Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch: A Dude Ranch Experience for All Ages!

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and the Dude Ranchers Association are sponsoring this trip so that I can share my adventures with you. All opinions are 100% honest and my own. 

Howdy y'all! I might be from Kansas, but I assure you I don't normally talk like this. I just can't contain my excitement about a travel opportunity that I've been quietly looking forward to for weeks. Tomorrow 4 other bloggers and I are heading to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. For 5 days we will get to enjoy the beautiful scenery in Jasper, Arkansas and participate in all sorts of adventures including horseback riding, rock climbing, and a zip line. It's been years since I've been on a horse and I'm not exactly a sportsy country girl, but I'm excited to get out of my comfort zone.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a part of The Dude Ranchers Association. While most of the Dude Ranchers Association Members are in the western part of the US, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is only a four and a half hour drive from Kansas City making it a perfect family summer destination for us. However this trip is all for the girls, the kids are staying at home. Grace (my 4 year old) doesn't know what I'm going to do on this trip because if she knew I'm going to be riding horses she would be extremely jealous!

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is not a theme park version of ranch hospitality, it is a true dude ranch experience for all ages. I'm looking forward to relaxing in the cabin next to the fireplace and all the reviews I've read say the food is amazing! As a blogger, it's hard for me to unplug but I'm really hoping to unwind and enjoy the experience as much as possible. The staff work hard to make you feel at home and I'm guessing we will have a hard time leaving and getting back to normal life.

Follow along with our trip on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages with the hashtag #HorseshoeCanyonRanch and like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grace's Last Day of Preschool + Free Printable Teacher Gift Bookmark

After an exciting year full of huge developments for Grace, her last day of preschool was last week. I cannot even begin to explain how much she has matured in the last year and what a difference preschool has made. Even her ballet teacher mentioned to me the other day how much she has come out of her shell and how her confidence has grown. She went from barely talking at all to talking non stop and she has so many little friends that she loves playing with. She grew extremely attached to her teacher and there were tears shed when I went to pick her up on the last day. I'm not sure she completely understands that she won't be seeing her classmates or teachers all summer. She told me after we left that she wants to go to preschool forever.

Her teacher and the other staff at her preschool go above and beyond for the kids in my opinion so I really wanted to make a nice gift for an end of the year thank you. However our budget is tight right now so I didn't have a lot to spend. I got creative with Photoshop and with the help of Pinterest came up with the idea of a bookmark and notebook for the director, secretary, and her speech pathologist. I found these adorable notebooks in the $1 section at Target and printed the bookmarks out on card stock and then laminated them.
Preschool Teacher Gift Free Printable

I've included a free printable for you to use for your child's teachers. Click on the image to download a PDF. These designs are for personal use only. All designs are copyright of Moments That Take My Breath Away. Any use for commercial purposes is a copyright infringement.
Teacher Bookmark Free Printable

I wanted to do something special for her main teacher, her beloved Miss Diane, so I played with my sewing machine and serger to create this boxy bag.  I used this tutorial I found on YouTube and it was super simple. Grace picked both fabrics and was so excited to give it to her teacher. I included one of the bookmarks, a gift card to Barnes & Noble and a handmade card from Grace.

Grace will be counting down the days until school starts again!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fine Art and Classical Music for Preschoolers with Little Einsteins on Netflix! #StreamTeam

Disclosure: As part of the Netflix Stream Team, I received a welcome gift and a free monthly subscription. However, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.  

Just like most moms, I worry about my kids watching too much TV. I rely on it during my blogging and workout times, and let's face it, sometimes turning on a movie gives me a much needed break. So instead of worrying about it, I've decided to focus on picking quality programs that they can learn something from instead of just mindless entertainment (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about moms, Caillou ::cough cough::). Last week I did a happy dance when I discovered that Netflix has added Disney Junior's Little Einsteins into their kids section. Since we don't have cable, my kids haven't had the chance to watch it before and it has quickly become a favorite for both of them.

Little Einsteins focuses on a group of kids that travel with Rocket on adventures based on a piece of art. Artists from Da Vinci to Andy Warhol are featured and kids learn about art forms from different cultures. Each episode also features the music of the day which highlights a famous composer's work. It is an excellent way to expose preschoolers to fine art and classical music!

