Sunday, April 12, 2015

Big White Van

First of all, I know I hardly blog anymore.  Those of you who know me well know why, and I truly do miss it.  But tonight I had to share.  Too much of a story for FB.  

Our kids are in their second year of AWANA and they love it.  This is their first year doing the AWANA Grand Prix.  I did pinewood derbys when I was a little girl, but #1 did not.  My dad owned a workshop full of woodworking tools.  #1?  Not so much.  We were a little intimidated by this project, but he and the kids (and I) had a good time doing this anyway.  

The older the kid, the more we had them do by themselves.  None of them got to use power tools as #1's jigsaw is a little unpredictable and we wanted to be safe. However, they were in charge of sanding, painting, and we thought putting on the wheels.  But that proved to be a bit of a challenge and #1 ended up with that task also.  It's our first year people, give us some grace.  

So here is Sweet Pea's "car".  When it was time to cut them, I had the boys draw on their block of wood where they wanted daddy to cut.  Rosebud announced she just wanted it to be a triangle (well that won't go very fast).  Sweet Pea?  "I want a big white van!"  We own two full sized white vans so I guess she just figures when you say "car" you mean ginormous box on wheels.  #1 did his best to cut out the shape of it, but the jigsaw got fidgety and the front windshield didn't turn out as he wanted.  I think it is fine, but this just ads to the story.  We both marveled at how wonderfully aerodynamic it would be.  Basically she had the clunkiest car at the derby.  The large van and the triangle we laughed about and moved on.

We gave everyone sandpaper and had them smooth the edges.  Sweet Pea REFUSED.  Fine.  Your car.  You're not going to win anyway.  She painted the whole thing white and then wanted me to put on windows.  After she painted the white, we let it dry overnight.  In the morning...well...she had at some point in the night or wee hours of the morning gotten up to continue painting.  With orange.  And no brush.  Just unscrew the lid and dump.  We also have orange paint on our hardwood.  And on my Norwex.  I was super pleased.

The boys thought her "big white van" was pretty ugly but I left it.  It is, after all, her car.  I proceeded to have WAY too much fun painting on the windows, and a few other details.  I then tried to put on the wheels.  I did a terrible job.  #1 had to take them off and try again, but even then not all 4 wheels sit on a flat surface at once.  Whatever, she's not going to win anyway with that big clunker.  

 Here is LMM with his car.  He called it "Lightning Bomb".  Big surprise.  The wonderful gray things are weights we had to hot glue on the front at the church because his car weighed in at like 2.3 oz otherwise. It was nicely sanded, and before the weights, it was nice and aerodynamic.  He placed 5th in his age group if I remember right.
 Snug's car was also worked on for a long time but weighed like nothing so we gave it some heft when we got there.  He had a good time working on it.  He placed 7th in his age group.
 Little Miss "I want a triangle car" placed 3rd in her age group and beat her brother's cars consistently when they were matched up in a heat.  (Some computer system let all the cars race but put the kids into their age group for placing).  They were a little disgruntled.  #1 and I were pretty amazed.  Who knew a triangle car would be so speedy?  You will notice we also had to add weight to her car to get it to 4.9 oz (they can be 5oz)
 Big White Van?  Well, let me tell you about Big White Van (they had to name their cars and that's what she named hers).  Big White van was WAY over weight so #1 had to use the drill provided and pretty much make Swiss cheese out of the bottom of it.  Big White Van did not lose a single heat in the "main" competition.  EVERYONE was amazed.  Really?  This monster of a vehicle was winning?  Really.  They were actually timing them with a computer and she was the winner every time she raced.
 Not only did she win first place in her age division...she went on to the final showdown.  There were 4 age divisions and they did 4 races with the top car from each age group, averaging the 4 races.  She got second place.  An extremely CLOSE second place.  With her Big White Van.  She then proceeded to "we are the champions" with her trophies in clenched fists and a big 'ol grin on her face.  Her brothers would have like to have had some of those spoils.  Don't worry, we know what to do...

Basically next year we'll just leave them as chunks of wood, pour paint on them, put their wheels on crooked, drill the bejeebers out of their undersides till they make weight, and launch them down the track.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cup of Sugar Neighbors

Growing up I had family, and lots of it.  I don't think I thought much of it till I grew up and moved away.  I had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins literally within walking distance.  I had family at both the school and church we attended-dad and mom's side.  We had Wednesday Night supper at my grandma's house nearly every week.  My kids don't have that.

