Thursday, August 26, 2010

Note to Self:

*Next time I get this bright idea to volunteer to head up a PTA fundraiser for the school that includes buying and putting together 75 school supply kits, make sure I do my research first.  It turns out the all the other schools that I got the great idea from use companies who do all the hard work for them. *

As of today, I'm almost done with my shopping list:

206 composition notebooks
87 pairs of scissors
405 glue sticks
74 boxes of Kleenex
60 containers of Clorox wipes
1,440 pencils
94 boxes of crayons
126 erasers
45 pencil sharpeners
53 highlighters
106 red marking pens
236 folders
etc.
etc.

And on the bright side with all this,  I now know the locations of all the Walmarts in Northern Virginia and I'm pretty sure that you can now call me the School Supply Shopping Expert of the Universe

Need a deal?  Call me.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grassheads

This is my kind of craft all the way.  It's cheap, fun, and my kids get to get their hands dirty!  We made our first Grassheads about 1-1/2 weeks ago after seeing it online at Scribbit and then "borrowing" some grass seed from a nice friend and since then my kids have made them twice more.  Good thing they're cute, because I'm pretty sure that they're going to keep on making these until the grass seed runs out. 
The ingredients:
old nylons (or cheap knee highs) cut off at the ankle
small craft pompoms
medium sized googly eyes
hot glue and hot glue gun (Ignore the picture with the craft glue.  It didn't work well as well with the moisture)
dirt

yogurt container (Yoplait works best due to its shape with the smaller opening)
grass seed


Cut off old nylons at the ankle (make sure there are no holes in the toe): 

Add about 1 tablespoon grass seed: 


Fill with a couple handfuls of dirt and tie off the end with a tight knot.  NOTE:  Do NOT trim the "tail".  The tail is an important part of how this craft works:

Place it into the yogurt container with the tail hanging down.  Shape the head to make it fit snugly on top of the opening (the head is very pliable at this point).  One of my kids didn't do that and ended up having it fall in ( I actually think that  this picture is of one that fell in, so make yours a little wider than this). 

Hot glue googly eyes and pompoms as desired (I tried to get them to avoid making the face on top of the grass seed, which is easy to see through the nylon).   Some of my kids went crazy here and glued several eyes on to make an alien.  Pompom ears and tails were popular too. 

You can even decorate the yogurt container if you want (take the grass head out first) 


Fill the yogurt containers about 1/2 way with water, making sure the "tail" is submerged.  This "tail" will act as a sort of straw sucking up the water for the whole head.  Check the water levels every couple of days or so refilling when necessary.  

You do not need to water the top of the grass head.  All the water it needs will be sucked up through the "tail" hanging into the water.  It will take a couple of days before you notice moisture on top of the head.  They sprouted after 4 or 5 days and a week later they looked like this....
Almost ready for a "hair cut".

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Important Question...

So, after 10 months of dog ownership which of us do you think is the biggest sport? 

Me...



Or Rocky? 



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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Around the World Spreadsheet

 As an avid reader of 1000+ page books with 4 pairs of shoes total in my closet, it's abundantly clear that I tend toward the geeky side of life.


What you may not realize though is that I'm a pretty well-traveled geek....at least by most people's standards. With 49 states and 19 countries under my belt, I feel like I've seen some pretty amazing places in my life. 

Too bad I'm losing the battle though. 



Because I come from a family that:
A)  Loves to travel
B)  Is a bit competitive
My 19 countries is considered wimpy in my family.


One day a few years ago after two of my siblings returned from an African safari, one of my brothers decided it was time to keep track of who had been to where, so we could see once and for all who who had been to the most countries.  That's when this spreadsheet was born. 


It keeps track of all the countries we've visited and is updated after anyone visits a new country.  While increasing your total number of countries visited is the main goal, there is also a special badge of honor for those who go to places that no one has ever been to before. 


In the spreadsheet, the horizontal bars of color show the places where only one of us has been before...



So why do I publish this spreadsheet for the whole world to see? 


Three reasons: 
1.  I want you to be jealous that I've been to Lichtenstein and you haven't
2.  I want to show you that my geekiness comes to me honestly
3.  And the biggest reason was so that Glen could show off that...

He's now been to 2  countries that even Dad hasn't been to!!!!  India and South Korea. 


Now he's gone from a lonely 2nd-to-last spot on the list to tied for 2nd-to-last with my sister-in-law.




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Perler Beads: A Love/Hate Relationship

If you haven't been able to tell by now, I enjoy crafts.  I enjoy doing them myself and I also enjoy finding crafts for my kids to try.  This post is dedicated to one of our all-time favorite kids' crafts--perler beads.   

Most of you may already be familiar with perler beads, but since they've provided hours and hours of entertainment for my kids over the years, and this summer in particular, I thought I'd share a little more about them.    

