Summer Fun No. 12, No Activity Needed

It had been so rainy that I was planning on doing a post-nap/pre-dinner activity to help pass some time.  I just needed to fold and put away a bunch of laundry first.  Well, Olivia and EJ got hold of the empty laundry baskets and I was reminded that sometimes a random prop and a lot of imagination can go a long way.  They played with them as hats, as space ships, as delivery buckets (as in delivering each other as mail) for hours...basically until I took them back to the basement and served dinner!

Summer Fun No. 11, Marble Run

Take a pool noodle (split in half) and form it into a two-lane run with toothpicks...

...add some construction paper signs and an old shoebox...

...get your marbles and grab a sister.  Start racing!!!

A recommendation for parent sanity: If you have more than 2 kids, build your marble run accordingly.  Three lanes would have solved a lot of "turn taking" trouble with my three kiddos.

-Project idea found at HomeSpun Threads

Summer Fun No. 10, Flowers and Sleepovers

Another thing Grandma S does each year is take the kids shopping for special flowers that are theirs to care for and enjoy (and help to make my deck look pretty too).  This year, Jack and EJ each took a turn shopping with Grandma as well as getting to have their own sleepover at her house.  Livie was too little to do her own shopping but Grandma made sure she got her own flower basket.  We had a solid week of rain (hence the dark photo), but the past few days have been sunny and the kids have made sure they get out the watering can every single day.  My favorite thing is that Olivia insists on watering her flower each time.

Summer Fun No. 9, Zoo with Grandma

We headed to the zoo on a sunny morning with Grandma S and checked out all our favorite animals.  Grandma made sure that everyone saw the animal they sponsor (a super cool thing she gifts to them each year) and she also made sure they were treated to a ride on the train and the carousel too!  This was Livie's first ride on the merry-go-round and while she does look a bit nervous here (it hadn't started moving yet), she had a great time.

Ten on Tuesday: What's Going On

Just a little random ten on tuesday quickie for you today...

I did the Barre 3 dvd last week (full disclosure is it was on my free on demand exercise channel so I decided to give it a try).  Simple and easy workout but man I was definitely sweating.  I was so sure that I was going to be hurting the next day but it was not as bad as I expected (just a little ab soreness).  I think I'll do it again as I definitely felt like I was building muscles using my own body and it was not super intense or know for days that you just don't feel like doing jumping jacks and mountain climbers (in my world that is every day btw)!

This summer the big kids are taking classes but it just didn't work out for Olivia to get to do any (parent/child classes only at that age).  I expected her to be very upset (especially on swim lesson days at the outdoor pool) but she has been pretty good.  That being said, she has to bring her own towel to swim & get wrapped up at the end of class.  She also brings EJ's old dance slippers and wears them the entire time EJ is in class (in the theatre behind closed doors), then changes back when EJ changes into her sandals.

I made this Chocolate Chip Dip (found via Pinterest) last weekend and it was a hit.  Really yummy with graham cracker sticks and mini nilla wafers.

Speaking of Pinterest, I've been trolling it big time for summer salad, fruit, really doesn't matter what kind, I have been hankering for some yummy salads this summer!  The potluck picnics we've been to always have such great things, but they are also so big that it's impossible to get a recipe.  Anyone have potluck salad favs they'd like to share with me?

Liv is my calmest child but is also the one that is going to get her way anyway she can!  She's the first to steal a toy, hit or cry/scream at her siblings to get what she wants.  Lately she's been doing something new when she doesn't get her way.  She bursts into tears and runs to a corner and buries her head while she sobs.  I cannot wait for the teenage years!

The kids watch The Electric Company all the time.  This means that Jack thinks he can beat-box and all 3 of them now yell "Hey You Guys!" randomly throughout the day.  They must actually be learning too as EJ told her siblings that they needed "to collaborate" on a clean-up effort the other day.  When I asked her where she learned that word, her answer was TEC.  Thank you PBS!

My nephew Miles came to visit last weekend.  I hadn't seen him for a few months and he grew big time!  His red hair got even redder AND super cute!
He doesn't seem to trust his cousins with the bubble guns...I wouldn't either if I were him!

I guess I must admit that I am embracing the girlie girl lifestyle for my two lovers of all things pink.  Olivia received a couple of the Pretty Pink Purse books for her birthday and they were ruined last week in the rain.  Guess who is replacing them (because they are some of her absolute favorite books) and also buying additional ones for my niece?  What has become of me?

