Sunday, November 30, 2008

Playing with Word Families

We had a great time the other day, making our own word family sliders. Do you know what I am talking about? You take a sheet of paper and cut two side-by-side slits in the it and thread a thin strip of paper through the slits. Then you right the end of a word family on the larger paper, and as you slide the thin paper through, you write the initial letters in the opening so you make a whole set of words.
Wow, that sure was clear! Anyway, we made a bunch of them and both my kids got into it and learned more about letters and their sounds. The one in the photo is the -AT word family so I wrote AT on the blue paper. Then on the pink strip, we have B C F H M P R S. So as you slide the strip through, you get to make 8 different words.
We also made -OT, -IT, -OP.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Month After the 30 days of nothing!

So, how much did I spend in October? I thought that would be an interesting thing to look at since I did the "30 Days of Nothing" Challenge in September.

In review, basically I tried to buy only necessities and limited my grocery budget to $200 for the whole month of September.

In October, I spent $400 on groceries. While significantly more that the previous month, it is right inline with what I want to be spending in a regular month. I also started my Christmas shopping and bought some items I had been putting off like new shoes for my son, vitamins, and reusable water bottles.

Overall, I am pleased. I did not go overboard in October and I stayed within my budget. Having the surplus in September helped me dig out of some holes so now I am right on track.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grocery Wrap-Up : 30 days of Nothing

Yeah! I did not spend any money since my last trip so I came to the end of the month with a few extra dollars.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do next month. Originally I thought I would do a $200 or $300 plan similar to this month. But to be honest, I am sick of the plain boring meals we have had. Sick of making them and sick of eating them. I think I will up it a bit more than that, but still keep a little extra room so I can stock up on things as needed.

It has been fun! I am so glad I participated in the 30 Days of Nothing Challenge.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Non-food Purchases : 30 Days of Nothing

Well, I have really enjoyed the 30 Days Challenge. It has made me so much more aware of what I was spending money on. In order to spend as little as possible this month, my main strategy was to stay out of the stores (and avoid looking at the sale ads.)

I think it went well. I definitely purchased a few things I had not planned on at the start of the month. Most were actually needs like bandaids and medicines needed for sick kids. I did end up breaking down and purchasing paper products - like wax paper and foil - and I had said at the start I would just make do.

As I look over my recorded purchases, I am pleased with how I did even though there are a few things we could probably debate whether they were wants or needs.

Tomorrow will be my last post on this, summing up my food budget.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grocery Trip #6 : 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ..

I made what I hope and plan will be my last grocery store run of the month. I have a menu plan for these last few days and I should have everything covered to last me not just to the end of the month but actually until Friday, which is supposedly my usual store day.

Today I bought whole wheat flour, corn meal, brown sugar, butter, cream and milk. I was going over the list with my husband last night and he said the cream was a necessity. (We want to make apple crisp and homemade ice cream!) Who am I to argue with that? Luckily it did fit into the budget.

That takes me to $194.78. Wow, I even have a few dollars left. I thought it was going to be even closer as they did not have one item on my list today, so it will end up waiting until next month.

Hopefully the next few days will go according to plan!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grocery Trip #5 : 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ...

This actually wasn't a grocery trip. I have a lot of food in our house, thanks to all the apples we picked and my CSA subscription, so I did not really want to go to the store but we were in need of milk. (I figure the less I go, the better for my budget.)

I had to go to the drug store to get a prescription. I figured it would be too much, but I walked by the milk just in case, and it was only 4 cents more than what I normally pay at my grocery store. So I got it. I bought myself a few days.

So yesterday morning I bought 1 gallon of milk for $2.79.

My total so far this month: $178.97. I think I can make it.... We'll see. I will still have to go to the store before the end of the month to get butter and whole wheat pastry flour and sugar.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grocery Trip #3 and #4 : 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ...

Sorry for the late update. We have been out of town. I packed simple food for most of our meals and we ate few meals out (dining in restaurants does not come out of my grocery budget although I am trying to keep my expenses there down as well)

I went to the store while on vacation to buy milk - Cost: $1.99

I also went to the store this morning (upon our return home) to buy more milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, tortillas and canned tomato sauce - Cost $20.50

My total so far this month: $176.18.

Hmm! That leaves me $23.82 for the rest of the month. I may be able to pull this off yet! I will need to go to the grocery store one more time this month - at the end of this week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Grocery Trip #2 : 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ...

