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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making Oatmeal S’mores Bites with the Kids

I love cooking and baking.  The kids have thankfully inherited my love of both of these things.  We spend lots of time in the kitchen.  They love to smell the spices, crack the eggs, mix the ingredients, etc.  They also have an amazing love of food for two year olds!  They are not picky eaters and they have a great appetite.  It makes my job much easier!

I love sweets.  However, I am one of “those” moms that feels kids shouldn't eat a lot of sugary foods so D, J & E rarely eat sweets, but every now and then they need to enjoy a special treat just like anyone should! 

I also LOVE S’mores!  Marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate…  Yummy!  This recipe from little bitty bakes caught my eye and I knew this would be a great snack time recipe that I would need to make with the kids.  It involves no baking or cooking… just mixing!  This recipe adds oatmeal which makes it sound healthy so I don’t feel as guilty giving it to the kids.  It makes for a great snack and would be a perfect special treat to put in their lunch box.  This version is slightly different from the original one I found and it reminds me a lot of a Quaker Oats Granola Bar my mom used to buy for us as kids. 

This recipe is so easy and quick.  The kids had so much fun getting involved in making this yummy snack and they gobbled them up!  Enjoy! (Recipe follows below)

The ingredients: Graham crackers, oatmeal, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and marshmallow fluff

Crush graham cracker crumbs in Ziploc then pour into a large mixing bowl.  (Great way for the kids to get involved).

Next, add in oatmeal, mini chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.

Then, add the entire jar of marshmallow fluff to the bowl.

Mix with spoon or hands until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

Spray hands with cooking spray.  Roll mixture into approximately 1” balls and place onto wax paper lined cookie sheet. 



Oatmeal S’mores Bites


·        1 ¼ cup Graham Cracker Crumbs (we used 6 sheets and crushed them up ourselves)

·        2 cups uncooked Oatmeal (not quick cooking)

·        ½ cup mini chocolate chips

·        ½ cup mini marshmallows (or marshmallow bits would be great too!)

·        1 jar marshmallow fluff

·        Cooking Spray


Crush graham cracker crumbs in Ziploc then pour into a large mixing bowl.  Next, add in oatmeal, mini chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.  Stir ingredients together.  Next, add the entire jar of marshmallow fluff to the bowl.  Mix with spoon or hands until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  Spray hands with cooking spray.  Roll mixture into approximately 1” balls and place onto wax paper lined cookie sheet. 


Makes about 26 1” balls.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week.  

Emma enjoying her Oatmeal S'mores Bites!

Dylan enjoying his Oatmeal S'mores Bites!

Jake enjoying his Oatmeal S'mores Bites!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Snacktivity: Cheerio Stacking

As you know by now, we love to do activities around snack time that we call snacktivities. This keeps them busy so they aren't just mindlessly eating and instead putting their minds to work!  In this case we are putting their fingers to work and working on fine motor skills.  We also worked on our math skills by counting the cheerios as we stacked them.  It helps reinforce the one to one number correspondence. Cheerio stacking is an activity we do often because it is so easy to set up and D, J & E request it often.

This activity requires minimal set up and you will probably have everything on hand.
You will need:
- Cheerios
- a paper plate or bowl (we used paper boats)
- play dough
- dry spaghetti noodles (uncooked)

That's it!  Only 4 things!  And I'm sure they are all things you have on hand already if you have a toddler. Now here’s what to do:

Step 1: Roll the play dough into a ball. I use about half a regular sized container and then put it on a plate or in a paper boat that we get at smart and final.  I like to let D, J & E choose their colors.

Step 2: Put a single piece of spaghetti into the play dough. For younger kids I would break off about a 1/3 of the top or else it is too tall. The first time we did this activity I only did one piece of pasta, but we have since expanded the activity by adding additional pieces of varying lengths.

Step 3: Pour Cheerios onto the plate.  Show your little one how to put a Cheerio onto the spaghetti noodle. The tricky part of the activity is that they have to be careful not to push too hard or the noodle will break. Be prepared and have extra noodles on hand to avoid any meltdowns in case this does happen.

Ready for fun!
So proud of their stacking abilities! 

