Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gopher Wars round one

(If you're looking for a tutorial on how to make the vases/candle holders go here)

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year.   I love seeing green pop up from the ground.  The voles or gophers (depending on the side of my house) have eaten all my tulip bulbs (Curse them). But they did leave the daffodils.  I think daffodils are poisonous - which is why they're still there.

I am going to plant more poisonous plants this year.  I bought a fox glove plant a few years ago and a gopher ate the roots.  The plant died but I believe the gopher did too. It was a wonderful year for my garden.  Last year I looked for more fox glove but no one carried it - much to my horror.  It was not a wonderful year for my garden.

This is a bad picture since I took it through the window.  (The grass is greener from the other side.) You can see how the gophers have torn up our grass. Stupid gopher. The voles are bad too, but they don't wreck as much havoc on my lawn.  

The cat above is not my cat. It only visits sporadically and is the only reason we have any grass left.  The cat below is my cat. (Yes, those are fangs.  Yes they are always sticking out like that.  No he isn't a vampire kitty.  He's far too lazy. He is also scared of gophers.)

So this year I ordered fox glove seeds online. Stray cats are smart enough to not eat the poisonous plants and my kitty is far too lazy to go out that far in the yard.  I haven't seen any gophers yet but I know they're out there waiting for me to plant some juicy potatoes.  I wonder if my local nursery carries deadly night shade...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You keep writing that word...

It's obvious you don't know what it means*.  The English language is weird, my friends, and I don't claim to know all the rules.  There is one little word that is consistently abused and I think we should put a stop to it. I'm talking about the word too. Too is interchangeable with the word also or can indicate when something is more.  For example: too funny. The picture in question is too funny to be called just funny. If you say to funny, people will wonder who funny is.  To is directional. I'm going to the store. I'm writing this to you.

*When I say you, I mean the person on the internet who insists on leaving off an o in their comments.  I'm not mocking you.  Now, if you should tattoo it to your arm, I would mock you.

Permanent Fail


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kid crafts: Easter luminaries

My son was scared of monsters when he was little so I made a lamp for him that would scare them away. I found the idea for in a craft book we got from the library.  I wish I could remember the name. I do know that it was a Muppet craft book. The lamp has been well loved and he has since passed it on to his little brother.  

I love how it looks when it is turned on so I've been looking for ways to reproduce the effect.  I've been thinking about using round glass dishes for a Halloween project but I really love spring colors so I decided to go with an Easter theme instead.  I'll probably do these again for Halloween anyway.  They'd make really cute Jack-O-Lanterns.

Here's what you need: Tissue paper, glass bowls (I found these at Walmart for 97 cents each.  I'm sure you could find some for less at a second hand store.), Mod Podge (you can also use Elmer's glue mixed with water - half and half.), paint brushes, lights (I'm using lilac scented candles. Those cute little battery operated tea lights would would well too.)

I'm not entirely sure what my little one was doing with his arms in this next picture.  He may or may not have glued his hand to his head.  

Step 1: Paint Mod Podge on the glass.

Step 2: Rip little pieces of tissue paper and stick them to the glass.Cover with more Mod Podge.

My son actually used one big piece for the whole thing.  As long as the tissue paper is thoroughly soaked, it doesn't matter.  I thought the stripe affect was cute.

(My apologies for this blurry picture.  I actually ordered a new camera today! I do hope it arrives quickly.)  

Step 4: Let dry
Step 5: Complain about camera that takes blurry pictures.  Put candles inside and light them.

Step 6: Enjoy!

I'm adding one more picture with some daffodils from my garden.  I got them to stay together by putting a rubber band around their stems.

Like it?  

Friday, March 23, 2012

My child is now a teenager.

Well, it happened.  My oldest child is no longer a child.  He's a teenager - which is weird because kindergarten doesn't seem like that far away. (Okay, that was his little brother.  They all start to blend together after a while.) His favorite song went from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to something I can't understand and-gives-me-a-headache (played on YouTube over and over and over...).

I knew this day was coming (mostly because he reminded me often) and wasn't looking forward to it.  I've heard that the little person you know and love disappears when they turn into teenagers. So we've been working hard to find a happy parenting place between "Let me wash your face with my spit" and "Wash the table, clean the toilet, shovel the snow, scrub the walls..." (There is a happy parenting place, isn't there?  Please say yes.)

A few months ago, I knew I was going to be gone when he got home from school and I worried he might not be able to get in the house.  He has a key but I knew he'd taken it out of his backpack a few days before and I wasn't sure if the key had made its way back. We have a coded key pad on the garage but the batteries had been dead for quite some time.

