Magic Tree House Reading Chart

My daughter’s school had a cute “No TV Tuesdays” reading campaign last month. Several teachers volunteered to call random students on Tuesday evenings to see if they could catch them reading!

After dinner we usually spread out around the house finishing different activities before bedtime but for No TV Tuesday we just hung out together in the family room reading. The campaign really kick started independent reading with our kids.

I wanted to encourage Savannah and Luke to keep reading and somehow praise their efforts without it turning into a bribe so I decided to make a book chart on the door in the kitchen. They have come to enjoy the Magic Tree House Books quite a bit and I was having trouble keeping track of which books they had read, and which ones I needed to get for them from the library. Having a central chart has been helpful to me in that regard!

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I used some brown wrapping paper from Dollar Tree for the background and card stock for the leaves of the tree. I wrapped a small box in the same wrapping paper to make the tree house and drew lines on it to make it look (sort of) like the tree house in the book. The ladder is made of Popsicle sticks and washi tape.

I wrote the names of the first 28 books on different pieces of card stock; they’re supposed to look like stacks of books, not sure if I hit the mark with that part or not. I make a little mark next to each book when they have finished reading it. Savannah also started making mini-books and gluing them to the tree.

It’s not Pinterest worthy, but my kids like it and they have a visual goal for reading through this series! Plus it only took me less than a half hour to make. Yay for quick crafts.

How do you encourage and reward reading at your house?

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Forcing Spring Indoors

It’s hitting the forties this week! Very exciting! One of the things I like to do in March to make it feel more spring-like is to find some forsythia branches and force them to flower indoors.

You know forsythia- that shrub that blooms bright yellow as the first signs of spring?

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It looks like this in late winter:

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They look like most other shrubs and bushes at this time of year, mostly dead, but they have a slightly yellow-green hue on the new growth. Snap off some branches, or if you’re fancy and can find your pruning shears, use those. I grabbed some from the edge of a parking lot (I asked first!) and used my kitchen shears.

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Take those branches, stick them in some water and the warmth from your home and the indirect sunlight will cause those little buds to flower anywhere from one to three weeks. I’m hoping for an Easter bloom! The flowers last a week or two, and then they turn into little green leaves.2015/03/img_3076.jpg

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If you don’t have anywhere to be a secret-ninja-garden-pruner like me, you can head down to Maureen’s Wholesale Florist in downtown Buffalo. They have some forsythia branches in stock but most local florists that I have contacted will not have branches until April. Maureen’s also anticipates having cherry and dogwood branches later in the spring. I’ve never tried those, but I think I may this year!

If you have forsythia in your yard, give this a try! It’s not hard to do, just keep water in the vase and you’ll have signs of spring inside as we await the great thaw. Give me a shout if you have some too- I’ll come and prune your shrub for free :) The more you trim, the more it’ll grow back!

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A practice run

I saw this great “post yoga” wrap at a boutique that I loved.

I didn’t love the $142 price tag.

I figured I could make it myself. So I did.

Except I made a mistake with my fabric choice and I have to make it all over again.

Sigh.

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For a practice run I think it looks great! I used a favorite cardigan from Loft as a starting point and made adjustments from there to create my initial muslin piece. I wanted it to be long, drapey, no hood, and I am still undecided on pockets and edge finishing. I was so nervous to cut the sweatshirt fabric, but as I was pinning and cutting, something felt awry. Turns out I failed to buy STRETCH sweatshirt fabric. Which is kind of important when you are making a garment that you want to stretch . I couldn’t get my arms in the sleeves!

It looks like I won’t be wrapping up warm in this wrap anytime this week. However, now that I have effectively made two practice pieces, one, my muslin draft and now this one made from non stretch fabric, once I get the right fabric in my hands it should be a snap to complete the project.

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A finished pair of socks

How long does it take to knit a pair of socks? Mmmm anywhere between a couple weeks and several years, especially if you are a serial project starter like me. 2015/03/img_3042.jpg This pair? They took about two and a half months from cast on to blocking. I don’t knit everyday, but I knit a ton on vacation over Christmas (helloooo that’s what vacations are for!) and then continued here and there since January. You know. In the waiting room at the doctors office. In the preschool pick up line. In the car when Keith was driving. I love these! The shell pattern, the color, the length, everything. They are the perfect amount of woolly warmth and the airy pattern means you won’t sweat to death. Important, considering I finished these in the month of March and would still like to wear them despite the warm weather. Oh, wait, no warm weather here yet. 2015/03/img_3041.jpg I was a bit nervous as I finished knitting these up that they would be too small.2015/03/img_3029.jpg Thankfully after a good soak and blocking on my DIY sock blockers they were the perfect size.2015/03/img_3040.jpg 2015/03/img_3038.jpg 2015/03/img_3039.jpg Time to put my feet up! For about twenty seconds until parenthood calls. Child’s First Sock in Shell Pattern from “Knitting Vintage Socks” by Nancy Bush. Ravelry Link.

