Tuesday, March 31, 2020

E-Learning and Working from Home...How to Keep it All Straight?! (+ Free Printables)

A collage of my day...

As I write this I'm being interrupted about every 10 minutes to fix tech issues, replace broken headphones, move a drum away from my conference-calling husband and into my son's room for his band class, get Schoology back up, email a pic of a project to a teacher, and calm my over-achiever who is on the verge of tears because on teacher's Zoom went long and now he's not as ahead as he wanted to be...whew!

This is a busy week for a lot of you juggling your kids getting back to school, and we're all in the same boat! Before I share how I'm trying to coordinate it all, I want to pause to make one point:

We are NOT "Homeschooling!"

I just want to say, in my house we are NOT HOMESCHOOLING!! We are SO incredibly fortunate that we have an amazing district with the technological resources and incredible teachers who have been working their butts off re-defining their jobs on the fly and orchestrating e-learning. I am not home schooling. My job is to referee my two boys, cheerlead, offer tech support, and make sure they are physically, mentally and emotionally well enough to focus when they need to. Hats off to our teachers who not only will be teaching OUR kids online, but have to also juggle their OWN kids' online learning at the same time, who many times are in different districts! And to my friends who home school for real...I know you also work your butts off figuring out curriculum and jumping through government hoops. You are amazing!! I will NEVER claim to be taking on either of your jobs! Thank you to our district, Westonka public schools, for everything you're doing for our kids this week, and making my job "easy," in the grand scheme of things!!

Organizing 4 Schedules in One Home

Okay, so I'm a huge organizer, and I like to have a plan for what's coming up. While I'm not a huge fan of the fact that there is no end in sight for all of this, I'm trying to focus on what I CAN control and plan for. Right now I need to organize four very different work days for:

  • My husband - who works for General Mills and is now working from home, needs a quiet place to work and do conference calls all day.
  • My 12 year old - who has a schedule lasting until lunch, including band (he's a drummer).
  • My 10 year old - who has a full day's school schedule lasting until 3:00, including zoom meetings throughout the day.
  • Myself - a small business owner who is normally used to working at home in my quiet office with everyone else gone for 6-7 hours of the day.

Conflicts we've identified early on are:
  • Simultaneous need for quiet for calls and noise for Band/music practice
  • Bandwidth issues with overlapping zoom calls and kids wanting to stream movies
  • Mom's sanity as she faces reality that her normal job of dropping everything to come to everyone else's aid is now a nearly 24/7 one.
In order to keep it all straight, I've created a giant white board schedule on the wall:

I had a roll of adhesive-backed white board paper, because I hoard these strange things from past projects. Hey, 'ya never know if you'll need it! My material hoarding has come in very handy many times just over the past couple weeks!

 I decided to use this little short bit of wall that juts out between our kitchen and living room, because it's really a central area we all walk by all day long, and it's easy to see from across the whole house. I covered it with adhesive-backed dry erase paper, and then used some thin masking tape to create a column for each member of the household. (To the left is a frame that used to hold a drawing, and now holds cork board and magnetic white board) I picked this spot because the wall sticks out and I can cover it edge to edge. If you're taping off a section of a flat wall, make sure to have some sort of frame or buffer zone on the edges...otherwise you may end up with dry erase marker dust smearing onto your wall. I think I can avoid this, but am fine with having to re-paint this little spot if needed when we're all back to normal!

I created a header and figured out what size space I had to make little 1/2 hour time block labels to fit on my wall. Here is a jpeg you are welcome to copy and print for yourself, if you have a space that works! Right click or option-click to download it and print from your computer:

I laminated this and cut them out, and stuck them up with poster putty. If you're using a magnetic white board, that's even better, you can use magnets instead!

I also created some little signs to stick on to mark when people have Zoom meetings, meals, activities, etc...and "No Netflix please" for when Dad is doing a video call, as we found Neflix and Zoom weren't playing well together on the same wifi! Here's a jpeg you can download and print for your own use, too! I may be adding more here as we discover the need for others!

