Since my son has just recently started kindergarten, I am really enjoying preparing his lunches and after school snacks. I try to put something fun or really yummy in his lunch every day. Sometimes I bake for purely therapeutic reasons. Last Friday, after his meltdown when I dropped him off at school, I decided to bake a yummy chocolate cake to welcome him home and celebrate his first week at school. I had just enough cocoa to for the cake and frosting, and I could almost taste the sweet, chocolatey goodness of my perfect chocolate cake. Sadly, it didn’t turn out as well as I’d imagined…

Turns out I forgot to add flour!! So after taking a couple of days to lick my wounds and scrape the bottom of my oven, I tried again. This time, I bought cool Spongebob cupcake liners and made some chocolate cupcakes that actually turned out yummy! And they’re the perfect size to stick in a lunchbox!

Here’s a tip: If your cupcakes have soft frosting like mine do, stick them in the freezer for half an hour, then wrap them individually, using freezer paper. Lable and date them, and leave them in the freezer. On they way out the door in the morning, pop a frozen cupcake in your child’s lunchbox. The cupcake will thaw during the morning, but the frosting should stay cold enough that it won’t be too messy when lunch time rolls around. Thanks to my husband’s grandma, Alma, for this tip!

1stDayofSchool021.jpg picture by mamamcmann

Last week, I wrote about my son’s first day of kindergarten. It went so well! So did the day after that! Then…the bottom dropped out. That third day of kindergarten, as we were lining up in front of the school, my son started to blink rapidly and look sideways, like he does when he’s upset. Then, when we got into the classroom, his eyes welled up with tears. I stayed for 15 minutes, and his nose was running when I left. I helped him wipe it, hugged him, and said goodbye. According to him and the teacher, he was only upset for about a minute after I left. That night, he swore it was just “:bad luck”, and that he’d be fine the next day. That’s not exactly what happened.

That next day, he started to cry even before we left home! He was teary-eyed all the way to school, and I had to call his dad at work, who talked him into getting out of the van and into school. When we got into the classroom, he proceeded to stick to me like Velcro, and beg me to take him home. The longer I stayed, the more upset he got; I ended up leaving, almost in tears myself! He tried to run out of the room with me!! His teacher held him, and I waited outside the classroom to make sure he was okay. After what seemed like forever (actually three minutes), he calmed down. It almost broke my heart to leave that day!

Today, he didn’t cause a huge scene like he did Friday, but he did cry when I left, and ask me to stay. I had to be strong, hug him, and assure him that it was much better for him if I left quickly. He says he likes school, so I don’t understand why he gets upset when I leave in the mornings. He’s never been much of a mommy’s boy; daddy has always been “the last word” as far as he’s concerned.

I hope things get better soon. I don’t know how long my heart can take this.

Yesterday, hubby took off work so we could get HI-DEF T.V!! It’s amazing, but that’s another story….

The Dish Network guy was at our house at 8 a.m. and left at  9, so we had all day to bum around with no plans. We ended up driving half an hour to a very cool waterpark. We’ve been there once before and loved it, so the kids were just itching to go back! I didn’t get any pictures because I don’t trust myself to keep the camera and my daughter from going under the water!! I did, however, do a bit of people-watching, and came up with this (hopefully) fun list of do’s and don’t’s, for your reading pleasure.

Do wear sunscreen. All that water around you will attract sunlight. It’s like sitting in a box of tin foil for a few hours!

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen in a weird place! Somehow, I ended up with a sunburn on one leg and one arm! And hubby sunburned his scalp! Guess that’s what we get for waiting to put sunscreen on at poolside. We had to rush to keep the kids from running off and jumping in the deep end.

Do have fun with your kids. Let loose and enjoy yourself! Kids are only little for such a short while, and if you’re stiff and embarassed, or too cool to play with them in public, you’ll regret it sooner or later (I vote for sooner).

Don’t count on lifeguards to babysit! I can’t count the number of parents who were doing just that! It was unbelievable to me how many parents would just sit there while their toddlers wandered off! One lady was actually hanging on to her kid and pushing him in a swim ring, but wasn’t watching him. As she pushed, his face went in the water several times, and he’d come up spluttering and spitting, which his mom never noticed!! If you’re going to the pool to have family time, then spend time with your kids! If you’re there to sunbathe and gab with your friends, then leave the kids with someone who will actually keep an eye on them! (Can you tell I got a little irritated? ;) )

Do Score Some Sexy Shades. There were lots of hip mamas who looked really great there. If they had the tired mommy bags underneath those dark glasses, I’ll never know. Next time, I’m going to bring glasses.

