Clapping Games

All you need are your hands and a little memory!

Most of us have used Patty Cake with babies, but much older kids can also enjoy the more complicated songs. Some of these songs have been around for hundreds of years, and others are recent nonsense fun.

Teach your kids a clapping game, and be amazing today!

This site has videos of some favorites.

This site has some great new clapping songs. We are so totally learning Four White Horses from her list. It’s an old Caribbean song with lyrics that make no sense, but I love the clapping pattern.

Four white horses on the river,
aye, aye, aye, up tomorrow,
up tomorrow is a rainy day.
Come and join our shadow play.
Shadow play is a ripe banana,
aye, aye, aye, up tomorrow,
up tomorrow is a rainy day.

While you are clapping away, try making up individual handshakes with each child. See the post here.

Have fun!

Individual Handshakes

Some simple hand action can go a long way to help your kids feel loved! 

I struggle sometimes with lumping my kids all together in our experiences. It can be hard to maintain those important individual relationships with lots of kids! When I saw this video of Barry White, Jr. welcoming his students to class with an individualized handshake, I knew I had to try it!

So. Much. Fun. Be amazing today and create a secret handshake with each of your kiddos. You could start by showing them these handshakes to get their ideas going!

The cool Baymax fist bump from Big Hero 6 here.

The cloud guy handshakes from Trolls here.

Then, let THEM develop a fun handshake you can use together in greeting, goodbyes, or when your kid needs a smile.

*Hint* Most kids will want this handshake to be home use only, so don’t pull out your moves at the school carnival or as you drop your child off at a birthday party unless they initiate it. (It may just come up with their therapist 10 years later.)

Have fun!

One Week Before Kindergarten

I see you from the window
As I do dishes
Sunshine soaking your hair
Mud soaking your dress-
As you pet the cat and eat garden peas.
Again and again
For an hour or more.

You know your letters
And how to write your name.
You know what to do if someone tries
To take your lunch
Or pull you from a swing.
We’ve practiced all this.
But bells will soon ring
And lines will form.
You will try to find your place
When kids laugh and cut
In front
Before the teacher sees.

So stay outside, love.
Soak up another hour of light
And garden
And mud.
Cross-contaminate your little hands
With peas and cat hair.
The sanitizer dispenser
Will be posted
By your classroom door
Next week.
One week before Kindergarten.
So soon.
Too soon.

Dandelion Curls

I’ve said it before, but some of these ideas seem too simple to even post. But aren’t those simple things usually your kid’s favorites? I totally loved making dandelion curls when I was little, and my kids love it still.

Many of us have dandelions this time of year. My sister once had a door-to-door lawn guy ask if they needed some help with their yard, which happened to have more than its fair share of dandelions. She told him with a straight face that she was growing them on purpose for her kids and they didn’t need weed control. Most of us can find more than we need, but if you happen to have great weed control, you may have to pick a neighbor’s dandelions when it’s dark.

Let your kids pick dandelions, then peel the stem into several strips, stopping at the flower. Put them in cold water and wait for a few minutes. The dandelion strips magically curl up like little ribbons!

Good, cheap, fun…and great weed removal!

Music Critic’s Club

Bossy or a pushover? It seems like kids fall into one camp or the other. One of the most important skills of childhood is learning to express thoughts and feelings openly and appropriately. Enter the Music Critic’s Club! Kids will just think they are having fun, but they are also learning a great skill: to have an opinion and to accept other’s opinions.

Put together a varied collection of songs on CD’s, old records, or playlists. Don’t forget some tunes from when you were young! Give kids paper and write down numbers 1-10. Play a bit of each song and let them rate it, expressing reasons for their rating. Pre-teach kids to accept each other’s opinions, even if their brother gives their favorite song a 1! This is good training for opinionated parents, too! Practice validating your kiddo’s response instead of trying to convince him that Milli Vanilli deserves a solid 10, controversy notwithstanding.

If you are being amazing on the go, turn to different radio stations and rate from whatever is playing.

Have fun with your little music critics!


Have fun with

Spy Cookie Capers

My husband is masterful at inventing creative dates. Before we were married, he once told me to be dressed all in black when he picked me up. We went to his apartment, made cookies, donned black knit caps, and went out on “capers” as he called them. In the cover of the dark night, we found our professor’s houses. We rang the doorbell, left cookies, and ran. It’s how I’d imagine Pollyanna doorbell ditching if she ever did such a thing. I thought the date was fun, and knew he was a keeper.

Try it with your family tonight! Sneaking around corners like a spy is part of the excitement, so don’t forget to dress in black and get into character! (Just don’t act too suspicious. You don’t want to create fond family memories of jail time!)

Where “When Mommy’s Home with Me” came from…

This book has been a very long process of about 10 years! Here’s the story…inspired by some great ladies!

