MS Walk 2010

This is Tracie. Beautiful right? Inside and out...

The best friend I could ever imagine. She "gets me" and loves me anyway. She is there for me no matter what I need...a hug, a coffee date (which she knows means cocoa & pound cake for me), endless silly Twitter conversations, sharing our deepest thoughts & secrets, a chick flick in get the drift, right?

And she can make me a freak (and yet I'm still sharing the pic...that's how much I love her!)

She loves all my children, but the bond she and EJ share is super duper strong!!! EJ knows she can ALWAYS count on her Godmother (especially for hugs and candy)!

Last July Tracie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I could go on and on about the way it affects her, but she really wouldn't like that too much. In addition to being a great friend, she is one of the strongest people I know and I find I have to beg her to complain! Let me just say this...MS sucks! Her symptoms, the side effects, everything about it!

Tracie injects herself with medicine every other day to prevent her MS from progressing, but at this time there is no cure. As you might expect, cures take research and research requires money! Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. World-wide, MS affects about 2.5 million people.

This April, we (me, tracie, her family & all our besties) will be participating in Walk MS and we truly need your support. Please help us raise very needed funds! If you'd like to help, please consider a donation or join our team and walk with us.

Donating is easy. Simply click here to make an online contribution. Any amount you can contribute is appreciated more than you know and will help move us closer to a world free from MS.

From the National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Wisconsin Chapter:
Wisconsin has one of the highest incidence rates of multiple sclerosis in the U.S., with more than 10,000 or 1-in-500 diagnosed. Besides dealing with the physical and emotional aspects of MS, these Wisconsin residents also face significant financial challenges. In fact, the average annual cost for an individual diagnosed with MS is $57,000.

Need some inspiration...

So my favorite baby is turning one in a couple months and I honestly hadn't planned to have a party for her. I'm not really sure why either...I'm in the midst of planning EJ's 3rd birthday bash (including her first ever friend party) and that has been tons of fun. Maybe I don't want to plan another one so soon after? Maybe it's that Olivia is so young I figure what is the difference? Maybe it's that she doesn't really need anything and is too young to do a charity thing without me seeming like a bad parent (seriously, a toy broke yesterday and I was SO excited to add it to her pathetic wish list)? Maybe I just need some inspiration???

Yep, I'm thinking that is what it is. I need something to get my wheels turning...a theme, a color scheme, something...anything? So, what do you guys have for me? I'll take any and all suggestions to get me moving.

It will be a small party of just family (and friends who might as well be family) so simple (in theory...I mean when have I ever succeeded at doing things simply?) and at our home. I was so not going to do anything, but my sister-in-law may have said that I always have parties for the kids so it isn't fair to Livie (which is true) and looking at these photos of the other kid's big day was inspiring too. I mean how can you not smile at these next couple pics?

Please comment below with any ideas, concepts, links (if you really love me) to projects! My baby girl thanks you for helping her to have her own big day!

Pencil Snack

For the finale day of Jack's VIP week, we are supposed to send a treat for the class. The has to be a healthy snack. Well everyone knows...that is not my strong suit, so it was going to take some searching for the perfect thing. Then after talking to T last week about her themed treat and book reading for Hunter's class, I really wanted to do something cool to go along with our geocaching talk with the kids.

So I started poking around the web and Family Fun had a really cute edible pencil snack, and it wasn't made of cookies, so I figured it was okay. You start with these ingredients (I subbed cream cheese for mustard and mini chocolate chips for the raisins):

Cut a slice of thick-sliced bologna (man that stuff is gross) into a circle. I used one of the many medicine syringes we have laying around here from ear infection meds and it made the perfect circle. Take a string cheese and attach the bologna circle to one end with cream cheese (or mustard in FF's directions). Then take a Bugle and break off some of the top (it won't come off even no matter what you do, but that's okay cause it almost works better) and jam it into the other side of the cheese so it sticks. FF says to stick half a raisin on the end, but it looked like it might not work and I already had mini chocolate chips on hand, so I just attached a chip to the end of the Bugle with cream cheese.

Okay so this is how they made it look (food stylists at work for sure)...

And this is how mine ended up (with the worst food photography ever)...

I think they came out okay and I hope the kids think they are cool. It's probably not something I will ever make again, but it was simple enough and I think they came out as well as they could have. Fingers crossed that they stay together until snack break!

Prologue: I just showed Matt one of the snacks and he asked me if it was an alligator. Perhaps I'm in more trouble than I thought I was! :-)

Mini Notebooks

Need a mini notebook? For your keep a little one busy...just because? Well I've got some easy instructions for you. Inspired by this (well let's be honest, I just used their idea completely), I set to work using the remaining paint chip samples I had collected for our Valentine's Day cards.

