3 Quick and Easy Christmas Crafts for Preschoolers 

My oldest son and I always enjoy doing a few Christmas crafts together. He usually gives out his crafts with his homemade Christmas cards to friends and family each year.  This week we made a few quick and easy crafts that take minimal prep!

Candy Cane Circles

candy-cane-circlesI traced and cut out about 6-7 circles on red and white cardstock, approximately 1 inch in diameter. I also cut a piece of 8.5 X 11 inch green cardstock in half using my paper cutter.  I then put some glue in the shape of a candy cane on the green cardstock and my son placed the circles on the glue. This activity is great for 3-4 years olds as they are learning about patterns!

Afterwards, my son wanted to make more so I used my Cricut Expression to cut more circles quickly!

Candy Cane Thumb Printing

candy-cane-thumb-printI cut a piece of 8.5 X 11 inch green cardstock in half and put some red and white Crayola washable paint on a plastic plate. My son then used his thumb to make each print for the candy cane. I had baby wipes close by so that we could clean his hand each time.  For younger children, it may be beneficial to draw the shape of a candy cane on the paper with a pencil to make it easier for them to where to place their thumb.

 

Christmas Gift Tags

christmas-tags-copyI used my Cricut Expression to cut a gift in the shape that I wanted on a piece of cardstock. You could also just draw and cut out the shape to make the stencil.  Next, we traced the gift tag onto the Christmas cards that we received last year, being careful to place the stencil in the most appropriate spot on the card. My son then used a small round hole punch to make the hole for the ribbon.  This makes a quick and easy gift tag, while reusing old cards!

The Elf on the Shelf – Weekly Review

When I started doing the Elf on the Shelf, I tried to keep it low key and fun! Our elf’s name is “Red” and on most days he brings along a card with an idea for a Christmas activity.  On days when I am feeling rushed (or exhausted), he just gets into something! The Elf on the Shelf tradition is a great way to get ready for Christmas by decorating the tree, making cards, baking cookies and so forth as it spreads the activities over the month. Since I would normally be doing those types of things with the boys, it doesn’t add a lot of extra work.

I usually prep the boys on November 30th with the, watching the Elf on the Shelf DVD so that they remember that Red is coming soon.  When Red arrives on December 1st, he usually brings donuts for breakfast and then each day after December 1st he moves around the house.  For the first week, he did some colouring, made snow flakes, brought balloons for us to play with and brought supplies for us to write a letter to Santa. 

Last week Red brought supplies for cookies, played Christmas songs, hung off the blinds, went Christmas tree hunting, hid in the Christmas tree, and wrapped himself!

My children look forward to being surprised with a Christmas activity/tradition each morning. It is so neat to watch them get out of bed and run through the house looking for Red.

For our yearly Project Life photo album, I make a page per week that summaries what Red brought for us or what he did. My oldest son loves going back over the past couple years to remind him of our past visits from Red.

Click here if you are interested in purchasing The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition.

Check back later this month for a free printable of the activity cards and more weekly Elf on the Shelf summaries.

I would love to hear of your ideas and photos for The Elf on the Shelf!

This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!

Day in the Life – December

Every month for the next year I will give you some insight into my day as a homeschool mom, rancher and blogger.  Ranch life changes every month based on the seasons; therefore, one of the best things about ranching is that there is a lot of variety in our monthly tasks.

December is a slower month on the ranch so this gives us time to catch up on other tasks and get ready for Christmas.  I love our evenings in the house during December but by the time spring arrives, I am ready to be outside more!

I am fortunate as I am not the only one who does the daily feeding tasks on the ranch.  My parents and I share the tasks depending on our schedules each day. Today, I was responsible for feeding the calves and bulls.

Here is an overview of my day today.

6am – We woke up, I made the beds and dressed the boys.  We then did the Elf on the Shelf activity for the day – snowflake making!!  I started breakfast while the boys played.

Elf on the Shelf
Elf on the Shelf

7am – We had breakfast and then I cleaned up while the boys played again.  The boys play quite well together in the morning prior to going outside to feed.

8am – We headed outside to do the feeding.  My youngest was in the backpack and the other helped me move the calves to the feed troughs to feed the grain. The calves have been recently started on grain, so for the first couple weeks we must move them to the troughs to make sure they all come.  After a couple weeks, they will usually meet us at the grain bin.  The feeding of grain usually takes me about an hour with the boys.  We also checked water, salt and minerals and hay for the calves.up close

9am – My youngest was still sleeping in the backpack so I had a quick shower and did some laundry.

