Monday, March 10, 2014

Having an Adventure

My children have media limits.  We do our best to enforce them, allowing for an hour of screen time a day.  We also know we aren't perfect and have slipped from time to time.  Recently we re-doubled our efforts to make the hour stick.  Here's what we have noticed as a result.  Our kids have been so creative!  They have been playing together better, getting along more and sharing.  Here are some of the activities I've seen them take part in recently:
-making orange juice from oranges as an experiment
-packing a backpack, taking a walkie talkie and going for an adventure in the back yard
-sledding
-Lego creations
-car races (hot wheels)
-reading to each other
-learning to cook/assisting in the kitchen
-pirate swashbuckling
-stuffed animal vet clinic
-snowman building
-fort building
-paper airplane building
These were all self started activities that they thought of when I wouldn't give in to extend the family timer on the X-Box.  I love it!
 

Family From Away

I'm from away. Anyone who lives in the Maritimes will know what 'from away' means. If you aren't from here, you're from away.  I've been here more than 10 years but I'm still from away.  Our family lives out west.  Another great Maritimism that could mean anywhere Ontario and west, usually they mean Alberta or BC.  The 4 hour time difference and insane amount of money it costs to travel coast to coast makes family get togethers tricky, but not impossible.  At Christmas this year we saved my parents' gifts until later in the day and then my kids opened them with their grandparents via FaceTime.  It was fantastic!
Christmas gift opening via FaceTime
Recently, our nephew became stationed at the military base that's about an hour away from here.  While he doesn't get a lot of leave time and doesn't yet have a car we were able to have a good visit with him one weekend and hope to do so again soon.
It was so good to see him and have family around.  You don't realize how much you miss it. 
My boys with their cousin
The kids loved having him over.  Although he's 21 he is really good with kids (his little sister is the same age as our middle child).  Really, how could he not be a hit?  He's their big cousin who is in the military that will still play Lego with them.  My oldest was so excited to have him be the one pick him up from a friend's birthday party so that he could show him off to his friends. 
The funny thing for me was getting to know him more as an adult.  He's a really great kid (my sister-in-law raised him well).  When I first met him he was about 7.  The year after my husband and I married and moved east we had him come and visit (I think he was 11 at the time).  That's the kid I really remember.  That's who I think about when I think about him.  Even though we've had lots of visits in between he's still this enthusiastic kid who could chat your ear off (in a good way).
During a trip to England in 2004.  Our oldest is in the stroller, our nephew was 12.
I do treasure our time with family.   We're spread all over the place but it is nice to see them, the family from away.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Penguin Party

These cupcakes were a hit!
My dear daughter turned 4 in January and we had a penguin party to celebrate!  Here's how the party played out!
1st the Decor:
This banner was really easy!  It's a long black plastic tablecloth from the dollar store gathered in the middle.  The bow is a long white plastic table cloth tied into a bow.  I just draped it and pinned it up over the living room window.

These penguins were made out of black poster paper, white poster paper, orange (for the noses) and marker drawn eyes.  I just drew the shape of it and cut them out.  (Layer two papers on top of each other to get two identical penguins).  The triangles in between are also white poster paper, cut and pinned.  I drew the zig zags on top with the happy birthday message.

The food table.  The Happy Birthday in the window is from the dollar store. The penguins are my daughter's.  The goodie boxes were a super-cute find from Michael's.  Inside were Hello Kitty pencils and stampers, some bracelets, a couple of chocolates and a few other treats.

This penguin is a black piece of poster paper with the white shape cut out and taped on top.  Same with the orange beak and eyes.  This little guy would be the basis for feed the penguin game later on.

Let's get this party started!
We had a little craft to colour while everyone was arriving.  These frame kits I found at Michaels.

This is the "Eat the Doughnut off the String Game".  My daughter apparently just wanted to play by her own rules and used her hands.  We had another string of doughnuts set up in between our kitchen and dining area. 

My favorite moment from the party.  O's friend J tried and tried and just couldn't get the doughnut so she held the string and said, "I'll help you J".  So Sweet!
Penguins eat fish, so here's another food game with no hands.  Each child had a plate of Sweedish Fish to eat.  My daughter once again used her hands, but the rest played along and thought it was fun.

This blur is a take on musical chairs that we called Musical Icebergs.