I am not good at math, but I am proud to say that I taught Jack a multiplication concept that he hadn't done before yesterday and was successful.  Also, there were no tears (his or mine)!

I am so proud of EJ!  Everyone in her class gets a sticker at the end of class, but if you do an "amazing job" you get a silly band.  She has come out after every class, shown me her empty wrists and said "That's okay. I'll try again next time."  Today she came flying out of class to show me that she got one!  She was the only kid who got one.  She was awarded for excellent forward rolls but also for following directions (there were time outs given in class...yikes!).  My favorite thing was when she told me she got her "first silly band" and that she couldn't wait to try to get another one in her next class. actual favorite thing was this smile!

Summer Fun No. 8, Traveling with Daddy

Last week Matt was on a business trip in Europe. It was a crazy trip where he was in a different city (sometimes two) each day, so we wanted to do something special to send with him. We made up a bag of his favorite road trip snacks (including the ultimate road trip food in this family...Nutter Butters) and Jack sent him with a copy of James and the Giant Peach (Jack had another copy and they both read it over the time Matt was gone).

We also gave Matt a stack of envelopes labeled with the day.  I asked Jack to write the days of the week on them and as you can see, he went a little overboard (he also became very fond of using puns)!  Inside each envelope was a card from each of us (we each used the same color card for the week, so for example EJ's were all purple) with a drawing or note.  Matt said our notes were really great to read each day and made him feel like he was with us.  I will definitely do this again for trips away from the kids!

On the homefront, we did a few things to help the littles "get" what was going on with Dad while he was gone.  Usually when Matt is on a trip, EJ drives me crazy asking how many days until he comes home.  This time I made a paper chain that we kept on the dining room table.  Each day we took a chain off and EJ counted how many days were left.  She still talked about how long it was until Matt returned, but she had control of the situation.  Instead of asking, she would tell me "Three more days until Daddy comes home."

To see where Daddy was traveling, we used an app called Track My Tour.  Matt created a map that we could "follow" and each time he arrived somewhere new he would create a waypoint through the app.  Then when we logged on we could see where he was now and how far it was from his last stop and from us (really great zoom in and out feature to understand the distance).  We kept it simple but you can add photos and diary-style entries about each waypoint as well.  Basically it was a super cool, high tech way to figure where in the world Matt had landed now!

Summer Fun No. 7, Niemann's

Our first visit to Niemann's this summer after dance class for their amazing ice cream cones.  Our choices were chocolate marshmallow, strawberry and vanilla and they were all super yummy!

Summer Fun No. 6, Kung Fu Panda

We headed out on a weeknight (girls in pjs) to finally see Kung Fu Panda 2.  Everyone loved it!  Just an fyi, but Matt & Jack both said there was more fighting in this one than the original.  I haven't seen the first one in awhile but I didn't think the fighting/kung fu was too much even if there was more.  In addition, I thought the adoption stuff was handled well too. 

Olivia did well at her second movie (until the last 20 minutes or so when she got restless, but in her defense it was bedtime then) and I can't wait to see more movies this summer.  Of course when you eat your body weight in popcorn (Livie) and Dots (EJ), you lay in bed giggling for a good two hours before you finally go to sleep.  Good thing it's summertime!

Summer Fun No. 5, Balloon Tennis

Balloon tennis is both a craft and a rainy day activity all in one.  It literally filled our entire (rainy) morning and the kids have been playing with it a lot since that day too.  We used plain paper plates and decorated them with crayons.  Then I glued them to paint stirrer sticks (gotta love free crafting supplies) and blew up a couple different sized balloons.

Jack & EJ played "tennis" together for quite awhile (their record was 55 hits without the balloon hitting the floor) and then they hit it around themselves.  It is much easier to do solo than you would imagine and that made it a great confidence booster for EJ.  Liv played for quite awhile too but never quite got it.  She still loved every second though!

-Project idea found here via Pinterest

Not a Mud Run girl...

See this sky?  This is how our sky has looked for about a week.  Whether is it raining or not (this pic was actually taken during a "not even close to raining" time period), this is how our sky looks.  And all we want to be is outside! 

This week while Jack has had morning summer school, we have been hiding out indoors and some days it has rained, but others...not so much.  So today I decided to not let the cloudy skies stop me.  The forecast was for light rain, 48% chance (the best so far this week) and skies looked the same as they have all week.

