Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Have I been working on bags? Well… yes and no….

The daughter of a close friend is having her fourth birthday party tomorrow. And this week, after breathing a sigh of relief about my mom’s union and the stores reaching a tentative deal (rank and file still need to vote on it for it to be finalized), I got on my Own Bad Self and working on those dratted Projects.

Hat progress: Looks like ripping to the smaller crown size may have made the difference. Yay! It looks less like a watermelon cozy, and fits Preschool Rockstar’s head snugly.







Housecoat: The piece doesn’t QUITE match, but right now I’m at the point of not caring. It’s not a very big piece, and it’s on the back of the neck. It’s close enough for govt work. Snaps, hemming, and trimming all the bits of thread are all that needs doing before it’s wearable. I’ll get a better picture of it once it’s done, maybe explain why I’m making this. (SAPPY POST WARNING!)






And now, for the fun. Here’s one of the presents. A little girl’s apron/smock made from Simplicity #3802. Worked up rather quick and Preschool Rockstar already wants one for herself. main fabric body is denim that has wee butterflies embroidered randomly on it (the fabric came like that. I’m not THAT fast with the needle). The pocket is a cotton piece that has multicolored butterflies. The white banding and ties in the back are from purchased bias tape.

I also made this knapsack from Prudent Baby’s wonderful instructions. I really try to keep away from disposable wrapping– and utilizing a gift as the wrapping can be awesome too. All the fabrics are from my stash (knapsack made from cotton print, the ribbon is some christmas trim I had been holding onto for stuff like this).






I loved how the ends of the drawstring is anchored on the bottom corners of the bag. Preschool Rockstar will be getting a similar one as well. oh, and because I’m paranoid, I used a little Fray-check on the ends of the ribbon after I sewed and trimmed. It is quite a roomy pack for a child, and maybe just a little bigger, and out of ripstop nylon, can be a great swimbag for the summer. Make it out of canvas and some twill strapping? A durable book or craftbag.

I also threw in the new Shel Silverstein book, because that’s how I roll– books are an essential present. Toys may break, clothes may be outgrown, but books open up the mind and the future.

I hope you have a grand weekend!

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When I was in school (lo these many years ago, when I walked five miles, uphill both ways, in the blizzards since my dad took the dinosaur to work) math and science and all that WAS SO BOOOORING. And had NOTHING to do with The Real World; when am I ever going to need to know the genus of a fruit fly? Who the hell cares where two trains are going to meet when one’s going 70 mph and the other is going 80? Cursive exercises of page after page after page of letters to be practised: I was singled out, since my handwriting sucked, to be tortured to do extra work (not that I’m bitter over this AT ALL as I’m typing this out). I found it interesting that the format didn’t change much for the better, even as I took teaching classes where we explored ways to make kids see what they are being taught can be translated into the real world. It’s the age-old paradox; you want to expose children to a variety of topics to keep their future options open and help them discover areas which they can excel at; the kids don’t see how this can relate to them NOW and so they could care less.

So how can we get beyond “drill till you die”? Here’s a couple of ways to help bring the learning out of the class (NOTE: I may work up how to make playtime a teachable opportunity. I just have seen many excellent online resources for this already that I want to touch on other things):

 COOKING: Everyone should learn to cook, in my not-so-humble opinion. I’m not talking about haute cuisine, either; I’m talking about learning the basics so that when the kids are out of the house, they can fend for themselves. Cooking can be introduced early, like in infancy. Put the baby carrier in a safe place in the kitchen, and talk through what you are doing with the baby (language development). When they get mobile, tupperware (or its equivalent) makes for fun toys, and they learn about spatial relationships by nesting and stacking different containers. Wood spoon on tupperware and pots? Music and rhythm, as well as learning about different surfaces having different sounds. As they get older, you can also talk about the recipes and have them help you out (a two-year old can help you put the chocolate chips into the cookie dough. TRUST ME, they’ll want to help you do this). Different measuring cups equals fractions. Four of the quarter-cups equals one of the cups. three teaspoons equal a tablespoon. Have the kids help you double and halve recipes (hey, if we are making a double batch of cookie dough, and the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, how much sugar are we going to need?) I have an awesome set of Pyrex measuring cups that are one, two, and four cup size– when we do this exercise I have Preschool Rockstar measure ingredients with the small cups and put them into the larger cups so she can see how much total we have. We also talk about the chemical reactions– melting butter turns a solid into a liquid. Boiling water is temperatures and also liquid to gas. Why cutting the carrots will help them cook faster. Eldest Daughter’s at the point where she’s cooking a meal a week, and she’s learning the finer points of menu planning for nutrition, comparison shopping (get to that in a minute), and time management. Another way to use cooking is recipes– what is a family favorite? What sorts of ethnic cuisine do you like to make? What kinds of foods do other people eat? What did people in history eat and drink? There are some pretty cheap and easy cookbooks out that talk about what the pioneers had, what colonial people ate, et cetera. Explore history through their tummies!

