Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Holiday Halloween

Ok, so I'm not a huge fan of Halloween. Why celebrate something that revolves around evil? We rejoice in goodness and light. However, I'm not going to be totally bah humbug, so we dress up and go trick or treating because really it's all about the free candy. Right?

So, if we are going to do Halloween, I require my kids to dress in a theme because my I have a theory that themed costumes receive more candy. There are lots of themed ideas, but the difficult part is getting them all to agree who is going to be what. For example, the Wizard of Oz would be a perfect theme, but nobody wants to be the wicked witch and all the girls want to be the Glenda, and it always ends up in arguing. This year I threw a few ideas on the table and finally one morning they came downstairs to breakfast and announced that they agreed to be holidays. Surprisingly there was not much arguing over who was going to be what holiday because the holidays are not very gender specific. I can honestly say that this year's costumes were VERY low budget. Now, of course I'm a tiny bit of a saver and suffer a mild case of pack-ratness which comes in very handy during times like this when some creativity and improvisation is essential.

Here they are:

We had the black tights, brown shorts and brown shirt. We cut feathers from 2 white poster boards ($0.69 each) and spray painted them with paint I already had. I also bought the foam for the turkey feet ($0.99). We stuck some feathers in her hair that I bought 10 years ago for a Thanksgiving project when Emily was 19 months old. The feathers are attached to Emily with a belt and some yarn around the arms. Total cost $2.47.

Fourth of July
Bradley is wearing a pair of my red capri pants to which I applied masking tape stripes (he is wearing a belt. My waist is not the same size an 8 year old boy's), a blue suit coat, a red sash from one of the girl's dresses for his tie, a vest from his magician's costume, and my husband's red striped socks. The hat is also from his magician's costume that he got for Christmas last year from my dad and sister. We put on red and white construction paper stripes, a blue velvet fabric scrap, and a white felt star. And of course cotton ball beard and eyebrows attached with double sticky tape. Bradley's costume cost $0.

Valentine's Day 
Sarah is wearing her pretty pink princess dress that my mother-in-law made last year. I attached some red felt hearts and paper Valentines. She is wearing heart ornaments around her ears and we made her a red glitter heart head headband. She is also wearing pink fairy wings that I had stashed in a closet. Sarah's costume cost $0.

For Wendy I cut out the bottom of a basket that has been sitting in our garage for the past seven years. It hung on her with grosgrain ribbon that I had in my ribbon stash. I made her some bunny ears from stiff felt ($0.99). I attached our plastic Easter eggs to a large wad of plastic Walmart grocery bags. The basket is essential to the costume or else the costume has a totally different look. Total cost $0.99.

St. Patrick's Day
This one required a little sewing. I made Jason a very rough pair of drawstring pants and a vest, because everyone has a yard or two of green gingham in their fabric stash, right? (No awards for the sewing. There were no hems or pretty stitches.) The green sequin bow is from some St. Patrick's Day goodies my mother-in-law sent a year or two ago. The hat is from our German family reunion in 2008 and I added a green shamrock to the side. Also the green boots are something that have been kicking around the house for awhile because I had to get them when they were clearanced for $2 at Walmart. Total cost $0. 

Ok, so Rachel wasn't the most cooperative when it came to her costume. I had a great idea to transform Rachel into a Christmas tree. I had the perfect dress I was going to dye green and decorate like a tree. But she refused. I probably could've gone forward with my plan, but I really didn't want to put forth the effort of Rit dye if she was going to be a pain about it. So since she had a red dress, that my mother-in-law also made last year, we improvised and she was transformed into Holiday Barbie. I added holly leaves and berries to her beauty pageant sash to help make things a little clearer that she was Christmas. I'm still disappointed I didn't get to dress her as a Christmas tree. But you can't reason much with three year old little girls because all they want to be are princesses, and I couldn't convince Bradley to wear a dress.

