Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Q is For Quilt

A friend of mine was showing me her awesome quilts the other night and it inspired me to get several projects finished that have been lounging in my sewing room / office / book room / disaster area.  And then I realized that next week's playgroup letter is Q!!!  I don't know if I'll actually use any of these books for playgroup -- they're a little more advanced than 2-3 year olds -- but I love them.  A lot.

Especially these two:
Both of these books are BEAUTIFUL!  And both have wonderful messages about what really is important -- service, love, and discovering what your own gift is.

Neither of these is at my library and that's a darn shame.  I'm sorry I'm not going into more detail but if you can find them, check them out.  It will totally be worth it.

The other book that I've enjoyed this week (that I did find at my library) is The Name Quilt.
This is a very sweet story about a girl and her grandmother who has a quilt embroidered with all the names of her family members.  Each night when her granddaughter visits, the grandma tells her stories about each of the family members featured on the quilt.  Then, there's a hurricane and the quilt is lost.  So they start again.  I was very touched by this story for it's message about family and survival.  Particularly with everything going on now, it really struck a chord.

Even if you don't love quilts -- check them out.  You'll love them, I promise.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Start the Week Right: Less Guilt

"Those who have the time and energy to can their fruit and vegetables develop a skill that will serve them well in time of need--and in our uncertain economy, that could be almost any time.  But they shouldn't look down their noses at those who buy their peaches or who don't like zucchini in any of the thirty-five ways there are to disguise it, or who have simply made a conscious choice to use their time and energy in some other purposeful way.

"Obviously the Lord has created us with different personalities, as well as differing degrees of energy, interest, health, talent, and opportunity.  So long as we are committed to righteousness and living a life of faithful devotion, we should celebrate these divine differences, knowing they are a gift from God.  We must not feel so frightened, so threatened and insecure; we must not need to find exact replicas of ourselves in order to feel validated as women of worth.  There are many things over which we can be divided, but one thing is needful for our unity--the empathy and compassion of the living Son of God."

I just finished mopping my floor and cleaning my bathrooms.  It's been about 2 weeks since I've done it and it really needed it.  But as I worked (without whistling), I thought a lot about guilt.  And then I remembered the above quote.  And read it.  And loved it.  And realized a few things.

I am a believer in doing the best you can.
Sometimes that means giving 110% and sometimes that means saying to yourself, "right now, this is the best I can" and not feeling guilty.

Some guilt is good -- that guilt that spurs you to improvement of yourself, to greater happiness.  But not the guilt that comes from comparison.  And I think I've been having a little of both lately.

So I'm going to start the week off right and change the things that I need to change -- one at a time -- and let go of the things that I need to let go -- probably also one at a time.

So change number one:  get back to reading my scriptures regularly.  I need all the help I can get anyway!
Let go number one:  Celebrate others' strengths/talents/looks/personality.  That does not make my lack thereof an inadequacy.

I feel better already.  And my floors are clean -- we'll see how long that lasts!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Product Review: Crayola Whiteboard Crayons

I've never done a product review before.  But I think that if I find something that makes my life easier, it's worth sharing.

Yesterday in Walmart I spied these in the school supplies aisle:
And I thought -- well that's worth a shot.  And they are awesome!

They're obviously going to cost more than regular markers or crayons -- especially at this time of year (I think I paid $4 something -- can't find my receipt!), but so do dry erase MARKERS and if you have little ones, these are worth the money.

Our art easel has a chalkboard side and a whiteboard side plus the center pole for holding paper.  We go through a lot of butcher paper (courtesy of IKEA) but my 3 year old does love the whiteboard.  

These are great because there is no marker mess (or smell -- I always get low odor otherwise) and they rubbed off well with the mitt that is provided.  It did take a little elbow grease and there was a slight film but it was good enough for my girl and then when she was done done I ran a wet washcloth over it and everything came right off.  The board looks good as new.

We have had a discussion about "special crayons" and what you can and can't write on with them, but she gets it no problem.

I may never go back to the markers again!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life Takes Over

I feel as though these past few weeks have been all-encompassing.  They have been the kind of days where I look around at the end of it and wonder what I have accomplished.  Most days it's not even a clean house.  But that's partly because the last thing I want to do in my child-free time is clean the house.  And the house doesn't get clean if the kids are up and about. 

Is your house that way too?  I hope mine isn't the only one.

Anyway, I know that everyone struggles with something (or multiple somethings) in their life.  Life itself contains highs and lows and lately, I'm feeling awfully low.

Then I had an idea.  A lightbulb.  A hopefully glorious (but simple -- I don't need any more complexity!) lightbulb that will help me think "lemonade" when I'm facing screaming, crying "lemons".

When I was in college, I kept a beautiful notebook full of quotes that I loved.  I still have it.  And I love the idea of writing down those things that inspire and uplift me so that I can go back to them.  Problem is, I don't go back and read them all.  That beautiful book is collecting dust as we speak.

