Still Catching Up...

I wish I could devote more time to blogging these days, but the best I can do is to post when I can.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Winter Window

We have had lots of winter weather this week. Since we put up our bird feeder in January, we have spent a lot of time on snowy days watching the birds out our window. The Tumbleweed is hard at work making a list of birds for Grandma, so each time we see a bird we haven't seen before it is a big deal and we have to get out the list and add to it (Grandma is making a list of the birds at her feeder in NY to compare to the Tumbleweed's list). Today I decided to try to 'capture' some of our visitors in my own way.

Several birds were easy to photograph with multiple birds taking their time at the feeder. Here are a titmouse, a chickadee, a goldfinch and a brown junco. We also had lots of house finches and black juncos.

But two birds were quite elusive - the nuthatch and the cardinal. The nuthatch spent a lot of time at the feeder but was so quick to dart around I got lots of blurry pictures. There were two pairs of cardinals in the yard, but none of them ever got very close. I don't know if they were seeing me in the window or just preferred not to dine with the other birds. Here are some lousy photos to prove that I saw them. (The nuthatch is the bird behind the goldfinch)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Through His Eyes

Both of my kids see me with my camera a lot. Naturally they like to "take pictures" with pretend cameras or toys. Occasionally I have let the Tumbleweed use my old camera to take "real pictures", but not the Dandelion. Until now...

He took about 30 pictures of the floor, but I liked that this one captured his "Kickety Kick Ball" (a Wow Wow Wubbsy term) and his little feet :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympic Spirit

I love the Olympics - summer & winter. Moguls, Speed Skating, Curling, Figure Skating - I enjoy it all. I love the thrill of competition and the stories of personal accomplishment from around the world. Since the Olympics air after the kids go to bed, I decided to host an "Olympic Lunch Bunch" and have some friends over to get them into the Olympic Spirit.

The menu included:

Gold Medals - Grilled Cheese Sandwiches cut into circles*
*if you don't have a circle cookie cutter try the lid from a jar of peanut butter
Olympic Torches - tortilla "scoops" with salsa & cheese
Bobsleds, Snowboards & Skis - slices of celery, apples & carrots
Curling Stones - mini bagels
Sticks & Pucks - pretzel sticks & raisins*
*if you like coconut, you can add coconut shavings ("ice")
Ice Rinks - Italian ice cups
Olympic Rings - Life Savers gummy rings

For our craft, we made:

Paper Plate Olympic Rings
~ 5 paper plates with the centers cut out
~ color each with one of the 5 colors (red, blue, yellow, green, black)
~ staple together

It was a lot of fun for the kids, but I think I had just as much fun planning it. Thanks for menu ideas Kasey & Matt! Go USA!

**Update: This post was featured on TipJunkie with a whole bunch of other Olympic ideas. You can check it out here...**

Monday, February 22, 2010

Reading Rainbow

The Tumbleweed has made great strides in reading since the beginning of the school year. Back in September she was beginning to sound out words, but was a bit reluctant to try in fear that she might be wrong. She has done a lot of work at school, and at bedtime, and has gained a lot of confidence with her reading. She still gets frustrated from time to time over bigger words (that are often not the "sound-it-out" type), but she does not give up completely because of one word anymore. Recently she has started reading some early reader chapter books. She reads them aloud, but has started to read with expression as the characters "shout", "ask" or "cry".

As a way to illustrate her progress, and prevent her from wanting to read the same books over & over, I created a "Reading Rainbow" chart. For every book (or chapter) she reads she gets to place a square on the rainbow. The same book can't count twice, so we are going through a lot of library books. For every row completed, 10 books, she will get to choose a new book at the school book fair. The book fair is now less than 2 weeks away and, as of tonight, she only has 7 books left to read.

Build-A-Bear & Box Tops

At the Valentine's Dance the parent's association passed out awards for the top Box Top collectors through December. The Tumbleweed finished in second place with 240 Box Tops. Her prize was a gift card to the Build-A-Bear Workshop. She was so excited!