I also used some skinnier scraps of the adhseive-backed dry erase paper, stuck to pieces of colored paper that stretches across all 4 of our columns, to create events that we are all involved in at the same time...like going for a walk together. I can write the activity on the white board paper, put it across all four of our columns during one time slot.

One of our spring break days when it was rainy, we made this little holder for our white board markers, signs and poster putty out of cardboard tubes & glue! I painted it white and let Toby decorate it. Heck, anything you can turn into a project is a plus right now!

So far this method has worked pretty well for the first day! I think I'll come up with a few more signs, and we have other things to tweak here & there to get all of our very different days to sync, but I think we're off to a good start.

What are YOU doing to keep track of all the conflicting schedules in your house? Please share your tips & tricks in the comments so we can all help and learn from each other!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Toilet Paper Still Life, & Other Fun Project Ideas!

My completed piece! Charcoal, marker, watercolor, acrylic, perler beads, pastel, collage, colored pencil and pencil.

I know, I haven't blogged here in a while! But now that nobody on the planet is holding events due to COVID-19, my face painting business has come to a screeching halt, which means I have some more time to share fun ideas with YOU, in between playing tech support for my boys' online schooling!

I thought I'd start with some fun projects I've been doing with my boys since we've started staying home a couple weeks ago!

I took the opportunity one day to have a little still life art lesson with my boys. They say art imitates life, so I figured, what better subject matter for the current times than...a roll of toilet paper?!

I put one of our priceless, coveted rolls of toilet paper on a pedestal on the kitchen table. (Don't worry, no TP was harmed or wasted in the making of this project!)

I cut up pieces of paper into 4" squares, which is...you guessed it...exactly the size of a sheet of toilet paper! Our goal was to create 9 renderings of a toilet paper roll, using 9 different mediums.  So, I cut up squares of drawing paper, watercolor paper, marker paper, and cardboard. I think the small paper size made this more fun and less intimidating....less space to fill so that they were motivated enough to keep doing more, and spreading it out over a couple days, we had a nice grid of 9 in the end.

This was really fun for me, too! My finished product you can see up above, the first pic in this post. Do this along WITH your kids! You might be surprised how much fun you'll have too!

Once we were done I spray mounted them on a piece of poster board. Don't they look cool in a nice, square grid? Kindof Andy Warhol-esque.

Here are some ideas for different mediums you can try:
  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolor paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Oil paint
  • Pencil
  • Charcoal
  • Pastels
  • Collage/paper
  • Ink/pens
  • Perler beads

For me it was really fun to dig out some of my art supplies that I haven't used since college! The boys learned about perspective, how circles turn into ellipses when viewed at an angle, shading cyllinders, and how to use fun tools they haven't used like kneaded erasers, eraser shields, different

Another thing we did last week was Perler Beads!! We have tons of these things and Sam had the great idea that we make honeycomb!! This is an easy way to get everyone involved in making one, larger project...since we have a couple bead trays in hexagon shapes, two of us can be making honeycomb cells at any given time. 

I made some parts for a bee while the boys did some comb too! This kept us busy for a whole day, and then some....I put them away when interest started to fade. We can easily get them back out another day and add on to our comb! Eventually I may glue them together to a board!

My boys are 10 and 12. If yours are too little for this kind of thing, here are a couple more fun ideas I saw on Facebook recently....

Even BABIES can create a masterpiece! Make sure you put something good underneath to protect your floor....sandwich some canvas or paper with blobs of acrylic on top, topped with some plastic wrap. What a fun idea!!

I loved this idea for combining art with enjoying a sunny day outside!

What kind of art projects are you and your kids doing to keep busy and have fun? Share in the comments!!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rock / Geology Themed Birthday Party!

Last December we had a party for Sam's 9th birthday, and being the rock hound he is, he of course wanted a ROCK theme!!  Despite the lack of rock themed party supplies available on the market, I definitely had fun with this one!!


