Monday, June 29, 2009

Dear New Journal,

So. I wrote my name in the front, declaring this officially mine. I've been thinking I need to journal more but I'm not into the "this happened then that happened"-ness of my journals in the past. I've been loving the blogging thing, but some thoughts are so random that I don't feel a whole blog post would even be worth it, though they are still my thoughts that I might want to use later.

Things like:
* I don't like being loud when I walk (think flip flops)
* Started potty training Erin again, going good so far

By the way, so far this is in pencil. I know pen is supposed to be more "archivalish," but I mess up. To me erase is better than messy scribble out. Plus sometimes I might not like my handwriting and want to rewrite more carefully.

Also, page 1 didn't sit back nicely, so rather than starting there I started here. Which could actually be a bonus. Maybe sometime I could create a little index of things I want to refer to.

Well anyway, here goes!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recipe for Hyperactivity

For everyone out there that wants super hyperactive children like mine, make things like this for dinner.

That's right, chocolate waffles with chocolate syrup. They wanted chocolate milk too, but I've got to draw the line SOMEWHERE, right?

Here's Sammy in a stupor from the sugar high. We only do this about 3 times a week year, so they've got to load up when we do.

But see, no one is complaining! It's even plate-lickin' good.

Why of course I'll share the recipe! I know you're dying to make some too.


½ c. butter (melted)
6 Tbsp. cocoa
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend butter and cocoa together, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth. Batter will be thick. Cook 1-3 minutes. Doesn’t make very many, so you’ll probably want to at least double this.

Another great dinner idea I got from my aunt (she has 8 wonderful children, so if she does it it's as good as gospel) is to make regular waffles and top them with ice cream, strawberries, and whipped cream. Great for hot summer days, and yummy!!! Wait a minute - we'll have to try that with the chocolate waffles too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Banana Boats in a Pizza Box

In this episode of "coolest mom ever," we'll start with the pizza box oven. Google pizza box oven and you'll find lots of descriptions that are basically the same on how to make one.

Basically, cut out part of the lid to use as a reflector to direct sunlight into the box, cover that and the bottom of the box with aluminum foil, cover the hole you made in the lid with saran wrap to keep the heat inside while still allowing the sun to heat things up, and put a piece of black construction paper in the bottom to help absorb the heat. They also suggest using string or something else to angle the lid just right so it can direct the most sunlight in.

One of the sites I looked at mentioned that they can get up to 275 degrees. You can see our thermometer in the picture above because I was interested to know how hot it would get. Ours made it to 217, and it was a pretty throw-it-together kind of project. Maybe we'll attempt to make it better sometime, maybe not.

My main goal in doing this was to make banana boats. I remember doing it at girls camp ages ago and thought it would be fun. Cut your banana open down the side with the peel on, open it up a bit, and shove in marshmallows and chocolate chips. I guess you can also do this around a campfire, wrapping your banana up in aluminum foil and setting it in the coals.

Melanie isn't a banana fan, so she used graham crackers instead to make a s'more.

A recipe I saw online said the campfire method takes about 5 minutes. We left these on for something like 20, though maybe they could have been taken off sooner. I noticed the temperature dropped quickly when we lifted the lid to put everything inside, so I didn't do any checking to see if they were ready besides seeing the chocolate chips really melted.

It also helped when the sun went behind a bunch of clouds and our temperature started dropping again. "They're done!"

They all loved them! I had more pictures but they involved a lot more goo on the face and in the mouth, so I'll spare you the gory details. But here is Adam trying to duplicate the expression of a woman on the back of our latest box of Cheerios (she is very excited to be lowering her cholesterol). I mean, showing you how happy he is to have such a really really cool mom.

P.S. I didn't get one. I planned on tossing one in after theirs were all done since our "oven" was already pretty crowded, but that cloud cover was there to stay. Major setback in a solar powered pizza box oven. Oh well, that just means we get to do it again!

Potion Station Sensation

First of all, a huge thank you to Kathryn who stole the idea from someone else but passed it on so I could steal it (I even stole the name of this post from her). I am always looking for ways to keep my "coolest mom in the neighborhood" status, and this is super cool.

