Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Messy Braids, Signs and Wrestling

Just a few random pictures and grateful thoughts:

my niece Clara with Sissy

I'm thankful for messy little pig tails and braids. I'm thankful for little girls, holding hands.

Sissy has gotten into saying, "Momma, I think you're the best Mommy ever." And then the boys join in on saying it, too. Actually, maybe one of them started it originally, but she says it all of the time now. I'll take it any way I can.

I'm thankful that my niece Winnie wanted to give her picture to Aunt Jenny.

Tornado has been in a sign making mood lately. He's always done this, before he could even spell. He'd scribble on post-its, tell me what they said, and stick them everywhere. He always remembered what each scribble said. I'm grateful for my sign-making little guy.

I'm particularly fond of this one he made. It's hanging on the door of the pantry, where we keep our dog food.

Tornado is our rule-follower/people pleaser. He's very helpful. :)

I'm thankful that Ryan doesn't mind being invaded by the kids when he's trying to relax.

Oh, and I almost forgot...Ryan scrubbed 2/3 of our toilets this weekend. And he cleaned out our bathroom sink. And cleaned out the downstairs closet. AND scrubbed down our horrifically dirty tile shower. It's white again! What a man I have.

I'm thankful that he kept them entertained for a bit while I cleaned the kitchen.

I'm thankful for squeals of great joy, silly fun, and once again - a daddy who doesn't mind a kid and a dog invading his head.

I'm also thankful for Photoshop. With the click of a mouse, my carpet looks clean.

I have won a couple of blog giveaways lately, which is always a day-brightener.

I won a 3 month family membership to JumpStart.Com. Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns was hosting this giveaway. I was excited to win this because I was thinking about trying it out, anyway. More than one child can use this program. We were trying to play it the other day, but it was loading pretty slow. I'm pretty certain it was our computer, not their site. I'll let you know later how it works for us.

I also won this "Natural Resistance Fitness and Toning Kit" from a CSN giveaway that Kristi from Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice was hosting. Goodness knows I need a toning kit. I've always wanted to have a big exercise ball like this for doing crunches, etc. Now I don't have to use the sweaty ones at the gym. And the kids have been having fun rolling around on it. We're waiting for the first big accident. I also like the resistance tube. My arms have been getting a workout.

I am happy about these awards that have been bestowed upon me!
Thank you for thinking of me, you guys!
My friend Karie honored me with this Best Blog Award many, many months ago; finally, I'm getting it on here. She does really great work, seen on her photography blog. The rules are: accept the award, mention the award, pass the award on to other recently discovered blogs I love, and contact the bloggers to let them know about their award.

I guess my most recently discovered blog is O Butter, Where Art Thou. A teenage guy is writing about his quest to give up meat and dairy, which is entertaining to me.

Let's see...two of my other latest "follows" - Cabin in the Woods and One Little Word She Knew, which are two homeschooling family blogs. I am a fan of simple, homeschooling blog stories.

I'm also going to pass the award on to Scraps of Starlight. I enjoy her blog (and the name of it), and I think she's probably a lot like me. She actually very graciously gave me this award:

I'm supposed to pass this on to 12 bloggers who "bring sunshine to my screen." I'm going to have to say that EVERY blog I read brings sunshine to my screen at some point. I get so many ideas and so much inspiration from you all. (I wish I could link up 12 specifically, but for the sake of time...I didn't even feed my kids supper tonight until 9, the poor dears. We went to Little Rock, and time got away from us. I guess I should be GRATEFUL, indeed, that they still think I'm the "best Mommy ever.")

And how could I not be thankful for this?

That's #'s 192-223 on my Gratitude List.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday: Patriotic Theme

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

There continues to be no theme this summer for Muffin Tin Mondays.
I chose patriotic theme because we won't be able to do it at home next week.

I made red, white, and blue kabobs.

RED: grape tomatoes, apples, and frozen strawberries
WHITE: lightly stir-fried tofu cubes and cauliflower
BLUE: blueberries

I asked Sissy why we were having a red, white, and blue meal; she had no clue.
So, apparently, it was a learning experience.

I cut the star out of a Ozery Bakery Breakfast Pitas (They had the Breakfast Muesli flavor.). The kids really like these a lot. They usually eat one warmed with Earth Balance stuck inside when we need a quick breakfast on-the-go.

I got the wooden party picks from Pier 1. A bag of 24 were only a couple of dollars.

The pinwheels really work.

Have a Happy 4th of July, if I miss getting to say that next weekend!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Highlights Magazine Party

We take birthday parties pretty seriously around here. Especially Tornado (not his real name). He knows what his party is going to be a year in advance. Other kids might change their minds here and there. He does not waver. And he always has such original ideas. You can ask him an idea for something, he'll give you an immediate reply, and chances are, you'll consider using his idea.