I had an orange t-shirt about 2 or 3 sizes too big for George. I put it on him and wrapped a rubber band around his waist and the bottom of the t-shirt. I tacked on some black foam (that I already had) jack-o-lantern facial pieces that I cut and....Wallah!...a pumpkin. I would've taken it a step further and made him some leaves for his head, but George doesn't like things on his head, so I didn't bother. We stuffed his shirt with some of those big packing bubbles, like the really big ones that come in a perferated strip. You know what I mean? Anyway, we were lucky because we had just received about three packages from Amazon packed with them and they worked out really well, and he didn't mind being all puffed up all evening. Total cost $0.

Happy Holidays!

Oh and here is Emily's beak that we forgot to have her wear in the other picture. It's made from a birthday hat and orange paint with a red feather attached.

 Ok, so we might have added a little bit of evil to the evening. But it only lasted 2 seconds for the photo.

Halloween was a success. $3.46 for seven costumes and 17 pounds 10 ounces of free candy later, we are finished for another year. Moving on to Emily....I mean Thanksgiving.....

Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm Blogging. I'm Blogging.

I'm going to update you on the past 23 days in pictures. Seriously, 23 days? Positively shameful!

George squriting himself with a water bottle. It was about 10 minutes of quality entertaiment.

Bradley + leaf blower + basket of balls = 45 minutes of quality entertainment.

He hovered a variety of different types of balls. This was the best picture of my squishy Miracle Ball. It was fun watching the ping pong balls shoot out too.

We spent five weekends (yes, that's right, FIVE weekends cleaning and remodeling our garage. It had seven years of accumulation and junk and roach poop. It was A LOT of work, but so worth it. We hauled a bunch of stuff away to Goodwill, painted, and got carpet for half the garage, so the kids could play and study in there. This deserves a whole post, so hopefully I will post.

Always a good spot for the cordless phone. It's hanging on the back of the blinds on the back door.

Squeeze bottles for relish are just not a good idea. Chunks of pickle just don't come out smoothly from a 1/2 inch hole, and sometimes you end up with a pile.

Jason turned 5 years old!! But he crushed his birthday crown doing a flip off the couch.

We have moved onto rectangle cakes that are easily divisible by 9.

Playing in a box of crayons.

The after picture. Just to give you an idea of how much work this is....normally our garage is filled to maximum capacity with bikes, storage bins, gardening stuff and junk. We took it ALL out and it was on our lawn. People thought we were having a garage sale. I painted it a semi-gloss white, and that black on the right hand side is chalk board.

Wendy learned how to ride her bike without her training wheels. Mostly.

We got a new pencil sharpener. It was totally awesome, but it broke one week later :( 
I am shopping for a vintage steel one on eBay. I cannot find a good pencil sharpener!

"Look, Mommy! Four legs!"

Daddy and George. My husband and I decided we don't take enough pictures of ourselves with the kids, so we are trying to take more so our kids remember what we looked like after we are dead.

Reading. George loves books.

She's looking so grown up!

Wendy's a nut.

This is the night that Jason ate an entire 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple for dinner.

Finishing his ice cream.

Whip cream!

There. That should be good for a few days? Weeks? I promise not months.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Famous Hair

Rachel went to the "salon" today to get her hair done. After her appointment she was checking her texts.
I think George is thinking, "What? We can touch Mommy's iTouch?"'

 Realizing her talent for hair styling, Sarah decided to start her own business today. She hired Emily as an employee. 
It's called "Famous Hair: Hair for Famous (and ordanary) People

The Stylist and her own hair do.

Another Asian inspired style on Rachel.

Today was also Emily's half birthday.
(That's our new white board that I am loving in the playroom. We got a sheet of glossy wall board that we bought at Lowes  for $11.84. It works awesome with regular dry erase markers. It was much cheaper than buying a real white board.)

It was Bradley's idea to use the number candles that we had on hand to make the 10 3/6 fraction. It makes me happy to see him applying his math skills.

Beauty and the Bruise

Sarah told me the other day that she wants to be a hair stylist when she grows up. I think she might make it big in Asia. She also told me today that she wants to be a "creator". She wants to be "an artist, a  really good sewer [a person who sews], and a girl with the best cursive."

