Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Dog Day Afternoon

We have two fabulous dogs. Border Collies. They are seven months younger than E, and have been pretty neglected when judged by the standard of the previous dogs in my life. Oh, they live in the house, and they get spoken to and fed and loves (especially from the kids) daily, but they don't get the long hikes and hours of fetch that filled the lives of their predecessors. I think they are due for a special fun time of their own. Today, the kids and I will take them out to play and play with them. When they are tired of playing we'll lay them down and brush them thoroughly. M loves brushing the dogs almost as much as she loves giving them treats, which I'll let her do when the brushing is done. A will laugh and scream at everything they do, especially when they lick the treats from his hands. What a nice afternoon for us all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Any hummingbird fans?

M and I had a loads of fun filling the bird feeders and waiting for birds today! Too bad no birds came by in that 10 minutes a four year old can stand to sit and watch for them. We decided to sit down draw some birds of our own, using the instructions I linked to in this morning's post. We had a good time drawing our birds and coming up with new ideas for personalizing them. After that I printed a coloring page about hummingbirds for her, but she was kind of done with the whole bird thing and said she wants to save it for later. Silly girl. If you click on the coloring page I've posted here, it will take you to the web site where I found it so you can print your own for your little hummingbird fan!

Ahhhhh. What a weekend!

Yes, I took the whole weekend off. It was a very successful weekend! I did try to keep up on the Basics, and I did make time to really relax, not just vegetate in front of the interenet as I'm wont to do so often. I helped E practice riding her bike, M and I played hair salon, I sorted shapes with A, had a friend over for dinner, enjoyed a family movie night and I actually watched a grown up movie with my spouse! (If you click on movie you can see what we watched. I give it 3.5 of 5 stars. It was funny and simple, but predictable.) I even sat down to read a book - in the sunshine no less! It was crazy satisfying! I really needed a weekend like that.

My plans for today start with getting E up and off to school. Then I'm going to jump right into my schedule - which I haven't posted on the calendar yet... When all is said and done today I'm going to sit down and update my calendar. Last week was the first week I've really had all our dinners planned out and it was SO nice! I'm definitely doing that again, and I'm going to try to plan more of our fun times in advance, too. Getting organized really has simplified and improved my life. Between the planning and the routines I'm not going to recognize myself! Fortunately, my routines are routine enough I know what I want to do this morning, calendar update or not. No reason not to just get on with my day!

My fun plans start with refilling the bird feeders with M and A.
(Aren't empty bird feeders kind of sad?) M really loves helping pour the seeds in and stirring the hummingbird solution. Hopefully full feeders will quicky attract some birds because I've been meaning to break out one of my old school books with the kids all summer. I think we'll have fun using it to find out just who we share our trees with. If you've never watched birds with kids before, you really should. Kids aren't very interested in a lot of the super-scientific information like when the birds migrate, but they like to know the bird's names and are fascinated by the variety of physical details between birds. I'll give M a camera so she can document our visitors. I'd also like to see M's artistic interpretation of our bird neighbors, so I'll draw the birds with M today, and E if she's into it after school. Drawing the different shapes that birds come in is really neat, and finding just the right colors is also fun. (Here's a very basic guide to drawing birds to help us get started.) If they're really into it we can start a Backyard Birding Journal. That's just a simple list of birds we've seen and it's a fun way to keep the kids looking around them when they're outside. If you want to get serious about birding, this site is cool. It has lots of tips for improving your birding skills, bird knowledge as well as links to other informative sites.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No plans today!

I'm totally taking today off. I'm declaring this a Come What May Day. Check back tomorrow when I plan to plan again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Playroom Boogie!

Today's fun plan doesn't sound like lots of fun. We're cleaning the playroom. I promise, we will make it fun though! We'll turn on Madelyn's favorite music and make a game of it any way we can. One of her favorite things to do is tossing her stuffed animals into their baskets - and we have plenty of stuffed animals to put away today! We'll help Alex put his cars away. Then, he'll stay busy getting them all back out while Madelyn and I finish up the rest of the toys. My big goal is to get enough stuff cleared away that I can vacuum the whole room. After that, if we have any energy left, we'll head outside to play! Our wading pool is freshly filled, so I'm thinking we should come up with some sort of floating game...

Of course, before we can do that we are going to Madelyn's preschool open house. She is SO excited! It's an hour before time to leave and she's already completely dressed and ready to go. I just love how these little ones love school so much!

Today is also going to be "catch up" day. My favorite flylady saying is "you're not behind, just jump in where you are", but today, I am behind. I went to do the dishes yesterday and discovered I hadn't pushed the button on the dishwasher the night before. So I let that be an excuse not to clean my kitchen while I waited for them to cycle. And I continued to put it off until this morning. I haven't de-cluttered much this week, so the piles have really piled up. I'm going to tackle these things, in addition to the other things on my schedule. It's a big, big day. I'd better get moving!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quick update about the importance of play.

I wanted to post a link to a book. A friend who does therapy with children sent this to me. She wishes everyone understood how valuable active play time is, especially for children who have disabilities or a history of trauma. I haven't read this book, but my own reading supports what I know about it. If you're interested in this sort of thing, check it out!

Hoping for a playdate!