My kids do, however, have surrogate family.  There are some people in our lives who have stepped in and been the close proximity family we don't have.  In our old neighborhood we were good friends with both of our next door neighbors and knew/visited often with several other neighbors.  One of our next door neighbors were Cup of Sugar Neighbors.  Literally.  When we had to make the decision to move, it was so hard.  I tried every way possible to figure out a way to stay in that house with our growing family, but it wasn't to be.  I dreaded moving to a new neighborhood and not having my Cup of Sugar Neighbors anymore.

What is a Cup of Sugar Neighbor?  Its a neighbor you can go to at any time of the night or day and ask for anything and they'll gladly help.  Its the neighbor who comes over at 3am to help you with a screaming baby who you're at your wits end with and your husband is working.  Its the neighbor who trusts you to watch out for their kids while they're at work and the kids are on the cusp of needing/not needing childcare...but knowing you are home lets them be home on a snow day.  Its the neighbors who give you their garage code so that you can borrow some eggs when you're in the middle of baking and you run out.  And five years later I still miss those neighbors.  We still see them, but it isn't the same.  Just thankful we've stayed friends.

So we move to our new neighborhood.  Slowly we get to know people and of course it is hard.  We have Rosebud literally 9 days after moving in.  We don't want to bother anyone, and our kids are kinda loud.  But our neighbors on either side are very welcoming.  I'm going to focus on one of our next door neighbors.  Soon after we had Rosebud Janet brought over a brand new crocheted baby blanket.  She talked to the boys through the fence and gave them peanuts in the shell-something they'd never had before.  She and her husband baked gluten free cookies when LMM couldn't eat wheat.  They were one of the only neighbors that first Halloween to even know that it WAS Halloween.  Janet would come over and watch the kids if I ever had an emergency.  Like the time Sweet Pea put a pencil through her ear and Rosebud was in bed sick so I couldn't take her with me to the ER.

Fast forward through the last five years and just thinking about it makes me cry.  Because Janet died yesterday.  Unexpectedly.  And we are totally and utterly devastated.  This isn't a move to another town and a different friendship.  This is goodbye.  And I'm not ready.

 I'm remembering a crocheted baby hat for Sweet Pea and Rosebud's doll-because it was too small to send to the hospital where she sent baby hats for new arrivals.  Another baby blanket a few weeks ago for our newest arrival who doesn't even have a blog name yet.  Hundreds of peanuts passed through the fence to eager little hands.  She bought them to feed the squirrels.  Rosebud often "helped" Miss Janet do laundry-I'm sure she chatted poor Janet's ear off.  She was the first person this Christmas (we celebrated 2 weeks early) that LMM wanted to show off his bike to.  She always had time to see his latest LEGO creation.  Snug hates math, but Janet was a retired math teacher.  She always encouraged him to do his best and she volunteered with struggling math students after she retired.  She had little cups to pass out drinks when it was hot, bandaids to put on scrapes both imagined and real-even bought the kind with pictures on.  She was always generous with hugs, her time, and her patience...especially when she knew I was OUT of hugs, time, and patience.  She took the time to talk to me when I was at my very most frazzled.  She had a special relationship with Rosebud who always seems to need more than I have to give.  She even would push the kids on the tire swing, and swing herself.  And I'm going to miss her so bad.

You don't always have Cup of Sugar Neighbors.  I've been blessed to have them more than once.  And this loss hurts so bad.  And it is hurting my kids.  I know this spring when they go out to play they are going to have a void-because nearly every time they went out to play she would come over to say "hi", give hugs, and invite them to play with her dog in the backyard.  I can't even imagine what her husband is going through.  My heart especially aches for him.  He is also a wonderful neighbor and I hope somehow we can help him through this horrible time.

Take the time to be someone's Cup of Sugar Neighbor.  You never know how much it might mean to them.  Mine have meant the world to me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Third Trimester Rambling

Third trimester is always interesting.  This has, overall, been my best pregnancy yet.  Maybe I'm getting good at it? I guess I really can't take credit for something I have zero control over.  It's not like with the boys, when I lost 14 pounds before I ever gained an ounce, that I was doing something wrong.