This morning we made the trek to Build-A-Bear, which is about 45 minutes away, before school. The kids had been in the store before, but had never made a bear. The Tumbleweed had no trouble finding exactly what she wanted - a purple iCarly bear with a pink ice skating costume and skates, "Just like the display." The Dandelion did not want to be left out but did go with my suggestion of the least expensive little dog they had. I was very impressed that both kids followed right along with all of the instructions and stuffed their bears, put in the hearts and gave them "baths". For once, the Dandelion did not run or hide where I couldn't see him. The morning was a big hit - but it was hard for the Tumbleweed to leave her bear in the car when I dropped her at school.

Putting in the hearts

The Dandelion & "Doggie" and The Tumbleweed and "Clara"

Thank you MAP! Check the sidebar for the most recent Box Tops goal...

*Also, if you are looking for Zhu-Zhu pets/accessories, Build-A-Bear has the most complete selection I have ever seen. *

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I am not sure why I suddenly had the urge to clean up my scrapbooking supplies and get out my sewing machine, but that is just what I did. The main reason was to make a couple of birthday presents for the Tumbleweed to take to some upcoming birthday parties, but we got a little sidetracked.

It all started when the Dandelion was playing with his Popple (aka "Poppy Ball") and putting it to bed in a "crib" (toy basket). I had suggested he go find a little doll pillow and blanket from the Tumbleweed's room, but she was not too happy about sharing them ("They are pink. That means they are girl things"). Since I was headed to Joann's to get fabric anyway, we got some to make Popple a pillow and blanket as well.

I hadn't had the sewing machine out since the Tumbleweed was her brother's age, so naturally they dropped everything to watch what I was doing. We established the rules and that I wouldn't be sewing with the Dandelion on my lap and I got started on the blanket. The Tumbleweed got to try sewing a bit on the pillow (she has a bit of a lead foot - LOL). Then both kids helped stuff the pillow...

...and voila! Popple is all tucked in. The Dandelion was so happy.

With all of the "help" I decided to wait until after bedtime for the remaining sewing :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Was Wrong.

After spending most of my life believing that warranties were basically useless because the product usually fails after the warranty ends, I am happy to say, "I was wrong." In the past 3 weeks we have saved a lot of money because of product warranties.

Tigger's Bounce-mobile
We were less than 2,000 miles under my car warranty when one of the shocks on my car went, making a short drive into a wild roller coaster ride. Phew, just under the wire. Of course, I still needed new tires and re-alignment, but at least we got something out of the warranty, right? All repaired, my car is much better. Although it is still bouncing like crazy on the horrible frost heaves and holes that make up our road, but that's a different story.

The Return of Lake Graffeo
Every spring we get a little water on one side of our basement. It is usually pretty predicable. Except when it happens in February and leaks from the hot water heater. Yup. Time for a new hot water heater. Again. We got a new one in 2007. The first was completely under warranty from the previous owners. We expected the same thing with this one, only to discover that replacing a replacement is not the same. After several phone calls to Sears, the Eagle was able to get them to take care of us and we are back up and running with a replacement hot water heater (with a warranty). And the Eagle is going to install a water filter to help the new one last longer.

I am hoping we don't need to rely on any other warranties anytime soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


He didn't admit it to begin with. We knew it had his name written all over it, even if he can't write his name yet. After a little prompting, he was almost proud to show us all of the other places he had colored. That is until he went to time out. As I sat on the floor cleaning the wall, he called "It's not fair!" I am pretty sure that he was referring to himself, but that was exactly what I was thinking as I spent my evening attempting to clean dry erase marker off of the textured wall paper. No, it did not come off, but it is lighter.

While the Dandelion does seem to have something against wallpaper (he ripped pieces off in his room resulting in us stripping & painting the walls back in November), he did at least try to make it up to me the next day when I caught him doing this:

I am pleased that the marker doesn't show up much in the picture, but unfortunately it is still quite visible in person.

And, just in case you were worried that we were banning creative expression through markers, here is a picture from today with the Dandelion showing that he knows the proper use for washable markers:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

School Dance Drama

The Valentine's Day dance is an annual event at the Tumbleweed's school. The kids may be preschoolers, but that doesn't mean that a school dance is without tears. It may not be teenage boy-girl drama, but preschoolers can certainly be challenging.