I’ve known many great women in my life who have all influenced the moms I chose in “When Mommy’s Home with Me.” A decade ago I lived in Florida, far away from my family. Playgroup became a lifeline. I always looked forward to socializing with other moms who had become my friends and mentors. One day, as we handed out cheerios, scooped rocks out of our babies mouths, and rescued children who freaked out halfway across the monkey bars, the conversation turned to our PK lives–who we were Pre-Kids. These outstanding moms were also outstanding individuals, excelling in very diverse careers and possessing very impressive talents. They ran businesses, they taught, they created, they managed. One friend even was recruited by the CIA as a spy! I began to notice their unique talents as it translated to their mothering. I realized more than ever that a women’s education, experience, and talents are never “wasted” at home. Indeed, there is nowhere those talents can thrive more than in raising little people. Some moms had taken a break to mother full time, and others saved their best for their kids after a long work day away from home. But all of them were totally committed to their families. They were an inspiring group of ladies!

After that playgroup I waited  for my boys at swim lessons. I took out a little notebook, and wrote: “Mommy was a writer, and now she’s home with me…” I got two stanzas down, and closed the notebook for a later date.

The book stayed in the back of my mind for a couple of years. It didn’t come to light again until 2008. I was in the middle of postpartum depression after the birth of my fifth child. I had never experienced anything so debilitating and so disheartening, and I had an empathetic taste for several months of what so many people live with constantly. As I slowly came out of that dark fog, my sweet and supportive husband tried to encourage me towards things that I enjoyed doing. He suggested that my creative side needed a boost and arranged for me to have some time to write. The rest of the book came as a little light in a very dark time. It was very therapeutic to remind myself of just how important my mom gig was. I could be a good mother, even if I felt inadequate, even if my emotions were still wacked out, and even if I felt like I was just surviving. That gift of writing time helped me become more balanced and healthy, and I completed the book knowing that even if it was never published, it has been part of an important personal journey.

It was during the recession when I sent the manuscript out to carefully researched publishers, only to receive a pile of rejection letters in return. Some of them were nice rejections, and one publisher even called to say she wished she could publish it. I shrugged and moved on. I knew the book was a slightly different genre and was maybe not as marketable because of that. I see it as a family picture book. It is a whimsical book, written for children in fun rhyme, but I wrote it just as much for the parent reading it as for the child. I took my rejections as my writer’s due. For the next seven years, I didn’t touch it, though I still wrote occasionally. I thought that the journey was enough for me. Being creative again, and focusing on the importance of mothers had really helped my emotional health, and I was grateful for the experience.

Last January, I started getting an itch to try again. I sent the manuscript to just one publisher, Cedar Fort, because I saw what great family-friendly books they were publishing. A few months later, in August, I got an email, asking for two things: 1) more stanzas, and 2) a different way to deal with the working mom/mom at home issue. I had originally written the book in a very vague way, to suggest that the moms were home for the day, or home for a season, without committing to either. I worked on the additional content and found a bolder approach to a sensitive subject. I’m in a different stage of my own life now, with a part time job and older kids. I have a broader perspective than when I was a playgroup mommy with babies. I decided to embrace the fact that some moms stay at home, and some moms work outside the home…and both can be great mothers. No vagueness. No “take this how you want to” and pretty please don’t be offended. Just a plea that we all mother our best, using our God-given talents and gifts to be the mother we need to be, because nothing else will ever be more important.

With the requested changes, the publisher accepted the manuscript. They chose the illustrator, Kinsey Beckett, and she created the lovely pictures to go along with the text. I asked that a variety of moms be portrayed, and she did a great job creating scenes with all sorts of families, and creating endearing homes that I would love to live in! Cedar Fort requested minor edits, and asked for one last mommy (the teacher). She was added just a couple weeks before the press date!

And now the book is out. It has had a long journey, but like everything, there is a time and a season. I feel like I needed to learn some more about mothering before this book could be written properly. I’m grateful to have found a like-minded publisher that is as eager to promote families as I am! And I’m grateful to all the moms who have inspired both me and this book, especially those special moms from Tallahassee Florida who sparked the first couple stanzas a decade ago.




My Latest Reviews for “When Mommy’s Home with Me”

I feel so honored to have two amazing women whom I admire so much write a review for my book. Thanks!

Kids will love the fun pictures and delightful verse while their moms get a well-deserved pat on the back. This book sends a clear message that mothers matter. Bravo!
–Jane Clayson Johnson, journalist and author of I Am a Mother

Alison has written a beautiful book that moms and their babies are going to enjoy together! All mothers strive to give their children wings to fly! Open up the pages to the possibilities!
–Marla Cilley (aka The Flylady), author of Sink Reflections and New York Times bestseller Body Clutter.

(Learn about Flylady’s organizational system here.)