My mom used to tell me the story of when I was little. I was about eight years old. My family moved from New York State to California and they tested me to see where to place me in school. I don't remember a whole lot about the testing, but I think it involved some sort of IQ test and an interview with a psychologist. The psychologist asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My response was "A hairdresser or a gymnast." When the psychologist met with my parents she expressed her concern that my aspirations were not very high. My mom thought, "Good grief. She's eight years old, she's in gymnastics, and she got a Barbie Head for Christmas. What do you expect her aspirations to be?" Maybe my parents should have bought me the game Operation instead so I could aspire to be a surgeon.

To be honest, I have never aspired for any type of businessy career. My only desire through childhood, college, and now was/is to be a mother. My mother was a great example. I was home with her until I went to kindergarten. I never went to preschool. I remember following her around and learning how to be a mom. She taught me how to vacuum, dust, load a dishwasher, set a table, make pigs in a blanket, wash grapes. I have good memories. Even though I have few vivid memories of being home with my mom ages birth through five, because I was so young, I remember her presence. I remember her hugs, I remember her counting to three and swinging me into my crib at naptime. I remember sitting on the couch with her and watching Donahue, Young and the Restless, and General Hospital. I didn't always sit and watch the TV, because I was probably busy coloring in my coloring book, playing with my paper dolls or my Little People dollhouse and ferris wheel. But having her there was a comfort. I knew if I wanted to, I could hop on the couch and lay my head on her lap and she would scratch my back.

I even wanted to wear hats just like my mom.

Rachel has been potty trained for a good eight months or so, but recently I've been trying to train her to do it all by herself. Usually the conversation goes something like this:
"Mommy, I nee' go potty."
"Ok, go ahead. If you go by yourself and come back with your panties on, I'll give you a piece of chocolate."
She chuckles and runs to the potty and comes back to tell me, "I go potty!"
Then I give her a dark chocolate Hershey Kiss. I'm on such autopilot with the routine, she'll probably work it until she's like ten years old.

Well, this all happened today, except Rachel did not come back with her panties. In fact, I don't think she even began her day with panties. She couldn't go to her room to get panties because George was sleeping in there. So she did not earn her chocolate. Needless to say she was not happy about it, so she took it upon herself to retrieve her own reward by climbing onto the kitchen counter to raid my Kiss stash. I believe this is the first time she has ever climbed onto the kitchen counter. Unfortunately, Rachel is not a natural-born monkey and she fell off the counter and banged the side of her face on the floor. She was very sad and spent most of the afternoon on the couch pouting. I'm pretty sure she was more disappointed that she didn't get chocolate than about the painful bruise on her cheek. Anyway, my point is that I held her for an entire half hour. She rested her head on my chest and let out an occasional sob. I enjoyed every moment of it. Not because she was hurt, but because I got to snuggle with her and soothe her with my make-it-feel-better kiss stash. It made me feel like a mom.

A few years ago I was grumpy about staying home with my children. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, but it seemed mundane and frustrating at times. I complained one day to my husband and he kind of put me in my place. Ok, so he did put me in my place. He reminded me that I have the best job in the world. My attitude changed from that point. I agree that it is the best job in the world. At the end of the day I might have a rainbow of melted M&M stains on my white shorts from a toddler that has no sense to wipe his face before giving my leg a hug, a piece of elbow macaroni squished on the bottom of my flip flop, hand prints on my windows and a dented dishwasher, but I love it. I love I can be there for my kids. Even if I steal a moment to catch a glimpse of Shephard Smith or Anderson Cooper in my bedroom in the afternoon (on the TV), my kids know where to find me......and they do. Everyday at 4 o'clock I hear shouts from downstairs:

"Moooommmmm! Can we watch TV?"
"Yes!!! Please do!!"

And for some reason each child thinks they need to ask me individually.

(Ok, so I was only going to post the picture of Wendy and Sarah with the chopsticks in their hair, but I have issues with being brief.)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Call Me a Lame-O

Call me a Lame-O because I am. Twelve days of no blogging. My reason? I don't know. I guess you could say the homeschooling truck came and ran me over. For some reason this year seems more difficult, most likely because I have five official students now and it's a constant juggling act. Just as I sit down to read with Jason I hear someone in a sing-songy voice yell, "Mommy!! I need help with my math!"

