Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rocket Ship- HOURS of entertainment!!


Last month I picked up a refrigerator box from our local appliance store. I got all dizzy spray painting it while the kids watched from a far. The next day dad helped secure the corners with zip ties and cut out some windows. Over the last several weeks the kids both spent countless hours decorating the inside with markers and playing rocket ship. I love that it’s more comfortable than under a blanket in the living room, and the kids are taking their imaginative play outside while still being shaded.

Imagine all of the things we could create with these huge boxes!!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Composting & A Giveaway


A good friend of mine just started a blog about her families attempts to live more sustainably. One of her first posts was about composting, which reminded me that I never posted about one of my favorite recent Daddy Projects- a homemade tumbling composter!


I found the plans at Sorta Crunchy. It wasn’t hard to talk my honey into this relatively quick, easy, and cheap project! We’ve been composting for a couple months now. I can’t really tell how much is going on in there, but I’m super hopeful that I  won’t be purchasing expensive organic compost for our gardens anymore!

Be sure to check out Sustainable Family! She’s got a great giveaway going for Reusable Snack Bags. We use our bags everyday and would love to add to our collection.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Locks & Keys


I had a couple of keyed padlocks laying around the house, and picked up a few more at the dollar store last week. Ryan has loved playing with them everyday and had gotten really good at quickly figuring out which key opens which lock. He likes to lock the locks together, and on various things around the house. Even little Ella loves trying to put the keys in the locks.  It’s great hand-eye coordination, fine motor skill practice, and a logical thinking activity.

All of the locks came with two keys so I kept an emergency set :) As you can see we’re storing these in my new favorite containers: produce clamshells. Ryan traced the keys to decorate the lid.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why we are homeschooling…

Today was the second day of our school year and we spent the day “country schooling” at Grandma and Grandpa’s.
photo 2(4) We feasted on the first ripe blackberries of the season.
photo 3(3) We learned that even though deer poop looks like black beans- the similarities stop there…
photo 4(3) Ryan got a tractor driving lesson with Grandma.
photo 4(4) We played elaborate games with our cousins and their plastic animals.
photo 1(6) We took a break from playing outside and played Rainbow Race with our cousins.
photo 2(5) Ryan found a drowned lizard that he ‘loves’ so much that it just had to come home with us…
photo 3(4) Time with Grandma wouldn’t be complete these days without some painting! We discovered secondary colors and used watercolors to make beautiful rainbows.
photo 4(5) After that long hard day the kids didn’t fall asleep on the hour-long trip home! Probably because we were repeating our Spanish lesson from the trip there. Ryan wanted ‘just one more game’ before bedtime books.
The idea of this being a ‘school day’ is absolutely joyous to me!! We put a lot of thought into what to do for school this year (far too much if you ask my husband and close friends…) Ryan absolutely loved and thrived at his preschool last year, but his teacher isn’t sure if she’s going to be open this year. Ryan thrives learning at home too. He technically is supposed to start Kindergarten next year, but is very comfortable in all of our Kindergarten curriculum.
Ella is only two. She loves to play and isn’t really interested in many of our tot school activities.  Both kids get tons of social interactions everyday with friends. SOO, to make  a very longwinded decision short- we’re using this as our ‘trial year’. We’re working on establishing a daily rhythm and cherishing our time together. I’m focusing everyday on being the kind of mom I want to be and trying not to think about how way too soon our kids will grow up and we won’t have the luxury of spending all of our time together.

**As you saw- we had a good day, which makes me confident in this current decision. However, I reserve the right to plead temporary insanity and ship them both off to preschool if  we drive one another nuts ;)

Our First Day of School!!

Our first day of school got off to a rough start when my dog was attacked by an off leash dog while running this morning. I ended up being pulled off the edge of the levee road we were on and getting all scraped up and bruised! That could put a damper on a regular day- but not on my little guy’s first day of Kindergarten!!

Thankfully our day improved from there! I had everything all prepped and ready to go the night before (we’ll see how long that lasts…)

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Our ‘Daily Do’ folder is still working out really well. It’s a great way for us to see what has to be done, for me to make sure I don’t over-schedule us, and Ryan is still motivated by moving tasks from the ‘to do’ section to the ‘completed’ section.

We’ve modified the workbox system for our family by simply using matching task tags from our daily do folder. The biggest reason for still using the boxes is that it helps me make sure everything is ready to go for an activity.

