A new kind of mommy blog

Do you know what I'm doing right now?  I mean, right this very minute?

I'm searching the internet for a wise sage with advice on how to raise teenagers - you know, a mommy blog for those of us that are past the diapers and formula and snacks that don't have artificial colors in them.

I'm past that.

I've been trying to keep this blog up under the pretense of it being just like all the others - advice on raising normal human children, focusing on the toddler variety.   There's a huge problem with that...

None of my kids are toddlers anymore.  Plus, I was never really a typical mommy blogger- I just desperately wanted to fit in.  I know - reeks of desperation, doesn't it.  I hate myself for it too, honestly.

So, here it is - far from perfect.  No - we don't do workbooks over the summer (and the ones we did buy in the past - we got like four pages into before we (I) got bored with the whole thing.)... No, we don't eat perfectly balanced amazing meals for dinner each night - heck, tonight we'll be lucky if we get some frozen vegetables on the table.

What I can promise you is no more of this froo froo stuff.  This is me.  We are real.  The best I can hope to do is let you learn from my mistakes as we guide ourselves through this abyss of raising teenagers.

Yes, occasional recipes and other things will come - because sometimes I do get crafty and pieces of inspiration do strike and are fruitful.

Excuse me now, I'm going to try and find out what we have in the freezer that is still recognizable as possible dinner.

They Won't Suspect A Thing...Summer Learning for Kids

It's the first full week of summer, and with five kids at home, you know we are working on finding things that keep them entertained that don't involve the words "X-box" "wii" or "Playstation."  While these activities are okay, the teacher inside of me wants to make sure that when they start school in the fall, they are just as ready for learning then as they are now.  And since we live in Arizona, where it's so hot outside that sending them out to play isn't always an option - fun activities that can be done inside the house are always in high demand.

So the question is, how do we make the activities educational, and yet fun enough that they still want to do them?  Here's a collection of a few of the things we do every summer, and so far, they've been kiddo pleasers.

1.) Summer Bridge Workbooks.
Admittedly, these aren't the funnest, or the first choice for the kids.  However, with a great reward program in place, they do them happily, and in most cases with little complaining.  Rewards we have in our house...a few pages will earn them 30 minutes worth of gaming system time.  A whole section and maybe we go out for ice cream or to a movie.  Giving them something to work toward gives them enough motivation to actually learn something while at home on their summer vacation.

2.) Writing letters and numbers in salt (or sugar).
This one is great for pre-k and Kindergarten to first grade students who are still working on writing their letters and numbers properly and clearly.  The kids think this is great fun, because you are letting them play in their food (and make a mess).  What they don't know is that this type of learning, kinesthetic learning, is making a connection in their brain between the tactile feeling of the salt on their fingers and actually seeing the numbers being drawn.  At first you can have a paper guide for them to follow and trace but as they get better at it, they can form the letters on their own.
3.) Tying a rag quilt.

At first glance, this may not seem like anything but an activity to keep little hands super busy (and out of trouble), and while that might actually be true, it's just a handy side effect.  While your youngster is working on this quilt, they are learning fine motor skills, patterns, reading directions, and in some cases, sharing.  Additionally, when the fine motor skills are fine tuned, it helps handwriting.

4.) Alphabet Cookies
I remember as a little kid, my mom used to make these from scratch out of sugar cookie dough.  While I did inherit the cookie cutters, I also found some pre-made cookies at my local grocery store.  We put them in a bowl and the kids pick out letters and spell words.  When they spell the word correctly, they can eat it.  They also have speed spelling competition games, poem and story competitions, and vowels vs consonants games.

5.) Kitchen sink science.
If you have a budding Bill Nye at home like I do, kitchen sink science projects are perfect for them.  There are a plethora of experiments that can be found on Youtube, Pinterest, and through a simple Google search.  As your child does the experiment, they can research why it happens the way it does.  The egg drop experiment - pictured to the left - demonstrates Newton's law of Inertia.  I'd explain it to you, but honestly, my 8 year old son understands it more than I do.

6.) Summer Reading Lists
If you ever watched Gilmore Girls in the 90's and early 2000's, you know who Rory Gilmore is, and you know of her love of reading.  Some super fan of the show has compiled the Rory Gilmore Reading List - a list of all the books she read or mentioned reading during the series.  It's a great place for any avid reader to start, and it definitely does not include anything that has to do with sparkling vampires or shirtless werewolves 

7.) As long as we are talking movies....

My oldest daughter (14) and I are actually doing this one now.  We read a book that is currently coming out in theatres as a movie.  Book first, then movie.  After watching it, we have a discussion - what was the same? What was different?  If you were making the movie, what would you have done differently? Currently we are reading The Great Gatsby.  Last winter it was Beautiful Creatures.  You can even do this with movies and books that have been done previously - The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, Ramona and Beezus, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess....And if your child is too young to read on their own - read it to them!  Tons of memories can be made this way.

That's just a few of the things we do around here.  What do you do at your house to keep your kiddos interested in learning during the summer?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Stamping on Metal Jewelry - Part One

So you've seen those really neat necklaces and bracelets and rings on etsy, right?  The ones that are personalized and stamped in sterling silver and cost lots and lots of dollars?

