Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We Must be Doing Something Right...

After lunch today, my kids asked for a movie for quiet time.  We haven't turned on the TV for several days, so I said yes.  I figured I was in for another viewing of Cars or How to Train Your Dragon.  They both eagerly asked if we could watch the Old Testament Stories DVD.  They sat, completely absorbed in the Bible.

I don't know what we did, but we must have done something right!

Summer Plans

This summer, I have three goals for my family.  We are going to work, play and learn together.

1.  Clean the house like it's never been cleaned before.  This includes daily "deep cleaning" in a specific area of the house and (hopefully) implementing a new chore chart/schedule for daily upkeep.  I want to teach my children how to do their chores correctly so that when school starts, they will know what to do by themselves.  This is going to be a big project.

2.  Every day, we will do something fun and out of the ordinary.  The activities will mainly be simple and inexpensive things, but I want summer to have a little extra excitement.  It may be going out for ice cream, making homemade playdough, or something more involved like having a "monster day."  If I focus on just one extra fun thing, then hopefully the kids won't feel over-scheduled and I won't get overwhelmed.  I'm also trying to vary the activities so that some can be done when Mike is home from work, that way, he can join in the fun as well.

3.  Do simple things to keep their minds active.  I'm thinking at least two "educational" activities a day.  One will be to read every day, and then hopefully find a little time to do a journal entry, writing practice, play a math game, count, or sort, etc.  I'm looking for some good read aloud chapter books for my boys as well.  Any suggestions?

Overall, I want to really enjoy being home with my kids and doing things together as a family.  I am excited to have them home full time for these next few months and looking forward to some vacation time in there as well.  I'm hoping to achieve a balance between structured and unstructured time for each of us.  Do you have any summer goals?  Happy summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Apples for the Teacher

Today is Mr. One's last day of kindergarten.  He had such a wonderful year.  We chose to send him to the school I taught at before becoming a stay at home mom.  I shared an office with his teacher and consider her a friend as well as a colleague.  It was fun to be in the classroom to support her and to see my oldest blossom.  She has a gift for making the kids laugh and love learning.  She has a passion for writing and science.  The kids stretched to do their best, and met some high expectations.   I had the privilege of helping out in his room, as well as subbing a few days for his teacher.  Although there were almost twice as many boys as girls, they were such a mild mannered and kind group.  I wish they could all stay together for first grade.  I am so grateful he had such a good start to elementary school.

Here's what we put together as a little thank you from our family for Mr. One's teacher.  I found the idea for the adorable apple mini oreos here.  I put several in a small canning jar and tied it with some fun apple and owl fabric, and added a thank you from Mike and I and another from Mr. One himself.  (Seriously, one of these days, I am actually going to take better pictures...)

I can't wait for our summer together as a family and a more relaxed schedule.  More on our summer plans coming soon!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pianos, Ponds, and Teeth

Saturday began with Mr. One's piano recital.  His song is entitled, "The Wooly Mammoth" and he played so well.  Move over, Beethoven! I love his dramatic dynamics, the little swinging legs, and the way he quickly ducked/bowed at the end (I think he was really nervous).  I am so grateful that Grammy is so willing to teach him.  He is really enjoying playing the piano (and I love hearing him).

That evening, Mike and I took the kids to Sweet Tomatoes (a favorite family spot) for dinner.  My boys gobble up the macaroni and cheese, jello, pizza, and the muffins.  We make them eat a healthy salad first, but they don't complain if they can have unlimited amounts of the other stuff, not to mention the ice cream bar...

We sat next to the window and the boys noticed a little grassy park area outside with a pond and asked to go explore it.  We walked over after our dinner and they happily watched the ducks (pointing out which ones were mallards), the koi fish, and the little box turtles swimming together.  As we were nature watching, a cute young couple approached us and asked if we would like some bread to feed the ducks.  They had some left over from feeding them at the other edge of the little pond.  Of course the boys were delighted, so they gave us the rest of their bread, we thanked them and they went on their way.  I hope the sound of the boys' happy giggles in the background put a smile on their faces as they walked.  The simple kindness of strangers reminds me of just how much good is still in the world today. 

For such a peaceful looking animal, Koi fish are especially aggressive animals when it comes to food!  They would swim over, under and push away the turtles and other fish for a bite to eat.  The ducks didn't even mess with them.  We'd give a little cheer when a tiny turtle would eventually get their own bite before the fish attacked.  Mr. Three was especially giddy about the animals.  He laughed and laughed as they would race to the bread and fight over each piece.  We left as the sky began to darken, headed home for baths, scripture reading and bedtime prayers.

On Sunday, Mr. One lost his second tooth.  Only this time, it came out during Sunday dinner at my parents' house and unexpectedly became part of his dinner...  Oops!  The poor guy was so stricken that he swallowed his tooth.  After being assured that others had done it and lived through the ordeal, he then worried about the tooth fairy.  How would she know, because he couldn't put his tooth under his pillow?  Luckily, Aunt Jaimee chimed in and said something to the effect of, "Don't you know that the tooth fairy has a beeper that goes off so she knows when you lose a tooth?  She knows even if you swallow it."  Thanks Jaimee!  You saved the day. 