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Why I read and watch things three years late

A little while back on an evening where bedtime for our kids crept well past nine, we actually sat down on the couch and watched tv, you know, instead of flurrying around getting ready for the next day’s events and promptly passing out. Keith surfed the channels and stopped at msnbc, which was airing a documentary on trafficked teens in Detroit.

I was amazed. I had heard and read a little about trafficking and modern day slavery in the US, but I’ve never seen a whole show about it. Captivating. Heartbreaking. Unbelievable. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening to these girls.

Naturally, I tweeted about it, to which my smart Alec and ridiculously well aware, read, written and published little brother responds… @danamarie262 Sis… That aired originally three years ago.

Whoops.

We had a little playful twitter banter on how the only current events I know of are who has used the potty properly that day and that was that.

It’s true. I live in a bubble. I don’t watch the news hardly ever because I have three small children with me every second of the day. The things on the news are hardly appropriate for children to watch. Bombings, scandals, beheadings, all sorts of things that are horrific for me, let alone our seven, five and two year old. So the tv stays off.

The books I read early on in parenting were those that would help me to SURVIVE sleepless nights, and decidedly not go-change-the-world books.

The books I read now are about three to seven years past publication date. Sorta current, right? UnChristian, The Next Christians, Interrupted, Love Does, to name my most recent reads that do not fall into the parenting category. Because let’s face it, I’m a mom and that’s my biggest job- to make sure I am not screwing up my kids, to teach them that God loves them even though their mom might have screwed up (ok, ok I probably will fail them somehow, using the word “might” is too optimistic) and, if possible, set up these little ones for some sort of success in life. Thus, parenting books will likely always have a solid place on my nightstand.

I suppose it is fair to say I am isolated from many world events. I just don’t have the time to keep up with everything. I try my best, I read when I can, I read opposing viewpoints when possible… But let’s face it- I have hardly any time to myself! It’s impossible to be amazing at everything all the time, so I just settle into mediocrity at a bunch of things.

I think what I struggle with lately is this notion of productivity above all else. There’s this call to arms to find your passion, your calling, go, be, do, lots of things! But guess what? I have three children and no free daycare and I kinda like being around my kids all the time anyways. The only thing I’m going and being and doing is being a wife and mom. And volunteer for my kids school. And volunteer in the church nursery. And a bunch of other things that will never put my name in print.

So I plug along. And read. Three years late. But I’m still reading. Still thinking. Still asking questions. Still struggling for answers.

I suppose that’s the best I can do.

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On flunking 2015 goals before the end of 1Q

I was ambitious. A little too ambitious. And I’ve also been a little lazy.

My easy resolutions, or, rather, habits that I restarted in December have been mostly on point. Because hey, it’s not that hard to sleep 8 hours a night and keep a tube of lipstick or lip color in every.single.purse and pocket I own. The walking the dog bit has been hampered by the never ending polar vortex- we have a Yorkie, not a Huskie, and little Miss Mercy isn’t a fan of the exteme cold.
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She basically just freezes up and refuses to move when it’s too cold or if she can’t get through the snow. I guess I can’t blame her. It has been hovering around zero degrees for weeks.

Here’s the status report on my list. Overall, I’m hoovering just above flunking. As you’ll see, I’ve nixed some on the list and tweaked others. Keith has some fancy project management name for this, like agile project manage my or something, so I am going to pretend that’s totally what I am doing, and add his project color coding status (RAG- Red Amber Green). You know. So I seem productive.

My goals for 2015 are organized into six categories: Faith/ Personal Growth, Marriage, Mothering, Creativity, Fitness, & Others.

Faith/ Personal Growth- Amber- not quite on track, but moving in the right direction.

  • Wake up early and read bible while riding my stationary bike for 21 consecutive days in January (once I kick this awful cold)- ummmm I got a cold, then Sydney got the stomach flu, and then we all got colds again and I voted for sleep instead of extra cardio. I have, however, been faithful in getting up by at least 6 to read my bible. I’ve been trucking along with the If:equip groups weekday readings as well as my own bible study homework. So I guess this is sorta a win. Am I keeping this goal? Ehhhh ok I’ll try again in March to incorporate the bike riding, but I’m separating the goals into faith/ personal growth and fitness. It’s too hard to keep track of a multi tasking goal like this.
  • Finish reading all the half read books on my Kindle- read a minimum of 10 minutes a day- I am soooo winning at this! I totally read a little bit every day, I finished one book, am rereading another and started a new one (ugh, I know I am a serial book starter! But I needed to read Love Does for a Valentine’s Day project!)
  • Use prayer app daily- schedule just 5 minutes a day- I’ve been using the prayer app to keep track of things, but I am not consistent in spending purposeful time in prayer every day. 

Marriage- Green

  • Plan a weekend trip for 1st quarter- we’re waiting for a sale at our favorite inn, so this is on hold.
  • Plan a date night per month- I actually think we did this in both January and February! We are usually pretty broke in the beginning of the year- as we have several family birthday at the end of the year, plus Christmas and the traveling we did to visit family this past year. We don’t have a line in the budget for babysitting. I wish we did! Even just for me to be able to go to the eye doctor ALONE! But it’s not feasible and we’re at the mercy of free babysitters, aka, my mom. Hopefully she’s up for another sleepover next month, even though I am pretty sure she doesn’t sleep a wink with the kids over.
  • Workout together once a week- this has been happening on and off, depending on schedules and sickness with the kids. We worked out together last Monday and did a push up contest the other evening. Ha!

