Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cardboard Boxes = Boredom No More

I think this past week just came and went.  We are not really super busy anymore, as I mentioned last time, but that doesn’t mean that I have a better handle on time.  (As you can see, today is Wednesday, and I was “supposed” to blog on Monday…)

Last week, we busted out cardboard boxes again.  We have a ton of them from moving here two years ago that we flattened because at some point, we will move again.  Construction began one evening while I was making supper.  This time the girls not only made houses to crawl in, but used construction paper and pictures and markers to decorate them.  If you ever do cardboard houses, be sure to get out the construction paper; it makes the project last at least a day longer!  They worked and worked on their homes.  Then, day three, Madison decided she wanted me to make a car out of a box.  I suppose there are pins on pinterest on exactly how to do this, but I consider myself relatively smart and decided I could figure this out on my own.  And I did.  It is not as fancy as this  or this or even these.  But Madison doesn’t know those exist, and she is happy with her version.  Then, of course, Ellie needed one as well.  After 3-4 days of cutting and creating with cardboard, I will admit I became a little tired of it.  They, however, did not.  So, if you are looking for an activity, get a cardboard box, some paper, pictures, glue, and scissors, and let the imagination go!

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In other news, swim lessons are going really well.  They split the class, so Ellie is in a class with her and one little boy.  Madison and her two classmates are now able to swim to the deep end and jump off the blocks (the ones they use for swim meets).  It is pretty neat to watch them both take off a little bit more each time.

On the way out the door on Monday, Ellie had her hands in her pockets, tripped over the door jamb, and fell face forward onto the porch.  Yep, I just watched her go – timber!  It was not pretty – blood gushing, crying hysterically, Madison got scared, etc.  As tears subsided and blood ceased flowing, most of the damage was to the gum line.  Her teeth were still intact (except a chip out of one), but there was bruising to the gums.  I ended up taking her to the dentist yesterday; he said it all looked fine.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I also picked up a pamphlet on dental emergencies in kids for later…

Ellie is going to story time at the library now for the next couple weeks.  Because she is three, she now goes into the room all by herself!  I go in to help with crafts and then leave.  She is growing up, and she loves it!

Jeremy’s parents have been out-of-state for the past two weeks or so.  Which I say, good for them.  I hope I leave the state for weeks at a time when I am retired, too!  The downside, I don’t have my relief aid!  It is such a blessing that they take the girls once a week (or when they can).  It gives me time to breathe, relax, shop, do school work (yuck, but important), and have some “me” time.  Needless to say, the cardboard boxes were a welcome relief and semi replacement of that time.  Well, they are back.  We met them for lunch today because the girls were so excited to see them again.  Then, they surprised me and offered to take the girls home with them for the afternoon.  I did not turn it down!  So, here I sit – homework completed, blog caught up, heading downstairs to watch a movie and fold laundry.  Maybe I will knock out my grocery list and a few other things as well.  Thanks, Grandma and Papa, for the surprise!  (Hope you had fun!)

Until next time, enjoy the week; enjoy the snow; enjoy the Super Bowl; enjoy your family.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another week…

After trying to keep up with our lives for about the past month (or two?), I feel like one, mostly normal, week leaves little for the blog… or does it?  I think this blog will be the rambling I never did in the last posts because I was so busy documenting events; so, be prepared!

I am finally on the mend from a cold that started about two weeks ago.  I am pretty sure that all the rest of my family is now starting up that same cold.  I guess I will at least be well enough to help them through it.  That also requires a spirit of compassion… a tough one for me sometimes, I have to admit.  I am trying to not get frustrated by the complete waste of Kleenex – you know, the one wipe and done of a three year old…. the one where you could actually reuse the Kleenex because you can’t even tell where it was previously used?  Yep, I have had multiple trash cans filled with these already.  I try not to begrudge my husband sleeping in – because in fairness, he stepped up and let ME sleep in for about 3 days when the fatigue was just too much.  I try to remember that the extra whining that may be incurring is probably due to lack of sleep because they can’t breathe and because they can’t suck their thumbs well (Oh how I wish this cold would cure the thumb-sucking.  They are too persistent and continue to suck away.)  Compassion. 

