Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The laundry line BMX track

Does he think he's being sneaky?

I have finally come to really love and enjoy our backyard after 11 years of working on it (and of course that work is still in progress). I especially love it because our front yard is not a safe place for our kids to play unattended. We live on a pretty busy street with many, many people who do NOT follow the speed limit. So pretty much, we limit the kids to playing in the backyard and our nearby park.

Cruising behind the laundry line

Thankfully we are on a decent sized lot (1/3 acre) so we have a bit of space to play, garden, sit, run....and apparently to bike ride.

The laundry line bicylce race?

Lately we've been working hard on the landscaping both in the back and front yards and Ross cut a bunch of sod out for less watering and better weed control. He inadvertently created a "racetrack" around the backyard. And Hot Rod is making the most of it. I feel kinda bad because we do not take them out bike riding nearly enough. And because of the aforementioned dangerous road out front, we don't let them out bike riding there by themselves yet. I grew up on a huge cul-de-sac with houses on 1/2 acre to 1 acre lots. It was heaven for bike riding around and around....I wish my kiddos could have had that space to ride in. But they seem to be doing just fine with the laundry line race track.

What a goofball!

Kids'll make do with anything if we let their imagination go. I love that.

Thank yous to some fabulous teachers

Teacher thank-yous

It's been a rough school year for our school district, as it has for many districts around the country. But this past year, our district voted to go to a 4 day school week, along with cutting several teaching positions, including our PE teachers, art teachers and music teachers. The days were very long, especially for my first graders that went from a 2.5 hour kindergarten day to a 7 hour day in first grade. And the teachers, oh my goodness, I don't think most of us know what they really went through to make this past year work for our children.

I was fortunate enough to be able to help for several hours in the classroom at least once a week, this past year. And what I saw made me a bit sad- our children are paying for bad political decisions and poor budget management (on local, state and federal levels). They are overworked and shuttled from subject to subject so quickly because of these silly testing standards and then their favorite subjects are taken away from them. It is distressing. But, I was also able to see beautiful lights shining through this educational dimness. I was able to see fantastic teachers and staff at my childrens' elementary school, persevere through this muck and embrace new teaching styles and find new scheduling opportunities (in an already unrelentingly scheduled day) to make the best of a bad situation and still give our children a good, solid education.

Some schools handled things differently and indeed, even at our school some teachers handled their own schedule differently, but in our little school wing, several of the first grade teachers got together and decided our kids still needed PE and music and art. So what they did was divide those individual teaching tasks up and one teacher would teach art to all 3 classes and another would teach PE to all three classes and another would teach music to all 3 classes. They juggled and shifted and moved things around (especially when we had a Monday holiday, which would make us have school on Friday for that week - CRAZY!) and they made it work for our kids.

We are very grateful to those special teachers. And we are very grateful that besides Hot Rod & Lil' Mermaid's first grade teacher, they were also able to have several more teachers enrich their lives this year: a fabulous student teacher, another first grade teacher who taught them art, another first grade teacher who taught them music and of course our wonderful computer teacher and librarian who we get to see several times a day as they are also our very cheerful and funny crossing guards.

So anyway, sorry about the tangent there, we wanted to show our appreciation to our wonderful teachers for their wonderful hearts and engaging minds. We got some cute wire baskets from the Dollar Store and filled them with a flowering plant, homemade biscotti and chocolate dipped pretzels and a zany card from the maniacs. Their super awesome main first grade teacher also got a gift certificate to one of her favorite little eateries. (We know she likes it because we happened to see her there eating one day with her own kids. Do your kids freak out when they see their teachers outside of school? My kids act like they've seen a celebrity!)

Close-up of teacher thank you

And by the way, if you have never made chocolate dipped pretzel before then you need to get melting! Because these are the easiest things in the world to make and they look like you spent a ton of time on them. I made these babies that morning right before we walked to school to drop off the gifts.

Chocolate dipped pretzels

We did make one different thank you because this teacher taught the "lost" subject of art to my children. And as you all know, that is a subject near and dear to my own heart. She also typically taught our class on the same day that I volunteered, so I got to see her in action and help out in her classroom sometimes too. She has a young daughter and passionately loves to teach art, so the kids asked if we could give her one of our art/craft kit bags that we usually give as birthday presents to our artsy little friends. I thought it was a perfect idea.