Pin the Fishie on the Penguin - trying to get it to the beak.

No penguin theme here, just another fun food game.  Toss the mini-marshmallows into the mouth.

Cupcakes are ready!
Happy Birthday sweet girl!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beyond the Blue Line

My oldest son fell in love with hockey at around the age of 2. We had no idea where this love came from, it was just always there. He wanted pucks in his stocking for toys and while skating on his own was work when he was 3, put a stick in his hand and it suddenly became fun. Because of this love we knew that we would put him in hockey when he was old enough to play. The past 5 years on the ice have certainly been an eye opening experience into a world I never really knew existed (I played piano growing up).

Hockey is certainly an exciting sport to be a part of, but it also an expensive one. We now have 2 on the ice and a third one declaring she wants to play when she is in kindergarten too. My husband I have to plan our budget carefully, saving year round to allow them the opportunity to play. Hockey is an expensive sport, there's no doubt. We have to be real about it too. We view hockey as a fun community to be a part of where our kids get plenty of exercise. We want them to do well, but you can get carried away. So many families put so much money into hockey. They buy specialized sticks and gear. They put their kids into all sorts of extra clinics and leagues above and beyond their regular team. I spoke to one mother recently who told me she spends $10 000 on hockey for just one of her children to play (and she has 3 who take part). Personally, I can't imaging spending that much money on one child for sports. There are other opportunities that we want for our children too.

Thinking long term, I want to give our children the opportunity to take post-secondary education. That's why from day 1 of our children's lives we have invested in RESP's with CST Canadian Scholarship Trust. Each month CST automatically withdraws money from our account and invests it for us, allowing us to save for our kids' futures. Life is all about balance. Absolutely, we love having hockey be part of our children's lives. We also know that it isn't everything in life. Here are some facts about balance from CST:
  • 89% (of parents, surveyed by CST) believe it is important for parents in Canada to help their child pay for their post-secondary education 
  • Three out of five Canadian parents (61 per cent) say they, or someone they know, have borrowed money or used their retirement savings to put a child through hockey or other extracurricular activities. 
  • 36% believe paying for extracurricular activities like hockey is more important before saving for post-secondary education  
CST recognizes the need for balance between extra curricular activities and saving for our children's  futures.  That is why they are inviting the hockey communities (teams and associations) to tell them what they are doing for their community and to encourage the educational success amongst their players.  They will get a chance to compete for $10 000 to go towards their program and help alleviate the cost of hockey for their families.  You can find out more about this program at www.beyondtheblueline.ca

I think it is a fantastic opportunity for all of us hockey families to think about balance amongst their community.  I hope you do take the time to check it out.


Disclosure: I am part of the C.S.T. Consultants Inc. – Beyond the blue line blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

DIY Minecraft Costume

I first saw a costume like this on Pinterest without a tutorial attached.  Ideas started to go round and round in my head of "if I ever made that, how would I do it?"  The idea that stayed with me the most had to do with using paint chips to be the pixels.  I collected a bunch and hit up Kent (our local hardware store chain) for a couple of boxes that would be the right size for the head and body.  I was all ready to go when I decided to look up some tutorials for a Minecraft costume, seeing if anyone else had done something similar.  What I found was a very snarky tutorial that judged what she considered to be inferior costumes and that her way and her downloads were so much better to do it right.  Can I just say that this is the evil side of Pinterest?  I love it so much for the ideas, but really people, can we not just accept that crafts and costumes are not going to be (and don't have to be) perfect?  A homemade costume made with love is something most kids will never know the joy of.  Can we not just celebrate that they were made with love and the kids who wore them loved wearing them? Sorry, I know I could go into a longer rant, but that post I read really put me off!
Anyway, I decided to forge ahead with my own idea.  Here's how it played out:

Materials

-2 large boxes, one for the head, one for the body
-paint chips in skin tones, browns and blues.  The ones I collected were similar enough in tone that the could create that pixel-y look that Minecraft is so known for
-dark brown (or black) spray paint
-blue spray paint - make sure your spray paints are good quality - see my Lego costume post as to why
-glue (I used Elmer's white glue)

How I did it:

