Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

from our family to yours


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Delegation....

Yesterday, I needed to get out the door to attack my errands.

I needed to complete several desk tasks before I could do that including something that resembled a menu to build a grocery list from.

The twenty minutes that I had was not adequate to get all the at-home stuff done.

The kids began hovering over me with the million questions and requests that vacation days bring.

In a moment of inspiration (don't even dare to call it desperation), I grabbed a piece of paper, listed the days out, and handed it to them. "You guys come up with the menu for the next week, AS a team."

Collaboration commenced. They actually had fun as they remembered favorite meals and took turns (without my prodding!) making suggestions.

Here is what they came up with:

Wednesday (last night): Pasta and veggies
Thursday: Potato Soup, but also cheese and hummus and crackers for our New Years Celebration
Friday: pizza (we almost always have pizza on Friday)
Saturday: crockpot macoroni and cheese
Sunday: spaghetti and meatballs
Monday: Veggie Soup that mom made up (This one cracks me up. I asked them to explain it, that I didn't remember the recipe. They said that's okay, you can just make up a new recipe. They have so much faith in me.)

Yes, the menu is starch laden, but perfect for a snowy weekend. And since they have buy-in for the menu, there will be minimal meal struggles, and maybe even some extra help in the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Creative Mathematics with Christmas Gifts

Take these:













Add this:












And you will likely get this:














My first completed pair of American Girl pants, modeled by Miss Molly McIntire. The girls and I have three patterns and have great hopes for these girls 'custom' wardrobes. What a fun new hobby for these winter months!

(The nightgown on Josefina in the first picture is also homemade, though not by me. I picked that up at a craft show a couple weeks ago.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Marc's What...

My sister, who is the coolest in the world, made Marc a 'what' for Christmas. On his website is a variety of his guesses.

Here is the answer.




















I love having such a creative sister. She inspires me. I especially love that she loves teasing Marc as much as I do. : )
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Already?



















Today is the last day of school for 2009. The kids will have a full two weeks off. I am amused with myself that I find these two weeks a bit intimidating - me, that homeschooled for six years and had them at home ALL the time.

In a fit of inspiration, I decided to pull out our games, and put them under the tree. They will be easy to see, no hidden behind a cupboard door. They will be easy to grab. They are located next to a warm pellet stove and large open place of carpet... a perfect place to play a game. A perfect setting for some good family holiday fun.
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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Socks


Why yes. They are homemade socks. What? Oh yes, I made them. That's right, my third pair this Fall.

I am SO excited. This pair I made both socks at the same time, and I think I may be just downright addicted.

The book that I used for this pair is Knitting Circles around Socks. It was a great help to me and I highly recommend it. I spent too much money on it because it was a spontaneous purchase, but especially now that I've finished my first pair, I feel certain I will use it as a guide for many sock pairs to come.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Art Student of the Week















Anna has thoroughly enjoyed her art class at school. Yesterday, she came home with a special certificate for being the Art Student of the Week for her school. The art project they worked on last week was pictures of pumpkins. What the art teacher appreciated about Anna's pumpkin picture was that she drew a background of pine trees.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Socks

I finally wove in the ends and finished up these two pair of socks this past weekend. On the left, Sofia feet. Anna's are on the right. The socks were made toe-up with finger-weight yarn. Sofia's are all wool, Anna's are wool/nylon blend.
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

When you don't pick up your dirty laundry....


.... someone might fall and slip on it with our hardwood floors. Like your mom. When she's looking for a shirt for you to wear to church.

Lately, if I trip or stumble, my body does it with gusto, with knees and ankles getting hurt way more than they should. This morning it was my big toe, mostly, that hurt. Call me talented.

So after I got the shirt, I sat in a chair and told the kids to leave me alone to have a pity party. Examining my toe 'I think it's swelling', 'It might even be longer than the other one'.

As all mom's know, when mom is hurt, no one knows what to do. Most of the time they don't believe we are hurt or sick, because after all we are super-heroes.

As my family processed my pain and my self-pity, my 4yo came quietly to my side, "Mommy, can I pray for your toe?" She put her hand on my foot and with a heart full of faith prayed for my healing.

I hugged her with tears in my eyes, in awe of her quickness to ask her Father in Heaven to attend to all our needs.

When I looked up, my 10 yo son was standing near. His offering to my pain - a Snickers bar from his Halloween loot. My very favorite kind of candy.

