Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Black+ Treasure+ Rum = Pirate Play Dough!

Arrrrrghhhhh!!! Disney has conditioned me to think pirates when May is approaching, so that is our next theme. I knew I wanted to make black play dough with gold glitter (I don't know why it looks silver in the picture. It is definitely gold!) and then I had a stroke of genius and decided to add rum extract for scent! I hope that is not offensive to anyone, but pirates and rum are forever connected for me, just like pirates and May and it made me giggle and think "Why is the rum extract always gone?" while it was cooling :D

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Pretty cool, huh?! I love photographing our activities on white posterboard in our entryway. The natural lighting and white background makes everything look nicer!

 I used half our go-to recipe, added Wilton black food gel, which was from Boogie's 1st birthday and for some reason had turned blue?! So then I tried adding brown because I apparently never took any art classes ever and it turned green. Then I kept adding blue and it turned darker green. Then I packed up the boys, we ran to the store and got black food coloring and it finally turned black. Moral of the story- start with black food coloring! And also, don't trust food gels that have been in your pantry a year and a half. I added almost a full bottle of rum extract and my house smells quite decadent right now! After I cooked it and mixed it, I poured maybe a quarter of a container of gold glitter.

Another thing to note is that this does leave a color residue on the hands and slightly on the table. I am not sure if that is a factor of black food coloring in general, or if that is specifically because of all the tons of food coloring that went into this batch. My theory is that kids get messy playing with markers, and this washes off too.

I found this fun skull and crossbones cookie cutter in our Halloween stash. We will also use a letter P, a bone, and a flag. I don't have any pirate specific ones but I think these will do.

To see more of the themed play dough we have made, please see my play dough page and feel free to link up your own ideas!

 Linking up to these great parties!
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Monday, April 23, 2012

5 DIY Travel Activities

I have missed blogging! There has been a lot of stuff going on in our lives recently, but I wanted to share some great travel ideas that I have been pinning and then putting together. We are going on not one, but two long flights in May and June (one is 7 hours and one is about 20! Eek!) and we are going on not one, but two road trips in July and September (one is just the next state over, the other is an 8 hour drive if you don't stop. Again I say "Eek!"), so it was time for me to get my crafting hat back on and start creating some easily transportable, re-usable, multi-purpose activities, for Boogie in particular.

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This first project is my premiere into the wonderful world of chalkboard paint. Not gonna lie, didn't shake the can as often as it said to. There are definitely some clumps and splotches. But, all in all, it came out pretty well! I saw the idea for a chalkboard book on Whip Up, courtesy of Regina from Creative Kismet. It is pure genius. Hers has activity specific pages, but Boogie is too young for that kind of structure. When he is older, I will add a tic tac toe board and a hangman board and things like that. I bought a giant board book at a consignment sale for $1, got chalkboard spray paint with a 40% off coupon from Michaels, used sandpaper to de-gloss the pages, gesso paint to prep the pages, and a white scrapbooking marker to write the title. I don't know why "chalkboard" and "book" aren't capitalized. Some English teacher I am! This was the most expensive idea so far because I didn't have everything on hand, but even so, it did not cost much at all!

Next, is a quiet flip book that I saw on Artsy Fartsy Mama.  She sells both a sewable or printable pattern for the book that she made, but her people are boys and girls, and I wanted just boys for Boogie. I used some of her ideas, and some ideas that I knew Boogie would like. I printed out a bunch of people that I liked online and used different parts to create a body that I liked, traced it 10 times, and free-handed the outfits based on pictures I liked online.

Here are the 10 people I came up with:

If you can't tell, they are a farmer, a construction worker, a knight, a football player, a doctor, a fireman, a superhero, a train conductor, a policeman, and a pirate.