He announced that for his next birthday he was going to have a "Highlights party". He loves this magazine. He even loves the High Five version for preschoolers! Finding hidden pictures and determining what's wrong/silly about a picture are two of his favorite things to do in the whole entire world. He also likes to make his own. His other grandmother often gets him the special club packs, like Top Secret Adventure, etc. He just loves all of it; this is what he wanted his party to be.

"Highlights magazine party, huh? Okay, buddy, I'll do my best!"

I came up with enough Hidden Picture pages (He happened to have two different copies of the same Hidden Pictures special edition magazine so I was able to use many pages out of one of those.) to use for the invitations. I glued (with a glue stick) the pages onto cardstock.
I had printed the party information on one side.
(I've marked out names and our personal information here.)
Then I folded them up and tied them with different scrapbook string and ribbon I already had. Different moms told me their kids went right to work on the Hidden Pictures after they received their invitations.
I had to get creative when thinking about decorations. It was nice I didn't have to spend any money on decorations, except for the 24 or so balloons you can't see floating on the ceiling. (As un-environmentally friendly as they are, I am obsessed with balloons at birthday parties.)
I cut out different pages from the magazine and glued them on both sides of a piece of cardstock. Punched holes at the top and tied them with ribbon. Hung them by fishing line from the ceiling/light fixtures.

This is just some of the kids at the beginning, working on their art project.
We ended up having 14 kids total.

When the kids arrived, I gave them a stack of different magazines, a piece of construction paper, glue, and scissors. I showed them an example of a Spare Parts picture Tornado had previously made. They were to use different parts of different people or animals and come up with a new, original character.
I saw this idea for Spare Parts Pictures on Highlightskids.com (one of his favorite websites). I was looking through the Arts & Crafts section on the website for a craft to do, and saw this one, which is something Tornado loves doing all of the time, anyway. Even some of the adults joined in (a couple of them pretty eagerly, I must say) and made a picture. Aunt Tracy (my sister) was feeling pretty competitive with the kids, I think; she made a really good one.

Here are some of their finished Spare Parts Pictures.

Side note: I totally forgot I had planned for them to play the Hidden Pictures board game. That was the original plan for the party to begin with. He loves that game! Bummer! I do this every party - forget some little thing, and I'm so upset with myself - for my forgetfulness, not because it really matters. Just like I also forgot to put out the pickled beets that Tornado loves having on salad bars. ha! I also forgot about the lentil salad I'd made. I found it in the microwave the next morning.

Every issue of Highlights features a spread of kids' drawings and poems that have been submitted by readers. I used a presentation board and glued on the letters for the title. I asked the kids to bring a creation to share on our board. (I've edited out some of the names.) Top left is Tornado's work. Several times I saw different pairs of kids sitting on the floor in front of the board, looking at all of the artwork.
I was not surprised when Tornado, once again, requested a potato/salad bar for his meal. He just loves to have a smorgasbord of food to choose from. He absolutely loves to make his own salad at Whole Foods. I always say in my next house I'm just going to build a long salad bar with the cooler built in and just let my family eat that way.
Besides food, this was my least expensive party I've ever thrown. And the napkins were even leftover from previous parties in the past. Since we didn't have one color theme, it was easy to throw everything together. (I did buy the plates, but they were the inexpensive kind in the paper goods section at Target, not the fancy kind in the party section.)I cut out fun facts and tongue twisters, etc. from Highlights and glued them onto folded cardstock. I set these around the counter, amongst the food, for decoration.

"E," "H," and Grace, eating their meal

Spot is the Timbertoes' dog. He even has his own feature, The Adventures of Spot, in Highlights Five magazine. Ryan drew a Spot for me on posterboard, and the kids played our own version of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."
lots of giggling going on

They even turned Daddy (Uncle Ryan) around and around and made him try it.

I cut out jokes from different issues of Highlights and glued them onto colored cardstock with a toothpick in between. I wished I would have bought flat toothpicks, but I was really trying hard with this party to USE WHAT I ALREADY HAVE.
So...a cake decorator I am not. I never even make cakes. I think practically the only time I make cakes is for Tornado's birthdays. I talked about this here with his Fetch Ruff Ruffman 9th birthday party. The kid just prefers a cake over cupcakes. Pam (my friend who is an amazing cake decorator), if you happen to be reading this, scroll down quickly over the next few pictures.

For those of you not familiar with Highlights (what's wrong with you?!), the Timbertoes are the family of characters who have their own monthly feature.
I was going for the picture in the bottom left corner. This was my original plan, and I decided to nix it that day because of time constraints. Then literally 20 minutes before the party was to start, I started feeling badly about depriving my sweet, special son out of his birthday cake. I quickly spread frosting on the one layer cake I'd baked that morning, haphazardly printed off a little birthday message to stick in, and tried my best using a sandwich bag with a cut corner to pipe out a smiling Tommy Timbertoe.
I think he must be the most grateful birthday child in the entire world, and my efforts always pay off with him. He just loves having birthday parties. I'm going to say more than most.
T-R-O-U-B-L-E, eating their cupcakes

He got lots of great presents from his friends and family. He told me before the party he wanted to sit in a chair like Noah did (in the special birthday chair at JumpZone) and have everyone sit in front of him while he opened his presents. :)

opening his big basket of summer fun goodies from Aunt Michele

My little reader...he loves books so much. We all just had to kind of pause while he leisurely looked through his new book from the Davidsons.