Well, I'll get the bad news out of the way.

I spent $65.09 today at the groccery store. (I spent $25 on produce alone.) Not sure I have a good excuse ;-). I just couldn't pick up just one jar of peanut butter, or one can of black beans. It is against my nature! My other problem is we are going to a picnic tomorrow and since I did not plan ahead well and did not have time or energy tonight, I bought some salads at the deli. That is not something I usually do and it did increase my expense.

My total so far this month: $153.69.

Hmm. I don't see how I can possibly pull this off and come in under $200 now. I still have 2 trips left to the store. I guess I blew it. I'd like to see how close I can come though, I may still be able to spend low enough to make up for my previous overage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Unplugged Project - "Soft"

This week's project at was Soft.

I had trouble working it in, now that school has started back up. I ended up going ahead and doing it only with my youngest, and he had a super time.

First I got out a tongue depressor and some cotton balls and had my 3-year old feel and hold them. Then I checked to make sure he knew "soft" and "hard." After that I gave him some paper and paint and let him use the deprossor and balls as his paintbrushes.

He really enjoyed it and made 3 pictures!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Trader Joes Trip - 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ...

I make 1 trip per month to Trader Joes. I have a set list of things I normally buy there. They are items that are cheaper there than at my regular grocery store. Several of the things I got today were things that last for several months so it feels like I spent a lot, but I still think it is going to work out.

Spent today: $66.25
Grocery total (so far): $88.60

I will still do my regular grocery trip on Friday so I am hoping to spend $25 or less. I think I will still be in good shape. I will have spent more than half my budget but I have had to buy several staples that will last a while plus the items I bought a TJ in a months supply....

Friday, September 05, 2008

Grocery Trip #1 - 30 Days of Nothing

Continuing the 30 Days Challenge ...

Today was my first grocery shopping trip in September. I am so pleased with how it went. I made my menu plan for the next week, focusing on using items I already had. So what we are eating is super basic and simple plus I am thawing some entrees that I froze previously.

So in addition to the frozen meals, and some meat I had in the freezer, I also have a vegetable share at a CSA. That has already been paid for this year, even though I will continue to receive produce through Sept and Oct.

So really, there wasn't much to buy this week. Here's what I got:
popcorn kernels

Total: $22.35

Note - I don't need to buy bread because I make all our bread at home. I have been doing it about a year and I love it. I can't believe I bought bread all those years....

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Staying out of the stores : 30 Days of Nothing

I am loving it so far. (I know, I know... it is still the honeymoon phase!) It is really nice to be so mindful of spending money and it feels good when I think through things a bit more than is typical.

I think the key is staying out of the stores AND stop browsing the sale ads! It might be on sale, but it still costs MONEY!

A few things that have come up...
  • I had to pay a bill for something we did last month, that I had sorta forgotten about so it was not on my approved expense list.

  • I have been wanting to get a 3-ring binder for a long time to put my menu planning sheets in but I just haven't got around to it. With this no-spending challenge, I spent 5 minutes and found an unused binder that I could re-purpose for this. Score! I am hoping to find one more lying around to store recipes.

  • I REALLY, REALLY want a reusable water bottle (like Klean Kanteen). REALLY REALLY I DO! I am not going to buy it now, but wait until October. In some ways that seems cheesy, as it is likely I will spend the money anyway, and this just shifts it. But really, I think it is smart to hold off on purchases like that, maybe something else will come up or I will change my mind.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

30 Days of Nothing

I have decided to participate in this 30 days of Nothing month from Owlhaven.

It is open to anyone participating in any fashion which is good because I am actually doing "30 days of Not as much as usual" instead. I looked through my budget sheet for September and made notes of all the "approved expenses" for the month to come. My plan is to not spend anything that was not on that list. So no random clearance items I run across, no clothes, no paper products, no toys or games or art supplies.

I am also limiting my food budget to $200. I am actually not sure how hard/easy that will be. I tend to be a hoarder but I find that in overspending one month to "stock up," I rarely go under in subsequent months for some reason. So my plan is to use up a BUNCH of foods that I already have. The only exception to this will be the trip we always take in September to the orchards to get apples and pears. I don't want to miss out on stocking up on those for the year.

I am actually really excited about it. It felt good to look through the whole budget at the start of the month and think through what our expenses would be more carefully. I feel a bit more in touch with things than usual.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Unplugged Project - Insects

We're a day late due to the holiday but we did do an unplugged project.

