Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm Still Honored, Though I Don't Fully Understand

Thank you to Rachel at Huse Blog Is It Anyway? for awarding me the Arte y Pico Award! From what I understand, the award is for bloggers who exhibit wonderful creativity, design, interesting material, and contribute to the blogging community. Well, obviously I deserve this award...I mean, just look at my creativity:

And it makes sense that Rachel deserves this award as well. I mean, just look at her creativity:
And oh look, I found more.
But if there were a creative shopper award-she would totally deserve that. Just look at this.

Seriously, I love the award purely because it is from my good friend Rachel. We have a fun project in the works, by the way, so stay tuned. And "in the works" means that we have talked about it and said "yeah that's a good idea we should totally do that."

Action, it seems, takes a bit longer.

And there was some smack being talked at her blog about how no one knows what I really look like and all that. Honestly, if I were in any pictures...I would post them. But the only one who catches me on film is my non-digital camera owning mom who always manages to get me shoving food in my mouth or scratching my head or looking fat. However, now that I own a scanner I am determined to find flattering pictures of myself to post. It's um, in the works.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Theme-A-Week: Pirates

OK all you mothers with boys--here is a TAW you can sink your teeth into! This week's theme was chose by Sweetheart, age 8. Are you ready to set sail?

First, we scoured the house looking for anything to do with Pirates. This made our pirate collection, which we keep on the fireplace all week. They have played with these toys every single day. I couldn't help but notice how, um, commercial our collection is. I also realized I bought very little of it--thanks to grandparents and aunts. I would have told you we really didn't own that much pirate stuff, but I would have been wrong! I'm sure boy houses might have more.

I was excited about this theme because it was a bit "older" giving the big girls a chance to learn something as well. We checked out two kinds of books from the library this week: fiction...
and non-fiction. I think that's the biggest thing Sweetheart learned this week: that pirates were real and not nice. But fictional pirates can be fun!
First, we made pirate hats. I learned how to fold them here. Sweetheart went with the bone stencil idea from the website, but Little Bit chose a smiley face just like Pirate Pig in this Dora book. So, I made the stencils. Then the girls painted their hats because they will paint anything.
Here are the finished products, along with eye patches and earrings from the party store. AARRGHH!
It has rained here everyday, so we got pretty crafty. I realize in a boy house where there are swords, pirate week might look a bit different. We made anchors (can't remember where I found the pattern, sorry!) with paper chains attached. Here is Little Bit working on the ABC pattern I started on her chain.
All done!

We also made telescopes, or rather spy glasses. You could make them from a paper towel tube, but I had a sturdier carboard tube. We almost never got it cut though. We put plastic wrap over one end and colored the tube with crayons. Sweetheart didn't want to wait for paint to dry! We covered the plastic wrap end with colored paper and they were done. Don't you just love these natural poses? It's like I caught the action while it was happening, isn't it? Or not.

One other project we did this week was to make treasure maps. I found the maps online and the kids colored them with colored pencils. It's important not to use markers for this project. Then we cut them out, crumpled up a piece of brown paper sack and also crumpled up the map then glued it on the brown paper. Then I rubbed a used tea bag (wrung out) over the map to make it look old.
You have to be careful or the tea bag will bust. Wanna know how I know?

Which I wouldn't recommend as far as clean-up goes, but it did make good maps! I just kept rubbing the tea all over the map anyway. I think they came out great.

All this pirate work inspired lots of play in the girls this week. The couch became a ship, a flag was fashioned using a stick, fabric and pony tail holders, and a fan was used to make the storm. It was fun to see them use their imaginations.

At my sister's house they made pirate skeletons this week. She asked them "How do you think he died?" They made up some story about how he was a nice pirate so he got kicked off the ship for being too nice. I told her we even managed to "girl up" a pirate theme! We watched Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, a Pippi Longstocking pirate movie which was rated G but very, very weird, and my sister's kids enjoyed the Muppet's Treasure Island. Like I said, it rained all week.

The big finale was our treasure hunt. First, they had to dress up in the appropriate attire. They followed clues all over the house until they found their treasure. Little Bit followed picture clues, while Sweetheart read her clues.
We're rich!