 First, you can't beat these beads in the easy, cheap, or cool department.    Here's a visual I found that summarizes what they are...

You can find these in buckets or packages at the craft store or on Amazon .  Make sure you get a kit that includes the beads, a pegboard or two, and the ironing paper. Here are a couple I like (here and here ).   I usually use my 40% off coupon and buy it at Michaels, but I like the convenience of getting it online sometimes too. 

Once you have the kit, 1) you choose a pegboard, 2) fill it with the beads in whatever pattern you choose, 3) then place the ironing paper over it and iron the top side, and lastly 4) flip it over and iron the back. 

The beads melt together slightly and you end up with a super cool creations like this small sampling of what you can find at our house.  .

You can put a magnet on the back and hang it on the fridge.  Tie a string through it to hang on a tree.  Or just keep them in a box and play with them.   

These little beads are tiny, which means they're great for developing eye/hand coordination, but because of they're so tiny I do recommend waiting until your child is about 4-years-old before introducing these.  They're also great for teaching kids about patterns, following directions, and sharing. 


Emma, Adam, and Ellie have literally spent  3+ hours a day some days creating, trading, and sharing their bead creations.  It's actually to the point now, that I've even let them start ironing by themselves, since it was becoming quite interruptive to my day to continually be called in to iron for them.  I figure I'll wean them slowly from here into ironing all their own clothes.  :)

And here's the only thing I don't like about these beads....

Coming soon:  A spreadsheet and a mock....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top 10 Best-Loved Children's Books

This post is as much for preserving some of our family history as it is for those of you with young kids looking for some new picture books.  These books are the most well-loved and treasured books in our house.  Collectively I'm certain they've been read thousands of times.  It is my hope that in sharing them here, that you may find a few new ones to treasure as well.   

What Is Your Language? (by Debra Leventhal):  This cute book came with a cassette tape with the words of the book set to music.  We haven't had a cassette player in our house in years, but my younger kids still know the tune to the song because we (me, Spencer, and Cami) remember it so well.  This book follows the journey of a little boy who travels around the world and hears the word, "Yes" in all the different languages.  It's a quick read, but fun and educational too.  (Si, Da, Hapana, Oui...)


Officer Buckle & Gloria (by Peggy Rathmann):  This hilarious book follows the adventures of Officer Buckle and his boring safety speeches.  Boring, that is, until Gloria the dog comes along and livens things up a bit. 


Growing Frogs (by Vivian French):  This book is a cute story about a little girl and her mother who find some frog eggs in a pond and take them home to take care of them and watch them grow from tadpoles to frogs.  It's very detailed and informative, but also very appealing and fun for the kids. 


Bedhead (by Margie Palatini):  This book cracks us up.  It's all about a little boy who has a serious case of bedhead and it follows his adventures as he tries to get rid of his bad hair day.  This book is great for lively, animated storytelling. 


Are You My Mother?  (by PD Eastman):  I think this book has been one of the first "real" books that my kids have read by themselves.  The story is cute and the words simple.  Since it is a little long, we usually take turns reading every other page. 


We're Going on a Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen):  This repetitious book is great for toddlers because it's so easy for the kids to chime in during the reading.  I think every single one of my kids has had this book completely memorized at one point.  Even still when faced with a mud puddle, my kids will yell, "Squelch, Squerch..." as we trudge through it! 


Bill and Pete (by Tomie de Paola):  { Fair warning--the last page of this book has a naked bum in it.  It's whimsically drawn and has perfect comedic effect, but I thought you should be warned.}  Having said that though, this book has taken its turn as a favorite with all 5 of my kids.  My kids sing out the alphabet has Bill learns it in crocodile school and when the "bad guy" (as he's actually referred to in the book) jumps out of the bath and runs "all the way to Cairo" with his naked bum running off into the distance, my kids (and me) laugh hysterically. 


Chrysanthemum (by Kevin Henkes):  This book is all about a little girl named Chrysanthemum who absolutely loves her name.  Too bad everyone at school thinks it's too long.  It goes through her struggle of wanting to change her name and then eventually coming back to acceptance that her name really is wonderful.  It sounds funny, but my girls, in particular, have loved this book.  It's a little on the long side for a picture book, but at one point Cami had the entire thing memorized word for word. 



Caps for Sale (by Esphyr Slobodkina):  Don't be shy when reading this classic book.  This book just calls out for calling, stomping, and finger shaking.  


Edward the Emu (by Sheena Knowles):  This silly book has some rhythm to it that makes it fun and easy to memorize.   I'm fairly certain that at any given time, I and a bunch of the kids could recite this book on demand. 

And as a bonus, here's a little glimpse into one of my favorite books when I was a young child....

Friends are Very Special People (by Lillian Tarry)--long since out of print, but still available used on Amazon.  This book is sweet and simple and has the most beautiful illustrations.  I totally and completely adore this book, even as an adult. 

