Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Repurpose your Holiday Cards into Glittery Decorations!

 It's that time of year when our mailboxes fill with holiday cards! Don't throw them away come's a fun way to repurpose them, and a great project to do with your kids!! My mom made these years ago and I had one on hand, so I decided to deconstruct them and make my own with my kids. Check out my Glitter Glamper page for a complete blog post with step by step instructions!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dandelion Day! How to make Yarn Dandelions and Dandelion Curls!

Yesterday I had the honor of being a special guest again on my church's daily kids' "Lunch Break!" Since things are greening up and dandelions are popping out, I thought I'd do a dandelion theme. We did two fun dandelion related activities:

We made dandelions out of yarn & pipe cleaners, and added some paper leaves!

Then we did something super cool...something you canNOT find on the internet anywhere until now, not even on Pinterest! Well, maybe you will now that I have posted it. But anyway, we made "Dandelion Curls."

My curly boy Toby with his bucket-o-curls!

This is something my mom taught me, and her mom taught her. It's just a really simple and fun activity for kids of all ages in the summer! If you peel a dandelion stem lengthwise, and drop it into a dish of warm water, they curl up super fun!! I never know what to do with them afterwards, so today I arranged them into a dandelion guy, haha!

To see the video of our lunch break activities and how to make the flowers AND curls, visit EPAG Kids Elementary Church on Facebook! We had some technical difficulties and had to start the Zoom session over, so this lunch break is broken up into two parts. Watch the first one if you want, but the video quality gets better as we finish our flowers & do the curls in part two!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Two fun paper projects for little hands

Last week I had the chance to be a special guest again on "Lunch Break," a daily live Facebook video session put on by our church's kids' pastor! In this session I showed the kids how to make two fun origami projects. These aren't your average origami pieces that you fold and are done with...these are paper toys that kids can play with! We made fun paper bird puppets, and a super cool little racing bug toy!

  Check out the original Lunch Break video here, and be sure to stop in for future live lunch breaks with Pastor Matt from 11:30-12:00 central time on their Facebook page!

This particular day Facebook wasn't playing well with Zoom, so it's a bit tough to see what I'm doing in some areas. However, I put together this quick tutorial video just after our lunch break, so as not to leave frustrated parents or kids hanging who may not have been able to see a step! ;-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

How to Make Pop-Up Cards!

I don't know about you, but lately we've gotten quite a few requests to make cards for people! Our boys' school had a teacher appreciation week, my great grandpa's memory care home is asking for us to send cards to our loved ones, and our church has adopted a local nursing home to send cards to the residents!

So, when I received an invite to be a special guest on our church's daily "Lunch Break," I just had to show the kids how to make pop up cards!

Ever since the kids have been home from school, our awesome kids' pastor Matt and early childhood coordinator Natalie have been eating lunch live on Facebook, every week day from 11:30-12:00 central time. They take some time to say hi to everyone tuning in, pray for our lunch, compare what everyone's eating, tell jokes, announce birthdays, give away prizes, play games, and have special guests! (Everyone of course is don't have to attend our church or even be a kid!) My boys and I are big fans of lunch break so they were pretty stoked that Mom was going to be on.

I showed the kids how to make three different types of pop-up cards! Since the kids at our church were sending cards to people they didn't know in the nursing home, just to make them smile, I thought it would be fun to incorporate some jokes into the cards. Of course, I had to also have a little fun with Pastor Matt and Miss Natalie as well, so I pulled some photos off the internet of them to incorporate...
 These ones above both utilize a simple mechanism that you can glue pictures to and make them pop up! The top card has one pop-up element, and the bottom one has two. Watch the video to see how to make is WAY easier than you'd think!

Below are two more types of cards we did. The cowgirl joke utilizes a paper "spring" that we made, and the duck card is just one simple cut and a fold to make a fun beak!

If your kids have a particular object or animal they like to draw, just google it for jokes! I just did a Google search for "duck jokes" and "bike jokes" for these. Help your kids though, so you don't end up pulling up something inappropriate for them! ;-) One of my boys' favorite duck jokes is, "Why do ducks have feathers? To cover their butt quacks!"