I am loving his new "whistle talk" with his new front tooth gap.  SSSSSweet!

Monday morning, sure enough, the tooth fairy pulled through with two new quarters for the "squeeky" machine.  I am happy to report, he still plans on getting one for himself and one for Mr. Two.  In fact, when I asked him if he would get two for himself, he looked a little offended that I would even think that.

It's weekends like this that remind me that I have much to be grateful for.

Happiness is doing simple things together as a family, and taking time to really enjoy the moments.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Special K Treats

It's been a while since I shared a recipe here, so I'm posting a family favorite today.  It's an easy, no bake dessert that is kid-friendly.  Perfect for a hot summer day, when you want to cook up something sweet with your kiddos and not heat up the house.

This creation was made famous (in our family at least) by my Aunt Annabel.  No family gathering feels complete without seeing her tote in a brightly-hued Tupperware container with these little gems cut into itty bitty squares, ready to be devoured.  This is her recipe, but I think she has magical abilities, because hers taste even better than the ones I make at home (and those really are mighty tasty).  Maybe it's the wonderful company that is the special ingredient...

Special K Treats

1 cup white sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Special K Cereal
approx. 12 oz chocolate chips (or you could use half butterscotch, half chocolate, or peanut butter swirled chocolate chips are awesome too)

Put your sugar and corn syrup in a large pan and heat until boiling, stirring constantly.  Once boiling, add your peanut butter and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and add cereal.  Mix well and press into a 9x13 pan.  Melt your chocolate and pour over the cereal mixture.  Spread out evenly over top.  Cut into small pieces (think 1-1 1/2 inch squares) while still soft.  Place in fridge until the chocolate is set.  Trust me, you'll think they're too little until you eat one and realize it's a bigger bite than you thought.  Besides, if you cut them small, you can eat more than one and not feel as guilty!  :)

Here's to a sweeter day!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mother's Day Snapshots Without a Camera

Some Sundays, I just wish I could use a camera in church. 
To preserve those priceless little memories of my children. 
To scrapbook them and save them for the time when I can use them. 
Use them to show my children exactly why I have gray hairs. 
Use them to explain why their own children are doing exactly the same thing. 
And why then I will be laughing and not feel guilty about it.

Here's a little snapshot of our Mother's Day sacrament meeting.

Music quietly starts and sweet little children start to walk calmly and reverently to the pulpit to sing to their mothers.  Mr. One hides under the bench because he doesn't want to sing.  Mr. Two looks at me with confusion, like, "What is going on here?" and "Do I have to go up there if Mr. One doesn't?"  I forcefully whisper in Mr. One's ear that he needs to go up there and take his brother with him.  Now.  Reluctantly, he decides to cooperate.  As long as he can drag his brother up to the front with him.

While the rest of the children sing lovingly to their mothers (or at least just stand still and smile), Mr. One and Mr. Two are up there, front and center, not singing, but digging for buried treasure (aka, picking their noses with zeal).  As I finally get their attention and give them the "you better cut that out" stare-down, then fiercely smile and mouth, "Sing. Please," Mr. One decides to stop picking his nose and glare at me for the rest of the special musical presentation.  I watched on with tears in my eyes, partly from humiliation, partly from the pure humor of the situation, and partly because, even in the midst of it, I love those crazy little boys.  Oh the complex joys of raising children.

Marjorie Pay Hinkley put it perfectly:  "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache."

Happy Mother's Day, indeed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another Sticker Activity

One more sticker activity to add to your little bag of tricks:

Write your child's name (or sight words, letters, etc.) with a bold marker.  Have them use stickers to cover the letters, making a sticker name. 

Happy sticking!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sticker Counting

Here's another simple thing for your preschooler to do with all of your little chart stickers:  Sticker counting.

I used to make these sheets for Mr. One when he was a preschooler, and it would keep him occupied for large amounts of time.

Just use a marker or pen to draw boxes with numbers, and let those little fingers get to work sticking and counting.  Throw a sticker pad and several of these sheets in a baggie, and you have another easy activity bag!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love is... Baby Teeth, Quarters and Sharing

On Mother's Day evening, Mr. One pulled out his first loose tooth.  I love that he made sure to brush his teeth before pulling his loose tooth out.  "It needs to be all clean for the tooth fairy," he told me.

He was so excited to stick his tiny tooth under his pillow for the tooth fairy to collect, that he had a hard time falling asleep. 

Waking before 6:30 am, he bounced into our room, declaring, "The tooth fairy left me TWO QUARTERS!"  This would have been much more exciting if he could have waited for at least a half an hour longer...

Oh, how I love the magic of childhood!  Believing that sweet fairies can sneak into your room and swap out dainty teeth for shiny quarters...

Then, the real magic of the moment began.

Without so much as missing a beat after his first exclamation, he said, "Oh, I have two quarters!  That means I could get one squeakie for me and one for Mr. Two.  Can I use my tooth fairy quarters for the vending machine at school, Mommy?"  (Do you know about the sqwishies or squinkies or whatever?  They are tiny animals that are made of squishy plastic that are apparently all the rage with little grade schoolers here.  I have to admit that I think they're cute, too.  I loved miniatures when I was in elementary school.)

