Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prepping for Our Trip

Our projects for today were in preparation for our trip to Florida. We leave tomorrow morning, so I probably won't be checking back in until Monday.

We made "Flats" - Flat Sprout, Flat Tater, and Flat Mommy - to send with our Daddy on his trip to Connecticut. He made us a Flat Daddy to take to Florida. Pictures to come when we return.

We also made a LOT of trail mix. Goldfish, pretzels, Wheat Chex, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, M&Ms, raisins and a little Peanut Butter Crunch and Pops thrown in for good measure. This is going to be our on-the-plane snack.

We also have a big bag of lollipops and bubble gum (Tater has ear pressure issues).

By the time we arrive in Florida, my children will be on turbo.

Our DVD player is charged. The kids have packed about 30 movies (for our 2 hour flight). We have a DS and a GameBoy. Suduko. Books.

Florida here we come!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Electric Lemons!

I must admit that I thought we were going to have to call this one a failure. But then our fabulous and hugely intelligent Daddy came home and switched the wires around (that whole positive/negative thing really is important) and it worked!!

I found the little battery powered clock at Target last week and Sprout was desperate to try to make this Lemon-Powered Clock from her Pocket Daring Book for Girls: Things to Do.

The additional shopping list: Electrician's clips, copper wire, 2 galvanized nails, 2 lemons.

We had fun finding our way around the local hardware store. Sprout kept saying "We need galvanized nails, galvanized nails..." As if they would be sparkling with magic or something... I think she was disappointed when we found them. Plain old nails.

Total spent at the hardware store was $2.56.

Quick stop the grocery store for lemons and we were all set. Stripping the ends of the wires was the hardest part. Sticking the nails into the lemons, the most exciting, apparently.

So the idea here is:
  1. A wire from one side of the battery compartment of the clock to a lemon (the wire is actually stuck into the lemon)
  2. A nail is stuck in the other end of that lemon and a wire is clamped to the nail and then stuck into the second lemon.
  3. A third wire goes from a nail in the second lemon to the other side of the battery compartment of the clock.
We had to take the clock apart (another exciting step) to get places to clip the wire onto the battery contacts.

All too technical for me. Something about the zinc from the nails dissolving in the acid of the lemons...electrons flowing...

But anyway - if you get it right - voila - electricity! From lemons!

How totally cool is THAT??

Monday, July 28, 2008

Short List

This week we only have 3 things on our list. We are leaving for Florida on Thursday morning to visit our friends, and we had WAY too many things on our list last week.

So we are going to:
  • Make a lemon clock
  • Make "flats" to go on our various trips ("Flat Daddy" is going to come with me and the kids to Florida, while "Flat Tater" and "Flat Sprout" will go to Connecticut with the un-flat Daddy) We'll have pictures to share when we get back.
  • Trail mix to be our snack on the trip
Not too ambitious...but I am still sick...and we are going to try to go to the pool while it isn't insanely hot or raining!

Cookie Frogs

We did these out of the Kraft Food and Family magazine...but substituted Nilla Wafers for the Oreos since Tater isn't an Oreo fan.

We used spray icing (health food that it is) to stick them together.

Very fun and very cute!

They were eaten too quickly for me to get a picture! Gotta be quicker on the shutter!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Flower Pounding

This was fun, and sort of addictive!

We picked flowers from our garden. Tater was amazed that this was possible, he thought we should go to the store and buy flowers. But, hello, FREE flowers!

We used Crape Myrtle, Black-Eyed Susans, Gerbera Daisies, Hydrangea and something purple. (How impressive is it that I actually know most of them??)

Anyway, you could use whatever you have that looks colorful.

We laid the flowers out on sheets of white construction paper (I also saw instructions for doing this on fabric, which could be fun). For some we folded the paper in half over the flowers (the ones on the right) and on the others we laid the flowers out and put waxed paper over them so we could see what we were aiming for (this worked better for Tater).

Then we got the hammer and banged the flowers flat - releasing the color onto the paper. Very loud and entertaining! Especially for kids who yearn to use tools, like mine!

After the flowers were good and smashed, we scraped the remaining bits off (carefully) with a butter knife. And voila! Flower prints!

I think these would make the cutest notecards ever...I might need to make more!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Catching Up

We tried to do a bunch of our activities around dinner time tonight to catch up.

