Kids Art

Kids Art - Under the Monkey Bars blogDesk + Hutch :: Pottery Barn
Desk Chair :: Pottery Barn
Task Lamp :: Pottery Barn
Office Storage :: The Container Store
Clipboards :: Target
Kids Art :: Bean + Sweet Pea
Wall Color :: Ben Moore Bennington Gray

Little Van Gogh’s create a ton of artwork. I’m always looking for a better way to manage, store, hang, and admire the monkeys’ masterpieces. Sunday it all came together and I finally managed to tackle the kids art situation in the playroom.

For $12, I picked up 6 composite clipboards at Target. I love how the natural color of the clipboards almost blend into the wall. There are tons of options for clipboards if you don’t like the composite. The monkeys absolutely love that we can quickly swap out the artwork. In fact, this is likely the 20th display we’ve created.

We also re-organized the desk since it hasn’t been properly cleaned since before school started. Our new system from the Container Store works really great so it didn’t take long to sort through a few paper piles and put away crayons, markers, and pencils that were in the wrong place.

I’ve had such an organization itch lately. It’s probably good timing before all of the holiday decorations emerge and the house becomes even more cluttered. In January, I’m going Marie Kondo on this house. Hold me to it!

How do you hang kids art at your house?

This and That…

Happy Halloween from Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Happy Halloween! I can’t believe it’s already October 31st.

Dressing up together for the first time ever, my monkeys’ costumes were inspired by the graphic novel Wonderland by Tommy Kovac. Sweet Pea is the sweetest Alice — especially with a curtsey. It’s not surprising that the Queen of Hearts costume makes Bean even sassier! We have a few friends joining the cast of characters from Alice in Wonderland tonight for trick-or-treat. 

How great is it that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year? Having the day off to enjoy the holiday is so delicious. We’ve been cooking, lounging, and reading all day. I just finished Me Before You. I’ve read 3 of Jojo Moyes books this month, and I don’t think I’ll be able to stop until I read them all. That good! I absolutely loved The Ship of Brides and One Plus One

Some really important information for tonight: Halloween Candy Wine Pairings. If you’re going to eat it, might as well pair it perfectly. Also critical: What Your Favorite Halloween Candy Says About You. When I used to eat Halloween candy, I was an M&M girl. Now my favorite indulgence is this organic chocolate bar. Seriously divine.

There are really sweet sales online this weekend. Have you heard of Pipsticks? This Mom-owned business sends super cute stickers monthly as a subscription. Think gifts for birthdays or scrapbookers. Use the code HALLOWEEKEND20 for 20% off. Tea Collection is offering 25% off everything — including Patagonia. 6 free cards at Snapfish.com with code CARDSTRIAL. 20% off at thredUP with code FALL20. Bean just got an order yesterday with dresses from Pink Chicken, Truly Me, Zara, and Mini Boden — all new with tags! Back to school shopping seems to stretch out a bit at our house 🙂

Stay safe tonight, and have a great weekend!

Lunch Box Love

Lunch Box Love - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Bean + Sweet Pea’s lunch boxes from the other day: Grilled chicken, risotto made with homemade bone broth, honeydew melon, yellow peppers, and carrots.

We’re finally getting into a lunch making groove. After 3 weeks of morning chaos, we’ve got this. So I thought it was a good time to give you some lunch box love.

Whether you’re packing a lunch for yourself or someone else, it’s always an extra thing to do when you’re strapped for time in the morning. Some things can be prepped the night before, others not so much. Personally, I don’t like to make lunches at night. After dinner clean up, I’m kind of done. Plus, the monkeys eat their lunches better when the food is fresh.

Our lunch boxes are full of real, whole foods with nothing processed or out of a package. It’s not easy — but it’s worth it! If you missed it, read my post about cutting out processed foods here. It’s all about getting back to basics and nourishing your body with foods that don’t contain ingredients you can’t pronounce. Real food helps your body feel better and your brain think clearer.