Cheerio stacking is a lot of fun and as a bonus it has really improved their fine motor skills.  I also love seeing how excited they get as the stack of Cheerios grows. They enjoy counting as they put each Cheerio on the spaghetti noodle.  This time they were saying “Oh wow!” and “Awesome!” as their stack grew taller and taller!  I love them!
Jake focusing very intently

Dylan is having fun while stacking his Cheerios
Emma was also very serious while finishing up

Since this is a snacktivity I let them snack as they go. Dylan typically snacks a lot before he really gets into the activity, but once he gets going he can build quite the tower of Cheerios!  They love to add Cheerios to all the different spaghetti noodles and it looks like an abstract art project when it's completed. However, we finish our Cheerios throw out the noodles and put the play dough away for next time!  
Dylan was very proud of his tower!
Good work Jake!
Emma was so proud of her finished masterpiece!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Snacktivity: Fruit Loop Rainbows

 Snacktivity: Fruit Loop Rainbows
I love St. Patrick's Day!  It's so much fun to dress the kids up in green, make yummy recipes, and try new crafts.  When I was teaching I always loved doing themed activities for the holidays and now that I'm a mom I'm so excited that I get to do them at home with my little ones.  Today I decided to make Fruit Loop rainbows with them. However, this activity would be fun any time of year because rainbows are always fun!  This could even be an activity at a rainbow themed birthday party!  Anyways... D, J & E love snack time activities (snacktivities) so I knew this would be a hit!  I can't believe how well they did. They exceeded every expectation I had for them!  I am one proud mommy!
The setup is easy and can be easily adapted for older and younger children. The trio is a little over 2.5 years old and this met their needs, yet challenged them without causing frustration. It was a great activity that reinforced colors, counting, sorting, and fine motor skills. Best of all they were able to enjoy a snack all while having fun learning!

You'll need:
- a box of fruit loops
- bag of mini marshmallows
- clear cups
- paper
- colored pencils/crayons/markers
- glue (we used glitter glue but any glue will work)

What to do:
While the kids were napping (a rare occurrence these days...) I drew 3 rainbows onto paper making sure to leave enough space for the fruit loops to fit.  I added clouds at the bottom to complete the rainbow.

After naps, the trio woke up and I told them I had a fun "snacktivity" planned. We've used fruit loops to make necklaces in the past so I explained this time we would be using them for a new activity called Fruit Loop rainbows. 
Step 1:  I showed them the pictures of the rainbows I drew and we went over the colors of the rainbow and counted how many colors there are.

Step 2: I handed out 6 clear cups to each of them and then I poured them each a bowl of fruit loops, reminding them not to eat these fruit loops. I put one of each color fruit loop into each cup and told they need to match the colors. (Ex. Red goes with red, etc). They caught on instantly!  I honestly expected to be doing it all myself!  I was so surprised. (You can do this step ahead of time if your little one is too young for this or if you need to save time.) I loved hearing them talking about how they were matching the colors. Jake decided he wanted to do all his reds first.  My favorite part was when they noticed the wrong color was in the cup they would say " orange doesn't go with red!", etc.  They learn so quickly!
They were such great sorters!  

Step 3:  Snack break!  After patiently waiting to eat the fruit loops, they needed the opportunity to eat some to ensure they would be able to finish the activity!  It was a "snacktivity" after all.

Step 4: Gluing! To be honest, I wasn't sure how this was going to go. This was our first time using glue with an actual purpose. I decided the best way was for me to trace the rainbow line and have them place the fruit loops on the line. We used glitter glue which worked great. As I began to show them what to do I only put glue on half a line at a time and I gave them only the color fruit loop they were working with at that time.  Then I showed them how to put a fruit loop on. After I showed them the first one, they again figured it out right away.  Shortly after they began Emma announced she was making a choo choo train. This meant she was lining her fruit loops up so that they were touching on the rainbow glue line. The boys saw this and also thought it was such a smart idea. The rest of the rainbow went so smoothly they didn't even need my help. I continued to give them one color at a time until they finished the rainbow.  By the end I was gluing the whole line (instead of half) and they were getting faster at putting them on.  We talked about filling in the holes as we went along.

I love the concentration in their faces :)

Another fun part was when they started counting the fruit loops as they placed each one on the paper. The learning was coming from every angle during this seemingly simple activity.  
Dylan adding his final touches!
Jake finishing his rainbow!

Emma was so proud of her rainbow!

Once they finished the rainbow, they needed to add the clouds. We used mini marshmallows and more glitter glue. I put some glue in the cloud and had them put marshmallows in it. They were not as interested in gluing these on as they were squishing them.

Nonetheless this was a very successful "snacktivity" and they sat there as happy as could be for over 90 minutes!  Happy 2 year olds make for a happy mommy!  A happy mommy with cute St. Patrick's Day crafts to hang up now!

The finished product!  Too cute!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lucky to be in the NICU

This Sunday, March 10th, is Parents of Preemies Day and I am so proud to be one of the families hosting the Los Angeles event on behalf of Graham's Foundation .  This weekend has brought back memories of our time in the NICU and one word that comes to mind when I think of that time is LUCKY.

