Monday, October 31, 2011

When your kid opts for the unknown Halloween Costume

Bean is a kick in the pants of a kid and her kooky factor is really high, this tends to lead to somewhat off the beaten path Halloween costumes.  This year is no different, she has picked something no one will recognize at first sight, and when told what she is they still don't know.

This is not the first time an unusual costume has been selected that has been generally unknown, there was the Creepy year. Bean wanted to be Creepy from the series about a little girl being raised by bugs. Creepy is into bugs and a goth, you can guess how that went over with 6 year old Beans friends, they looked at her like she was crazy.  That time she at least picked something that the occasionally 5 or 6 year old had seen and thought was cool, but it was only a handful. Back then we got looks from other parents like we had dressed her up like a hooker, how could we let her pick that. Creepy was out of the norm, unrecognizable and weird, we thought it was cool.  We had a number of people ask why we didn't try to get her to pick something else, why was what we always said. Why try to deny a kid their chance at imagination, even if it outside the norm.  Halloween isn't about being conformist, it is about being a superhero, a fairy or even a character from a TV show not a lot of people watch.

So when you kid picks a funky non traditional thing, do you try and get them to change to something more recognizable or just totally go with it?  We have traditionally gone with it, Chicken was a ball one year.  With girls costumes moving towards being on the slutty side, I went with this non traditional costume idea just like I have in the past. The cool thing about her choice, it was culled mostly from her closet with a few accents, she decided to be Claudia from Warehouse 13.  For a 9 year old girl child I see Claudia as a great character; she's techie, a critical thinker, she puts herself out there, is musical, and is adventurous.  This isn't saying that she isn't flawed which makes her such a great character.  The kids have gotten into watching Warehouse 13 in the last year and though the show can have adult themes generally it is a great show for us all to watch together. The thing is no one we have run into on the Halloween circuit yet has any idea who Claudia is, and Bean could care less.  I am totally fine with her doing what she wants and being who she wants, but I see when she tells people who she is and they don't register it that there is a disconnect between the two children standing there in their costumes. This is one more thing that stands out and makes me see she is headed down that path where not everyone around her will get her, but when she finds those ones that do it will be like coming home.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pinata Trouble

Apparently I cannot make a Pinata.....

I had recently seen two great blogs about pinata making, Cindy deRosier's Strawberry Pinata and Mannic Mommies Angry Bird Pinata.  After reading both blogs I figured, I could do that, I was WRONG.

Take one I did the balloon and tape from Mannic Mommies, got the first layer of newspaper on and set it out to dry. The balloon popped, the newspaper caved in on one side of itself.  I think setting it out in the hot sun wasn't good and the newspaper was two thin.

Take two, yes I was crazy enough for a take two.  This was the all or nothing attempt I was not going to do this again.  First, I went with a the flour paste vs the glue paste, I tried the glue the first time. A thicker first layer of newspaper was in order. It was cold and wet outside so pinata production was going to be kitchen based.  I should have known trouble was brewing when I pasted both my pants and newspaper to the kitchen floor. Additionally the paste got EVERYWHERE, the whole time I kept saying I promise I will clean it all up. The first layer went ok, but messy, it was think and really wet. I set it aside to dry and went about my day. The next day I checked on it and there were two problems, it was still partially wet and it had shrunk and was wrinkled, really wrinkled. At this point I was tired and done.

An Angry Bird pig just seemed like something I should have been able to do and in frustration I reached out to my mom board for ideas and headed to the store to pick up Halloween stuff. At the store inspiration hit, and saved me. There was one decent looking pumpkin pinata left. The store attendant got it down for me and with some green spray paint, a plastic egg, a birthday hat and a template off the internet, ta-dah pig pinata. It isn't pretty but a bunch of boys will be using a sling shot to try and break it open, they won't even notice.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angry Bird Party Part 1

We are getting ready to put on an Angry Birds party for Chicken the weekend after next.  I am one of those go a little over the top kind of folks so figured I would share some of the fun here in a multi-part series. This first part will be short as it will only cover initial planning and the party invite.

As soon as Chicken started getting into Angry Bird I knew a party couldn't be too far behind and I wanted to do something that would be Angry Birds, but tie in the birthday. I like to draw so made the painting you see above. To get the basics of drawing the birds I started with a freehand sketch of what I wanted with a picture of all the birds nearby as a reference.  Then I needed a theme, the theme of the drawing and what would become the theme of the party was that those pesky pigs had stole all Chicken's presents and would the guests come help us get the presents back. When parties get planned this way I always try to think of the amount of people, food choices, activities; more than once I have picked a theme and come up empty with activities or food.  There are still a few blanks with this party, but I will share what I have already put together.