Don’t Stumble Around Blind. This is another reason to bring glasses! The brightness of the water didn’t bother me, but hubby-and several other adults I noticed-were squinting and rubbing their eyes a lot. Maybe that’s why some of them were’nt watching their kids: they couldn’t see anything!

Do Try to Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin. Since I started writing my Peekaboo Picks column, I notice women and what they’re wearing much more than I used to. The mommies who looked the best were the ones who stood up tall and didn’t seem self-conscious. They weren’t always-or even usually-the skinniest or chic-est, just the most self-confident. Remember that next time you pull on your bathing suit!

Don’t Be Overly Confident. Self-confidence is great, but all the self-confidence in the world isn’t an excuse to stuff yourself into a suit that’s two sizes (or more) too small! I don’t mean to sound snotty, but I was honestly surprised by how many women-mothers included-were wearing totally inappropriate and ill-fitting swimsuits! If your body bulges six inches out the sides or back, it’s time to buy a larger suit, honey!

Do Find a Way to Include Nap Time. I saw the coolest thing at the waterpark yesterday! A good mama brought a collapsible rocking chair and rocked her toddler all through nap time! I wanted to go up to  her and applaud her, but I didn’t want to wake the little one, especially since she’d thought so far ahead and was probably working hard to keep her asleep!!

Don’t Overdo it. If you’re not as lucky or smart as that rocking chair mama (and I admit I wasn’t), watch your kids (especially toddlers) for signs of over-tiredness. A day at the waterpark isn’t any fun if you stay too long, causing your kid to turn into a smaller, nastier, less-green version of the Incredible Hulk!

I hope you enjoyed my waterpark do’s and don’t’s! If you have any comments or additional tips, I’d love to hear them!

Sometimes, the best way to encourage creativity is to simply watch your children, take their cues, and participate fully in whatever they’re doing. My son’s most current favorite game is the perfect example. He dug out an old Backgammon case and spent a couple of hours drawing and cutting out the most detailed monster pictures he’s ever drawn (they’re friendly monsters). Then, asked me to write down several characteristics of each moster. For example, the Fish-Type monster can swim in water or lava, and its teeth are sharper than diamonds! The non-strength type (aka, Wimpy) can only lift something as large as a pedometer (you know…those thingies you clip to your waistband to count steps). One of the monsters eats great white sharks!

Now my son keeps all of his monsters in the case for whenever he wants to play monster store. Sometimes, that means just sitting and drawing new monsters. At other times, he wants me to be his customer. I play the ignorant mother who is buying a monster for the first time, and he loves it when I’m amazed by his monsters’ super powers! He takes his moster store everywhere, carrying it like a briefcase, and we’ve already had tons of fun playing with it! I’m confident that the traveling monster store will be around for a long time! This incredibly fun and creative game was completely his idea; I’ve only enjoyed the ride, and participated whenever and however he wanted me to.

Kids love old cases and containers. Think twice before throwing away that well-worn briefcase, suitcase, or duffle bag. Instead, let your child play with it awhile. You’ll be surprised how much love and excitement your child will show for this “new” toy. And you, as a parent, will have a front-row seat to watch your child’s creativity blossom! Prepare for the most fun adventures ever!

I have posted before about my love of freezer paper stencilling. Well, I’ve been at it again, and this time I decided to make a T-shirt that was very personalized and precious to me. I was browsing through Flickr the other day, and was inspired by this photo. I decided to make myself a T-shirt, using my kids’ silhouettes as a freezer paper stencil. Here’s how I did it:

Things You’ll Need:

  • Children, or other semi-cooperative photo subjects
  • Digital Camera
  • Printer
  • Freezer Paper (found in grocery store, near aluminum foil and plastic wrap)
  • Pen or pencil that draws crisp lines
  • Tape
  • X-Acto Knife with sharp blade
  • Old magazine or large, thick piece of cardboard
  • Iron
  • T-Shirt of your choice
  • Fabric paint of your choice

 

  • First, I had to get my children to sit still long enough for me to snap a photo of them. My daughter just barely cooperated! When taking photos for silhouettes, there are a couple of things to remember. Don’t cut off any body parts. The silhouette will look strange if your child is missing a hand or foot! Make sure your children aren’t holding their hands in front of their bodies, or the silhouette will look weird, too. The biggest rule is to try to look at the photo as if it were a silhouette. Does it look good that way??? Then use it! Here’s the photo I used (don’t they look so thrilled to pose for me?): 

