Alpha Mom » Rachel Meeks parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:13:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Teaching My Young Daughter About Make-up and Beauty Tue, 21 Aug 2012 14:10:24 +0000

If you asked me about it a few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be teaching my daughter about make-up when she is this young. She’s six, so she doesn’t have any make-up of her own besides a pink tube of Lip Smackers.

Getting to use my make-up is something we do together once in a while when she wants to do something special just with mommy, and we don’t have plans to leave the house later.

We actually don’t apply much make-up, we mostly just use the tools. She takes the brushes and pretends to apply powder. We use a little bit of eyeshadow and her Lip Smackers. She knows what each item in my make-up bag is and what it is used for.

I probably could have waited longer, but she’s always been interested in my make-up. When she was one she’d look in my purse for my Burts’ Bees Lip Shimmer and apply it on her chin. At two years old she’d get my make-up bag, and I’d find her clenching my make-up brushes and drawing extra eyebrows with my brown Clinique eye pencil.

I didn’t start wearing a little make-up until I was in middle school, but that didn’t stop me from going into my mother’s make-up drawer in third grade to teach myself how to use it (badly).

Now when I sit down with my daughter to do a make-up lesson together, it’s mainly because I want to spend one-on-one time doing something that she will feel is special, but there’s another reason as well: I want to be her go-to resource when it comes to questions about beauty.

When people read about beauty in a magazine, the tips are all about fixing yourself: how to change the shape of your nose or your cheekbones, conceal your spots, and cover your flaws. I want her to come to me first so that I can surround those sentiments about make-up and beauty with affirming messages rather than letting them be based in insecurity.

For example, when we apply the blush, I might say, “This makes cheeks pink. You already have rosy cheeks, so you don’t need this, but we can put it on you for fun.” Or the mascara: “This is for eyelashes, but let’s not use this because your eyes look really beautiful the way they are.” I’ll also add (I can’t help it), “This is really fun. It’s nice to look beautiful, but you know, it’s more important to be kind. The way you treat people is what makes them feel good.”

I want beauty to remain something positive instead of automatically letting it be associated with vanity or insecurity. And if these mini-make-up lessons will help her to avoid wearing bright blue eyeshadow on her eyebrows when she’s in the seventh grade, then all the better.

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3 Artists Who Inspire, “I Can Do Art” Tue, 07 Aug 2012 14:55:10 +0000

“If you want to be good at something, you must practice every day.” 

That’s the usual mantra about sports or piano or art, but I never thought I could practice something artistic every day, not with taking care of babies and laundry and doing my usual work.

I would tell you it’s important for my kids to have time to practice being artistic, to color and draw. We have an art table full of markers and large sheets of paper that come in a long roll from IKEA for $5. But for myself? I didn’t make time for my personal art, in the same way  that I have a hard time convincing myself to eat the fruit we have at home in the kitchen because I want to save it all for the kids.

Creativity for mothers is so easily turned into something on our to-do list. Sure, it’s great when our kids or other people do it, but as a busy mom, doing something creative can be substituted by a staged craft activity with minimal mess or a kit with pre-cut stickers that you apply.

We were born to create something. To spill words on paper or a screen. To make music and move and dance. To paint. To weave, or glue, or photograph, or build. Or perhaps even to create something intangible, like community.

Time spent making something is not wasted. What’s different about children is they have a freedom and willingness to try.

Here are 3 artists who inspire me to try something new and make art. I hope they inspire you, too.

Jean DuBuffet was a French artist who was interested in “Art Brut” meaning the raw art created by children and people not influenced by the professional art world. Some of his later paintings and sculptures have a primitive, childlike quality that makes it easier to not be so intimidated about making art.

I consider Anne Frank to be one of the most influential writers, but that wasn’t her goal when she started writing in her notebook. She had no idea how important her words would become, and how they would be read by millions of people worldwide. She simply wrote what she thought every day.

– Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

The documentary called Born into Brothels tells the story of how photographer Zana Briski traveled to the red light district of Calcutta. After meeting the children who lived there, she gave a few of the children cameras and started teaching them how to take pictures.

