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Transform a Dated End Table With Rustoleum’s Chalked Paint.

September 17, 2018
 
 
 
Chalk Paint DIY 2
 
If you follow me on Instagram, you know about the saga of the French table last week. In a nutshell, I had a few spare hours on my end and decided to knock out a little tiny DIY project as a sort of warm-up for all of the things I want to paint this fall.
 
The table had nice bones – solid wood, dove-tailed drawers, pretty French curvy legs, but the stain color was SO 90’s and it just looked boring and dated.
 
Chalk Paint DIY 11
 
A while back, I tried Rustoleum’s Chalked paint on a a larger piece, but I didn’t prep correctly and the end result was a little bit of a mess. I still lived with it for a while before selling it on our local flipped furniture Facebook page, but I got annoyed every time I walked by it. I wasn’t sure if it was the piece, the paint, or just my poor prepping, so I decided to give Rustoleum’s Chalked one more shot.
 
I laid a paint sheet down in the garage and cleaned the entire piece, inside and out, with warm water and dish soap (just a few drops!). I dried it thoroughly with a microfiber cloth to remove any residual dust. A quick reminder: when you are painting with latex paint, you’re painting with a water-based product, so any remaining water droplets aren’t necessarily problematic, although you want the piece mostly dry. 
 
Chalk Paint DIY 10
 
Rustoleum’s Chalked, like other chalk paints, doesn’t require sanding, so I took the directions’ word for it and started painting. (YELLOW LIGHT: I later wished I had primed. Keep reading to find out why.) The paint went on smoothly and easily. I loved working with it. The piece of furniture was pretty simple without a lot of complex edges or corners so the work went quickly.
 
I like chalk paint, but I did NOT want a shabby chic look – I wanted as smooth a look as possible. By painting with a sort of swooshy “w” or “x” pattern, I was able to prevent too much texture from showing up. I also slopped down a LOT more paint than it looked like I needed, and then sort of just pushed it around. This worked well for the look I wanted. Don’t skimp on chalk paint especially if you want to get a smooth texture. My favorite paintbrush to use is this Wooster short brush. I have washed and reused all of my Wooster brushes repeatedly and they continue to work well!
 
Back to the project – the paint dried extremely quickly, although like other chalk paints, it looked very messy.
 
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Chalk Paint DIY 8
 
After the first coat had dried, I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand the texture down. The texture felt amazing – so silky and soft! I added another coat – by this time the humidity was getting the best of me so I turned on a fan to speed things up.
 
While the paint was drying, I cleaned the hardware off with soap and water, dried it, and sprayed them quickly with gold spray paint. Admittedly, there is probably a more thorough way to do this – I should have probably cleaned them more carefully and primed them, but they came out gold and gorgeous. The drawer doesn’t get a ton of use anyway, so the wear on the handles will probably be just fine.
 
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Chalk Paint DIY 4
 
Once the second coat was dry, I sanded the table down yet again. The texture was absolute perfection and I was so so happy with the paint overall.
 
HERE’S WHEN DISASTER STRUCK.
 
I think this is exactly what went wrong with the last piece also, but I’m a slow learner. I used Minwax Polycrylic in a clear matte, which many DIY bloggers swear by. BUT. The problem with the polycrylic is if you don’t have a stain-blocking primer underneath the chalk paint, the polycrylic can actually pull the stain through the chalk paint. It creates this weird streaky look and it is definitely not cute. 
 
Chalk Paint DIY 5
 
Mere minutes after I applied the polycrylic, I saw orange streaks appearing all over my perfectly white table. This had happened before and I knew exactly what was going on – slow learner that I was, I completely forgot that the stain had bled through on the last piece after the polycrylic application. I decided to wait overnight to let everything dry and settle out before trying to fix anything.
 
The next day, the damage was complete – the table didn’t look horrible, but there were large orange streaks over 3 of the sides and the top. I knew the table would just annoy me if I didn’t take the time to fix the issue and paint it correctly and I was determined to figure out how to make the paint, which I was in love with by now, work for me. 
 
So I took some more 220 grit sandpaper and sanded the entire thing again. It only took a few minutes and the orange streaks mostly disappeared with the sanding. Then I applied a coat of Zinsser primer (I had a different kind of Zinsser primer already opened, so I just used that, but if you don’t already have some open, this is a good option). Wherever there was obvious stain “leakage”, I applied the primer on THICK. Once the primer had dried, the streaks were gone.
 
Chalk Paint DIY 6
 
Finally, I applied another coat of the Chalked. Voila! The table was once again a beautiful white. 
 
I sanded it lightly AGAIN and applied Rustoleum’s Chalked Matte Clear Protective Topcoat (available on Amazon, so I didn’t even have to run out to Home Depot, hooray!).
 
Chalk Paint DIY 3
 
I let the top-coat dry and applied a second layer of topcoat to the top and top edges of the table. AND DONE.
 
I’m thrilled with the texture of the Chalked line and the Linen White color and mostly, I’m thrilled that I transformed a dated table in just a few hours into a lovely piece we can treasure for years without spending a lot of money.
 
Chalk Paint DIY 1
 
Ready to transform a piece? Do this project yourself. You will need the following supplies:

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Friday Links

Picky Eaters, Tiny Cribs, and Other Links.

August 18, 2018
Blueberry Picking in Michigan 2
 
Blueberry Picking in Michigan 1
 
Blueberry Picking in Michigan 3
 
How was your week? My little ones are enjoying the freedom of being out in the middle of nowhere – yesterday we went blueberry picking! The last time we went was when Miles was just barely 2, so the experience was completely different. Miles and Violet both loved it and spent lots of time stuffing their cheeks with the perfect berries.
 

6 Quick Reads

1.If you have a little boy that’s a fireball of energy, or even one that’s not, this 4-minute video is well-worth your time. (I also love his parenting book.)