I thought this would be super easy to put together but because I am always in a rush, I messed up with the measurements several times and it took me ages to get everything uniform so it could be a proper flip book. I used crayons and markers for the people, laminated them, then used a hole puncher and binder rings to put it all together. You have to fuss with it a little to make the men line up perfectly, but it works. If you can afford it and have the time, I highly recommend purchasing Lindsay's template and following her instructions for sewing it. With that said, here is a sample of how a mixed up man could look. I think Boogie will enjoy it, even though it is by no means perfect! this is a great activity for discussing occupations and increasing vocabulary. It is also kind of a way to talk about the idea of "what doesn't belong" and having fun with it (ie- use a football player's head on a fireman's body and see if Boogie knows what doesn't belong on the man).

This next idea is so simple and frugal, I am sure you will all love it! I saw it on Tons of Funs and changed it a little bit to include some skills we are working on with Boogie. All you need for the simplest form of this activity is a mayo or jelly container with a slit in the lid and popsicle sticks. I also used sharpies to label the sticks with letters, numbers, and shapes. It's hard to see in the pictures, but each colored popsicle stick (bought them colored from the dollar store) has an uppercase letter on the top and a lowercase letter on the bottom, but if you flip it over, the uppercase letter is on the bottom and the lowercase letter is on top. My thought is we can spell his or his brothers' names using an uppercase letter first, then the lowercase letters after by flipping the sticks around. We can also work on patterns with the colors. For the number sticks, on one side I wrote the number (in 10 different colors) and on the other I drew 9 different shapes (I used circles twice) in the correct amounts and colors. So, I can ask Boogie, with just one popsicle stick, "What is this shape?", "How many are there?", "What color is the shape/number?", and "What number is this?" Not bad for a free activity that also combines his love for dropping and dumping.

I just saw this idea on Toddler Approved recently and immediately knew that my elevator button pushing little boy would love this. To include some extra skills and to hopefully increase the amount of time he spends playing with it, I used colored label stickers, and did letters and numbers. Otherwise, this uses the same materials that EJ did- cardboard, large googly eyes, hot glue, and labels. Googly eyes have enough give that you feel like you are pushing them but they retain their shape. I used the 20mm ones, and the circle labels that fit on dot marker pages fit on them exactly. I think EJ might have used the 28mm size. Another fun thing about this is when you move it around you can hear the eyes. I think Bam Bam will enjoy the sound. I might make him a smaller version without the stickers.

Speaking of Bam Bam, I have been gathering a few things for him as well, but this is the first thing I made for him for the trips.

I used a needle and thread to make a "snake" out of 10 different colored large pom poms. I cut a hole into the top of an icing container. Bam Bam can push the pom pom snake through or (carefully, since it seems to hurt the pom poms) pull the snake back out. I used the different colors so I can start using color words with him more often and so Boogie can "help" and "teach" him colors since anything one of the boys is playing with is the coolest thing in the room (or car...or plane...for TWENTY HOURS). You know that empty chocolate chip bag in Bam Bam's treasure basket? Boogie totally confiscated it. You know why? Because Bam Bam loved it. Stinker!

I have a number of other things I am working on (did I mention one of the flights is TWENTY HOURS?!!? ONE WAY???!!!), so I will probably do at least one more post on this topic. And I am buying several things as well. So maybe I will do a cumulative post with all my ideas when they are ready to go.  No promises, but that is my plan.

For other great travel ideas, you can check out my traveling board on Pinterest.

Linking up to these great parties!
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lesson Learned- Mama of Many Blessings

Another week has come and gone, so it is time for another Lesson Learned! This week, Nicole, from Mama of Many Blessings, is sharing with us. When I was posting my WOTT link party weekly, Nicole's fabulous posts were often the most clicked. Nicole's kids span from age 2 to age 13, so she has something for everyone. She often share amazing hands-on science ideas, as well as creative Montessori trays, sensory bins, videos, and holiday activities. Not only can she relate to most of us as far as understanding where we are with our childrens' ages because she has children learning at 6 different levels, but she also understands the struggles and successes of parents who are raising children with special needs. I am sure you can find something fun for your family on her blog if you take time to stop by after reading her post.

I was so honored when Sierra asked me to guest post for her Lesson Learned series. I have been following the series and really enjoying listening to other moms telling their stories about life not going how we planned. Unfortunately our blog world isn't filled with much of real life occurrences, we just edit out most of the bad stuff. Hopefully this series will encourage others to be more honest and open to the mistakes all of us make. 

