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...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick-or-Treat Math

Halloween was interesting this year because it was on a weekend, but still on a school night. It was nice to have all day to rest-up (both kids napped!!!). My parents were in town and helped put together an early dinner, get layers and costumes on and take the important Halloween photos.

Mulan & Buzz Lightyear went trick-or-treating around our neighborhood with Professor McGonnagall and Sheriff Woody. It was quite chilly but they covered a good distance, including some houses of kids that the Tumbleweed knows from the bus.

The conclusion of trick or treating meant it was time for a little math lesson and the opening of my "Halloween Store". I had carefully chosen several items for each child to "buy" and priced them with post it notes while they were napping. The Dandelion retired first and helped me sort his candy by color and count pieces. Afterward he traded it in for some stickers, pencils and a coloring set. The Tumbleweed went back out after warming up a bit and returned with even more candy. When she returned we created a bar graph of types of candy and practiced handwriting by listing the types of candy and how many there were. Then her candy was assigned 10¢ (miniatures/gum) and 25¢ (fun size) values so could use them to buy items that I had 'priced' accordingly. She did better at calculating her totals than I expected and was thrilled to buy a new Rainbow Fairy book, Bella Sara cards and a smelly eraser.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mummy Dance

The Tumbleweed is dancing at a new dance school this year after we struggled to find a studio with a class that fit in our schedule. Her new class is a Jazz & Hip Hop class and she loves it. It is a bit of a challenging time, mid afternoon on Saturday, so the Tumbleweed has had to make some tough choices about whether to go to a friend's birthday party or dance class.

They are already preparing for their January recital and are working hard to remember their steps. The teacher showed us a picture of the costume and it is super cute! They do a lot of serious work in this class, but they took a bit of a break this week to play some fun Halloween games.

Wrapped up like a Mummy

The Tumbleweed and her classmate make silly faces in the mirror during "Freeze Dance"

No Rainouts!

The fall 2010 soccer season was memorable, not only because it was the Dandelion's first season playing on a team and that the Eagle coached two teams, but also because we did not have to reschedule any games. I have to say, weather cancellations are the things I hate the most about soccer. I hate watching the radar and trying to decide if we can get practice in, I hate trying to contact parents at the last minute to let them know the plan and I hate when the weather changes and makes our decision look like a stupid one. But aside from a few drizzly practices, we had a pretty good season weather-wise.

The kids also had fun with lots of their friends playing on their teams this season. The Dandelion seemed to enjoy himself most of the time and did a good job of taking the ball down field if he got it. He got better at all aspects of the game and was able to score goals in quite a few games. I think he will be disappointed when he finds out there is no soccer this Saturday.

This was the Tumbleweed's 5th season of soccer and she is quite comfortable on the field. She had lots of friends on her team this year and she looked forward to seeing them twice a week. I think her biggest gains this season were on defense and at goalie, but she still loves playing offense (and scoring goals) the best.

We shall see what the spring brings, but I know I am most looking forward to the fact that the temperature increases through out the spring season. I much prefer watching in warm weather!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween at School

This year we didn't really have much planned in the week leading up to Halloween. Okay, that isn't totally true. We had a ton of plans, just not ones that required costumes and celebrated Halloween. The kids dressed up only twice, once for their school and once on Halloween.

The Dandelion's class party was Thursday. I had been careful not to pull out the Buzz Lightyear costume too early so the white didn't get ruined, but waiting created a bit of a situation as the Dandelion decided he wanted to be a pirate like last year instead. Finally, after seeing all of the kids in costume at school and wanting to be in the parade, he pulled on his costume and walked around saying "to infinity... and gymnastics!"

Despite my careful list-making and the school passing out a list of "safe" (nut-free) party options to the parents, someone still brought bakery cupcakes (with a "processed on" warning) to the party and the teachers put them out. Fortunately, the Dandelion was much more interested in the Halloween Oreos that I had brought and didn't even ask for a cupcake.

