Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Craft time

It's been craft time at our house for the last few days. Usually I have the motivation to do, on average, one craft a week with my boys. Creative activities take time to organize, make a lot of mess and generally cause a lot of chaos in the creation process. Many days I'm not up to it. 

A new Web site I found,, has ramped up my motivation to one project a day for the last four days. The site takes the hassle out of organizing craft time for me. It is written by Amy Friedel, another stay-at-home mom who has children of similar ages to my own. She has an early education degree, several years of teaching under her belt and an extensive knowledge of other online sites and blogs that adds to her inspiration. She has a keen eye for a good deal - anything that needs to be bought is usually inexpensive and easy to find in stores, and a lot of her ideas just require items that can be found around the house. All-in-all, a winning combination for me.

This week, we turned old crayons into new, studied the alphabet and used our new crayons with alphabet coloring pages, and practiced some motor skills making fluffy little bunnies. The kids have been having a great time.

First we had to peel the crayons.

Then we broke them in bits, separated the colors and put them in metal cans. We melted them in the oven at 250 F for 15-20 minutes.

We poured one color at a time into the molds. We let each layer set up a bit before adding the next. I only pulled one can out of the oven at a time, so every color stayed fluid until ready to use.

After letting them cool and harden at room temperature, this was the result. 

Little Bunny Foo Foo:
I printed the bunny pattern I got off the link from

The boys practiced their motor skills by trying to cut out the bunny. I had to help a little to make sure all bunny appendages stayed in tact!

They colored the bunnies using their new crayons, then used glue to affix the cotton balls.

End result: Little Bunny Foo Foo (upside-down)!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

If Earth went up and Heaven came down

Sometimes I wonder how much of what I teach my children is actually sinking in. My two oldest sons have a fascination with Heaven, God and Santa Claus. I've had many conversations with them explaining the difference between God and Santa Claus and where Heaven is. 

I'm not quite ready to disillusion them with the truth about Santa Claus. As far as they know, Santa Claus is at the North Pole. Thanks to "The Polar Express," they know the North Pole is at the top of Earth. They think they can take a train to get there. 

Seeing a physical representation of Santa at the mall has given them a tangible reference for the commercialized symbol of Christmas. Their little minds are searching for the same kind of reference for God.

They understand God is in Heaven. Trying to explain where Heaven is and how to get there, is a lot more difficult. My best answer to date is that Heaven is above the stars in the sky, and people go there when they die. We've had brief, lighthearted discussions about how people get to Heaven and what they'll see when they get there. I'm trying to instill in them the idea that death isn't something to fear. It's just the journey that has to be made to get to the wonderful place where God resides. They seem to be satisfied with that. 

Recently, God came up in conversation with my middle son. This time, however, the context took me by surprise. My 4-year-old asked me if he could die that day. Trying to hide my surprise at such an odd question, I told him no, he has a lot of living to do yet. Then I asked him why did he want to die? He replied, "I want to give God a hug. I so love Him, Mom." 

After I reassured him that God loves him too, my little boy asked me if Santa was at home at the top of Earth right now, and if Earth went up and Heaven came down, would God and Santa meet? If that happened, could we meet God at the North Pole with Santa? He was trying his best to find another way to give God a hug.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet compromise for Valentine's Day

I'm trying hard not to be a killjoy, but I can't help getting a little uptight when a sugar-filled holiday comes around. At Halloween, my boys get three buckets of candy just from trick-or-treating in our small neighborhood. They usually get to eat it at the rate of one piece a day, if that. It lasts them at least six months. 

I'm a little paranoid when it comes to healthy teeth and good eating habits. I inherited good genes when it comes to strong teeth. My husband, unfortunately, did not. Both of our families have histories of high cholesterol and heart disease. Since I do most of the cooking in my family, it falls to me to feed everyone healthy fare. Every sugar-laced holiday is in direct opposition to my goal. 

This Valentine's Day, to salve my mommy-guilt about feeding my kids junk, I'm giving them a new toothbrush to go with the candy. That's a good compromise, right?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cabin fever makes it hard to enjoy winter wonderland

Winter's mighty strength is nowhere near waning in my neck of the woods. According to this morning's forecast, more snow and colder temperatures are right around the corner. Cabin fever has officially settled in.

Yesterday I was so stir crazy, I bundled up my three young children and decided to do errands, despite the fact that my oldest didn't have school because of snow. Said snow had drifted the driveway shut, so while the boys waited in the van, I dug it out. After stowing the dratted shovel back in the garage, I gripped the steering wheel, gave myself a pep talk and attempted to back out. It took three tries. My shoveling skills leave a lot to be desired. Once safely out of the driveway, I was immediately faced with the next challenge: our street. Driving down it must be what it feels like to go off-roading in Alaska. While I gritted my teeth and tried to avoid the cars parked on the street, my boys squealed in delight over every bump and skid. My oldest actually asked me to go faster. 