Planning a party like this involves more planning for me before a whole lot of action on my part. Once the theme was done and the painting was going to happen, who to invite and how came into play.  I really would have liked to send out invites though the mail but coming up with an invite I liked just wasn't happening and I had a painting. Using evite I imported my picture and made some custom RSVP sayings: Yes became Load me in the sling shot, no was flying south for the winter and maybe became not sure scaredy bird. What I love about evite is that I can send out invites a little late, it is really easy to get email addresses and this way I didn't have to bother with print outs addresses or anything else.  Then we started looking at activities to do with the kids; there must be a pinata, more about that in another post. Then the sling shot idea started the current plan is to build a slingshot in the garage and use a bunch of boxes as the bricks and beach balls as pigs. Lastly I am thinking of having the kids make bird feeders the ones that are seeds and peanut butter, something a little mellow but at the same time bird focused.  Food was the next idea center, this is an afternoon party and I wanted to keep the food easy with a lot of boys I have noticed it can get crazy.  I have made the test cupcakes once already with candy and frosting we will be having Angry Bird Cup cakes. For snacks I am currently learning towards bird food(trail mix), bacon and a fruit tray with dip.  Decorations will be paper lanterns decorated like birds.

What do you think am I missing anything need to add anything? Have you done an Angry Bird party and had a great success or failure?

Monday, October 24, 2011

What do your kiddos know about Cyber Security

Bean is accessing a website for her math homework and I was trying to figure out if I could viewPenguin  how many minutes she had done last week when she happily offered up her username to me so I could log in as her, I froze. Immediately I asked, have you ever told anyone else your username and password? She gave me that really weird look like I had plants growing out of my ears and said no, who would want that?

Seeing as we log the kids into and out of our home machine Bean had never had a username and password, nor had we ever talked about what that means. Yes, Club Penguin has a username and password, but we always log them in and out or we tell them the log in info as they are logging in. I have never thought to talk to them about keeping their information private. Yes, I am an idiot, I work in IT, I know better this should be something both kids know and live by, but they don't and I hadn't.

I stopped trying to figure out how to get minutes per week on her math website and asked her what her computer class and told her about user names. She said that a username and password is how she logs in to her website and gave me that you have plants in your ears look. I explained that her username and password were unique to her and that if someone got that information they could get into her math account as her. She said she didn't care if someone logged in as her. So I asked, well what would happen if someone logged in as you and failed the math sections on purpose so you would lose points and drop in the rankings. Her line, 'you don't lose points for that', ARRGG. I tried again, ok what if Chicken got into your Club Penguin account and set your triffle guy free (the little pet things).  This immediately angered her, she looked at Chicken and said I would make sure you failed and lost all your coins.  After I stopped the fight that was suddenly brewing, I reminded Bean that to prevent her brother from this all she had to do was not let him know her username and password. I light bulb went off, we were back on track, so you shouldn't tell people your username and password because then they can mess up your stuff on the web. YES....

This is only the beginning of the conversations we will need to have about computer safely and the internet.  Somehow during this process I realized like teaching our kids about sex, drugs, how to handle bullies and all those other things that we have to constantly discuss at the maturity level are kids are at, computer security and protecting your identity and yourself online is another thing to add to the list.

Can't wait till the sexting conversation...

Update: we ended up having another conversation this weekend about watching appropriate things on the Internet, and talking to mom and dad before you just go look something up. She was curious how nipples get pierced and Utubed it. Hubs Looked over her shoulder, saw the vid and just about died... Next subject appropriate things to look up and ensuring you always see a professional when you want tattoos or peircings.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Picture Organization and Use..HELP

 I took these pictures last year leading up to Halloween and at our family party. I love to take pictures and I love these pictures, I just don't seem to be using them. A few of the pictures from this party have graduated to one of the digital picture frames we have. A few pictures have made it to Facebook to be shared with family and friends. The majority as much as I love them are languishing in a file on our external drive.