                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • After you’ve snapped a photo that you’re pleased with, load it onto your computer and print it off on regular computer paper. Photo paper is too thick for the next step. For my shirt, I cropped the photo down as much as possible, and then selected a 5×7″ print size.
  • Find a fairly sunny window and tape the printed photo onto the glass. Tear off a comparable-sized sheet of freezer paper and tape it on top of the photo in the window, shiny side down (you’ll be drawing on the dull side). Make sure to tape it down flat, or your freezer paper will move around, and you’ll end up with a very funky silhouette! Use a pen (or pencil, if you’re more comfortable) to trace your child’s silhouette. Take your time to make sure you get it right. Trust me, you want to be slow and steady for this job! Here’s what my children’s silhouette’s looked like, after tracing:

  • Now, you’ll need to use your X-Acto knife to cut out the silhouettes. Place the freezer paper on your old magazine or cardboard now, because you X-Acto knives are very sharp and will cut through the table underneath! When cutting, pay extra attention to detail and, once again go slowly! If you have any spots (between arms or fingers, especially) that will need to remain the same color as the T-Shirt, don’t forget to save them! For example, look at the left side of my children’s silhouettes. See that little space between my daughter’s side and her arm? I saved the small piece of freezer paper I cut out there, because the silhouette wouldn’t look as good without it.
  • Once you’ve cut out the silhouette, it’s time to adhere your stencil to your shirt. Place the shirt on a flat, heatproof surface. Plug in your iron and smooth out any wrinkles. Now, place the stencil in wherever you want it. Make sure to place the stencil shiny side down, or it will stick to the iron instead of your shirt! Once your stencil is situated, it’s time to iron it, which will cause it to stick to the shirt. Make sure you get all the edges. I’ve found that about 20-30 seconds is usually enough ironing. If you have any small pieces of freezer paper saved (such as the space between my daughter’s arm and her side), place them on now (shiny side down) and iron until they stick.
  • Next, tear off another sheet of freezer paper that’s slightly larger than the stencil. Place this new sheet inside the shirt, shiny side up. This will keep the paint from running through onto the back of your shirt. Now, iron the shirt once again, so the two freezer paper layers will stick in place.
  • Paint a thin layer of your chosen paint over the stencil. Use just enough to get an even layer. Too much paint will result in a sloppy-looking stencil. Here’s what my stencil looked like, after painting:

  • Wait several hours (over night is best!) before peeling the stencil off. This may be the hardest part, but it’s worth it! Removing the stencil before the paint is totally dry might ruin the whole thing!
  • After several hours (or over night), peel the freezer paper off. Tweezers are helpful to remove small pieces. If your paint has any special instructions (iron to set, etc.), now would be time to follow those instructions. Here’s what my finished stencil looked like:

  • Enjoy your unique keepsake T-shirt. I really feel that mine is priceless. I’m going to wear it all the time, even when my kids are teenagers and are mortified!! Here’s another look at my finished T-shirt:

 If you’d like to share your how-to knowledge and have a chance to win a $30 Amazon gift card, check out the Group Writing Project, hosted by An Island Life.

Over the weekend, we went camping for the first time as a family. Since our kids are five and two, we figured it was as good a time as ever to try it out. It was a lot of fun, but very tiring and quite stressful at times. I discovered that my son might just be a pyromaniac, and dealt with my daughter asking embarassing questions: “Why doesn’t that man have a shirt on?” or “Why is she doing that?”

We didn’t plan ahead enough. We didn’t make reservations, so we ended up with one of the worst camping spots in the whole park. Next time, we’ll make reservations in advance, so we can have a spot close to the good bathroom and playground, and away from the road (essential when you have a two-year-old who is potty-training, and who also tries to escape at a moment’s notice).

Overall, though, we had a very nice time. Here are the photos to prove it:

Here are the sweet puppies. Sammie (black & white) doesn’t leave home much, so she was rather stressed, but she did okay.

 

My son is really into helping his dad and doing “man stuff.” Here are the “men” setting up the tent:

My daughter also wanted to help, mostly by trying to step on the tent as the boys were setting it up! Here’s Daddy telling her to cut it out:

My kids had the most fun playing in the tent:

They also had fun playing with the Cohhlan’s Micro Lantern. This nifty little light is ASTOUNDINGLY bright, and it clips on to a child’s belt loop or shirt, perfect for little ones who like to slip away in the dark! Here are some pics:

Overall, it was fun, and I look forward to camping again, but not TOO soon! :)

What has your family been up to this summer?

