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Cupcakes For The Team

(aka How I Became The COOL Team Mom)

My son’s basketball season is starting.  We had our first practice last week, and our first game will be this week.  While I don’t actively set out to be the over-the-top mom that everyone rolls their eyes at, I do like to find ways to reward our team for an effort well done.  And this week, I found a perfect and easy treat to make for the boys that was a definite slam dunk!  I made basketball goal cupcakes!

Make or purchase mini-cupcakes.  I prefer to make my own, simply because the ones at the store always come with a slew of frosting on them.  For this snack, I make sure that all the cupcakes are frosted flush with the wrapper with white frosting.  Then, using orange gel icing, I trim the outside edge of the cupcake.  Set these to the side.  Next, take a sugar cookie (again, either homemade or pre-made – a cookie that is about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter works bets) and frost half of it (like a half circle).  Pipe the orange gel along the frosted edge, and pipe an orange square box in the middle for the “backboard” of the goal.    Then, dab a bit of frosting on the unfrosted part of the cookie (in the center) and press the cupcake into it (the cupcake is the “net”).  Use a mini basketball chocolate (you can usually find these around Valentine’s Day in the candy aisle for those sports enthusiasts) and use frosting to secure it to the backboard and net.  Let the whole thing set for about 30 minutes before standing up.

These were so easy to create and were a hit with the boys!

Got Snow?

While organizing my recipes, I came across this yummy concoction that is sure to please any sweet tooth.  It is one of our “winter” favorites as my boys always say the coating is “snow”!  Mix some up for your crew this week as a special winter treat!  This recipe is so simple that even little hands can help out!

Winter Trail Mix

3 c pretzels (I prefer sticks)
1.5 c corn Chex or Crispix
1 c nuts (pecans, walnuts or peanuts or a combination)
.5 c dried cranberries or raisins
12 oz white chocolate

Mix all ingredients except for the white chocolate together in a large bowl.  Melt the chocolate (see package for directions) and pour over the mix while gently stirring.  Scoop out and place on wax paper until cool, then bread into bite-size pieces.  Makes about 10 cups of delicious snacking!

Fine Motor Skill Development In Toddlers

Stringing beads, lace up cards, even picking up cereal – these are all wonderful ways to help your child develop fine motor skills and strengthen hand muscles.  In turn, these skills will aid your child in learning to write and even cut with scissors.  Providing ample opportunities for your child to practice is important during the Toddler Years.

  1. Necklaces!  Give your child a piece of yarn (tape the end to keep it from fraying) or a shoelace and let him or her create some fun and festive jewelry.  Children can string a variety of pasta (and it can be colored as well – simply mix 1/4 c rubbing alcohol or vinegar with food coloring in a baggie, add pasta to be dyed, shake and let dry on wax paper!) to create patterns and designs.  Or provide them with other household items to string: keychains, old keys, large buttons, big beads, and even construction paper “donuts” (circles with a hole punch in the middle) are great for stringing as well.  For coordinating bracelets, use chenille stems or pipe cleaners to string items.  Twist around wrist to fasten.
  2. Lace up cards.  Several companies provide lace up cards to work on the ‘in and out’ motion of simple sewing.  You can also create your own.  Mount a picture from a magazine on a piece of sturdy paperboard, posterboard or even cardboard.  Once dry, punch holes around the outside.  Provide a shoelace for “sewing” and let the fun begin!  Younger children may need a knot in one end of the lace to keep from pulling it through.
  3. Starburst.  Take a paper plate, punch holes around the outside edge, and give your child a piece of string.  Lace around and across the plate, creating a multitude of patterns and designs.  For even more fun, punch a hole in the middle of the plate as well – can you make a sun?  A star?  What other shapes can you make?  Use different yarn colors as well for another design element.
  4. Snack time!  Give your child an activity to do during snack time.  Give him or her a bowl of their favorite snack for lacing, such as pretzels and/or cereals – anything with a hole in it.  Using a piece of string or dental floss, let your child create an edible necklace.  Or, use it as a way of sharing snacks with nature – create a garland to hang in a tree for the birds!

Fun With Food

My boys love to eat – just one look at them and you can tell!  While getting them to eat isn’t a problem, though, getting them to eat the things I want can be.  Here are some fun ways to spruce up mealtime for your kids!

  1. Say goodbye to the standard triangle-cut sandwich.  We use cookie cutters and cut shapes out of our sandwiches, but then leave the shapes in the bread.  My kids love taking their sandwich puzzle apart and gobbling up the pieces!  For even more fun, use two different types of bread.  If using shapes such as circles, stars or other symmetrical shapes, simply flip the cut piece over and reinsert into the bread.  Voila!  A two-tone puzzle!
  2. Who says milk has to be white?  My kids love purple milk.  Take 1/4 cup of grape juice and add it to a cup of milk.  Stir together and enjoy!  It is a great low-fat, low-calorie alternative to a smoothie.  Try other combinations, too, such as cherry and even orange!
  3. Share with nature!  When we have popcorn or even corn-puffed cereal for a snack, I help my kids string some of it on a thread to hang from a tree.  The birds in our back yard love the treat, and I know my kids are not hogging all the popcorn!
  4. Put it on a stick.  Use pretzel sticks to stab yummy snacks such as marshmallows, melons and bananas.  Everything is completely edible and there’s no risk of a little one poking themselves with a skewer.

What are your favorite snack ideas?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Parenting Multiples (AKA “Zone Defense” parenting)

Last April, my husband and I moved from a man-to-man defense to a pure zone defense. Or, to put it another way, our third child entered the world and our family. We quickly became aware of just how outnumbered the “parent team” had become! Recently, I got to experience a more-then-normal lopsidedness to our household balance, because my DH headed out of town for a few days.

I began to think of strategies – some time-tested, others new – for parenting 3 kids by myself. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I’m going to just come right out and say it – TELEVISION. I’m not a strict no-TV mom, but I usually limit the amount of time they get to watch it to 3-4 times per week. But when things get really rough, out comes the DVD collection. Even if it’s just a 30-minute video, it gives me a chance to catch up with the baby, especially for important, full-attention activities like bathtime. One DVD I really recommend is a recent birthday gift – the Dora Dance Along Adventure Mat. My 3-year-old loves to dress up in the costume and dance along, and I feel much better about her watching TV when it involves exercise!
  2. Snack time – this one is easier to be healthy, fortunately. Think about it – what takes longer to eat, ice cream or carrot sticks? The crunchier the snack, the more time I can focus on another child who needs my complete attention.
  3. Family snuggle time – the kids all love the big bed. So we pile everyone in and pull up the covers. A little tickling and a lot of snuggling go a long way towards killing some free time in a VERY positive way!
  4. Time outs – I don’t mean punishments by this, so don’t get me wrong. When emotions run high and everyone starts to break down, I will sometimes send the kids to their rooms for 10 minutes. My two older kids are very competitive, so it’s good to separate them at times. To keep this from feeling like a punishment, I sometimes give them a reserved Happy Meal toy as a treat, or a task to complete (like drawing a picture).

Single parenting is something I hope I never have to do long-term, but strategies such as these definitely help when I’m the only adult and completely outnumbered! Do you have other ideas to share?

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