But what if I merged that idea with the calendar/quote a day idea?  What if I got a jar and wrote down those quotes and put them in the jar so that when I need them, there they are?

I think I'll try that.

Not original or brilliant but, hello, why haven't I done this before?

And if it's ok with you, I might just share them here too.  Because sometimes it helps to share.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Travel Long Trips With Toddlers

In preparation for a 20 hour car trip with a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old (crazy, I know), I looked for a lot of information on the web about fun things to do in the car.  There's not much out there -- at least for children with an attention span of 5 minutes or less.

So in addition to the DVD player with some new movies and some new CDs of music (I highly recommend Disney's Greatest Hits), there were a few other things that came in handy for the little ones.

1.  Pipe Cleaners.  Who would've thunk it?  I think with older children it would be even more successful but after a 12 hour day, when my little one lost it and we had just an hour to our destination, I pulled out the pipe cleaners and the crying stopped.  She was fascinated for about 10 minutes and that 10 minutes was enough to distract her from her misery for the last 50.
2.  A box of tissues.  If you're little ones are like mine, unsupervised time in the bathroom results in toilet paper and tissues strung everywhere.  You should have seen the look on my daughter's face when I actually handed her a box of tissues.  She went to town pulling them out, putting them on her head, ripping them apart.  It was fabulous.
3. Touchy-feely books.  There is a great series of fun books that are titled That's Not My . . . (fill in the blank).  Every page has a reason why that's not my (puppy, kitten, dragon, fairy, whatever) with a touchable part.  Another good one, Feely Bugs.

4.  Sippy cup leashes found here and those little linky rings for baby toys.  Both were awesome for keeping drink cups and snack cups contained!
5.  Rest stops.  We need more of these in America actually but Kansas, Michigan, and Arkansas had the best ones.  Kansas and Arkansas had the most frequent ones.  Oklahoma and Missouri were both devoid of all rest stops and that was very frustrating.
6.  Magnet games.  I wish I had thought of this before the trip but I had one book: Muddle Farm
that has animal magnets to play with on the pages.  I should have taken a small size cookie sheet and attached small magnets (probably the kind that come in a sheet and have adhesive on the back) to paper dolls for my 3 year old to dress up dolls without losing the pieces.  Well, I know what I'll do next time (if there is a next time -- that's a darn long trip!).
7.  If your kids are old enough not to eat them, take a box of mexed up fun little things -- mini-erasers, pom-poms, beads and string, etc. for them to mess around with.  It will be all over your car, I promise, but it will keep them entertained.

Any other ideas?  I'll pass them along.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teach Geography

There was an article in our Dallas newspaper that reported that the latest testing of students in GEOGRAPHY found that only 20% of high school seniors are proficient or better and that it's not much better for eighth-graders at 27% and 21% of fourth-graders.

Wow.  That's pretty bad.

I have my own theories on this (which soap box I will not subject you to at the moment), but also thought that there must be simple ways to support the learning of geography at home.

Display a map of the world and a map of the United States in your home: kids love learning about places that are different.  How simple it would be to talk about the world on a regular basis if you have something up to start the conversation.  Even better, get the giant maps and then find pictures of landmarks, animals, people (especially family members) and put them on the map.  Give your children a sense where things are and how they connect to them.

There are blank outline maps for the United States and individual states located here.  They can be used for coloring or "building" the United States as you learn U.S. history - which states came first and how did the United States look at various stages of history.

Start a postcard photo album.  Every time you travel get a few post cards of that place and start a picture album to display them.  If you have family in various places or who travel a lot, enlist them to send some to you.  Every kid loves to get their own mail and when it's a cool picture of somewhere great it's even better!

Celebrate diversity by trying different foods.  That doesn't have to involve special grocery trips or even a lot of cooking.  If you like in a larger city there are always restaurants for different types of food but more and more the grocery stores carry basics that are staples to different cultures.

Find old copies of National Geographic and create world collages out of them.  Our local library has a for sale book nook that ALWAYS has old copies for 10 cents each!  And their pictures are always fantastic and go all over the world.  

And if all else fails, find The Animaniacs on YouTube because they sing the 50 states and nations of the world (which I'm sure is outdated by now), and even my 3-year old loves them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

For Traveling

A friend of mine had this fantastic idea for long trips that I thought I'd pass along.  It would work best with elementary school-age children, although I plan to use it with my 3-year old the next time we go across states because she loves to color.

If you're not familiar with it already, Crayola has a website with coloring pages, crafts, and lesson plans.
If you click on coloring pages on the left-hand side and then on "learning", they have a category for states.

Print a sheet off for every state that you will drive through.  When you get to that state, give your child the coloring page.  They have the state flag and then birds, animals, flowers, etc. that are the "official" whatever for that state.  

Not only does your child get something new to do, it marks your movement to your destination and gives you something to talk about.

There are also categories for landmarks, geography, and places and of course they have pages with Disney characters, holidays, seasons, sports, etc.