As with the other girls (yes, #5 is a girl) I had lots of nausea through the second trimester, but kept everything down.  Rosebud gave me sciatic pain that was almost unbearable.  Sweet Pea did too, but not as bad for as long.  So far I've only had tiny twinges.  Insomnia has been an issue, but having been given the green light to take Melatonin once in awhile I've been sleeping better.  (You know, when Sweet Pea isn't coming into my room announcing that she isn't tired, can't find her bink, wants a drink, needs to go potty, wants to sleep with us.)  Heartburn has also been a little bit of a "fun" thing, but again, NOTHING compared to what I had in the previous 4 pregnancies.

I have 9 more official weeks to go.  Really that means probably 7-8 more weeks, but who knows.  I had Snug at 34, LMM at 37, Rosebud at 38, and Sweet Pea at 39.  Maybe I'll make it to 40 this time.  I certainly hope not.  I'm DONE at 38 weeks.  I'm pretty sure mine are fully baked earlier than their due dates.

I'm nesting like crazy, which is so dumb as this is baby #5.  Really, how much is there to get ready?  I spent an hour the other day on our deck pairing and pinning baby socks.  I have newborn and 0-3 all mixed up and I can't for the life of me decide which ones are what size so I think I'll just do trial and error on that one.  *baby tip* Take the small gold safety pins and pin the toes of your baby socks together when in the drawer.  When you put them on the baby, take the pins off otherwise your kid will look weird.  When they're "dirty" aka have been worn, stick them in a small lingerie bag so the dryer doesn't eat them.  In your spare time pin them back together before you stick them back in the drawer.  This is the ONLY way I know to not end up with one sock of each.

So I'm doing stupid things that don't matter at all, but still feel the urge.

In light of this, and because I know that by 38 weeks I'll be DONE (if not literally, physically), I've decided to start homeschooling in *gasp* July.  The 28th to be exact.  I don't plan on doing that in the future, but I think I need a good 33 (taking Snug's birthday off, and Memorial Day) days under my belt before I hit that 38 week mark.  I plan on then doing partial days, as much as I can deal with, and taking 2-3 FULL weeks off once baby comes.  I'll then do partial days till baby is 6 weeks (or maybe before, we'll see).  I really really want to be done by June 2015.

Right now we've been to camp, been to see grandparents, had lots of time at area parks, seen and played with friends, and had VBS.  I feel we can start school and not feel gipped on summer vacation.  However, after MONTHS of school, I know we'll want to be DONE and ready to start all those fun things again next spring.  You can laugh when all my grand plans fall apart.  I figure it is better to have a plan and not meet ALL of my expectations than to have no plan and meet ZERO expectations.  Right?

In the meantime things just seem overwhelming to me.
** #1 had a birthday in the BEGINNING of June.  His birthday banner still hangs in the dining room. **The garden.  Everything about the garden.
**Keeping clean tablecloths on the table.  I just pretend they are clean.
**The kids' bedrooms
**The taking to and picking up from preschool for Rosebud that will start in September
**Getting the summer pictures off the camera.  All 1,100 of them
**Getting up in the morning. Kidding.  Sorta

Having help in these areas from anyone but my husband is also overwhelming because having company seems overwhelming.  So no, I don't want help.  Nice, huh?  We're just blaming it on the 3rd trimester.  I only have 9 more weeks to blame on pregnancy, going to make the most of it :o)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Car Seat Blahs.

Car seat shopping...again.  Need some honest reviews from YOU.  You can either comment in the blog comments section, or leave a comment on Facebook.  This is very frustrating and never ending it seems.  I just asked back at Christmastime for advice for one for Sweetpea!  #1 (for those of you who don't normally read my blog, that's my hubby) says the whole height and weight requirement thing is being fueled by lobbyists who work for car seat companies.  Not that he's not about safety-he knows what can go wrong in an accident for kids not strapped in and wants our kids to be safe.  We have a rule that if our seats get moved either he or I install them into the next car.  This offends people.  So sorry, they're not YOUR kids.  So it isn't that he doesn't care about car seats...he just thinks it is a racket that every 2 years all the "rules" change and none of your car seats comply anymore.  A racket AND expensive.  Maybe he's right.  I'm just not willing to bet the kids' life on it.