So I've been spending the past two weeks trying to figure out the balancing act. It's slowly coming together. Legally I'm supposed to record our progress daily or weekly. To be honest this has not been my strong point over the past five years. Every year I vow to do a better job. This year was no exception. So, to keep with my vow I started a homeschooling blog. It's very boring, but it logs our activities of the day. It's helpful for me to remember that we actually spend time learning because there are moments when I feel like information goes in one ear and out the other. It took me awhile to get the blog set up the way I want it. I'm a Blogger traitor and I use Wordpress for it. Wordpress is a little more versatile. I can just "copy" a post and then change the differences for that day. Anyway, I will be adding to it little by little. It's at www.excellenteducation.wordpress.com. At least I say I will be adding to it. Statistics show that I will abandon the homeschooling blog in the coming weeks and return full-time to this one. We'll see how it goes this year....

Other news: We almost burned our kitchen down on Friday. I was so excited to do an art project with my kids that I found on Pinterest. It involved melting crayons over tea light candles and making a pointillism sort of piece of art. I was a little hesitant to do it with a three and four year old hanging out with us, but I decided to give it a try. Well, it turns out that three and four year olds have a natural fear of fire and weren't interested in doing much with the crayons and flame. They were content to simply color the traditional way. However, the eight and ten year olds were the curious ones. Our flames had a tendency to get extinguished if a drop of crayon wax fell onto the candle. So to enlarge their flames, Emily and Bradley added a few pieces of crayon wrapper. The flames were a manageable size so I allowed it. However, I don't know if Bradley added more pieces while I was working intensely on my project or what, but his piece of artwork caught on fire. It wasn't a big deal and the flame was small.  I got up from my seat to assess the situation. I decided to show the kids a little lesson on how to extinguish a small flame by depriving it of oxygen. So I grabbed a cup off the kitchen counter and proceeded to turn it upside down to put over the small flame. Well, it didn't quite go how I expected it to, because there were a couple of drops of water in the cup. When the drops of water hit the flame......WHOOOOSH!!!....the flame shot up about two feet in the air with a bunch of smoke. We all screamed. I totally wasn't expecting that to happen. My plan to deprive the flame of oxygen totally backfired on me (pun intended.)

I thought I was dealing with a paper fire, but apparently this was classified as a grease fire because of the chemicals in the crayon. I don't know for sure, but water was not our friend in this situation.  The flame got smaller, but in the meantime it spread to the newspapers that we were using to protect the kitchen table. As the kids ran screaming away, I mostly kept my calm and went to the the kitchen cabinet under my sink where I have a fire extinguisher attached to the inside of my kitchen cabinet door. I ripped it off the door and fumbled trying to pull the pin from it. Finally it came out and I aimed at the fire. Swoooosh! It was out in a matter of seconds. Disappointed that I now had to purchase a new extinguisher and that my piece of art was ruined, I was happy to have the situation under control. I also decided that I will purchase two new extinguishers and put one in the laundry room upstairs. When I said that, Bradley affirmed that it was a good decision. He said that dryers can start on fire if you dry something with grease on it, and it can possibly cause an explosion. I asked him if he read that in a book and he said, "No, I read it on the label of the dryer door." That kid reads everything!

Bradley's reaction was one of awe and fear. He thought the fire extinguisher was pretty awesome, but he began crying because he was a little shook up about the incident. He said, "I am NEVER doing that again!" I feel confident that he will never play with matches. Hopefully Jason was old enough to be affected by the incident as well.

Thankfully there was no major damage. There are a couple of burn marks on the kitchen table, but they blend nicely with the natural dark knots in the wood. I smell a little smoked wood when I sit at the table. The smoke alarms are working in the house, which is good to know. Poor little George slept through the whole ordeal, smoke alarms and all. My ears were ringing the rest of the night.

I have no pictures of the incident. Unfortunately there's not much time to take pictures when there is a fire. I'm just very grateful that nobody was hurt. We pray for safety daily and I believe our prayer request was granted that day. There was definite potential for burns, especially when the flame shot up when the water hit it. There were a faces about a foot away from the big flame.