I am Nicole a daughter of christ, homeschool mama to 6 blessings (5 boys 1 girl) and best friend to my amazing husband of 13 years! I blog over at Mama Of Many Blessings about our homeschool/life journey, Arts and craft projects, hands on learning, and everything else life throws at us!

Here is a picture of our family, last year at the local nature center (one of our favorite places to spend the day)

When I thought of writing for this series I had a hard time deciding which lesson learned I wanted to share, after all life with 6 kids (3 of which are special needs) teaches us SO many lessons, we have learned and grown so much along this journey called parenting. 

My biggest lesson learned as a parent and a teacher for that matter, has been my 5th blessing for sure! He has been my 1 child that gave me no choice but to rethink the way I parented our children, which is kind of funny because you would think that by the time you got to baby #5 you have most of the parenting thing figured out, well how wrong I was! From the day he was born he has never taken naps, he has always been a very high demanding child, he used to eat anything that could go into his mouth (including non food items) he had no sense of pain or sense of fear, would do many things beyond what even an active boy would do, and it was a nightmare trying to bring him anywhere for almost 4 years. There were so many times I wondered what would happen to our family through this journey, would I have enough left after everything he needed to take care of my other children, or even at times if I had enough in me to get through it all. As I look back on our journey I see now that we could have never done it all without all the help of our heavenly father and the help we received from the many specialist (speech, OT, PT, neuro-psycologist, primary care, and many other doctors)  that helped get him off to the best start that he could possibly get! 

What I have learned from this lesson? A LOT :)

#1 How to constantly rely on God to give us strength to get through everything. He is so very faithful if we learn to rely and put our trust him, he gives us all we need to get through everything... as long as we ask!

#2 How to really trust your instincts as a parent that God gives us parents, if you feel there isn't something right follow that instinct, no matter what anyone says to you. 

#3 Getting help earlier for your child is sooo much better than waiting, the results in the end will be so much greater. As children age their brains are not as easy to change into something different then what they have already learned.

#4 How to find the positive in every situation. Even the horrible situations we go through in life are for a reason, even if we don't understand it right away, and we wouldn't be the people we become without going through the trials we continuously go through in life!

#5 I have learned to pick and choose my battles as a parent a lot more, the ones I do pick, I try to give different ways for them to choose to accomplish what needs done. Because what does it really matter how they get it done as long as it is done, letting kids choose makes them feel more in control.

#6 How to stay calm even when there are many crazy things going on at once. As soon as kids see you don't have things under control they begin to take over :)

#7 How to be an advocate for a special needs child with doctors, therapists, and schools. Also how to make IEP's and all that is involved in that whole process.

#8 How to research things on my own when doctors don't listen to you. How to find help for your children and even how to diagnose your children often even before doctors can :)

We have a long way ahead of us, but we have already come further faster than I could have ever expected, and I wouldn't change it for the world!I hope you have enjoyed my "lesson learned" and have a wonderful week!

Stop by Mama Of Many Blessings some time to see what we are up to!


If you would like to participate in this series (running on Sundays), please email me at hisforhomeschooling {at} gmail {dot} com! 
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lesson Learned- Preschool Powol Packets

I know things have been very quiet here since my Easter posts. I haven't forgotten about all of you! "Mama play choo-choo" is the name of the game right now, and I just haven't had time to sit down and post about the other things we are doing here and there. I hope to be able to post some pictures of Boogie and Bam Bam sometime soon, but I am not pushing myself to make time I don't have. In other news, we are preparing for a trip to visit family in Taiwan, so sometime before we go, I hope to write a great big post with pictures of all the travel activities I have been making/buying/putting aside for the plane. Also, What's on the Tray Wednesday just doesn't seem to be in the cards right now :( I am sorry I haven't gotten around to featuring anyone from the last time. And I am sorry I haven't responded to comments recently. My focus needs to be on other things, and I know all my regular readers understand the tricky balancing act of wife/mother/family member/friend/blogger.