2. Here are some tips on encouraging picky eaters from Food 52.

3. Gretchen Rubin talks about how to get more reading done. 

4. I’ve gotten some questions about our crib, which has made a guest appearance in my Insta-stories and ‘grams. It’s this one. I might do an entire post on it soon because do I EVER feel passionately about this $100 crib, but I’ll just leave it at this: if you’re in the market for a small, movable crib that will just get the job done for the next 18 months and not take over your life or a room, get this one.

5. Ideas for memorializing milestone projects and “stuff” from school this year for your child without ending up with piles of paper. 

6. The end of summer is a great time to deep clean your refrigerator. 

On the Blog

How to make new friends and great memories this fall. 

On rituals

Do you get my newsletter? I’m trying something new and, in addition to these links, including a fun little list of – in the old-selfie-day form! – of what I’m reading, listening to, watching, and eating this week, plus a few other fun tidbits that I don’t normally share here. If you are craving some more yummy inspiration,  sign up here.   

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Friday Links

Links: A Meal for Your Weekend Plus Some Others

August 11, 2018
Reading Children Links The Orange Slate5
Reading Children Links The Orange Slate1
Reading Children Links The Orange Slate4
Reading Children Links The Orange Slate3
 
August is always still summer for me. My birthday falls at the end of August and I grew up as one of those lucky “summer birthday” kids. We never started the next school year until September, post-Labor-Day, post-my-birthday, so it makes me a little sad that this really isn’t the case any more for so many kids who are starting school over the next couple of weeks. 
 
We are in the middle of our family’s summer vacation, so summer definitely isn’t over for us (and if you want to see what we’re up to this week, check out my Instagram!). 
    
Whether this weekend is your last weekend of summer or not, be sure to check out these six quick reads. 
 

6 Quick Reads

1.The rights of readers –this piece made me laugh. And smile. And I have to wonder – I ALWAYS have multiple (piles of!) books going at a time, but are you a one-book-at-a-time person? 

2. This post about ethical clothes shopping is WONDERFUL. Read it. And then do something besides shop this weekend. 

3. Miles is only preschool-age and Violet is barely even that, but we live in an area where I’ve had to come up with answers regularly for (intrusive?) questions about where he goes to school, why he’s not in school, how long he will be home with me, etc. For the time being, Miles and Violet and Nolan are home. I’m working on a post about this (subscribe using the link below if you’re curious about this so that you are alerted once I hit publish on that overly-wordy baby). Mostly, this is just what is currently working and best for us and them. BUT because this plan is different than what the majority of other people around us have chosen for their little ones we get lots and lots and lots of questions (WHY SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT A 4-YEAR-OLD’S EDUCATION PLAN?) and this post made me laugh.  

4. To make this weekend for dinner.

5. A few podcasts to add to your roster. 

Reading Children Links The Orange Slate2

 

On the Blog

Some simple tips for capturing better pictures of your children using only your phone.

Do you get my blog updates? Sign up here. Know a friend that would enjoy these links? Forward this note along!

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Photography

Capture Blog-Worthy iPhone Photos of Your Children: 12 Tips

July 12, 2018
iPhone photography tips kids
 
 Take Blogworthy Photos 1    
Most of us snap many many photos of our little ones each week from our phones and our cameras. The ease of capturing a moment digitally is tantalizing – and a little deceptive. Just because we can snap a photo doesn’t mean that it’s going to capture the emotions or action or story of the moment – or that the photo is going to be any good.
 
Social media makes the disappointment of bad pictures all the more acute. We’re all bombarded by those GORGEOUS perfect professional images of blogger-children (is that a thing?) and our snaps of our family look mediocre by comparison. It’s frustrating at best. 
 
I could kick myself for some of the sloppy captures I’ve taken over the years – failing to pay attention to light or simply HOLDING THE CAMERA STEADY would have saved many precious pictures that I snapped during a sweet moment but that are blurry or poorly lit. Poor Miles is especially victim to this – an old iPhone, a beige apartment that boasted terrible lighting and a generous three windows (one per room) . . . some of his sweetest moments as a newborn are memorialized by photos that are less than ideal. 
 
The good news? You can fix this! Now! Today! You don’t need fancy equipment (although good equipment helps) or expensive software. Just a few basic steps can save 99% of parents’ everyday shots from the blurry/sloppy/orange-y/cheesy/not-what-I-was-trying-to-capture pile. 
 
Ready to take better pictures of your children? Ready to trade out blurry disappointing pictures for clearer, sharper pictures that captured the emotion you felt when you took the shot?
 
1.Clean your lens.
 
This is the first thing I check on my camera and my phone and the first thing I suggest when someone is frustrated with their shots. This is especially an issue because our cell phones get DIRTY – the dust and grease and makeup that they pickup while we carry them around doesn’t disappear when we reach for them to take a picture.
 
At least once a week, clean the lens on your phone with a mild cleaner and a lint-free cloth. Then establish the habit of briefly checking your lens before you snap a shot to eliminate any really obvious smudges. A tip-off? If what you see through the camera lens when you’re preparing to take the shot is effected by weird lighting or a glow or blurrier than what you actually see with your eyes, then your lens is probably dirty. 
 
2. Hold the phone steady.
 
Every shot may not give you time to set up a tripod, but at lease focus on your subject, hold the phone steady with both hands, and hold your body still. If you try to snap a shot with one hand while talking or looking at someone else, the shot is guaranteed to be blurry. Furthermore, SLOW DOWN. Take your time to take a deep breath, tap the “focus” spot on the screen and hold it while you’re snapping the shot. Take a few just in case. These simple steps will eliminate the majority of blur in your shots.
 
3. Check the lighting.
 
This is another basic step – you don’t have to be a professional to check this one! Take photos in natural light (near windows and in well-lit rooms) whenever possible. Take photos with the light source (window, sun, etc.) *behind* you or to the side. Although it’s not always possible to move little ones around when the cute moment comes, it helps to be aware of which rooms in your house have the best lighting and where to stand in order to ensure that your subjects are well-lit. Simple taking some time to observe your home and the lighting as it changes during the day can help you be aware when the right moment and the lighting line up.
 