Our boys were under the "old" system where you moved your kids at 30 lbs to a high back booster.  Oh how times have changed.  Now they're supposed to be in a 5 point harness BACKWARDS till that weight.  Rosebud's 5 point only goes to 40 inches.  She's 40 1/2".  My brilliant idea was to switch carseats with Sweet Pea because hers go to 50 inches.  Problem:  Rosebud's head, even in the "up to 50 inch" seat is only an inch and a half below the top of the headrest...the manual says her head needs to be at least an inch below it.  Another problem?  Sweet Pea isn't yet 30# and Rosebud's old car seats are "supposed" to face rear, but we can't get them tight enough that way so they only work forward facing.  Right now so that Rosebud isn't too tall for hers, Sweet Pea is turned forward and she's only 25#.  Confused yet?

Rosebud is long in the body, so even buying another seat that is up to 50" (most 5 points are now) doesn't help us because her head sits too high.  She's nowhere near 50", but too tall for those seats according to their manuals.  I took her to a store and tried some other brands, but still her head is right up at the top...even if it is a 50" seat.  I need a car seat store that has them ALL.  EVERY SINGLE ONE FOR SALE IN THE WORLD on display that I can sit her in and see how she fits.  This doesn't exist.  

So then I discovered this:

It is a highback booster (for when she hits 40#) that ALSO has a 5 point harness.  I need to know if anyone owns one of these seats.  It is an Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster.  It is less than $100 which is a MUST.  Seriously can't afford one more than that.  Truthfully, this one is not in the budget, but we have to get one.  It gets good reviews on Amazon and Evenflo (big shock as they made it).  I'm wondering though if the headrest adjusts really high.  Little Monkey Man has a high back booster that he still sits in and he still has more height we can add to his.  But without SEEING the car seat, I don't know how high this one we're looking at has the potential to go.

I hate car seats.  HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE them.  But I know firsthand how valuable they are.  Help please!

(Or other recommendations for highback boosters WITH 5 point harnesses)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Do My Kids' Parties

Why I do My Kids' Parties.  Alternately titled "How Being A Pack Rat Saves Me Money"
I love love love to do my kids' birthday parties.  I have them choose a theme no less than 4 months in advance.  Knowing ahead of time lets me get on Pinterest, browse clearance sections, borrow things from others, and have the time to make items.  A year before this party I needed new table clothes.  I chose two that I loved for spring/summer (our table is L O N G) that also matched Rosebud's first birthday theme.  Since then I used them for daily dining, as well as 2 more parties.  

 Pinterest is THE place to find party ideas.  There are also a couple of cute sites on my Blogroll that I consult.  Mostly I have to be willing to do lots of work myself.  Thankfully I have a mom who also enjoys creating and always helps out.
 I love coordinating clothing with parties.  I don't often buy my kids new clothes, but it is a fun excuse.  I also sometimes MAKE them.  I didn't make the actual shirt (Wal-Mart $3.88) but I did the pinwheel on the front and the crown.  I made the crown entirely (if memory serves me right) out of stuff I had from previous projects.  SO MUCH of what I use is bits and pieces of former projects.  I'd LOVE to say that all that stuff is nicely's not.  Thankfully I have a knack for remembering things I've used before.  Sometimes I do spend more than I "should" on an item.  The candles on her cake, for example, were originally $4 for the pack.  However, the pack had 24 candles in it.  I believe I have now used (I have saved some of the burnt ones that were still quite tall) these candles on over 5 cakes.  With still several unused and several re-usable.  That means in the end each party will cost less than $1 (probably in the end less than fifty cents) for candles.  I can handle that.  Is it pack-ratty to save them?  Yep.
 Although we always have close family friends (some with children, some without) at our parties, when our kids turn 5, they get an official "friend" party.  I wish I could find pictures of Snug's, but I don't have the time right now.  I spend more on these parties, but that really is their gift.  They get a small gift, but nothing much.  Again, I use, re-use, thrift, clearance, and borrow.  In this picture you can see the mast.  It is made from our clothesline, a free large cardboard tube from JoAnne fabrics, a tablecloth, and a borrowed Jolly Roger.  The brown paper making the bow and covering the table is leftover from when we moved.  The steering wheel I made out of cardboard that came when I had a large picture printed.  I always save cardboard.  So I had to buy the eye patches and bandannas as party prizes-when you consider that everything else was pretty much free that doesn't seem so bad.
 Again, I had theme dress.  The hat and outfit were hand-me-downs from a friend.  The gun and sword he had picked as his souvenir from Disney (when he decided to have a pirate party).  We all dressed in "theme" for this party,our roles were part of a "play" that was the party.  We used clothing we had, stuff we got from Goodwill, and some small pieces of material I bought from the fabric store.
 Cakes get tricky.  This one was from a Betty Crocker recipe site.  Of course I bought the cake and the accessories at ALDI, but the idea came from there.  Where I spent money here was on the small foil wrapped coins.  I got them at Party City and tried not to notice the price.  I think they were like 15 pieces for $1.  That is crazy.