SHOPPING: Yes, I know, it can be hard. I have a toddler that doesn’t like to stay in the cart as well as a preschooler who likes EVERY SINGLE THING WE MUST GET THEM NOW. But there are ways to distract the kids and have a good lesson in at the same time. Have the kids identify colors with a modified I Spy game (I spy with my little eye… a yellow fruit!). Have them identify different fruits and vegetables. Ask them to help weigh the foods. Point out sales, have them work out the unit price and if the larger size is necessarily the better price. Start teenagers (and preteens) thinking about budget by giving them the sales ads and letting them try to plan a week’s worth of meals for a preset amount of money (and tell them a steak dinner and six nights of ramen don’t count). Talk about how things were like when you were a kid– did you have supermarkets like this back then? How did your mom and dad do the grocery shopping? If you coupon, have the kids go through the coupons: Younger kids can identify letters and numbers, older ones can help categorize them. Clothes/toys/back to school shopping: Again, have the older kids work with a budget. I’m a cheap woman and one of the things I’ve done was when the older two would ask for some big-budget item (designer clothes, what have you) I would take them to the store, and have them note the item’s price and we take it with us. I then would get items that may not have the designer label, but were comparable to the look, and I showed them how much they can get vs the one outfit/garment that “everyone in the whole world is wearing except for meeeeEEEEEEeeeee!” as well as counteract the deluge of ads that are hitting the airwaves now for the Gifting Season.

Other chores and activities can help open up the world. Whether you have acres of land or a small little windowbox, gardening can open up the subjects of botany, astronomy, geography, chemistry, biology, history (especially if you take the opportunity to play with heirloom varieties), mathematics, and help critical thinking skills. Laundry can help with chemistry, and with physics (if nothing else, it’d certainly lighten your load!).

Last, but certainly NOT least on this partial list, is communication. Talk to your kids. Engage them, work to be interested in what they are doing in school and help them find the connections in life. Talk to them about what you might be doing– working on a meal plan, trying to balance the checkbook, repairing bits and bobs of life, whatever. If your children see and experience that their education is important to you then they will be much more willing to learn and not see it as “stupid stuff that I’m never gonna use.” And if the kids need help with homework and it’s beyond your understanding… be honest, and see if together you both can find the answer online, or even with the teacher (many teachers are open for email, and would rather have a parent come up to them and say, “hey, what can we do to help son/daughter with this subject because I don’t really get it either” then have the kid stop trying).

Hopefully you’ve gotten a couple of ideas from this post. This is just scratching the surface– if you have any ideas, please feel free to share!

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It’s been a rather emotional weekend, full of ups and downs.

Mom works for a national grocery chain. Right now the union that oversees her job is negotiating with the store bigwigs over things like wages, health insurance, and the like. Friday evening they canceled their agreement to extend the old contract– so in essence, the workers are at this moment not working under a contract, and a strike can be called at any time should the negotiations break down again (which was why they canceled the extension in the first place). As of this writing, they are still talking, which is positive… no real updates, but I’m flying with the “no news is good news” route. Still nerve-racking, but better than the alternative.

And Friday’s non-post was due to Projects That Do NOT Want To Be Made. Many crafters have wrestled with this beastie– whether it be sewing, knitting, or whathave you… the project that takes FOREVER and causes aggravation and dismay. Well, the planets aligned here at Squirrelhaus where most everything decided that it would be fun to instill gobs of frustration into the normal bit of insanity.

Like… the crocheted hat I’m trying to make for Preschool Rockstar to give her a little variety in her chapeau selection. I don’t know what in the world’s going on, but it’s turning out BIG. I’ve already had to frog once, and it’s still coming out roomy (and this is supposed to hug the head). It’s time to frog again, rip it down to a smaller crown and try it again before I reduce hook size.

And then… the housecoat. I’m plodding along, pinking the seams, fighting the blind hem function (which I have mastered! hahahaha!), when the project comes to a screeching halt, due to the fact that one of the pattern pieces has disappeared into the ether. Which wasn’t a total loss since I tend to copy patterns onto interfacing (more durable, and I can make modifications and notations onto it) so I have the original pattern. But the fabric… not so much. And this is a piece that’s going to be seen rather than a lining piece which can have a substitution of a solid color fabric. So that entailed a trip to the fabric store, and the fabric’s being washed now.