When taking photos outdoors, try to avoid those times of day when the sun is directly overhead. If the light is very bright and severe, try to take your pictures in a partially shaded area like a porch or under a tree. Cloudy days will give you your best yard pictures, so if your children love playing with a particular toy and you are trying to get the best shot, catch them on a day with some clouds rather than on a clear sunny day.
 
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4. Pay attention to clothing. 
 
Again, this is not something that you can always fix in the moment, but it helps to be aware of how the clothing in the picture is affecting the overall shot. Most of my children’s clothing is fairly simple – bright bold classic or whimsical patterns and neutral shades make up most of their wardrobe. Most of the clothes mix and match pretty easily and and I try to buy things that generally coordinate (for basic children’s pieces that are sturdy, ethically made, and have that classic look, I love Primary.com). Miles and Violet don’t really own clothes with characters or distracting colors or patterns. So when we take pictures, their clothes often work well together or at least don’t distract from the action.
 
Again, though, curating a child’s entire wardrobe just for pictures is sort of beside the point. If children’s clothes clash or are super busy in a photo, just be aware of it. Try to pick an angle that plays down the distracting element, or use a black-and-white filter or one that fades the saturation a bit to play down the distracting element. If you know ahead of time you’ll be in a setting or situation where you’ll be taking a lot of pictures, try to choose clothes or encourage your children to choose clothes that coordinate a bit. 
 
5. Roll with the mood.
 
If you want pictures that show happy children, try to take the photos when your kiddos actually are happy and in a good mood. When moods around here are foul, Miles and Violet do NOT like to cooperate for pictures and trying to force it just frustrates everyone.  If you’re trying to capture some funny grouchy shots for posterity, at least be aware that your grumpy child is probably just going to get grumpier with your camera in his face. Take the pictures without them knowing if possible or at least take them quickly and move on to connecting with the child.
 
In our house, memory-making and keeping is something we like to do together as a fun family activity and way to connect – if everyone isn’t having a good time, I don’t like to force it. I don’t want my children to grow up hating cameras because I made them sit for too long trying to get the perfect shot. 
 
Ideally, I love to capture my kids while they are independently engaged and *don’t* know that I’m taking pictures. I know some prefer a shot of little ones smiling perfectly at the camera, but the pictures that evoke some of the best memories for me are the ones of my little ones playing or laughing and being themselves. 
 
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6. Focus on the story you want to tell.
 
Have an idea in advance of your shot what story you’re trying to capture. Is it the child’s activity? The mood? The relationship portrayed in the picture? This will help direct your focus. Having a clear sense of story will give your picture a better focus than just snapping pictures at random – furthermore, taking a second to think about your focus will force you to slow down and encourage you to HOLD STILL (See Step #2) and take the time to take a good shot. 
 
7. Look for simple backdrops.
 
When possible, take pictures against simple backdrops. Green space, wide-open areas, the sides of buildings, fences, doors, large walls without a lot of decor – all of these are example of backdrops with great potential. If you have an area around your house that provides a great simple backdrop (a fence, a patio area, the side of a house) use it often! 
 
Take Blogworthy Photos 5
 
8. Eliminate background clutter.
 
This is sort of a Part B to #7 – the less clutter in the background of a picture, the less distraction in the shot and the clearer the focus on your subjects. When you are taking pictures, especially inside, look at the area behind your subject through the lens. Are there a lot of toys out? Is the room behind them messy or unappealing? Take a few seconds to move the clutter and clean up the space behind the subject. If cleaning up isn’t a possibility due to time or other constraints, try different angles that minimize the background clutter.
 
Take Blogworthy Photos 3
 
9. Tell just one piece of a story.
 
Don’t try to force every piece of the story or room into the frame. Pick a few select pieces to “tell”. Take a picture of little hands playing with a beloved toy; take a closeup of their happy, engaged face; capture a smile shared between siblings. You don’t have to document every single item all at once to effectively tell a story and, in fact, less is often more in this case.
 
10. Use a tripod or remote (or both!).
 
Using a tripod and/or remote can serve two purposes. Tripods and remotes allow you to take a photo without worrying about the camera moving around and creating extra blur. (For an iPhone and Android remote, this one is my FAVORITE. I’m pretty sure it’s nearly indestructible, since mine went through the washer several times without any damage.)
 
Furthermore, these tools will help you take pictures of your kiddos without them noticing – avoiding self-conscious children in photos is GOLD. If they are paying attention to you while the camera sits elsewhere or each other instead of a mama holding a camera in their face, you’ll capture much more candid, natural shots. These tools will also allow you to get into the frame with your little ones and be a part of their memories on the lens-side of the camera. 
 
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11. Keep practicing!
 
The good thing about the digital era of photos? The more the merrier. Photos on a phone are free and you can always delete poor photos – so take lots and lots. Take shots at different times of day, in different settings, with different groupings of people. Refuse to fall prey to that voice that says “Don’t be that mom.” As I’ve said before, DO be that mom with the camera – help your little ones get used to you snapping shots of your everyday and soon they won’t even notice you or your lens. 
 
Practice and take note of what you like and don’t like in your shots. The more you take, the more your shots will improve and the happier you’ll be with your pictures of your little ones. 
 
12. Enjoy the Process.
 
Photography should be fun and LIFE with your little ones should be fun. Don’t be so wrapped in creating and capturing the perfect moment that you miss out on the story in front of you. Spend more time simply absorbing the memory and experience with your little ones and use your phone camera as a tool to help you treasure the real memories you’re making with the real little people and your real, wonderful life. 

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Live creatively,

~Emily~

p.s. If you love social media (it’s ok! I love it too! Sooo much inspiration, right?), you should totally follow me on Instagram or Pinterest. And because I blog to connect, anytime that you have ideas, questions, or just want to connect about food, books, parenting, time management, working from home – WHATEVER,send an email to emily AT theorangeslate DOT com. 

p.p.s. I try post varied content 1-2 times a week; I am in the middle of re-hashing some older parts of this blog and creating subscriber-exclusive printables, guides, and templates, so be sure to sign up and get all the posts and updates, straight in your inbox! 

