Thursday, October 19, 2017

10 Free Halloween Preschool Printables

Nothing draws me to Pinterest like the holiday season. Suddenly I want all the muffin recipes, decor inspiration, and craft ideas. Now that Ez is in preschool I've been trying to gear our crafts and activities to go along with whatever he's currently doing in school. Most of these don't take more than 10-15 minutes, which is perfect for a four year old attention span, and we've been squeezing in one or two before lunch or bathtime each day. Here are a few free printables I've collected along the way in case you're looking to occupy the kiddos for a few minutes:
Our favorite way to end the evening before we wind down and get ready for bed is with a little family dance party. Of course I put together a spooky playlist for the season 👻 If You're a Monster and You Know It is our fave:

I hope you're all enjoying the season!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween Activities: Lost in a Maze

"Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction." ~ Rumi

In our case, it was less a matter of the heart and more a certain opinionated four year old who believed he knew the way. But hey, with a few shortcuts and just a tiny bit of cheating, we managed to find our way out of all three corn mazes we've gotten lost in this month. Yup. We've been busy. 

I know pumpkin patches get all kinds of love this month, and trust me, I've got plenty of pumpkin pictures coming at ya in the near future, but one of my absolute FAVORITE Halloween activities is getting lost in a giant corn maze. This is a tradition from my childhood that I was so excited to pass down to Ez and Declan and they love it just as much as I do. I can't tell you how happy that makes my holiday-loving heart. 

Ez is currently in a "I can do it myself" take the lead kind of phase, and he was so in his element directing us through the mazes. "I think we gotta go this way!" "Nope, back this way!" "Ok guys, which way?...This way!" He even snatched the map right out of my hands while we were in a huge maze, one that takes two hours to complete if you do it right, and he took on full navigation duties. In case you've never let a four year old navigate, it involves lots of winding, looping, backtracking, and, yes, some blazing your own trails. Some may call that cheating, but it was lunchtime and I was hungry, so we'll just call it survival. 

Decky didn't get the coveted leader role this time, but he was still in his element given free reign to run wild through the dirty, messy paths. If you ever want a sure-fire guarantee that your kids will sleep 10+ hours straight, take 'em to the corn maze. 

For anyone local, here are the three we've hit up (so far - there are still two weeks left!):
  • Delfino Farms was our first corn maze, and though they have a bigger maze down the street we stuck with the small one for $5. It really is tiny and took maybe fifteen minutes of our time. We'll call it a good warm up maze to get the season started. The real highlight of Delfino Farms is their walking apple pie. Get the caramel sauce and ice cream on top, trust me:

  • Next up was Cool Patch Pumpkins, near Dixon. This corn maze is no joke. We're talking complex maps with a grid system, three or four platform viewing spots, an average of two hours to complete the maze (if you don't cheat or get extremely lost), and probably hundreds of dead ends. I love this kind of maze, and I highly recommend going here, the only problem is that after a few very windy days (40 mph in some areas), a lot of the corn was flattened. That didn't diminish the difficulty at all though. Cost: $15
  • Goblin Gardens Pumpkin Patch at Bastiao Farms was our most recent adventure. This one wins points for being nice and close (just north of Sacramento) and having lots of fun kid activities included in their admission fee ($8). Their corn maze is well-maintained and average-sized. We went through twice in about half an hour.

What's your favorite fall farm activity??

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Halloweentime at Disneyland

Disneyland is pretty much my favorite place to visit during the holidays. Mickey shaped pumpkins, costumed characters, all kinds of limited-time sweets and makes my heart so happy. I wasn't sure if we'd be able to squeeze in a trip this year, especially since Ez started school and we've entered the world of responsibility and schedules, but after a rough start to Ez's school year we decided we needed a bit of magic and an escape from reality, so to Disney we went. Responsibility can wait until year 😉

I'm still in a bit of shock at all the fires that broke out soon after we left. The very first apartment I ever lived in by myself is right by one of the evacuation zones. Orange County will always have a special place in my heart and I'm hurting for those affected by fires all across California at the moment. 