9:30 – We made homemade popsicles together, as suggested by my boys.

10:00 – We got ready to go to town for a children’s Christmas party at our local Prairie Coast Equipment dealership , made a quick lunch and tidied up around the house. The boys also did some colouring.

11:00 – Drove to town, went to the Christmas party and then stopped at a couple stores to pick up groceries.

2:30 – Arrived back at home, put the ingredients in the bread machine for buns, played with the boys.

3:30 – The boys and I got ready to go back outside to do the evening chores.  We spent some extra time petting my son’s show heifer.

Grain 4:45 – Back in the house, and I started to get supper ready. We had leftovers, so I had some more time to play with the boys and tidy up before supper.  My husband got home so we all have a visit around the table while waiting for supper.

5:30 – Supper and then we all watched a Christmas movie together.

7:00 – Boys fell asleep. I spent the rest of the evening cleaning house, getting the Elf on the Shelf ready for tomorrow, working on my blog, organizing my photos on the computer, getting a craft ready for us to do tomorrow and doing some laundry.

11:00 – Bedtime!

Check back in January for a new Day in the Life post!

 

 

 

How to Manage the Never Ending List of To Dos – Todoist

When running a ranch business, there always seems to be a million things that need to be done and the list never gets smaller.  Add being a homeschooling mom and secretary/treasurer for a regional cattlemen’s association and the list keeps climbing.

One way that I keep track of my long list is by using the Todoist app.  We live in a small house so minimizing paper and clutter is of up most importance.  I try to do as much as possible without paper so that I am not always filing through and moving paper around the house.  Todoist always me to sync across my laptop, iPad and iPhone so that I always have access to my list, even when I am outside.

I use Todoist for grocery lists, household chores and cleaning tasks, Christmas idea lists, and of course my To Do lists, all itemized by project.  I can’t possibly remember everything so this app does it for me!

Todays List for Todoist

You can itemize the tasks by project and sub-projects and you can add one of four task priority levels.

The deadlines that you add can be recurring so that you don’t need to enter the tasks more than once.

Todoist minimizes the countless lists you have around the house, without costing anything.  If you chose, you can upgrade to the Todoist Premium or Todoist Business for more features. To find out more, go to www.todoist.com

Over the next few months, I will go into more detail on my other paperless techniques and home organization that help me with my roles of a homeschool mom and rancher.

5 Things that Ranch Kids Learn at an Early Age

I feel very fortunate to have grown up on my family’s cattle ranch and my children are now enjoying that privilege.   There are so many things that a child can learn from our ranching lifestyle, all of which will benefit them greatly into adulthood.   Here are some of the things that ranch kids get to experience at an early age.

1  Ranch kids learn to love the outdoors, in all types of weather! They also want to wear warm clothes with very few arguments when going out the door in the winter.

Pulling Strings

2. They get to watch the miracle of life, starting from an early age.   Calving season never gets old on a ranch, and learning to wake up in the middle of the night to check cows teaches responsibilty and compassion.

Newborn Calf

3. Their siblings become their best friends while they work and play together. Even if that involves pretending to vaccinate the “cow” in their parents living room using a coffee table as a cattle squeeze, each other as the “cow” and a plastic straw as a syringe.

Farm Toys

4. Television is a novelty, as they are seldom in the house long enough to watch an entire show.  Except for Sunday nights, as Heartland is never missed in our household!

5.They get to help make business decisions and learn problem solving skills alongside their parents, starting from the time they can walk.  4-H projects become their own “business” at the age of 9, or sometimes even earlier.

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Calm Before the Storm

Earlier this week, I explained how our bred heifers were on pasture but we moved them home so that we can more closely monitor them.  Our cowherd is currently grazing above our home ranch on our top hayfields.
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One of the biggest factors to watch for when the cows are grazing late into the fall is that they maintain or even increase their condition as it is very difficult and very costly to make up any lose of condition over the winter when feeding hay.  Depending on the condition of the grass, some years we will purchase protein tubs to help supplement the grass.  The protein tubs that we use are a tub full of minerals, vitamins and extra protein that the cows can lick.
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This year we were very fortunate to receive a significant amount of rain in the summer and fall.  Therefore, our hayfields have quite a bit of rich regrowth so we haven’t had to feed protein tubs yet.  We continue to closely monitor the cows and the quality and quantity of grass.