 

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Friday Links

Happy Weekend!

July 7, 2018

Summer watermelon

 

Saturday family

Watermelon 

How’s your weekend going? We are gently settling into a routine around here.

By the way, thanks for all of the love on social media, via text, via email – Nolan is the sweetest little addition to our family. Isn’t it funny how, once a new little person arrives, it’s like he or she was just always there?

His siblings are in love with him and Mark and I are thrilled that maybe – just maybe – we’ve gotten another reasonably rhythmic sleeper (so far at least!). 

6 Quick Reads

  1. Bringing home a new baby has me reading alll of the motherhood and parenting articles between nursing sessions and nap juggling and this one on the one thing that new mothers really need hit home HARD. It’s really so true – and I’m grateful to be surrounded by friends and family that do give me lots of grace and space in the weeks following a new baby. 

2. This analysis of different mothering styles based on your Meyer-Briggs makeup was interesting.

3. We did a food-coloring/water activity with Miles and Violet yesterday for a little bit to introduce them to color theory and let them play with colored water (which they LOVED). If you want to try a similar activity, these directions are a good start. 

4. One of my favorite Made-in-America and ethically produced clothing companies for children is Primary.com. I have been thrilled with all of the clothing basics we’ve purchased from them – soft, comfy, easy to mix and match. They are having a huge sale right now and on top of that you can get 20% off plus free shipping if you use this link.

5. This week I tried to convince Mark to let me install swings and a rock-climbing wall inside the house. Jury is still out, but wouldn’t this room or this design be awesome??

On the Blog

Did you catch my post about our “happy morning” playlist? If you need a mood-setting playlist for your summer mornings, use this as a starting point!

Do you get my newsletter? I’m trying something new and, in addition to these links, including a fun little list of – in the old-selfie-day form! – of what I’m reading, listening to, watching, and eating this week, plus a few other fun tidbits that I don’t normally share here. If you are craving some more yummy inspiration,  sign up here

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Home

Happy Morning | A Playlist for A Good Day with Little Ones

June 19, 2018

Happy Morning Kid Playlist

Sometimes it’s hard to get the day started off on the right foot, especially as a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom if there is not external driver of the schedule or routine. This can happen especially in summer, when older kids that may not always be home wake up groggy from a late night or when everyone is just dragging.

If you have that kiddo (or several) that have a hard time getting going or wake up whiny or sulky regularly, the morning can be a rough time. Turning around the day quickly is essential, but it can be HARD to get everyone back on track.

One of my tricks for this is our “Happy Morning” playlist. It’s a Spotify playlist of songs I’ve compiled that almost unfailingly get my little ones dancing and singing and put all of us in a better mood within minutes. Yes, I know there’s a lot of Elizabeth Mitchell – her voice and the pace of the music (and the classic folk tunes!) are just perfect for my little ones right now so we listen to A LOT of her music.

Here’s a playlist guaranteed to turn your morning around:

The links direct you to the Amazon downloadable versions, but you can simply follow the playlist on Spotify by clicking the link below as well or following me (emilyamccord). You can also sign up for a free trial of Amazon Music and have unlimited access to all of the songs for free during that time.  

spotify playlist toddlers

 

Want to save this for later? Pin the image below.

Playlist for Happy Toddler Mornings

_____

Live creatively,

~Emily~

p.s. If you love social media (it’s ok! I love it too! Sooo much inspiration, right?), you should totally follow me on Instagram or Pinterest. And because I blog to connect, anytime that you have ideas, questions, or just want to connect about food, books, parenting, time management, working from home – WHATEVER,send an email to emily AT theorangeslate DOT com. 

p.p.s. I try post varied content 1-2 times a week; I am in the middle of re-hashing some older parts of this blog and creating subscriber-exclusive printables, guides, and templates, so be sure to sign up and get all the posts and updates, straight in your inbox! 

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Parenting

28 Outdoor Summer Play-based Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

June 13, 2018
 outdoor playbased toddler activities
 
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Aah, it’s getting HOT! Have you spent the last few weeks clicking around on Pinterest frantically trying to figure out ways to encourage outdoor time and independent play for your toddlers and preschoolers? I know I have. My frustration with some of the “activity lists” that I’ve seen is that the activities often involve a ton of prep time or cost on my part and don’t actually engage the kiddos proportionately. It’s almost as if the more time and effort I put in, the less interested my kiddos are.;-) 
 
But this is our third summer with a real backyard and so I’m starting to learn which activities actually keep my children happily engaged outside for longer than 42 seconds and without a ton of input or effort from me.
 
Here’s what works for us! I’d love to hear of some things that are working for you. I included a list at the end of inexpensive, easy-to-track-down materials that will make backyard time a little richer and easier on you, but really all that you need for most of these can be found in  Dollar Store or is (likely) in your house already. 
 
outdoor playbased toddler activities 3
 
Chalk
 
Chalk is always a winner with my kids, although sometimes it involves remotely more effort than just handing them a box to keep them interested for a substantial period. But drawing on a fence, patio, or outdoor chalkboard (link) is always a good outdoor play option.
 
Road map – take a few minutes and sketch some roads, bridges and water features for them on the patio. They’ll immediately gather up their cars and vehicles and play with the chalk for longer than they would if they were just drawing.
 
Letter or number maze – This is a great idea and while it does require a parents’ presence, you can definitely sit in a lawn chair and shout out letters and numbers while your kiddos bounce around and burn energy. 
 