“Girl on roof”  ©Suchitra/Kids with Cameras

The photographs taken by the children (such as the one above) are featured throughout the film and show their home in the red light district from the intimate perspective of an insider, not a visitor. One child in the film says, “When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy. I feel like I am learning something…I can be someone.”

How to make time to do art that you love? What artist inspires you?

Photo source: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock

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Craft and Snack: Easy Fruit Art Thu, 02 Aug 2012 14:51:12 +0000

Your child will love combining a fruit snack with craft time to make these fun fruit pictures. My kids were so excited and thought this treat was so special, they couldn’t wait to devour them!

One part of summer that I most look forward to all year is the fresh fruit such as delicious strawberries, melons, and blueberries. We kept it simple with these familiar foods, but this activity would also be a neat way to introduce new fruits and vegetables to your child.

Of course, if your child is young I recommend that you handle the sharp knives to cut the fruit, and he or she can arrange all the shapes on the plate. A standard paring knife is really the only tool needed, and that’s what we used so these pictures could be made in everyone’s kitchen, but you can get fancy if you want to and use small cookie cutters to cut unique shapes into the melon slices.

The toothpicks are optional for your child to use to spear the fruit, partly for fun, but also for ease of picking up the cut fruit without smushing it.

Recently during our art time, I’ve been trying to show my kids how they can make any pattern or design they want if they can see the shapes. A truck consists of rectangles for the cab and circles for the wheels. This truck uses melon cut into rectangles and blueberries for wheels. Tiny pieces of strawberry add the detail for the brake lights, and a little piece of banana makes the windshield.

To make a boat, start with a wide slice of banana (cut lengthwise) for the boat’s hull, and add a sliver of melon for the mast. The strawberries sliced into triangles form the sails, and the round blueberries look like portholes. The blueberries are just placed on top of the banana, and the banana is soft enough that nothing else is needed to make them stay on.

To make this butterfly, we used banana slices, strawberry slices, and a blueberry on top, but get creative and find out just how many variations you and your child can come up with!

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My Kids Are Amazing (I Want Them to Think So Too) Tue, 24 Jul 2012 21:49:04 +0000

My kids love to be winners, and they want to be the best and fastest at everything.

When I explained the Summer Olympics to them and described how athletes compete to become the best in the world, my six-year-old child’s brain practically exploded.

They race to see who will be the next dinner winner, or the breakfast winner, or who can put the most pieces of chicken in their mouths at the same time.

Who will be the fastest to race down the hall, or to race to the door, and if the person who called it didn’t win? “Well, that was not a race.”

It’s all good-natured, and I know it’s a phase, but I also recognize that desire to be favored as an individual.

I remember being seven or eight years old, and one night as my mom was tucking me into bed, I asked her whom in our family did she love the most?

“I love all of you,” she said.

“Do you love me more than my brother? Do you love me more than Daddy?”

My mom was very diplomatic and generous, and she wouldn’t commit to loving one person more than another. I wanted to be loved the MOST, to be that important and special to somebody.

One time I was talking to a friend about how “My daughter is so beautiful, and I feel like we tell her that all the time, but sometimes I wonder if we tell her that too much.”

I guess I was worried about vanity or placing too much importance on her looks, but my friend wisely said, “As she grows up, there will be so many things that try to tell her otherwise. Don’t worry about telling her too often that she’s beautiful.”

Every day I tell my kids that I think they are beautiful and kind and smart, and I’ve never met kids more amazing to me than them. I bet they will get tired of hearing about it.

At night we go through the list of how much I love them: how I will love them when they are stinky, and I even love them when they act badly, and that I will always love them no matter what. I hope that if they hear how amazing they are, they’ll feel and believe it too.

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Kid-Friendly Activities At Your Door With BabbaBox Tue, 17 Jul 2012 15:24:44 +0000

This post is sponsored by BabbaCo makers of the BabbaBox, fun activities delivered to your mailbox. Below is a giveaway opportunity for one lucky reader to experience a BabbaBox.