So the basics. The idea is to gather fun things for your kids to mix together and make "potions." For our first time, I went with 4 colors of jell-o (the cheapest I could find), baking soda, vinegar, and water.

Disclaimer here - my children are not usually slow and methodical. To illustrate, I heard someone say once that when it's time to eat you can tell someone that comes from a small family vs. someone that comes from a large family. Someone from a small family will stand back and slowly make their way to the food. Someone from a large family jumps on it, because they know if they don't, the food is leaving. So yah, that's our family in a nutshell in basically any situation.

In this case, I set out some fun potion making items, four of our five kids jumped in to participate, plus two of my nieces and two neighbors were over. Only so much to go around, right? Eight kids around a few potion making items = lots of scrambling, lots of chaos, and lots of fun.

Again, nothing too high tech was involved, but the kids' reactions were priceless. I didn't tell them what any of the items were, just told them to mix and see what they could come up with. Carolyn was the first to get the baking soda/vinegar mix.

Immediately everyone else wanted theirs to foam, and wanted me to add whatever it was they needed. I told them to keep trying things, but when some still didn't get it to work I helped them out.

One of our extras repeated about four times, "This is so MESSY!" Yessiree!

When the ingredients were used up and they were done mixing their own potions with each others' potions, I asked them what would happen if someone drank their potion. I should have taken video of that, because by the time things were cleaned up and back to normal I couldn't remember what everyone said. One was really green so it was decided that would make them really strong and turn them green like the hulk. One would turn you into a frog or an ogre. One would make people fly. I don't know about you, but I would have a hard time getting this one to my lips, let alone down the hatch.

Next time it would be fun to try red cabbage water, and for sure I've got to include glitter. When we were done with the "organized" activity (I use that term very loosely), the kids took off with the cups and mixed up mud, sticks, leaves, probably bugs, and who knows what else.

For more ideas, here are some other potion makers and magic stew makers. Oh, and probably the best tip Kathryn gave - do it somewhere that you can hose off when you're done. Love that easy cleanup.

Homeschool Bonus - Lots and Lots of Greats

I went to a meeting last night about a homeschool group Adam will be in next year. Before I go more into what I was going to say about that, first let's go somewhere else.

At this point a few years ago we would have been enjoying the summer, looking towards a new school year. Eventually upon arriving to back to school night, we would meet our children's teachers for the upcoming year and walk away either thinking a teacher would probably work pretty well with our child, really concerned about how things would work out, or somewhere in the middle, just waiting to see, ready to take things as they came.

Adam went to public school through 4th grade, Sammy through 3rd, and Melanie into a month of 1st grade. With all those teachers, I can think of two teachers that I look back and feel really grateful that my kids were able to work with them. Both are women I would love to live on the same street as me, one especially I deeply admire. Sammy had her, and he still gets a boost when we see her once in a while.

Back to the meeting I went to last night. This group will involve a couple of advisors (parents of youth in the group) plus a lot of mentors that will come in to help with different subjects/projects/planning/etc. (mostly parents, but others will be brought in as well as needed). Some of the parents there I had met a few times, others I hadn't at all, but leaving the meeting I was so excited about what great people they all were, and I cannot wait for Adam to be able to associate with them. Not to mention the good he'll get from being around the other great kids involved in the group.

Adam was involved with another group last year (that he'll be in again this coming year), and I was equally impressed with the women that mentors the kids in that group and the positive peer pressure from the other youth there. I was thrilled to drop him off every week, knowing he would hop in my car a couple hours later better from his time there.

I really enjoy being able to homeschool my kids and spending the time together learning that we do. But I feel like these extra opportunities, the wealth of great people and great kids my children are able to associate with, are amazing side bonuses that I can't imagine doing without anymore.

Thank you Kitty and Sherrylyn, thank you Renae, Salena, and Kathy, and thank you Mary and Tonya and all the other great moms, dads, and kids my children will get to work with this coming year! (I was going to link to some of them, but I don't want to make you all jealous.) Thank you for being the kind of women that make me wish I could trade places with my children and learn from you instead. I don't doubt that my children will remember them and the lessons they teach for years and years to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Life of Fred Math Review - Day 1

About a week ago I heard about Life of Fred, a math book series, for the first time. After laughing (ha, laughing!) my way through some of the sample pages, I showed it to Adam and Sammy. They laughed as well and wanted me to go through more of it ("Sorry kids, they don't put the whole book online because they want you to actually buy it"), so I bought it. Another bonus to the fun content, they are not expensive!