Below is a photo of one of our haystacks ready for winter feeding. It is always such a nice feeling for a rancher when their haystacks are full, ready for the winter.  The cows also know that when the snow arrives, this is the stack to wait by!  Cows are creatures of routine!

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I will leave you with this view…. have a great weekend!
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Great Gifts for Ranch Kids

Our kids love when they can work outside and then come in the house and do the same chores with their toys. Our children spend countless hours imitating our chores around the ranch. With Christmas just around the corner, here are our 5 suggestions for gifts that our children enjoy.  Hopefully this will help to make your Christmas shopping a little easier this year.

1. John Deere Farm Toy Playset

2. Schleich Large Farm with Animals and Accessories Action Figure

3. Fisher Price – Little People Animal Friends Farm Toy

4. Schleich Riding Centre with Rider, Horses and Accessories

5. Lego Duplo Ville Big Farm

 

This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!

Project Life

I started to use Project Life in 2012 as I was looking for an easy scrapbooking system to help document our life on the ranch.  Becky Higgins has developed a convenient method to scrapbook while on the go.  There is a physical album system for photo pages and journal cards.  There is also a Project Life app, where you can document on your phone or tablet. I absolutely love being able to document our life quickly and easily so that we can remember the little moments of each day. When we travel, I can easily document our trip as we travel so that we we get home we have a great keepsake. I have even scrapbooked and journaled while waiting for a cow to calve and while waiting to load cows.

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Along with writing about our life on the ranch, I will also update you on my Project Life pages and albums on this blog. I would love to hear from you about your scrapbooking experiences and your suggestions on what you would like to read about on this blog.

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To find out more about Project Life, check out www.beckyhiggins.com.

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Winter Approaches

When the first snowfall arrives, life of our ranch begins to change for the winter season.  After looking at the forecast this morning as the snow was falling, we decided to bring home our bred heifers. One of the best parts of our job is that each day’s tasks are not only determined by the animals but also by the weather.

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The bred heifers will be 2 years old in the spring, and they will be having their first calf at that time. It is important that they get the sufficient nutrition over the winter to continue growing and develop a calf inside them. Therefore, we feed the bred heifers separate from our cow herd so we can monitor their condition more closely.  We have had them on a grass pasture close to home, so when the snow arrived today we wanted to bring them home so that they can also be fed hay to keep their body condition up.

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We just had to push them a short distance down the road and into a corral to load them.

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The snow was falling heavy and it made for a gorgeous walk.

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We work our cattle on foot and sometimes with horses, depending on the location and situation.  Our lead cow, AKTU 19R, led the way for the heifers. We put an older cow with our heifers on pasture as the older cow is more “sensible” to work with and keeps the heifers calm. Sometimes, we call the bred heifers our “teenagers” as they haven’t matured into motherhood yet!

AKTU 19R

Halter Breaking Calves

We like to halter break all of our bull calves and show calves, but we have also halter broke our heifer calves at times in the past.  This year we started to use the Weaver Leather Stierwalt Breaking Halter

It has been absolutely wonderful!

We start by putting the calves in the cattle squeeze so that we can put the halter on them.  We try to work with them for about 1o minutes in the squeeze so that they start to become more comfortable with the halter and with us.  This gets them used to the halter prior to them being asked to walk.

The next day, we do the same thing.  By this point, the calf is starting to calm down. We sometimes use a scotch comb and brush them as well, especially for the show calves as this will become a daily task.

By the third day, we let them out of the squeeze and walk them down the alleyway.  For the next few days days, we only lead them a short distance, each time walking a bit further. It allows them to get used to the halter and start to develop more trust. It is always important to end the session on a positive tone with the calf, as it helps to develop the relationship.

After 5 -7 sessions of walking, the calf should be pulling less and will start to follow you.

halter-breaking

When working the calf, it is extremely important to remain calm and quiet at all times. Talking to the calf in a quiet voice will sometimes help to relax him/her.

I usually tie the calf to a post after 5 -7 days, depending on how well he/she is responding to pressure on the lead rope.

This is an overview of the halter breaking process.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!