I printed out some pictures of animals using Microsoft word clip art - two sets, one for each child. Some were insects, some were not. Some were tricky (spiders), some were not (elephants). We got two pieces of paper for each child, labeled "Insects" and "Not insects" and the kids cut and pasted the animals into the right category.

They liked it a lot and are proud of their "posters" on our wall. It was super simple for me and was a great learning opportunity for both.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alphabet Activity

I saw this fun idea on Jenni's blog and thought the boys would enjoy it. Both kids did it, with my older ones glueing the letters in order and my younger one putting them in his own order.

They love cutting and glueing and it gave me an opportunity to teach them some new things about the alphabet. And they are so proud to see their creations hanging on the wall.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cylinders! - Finally Another Unplugged Project

I am not sure where on earth we have been or what we have been doing all summer but we have missed a whole bunch of really fun looking Unplugged Projects. Here we are this week finally getting back in the groove. We barely squeezed this one in between school shopping and tooth wiggling but here it is. This week's theme is CYLINDERS.

We made a marble coaster out of a collection of paper tubes - toilet paper, paper towel and wrapping paper. Here is the original coaster that I helped with. My boys are now modifying it and doing some "experimenting" and having a good time still. I think this may last a while if they don't lose the only marble we have!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Story Stretcher Activity - Friendship with George and Martha

I was reading through some blogs when I ran across this plug for a book called Story Stretchers. Basically it gives childrens's books and ideas of acitivities to do related to the story. Some are art activities and some are active games or others. I thought it sounded super so I went straight to my library's website and requested it. When it arrived, I flipped through it and quickly grew excited about giving some of the activities a try.

The books chapters are each a different theme and I picked Friendship as something I wanted to focus on with my kids, so I requested each of the 5 books on friendship from the library. A few of them came in, so we did our first activities today. (Note there are 5 activities for each children's book listed, but I just chose a couple simple ones that I had the supplies for and I thought my kids would like.)

George and Martha - One Fine Day by James Marshall

First, we used the ideas in Story Stretchers to talk about the cover of the book and general things about friendship. Then we read the book. After that we did two activities, one was an art activity and the other was to play fun music and walk around on a pretend tightrope. My kids both had great fun. They love this kind of little planned activity with mom, and they love books, so I think this is a perfect fit for us.

There was a third activity that I had originally planned on doing but it involved a nature walk and I was not up for that today. This worked out really well today and I want to do more of these. I would like to try to plan a little in advance so we can do some of the more ambitious activities but even the simple ones will work out too.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What I'm Reading

Well it has been 4 months since I posted what I have been reading but I definitely have been reading. I have to get to bed so I'll just leave you with the covers.

Here's the most recent ones:

Monday, June 02, 2008

Unplugged Project : Paint

This week's project - Paint.

The boys had a great time painting - they were excited from the time I mentioned the word as we don't really pull the paints out much. I was so happy this was the theme as I had two new things I wanted to try out. The first was my new wipe-clean tablecloth that I bought on a summer sale at Fred Meyer. The second was an trick I learned by looking at other unplugged projects late last year. We used egg cartons as paint pallettes. It worked great and the kids had great fun.

I just let them do their own thing while I hung out nearby and offered assistance as needed. I even managed to get a batch of granola in the oven. A huge highlight for them was that I gave them each a little cup of water to "clean" off their brush between colors. They made about 3 pictures each over about an hour I would say.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Unplugged Project : Ribbon

This weeks theme is Ribbon.

The boys made faces by gluing pieces of the only ribbon I had on hand onto paper. They actually spent quite a bit of time on them and had a fun time. Very simple this week.

The face my 5 year old made. The hair is blowing in the wind he says.

This is what my 2 year old made. My idea was faces but he said "No" - so instead I present some sort of abstract art.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Unplugged Project : Newspaper

This weeks theme is newpaper.

We decided to make hats out of the paper. Here are the instructions if you are interested in making some as well.
My 5-year old made 2 - one for him and one for his stuffed dog and my 2-year old only wanted to make one for his dog.

And then I even pulled out the paints and let the kids paint them. They had a really great time. The downside was they could not wear them right away as they had to dry.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Turnoff Week Summary

Daily Record
Monday - Super!
No TV. No Blogs. No spastic email checking. I spent moderate amount of time on computer.

Tuesday - Ok.
No TV. No Blogs. A bit of spastic email checking. Need to rein this in before it gets out of control. Going to set times to check tomorrow.