The Tumbleweed participated in the elementary school Halloween parade on Friday afternoon. It was quite different sending her off to school with her costume and hoping that she would be able to put it on herself. We arrived at the school forty-five minutes early to find complete chaos and huge crowds. (For future reference, go much earlier if you want to park close enough to let your sleeping child stay in the car.) It was fun to see her parading with her class, as well has her friends with their classes, but it was a heck of an operation to see her for about a minute.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swimming with Goggles

Over the summer I realized that once school/soccer/gymnastics started in September, it was going to be difficult to get the Tumbleweed to a swimming lesson. I squeezed her into a lesson during August (Ray level), but I couldn't find a class for the Dandelion at the same time (Pike level). I promised him that we would do a lesson in the fall while she was at school.

With new goggles, he happily joined his class in September. He is such a different swimmer than the Tumbleweed was at the same age. She used to scream every time they did something she didn't like to do, which seemed to be just about everything at one point. He also doesn't like to swim on his back or jump off the starting blocks, but he doesn't scream about it. Miss Bethany gave him a good report at the end of the session and said he might even be ready to move up after one more session. He is already down to two bubbles and loves trying to jump off the side "really far".

Monday, October 18, 2010


With school in full swing and everyone starting to settle into routines, we had started noticing that we were so busy some days that the house needed some more attention. Initially, I thought this just required a new schedule for myself to get the housework done but after trying a couple of weeks of that, it was clear that the kids were playing a significant role in making messes and hardly contributing to the cleaning up.

So after some discussion we decided to hold a family meeting to discuss what it takes to be a family and what our expectations were. The Eagle & I had decided that there were four daily jobs that each of us was to do, and we explained them to the kids.

1- Make bed
2- Clean room
3- Clear dishes from the table after meals
4- Pick up toys/projects when done or before bed

Then we talked about the additional jobs that the kids would have each week. We came up with a list of four jobs for each of them, and had them choose three for the week. These jobs were not necessarily daily jobs, but they could be if the kids are super messy or they could just we once a week if the kids do their best to keep the house clean.

I made a chore chart so we would all know which jobs they were responsible for.

So far, the kids have been okay about doing their jobs. They have been reminded about their daily chores a bit, but hopefully they will become habit soon. There is some concern on the Tumbleweed's part about cleaning up her things before she goes to bed because she "wants to finish them in the morning", so we are working on terms that allow things to be left out on occasion. I am leaning towards giving them each a couple of "leave it out" passes for the month and they have to use them wisely, but the Eagle & I will decide before this Saturday's family meeting (yes, for now we are going to attempt to do the meetings every week during lunch on Saturdays).

There have only been a few times that we have asked them to do their "chosen" chores so far, and overall it seems that they understand what is expected but aren't too thrilled that they are being interrupted from whatever they are doing. Once again, I think they will get used to it if we are consistent. Being consistent is my toughest household job.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Have you voted today?

Okay, so when I first saw the contest I must admit, I did not imagine how much it would take on a life of it's own. And, even though I should have, how invested in winning the Tumbleweed would become.

I entered her in a contest where the winner gets to be illustrated into a future Fancy Nancy book. She helped brainstorm ideas of who would be a good friend for Nancy, and it was decided that she would be the one to introduce Fancy Nancy to sports. Sure she's fancy & dainty, but that doesn't mean she can't be an athlete, right?

We carefully selected an ensemble and had a fancy photo shoot after school while the Dandelion napped. She really got into character, and I wouldn't be surprised if she decides to write her own fancy stories with her character in it. I do love seeing her imagination run wild!

So, now she has me asking everyone I know to vote for her entry because she really wants to be in a book. Madness!?! Yes, but it is encouraging reading and exercise. You can vote here once a day.

I suppose it is slightly less time consuming than trying to win tickets to a concert on the radio, which I recall spending entire days waiting to hear the "Song of the Day" so I could call in. I never won anything, but it wasn't for a lack of trying.