The whole art/craft kit for Mrs. K

Here's a close-up of the goodies inside (we stuffed that thing so full it would hardly shut!):


And here's a close-up of the freezer paper stencil I did on the outside. I did it the morning we gave it to her, running late as usual, but I was very, very happy with how it turned out.

Close-up of butterfly

We hope Mrs. K and her little girl enjoy hours upon hours of artsy craftsy time together this summer!

Now I realize we must look like complete brown-nosers to other people. But I think it is imperative that we generously, and as often as possible, thank these men and women who devote so much of themselves to our children. And I think it is very, very important to instill this thankfulness into our children, as well as a respect for any person who teaches our next generation. And yes, I know they get paid for it, but seriously - when was the last time you spent a seven hour day with 22 6-7 year old children and actually came away from it with all of your hair in tact and smiles on 22 little faces? Exactly.

Last lunches of the year

Well, I did it. I made lunch for the maniacs for every school day this year. And it wasn't as bad as I thought. I wasn't as creative as I thought I'd be and I didn't do something fancy every day. But they ate healthy and had some fun surprises here and there. And I have to say that it made me happy when both teachers asked if I could pack their lunches too. :-) So here is the last hurrah for my two big first graders (yikes, they're second graders now!)

Bento Box Lunch 4-19-10
Lil' Mermaid put this together for herself and her brother: Ham & cheese sandwiches with pepperoncini, mandarin orange, avocado, cucumbers, red grapes, salt & vinegar chips, goldfish, raisins and peanuts, m&m cookie.

Bento Box Lunch 4-28-10
Bean & cheese burritos, avocado/corn/tomato salad, cucumbers and carrot coins, cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, corn chips and raisins. Using leftover again!

Bento Box Lunch 5-6-10
The last of the strawberry shortcake (with mini chocolate chips this time - angel food cake, strawberries, whipped cream) peas, cheese & crackers, raisins and turkey wraps (cream cheese, chunky cranberry sauce, lettuce, turkey)

Bento Box Lunch 5-11-10
Papa's homemade whole wheat bread with butter and honey on it, boiled egg, leftover ham and sweet potato fries, and leftover salad (lettuce, strawberries, candied walnuts, sweet onions and homemade poppy seed dressing)

Bento Box lunch May
whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, salad (lettuce from the garden) with italian dressing, trail mix of pretzels, golden raisins, regular raisins, and peanuts, oreo pudding with strawberries.

Bento Box 6-9-10
PB & J sandwich in a "tart", carrots, homemade coleslaw, light fruit cocktail, trail mix with nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, goldfish crackers, sunflower seeds

Bento Box - 6-10-10
LAST DAY OF SCHOOL

Ham, cream cheese, spinach roll ups, green beans and dill pickles, pepperoni, cheese and crackers, orange smiles and watermelon.

Of course, I also thought I'd be this totally put-together-cool-mom who would put lovely notes of praise and funny jokes and inspiring quotes in their kids' lunch box - but it didn't happen very often. We did put this funny one in on the last day of school though:

Last day of school LOVE!

And it said it all. We were very proud of those two wacky kids.

Rainbow yard art

LOVE

Remember the rainbow strings we just made with Lukey & Peelu? Well, I have to say, they have become, quite possibly, my new favorite backyard art.

Rainbow string in the tree

We have a chokecherry tree that sits right in the middle of our backyard. We made 5 rainbow string for everyone in our family and randomly hung them up in this tree.

All 5 rainbow strings hangin in the backyard tree

They look so beautiful there. Shining in the sun, their bright colors winking in the light, the strings swaying in the breezes...

Dangling rainbow string

..such simple decorations and yet they make me smile, every time I see them, whether it's from inside as I just glance out or I am sitting beneath their dangling shadows...

A few rainbow strings hanging....


I think more bright, colorful and whimsical art will be heading to our backyard very soon. They are really easy to make - you should try some - and bring some rainbows to your backyard!