Butter in a Jar: I might have remembered the recipe incorrectly. But the idea was to combine heavy cream (I think 1/2 cup) and sour cream (I think 1 tablespoon) in a jar. And then shake until butter forms.

It made some whipped cream-ish stuff that the kids put on bread for dinner. But I don't think it was butter.

Note to self - write down the recipe before returning the book to the library.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Didn't need a recipe for this one. Ice cream scooped between cookies. We used sugar cookies because Tater isn't a chocolate chip fan. We rolled the edges in chocolate chips for the chocolate-lovers and in sprinkles (shark-shaped ones) for the non-chocoholic.


The Not So Fun Babysitter

I just had my first experience with a babysitter who was not a teacher from my kids daycare/school. I am clearly spoiled.

A neighborhood 13-year-old and her friend sent out a flyer offering their babysitting services and since I am desperately trying to get some work done, and I didn't want to leave my children rotting with their friends Zach and Cody, I figured I would have one of them come over and play with the kids while I worked.

My first concern was when they called me back and said "We needed some more information...(giggle giggle)" on my answering machine. So I called back and said, "You needed more information?" and the girl said "Yes."

Me: "Like?"

Her: "Well, we weren't sure when you wanted us."
Me: "I actually sent you an e-mail earlier today asking if you could come tomorrow between 1 and 4."

Her: "We didn't check our e-mail."

Anyway, desperation won out and I asked her to come...

So at 1 she arrived with her mom...who was checking me up and down like I was some tween-slave-driver who was going to sell her daughter. But she must have thought I was OK enough to leave her kid here.

The kid looked OK. No obvious piercings. Normal clothes.

So I sent the kids into the basement with her to play. And all was well for about an hour. Of course I haven't gone into the basement since, so who knows what it is like down there. But for that hour I didn't have to be involved. And that was cool.

Then they came upstairs...and on went Zach and Cody. Are you kidding me? Of course, I am supposed to be I am trying really hard to pretend I don't know what they are doing. No one is getting hurt. It's all good.

Then I hear my little Tater jumping on the sofa. Which he is SO not allowed to do. And she isn't stopping him. Doesn't that just seem like something that should clearly be stopped?

But I bite my tongue. Unless there is crying I will not get involved.

And then I hear The Babysitter comment to Sprout about how weird it is that she is eating Kool-Aid straight from the packet. Like the world's largest Pixie Stick. Again, could that EVER be something that is OK with the mother??

So I had to intervene. I called Sprout into my office and said "What are you doing?"

Sprout: "Nothing" (with the open packet of Kool-Aid in her hand)
Me: "Does that seem like something your mother would EVER let you do?" (And to clarify, she has asked...and I have said no...never...several times)
Sprout: "Um, no"

So she had to trash her treat. Poor delusional little Sprout.

And they watched TV for the 2 remaining hours of babysitter time. They did play a little bit with the Paper Bag Town. But still...TV.

The Babysitter's Mom arrived at 4...still looking suspicious about what we had done with her child. I swear I hardly talked to her. She got to watch TV.

I asked how much I owed her. She said "We aren't really charging. You get to pick."

So that wasn't the most positive experience. I had originally planned to offer them a craft to do, but the Water Bottle Pencil Holder required spools...and I don't have any...and Sprout refused to substitute. And Flower Pounding involves a hammer...and I think real adult supervision is required for that.

Must be better prepared next time. Or, you know, get a real babysitter.

The Paper Bag Town

How cute is this?

The kids really enjoyed this project!

We took a pack of brown paper lunch bags, and colored bags to look like different buildings: houses, a gas station, a bank, a dentist's office, a police station, a hotel (The Tipton), and of course, a Dunkin' Donuts! The "bottom" of the bag is the roof of each building.

After we colored the bags, we opened an uncolored bag for each building and put the colored ones over the top of the uncolored (so the "bottom" of the uncolored bag is the floor, and the "bottom" of the colored bag is the roof). This makes them stable enough to stand up.

We made some of our buildings shorter by cutting off a strip of the bag, and we used those extra strips as sidewalks in our town. Add some toy cars and play!

Rule of the Day

If you step on something black, you have to do a funny dance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rule of the Day

If you make Mommy yell, you owe here a LOT of kisses.