I have a third project that I’m working on for a friend, which still needs iron-on numbers of a certain type that I’m trying to find with little to no luck. And this can be trying enough… but on top of having very little time to devote to these projects makes the snafus and the fubars all that more pronounced. It’s doubly frustrating to realize that I need to rip out several rows of crocheting when it took me three nights to get that far. It’s nearly time to break down into tears when a toddler’s insisting  you read them Good Night Moon for the FIFTH TIME IN A ROW and all you want to do is try to sew in one damn sleeve. 

But within the crazy, some fun can be had which keeps life in balance. Last Saturday we had an opportunity to go to an event held by a local organization that put together a temporary drive in movie theater. There were some neat food trucks, and a Roller Derby team raised money and awareness for their group by acting like car hops– you let them know what you wanted, and they would go to the trucks (or several of the local joints by the parking lot) and get it for you. It was nice to have the younger two (Eldest Daughter was with her biological father last weekend) in their jammies, the van set up so we could sit with the girls and watch the movie (Ferris Beuller’s Day Off– which was sorta unfortunate since a cable station was also showing the same movie THAT DAY). It seemed to be a success; the organizers are talking about having another one. I think we shall attend!

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Recently a lady posted on a Facebook group I belong to, about how they recently moved (a very good thing) and were getting the kids set up in school… and found out her daughter was two FULL GRADES behind in science (which was not her fault; and many parents who have moved have had this fun discovery) and would have to take a test at the end of the year. She needed resources to help her get her sweetheart up to her current grade.

First things first. Every state, despite No Child Left Behind, has their own set of standards as to what every child should know in each subject by grade. Some, like California, are above and beyond what NCLB call for, while other states may still be lagging (and sadly, families that move may get the brunt of that discrepancy). I honestly feel every parent should know what their kids are supposed to be learning, and it’s not even that hard to find out; go to your favorite search engine, type in your state’s name along with state standards for the subject you are looking for. Many states have them on websites, either on the webpage itself or in a pdf format.

Today’s post will concentrate on science again, but this will be for the older elementary set. Many of these sites also give supplemental information/activities for parents and teachers so you can expand on the lesson or casually see how the information’s sinking in.

PBS Kids ZOOM! This has a little something for everyone, with tons of different experiments for different subjects. Children can learn while doing.

Utah Education Network Science grades 3-6— bells and whistles galore (you’ll need flash, shockwave and java to fully utilize the site. Basically a site for home, not for a smart phone). Lots of interactive games and lessons by grade, and seems to introduce concepts and lessons in a fairly entertaining manner.

National Geographic Kids!— a good natural sciences site that can really appeal to the grades 2-6 set. The magazine that’s tied to the website’s pretty nifty too. Another website/mag combo is Ranger Rick.

As before, check your local area for museums, zoos and other such locations. Many offer special exhibits at different times, and sometimes offer unique member-only opportunities; plus your money provides much-needed funds and usually will give you free or discounted membership for a year. Not so bad if you are able to go multiple times and it does give you a place to go when the kids are climbing the walls out of boredom.

Another place to go is the park system. Your child can become a Junior Ranger (hey, I was one!) and learn about the history and the nature that is not so far from the computer screen. During the summer they also offer a program where the kids can go to the park, talk to a ranger or do a little activity and be rewarded with a patch specific to the park you’ve visited. Pretty neato, if you ask me…

Hopefully this can help get you and the young ones excited, motivated, and raring to go. And if you have any other resources that you would be willing to share, I would totally appreciated it if you could leave a comment!

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Running to Stand Still…

I don’t think Hubs and I would make it on The Amazing Race.

Which is sad, because out of all the reality TV dreck, I kinda like The Amazing Race. I love the premise that you go around the world, doing challenges that are… sorta… related to the area’s cultures/traditions/what seems to freak the mundanes. You have to get by on your wits and whatever resources you may have, whether given or brought to the game by you and your partner. And while I’m sure there’s a fair amount of editing to make people seem more likable/douchecanoe-y, it doesn’t feel as piled on as some others. We have talked about how it would be fun to try to be on. How this might be a helluva way to see the world.

But today. Oy, today. One of the things that really work with us is when there’s an emergancy, we both get into a zen-like calm, and work together to solve whatever crisis is going on. Time to fall apart and freak can be later, we deal. But if it’s not a life and death thing?