Scrap booking is something I love, but don't really have a great set up for right now, so I don't do it very much. There always seems to be something else that needs to be done before or instead of me scrap booking. I am also years behind. I can pop out a travel album pretty well, most likely next summer I will sit down and over a few weekends knock out our family Disneyland trip from November 2010.  I will scrap it, but not journal it....
This is where I struggle, I can get the scrapping done, but I don't get the journaling done.  There are four albums in my office right now awaiting journaling and I have told myself no more scrapping till I journal.  So what has happened, I have pictures storing without notes stacking up on the hard drive, and albums and pictures sitting around the office not getting tended.  This all just makes this scrap booking seem more pain and less fun.  In general I am really just not getting things done with my hobbies. I am not making the time.

So I ask you..How are you storing your pictures for later use? Have you converted to digital to make it easier? Do you some how make notes on pictures or folders to keep track? Do you not scrap but do something else with your pictures? What is working or not working with your pictures?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Slowing Down and Making Bread

This weekend per usual we had big big plans. Go here, do this experience this..blah blah blah...

That all changed after a phone call from a friend and waking up with a sore throat.  Instead of a busy weekend running around we have mostly hung out and done nothing.  With both kiddos out of the house on Friday night the hubs and I hung out and I made muffins.  Baking is a favorite activity of mine and with a school function coming that I am cooking for the chance to make a try it out batch was perfect. We watched a movie, filled the house with yummy smells and eventually picked up our little happy zombie girl from daycare date night.

The next day again was planned, but immediately rescheduled to nothing in an instant.   Being gluten free unless I want to pay like 5 dollars for a loaf of bread that tastes so so I have to make it myself. Making bread is one of those baking skills I was never really all that good at.  Generally I don't take the time to make sure every thing is measured right, with proper temperature and the like.  With the kiddos distracted with various activities throughout the house, I decided to bake some bread, and actually pay attention to what was doing.  Baking bread is a throw back to me of my family far away. My dads mother and a number of his sisters all bake. When his sisters came to visit us from Newfoundland they brought their bread baking bowls with them. They used to warm their bread on my waterbed. For me homemade bread is love in a warm home made slice with butter.

Off the nostalgia kick and back on to my usual bread baking misadventures. Mixing the right gluten free bread combo to cook what you want can be really tough so I buy the remixed loaves.  Ultimately these mixes I get are the add oil, eggs, and water and it is all good. The thing that vexes me every single time I cook it the adding the yeast part, I have been wrestling with this forever and not succeeding. My yeast never rises and the assumption was that the water wasn't warm enough, I was wrong. This time when I poured the water I used the meat thermometer, the water turned out to be about 140 degrees, just a little warm for yeast since it is suppose to be about 110 degrees.  I had all the ingredients ready so just hung out until it was time. I decided to hand stir it also just to make sure all the ingredients mixed well without over stirring from a mixer. While all this was happening I helped the kids, picked up the kitchen and generally enjoyed the relaxation of nothing to do but watch bread bake. When the yeast was done I mixed everything and put the bread aside to rise then bake. The house smelled amazing, the bread was great and slowing down made all the difference.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Parent/Teacher Conferences....

So I cried in the middle of Parent/Teacher conference today...

Parent/Teacher conference is one of those activities that I get really nervous about. Their is something about parent teacher conference that reminds me of getting called to the principals office. Even though I haven't been playing at the school age mom game for long there have been some surprises during parent/teacher meeting that can make me a little skittish.  This year thankfully the surprise was an incredible good one.

I can't give you the lolly yet though, so lets talk Chicken. I was not happy about his placement this year, but I am starting to change my mind and this meeting reinforced that even more.  Turns out the crazy little monkey is smart as a tack and having success in class on a lot of levels. His math, reading, and spelling are looking really good. Honestly I wasn't worried about him academically there are other things I worry about with him.  He learn to use his hand prattling and he tends to rush through reading and writing activities making more mistakes than is really necessary or appropriate.  Generally speaking though the kids doesn't have any thing that I don't still have as an adult, I tend to interrupt at meetings and over rush through things without as much detail. With awareness our hope is that these things improve with time, practice and focus.

Walking through the meeting with his teacher though gave me a great glimpse into how she does things and gave me a chance to really chat with her. As I listened to his teacher explain the manipulative nature of the activities she does, the way she asks for one thing a lot of ways, it struck me. It struck me that even though I may not get the warm fuzzies from this woman, she is a good match for my son.  She is consistent, uses a lot of hands on manipulation to work something out, and though there are worksheets they are short and presented in a way to keep his attention.  After the meeting we talked about ways to continue to help Chicken learn math skills and I am now going to volunteer in class next week to learn all the fun math games that we can do at home as a family. The final verdict on the first grade conference is good and we can both work together for the education of Chicken.