Have a great weekend, mateys!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What Could I Do With $4,700?

That's the reported cost per student that our local school district spends each year. I read that in the paper today. The article was about how districts in our state are locked into their budgets from 2005 due to a cap placed by the state. With gas prices, property taxes and a number of things on the rise, the districts are in real trouble.

So, basically they only have $4,700 to spend on each student this year. Well, I realize that each child does not actually get that amount of money spent on them personally. There are teacher salaries to pay, new buildings to build, gas to buy for buses, and any other number of places the money goes.

But what if each child actually did have that amount of money spent on their personal education each year? Would that improve the quality of education? Would that ensure that each child would be successful? Would our schools then be so phenomenal that our students would graduate early and be extremely successful?

I think we all know that would not be the case. I realize that school districts must have money to do the task that they do, but there is so much more to a child's education than money. I know as homeschoolers we sometimes drool over curriculum fairs and sweat while walking through teacher supply stores or used book stores. OH the wonderful things we could do if only we owned x, y, or z. Imagine if you were given a check for $4,700 PER CHILD in your home this year earmarked purely for their education (and, OK lunch too). Imagine that! What would you run off and buy? What field trips would you plan? What extra-curricular things would you sign up for?

But today I am reminded of what matters most.

This year, we will buy what we need (used if possible). We will be creative and frugal and our children will learn. Because we know that money is not what creates a quality education. We have a library card. We have paper and pencils. We have Bibles. We have internet access. We have a few textbooks and workbooks. Most of all, we have time together at home.

No district, no budget, no amount of money spent....could invest in our children the way we do. Anyone agree?

But if I did have that money...I promise I would spend it very wisely! :) What would you do for your homeschool with that money?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Definition of Frustration

The girls have gone to another VBS this week. It's at my aunt and uncle's church and it's only 1 1/2 hours in the evenings. It's simple and sweet and not too long. They decided they wanted to go. Little Bit had a really hard time deciding to stay (nervous situation=tics break out like crazy) but she did it. They had a clown who threw small stuffed bears out into the crowd. They had a guy who made balloon animals and gave them out to random kids. My girls didn't get a bear or a balloon the first night.

Little Bit was NOT happy. Sweetheart wasn't all that thrilled either. We had a talk on the way home last night about how things aren't always fair. I told them I agreed with them. If I was running the VBS, I would not give out things unless there was enough to go around. I really do hate that kind of thing. Only the aggressive, taller kids who happened to be sitting near the aisle had any chance of getting anything. It really wasn't fair. I sympathized with them, but reminded them that they did not need anything. It would be fine.

Little Bit just could not drop it. I'm still not sure if this is just part of her personality or part of her Tourette's but she can get stuck on something for quite a while. I finally pointed out that kids who brought visitors had been called forward and given a treat on the first night. Since she would be bringing her cousin the next day, that meant she would be called forward and given a treat too.

She talked about it several times today. "I hope I get a bear." "I hope I get a treat tonight." There were 190 kids there the first night and they threw out maybe 10 bears. The chances are not good. I told her so.

Well, my sister and I got there at the end of VBS tonight. Sweetheart held up the small bear she had caught to show me. Uh oh. Then, they called out the names of those who brought visitors. Sweetheart's name was called. Little Bit's was not. Double uh oh.

I went up to check on her and she was standing there absolutely drowning in tears. She looked stricken and no adults had noticed. I got her attention and she came to lay on my shoulder and cry. Her teacher saw us and asked what was wrong. I told her and she alerted the speaker who said, "she can come up too." But the damage was done. Her name had not been called. Wait, it gets worse.

So she goes forward to get her treat and it is a little orange pen on a necklace. Moose (my niece) goes up and gets one too even though her name was not called. When we get to my sister I notice that Little Bit's pen is broken. Sister offers to trade Moose's for the broken one since she wasn't supposed to have one in the first place. "Whew! Thanks!" I say.