First I cut the cards down to 3 x 4.75" - I didn't pick this size for any specific reason, just thought it looked like the right size, so feel free to pick whatever dimensions you'd prefer. The paint chip samples serve as your cover so you need 2 per notebook. Then I cut down some white computer paper to the same size. I put about 8-10 sheets inside each one.

Once you have a notebook put together, paperclip each side to keep the sheets aligned (I used bigger paperclips to really hold it tight). Then using a ruler along the top edge (to keep them in a straight line), make pencil marks every so often along the top where you want to make holes. Mine ended up being about every half inch, but I didn't mark them precisely or anything...just free-handed what I thought looked okay. (And can someone remind me not to take photos on my old, ugly couches again please? Ugh!)

Using a 1/16" hole punch, make holes at each of your marks. Then I used a tapestry needle (mine was probably an 18) and some craft embroidery thread (i.e. the cheaper stuff I buy for the kid's projects) to sew the binding. I used a simple blanket stitch that anyone can do...

Sew through the far left hole leaving a small tail and tie a knot at the top of the notebook. Then bring your needle from the back to the front in the second hole (don't pull tight yet). This will leave a loop of thread above the notebook as shown below.

Bring your needle through that loop and pull tight. Continue doing the same thing down the row.

This will create the stitch below. It doesn't need to be pretty for this project, just able to hold the booklet together. When you reach the end of the row, complete the same stitch in the last hole and then tie a knot at the top of the notebook. Trim the ends of both tails and you're done.

These are some of the notebooks I made this afternoon. I made about 25 of them and added a sticker to the front of each one to finish them off. Why you ask?

Because on Friday, Matt and I are headed in to Jack's class to talk about geocaching as a family. It's the finale to Jack's VIP week and we have to go in to talk about "something interesting." I sure hope the 5 & 6 year olds find this of interest! So I'm giving each of them a notebook and...

We're going to hide two "caches" in the classroom and pick a couple kids to find them. Jack wants to put stickers inside so the kids who find them will get a sticker (of course all I have is Dora and Cars in the house...hope that flies with everyone).

I put a magnet strip on the film canister so we're planning to hide that on the wall or a cabinet and the metal case will probably go on a bookshelf or something. Normally they wouldn't be marked with a bright sticker, but we're trying to make it a little easier for the kids. And once we decide where they are going to be hidden, Matt is going to make up fake coordinates and a clue (like once an actual cache had the clue of "Para in Spanish" and the cache was on the back of a stop something on that order that will help them find it).

Okay so everyone cross your fingers Friday morning and hope we don't completely bomb. I so don't want to be the total nerd parents (that we truly are, but try to pretend we're not)!

Lunch Box Notes Free Printable

What kid wouldn't love to find one of these adorable notes in their lunch?
{image courtesy of Fancy Pants Prints}

Click here to download the file...cut out and you're all set! Such an easy way to put a smile on your kid's face and perfect for when you don't have time to write a note on their banana too! :-)

Cozy slippers

Do you have a favorite pair of slippers? I tend to bounce around from pair to pair (and let's be honest, 90% of the time I'm barefoot...cold weather or not). But last week a couple friends were discussing why they LOVED their slippers and it got me to browsing around tonight (you know online shopping instead of getting stuff favorite time waster).

I'm pretty sure if I had these, I would never leave the house!

Maybe it's good that I don't...I've got errands to run & kids to pick up right?

Who are you?

This week at school Jack is the VIP of his class. Which basically means that this week all the extra attention is on him. Tomorrow he will bring in this large poster board of photos, notes and things describing who he is.

And throughout the week, he will bring in these items (one or more each day) to share even more about himself with his class.

{Taste of Home magazine where Jack once modeled thanks to Auntie Sandy, Jack's photo album which includes pics of him with each member of our family, his piggy, baseball glove, LEGO car, Lightning McQueen car, bug catcher necklace}

This task was not an easy one let me tell you and we had many discussions as he chose which photos to use, what to say about them and what things he wanted to bring. For instance, he didn't want to write "I like to cook" initially because he likes to do a lot of other things too and didn't want his class to think that was his "favorite thing" to do. However he HAD to attach a pencil to the board (which is when we started including "stuff" on the board as well as photos) because he wanted them to know that he likes to write. Everything he did was carefully selected and really important to him.

It really got me to thinking about how I would do this same activity to describe myself. What photos would I choose? What notes would I write? What things would I include? It's a tough task to describe your entire self so minimally (and I'm not sure I could), but I think Jack did a really great job. I'm very proud that he chose to include people he loves and ways he helps others in with the things he likes...I think that describes who he is perfectly!