Tracing – Give your kiddos large objects (a chair, table, ball, baseball bat!) or small objects (hands, feet, each other!) to trace and let them build some fine and gross motor movement.  If you’re really brave, you could just lie their and take a nap while they trace you.;-)
 
Counting activities – the counting activities with chalk are sort of endless, but one that works for us is this: I write all of the numbers from 1-10 and then my kiddos gather up objects that correspond to the numbers. So they might go find one bat, two balls, three sticks, etc. Eventually they forget I’m even there. 
 
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Water
 
Water is hard to beat when it comes to entertaining kids. You can just hand them a hose and normally that will engage them for a while. 
 
Other water-based activities can include
 
– Water gun wars (especially for older, rowdier preschooolers)
 Target practice with water guns (fine motor skills!). This could be a real target (Walmart carries them) or simple a bucket or wagon. 
– Washing toys – cars, kitchen stuff, garden tools, stuffed animals, whatever. Bonus, they are actually cleaning THEIR OWN STUFF. 
– Watering the plants. My kiddos love to help me water the plants with their little buckets and spouts and the plants are happier too!
– Water-transfer – This is a fun game: “Take the water from this large bucket using this smaller bucket and haul it over there to that other bucket.” It’s hilarious how entertaining your kids will think this game is. 
– Washing patio/porch/driveway. Mine love to use their little Melissa and Doug kitchen tools (link) and will spend hours “mopping” the outdoors.
– Sprinkler play. Bathing suits + a sprinkler head attached to a hose. DONE.
– Water slide – if you own a slide (link), a roll of painter’s plastic or a shower curtain can combine with it for HOURS of fun. Just tuck it under or secure it with stakes, turn on the hose, and let the kids GO. Add in the sprinkler and you’ve basically created your own water park. 
 
outdoor playbased toddler activities 7
 
outdoor playbased toddler activities 6
 
Climbing/Balance activities
 
Fence – If you have a fence, let your children climb it. We were awarded with a pretty great one – we got the “undesirable” side, which just means my kids basically have a perpetual ladder/mountain course. If you have a sturdy fence but it’s flat, consider attaching (link) to it to make an actual climbing course. You could also do this with a big piece of plywood (link).
 
Small stones or logs also make great climbing courses for small children.
 
A few stumps easily do the trick.
 
Rope – If you have somewhere safe to attach a rope, scrambling up a rope can provide little ones with others of challenging enjoyment.
 
Patio Furniture – And for the really lazy parent (Hi! That’s me!), a set of table and chairs that children can haul themselves onto can provide a perfectly satisfactory jungle gym.
 
outdoor playbased toddler activities 8
 
Digging/gardening
 
Create a toddler friendly dirt spot in your yard where your kiddos can just DIG to their hearts content.
 
If yours can handle scissors (these are a good option for learning hands), grow lots of herbs and show your little ones how to trim them. (If you’re nervous about giving them scissors, this piece is helpful.) You’d be surprised at how much they enjoy this activity and herbs grow back quickly, so it’s hard to do much damage!
 
My kiddos love picking piles of dandelions from our backyard, but you can also just plant wildflower seeds for a toddler-friendly flower patch where they can pick to their hearts content.
 
outdoor playbased toddler activities 5
 
Other Activities
 
Hunting for bugs (real OR fake!)
 
Bubbles – Hours. Hours and hours and hours of fun. The only investment here is the batteries for those little automatic bubble blowers and the bubbles, unless you make your own.
 
Tent – This can be as simple as a sheet pinned up against a fence or thrown over some furniture. Children love feeling like they’re tucked away in a secret cave.
 
Finger-painting – This is not as messy as it sounds. We have our best painting sessions outside because #Iamaneatfreak. But outside, just strip kiddos down or put on old t-shirts; spread some burlap paper (link) out and let them go to town. I 
 
Riding bikes – needs no explanation, just a bit of supervision. I love that we live in a cul-de-sac that’s relatively quiet, but you can block off a driveway to create a safe, limited course easily.
 
Gathering – stones, sticks, “treasures”, fake bugs, WHATEVER. Younger toddlers will have more success at this with a bit of prompting – make plans to make an art project with whatever they find or give them some kind of goal (“can you find brown sticks and black rocks?”)
 
Most of these activities don’t need any materials that can’t already be found in your house, but below I’ve listed a few items that you can easily add to your toy collection that can help make play-time a bit more creative. Although none of these supplies are particularly expensive, if you sign up for Ebates, you can get them for even less!
 
Materials:

Want to save this for a moment of toddler boredom? Pin this image: 

outdoor summer toddler activities

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Live creatively,

~Emily~

p.s. If you love social media (it’s ok! I love it too! Sooo much inspiration, right?), you should totally follow me on Instagram or Pinterest. And because I blog to connect, anytime that you have ideas, questions, or just want to connect about food, books, parenting, time management, working from home – WHATEVER,send an email to emily AT theorangeslate DOT com. 

p.p.s. I try post varied content 1-2 times a week; I am in the middle of re-hashing some older parts of this blog and creating subscriber-exclusive printables, guides, and templates, so be sure to sign up and get all the posts and updates, straight in your inbox! Sign up now!

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Parenting

Labor and Delivery Hospital Bag: Mama Edition

June 11, 2018
 
 
There are quite literally a million posts on this, but, when it became clear that maybe Baby #3 was coming very soon and I traveled to my closet in a panic to pack, and after having already delivered two babies, I realized that I couldn’t remember for the life of me what I needed to pack in my hospital bag. I spent the next hour googling and texting about this important topic instead of actually packing and so I figured the world clearly needed another post on this all-important topic.
 
So, “essentials”. That’s probably too optimistic – most of this is not truly essential, but it WILL make your life at the hospital a million times more pleasant and less annoying. And that is “essential” in my book since you’ll never sleep again once Baby comes home.
 
Camera. No explanation really needed here. While not all of them are social-media worthy, I am SO glad for every single last picture we have during labor, delivery, and post-delivery. We don’t all need to hire an in-delivery-room photographer but you do not just want iPhone snaps to commemorate this time, trust me. Make sure your battery is charged and that the card is empty or has LOTS of space.
 