Riding the Bus

Guess who got to ride a school bus for the first time? The Dandelion! He was very excited to go on a class field trip that involved riding a bus. I think he was also a little happy to not be dropped off at school without me, which he is still giving me a hard time about!

The class was headed to pick apples, which they were lucky to do because apple season has ended early this year and most places don't have any left to pick! But the orchard had saved apples for field trips and there were plenty of apples, even a lot of low ones, for the kids to pick.

He was very well behaved on the trip and enjoyed eating his apples (he had eaten at least half or more of three by the time we got back to school).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Safe" Halloween Candy

The last post got me thinking... what candy can the Dandelion have? Obviously, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers bars are out. We also know that all M & Ms are not safe either. But it made me want to check out some of the more obscure candies that seem to only enter our world at Halloween.

I did a little searching and I found another blogger who has done a lot of label-reading and put together this list of Peanut-Free Candy. **Always recheck product labels before serving!!!**

Additionally, I have read that Sixlets were a good substitute for M&Ms, but for what ever reason they were not on the other list. **Always recheck product labels before serving!!!**

So if you are attending a Halloween party or handing out candy at your house this Halloween, perhaps you can pick one of the candies from these lists? The peanut-allergic kids will thank you :)

Melted Wax

Note to Self: Don't put crayons or candles in the attic for seasonal storage.

Today I pulled out the Halloween boxes and started sorting through the goodies. We have the usual cobwebs, black cats and bats, and of course some cute ornaments from my days working at Hallmark. I have "spooky" CDs, pumpkin stickers and coloring books that I pull out for just a couple weeks every year. And I even have special plates, place mats & cups from the clearance section a few years ago.

Yes, I love hitting the seasonal section on the day after a holiday. It is then that I stock up on things for the following year. From non-perishable things to hand out to trick-or-treaters or seasonal toys & games, I always stash some stuff away. Last year I picked up mini packs of crayons... well, apparently sometime this summer it was hot enough to melt wax in our attic. Oh well. I was comforted that they had a clearance sticker indicating that I had only spent $1.

The main reason I usually put things away is for my "Halloween Store". Since the Tumbleweed was 2 1/2 I have been offering trade-in deals for her candy (not all of it, but most of it). At 2 she really couldn't eat most of it (gum, caramel, fire balls, etc), so I gave her a choice, 10 pieces of candy would buy her a small toy or a sheet of stickers. Once we come in from trick-or-treating, we sort and count candy (*lots of great math lessons if you have time) and she decides which candy she likes best and wants to keep, and what she would like to use "at the store". After the success the first year I have always made sure to hit the clearance section to "restock" the store for the following year. I have also updated my "pricing" to go along with the increased value of some of the coveted toys and the increased amount of candy as she goes to more houses each year (the goal is still to get her to trade most of it in).

The Dandelion got to participate last year, but I actually think he will enjoy it more than the Tumbleweed this year. She is getting older and "wiser". She knows she likes candy, that's for sure. It might be harder to get her to trade it in for toys or books. The Dandelion, on the other hand, is going to have to trade in a lot of his candy, since he can't have anything made with or processed near peanuts or tree nuts.

The added bonus, since my kids are little and finish pretty early, I use their trade in candy to hand out to the older kids in the neighborhood who come by later. Okay, I still keep some of my favorites around, but much of the excess is generously given away for the neighbors to deal with.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Awesome Find!

This morning while the kids were both at school, I met up with some other moms whose kids are in school at Barnes & Noble for food & conversation. Since I was first to arrive I looked for a few magazines to flip through. Since I already had the current issues of the scrapbooking magazines, I looked for a couple other choices and hit the jackpot in the "kids" section.

Yum Food & Fun for Kids caught my eye and did not disappoint. I haven't tried a recipe yet, but they all look fabulous. I think the first one we will make, in honor of the Eagle's return from a business trip, will be from the Worldly Palates article.