I set up a couple activities on the kitchen table for the kids, although the grown-ups got into it as much as the kids did! There were supplies to make pet rocks (pipe cleaners, paint, google eyes, pom poms, glue), and I also found some cool rock themed line art online to print out for coloring sheets!  We had pages of fossils, crystals, giant agates to color and a maze! Every kid also got a little geode to bust open, which Dad helped with in the garage. ;-)

Pet rocks, coloring sheets, and break-your-own geode!
Some of the many rocks made that night!


I did get a front loader balloon, but they just don't have "rock" balloons out there!  Being from Minnesota, the pinata is a Lake Superior agate of course! That was a simple one to make...just your classic paper mache over a balloon.  I punched it in a few places to make indentations while it was still a little wet, then added more layers to make it dry that way, and painted. 

I made the big "9 Rocks" sign and little rocks with a sheet of fluorescent poster board and some black poster board from the dollar store.  For the "Rocks" I just sprayed some random spots with silver spray paint to get a rocky texture, and then cut out the letters.  All the scrap paper I just made rock shapes, and then taped them all around the house!


For the cake I made a gold pan dipped in the water.  This was a fun one...I had some shiny gold sprinkles, and also used some yellow rock candy for gold.  For special treats I found some rock candy on Amazon, some loose crystal rock candies, and some chocolate rock candies.  I got a set of sand shovels to use as scoopers.
Edible rocks!

Goodie Bags

I can't seem to find a pic of the goodie bags.  But, each bag had a geode to break, a few cool arrowheads, some fools gold, a rubber ball that looked like a rock, Pop Rocks, and a rock candy on a stick!

It was a really fun time, and a great theme...we have a lot of rock lovers in our family!!

The following month was Toby's art themed party, which I'll blog about next! Stay tuned! :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

IDMommy Project: Cardboard Robot Fun!

Toby & Sam with their cardboard robots!
Here's a SUPER easy and cheap activity to keep your kiddos entertained this summer on rainy days!!

When I was little my siblings and I used to make "robots" out of cardboard boxes.  I kept mine probably until I was in college...it was only maybe 10" tall and all decked out with a real antenna from a broken radio, and a red plastic calculator screen for the mouth. His name was Radar and I also installed a retractable tape measure that could pull out from his side!  My sister and I even made a larger model named Rodney, that we could fit inside the back of to make his arms move!

Years ago when Sam was maybe 3 or 4, I thought it would be fun to help him make a cardboard robot of his own.  He was into Curious George at the time and loved the "Yorbo" episode, so he decided to name his Yorbo.  I spray painted a cardboard box with silver paint, and the rest was up to him! (though I helped wield the X-acto knife when he needed a precise hole cut) We took a trip to AxMan, our local surplus store, and loaded up on cool random parts.
Our shopping trip to AxMan, and robot construction...

Now Sam is 8 and this year I thought we'd help his little brother Toby make one too.  Sam still has Yorbo and keeps adding more features to him! Toby now has two robots.  This is such a fun and simple project for kids, and one that you can be as involved or not involved in as you want.  You can spray paint a box and let them go wild, or help coming up with ideas! Once Grandpa found out about their robots, he started saving cool parts from his workshop for them to add as well!

Supplies & Where to Get Them:
This project can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.  All you really need is a cardboard box, glue, tape, scissors, and random stuff from the junk drawer.  A can of silver spray paint really makes them look cool to start with, but isn't required of course.

A trip to the surplus store can add up fast, but they have so much fun with this part, even if I limit their spending.  We got some cool metallic silver duct tape there which got completely used up very fast! They also got some fun buttons, switches and wires.

Don't want to spend money on parts? No problem!  Keep an eye out around your house or ask your friends if they have any broken electronics or toys around.  We had a broken remote control car they just wouldn't let me get rid of, until they started making robots, and then they were thrilled to dismantle it for parts! Win-win! When my printer died a few weeks ago, we all had fun taking it apart and finding many cool circuitboards.  (Of course you should help when dismantling things like this! Some electronics can be dangerous to open, not to mention messy with ink like this printer, so use caution!)