It arrived today. "Hey look kids, Life of Fred came!" I set it down and promptly forgot about it.

I was gone for a few hours this evening, and when I got home I went in to tell Adam good night. He said something I thought I would never hear from him. "I read seven chapters of that math book." Picked myself up off the floor. "Did you do any of the math?" "Yes."

For a day 1 review, I would have to say I like it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

One of My Favorite Things

I consider myself a very simple person. Easily pleased, easily amused (ask Adam - at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple today he quoted something from Kung Fu Panda, "I've only seen paintings of that painting," every time we walked past a picture and I laughed EVERY TIME), and I don't need too many creature comforts. So even though Holly inspired me to want to post about my favorite things since she likes to post about her favorite things and her things that bug, I haven't come up with much of anything. But here, at last, I'm going to share one of my favorite things. I've been meaning to for a while, but I was urged on today by a quote in "Prince Caspian" by C.S. Lewis.

In the story, King Peter is getting ready to send his challenge to the fake king Miraz (Caspian's uncle). He turns to Cornelius, Caspian's teacher, and asks him, "Have you pen and ink, Master Doctor?" Cornelius replies, "A scholar is never without them, your majesty."

These awesome little pencils are how this scholar always (or close to it) keeps her "pen and ink" with her.

These Mini MVP pencils by Pentel are just over 4" long and fit happily into my back pocket. When I was in AP English my teacher, Mrs. Barry, told us that we should never read without a pencil in hand. I took that to heart and love to underline and jot down notes while I read, so my current book usually has one of these pencils hooked onto it. I get a little frustrated with myself when I go to write something down while reading and that pencil has been removed. I have them everywhere in the house, but they hide any time Jamie needs to write down a phone message.

I first found these at our local Wal-mart, but I went looking for them recently and couldn't find them. Ours is undergoing some remodeling (who knows why, it's only something like 5 years old), so I'm hoping they were out or they hadn't been moved to their new place during the whole presto chango. But I checked another Wal-mart and they didn't have any either. Unnerving. In searching for a picture to share (too lazy to pull the picture I took off my camera) I found this eBay auction for 11 packs of these wonderful little guys, coming out to only $.56/pencil, $2.81/pack (normally about the $4 range). Don't be surprised if one of their auctions comes up sold soon...

Isn't Jamie a lucky guy? Most women want clothes or jewelry. I'm drooling over pencils.

Someday I'm probably going to give this my strangest post ever award. Thanks Holly for the inspiration.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Google It

I love the internet. I initially met Jamie there, so what's not to love? Anytime I need to know anything, I google it and find my answer. Jamie and I were just sitting and watching a show on BYU-TV, one of the people introduced sounded familiar, so I googled his name and we learned some interesting information about him that enriched what we were watching. Using Pledge for cleaning tips? Google it. Temperature of the sun? Google it. Great chimichanga recipe? Google it. Catch part of a C.S. Lewis quote and want to know the rest? Google it. Want to know how many queries google gets per day? I just googled it - a statistic from 2006 said 400 million per day.

I was very happy in that life until I listened to a CES talk by David Bednar called "Things as They Really Are." Excellent, very doctrinal talk about the counterfeits Satan presents before us, including many things he uses so we are "bodiless" like him. For instance, people that get so involved with video games that those become their life when they should be out experiencing things for real.

So what did we do before the days of google? Many things would involve a lot of research. Finding answers now at our fingertips would have been significantly more difficult to come across, and I'm sure many questions just went unanswered. But in many more everyday cases, is the ease of googling stopping you from going to someone you know would have the answer? In my googling at least, probably. Am I choosing to be bodiless because it's so much easier than making a phone call? Am I making this out to be more than it really is???

