Week 7 Round-up

Duck (Randy Cecil)
Big Brown Bear's Up and Down Day (David McPhail)
Stella's Dancing Days (Sandy Asher)
The 100th Customer (Byung-Gyu Kim and K.T. Hao)
The Earth Book (Todd Parr)
When Jack Goes Out (Pat Schories)
Rhinos Who Rescue (Julie Mammano)

-We didn't do a formal hunt this week but spent a lot of time exploring the outdoors. Jack did a lot of things in his REI Adventure Journal (many of which were searching activities).
-a long car trip means lots of I Spy games took place this week too!

-birthday parties (jack had two this weekend)

-dinner & playing with cousins
-library visit (EJ completed the 3rd level of Super Reader)

-road trip with cousins & Grandma
-waterfall hikes
-swimming (we attempted the hotel pool but it was broken, so Super Daddy talked the front desk into letting the kids "swim" in a whirlpool suite)

-a ton of paper airplanes (thanks to a new library book)
-camera obscura (instructions here)

-hot rocks
-nature bracelets (instructions here)

-art for playroom

-We did lots of nature exploring this week at home and on a trip to the northwoods. I'll post more on it next week, but let me just say we got up close & personal to a lot of things we don't see every day (the photo below is not in a zoo for instance).

-Jack helped me (was forced to) alphabetize/organize folders for his school

Guatemala is a Piece of my Heart

Isn't this necklace lovely?

I saw it on Design Mom awhile ago and was instantly smitten. I would love one with a map of Guatemala and for the inscription...a piece of my heart. A small statement describing my enormous love for this incredible country.

Unfortunately, Guatemala is also an incredibly poor country. Many children are not able to attend school and many drop out after just a few years. I imagine that the costs of school are just too much to a family where a parent might make $6 per month washing clothes.

{photo courtesy of Common Hope}

I know it's early in the season, but I would love to ask you to join us in collecting school supplies for the children of Guatemala. We had an incredible response last year and can't wait to help out these wonderful kids again this year!

We are collecting new:
Pens (blue, black, red)
Colored pencils (12 pack)
Pencil Sharpeners

And also collecting new or gently used:

We will be collecting items through the end of September (the school year starts in January there) and I can pick things up from you if you're local. Also, I will gladly do the shopping for you if you'd prefer to give a monetary donation. The sales right now are pretty great! Last week I bought 24 packs of pencils, colored pencils, 10 packs of pens, large sharpeners and erasers all at well under $1 each.

We will not be doing our annual Boo Boo Drive this year. We might pick it back up in the future, but it is just not going to work out this year due to unforeseen circumstances. So this will be our last big fundraiser for 2010 (I promise)!

Playroom Photo Finish

The playroom rework is complete! Well almost...we need some new window treatments. I've found shades to replace the lovely rolls we have going, but as they will usually be kept up, we could use some curtains also. Trouble is they are an odd size (28x52") and I'd rather not spend a ton of money. If anyone bumps into that size, please let me know!

So, ignore the windows (and the fact that I still haven't painted the trim/touched up the wall paint) and check out the kids new playspace!

It still has a lot of things inside it, but it's so much more organized. A start was getting the books out of the closets and on these fun shelves in the window space.

The left closet became the game closet/stuff Olivia shouldn't touch closet.

Board games up top

The right closet has all the imagination stuff...we had to expand from the box!

Music area

Kitchen area

We got big kid stuff way up in those top bins.

and left Olivia-safe items in the floor bins.

We added some awesome prints (found here, here & here)!

And the kids added some great art on the other wall (EJ in pink frames, Jack in green, Olivia in blue).

So yeah, it's certainly not perfect or gorgeous, but it's fun, it's organized, and so far it's been working! Next organization project...my office/Jack's office/craft storage room!