The Head
1. Cut the bottom flaps of the box off
2. Cut out eye holes - make them large enough to see out well, keep them rectangular to fit in with the design
2. Cut out the paint chips into rectangles (I also cut off the paint numbers and names)
3.  Lay out your face design to make sure the layout will work
4.  Spread glue all over the box and lay down the chips in your design - they will curl up, don't panic!
5. Once all the pieces are on, turn the box face down to dry.  I put several heavy cookbooks inside the box to put weight on it and let it dry overnight.
6.  Once dry, take your box outside and place it face down.  Spray paint the rest of the box in dark brown or black to be the rest of the hair

The Body
1. Cut the bottom flaps of the box off
2. Use an exacto knife or serrated knife to cut out a head hole and arm holes - make them large enough that the head and arms can fit through comfortably
3. Spray paint the box blue.
*Now, you could stop there and it would look great.  I did carry on with the next steps because I had gotten the paint chips
4. Cut the paint chips into rectangles as you did with the face ones
5. Spread glue over the front of the box and lay the chips down in your design.
6. Once again, place your box design side down and place heavy books inside to weight it down and leave overnight to dry.

If I had any doubts about this costume being 'inferior', the look on my son's face the morning he saw it made them all drift away.  He really, really loved this costume and thought it "tres cool" (his words, not mine)

DIY Lego Brick Costume

This costume was a lesson in "don't cheap out on spray paint!"  Fortunately, I had lots of green tempera paint in the house, so I was able to fix the mess and the costume worked.  Best of all, my son loved it!
The first step to this costume was finding a box large enough.  One kind person suggested Indigo book store (which I never would have thought of).  Sure enough, they had it (one more reason to love that store).  Once I had the box, the rest was just figuring it out and actually taking the time to make it.

Materials
-large cardboard box
-moving tape
-paper bowls (think Royal Chinet or similar)
-paint - a good spray paint would work as it did with my other son's Minecraft costume, but I cheaped out and ended up painting several coats of tempera over top.

How I did it:

1. Cut the bottom out of the box.
2. Use an exacto knife, or a serated knife to cut a round hole large enough out of the top that the head will fit comfortably through.
3.  Also using an exacto knife, or, serated knife cut armholes out of the top sides.
4. Place and tape the bowls (placed upsidedown, spread out to look like the Lego brick bumps)
5. Paint - and continue to paint until it is coated well

Now, I know this is not the picture perfect Pinterest example of a Lego brick costume, but I think it's a pretty good example of what the rest of us can do.  He absolutely loves this costume and got great compliments at the Trunk or Treating even we went to.  I thought it was a lot of fun and I had fun making it for him too.

 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

And they are off!

Yes, my kids started back at school too. Apparently it's a new tradition in New Brunswick that it will rain on the first day of school so my pictures are all early morning indoors with dreary lighting.
My oldest suggested this Beatles circa 1963 shot on the stairway, I think of it more as a Brady Bunch 1970's pic.

Don't ask me how my lovely daughter got this cool hairflip to match her model pose at 6:30 in the morning.  She started at her new daycare.

My 6 year old was pumped for grade 1.

My 9 year old really didn't want to smile for any pictures, but I made him laugh and caught it.  Look out grade 4.

My 3 ready to go

On the way to the bus stop.  Charlie wants to go too.

First day of daycare.  Her new daycare has preschool elements to it and she is loving it.
It was a little weird sending the boys off to school.  Their school is the one that I have taught at the past couple of years.  There are pros and cons to both.  It is nice to not have the dual role of parent and teacher on staff at the same school, but I miss seeing my teacher friends and being part of that community.  My new school is in town so there is a little commute and slightly different hours. The kids' school runs from 7:45 to 1:10 (K-2) and 2:10 (3-8).  My school runs from 8:30-3:00 (I teach grade 4). My school has been very welcoming to me and I do feel right at home there too.
My oldest is in an intensive french program (it's a grade 5 program for all NB students not in French Immesion.  He's in a 4/5 split so he will get it for 2 years).  He is loving it.  My husband was really amazed at how much french he was rattling off during the Open House night this week. 
My 6 year old is loving grade 1.  He's in a 1/2 split and tells me about all his adventures on the new school playground.  Apparently they have nicknamed the merry-go-round the puke express.  Lovely, I know.  My 3 year old is thriving in the preschool based daycare that she is at and is excited to go each day.  So far, a great start of the year.