Challenge #1 - Everyone cannot win.
The dance DJ had good intentions, but any game a preschooler plays that involves "getting out" is going to result in tears. Picture 40-50 kids playing a game where only one kid wins... most of them will be crying before the end. While some kids took the loss well, or didn't understand the game, there were lots of kids who instantly burst into tears upon losing - including the Tumbleweed. That is not to say that learning how to lose gracefully is not an important skill, but crying kids certainly can take the fun out of a party.

Challenge #2 - Being a friend isn't always easy.
"Friendship" is still a developing concept for most preschoolers. They may know the names of lots of kids, and consider all of their classmates to be their friends, but they don't know to act like a friend. Granted, when forced into social situations most people get uncomfortable. So when a grown-up says to a kid "honey, [insert name here] is in your class, why don't you two go play together?" you can't always expect a favorable reaction. The fact that I remember awkward, forced moments from my childhood apparently doesn't stop me from doing the same thing to the Tumbleweed.

But these things aside, the Tumbleweed had fun at the dance. She loved the limbo and started everyone doing the crab-walk under the low pole. She skipped around the dance floor to "Cotton-Eyed Joe". And she spent the last 20 minutes (after most people had left) chasing around the room with a boy in her class. That was probably her favorite part.

Now I just have to spend the next 5 years preparing for pre-teen drama...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hitting the Slopes

At the end of last winter the Tumbleweed had finally been old enough to enroll in ski school, where she did great, but she hadn't been skiing since. The Eagle has been patiently waiting to get her out skiing this year, so when the opportunity for an afternoon of skiing presented itself, off they went.

As predicted she had a great time. The Eagle took her to the learning slope as a refresher and she looked right at home. She even told the Eagle that he did not need to come up the hill with her anymore and took run after run by herself. The Eagle said he wished he had brought his skis so they could have gone up the mountain. After watching the Olympics, I don't think we should rush anything --- those skiers are crazy! And the Tumbleweed has already asked when she will be old enough to snowboard - help!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yakkety Yak

...don't come back!

It's been a long day. Apparently the stomach bug overheard my lobby conversation yesterday afternoon where I said that "we hadn't had the stomach bug yet. Knock on wood." So without calling ahead, it headed right over and this morning the Dandelion had the misfortune of getting sick right in the middle of his sports class at the Y.

But the blessing in that was that there is staff that cleans it up at the Y. Not so much luck at home. Crossing my fingers that it is a 24 hour bug and is gone in the morning...

Valentines, Part 2

Since the Tumbleweed is in school 5 days this year, in a program where not all of the kids go every day, she got to have 2 class parties. I was lucky that she was excited about making her valentines, because after making 50 valentines even I didn't want to make any more. Fortunately we started making them very early and spread them out over many days. Hopefully next year we won't need so many. On second though, next year we are going to have to do them for both kids!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentines, Part 1

As soon as Christmas was over, the Tumbleweed wanted to know what the next holiday was. When she found out it was Valentine's Day she wanted to make valentines right away. It was hard to put it off until February!

I saw a cute design in one of my February scrapbooking magazines that would be easy for the Tumbleweed to make herself. Other than printing out the words on the computer, the Tumbleweed was able to make the rest herself - punching shapes, gluing and tying ribbons.

When I found out that her school preferred the kids not write who the valentines are for, I was surprised. They find it too much of burden to help the kids pass out the valentines if they are specifically addressed. I consider writing the names on valentines a great way to practice handwriting skills. I find that the Tumbleweed does not always pay careful attention to handwriting skills, and compared to handwriting practice worksheets, activities like addressing valentines are something that she would actually enjoy doing. After talking to the teachers, I was able to get permission for the Tumbleweed to write out her valentines because she is able to read the names.

The Tumbleweed made 25 of this style for her Thursday class party. Tomorrow I'll post about the valentines she made for her Friday party...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No-Snow Day

Well, in the end it wasn't much a snow storm. We were home all day and the total snow we had when the sun set was about 2 inches. A little more fell after dark, but came nowhere close to the predicted 12 inches.

Despite the lack of snow, we had fun at home for the day. I found it much easier to tackle a day cooped up in the house with a list. I certainly didn't accomplish all of the things on the list, but my intent of the list was to always have something we could do next so if we completed everything on it then it wouldn't have served its purpose.