Wednesday - Super!
No TV. No Blogs. Only checked email at set times.

Thursday - Ok.
Notice the email checking habit seems to creep back in if I don't explicitly set email times.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - Good.
No TV. No Blogs. Maybe a bit too much email.

Weekly Summary
Some areas went really well. My kids did not ask for a single video all week so we watched even less than I would have allowed. Since I had put my laptop away (and that is where my son typically types) he also ended up not using the computer any this week as well.

I had a bit more trouble as I was trying to follow a bit of a fuzzy rule on computer use so it was easy to fall back into wasting time and checking email too frequently. I definitely did a lot better than is typical since I was so conscious of it. This is something I want to continue working on. But it felt nice to take a break cold-turkey from reading blogs and sped my time doing a variety of other things.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

TV-Turnoff Week Blog Challenge

I am so excited about participating in the TV-Turnoff Week Blog Challenge. This will be our first time. I think one of the most beneficial things about the whole experience is what I am doing now – sitting down and thinking about the amount of time we watch TV and use our computer and setting goals for how I would like things to be.

Our current status:
My kids are allowed to watch 1 video (30 mins-1 hour) each day. Most days they do not even ask for one.
I don’t watch any television at all.
My 5-year old loves to use the computer. I have yet to do a good job imposing any sort of limit on this, although I keep saying I am.
Most days he does not use it but when he does, he does not ever want to quit.
I have been waffling on how much time to limit him to.
And I am a spastic email and blog update checker who has trouble walking anywhere near a computer without sitting down for “just a minute.”
I know this sucks a lot of time that I could be getting things done or spending time with my kids.

I am happy with the limited amount of time my kids watch TV, I am not going to do a TV-free week.
Instead I am going to concentrate in areas where I think we have issues:
Computer Use for Me and My 5 Year Old Son

Our goals for the week:
· Limit my 5-year to 30 minutes of computer time a day. I have been really indecisive on this, not knowing what the “right” amount of time is and not having a good mechanism for keeping track. I am going to commit to 30 minutes a day for the week, and then re-evaluate at the end of the week – and try not to question my decision during the week. I also will use this week to figure out a good timing method. The problem is that he does not always do it in one sitting.
· Limit my computer usage. Gosh- how am I going to do this? I can’t really go “cold turkey” as I have some things I need to do each day on the computer. I am going to unplug my laptop that I use to read blogs and waste time during the day and put it out of sight for the week. I have a slow, old computer in the home office that I will use to read email and take care of things that need to be done. The difficult issue here is how to appropriately limit my use of this. I think I will go for no more repeated running in and out to check my mail, and I am hanging up a big note on my monitor that says “Are you wasting your time?” to help encourage me to only do what I need to and get off.

So I guess the summary is that we are not actually turning everything off, but using this week to try out some new limits and maybe break some bad habits. We’ll see how it goes!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weekly Unplugged Project : Scissors

This week's Unplugged Project topic is scissors. We have missed quite a few weeks so I wanted to jump back in even if I was feeling less than inspired today.

I drew shapes on paper and asked my kids (2 and 5) to cut on the lines as best they could. I thought this was a good chance to get an idea of where their scissor skills are and help them as I could. My 5 year old did pretty well, and I had a chance to sit down with my 2 year old and give him some pointers. His cutting actually drastically improved in just a few minutes, with a couple of tips.

So I was pretty happy - we were amused for a while and some of us even learned some new things!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Avoid Temptation!

If you want to avoid the temptation of spending a bunch of money and filling your over-stuffed house with yet more stuff, stay out of the toy store. We had some time to kill today and decided to pop into an independent toy store. There was also a particular toy I was looking for that I thought would be a fun family activity for the summer. (Beamo)

I was actually a little nervous as my kids have seen basically no advertising and have rarely been in a toy store. The only exposure they have to toys besides the ones we own are when we go play at friends houses. This really limits the nagging and begging and keeps from planting the seeds of discontent. I have to say my kids did excellent in the store, although they were a little sad to leave and have to stop playing with the doll house.

I, on the other hand, experienced a lot of temptation. There are so many cool toys out there. I did buy a few things, all activities that will hopefull entertain the kids on our upcoming cross-country plane ride. So I will not be blogging for a while, but hopefully when we return I will be able to jump back into the weekly unplugged projects.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Baking with Kids

The kids and I had another at-home day today! I really needed one and I think they have really benefited from it too. I just felt like we were too busy to do the things we wanted to do and just relax a little.