 

My son is so creative with the blocks! He spends hours putting them together. He used to get upset when I asked him to take his creations apart so that I could have my kitchen floor back, but we have come up with a system that works: I take pictures of his finished creations, so he can look at them whenever he wants. That makes all the difference! After I took this photo, my children gleefully smashed this spaceship apart with a plastic bat!

Yesterday, I blogged about Amanda Blake Soule’s Book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections (Trumpeter, 2008). If you’d like to see another project I tried out of her book, click here.

My kids, especially my son, are always drawing and painting! It’s so much fun watching their creations emerge, but this creativity leaves me with a big problem: I have little papers bursting out of several kitchen drawers, my son’s trapper keeper, on my fridge; I feel like I’m swimming in bits of paper up to my ears! So I was thrilled when I got hold of The Creative Family, because there’s a section in there about what to do with kids’ artwork. I’m definitely going to try the awesome idea of embroidering one of my son’s drawings onto a pillow, but in the meantime, I need a place where my children can display their artwork easily and cost-effectively.

Recently, I decided to try making a simple Art Wire, as Ms. Soule explains in her book. I love it, and my kids really love it! I made two wires, so they can hang their artwork up by themselves, and since there are two wires, each one is designated to one certain child, which (I hope) will prevent squabbling. Here are my kids’ art wires:

Here’s an up-close photo:

 

Here’s my daughter, admiring her artwork:

Wednesdays can be yucky. Sandwiched between weekends, Wednesdays are just another day to slog through before you can have fun and relax again. There is no better time for a change of pace, a quick pick-me-up to get the second half of your week off to a great start!

Today, why don’t you make plans to go somewhere you’ve been wanting to go for a really long time? That’s what we did last week, and it was wonderful!

My husband took the last six days off work. The original plan was to drive to South Dakota and have our first “real” vacation, but when gas prices rose and rose, that plan was nixed. We thought about visiting my husband’s grandparents, but gas prices rose to $3.98, and that plan was also cancelled. So, we decided to go camping at a local state park. Unfortunately, we were slammed with thunderstorms and torrential rain almost every day of the vacation! We didn’t get to go camping, but did take a day trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. It was the one fun thing we got to do on our “vacation,” and the kids loved it! I’d been wanting to take them there for so long, and it was well worth the trip!

If you’ve never been to the Henry Doorly Zoo, I highly recommend it! It’s one of the top zoos in the nation, and it has an indoor rainforest, an aquarium with a tunnel where  you walk right beneath sharks and rays, an indoor desert, and much, much more!

My favorite has always been the rainforest. It’s amazing! Here’s the biggest indoor waterfall:

Here’s one of me and the kids on the “rickety bridge.” (Be kind! I was up at five in the morning that day!!)

Here are the kiddos behind the waterfall. (I stencilled their shirts myself!):

Here is my son pointing out the “cave drawings” in the desert dome:

There were TONS of animals to see, but unfortunately I was only able to get a few really good pictures. I spent most of my time running after the kiddos, trying to make sure they didn’t wander off! By the end of the day, I was BUSHED!

Here is a Fairy Bluebird from the Rainforest. It has the most beautiful song!:

Here’s a shot of the underwater tunnel in the aquarium (Awesome, isn’t it?):

Here are some jellyfish. The have them in a great big glass column that reaches from floor to ceiling:

All the bears were sleeping and almost all of the cats in the Cat House were asleep! My husband got this shot when the tiger opened his eyes for a second, then rolled over and went back to sleep:

The only cat that wasn’t lethargic was this leopard. It was staring at a fixed point (I think it’s reflection), and if you stood in just the right place, it looked like it was staring at you:

 What a whirlwind day! The kids loved the zoo, and before we’d even left, my son was asking when we could go again! It’s a bit too far of a drive to make often, but I’m glad we went. It was wonderful, and I feel like we at least got a mini vacation.

Are you going on vacation this year? If so, where?

 

 

I’ve written previously about how I want to be one of those mamas who whips up fun handmade stuff for her kids. I want my kids to remember me as a fun mom, and one who was capable of making some pretty cool stuff! I think I did myself justice this week, by making super hero capes for my children! Does it get any more fun than this??

I posted previously about the great tutorials on Sew Mama Sew. Well, that’s where I found this Super Cape Tutorial. Then, I made simple freezer paper stencils on the back, and viola! My children became super heroes!

Here are some pics of the stencilled parts:

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.