A BabbaBox is an activity box that is delivered to you and arrives on your doorstep to help you create, explore, story tell, and connect with your kids.

When asked if I wanted to review a BabbaBox, I took one look at the BabbaCo website, thought that the crafts and enrichment activities would be perfect for my kids, and replied, “Sign me up!”

My kids are two and six years old, and the BabbaBox is designed for kids ages three to six. You can sign up to receive a BabbaBox through a monthly or annual subscription.

When it arrived, the way it is packaged makes me think this would work well as a gift.

As I opened the box, the first thing I noticed is the kid-sized scissors, and thank goodness, because we have scissors, but they always disappear, and this way I wouldn’t have to go looking for them before we could start. The BabbaBox is complete with everything you need to do the crafts and activities, including glue, colored pencils, and even googly eyes.

Each BabbaBox focuses on a monthly theme, and this month’s theme is “feelings.” The activities are designed to help kids express emotions, and the supplemental materials help parents engage with their child as they do the activities together.

This box contains two projects to create: feelings magnets and sock puppets.

My kids loved making the sock puppets. The sock puppet craft is more involved than what I would normally do on my own, but having the materials ready and the step-by-step instructions makes it easy.

Every box has two or three hands-on projects to create together. Both of my kids could participate and share the contents. I was glad there were two sock puppets so they could each make one.

The activity to explore was a creative idea. The kids put on spy glasses to observe other people’s feelings. Our glasses broke as I took them out of the box. The company’s policy is to send a replacement as soon as possible if something in the box is missing or defective, but I just taped them back together. Then the kids ran around and asked people what they were feeling to record it in their feelings journal.

Because there are so many activities and suggestions in a BabbaBox, I think the best way is to focus on one activity per day so you can make the most of it instead of racing through all of them at once.

The book for story telling emphasized caring for other people and empathy. My almost three-year-old was drawn in by the illustrations.

Included with the subscription is an age-appropriate app that you can download for an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch. There is even a bonus gift for mom included inside the box—- a small back massager to take away feelings of stress.

I think my kids would definitely look forward to receiving a package like this in the mail every month full of activities that we can do together.

Giveaway & Discount for our Readers:
We will be giving away one BabbaBox to a lucky reader. Just leave a message in the comment box below telling us a favorite crafting memory you have (with kids or as a kid!). We’ll be accepting entries until Sunday, July 22nd, 2012 at 11:59pm EST. A winner will be selected using and then contacted via the email address s/he lists below.  The winner will be contacted via email. If the winner fails to respond within 48 hours, another random winner will be selected. Giveaway only open to contestants 18 years or older and residents of the U.S. Only one entry per person, please. Good Luck!

The Giveaway is now over. Thank you for entering. We will be contacting the winner via email and then posting the announcement here.

Also, BabbaCo is offering 20% off one BabbaBox using the coupon code: AM20OFF.

[UPDATE: BabbaCo just is giving us ANOTHER special back-to-school pack promotion to offer you: the first 3 months of the membership for 33% off (Only $20 per box!). Here’s the code: AM33BTS]


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Mini Summer Olympics Track and Field with Legos Thu, 05 Jul 2012 15:14:16 +0000

We created a miniature scene for The Summer Olympics, specifically the track and field events using Lego minifigures, paper, and pipe cleaners.

Here’s how to do it:

First, draw the track on a big sheet of paper. (We traced kitchen bowls for the curves.) Then cut it out and embellish it with starting lines.

Add a circle for the shot put event and a rectangle for the pole vault.

By bending pipe cleaners, you can craft hurdles, batons for the relays, a pole and a shot put.

Then, let the games begin!

Brutus always dominated the shot put competition. This year, he decided, he would give all his medals to his mother.

Training with his brother for the 400 meter hurdles made him push himself to run faster, he said in interviews.

But inwardly, he was tired of always coming in second place.

Glad that his shoulder injury from ’08 had finally healed, he was feeling ready and confident for the pole vault. This would be his year.

