Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mom Tips for Summer Camp...

My boys are spending this week at a good, old-fashioned summer camp!  Here's some tips for getting them ready for the big adventure...

Finding a camp:  I was a camper as a kid and a camp counselor in college.  This is an experience I really wanted my kids to have.  For many reasons they aren't attending "my" camp.  One spot to check when looking for a residence camp is the American Camp Association.  The camp I worked at went through the accredidation process one year and this is a group I trust.  There are so many different camps out there that it's also important to consider the interests of your child and the length of stay.  My boys are staying for 4 nights, but the camp they're attending also has 7 and 14-night options.

Packing: We followed the camp packing list, and it turned into a pretty hefty bag.  I had the boys located each item on the list and pack their own bags with my support.  This way they know what they have and they've also practiced packing.  We also labeled as much as was possible.  They're not boys who are typically tidy so this will help when they pack to come home. I reinforced the rule that nothing irreplaceable goes to camp and nothing that can't get dirty gets packed.  (Even so, we have a bet about the number of items that are lost!)

Letters: A huge part of the camp experience is receiving mail.  I made sure to send each boy a letter several days before they left.  Their grandparents also have the camp address and sent mail.  Camp offers "Bunk Notes", an option to send a daily email to your camper.  I thought envelopes and cards were more personal but the email would be easier.  The boys also asked for envelopes and stamps to send letters home.  Aiden's arrived today, "Dear Mom and Dad.  I am haveen so much fun! Love Aiden" 

Cameras: Each boy has a disposable water proof camera in their bags.  I am hoping there will be a few good pictures so that I can put together a small photo album for each of them. 

Mom:  Finally...this is the first time my children have left me.  The first day they were gone my husband was also on a 24 hour shift.  My house got very lonely.  Fortunately, my husband and I had an overnight trio planned to a nice hotel with a fancy dinner out.  Make sure you have something planned to fill the time when the kids are gone!

What summer experiences are new for your kids this year?  How are you handling more independent kids?

Water Fight Initiation...

Every year my in-laws initiate the boys into summer with a surprise water fight.  They try really hard to surprise the boys, even though it's a tradition, so the boys are never quite sure when it's coming. 

This year the initiation coincided with a party we were having to watch an arena football game, so all the boys grandparents were on hand to douse them with water. 

 Buckets of water, squirters and water balloons are strategically placed around the backyard to it's easy to reload. 

All in all the water fight lasts about 15 minutes, but the memories and the tradition, last forever!

What traditions mark the beginning of summer for your family?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Flag Tutorial...

I love the 4th of July and often get a little carried away with decorating.  I was inspired to make a new flag decoration by this post from the amazing women at How Does She.  (If you haven't checked out their blog you should take a peek!)

My first step was to cut the wood.  I sketched out a picture on graph paper first to make sure my dimensions fit together.  (I was really glad I took this extra step because I ended up adjusting the lengths before I cut the wood!)  I cut 2 pieces 2 1/2 x 13", 2 pieces 2 1/2 x 19" and one piece 5 x 6".

After the wood was cut, I chose red, white and blue fabrics.  The inspiration flag used paper, which was my original plan.  As it turned out, I didn't have enough red paper that I liked, but I did have some great fabrics.  I applied the fabric strips with mod podge just like I would paper.

I set the pieces aside to dry and painted the wooden stars.  These stars were purchased at a craft store for another project and I found them when I was looking for fabric! I used white wash paint, so the grain of the wood still shows, but they appear white. 

Once the mod podge was dry I set out the pieces to form a flag and marked where I would drill holes.  I didn't measure because I wanted a more rustic look.  I compared the wire I was going to be using to the drill bits I had available and chose a drill bit just a bit larger than the gauge of the wire.

Once the holes were drilled, I cut pieces of copper wire to attach the parts of the flag.  I ended up using wire pieces about 3" long.   I threaded the wire into the holes from the back of the boards and twisted the ends together into a knot using needle nosed pliers.  I also drilled a two holes on the top of the flag and attached a wire for hanging.  I threaded the wire through from the back and twisted it a couple times to create a knot.  Before I hung the finished flag, I glued the stars on with wood glue.

I think this looks great on my front porch!
What's your favorite 4th of July decoration?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Reading...

It's not quite time for a Book Club, but I wanted to share some of my summer reading! 

