Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Homework...

Being a mom and being a teacher is often an interesting combination.  Sometimes it's very hard to be on the other side of the "teacher desk" and other times I enjoy being able to reinforce an amazing teacher's requests.  I am not sure my children appreciate having a Teacher Mom in the summer...there is summer homework.  My primary purpose for summer homework is to maintain skills and habits, so that they boys start school in September where they left off in June.  {There is interesting research regarding how children lose skills over a long vacation...particularly the number of words a child has in his reading vocabulary!}

In our house summer homework is found in four distinct categories...
#1 ~ Skills Practice
Each summer, since Connar was in kindergarten, I have purchased Summer Bridge Workbooks for the kids.

These are great workbooks, based on national standards for reading, math and writing skills.  Each day there are 4 activities that teach or reinforce basic skills.  The daily assignment doesn't take long, but the kids practice skills they need to remember and stay in the habit of thinking. 

This summer, Aiden is completing a Summer Bridge book but Connar is doing something different.  He's working out of a daily math skills workbook and then working through a Web Quest that he chose.   Web Quests are inquiry-based lessons that utilize web resources.  Connar chose one on rockets...he's doing research now and will soon be prompted to design an investigation around thrust and Newton's 3rd Law!

#2 ~ Reading
Reading is the single most important thing kids can do in the summer to maintain current skills.  Aiden is participating in the summer reading program at the library and Connar is working his way through "a really long book!"

#3 ~ Fitness
My kids are typically very active in the summer and I often use movies and video games to slow them down and take time to rehydrate.  This summer Aiden was invited to participate in soccer conditioning with Connar's team.  One aspect is daily conditioning homework.  The coach created a calendar with jogging, sprints, crunches, pushups and footwork skills.  Awesome!

#4 ~ Teachable Moments & Field Trips
This is my favorite!  I'm a nerdy mom and I like to take advantage of cool opportunities to explore our world.  Whether we're visiting a local museum or investigating life in a pond, I try to find a Teachable Moment every day.  The boys also love helping create posts for my Science blog, The Science Mommy.  Yesterday, they spent the whole morning working on a bottle rocket that launches off a tire pump.  Their teamwork and persistence was fun to watch.  Connar even documented their project with my little camera, so their rocket experiment will show up on The Science Mommy next week.

How do you keep your kids thinking and wondering during the summer?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cupcake Experiments...

I have decided that I need a signature dish...something I am known for.  So, I decided that this summer I am going to perfect a cupcake recipe and become known for my cupcakes!  My husband and children are delighted to help taste the samples along the way, of course.  Here goes the experiment...

I was originally inspired by Teresa over at Blooming on Bainbridge who made cupcakes for a carnival in May.  She, in turn, got her recipe from Tidy Mom...the perfect cupcake using a cake mix!  Armed with the "perfect cupcake" recipe, I got to work.
The actual cake recipe was a way to enhance a cake mix.  The batter was much thicker than cake mix batter and was very chocolately.  My first mistake with this batch of cupakes was over filling the cups...
Sadly, these cupcakes won't be very pretty!  Fortunately I had enough batter to make six more cupcakes, and those turned out perfectly shaped.

While the cupcakes cooled, it was time to make the Buttercream Frosting.  I used the recipe found with Tidy Mom's Perfect Cupcakes

I am going to need to practice my photography as well...this photo doesn't do the Buttercream Frosting justice.  It was fluffy and so delicious! 

I love the way professional cupcakes are frosted, using a cake decorating tip and creating a yummy swirl of frosting on the I also invested in some new tips and bags so that my cupcakes look as good as they taste. 

Cupcake Trial #1...Chocolate with Buttercream Frosting

Then it was time for the taste tests...

We devised a scoring guide to evaluate Presentation, Cake Taste and Frosting...

Presentation = 7 stars....Cake = 12 stars...Frosting = 16 stars!   Not too bad for a first run! On the subject of frosting the taste testers actually requested that I don't try any other recipes...this one is perfect!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Adventure List... I am on summer vacation! 
This was last summer...but it just evokes summer!

The days spilling out in front of me days just waiting to be filled up with fun and entertainment.  Sitting here at the beginning of summer, I thought it would be fun to write my...
Summer Adventure List
becuase there are some things I want to make sure happen! They may not all sound like adventures, but they'll all be fun!

In no particular order...
* Complete two sprint and one Olympic triathlons
* Attend the soccer match of the year...Manchester United v  
  Seattle Sounders!
* Spend as much time as possible creating & crafting
* Update and revise my blog
* Read, read and then read some more
* Visit a local pool at least once each week with my kids...
  Summer Pool Tour 2011
* Take my husband on a mini-vacation for our 16th anniversary
* Host my friends kids for a day of science fun
* Update my 2011 Family scrapbook
* Go somewhere we've never been before

There you have it, my Summer Adventure List! I am looking forward to an amazing summer, and looking forward to sharing adventures with you.