One thing we did this morning was a little baking. We made two things:

The muffins were a new recipe which we liked ok. The molasses flavor was very strong and I am thinking that is not my favorite flavor. I'd like to try them again and maybe use sorghum. I have never used it before so I am not sure what the flavor would be like.

The squares are a staple in our house now, I think this is the fourth batch we've made. They are not a dessert, they are a good snack food. Sorta like a graham cracker.

I realized though tat I did most the work and made the kids watch a lot. I seem to do better encouraging participation when I only have one child with me but when I have both, I get a bit ovewhelmed. I am going to work on giving them more responsibilities.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nature-Deficit Disorder?

I read an interesting book today. I'm not sure if "read" is the right term as I have to admit that I mostly skimmed it. I checked it out from the library a few weeks ago and it has just been sitting on my bedside table. I figured I'd better read it today when I realized it is almost due.

The book is Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. There were several things I thought were interesting:
  • nature inspires creativity
  • experiencing nature is not about being a spectator
  • natural outdoor play has been criminalized
  • current high-tech environment is overstimulating
  • nature is restorative
  • main reasons children play outside less are fear and lack of time

I thought he was very convincing that it is important for children to spend time in nature and to spend time in unstructured outdoor play. I believe that he is right and there is a lot of value in relaxing and enjoying nature, learning about the world around you and experincing some freedom and imagination.

But what I am still stumped on is how to accomplish this. With my tiny backyard and my lack of knowledge about nature and the flora and fauna of our region. But it has got me thinking and as I make our summer plans it helps me focus in on what I want this summer to be like.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Zoo in the Off-Season

We headed to our local zoo on Tuesday. It may have been one of my best zoo visits yet. The reason I liked it so much was that there were very few people there. In fact, we kept running into the same folks over and over again. I would say we saw about 5 other groups walking around. We kept commmenting that we were surprised it was worth it for the zoo to be open.

Anyway, we had a really awesome time. We were able to move at our own pace and spend as much time watching things like the primates showing off, and we had a great view! I will have to say that I see why there weren't many people there. It was raining on and off all day and I am not even sure if the temperature managed to hit 50 but we were prepared for it and we were totally comfortable.

Give you zoo a chance in the off-season sometime! You may be pleasantly surprised!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Weekly Unplugged Project : Shiny

The topic for this week's Unplugged Project is Shiny!

Sorry, no photos again this week.

We started off by talking quite a bit about what shiny means. I was a little surprised that my 5-year old did not really get it. I guess it is a little abstract and we are constantly bombarding them with things like colors and shapes but not attributes like shiny. So that was great!

But we had a good deal of trouble coming up with an idea for a project. I ended up just giving the kids sheets of aluminum foil to make something out of. My oldest made a shiny window and the younger made something else. I am actually not quite sure what it is, but he had fun.

Another thing we did this week was enjoy some sun-SHINY! We were so glad to see it too! Unfortunately, I believe the rain is on its way back.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Weekly Unplugged Project : Music

For this week's Unplugged project we made shakers out of toilet paper rolls. Unfortunately, my camera is not working and I could not find a picture of this activity online, although I found several descriptions like this one.

Basically you take an empty roll and staple one end shut. Then add some beans or other small item, and staple the other end (flattening it the other way.) My son did not feel like decorating so we left it bare. Then we enjoyed singing and practicing shaking and stopping, and shaking and stopping. It is amazing how it only takes a simple game and kids can have a ball.

As soon as I post this, we are off to try another music idea that I saw on Becky's blog today.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekly Unplugged Project : Alphabet Letters

This week's project was Alphabet Letters. I was so excited because a couple weeks ago I bought a bag of alphabet pasta at Trader Joes and figured we could do something with that.

I decided to have the kids sort the letters out so I wrote each of the letters out on paper. Both kids "helped" although my 2-year old was not as interested. I tried to come up with a variety of things to talk about and practice related to the project. I geared some toward each boy since they are at different levels.

We talked about:
identifying letters
sounds letters make
matching pairs of letters
ordinal numbers
It was a lot of fun. And of course, we still have the pasta to reuse so we are brainstorming other activities.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Joy Joy Joy !

My kids are outside playing in the backyard! Hooray! We have had such icky weather lately but today is beautiful and it makes me think Spring is on the way.