One of my friends just became a SAHM. Whenever we run into each other we both say "Call me! Let's play!" and we never call. Yesterday, I thought about calling her all day to ask if she'd like to meet up at a park, and the procrastinator/home body in me never called. So, I'm going to call as soon as I think the hour is acceptable and hope they can meet up with us. If not, well, we're still going to a park this morning. When E was little we went to parks all the time, but two kids later we're lucky if we go once a month! That's just sad, so I'm doing something about it. I'm a huge fan of playgrounds. Even a lousy playground offers novelty. I don't know about your kids, but my kids love exploring new places. If the play equipment is sub-standard, we'll explore the edges of the space, looking for bugs and wild flowers. And as a teacher, I am well versed in the value of physical play. There are volumes of research detailing benefits - kids are meant to move, a lot! We have a kid friendly back yard with plenty of space and toys to encourage activity, but there' nothing like a wide open park with it's big equipment and other kids to get us all really moving. I also found this article full of ideas for making playground time more interactive for the whole family. So much fun to be had!

Oh, and two pictures from yesterday's garden adventures. We didn't have millions of beans to pick, but the kids had fun anyway. A spent most of his time looking for cherry tomatoes - his favorite thing in the world. M was a good helper with the beans, and then we all enjoyed our Popsicles in the shade.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday is for gardening like Grandma!

When I was a little girl, I stayed with my grandparents while my parents worked. One of my favorite things to do with my Grandma was help in her garden. I'm sure that as a three year old I was very, very helpful, too! I vividly remember helping her pick string beans then snapping them and watching her preserve them. I remember what seemed like hours spent sitting at her table, snapping the beans in huge metal mixing bowls. I loved talking with Grandma, and hearing all the town gossip from her point of view. Then while the beans were processing, we'd escape her humid and HOT kitchen to eat Popsicles in the shade.
Today, I'm going to recreate a little slice of Grandma with M and A - E, too, if we're slow and she gets home from school before we're finished. My string beans are really ready to be picked, so we're going to gather them all in, and I'll teach M to snap off the ends just the way I used to for Grandma. I don't think my family would eat bottled beans, we prefer the frozen variety, and I've been told you don't even have to blanch beans. We're just going to bag them up, label them, and put them in the freezer. That will eliminate the steamy, hot kitchen, but we're still going to enjoy Popsicles in the shade.

Also, I'm sharing some pictures from yesterday's painting fun. A just isn't interested in painting and such the way the girls were at his age - he'd much rather drive his trucks. He did give it a shot though, and was disgusted when the paint got on him. He liked the trucks E painted for him, and the multi-colored handprints M made. We all had lots of fun and used lots of paint! Good times.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let the crafts begin!

M and A were both awesome at the dentist yesterday. M totally let them do a full cleaning, flouride treatment and even xrays. I was so proud of her! A sat on my lap and opened wide so the dentist could just visually examine him. He was also very willing to cooperate, which was somewhat unexpected. Of course we had to go buy prizes immediately! M chose a giant container of pompoms, pipe cleaners and other assorted craft supplies. She literally spent all of yesterday afternoon stringing beads and sticking glittery foam stickers on everything possible. I know that's all she'll want
to do again today, so I'm going to roll with it. A's prize was finger paints, so I'm thinking we'll just set up a big craft station outside where we can paint and bead and sticker to our hearts content. Why go outside? Simple - a two year old with finger paints likes to run around touching everything with their little painty fingers. When we're outside, I don't care because it can all be washed with the garden hose. Also, I just realized it's almost September. Already it's too dark and chilly to read E's bedtime story on the deck, as we've done most of the summer. Sigh... I love fall, but I'm really going to miss summer. We're going to do what we can to take advantage of our remaining summer days. I always think of the Leo Leoni book, Frederik
It's another favorite, and the transition from summer to fall always makes me want to gather colors and smells of summer to sustain us in the winter.

So, that's our plan today. What are you doing?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Running errands can be fun!

I decided last Friday that I wanted to know just how long it took me to do all of my Morning Basics. So, I got my trusty kitchen timer out and put it to work.

Here's the breakdown:

make bed: 5 min

empty/reload dishwasher: 10 min

sweep: 5 min

de-clutter: 15 min self-imposed limit

wash/fold/put away one load of laundry: varies 10-30 min (I start one load washing, fold/put away the one from the day before, put the now clean clothes in the dryer to be ready for folding etc. the next day)

water garden: varies 10 – 40 min

feed pets: 5 min

get kids moving on their jobs: varies 5 – 20 min

On my short days this should take an hour and on the longer days, about two. When I started this blog, I estimated I should be able to do all the Morning Basics and the Daily Chore in about two hours. I think that was correct, as long as I arrange my laundry and days more of my garden needs watering to coincide with my smaller Daily Chore days. If I could get the load of red laundry (with two little girls I wash an unbelievable amount of pink clothes and I hang all of their things instead of folding them, so that takes forever) to always fall on a Thursday when I only have to throw out leftovers I think I'd have it made!

For today's fun, we're going to be running errands! M and A have dentist appointments first thing this morning. Those shouldn't take long, so after that we'll go the library for a while, then off to the store, where I'm going to let Madelyn spend some of her allowance. She wants to buy a huge container of pompoms and pipe cleaners, which makes planning more fun for the week pretty easy. Crafty time here we come!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Meal Planning: Kinda Fail... But I'm still going to do it!

After spending a considerable amount of time surfing the web today, I did not find what I was looking for as far as a printable template for meal planning/shopping lists. I mean, I found lots of templates but none were just what I was looking for. I could make my own, except I'm not feeling the whole "reinvent the wheel" thing. So, I've decided to just use the calendar I already built here for a bare bones meal plan and just keep my shopping list handy as I update the calendar every week. Simpler is always better, and right now that is the simplest thing I could come up with. I'm always open for suggestions though! If anyone has built a better mousetrap, I want it!