Garage sale FREE boxes are a treasure trove for robot builders!!  Last week my boys found 6 remote controls in a free box and were SO excited.  They now have cool rubber buttons and little circuit boards.

I had to do some robot face paintings too!
They now each have a plastic bin to hold their robot parts. You can make unlimited robots, but it's fun to keep adding features to one, especially if you don't want your whole house overrun with robots! ;-)

Need some Inspiration?
Rent or borrow a copy of the movie "Robots" to get your kids inspired! I was able to snag a brand new, unopened DVD of Robots at a garage sale for $0.50 and the boys love it. Or, show them this post and just start taking apart a broken toy or electronic! Once they get into it the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

St Patrick's Day Mischief!

We had some fun on St Patrick's day this year! I painted the boys up before they left for school...

Boys all painted for school!
Toby had complained of something in his eye that morning and I encouraged him to try to make tears to wash it out.  But, later that day I got a call from the school that he wasn't doing well with his eye and rubbing it a lot.  So, I had to go pick him up and run him to the doc.  They saw some scratching on his eye and gave us drops, which did end up clearing it all up by the next morning.  But, he was SO bummed to miss out on all the St Patrick's day fun at school!!  They always have a mischievous leprechaun visit their classrooms and wreak havoc.  His class had planned to make leprechaun traps that day.  So, in an effort to still make it a fun day, we stopped at Walgreens on the way home to pick up some chocolate coins as "bait," and made our own trap!
Building our trap! And the mysterious milk that turned green at lunch!

Whaddaya know, turns out the leprechaun did end up visiting our house during his nap, leaving evidence all over!

Darn, I knew I shouldn't have left my face paints out on the table...I guess I should have known that a leprechaun couldn't resist a rainbow cake, as he painted all over the windows!!

Unfortunately we didn't catch the little bugger, but we did manage to catch his shoe in the trap!!  Toby was pretty excited to bring the shoe back to school the next day to show his friends!

I don't normally plan anything for this holiday, except for wearing green.  But, Toby being stuck at home from school ended up turning it into a fun day!

I already had plans to attend a balloon "jam" (get-together for balloon twisters) that night with my oldest, Sam...so we had a lot of fun that night while Toby got a fun night with Dad!

I made a balloon hat for Sam!
This year, even though it involved a trip to the pediatrician and pharmacy, and I didn't get ANY work done, it turned out be a great day of one-on-one time with each of my boys!!

Hope you had some fun on St Patrick's day! 

Lego Birthday Party Ideas!

Well, I'm WAY behind on my blogging, but I thought I'd start catching up by sharing the not one, but TWO Lego themed birthday parties we had in our house, just 1 month apart!  When I heard that both of my boys wanted Lego parties, part of me thought, "great! I can re-use stuff!"  But then the other part still wanted to make each party unique and special in their own way.  So, I did do a mix of recycled decor and new stuff.  So, if you're looking for Lego ideas, you're definitely in the right place...here are TWO parties' worth of ideas!!

My little man, all painted up! I used this pic on his thank you cards. ;-)  (I'm also a professional face and body painter)

The Cakes

Sam's cake I sortof carved out of a sheet cake! I used some extra trimmings to make a couple loose Lego blocks, with matching M&M's on top!
Lego man cake

 For Toby's cake I decided to make a big Lego head! I just made two bundt cakes, and then realized it wasn't quite tall enough when I stacked them.  Luckily I had an extra sheet cake in the freezer, left over from Sam's birthday the month before (I though I'd need two but didn't).  So, I put a layer of that cake in the middle to give it more height.  Then I filled in the top hole and put a round piece on top to get that interlocking shape!

Lego Head cake
The Decorations

Our local dollar store didn't have anything Lego related, so I just got some primary colored, blank mylar balloons, and drew faces on the yellow ones!

We have these metal beverage tubs that have gotten a ton of mileage at our parties, and always are able to take on the theme of the day! Just some black construction paper turned the yellow one into a Lego face:
beverage tub with black construction paper taped on

I have a sweet friend who gave me her Lego garland pieces, which were designed to hang on a little clothesline.  I taped them around the walls and doors instead, and they looked cute scattered around the house. Here's the front door:

While our dollar store didn't have Lego themed stuff, they did have big sheets of primary colored poster board! I cut and glued together a sheet of red, yellow and blue to make this gigantic Lego man that I stuck to the sliding back door:

Paper Lego man!