After a messy morning, I got the paint cleared off the kitchen table for lunch and it didn't stay clean for long because for dessert we made cut-out cookies. The Dandelion doesn't usually help with cooking, but today he seemed eager to play with the "play cookie dough." I don't think he really understood that it was different from Play-Doh :)

After the Dandelion went down for his nap, the Tumbleweed and I were going to hang out and watch a movie, however she had her heart set on Tinkerbell & the Lost Treasure and it was nowhere to be found. Instead she hung out watching a little TV while I did a ton of dishes from a messy morning in the kitchen - now I remember why pancakes & cookies are not part of my usual routine!

Naptime seemed to fly by, but looking back we got a lot done. The Tumbleweed finished writing the labels for her valentines (although they are not actually done yet), we spent a little while watching the birds at the birdfeeder fighting the wind (spotting Juncos, Nuthatch and Titmouse), I convinced her to help me pick up the family room so we could make an obstacle course (since the Dandelion was disappointed that he missed gymnastics today) and while we waited for him to wake up we played Sorry! while watching an episode of Bewitched. She was fascinated by Tabitha :)

When the Dandelion woke up, the Tumbleweed begged to go outside to play in the snow. With the impending sunset, we hurried outside for a few quick sledding runs and a little driveway shoveling. Then it was time for me to make dinner while the kids ran through the obstacle course and danced to Hannah Montana. There was also quite a bit of excitement that the Zhu-Zhu pet houses were dry and ready to be played with (although the bummer of so much Zhu-Zhu play was that the Tumbleweed taught the Dandelion that it is a "hamster" not a "lobster").

The Dandelion concluded the evening by taking turns with his popple "checking out hearts".

After baths, stories and dishes, I didn't really fell like doing much more than putting up my feet so the laundry is not finished, the Christmas decorations are still up and my car is in its usual condition. But we did have fun today and that's what really matters :)

Mid-snowday Progress Report

The snow has finally started falling, although not sticking to the roads just yet. With or without the snow, our snow day is underway.

We took the opportunity to get outside before the snow to get a little energy out and collect some pine cones and acorns. We also filled the bird feeder, although the birds don't seem to be noticing.

Once back inside, we had some cherry vanilla pancakes and hot chocolate for "second breakfast". While I made pancakes, the Tumbleweed worked on writing some more names on her valentines and the Dandelion collected some pillows & blankets to make a fort. The kids decided that it was a "Popple Fort" and had the popples put on a show for me before "taking naps" in the fort.

While they were playing in the fort, I was working on taking down some of our living room Christmas decorations and finally came across the Tumbleweed's Zhu-zhu pet hiding under the tree. Then I was able to bring the Dandelion's "Lobster" back to life by replacing the batteries, and we made a maze for them using board books.

The kids were having so much fun with the Zhu Zhu pets that we decided to paint houses for the Zhu Zhu pets.

And as I clean up paint for lunch, the kids are taking an UmiZoomi break.

20 Things I Want to do with the Snow Day

At 7 am, it is not yet snowing but school has been canceled, along with our morning activities, in anticipation of 12" or more of snow. Here are 20 things I would like to do today...

1- Have cherry vanilla pancakes & hot chocolate for breakfast
2- Take the kids outside to play before the snow falls and collect pine cones (and remember to pick up the sled laying in the back yard before it is buried in snow)
3- Play play-doh
4- Take down remaining Christmas decorations and put up Valentine's decorations
5- Make a fort in the family room
6- Finish laundry
7- Make popcorn & watch Tinkerbell & the Lost Treasure
8- Finish Valentine's for school
9- Take kids out to play in the snow while I shovel the driveway
10- Fill bird feeder & make list of birds that come
11- Make Pine cone Paintings
12- Bake cut-out cookies
13- Make an obstacle course
14- Vacuum family room
15- Play a board game
16- Build a maze for the Zhu-zhu Pets
17- Make fireworks with bubble wrap
18- Teach the Tumbleweed to play "Around the Clock" solitaire
19- Clean out the car & let the kids ride bikes in the garage
20- Have a dance party

All that and I need to finish my scrapbook pages for tomorrow's book club after they go to bed. I will be lucky if even half of this happens, but it is good to have goals, right?