Now to the good part where I cry.  Walking into Bean's classroom with her wonderful teachers there was no telling what could come out of it, there were big warm fuzzies here I just wasn't sure what her academic performance was going to say. Honestly there was a little bit of preparing for the worst, I had a lot of fear that bean was already falling behind and that we were going to hear reading scores below grade level. They started by telling me how much they loved having Bean in class and what a great kid she is, I knew that. Then they got down to the business at hand and slid a 'score card' of her performance. I was so concerned that I didnt' really look at the paper at first blush, then they kept talking about how great she was doing at this point I looked. She is at or above grade level in ALL subjects. Our baby girl who we had fought so hard for the last 8 months was doing well, not just doing well but thriving. I started crying, couldn't help it, the relief that washed through my boy at that moment the pride.. After the teachers were so good as to get me a tissue I was able to pull myself together and we could finish up.

Listening to the rest of the meeting, on cloud nine, about the wonders of my amazing kid was just a treat. She is doing wonderful, her reading and writing are improving, she is articulate in class and very responsible.  When the teachers told me she was responsible, diligent, focused and could easily follow all her directions beautifully in class with out issues. At this point my mouth just about dropped open and stopped. 'I feel a little bad, I think it is the meds', I told the teachers. Their response was loosely whatever makes them successful is worth it and if she is focused to learn how to handle herself eventually she will be fine on her own.  I love these women and part of the reason Bean is doing so great is that she LOVES them too.  For some kids I think the teacher really makes the experience and that is the case here. Now even though she is doing fabulous we all need to keep an eye on things, be aware of where she is struggling and not let her hide when she does run into difficulties.

Looking forward I am expecting a great year for both kids and am really excited by all the things coming up this year. Both kids have teachers who like them and are out for their best interest. I feel like when there are concerns arising I can talk to these teachers. Maybe, just maybe I will get over my fear of parent/teacher conferences by the time the kids hit middle school, huh?

Monday, October 10, 2011


This weekend I started looking through the pictures from the last year, somewhere in there has to be a picture I can use for a Christmas card right. I know Christmas talk already, but if I am going to get a picture, order the cards and get them out in the first weeks of December some serious planning needs to occur.  I noticed something though in the pictures I had, I didn't have that many. There used to be a time the kids would put on a hat and I would grab the camera, not so much now.  I still take pictures and enjoy the pictures I take, but with the business of life I don't scrapbook as much as I used to and our camera is older, so I just don't take as many pictures. I have also realized I so enjoy being in the moment with the kids, that I don't always remember to take out my camera.  The question now is, what do I do about our Christmas card then, is there a picture or pictures that will work? Do I put the kids in some cute clothes, drag them to the mall and put them in room and just let the photo place do the rest? The other option is to take them out to one of the amazing parks in town to get some good shots on out own. This method has worked in the past, but there are so many other people out at the same time it is almost worse than a photo studio.

I love fall and I always seem to take a lot more pictures in the fall, this is probably the chief reason I start hunting pictures this time of year.  I have read all the ways you are suppose to get kids to smile and work with the natural light, and blah blah blah, but really if my two are looking my direction I am going for it.  Chicken and bean can be really accommodating for pictures and generally I can get a few good shots out of 10, but they are never enthused to go take pictures in the leaves.   We tried once with the dogs and that was almost an animal planet special on how to take out the kids the dogs were so unruly.  Most of our family lives far away so I know the pictures are appreciate, I just want to show a great picture and have it not be like everyone else.  I never know quite what to do with Christmas cards and leaving myself plenty of time to think about it always seems good. Until it is well into November, I have no ideas and I need something.

Who know what will come picture wise in the next weeks that will save me. Right now I am thinking of dressing them up and dragging them to the park.  Maybe a Christmas camera would make it all better.  How do you set up and decide on your Christmas cards and holiday pictures?  

When I think about these things I always think about how the food networks and crafts shows shooting all the holiday stuff in the summer and imagine someone with a professional photographer in their house 4th of July weekend in thick holiday sweaters. 

The pictures shown today are the current front runners right now, but I can't think of a cute saying to go with them yet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Learning Challenges and Research Papers

Bean is an amazing kid and has great qualities, but research projects show off all the learning obstacles that it seems she will be faced with long term.  In very few other ways do I so wholly see everyone of the issues that Bean faces with learning than when she has to do research to write something up. Usually I tend to go LOCO IMPATIENT CRAZY trying to get her through these projects too, which never helps the situation.  Lets start at the beginning of these oh so beautiful projects and walk our way through her challenges and my mental breakdown.