We are driving home and Little Bit says her pen won't work. I tell her to give it to me and I'll show her how it works. It's tangled up in her seat belt and name tag. Sweetheart reaches over and jerks the pen to get it undone and breaks it. I tell her she must give her pen to Little Bit now that she broke her sister's. Now EVERYONE is crying (except me). "I didn't mean to Mama!" Sweetheart wails. "I didn't ask you to jerk it! I didn't ask you to do that!" I say. Little Bit just says, "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" It was a lovely ride home.

At a red light I think I have fixed the pen, then it flies apart again. These two stupid pieces of junk that cost probably 10 cents a piece are NOT WORTH IT! We are not going back to VBS tomorrow night, I say! And no one argued.

And then Little Bit noticed the stuffed bear her sister caught.

So, do you think I even know what Bible story they learned about tonight?

I'm sure there's a lesson in all of this but I really don't care what it is. Tomorrow we are staying home.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Big Reveal!

I am so proud of myself! I have to admit, my arm is just a bit sore from patting myself on the back. Ladies, it isn't just that I re-did a room. It's WHAT I did during that redecorating process that I'm so proud of. I mean, I was a regular Amy Wynn Pastor or Leslie Segrete! I taped, I floated, I sanded, I textured, I painted, I sewed, I framed, I stained. I was a mad woman!

Here is my beautiful new utility room. Won't you join me for a tour? (If you haven't seen the before pictures, you might want to peek at them first so you'll be properly impressed! Go here.)

First, we see my sewing area. I covered that closet without a door with a new curtain. I know I said I wanted to do this project without buying new stuff, but I got the muslin on sale and had a coupon for the brown dotty fabric. I love that fabric. And obviously those shelves are just not a priority to me. :)
And here is my new bill paying nook. This nook was formerly being used to store clothes. I think this is a much better use of space! My husband made the desktop and shelf out of some wood he already had and we varnished them. The desktop is just propped up on a filing cabinet and some wood attached to the wall.

Here's a better shot of the desk area. That bulletin board is covered in my new favorite fabric. My sister made me the bulletin board years ago...I just recovered it and put the ribbon back on. I still need to put an outlet cover on and do some organizing on the desk and shelf--but I already love it.

Now just turn around and you'll see the laundry side of the utility room. In here I stained the cabinets and sewed a valance. Mostly, it just needed to be cleaned up so I could, you know, USE it. I love folding clothes on this counter top (the dryer is just behind you when you stand at that counter) so I really have to work hard to not clutter it up again. Thank you to whichever previous homeowner it was who added these hand-made cabinets at some point over the last 40 years.

And here is the other side of the laundry side of the room. I just love the results.

Now, about that pile of junk on the floor that interestingly enough didn't make it into the photos. Hmmm. I think Amy Wynn and Leslie would have people who take care of that kind of stuff.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Before the Before And After...

This is actually the second time I have re-done my utility room. It is an odd little room, which serves as a pass-through from the garage to the kitchen. On one side is the laundry area and the other side is anybody's guess. I would love to know what the room's original intent was. Somewhere along the years a closet was added, a door to an existing closet was taken away, and the door leading into it has apparently had a door swinging both ways over the years and now has none. It left an odd little room full of nooks and crannies. When we first got the house, the laundry room side had old white tile like a school and the other side had original 1968 linoleum. It was a sight.
It was, of course, the room that we dumped everything in when we were unpacking. After all, you can close the door on it and insist that guests not go out there.

But I was part of a Yahoo group arranged by Mrs. Catherine at the time. Here is her site--I find it very inspiring. Her sidebar alone could keep me busy for days! There was a de-cluttering challenge going on in the group at the time (and I have done Flylady in the past as well) so I attacked that utility room. Here are the before and after pictures of that horrible room of our house. This is for all those poor souls who google "how to be a homemaker" and find my blog. It happens every week. Now they will know once and for all that they have NOT found the answer. But if they are trying to learn how to be a homemaker....they can certainly learn right alongside me!
This is the laundry room side. That's the door leading to the garage on the left. Don't talk to me about that pile of clothes. We had just moved in, remember?

Here is the other wall of the laundry room. I don't have "after" pictures of these but remember them. Because tomorrow you will be blown away with my home improvement talents.