My boys made cards for their grandparents too. I took a photo of Sam with his arms reaching out, he cut it out and turned it into a "hug on paper," since we couldn't hug our grandparents due to social distancing! ;-)

Click here to watch the full episode, and learn how to make three kinds of pop-up cards! Materials you'll need are:
- Paper
- Scissor
- Glue
- Something to draw with

I'm super excited to be back on Lunch Break again tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29th, where we'll be doing some really fun origami projects! These will not just be pieces of paper folded into shapes...we will be making cool things that kids can play with! Stay tuned for a recap of that one! Until then, keep smiling and be well!!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Cursive Writing + Crock Pot Tortellini

What does cursive writing and crock pot tortellini have in common? Well, nothing really. That's just how 100% of our days go as moms though, right? One minute we're having our morning coffee, a second later we're troubleshooting Zoom audio issues for a kid's school, the next we're helping our husband find his lost whatever, the next we're getting in a little bit of our own work from home, then letting the dog out, back to work, dog in, putting a band-aid on an owie, a few more minutes of work, a text from a friend, back to work, throwing in another load of laundry, some more work, take out the garbage, help with yet another Schoology issue, put dinner in the crock pot, 2 minutes of work, taking out the garbage, 2 minutes of work...needless to say I'm not getting much work done but the fires of the day now determine my schedule!

Today I decided that since my boys have been getting their schoolwork pretty much done by lunch, I'm going to use the late afternoon spots on our new quarantine whiteboard wall calendar to jot down some other to-do's they need done each day. They can still decide when to do them, which they are loving these days, but they will always have SOMETHING to do in addition to school each afternoon. This helps extend mom and dad's sorta-quiet time to get work done while they are doing things that are also productive.

Anyway, here's one thing I'm going to try to put on their list at least a few days a week...

Last year I decided my boys need to seriously learn how to read and write cursive. They do learn it still in elementary school here, but they are never made to USE it so they immediately forgot it.

Toby's notebook full of stickers!

So I printed out some cursive practice sheets online and laminated them (so they can practice with white board markers), printed out a cursive alphabet, and designated a notebook for each of them for cursive that they decorated with stickers. (I got those notebooks with the handwriting lines)

Each day (well, not every day but when I think to do it) I write a sentence on a page. I ask them to copy the sentence below it in cursive. At first I had them repeat it till they filled a page, but now I'm just writing more sentences...

It's been fun coming up with sentences to go with the day. In October I wrote something about what they were going to be for Halloween. One time I had Sam write a sentence about how awesome his mom was because she went on a field trip with his class, haha! So it's almost accidentally turned into a journal. Now instead of filling the page with repeated sentences, I'm encouraging them to do the sentence but then add on a little more to it.

Okay, yeah, I know people don't use cursive a lot anymore. But I still think they should know how to read and write it. They got to use their skill first hand last year when we took a trip to Washington, D.C. and they got to see the Declaration of Independence and other amazing, historical documents, all of course in cursive! I just tell them, at least I'm not making them use a quill pen and ink pot, haha!

SO, that was my long explanation of one thing I am putting on their extra list of stuff to do!

Today amidst juggling a zillion "mom things" and business stuff, it was "bee day!" My honeybees arrived which meant I had to drive a little over an hour one way to pick them up, and back, stopping for a curbside pickup of an order I placed online for some Easter basket goodies at Michaels. When I got home I had to make sugar syrup for the bees, then leave again to go "install" them in their hive. (Click here to see a video of me putting the bees in on my other blog!) All of this was of course done while properly social distancing! It was nice to get out of the house, be alone for a while, and listen to an audio book!

But I was gone a lot. Which meant I didn't want to get home from the bees and immediately have 3 starving guys asking what's for dinner. SO, I made one of my favorite crock pot staples, tortellini!