Several things went through my head.
1 - He could sit on the porch swing in the snow wondering where I was and why I would leave him out in the cold.
2- He could get sick.
3- He could talk to a stranger.
4- Some other kid could come along, offer him drugs, and drag him down a sad, sad path of destruction that we could have avoided had he been safe inside the house.

I thought a little too much about number 4. Now granted, he's a smart kid.  He's a 7th grader in 8th grade honors math.  But he doesn't always brush his teeth.  Teeth brushing is always a sign of things to come - even if it's just cavities.

Fortunately, we had batteries for the key pad on the garage. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure if he would go over there to see if it worked.  I could leave a note on the door for him but that would be like leaving a note for all the burglars in the area.

Dear Burglars: No one is currently home.  Please help yourself to our stuff.  We also have some nice sandwich meat in the fridge. Oh, and our young son will soon be home ALONE. Please come and influence him for bad. Sincerely: some honest tax payers.

Granted the note would have said something else but notes are so much more than the words written on them.  I wrote a note to my daughter this morning that I attached to the assignment she forgot to take to school today. The words said:  In exchange for the delivery of this assignment (that I already reminded you to take to school), you get to clean out the van. ♥ Mom.  The message says: Stop being a slacker and listen to me. ♥Mom.

A note on the door was obviously a no-go. So I opted to send him a text. Previous texts I have sent consisted of one or two words.  I'm not exactly tech savvy.  (Also the burglars would have been super disappointed to find that our stuff consisted of a PS2, a N64, and a TV from Walmart.) I do know, however, that teenagers have a special text language that consists of removing most vowels and using the wrong homophones.  I wanted to be sure he got my message (this is his future on the line) so I worked hard to use his language. I even figured out how to backspace on my phone so I could use ur instead of your. Hitting send was a proud moment for me.  It meant I was a good mom.  A caring mom.  A mom who would see her child make good life choices and not talk to strangers.

When I got home, I was happy to see him inside and safe.  I asked him how he got inside.  He said he'd put his key back in his backpack so he had no problem. Still under the heady influence of my stellar parenting skills, I asked him if he got my text.  He said no.  The batteries to his phone were dead. Yep, we're still looking for that happy parenting place. I'm hoping we'll find it before our youngest goes to college.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feather Hair Clips

When I was about my daughter's age feathered hair clips were very popular.  I am so excited to see they are back! Unfortunately I haven't seen them in stores.  I believe every little girl should have the chance to wear feathers in her hair so I made some for her.

What you need: Feathers, scissors, permanent markers, rubbing alcohol, medicine dropper, newspaper, something to dry feathers on. And for the rest you'll need a hair clip, ribbon, beads, and a glue gun.

Dying the feathers.  At first I was sad the only feathers I could find were these white feathers, brown feathers, and ugly dyed feathers.  Then I decided to try dying the feathers. 

Trim the feathers so they are the shape you want.

Much better.  

Color the feather with permanent markers.  I used two different colors on different feathers with mixed results.  Be sure to color close to the middle.  The colors will spread down when you drop the rubbing alcohol on them.

Hold your colored feather like the picture below and use medicine dropper to spread color with rubbing alcohol.  This gets messy so be sure to protect your table with newspaper. It will stain.

My camera is not working really well.  I apologize for the blurry pics.  Once you're done with the rubbing alcohol your feathers will look like these.  Don't worry.  They'll perk up! Also don't get too attached to the way the colors are.  It changes.  

I used my son's K'Nex to dry the feathers.  If you set them on the newspaper the color will bleed onto the newspaper and you will lose most of your color.  The feathers in my daughter's hair above were put on newspaper. You might like the lighter color.  I like how the ones below turned out.

Let the feathers dry for about an hour and then rinse them in cold water. Pat them dry with a paper towel. The picture below shows how much color will still bleed out.  Not too much but I'd still try not to get them wet.

Wet feathers are ugly.  I just have to say it.  Spend some time fluffing the feathers.  Eventually they will look like this.

All three feathers together.  Like I said, they don't look anything like how they started.  The green one was supposed to be green and blue.  They're still a little damp in this picture.

Now for the hair clips.  Gather your supplies.

Glue the end of the ribbon to the end of the clip and weave it around the holes.

The picture above is wrong.  The blue ribbon should have been on top.  Weaving is like braiding and there are a lot of ways to do it. I've made three clips and did it different each time. (But if anyone really wants me to explain it, I'll give it a go.)

Leave the ribbons dangling below. I secured the end with glue gun too.

