Organization: Repurposing Nesting blocks

I bought these cute little cardboard nesting blocks for baby Alex last year. They’re colorful, whimsical and stack up pretty high if you want to build towers. Unfortunately, they lasted about 21 hours before the first one was smashed, the second was ripped, and another was lost.

It seemed a shame to toss them but they were not being used and were just taking up room. So last week I organized the craft bucket and repurposed them as containers. Four of them found new uses holding pens, markers, pencils and odds & ends. They’re portable and fun!

Unfortunately they’re also upside down, but it suits us that way. 🙂

"The Real Us"

Victoria has been laughing so hard she’s falling over at this accidental video we took at the zoo yesterday.  This was supposed to be a picture of Alex feeding a goat.  Anna accidentally hit record and couldn’t figure out why the picture wouldn’t take.  I’m on my best behavior!  Ahem!  Victoria says I have to post this to show “the real us!”.

She says to tell you that I’m not usually this grumpy.  She says at home I’m 90% happy… or at least 85!  Laughing

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A fun little genetics game!

Daryl and Victoria have been having a blast playing Seed, a free online game where kids learn about everything from clones to genetic codes.  Plant a seed and grow a flower, then choose whether to plant a clone of it or cross two flowers and splice them.  Watch for mutations, see what new designs you can make and experiment with other people’s genetic codes.  Not only is it really educational, but it’s pretty and fun.  Smile

It's Hard to be Ten

Oh my goodness. It’s Victoria’s day to make my brain explode. She is not a happy camper today.

I suppose she had it coming. She’s spent her life being a very responsible, level-headed, easy child. It’s not like it could go on forever and it probably wouldn’t even be healthy if it did. Everybody needs to have at least occasional episodes where they’re allowed to weep, wail and gnash teeth. Without it they become robotic, numb or liable to end up on the evening news years later.

I’ve been informed that it’s miserable being ten. Nine is apparently all roses and sunshine. Nine is the golden year. Friends, fun and no responsibility. Ten is apparently a horrible time. Maybe it’s the double digits, though it’s more likely baby brother who’s increasingly mobile and demanding.

The thing that differentiates parenting from any other job, hobby or activity on earth is that you can never really get it down.

You have your first child and it’s like juggling– figuring out what this cry means versus this cry and how to make her happy and deal with this issue and that. You read books, you listen to older parents, you listen to her cues and you eventually (if you work really hard) get it down — for the most part anyway.

Then, just as you’re starting to feel smug, she enters a new phase and it’s ALL NEW STUFF. The old tricks don’t work. It’s new challenges, obstacles, issues. Now it’s like juggling except the balls have all become different weights and they’re not coming down the way they did last week.

And then, just to make it even more impossible, you have another child. And every single thing that worked with the first child will be different with this one. He has an all new temperment with all new wants, likes and magic buttons.

Suddenly those balls are randomly flinging themselves horizontally and whacking you in the forehead.

(If you’ve ever been one of those know-it-all mothers whose kids were all fabulously behaved because you were so good at it, this is where all your long-suffering friends laugh a lot. Let them — you have it coming.)

Then you have another child and perhaps another. The balls are all different sizes, weights and speeds and they go in all directions, frequently beaning you in your once-confident head.

And it never stops. You have to pretty much plan on not dropping the balls for… ever. But especially not for the first 18 years. Each.

The way I deal with it when my kids enter new stages and new challenges is pretty consistent — I read everything I can about the age and what’s typical, I talk to parents who have kids a little older to see what wisdom they can share, I try to increase my one-on-one time with the child (I have yet to encounter a behavior issue with one of my kids that didn’t get much better just from increased mama time) and I wait. I try to be patient, keep a sense of humor and remember this too shall pass. (Sometimes I drink wine coolers and tell my children they’re making my head explode, but mostly the other stuff.)

The problem at the moment is that I have 4 kids all going through developmental bumpy roads.

  • Alex is one. That in itself makes him exhausting and requires the patience of a whole mess of saints. He also is teething AND he’s got a cold that won’t go away.
  • Jack, at 5, is dealing with this massive scary changes. He’s now officially kindergarten age and is wavering right on the line of the whole big kid/little kid universe. He’s also too young to do all the fun things his sisters can do but too big to get to use Alex’s cool baby things. AND he has a baby brother who gets, well, babied — by his mama.
  • Anna, at 8, is really getting tired of being a middle child. She gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to attention but she gets lumped in the big kid group when it comes to responsibility and expectations. She had to move aside and let Jack be babied for years and now she’s watching another little interloper get babied. AND while she’s exceptionally intelligent, artistic, sweet and talented, she’s got the overachievement poster child Victoria for a big sister.
  • Which leads to Victoria, who has decided at 10 that she’s tired of waiting around being perfect while I try to meet everybody’s needs. I try not to ask too much of her. I try to switch things up and equal things out. I also try to dole out lots of extra perks for being my helper. She gets more allowance, more late night talks, more chocolate slipped to her from the secret stash. The fact remains, though, that she’s my go-to girl. If I need something done, I know she’ll not only do it but do it cheerfully 9 times out of 10. And better. So I lean on her. AND since she acts like a grown up half the time, I forget and treat her like a grown up half the time too. I really have to remember that even at 10 she needs to be babied sometimes too — or at least get to occasionally weep and wail and gnash teeth.

