Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vacation Surprises

By the time you read this, I will be here.
I mean, there.

Where the picture is.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

I've never been to Maine before. It looks pretty, huh?

My mom has decided that we need to take family vacations together again. My brother lives far away (Dallas), and we need to get the whole gang together and vacate.

And we do what Mom tells us to do, so we go. We're no dummies.

The last trip was a week in Italy in 2007, which was completely awesome. The kids were just happy to have their cousin there. And a pool. They thought it was sort of amusing that they couldn't understand what people were saying. And Tater enjoyed the Carousel enough to want to go back.

This time we are staying a bit closer to home - at least in the good old USA. Although pretty much as far from Dallas as one can go and still be in the country. I wonder if there is a message in there for my brother...hmmmm.
Anyway, in commemoration of this event, we decided to make t-shirts.

We went to the Dollar Store and got plain blue shirts for each child and then we got some of this (fabric paint that doesn't get weird and crunchy...and is washer safe after 72 hours...):

And some of these (letter stamps - from JoAnn Fabrics - $12.99 for the set of two sizes):
We folded the t-shirts carefully and put a piece of cardboard between the front and back to make sure the paint wouldn't bleed through. Then we painted the fabric paint ever so carefully onto the stencils, and we made these.

The kids each did their own and did a great job. They were careful about spacing the letters and making sure they were pointing the right way. Very impressive, I think!

I made one for my nephew and the plan is that they will all arrive wearing these tomorrow and surprise my Mom (Nana - in case you didn't guess).

Check out the backs:

Get it? "Maine" event?

My brother is in advertising. He's my go-to tagline guy. Not that I need one that frequently. But when I do, I go to him.

I am hoping this isn't one of those things my Mom will look at and say, "I don't get it."
That would suck.

But then, we will be spending the rest of the week hanging out here, so I can probably handle it either way.

Thanks for the trip, Mom! You rock!

Yay for Nanafest 2009!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Garage Reveal

The garage is finally done! We actually finished it last weekend, but I didn't get to take pictures and I know you have been waiting to see photographic evidence that we finished!

Although it didn't turn out to be quite the kid-friendly activity that I originally envisioned, the kids did help out quite a bit. They liked giving ideas for what should go where and were great about handing me things while I was on the ladder.

I even got over my neurotic control-freak tendencies and let them help with the drill and power screwdrivering on the things that didn't require a ladder.

The walls are all nice and blue-ish. The paint color is called Mineral Springs. It looks purplish in the pictures, but it is more gray-ish blue in person.

We used this Rubbermaid rail system to hang everything up. Each of the rails is on at least 3 studs and then a bunch of anchors - they aren't coming down any time soon! Sprout enjoyed using the stud finder. I don't even want to think about the jokes about her future teenaged tendencies that could come out of that.

We still have this toy basketball hoop junking up the joint, --->
but as soon as I can convince the kids to let it go, it is all going to be nice and neat. At least briefly.

My car is blocking the view of the scooter-hanging area. It's rainy and I can't move it right now...not good photography composition, sorry.

Sprout felt strongly that we needed hooks for helmets next to the scooter and bikes (the bikes are parked behind my car). Good idea, I think. The bottom shelf there has all of their other toys - stomp rockets, jump ropes, etc. The bins were on the floor before, so this is better.

My bike is now down on the floor for the first time in 10 years. It is not in good shape, but I am going to get it fixed up so we can all go ride together. As soon as I can convince Tater that he needs to pedal more than once to keep the bike rolling and get myself a helmet. Probably need to get myself a helmet hook, too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garden Update

Much to my amazement, pretty much everything that Tater planted a couple of months back is growing.

Not dead. Alive.

I am feeling guilty that I said that he had inherited a black thumb. I was wrong. So very wrong.

The sandbox garden, after several weeks of severe flooding, bounced back and is thriving. Even the basil that I thought was being eaten by some kind of critters has gotten very tall and is getting flowers. I didn't know basil could even have flowers.


We also have a HUGE vine going on the cucumber plant. And a bunch of flowers, which I guess means eventually there will be a bunch of cucumbers. I am not sure how baby cucumbers will feel about laying on the deck...may need to build them little beds or something.

Our carrots and herbs are also growing like crazy. We weren't sure what the carrots were going to look like when they were ready to go, so we picked one to check. They are super tiny, but really and truly carrots! So in a couple of weeks, we may be ready to harvest. Unless the bunnies find their way up onto the deck.

Stay back bunnies!