Hot Rocks Art Project

Making hot rocks was super fun and an easy craft I would highly recommend!! You take larger sized, flat/smooth rocks and heat them on a foil-lined pan in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Move them (with hot pads of course) to newspaper or a blanket (or one of the million Diet Coke boxes in the recycling) and use crayons to "paint" on the rocks. The crayons melt quickly (be sure to take the wrapper off first) and coat the rock easily, but you can still make designs if you'd like. EJ started with a polka dot method...

I was so on the fence about getting EJ involved actually, but in the end (after many, many talks about being careful) I let her join in. She was very serious about being careful and really liked doing it, so it was a good call.

Jack really liked doing them too, but in typical Jack fashion he got SO into it that he was careless. As he and EJ were painting the last rock together, he accidentally touched one of the finished (but still boiling hot) rocks with his forearm and lost a bit of skin. I felt so badly for him, because it hurt so badly and because it is totally something I would do! Ugh!

{I swear Jack picked his own clothes today...wow, the whole look is awesome right?}

So these are our final rocks...they are much brighter in person and the top one is actually my favorite. Jack did the whole thing in white and then added bright colors in dots all over the rock (it is super washed out in the pic though).

I would definitely do this craft again...I really hope Jack will be willing. Next time though I will do one rock per piece of cardboard and have them move after each is finished to prevent injury. These could really make our garden areas festive (and save me some weeding)!

Beverly Cleary and I Are Pen Pals

{photo courtesy of NNDB}

Well, I mean not officially...like she doesn't know about it or anything...but wouldn't that be cool?

Here's the thing...I'm typically the girl that believes there is a huge divide between myself and the creative people in the world I find amazing...you know, the cool kids of the grown-up world. And why would the cool kids want to hear from me? Or be impacted by anything I have to say? So I've kept to myself...worshiped from afar...devoured their work...end of story.

Enter technology...It makes the world a much smaller place for sure. (Please imagine how different my life would have been growing up with email versus growing up with a long distance phone number!) I started small...emails of gratitude to etsy artists who did awesome custom things for me, comments on blogs written by incredible people...and guess what? I got responses! Responses saying how much they appreciated the kind words and that they were thankful that someone loved their work.

From these responses I realized two very important things. One is that these people are as cool as I think they are, and the other, is that they are people too! And what person doesn't like hearing that they are awesome? Especially these people who put themselves "out there" creatively...I can't imagine that is easy to do without feedback (and the best kind of feedback is positive feedback right?).

I've started sending more emails, leaving more comments on posts that inspire me, and even sent some tweets of thanks to some uber-cool kids out there (there are some amazing people tweeting)! I've definitely put myself out there more than ever before. I mean, don't expect me to handle myself appropriately if I'm ever face-to-face with anyone I admire (seriously, it's the stuff my dreams AND nightmares are made of), but I feel like I've done a pretty good job from a distance.

So this past weekend, I wrote a letter to Beverly Cleary (because when you're 94 years old, I'm sure you don't use email and you probably appreciate a hand-written note as much as I do). I told her how much I have always loved her books and how I am rediscovering them with Jack. I told her how Jack laughs out loud at Henry & Ribsy's antics and how her books are truly timeless. And I thanked her for writing these wonderful stories about everyday kids for every kid...especially mine. I hope it makes her smile. It certainly was a pleasure to write.

Week 6 Round-up

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (Kadir Nelson)
The Imaginary Garden (Andrew Larsen)
Playing Right Field (Willy Welch)
Mouse Practice (Emily Arnold McCully)
Greedy Apostrophe: A Cautionary Tale (Jan Carr)
Finding Susie (Sandra Day O'Connor)
The Frog Principal (Stephanie Calmenson)
Adios, Tricycle (Susan Middleton Elya)
Eight Animals on the Town (Susan Middleton Elya)
Eight Animals Bake a Cake (Susan Middleton Elya)
Take Me Out To the Ball Game (Maryann Kovalski)
Henry, the Dog with No Tail (Kate Feiffer)
Cool Meals to Start Your Wheels: Easy Recipes for Kids to Cook (Lisa Wagner)
Cool Pizza to Make & Bake: Easy Recipes for Kids to Cook (Lisa Wagner)
Cool Sweets & Treats to Eat: Easy Recipes for Kids to Cook (Lisa Wagner)
The Secret Life of Food (Clare Crespo)
The School Play (Rosemary Wells)
Pet Stories: You Don't Have to Walk (Reading Rainbow Readers)
Magic Tree House #40: Eve of the Emperor Penguin (Mary Pope Osborne)
Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great (Judy Blume)