Lent & Habitat for Humanity

As part of our observance of Lent, our church gives each family a calendar and a small container. Each day has two things listed. One is a daily prayer focus and the other is something related to our housing, or other things we may have been blessed with, as well as a small donation amount for these items (for example, if you have cable tv deposit $0.75). You place the donation into the container and return it to church on Easter Sunday. All monies are then donated to Habitat for Humanity.

This is our second year doing this project and I love it for so many reasons that I had to share. I really feel like this is a great way for children to understand the Lenten season. Each day you are guided to discuss something you have been blessed with and also others who do without. We watched the donation money grow (I believe in the end we collected about $35) and discussed how it would help people with great housing needs.

In addition, the learning benefits are also huge. Last year, Jack was able to master coin denominations and math with money. Also, he and EJ really enjoyed counting up all the things in our home from windows to doors to light switches. They thought the computer & smart phone days were fun too (especially because Matt was working two jobs at the time so he has 2 of everything in those categories as well as his personal cell phone).

Every night at dinner we had a few more things to talk about, share & have fun with, and pray for...and we were very glad to see the containers appear at church again last week! I've included scans of the calendar below (please let me know if there is something you can't make out). I hope you might incorporate this (or something like this) into your family's Lent observance. It's a great reminder of all the blessings we each have...large and small.

My "weekend" away

So I just returned from a few days away with my felt like a weekend even though it was relaxing! I ate a lot of super yummy food, talked a lot and spent a lot of time enjoying this lovely fire!

I arrived home Friday evening to an active house of mostly smiley kids. Big news up in here too...we have 4 new teeth arriving! Jack is getting his top middles again and Olivia is getting her 3rd & 4th teeth (top but not that weird to get the outer ones first? Because I kind of think it is!).

Also, there is this new stance...

...and movement! Hard to see the blur going by, but yes, Miss O is a crawling machine!!!

Paper Flowers

When our friend Jessica was in the hospital towards the end of her battle with cancer, she was in a section where flowers (really a lot of things) were not allowed. I desperately wanted to bring her something cheery (as she was the epitome of cheery) and so I made up a vase of paper flowers for her. She loved them and I was so touched to see that vase among the things displayed at Jessica's memorial...all I can say is wow! Such a simple thing that touched her and her parents so much.

Since then I have tried to give paper flowers whenever I can and have made them several times for special people...most notably for a friend on a 3 month hospital bed rest stint and for my friend Marta as she started her cancer treatments (she kicked cancer's butt by the way!).

The flowers I made in the past were always of this type...

{image courtesy of Broadway Paper as I apparently never took photos of my own}

So remember my friend Lisa from yesterday's calendar post? Well, she may have seen Marta's flowers...and she may have asked me to make her flowers a couple times...and she may have a birthday coming up too actually (on Sunday)! so...she finally is getting her wish.

I found this tutorial for a different type of paper flower about six months ago and have just been waiting for the perfect time to make some for Lisa. They are actually more of origami and glue (versus the cutting and glue of the first type). I like making them a lot more actually and I think the look is pretty cool.

I made Lisa's bouquet in various pink designs. They are really a great way to use up smaller pieces of paper as each flower uses just five 3" square pieces of paper.

I was planning to give them to her in a small vase, but it just didn't look right...

So instead I wrapped the stems with ribbon to make a bouquet. I twisted the stems and then used craft glue to attach the ribbon to them. Again, waiting for the glue to dry was the slowest part (same for making the flowers).

I really hope she likes them! Happy Birthday Lisa!

Easy-Peasy Calendars

Back in December, Tracie posted about this gorgeous calendar post she saw on Creature Comforts. Seriously cute right?

And it looks super easy too, so yours truly opens her big mouth and says that while she is busy with the holiday frenzy, she's sure she can make them up in January. How hard can it be to make a set for me and one for Tracie? Oh, and one for Lisa too (who chimed in a little later that she really liked them too)?

In the end, it was in fact simple...just a bit time consuming. The free downloads and instructions are all on the post...right here! So you print the pages out on 8.5x11 card stock (both sides), then cut them out. I used my big cutter to do the outer edges and then was working with a straight-edge & x-acto and really getting nowhere fast (you have to cut the sides leaving a tab to fold in to make the pocket). Anyway at some point I decided to just attempt cutting that portion with scissors and it not only worked well, but about 50 times faster too! Yay! Fold in the sides and tape the pocket. After that all that is left is hole-punching the top and adding ribbon if you'd like.

So here is one of my finished calendars...

I wanted each month to be a different color and I wanted all three calendars to be the same, so choices of colors were limited, but I think it came out well. Each month has a different ribbon too and many are laid out so that adding a photo would be a really simple & cute addition.