Use the glue gun to add beads.  Shove the end of the feather inside the bead while the glue is hot.

 This is another one I made.

 And one more shot of a simpler version. We left the feathers white so the clip would go with a black, red, and white dress she wore to her cousin's wedding.

So that's it! My daughter loves the clips and I think they look darling in her hair.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Experts Say

It seems like there are a lot of experts out there telling us what we should and shouldn't do.

 I think those experts want my cookie and they know I'll be too weak and tired from exercising to hold on to it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

36 club Division Tips

One of the best ways to help kids understand why math is important is to let them use it in a practical matter.  In this case, they use division to cut a birthday cake.  (My husband baked this cake and my kids frosted and decorated it for me. They even picked the flowers. So sweet.)

Make up a variety of questions for them based on number of guests and how many pieces each guest should get.  For example.  If we have a family of 4, plus grandma and grandpa, plus six friends.  How many pieces should we cut the cake into? What if everyone wanted 2 pieces?

Small candies and cookies are also fun to use for teaching division.

Once the child understands what division is, you can move on to the cards.  They should have their multiplication facts down before you teach them division.  This is especially helpful since division is multiplying backwards.

Start with the twos.  Explain that to divide by two, you are just cutting the number in half.  They can also use the same tricks they used when they learned multiplication.

If their problem is 8 divided by 2 then they count by 2s on their fingers until they get to eight and then count the number of fingers it took to get them there.  (4) They should be able to count by 3s, 4s, and 5s also.

It gets a little tricky when they get to six.  This is where knowing their multiplication comes in handy. When they get stuck on a division problem I turn it into a multiplication problem. If they draw a blank at 42 divided by 6, I'll ask what times 6 is 42? If they are still stuck, I'll ask what 6X5 is.  (30)  I ask if they should go higher or lower. (higher) What is 6X6? (36), 6X7? (42.)  Then they have their answer. It can take time for them to learn division.  Be patient and they'll get it.

Use whatever tips they liked for multiplication with division. (Be sure to read my tips on multiplication. The link is below.)  For example: My son remembers 7 and 7 went to heaven to see the 49ers.  With dividing I'll say: 7 and who went to heaven to see the 49ers? Then he'll yell seven.  Eventually they remember it on their own. Same with 8X7=56.  (5,6,7,8) When we see 56 divided by 7 I'll point to the numbers and count out loud to remind him of the tip.  Then I'll ask what's missing.

This next tip is my favorite.

When you see numbers set up like the example above, the answer is always 9.  This goes back to the multiplication finger trick for nines.  Go ahead and try it out.  It works for every problem 2-9.

If they accuse you of leading them astray when they hit 21 divided by 3, ask them if 2 and 1 make 9.  It has to fill both criteria. They can turn this around too.  If they have 63 divided by 9 then the answer is one more than 6. 

So there you have it.  I hope this makes sense.  Leave a comment if it doesn't.  Every child can learn these facts!

Subtraction tips
Humdinger tips

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispies Bars

I found this recipe on Pinterest for Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars and thought it would be good.  I followed the directions and put everything in them except for the cranberries because we didn't have any and also because I hate cranberries.  I considered using nuts or sunflower seeds but I was already a little worried about my kids not liking them because of the oatmeal. They like their food simple. I can't imagine where they got that from.

My oldest child didn't like them because of the oatmeal.  My two younger kids liked them but didn't love them.  I liked them but didn't love the oatmeal.  My husband was speechless (he had strep throat).

I didn't want to give up on this recipe because the chocolate peanut butter part is really good and also because I bought coconut oil and what the heck else am I going to do with it? (I did see a recipe for homemade lip gloss that has coconut oil on Pinterest.  It's on my to do list but I'm not going to need that much.)

So I was in bed one night and it came to me.  Rice Krispies. They would add the needed texture and would be crunchy rather than whatever it is that oatmeal is. Here's what they look like.

They are yummy. I made them for my nephew's baptism and another nephew decided they are "delish." (He's always been my favorite nephew.)

Here's the recipe:

1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil (You could probably substitute butter or shortening.  I haven't tried it.)
4 cups Rice Krispies
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate.)

Pour Rice Krispies into a ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Don't turn them into powder.  You want little crunchy bits. Set aside.

Melt peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in medium saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips.  Stir until melted.  Stir in prepared Rice Krispies.

Pour into greased 9X13 pan.  Refrigerate until hardened.  Remove from fridge and let sit for 20 - 30 min before cutting.  Refrigerate if you like them hard. Don't refrigerate if you like them soft and gooey.