Grace is obsessed with arts and crafts so I thought her love of Little Einsteins would be a perfect way to introduce her to one of my favorite artists, Claude Monet. In season 2, Monet's Water Lilies paintings are featured in the "Melody the Music Pet" episode. We watched the episode and then recreated Monet's Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies. It is one of my absolute favorite paintings. Check out the original at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website, I've been lucky enough to see it person and it's gorgeous!
Art for Preschoolers

I used large Crayola finger paint paper and created a bridge using painters tape. I cut the tape in half to make thinner lines. Next time I would probably try masking tape because when I tried removing the tape it tore the paper in places.
I debated between using finger paint and water colors but finally decided on a combination of both. I gave them each a foam brush and blue and green watercolors. I showed them the original painting and we talked about the location of the trees and water to give them an idea of what to paint. Connor of course didn't care about any of this and just slopped paint on the paper but Grace carefully combined her blue and greens to create the water and trees.

After the watercolors had dried, I gave Grace a circle foam brush and red finger paint to create her flowers.

After all of the paint dried, I removed the tape to reveal the bridge. Like I said, it tore the paper a little bit but I used a glue stick and was able to repair most of the damage. Grace was so proud of her finished artwork!
I'm excited to pick our next artist's work to recreate and Grace is already begging to paint again. Little Einsteins certainly gives me a ton of artists to choose from.

Check out what else is new on Netflix this month for kids and families:
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Puss in Boots
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What are you watching on Netflix this month? 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Connor's Sensitive Side & Happy Place

Connor is smack dab in the middle of the terrible twos and honestly, most days with him are hard. He can understand everything we say but he's testing his limits over and over. He's a runner and a joker so by the time Mike gets home, my nerves are often shot. Every now and then I catch glimpses of how he will be in the future. Last week after preschool drop off, he and I went to Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A and the library with no tantrums. He stayed with me and didn't even throw a fit leaving the play area at Chick-Fil-A. I was so excited and proud of him but of course the next day he threw fits the entire time during a trip to Target. It's like parenting Jekyll and Hyde (I'm rereading a post I wrote about Grace at this age and it's very similar to what I'm dealing with now!)

When my parents were in town recently, he was an angel while Grace was at preschool and he got his grandma and papa all to himself. He surprised us by grabbing one of Grace's baby dolls and asking to taking care of it. He gave her a bottle, got a diaper for her and cuddled her all without being instructed to. He has been carrying this baby around ever since and sleeps with her every night.

He fell asleep holding the baby's hand at nap time the other day. How cute is this??

We were at Chick-Fil-A this morning and he was obsessed with all the babies and waved at all of them multiple times. It's so sweet to see my normally rough and tough boy show his sensitive side.

While my parents were here, we loaded him up into the car for a trip to one of my dad's favorite places, Bass Pro. It is definitely Connor's happy place. He was in heaven for hours!

He climbed on every single ATV and boat that he could. We took him there thinking he would like the fish but he barely glanced at them. He ran right back to the line of vehicles and sat on each one.

He made papa sit in the vehicles with him while he happily pretended to drive.

It was quite a scene when we finally had to drag him out of the store. I know that 2 is a hard age and it is a short phase in the scheme of things, but I'm ready for it to be done. And please don't tell me 3 is harder than 2! 3 was a breeze for Grace compared to 2 so I'm praying that the's case with Connor.

What has been the hardest age for your kids? 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How To Train Your Dragon: Toothless Hooded Towel

Disclosure: As part of the Netflix Stream Team, I received a welcome gift and a free monthly subscription. However, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.  