So we drove Jack to class, unloaded the bike trailer stroller and set to walking to EJ's gymnastics class.  About 1/2 mile into our walk it started misting and at about 1-1.5 miles it started pouring!  At that point, I truly had no choice but to keep on going.  I was soaked, but that rain guard worked wonderfully & the girls were barely wet (mostly from the sidewalk kicking up water underneath them).  The walk back was dry and breezy, so I actually was like 75% dry by the time we got back to the car/school.

Just a note though...if you feel self-conscious in an outfit, walking down one of the busiest streets in the city during a downpour might not help the situation.  Or maybe people ignored how I looked and just focused on what an idiot I was to be out in that mess?

Also, if you're going to get stuck in a downpour, it's really nice to bring some friends!

Summer Fun No. 4, Yoga for Families

Yoga For Families comes highly recommended by my fact they cheered when I said we should bust out the mats!  It's fun, and sometimes silly, and they love every second.  My only complaint is that there isn't enough mat-space for Mom.

Summer Fun No. 3, Picnic at the Playground

We went to find Jack's summer school rooms (he is attending at a new set of schools this year) after EJ's gymnastics class.  In a stroke of brilliance (as we set out later than I'd intended), I threw our lunch into a bag, grabbed the picnic blanket, and headed out.  After we explored the school, we had lunch and then I let the kids explore the playground (I even got to read a little bit...what a difference a year makes!).

Summer Fun No. 2, Cereal Box Postcards

I saved the prettier boxes from our recycling pile for the last month for this craft (in fact I even had to rescue them from the recycle bin once) and look at all the pretty postcards we made!  We used a postcard we had received as a template and traced & cut to its size (the official postcard sizing can be found here).  I love all the different designs (ignore all the DC ones okay?) and colors.

Once they were all cut out, Jack got to work drawing on the back to create the addressing side and the writing side (those are the official terms right?).  The girls got right to work creating "letters" (puzzle pieces for EJ spelling help).  I chose to do this craft early in the summer so that the kids (but especially Jack) would have an easy way to send a note off anytime they wish.

-Project idea found at Infarrantly Creative 

Summer Fun No. 1, Summer Reading Programs

It probably won't shock anyone that on our first day of summer vacation, we headed to the library to sign up for the summer reading program.  This year Olivia is getting in on the action too and is joining EJ as a listener.  For the big library, they have to track their reading by time (24 hours to finish) and for our local library they have to track books read (Jack has to read 10 and the girls have to listen to 40).

There is also a summer reading program that Jack is doing through Barnes & Noble.  After you read 8 books, you get a free book and in this family, we don't turn down free books darn it!

However the summer reading program he is semi-obsessed with is the Scholastic Summer Challenge.  You enter your minutes each day...on the computer (yes, that is the major selling point in his eyes) and each week they assign you a challenge number of minutes (nothing crazy...this week is 145 minutes, so 20 minutes per day).  If you meet or exceed your goal, you get a prize.  Sometimes it's a badge for your profile, sometimes its something like instructions to make a post-it note paper airplane.  But let me just tell you, whatever it is, Jack thinks it is the best thing in the world!

So far Jack has been reading like a madman and EJ asks me all the time to "read library books."  I love how much they love reading (and to be honest, the reward coupons to area attractions are pretty nice too).

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the awesome Daddys, Uncles, Grandpas and Godfathers out there! 

But especially to this guy...
{photo courtesy of {tsj} photography}

He's pretty much the awesomest guy, and definitely the best Daddy, we know!

The Evidence

Okay, so here is the hair color.  Kind of bright red right?  Yeah, it's brighter!  But at least post-second coloring of the day it is more red and less purple/burgundy (I'm not showing you the first day-glow look).  Yet it's still really, really bright...and dark at the same time!  Hopefully some sun and shampoo will help it tone down.

What I've really learned today is I think I'm over red.  The last year or so I have not been getting the color I expected and end up looking older (which is so not the point).  Guess it's time to embrace the brown (ugh)!

Oh and they had my usual hair color at the store the entire time.  Turns out they rebranded and what was once a red-haired model on the box is now a medium-brown-haired model...yet they say it is the same color.  Very weird!

Big Mistake...Huge!