-I had a great find all set up & ready to go, but our week got CRAZY! It was a hunt that required a field trip we could just never fit in, so...it's been delayed!
-informal finds included searching for the perfect rocks for a project, picking out our donation items for our help project, chasing a moth around the house, and trying to find our way home through crazy flooded streets!

-zoo for kids night event
-library sled dog presentation

-ice cream safari visit #1 to Niemann's

-zoo visit (girls & matt)
-car day trip with Grandma (jack & me)
-visit to friends' ice cream stand for National Ice Cream Day

-library visit
-splash pad visit (where we ran into our friends--yay!)

-attempted to go to Nathan's basketball game...instead did a LONG drive through the flood zone!

-knitting tower
-candy bar cake for Nathan (didn't get delivered & we all want to eat it now!)

-baby blanket completed!
-spent a ton of time on a project for Christmas gifts...it was described as super easy, I'd call is super sucky! I'd like to say it's all finished too, but...

-spent a LOT of time exploring/discussing weather phenomena as the major storm approached and we got stuck in it! (which worked out nicely given our lack of time to get out in the 'hood)

-We went shopping for some items to help the kids at our local Children's Hospital (the same one we donated books to for Olivia's birthday). They have a bunch of fun games, toys, art supplies on their wish list , so we set a $25 limit and headed off to get some great things for a low price (Jack did a great job of being our money manager). Then we dropped them off at the reception desk while Jack was in class (it's that easy).

I finished!

My baby blanket project is complete! Can you believe it? I really can't believe that the baby is receiving it before he turns one!

It still is a little wonky for sure, but I like it and I think it came out pretty well (especially for one of my first projects). Matt said that I've "got skillz!" (and yes, he specified the "z").

Once I got the pattern down, It really wasn't hard. It was truly just finding time to work on it. I started it in January and only did that one major tear-down. The only other true setback was because Olivia took to pulling the loose yarn out of the side of the basket I store it in resulting in a HUGE mess. It took Matt and I about 4 nights post-bedtime to sort and untie it all. Ugh! I found I really like doing crochet so I'm really thankful to my Mom for teaching me. It's an easy thing to pick up for a bit whenever I can and it's easy to do while talking to kidlets too!

What really got this finished was our Crafternoons (yep, I just made that up)! Ever since we made the knitting spool this week, Jack has wanted to get his workbook/school stuff done and then spend the rest of naptime together in the living room crafting. Works for me (together time AND project time)!!!

So guess what I did last night? Yep, I ordered the yarn for my next blanket...for the living room! I'm so excited to start!!!


Jack & EJ have a bond I cannot even explain. They play together all the time, they watch out for each other, they giggle together (a lot) and they fight like crazy too (but in a way that shows how much they love each other). I have never worried if the two of them would get along and be friends...because they have always been friends.

Now with the girls I haven't been so sure! Maybe because they are so close in age which made me worry about competition or maybe because EJ wants nothing more but to be BIG and Olivia is so little. At any rate, I wondered if these two could ever possibly be as close as the big kids are.

And then over the last month or so, I've noticed some incredible moments...

EJ chose to stop playing in the pool with Jack and went to get a bucket & shovel to play with Olivia.

EJ and Olivia playing "picnic"...not too much later EJ let Liv wear her new dance shoes.

I didn't catch it here but most of the time the girls hold hands in the car.

Like this...I swear this is not a posed shot.

I know we have a long road ahead (like the teenage years), but I am so happy about the love these two share.

"Livie is my best friend Mommy" - EJ