Mommy has no voice today.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too much yum!

We went miniature-golfing today ($10 total since I didn't play). The course was really nice (at the USTC for local readers) but it was HOT.

So we hit Dairy Queen after. It had to be done.

We also made this Chocolate Graham Cracker dessert thing for dinner. We had to make it earlier in the day - but it was super easy and dangerously yummy!!

The kids placed the graham crackers and helped "clean up" the extra pudding mixture!

The recipe is here. We did it without the Peanut Butter - Tater thought the pudding was good without. Good choice.

Now I am trying to forget that there is more in the fridge!

Plan for Week 3

Moving into our third week with a plan for activities for the week.

a) The kids adapted immediately to this idea - they ask every single day which of the activities we are going to do. And what the rule is.
b) It is very empowering to have this list to reference - no frantic "what do we do now" moments.

I am playing around with the mix of what is on the list. Experimenting with how many ideas we need for a week. The first two weeks we had 5 ideas - mostly crafts. This week I am doing a mix of "get out of the house" activities, snacks and crafts/home activities.

I am also trying to be more budget conscious with our plans. We had a few budget-blowing (but very fun) things in the last couple of weeks!

So here's our list:

  • Bowling (we have free passes!)
  • Mini golf or the driving range
  • Movie Day (rent from the Big Red Box at the grocery store - $1)
  • Pounded Flower notecards
  • Paper Bag Town
  • Water Bottle Pencil Holders
  • Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Cookie Frogs
  • Peanut Butter/Chocolate/Graham Cracker Dessert
I am also still working on my freelance project - so I have asked a neighborhood teenager to come and play with the kids one or two afternoons. Maybe some of these would be good activities for her to do with the kids!

Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rule of the Day

Anyone who whines has to since the ABC song.

Several close calls this morning, but so far, no singing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rule of the Day

If you sneeze, you have to spin around 15 times.

I campaigned for 5, but it is Tater's rule. So anyone who sneezes is going to be seriously dizzy!


My mom spent the afternoon with the kids. Took them to the movies (Kit Kittredge - American Girl, which apparently Tater enjoyed, too). Bought them treats.

They came home and within 20 seconds:
a) Wanted to know what project we were going to do today and
b) Said they couldn't possibly be expected to go to the pool because they did water day at camp (which I believe involved a large bucket and some sponges).

It is amusing what kids like to do with their time. They are currently climbing around on the sofa - and yes, The Suite Life is playing in the background.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I took French for several years in high school, and yet I still feel a little silly and pretentious even saying "decoupage". Luckily, doing decoupage was way more fun than even saying it.

I thought that we should make some sort of collection box to help us work on collecting Box Tops for Education because I know we should, and yet we don't. And my mom had mentioned something about doing decoupage and I thought why not make a decorated box to collect the tops in?

Of course, Sprout and Tater felt that they each needed to have their own box to collect for their individual classes. So we purchased two paperboard boxes at Michael's ($2.99 each) and some Mod Podge ($5.69 or so). I was so dazzled by the array of Mod Podge choices (I thought there was only one kind!) that we also had to get some with glitter in know, just in case more glitter was necessary.

We also splurged on some designer tissue paper squares (a preposterous $2.99 per packet - but there is a ton of little papers and they will last for many more projects).

We already had a huge supply of little foam paintbrushes. And we cut a bunch of pictures out of the Pottery Barn catalog (What is that look for? It's better than using pictures out of People!) and a random Newsweek that somehow snuck into the house (for some reason it had pictures of animals in it...we didn't use politicians for this particular project!)

It was a whole gluing extravaganza. Sprout really got the hang of painting on the Mod Podge and painting it over the pictures. Tater liked sticking the things on, but needed a little help with the gluing technique.

The end product is actually very cool looking. We need to add another couple of layers of the Mod Podge (that's just fun to say). And we need to figure out how to cut a slot in the top of the boxes for the box tops to go in. But I am calling this one a success!

Rule of the Day

If you burp, you have to sing the Happy Birthday Song.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Balloon Tennis

A surprisingly entertaining and physical game.

Two paper plates - each duct taped to a popsicle stick (we actually taped two popsicle sticks together for each to make the handle longer - a paint stirrer would work, too).