I can't even begin to tell you how long it has been since I dyed my hair.  Maybe before my birthday (that's February!)?  Let's just say it's been a desperate situation...2-3 inch roots, massive greys showing...not pretty!  So about a month ago, I finally decide to get my butt in gear and fix the situation.  Guess what?  My particular color has been missing from every store I frequent since then.  So last week I grab the only red on the shelf and decide that will be fine.

Fast forward to this morning, I have one hour before gymnastics class (EJ's not mine) and crabby kids who I know will settle at the chance to watch some tv (as I've held it back all week).  Now is my chance!  As I look at the box again, I realize this red is really for darker hair and think maybe I shouldn't, but...yep, I do it anyway!

I now have a head of burgundy hair...bright burgundy!  You know the color that a lot of women rock in the winter months (and look great doing it)?  I do not rock this color...I look a little like a clown!  Our plan for this morning was gymnastics and Target.  So yeah, the addition of boring brown hair color has been added to my list.  And I have every finger I own crossed that we won't bump into anyone there.  I always seem to see people there and I would prefer it be someone from the neighborhood versus someone I haven't see in ages so at least this look won't be what sticks with them!  Yikes!

On the plus side...
-It's just semi-permanent dye
-My hair isn't green or anything (although it may be after dye job #2)
-My roots and grey are gone

I am so not good at being a girl!!!

Reads of the Week

I have been all over the map this week on my reading (I blame having none of my library holds come in for a couple weeks), but I have finished three very interesting (and very different) books this week.

The Wilder Life was a lot of fun.  I honestly haven't read the Little House books since I was Jack's age (and even now I'm not sure how many I actually read...maybe only the one in the big woods?), but this was a quick, interesting, and funny memoir chronicling the author's journey to all the Ingalls homestead sites and also revisiting her own Laura world.  Interestingly enough, Melissa Gilbert's book is on my "to read" list so this was an appropriate lead-in.

Next up is a graphic novel called The Night Bookmobile.  Really intriguing plot and the illustrations really enhanced the story for me (which I get is the idea of a graphic novel, but I don't normally read them, so this was new to me).  Loved it and loved EJ asking me about 50 times as I read why I couldn't read her the book (it looks just like a kid's picture book).  Did anyone read Her Fearful Symmetry?  Thoughts (reviews were pretty mixed)?

Last, a young adult novel I picked up in the new books section of the children's library because it was about baseball (and the cover was cool) called The Girl Who Threw Butterflies.  As I suspected, it is still a little old (plot-wise) for Jack, but it is one I would recommend to any kid who is maybe 10 or older.  And looking it up just now, I found that Mick Cochrane has two novels for grown-ups that look really good too so I'll have to check those out soon.

My reading list keeps growing, but I have to admit that makes me happy beyond explanation!

Menu Planning via Pinterest

We have been in such a rut!  I have been so sick of making the same food over and over.  And the worst part was that no matter what "old favorite" recipe I made, one or two of the kids loved it and the other wouldn't even touch it (and also wouldn't be quiet about how much they hated it either).  Ugh!

So last week I decided that if I had to listen to kids complain about the dinner I was making, I might as well listen to complaints and try something new...that I might really enjoy!  Crazy right?

I consulted my Pinterest yummy recipes board and this week we tried out the following recipes.
{spinach lasagna rolls via The Girl Who Ate Everything}

{southwestern pizza via the kitchn}

{light corn chowder via Sounds Like Deja Vu}

{grilled cheese reinvented via jana laurene}

There has still been complaining and some nights I still have still made alternate food (like a plain pizza on pizza night), but the grown-ups sure enjoyed every single dinner!

Tracking Our Summer

There are 56 days (weekdays) of summer fun ahead of us and this year we're tracking the activities we do and the places we visit.  Jack and I made this chart to not only track the fun but to organize our ideas.

{sorry about the photo quality on this one...our hallway is the worst lighting situation ever!}

We'll add a fish to Jack's awesome pond cutout for each activity we do (color-coded by type) with the date we did it.  Each bucket holds a category tag which lists ideas for things to do (and I'm heading out this week to purchase all the materials we'll need so everything will be on hand).  The dock has the hours and free admission days of some of our favorite places (libraries and museums) and the bait shop sign lists the hours for local splash pads and pools.