I have such great kids.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sweeper on the Roof

This afternoon, we took care of some home maintenance. Perhaps the 'help' was having a bit too much fun...

Sweeper on the Roof

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do not try this at home.


Today I did some sealing up of a fireplace that gave full access to the outside of our warmed inside air, as well as inviting the cold in. I am generally confident in these little matters of home maintenance. After cutting and fitting foam sheet insulation, I sealed the edges with this fun foam product. I also gave our leaky chimney (the other one) some foamy love.

In the midst of it, my hands got covered. No big deal. I've never met a mess I couldn't beat. Until today. I'm writing this at 8:30 in the evening, and have been working since 12:30 to get my hands cleaned, and functional again. Purell, regular bar soap, especially dirty hands hand soap, cream. My hands can bend more and are only thinly covered now. But there is still a lot to wear or pick off.

Next time, I'll be wearing gloves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Economy and Cookies

The oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that I use says, “Bake for 10-12 minutes”. When I bake cookies, I play the role of efficiency expert.

.... to read more, check out my post over at GNMParents.

Homeschool to Public #3 - the Lunchbox

This school-year is going to be different from all the other school-years our family has experienced. For the first time, my 9yo and 7yo are going to school. After six years of homeschooling, our chickies are going to take their first test flight into a new way of life, and mom (that’s me – yippee) is going to get a sabbatical. Since there are so many things that I want to capture as we make this transition, I will capture many of my thoughts in a series of posts over the next couple of months.
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At one point last winter, Anna asked me, "If I go to public school, will the I get a lunchbox?" I had forgotten about that until it came time to get them ready to go to public school this summer.

I asked my friends who helped me out with school shopping what their thoughts were about lunchboxes and again got great response. Ideas about hot lunch versus cold-lunch, types of lunch bags, and the ease of prep and eating. While I have offered my kids the opportunity for hot-lunch, they are still quite pleased to have momma make lunch and pack it with treats from home.

The funny thing was, that during all the shopping, Anna's biggest concern was the lunch-box. Are we going to get it today? Where are we going to go to get it? What will it look like? The crayons, notebooks, clothes didn't matter nearly as much as The Lunchbox. And the morning we finally got it, seemed to settle something for her. She knew she was ready. She had a way to feed herself, but the importance of it to her was clearly about more than food.

The lunchbox has remained an important part of Anna's days. She makes sure things are packed, that her thermos is filled (with water, I love that!), and reminds me to include a little note. The school day ends with The Lunchbox being emptied. For some reason she loves to save something from the day to eat at home. And she always comments on the little note.

I don't think I will get a full understanding of the significance of The Lunchbox. I'm okay with that. I'm amused by that. I think she looks so sweet with her Hello Kitty stuff, and I'm delighted that she wants a lovenote from me every day.



Monday, September 14, 2009

Proud Mommy Moment(s)


When Caleb got home he was greeted by a shipment of Legos. He had been allowed to pick out his birthday present by his Pitman grandparents, so they are an early celebration.
"Mom, I think I'm the luckiest boy in the world to come home to Legos." (proud moment number 1)

Moments later I hand him the phone and tell him to call Grandparents to say thank you. I eaves-dropped as he left a message "I am SO EXCITED! Thank you" (proud moment number 2)

Sofia got set off by something, and went into the other room crying. The two olders began to moan about her temperament and I quietly told them that her day had not gone as she hoped with her playdate. Caleb immediately asked, "What room did she go to Mom?" Again I eavesdropped, holding my breath this time, to see what Big Brother had planned. "Sofia, would you like to try to build this Lego set while I do my homework? You can sit next to me and I will help you if you need it." (proud mom moment 3)

Sofia and Anna are snacking, Sofia trying to make sense of Lego directions. Caleb says, very kindly, "Hey guys, let me teach you about median" and proceeds to patiently explain his homework to the girls. (Anna didn't care, but Sofia was all ears.)