And here is the other side of the utility room. See? I told you we threw everything in there. That's Gallon Gal on the wall. She's an excellent way to teach liquid measurement, by the way.

And here it is after I decluttered last year. I moved our camping table in for my sewing machine. Looking good, right?

That blue curtain on the right is a little cut-out that I stored extra clothes in. You can also see the closet without a door on the left. Here is the before...And the after...

Much better.
Our shelf of craft junk before (it's in the other cut-out)...
And after...still full of craft junk.

So I thought this was really good enough. I mean, after's a utility room for goodness sake. But then one fateful day last month I was sitting at the kitchen table and looked off into that room and had an inspiration. I had a dream...of having a place to pay bills and keep all my office supply stuff in one place. A dream where laundry, and sewing, and craft junk, and bills could all live peacefully in one little utility room.

Tomorrow I'll let you know how that came out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Theme-A-Week: Fish

This week we enjoyed learning about fish. Our fish collection was very sad. It consisted of about 5 books, one stuffed fish, and a Henry the Octopus plush. I could see a trip to the library was needed!

Fish books are wonderfully easy to find at the library. I thought it was interesting to watch the girls this week as they chose every single fiction fish book to read and then, and only then, did they get interested in the non-fiction ones.

Truthfully, these first 2 themes have been chosen by the 4 year olds so they haven't lent themselves to a terrible lot of new information for the older girls. But, oh! the information Little Bit has added to her concept of oceans has been great! On Monday I asked her "what lives in the ocean?" Her answer? "Fish and crabs." That was all she knew. Now, thanks to our theme-a-week, she knows a lot more. Sweetheart really did learn things once she opened the non-fiction books. My favorite observation of hers this week was, "Mommy? In real life, octopuses are NOT cute!"

I so agree.

We did a lot of art projects this week. My girls love art, so there should be plenty of great ideas to choose from here! Here are some boring old coloring sheets that we jazzed up with glitter pens. We talked about the difference between the ocean and life in an aquarium.

Then I printed off some heart fish. I didn't tell the girls what the hearts would make. Here is Little Bit sorting them by size as I cut them out. She's wondering what all these hearts have to do with fish!

Here is the finished product. LOTS of giggling during this one!

We kicked off the first night of fish week by watching Finding Nemo. Little Bit didn't remember this movie as she was too young the last time we watched it. It was a good way to expand her knowledge of what lives in the ocean.

Tuesday was cousin day again. We took a field trip to the pet store to buy some more fish for our tank. (Little Bit tried to take a picture of her new fish, but after yelling, "Hold still!" for a few minutes she gave up.) My nieces don't have fish at their house so it was very cool for them to get to go along. They all enjoyed watching the fish tank the rest of the day.

And here is what we had for lunch:

You can also put these little guys on a bed of Ramen noodles with green food coloring (for seaweed), but we knew our girls would eat mac-n-cheese better. I think we may have teased them a little too much about having octopus for lunch. My sister and I come from a family that loves to tease and we were able to convey this message to them all day long with a very straight face. The girls didn't really believe us, but then they weren't sure. And they knew it was just hot dogs, but they were still a bit scared to try them.

Being a mom is so much fun!

We also read The Rainbow Fish and made some beautiful fish afterward using circles cut from magazines and aluminum foil. One of the books we read prompted this shell sorting. I had these from back in my teacher days. They really enjoyed looking at all of the different shells. One thing we decided for sure this week: God really used his imagination when he made shells and fish!
One other thing we did not do yet is there are many Bible stories about fish and I plan to read those with them.

Our favorite fish book this week was Smiley Shark by Ruth Galloway. Very cute story. There were also two others, Tickly Octopus and Clumsy Crab by the same author.

We plan to top off the week with a trip to the beach this weekend. What better way to end fish week?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Keepin' It Real: Pajamas

Edited to add: Here's the pattern of my girl's nightgowns. I just wanted to show you that they aren't really frilly, but much better than what they were sleeping in! It's the one on the very right and Sweetheart's is made from white eyelet. Very pretty!

So today I took this quiz to see if I would make a good wife in the 1930's. I did surprising well on the quiz, so it must be terribly un-scientific. But some of the questions convicted me a bit.