There are so many "quick & easy" and "kids in the kitchen" and "picky eater friendly" recipes I can't wait to cook! (And that is saying a lot!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fire Prevention Week

When I was a child, "participating in" fire prevention week meant spending an evening repeatedly climbing out of my sister's bedroom window waiting for the local fire department to drive by our house. They never did come past our house during our fire drills.

These days, the fire department has an open house and invites all of the school children to come. It was quite the social scene. I got to meet several kids from the Tumbleweed's class and bus, and we saw lots of friends too. The Tumbleweed's class (along with all of the first grade classes) wrote letters to the firemen and they were up on the wall at the firehouse.

The Tumbleweed's letter says:

"Dear Fire Fighter,
Thank you! How do you get your fire gear on? Are you always on the same truck? What is your favorite food? Do you save cats? Thank you for doing a grat job!"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Everybody Loves a Parade

Being a member of the MOMS Club has all kinds of privileges, from group discounts on field trips to people to cook meals when you have a baby. What other group would enter a bunch of kids, 5 & under, in a parade? The kids think being a parade is the coolest thing, so this weekend we met up with our friends (my mom friends and their kid friends) for a 2 mile walk/scoot/bike through Grafton.

Of course the parade was not without its challenges --- chilly weather, a delayed start, horse poop in the road, the fire truck behind us sounding its horns, a big downhill coming out of town and tired kids. But we made it - and the kids loved it. They are both counting the days until they can be in another one.

PS - Thanks to my friend Amy for the picture of me & the kids. I have several parade pics, but none with me in them ;)

The Sound of Science?

I think the Dandelion just created his very first science experiment!

Dandelion: "Mommy, Look! When I clap with my glubs [gloves] on it is quiet"
Me: "Oooh, I like quiet clapping!"
Dandelion: "Want to hear me play the piano with glubs on?"
Me: "Do you think it will be quiet too?"
Dandelion: "Uh-huh" and runs off to the piano...
Me (listening to piano): "Well, was it quieter?"
Dandelion: "No, I can still play really LOUD!"

His Hypothesis: If clapping is quieter with gloves on, then piano playing will be quieter with gloves on.

The Conclusion: Piano playing with gloves does not sound different.

Okay, childhood is really a string of trial and error experiments, but I still like his mature thought process on this one!

Friday, October 1, 2010

SMART Boards & Spelling Tests

First Grade, Month 1

The first month of school has gone pretty smoothly. The Tumbleweed has made a huge adjustment, from Montessori half day to Public School full day, and has done it relatively well. Sure, we have had some rocky days, mornings where she wants to stay home "to do fun stuff" and afternoons where she doesn't "ever want to do homework again!" And, like most kids, she has tested the teacher's discipline system just to be sure what the boundaries are (nothing big, she just continued to color after everyone had put their papers away). Despite the bumps, she seems to have made some new friends, accepted the fact that words generally need to be written in lowercase letters, and done well on her first spelling & math tests. Her reading comprehension has improved as well. However she is still working on her spacing between words in a sentence and on taking her time when writing (she rushes and leaves out letters or words sometimes).

We all attended her Back-to-School Night and got to see her classroom, met her teacher and toured the art room, music room & gym. Classrooms have changed a bit since we were kids. Her classroom doesn't have a chalkboard. It doesn't have a dry erase board either. They have a SMART Board. I guess no one has the job to clean the erasers any more!

Unfortunately, on Back-to-School Night we found out that they had replaced science & social studies in the schedule with extra reading practice. This is very disappointing, but I have a couple well connected friends who are helping with the big push to bring it back.

In the meantime, we have been doing science at home with the help of the Messy Fingers blog. After doing our first series about magnets, the Tumbleweed decided she wanted to do a magnet experiment for show and tell. We talked it through and she practiced what she would do in class. She took a magnet, a nickel and a Franc to school and had her class guess whether the magnet would pick up the nickel or the franc. When she got home she was pleased to report that she had gotten to show her class the experiment, and she had indeed tricked them. So, at her own request, she managed to get science into the school day where the district apparently cannot. Hopefully that will change soon!