It somehow survived my childhood and is still a treasured book in our home today, although none of my kids have fallen as deeply in love with it as I did. 

That's my handwriting in there....

Now, I'd love to hear what some of your favorites are.  Share, share! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Most Wonderful Month of the Year...

August is such a lazy month.  We're done with vacation.  We're done with trying to keep a productive routine.  We stay up too late, then sleep in.  We eat breakfast at 10:00 and dinner whenever we feel like it.  Our house is filled with kids, usually mine plus a few more.  It's fun, but kind of exhausting too. 

It's right about now that I usually start checking out of summer a little.  I start daydreaming about having a routine again and I can't help but wonder what the bottom of the laundry basket looked like before all the towels and 3 outfits a day buried it.   

This year, though, I've decided that it can stay August as long as it wants to stay.  Why the change of heart?  It's this discovery I made a few days ago...

An old calendar from 2007. 

  Here's August....


Here's September....

And here's October....

 And this was way back in the day when I didn't have any kids in early morning seminary. 

I take back everything I said about my laundry basket--it's probably just mildewy anyway.

I think I'm ready for some good old-fashioned magic.  


Can you help me out?


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Friday, August 13, 2010

Writing a Book...

So, I decided to write a book and need your input.   Which do you think would sell better?

#1--
"How to Remodel Your Basement in 437 Days
and Only Go a Little Crazy
,

with a Foreword written by S. Lowe Polk

or

#2--
"Why Bad Decorating Happens to Good People,"
with a guest chapter by Y. Bawther


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Starting Your Own Kid's Craft Club

 Since a few of you seemed like you may be interested in starting your own kid's craft club, I decided to summarize (as much for me as for you) how to get one going.  We've done it as a summer activity, but you could definitely keep one going during the school year if there was interest.  You can do this with boys or girls and any age 4-11, as long as the crafts/activities were appropriately picked for the right age.     
 

  It does take some organizing and a bit of benevolent dictatorship to get moving with this, but  it's been so worth the effort to see the kids trying fun, creative ideas and developing friendships at the same time.  We made participation in the craft club free of charge, other than the supplies you provide when it's your turn to host. 

Here's how to get started:


1.  Make a general plan of how many kids you want to include and how often you want to meet.  (My suggestion is 6-8 children of similar age and meeting once a week).

2.  Invite people.  Tell them what your plan is and give them a deadline to respond.  This is also a good time to ask them what days/time will work out best for them.

3.  Based on who wants to participate and the days/time that they're available, pick an official day, time, and length.  (We ended up with Wednesday afternoons for 3 hours).    Please note that it may not be possible to accommodate everyone's preferences.  Go with the majority and if it doesn't work for someone, they'll either need to change their plans or they may not be able to participate. 

4.  Make a calendar of the dates (we had 8 participants, so I just calendared 8 Wednesdays in a row) and have people sign up for a day to host.  I did this by email and had everyone "Reply All", so that they could see which days were taken.  There was some trading around that happened later, but that was much easier to do once it was on the calendar initially. 

5.  Have people submit their craft ideas as soon as possible to be included on the calendar.  I did this so that 2 people did not plan the same craft unknowingly.  I think it also was inspirational to see other people's ideas.

6.  Be realistic.    Keep in mind the ages of the children when planning the crafts.   Younger children may have difficulty with some fine motor skills (like detailed cutting or tying knots). 

7.  Be flexible.  Be prepared for time fillers should the craft take less time than you'd expect.  ( I often planned a secondary craft while other moms would have them play outside).  Also expect that each child has a  different threshold for attention.  While it's fine to encourage a rushing child to slow down and take their time or remind a more detail oriented child that craft club is ending soon and they will need to wrap up, just don't criticize.  Kids are different and that's okay.  If two kids finish quickly and run off to play, it's okay.  Remember it's all about friendships and fun, which brings me to my next point. 

8.  Keep it lighthearted and have fun.  Remember that fun and developing friendships is what it's all about.    One of my crafts was really difficult for some of the girls, in particular my own daughter.  As her frustration level rose, I found myself starting to get a little irritated.  I had to remind myself why I was doing this in the first place and it helped me to be more patient with her and the others who were struggling.   

Coming soon a post filled with cheap, easy, fun craft ideas. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not So Innocent...

Meet our next-door neighbor's tree.  It's cute and has such a friendly face....



But I'm here to tell you it's all a facade.

These lovely branches are pure evil.

 Not only does it drop 98% of its leaves straight into OUR yard, but it also sneezes branches into our yard like Glen after he catches whiff of a cat.



It took 6 people working for 2 hours straight in the boiling hot sun with a hatchet, handsaw, and slew of bags to finally take care of this week's "sneezing fit".

There is a bright side, however.  That's that many branches fewer that can drop their leaves on us in a couple of months...

Evil tree.

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