Now that I have said a quick hello, it's time for a new post in the Lesson Learned series!

Carla, from Preschool Powol Packets, is here to share a lesson learned today. The quote she shares is guaranteed to make you stop and think as a parent. Carla hosts Teach me Tuesday, which I really enjoy linking up to, and also has a series called Sharing Saturday, where she features other bloggers. Carla is so friendly and enthusiastic, both in her comments and on her own site, which is full of fabulous ideas that she has created or discovered. Her experiences with her own children and as a former teacher are always shared in a positive and entertaining way. I love reading her blog and am sure you will, too!


Preschool Powol Packets

Hi, everyone!  I'm Carla and I blog about everything related to preschool at Preschool Powol Packets.  I am so honored to be guest posting in the Lesson Learned series!  I think this series is a wonderful idea--sometimes it is easy to see everybody featuring their best work (on blogs and pinterest and everywhere else!) and start to feel like you're the only person who ever struggles.  I love how this series reminds us that we're all doing our best, and we all have things we need to work on!

One lesson that I keep learning (and learning and learning--I must still have some work to do in this area!) is how influential my attitude is to the atmosphere in the home.  It is relevant at School Time and Play Time and Cleaning Time and when we're just hanging out and (hopefully) enjoying our family's company.  The lesson came most recently as the weekend was ending and my bathroom floor wasn't quite finished.  I'd spent most of the weekend replacing the carpet in the bathroom with tiles.  I really wanted it done before the new week began, and our friends came over (I have a small in-home daycare).  I was very conflicted--I wanted to spend the weekend playing with my husband and kids, but I also wanted to finish the bathroom.  I chose family, but I found myself not really contributing to a happy, fun environment.  I kept getting annoyed at little things, and I realized that I hadn't said anything positive or even really laughed in hours!  When I could tell that my husband was starting to be careful not to say things that would upset me, I knew I needed some "time out!"  That's not how our family time should be! 

I left the room and took some deep breaths.  I thought about what was bothering me (because it certainly wasn't my family!) and realized it was stress about the bathroom.  I thought about the quote on the scroll [see picture below] and this post!  I made a deliberate decision to stop worrying about the floor and just enjoy my family.  I felt a bit bad that I had been so cranky all afternoon, but now it was time to enjoy the evening.

We had a wonderful dinner and fabulous evening.  After bed-time, I let my 5-year old stay up late with me while I finished the bathroom.  It was a great experience for both of us!  

And the lesson was such a timely reminder.  I fell in love with this quote (the one on the scroll) from Haim Ginott when I was a teacher.  Now that I'm a mother, I think it is even more important.  I changed a few words so it is more applicable to parents, but the meaning is the same.  I strongly believe that most of our children's behavior issues can resolved, managed, and improved when we, the parent, are in the right frame of mind.  It's amazing how happy my kids are when I'm having a good day and how "difficult" they are when I'm tired or stressed.  I am constantly working on maintaining a positive atmosphere at home despite any stressers that I may be dealing with!  This may be a lesson that takes me many years to really learn! 

Many thanks to Sierra for having me over!  I would love to meet the rest of you at Preschool Powol Packets--feel free to stop by!


If you would like to participate in this series (running on Sundays), please email me at hisforhomeschooling {at} gmail {dot} com!
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Missing my Daddy

Today is three years since my Daddy died in a car accident. I was 4 months pregnant with Boogie at the time. It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life. I would never wish that kind of pain on anyone. God pulled me through the darkest part, but mourning is a long process. Maybe it never really ends. But today, instead of dwelling on the bad times or that terrible night, I want to share three of my Daddy's favorite things with you.

1- Football. Really, he loved all sports, I think, but football held a special place in his heart. And so my brothers and I are fierce football fans. We all cheer for the Giants because that was his team, and we were raised with "Let's go, Giants, let's go!" echoing in our heads during the football season.

2- Twizzlers. I craved Twizzlers like crazy throughout my pregnancy with Boogie after my Daddy died. It has kind of become a comfort food for my brothers and I. Even if there was no other junk food in his house when we went to visit him, I knew he had Twizzlers stashed someplace. There is actually a picture of me as a baby chomping on a Twizzler in my high chair. I made sure to introduce them to Boogie young, too. I have a picture of Boogie and I sharing a Twizzler when he was around a year old.