Two pairs of comfortable leggings/yoga pants/verrrryyyyy soft loose-fitting workout clothes that still look like clothes so you feel like a real person.
 
3-ish Tanks/Tops. Everyone talks about “nursing tanks” and to be honest, the actual nursing tanks have never been my cup of tea – I want my shirts to be soft and comfortable and these always seem to have lots of random extra layers and be sort of itchy, but you DO want several shirts that are really stretchy and loose-fitting with wide necks. A sort of camisole fit, a loose-fitting workout-style tank, or a “boyfriend” style t-shirt should do the trick. I pack several. 
 
A wrap-sweater or sweatshirt that opens in the front. While you will want something soft and comfortable to fight off that hospital chill, you want a zip-front or wrap style, NOT a pullover. Besides the ease, you’ll probably be hooked up to IVs and monitors and that circus just does not sound fun. 
 
Socks. Several pairs. 
 
Comfortable underwear that you will probably leave in the hospital trash-can, one size up from whatever you normally wear. 
 
Nursing bras – again, the actual titled “nursing bras” have never served me particularly well, save two that I have never been able to find again. BUT my favorite thing to do is to get the softer/stretchier/sized up bralettes or sports bras from the Aerie website. 
 
Personals / cosmetics. I have delivered both of my children with a full face of makeup and have no intention of doing anything differently this time around. If I’m going to be that vulnerable/in pain/uncomfortable, I at least want to feel good about my mascara. Again, no need to get super fancy – just bring your toothbrush, some facewash, makeup remover, and whatever your comfortable-day go-to makeup is. Here are some of my favorite options: Facewash / Makeup remover wipes / Mascara / Lip balm or gloss.
 
Pillow – Rachel texted me about this one and I’m pretty sure we’ve forgotten this every time, but she is SO RIGHT. Those hospital pillows are awful. Bring one for Mama and one for Dad. Mostly one for Dad.
 
Dry Shampoo / texture spray / hairbrush – Again, everyone is different, but I like to look remotely presentable. I also HATE using the hospital showers so I definitely leave the hair-washing process for home. Snag some good dry shampoo and your favorite texture spray and a brush and whatever will make your hair comfortable and keep you feeling good.
 
Snacks. I always have visions of munching on snacks post-epidural which obviously never happens because #nurses but having Tic-tacs or gum or mints to sneak and suck on are not always a bad idea. And Dad will get hungry and hungry Dads are NOT a good idea. Also, pack some protein bars or granola bars in case you endure a middle-of-the-night delivery and everything is closed. 
 
Purell / baby wipes – because, let’s be honest, hospitals can be a little gross. Also, any visitors who get near my brand-new ones BETTER WASH THEIR HANDS IN FRONT OF ME. Sorry I’m neurotic.
 
Book / e-reader / Charger / Phone- While a computer is probably over-kill, I am definitely hauling my trusty Fire with me to the hospital this time and have stocked it full of books. Bring your phone charger and e-reader charger. I wouldn’t recommend actually bringing a real book because #hospitalgerms and also, it’s just going to get in the way and you’ll probably lose it but some nice light fluffy magazines might do the trick.
 
For nursing – This cream has saved me after both of my other deliveries and I definitely will be hauling some. Also these nursing pads, this spray (thanks for the reminder, Camp Patton! And if you need to ask, don’t),
 
Finally, remember to pack a manual breast pump and a couple of bottles, if you plan to nurse. I’ve never actually needed to use mine in the hospital, but it’s a good idea to have everything just in case. 
 
And there you have it. Haul that massive car-load a few key items with you and I promise you a comfortable, annoyance-free birth.
 
Just kidding. But if you, like me during the third trimester, have the memory of a sparrow, pin the image below so that you are ready. 
Hospital Delivery bag for Mom
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Live creatively,

~Emily~

p.s. If you love social media (it’s ok! I love it too! Sooo much inspiration, right?), you should totally follow me on Instagram or Pinterest. And because I blog to connect, anytime that you have ideas, questions, or just want to connect about food, books, parenting, time management, working from home – WHATEVER,send an email to emily AT theorangeslate DOT com. 

p.p.s. I try post varied content 1-2 times a week; I am in the middle of re-hashing some older parts of this blog and creating subscriber-exclusive printables, guides, and templates, so be sure to sign up and get all the posts and updates, straight in your inbox! Sign up now!

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Parenting

Please Stop Rescuing My Child.

May 21, 2018

Risk Taking Children   

  Risk Taking Children  

I will be the first to say that well-meaning strangers have been a huge grace in my parenting life. Strangers have been kind on planes, in airports, in stores, in parking lots. Strangers have picked up pacis off of restaurant floors, have returned lost stuffed animals, have held doors. And I appreciate all of it. I appreciate that we live in a society where other adults are willing to see a need and offer a hand.

However. To all of the strangers out there, all of the well-meaning dry-land life-guards of the world, I have a request. A word of caution, a plea.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, STOP RESCUING MY KID.

Child Risk Taking 3

Here’s what I mean. A bit of context, first.

My children are of the bolder, riskier, hard knocks variety. They do clutzy, dumb, ridiculous things and they get mildly injured testing their limits. Bruises, scrapes, bumps, small falls – these things are normal, run-of-the-mill activities in our home (and I’m pretty sure in the homes of most of our friends. If your children don’t ever injure themselves, please come over and give me all of your tips.). They climb, they jump, and they run. These things are mildly dangerous AND THEY ARE VITAL to a child’s normal development. 

I’ve never been in the business of protecting my children from every possible danger. Mark and I intentionally have set out to equip our children rather than to simply guard them. While we don’t adhere to all aspects of Montessori education, I do appreciate the risk-taking and risk-encouraging aspect of that particular school of thought.

On Age of Montessori, one author writes this:

Montessori knew years ago and research confirms it now: parents must find balance between protecting our children from serious harm and sheltering them from life’s rich experiences. In essence, it is only through taking risks that children can learn to navigate risk, which prepares them to live in a world that is, unfortunately, not risk-free.