Then we have the Topsy Turvy Tomato thing, which isn't going so great. I keep forgetting to water it, and the hole in the top is apparently too small to catch enough rain. Since Tater can't reach to water it, this one is totally on me. So, not all that surprising that it isn't going well. But it isn't dead yet - and there are three tomatoes on there. So there is still hope.

Finally, there is this vine.

I can't remember what it is supposed to be. Something viney, with flowers. This is truly the biggest thing I/we have ever managed to grow from seeds. Pretty amazing. No flowers yet, but hopefully soon. We have had to repeatedly pull the vines off of the little tree and wrap them around the post so that they will climb, but it seems to be going well now.

Of course, we are leaving on vacation in a few days, so there is no telling what is going to go down while we are away. Hopefully we won't come back to a bunch of brown shriveled deadness.

Because Tater WILL make me start all over again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kid Friendly Technology

When Sprout was a wee thing in first grade, she was picked up by the bus for aftercare program two days each week while I was far away working in a real live office. Except for the one day they forgot her.

Well, they didn't forget - some other kid said she wasn't coming on the bus (wrong!) and the bus left without her.

So not cool.

And I had no way to contact her to tell her it was going to be OK and someone was coming to get her. And she had no way to contact me to say "Where the heck is the bus?"

So I decided it would be a good idea for her to have an "emergencies only" cell phone. So that if she was stranded somewhere, she could call for help.

At that time, we got her the Migo - a cute little kid-friendly phone that allowed only 4 numbers (plus 911) to be programmed in, so she could call for help, but couldn't chat up her little friends or prank call them, or whatever it is 6-year-olds might do on the phone.

Then she got older and wanted a "real" cell phone. Although she still doesn't actually call anyone, and I don't really like the idea of her chatting away during the day.

And then I found Kajeet - a cell phone service just for kids - with LOTS of controls for parents. Even a control-freak like myself can find very little to argue with at Kajeet.

We are signed up for a $5 per month basic service and can control the hours that the phone can be used, who she can call, who can call her, etc. There are two payment accounts, so we can foot the bill for calls home, and she can be on the hook for calls to friends. AND if we wanted to, we could activate a GPS chip in the phone and actually know where she (or at least the phone) is during the day.

So cool.

We even got Tater one, because he shouldn't be stranded anywhere either.

Then the next communication frontier - my old friend and master e-mail - reared its head. Sprout wants to e-mail.

Immediately I think of all of the generous offers for Viagra and other interesting and not-kid-appropriate things that I get on a daily basis and

But then I searched Google for "e-mail for kids" and found Zoobuh. This is the e-mail version of Kajeet. Yay!

I signed both Sprout and Tater up for their own accounts. We have a free 30-day trial and then it is $1 per month for ad-free, kid-safe e-mail.

You set up the contact list for the kids and then control whether they can receive e-mail from people outside of the contact list, or send to them. I have it set to send me a copy of each e-mail that they send or receive (just to make sure nothing inappropriate is going on). As they get older, I could turn that feature off if I want to.

The kid pages are ad-free, the parent pages have some minimal advertising. So far, it seems like just the right thing.

So now the kids are only the people they should be connected to. They are happily e-mailing their grandparents about camp and newly missing teeth.

And they still don't know anything about Viagra. Whew.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Awesome Snack Idea

First you need one of these...we prefer Granny Smiths, nice and tart and crunchy.
Cut it up in slices.

Then get some of this, or whatever your nut butter of choice is.

Obviously if you have nut issues this is not the snack for you. My kids like the chunky version. I am personally on an almond butter kick. Either would be good.

Put some in a little bowl for each kid.

In another small bowl put a few of these. Maybe 3-4 tablespoons of them. The kids are likely to beg for more. Totally your call whether you give in...

Give the kiddies the sliced apples and the little bowls of PB and chips.

Instruct them to dip in the PB and then the chips...resulting in this...

I know it's an awful picture...but it's a great snack!! Yum!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bendaroos Review

Over here on the super new review page...

Cheap Labor

I had what I thought was a great idea for a summer activity. The kids love home improvements, love to paint, love to help with projects - so I would have them help me paint and organize the garage. Brilliant!

I wouldn't mind if the painting was a little messy - it's the garage!

I wouldn't mind if we drip a bit here and there - it's the garage!!

The kids would be so happy. My garage would be all spiffy. Win-win!! Yay!!

So we took things down and threw things away and cleaned (and cleaned and cleaned) spiderwebs and leaves and other yuckitude off of the walls. Then Sprout and I went and bought some gray-tinted primer and went at the first wall.