I adore that he immediately thought of using the second quarter for his little brother and didn't think for one second about just getting two for himself.  It was so simple and selfless and it made me love him even more.  I wish that I could say that my instinct would be to share. 

Oh, the joy on their little faces as he brought two little creatures home, one tiny goat for the toothless wonder himself and one squishy green frog for his little brother.  It made me want to put two quarters under his pillow every night for a week!

Love is unhaltingly sharing your treasures with one you love, just because you want to bring them joy.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Little Mister Bowties

My brother was married in March.  All of the nephews and my brother wore bow ties for the wedding.  They looked adorable.  Since then, my boys only want to wear bow ties to church.  For Easter, I wanted to make them coordinating ties in spring colors.

I found this great tutorial on Delia Creates.  I followed her directions, except for one major step.  I didn't measure their necks with their collared shirt on, instead I just estimated.  This resulted in much too small bow ties.  As in, this wouldn't even fit Mr. Three's baby neck, too small.

This ended up being a good mistake because I had to modify the pattern to make them fit and I think it actually made them better.  Instead of attaching the swimsuit hook to the ends of the fabric, I added approximately 3 inches of elastic to one end of the tie.  I sandwiched the elastic between the layers of fabric and zig zag stitched it several times to secure the elastic and minimize fabric fraying.  I folded the exposed end of the elastic into a loop and zig zag stitched it in place.  I attached the swimsuit hook to the other end of the bowtie fabric and zig zag stitched it in place.  This made the tie easily removable (without having to re-tie the bow each time), and gave it the extra length and stretch to fit all three of my boys' necks.

I love these dapper boys!

Check in later in the week (hopefully) for a quick tutorial for turning the tie scraps into a cute flower pin for the girls (or in my case, for me, since I don't have any daughters :)).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Cards

*Spoiler alert!!!!*

If you are one of the grandmas in our family, stop reading now!

For Family Home Evening this week, we made Mother's Day cards for our grandmas.  I put out scrapbook paper, glue sticks, pens, hole punches and decorative scissors and let the oldest two make cards. 

They loved cutting and arranging the papers to make a card for each grandma. 

This was a simple project and I love that they were in creative control.  Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Puzzle Blocks

Mike's parents had a set of puzzle blocks in their toy chest.  I have wanted to make a set for years, but never got around to finishing this project.  For Easter, I wanted to add something new to our church bag for the boys to play quietly with.  I came up with the idea to make a set of puzzle blocks with pictures of Christ.  I tried to pick pictures that told a story.  Christ's birth, sitting with his mother Mary as a child, his baptism, blessing the children, Christ as the good shepherd, Christ calming the sea.  I figured, if they were going to play with something in church, I could at least make it something that would remind them of why we are at church in the first place...

Here's what I used:

one set of 1 inch wooden blocks (you can find them at most big craft stores)
Mod Podge and sponge brush
6 small cardstock prints (I found mine at Deseret Book and they were about 4"x3" each)
ruler and pencil
paper cutter, or scissors

First, the pictures I found were slightly larger than 3" by 4", so we trimmed each picture to those dimensions.

Mark lines on the back of one picture 1 inch apart to indicate where to cut.  You will end up with 12 1" squares.  Use paper cutter or scissors to cut squares.

Mod Podge the squares onto the 12 blocks.  Work on one picture at a time, gluing one piece of the picture onto each of the 12 blocks. (That way you won't glue two pieces of the same picture onto one block.)

Repeat process with remaining 5 pictures.  When you are done, you will have one set of puzzle blocks to build six different pictures.

Let dry completely.

Mod Podge a thin layer over each block the to seal your puzzle.  (Make sure that the side you are placing down is completely dry before setting down.  I speak from experience.  I have nearly ruined many a project because of impatience...)

A few tips for a better puzzle:

Choose pictures that have different coloring and/or backgrounds from each other.  The more unique each picture is, the easier it will be for kids to find the correct pieces.  One picture had a light sky background, another had a dark sea, another a dark interior background.

If you have two pictures with very similar colors, try and mix pieces on individual blocks to make it easier to identify which picture each side goes with. 

Here are pictures of each side of one block to help you better understand what I mean (sorry for the blurry picture quality).

The busier the scene, the easier the puzzle will be to put together.  Find pictures with lots of color, lots of details to the scenery (people in the background, animals, brick walls, instead of just dark color).  If you choose pictures with lots of solid background color and little detail, it will be much more difficult to assemble.

Now you will have a great small activity to put in your bag for your kids to enjoy.  Have fun putting your puzzle together!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lacing Card Tip

Do your kiddos like lacing cards*?  Do they get frustrated when their lace end keeps slipping out of the holes, like mine do?

Here's my simple solution.  Tie a bead onto one end of your lace. 

This will keep the lace in place for your kids. 

Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Happy lacing!

*Want to make some lacing cards of your own?  Check out this past post.