The girls started swim lessons.  This week will mark their third of six lessons.  They happen to be in the same class with two (well, three… there was a new joiner last week) other kids.  There are at least three levels of swimmers and one teacher.  The first lesson, they put Ellie in the water and told her to hang on to the edge.  Sounds okay, right?  IF she had a swim belt of floatation device on or IF someone had a hand on her.  Neither of these were true, and I almost had a heart attack.  I politely asked for a swim belt explaining that she had only just bumped up from Mommy and Me classes and may need a little bit extra help.  She made it through the lesson without drowning.  Madison took to the water well.  She was hoping to get to jump into the pool, but that didn’t happen the first lesson; we’ll see when it does.  I am hoping that they split the kids or add another teacher with the addition of a fifth kid.  I think if you are paying money, you should make sure your kid learns something.  With so many different levels going on, the teacher is just not able to provide what each one needs.  (Sound familiar to any classroom teachers?  Differentiation is so easy, right?)

I have been a busy beaver trying to prepare to be super mom.  Actually, I am just trying to make sure I don’t neglect my children for the next 12 weeks.  I start a graduate class (Creating Effective Learning Environments) today, and I am pretty much drained of all creative thought during those times.  It is just hard to keep up with the readings and homework, and maintain my skills as a wife and mother and housekeeper.  So, I am trying to be proactive.  How? you ask.  Well, we had so much fun doing our Advent calendar, I thought I would do something similar.  So, I picked out some 10-30 minute activities that we could do daily.  Because one of my goals as a stay-at-home mom that had yet to come to fruition was doing educational things with my kids, I made categories for each of the days of the week.  My categories are math, social studies, language arts, science, faith, and the arts.  Then, I broke each of those down into four categories, assuming each month has four weeks, more or less.  Then, I planned enough activities for the next five months.  (It was not as difficult as it seems.) 

How did I have time to do this?  Friday morning my girls played for 4 hours!!!! all by themselves.  They pretended to be a mommy or a kid (and changed rolls).  They packed suitcases full of clothes.  They turned the lights on for daytime and off for the night.  They wore appropriate clothes for going to work (fancy coat, my purse, nice shoes) and for school (shorts and tank and a backpack).  They organized show-and-share and told me what they were bringing.  They took care of babies, read stories, and played without fighting for FOUR hours!  It. was. amazing. 

And so, while they did all that, I sat in the same room and worked on my master plan.  I revealed said plan to Jeremy.  He said, “You are super mom.”  I said, “I will be (kinda) if I manage to actually do these things.”  I am realizing I am good at ideas, but my follow through is not usually so good.  (on a side note:  It helps me understand why behavior plans at school with kids are not my strength – I neglect them and then they do not work.)  So, this is the first month of activities (if you are curious), and I hope to make it work starting in February.  On Sundays, I want to work on a short Scripture verse for the week with the kids.  They can be found here.

Math

Social Studies

Lang Arts

Science

Faith

The Arts

Clock…

Identify #1-12 on clock

Count by 5s

Kidron

Make a map and follow it

Your Name… Write it.

Put letters in order.

Find it.

Which will erupt?

Link

Volunteer at MCC Connections

Pier Mondrian

Read and Paint the Perfect Squares or create your own.

Identify and Make regular shapes

Use puzzles and cut-outs

Make food from North America

Book and Craft

Ideas from www.notimeforflashcards.com

Our Body

Parts of (bones, skin)

Sing Head, Shoulders..

Visit or Make a Card for Someone

Use popsicle stick puppets to make a play

Counting…

1-20

And by 5s  (M)

Identify Coins

Write a letter to Ashel (our Compassion kid)

Seasons and Weather

Talk about, draw, color

Shop and Take donations to a Food Bank

What is music?