3- Billy Joel. I cannot tell you how many memories I have of driving with my Daddy with Billy Joel cranked up and blaring out the sunroof of his current sports car. "River of Dreams" was our summer soundtrack one year when I was young, and each day when we drove to a museum or aquarium or amusement park, he would sing along at the top of his lungs. He might not have always been on tune, but he sang with joy.

I hope my boys will love football, Twizzlers, and Billy Joel, too, and I look forward to sharing many more fun memories of their grandpa with them as they are growing up.
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Water Play

The title doesn't quite capture the fun, but "Food coloring, plastic Easter eggs, silicone muffin cups, a rubber rabbit and water" seemed a bit lengthy!

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Feel free to pin the photo above but please DO NOT pin photos of my children. Thank you!

I had a dishwasher full of semi-clean dishes (don't even get me started on my pathetic dishwasher) and a sink incredibly full of dirty dishes, so it was time to break out some water fun! I gathered a few Easter-y materials, and gave most to Boogie and a couple to Bam Bam in his high chair. I put out a big blanket by the sink, put the boys on it, and let them get busy so I could get busy, too.

Boogie loved dumping out the colored water and watching the tub change colors. I put a little bit of food coloring in some water for Bam Bam so he would see that there was something on his tray, and as you can see, he LOVED it! This was the first time he has played with water outside of his bath and it was a hit! Boogie enjoyed playing with his own water and "helping" his brother, too. Once Bam Bam realized he could splash and spread the water around, he and my kitchen floor both got a pretty thorough cleaning.

This was great sensory play for both boys. Bam Bam really enjoyed the texture of the silicone muffin cups. Boogie gave the rabbit a bath, told me it was poopy, then ran to get a towel and his bulldozer. Not sure how the bulldozer fit in, but it pretty much always does.

I got my dishwasher unloaded and most of my dishes clean while they played happily at my feet. Success :)

On a side note, I have been having a really rough few weeks, but today, on Good Friday, a song lyric has been running through my head: "It may seem like Friday night, but Sunday's on the way." This too shall pass. Hope everyone has a blessed Easter weekend!

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter Tot Trays

It's been awhile since I posted new trays. For the month of April, we have some new Easter-themed ones out and I think they turned out to be pretty cute.

This first tray is all about color matching. I reused some of the yogurt cups from our Dr. Seuss trays, and made more for the colors we didn't already have. I shredded paper to make the yogurt cups look more like nests, but you could also attach matching pipe cleaners to the top and make them look like Easter baskets instead. I hot glued googly eyes and felt triangles to make pom poms look like baby birds. So, there are 4 different items Boogie can color match- cups, paper, eggs and birds. There is also the open and close component with the eggs. We can do some pretend play. Boogie will probably do some dumping of paper, birds, and/or eggs. And we can count up to 6.

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I found these hopping rabbits at Target, I am pretty sure. I reused the yogurt cups from our frog trays so Boogie can color sort. We can also count by color or total. And use fine motor skills to make the rabbits hop either around the room or into the cups. 

These cute little rabbits are from a "jacks" game from a dollar store. Boogie will use the spoon to practice his fine motor skills and scoop them into the openings. Some of the rabbits have blue tummies and some don't, so he could make a pattern or sort them. We can count them by total or by tummy color.

There were 50 erasers for $1 at Target! Score! Boogie can use the tweezers (fine motor skills) to sort them. We can count them by total or type as well. We can identify what they are and talk about the relationships (rabbits eat carrots. Ducks hatch from eggs). We can also talk about colors.

The hungry bunny game that I posted about last week is on one of Boogie's trays.

And we are re-using some old play dough with our Easter cookie cutters.

Besides our trays, we are celebrating Easter with DIY Resurrection Eggs and activities, an Easter sensory bin with DIY nesting eggs and Boogie also enjoyed a bunny muffin tin meal

Linking up to these great parties!