Rainbow string in the tree 2

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rock Painting

Peelu & Lukey's hand painted rocks

I think this was our last craft project for Lukey and Peelu for a bit. We kept is simple, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Very intent on painting his rocks

Acrylic paint and some smooth river rocks that I had collected.

Going all out!

Very simple and yet it kept them occupied for a good while.

Painting away

What kid doesn't like to paint?

Little art fingers

Gotta love those little art fingers and hands...especially when they show how much these two loved making their art...

Lukey's hands after painting his rocks
Peelu's hands after painting her rocks

When dry, I sprayed the rocks with some sealer. Peelu placed hers in the backyard, around some plants she likes.

Peelu's painted rocks in the backyard

Yay! More colorful backyard art!

The Wacky Twins

The Goofy Twins 1

I needed a photo or two of the twin maniacs for their teacher thank-yous.

The Goofy Twins 3

Of course, I started out trying to pose them into a respectable pose.

The Goofy Twins 2

But they wouldn't stop laughing.

Chicken Love 4

We even got the chickens involved.

Chicken Love 5

But they are truly nuts. Our kiddos. So these are the photos I used for their thank you notes. These teachers know our maniacs by now. And these photos definitely exhibit their true personalities. I don't doubt that their teachers will never forget these two!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Collage with little fingers

Such colorful collage

Yep, another Peelu & Lukey afternoon craft session. What can I say - we're addicted! Here's the start, it's really easy, just grab a bunch of stuff that little kids can glue down! Here you can see that we used several crafty items that we have on hand: dyed pasta beads, buttons, patterned paper, tissue paper, feathers, sticks, pipe cleaners, fabric scraps, foamies.

The start

A handful here and there was enough for these two to choose from.

It's so cute how they work around each other
The beginnings of Lukey's collage
Peelu's collage in process

Oh yeah, I used recycled frozen lunch containers for their collage tray. These work great for contained crafts for little ones. And we just used regular white glue to stick everything down. I did direct them a bit to start with a background first, explaining that the "flat stuff" covers the black container easier and makes for a nice background for the more 3-dimensional objects. They just LOVED picking items and gluing them down!

That girl has the glue bottle business down!
He loved sticking things down

Peelu sure can wield a glue bottle! And Lukey had some definite design ideas. They were so darn proud of themselves and excited to show their collages off!

What a cutie!"See mine, see mine!!"

They were so happy!

Yay! Another great crafter-noon with two of my favorite mini-crafters.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rainbow Strings

Handful of color

You KNOW, I love rainbows. So a colorful craft project was again in store for Peelu & Lukey on their now-mandated craft hour during our days together.

We pretty much play with beads whenever we can, as evidenced by the large bead bowl in the photo above. Lots of necklaces have been made in our home, and we use them to complete ornaments and other crafty items whenever possible. But I saw this easy little tutorial on Whimsical Ways, via The Crafty Crow, and I started to think about making a string of rainbows to decorate our yard. So here we go....

Little fingers creeping...

I got some wire and trimmed off a few long lengths. I curled the end so the beads wouldn't fall off and we commenced the stringing. They were very good about the wire and thankfully no poking accidents occurred. The wire was much easier for them to string on then a floppy piece of string.

Lukey stringing his rainbow

I talked to them about picking beads that they could see through. So we had quite a discussion about colors and light and dark and holding the beads up to the window. I don't think they got my explanation on opacity but they figured out which beads to look for, for the most part. Some beads were simply too good to pass up even though no light went through them.

Peelu stringin' along

Starting their rainbow strings

Again, these two worked so well together. I LOVE this photo of Peelu holding Lukey's string for him so he could fit his beads on it.

Teamwork

Here's a hilarious shot of them trying to untangle their finished strings to show them to me.

Tangled Rainbow strings

My original intention was to hang them from a window, like Whimsical Ways demonstrated. But lately I have been thinking a lot about yard art and how to incorporate more coolness into our backyard. So, when the big maniacs came home we each made our own rainbow string (and one for Papa). We hung them up on one of our backyard trees during a rare sunny day a few weeks ago.

Rainbows dripping from our backyard tree