Some may find it odd that I chose the word lucky to describe our time in the NICU, but I think it sums up our journey in more ways than one.  After 13 1/2 long, scary and eventful weeks on bed rest we welcomed 3 tiny, but relatively healthy babies at 31 weeks. For 31 weekers we were very lucky to have no major health issues with the exception of Dylan's premature lungs, which were a minor set back. We were so lucky that we did not have to deal with a lot of the issues many premature babies deal with during their NICU stay.  We were there mainly to feed and grow.  We were lucky that medical advances have created amazing technology that allowed our 31 week triplets to thrive.
First time holding all 3!

We were also lucky from the standpoint of being cared for by an amazing team of people every minute of every day. Two of the hardest things about having your baby/babies in the NICU is not being able to be there all the time and not being able to take care of them like you would if they were at home with you.  The nurses, neonatologists, respiratory therapists, OTs, PTs, and staff took care of our tiny miracles as if they were their own when we weren't able to do it ourselves just yet. We were lucky enough to have made lasting friendships, during our 8 week stay, with many of the nurses and staff.  We keep in touch with many of them and we go back to the NICU 
often to visit .


And if you didn't think lucky described our NICU stay enough just yet, I have one more reason why we were so lucky to be in the NICU. After my first night visiting the NICU I remember Scott wheeling me down the hall in the wheelchair.  I looked up at another mom who had just walked out of the NICU with us.  She looked friendly so I figured I would ask her a question. I said, "How do you do this everyday?"  She said, "You just do the best you can."  Little did I know 2 1/2 years later Lauren would turn into one of my best mommy friends. Her little girl Addyson was born at 25 weeks and our NICU stays overlapped. Emma even had some of Addy's hand me down preemie clothes at one point!  I was so lucky that we were in the NICU at the same time... I met a lifelong friend for myself and Dylan, Jake and Emma have met a lifelong friend in Addy!
Me with Lauren

NICU BFF's Addy, Jake, Dylan and Emma on a play date
Having dinner out together
Emma, Addy, Dylan, Jake and Logan (Addy's older brother)

See I told you we were lucky!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making "Toasterpieces" with Milk Paint

          Snacktivity: Making "Toasterpieces" with Milk Paint

My kids love to be messy... especially at meal time.  I think most kids do.  So instead of freaking out every time they put the yogurt on their hands at breakfast, I remind myself it's a sensory thing and I try to redirect them to use their spoons and instead give them the proper opportunity to be messy or even play with their food.  Today’s activity is a great example of this. It allows them to paint their bread...With milk!   The best part is they can eat it at the end.  It’s such a fun snack or breakfast activity(aka "snacktivity")!
This set up is really easy and you most likely already have everything on hand.  You will need:
- white bread (whole wheat will work too)
- milk
- food coloring
- small containers (I used empty yogurt containers)
- paint brushes (thin like for watercolors)
- plates

To begin I asked Dylan, Jake and Emma what colors they wanted to use. They picked red, yellow, blue and green.  That made my job easy!  I poured a splash of milk into empty yogurt containers (Always save these!  They are great for painting and crafts) and then added a few drops of food coloring in each container to get the right color.  Then I gave each kid a thin paintbrush. You don't want the bread to get too soggy so the smaller the paint brush and the less milk in the container the better.

Before I passed out the bread on plates I reminded them of the 2 simple rules for this activity. 
1.  They needed to only paint the bread
2.  They were not to dump out the milk paint.  
Now it was time for fun!  I handed them their bread and I gave them each one color to begin.  It was fun to hear them telling me they were making lines or circles.  They also like to tell me they are painting objects these days.  Jake, of course, is painting a monkey and Dylan was making a snowman.  After awhile I asked if they would like to trade or switch colors. Emma and Dylan wanted to use different colors, but Jake only wanted red.  He was so focused and it was great to see how nicely he was working on his masterpiece.

My favorite part of this activity was when Emma was using her yellow "paint" and realized most of her bread was covered with blue.  I asked her to see what color it would turn if she added yellow to the blue.  She quickly realized that blue and yellow make green. This was a very exciting realization for her.  It lasted too because she retold the story to her nana later that day!

Once I saw the bread was filled with color I decided it was time to take our activity one step further.  I asked everyone to hand me their plates and containers and now we were going to toast our masterpieces and turn them into “toasterpieces”. Since the bread is wet, and in Emma's case a little soggy, you can't put it in a regular toaster so I set the broiler in the oven and put the bread on a baking sheet. I put them in for about 1-2 minutes in each side.  Then I took them out and we all admired each others artwork or “toasterpieces” as we referred to them that day. Then they happily devoured their toast.  Such a fun morning activity filled with learning, art, and food.  It doesn't get much better than that!