This is really the first time I have felt comfortable having my little one out there without being right with him. (He's 2.5) Of course, I am just right inside the door and can hear them and partially see them. We have an awfully small yard and it is fenced in so it should be a pretty safe place.

You can probably tell from reading that paragraph what kind of mom I am - did you guess paranoid? If so you are right. It is such a struggle to let them play and "be boys" and balance that with my overactive sense of danger and catastrophe.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How Exciting! I won an award!

Look at my adorable award!
I'd like to thank MomUnlpugged for passing this award on to me. I have had a lot of fun being her friend and our family has benefited from her creative ideas and motivation.
I was excited to see my name on the short list of participants in the first week of the Unplugged Project. I wish we had participated every week but we did miss two of them.
Thanks again!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valentine's Mania

Aaaaagh! What happened to the on the ball mom who always had her son make the valentines a whole week in advance? Oh I know, she had another child and she can only juggle so many balls.

How did it turn out to be the night before my 5-year olds preschool valentine's party with NO valentines made. It was dinner time and my poor boy did not want to write his name any more times. I must admit I was a bit grumpier than necessary and forced the poor boy to finish.

And it was really my own fault. I should have started sooner and I should have realized that most things are easier said than done. - Our fingerprints didn't look much like hearts for some reason!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chores for Kids

We have been a bit on and of with the chores in our house. I am a huge proponent of unpaid unoptional chores for kids of all ages. I have gone through spells though where it was hard to consistently implement them. Mostly because I am a creature of habit and if I get out of the habit of asking the boys to help me with the dishwasher and just do it myself, I just don't think of it until I have already done it.

One of my goals for this year is to be more consistent with the chores and more clearly define our expectations for the kids. So my 5-year old and I sat down together in January and he helped me list their chores. (Funny thing - he kept trying to add more stuff - I think he just liked working with me on it - but I had to cut him off and suggest we add more later)

5-year old Chores
Cleaning his room daily at rest time
Put his dirty clothes in his basket
Putting away his clean laundry
Picking Up Toys around the house when asked
Unload dishes from dishwasher, placing on counter or in cabinet
Carry plate over to sink when finished eating
Setting the table with brother

2-year old Chores
Put his dirty clothes in his basket
Putting away his clean laundry (that he can reach)
Picking Up Toys around the house when asked
Unload silverware from dishwasher
Setting the table with brother

We are doing really well with this and all are being done consistently except the last 2 and that is because I have not really been consistent. The lists look long to me but they are actually quite small jobs. The only significant one is the room cleaning one and that has caused some conflict. Overall, I am happy with where we are now. Of course I will need to add more things as they get older.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Unplugged Project : More Collage

We had such a great time last time we made collages. In fact they are displayed in the kids rooms and they still enjoy looking at them. So when collages came around again on the Unplugged Project we were happy to make more. We were even all the ball this week - we did these on Tuesday. After my 5 year-old repeatedly asked me if it was time to do the "weekly project" yet I figured we would go ahead and break out the catalogs.

Mostly we used two catalogs - Pottery Barn Kids and Ballard Designs - with a little from a 3.5 year old Sunset magazine thrown in there.
My 2 year old just did whatever he wanted, although I ended up doing a fair bit of the cutting under his direction. I gave my 5-year old some ideas and tried to do something a little more directed with him. So he started looking for the letters of the alphabet. But after a while, he said "I think I'll only do through i" and then he moved on to add some things he thought were more fun. I think he thought his brother was having more fun than him - since he wasn't working near as hard.

These collages are also hanging in their rooms and my two-year old loves to look at and touch his creation.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Unplugged Project : Pipe Cleaners

We had a nice time with pipe cleaners this week for the unplugged project. My husband started by making letters with our 5-year old. He wanted to spell "train" - surprise, surprise - so that it what they did.

There were some remaining pipe cleaners and the next time I turned around, my son had made a hat. Once our 2-year old saw the hat, he wanted one too so I helped him make a hat as well. The hats have especially been a hit. They made them yesterday and have been wearing them off and on today too. In the photos, we have Clifford modeling the lovely hats.

The one on the left is the one I helped my 2-year old with and the elaborate one on the right (which used most our pipe cleaners!) is the creation of my 5-year old.

What I'm Reading

I've managed to find a bit of time lately to participate in one of my favorite activities. My reading had really dropped off but I have enjoyed getting back into it.

Here's what I've been reading. I really liked all of them.

