I'm not sure what it is, but suddenly I'm on a mission to tackle a bunch of house projects (maybe it's the garage mess outside making me go a little crazy?).  Tops on my list is the dining room chairs and the girls' room.

The dining room table and chairs are old.  In fact we bought them used from a family like ours who knew that someone was out there looking for a nice sturdy table set that they didn't mind their kids spilling and crafting on (and thereby wrecking).  The truth is that we have a gorgeous cherry table with white upholstered chairs in the basement.  It wouldn't make it through one meal without a spill, so we admitted defeat and "hid the good stuff."  That being said, the chair fabric has seen better days (oh and I think it's ugly as well), so I'm trying a DIY way out of my comfort zone.

We're heading to the fabric store this morning, but I've been doing some online browsing as well. There are a lot of patterns I like, but I feel a little limited by our color scheme and our messy children (not much white) and the cost (egads!).  We'll see what I end up with, but here are some possibilities (via Joann's)...

The girls room is a bunch of mini projects that I'm so excited to get going on.  Of course, I bought two prints for their walls ages ago (I think Liv was one at the time) and they are missing.  I am so mad at myself, but still hoping to find them!  The big issue is paint color for their room.  Everything in their room is pink (light to hot) and white.  I'm thinking a light/spring green would look good.  They think purple.  I don't want it to look like Barney threw up in there, but the room has always either been yellow or green (differing shades), so I do feel like we should mix it up.  Not sure...but I think green (or maybe periwinkle) is going to win.

(Project completion here)

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I Don't Wanna Blog

I think that is pretty clear given my lack of posts this week.  We have been busy!  And not really in the "we're having so much fun" kind of way.  I mean, sort of, but it feels like a lot of running from class to class to camp to dentist appointment to errands kind of way.  And then I fall over exhausted at the end of each day...ugh!  So today I thought I would just Instagram in a blog post (see what I did there?  "Phone it in" for this century?  See how tired I am?) words, just pics of the last week or so.  Have a good weekend everyone!

Butterfly Garden

We are not a house with pets (it's not that we don't like animals, just not more things to take care of), but every once in awhile we give in for a short time.  Olivia got a butterfly garden for her birthday as she was just the right age and we knew she was way to young to remember our last time raising butterflies.  It was such a big success!

The kids watched every second of the the caterpillars time with us and the watched the chrysalis like hawks waiting for them to emerge.

It was tight, but all the butterflies were ready for release the morning we left on a mini vacation.  Last time, our butterflies did not want to leave, but this time around they flew away very quickly.  My camera was acting up and they were fast, so there are just a few glimpses on actual butterflies in the pics below (near Jack's hand & EJ's knee).

Livie was so devoted to the caterpillars/butterflies.  She wanted to let them go, but she missed them immediately.  The pics below were about 30 seconds as she watched the butterfly fly away from her hands and sadness as she waved goodbye to her friend.

Raising the butterflies was a great experience for all the kids.  Grandma included some books about butterflies with the garden gift and we read them all many times.  The kids helped make the sugar water for the butterflies and collected flowers from their gardens for them as well.  Yes, I might just get talked into doing this again next year,

Explore Your Parks

We are super lucky to have an amazing parks system in our area.  Unfortunately, because there are so many great parks, we had gotten very set in our ways and tended to visit the same parks over and over. Luckily for us, our Parks Department started a summer passport program last year (and it's back this year as well).  For a small donation, you get a passport with 16 park stops to visit...each has a stamp at the park for you to use to prove you were there.  At the end of the summer, you turn it in and win prizes (at least we did last year).

These passports have been great for getting us out of our comfort zone and all around our city.  I've done big walks with a kid in a stroller, short jogs with the kids, bike rides, and playground visits.  We've seen people skeet shooting, playing disc golf, golf & tennis, new swimming pools and splash pads.  We've spotted lots of animals we don't see in our own backyard and seen our lake from just about every vantage point there is.  Best of all, when we don't have plans on a weekend morning, we check the passport for a quick place to visit for a little outside time.

I know we are lucky to have these passports all ready for us (and our amazing parks system), but I remember a friend telling me that she and her kids made up their own list of playgrounds they wanted to visit one summer.  They spent the summer checking out new-to-them playgrounds and it was fun to explore each new space.  I highly encourage you to make your own Outdoor Passport and get outside to explore!

Duct Tape Pockets

The kids got their first allowance last night (chores went well this week) and I figured they needed a place to store their family cash, so we knew whose was whose and where it was living.  I looked on etsy and at Target for small coin purses, but anything I liked was kind of pricey.  I remembered seeing duct tape wallets, so I searched and found a great tutorial for duct tape pouches at Dukes & Duchesses. Super simple and really easy to make (for a grown-up or older kid).