A balloon.

Use the paper plate paddles to whack the balloon around.

Best if done in a largish space and with great enthusiasm!

Rule of the Day

If you pet the dog with your left hand, you owe Sprout $1.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I've been Snacktivated...

I agreed last week to blog about some snack recipes from Kellogg's - from their Snacktivate website. Today the box arrived with the recipe, 2 boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats (which we totally love anyway) and a cool little "snack cup" which is apparently meant to take cereal and milk with you...where you would take them, I am not sure, maybe to school?

Anyway, there was immediately a battle over which child would get to use the little cup in the car tomorrow (winner: no one).

After that all calmed down, I asked if they wanted to help me make the "Sassy Sunpops". Answer: no. Hmmm...this is supposed to be an interactive kid thing.

So, then I ask who wants to crush Mini Wheats with a hammer? That got their attention, so Sprout carefully counted out the 60 Mini Wheats that were required and put them into a zip lock bag and then took a tenderizing hammer to them. Of course, Tater had to get in on the action - so they were very well crushed.

They were quite horrified by the idea of almonds on the cookies, and I didn't have sticks or anything that fancy (sorry Kellogg's, I am not that motivated of a baker). I mixed some ground flax seeds into the flour mix, used half whole wheat flour, but otherwise (to the best of my ability) followed the recipe.

I just did them as drop cookies and on about 10 of them I arranged sliced almonds (thinner, less likely to terrify a child) in a little flower shape. The recipe said it would make 33 - but I am an impatient person and I made them bigger and probably got 24 out of the recipe.

Mine look absolutely nothing like the picture above. But I kind of expected that.

Gotta say they are pretty yummy. So the cereal as an ingredient concept has some legs. And of course the kids were all over the ones with the almonds. Arghhh...

There are a bunch of other recipes on their website, so give them a look. Most of them try to incorporate some kid activity/craft into the snack process. So maybe they could make their way onto the "What to do today" list!

Rule of the Day

Anyone who cries has to do 5 push-ups.

Week 2

Just made up the list for this week. I said I was going to do it more in advance, but the weekend was pretty hectic. I will try to be more proactive this week.

On the list we have:
  • Balloon Tennis
  • Wax Paper Stained Glass
  • Decoupage Box - for our Box Tops for Education collections for next year
  • Butter in a Jar
  • Tie Dyed Socks
I have a freelance project I am starting tomorrow, so this is going to be a crazy week. I am hoping that having this plan will help make things a little more relaxed.

Let the fun begin!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rule of the Day

Anyone who whines has to do a monkey dance.


Every night when I tuck my kids into bed I say, "I love you forever and always no matter what because you are the best boy/girl in the whole wide world."

Tater says to me, "Every mommy thinks their kid is the best."

I reply, "They think that, but for me, it is true."

He nods in agreement/acceptance. Other parents are clearly delusional. Mine are the best :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Budget-blowing Day

The Duck Bus was fun. The kids enjoyed the "quackers" and the water portion of the tour (although I think they were a little nervous about how close to the water we were - I know I was!) I think the historical portions of the tour were lost on Tater, but Sprout remembered a lot of things from school and her previous trip to Philadelphia with Nana and PopPop.

While we were right in the Visitor's Center we made a quick visit to the Liberty Bell. Then a walk to lunch at the City Tavern. Which was a budget buster and not all that well-received by the kids (although they claimed to have one of the best children's menus around). Then we walked back and visited the old Post Office and Ben Franklin's old neighborhood.

We were home around 3:30 and the kids needed to decompress and watched some TV. They were concerned that we hadn't done a "Barrel of Chipmunks" activity so Sprout helped me make Smores, and then they played a modified version of the Penny Toss game after dinner.

They just put a tupperware container on the floor and tossed coins into it. Strangely, this entertained them for almost 20 minutes before they started throwing the coins at each other.

The rule of the day was to not get lost on our trip - not fun, but at least effective!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Craft Free Day

We didn't have time for a craft today. But Tater got to make up his rule. Anyone who stepped on something green had to pay him $2. Boy was he thrilled when he caught Mike walking the dog on the grass!

My rule yesterday was anyone who said "No" had to give me a kiss. I got a lot of kisses, so that was cool!