The Characters
I was probably most excited to check out California Adventure's brand new Halloween decorations and character costumes this year. Monster Truck Mater definitely stole the show, and he and Superhero Lightning were incredibly popular, with 30-40 minute lines just to get a picture. We got lucky with the timing and managed to snag a picture with Lightning, which neither of the kids wanted anything to do with, but overall we decided not to spend too much time waiting in lines for pictures. I'm thinking this is a more recent Instagram phenomenon, but there were lines all over the park just for photos. And the photographers are real pros now, which is great, but also time-consuming because instead of a simple snap, they're asking you to pose this way, now turn that way, ok, just tilt your head a get the idea. Obviously I love Disney photos (in case the five dozen I've posted here didn't give it away), but wasting memory-making time just for photos doesn't really make sense to me. I was however very happy to finally get a photo with the elusive Donald, who we've somehow never actually met in all the times we've visited Disneyland. And I made everyone take a picture with me in front of the Mickey pumpkin so we'd have one photo with all of us, which is a rarity.

The Rides
We got really lucky on the Thursday we were there with short lines and minimum crowds. Unlike our last Disney trip, when we took the kids on a scary ride as soon as we got there (Toad's Wild Ride), this time we wizened up and took them on a ride they actually liked: Dumbo. That set the tone for the whole trip and both kids were over-the-moon excited after that. Other favorites were Monsters Inc (probably the #1 favorite), Teacups, Cars, the carousel, the Tractors, Luigi's Dancing Cars, Flik's Flyers, and Haunted Mansion. I use the term "favorites" loosely though. Declan LOVED waiting in line for Tractors, and dancing along to the music, right up until we actually got on the ride and then he burst into tears. You can see his traumatized face a few pictures down. Neither of the kids really liked the Haunted Mansion, but I consider it a must-do during Halloween, and they were good sports about it. Somehow we'd never ridden the carousel before this trip, but both kids loved it so much we rode it three times. And while not really a ride, the Adventure Creek Trail in California Adventure was a favorite spot for both boys, and a great way to burn off some energy and make sure everyone sleeps well that night.

The Food
I was probably a little too excited for all the seasonal treats. We were only there two days, so we didn't get to sample too much, but everything we did try was delicious. We started off our first day there with a pumpkin muffin and a spice bundt cake for breakfast at the Jolly Holiday. I preferred the muffin, Joe liked the spice cake. Then we somehow managed to squeeze in a Mickey mummy rice krispy treat (always one of my favorites), a bat cake pop for Ez (not pictured), a Monstermallow cronut from Shmoozies in California Adventure (an all around favorite), the mummy ice cream macaron sandwich (just ok, not a must-have for us), pumpkin spice churros which I liked, but Joe preferred regular churros, and a spicy jack cheese stick with blackberry sauce and pineapple relish from the corn dog stand in California Adventure. Despite thinking it sounded like an odd combination, the cheese stick was one of our favorite foods, a little spicy and a little sweet. 

The Decor
Disney never ever fails to add tons of tiny, yet magical details that make the holidays so fun. Pumpkins everywhere, orange and purple lights strung through the trees, spooky bats, a purple haunted-looking castle...Disney does Halloween right. 

The Disney Magic
And despite my love for all the pumpkins and rides, my absolute favorite part of Disney is making new family memories and seeing Ez and Declan light up with wonder. Both of them were bouncing around with excitement and literally dancing with happiness the entire two days. My favorite memories are of Declan grabbing my hand and sprinting between one ride and the next because he was just too excited to walk. Ez's joy at sitting and watching the Cars' ride from Flo's Cafe. Both boys bonding with Grandma. Ez and Declan dancing and spinning in circles outside the Monsters Inc ride. Ez riding on Joe's shoulders in line for the Cars' ride, bouncing with excitement every time the cars drove by us. And Declan trying to ride the indestructible Disney balloon we got him (seriously, that thing is still flying high), and Joe telling him "don't ride the balloon," which for some reason cracked Ez up for days. I love my goofballs, and I'm so happy they had the BEST time ever. 

Until next time, Disneyland!