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

(This is definitely the best book on food allergies I have read. I would highly recommend it to anyone dealing with them!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Television History

Participation in the Unplugged Project has got me thinking a lot about television and the lack of television in our lives. It also prompted me to do a little reading, at sites like Instead of TV. This has been a great encouragement to me, as I don't know anyone (besides my sisters) who impose many if any limits on their children's television viewing. Seeing that there are others who agree with me on television helps to boost my confidence that I am doing the right thing by my kids.

When I was a child, my mother limited our television viewing to 1 hour per day. It is funny to me now that that seemed like such a difficult and harsh restriction when now 1 hour seems more than generous. I have vivid members of how confining that was and how much my sisters and I hated the limits.

When I was in high school, I had an assignment to write a research paper and the topic I chose was the negative effects of television viewing on children. (If I sound like a nerd, that's because I am a nerd.) Anyway, it was pretty clear to me from that research I did that television viweing was not a good thing.

In college and for a year or so after college, I did not have a TV. This was mostly because I was too cheap to buy one and too busy to watch one. But there were several short periods during those years where I had a television (while interning in the summer and on business trips) and I found that I watched tons of TV. That box is totally addicting to me. Once I turn it on, I have such a struggle to ever turn it off, even watching things I barely liked. I would not get the things done that I needed (or wanted) to and I would always stay up way too late and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

Now, we have a television but we do not have cable and for some odd reason live in a little bubble that gets no broadcast television reception. So that actually makes it pretty easy. We have some videos and dvds that my children watch, although I limit them to 1 per day. (These are mostly 30 minutes long.) I don't miss watching at all. The only issue I have is how isolated I feel when I get together with others and they are talking about all the latest shows. And this issue bothers me for my children. My kids are still young but I worry about them feeling left out and ignorant at school because they don't know about all the characters and shows.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on watching television....

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Snow Day!

Well, we had another day at home today. Somewhat unexpected for the Seattle area. It has been really cold here but no precipitation and even a little sun and blue skies. But Sunday night we had some snow. It was pretty fun because my husband and I were oblivious and my 5 year old was the first to spot it.

Anyway, as we were stuck at home today, I had to come up with some activities to keep us happy. My goal for today was to watch ZERO television. And I am happy to report that we succeeded.

We did some crafts including Paper Snowflakes

And some baking including Graham Squares

I was actually suprised that today passed pretty quickly.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Unplugged Project : Egg Cartons

This week's project is : Egg Cartons

My boys had a really fun time making alligators. One reason they liked it was we pulled out the paint (which is a rare treat indeed.) Another thing that made it fun was the alligators were thought-up and designed by my 5-year old. Being short on creativity myself, I was trying to convince him to make the standard (but cute!) caterpillar. He did not like that idea so I told him to come up with one himself - and he sure did.

"Googley eyes" always made things more fun too!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Celebrating MLK Day

I never really hear much about celebrating this holiday. I see articles in the paper about politicians giving speeches and the occasional festival but I don't really hear about families celebrating.

I have tried to do something each year with my kids, even if it is something small. We always listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech. Obviously, much of it is over the heads of my kids but it does give us an opportunity to talk about the history of our country, including slavery and segregation. Each year, my oldest understands a litte more.

I am making a point to teach the kids amout Marting Luther King Jr and about discrimination with a great hope that the next generation will continue what has been started.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Puzzle Storage

My son received a tub of ten puzzles as a gift. Each puzzle is stored in a flimsy zip-close bag. After a while, the bags were starting to look worse for the wear. Plus my son had trouble sealing it all the way and so puzzle pieces were escaping and getting mixed up. Not good when you are delaing with 10 similar puzzles.

So... I devised a new way to store the puzzles. The labels are actually photos I took of the puzzles as he completed them. That got extra bonus points from him! So much neater than before!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unplugged Project : Toothpicks or Popsicle Sticks

Time again for this week's project. I have been sick so I wasn't sure we were going to get to it this week but it turned out to be just what we needed to get through a slow Sunday afternoon.

This week was originally toothpicks but then MomUnplugged mentioned Popsicle Sticks as an alternative. The boys got some of those in their stockings this year at Christmas so that seemed like a good place to start. Thinking of popsicle sticks reminded me of one of the projects for the Puzzles Unplugged Project. So I took my inspiration from Heather, and my kids made puzzle pictures out of their sticks.