 Certainly she didn't pick her theme, but it was fun anyway.  Again, Pinterest, knowing a LONG time ahead of time, and clearance.  I chose her theme for her second birthday shortly after her first one!  Her shirt was on clearance for around $2 at JcPenney, her skirt (and one to match her cousin for a subsequent party) I believe was $2.50. I had all but one of the ribbon colors in my ribbon collection and made the bows to match.  If I don't have anything to use my 40% off coupon for JoAnne fabrics, I often pick up a roll of grosgrain ribbon.  Comes in handy come party time to have lots to choose from.
 Pinterest.  ALDI.  Enough said.
 This was probably my most challenging, and least favorite cakes to make.  But he LOVED it.  The Transformers were very hard to use, broke after a couple of weeks, and were a huge disappointment.  I wish now I had just bought some sort of cake topper ones.  I didn't,  thinking it would be more fun to give him Transformers he could actually PLAY with afterwards, but that wasn't the case.  Fail.  He had Transformer plates, cups, and napkins that a friend gave me for the kids to just use.  She had them left after a party.  I saved them and when he said he wanted Transformers, I brought them right out!

Our boys have summer birthdays, so often we are out of town and don't do as much of a planned "party".  Instead we're swimming, hiking, at camp, or doing other fun things.  They don't seem to mind.
 This is Rosebud's most recent party.  It was really fun as I remember having at least one Strawberry Shortcake birthday myself.  I was even planning on bringing out my vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls (because, being a pack rat, I naturally still have them) but TOTALLY forgot.  The plates and napkins that have character print I paid $0.68 for.  That was shipping or tax or something.  Because I had ordered something for my Sunday School class from Oriental Trading Company they called me to do a survey.  Do phone surveys.  They usually come with a reward.  Mine for this was a gift certificate for their online site.  Thus the practically free character serve ware.

The cute buckets/silverware rolls were from a birthday my sister-in-law did for her daughter.  She was kind enough to give me what she had left and I put them to use!
 I love dishes.  When I buy dishes, I buy ones that I like, and that also will be useful for other things.  My "Fiestaware" plates are certainly not.  They're Wal-Mart knock offs.  But I bought them in several festive colors that I can use for different party themes as serving platters.  My cake plate?  $2 at a garage sale.  The green placemat on the table under the cake?  Still from Rosebud's first birthday party and has been used in several.  Sometimes something as little as a placemat makes your table pop.  Many of the other dishes were wedding presents (clear glassware looks nice with pretty much anything) or things I've picked up at garage sales.

Balloons?  Pinterest.  They're red balloons that have cardstock (which I of course have tons on hand from former projects) glued to them and permanent marker "seeds".  Make them the night before, the glue takes a LONG time to dry.
Her apron is a bit droopy here, but she was happy to BE Strawberry Shortcake.  My mom got her the dress at a resale shop and made the apron.  You can't see them in the picture but she has green and white striped adult knee socks that I had bought on clearance after last St. Patty's Day.  I sewed the heel out of them, and on her they were way up her thigh giving the illusion of tights.  Her hat was more money than I'd usually pay for a birthday outfit, but the dear friend who made it sells them for their adoption fund*.  I consider it helping them to adopt AND getting a fun accessory.  Halloween costume for Rosebud?  Check.  

So WHY do I do my kids' parties big?  Because I LOVE it.  Birthdays are special no matter if you have a big bash at a kids' party location, do a simple dinner and cake, or a theme birthday at home.  Every family is different.  I know several people who see my parties as a pain in the neck. Something they'd never ever ever want to plan and do.  Some people think my parties are too expensive (trust me, as I've shown you they are WAY cheaper than they appear), too time consuming (probably true), or too excessive.  I don't think celebrating my kids once a year is too excessive :o)  Overall it is a creative outlet for me and how I show each one they are special.  

Happy Creating!

*If you'd like to order a hat (she has SO SO many styles to choose from, anyone remember LMM's Sock Monkey party hat?) please contact me or leave a comment.  I'll hook you up!