We ARE totally committed to allowing our children, even when they are little, to take small risks, to experiment, to try things that even we are not completely comfortable with it. For us, this is an absolutely essential part of child development, education, and a healthy happy childhood. This is why we move our children to floor-beds when a lot of children are still in cribs. This is why I let my children stand on chairs in the kitchen to help me. This is why I intentionally try to pause and watch and wait instead of swooping in when they climb something high or run too fast or experiment with something new.

This philosophy is not for every family. I realize this is one of those areas in which parents fall all over the spectrum. It’s just our family’s philosophy. But you know what? That’s ok. Your parenting philosophy might include early weaning, or rigorous sleep training, or reliance on day-care centers. It might involve a lot more fast food or screen time than I allow. THESE CHOICES ARE YOURS TO MAKE. 

And our children take risks with which all parents probably aren’t totally comfortable. I let my kids climb things that they may not be able to successfully climb. I let my kids try to use utensils like dull knives that they may not be fully equipped yet to use. I let them play with hammers and shovels and buckets. 

These are mild risks that research has demonstrated, over and over again, children NEED to take. 

Within this context, I’ll return to my original soap-box.

Here’s an example. I don’t buckle my children into carts when we are out shopping. There are several reasons for this – one of them is that my kids are pretty tricky and have managed to slide out of the buckles on multiple occasions. They’re basically useless for us, and I feel that I’m more watchful as a parent when I know my children aren’t strapped in. I also think that the germs on cart buckles are far more potentially dangerous than the risk of a fall, but that’s an entirely different conversation. 

Violet is uniquely daring in shopping carts and thinks it’s really fascinating to stand up out of her seat. This is something we’ve worked on continually. She’s not just allowed to hang out standing up in her seat – when she does it, we enforce the rules in a way that we deem appropriate. I communicate that she’s not allowed to stand up in her seat; I make her sit back down; I create appropriate consequences when she disobeys. Standing in a cart when she knows she’s supposed to be sitting is normal, healthy limit-testing behavior and instead of simply trying to end the behavior in the most convenient way possible, I try to use it as a teaching moment for Violet to learn about boundaries, about authority, and about expectations and communication

But here’s the scene that has played out on multiple occasions: I stand in a checkout line, quite literally an arm’s length from Violet, well within reach if she decides to do something that will send her tumbling out of the cart. I’m fully aware of my daughter’s tendency to stand up and am waiting to see what she does. She stands up in her seat. Before I have a chance to respond in any kind of way that we’ve determined is appropriate in this instance, a well-meaning stranger gasps loudly, races over, and holds on to Violet for dear life as if she was literally dangling near the top of the Grand Canyon. Or, as happened yesterday, a stranger screams, runs up, grabs her by the chest, and hangs on for dear life until I physically remove Violet from her grasp.

Could my daughter fall out of a shopping cart in between the time she stands and I respond? Most certainly. But you know what I’m more concerned about? I’m concerned about my daughter growing up in a world where she’s continually bombarded by a message that she is not capable of protecting herself, not capable of doing things, and should constantly depend on the protection of well-meaning people that are bigger and stronger than she is. 

THAT is a danger that I fear could literally cripple her for life. 

My little ones could definitely fall out of a shopping cart or off of a play structure and get injured. But they could also grow up confused about why it’s ok for random adults to restrain them or grab them against their will.

In fact, this second scenario is far more likely. 

I am far more concerned that my children will grow up developmentally stunted because they weren’t allowed to take risks, weren’t allowed to experiment, and weren’t given appropriate freedoms than that one of their falls during play will be truly dangerous. 

We’re doing our best to teach our children that they are capable. That they can try new things and succeed. That we trust them. 

And part of how I’m trying to accomplish this as a parent is by simply waiting and watching in situations where my first instinct is to leap in and fix and control.  This is not always easy, especially because I can be a hovering, controlling mama in my own right. But I know, deep down, that my children are more capable than I’m allowing them to be when I play Mama Bear and swoop in. That patience and self-control on my part communicates trust and confidence to them and that is one of the greatest gifts I can give them.

You know what else I’m trying to teach my children? That their bodies are theirs. That they aren’t simply at the mercy of people that are stronger. That just because another person’s communication skills are more advanced or they are taller or faster, they get to decide what my child can or cannot or should or should not do. 

And when you “rescue” my child from a fall or a danger by physically intervening without any kind of warning, even when you mean well, you are undermining that message.

You are unintentionally telling my child that they’re incapable. You’re conveying that message that they can’t protect themselves and don’t have good judgement. You’re unintentionally communicating that you’re in control of them. 

I know you mean well. I know you are simply responding to what looks to you like an imminent danger. And I know that terrible, awful, scary things can happen to small children. But I’m trying to support my child’s desire to test limits, to take risks, and to learn. And in my opinion, this is the best tool I can give my children to protect themselves and succeed in the long term.

A quick caveat: I am NOT talking about situations where family members and friends who know a child and his environment and his abilities intervenes. I’m not talking about a true Good Samaritan rescue where a child is literally in imminent danger and no parent is in sight. I am talking about situations where a total stranger jumps in with no context and “rescues” the situation without any kind of permission from the child or parent.

I am simply suggesting two things.

1. Assume that, in most places and situations when a capable parent is nearby, “they got this.” Please trust me, as a parent, to make judgement calls that are appropriate for my children, for their abilities and maturity and personalities. Utah does. I may be forever grateful to you for saving my child’s life in the parking lot, but I also just might be really really annoyed that you think I’m completely incapable of protecting and caring for my own daughter. I might really not be watching my 2-year-old climb that ladder at the playground and might have no idea she’s about to try something that looks scary, but the likelihood is that, since I brought her to the playground to climb and run and play and since I have a vested interest in her survival, I’m probably aware of what she’s doing and am letting her work certain things out on her own.