I recently finished The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.  I've read all three of her books, and I loved this one the most.  It's a perfect summer read...a little bit of magic, a little bit of romance, with a smidge of redemption thrown in.  I was captivated from the first page.  I love the way the author incorporates a bit of magic into the storyline without completely taking the reader into a fantasy.  The characters are believeable, and compelling.  The storyline took a couple of twists and turns that I didn't expect. 

What fun book are you excited to share?

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 Question Friday!

I am playing along with 5 Question Friday, hosted by Mama M over at My Little Life

1. Do you know how to play a musical instrument?
No, I took the mandatory piano lessons when I was very young and I played the flute in junior high band.  I love to listen to music, but I am not very talented in that direction.  I do however, totally rock out on the guitar in Rock Band with my kids :)

2. What is your pet peeve while driving?
My kids will attest to this...I hate repetitive noises.  Like telling the punchline to a joke over and over, or singing the same 3 lines of a song over and over or any of the other noises two boys can make - over and over!

3. Would you rather have a housekeeper or unlimited spa services?
Oh, that is a tough question!  Wow...I guess I would rather have unlimited spa services.  I love to have cute painted toes and there's nothing better than a hot rock massage.  I think having open access to my favorite spa would compensate nicely for housework :)

4. Is there a song that you hear that will take you back to the moment, like a junior high or high school dance?
Anything by Journey especially "Faithfully" - I think that song may have been played at every school dance I went to!  The other one that does it is the Violet Femmes "Blister in the Sun"...that is junior high summer grange dances all over :)

5. What song best represents your life right now?
That's another tough question...I am not sure I could pick just one about a playlist?

"Then" by Brad Paisley
"It Happens" by Sugarland
"The Warrior's Code" by the Dropkick Murphys
"Stay with You" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Take all those together...that's a pretty good soundtrack for my life :)

That's another week I will have a tutorial on a cute flag project I did, some before and after pics of the big garage project and mom tips for kids at camp...Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Big Photo Challenge...

The Big Photo Challenge

This week's Big Photo Challenge is Special

As soon as I saw the title of the challenge, I knew which picture I was going to use...

This is a picture of Aiden and Kyle in the flight simulator at the Boeing Flight Museum.  The boys and I took Kyle to the museum for Father's Day.  Last summer as we were leaving Seattle, Kyle commented on always wanting to visit the Flight Musuem.  The boys and I were excited when a trip to Seattle coincided with Father's Day and a chance to spend the day learning about planes, flight and all things related.  Everyone was excited to have a turn in the flight simulator!

I took the picture with my Cannon Rebel xsi.  The lighting in the museum was a combination of natural light and overhead lighting, so I had to play with my flash quite a bit to get good pictures.  I liked how this one turned out in terms of lighting and especially composition.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gift Wrap Envelopes - Tutorial...

My parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary, and as a gift I organized a weekend away with baseball tickets, hotel and dinner.  Family and friends contributed to the gift.  I wanted to wrap it in a way that would look pretty & fun, but still be practical to use while they were traveling.  I created this envelope system...

I knew I wanted three envelopes, so I started with three coordinating papers from my scrapbooking paper.  I cut each piece 8" by 9".  Then I used a cutting mat and a stylus to score the edges, so I would have nice, crisp folds.  On the largest envelope, I folded in 2" from each side (to end up with a 4" tall envelope).  The middle envelope folded in 2 1/4" on each side and the smallest folded in 2 1/2" on each side.   Before I folded in the sides, I also scored 1/2" up from the bottom so there would be a flap to fold up.
I cut out the bottom corners, so that when all three flaps were folded and glued, I had a long envelope with one end open. 
I wanted the three envelopes to be offset when they were stacked, so I cut 1/2" off the length of the middle envelope and 1" off the length of the short envelope. 
That's a lot of math and cutting...really I wanted three different sized envelopes that stacked on top of each other :)  I glued all three together before moving on to the next step.

The next step was to prepare the stuff that would go inside the envelopes.  I used coordinating scrapbook paper to make sliders that would hold the travel information, tickets, and gift card. 

I used tags and embellishments on the sliders and small, decorative paper clips to hold everything together.  Each slider was then tucked into an envelope...
With the string on the tag hanging out of the envelope.  I added a couple more stickers and embellishments to the whole package. 
This turned into a practical and cute way to wrap tickets, gift cards and travel information.  My parents just need to tuck this in their bag and they're ready to go!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Five Question Friday...'s time for Five Question Friday hosted at My Little Life by Mama M.