My poor boys braved the bitter cold like it was one big adventure, while I muttered to myself about moving to a warmer climate. I'm hoping their enthusiasm gets them through the rest of the winter, because mine withered with the first cold-snap. Maybe a cup of hot chocolate would restore a little of my wonder at living in this winter-land ...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A must-have housecleaning tool

Anything that keeps me motivated and on task when it comes to keeping my house clean is a good thing. With three boys of my own, one husband and two day-care boys underfoot, my house can go from clean to dirty in five minutes flat. Which is why, when a friend told me about, I had to check it out.

My friend told me that for $8, I could download a year-long home-maintenance and cleaning chart that would help me get the house clean without feeling overwhelmed about it. I didn't really think that was possible. Just looking at the rooms in my house overwhelms me. She swore it was a miracle chart and that her house has never been so clean.

So I went to the Web site, looked it over and decided I would try it. It was definitely cheaper than hiring a maid, which I wish I had on a daily basis.

I paid my $8 and downloaded the weekly chart. It downloaded as a PDF file to my computer. The file contains 52 pages (one page per week), plus two blank menu-planning pages at the end. I can open the PDF document and print just the week I need. On the left side of each page is a list of simple chores I'm supposed to do daily. On the right side, it has each day of the week. Under each day, there is a small list of individualized chores to do for that day. Between the two lists, I'm hoping my house starts to sparkle in the next week.

This morning, I made three beds, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen sinks, cleaned the kitchen counters and table, dusted the living and dining rooms, and shook out the bathroom and kitchen rugs. All within 30 minutes. Tasks remaining on my list for today include cleaning the middle shelf in the refrigerator, sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor and wiping down the stove. The last task for today is scrapbooking or hobby time. I can't wait to get to that part.

So far, I'm liking the chart. I'm a list person by nature, but I'm not always the most organized. Sometimes it takes three drafts just to figure out a workable list for the day. I like to write my own lists of things to do and cross things off as I get them done. Sometimes I'll do a task, then add it to my list, just so I can cross it off. My lists serve as a visual reminder that I do more than wipe snotty noses, change dirty diapers and cater snacks and drinks to four hungry boys all day. This Motivated Moms chart seems like it will simplify and organize every chore and home-maintenance task for me, keeping me stress-free and the house ship-shape.

Now, off to clean that middle shelf in the fridge ...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How did I get here? Part 3

When reality hit at the beginning of my second year at home, we wondered how we could maintain our lifestyle. Cutting our expenses and simplifying our life didn't seem to be enough. There were too many unexpected financial burdens popping up. I put our worry on my prayer list. Then my husband and I considered another source of income. Should he get a second part-time job? Should I re-enter the work force?

Before we could solve the problem, my prayer request was answered. Enter: a long-lost friend from my distant past. She had discovered through a mutual friend that we were both now living in the same town. We grew up together in a town two hours away. My friend contacted me and wondered if I was interested in doing in-home day care. She and her husband weren't happy with the facility their children went to and were researching other options. She had heard through this mutual friend that I was now at home with my kids.

It was a solution that came out of the blue. I never considered myself to be babysitting material. As a young teenager, I spent one summer watching two little girls. When the parents asked me to do it again the next summer, I referred them to a friend. I had discovered I didn't have the good nature required to be a babysitter. As a youth, I found other means of income: from field labor to the food service industry to janitorial work. I preferred scraping gum off desks and cleaning toilets rather than watching other people's children. I never went back to babysitting again.

After a lot of debate, my husband and I decided it was worth a try. It would solve our income shortage and allow me to remain at home. My friend and I decided on a one-year trial.

That brings me to today. I'm in my second year of babysitting. I'm still not convinced I have the temperament for it, but I'm giving it my best shot. I've started this blog as a therapeutic coping mechanism. I've always kept a journal or diary in my private life, and in my former professional life I was a newspaper copy editor and columnist. I've decided to keep writing to save my sanity.

A day in the life of a babysitter

In one morning, one child got his foot stuck in the doorway of a Little People house, one Star Wars storm trooper went for an accidental swim in the toilet and several little faces were screwed up in anguish about having to eat some glazed cooked carrots for lunch. Who knew carrots with brown sugar and butter would be such torture to eat? The best part of the day: Four little boys snoring during their naps!