Our house is an older home, built in the postwar holy-crap-we-got-to-house-all-the-soldiers-and-their-families 40s. The home was renovated slightly– the original homeowner thought himself quite the handyman, and before my mom and dad bought the house it was worked on. We’ve done some remodeling (one awesome experience and one that should have been featured on Holmes on Homes). The kitchen wasn’t really touched aside from having to replacing bits and bobs. The majority of it is still from the 40s, and we are constantly running into problems in a world where not many things are made for a house that is either too old for the modern crap, or too new for the restoration/vintage crap. We constantly are having to make do. One of the things we did was use some shelves that my dad had put up lo these many years ago as a sort of dry pantry/storage area for my baking ingredients.

A couple of days ago, Mom and I were talking, and she discovers that the shelves were in a slow state of collapse. We were able to rescue the goods (yay team us!) but the braces were toast; as a stopgap measure until we can really afford to get a remodel (or… somehow have one gifted to us!) we deicided to get the heavy-duty shelves to put up on the wall. HOW HARD CAN IT BE, REALLY???

Through this Project That Won’t Die, we discovered a few things, like…We knew the walls aren’t really drywall but a sort of plaster-esque substance. What we didn’t know was how brittle it was getting. Oh, and our fancy-dancy stud finder? Couldn’t find a damn beam even if it was right on top of the blasted thing; my drill, on the other hand, was able to find the stud JUST FINE… while we were using the drill bit sized for the anchor, which was too large for the screw that came with the plastic bits of crap that we needed to use as anchors. Our hammers, an essential tool so we could pound the anchors into the wall, apparently have all grown legs and walked off to parts unknown, leaving a small worthless PoS hammer that couldn’t pound sand, and a mallet that ended up bouncing from the impact and nearly banging Hubs in the head several times.

We started this with Preschool Rockstar asleep and my mom rocking Toddler Terrorist, praying that we could get this done. Nope, Rockstar woke up and was in Weepy Clingy mode. I tried to distract her with a show but then she kept screaming questions about what was going on, which was distracting, which also resulted in Hubs putting his thumb through the brittle plaster. He was snapping at me, I was snapping right back, and Rockstar was asking more questions about Disneyland Resorts which we couldn’t answer because we were a little busy not trying to kill each other. I got her in her room with crayons and a princess coloring book, so that was better (even though she would come out every other minute wanting me to color Sleeping Beauty pink, wanting me to rip the page out of the book, wantingwantingwanting).

The wall braces are on, and they mostly cover the holes (yes, plural) that were put in while trying to get the damndable anchors in. We start with the shelves; My idea was that, since you have to screw the shelf onto the shelf supports, we would hook the supports on the braces, screw the shelf on, and then move it where we need it to go. That’s when we found out… one of the braces was installed 1/16″ lower then the other two. Technically they were level… but spaced in such a way that the shelf, once screwed on, would pretty much be locked in place. Kinda the opposite of the problem we had with the previous set. More RAWRing ensued, with bonus stomping around by us!

Hubs: “well, I hope you like where that shelf is… BECAUSE I CAN’T MOVE IT.”

Me: “let me see what’s going on.”

Hubs: “IT’S NOT MOVING. You are WELCOME TO TRY, but it’s locked in place.”

Me: (pissed off after about five minutes of futzing, I removed the shelf): “IT’S OFF!”

Hubs stomped back in, still frustrated, and tried to put the shelf up again. He ended up having to take the screws out, reposition the supports, and put the screws in.

After the second shelf, we’ve ruined the screw bit on my drill, Hubs’ drill battery isn’t charging, and the wee auto-screwdriver he was resorting to use fell behind the cabinets under where the shelves are put up. We were tired, both drenched in sweat, and my husband kept asking where the hell Bear Sheva was. That’s when I realized that within three episodes of The Amazing Race, we would end up like one of those teams that would be screaming at each other, possibly me saying screw it, quit the contest and find a decent hotel with a jacuzzi and room service that brings the booze in cases instead of by the glass.

I still need to put the last two shelves on. And maybe figure out a way to get that kitchen remodel sooner then planned… Happy Labor Day!

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Sorry that there’s no tutorial for this Friday. This week has been Medical week, with running about making and going to appointments for all three kids, with the added fun of tracking medical records for schools and the like.