2. Verbalize your concern or desire to help before acting, and ESPECIALLY before physically intervening. I try to do this as a parent. I try to talk my kids through things before I simply physically restrain or force them to do anything. Even put on their shoes. 

If you are concerned about my child, say something. I’d love to talk about why we’re making the choices we’re making as parents, or why I’m allowing my child to do certain things. I’d appreciate your concern and observation and respectful approach.

Think about it. Do you like to be randomly manhandled? I don’t. I don’t like to be touched by strangers. I would be severely annoyed if you walked up to me, grabbed me, and moved me out of the way of some potential danger without any kind of warning. Surely, you can offer them the same courtesy to someone smaller, with fewer communication skills at their disposal. 

So to the thoughtful anonymous total strangers that continually see the need to rescue my children from danger, please just take a minute the next time you are tempted to intervene. Think about the bigger picture.

I am so grateful that we live in a society where adults are concerned about the welfare of all children, not just their own. But I’d also love to live in a society where adults are truly *supportive* of those children, of their development and growth and abilities, not just protective. The next time you are tempted to simply swoop in, perhaps reconsider. 

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Live creatively,

~Emily~

p.s. If you love social media (it’s ok! I love it too! Sooo much inspiration, right?), you should totally follow me on Instagram or Pinterest. And because I blog to connect, anytime that you have ideas, questions, or just want to connect about food, books, parenting, time management, working from home – WHATEVER,send an email to emily AT theorangeslate DOT com. 

p.p.s. I try post varied content 1-2 times a week; I am in the middle of re-hashing some older parts of this blog and creating subscriber-exclusive printables, guides, and templates, so be sure to sign up and get all the posts and updates, straight in your inbox! Sign up now!

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Save Money on these 7 Large Purchases with Ebates.

May 20, 2018
7 areas to save money using Ebates
I’ve never really successfully used coupons at all. I’m all about saving money, but I’ve never been able to coordinate the coupons and my purchasing habits.
 
We’ve managed to cut down our grocery budget quite a bit by meal-planning diligently, but that’s about the only area where I’ve successfully and consistently saved money without simply refraining from purchasing. 
 
But recently a friend reminded of Ebates (Ebates?? Is it still around? I totally remember my mom and her friends using Ebates when I was in high-school.). I don’t shop a ton generally, but when I do, it’s mostly online and we were getting ready to make some bigger purchases (summer wardrobes, home remodeling purchases, a few baby things, a bed), so I figured trying it out certainly couldn’t hurt.
 
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much Ebates has already returned to my pocket (I refrain from using “saved” since it’s not really saved money if you are spending, in my opinion). We were in the market for a mattress and using Ebates returned a nice chunk of the money to us. 
 
Mostly, I was surprised as I began to explore the retailers and realized HOW MANY of them offered cash back through Ebates. Furniture stores. Amazon. Travel companies. So many stores where customers can easily drop thousands of dollars offered substantial cash back rewards through Ebates.
 
It’s hard to get super excited about saving a few dollars here and there on clothes, but when you start to save a lot on larger items, it starts to get fun. 
 
So I’ve compiled a quick list of common purchases with larger price tags that you definitely should not make before you’ve activated your Ebates account.  
 
Herb Garden patio
 
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1. Hardware and Appliances. It’s a DIY world out there. But seriously, we are doing lots of smaller remodeling touches on our house and they add up! Our biggest budget line item next to groceries is Home Depot. We’re in the middle of painting the interior of our house and once we’re finished, I’m planning to replace all of the dated gold lever door handles with something a little more classic. But a house has a lot of doorknobs! Those kinds of costs can stack up very quickly.
 
Ordering hardware online (either to the house or to the store) will save you from chasing down inventory and normally provides you with a wider array of options. Right now, Lowe’s, TrueValue, and Ace Hardware all offer cash back through Ebates (although Home Depot does not, but I’m not particularly loyal.). Appliances are an even larger purchase – ordering your fridge or dryer online through Lowe’s after activating your Ebates account could save you quite a bit!
 
2. Mattresses. This is one of those big stressful purchases you only make a few times (hopefully). But we were in the market for a new mattress. The online retailers that I researched beat the big-box mattress store competition far and away, as far as I researched. We pulled the trigger on a Saatva, but most of the online retailer mattress companies offered some kind of option through Ebates, either through a store like Lowe’s, or on their own.  When you’re making a purchase of several thousand dollars, percentage points back add up.
 
3. Travel (Airline Tickets and Car Rentals) – Most of the major online booking portals offer cash back through Ebates. Airplane tickets, car rentals, hotels – these purchases can be large, so getting some of that money back makes booking travel even more fun. 
 
4. Cosmetics – Sephora carries most major makeup brands, so if you’re a “tried and true” kind of girl and know what you will be wearing, just order your makeup through Sephora after activating your Ebates button instead of heading to the mall. You’ll save time AND get 4% cashback.
 
5. Etsy – Etsy offers cashback through Ebates, so if you’re shopping for home accessories, wedding or party props, or more expensive decor items, the cashback available through Ebates will totally be worth the few minutes of setup.
 
6. Electronics – Summer is the time when many people replace computers and tech equipment. Best Buy, Amazon, Dell, and Apple all offer cashback on purchases made through Ebates. If you’re buying an expensive screen or laptop, this can knock quite a bit off of the purchase price of a new gadget!
 
7. Furniture/ Home Items – Joss and Main, Wayfair, Overstock, and Amazon can be great sources for furniture and larger home items. Ebates has cash-back options for several of these online retailers and others so be sure to activate your Ebates account before shopping for major items like a new couch. Between the sales that these retailers often run, the already reduced costs, and Ebates, you could literally score a designer or investment piece brand-new for the cost of a Craigslist find or a piece from Ikea.
 
Use this link and sign up for an Ebates account to try it out. There’s no catch – you simply confirm your account and follow the instructions to install the button on your browser. 
 
Did I miss some fantastic area where you can save on Ebates? Fill me in in the comments!

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