1. What is your favorite thing about summertime?
I love being at home all summer with my kids.  Whether it's a day we're just relaxing around the house or we're on some adventure we always have fun.  It's nice to be able to relax the schedule and routine from our school year and spend more time playing.  My absolute favorite way to end a summer day is around the campfire in our backyard...watching the stars and making s'mores.
2. What is your ideal retirement location (if money didn't matter)?
I love this question!  If money didn't matter, I would retire to a small cottage on the Oregon Coast.  I would love to be near Cannon Beach.  I think being able to watch the Pacific Ocean in all the seasons would be amazing and it would be a great place to have grandchildren visit.  I can picture long nights curled up by a fire with a great book and the ocean crashing outside my door.
3. Do you live in the same town you grew up in?
Yes.  My husband and I tried to move when we first got married, but at that time we didn't have much money to make a move and we were both finishing college.  We decided that whoever got the first job, wherever it was, that's where we would live.  My parents still live in the house I grew up in and it's about 15 minutes away from where we now live.  I love the northwest and I really can't imagine living anywhere else...though we love to travel and explore new places.
4. What nervous habit did you have as a child that you kicked to the curb before becoming an adult?
Hmmm...I didn't really have any nervous habits that I can think of and most of the traits I had as a kid are still there in some shape or form.  The one that comes to mind is my anxiety of playing on team sports...I hate having people watch me.  While I can participate in a team sport now, I don't usually choose to...still don't like people watching me!  I love to be the sports fan!
5. What is the most embarrassing thing that happened to you while on the job?
When I was a new teacher, I was conducting a conference with parents.  They were asking me lots of questions about their child's math achievement and I shared an assessment I had recently given.  The scores were categorized into different math skills.  When the parents asked what the scores meant, I had no idea.  I had given the assessment because I was told to, but I didn't spend any time understanding what the scores meant in terms of each student.  I had no way to answer their questions and I just kept saying, "I don't really know."  Now, as an experienced teacher and a parent, I can't believe I would go into a Parent-Teacher conference so unprepared.  As I was teaching at a private school at the time, I am relieved the parents weren't harder on me than they were.

What's the most embarassing thing that's happened to you at work?  Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big Photo Challenge...

The Big Photo Challenge

This weeks Big Photo Challenge is Summer and I had some great plans for my picture!  My week has been crazy busy with the end of school for me and my boys, a huge yard sale and a spectacular anniversary party for my parents.  I had planned, when all the busy was calm, to take some pictures of my dasies.  I love daisies and that's the first thing I thought of when I thought summer.  However, we've been having dreadful weather...cold and rainy...not at all summer-like.  When I went out last night to photograph my lovely daisies, the rain had pummeled them into something not at all lovely!

And so I chose a favorite picture from last summer.  I took this photo near sunset at Cannon Beach, OR.  I love to use black & white photos on the beach because there is so much contrast and it creates a more interesting composition.  I love the reflection of the light and the shadows of the boys on the wet's one of my favorite pictures!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Was Featured...

I had so much fun being a part of Adori Graphics Blogger Uncovered.  If you haven't checked out Adori Graphics now is your chance!  She has fantastic graphics & design, easy to follow blogging tips and lots of other information and give-aways.  Adori Graphics was one of my very first blogging friends and I have learned so much from her...she's also the designer behind both my blogs.  If you pop over there now, you'll also get to read my interview.  Maybe you'll learn something you didn't know already.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Club!

A month ago I kicked off Chase-ing the Dream's Book Club.  Now it's time to share what you've been reading.  If you're just joining, no worries, it's a very informal book club! 

I read two books off my shelf last month:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson - This is the third book in the Millenium Trilogy which follows Lisbeth Salandar, Mikhail Blomkvist and a collection of other journalists, police officers and criminals on a complex, amazing journey.  This book picks up moments after the previous, The Girl Who Played with Fire, leaves off.  I read the first two books out of order, but I wouldn't recommend it.  The story twists and turns and can be difficult to hold sequentially.  I struggled a bit with the Swedish's a bit like reading a Russian novel.  Once you get the gender, first, last, and nicknames sorted - it's easy to follow.  Lisbeth Salandar, is an unlikely heroine and is certainly a flawed character.  As her story is uncovered, I was horrified, sad, angry, the whole gamut of emotions.  There is something for everyone in this series, and I strongly recommend you pick it up for your summer reading.  Beware...these aren't fluffy, beach books!  I came away a bit exhausted actually, but I fell in love with the characters and needed to hear how their story turned out.  I read the last third of this book almost without a break...I couldn't put it down!