It's not just about google either. When I was a newish mom I learned about yahoogroups and joined a few for moms like me. When I had a question about potty training, sleep issues, or what to feed a child that won't eat anything, I would toss a message out on there knowing I would immediately have a pool of a few hundred women and their variety of experiences ready with willing support and answers. I enjoyed that for a long time until I realized that those women may have a lot of experience, but they really didn't know me. They didn't know my background, my family, my friends, or my experiences, only the small dimension of myself that I shared on there. And likewise, I didn't know them at all. I've been on small, closer knit groups as well, but even those left me feeling the lack of real shared personal in-body everyday experiences.

So I'm totally not saying google and mommy yahoogroups are evil, but... well, I remember hearing once that you should never leave a compliment unsaid, because in not giving it you are losing an opportunity to lift that person. Maybe it's similar when you could go to someone for information.

Just for a moment, think how it feels to have someone call on you for your experience and expertise, not to even ask you to do something, just to pick your brain. Don't you feel wise and knowledgeable? Probably feels good to help. And when someone comes to you with a need they need filled, even just to ask a question, the relationship is strengthened. Even if only a bit, it is strengthened. So in going to sure and easy sources instead of someone you know, are you missing out on a good in-body experience?

It makes me want to try an experiment, that for one month every time I come up with a question or the kids bring me one, I try the question on as many "real" people as I can for a week (without being ridiculous about it like stopping people in Wal-mart) and see what we can learn from the "real" people we know. For the first question, Sammy told me earlier that Playdoh was originally created to use as a cleaning tool (he learned that in a game we've got). I asked him what it was used for and he said it didn't say. I have an idea, and like crazy I wanted to google it and find out, but for now, anyone know? (Without googling - google it for yourself if you'd like, but don't tell unless you really know.)

I don't know. Maybe I'm just up in the night, but it all makes me want to pick up the phone more. You?

P.S. I apologize in advance for the loud children background noise. I promise it's a recording we play just for fun, and I respond to it sometimes as part of the ploy. My children don't sound like that at all.
P.P.S. Jamie just showed new gaming technology to the boys and me tonight. While freakishly cool (really, watch it), where does it fall in light of all this?
P.P.P.S. I should have kept track of how many times I googled during this post, because there were several, going back to look, at least 6 or 7.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Walkin' Down Bead Street

I haven't had a lot of jewelry orders for a while (a nice break really), then suddenly the past couple of days I got seven orders to finish up and get out today. In helping one customer see what I was imagining on a customer order she wanted, I looked through some older pictures of bracelets I've made. I used to be involved with an online boutique group (they made the amazing clothing, I made the jewelry to match), so I used to do a lot more custom orders than I do now. At this point, when I'm sick of a style I pull it off my website or jack the price up high enough that if someone buys it at least I feel like it's worth it. I haven't added anything new to my website for a while and have been sticking with the standards that I know sell. I should really keep up with some of the matching I used to do for different commercial clothing lines, but haven't for a long time.

As I was perusing the bracelet pictures, I saw a lot of my favorites and thought I would share them.

Nice colors, and the big flower with the little one inside made it unique. This one still has a home on my website.

This one is one of my all time favorites. Not overly difficult or fancy, but I love the colors and different bead styles. I would have this up if I could, but alas, I bought some of the beads locally and I can't find them anymore. Maybe I need to find a good substitute.

I've done a few binky clips as well, but have never put them on the website, just on eBay. Here's a fun style.

Another of my all time favorites, maybe even my very favorite favorite. Made for a Halloween or Fall themed group launch. Very pumpkiny, eh?

I got a lot of sales out of this one (it sold in other colors as well). Listed as a fairy bracelet, the little treasure box dangled at the clasp with extra "fairy dust" included. Clever.

This was very cool but very annoying (time consuming) to make. I called it the Let Freedom Ring bracelet because of the bells. Maybe I should try one of these on etsy for a ridiculous price and see if it sells.

When people say things about me being so talented, I tell them that all I do is string beads on wire, which doesn't take talent. My sister on the other hand? Talented with a capital T. Look at these cute cute cows and lambs! Never in a million years could I do that. I tried a little bit on really simple things, made some really ugly beads (the Easter bunnies looked outright evil), then gave her all the beads and paints I bought for it. You can see the results. She rocks.