My parents got him a 2-year subscription to Highlights. (Mom usually just buys him the issues each month; it's obviously cheaper with the subscription.) I thought it would be appropriate for the theme.

Wacky Races were featured in the June 2010 issue of Highlights. This was our last activity of the night. We tried to work out all of the remaining energy they had left.
Wacky Races involve silly ways of crossing the finish line: must keep your hand on your foot the entire race, must link arms with your partner, must keep your elbow on your knee, or bellybutton must face the sky, etc.
After we exhausted our ideas for different races, we let them come up with ideas of their own, which were pretty silly (but creative!).
The gift bags which I tied up with scraps of ribbon and string that I had. The bags come in a big pack in the party section at Target.
The bags were filled with 2 magazines, Highlights sticker pages, Puzzlemania (a product of Highlights) pencils, and various organic fruit snacks.

I had contacted Highlights awhile back and told them we were having a party and wondered if they had any resources or ideas. Linda, the assistant editor, so very kindly wrote me back, giving me several ideas to think about (such as Pin the Tail on Spot, ETC.). I was thrilled that she took the time to do this, and they even sent us 2 boxes full of these magazines, stickers, and pencils they had left over from an event. I had taken a picture of Tornado's face when he opened the boxes - wish you could have seen it, but I guess it got deleted.

They even sent Tornado his own copy of the latest issue. Inside, the whole staff wrote sweet birthday wishes specifically to him. That was really the cherry on top of his whole party.

Thank you so much, Highlights!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silver Dollar City

Dash and Tornado

I mentioned in an earlier post that we visited my 2 hometowns last weekend. 17/18 of my immediate family were together at my brother's house. (We were only missing Tracy and miss her we did!) I got to visit with my Grandpa and his wife, my aunt, uncle, and cousin. I also got to hang out with 4 of my best friends. Great weekend! We (all 17 of us...that sounds like so many, but really it doesn't feel like that many) also spent Sunday at Silver Dollar City in Branson. (I think Dad was happy to spend Father's Day with his 9 grandkids.)

my dad sharing salted, roasted peanuts with my niece Clara and Tornado

I've been to Silver Dollar City probably 100 times in my life, and I like it for many reasons. Immediately you walk in and hear the familiar fiddles and the banjos. My dad is known to say, "I feel it coming on," as he starts doing a little jig dance. My dad also once entered a pie-eating contest right on the town square.

my brother Matt, walking across the swinging bridge with the kids

Matt with his 4 kids plus Dash in the front there

It is a learning experience. You are transported back in time to the pioneer days. All of the employees are dressed in period wear, from the pioneer store clerks to the prisoners on the Flooded Mine ride to the saloon girls at the show to the hillbillies wandering around. You can visit an old church, an old mill, etc. and sample apple butter. You can watch bread being baked, candles being dipped, glass being blown, wood being carved, and furniture being made, etc. You can learn from blacksmiths, coppersmiths, and bladesmiths. Lots to see and learn! You can apparently now even take cooking and craft classes.
While Grace and Owen were being silly in the jail, I couldn't get Dash to look. He was transfixed on the (dummy) prisoner lying on the bed behind him. I think it scared him!
Grandfather's Mansion is always a favorite with the kids. It is a bizarre home filled with rooms that might have everything upside down on the ceiling or floors that are completely slanted and hard to walk on, as demonstrated by my brother here.
inside Grandfather's Mansion

It wasn't like this at all when I was little, but now they have many rides for little kids. (Very pioneerish, huh?) They look like they're having fun, right?
Not so much for my sister Cary. You might have to blow this picture up to truly appreciate her facial expression. At first we couldn't tell whether she was laughing or crying. But she was actually doing both. She was SO sick (which is why I don't ride any ride that goes up and down or in circles). That's what she gets for trying to sneak Winnie in past the height regulations.
another ride, 3 of the girls

enjoying a round of old-fashioned checkers outside the icecream shop

My parents very generously helped us buy season passes so we'll be back! (SDC is not cheap.) We want to take the kids in Marvel Cave next time. Summer isn't my favorite time to go because it's so hot. (I really love it at Christmastime if you can make it before it's so cold.) There are plenty of water activities (and frozen lemon-aid) to help the kids cool off, though.

I'm linking up with Tonya and others at Live the Adventure. I enjoy reading about this family's adventures living full-time in an RV. I SO want an RV. Last week I linked up with the trip we took to the Space Museum in Huntsville and Helen Keller's home in Tuscumbia. Feel free to link up, too, if you have a field trip you want to share.
P.S. Pardon me as I play around with my template and different colors. Is the white on black hard to read? Let me know!