Yea, those.

I LOVED the idea of making my own mother's bracelet that fit my style, and I knew this is exactly how I wanted to do it so I started researching.  Stamping on Silver isn't that difficult, really, once you get the hang of it and once you know where to by the right supplies.  Here's a breakdown.

You will need:
1. Stamping block.  This is a small piece of steel that is approximately 1 inch thick and serves and a flat surface to lay your project on while you stamp.

2. Metal stamps.  You can buy these at any craft store, I've found anyway, but there are endless options online.  My favorite place to purchase them right now is www.beaducation.com.  She has a great supply, tons of things to choose from, and her silver blanks are of very high quality.

Stamping Blank
3. Stamping blanks. These are blank surfaces on which to stamp.  You can get rings, discs, bracelets, whatever your heart desires.  These can be found at every craft store, however, the only store I've found STERLING stamping supplies at is Hobby Lobby.  Even better when you can get them with your 40% off coupon.

4. Patina.  This is what colors the indentations so you can see them on your finished project.  Sharpie makes a permanent metal marker that works great on bracelet and necklace rounds.  For rings, you'll want to buy something like Silver Black or Liver of Sulpher- or Vintaj makes a patina that also works nicely. You rub it on and then polish off the excess.
Brass Hammer, 2 Pounds||HAM-456.205. A jewelry hammer. These have a fairly large head and smaller handles.  They are great for small hands.  The hammer I have been using is 8 oz.  For bigger stamps, you'll want to use a 2lb hammer for optimal results.

6. Patience. Seriously, the first few times I stamped, I couldn't get it straight or deep enough.

7. Anything you want to finish it off with.   I use Swarovski crystals, headpins, and other embellishments.

I am headed now to film a how-to on this topic, and will post pictures and video as soon as they are done. Check back soon for more details!

Painting with Chalk Paint

There's been a lot of buzz on the interwebs lately about "ChalkPaint".  Annie Sloan makes a brand that is supposedly this great wonderment of all wonders for furniture makeovers - no need to prime, or sand, or - anything!  Since I"m not a big fan of prep-work, I wanted to give it a try.  Only problem was - I couldn't find any Annie Sloan chalk paint anywhere locally and to buy it online and ship it...and well, I'm way too cheap and impatient thrifty for that.  So I went to the trusty interwebs to find a recipe.

I love Pinterest.

I found several recipes online for chalk paint, but the one I ended up using is this:

4 Tablespoons of Plaster of Paris (available at craft and home improvement stores)
2 1/2 tablespoons of water
2 cups (give or take a little) paint of your choosing.

1,) Mix the Plaster of Paris until smooth - it should have the consistency of yogurt- the regular American kind, not the Greek kind....(mmmmmm....Greek Yogurt....ahem, sorry.)

2.) Add the smooth Plaster of Paris to the paint and mix well. There should be no chunks in the plaster or you will end up with chunks in your paint...it will look like cottage cheese...this does not spread well. *go ahead, ask me how I know this...I dare you.*

You have to work QUICKLY.  The paint/Plaster mixture dries very fast.  Which is great for someone like me whom we have already decided is impatient. :)

Once I found a lovely recipe, I needed to find a small project I could try it out on - and not be disappointed if it didn't work.  This is a first time around thing, after all, and I did NOT want to do it on a big piece of furniture that I'd have to look at every day if I did a bad job.

You understand, don't you?

This is the piece I chose:
It is just screaming "PAINT ME!" isn't it?

The colors I chose are called "Mayonnaise" and "Stunning".  Both are Benjamin Moore colors, and fit the decor in my house PERFECTLY.  (Come to think of it, I now have a piece that one could be described as "Stunning mayonnaise....")

I started by cleaning the piece.  I used vinegar and water in a spray bottle and a soft rag.  You want to remove all of the dust particles so that they don't get caught in your paint and give you a bubbly surface.
Next, since the paint supposedly needs no extra refinishing-I took my accent color and applied it anywhere I was going to want to distress the piece.  In this case, it was "Stunning" - which in this picture looks more purple, but I swear, it's navy blue.

 Next I worked on applying the "Mayonnaise" - wow, that sounds weird.   I really didn't take any pictures of this part...should have, but didn't.   One thing though...I started with a brush.  The paint was so thick that it left brush lines.  I hated that.  I went and got a sponge roller to finish the job.  That went much better.

 I then added these cute little handles I found at Target on Clearance.  I love when I find things on Clearance!  These things were marked down from 12.00 to 2.98 - And I think they are perfect.  Finally, I distressed the areas I wanted distressed, to give it a little bit of a cozy farmy look.

Finally, you need to put a coat of wax on the surface. As my sister in law pointed out - it's a MATTE finish, which means all the fun sticky little hand prints will stick to it - and stay.

Voila!!!  A new entry table/storage cabinet painted with Chalk Paint!
I love how it turned out, and am super excited to see if my husband notices AND if he likes it too.  Next project?  That would be THIS thing...

 I, KNOW....RIGHT???

Happy Crafting!


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