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

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:


-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.

-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.


The beginning of school and all of that.

The first 6 weeks of school for any teacher is pretty insane.  In my case I'm starting at a new school and a new to me grade.  So there was the moving, both my stuff from my old school to my new and from the old grade 4 room to the new one that I currently occupy.  I'm getting to know a whole new set of kids.  I spend a lot of time in the first 6 weeks reading student files, benchmarking and assessing where they are at and how they learn best.  I also spend time teaching routines for the kids to follow and playing with seating arrangements to find one that will work best for the students I have.
My classroom was pretty empty when I first moved in - the boxes are mine

My classroom after a lot of work

Ready for students
I really do love the classroom I have been given.  It is the largest one in the upstairs wing.  This means that I can create difrerent areas for learning to take place.  I chose to place the students in desks in order to give them their own space.  Rather than traditional rows, the desks are on a semicircle of rows facing towards the Smartboard.  We have two areas of black and white tiled mats.  One is in front of the Smartboard for comfortable seating.  The other is at our Meeting Place in our book corner by a window. I love that there are 2 tabled areas for students to work at.  One of the tables is kidney shaped.  The students face towards the literacy wall and is a great place for teacher time.  The other is 2 trapezoids pushed together for group work.
I've had a great start to the year and am happy with the way things are going.  I'm happy to say that I've finished all of the "where to start" assessments of my students and have a good idea of my students' needs.  Looking forward to a great year!
My Class, the first day of school


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hair Donation!

I am one of those pretty low maintenance hair people. Usually you will see me in a ponytail because it's easy. Sometimes I take the time in the morning to add a small braid or put it up in a funky messy bun like this:
...but nothing that requires an intense amount of work. The end result is that I usually look like this:

...with no real concept of how long my hair is.  It just keeps on growing.

I decided that I really should get my hair cut one afternoon this summer and fortunately my favorite hairdresser Kelly was free.  On a whim, I asked her if I had enough to donate.  I'd donated my hair before a few years ago so this wasn't new to me.  She measured and sure enough I did.  This is what my hair looked like before:
...and here it is 8 or 9 inches shorter!

For me donating my hair just seems like a good thing to do.  It grows back after all and helps out someone in need.  The Canadian Cancer Society helps people find wigs and other types of headwear for those having cancer treatments.  I sent mine to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which is a nation-wide program.  There are many other programs available. 
Here is my hair, all ready to go.  I asked Kelly to do two braids to get as much length in as possible.

Me after...still long and a cute bit o'style going on.
I asked Kelly if many people donate their hair.  She told me that not as many as you would think.  People seem pretty hesitant and she isn't sure why.  She told me about one woman who had even more hair cut than I did just not seem interested.  Kelly sent her away with her hair braided and in a bag anyway, just in case she changed her mind.  She also told me that more younger girls will come in ready to donate.  I know one of our students in grade 2 last year did, it was very sweet.
After I posted my before and after pictures on Facebook, a cousin of mine messaged me to thank me.  She has battled cancer and said that it means more than you could ever realize to donate your hair.   For me, it's not a big deal and it is pretty easy to do.  Just make sure you check out which organization you wish to go through before you do it as each of them have their own requirements and procedures.  When I sent it in, I was able to send it regular post, so cost me just under $2.00 to send so really, it's not a pricy thing to do either. 
I want to encourage anyone who is considering cutting their hair to look into donating it as well.  It means so much to someone who is going through cancer treatments to have a real hair wig to be able to feel healthy and beautiful.

Movie Themed Birthday Party!