So today is Victoria’s day to make my head explode. She’s unleashed all that pent up emotion and has been prone to throwing herself on the floor and sobbing. Really. It’s a bit unnerving.

She cried a lot, vented a lot, told me her troubles. I brushed her hair and mostly listened, and tried not to be too practical about the whole thing. There’s nothing worse when you’re having an emotional breakdown than someone throwing logic and reason at you.

(Though I did point out that perhaps she could rethink the bit about tossing herself on the floor, if nothing else so she doesn’t trip people. I told her I get depressed sometimes too and I never throw myself on the floor, though it might have to do with being old and easily bruised.  At that point Daryl compared me to a tomato. But anyway…)

I don’t know how to sort this out, but I know by now that it’ll get better.  It’ll just take some work and some time.  I’ll order another book, work on giving her more of the neat childhood stuff, start doing one-on-one time with all 3 of the “big” kids again…

It’s hard to be 39 too. 🙂

Mud Bath!


I haven’t uploaded pics from our trip to the zoo yesterday but I just had to share a few pics from the day before.

This is what happens when you say yes to your small boy’s plans for a bare part of the lawn and a garden hose.  I firmly believe that every child must have at least one chance to get this muddy.  🙂

I love the way Alex is looking at his big brother in this picture!

The boys ran around and around the swingset and every time they got to the mud puddle they’d slip and wipe out.  Then they’d laugh, get up, and take off running in loops again.  🙂

Craft: Mix and Match Insects

Here’s the craft we came up with for Unplug Your Kids‘ Insect theme (see here for all our resources).  It was quite fun!

I printed out some of the basic insect info first, along with the handout about how different types of legs, mouths and such did different jobs.  We talked about what all insects had and things like exoskeletons and such.

We all cut out insect parts– long legs from sticky paper, big ovals and circles for heads and thoraxes and abdomens, little mouths of different shapes and even quilled paper tongues for the butterfly type tongue!

Then I gave each child a glue stick and they went to town.  They knew their insects needed to have one head, one thorax, one abdomen, two compound eyes (we used funny foam ones though!), antennae (generally), wings (optional but generally four) and a mouth.  They mixed, matched and created their own designer insect.  They could even say what their insects did by what parts they used.  Victoria’s had a chewing mouth while Jack’s had a poking one, for instance.

Voila!  Our insects…

Jack’s (The Mofeht or some such)…

Anna’s (sasenpyens perhaps?)…

and Victoria’s…

 It was lots of fun.  We learned a lot, the kids had a blast, and I’ve been asked to find yet another challenge for tomorrow.  Speaking of which, I have to take the pics for this challenge they did yesterday…

This Morning's Butterfly


One of our monarchs emerged from her chrysalis this morning.  (Victoria thought from the size of the markings she was a female so I’ll take her word for it!)  After she’d hung for a while to let her wings dry we thought she was ready to fly free.  Victoria, Alex and I took her out to let her go.

She hung around on Victoria’s hand for a while before finally flying to the swingset.  Victoria thought she’d like perching on a rose better so she held her finger out and the butterfly grabbed on and went to the rose.  She was having trouble hanging on so Victoria (ever the overprotective mother!) moved her to the black eyed susans, where she happily stayed until she finally flew away.

Alex was enthralled, though he quickly become more enthralled in a water puddle he found.  🙂   Isn’t she beautiful?


Insect Fun!

This week’s theme at Unplug Your Kids is Insect.  We’re getting ready to start a craft I made up and I needed some basic information for the kids to go along with it.  I found these great sites and thought others might like them.

This 4 page PDF file from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is made up for preschool and kindergarten teachers but older elementary kids would love a lot of it too.  It includes crafts, bug games, basic information (pretty detailed!) and more.

Here’s a lesson plan with handouts about insects for older kids.  The handout is fabulous!  I love the idea of having kids draw insects for specific lives like “An insect that eats other insects that live on the top of flowers.”

Here’s a preschool lesson plan for making bugs from playdough and natural materials.

And here’s a nice basic page that tells about what body parts insects have and what they use them for.

If you have a sweet tooth, you could also just make up these too!

We’ve also been trying to spot as many insects as we can lately, and taking pictures of them when we can.  We found a lovely black and yellow beetle on the black eyed susans today that almost disappeared, it blended so well.  Our goal is to photograph or sketch 5 really cool insects we discover.

I’m off now to get to work on our insect craft project though.  I’ll post it with pics when the kids are done.