Mothering- Amber

  • Take Savannah to a painting class- the family classes at our local paint place are on Sundays and I haven’t found one that works with our schedule and that we like. I keep looking!
  • Visit science museum once a month- Yes! We visited the science museum as a family in January and with some friends in February. 
  • reinstitute chore packs and cleaning Saturdays- ehhh… we’re still working on this. There’s always a birthday party to go to on Saturday or something so I never seem to get everything done, but the kids are definitely taking their jobs to help take care of our home and their stuff seriously.
  • develop a homeschool/ enrichment schedule for Luke- in progress

Creativity- Amber

  • Participate in the 10 day Do Over Challenge – from John Acuff- total flunk, I don’t even know if I can do over the do over. I think I might nix this one!
  • Sew one article of clothing for myself per quarter- on track to make two items this quarter- a pair of handknitted socks and a sweatshirt/ wrap/ cardigan
  • try the “Year of Nothing New” challenge for clothing- I bought a shirt from Target. Then I remembered this challenge and RETURNED IT! Even though it was SEVEN BUCKS! Go ME! Then my two favorite pairs of jeans ripped in some rather unfortunate places in early January and they were deemed unwearable, but I have not replaced them.
  • write 50 blog posts this year- ehhh… maybe? I’m at about 5, so I have some work to do. But I am starting to figure out that I can write a bunch of stuff when I have time, and post it or edit it later!

Fitness- Red

  • Cut body fat to under 20%- holy hell, how am I going to do that? Because, carbs.
  • Participate in #30daysnocheats with Jen, starting January 5th- so losing. Lets shoot for March.
  • Help 2 people in their fitness journey- working with one who is having some amazing results!
  • research personal training certificate- no progress

Other-

  • Host an IF:Table- nope, not yet
  • Host a monthly craft night- actually I think this is halfway happening, though not terribly organized, my friend Cyndi and I get together to do some things every few weeks, and it is fantastically fun.

At the end of the 1Q, I’ll be rewriting my goals for the year. Being an agile life project manager and all. Ha. How are everyone else’s goals coming along?

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We have a Jedi, we call him Luke

We always knew that we’d have a Star Wars themed birthday party at some point in our house, especially after that ultrasound in 2009 when the technician said “It’s a boy!”

Star Wars is, hands down, Keith’s favorite movie series (saga? trilogy? double trilogy?) in the history of ever. And yes, I think he said “Luke, I am your Father” in the delivery room. Keith has successfully passed down that love of all things Jedi to our son Luke and this year was the perfect opportunity to execute the Star Wars birthday plan.

We actually bought a Star Wars themed birthday basket from a charity auction when we were pregnant with Savannah (I know, very nerdy of us) and it’s sat in the basement for seven years, and even moved to two different houses with us. The kit had goodie bags, papergoods, tablecloth and some dangly decor.

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I found a couple invitation ideas on pinterest and downloaded a Jedi font from dafont to make them.

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I went a little crazy with the cake and created R2D2 out of 3 cake mixes, using an 8 inch cake pan several times and a metal bowl that I sprayed the heck out of to make the R2’s domed top. 2015/01/img_2452.jpg2015/01/img_2454.jpg

R2’s legs were made out of a pan of rice krispie treats and the whole thing was smothered in several batches of buttercream frosting. The legs were attached to the main body with shishkabob skewers.2015/01/img_2458.jpg

The birthday banner was made with the Jedi font on my Silhouette, and I am starting to wonder if I should start selling these? They are fun(though time consuming) to make and a cute custom addition to birthday parties.

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I couldn’t find a Star Wars-ish pinata locally, so I purchased a soccer ball pinata and spray painted it silver. After it dried and I filled it, I painted geometric shapes and used electical tape to make it look like the Death Star.

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I nixed the idea of actual goodie bags, since my house gets easily cluttered with goodie bag stuff from parties, and we made custom t-shirts for all of the guests that said “Jedi Master ____” in gold paint. I cut the stencils out of freezer paper on my Silhouette and the big kids had an opportunity to help paint the shirts.

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We live around the block from a children’s gym/ tumbling place and we were able to utilize their open play time for an hour before coming back to our house for pizza, pinata and cake.

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The foam pit was a favorite location for my kids as they acted out the trash compactor scene from one of the Star Wars movies.

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While I am a little anti- pull string pinata, I have to admit that the pinata part of the party went from tame…

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To “Careful guys, stand back please!”

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And then “BACK UP GUYS!!!!”

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Culminating in my Matrix-like backbend to save the children when one of Luke’s friends swung like Babe Ruth.

Despite the challenges, we are still a Pro-Legit-Pinata family. I will just set up barricades next time. Haha.

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Hope you had the happiest of birthdays Luke! You are a joy to see grow up into a little man!

And friends… we are still working on those thank you notes… not a strong point of ours for punctual mail. eeek!

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