My oldest child turned 9 this past week. 9! A 9 year old boy's birthday party is a little bit trickier to plan than birthday parties of years past. In some ways it is easier. He has outgrown most party games (variations of pin the tail on the donkey and pass the present etc.). He still has a group of friends he wants to invite over and celebrate with. He wants the party to be cool. Cool to a group of 8-10 year old kids has to be cool in their eyes, not the eyes of the birthday boys mother.
We looked into options beyond hosting something at the house. We have a set budget of $100 for everything - food, decorations, party bags, activities - everything. We looked into going bowling with just a couple of close friends and having a pizza after. He liked the idea of that, but didn't want to leave any of his friends out. We proposed going to the movies. We knew we could get a Costco Kids Movie pass for about $10 each, they could see a movie and have the kids pack of popcorn/drink/candy. He really liked that idea, but there weren't any movies playing the day he wanted it that would work. (Cartoons being too babyish and nothing really tween in theatres that day).
My husband came up with a movie alternative. We could have a movie theatre party at home. We could borrow an LCD projector and screen and turn our living room into a theatre. He could invite more friends too. He loved the idea! Chosing the movie was the next tricky part. We searched out New Releases on iTunes and again, nothing really Tween oriented popped out. We figured that we should try to find a movie that most of them hadn't seen too. I teach at the school my son goes to and remembered how we had shown National Treasure for movie night in the spring as that age group's target movie. The kids had really loved it. It is a slightly older movie that is clean, but still adventurous enough for them to enjoy. Plus, most of them hadn't seen it before. I tried to think of another movie that would fit that description. Night at the Museum came to mind. We showed our son the preview and he thought it looked really funny and approved the choice.
Once we had the go ahead, I went to into Planner Mom mode! Here's how the party played out:
First, the setup - 
The Concession table

I bought most of this at the Dollarama - I gave tickets out to each guest to spend on their movie treats.

The bowl of popcorn cake
 I wrote directions on how to make this cake on my foodie blog Whatcha-Eatin?  You can find them here.
The snacks ready to purchase

Concession Pricing

Now Showing...
The entrance to the theatre
The Hollywood Star wall with all the kid's names
And now the party:
It was a beautiful hot, sunny day so we spent the first hour outside playing water games.  I gave them all water guns and let them go - they loved this!  I did have some ideas for indoor games if needed but the forecast was cooperative.

Our second game was a bucket race.  I had a large bucked of water at the front of the line and a bowl at the end of the line.  Each child had a cup.  The first one had to scoop water into his cup and pour it over their head into the cup of the person behind them, continuing on until the last person poured it into the bowl.  So much fun!

Each child got to pick a "prop" (funky party glasses from the Dollarama).  I did take individual pictures of the kids each as well.

Opening the gifts

Enjoying the movie.  I did rearrange my living room furniture into movie theatre rows.  We served them pizza for supper to munch on as they watched.  My friend Jen (thank you Jen!) made popcorn too which we served to them in individual popcorn containers (from the Dollarama) that they got to take home.  The kids also used their tickets to purchase drinks and candy from the concession.

We had a movie intermission for cake

Overall, the movie themed party was a success.  I'm very glad we pulled it off!  What surprised me the most was how much the kids loved the tickets aspect to buy their concession.  They really, really loved it!  Instead of goodie bags, the kids took home their popcorn containers, water guns and funky glasses.  Most important to me is that my son loved it and that he and his friends had a good time.  (And yes, we did it all for under $100)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fingerpainting Art - Name Tutorial

I saw this very cute idea on Pinterest. Here's how we did ours.
I used painters tape to make the letters of my daughter's name.  The canvas we used was smaller, so I cut the width of the tape in half before fashioning the letters.  The straight line letters are much easier to create than the round O and a.  I bought the canvas at the Dollarama - 2 for $1.25

I set my daughter free to fingerpaint over top of the whole canvas.  We used Crayola's fingerpaint.

We then set the finished product to dry.  I know this is upside-down, but you get the idea.

Once dry, I very carefully removed the painters tape.  That's it.  Super cute!

Footprint Art - Butterfly

This Butterfly art idea was found on Pinterest and super easy to do.  My daughter chose the purple and blue colours.  I painted her feet one at a time and pressed them to the canvas.  You can find cheap canvases at the Dollarama.  I drew in the butterfly middle with a Sharpie marker and used her thumbprints for the ends of the antennae.  Super cute and she loves it!

Lego Quest Week 2 - Monochromatic

This week's Lego Quest was Monochromatic. Here's what my kids came up with:
My 3 year old's blue hammer
My 9 year old's green secret swamp base, complete with trap doors and random hidden catapults.
My 6 year old's Black Tank
Lego Quest Kids is a worldwide non-competitive challenge and can be found here: Lego Quest Kids