I tried to "tie" the ribbons differently as I could. The calendar is actually made to be hung with a push pin (either through the hole or through the ribbon loop), so the ribbon is really more decoration than function.

So I have two calendars all packaged and ready to take on our trip. I think T and Lisa thought I was kidding, but of course I was serious! Hope they like them!!!

Oh and that third calendar? I can always finish that one over next weekend right?

Enjoy...month two

Isn't that so cute? It was my birthday present from Jackie, who said the choices on etsy were limitless for my "enjoy" year. I think she made the right choice! And it will definitely help me to focus on enjoying what is going on around me!

One thing I always enjoy are my awesome kiddos. I walked out of my shower on my birthday morning to find my three kiddos sitting in a row each holding their flower. What a sweet surprise...and gift. I'm thankful to Matt for bringing out his crafty, inventive side to help the kids create these and I'm thrilled to have these gorgeous flowers looking at me from the dining room table all day!

Today I'm off to relax and enjoy a few days with some of my favorite mamas! I'm very thankful to everyone in my 'hood for helping me out so this mama could go too! I owe you big time!

The Best Brother Ever

My brother has always been good at art. Me? Not so much (so I chose to study art history instead). Here is D way back in the day working on his easel (Mom, do you know how old he was here? I think he looks younger than Jack, but...)

Here's the thing though...for as awesome as we all think he is? He doesn't think he's good at all! So, I basically had to beg him to make me something for my birthday. And guess what? Best. gift. ever!!! Check it out!

Awesome right?

(don't judge the terrible photograph of the awesome art was already framed and I'm no expert on shooting through glass darn it!)

Olympics Medal Chart

Last week when I was in search of last minute things to fill our Valentine's Day morning, I bumped into some free printables that were Olympic-themed. I knew Jack was excited about the Winter Olympics beginning and thought a word search and medal chart were a couple fun little things to do for him. Never in a million years did I foresee how OBSESSED he would become with the medal chart! He and Matt searched out a web site to determine the countries from the flags and another to determine the 3 digit country codes for each. But the free printable I had found didn't have the countries that the boys wanted to follow, so...

Mom worked up a new chart in Excel...nothing pretty but I thought seeing as I took the time, I might as well share it with everyone. This is a screenshot of the file...if you'd rather have the excel file, I can send that your way too.

Now to work on getting Jack to wanting to update the chart only once per day!

Valentine's Day Recap

Here I go again with a big whopping day-in-photos post...I'll try to keep the words to a minimum.

Started out our day with church...which of course means heart tights (had a really hard time getting her to take these off actually)!

Matt & I had a dinner date on Saturday night so that meant the kiddos got to hang out with Abbie & Owen. Jackie had a super fun party planned for them too with fun food, crafts and of course decorating treats! They had a blast Jackie...thanks again!

EJ's dinner placecard and decorated rice krispie treat heart.

Jack's overly-decorated chocolate chip cookie heart (don't you love that matt & jack will always play along with my silly set-up pics?).

After church (we went to early service so we could have a mini-party of our own before lunch) we played musical hearts (idea seen here). I traced hearts (which Jack cut out during church actually) and we placed them in a circle. We played music (on the tv if you see them looking at it in the pics) and they walked around the circle. When the music stopped, they picked up the heart closest to them and did the action listed.

Walk like a robot...

Flap your arms like a butterfly...

Fly around the house like an airplane...

and give Daddy a hug!

Some of the other actions were sing the ABCs, hop on one foot, name someone you love & why, and spin in a circle 3 times.

Then we moved on to activities at the table before lunch, like coloring our printables from Vale Design.

"Tracing" hearts by placing candy hearts on an outline.

And Jack did some charting with the candy hearts...he estimated how many hearts were in the bowl. Matt & I guessed too and I was the closest...2 away! (you know I have to brag about that as I beat the two math a lot!) Then he sorted them by color and saying. He was also going to stack them to see how many he could stack before it fell over, but he was distracted by the Olympics (and he had already been stacking while he was sorting, so I think the mystery of that activity was done).

For lunch...heart-shaped pb&j (my cutters were on loan, so I had to free-hand these with a judgments please!)...

and pink milk!

Excuse the quality of this photo, because after nap I switched to the iphone for a bit, because...

we were here! EJ kept asking when "the animals" were coming. We didn't get it because she knew we were going to see hockey (and she knows & loves hockey just like Mommy). Finally we got it...she heard "animals" when we said "Admirals"...ooops!

Even Livie had a good time (first-timer as she slept through the only other hockey game we have been to since she was born).

After that we went back home for our traditional dinner of Rocky's heart-shaped pizza (they might be just a little excited!).

No pizza for Liv, but she did get to play with the huge balloon they gave us.

I think it was a pretty good day!

Night, night everybody!