Notes, instruments, sounds, etc

Primary Colors

What are they? Make patterns.

Holidays

Talk about what is being celebrated this month.

Read a book.

or Make something.

or Cook something.

or Go somewhere.

Book and Outing

Ideas from www.notimeforflashcards.com

Solid, Liquid, Gas

Dancing Raisins

Capture Gas

Categorize things you see

Visit or Make a Card for someone

What types of dance are there?

Jazz, tap, ballet, modern, hip hop

Ambitious?  Yes and no.  No, because it gives me a reason to be deliberately engaged with my kids.  And the tasks are not too time consuming (except some of the volunteer ones or the outings).  And they don’t use a lot of extra materials, so it is not expensive.  And there is not much planning involved from this point on (except to have the materials needed or reserve a book).  But yes, it is ambitious because it is requiring that I am deliberately engaged with my kids.  And they have expectations,  And I have expectations.  And it does require a little pre-planning.  And I am starting class (as well as some other life things going on).  So, we’ll see. 

I have a lot more to write that has been rolling around in my head recently.  I have been reading the book Desperate: Hope for the Mom that needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae from our church library.  While these kinds of books are good for moms, they are also potentially bad for moms.  The authors actually allude to that.  So, anyway.  It is a good book, but it is making me think a little about stuff.  I may try to make time to get it down on the blog.  We’ll see – I have some assignments to do and I have to sub this week. 

Hope you all have a great week.  Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.  Have a great week. Coffee cup (Ellie wanted to add a symbol; she picked this one.)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ellie!

We have been “waiting” for Ellie’s birthday since the day of the party.  Our waiting included talking about it every day, leaving the Happy Birthday banner and streamers up, and practicing how old she would be.  I am pretty sure she thought she was three every day over and over again. 

The day finally came.  And I don’t think she even realized it was different than any other day.  But then we went to church.  Her name was in the bulletin as a birthday notice, and people began wishing her happy birthday.  Then, at children’s story, they even sang Happy Birthday to her.  (They don’t always do this, but her birthday is the same day as the pastor’s, so a little special treatment was given.)  She stood beside Pastor Kevin and listened.  And most importantly – didn’t cry!

We came home and had pancakes for lunch.  We stuck a candle in her pancake and sang to her to make it a little more special.  After lunch, she went to bed for her nap. 

After nap was when the party started!  We decided to take her bowling.  Madison had had fun about a year or so ago going with Jeremy, so we figured Ellie would have fun, too.  We invited people to join at the last minute.  The grandparents were able to make it, and that was all we needed to call it a celebration.  The bowling line-up was Ellie, Madison, Grandma DeeDee, Mommy, Jeremy.  All others were watchers, encouragers, and party attenders!

Getting ready

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Here is Ellie’s first bowl:

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Then, Madison went:

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Then, Grandpa DeeDee gave some help to each of the them:

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Some other shots:

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Of course, you know the saying, “The family that bowls together, stays together.”  (Oh, I know it is “prays together” which we do, too, so I guess we will definitely stay together!)

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We finished off the night with some East of Chicago pizza and breadsticks.  Ellie must have worked up an appetite because I am pretty sure she had a breadstick and three pieces of pizza!  (We decided if we had been bowling with a bowling ball 1/6th of our weight, our appetites would have increased tenfold as well.) 

Ellie is my second and, potentially, my last.  She is my snuggler.  My hold me tight bug.  She is my sunshine.  She is my look-a-like, my mini-me.  Except she is a little more introverted and likes to stick close in new situations.  She is my clown.  She adores her big sister.  She is the little mother to all the babies in the house.  According to her, she has “long hair” and is “so big” now.  And I think, you are big.  You are growing up into legs and arms that dance and shoot the ball and run and skip and jump.  You have fingers that love to write and color. You paint with focus until then paints are gone, and then you want more.  You even sit and read books until the pile of discarded books grows as big as you.  You are big.  But you’re supposed to stay little, aren’t you? 