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman is set in Poland during World War 2.  I find myself fascinated with stories from this war.  I am curious about the choices people make, especially in untenable circumstances and there are so many good stories about the people in World War 2.  This is one of them.  Jan and Antonia, the Zookeeper and his wife, have a zoo in Poland.  After the blitz and the occupation of Warsaw, they choose to work with the Polish underground and use their bombed out zoo to hide Jewish people moving through Poland.  The author weaves a great deal of history into the story, so that sometimes it's difficult to tell the story from the history.  This is a moving book about choices and courage and the ways that humanity prevails in inhumane circumstances. 

What have you been reading?
Please leave a comment sharing what you've been reading this past month, what you're planning to read or what you're currently enjoying.  I don't have a McLinky tool set up, but you can also include your blog address if you post your Book Club updates.

Keep your eye on my Book Shelf...I'll update it with new choices for this month!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup Family…

If you’ve been reading this spring, you know we’re a soccer family.  Right now, we’re a World Cup Family!
June 021
A few weeks ago, Kyle listed out all the teams playing in the World Cup.  Each person got to pick their #1 team, and Kyle bought all of us jerseys.  Kyle and Connar had to arm wrestle for England! – you can see who won.  Connar chose the USA, Kyle has England, I chose Spain and Aiden has Brazil.  Once our first teams were in place, we randomly drew teams to divide up the remaining 28 teams.   The boys were excited with every draw and we all have a pretty even roster.
June 016All the boys are looking forward to watching the games, and they’ll have more fun because they have teams to cheer for.   Of course we'll be keeping track of points.  Any person with at least one team that makes it into the semi-finals gets a treat of their choice.  The winner? He or she will receive a $10 gift card to the store of their choice :) I’ll keep you posted on our standings as the World Cup progresses…we’re off to a fun start as England and the USA face off in an early game.  (There’s a bit of trash talk between Connar and his Dad!)
What fun, sporting adventures do you and your family create?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Planning for Summer...

I love's my SAHM part of the year and I love having more time with the kids, more time to work on projects, more time for everything fun!  Here's a few things that I take time to plan intentionally during the summer...

Camps: We offer the boys two camps of their choice.  This summer they are both going to a "sleep away camp" so I need to make sure I have medical forms filled out and forms for meds signed by the doctor.  The camp has provided a great packing list, so I will help the boys pack their own bags, sleeping bags and pillows.  I also set up their account at the camp store so they have some spending money.  Finally, I will need to make sure I send mail a few days ahead of time, so they receive letters during their week away.

Rather than a second camp, the boys chose to spend a weekend in Seattle with tickets to a Sounders game!  Yay - family adventures.

Homework: The dreaded two words...for my boys that is!  As a teacher, I know that kids lose basic skills over the course of the summer and often enter school a bit behind of where they left in June.  make sure the kids keep their skills sharp with Summer Bridge Activities.  This book is set up in a work book format with a little reading, a little math and a little writing each day.  There is also a place to track summer reading and set goals.  Each page takes about 20 minutes a day and reinforces skills the boys already have.

We also choose several science projects over the course of the summer.  Check out The Science Mommy for lots of summer fun!

Adventures: Our neck of the woods is full of outdoor recreational opportunities and we have lots of family & friends to play with.  I make sure to have at least one adventure planned every week.  These range from a day at the local beach to a bike journey along the Hiawatha Trail to a picnic at the skateboard park to a whitewater rafting excursion.  Grand scale or local the boys look forward to our adventures every week.

Play Time: I know it sounds crazy to "intentionally plan" play time!  The fact is, there are so many opportunities and invitations that sometimes I have to turn them all down in favor of staying home...sleeping in, playing in the backyard, playing video games in the cool basement...I need to remember to slow down and celebrate the moment!

What are you making time for this summer?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mom Tips for Video Games...

My kids love video games!  When I first became a mom there were many things I saw as black & white...draw the line and video games were one of those things.  As it turns out, it's not quite as black & white as I first thought.

I realized that my kids truly enjoy playing video games and I saw an opportunity to turn games into a teachable moment about moderation.  When Connar was about 5 I created Video Game tickets that were worth a set amount of "screen time" including TV and video games.  He redeemed the tickets to play and watch TV...when the tickets were gone, screen time was over.