One of my favorite emails each month is my Netflix #StreamTeam email telling me what's going to be new on Netflix for the upcoming month. Is that lame? I don't really care. We watch a lot of Netflix in our house! In my email last month, I spotted this and got super excited:  

NEW ON NETFLIX for kids and families

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1. Monster High: Haunted (3/10)
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (3/11)
3. Inspector Gadget (3/27)
4. SUPER 4 (4/10)

Do you see it? Yes, that's How To Train Your Dragon 2! The kids and I both loved the first How to Train Your Dragon movie and frequently watch the Dragon shorts that are available on Netflix. Mike and I went to see the second movie during our anniversary weekend away last summer and absolutely loved it. The kids hadn't seen it yet so last week we had a family movie night to watch it. They enjoyed seeing all of their favorite characters in new exciting adventures. If you have young kids or a sensitive older one, please be aware that this film features a death scene of a main character and then highlights a viking funeral. A friend of mine said she isn't sure she was going to show it to her kids yet because she didn't want them thinking they needed to put anything that dies on a boat and then shoot it with flaming arrows! Please watch these scenes before to determine if they are appropriate for your kiddos.

If your kids are wanting more dragon adventure, Netflix has a fun new series just for them! On June 26th, Netflix is releasing an all new action packed Dragons series called DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge. Available only on Netflix, this series will feature Hiccup and Toothless in their quest to explore strange new worlds, seek out never-before-seen dragons and end the war between Vikings and dragons once and for all. Check out the teaser now:

Connor is especially obsessed with dragons right now and to celebrate all of the fun How to Train Your Dragon fun on Netflix, I decided to make him a Toothless Hooded Towel.
How To Train Your Dragon Hooded Towel

I used a tutorial found here to create the towel but used my embroidery machine to create his eyes. Check out the tutorial for detailed instructions but here is an overview of the steps:

1 black body towel
1 black hand towel
Green fabric or felt for the eyes
Black thread

1. Cut the hand towel in half. Save the other portion for the ears and horns.

2. Fold the finished end of the towel over 3-4 inches and sew in place.

3. Cut eye shapes from the felt and applique using you sewing machine's zig zag stitch or use an embroidery machine. I used this dragon eye design with my embroidery machine.

4. Using the other half of hand towel, create ears and horns. Follow the Crazy Little Projects tutorial for creating and attaching them.

5. Sew the back of the head together to create the hood.

6. Sew the hood to the towel.

7. Try to convince your two year old to take it off!

He has decided he needs to wear it everywhere and won't let Grace try it on. Now I want to try to make a Stormfly one for her. I hope your family enjoys all of the great How to Train Your Dragon offerings on Netflix this summer!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grace's Spring Preschool Program

Grace is about to finish her first year at preschool and I'm so amazed by how much she's learned and changed in the past 9 months. My shy girl who didn't have much interest in talking a year ago now talks our ears off and tells us all about her friends at school. It's been an amazing transformation and I am so proud of her.

When we went for her Christmas program this past winter I fully expected her to shut down and refuse to participate when she went on stage. At previous ballet watch weeks she would have a meltdown when in front of an audience so I was pleasantly surprised when she happily sang and danced along with her class. She was so proud of herself and couldn't wait to do it again. She got her chance again on Tuesday night at their spring program. The kids had full control over what they wanted to wear and of course if you give Grace an option, she will pick the fanciest dress in her closet. She was thrilled when she got to wear her Easter dress (the pinkest, frilliest, sparkliest dress she could find when Grandma offered to get her one). She stood by her best friend in her class and sang her little heart out. Her classes main song was called "I took a bath in a washing machine". It was so cute and the teachers even added bubbles to make it more fun.

My parents were able to come into town to watch and she was so excited to see everyone that came to see her perform. She is already asking when she gets to do it again and isn't happy when I tell her she'll have to wait until the fall. She keeps saying "two more weeks? Or three? Let's do it again!" With a January birthday she has one more year of preschool and I can't imagine how much more she's going to learn in that amount of time.

She only has a few more weeks of school and she's going to be upset when it's over. She loves her teacher so much and she thrives on the constant activity that preschool provides. With Connor, housework and all the other various things going on around here, it's hard to keep her from getting bored. For that, and many other reasons, I am NOT looking forward to summer. When the kids are together constantly they drive each other crazy. When they have just a few hours break from each other, it's like they're long lost friends and they play happily the rest of the day. They fought with each other the entire time during spring break so summer should be.....interesting. Any experienced moms have any great advice about keeping them from killing each other this summer? I plan to keep them as active as possible but I can tell already it's going to be a long few months! 


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