Treasures to my heart.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

LightSwitch Cover

This was my first attempt at a custom lightswitch cover. The girls painted their room purple and green and this pulls the two colors together around the light switches. Learned lots, and can't wait for another go at it.
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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Homeschool to Public School #2 - meeting the principal

(I wrote this post on August 18. Since then we've been a bit consumed with our preparations and beginnings. We are on week 3 of public school, and I'm hoping to begin writing more regularly about my thoughts and our transitions.)
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This August is going to be different from all the other Augusts our family has experienced. For the first time, my 9yo and 7yo are going to school. After six years of homeschooling, our chickies are going to take their first test flight into a new way of life, and mom (that’s me – yippee) is going to get a sabbatical. Since there are so many things that I want to capture as we make this transition, I will capture many of my thoughts in a series of posts over the next couple of months.
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Last week we went through the process of registering the kids for school. They will be at different school buildings, so it took a little bit of running around. I wanted to feel sorry for myself about the number of forms I needed to fill out until I began to consider the number of forms that the staff at the schools need to process. They have no easy job.

Each school had a sweet welcoming atmosphere. It was such a relief to walk into each place and feel like 'we can invest and settle into this school'. Wow.

My highlight was meeting with Mrs. Trafford, Caleb's principal at the Albert Hall School. She met with us because I wasn't certain of where to have Caleb placed - in fourth or fifth grade. He is only days from the birthday deadline, and has really struggled with Math during homeschool. My goal is for him to have the 'winningest' experience he can have.

We took the results of the IOWA test results that I have administered the past three years and went to the principals office for an early morning meeting. After the meeting, I felt so excited to have a team-mate in Caleb's education. She looked at his tests, affirmed what we've been doing, answered Caleb's questions, and invited us both to call or email her when we have other questions arise. The result is that he will be in the fifth grade. Wow. I'm the mother of a fifth grader.

Not only do I have a fifth grader, but I have a son who knows the principal, and that she cares for him. And I have a principal that knows that I'm committed to the team. And we all know that this year is going to be a great adventure of learning and growth.



Thursday, September 03, 2009

Spa Towel Wraps


My mother-in-law and I have been planning to make bathrobes for the family for.... um.... never mind how long now.

Today, Centsational Girl posted a terrific idea...
http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2009/09/diy-spa-towel-wrap/

Maybe this is what we've been holding out for. And I'm guessing that at this end of the summer season I might find some great clearance prices on large fun print beach towels! This has Christmas written all over it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homeschool to Public School #1 - School Shopping

This August is going to be different from all the other Augusts our family has experienced. For the first time, my 9yo and 7yo are going to school. After six years of homeschooling, our chickies are going to take their first test flight into a new way of life, and mom (that’s me – yippee) is going to get a sabbatical. Since there are so many things that I want to capture as we make this transition, I will capture many of my thoughts in a series of posts over the next couple of months.

Post #1 of HS to PS (homeschool to public school)

School shopping. That phrase conjures up a multitude of emotions and memories.

I love, love, love to shop for pens, pencils and notebooks to this day. The smell of Staples is one of my happiest smells. Organizing and gearing up. LOVE IT.

I also remember the agony of clothes shopping for school – wanting to get ‘it’ right, but also very constrained by my family’s very small budget. The number of ‘it will do’s’ often outweighed the ‘I love it’ pieces of clothing. And even then I knew it didn’t matter. But it did.

So as I began to think about school shopping with my own children for the first time, I realized I needed some help. I went to my list of friends on FB and selected six women for their help. All of these women are moms and two work in schools. Their information was so helpful and thoughtful, I’ve compiled it to share here.

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We are so lucky to have a stream of hand me downs that usually account for about 80% of the kids wardrobes.

*buy 1-2 outfits (or supplements) to start school- typically the 1st couple weeks are still shorts weeks... so we are usually in ok shape based on the summer.

By the time the cooler weather rolls around the kids are usually in need of some warmer clothes because they've grown since the spring. So I shop then for the long sleeves and pants. By now a lot of the back to school clothes are on clearance which works for me because I am pretty frugal. Make that cheap.

*sneakers if needed- make sandals an exception because they need to be able to run far and fast at recess!

*sweatshirt or fleece for the cool mornings that still shift into hot afternoons.


I agree with buying 1 or 2 new outfits for the beginning of school as summer clothes usually work for the first few weeks (with sweatshirt/light jacket for chilly mornings) and sneakers for recess. I know at our school girls can't do certain things at recess if they are wearing dress shoes. I usually hold off on the long sleeve stuff until it starts to get colder. I don't know how your schools are, but ours are not air conditioned so the fall and spring tend to be very warm in the school. Even when the kids need a jacket outside, they want short sleeves inside.