And, a short word on meal planning. I am not a cook. I actually dislike cooking. I'm often deciding what we'll eat as I'm feeding the kids. I have decided to end that stressful and unhealthy practice. Meal planning makes cooking easier for the same reasons just planning your day simplifies things. If you make the decisions in advance, that's one less step you have to take at the time. I will plan meals. Then I will cook them. My family will be better for it.

(If meal planning is a new concept for you, this blog lays out all the benefits and the how to's pretty nicely. http://www.simpleproductivityblog.com/simple-living-tip-plan-your-evening-meals/ )

Oh, and the Week at a Glance page has been updated with this week's plans!

Sunday Morning - Does anyone have tips for meal planning?

Today's plan begins with Sunday Morning. You know, that generally quiet show on CBS featuring snooty stories about American culture... It's a great way to kick a week off, and it's been a while since we've made time to watch it. After that I'm going to spend some time planning my week on my detailed calendar. I'm going to try to do a little meal planning. I'm not very good at planning our meals, so I'm afraid it's going to be a pretty slow process. Does anyone have a good website or computer software that helps them plan their family's meals? I could really use one that keeps track of what I need to buy and what I already have for each meal. I have a basic paper template, but it's a little old school. I did a really good job keeping the kitchen acceptably clean yesterday, so if I can do that today I'll be happy with my housekeeping self for the weekend.

Today's fun is still up in the air. I'm thinking I'd like to get us out of the house, and I'd like to include the spouse. He doesn't often come with us, so it would be a double bonus if we got out to play WITH him. My thought right now is to tell him we want to go play and let him decide what he'd like to do. When all else fails, delegate! Right?

Time to make breakfast and set this plan in motion!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Slow Saturday - I'm SO ready for one!

We have guests today! My sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew are visiting and we're all VERY happy they are here. We don't get to see them nearly enough. I don't know what their plans for the day are, but whatever they are doing, I'm planning for a Slow Saturday. This week has really worn me out. All that actually pushing myself to stay on schedule, and pick up my work out routine again, and getting up early to get Elise off to school has caught up to me. I'm beat. So, today, I'm going to stay on top of stuff in the kitchen, keep the kids fed, water the garden, pick up a Bountiful Basket, and then I'm going to chill out. Enjoy the day! Relax. Oh yeah... I feel better already.

Have a nice day!

p.s. I just found a super awesome website full of ideas I can use to get us outside and playing! I'm going to explore it a little and post about it next week!

Friday, August 20, 2010

School: Day 2

Day two of the school year brought me the realization that it might be easier to get myself off the computer and into my day at the correct times simply because I already have to get moving to get E out the door. So today, I've decided to use all my will power to fight returning to the screen after she leaves and just start my day as I have it scheduled at my calendar. I've been meaning to see just how long it really takes me to do all the things I have scheduled. As I mentioned earlier this week, there are always at some things I don't get to, despite my best intentions. I know a HUGE, neon green part of that is how easily distracted I am by my email or facebook or another great youtube video. I think being able to tell myself how long it will take to get things done might help get me moving on them. I mean, after I figured out that it only takes about ten minutes to load/unload the dishwasher and generally clean my whole kitchen, it's been a lot easier to just get up and get it done. Even I can peel my self away for ten minutes, and I enjoy my down time a lot more when I can look up and see a clean kitchen!

Also in my plan today; get ready for my awesome sister-in-law and cutie-cute nieces and nephew who will be visiting this weekend! I'll take M and A out to clean up the guest house, since they do love just being out there. After that, we'll relax and enjoy life a little. We have a Story Reader
which E always really loved, but poor M has never been able to just use it by herself. E used to sit in her bed at night and listen to the stories, but M has shared a room with E since she was too little to use the story reader alone and now E doesn't want to listen to the books as she goes to sleep. M is usually too busy during the day to slow down and play with something that requires sitting, but today I'm going to get out the reader and princess books and act like I'm listening to the stories just because I want to. When I do that M always comes over and listens with me. In fact, she usually cuddles up with me and wants to listen to most of our considerable collection of books. Then, when A wakes up from his nap, I'll do the same thing with him. I don't think he's ever seen the Story Reader before. I think he'll really like it. If he does, I even found a new book that I'm pretty sure Santa might have to bring for my little Cars addict.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to school we go...

The first day of school is here, for one of my kids anyway. She's already up and at 'em, but not to get ready to take on a new year. No, she's up early so she can play with her new dolls before it's time to go. Yup, the Monster High dolls arrived yesterday. They are every bit the high fashion, undead tramps they looked on line! She's thrilled with them and says it's too cool that their hands and arms come off. She thinks it's because they're undead, but I know better. I'm sure it's because if I had to stop to help her pull teeny tiny clothes over those hands a zillion times a day like I do when she's playing Barbies, I'd throw the slutty things away. Phew! Got that out of my system! Ok, all that said, I do see the appeal of these undead pieces of plastic, especially for Elise. She is trying to conquer fears - this is the kid who still has nightmares about an episode of Garfield she saw last year - and exploring monsters is her way of doing it. I get that. And if there was ever a child who was into looking like a rock star, it's this one. Their colors are pretty and they did come with little diaries which Elise sat right down to read cover to cover. Elise is very involved with her own diary, so I know that was a big selling point for her, too. I think I (mostly) got over my distaste for these dolls when I saw how she was playing with them. She and Alex loaded them into our Barbie cars and raced them down the driveway. That was very funny, and when they're tucked into the Barbie cars you can't see their Frederick's of Hollywood skirts or stripper shoes, so that's all good!