Crock Pot Tortellini

- 2 cans diced tomatoes (garlic/Italian flavor)
- 1.5-2 C chicken broth
- Package of tortellini (I use 2 of the shelf stable packages from Aldi)
- A bag of spinach
- one 8oz block of cream cheese
- 1 package of Italian chicken sausage

In the morning I sliced and browned the package of Italian chicken sausage and popped it back in the fridg until it was time to assemble.

Just before leaving to pick up bees I got the boys eating lunch, dumped in everything EXCEPT THE TORTELLINI. Save that for later or it'll all turn to mush! And no, you don't have to drain the tomatoes, just dump the whole can in, juices & all.

I turned it on low (for 4-6 hours) and left to go pick up the bees.

Got home, made my sugar syrup, and then dumped in the tortellini. This is important that you wait until the last TWO HOURS to put in the tortellini. So this recipe might not be great if you start it in the morning, and want to come home to dinner all done....this one works well for me because I work from home and am typically in and out throughout the day.

Okay, here is proof that I am NOT a food blogger, and that my mind is all clogged up lately with work-school-corona stuff...I forgot to take a picture of the end result. But it ends up being pasta, spinach and sausage in a yummy, creamy sauce. We scoop it into bowls and top with parmesan. I got all extra fancy with the extra 10-15 minutes I had and baked a can of crescent rolls, and pulled a few slices of chocolate cake I had stashed in the freezer back in January after a birthday party when I still had the will power to wrap up and freeze left-over cake!! :-D

Yum! That's how I survived one busy day anyway. I hope you are too, taking it one day at a time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pandemic Scrapbooks: Documenting a Major Life Event!

What if I had told you a month ago that in a few weeks schools all over the country would close, stores would run out of toilet paper, every event in the world for the next couple months would cancel, grocery baggers would be essential to our survival, and jigsaw puzzles would be hard to come by? You'd think I was NUTS!

Any way you look at it, the experience we're all going through right now is one for the history books! Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime before, and hopefully it won't happen again, at least for a long, long time. Because of this, I thought it might be a good idea to have my boys document this crazy time in their lives. Not only will it be helpful for them in-the-now to process their thoughts, feelings, and what they are going through, but someday it will be very cool for them to pull out a book of pictures, articles and journaling to show their kids and grandkids!!

So, one of those days when we were stuck inside on a rainy day, over spring break with no school and no place to go, I sat down and made a few pages for them to get started. I found a ring binder for each of them, slipped in a cover page, punched some holes and voila!

Click HERE to download a FREE PDF with some starter scrapbook/journal pages!

Here's what you'll find on some of the pages:

- Church and school: what's different and what's the same?
- A list of things to do if I get bored
- What I've been doing to pass time
- Page to list the movies we've watched & books we've read
- Picture pages to glue in photos of family fun or draw pictures
- Space to write what's making you happy and what's making you frustrated/sad

Working on their books out on the deck yesterday

I designed these sheets to have space on the left edge for hole punching. This way you can stick them in any binder, and it'll be easy to add to them, or punch holes in articles or other things you'd like to include. The back sides can be blank for more writing, drawing, or space to glue things!

What else can you stick in your scrapbook? 

Punch holes in some thicker paper for gluing things to. My boys wanted to add some of the funny memes that have been floating around Facebook lately, too. Here are a couple of their favorites:

Print out some photos of their new e-learning space in the house, maybe an email from a teacher about their school schedule, or a photo of them having a Zoom meeting with their friends!

I actually started my OWN scrapbook too...normally if I do a big trip I find a little blank journal to glue things into and jot down what we did or saw each day. It helps me remember the order of things and names of places/attractions, for when I later make a photo book. I would have done this right now, as I was originally scheduled to travel to Europe to teach at a face & body art convention in the Netherlands, which was of course cancelled. We were going to spend a few days in Italy! So, since I had a blank book in the house I started my own for this new "trip" we are all on! In mine I'm gluing in photos of empty store shelves too, newspaper articles, the post card we received in the mail with the president's recommendations, etc.

These are things we would not normally have the time to do, but I think one day the boys will enjoy looking back on this and having something to show their own kids!

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 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!


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