When an assignment comes home Bean is usually really excited and interested in the project. Knowing that focus is an issue I try to get some idea of what Bean wants to do and then we start talking about the work needed to do it, at this stage Bean gets sad. Work, work that isn't the fun stuff, but actual work.

I admit this is also where I lose guidance on where she is at developmentally, what can a normal third grader do on their own?  What should I expect and encourage her to do with little involvement from us? The one disadvantage we have in this whole kid thing is the one with challenges that are outside of my comfort zone came first. We won't know what is semi normal until Chicken is in third grade, and seeing as they are such different kids, what their norms are is drastically different too.  He is really motivated and independent and that works to our advantage with school assignments, that isn't Bean and that's OK. I need to figure out what to expect and then push her towards it, she has always needed a push to gain independence.

Sorry about that rant, back to your regularly scheduled report processing rant..

Before I start this paragraph, I have a lot of the same issues Bean has and I realize now what a total handful I must have been to deal with.

Information gathering is the most challenging aspect of any project that Bean works on.  Her reading is behind so it tends to take her a little longer to read through a web page. The processing issues we notice are making it tough for her to parse out the information that is important to her research. Her atrocious spelling and writing make it tough to take notes that are readable can be used later on, and she is slow in her writing, making it tough to remember what she started writing about in the first place.  The attention issues make it so she will happily diddle around in the office forever as long as no one interrupts her and she won't get the work done. What does this all mean? Well it means that I am trying to walk a really fine line of helping and not doing.  Whenever Bean starts a project I set her up on the PC get her through her first Google search and let her have at it, if she hasn't come out and asked a question in about 30 minutes it is time for some guided assistance.  Usually in those 30 minutes Bean has read the web page, but now has no idea what to do. We sit down and talk about the questions she wants answered, I ask her if the web page answered any of the questions. At this stage I either get the most incredibly vague answer to the question possible or a shoulder shrug. I scan the web page and pick a paragraph that has a piece or two of the information we need and have her read it. I ask her if there was anything that answered her questions in there? She usually can find one thing that answers a question, by the time she writes it down and I ask again she has forgotten the paragraph. I, at this point, re-read the paragraph to her and ask her again if there was anything important. Another item or so will come from this, but usually some type of conversation occurs that talks about the real meaning of the questions she wants answers for and what the information in the paragraph has to do with that. This information-gathering stage usually goes on for a few nights, with me feeding her smaller bites of web pages or books in a more manageable form for her, which is a mix of her reading it and me reading it to her.

Writing the report and doing the accompanying project are another phase of theses projects altogether. Honestly by the time the writing comes I am usually spent and my sanity is officially in doubt, but thankfully this is more where Bean can take it on her own. With notes from her research she writes a rough draft of her report after we put the pieces in an order that makes sense. She has gotten a lot better at organizing paragraphs and the like over the summer. First draft tends to be a spelling nightmare, but allow us to give some good grammar feedback, like all your sentences need periods. Second draft is pretty close and then the final is usually done on the paper that the teacher provides. The last part of most projects is the art or displaying of her research.  This takes quite a bit of talking to get a concise idea that keeps to a theme and meets the requirements. Once the talking is done she is pretty much left to her own devices. Her projects have always been fun at the end and a pain at the beginning, but isn't that how it is for most of us.

Any ideas greatly appreciated...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Balloon Rally....

A few weeks ago the yearly Balloon Rally happened and per usually we woke up early to go. There is something about hot air balloons that bring out the kid in all of us. The kids don't really love getting up early or walking to where the balloons launch, but as soon as hiss of the gas starts up Chicken starts pointing and jumping around and Bean gets this HUGE smile on her face. When they all those balloons start taking off with the crispness in the air and the giggles of the kids around me I can't do anything but smile.  Thankfully, the kids seem to enjoy the show as much as we do and after a cool morning watching balloons shoot into the air we make the run for a great local breakfast place. We have been going to this in balloon rally in it's many forms since before Bean could walk and just thinking about it makes me smile. When I think of family traditions a revel in the ones that we have created ourselves and this is defiantly one, and most defiantly one we will continue to do. Sorry this is a picture heavy one, I just love all the pictures over the last few years.