Alright, plans for today... Immediately, I've got to get off this computer and get Elise ready for school. I have to make myself presentable enough to walk her into her classroom and pack her lunch. I have to take many, many pictures before we go. Then it's back home for me, where it should be business as usual. Madelyn is going to relish her time alone. She's like me - alone time is good time - but I'm going to take some time to try to get her to read to me. She has been reading to herself a lot. I hear her in her room sounding out words, but she hasn't been eager to read TO people. I'll try to get her to read to me. And Alex, well, Alex is going to want to drive trucks and build parking lots. I think we'll take his stuff back outside and let him race down the driveway, too. Now that school is here I know winter is on it's way. We'd better soak up the sun while we can!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer is Over...

Wow, that was fast... Summer vacation just started but now I turn around and it's back to school time! I'm so glad I've been focusing on enjoying having Elise home every day and taking advantage of the gorgeous weather. I definitely feel better about not just frittering away the whole break. Today's fun is going to be Elise's choice. Whatever she wants to do, we'll try to do. Right now I'll guess that we'll be buying Barbies or heading to a park. We also have to get her backpack ready for morning. She'll love doing that. She's SO excited to finally get to use all the school supplies her teacher asked for. Ahhh... I hope this happiness about school lasts her whole life.

Back to school means packing a lunch box. My girl is the absolute pickiest eater who ever lived. She has such a small list of foods she'll eat - she literally exists on yogurt and air. I'm always looking for new ideas to put in her lunch box, but it seems like no one has come up with a variation on air or yogurt. Sigh.. I did find this useful site. Well, useful for the rest of my family anyway. There's nothing here Elise will eat. But maybe some one else out there will appreciate all the fun and easy ideas from Kraft!

Our day yesterday wasn't all work and catching up. We actually spent most of the morning looking at old pictures. That was loads of fun, I mean, who doesn't love old pictures? However, that means I didn't get to all my hot spots, so I'm going to work on chipping away at those some more today. It should be easier since my Daily Chore (watering house plants and dusting) is much smaller today than yesterday (cleaning all the bathrooms). Wednesday - here I come!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fun Takes a Backseat

I'm afraid my plans for today don't include a lot of fun. Despite my written plans, there are always at least one or two things every day that don't get done but really ought to. So today, I'm determined to knock them out! I'm going to tackle my remaining "hot spots", as Fly Lady calls those spots that collect clutter of one kind or another. I'm going to finally hang Alex's clean clothes in his closet instead of just picking something from the pile that has been on his toy box far too long. Really, now that I think about it, I have quite a list of things to finish. IF I get caught up on that sort of important stuff, I'm going to reorganize my gift wrap and bows. That is one job the girls LOVE helping me with, so I think I'll make that my goal for the day - get to the point where we "get" to sort ribbons! Yeah, I think they'll love that.

Also, tonight is Elise's Back to School Night, where we get to go meet her teacher and see where her desk will be and all that good stuff. She is so excited to see where she sits and who else is in her class. I love that she's so excited for school. I know I never really outgrew that excitement, and I hope my kids don't either!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Update - Pictures from the Trail

We got off to a rough start on our walk this morning - Madelyn didn't approve my choice of stroller and almost got to stay home with Dad - but once we were on our way, we had a really great time. I gave the girls their own cameras so they could take pictures of whatever interested them. I got lots of nice shots of Madelyn's legs! But really, we did end up with some fun, and funny, pictures. The kids ate the bread we took for the ducks since the ducks were AWOL and we saw some of the biggest and brightest dragon flies ever at the pond. Over all, we spent two hours on one short little trail. Pretty great way to spend the morning if you ask me!

Calendar Time Sink

Well, I spent two hours fiddling around with on line calendars and trying to figure out if any of them were better than what I already have. I came to the conclusion that for details, I like the Yahoo calendar associated with this blog's email, but for a quick overview I'm happy with the one I created. I can only share the Yahoo calendar with a link - it won't let me just share an image, or at least I can't figure out how to share an image. So, I've decided to keep my little home style page that shows the general outline of my day, and include a link to the details. http://calendar.yahoo.com/stayathomemomplans

My fun plans for today include getting out of the house! We have a new, nearby walking trail that I haven't taken the kids on yet so we're going to go try that out. It's not a terribly long trail, but it's long enough to wear them out, and probably me, too since I'm sure I'll end up pushing all three in the stroller on the way home at least. There's also a tiny little pond with ducks, so we'll take some bread and try to feed them. I really, truly love getting outside and just walking, and I'm not very proud of my track record of taking my kids out with me. Sometimes I do really well, and other times it just seems like such a hassle to get everyone a water bottle and drag out the stroller and then they want sunglasses - NO THEY DON'T! - that it's just easier to hit the treadmill alone. But not today! Today, we're all going for a walk if it kills us! Heh, Heh... Sounds fun, right?

And in other news, we're also on the countdown for school. That means I'm trying to get us all back on School Schedule. I amazed myself this morning when I woke up at 6:30 today w/o an alarm. Keeping my fingers crossed that every morning is that easy! How soon before school starts do YOU try to get your family back on schedule?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Camp out success!

Well, our sleep out was a roaring success! We spread layer after layer of sleeping bags and blankets on the deck and actually built a pretty comfortable bed. The girls were so good, too. We did a little stargazing and tried to guess what all the bugs we could hear might look like. Madelyn decided one clicking little critter would be a rainbow beetle and after that she decided she liked it's clicking noise, even though it was loud enough to wake us all up at one point. Everyone slept really well though, even our cat Birdie, who joined us.