From now on I am going to stick to Pinterest inspiration that does not involve fire.

I leave you now with pictures.  This shows the developmental difference between 15 months. Both Jason and Rachel made crowns:

A 59 month old

A 44 month old

Rachel was not quite able to embellish her crown like Jason did with his cutting. Now the question is: Will Rachel catch up in speech in the next 15 months? She's still a mumbler with a language of her own, but I do hear improvement. One of these days she'll be able to say all of her consonants, hopefully by January 2013. It will be good New Year Resolution for her.

Also: I'm not pregnant which doesn't surprise me because of my funky cycle last month. Just thought I'd update you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Picture for Your Thoughts

I failed to finish posting pictures of our summer vacation. It's too late for me to write tonight or sort through pictures, so I thought I'd leave you with this photo that I took at a hotel where we stayed in Pennsylvania. I suppose this is one way to post the sign....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Proud Parent

I had a proud parent moment today. Jason was learning his beginning letter sounds and rhyming. He played a little game that involved a happy hippo on a kids' website. After he finished the game, I heard him apply his understanding of the H sound and rhyming when he said his own sentence aloud to himself, "The happy hippo has hairy nipples." Alliteration and rhyming all in one sentence! Yes, a very proud moment, even though technically it doesn't rhyme, but close enough.

We often get asked why we homeschool. The main reason is so that we can give our children an education that is tailored to their learning style and talents, and spend more time together as a family. However, in Jason's case it's to save me from the embarrassment of him asking his kindergarten teacher, "How do you spell 'nipple'?"

Jason is also a very curious child and very much enjoys taking things apart. If he finds a screwdriver he will go to town with it. I currently have:

Seven of these battery covers that I need to replace.

 George's toy that he took apart. My kids call this the Baby iPod.

When Jason opened this one up, he was very interested in the new type of little round disc battery that he's never encountered before. He told me I need to buy more of them.

The other day I was teaching Jason the notes on the piano. He was halfway interested in what I was teaching him, but he kept feeling underneath the keyboard. He said to me, "Mommy, I feel something metal under here. What is it? It feels like a screw." I could see the wheels turning in his head, and they were not music related.

I am now collecting toys and gadgets that are old, boring, or broken for him to take apart. The other day I allowed him to unscrew the motor and music box portion of an old crib mobile. That was fun. It was fun for Bradley too.

This is my screwdriver holder on the back of the kitchen cupboard underneath the sink. It's empty because Jason raided it. Now I hide any screwdriver that I find, and this will remain empty for several more years.

Jason is one of my favorite kids. He is so much fun to teach at this young age. Every time I teach him something new he excitedly exclaims with wide eyes and a high-pitched voice, "Ohhhh! I didn't know that!!" 

He is very happy to be a kindergartner. I was a little worried about beginning to officially homeschool him. If he were in public school, he wouldn't be in kindergarten until next year because he has an October birthday, but I felt he was ready. I was only worried because he is my most stubborn child, however, I haven't experienced much stubbornness while teaching him. He's eager to learn and progress in his reading and writing. Today he was even interested in learning how to use a dictionary. He's mostly stubborn when it comes time to clean up. But who isn't? As I write this I still have dirty dishes in the kitchen that probably won't be washed until tomorrow morning. I know one day it will click with him that it's a good idea to help out, and I will remain patient until that happens.  (Hopefully one day it will click with me that it's a good idea to wash the dinner dishes before going to bed because it always makes me grumpy in the morning when I have a sink full of dirty dishes.) He does small things to help, like putting the pillows on the couch. Every little bit counts.

His green hair.

He loves cutting watermelon and he's good at it. He could also probably eat an entire half of a watermelon. The effects of watermelon are fascinating to him too. The first time he ate it this summer he shouted to me from the bathroom, "Mommy, it's red!!"

He falls asleep in random spots and positions.

On this night it was with a purse and a duck in a toy ice cream cone. I love these fun little Kodak moments before I go to bed. It ends my day with a smile.

"But Mommy, I just wanted to see what was inside."

Look! I just wrote a whole post without one picture or blurb about George! Imagine that!