In fact, it looked like so much fun that I made one too! And the boys did not stop at just one, they made 2 each. My husband had fun attempting to put them together.

2 year old's creation
not sure what it is
but it is colorful!

5 year old's creation
It is a train on a train track going past a barn.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Snow Day

We had a bit of snow last night. I hate to drive in even the smallest bit of snow and possible ice so the boys and I stayed home today. I really like staying home for a whole day and just relaxing a bit.

But what did we do so we did not lose our minds?

First we did some baking. The boys helped me make dinner rolls for later and pumpkin muffins to eat for our morning snack along with oranges.

Second, we did some cleaning up. They both helped put toys in their bins and then my 2.5 year old ran around with the dust buster while I let my 5 year old use the adult vacuum for the first time. He loved it! The cleaning took a fair bit of time.

Third, we played a board game together. Novel idea - mom sits down and gives them undivided attention!

Lastly, as it was approaching dinner time and I was getting tired of all the running and screaming, I pulled out the play-doh again and got another good hour of entertainment.

Successful snow day!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unplugged Project : Sculpture

This week's Unplugged Project is Sculpture. I'd just like to thank MomUnplugged for running the weekly projects. It really helps motivate me to try some different activities each week.

This week we pulled out the play-doh for the first time in about 2 years. Fortunately, although it was a bit dry, it was still usable and my kids played with it for a full hour. As it was the hour I was making dinner, it is likely they would have watched a video instead. So it saved my kids from at least one video and instead got them working and creating and thinking.
My youngest mainly cut and smashed and cut some more. My oldest did lots and lots and lots of different sculptures, mainly various numbers (like the 6 in the picture) and animals. They both had a really good time, especially considering I have very few play-doh tools. And now that I realize my play-doh is dried up, I am considering making my own. I have seen tons of recipes but I am not sure if I am up for it or not!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thank You Notes!

I think everyone is familiar with "letting things slide." There are so many "good" things to do with your time, but not enough time to do them all. Some common things to leave undone under pressure are laundry and cleaning.

But I have noticed recently that many people are adding writing thank you notes to the list of things that are not making the cut. I really think that is a shame. I don't think there is any need to explain why thank you notes are important, as it is obvious, so I wonder why they are so often left undone.

I write thank you notes to let others know how much we appreciate the spending their time and/or money on something for us. But the second reason, is to teach my children to be appreciative. (Note that the goal is not just to raise kids who write thank you notes, but to raise kids who are thankful and grateful for what they receive)

It was a little harder when they were young but now they are old enough to participate. For my older sons birthday thank yous, I wrote the words but he brought all his gifts to the table and drew a picture of each thing on the corresponding note. While he was doing this, I reminded him who each gift was from since he is not reading yet. For Christmas, I had both kids attempt to make cut-out christmas trees which we glued to some blank notes we had. They may not be the most beautiful cards ever but I hope they were enjoyed and appreciate by those who received them.

I hope I never decide to let making thank you notes slide into the pile of undone tasks around here!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Unplugged Project : Puzzles

This week's Unplugged Project idea was PUZZLES!

I did not manage to pull together much of a "project" this week but the idea did serve as inspiration for several puzzle activities.

First, I found some sodoku puzzles that only use the numbers 1,2,3,4 and taught my five-year old how to do them. He did 2 this week with some assistance but seemd to catch on to the concept pretty well. I am not sure if he will continue or not. I *thought* he was working on his 3rd one when I realized he was actually just doodling in the boxes! This also inspired me and I have been trying to practice my sodoku skills as well. So far I am still at "Easy"

Second, my husband led a rousing scavenger hunt and the boys both loved it. He made lists for each child and then after that, my 5-year old made a list for his dad to find. My husband (very smartly) included putting all items back where you found them as part of the game, and they could not move on to the next round until that was done.

These were really fun unplugged activities that the whole family participated in. Unfortunately, I have no good pictures to share.

Oh yeah, and we did do the cereal box puzzles a couple months ago as well so we did not repeat that this week.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What We Are Reading

Have I mentioned how much I love the library. My only problem is making sure I limit how many books we have out at one time. I was just sorting through our library box so I can take a big pile back! Then we can check out a whole bunch of new ones. Here are some that we are returning that we have really liked.

Night Tree by Eve Bunting (a Christmas story)
Not A Box by Antoinette Portis (my kids love ths one!)
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Lemons are not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (colors, really creative)
Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter (making maple syrup)