To be continued...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Party Animal

Birthday parties are big in the preschool world these days. This year the Tumbleweed got to attend her first drop-off party and several parties where her brother stayed home, but most of the parties are fun social activities for myself and the Dandelion too. The Dandelion usually has at least one or two kids his age to "play with" and I get to socialize with the other parents and, in the case of parties with her school friends, meet the other parents.

It has been very neat to see the ways other families celebrate birthdays - from choosing an activity their child loves, creating a theme that fits their child's personality or playing traditional party games from their childhood, sometimes with a twist. From painting pottery to bowling, a police station tour to an animal encounter, the Tumbleweed has gotten to try some cool things this year. The kids get to experience all kinds of different things that they otherwise might not do - which can be difficult, but she has really taken it in stride!

Holding a big snake

Hugging an alligator

But if you ask her, the Tumbleweed has mostly enjoyed seeing her friends and helping pick out the "perfect gift" and watching the child open it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fish Bowl

As a follow up to this week's Messy Fingers, the Tumbleweed and I made an aquarium. Not a real one, but one made of Jell-O. The Tumbleweed made two hypotheses before we started:

1- The fish would sink
2- The Jell-O would take "all night" to get hard

We started by mixing up a double batch of Jell-O. The the Tumbleweed put in some gummy fish. She was quite pleased with herself for knowing that they would sink. We stuck the bowl in the refrigerator to solidify.

After about an hour we returned to check on our aquarium (It didn't take all night). The fish were nice & cold and still stuck to the bottom. I took the jiggly bowl out and we tried adding some more fish. They "floated" - a few even tried diving in but didn't make it very far.

We even had a few minutes of fun to make a Jell-O tidal wave by jiggling the dish - only the fish on the top moved.

**Update - after the night in the refrigerator, you can't make a tidal wave anymore. The Jell-O is too hard.

Wet Sleeves

As I dropped the Tumbleweed off at school this afternoon, she told the teacher that took her out of the car, "My sleeves are kinda wet today because I went to Rhode Island." When I picked her up, she told me that she had worn a purple shirt at school because the sleeves were too wet. Oops.

What a great mom taking her to school with a wet shirt, right? Well, perhaps I could have guessed that the Providence Children's Museum would have a water area, but having not been before I didn't even think of it.

Wet sleeves aside, I thought our morning trip to the museum went pretty well. The kids had a great time with their friends, and because we went with friends we were able to play a little "zone defense" and let the kids explore the museum a little more. I think both kids would say that the water area was their favorite (we definitely spent the most time there), but the pirate ship, construction zone and giant Lite Brite were also big hits.

The trip was not without a few tears and a time-out (for running in the water area), but all-in-all not too bad. I still didn't venture in without the stroller, but other than making the Dandelion sit it in on our way in & out, we barely used it. I am going to have to muster up a little extra energy for our trip to the Ecotarium next month if I am going to go sans stroller.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The 3/50 Project

I recently found information about The 3/50 Project listed on a local scrapbook store's website. It is a great reminder to support your local small businesses in these tough economic times. This may mean something different to each of us, but The 3/50 Project asks people to think of 3 local businesses that you would miss if they were gone and to spend $50/a month shopping locally to help them stay in business.

Having worked almost every job I have ever had in small, independently-owned retail locations, most of which have since closed, I have seen how small businesses, the families who run them and the people who work there, suffer during tough times. So if it is buying your flowers at the local farm, picking up ice melter at the local hardware store or ordering a cake a the bakery in town, you can help your community!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pattern Power

Over the past week we have finally started to settle into a working lunchtime routine - it only took half the school year! Two key things happened to prompt a better lunch schedule.

First, we found a new favorite kid's lunch while at the grocery store a couple weeks ago. The Tumbleweed always likes stopping at the Sample Stations, so on this day we stopped at the counter and they were serving samples of deli ham but instead of using a toothpick they were pierced with a pretzel stick. The kids would have had the whole tray! We brought that home and added some fruit and we have two happy kids at lunch.

The second thing was the premiere of the new kids TV show, Team UmiZoomi. It works out great that it is on at 11:30, so they can eat lunch while they watch and when it is over we have enough time to clean up and get to school on time. Both kids love this show, which focuses on problem solving and early math skills, making their new favorite phrases, "Milli Measure!" and "Pattern Power!"

And with a good lunch routine for the kids, I have time to eat a better lunch myself. Win-win!