On the bright side, a persistent ear infection that Preschool Rockstar’s been battling seems to be gone for the time being. We were worried as the doctor was pushing for tubes (and she wouldn’t be able to swim with tubes inserted. My girls LOVE the water. This would be A Big Problem). We also found out she has an array of allergies, but they are something we are working on getting down. Some of them, like animal dander, are semi-easy to avoid altogether or be able to circumvent. Others, like the native plants she can’t tolerate… we try to deal with as best we can. Hopefully she’s also been able to build a good Herd Immunity on her first year of Preschool, and this year won’t be rife with illness (and I’ve probably had Murphy laugh hard on that one, didn’t I?).

On the bummer side, Toddler Terrorist has a slight case of anemia, so I have to up her iron levels and take her in for another blood draw around my birthday this month. I’m hoping my present will be that her red blood cell count will be normal. I’m good with that.

So instead of a half-baked tutorial, I’ll throw a few things up that I’m working/will be working on. Especially when the older two girls go to school. Not that I don’t love having them around but… well, there you go.

Birthday Banner— yes, it’s another tutorial. I did something similar for the girls, but I want to make one that’s reversible, with HAPPY HARVEST! on one side and HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the other to celebrate the fall birthdays. And maybe a few for other holidays. I already made one for the girls; that one I’ll have to put up for a picture.

Another Housecoat— I finished my first one last week and I love it. I need to get a DECENT picture (hated the ones I tried to take) so I can showcase the squirrel material I used. The pattern was pretty straightforward, and good instructions were included.

We are in the home stretch for turning Eldest Daughter’s room into her Moroccan Mecca (or some facsimile) as the primer’s getting on the walls. It might not get done by the time she goes to school, but it’s nearly there. I also have wall decals to put up for the younger set’s room as well as a bi-fold door to set into their closet instead of the regular door that came with the house.

That’s about it. There’s a holiday weekend, so Hubs is off work. Enjoy your day, your weekend, your holiday if you are celebrating. I’ll hopefully have an actual tutorial next week.

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As we know, a lot of the schools are hot hard by budget cuts, by having to allocate time and attention to the subjects that need to be taught for the state test standards, and… well, some teachers are strong in some areas and weak in others.

But many times, it’s easy to have “teachable” moments, whether it’s a matter of reading a book, taking a walk, or gently directing play into a specific action or toy. Here’s a few ways to get the wee ones interested in science, and see the awesome that is in the everyday:

*Take a walk through the neighborhood. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has noticable seasons, talk to your budding scientist about the differences around you (and if you are like me where there’s no real difference, talk about how the seasons change), and see if they can notice what’s different; the sun is setting earlier, the leaves are falling, et cetra. This gives you bonding time as well as help your kids build their observation skills. Another awesome activity on our to-do list is to go to our local nature center; there they have a great one mile hiking trail that’s pretty level, and it will give both Preschool Rockstar and Toddler Terrorist a chance to check out the plants, and animals if they are quiet enough.

*When out and about, have the kids collect neat leaves they might like. Talk about what trees they came from, why the leaves might have turned colors and fall off the branches. After you have collected a neat portion, press them between two pieces of paper and under some heavy books for three to four days. Then take a section of wax paper, lay it down on your ironing surface and have your little one arrange their leaves on it (leave at least an inch around the edge empty– and best to have each leaf have a little space). When the kids are happy with the leaves, take another section of wax paper, put that on top of the leaves, and quickly press the two sheets together with the iron (I would probably also put a towel under just in case, but I’m paranoid). Now you have an awesome collection to hang on the wall, or in the window, and the kids have a great way to display their knowledge of their local area.

*Tell the story of Johnny Appleseed (since apples will start to come into season). There are also some neat Native American legends. Many cultures also have their explanations and stories; see if you can work a few for your kids.

*Since it’s still pretty hot right now (and for us, we won’t begin any real cool-down till at LEAST mid-October, if that), I was going to teach Preschool Rockstar about evaporation and the different properties of water by making a saltwater still.

*Toddler Terrorist is almost old enough for play-dough, which makes me a little excited. There’s a TON of recipes on the web for home-made varieties (some a little more edible then others, some a little more shelf-stable then others). With play dough you can explore textures, shapes, even squish primary colors together and show how they can make the secondary colors. There’s lots of imaginary play that can also happen, so as you can tell I’m super-happy. When they are a little older (and a little less apt to put the stuff in their mouths), we can play with Gloop.

*Also look in the area for cultural events that are free or not so much money. This coming weekend the Greek Orthodox church in our area is having a festival. There’s also a Hawaiian Hula and Chant contest if we aren’t feeling up for the Greek thing. Later on there will be harvest festivals and the like.

Hopefully this will help you have a few ideas on what to do with kidlets in your life, and hopefully you can experience the world through their eyes– which is humbling, and wonderful, and incredible.

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