 I had to make one for Toby too, of course! His is a little shorter but I made him the Lego space man:

Homemade Lego man, and letters from a Google search
 For the boys' names I just did a Google image search for "Lego letter T" and so on...printed one out per sheet and spelled their names in Lego!  They are now adorning their bedroom doors. ;-)

I built some plasticware holders using the generic bricks from Target and some of our Duplos:
There really is no need to buy licensed character plates and napkins...just get colors that go with the theme and it all goes great!

The Lego doors were super fun and cheap to do!!!  I did a blue one for one kid and a red one for the other.  This is just a plastic tablecloth and matching paper plates from the dollar store.  The whole thing cost maybe $3 bucks!
This door cost about $3

The Treats 

I got some fun, colorful candy and treats to put around the party...these fruity Twizzlers were a hit.  I just cut them in half with a pair of kitchen shears to make more, shorter pieces. They looked really cute standing up in this dish:

 The interlocking Lego candies I got on Amazin, and got enough to have plenty out for both parties.

I found this cute idea somewhere online to make Lego head marshmallow pops! They turned out so cute!!
 The Lego pops were out for Toby's party. My hubby cut some foam chunks and I stuck them in that, inside little plastic baskets from the dollar store:

Toby LOVES skittles too so we had a bowl of those for him!

I got a set of Lego molds and made some ice cubes in the shapes of minifigures and bricks! These I did for Sam's party but not Toby's...not sure if they were really worth the work.  But now we have molds if we want to make them out of chocolate, or crayons, or whatever...

Lego ice cubes
The Activities:

I made a pull-string pinata for each party.  Sam had a classic Lego brick shape:

Lego pinata
Toby really loves the line from the movie, "Honey, where are my pants?"  So, I just had to make a pants shaped pinata for him!!

 The top parts are just plastic cups glued to the box!  The rest is just made up of cut boxes and tubes.  Then the whole thing is covered with paper mache and painted.

 I got some cheap knockoff bricks in Target's dollar section, and those were fun to scatter around for decorations.  The kids had fun building stuff with them too!  Another friend of mine had a bunch of great Lego coloring sheets left over from one of her parties, and we had enough of those to use for both parties too...
Coloring sheets & bricks to build
Goodie Bags

I usually just use paper lunch bags, and then print out the kids' names on the computer to label them.  For Sam's party the kids got bubbles, pencils, minifigure-shaped crayons, Lego candies, and these suuuper cool notebooks.  The notebooks were also from Target's dollar section, $3 each! Later they sold mini ones for $1 but it was too late for us!  These were really neat though and went over well.

Sam's party bags
 Somehow I ended up with more items in Toby's goodie bags, but there were so many fun things it was hard to choose, ha ha! I got some cool Lego wristbands for Sam's party, as he's a huge wristband collector, but there were only 12 in the pack and he had more kids than that attend.  So, we saved them for Toby's.  The cool stacking crayon/pen things and the round shooters I got at Goodwill! (Brand new donations from Target)  Then I got some fun wallets and keychains (from Oriental Trading), and erasers.  Yeah, I think I went a little overboard on the goodie bags this year...but they were SO FUN! 

Toby's party bags

We had so much fun doing these parties!! I have been hoping for years that the boys would want a Lego theme someday, so you can probably tell I was excited to go overboard, ha ha!

I hope this helps give you some ideas for your own kids' parties!!  Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave any of your own ideas in the comments!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

IDMommy Projects: Our Camper "Remodel!"

