsy too! My middle schoolers were either at each other’s throats or couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. I don’t know which is worse! Everyone just needs some space for a few days.

But now, spring break! I wish I could say I spent most of the week relaxing in the sun at some tropical beach location. Nope. Not when that would require a 12 hour plus drive (or way more with two young kids in the car) or paying for expensive air fare. So instead, we drove north 5 hours (which took more like 7 because of said two kids) and visited family in Michigan for a nice weekend before spending most of the week at home.

Staying home for the week is not a bad thing in my mind. There are always things to catch up on (like laundry… except whenever I do catch up, an hour later there is more to be done! How does that even happen?!). But spring break isn’t for more work. It is to take a break, even if you can’t lay on a beach. Instead of trying to catch up on everything, have a “stay-cation”. Do at least something different for your break.

When you have kids, especially toddlers and babies, “break” is rarely in your vocabulary. A break means going to the bathroom by yourself or sneaking chocolate from the pantry without your son spying you and insisting on getting some too. (Have you seen this video? So true!) Or maybe if you are really lucky, getting your husband to watch the kids for a couple hours while you go to Target.

Since I can stay home this week, I truly enjoy spending time with the kiddos doing normal things before the end of the year chaos ensues at school. I don’t mind not having as many breaks. But making a few interesting and different trips here and there make the stay-cation more fun and help create memories for a long time! Naps and feeding times can cause complications with scheduling, so I’ve made a list of five places you can visit with your littles that are easy, can be quick, are fun AND affordable!

Five Places to Visit With Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

  1. Library story times and events

    Check your local library for their schedules. Most have programs available for children of all ages. We regularly attend an evening story time for toddlers at ours, but I know there are all sorts activities going on throughout the week. There may be special activities just for spring break!

  2. Get ice cream at the local shop

    For it to really be spring break, at least one ice cream trip is in order. Make it special by going to a place that you may not visit that frequently. We love the build your own fro-yo places. With all those topping options, everybody gets what they like!

  3. Visit a fire stations, police stations, etc.

    Our family has not done this yet, but we would like to. Our boy loves fire trucks, so making a visit to a station would be a blast. Check your city’s website for more information and how to schedule possible tours.

  4. Go to a pet store

    This one may seem a little odd, but our kids love it! Our son often asks to go to the “Fish Store”. He loves watching birds dart around, mice run on their wheels, and spot all the variety of fish. We don’t own any animals at our house (and don’t plan to) but it’s fun to just look!

  5. Check out a new park or playground

    We encourage playing outside as much as possible (when whether permits) so trips to the park occur often in warmer weather. Take a drive to find a park the kids have never been on before and watch them explore! Our mall even has a play area inside. I’ve taken the kids there on crummy weather days. Because we don’t go there often, even the tiny slides are a big hit!

A stay-cation does not need to be boring or mean you have to stay home all week. Find something new to do that the whole family will enjoy, without even leaving your town! Slow down, relax, and take pictures. And when the kids are napping, find that spot on the floor where the sun is shining. Lay there for a few minutes, basking in the warmth, and pretend you can hear the waves rolling in.

Happy spring break!

St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Crafts for Kids Round Up

St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon! When your last name is O’Shaughnessey, St. Paddy’s day is a big deal! I like to make corned beef and have Irish Soda bread, but take a pass on the Guinness… (my husband and I don’t really drink much).

This year, I want my busy boy to help celebrate. Leprechauns and rainbows can be fun ways to celebrate, but our clan loves shamrocks. My husband’s family tends to collect, display and even grow shamrocks. Shamrock’s can symbolize the Trinity, which makes it even more special. Therefore, I hunted down ideas that involved Shamrocks! (You’ll notice several of them have hand or footprints too…another favorite of mine!) Click on the titles to see instructions or pictures for the activities.

Hand print shamrock on canvas

Source unknown (If anyone does know, please let me know so I can link to the site!). 

The picture shows a four leaf clover, but you could do three hands for a shamrock. Paper, card stock or even fabric could be used instead of the canvas.

Fizzing Paint Shamrocks 

Source: Gift of Curiosity, giftofcuriosity.con

I love this idea! My son enjoys playing with baking soda and vinegar and watching the fizz (we call it playing “science”). This activity combines painting and fizzing! Also, if you don’t have pipettes handy, we have used extra syringes (leftover from old medicines) and they worked great!

Rainbow Watercolor Raised Salt Paint Shamrock

Source: Rhythms of Play, rhythmsofplay.com

Definitely would like to try salt painting in the future! A St. Patrick’s Day theme makes it even better! My middle school students would love to try this too!

 

Marshmallow Shamrock

Source: Pinterestedparent.stfi

Super quick and easy way to paint. Pretty sure my son would try and take a bite of the marshmallows though…

Kids Shamrock Footprint

Source: CraftyMorning.com

This website contains many other ideas for holiday crafts! Take a look around to see more great St. Paddy’s Day ideas.

Handprint Shamrock (or 4 leaf clovers)

Source: Preschool Ideas for 2 Year Olds at Terrific2s.blogspot.com

Another handprint clover or Shamrock example. Adding glitter always makes life for interesting!

Marble Painted Shamrock

Source: PlainVanillaMom.com

No need for a holiday to do this activity, but using a themed paper makes it even better. Grab some marbles, paint and a Ziploc container, and you are good to go!
There are many more activities out there that don’t require much prep and look fun! Spend a little time with your little (or big ones) this St. Patrick’s Day and create something to pull out every year!