Our first day started with Circle Time- which the kids still love! I’ve recently been asked if our circle time has changed at all.  We still do the same things, I just remember that we don’t have to do everything on our board each day! I have added a written schedule which helps the kids know what to expect that day and keeps me on task.I have tried to switch out our songs and rhymes but the kids won’t let me get rid of the Old McDonald had a Farm puppets.

photo 1(4)

Our morning continued with morning message which we are now doing in a journal, so that Ryan can respond in writing more easily. Ryan practiced writing his full name, did his Explode the Code pages,  and we did our first color unit activity. We discussed primary colors and made Primary Color Quilts. Ella didn’t believe me that it wasn’t a color matching activity (we’ve been doing a lot of those) until she saw Ryan adding his small squares.


We spent a couple of hours at the park with friends, which was definitely the highlight of Ella’s day!

photo 3(2)

When we came home lunch was all ready to go! I’m trying a new system where I prep all of our lunch and snacks as I clean up breakfast. My thinking is that my kitchen will stay clean all day, our food is always ready to go, I can better see how well balanced our diet is, and how cute are these little boxes!

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I’ve added a page to the top nav bar where I plan to keep lunch & snack ideas. I’ll let you know when it’s full of yummy suggestions.

photo 4

My favorite part of the day was when I was working in the kitchen while Ryan did a word sort and Ella practiced her cutting!

Daddy was shocked to come home to a relatively clean house with a delicious dinner prepared! Ryan was doing his math and Ella told him she was working! She was sorting dyed pasta in a muffin tin.

photo 1(5) photo 4(2)

I know it won’t work out so well every day. But, we had an awesome first day that made me think I may survive keeping them both home this year!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

This recipe is from a good friend, Heather. They are delicious and freeze well.

5 C Oats
1 C chopped walnuts
2 TBSP canola oil
1/2 tsp salt 1 C light brown sugar
1/2 C honey
2 TBSP vanilla extract
1C dried cranberries
1/2 C chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350*. Stir together oats, walnuts, oil and salt. Spread evenly into 15×10 baking sheet. Bake 18 min stirring occasionally. Remove mixture to large bowl. Line same sheet with nonstick foil. Lower oven to 300*. Combine sugar and honey in small saucepan, and cook over med heat for about 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Stir in vanilla. Add cranberries and chocolate to oat mixture and stir well. Pour sugar mixture over top and stir until blended. Spread into baking sheet and press into even layer. Bake for 30min or until golden. Cool completely on wire rack then cut into 2×3 bars.
186 Cal 6 g fat 4 g protein 32 g carbs 2 g fiber


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Simple Ideas

Preschool Activity-a-Day Calendar
People frequently ask me where I get the ideas & motivation to create activities for my kids. They usually follow it by telling me they don’t have the time or materials to constantly do new things.
One of my favorite bloggers, Rachel from Quirky Mama, has created the perfect solution! She has created a monthly e-book series, called An Activity A Day. Each month she is  offering three calendars full of simple yet great ideas: One for Preschool Play activities related to the letters of the alphabet – perfect for younger toddlers! Another calendar focusing on 4-5 year olds who are beginning to read and another full of fun math activities. All of these activities take 15-20 minutes and can be completed with items commonly found in your homes.
You can see September’s activities on Rachel's site. In upcoming months there will be a very small fee for downloading the calendars (because that’s the way the internet is moving…). But be sure to check out September’s activities for FREE to see just how amazing they are.
I’m looking forward to doing September's activities! I plan on posting the calendar right on the fridge and letting the kids take turns picking which activities to complete (which will be easy since they are with common household items and don’t require any prep work).  I’m sure they’ll love to mark which ones we’ve done with giant stickers!
Here’s to a month full of fun activities that don’t require much work on momma’s part! Enjoy!!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Sticks of Endless Possibilities