Two hours later:

1.) The wall looked exactly the same as when we started (apparently the paint guy at Lowe's was WRONG when he said we didn't have to tint the primer...not happy with him AT ALL.)
2.) Sprout was very annoyed with me for insisting that we paint the entire wall and not just a strip at her waist height.
3.) My back was broken from bending and stretching and painting.
4.) It was time to call in the professionals.

But Tater was very unhappy that he hadn't had a chance to paint. Poor Tater.

Today I went and got a quart of the paint the professionals will use to paint the garage and let the kids do the bottom half of the primed wall. The nice lady at MAB even gave me painter's hats for them to wear!

Tater went to work with a brush on the bottom, Sprout had a pad painter (which I find much much easier to work with than a roller). They started out with lots of energy and I was being all (sort of) zen-ish about their technique.

It's the garage. It's the garage...that was my mantra...

They did a really good job and even took turns every 5 minutes or so so each of them could try the different tools.

Tater and I took a break to play some tic-tac-toe. Which he then carefully painted over.

They even finished the entire wall - about halfway up.

Sprout was again annoyed when I suggested that we had to fill in all of the spaces. But she did it in (mostly) good spirits.

I would declare this partial project as a success. No major fights. No major messes. Over an hour of entertainment and busyness that didn't involve electronics.

The pros come next week to finish. They apparently don't have an "only the garage" if I can figure out how to get these guys on ladders (without causing myself a heart attack, which is the tricky part) we might have them do the rest!

Although I don't think I possess that level of zen. Even if it is just the garage...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Toad Abode

Things have been busy around here, what with so many episodes of iCarly to watch and so little time!

The kids actually did an art camp last week through Kidzart. They did a similar program last year at AC Moore - but this year the program was held by DARC. They actually had the same instructor (Mr. Steve) from last year - which they were happy about.

During the week, my mom took each kid for a special event. Sprout went to a concert at the Mann Music Center where she saw a 14-year-old violinist play. She apparently hummed along to Vivaldi's Four Seasons - probably something she remembers from Little Einsteins. See, TV can be good for you!!

Tater went to Tyler Arboretum to participate in one of their kids programs. The kids have been to lots of these programs and they always enjoy them. This time he got to make a "Toad Abode", which is a house for a toad (clearly) that we tucked into the garden. I have never seen any toads in our garden, so this may be vacant housing for quite some time, but he did a fabulous job and it looks very festive out there.

The Toad Abode is a flower pot that is decorated and flipped over, with the edge propped up on a rock to let the theoretical toad crawl under it. Apparently toads aren't fearful of houses teetering on the edge of a rock. Brave toads.

Tater's Toad Abode is beautifully decorated with mosaic stones, which are stuck on with what he called "mask". I wish I could tell you what that is - it looks like a groutish substance. But this could easily be done with hot glue, or just paints. Any decorating technique that is weather-resistant, since the toads are most likely going to be seeking their abode outdoors.

Unless you have indoor toads and then you probably have different housing arrangements for them anyway.

This seems like a good opportunity to give you a brief tour of the other decorations in our garden. Because I am sure you want to know. So here we go...

This is our turtle. He was our first piece of statuary. Just one little whimsical touch. Next to him is a big rock that Sprout stole from a jetty at the beach (shhhh...).

Over there on the right is a little puppy who was added to memorialize Mike's grandmother. She died when Sprout was about 4 and was the first person that Sprout knew who passed away. We didn't take her to the service, but she wanted to do something to remember Gram so we put this puppy in our garden and then stood and held hands and said a little something about Gram being in heaven and how much she loved dogs (which may or may not actually be true...but it made me sob at the time).

This is a bird. I just thought he was cute. No good story.

Just a bird.

This little bunny was to remember my Nana. Because since we did it for Gram, we now have a tradition of commemorating the passing of our loved ones with lawn statuary. I don't think we did any kind of ceremony for Nana's bunny. But the kids helped pick him out and I think of her whenever I see him. Hi, Nana - I miss you.

This one just makes me laugh. Because this is totally my gardening philosophy. I don't know what anything is. I am getting better, but not good.

There is also a little parrot out at the far edge of our lawn (I was too lazy to walk over there - bare feet + grass doesn't make me happy), and then another bird and the mushroom in Tater's sandbox garden.

I guess at some point we passed the tasteful whimsical touch.
But this is more fun.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Coolest Mom - EVER! need to click over here to my brand-new review site to see this most interesting and exciting post...