As for today, it's another day off. I'll do the Basics, but we're just going to take it easy over all. I plan to spend some time reading with Madelyn. She's been teaching herself to read and wants to try reading Go, Dog, Go! So, we'll curl up with that for a while, and maybe she'll even let me take a video of her reading! Then I'll read with Elise and Alex, too. That's a nice way to spend Sunday, isn't it?

For my own fun time, I'm going to chip away at the photo books from our trip to Disneyland. Also, I plan to fiddle around with the calendar for the Week at a Glance page here. Someone asked a while back how I did that and I forgot to answer... The one I'm using is just a very simple, "gets the job done" thing I created using the table builder in my word processing program. I did a little looking around for a simple weekly calendar like the one I used as a teacher
but I couldn't find one that would be easy to share here. I think I'm going to play around with a few on line options today though, and maybe even try building a better one with my scrapbooking software.

That's my plan for today! What have you all got on tap?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bountiful Baskets Day!

I'm late getting here today because it was Bountiful Basket pick up day! Per last week's request from my friend Sabra, here's a picture of my basket this week. There wasn't anything exceptional this week, but hey, I don't have to shop for produce! My basket also included a box of strawberries and an eggplant but my kids inhaled the berries as soon as they came through the door, and I gave the eggplant away. It's one veggie I've done multiple kitchen experiments with and no one has ever said it was yummy. Then I did my grocery shopping for the week. I try to do that right after I pick up my basket because I'm all alone and I love when I can grocery shop with out kids...

I'm still counting Saturday as a "day off", where I don't have real plans beyond the Basics. During the day I'm going to goof around with the kids, and maybe rustle up something yummy for the grill. This weekend I AM making plans for my lazy time, so I don't just get sucked back into slumping over my computer all day like I did last weekend. Today, I think I'd like to practice crocheting a while (I'm trying to learn because Elise wants to learn and my attempts are pretty comical right now...) and maybe catch up on some reading or watch a movie with the spouse. Tonight we're going to be "camping" in the back yard. The girls have wanted to sleep outside all summer and since summer is almost over I decided we'd better seize the day. I'd like to sleep on the grass, but I think Elise is freaked out about sleeping on the ground. She wants to sleep on the deck where it's simple to go inside and crawl into a bed if she wants. We'll go make ourselves comfy out there and at least do some stargazing, even if we don't spend the whole night. Poor Alex is teething and crabby right now, so I'm going to keep him in his own bed, but I'll make sure we find something fun for him today, too.

I also have to share our experience with creating our own games yesterday. We had a blast thinking up fun things to do with a tub full of balls. We practiced batting balls and bouncing them into the tub. We found out that Elise can throw a pool floaty from our walk out basement lawn to the deck above but Madelyn can't quite throw that straight or hard yet. Alex had a ball (get it!!!) gathering the balls and putting them in the tub and then had even more fun throwing them out again. We probably spent an hour just making up funny things to do and when all was said and done we'd had a great time and the kids were all happy and ready for dinner and bedtime. A major bonus: Elise was motivated to go back out and play with the balls again today. She's a pretty indoor type kid, so it was fun to see he just head outside to play. This is definitely one activity we'll be doing again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fun! Fun! Fun!

Teachers go to dozens of different workshops and training meetings. I'm the nerd who actually enjoyed these things because I love being a student. Once, though, I went to a teacher workshop that was so outstanding I think about it and use it often with my own kids. After ten years this conference stuck with me for one reason - IT WAS FUN!!! We spent four days at a cabin going on hikes gathering plant and rock specimens, taking water samples and studying clouds and learning how the science of all this related to other subjects. All of this was quite enjoyable and enlightening. The best part of all four days, however, was one rainy afternoon we spent in a crowded dining hall with a local science professor. He had written a book about teaching science with toys. He covered the basics of science from A to Z with a medium size box of toys in one afternoon. This room full of teachers laughed and played and learned more science than we'd ever imagined. That experience is informing this effort to bring more fun into my family's life. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to put into my daily plans, if I ought to overtly insert more "educational moments". For now, I've decided I probably won't. For one thing, it doesn't really jive with my parenting philosophy. Yes, I want to give my kids educational advantages and of course I make every effort to help them succeed academically. I buy them Leapsters (fabulous products... I could really go on and on about them) instead of PSPs. I'm really tight with TV or computer time that offers nothing educationally. I've filled the house with books and art supplies. I make sure homework gets done and teach them that school is important. Mostly though, I believe that an engaged child is a learning child and if something comes up where I know something interesting to teach them, I will, but I don't find it necessary to plan my day around what they can learn. Everything we do is a teachable moment. As long as we're doing, they're learning and if I can make our days fun, well, that's what they'll remember.

Now that I've said that, let's make some fun plans! I was looking for activities on one of my favorite sites when I found this article about playing.
It inspired me to think about what we have that we could play with in a different way. I settled on Alex's old baby bath tub, which we now store balls in. The kids often drag the tub out and throw the balls around, but today I'm going to challenge them to make games out of this tub of balls - and whatever else they want to bring to the party. I'm all excited to see what we come up with! Hopefully, we'll have lots of good fun that is funny!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Today's plan includes something I've been meaning to do better with all summer and have actually been really terrible about. We're having friends over! I really don't know why it's a rare occurrence because I genuinely like all my kids friends and it's never any trouble to have them here. I think it's just so easy to not make the effort, especially because my girls get along so well and occupy each other - and Alex - pretty effortlessly. But, kids need friends . Today's get together is my first conscious effort to bring my kids friends into their lives more often. That's our fun for today - now we just have to cover the basics and daily chores and the kids job charts before the friends get here!