I don't really know how it was to be a wife, mother, and homemaker during that era, but my grandmothers did. Both of my parents were born in the early to mid 3o's so I thought it was interesting to picture my grandmothers during that time of their lives. Of course, they were farm wives, so that lends itself to a different lifestyle...

What I was convicted about was the way I dress and groom myself! One question in particular "Do you wear pajamas or a nightgown to bed?" really got to me. Let me explain.

A few months ago I looked at my dear daughters and decided we could do better in the bedtime attire department. Sweetheart usually slept in an over sized t-shirt and shorts. Little Bit actually had pajamas only because she gets hand-me-downs from 3 other children in the family. But all the pajamas were shorts and shirts sets. Wait a minute, I thought, don't I have daughters???? I decided establishing these habits in my children was not really doing any favors for my future sons-in-law. I don't want my beautiful little girls still scrounging around in big hand-me-down t-shirts at bedtime when they are grown, so why are we doing it now?

So I asked my mom to sew Sweetheart a nightgown since we couldn't seem to find any at the stores. In fact, all I could find was pajama pants with a little tank top with spaghetti straps. She also used some fabric she already had to make a gown for Little Bit. They are so beautiful in them! I braided Sweetheart's hair before bed each night and thought I was doing a great thing.

They looked so sweet!

And now I took that quiz and realized I kind of forgot one thing. I am being a HORRIBLE example to my children on how to dress for bed. I'm sorry to say that last night I slept in pajama capri pants with a drawstring from Old Navy circa 2000 and an old white t-shirt. Lovely. And that is one of my better nights. I all too often dive into my husband's dresser drawers and come up with a big fishing t-shirt to sleep in. Gorgeous.

Not only do I suddenly feel sorry for my husband (and have a great desire to go shopping), but I realize what a horrible example I'm being. I want my girls to be lovely and feminine, but mama is not wearing any skirts except on Sunday mornings. I know, my excuse is I don't have any everyday skirts that fit me. And I don't. But don't ask me how much time I've spent looking for any lately! And mama is going to bed in daddy's old t-shirts, so why should they wear a nightgown?

OK--here's where the Keepin' It Real part comes in. No Mr. Linky today--just leave your say in the comments section. What do you wear to bed? Have you made a conscious change in that department during your lifetime? Tell me about your pajamas--and your kids' too if you like! And if you sleep naked--you are excluded from this conversation. ;-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Know What I Love About Blogging?

The comments from readers and the posts from bloggers who are ahead of me in this parenting thing.

They may not even think they are being helpful, but I love reading "oh yeah, when my kids were that age..." because it reminds me that others have been here and I will get through this. When Sweetheart had to be retained in first grade a few years ago I was so upset. Being a former first grade teacher, I was SURE I could help her. When it became obvious she really did need to repeat, a mom whose children were all grown said to me, "Oh yeah, we retained Scott and it really helped him." She just said it so nonchalantly and it made me realize that this "horrible thing" in our lives was really just a bump on the road. One day I would look back and say, "yeah, we went through that too."

And Andrea let me know today that even moms who have been moms for a while, can still have a bad day. For some reason, since my kids are not babies anymore I thought I had to be all confident and handle everything smoothly. Since I'm not a "new" mom anymore and all...

Whew! I'm glad that's not true! And I learn so much from you more experienced moms--I really do. Even though I've been a wife for 15 years next month, a mom for 8 years, and a homemaker for one year (last weekend!).....I still feel SO new to all this. This being a full-time wife, a full-time mom, and a full-time homemaker.

I love reading how other people do things. Plus I'm nosy.

So blogging is awesome! I'm thankful for you all!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Dust Will Be Flyin'!

Well, we are instituting our new ChorePacks today. We bought the book and began chores last summer after I came home. Honestly, my children had never had chores before then other than the obvious "pick up your toys" and "put your dirty clothes away." So, we started small. Their morning chores were mostly self-care and bedroom cleaning chores. (get dressed, brush hair, etc.) This summer, we are raising the bar a bit.