I pack my monkeys lunch boxes with organic fruit, veggies, meat, legumes, seeds, nut butters, and whole grains. We try to keep it simple. The night before school, the monkeys look in the refrigerator to see what we have. They use a clipboard and pencil to write down their lunch and snack orders (seriously – it’s all about the clipboard!). In the morning, they help me with little things like peeling clementines, washing grapes, or writing each other notes (we use napkins!).

It has taken me years to figure out how to really pack a lunch box. It shouldn’t be this hard, right? I’ve finally figured out the secret: it’s all about the products! Here’s a list of things we love and use every day in our lunch boxes:

  • LunchBots stainless steel food containers are the best. We like their divided container (the new lids are awesome!), dip condiment containers, and round containers. The divided containers do leak, but work great for solid foods. Dip and round containers don’t leak. These containers last for years and are virtually unbreakable.
  • Try these silicone baking cups to line the LunchBots and add some fun colors.
  • Use a Thermos hot food jar for soups, mashed potatoes, and chili. While you’re warming the food, fill the container with boiling water. This helps to keep it hot longer. Also, be sure you don’t add an ice pack to the lunch box! Plan sides and snacks that don’t need to stay cold, like a whole apple or dried fruit.
  • Kids Konserve sweat-free ice packs are an excellent investment. We’ve used ours 5 days a week for the past two years and they are in perfect shape.
  • Kids Konserve food kozy is a perfect wrap for sandwiches. Gluten Free bread isn’t the healthiest so my girls only take sandwiches once or twice a week. These wraps last more than a year and serve as a placemat when opened. Think of all the plastic baggies you’ll save from a landfill.
  • Cleanwell pocket size hand sanitizer — because my girls eat lunch after recess.
  • Land’s End class mate soft sided lunch boxes are our favorite. There are so many lunch boxes to choose from and lots of them are fantastic. Land’s End has worked the best for us — especially for fitting in all of these containers!
  • Reusable silverware makes it into the monkeys lunch box almost every day. The girls love these sets from Pottery Barn Kids, and I love that they are dishwasher safe.
  • Lifefactory glass bottles are leakproof. We’ve had the same bottles for at least 4 years without breaking the glass and they look new. I fill the bottles with water because the only juice we drink in our house comes straight out of the juicer. Bottled juice purchased at the store has no nutrition and is full of sugar. Not the best choice for a lunch box! 

All of these waste free lunch products are non-toxic, BPA free, reusable, healthy for your kids and the environment. It’s expensive to buy everything at once. Pick up new products here and there, and always fill the lunch box with love!

How do you pack a lunch box? What works at your house?

Back to School

Back to School - Under the Monkey Bars

The countdown is on. T-11 days until school starts. YIKES! I’ve already seen so many first day of school pictures on Facebook. Thankfully we’re starting late this year as I’m not quite ready for my monkeys to go back to school!

How have three months passed so quickly? We’ve had quite a summer. We’ve laughed, cried, day tripped, and road tripped. Whether hanging around the house or on an adventure, we’ve learned a lot about each other and have crossed lines through virtually every item on our Summer Fun List. There are new scars, blonder curls, and taller girls.

I really can’t believe how much these monkeys have grown. Bean “borrowed” a few t-shirts of mine that have somehow stayed her room. She’s seriously almost my size! Together we cleaned out closets and drawers. Well, except for Sweet Pea who refuses. She’s a lot like me and doesn’t love change. It’s so hard to say good bye to old favorites, but try as she might, the 4/5’s just won’t fit!

We’re planning our back to school clothes shopping for late September when we can actually wear long sleeves, sweaters, and tights. The sales should be good, and as you know I love a good sale! At least we finished the school supply shopping. Target had such cute stuff that I apparently needed some supplies for myself and of course some new essentials for the homework station. Anything to get those monkeys excited and motivated, right?

We’re *trying* to go to bed a bit earlier every night. Even I’m sleeping in past 7am, which won’t get us to school on time! After school activities are on the calendar — yet not taking it over. The babysitter is booked for back to school night in September, our library book basket is filled, and new lunch boxes are ready to slide into last year’s backpacks.