I'm also including some cute pictures of the girls' thank you cards. They're just simple pictures I matted on heavy scrapbook paper, but I think they'll be fun for our Granny to receive and it was a fun way to spend a half hour together with a little lesson in gratitude.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A New Day!

Whoo Hoo! Let's hear it for 8+ hours of sleep! NOW I'm ready to tackle the world. I think I'll start with all the things I didn't do yesterday. All the kids took nice long naps in the afternoon, so I took advantage of it and just relaxed. It was glorious. Then I took myself to the dentist and picked up KFC on the way home. For a Do Nothing kind of day, everything worked out pretty well! It even works out that we didn't make our Thank You cards because I've had something come up and won't be able to take the kids to the library this morning. We'll just move the cards into today's fun spot and go from there. Yup, I think that's a good plan for today!

I do have a question for anyone who cares to answer. I told Elise I'd reward her if she didn't have any cavities because I'd much rather give money to her to encourage taking good care of her teeth than to the dentist to fix neglect. She had a perfect check up and got her money, and knew just what she wanted. We talk often about avoiding impulse purchases and spending money wisely but when it comes to her money I generally let her spend it (a little at a time) on what she wants. I'm not saying I don't try to talk her out of things I wouldn't buy for her myself, but if she has her heart set on something I respect her enough to let her choose unless it's just a plain waste of money or completely inappropriate. Yesterday she bought two Monster High dolls, which didn't thrill me because we are seriously drowning in Barbie type dolls. I'm also conflicted over these particular dolls. I know Vampires are "hip" right now, and that is bleeding into other ghoulish types. I know that Elise is outgrowing her Barbies, and I know that these are just dolls and she's not going to start wearing revealing clothes because her dolls look like hookers, but check these things out!

They're like undead Bratz! I hate Bratz. They do have appealing little back stories and fun accessories. Draculara is a vegan Vampire, and there's no mention of Frankie Stein's dad being electrocuted bits of old corpses. Mattel has taken the scary out of Monsters so that's not an issue. I'm sure it is because I didn't play with dolls as a kid so I just generally don't get them, but I can't look at these things and wonder if I really want them around my girls. What do you all think?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today I will just do my best.

Well, so much for resolve. Last night, approximately five seconds after I finished listing all the things I needed to do above and beyond the basics for today and was ready to go to bed, Madelyn woke up screaming with a headache and fever. I finally got to bed after midnight, but the Elise was up at 4:30, unable to go back to sleep. I let her watch some TV and she finally fell back to sleep around 6 AM, but since I've become a mom once I'm awake, I'm awake. So, me and my four odd hours of sleep are planning to throw all plans out the window. Today is a do the best I can day and heaven help the person who comes between me and my coffee pot!

All that said, I do still have some things I either really have to get done or really want to do. First on the list is the dentist. Due to her fever Madelyn won't be going but I still have to take Elise and Alex. And I WILL do my basics and daily chores. Other than that I really don't care what goes on here today – Ha! Ha! No, I really do care. A little. :) One way we spent all that time on line yesterday was making the girls new job charts for the week. I mentioned in a previous post that this is a new thing for us but last week went really well, and Elise was upset when she realized that we'd spent so much time making her new chart (and shopping on line for Halloween costumes and school clothes) that she didn't do her jobs. I promised she could do them twice today so she wouldn't miss out on her allowance this week. That means I'll have to make sure we do their jobs today, too. We also have some thank you notes to write our Grandmas, and I'm thinking that would be some good quiet together time. Thank you notes usually turn into full blown art projects or stories and those are always good fun.

There, that's my plan for today. Now I'm going to give myself 30 more minutes online and then I'm off to start my day!

Wait! I almost forgot! A couple friends have asked about my job charts, specifically how I made them and what's on them. They're pretty simple, mostly because both girls are pretty good at just doing whatever I tell them but there are a few things we needed to improve on on daily basis and so far the charts have been useful for that. These are their charts. I let them choose the pictures and they are coloring them as I write. They love that part. I made them here www.dltk-cards.com/chart

Monday, August 9, 2010


Honesty can be a difficult trait when it comes to yourself... It's disturbingly easy to pull the wool over your own eyes. I try hard to keep my eyes open and see the truth, even if it's ugly, so I have to tattle on myself today. I am an internet addict. Okay, maybe addict is a tad strong but it's much more than my achilles heel. That's part of why I started this blog. It's easy to make a resolution. If you don't tell anyone about it no one knows if you fail. It's easy not to be too hard on yourself when you backslide into old, bad habits. If you make your resolutions publicly, people watch. Some root for you to fail. Some root for you to succeed. Some don't really care, but you're on their radar and so they are mildly interested. Going back to your bad habits in public requires eating crow. That's hard. It's embarrassing – even if what you've resolved is far from important – because it's a public failure. No one desires public failure. This blog is my Public Resolution to spend less time on the great time sink of the internet, and more time taking care of and enjoying my family. For the first five days I did really well and was very proud of myself. I've been building up to this for a while now, and really felt like I was flying those first five days. Then the weekend came and I had penciled in “lazy” time, which I spent on line. I thought I'd get right back on the horse and ride again this week. If Monday was any indicator though, I have a long way to go. I covered my bases on Monday, but not very well. I covered all the headlines at my favorite news sites much better. So, I'm renewing my resolve to do better again on Tuesday. And I'll be very unhappy if I have to come back here an eat crow again.