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5 Tips to Host a Fun Play Group Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:29:29 +0000

Guide to Everything ArchivesWith school out for the summer, hosting a play group for my daughter and her school friends seemed like the perfect opportunity to let her play with her friends and help out the other parents as well.

We moved to a new city a year ago, and one of my goals for this past year has been to make new friends and build community in our neighborhood.

Play group has been a success, and here is what I’ve learned to make the play group something we look forward to every week:

1. It’s scheduled at the same time every week so that we don’t have to coordinate plans. Instead of sending text messages back and forth each week to see who’s available, I went ahead and put it on the calendar: every Thursday morning this summer. Show up if you can.

2. I sent out an information email at the beginning of the summer to let the other parents know what to expect.

  • One thing I let them know was that the parents don’t have to stay. They’re welcome to stay if they want, but I figured they would want to drop off their kid and then take some much-needed time elsewhere.
  • I specified the best way to contact me before and during the group. They should call me when the kids are here because I won’t see their text until afterwards.
  • I let them know the routine and what their kids could look forward to doing each week.
  • I told them what they need to bring (just a snack).

3. Each child brings an individual snack. This has been more helpful than I originally expected. The kids can have what they like to eat, I don’t have to wonder what to feed six kids, and I don’t have to run to the grocery store at the last minute. Because of food allergies (one child can’t have peanuts and another child can’t eat wheat), I recommended that everyone brings a favorite fruit instead of baked goods.

4. Plan an even mix of structured and unstructured play time. When the kids arrive they’re excited to talk and play, but with six kids, two hours of free play can lead to chaos. I always have one activity planned, so our morning routine goes something like this:

9:00 – free play (outside hopefully, as weather permits)
9:30 – activity of the week
10:00 – snack
10:20 – art
10:40 – 11:00 free play

Two hours seems like the perfect amount of time. The kids are happy that they’ve had enough play time, and everyone is still in a good mood when it’s time to go home.

5. Do something new each week. Every week I do a short activity with them such as dance, drawing, how to braid, or beading. I look for ideas on Pinterest and try to keep it easy. Art time is generally paper and a lot of markers. I thought back to old camp activities for inspiration.

Play group is definitely one thing we’ll look back on as a highlight of our summer.

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The Summer Routine Requires More Free Time Tue, 19 Jun 2012 18:02:07 +0000

When I was a sleep-away summer camp counselor, the hardest part of the day wasn’t the Texas summer heat, or the average food, or being tired at the end of the week. I didn’t mind taking care of kids who were crying, or who got into arguments, or who needed help to get along.

No, the hardest part was the water relay races that were scheduled every day at 10 a.m. Every single day I got buckets of water poured on my head, and then I had to walk around like that for the rest of the day.

At sleep-away camp, every morning I dragged myself out of bed before the sunrise, got my campers ready for the assembly at the flagpole, shepherded them through the breakfast line to dine on chewy pancakes, and chaperoned them to their morning class.

When it was time for the water relay races which lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. (this camp was run precisely on schedule), the man directing the races always thought it was a good idea for the final race to be “Soak Your Counselor.” The kids loved it.

While he stayed dry, holding his whistle and clipboard, the rest of the adults sat at the end of the relay line so each kid could drench us with a bucket of water. It would have been fine if we had more time to dry off afterward, but there was not enough time before the next activity.

After getting my clothes and hair soaked, I shuffled my group of campers from art to lunch to music to swimming and then to the quiet time, that no kid wanted. Then it was dinner, assembly, canteen, and finally back in our cabin for lights out, and that’s when the flashlights came on.

This sleep-away camp packed the day full of activities to keep the kids occupied, but there wasn’t enough transition time. The counselors always had to rush the kids to the next thing. We hurried the kids who walked slowly because we only had five minutes to make it across the campground before the next activity on the schedule. At the end of the week we were worn out from all of it, especially from not taking care of ourselves.