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Bunny Muffin Tin Meal

We are a day late this week with having our muffin tin meal because we had a super fun playdate yesterday with a friend I have had since first grade and her 7 month old daughter. Boogie wanted to snuggle her the whole time and she and Bam Bam were climbing all over each other. It was adorable!

This week, I thought about our meal more, and decided to do a bunny theme. This also includes carrots, of course :)

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I picked out the skinniest carrots from the bag for Boogie to munch on. He did eat two whole ones, actually, so that was good.

I used one of our 101 Wilton cookie cutter to shape a slice of wheat bread into a cute little bunny. I made it pink with strawberry cream cheese. Boogie took 3 small bites because I bribed him with what's in the next cup.

I used spinach "veggie french fries" as Boogie calls them for grass and put two little marshmallow bunnies in the little spinach-y field. Boogie loved making them hide and hop out. He finished everything in this cup, then got an extra bunny for eating an extra bite of the cream cheese bunny.

I found bunny and carrot macaroni and cheese, which Boogie was thrilled about and ate all of it. He will have some for lunch over the next couple days.

I made these carrot cake cupcakes and they really did turn out incredibly fluffy and delicious. I only had baby carrots and it took about a billion to get 3 cups shredded, but my fingers survived. I used my own cream cheese icing recipe to make the orange and green frosting for the carrot on top. We are trying to not over-sugar Boogie, but I thought it needed a carrot.  Boogie licked all the icing off first, then finished the muffin.

I also found assorted bunny crackers (honey, chocolate chip, and chocolate) that Boogie has been snacking on for the past couple days. He finished this cup, too.

Where did I find all these wonderful bunny shaped treats?

The crackers and macaroni came from Target. The marshmallows were at Shop Rite, but you can probably find them anywhere. Annie's also has organic fruit snacks that are shaped like rabbits, or cheddar crackers if you want a healthier option than the sweet ones.

Besides our muffin tin meal, we are celebrating Easter with DIY Resurrection Eggs and activities, a hungry bunny game on our Easter trays, and an Easter sensory bin with DIY nesting eggs

Linking up to these great parties!
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Easter Sensory Bin

Since it is already April, here is our newest sensory bin!

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I went for rabbits, pastels, and springtime this month. I was going to do Easter grass for the base, but after using it for a couple other things recently, I decided against it. Rice is easier to clean up, in my opinion. Static drives me crazy. Here's a better look at what's inside the bin.

*base- dyed green rice for dumping, pouring and scooping
* wooden eggs spelling out Easter for identifying colors and letters and stacking (Target $2.50)
* tin container for dumping, pouring and scooping (Target $1)
* rabbit finger puppet for pretend play (came with a book we got as a gift)
* silicone muffin cups for scooping, dumping, pouring and pretend play (Michaels, assortment)
* pinwheel for a science kind of aspect (Target $2.50)
* wind up rabbit for pretend play (Walmart $1)
* rubber duck hatching from an Easter egg for pretend play(Target, 2 pack $1)
* rubber rabbit for pretend play (Walmart, 2 pack $1)
* squishy rabbit ball for pretend play and throwing (Target $1)
* feathers for counting (Michaels, assortment)
* plastic nesting eggs for opening and closing, scooping, dumping, pouring, and color matching
* plastic bunny egg for opening and closing, scooping, dumping, and pouring (Walmart .50)
* large pastel pom poms for sorting and counting (Michaels, assortment)

This bin appeals to Boogie's sense of sight, touch, and sound.

There are a variety of textures to explore through his sense of touch- lots of plastic, a food item (rice), soft things (pom poms, finger puppet), rubber (rabbit and duck), metal (tin container), some natural items (wood letter eggs and feathers), silicone (muffin cups), and the weird squishy rabbit that I don't know what it is made out of.

You can see Boogie's other sensory bins on my sensory bin page.

We are also celebrating Easter with DIY Resurrection eggs and activities, and a hungry bunny game on our Easter trays. Boogie also enjoyed a bunny muffin tin meal.

Linking up to these great parties!
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