We headed to Target to shop their fun duct tape choices.  I warned the kids that I didn't want to buy 6 rolls of tape, so they had to work together to use some of the same tapes, or buy their own.  I think you can see who caved on spending some money for special tape...that girl cannot resist Hello Kitty.  Matt said the kids were lucky he wasn't in charge of the project, because they would be using the grey stuff he had in his toolbox (hee hee!).

Of course, we now have plenty of duct tape for other projects, so I've been searching the web for some options and have found some really cute projects.
Duct Tape Purse
Duct Tape Hair Bow
Duct Tape Bookmarks
Duct Tape Woven Bag
Duct Tape Lanyard

I've also seen lots of projects wrapping items with the tape...water bottles, boxes, pencil cups.  This could be trouble...duct tape house!

EJ's Summer Do

EJ's got a brand new look!  Yep, that is dye on the ends of her hair.  Yep, my 6-year-old looks a little punk rock.  She loves it and so do I!

EJ has been obsessed with dying her ends pink ever since seeing photos of our friends Brookelyn and Norah with their aqua and purple ends.  Very cool!  If you are as interested as EJ was in recreating this look, check out this awesome step-by-step tutorial at Vintage Sunshine.

Luckily for us, Alyson (Brookelyn's momma, tutorial & hair diva, Vintage Sunshine creator) offered to help this momma out and do the dying process for us (and Norah's momma donated the pink dye to the cause...thanks Karri!)

First step, bleach out some of the black hair so the dye would show.  This is the step that tested EJ's patience a little (it takes time with that dark of hair), but as soon as she saw the light ends, the excitement was back!

The final result is super cute!  Her hair is both pink and orange (color variation because her hair never truly went all blond) and it's such a cute look.  The orange and pink look really good together and she she was so excited to show all her friends today at summer school.

I know it's kind of a big girl look, but it's summer and it's fun.  I won't give in on pierced ears yet, so I have to give a little somewhere, right?  Besides....look at that smile!

Summer Housekeeping

I don't know about you, but I kind of let our house go a bit in the summer months.  I tend to let the mess get a little out of control, because I'd so much rather be soaking up the few months of warm weather we have and spending time with the kids (which is why I do Fall Cleaning instead of Spring Cleaning).  This year things have gotten even more out of control for a couple reasons.  One is that we are without a garage right now, so I have an office full of bikes and scooters and sidewalk chalk.  Another is that we had a mini flood in the office last week which soaked the contents on the junk drawers, so now many things are laying out to dry.  And finally...we gave the kids some chores for the summer.

I know it sounds as if the kids having their own chores would help rather than hinder (and in some instances it rocks), but I disagree.  The girls are in charge of the dining room table and floor each day.  You can see Liv method of sweeping above...perhaps we should outfit her with a swiffer skirt to truly get the job done?  Really the main issue is that we are super busy this summer.  It's hard to clean up and not take advantage of some downtime when we are actually at home.  We definitely let things slide this past week.

So yesterday I did a pretty good clean-up (you know, still kind of a mess, but passable), the kids got back into the swing of doing daily chores, and we instituted a major incentive for them to get the job done.  Everyone is getting a weekly allowance if they get their chores done.  We've never done this before and I'm not sure how it will go, but EJ finally broke us...Can I get earrings? When can I ride my bike with no training wheels? Can I have allowance?...She finally got a Yes!  Because the girls are so young and we want them to be in charge of their own money, we are paying everyone in Family Cash (seen below, download here).  They are usually with us, so if they want to buy something they can trade their Family Cash for an actual purchase.  I consider it a win-win...I don't have to start carrying cash and if they lose their allowance, they are only losing paper.  I'll report back once they earn some cash.

{Do not be concerned about the large dollar amounts here.  They are only earning Ones each week.  Jack is just a saver, so I thought I'd print some bigger bills to trade him so I can use the dollars again.}

A Chill 4th

Going to fireworks two nights in a row makes for some tired people on the 4th.  So in between the parade and the second fireworks show, we may have napped a bit...and ran to the grocery store...and did laundry.  Not super exciting, but still lots of fun!  Oh, just for the record, Jack was there too.  He just ditched us to play catch or tag with his friends/cousin, so there is no photographic proof of him.