Our summer is pretty booked with classes (I had to limit the number of summer school classes Jack could sign up for because he was interested in so many things), lessons (swim & dance), sports, workbooks, library visits and reading, but...the kids love the crafts and fun things we do each summer.  They were so excited to put the chart together this weekend.  I fear it's a tradition I will be doing for the next twenty years!  But it is fun and this year I've really tried to keep things simple. 

I'm also planning to keep the posts simple.  Expect camera phone photos and short verbage with links to tutorials (no need to reinvent the wheel during vacation right?)...and I'll be posting with a one week delay.  So while our summer fun started last Friday, I'll begin the summer posts next Monday (that way I can spend more time having fun and less time at the computer).  Can't wait to share our adventures with you!

P.S.  I'm pretty sure there will be grown-up adventures to post on this summer too.  This momma is not one to stop crafting, reading or watching reality tv...vacation or not!

Summer is Here!

This is what the first day of summer vacation looks like around here...
{the dining room floor after Jack unloaded his backpack to show us everything}

 {early morning cartoons}

{rain and dark clouds outside}

But that's okay...we're planning a low-key day (including planning out some summer fun) and this Momma is super happy that all my kiddos are home for a couple months!

Projects Is Up and Running

{Livie got sick of waiting for me to finish!}

The Projects page is now up and running! A list of links to some of my favorite projects (crafts, food, giving, etc). Hopefully it will get you to what you're looking for quickly...and maybe you'll even bump into something you haven't seen before.  Click here to take a peek!

The Seasons Are Coming To A Close...

and I finally remembered to bring my camera!

Just one more soccer game and about 6 more baseball to go.  The seasons have flown by!

Stay Cool Volunteer Gift

Another year of school is ending and that means it's time to say thank you to the wonderful team of volunteers I work with at Jack's school.  Last year I made these desk sets, but this year I decided to focus on our upcoming Summer fun!  Super simple...sand buckets (in school colors of course) filled with ice pops and a cute printable with a note of thanks on the back (I printed on text paper and then backed with red cardstock).  All of the volunteers have kids at school, so I thought this would be a fun treat for the entire family (and maybe earn the moms some quiet time?).

The girls and I left each bucket quietly on doorsteps (except for those couple times a dog or small child busted us), but I couldn't resist getting a shot of all of the buckets before we left on our deliveries.  I am blessed with a large team of volunteers (which is why I went simple this year)!

buckets - michael's
ice pops - mine were from walmart as they had a good deal
printable - eighteen25

A Friend For a New Friend

This weekend we are getting a new neighbor of the pint-sized variety!  We are so excited to have a new baby right next door and I thought that after her long journey home she might want some things to cuddle, so I made her a friend to hug and a blanket to snuggle.

bear - pattern & yarn in espresso
ripple baby afghan - pattern & yarn in strawberry, aqua & sprite

Gearing up!

{free printable from Design here}

Summer vacation is almost here (one more week) and we are gearing up (literally) for lots of outdoor play time.  In this house, that means sunscreen, hats, and bug spray at the ready at all times (especially for Olivia).  Inspired by this awesome Summertime Station, I set out to create my own system in our super small side entry area.
{photo courtesy of Something To Do via Pinterest}

Because my girls are still little, I wanted to keep some items out of reach and some items in a self-serve area.  I put this little metal bucket right next to where we keep the shoes/sandals and it is currently filled with hats and sunglasses.  It's right on the floor for the kids to grab (and return) these items each time they leave the house to head outdoors.  I like it because it puts the responsibility in their court to choose (or remember to grab) the things they want to wear.

The out of reach area was more of a challenge until I found this awesome bucket with a rope handle to hang on the coat rack behind our door.  It's a smaller version (just 12" across) of the buckets we use to organize toys/balls in the garage and is super sturdy.  It's the perfect size for sunscreen, bug spray, garden flip flops for me, and even a towel or two.  And it only cost $2!  (Both of the buckets are from the Target seasonal section.)
{I highly recommend this sunscreen! Continuous spray &, easy & cheap...Target Up & Up Kids spf 50}

Our system is definitely not as pretty as the inspiration photo, but it works for us!  So far (in one week of use), I'd estimate that it has saved me about 50 trips back through the house to find "the essentials."  And yesterday, it helped us get out the door in time to enjoy some summer sun and fun time at the zoo with our super cute friend Finley (who taught Olivia her favorite new trick of giving "knuckles").

Welcome Summer!!!  We can't wait to see what you have in store!