We got a camper!!
I'd be willing to argue that 2015 was our best summer ever.  A big part of that is due to us getting a camper part way through the summer.  We've been tent camping together since we got married almost 16 years ago, but lately I had been looking forward to (not) sleeping on the ground and hiking to the restroom less and less. I guess I'm getting old. I have been looking at pop-up trailers for years, but my husband discovered and sold me on a hybrid camper.  With a hybrid we get the benefits of both a hard-sided and a pop-out camper.  It's small enough to haul with our Jeep, but plenty of space inside and we can use it with or without the beds popped out.  There is a full bathroom with a shower, and we are now spoiled with heat and air conditioning when we really need it.  And a mattress.  OFF the ground.  We found this camper via Craigslist and it fits our family perfectly.  It's a Starcraft hybrid camper, with a queen and double bed that pop out. There are a bunk beds inside as well.  One of our boys really wanted the top bunk bed, and the other wanted the pop-out, which was perfect. No fighting! The lower bunk we use to hold our bags and stuff, while we sleep in the larger queen bed. I am now just as excited as the boys for the next camping trip!

Of course, being a designer, I just couldn't resist replacing all the boring mauve, baby blue, and fake wood veneer with some retro fun!! Here are some photos of the transformation that our camper saw throughout the summer!

Kitchen area...I painted all the fake wood, and left the real wood trim.
There are a lot of blog posts and pinterest pics out there about "glamping," with all sorts of glamorous photos of campers that look like they are right out of an interior design magazine spread.  Keep in mind that while I did try to take photos of our camper while it looked it's best, even "glamping" isn't glamorous all the time! Most of these photos were taken in our driveway while I was working on things.  Once this bad boy gets out into the wilderness, it is more often seen littered with pretty leaves, great walking sticks, cool rocks, and little containers of bugs, butterflies and caterpillars...just the way a camper should be!!  While I always am working to keep our little space in order, it's not all perfectly neat while in use.  After all, I'd much rather be focused on making camping memories than keeping the camper pristine!
I re-upholstered all of the cushions in silver, black, and sparkle red vinyl!! The camper had just been reupholstered with the flower canvas, which really was pretty cute.  But, this really fit better with the overall theme and brightened up the area.  I also had cleanability in mind here, and wanted dinette cushions that my boys could spill on and I could simply wipe up!

Curtains and other upholstery! I found this adorable camper fabric on fabric.com and replaced all the pink curtains!  The tie-back's I crocheted with black and sparkly red yarn, and then bought sparkly mint green buttons from the fabric store.  All I did was yank the old ones out of the wall, and staple in the new ones with a staple gun!  I used more of the curtain fabric to reupholster the padded boards on the bunk beds and above the doorway as well.  Really easy to do with a staple gun!

The frig is covered with some fun plaid adhesive-backed vinyl! The cabinet door to the right of the frig has some clear plastic frames where I can hang photos of camping memories.

Cabinet knobs! I shopped around for a while but knobs are expensive. So, I decided to spray paint the boring bronze ones, then painted little trailers on them with acrylic paint and gave them a couple coats of clear coat!

Paint does wonders!

I got these fun paisley bird and branch vinyl graphics on Amazon and scattered them around the dinette area.

This peel & stick tile from "Tic-Tac-Tile" is awesome! You can cut it with scissors and just stick it on! It made a really cool backsplash without adding tons of weight to the camper.

 I knew we'd have fun with a camper. I have fond memories of camping in our little pop-up as a kid, and knew I wanted my boys to create memories like that as well.  But, even I didn't realize just how much fun we ALL would have, and how much MORE I would look forward to camping now!  I love that I don't have to spend 2 weeks hauling stuff out of the shed, washing everything, and taking inventory every time we camp.  It's so nice to have most of our gear all situated in the camper, and be able to just pack our clothes and go!  We also save SO much money now on dog kennels, as we can take our dog Lucy along with us.  She does GREAT in the camper and loves it! She is a 115 pound great dane mix and her and her bed fit perfectly under the dinette table overnight.  It couldn't be a better fit for all of us, and we're looking forward to years of memories to come!

The start of our family's camping memories!

We've just scheduled what will likely be our last camping trip of the season, and then plan to make some repairs and improvements before the snow starts flying.  I'm already looking forward to next spring!


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