What's on your Summer Adventure List?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Flip Flops...

It's summer here and I have embarked on a crafty splurge...that just might last all summer!  One of my first projects started with this...
...a simple pair of very inexpensive flip flops and a piece of fabric from one of last summer's projects.  In less than 30 minutes, with the help of this fabulous tutorial, I had...
...a cute custom pair of flip flops!  How great are these?  This no-sew project is so fast and easy you'll want to make several pairs.  Now my feet are ready for summer and I am ready for more crafty fun.

What are you up to today?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Five Question Friday...5

Here's a fun linky I haven't participated in for a while...

1. What is your favorite summer time activity?
Ahhh...I love summer!  I have several favorite activities...but they all revolve around the best ever...I get to be a stay-at-home-mom during the summer and I love it!!
* Reading...anytime & anywhere...preferably while "watching" my kids doing something fun like skateboarding or swimming
* Hanging out at the skateboard park, local pool, beach or park with my kids
* Hanging out in the backyard with my kids...throw in some girlfriends and their kids and you've got a party!

2. Do you have one laundry soap you stick to, or do you buy whatever's on sale?
I always buy Tide.  When I was growing up I had sensitive skin and I can remember being very itchy sometimes when my mom changed detergents.  My son is also prone to itchiness, so I stick to the same thing.  At this point it really is more out of habit than real allergic need...I am a creature of habit when it comes to product loyalty.

3. What is your favorite dinner to make in the summer?
I love to BBQ!  That said, I am rarely the cook whether it's summer or any other season.  My husband is an excellent cook and he enjoys cooking so it's usually him at the stove, or BBQ as the case may be.  My favorite dinner to make in the summer is Kyle's BBQ steaks, with corn-on-the-cob on the grill, yummy fresh fruit and a tasty summer drink.

4. Do you have any talents?
Well, that's debatable.  I feel like a very talented singer, but I have been told that the best place to showcase this talent is in the car...when I am by myself...and someone else is loudly singing over me :)

I suppose a real talent I have is for crafting...I love to create and make things.  Right now I am into paper crafts and multi-media, but I also like to sew and paint.  It's a great way to relax and have something to show for it when I am all finished.

I also love to share science with kids.  I am always on the look out to find ways to incorporate science ideas into projects or outings.  I think that teaching kids how to think and examine their world with curiosity is a life time gift and it's so rewarding.

5. If you could instantly be an expert in something, what would it be? Why?
Hmmm...I would love to be more mechanically minded.  It would be very satisfactory to be able to repair small engines, or work on my car with competence.  I would also really like to learn how to weld.  I think that being able to fabricate things in metal would be fantastic.

Well, that's it for this week.  I have finished the last few days of school and I am getting ready to settle in for a fantastic summer with my boys.  That also means lots more time to devote to this little blog.  Keep checking back...I have ideas {and finally the time to implement them!}
I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thank You Teachers...

My boys have had the most amazing teachers this year! With school ending this week, we wanted to show our appreciation.  For the details on this cute package of handmade cards, check out my science blog...

How did you thank your teachers?

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have big goals of updating the training portion of this blog...see that cutie by the bike in the left sidebar...that's me in the transition zone and it's a link to my woefully outdated training page.  I have resigned myself to the knowledge that the updates won't happen until summer vacation happens...but that's a mere 3 1/2 days away!

Until then, last week was a great week of training...

  • I ran a solid 4.5 miles.  That's a bit shorter than my training calendar calls for right now, but it's a faster and stronger 4.5 miles than I have ever run before!
  • I did a strong 1 mile swim...I forgot to check the clock when I started but it was right around 35 minutes.  I wasn't trying for a race pace mile, but I felt good all the way through the swim!
  • I took one spinning class which tackled some pretty long hills...
  • and...I finished a T1 brick on Friday morning!
Last summer I hit a real wall on the run during my first triathlon.  Reflecting back on my training, I realized that I had neatly talked myself out of all bricks.  Not so this year!  My amazing friend Amanda, put together a training calendar for me to work myself to the Olympic triathlon in August.  I am taking each day as she laid it out.  This year I am already going farther, faster than I did last year.  I'm excited to see the changes in what I can talk myself into doing, and how hard I can work.  

Last year I had a goal...I achieved it but not with the strength I was hoping was tough to finish both triathlons.

This year I have a goal and a plan...already I am faster and stronger than I was at this point last year.  I can't wait for the triathlons this summer...I'm gonna rock!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Life Lessons...

My 7 year old, Aiden,threw his retainer away along with his lunch trash at school.  After calling his dad to school, they searched through a couple of likely garbage bags to no avail...the retainer was gone.  I had been prepared for this, frankly I was surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

We explained to Aiden that a replacement retainer would cost $100 and asked how he wanted to pay for it.  After a short conversation, it was decided that we would hold his ipod as collateral, until he did $100 worth of jobs.  {He's 7...the $100 worth of jobs was enough that he felt he worked hard, and was inconvenienced by the chores but not so much that child labor laws were violated!}  After a visit to the orthodontist, a new retainer was back in his mouth a week later.