Monday, Monday - Week 2

Yesterday my sister told me she's proud of me for sticking with this past three days. I didn't know if it was a compliment or not... Just kidding, I know it was a compliment because I have a few other blogs that were abandoned after not much longer than three days. I'm having lots of fun with this one though, and seeing real effects quickly in my life, so I'm thinking I'll be able to keep it going.

Also yesterday, I got a fun email from my old friend Daynene - NO, she's not old! We've just literally been friends since kindergarten so in this case old means we go way back. Anyway, she sent a link to a fun website where I found a project I may do with my girls soon. www.nestlefamily.com/CraftsAndActivities/Creativeprojects/Default.aspx?ArticleId=0F0C7AC5-1C98-4FC0-8A52-44FB77CAFF71&sc=10087145&utm_source=NF&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Week1&utm_campaign=BackToSchool10 My girls can't get enough when it comes to crafts and this is one that would be useful! I think the girls would love having their own calendar. So, if I find the ambition to go to the store and buy the supplies, I think this one will be in our future. Thanks for the link Daynene!!!

Today's plan doesn't look very exciting when you see it on the calendar, but I'm looking forward to it. First, I'm getting a haircut! Yay! That's a whole glorious hour (maybe an hour and a half!!!) all to myself. I love my stylist, so I look forward to seeing her, too. She not only gives the best scalp massage while she's shampooing, but we have a lot in common so I like visiting with her. Then, for our fun time this afternoon, the kids and I are going to clean up the playroom. We crank up the music and boogie down while we work. Alex, of course, and Madelyn need lots of help staying focused on putting things away instead of getting more things out, but that's ok. I wouldn't expect otherwise.

It's also looking like I'm going to be dolling out lots of reading stickers for Madelyn. She taught herself to read this summer but is self-conscious about reading to people. To encourage her to read to me and try new books I put a bunch of stickers in a baggie and she gets to choose one every time she reads a new book to someone. She must have decided she wants some stickers today because she just got all of her early reader books and read one. That's a nice way to start a day, don't you think?

Now, on with today! Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lazy Sunday - It's supposed to be a day of rest, right?

Good morning! Well, I made it through the first week and the only thing I'm "behind" on is a little laundry. And, as the Fly Lady says "You're not behind, just jump in where you are", so today I'm going to jump in and get some laundry finished up, then relax. Right now we're all fiddling around on computers - the girls both have their favorite games and of course the spouse and I are internet junkies. I'm guessing we're going to play on line a while, have a late breakfast, and maybe enjoy the rainy day out on the covered deck (fitting laundry in the middle of that, of course). I did update my Week at a Glance calendar so I have a few decisions made for the week. I've also been doing lots of thinking so don't be surprised if I pop back in.

Also, I've enjoyed the comments left after some posts so I'm going to encourage a little conversation. How do you spend down time with your family? Please answer in the comments below!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bountiful Basket Day!

Have you heard about Bountiful Baskets? If not you should check them out www.bountifulbaskets.org It's seriously one of my favorite things. It's a produce co-op and they do at least half my weekly shopping. I get a HUGE basket of fruits and veggies for $15 and all I have to do is go pick it up. Saturday is pick up day, and our basket has become a pretty big highlight of the weekend. The girls rush to see what's in the basket (you don't get to choose and it's sometimes pretty random) and even Picky Picky (my seven year old) likes trying the new fruits. Last week we had a plum/apricot hybrid called a Pluot that was really yummy and we didn't even know existed before we got a big bunch in our Bountiful Basket. So anyway, I'm going to rush this post a bit so I'm not late for pick up...

If you checked out my "Week at a Glance" page you probably saw that my weekends are pretty open. When school starts I'm going to try to fill them in more so we can include Elise in our fun stuff, but for now I'm using Saturday and Sunday for lazy days. I'm still working on focusing when I'm working. It's so dang easy to get distracted! Yesterday I let the dishes sit in the sink all day because I just felt like playing, then wanted to kick myself when it literally took less than 10 minutes to unload/load the dishwasher, clean the pans I cooked dinner in AND throw in some take-n-bake cookies for a late night snack. And today, even though I should be able to take the weekend off from laundry, I have three loads to fold because I just haven't made myself get them done every day. So, as I atone for my slovenliness, I'll think of these quotes. I doubt Buddah and Dave Ramsey ever thought they'd show up on a blog together...
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dwell in the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment"--Buddha
“Discipline is the middle name of the wealthy.” -- Dave Ramsey
I hope they help me stay on track!

Oh, and I here are a few pictures from our fun time yesterday. I told the girls to choose their favorite outfits and you can see what stage in life Madelyn is in from her choice. :) Alex was wholly uncooperative with the whole idea until Madelyn started playing with him behind my back. Then we got a few smiles out of him at least, even if his back drop is our messy play room instead of the pretty yard. Oh, and if you're my friend on facebook look for a link to more pics later today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 5 - Already?

Wow, the first five days of this new attitude have already passed? Crazy! I do think it's paying off in spades. Several friends have told me they enjoy reading this blog, and that they can identify. My seven year old noticed I'm spending more time playing. And last night at dinner my husband said I had a new spring in my step and a totally different attitude. I kind of laughed off the changes he mentioned, but I thought about them later and decided this week really has made a difference. After a little thought, I've decided to attribute it to focusing on what's really important, thinking about others, and getting off my lazy butt and leaving the computer for several hours at a time. After all, it's very true that serving others (in this case my family) generally makes us happy, and I'm choosing to play every day! I don't know when the last time was that I made plans to play, but it really is fun! How can that not put a spring in my step? (I'm sure it also helps that doing Morning Basics and my Daily Chore helps me feel less guilty about not cleaning every second I stop to goof off. I mean, I have three kids, two dogs, three cats and a spouse who's often building something in my house. I could clean 24/7 and never have a spotless home. However, knowing I'm staying on top of the most important things really does relieve stress.)