Yesterday's activity was painting flowerpots. Just terra cotta pots (and the little drain-saucer things) and acrylic paints.

Tater did a nice job with a flower painted on the side of his - for the marigold he planted me for Mother's Day (which has actually survived long enough to be transplanted!).

Sprout's is a very abstract, modernistic, multi-colored design. Very cool. She wasn't happy with it - but I like it a lot!

Today we were going to do our "Penny Toss" game - with some modifications so that we could play at the pool. We took a plastic container and 4 little balls with us. The plan was the float the container and then try to toss the little balls into it.

Unfortunately, the first time we tossed the balls some random kid came over and took them all. So after rescuing them, the kids were too afraid to play anymore. Oh well, we'll have to try that one again another time. It had potential.

The only remaining activity on our list for the week is to make S'Mores on a Stick. We are going to go them tomorrow afternoon after we go do the "Ride the Ducks" tour of Philadelphia.

I need to start working on the list for next week - this was fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trial Week 1

I am giving the idea of an activities plan a try.

On Sunday evening I went through some of our books and things and made a short list of things to do this week. The kids are in camp half-days and we have some other things planned so we have 5 things on our list.

Popsicle Stick Boxes
Marshmallow Sculptures
S'mores on a Stick
Penny Toss Game
Painted Flower Pots

And today, Tuesday, was Sprout's "Make a Rule" day. Tater is Thursday.

Her rule today was that we had to call each other by our "Captain Underpants" names. I was Fartsy or something, Mike was "Pinky", Tater was "Poopsy" (which he wasn't happy about) and Sprout was "Stinky". Entertaining I must say.

Anyway - after I made the list and printed it out, I felt a sense of control over the week that I haven't felt since having the kids home. Like there wasn't just gaping empty space to be filled. Much like when I started to make weekly dinner menus. Calming...

Yesterday we had to spend some time running around for supplies. So, note to self, plan ahead more than 1 day! We needed popsicle sticks (craft aisle at Target), mini marshmallows , graham crackers, condensed milk, chocolate chips (grocery store...they were actually on my list on Saturday - but on the back and I forgot them!).

Today I went to AC Moore for acrylic paints (major score - on sale for 4/$1!) and some flowerpots at Lowe's. Nothing major, but with a few more days notice it would have been less intrusive.

So yesterday the kids looked at the list and chose Marshmallow sculptures. We used dried spaghetti and stuck it into mini marshmallows. Kind of like tinkertoys, but stickier. It was pretty fun. It probably would be better for a younger kid to use toothpicks. Long pieces of spaghetti made for a pretty wobbly structure and Tater didn't have the patience to reinforce things. So at one point he picked the whole thing up and flung it across the kitchen. Whoops.

Today we did a lot of outside playing. But at 4:30, Tater looked at me and said "When are we doing our craft?" So we picked the popsicle stick boxes. They stacked up popsicle sticks log-cabin style to make a little box. Turned out very cute. Pretty easily accomplished by both kids with minimal stress. I had to square things up a bit, but no big deal.

Tater asked me today when he gets to make the rules. Sprout asked if she always gets to do a rule on Tuesdays, she liked it.

Three more activities on the list. No more shopping required. I am feeling good about the rest of the week!

Hope you are having a good one, too!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

It's Hard to be Fun

I have been home with my kids for 10 days straight. This is something that usually happens on vacations, where there are built-in things to do.

This summer, since I am now "self-employed" we have less camp activity and more stay-at-home days.

The first few days I was pretty good. We did a mosaic (broke tiles with a hammer and everything), we made a ramp out of paper towel tubes and rolled marbles through it, we made fingerprint pictures, we painted suncatchers. But the last few days I am losing steam.

The weather is yuck. The TV is easy. But I do want to DO something and get engaged with the kids.

This is why I am thinking that the "Barrel of Chipmunks" idea really has some legs. If I had a print-out right now with a list of things to do, that were pretty easy, but fun, I think we wouldn't be struggling for something to do.

Not that crafts are always the answer. But sometimes fun cooking could be. And sometimes a game to play or activity to do would be fantastic. And digging through the huge stack of books that is sitting in my office right now is pretty daunting...although I guess that's what we'll do.

But someday soon, I will have a plan. And we will all be having more fun!