She is so proud to be going to Sunday school, and that makes my heart happy.  (We are still working on actually tithing the money I send.  I am pretty sure she has not had an empty coin purse for about 3 weeks now.…)  She loves to pray at the table.  It almost always starts, “Dear God, Help me to be brave and thank you for this food.”  But it always ends with one unique thing – thankfulness for someone eating with us, for an activity that she did that day, for something that will happen that night.  It is neat to hear what touches her heart at that moment.  We hope that Ellie will continue to grow in her walk with God, and that we will be able to provide fertile ground for that to happen. 

Happy 3rd Birthday, Ellie!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Make-up and Cookies

With all the excitement of the past few weeks, it is hard to just be at the house.  It is as if we conditioned ourselves to go, go, go.  Sunday night we had youth group at our house.  We decided, for the first time, to let Madison and Ellie just stay here.  (Usually we take them to someone’s house to play.)  We set up a movie and popcorn upstairs for them, but they just kept venturing down.  While it was okay for this time, we will probably not do it again.  Madison wanted to keep checking about whether I had asked any of the youth if they wanted a makeover.  I don’t know if you noticed in the party post, but she was hugging her make-up set she received pretty tightly to her chest.  She thinks it is soooo cool. 

She had her big moment during youth group when not 1, not 2, but 3!!! youth said she could do a makeover on them.  Oh, she was so proud!  Joellen was first:

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Then, Sydney:

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Then, Emily (I missed her individual shot).  Madison took a photo with all three of them. 

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I am not sure why she is not smiling.  My best guess is that she was slightly intimidated by being in the picture with older kids.  Trust me, she was glowing well into the next day!  If you compare each of their makeovers, you will notice Madison has a signature design.  Some people do the smoky eyes; she likes to emphasize the forehead and the nose (somewhat like Simba in the Lion King).  After they all left, Ellie had a chance to get her face done as well.  (Yep, she was in her panties the whole time…)

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Monday, Jeremy headed out of state for a few days.  We headed to the library to pick out some new books and movies.  I rented One Hundred Foot Journey; I watched it that night, and I really liked it.  We hung out at home the rest of the day. 

Tuesday, we went outside to play in the snow and shovel the driveway before it got too cold to do either.  Then, after dropping Madison off at preschool, Ellie and I went to hang out at my parents’ house.  We played (napped) the afternoon away and went out to eat that night for supper.

Wednesday (today), we had to go to the grocery store.  I went to Aldi since my list was short and had mostly common items on it.  There were some great post-Christmas bargains there.  First, bags of Hershey kisses and mini Reeses PB cups were only $0.75!!  That’s right… less than a candy bar for an entire bag.  I had to hold myself back.  I figured there are at least a few desserts I rarely make because those items are usually so expensive.  Be ready, those residing close by, for some rich, tasty desserts.  Also, they had these little Santa cookie packs that had a plastic plate, small spatula, a cookie cutter, and cookie mix for $1.74!!!  I let the girls each pick one. 

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It led to fun as I made a late lunch.  They whipped up batches of cookies for pretend, while I whipped up sandwiches and put away groceries.  Then, this afternoon, we made the cookies for real.  They had a blast.  That was a good use of $3.50. 

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Tomorrow the weather is frigid.  School is already cancelled for Dalton, which means I don’t have to sub and Madison doesn’t have preschool.  I am excited; she will be bummed.  The girls are supposed to go to the Yohs tomorrow, so I’ll call and see if they still want some play time.  If so, I get to just take it easy – which is good because I am fighting an awful cold.  I may just nap and lay on the couch all day.  If not, I am sure we will find some indoor fun activities. 

Jeremy made it home tonight.  We stayed up and waited for him.  The girls were excited to see him again.  Ellie expresses this excitement much more than Madison does.  When he walked in the door, the first thing they said, “Did you bring us postcards?”  What a greeting, right?  Well, he is really good at bringing them something when he goes away for a few days.  He is also good at calling to talk to them each night when he is away.  I am bad at both those things.  I am so glad they have a daddy who thinks of them in this way. 