Aiden lost his retainer again...two days after he got the new one.  My husband texted me at work and I asked him to refrain from death and/or dismemberment until I got home.  Ugh...we did everything right the first time...seriously what are we going to do now?  The first conversation was something like, "Aiden, we're pretty angry this time so you'll have to wait until we have an idea of how you can pay for a second retainer..." {there might have been some yelling...}he stewed for quite a while.

Since the ipod was still on the top of the refrigerator as collateral for the first thrown away retainer, we decided that the price for the second thrown away retainer was a month of grounding from technology.  No TV, no computer, no ipod, no video technology unless it was directly related to learning at school.!

Now, however, the jobs have been has been reinstated...and Aiden has a new habit.  He must always wear shorts or pants that have a pocket, so that he can carry a retainer case.  His retainer doesn't come out of his mouth unless he has a case to put it in.  We even got permission from the orthodontist for Aiden to eat with it in his mouth should the need arise.

Life lessons for all of us!
New habits...
I shared this post on Weekend Bloggy Reading with Amanda at Serenity Now...go visit the party!
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Monday, June 6, 2011

Moments to Remember...

Have you ever had a moment?  A moment when you're aware that what's happening is something you're going to want to remember?  A moment that is so precious you don't want to lose it? That happened to me over the weekend and in deciding to share the moment, I thought it would be fun to invite you to share your moments as well.
A Moment...
My husband and I took our boys to a U2 concert over the weekend.  
We were in a football stadium, the day had been spectacular and the sun was setting.  
There were 70,000 fans cheering.  
This was the first concert my boys had ever attended.
U2 took the stage at 9:00...bedtime.
My youngest was tired and curled up in my lap {a tired 7 year a lap...on stadium seats!}
My oldest was hearing songs he had on his ipod...laughing and cheering.
I looked over at my husband who was reveling in the moment as well.
It was a moment

What moments do you want to hold onto?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Club Friday...

Happy Friday everyone!  It's been a while since we've had a Book Club Friday!  It's good to be back, regularly posting and blogging.  I'm excited to hear about what you've been reading and what you're looking forward to reading.  If you're new to the Book Club...this is the most low-key Book Club you'll ever join.  I'll share what I've been reading and what I am looking forward to join in the comments.  Have you read the same book?  Are you reading something different you'd like to share?  It's all about sharing a love of reading!

Do you remember in high school, reading the book and then watching the movie?  Well, I have been waiting to see the production of Wicked for about 5 years!  Last weekend was the big day...this show is amazing.  If you get the chance, see it!  I was blown away...the music is phenomenal, the stage & costumes are wonderful and the story is captivating. 

I've told people that Wicked is, to me, much like Harry Potter.  A fabulous book and a fabulous show that have characters & settings in common.  The production of Wicked does not begin to take in the breadth of the book...but it tells a perfect story for that context. is the Book Club after all!  Prior to the show I decided to start re-reading the book.  I have read all three books in the trilogy by Gregory Maguire...Wicked, Son of a Witch and  A Lion Among Men.

BookWicked by Gregory Maguire

Why Did You Pick it Up?  As mentioned, I wanted to reread the book before I saw the show.  As it turned out, I had a very busy week and didn't finish the book.  Actually, I'm still enjoying it today.

Why Did You Keep Reading?  When I read A Lion Among Men, it had been a couple years since I had initially read Wicked.  There were many references that I didn't remember and I had a hard time really recalling the story line.  This time through Wicked, I have the background of the whole trilogy {and the lovely memory of the show!}  It's made the book much more vivid.  There are references and foreshadowing I am noticing that I hadn't recognized before and the symbolism & metaphor of the basic story line are much easier to pick up and understand.  (love that runon sentence!)  The book is so peculiar, it's interesting.  I am completely engrossed in the story.

What Are You Taking Away From the Book?  I am fascinated by the development of the characters.  A couple of the highlights I made:
 " 'I don't read very well.  So I don't think very well either.'  Glinda smiled. 'I dress to kill though' " 

 " 'Look, the poor - I mean are they the poor? The hungry of Oz? From the failed farms? Or is it just the - the surplus? The expendable human selvage?' " 

There is so much going on in this much to think about and hold my own ideas up against.  It's a challenging book ethically, morally,'s fascinating!

I hope your week was a good one and that your weekend will bring you adventure and joy?
See you next week!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Check this out...

Some of you don't know that I also have a Science Blog!  Just in case you're looking for something fun to do with your kids this week...

These paper flowers are carriers for wild flower seeds!  You can pop the flower off the stem, plant it in your garden and wait for the wild flowers to grow.  Pop on over to The Science Mommy right now to find out how to make your own "growable" paper flowers.