The following year I chaperoned kids at a different sleep-away camp, one with more free time and a looser schedule. It was awesome. The kids loved it, and the adults did too. It was flexible, so we didn’t have to rush, and the adults were more enthusiastic about doing the activities that were wet, messy, and just plain fun.

So as I’m spending summer with my young kids, I’m trying not to pack too much into our daily schedule. Sometimes I veto the sprinkler games that always seem to end with one of my kids crying, but I don’t mind doing the other things they want to do that are messy. Having enough transition time built into our summer days makes all the difference.

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Handmade Father’s Day Gift: iPod Earbud Case Thu, 07 Jun 2012 14:05:47 +0000

If Dad’s earbuds are stored at the bottom of his bag, make a case using felt and glue to keep them clean and tangle-free. This would be a good handmade gift for Father’s Day, and you could even include an iTunes gift card inside.

Start by cutting a piece of felt into a rectangle that is 3 by 9 inches. Round the corners on one side to make the fold-over tab.

Put a line of glue about 4 inches long down both sides of the strip.

Using the right glue for felt is important because felt is so absorbent, and you don’t want glue to show through on the finished side. A good glue to use on felt is Beacon’s “Felt Glue” which is like fabric glue, but it doesn’t immediately soak into the felt. You can also use Aleene’s Tacky Glue or regular fabric glue with good results.

Then fold four inches of the strip over (not covering the one-inch tab on the end), and place something on top to keep it folded while the glue dries. The glue takes a few hours to dry.

The finished case is 3 inches wide and 4 inches long, with an extra one-inch tab that can be folded inside, or optionally you can add a snap or Velcro closure. Glue felt letters or shapes to decorate the case.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Ten Truths of Summer Tue, 05 Jun 2012 14:16:47 +0000

1. At the beginning of summer I will buy new plants, but some of them will die before I even get around to planting them, and by July I will have lost all interest in taking care of them. Next year I will repeat the process.

2. Food that doesn’t have much taste or appeal on its own, i.e., hot dogs with unknown ingredients or white hamburger buns that taste like cardboard, become really popular when eaten next to a smoky grill with ketchup and mustard.

3. The strongest summer memories will be made on family road trips, and eighty percent of those memories will be about the car trip itself, not the final destination. There will be books, and snacks, and some yelling involved, and somehow it will all seem worth it, even if it did take eleven hours one way.

4. Mothers of school-aged children are bracing themselves with routines, plans, and every list of “100 Free Things to Do This Summer” they can find. July will be spent trying to keep cool, and August will be a frenzy of crossing things off the bucket list. If the kids can play together and get along with minimal television intervention, we’ll call it a win.

5. It will be hot. It always is, and yet everyone will wonder if it was this hot last year. You know it’s trite to talk about the weather, but seriously, it’s so hot you can’t think to talk about anything else.

6. A $5 plastic wading pool is money well spent. Anything with water will keep your kids entertained for a long time: water slides, water balloons, pools, sprinklers, or homemade games. If you don’t have a pool, set up a water activity or sprinkler in your yard. If you don’t have a yard, put the kids in the bath tub.

7. This will be a season of messes. Popsicles, ice cream, watermelon, wet dogs, muddy picnic blankets, dirt tracked in the house, and toys everywhere. Embrace the mess.

8. The summer seems long at the beginning, when it stretches for twelve weeks ahead of you. But it’s only twelve weeks, and you’ll wonder where the time went. One day you’re attending the end-of-school awards assembly watching a photo montage set to “I Believe the Children Are Our Future” (try getting that song out of your head a week later), and before you know it, you’re buying school supplies and fall clothes for next year.

9. Your kids will stop saying they’re bored if you make them clean something around the house every time they say it.

10. The kids have a small number of childhood summers in their life, and it doesn’t take much effort to make the most of them. Jumping on the trampoline, packing for imaginary adventures, riding a bike without training wheels, getting a stack of books at the library, and jumping into a cold pool don’t require a lot of grand plans. Casual, easy, and spontaneous are what kids are best at, so let them come up with most of the summer plans.

What parts of summer are true for you and your family every year?

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