Summer Reading

We take our summer reading pretty seriously in this house.  It's important to keep your brain moving as well as your body during the summer and it's a great time for the kids to spend more time reading (when there isn't homework waiting to be done...although, I am a summer workbook momma as well). At any rate, we take full advantage of our neighborhood libraries and their summer reading programs.  Why not make tracking your daily reading fun (Scholastic has a great app to track your minutes on the computer or mobile device as well) and earn some prizes in the process?

EJ got her library card last week and was so proud!  it helps that her school teaches the kids cursive first, so the librarian was extra impressed that she could actually sign her name.  She promptly picked out about 7 books to check out with her new card.

Jack and I went with a simple listing chart for our book challenge this year.  We also have a queue of documentaries on Netflix that we want to get to and added some fun categories at the bottom as well.  Jack has a list of 10 must-read books that I chose that he will mark here (Wonder, Stargirl, Candymakers, Liar & Spy, The One & Only Ivan, Stealing Magic, Because of Mr. Terupt, Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, Diary of Anne Frank, The Giver) and I have a list for myself of 6 that I have to read and some options for the additional four.  I just finished my first book, To Kill A Mockingbird, and actually feel cheated that no one made me read it before now.  Anyone have any suggestions of classic books that they have read (maybe for school, maybe for fun) that I should not miss?  My high school focused on world literature, so we never read a lot of the things everyone else does.

Our help project last week also involved books.  We headed to our local bookstore and each picked out a book we love (mine is hard to see, but I chose Mr. Popper's Penguins).  Then we headed out through our neighborhood and added them to the collections of several Little Free Libraries in our area.  We are really lucky to have so many of these near us...such a great way to share books!

Reading Lists Summary, June 2013

Mom's List
Someday, Someday, Maybe (Lauren Graham)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

Jack's List
Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (Donald J. Sobol)
Masterpiece (Elise Broach)
Zoobreak (Gordon Korman)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy (Lemony Snicket)
Stealing Magic (Marianne Malone)

EJ's List
Emma's Magic Winter (Jean Little)
Amanda Pig and Her Big Brother Oliver (Jean Van Leeuwan)
Owl at Home (Arnold Lobel)
Katie Woo: The Tricky Tooth (Fran Manushkin)
Katie Woo: Best Season Ever (Fran Manushkin)
The Sparkle Thing (Larry Dane Brimmer)
Young Cam Jansen and the Library Mystery (David A. Adler)
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: School Days (Erica Silverman)

Read-aloud List
Ramona Forever (Beverly Cleary)
Ramona's World (Beverly Cleary)
Little Red Hot (Eric A. Kimmel)
Wild About You! (Judy Sierra)
Foxy (Jessica Souhami)
Dog In Charge (K. L. Going)
Chu's Day (Neil Gaiman)
Horton Hears A Who! (Dr. Seuss)
I Wish I Had... (Giovanna Zoboli)
The Kindhearted Crocodile (Lucia Panzieri)
Gnarbunga (Matthew Bromley)
When No One Is Watching (Eileen Spinelli)
Miss Sally Ann and The Panther (Bobbi Miller)
Revenge of the Dinotrux (Chris Call)
Brave Squish Rabbit (Katherine Battersby)
Helping in the Community (Vic Parker)
Sneezy Louise (Irene Breznak)
Olivia Dances for Joy (Natalie Shaw)
Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! (Jan Thomas)
My Mom Is A Firefighter (Lois G. Grambling)
Peepsqueak Wants A Friend! (Leslie Ann Clark)
Nurse Clementine (Simon James)
The Cat and the Bird (Geraldine Elschner)
Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! (April Pulley Sayre)
Woof: A Love Story (Sarah Weeks)
Moo Hoo (Candace Ryan)

Matt's Big 4-0!

Matt had a birthday yesterday and it was a big one (I have to give him a hard time because he's younger than I am)!  He is not one for a lot of fanfare for himself and he made me swear I wouldn't do a party or anything "crazy" like that.  Luckily our neighborhood threw a day long bike race, so we started our days with window seats and doughnuts, and ended it was cheering for the pros (man, those guys go fast!).

The rest of the day was busy as well with a stop at the zoo, a movie and dinner at one of our favorite places.  We also gave Matt 40 presents for his 40th, including this handmade necklace (shrinky dink charm & beads...kid collaborative effort) that Matt wore the entire day (best dad ever!).  The 40 gifts got a little trying towards the end (at one point I felt like I was one step away from the Friends episode where they buy all of their Christmas presents at a gas station), but I think went over well.  My favorite was the homemade beer-of-the-month club made up of a six-pack and a gift card to get another for six more months.

We are all exhausted this morning, but it was worth every second.  I'm blaming the Saturday date night where I stayed out way past my bedtime.  It's definitely not that we are both now in the over 40 club...