I think the most important thing is for the kids to be comfortable in what they wear. Kid's clothing styles are a pet peeve of mine. Apparently what I think is appropriate for a 10 year old girl and what the clothing industry thinks is appropriate are on other ends of the spectrum :-) It's difficult to find fashionable, tasteful clothes for ******. (Wait a sec while I step off my soap box :-) We generally find things that ***** and I are both happy with at Target, Old Navy, Justice for Girls, and occasionally at Kohl's.


I buy a lot of LLBean stuff off-season from the outlet or from the sale section of their web site. I would say that anything clean, appropriate/in line with the school dress code, and comfortable for your child is OK for a public school setting. My son is extremely sensory, so he wears sweatpants and a rugby or polo shirt every day because he can't learn if he's uncomfortable.

As a teacher, I can tell you that it's frustrating for the kid and the adults if the kids wear clothes that they have to "manage" (they have fancy ribbons to tie/tricky belts to buckle/etc.). Also, make sure they can handle any snaps/buttons/etc. independently and easily. My thing is girls with long hair who come to school in the morning with a beautiful hairstyle/etc. that has no chance of holding up through recess/PhysEd/etc. My own girls have long hair, so I'm pretty fast at a French braid or ponytail, but it still takes time away from the rest of the class to have to redo hair, clothing, etc.


Rainboots!
Rainjacket (or poncho which can cover up a backpack, too)!

Umbrella
!

I get a lot of **** clothes on clearance through websites (Gap, Old Navy, MiniBoden, JC Penney); even with the shipping costs, it can be cheaper than shopping in person.

Label everything. The lost and founds at schools are a great big black hole. :( I'll never forget the puzzled look on ****'s face when I asked him what happened to his blue sweater that went to school with him on his body and never came back. He tilted his head and said, "I have a blue sweater??" (NOT ANYMORE!!!!)

comfortable...things they can manage...all very good ideas. The things I am careful about are shoes (no dress shoes or skirts/dresses on PE days). As long as things fit (not too big/too small) aren't really faded , and they can snap/zip/fasten/unfasten, they're set. I try to buy things that can be easily mixed and matched with other things (avoids the "you're wearing a hot pink tshirt with rainbows on it and green plaid stretch pants. you know that doesn't match, right?" discussion five minutes before the bus comes. I tend to buy Old Navy on sale, Bearly Used, JCPenney (because it is convenient) and sometimes Walmart (their stuff tends to wear out quickly and their pants and jeans don't fit my girls - Kmart is like this too). They make great kids clothes. I look for Children's Place (love their jeans for girls - fashionable without being too trendy or revealing) and Gap and other brands I can't afford at second hand stores. I usually buy one fun back-to-school outfit, sneakers, and a jacket or sweater in the fall new and supplement as needed through the year. Be aware that you grew up in the 70s and 80s and anything you find secondhand that you say wow, that is a REALLY CUTE outfit is probably unwearable by today's standards. I can't really remember seeing your kids in anything that was too dated, though, so you probably don't have to worry about that.


As for my kids I usually buy a few summer outfits off the clearance racks to get them started. Mine are growing so quickly that I cannot keep them in clothes that fit them! Mostly t-shirts and capris or long shorts and light weight pants. Summer heat always happens as soon as school starts! I try to stay away from the obnoxious t-shirts with a lot of words and pictures. *** likes them but I always say no. I think they are distracting and can label kids in negative ways. I also strive for simple and comfortable, makes for better learning :)...always did for me anyways. Of course ***** would love to wear short skirts and tight shirts, but that will not happen. She at the age where she is overly concerned with how others view her. I like to let her pick her style as long as I see it as appropriate.

This year JcPenny was the best place for ***** and Target and Kohls for ***. I also like Burlington Coat, good selection, sales and kids fitting rooms!

Lastly, I hit up the New balance tent sale in Skowheagan each August for sneakers. They usually have some really good deals on kids sizes, plus I can find Wides for *** who needs them!

Taking one child at a time works best for me and gives them some nice one-on-one time. I try to make it special with a lunch out and as stress free as possible.

ps...the llbean backpacks are a good deal in my book. They are a bit expensive but hold up very well. Plus if they do break or wear out you can get them replaced :)

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Thanks Ladies, for your help...
it is always good to have good ideas from good friends compiled in one place.