Both girls have been on auto-pilot for a long time regarding their morning routine, so those chores have been condensed into fewer steps and more helping around the house has been added. Also, somewhere along the way their afternoon chores got changed dramatically, with no really set chore per day...but the house got cleaned anyway.

Here are this summer's chores:
Morning Chores
Sweetheart (Age 8)
1. Self-care (get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, wash face)
2. Room-care (make bed, straighten room)
3. Fold clothes in dryer (from the night before)
4. Clean off side table in living room (junk collects there)

Little Bit (Age 4)
1. Get dressed/put pajamas away
2. Brush hair/teeth
3. Make bed/tidy bedroom
4. Dust one room with feather duster

Afternoon Chores
Sweetheart (Age 8)
1. Tidy fireplace
2. Clean bathroom (pick trash/clothes off of floor, wipe down cabinet and sink)
3. Clean off/wipe dining room table

Little Bit (Age 4)
1. Clear off couch
2. Clean front room (there isn't much in there so it's mostly picking stuff up from the floor)
3. Pick up hallways (why is there always stuff in our hallways?)

We do plan to pay them for the afternoon chores. (I'm not paying my kids to brush their teeth, ok?) I'm not sure how much just yet, but payday will be on Fridays. The only catch is they are not allowed to spend the money yet. They have to learn to save for something they want so I'm going to help them do that.
They just finished their new morning chores and they did a great job! Now...mama has chores to do so I'm off!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer Theme-A-Week: Bears, Bears Everywhere

*I signed this post up on Carisa's TotSchool linky because, even though my kids are older---it is SO adaptable!!!! If my babies were still 1-3 year old, I would still do a bear theme and just adapt the activities to their age and skills. Just wanted to throw it in the ring!

We are wrapping up our first theme of the summer which was chosen by my 4 year old. It has been a very easy theme and that is good since we had a busy week. We didn't use all of the ideas my sister and I brainstormed due to all the busyness, but that is the beauty of these themes. You do what you have time for.

I told you about getting ready for the bear theme in this post. So, after you have gathered the books, made a collection, and brainstormed some ideas, it's time to get down to fun!

We kicked off the week with our cousins. The girls put on a smashing rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We read the book first to the younger girls so they would remember exactly how the story goes. My sister and I sat on the couch while the kids scrambled around gathering what they would need for the play. (Three chairs, three bowls, three blankets).

"MMM. This porridge is JUST RIGHT!" said Goldilocks.

(They took turns being all the different characters.)

Mama bear's chair was too soft, so then she tried baby bear's chair.

"Someone's been sleeping in MY bed. And there she is!" said Baby Bear.

At lunch, they had a picnic and watched bear movies. We found all the bear movies at the library and at our house so it is a free activity (provided I return the movies on time!)

For art, we made these cute little bear bags. All you need is a lunch sack, wadded up newspaper, a stapler, paint, and construction paper. You can also use googly eyes if you like. First, stuff the sack with the newspaper, fold down the top and paint the whole thing. We made brown bears, but you could make any kind. After the paint dries, add ears, eyes, a nose and mouth. Aren't they cute?

My sister also made these circle bears with her girls. She's such an over-achiever.

For math, have the kids sort the bear collection by different characteristics. You can also do Gummy Bear math by sorting, making patterns, counting, and graphing the different colors. We intended to do this, but ran out of time.

The only "schoolish" type thing we did was color and make these Itsy Bitsy Bear Books. This required us to open up at least one non-fiction bear book. We learned a lot about the different types of bears and it was very enjoyable.

Other possible activities:
  • Jumprope rhyme "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear."
  • Have a teddy bear picnic with a tea set and stuffed animals. Serve honey on bread. (We plan to do this later today!)
  • Look up the history of teddy bears on the internet (Sweetheart and I did this)

Famous bears to think about when doing a bear theme:

  • Corduroy
  • Pooh
  • Berenstein Bears
  • Paddington Bear

We read many, many bear books this week, but the award winner was.....

Deep in the Forest--this wordless picture book tells the story of three people who go for a walk in the woods and a naughty baby bear who visits their house while they are away. Precious!

We had a great time with bears this week. Look for the next Summer Theme-A-Week post next Friday. Have a great weekend!