Have a good rest of the week – stay warm!

Birthday Parties

I feel like we are in party central mode and are non-stop until Ellie’s birthday.  It starts with Christmas (or three or four of those celebrations) goes through Madison’s birthday to the party day and right into Ellie’s birthday… which is yet to come!  I guess I can just lay low until next year then, right? 

So, this year we tried the dual party on an “off” day – you know, neither of the girls” actual birthday.  It had pros and cons as most things do.  Pros – one party, one time to get the house ready, one time to get food made, one time that others have to make time to come.  Cons – one party, you still need to do something on the day of the birthday, not as individual for each girl, kinda felt a little like a machine (Madison, you see your cake; Ellie, you see yours; Madison, you open gifts; okay, Ellie, your turn), and two cakes to do at one time.  I don’t know what we will do for next year, but this is what happened this year. 

So, we invited mostly family with one or two non-family guests.  By the time the family comes, there is little room for many more, and frankly, at this age, I don’t think the girls care one way or the other. 

Everyone started arriving around 4pm.  Pretty soon, we had almost 15 adults in our living room on a holding pattern until the food was ready.  If you have seen our living room, you would understand that this is pretty amazing.  (I actually didn’t think that many would fit in there, but…)  There were about 13 kids flying around between the upstairs and downstairs and the basement playing hide-and-seek and other things. 

Finally, it was time for the meal to begin: sloppy joes, hot dogs, baked beans, veggies, and chips.  Simple, fast, and little clean-up.  Everyone slowly filtered into the kitchen to get food.  Then, we had almost 25 in that area! 

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We made it through the meal, did a little clean-up (thanks, Mom!), and got prepped for dessert. 

Madison was the first to receive her cake.  She had decided early on in the year she wanted a Barbie cake like this.  To be honest, I was a little intimidated, but I was ready to take it on.  Fortunately, she checked out a cookbook (yep, my kids do this regularly… I think it is awesome!) from the library that had desserts in it.  She found an adorable castle cake made using a 9x13 cake.  It was much less intimidating, and I readily encouraged the switch.  She had seen me working in the morning on the cake, but she was not allowed to see the final cake until the party.  It turned out well, and I think she was very happy! 

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We sang happy birthday, she blew out the candles, and we moved on to Ellie.

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Ellie got her cake second.  She had decided that she wanted an Elmo cake.  Last year she had said the same thing, and I went with Elmo cupcakes.  This year, she was adamant – it had to be a cake.  Since I hadn’t spent the $15 on an Elmo shaped cake pan last year, there was no way I was going to this year.  (Who would have guessed her Elmo infatuation would last two years!)  So, I scoured pinterest to find an Elmo cake I could do without that special cake pan and without using fondant.  (I have no idea how to use that stuff, and it wasn’t cheap when I looked at it last year.)  A few weeks before the party, I finally found a step-by-step tutorial on making your own Elmo cake!  It was not too hard, and I even jazzed it up by using my cool tip for making furry looking frosting! 

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Ellie, also, had not seen her cake.  I think she was happy with it.  But none of the pictures will show it.  She started crying as soon as Happy Birthday sounded the last note.  (It was a little reminiscent of her first birthday.)

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And both girls...

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After the cake, ice cream, and cookies were eaten, we moved briskly into gift opening.  Madison opened all her gifts first.

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Ellie followed…. without the tears. 

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Shortly after, guests started leaving, and we shut down party mode.  I wish I would have taken a picture of what it looked like in our kitchen after the kids were in bed.  I told Jeremy, I think this is worse than digging out after all the Christmas fun.  I mean there were dishes on the counter, discarded wrapping paper on the floor, multiple piles of gifts to find homes for, and random chairs scattered about.  It looked like we had been having a fun time!