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quotes from:
Megin - who is a new friend this summer. She has three kids and a camera.
Melissa - a friend from long ago
who is largely responsible for my international travel adventures, and who saved my spirit during freshmen year of college
Rebecca - who if a friend from 5th, 6th, 7th grade. She doesn't know it but I learned about the value of true friendship from her.

Sarah - who loves my family as much as she loves books. Her love has given us the courage to be rooted in the place we love.

Izzie - my kids don't know that our families aren't one and the same. We pride ourselves on unfinished crafts, and will someday be the next generation of Indigo Girls.
Jen - I will never understand her faithfulness in picking me up from school during our senior year in her Ford Escort. I can't imagine how much gas money I owe her.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The perfect storm at the end of summer


The kids and I took a trip to our municipal pool today. We have an AMAZING public pool with something for every level of water lover, including water slides. As I sat and watched my girls play on the 'frog slide' in a pool that might be two feet deep, I noticed how bored our lifeguards were. And in a larger swimming pool, I watched a lifeguard give a boy-friend (or boy-friend to be) full attention for nearly five minutes.

I have compassion for these high-school/college age lifeguards. What a boring job. Yes, they know it is full of responsibility, and have been very carefully trained. But what a job, on such a hot day, at the end of a long summer.

At the same time, I enjoyed the confidence of my kids after a summer of pool play. All of us were certain of our safety and ability.

At the same time, we are fatigued. We have played hard all summer, breaking routines, eating poorly, staying up late.

At the same time, we are gearing up for school. Our home is full of conversation and preparation for a new year of school.

Can you see the perfect storm?

It dawned on me that these are the ingredients for accidents. Everyone mixing their confidence, summer fatigue, and new school year quivers.

This isn't just happening in my universe, is it?

End of the summer is one of the happiest and most exciting times of the year. Let's stay diligent in our families so that no accident will steal that away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Multi-generational travel

Now that I am ten years into my parenting journey, and now that my youngest is four and out of diapers, I feel that I am getting quite good at planning a car-trip, an overnight, a plane-ride, and an extended vacation. Recently, my skills were put to the test when we took my parents on vacation with us to King’s Landing Historical Settlement in Fredericton, NB. Here is a list of what I hope I will remember to do next time, when planning a multi-family/generational vacation.

Read the rest over at http://gnmparents.com/traveling-with-kids-and-parents/.

Friday, August 07, 2009

This week...


Caleb (9, almost 10) cleaned the garage for me - as well as I would have done it; raked the lawn after Daddy mowed it - without grumbling; and discovered me wearing his SpiderMan flipflops when I couldn't find my own.

Can you say growing up?

I'm so proud of him.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Watercolor Living


I'm so excited to share that I have had a short piece published on one of the parent/family blogs that I follow: GNMParents.
I loved coloring in color books and on coloring pages in elementary school. I was so excited when someone showed me how to trace hard, wax mountains along the pre-existing bold lines of the picture to add strength to the boundaries on my works of art.
Read the rest my story over at GNMParents.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Day Out...

Today, we went on a hike at Mt. Apatite. We went with the intent of looking for rocks and gems, but we found so many frogs and tadpoles we didn't end up bringing much geological treasure home with us. We had a lovely day with our friends, and the kids are already talking about returning again (with heavy duty bug spray this time).

Things I learned today: feldpar, one of the rocks that I brought home, was once used in scouring powders; bullfrog tadpoles are tadpoles for two years; my four year old can run with energy at the end of a two hour hike (oy, the energy!).

A day at Mt. Apatite

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pikistrip play

Caleb wants to begin to create comic strips with his Legos, so I've spent a lot of the most recent computer time has been researching different platforms. This is a test of pikistrip.

a comic strip!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bedtime



















I pray that the nights like this are are clear and dear memories that stay with them until long after they have their own children.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Vacation

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Anna's Rebecca doll

Last week to celebrate finishing the homeschool year, we went to Barnes and Noble to get some books. The girls ended up getting miniatures of the American Girl doll Rebecca, along with the books.

Rebecca came in a very cute, but rather wintry outfit. This concerned Anna. It is theoretically summer after all. So today, we made our first attempt at making doll clothes together.

Here sporting a radiant striped sun dress is Miss Rebecca of 1914.

Yes she does look a bit like she's ready for an outrageous worship meeting, but she is definitely cooler than she was.

And how can you beat the smile and pride on Anna's face?


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Monday, June 22, 2009