All in all, these monkeys are ready to go back to school. But if you ask, “Are you ready for school?” They say no. They want to savor every last minute of summer. We just need these last days of summer to really be ready for the change and for “back to school.”  

I’m having a hard time letting go of my first and fourth graders. I’m trying to remember to say second and fifth. With each new grade, there are new friends, new experiences, and new challenges. The hardest part for me is letting them go. They always seem to grow up so much after entering the school’s metal doors in September. As much as I’d like to make time stand still, I know I need to hold my chin up and be ready for this next school year and whatever it brings.

Thank goodness for my friend’s annual Champagne and Kleenex party the first week of school. Together we’ll celebrate and mourn the start of the 2015-2016 school year. I really miss my monkeys when they go back to school, but great friends always make the transition easier! 

What are you doing to prepare for the new school year? 

A Slow Down Summer

A Slow Down Summer - Under the Monkey Bars

Summer is always a highly anticipated time of year for us New Englanders.

After such harsh winters, we passionately look forward to three months of sun and fun. At times, we put so much energy into making every summer the best summer ever — packing the calendar with places to go and things to do — that sometimes we forget to make time to relax.

Not just a beach day, but time at home to read a book or play a game together as a family. Everyone is so busy that plans and play dates can rarely be made on the fly anymore. Before we know it, September will be here and our precious summer will end.

How did we get so busy? Why do we feel the need to fill every box of our calendar? Why do we schedule every minute of our free time? And, most importantly, how does this affect our children?

As a society, we are so busy and, in my opinion, highly over-scheduled. It seems to create more stress than coping skills for our children. Kids can sense when we’re stressed, and it makes them stress out too. Taking time to recharge and relax makes you more productive and makes the monkeys calmer. Not only does it give kids time to use their imagination, but it gives us as parents time to cross off a few things on our never ending To-Do lists so that we can be calmer and happier…and RELAX too.

I’m a firm believer in a slow down kind of summer. A summer where kids get bored, and then create things to do. A summer where families and friends spend time together. A flexible summer where we feel like we did things we want to do. A few months with lots of open calendar boxes to fill as you go. To me, that means freedom and it helps me enjoy the time more.

But how do we make summer slow down?

I’ll admit that the first few weeks of our summer vacation were rocky. At times, my girls fought like they were in a ring. I questioned myself and the lack of plans and camps on our summer calendar. And even though I felt drawn to it, we really avoided television and electronics.

And then something magical happened. All of the tension started to fade away as I saw more frequent hugs, pretend play, side by side reading with intertwined legs, and little hands helping me in the kitchen. What changed from the beginning of the summer to now? Time.

All it took was time. Time to unwind and just be.

Sometimes it takes us longer to relax, and that’s okay. I’m not saying just sit in the house all day every day. Keep a list of friends to invite over for play dates, as well as museums and places to go for day trips. When you have a free day, take a look at the list together and choose something to do — or choose to stay home and build forts in your pajamas!

So far this summer, the girls have taken one 3-hour yoga class. That’s it. No camps this year. Not only have we saved some money but we’ve also bonded during days at the beach, walks to the Newburyport Public Library, time at the playground, or testing flavor choices at New England Ice Lollies. We’re really looking forward to Yankee Homecoming here in Newburyport this week: sidewalk sales, bed races, and fireworks. Not to mention the waterfront movies and summer concert series.

I know I’m really fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls and be flexible with our time. I truly believe that spending quality time together helps you become closer as a family.

This is what works for us. I’m not an expert, but these little girls I’m raising…I want to be with them. They aren’t doing annoying things to get my attention, because they have it. My girls are funny, sweet, and almost all of the time (nobody’s perfect!) a total joy to be around.

It may not be for everyone, but we’re having a slow down summer, taking time to relax, and enjoying every minute of our Newburyport summer with each other.