icLast week Ella played with sticks in gymnastics class for a few minutes. She loved it and my brain started spinning with possibilities. We were in Home Depot the next day (because, we’re building this for Ryan, but that’s a whole other post…) and I just had to pick up some giant dowels to make our own set of sticks. I bought 12 sticks and painted them with 2 coats of paint plus a layer of polyurethane for durability. It took less than an hour and cost about $8 (I already had the paint and polyurethane).
I just love how many different things you can do with the sticks! In the picture you see us trying to march and tap at the same time. You can tap them above your head, by your knees, on your left side, behind your back. You can stand on one foot while tapping, you can take turns creating beats to mimic. You can use them to write letters in the air, or lay them out on the ground to create shapes, or use them as giant tally sticks, or hide them outside. See why my head is spinning- endless possibilities!!
I’m going to try and keep these special by only bringing them out occasionally and doing new things with them each time. I can see using them a lot in our music and exercise activities.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I have to admit I was drooling over the chocolate cake that my sister in law recently made, until I heard there was zucchini in it. I was absolutely shocked when it turned out to be one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten!
She tweaked a recipe that she found on epicurious.
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (OR 1/2 cup greek yogurt and 1/4 cup soymilk)
  • 2 -1/2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)
  • 1 6-ounce package (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan [I found that using three loaf pans instead makes the cake even more deliciously moist]. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Stir in grated zucchini chocolate chips and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes [The loaves take 30-40 minutes]. Cool cake completely in pan.You can see the original recipe and read reviews of it here.
I've made it way too often lately!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Sacramento(ish) Spotlight- Nevada City Children’s Festival

Back in July we attended possibly the coolest kids’ event I’ve ever been to, The Nevada City Children’s Festival.  Held in a beautifully wooded large park, this nearly 40 year old festival handled the large crowd well.


I couldn’t believe how many different activities they had to choose from. When I could pull my kids away from the handmade fire breathing dragon, they helped paint a huge cardboard castle, and watched live performances (juggling, singing, fencing, and a very eclectic group of instruments).

We did less than a quarter of the crafts there and still came home with shields, necklaces, magic wands, bird statues, and swords. Ryan really loved digging through scrap wood to find the perfect pieces and using real tools to make a sword. Ella loved all of the painting activities and the shows. I loved that we had an entire day of outdoor fun & crafts for less than $10!!

 IMG_4252 IMG_4253

IMG_4257 IMG_4260

The festival is held every July. It’s only about 75 minutes from Sacramento. You can see more about it’s history here. I’ll be sure to let you know in advance next year, since this is definitely a new family tradition for us.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Camping in our Living Room

We’ve been trying to step up the imaginative play. I know that it’s even more important for the kids’ development than all of the ‘school’ we do.

One of the best ways to keep my attention is to keep coming up with new games. I can only play rocket ship and tea party so many times… Our recent new favorite is playing camping!


The kids loved toasting marshmallows (cotton balls) over our lego fire pit.


Our tent was simply a sheet over two chairs. It’s perfect for reading books in!


Ella fished for our dinner.

Thanks to Adventures of Bear for the camping idea!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Drawing Notebook

photo 1(2)

I have previously mentioned that we’re going to step up the art activities this year. One of my plans is to do a regular directed drawing activity.

Our first step was to turn our sketchbook into a work of art itself! Making the squares was great cutting practice. Then Ryan glued them all over the cover, and I added a layer of Modge Podge. Ella enjoyed gluing squares to her own paper too.

After reading about how Gabby, at The Work of Childhood starts her school year with a self-portrait, we had to do the same! Ryan draws himself all the time, but this time we spent a lot of time looking in the mirror while drawing.

photo 2(2)

Our next drawing is going to be of our family!


Monday, August 2, 2010

An amazing week...

You may have noticed I've been MIA... An amazing week or so has kept me busy. Last week my kids and I had the pleasure of meeting Susan and Sophie of The kids had a great time playing and Susan and I talked about blogging, kids and life. We're going to get together again soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out her blog and her amazing felt creations! The last couple of months have been very busy with my doula gigs- I attended twelve births in June & July!! Definitely the most special was the birth of my first nephew on Friday!! Right after watching my sister-in-law labor like a warrior we left for a few days of camping at the beach. It was here, sitting around the campfire that I committed a major camping faus paus by taking a peek at the 200+ emails in my inbox. I was so excited to see 2 awesome emails. I won a playaway from imagination soup! I love winning giveaways :) Even cooler- I am a featured member of We Teach this week! We Teach is a Ning Network full of great parents, educators, and bloggers. I just wanted to let you know what we've been up to. I have some posts lined up when we get settled at home in the next couple of days. We still plan to start our school routine back up this month- I have a lot of planning and prep to do! Photobucket