The phrase "play a ticket" has persisted even though the actual tickets did not.  When my kids head down to the family room to play games they ask if they can, "play a ticket."  I have a digital timer by the gaming system which gets turned on before the game system.  If the boys forget to turn on the timer, game time is automatically over.  This system allows them to enjoy their free time and me to help them learn to control the amount of time they spend playing.

How do you help your kids moderate their time?

The Big Photo Challenge...

The Big Photo Challenge

The theme this week is...NEW

My photo represents NEW in several ways.  First of all, this is a new suitcase which I purchased last week because I am traveling for work.  My traveling mantra has always been, "I don't pack light" but new restrictions and charges on luggage have cramped my style!  Since I am only going to be gone for two nights I thought I would try out traveling carry-on.  {{gasp}} I know...but I thought I would try new suitcase and new method of traveling...

I managed to pack more than I thought I could in my new suitcase and headed off to a new city...Cincinnati.  Never been here before...and I probably won't be here long enough to really see anything beyond the testing center where I will be working.  But there's one more thing that's new about my picture...

I took it with my iphone...the only camera I have with me because I traveled carry-on and couldn't bring anything extra.  It's sort of a new camera since I haven't entered the BPC with it before...

What's new in your world!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Five Question Friday...

Mama M over at My Little Life is hosting 5 Question Friday!  Here's my entry...

1. If you could go back to college would you change your major? Or, if you were to go to college right now...what major would you choose?
I think I would definitely stay in education...I love teaching and I love teaching science.  I have thought about going back for another masters, mine is in Curriculum and Instruction and I would like one in Biology.  I've also dreamed about going back for my doctorate...but those take so much time, so they're currently dreams.

2. What do you love most about your home?
I love my home...all of it!  It's the first house my husband and I every bought after living in a long chain of apartments.  I love the yard and flower beds, I love the floor plan, I love the family room my husband's a great home and it fits us perfectly!

3. What types of books do you like to read (if you like to read at all)?
  I love to read!  (Check out the bookshelf in my side bar to see my current reading list).  I'll read almost anything, though I'm not fond of scary books or really formulaic stories.  My favorites are stories with well-written characters that share experiences I've never had or make me think about new ideas.

4. What is the grossest thing you've ever eaten?
I don't like gross's too short to eat something yucky.  I would not be a good contestant on challenges with gross food...I won't eat it!

5. If you HAD to be a character on a TV show, whom would you be?
Hmmm...I think I am a lot like the mom on "Modern Family"...a bit neurotic and quirky.  (She's also fun and cute...don't forget those traits! )  

That's it for this week...have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adventures in Nature (and a Middle School field trip!)...

Visit The Science Mommy to read all about a great adventure Aiden and I had yesterday!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mom Tips for Kids Sports...

You all know I have sporty kids!  Collectively my boys have participated in t-ball, swimming, basketball, karate, flag football, tennis, skiing/snowboarding, skateboarding and soccer.  That's a lot of practices, a lot of games, a lot of tournaments...a lot of time. 

Here's my Mom Tips for participating in team sports...
* Keep your schedule in mind:  It's very easy to overschedule kids because there's always something fun being offered, and of course your kids want to play.  However, before you sign up consider your child's other much homework they have, how much time they need to relax, and their actual interest in the sport.  Consider your family's calendar also...can you still have dinner together every night? My boys play only one sport at a time.  When we decided to purchase season tickets for skiing, we let them know that they wouldn't be on basketball teams.
* Keep your kids interests and abilities in mind: We all think our kids are exceptional (and we should be their biggest cheerleaders!) but remember that they will be playing with other kids.  I have seen many 3 and 4 year olds put on a team or into a camp before they really wanted to be there.  This causes the coach to spend more time with crying or disinterest than with coaching the kids who want to be there.
*Talk with your coach: Most coaches at younger levels are volunteer parents.  Let them know if your child has special needs.  Be upfront about your schedule as well, if you'll be playing more than one sport at a time, let the coaches know rather than just arrive late or leave early.  Most people appreciate a heads-up.
*Be your Kids Cheerleader! Let the coach, coach and you should cheer.  Be their first model of good sportmanship!  Understand the rules of the game for their level of play and reinforce these in practice.  Practice the game with your kids at home so that they are prepared for the team practice.