Now, on to Friday... There is something new on the blog today. I added a second page with a Week and a Glance calendar. Right now it's pretty generic, but as I get better at this I'd like to have all the variables filled in, including fun time activities and meal ideas. I know that if I'd plan our meals in advance my life would just continue to get easier, so that's one more baby step to work toward. For now, that's where I'll keep my outline for each day and I'll write about the fun times here.

Today I'm going to turn my kids into models. I always take some fun pictures of them for their birthdays but this year I never got around to Elise's seven year pics. (Her birthday is just before Christmas so it's really easy to put it off, and I have really drug it out far too long.) I also haven't taken Alex's two year pictures yet, and of course we'll get some current, summery shots of Madelyn. So that's what's on tap for today. I'm thinking we'll just stay home and use our yard as a backdrop. The yard is so pretty right now it seems a shame not to document it as well. And, if I'm unhappy with the lack of variety, well, I'll just have a good excuse to dress the kids up and photograph them all over again.

Oh, and I'm also including some pictures of our new flower clips. The girls and I had a really good time making them. And after Alex's nap, we broke out the play doh again and opened a play doh ice cream shop. It's so nice that he's now old enough to remember we only pretend to eat that kind of ice cream! (The picture of Alex is from the pool, where he watched tractors at the nearby construction site while the girls swam.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last Day of Swimming Lessons!

Today is our last swimming lesson for the summer. It's kind of bitter sweet for me. The girls are both making such good progress that I wish they had at least one more session, but it will be nice to have one more week of lazy summer mornings before school starts. I think all this staying on top of housework a-la Morning Basics and Daily Chore and making quality time with the kids is paying off. Yesterday, while making play-doh dinosaurs with Elise (7) and Alex, Elise said "You've been playing with us a lot Mom. Why aren't you cleaning?" I just laughed and told her I decided I wanted to play so I had been trying to get my work done earlier. It was rewarding to know she's recognized the change, especially since I haven't been 100% in any area. But, the effort is not in vain!

As I mentioned above, I haven't been 100%. In fact, I didn't do yesterday's Daily Chore or clean the guest house (I got sidetracked building photo books). So, that's what's in line today after swimming lessons. If we hurry really fast, we should be able to get everything done before my cute niece arrives in the afternoon. Then, I'm going to try to make flower hair clips with the girls. We also bought the supplies for this project at the dollar store on Monday. I'm all proud of myself for getting three days worth of fun out of one trip to the store! I'm far from the craftiest person alive so who knows if they'll be anything to shout about when we're finished but we should have fun making them.

Thursday's Outline:
  • consume much coffee/check email/blog
  • breakfast/get ready for swimming/write shopping list
  • grocery shop
  • morning basics
  • lunch - burritos, fresh fruit
  • daily chore X 2
  • clean apartment
  • make flower clips, run around yard with Alex
  • BBQ burgers for dinner w/ fried plantains, chips and watermelon
  • hang out w/ Claire
  • bedtime!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On tap today: Cleaning!

Today we're going to be cleaning! In addition to the usual things we do every day, we're also going to give our guest house a going over. My awesome niece, Claire, will be visiting this weekend and I'm sure she'll appreciate a clean space. My girls love helping me clean the guest house, mostly because they don't get to be out there alone so cleaning is a good excuse to hang out in it. So that, along with back-to-school haircuts, will be our specific together time today. Now I just need to make sure Alex gets plenty of attention, too. I'm loading his favorite tractor movies onto my iPod to keep him entertained at the salon, but that's not Mommy time. Oh - I know! We also picked up a big pack of play-doh at the dollar store yesterday. Alex LOVES play-doh! So, that's settled - now, for today's outline.

  • Wake Up
  • Breakfast/Get Ready for Swimming
  • Swimming Lessons
  • Girls Jobs/Morning Basics
  • Lunch
  • Daily Chore
  • Clean Apartment
  • Haircuts
  • Play with Alex
  • Dinner
  • Hang Out
  • Bedtime!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm back! Considering I got a late start, we've actually had a really great day so far. Last night, as I was unwinding before bed, I decided that even though I'm doing pretty well taking care of my house, that's not my main priority. My house will always be here and will probably always need cleaning but my kids are growing up before my eyes and they won't always be here. So, I'm moving them up my To Do list. I'm sure it won't be the same every day, but today I wanted to make sure I got some good, quality fun time with them. We stopped by a dollar store after swimming lessons, looking for something fun. We found a pack of 100 water balloons. Perfecto! I figured we'd get a least an hour of silly, outdoor time for our dollar and it was something we hadn't done yet this summer. (I really love dollar stores for spontaneous fun. You never know what you'll find but it's guaranteed cheap and my girls always love browsing the isles.)

We came home and spent a considerable time filling the balloons. We had a great time talking and spraying each other while Alex wondered what all this splashing was about. Each girl learned how to put the balloons on the little hose attachment but neither wanted to learn to tie them. So, I tied a lot of balloons and the fun commenced! After we (quickly) destroyed all the balloons, we decided on a pizza picnic for lunch. Great day so far!

Now, on to an outline for the rest of my day...

*Wake up - rush to get off to swimming lessons
*Swimming/Dollar Store
*Fun with Kids!
  • Back to Work - Morning Basics
  • Daily Chore
  • Start girls on their jobs
  • Dinner
  • Hang out
  • Bedtime!