Monday, December 19, 2016

Two Super Easy Paper Christmas Crafts for Kids


Looking for something [basically] free to do with your kids this Christmas season? Here are two cheap ideas that my kids (and their friends) loved. 

Materials Needed for Both Crafts: 

1. Construction Paper - Green and any other additional colors of your choice.
2. Scissors
3. Glue Sticks
4. (Optional and not pictured) Christmas stickers



Craft #1 - Paper Mosaic Christmas Tree

1. Draw a large triangle on a white page. 


2. Cut green construction paper into small triangles.


3. Glue green triangles onto large drawn triangle. Start at the bottom and work up. 


You may have to adjust your child's triangle if the shape isn't quite tree-like.


4. Decorate! We used Christmas stickers, but you can also use other colored paper pieces or markers. 



 Craft #2 - Paper Christmas Tree

1. Cut a Christmas tree out of green construction paper. If free-handing a Christmas tree is too scary, try printing out a picture of a Christmas tree and using it as a pattern.

2. Cut out small pieces of other colored paper.

3. Optional - cut out a star in yellow. (This was kind of hard!)


2. Glue the star and geometric ornaments to the tree! Again, you can add decorations with glitter, markers, stickers or whatever you want!


We took this craft to a kids Christmas party, and it was a hit from ages 2-7. You can go as simple or complex as you want.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Baby #3 Coming This Spring

I haven't blogged about personal things recently, partly due to pulling back on social media and partly because I'm busy with kids. I can't figure out how moms blog regularly. My most consistent blog years were pre-kid. Now I can hardly get a moment to write in my journal, let alone compose a readable post.

My first pregnancy was tediously shared on this blog. My second was about half the amount of sharing, and this third pregnancy is will follow the downsizing pattern.

This is my pregnancy announcement post, gender reveal post, and name reveal post all wrapped into one.

We're Pregnant Again

We found out we were pregnant in late August, right before a family road trip to Chicago. It was planned, so Zane was never unaware that I could be pregnant. After a date night, Zane and I bought a test, and I tested positive as soon as we got home.

I told most people by randomly saying, "I'm pregnant." The best part of spitting it out without a buildup is the shock on people's faces. They're totally not expecting a pregnancy announcement, so you get to see the full surprise turn to excitement, which turns to chiding for springing it on them.

After we heard the heartbeat, I announced it publicly on Instagram (because I'm not on FB, and Zane never posts anything) with what I'd like to think is a creative picture: 
"Elsa and Anna would like to make a royal announcement that a baby snowman will be joining the family just in time for summer!!!"

First Trimester

Morning sickness wasn't too bad. Every food seemed gross except whatever I was craving at the moment, which was a lot of macaroni and cheese. I also ate plenty of toast and mashed potatoes. It wasn't the best eight weeks (nausea started at week 6, ended at 14), but I got through it with lots of naps. I'm very thankful to have two trustworthy kids who can play (or watch too much TV) while I sleep.

Daisy was glad when I stopped taking so many naps, but she knows that mommy's with babies in their bellies need lots of rest.

Boy or Girl? 

After many conversations with people about what I thought I was having, what I felt I was having, what it would be like in either scenario, we finally had our 20-week ultrasound. 

We're having another girl!

I didn't realize I had an expectation until it wasn't fulfilled. I must have entertained too many thoughts of having a boy, because it took me a few hours to adjust (and I felt mom-guilt for not being excited immediately). Now I am very excited, and so are the girls, who were wanting a sister anyways. Daisy wanted both, actually. 

So, What's her Name? 

Another common question for pregnant mothers. I don't know how moms who don't find out sex or tell the name get through nine months of questions. It's exhausting. Or maybe I'm just more exhausted this time around because it's #3, and I don't have as much mental energy to ponder.  

Her name is Oswin Peace. 


Oswin

I had a list of girl names that went with Daisy and Amy, including Bonnie, Tracy, Penny and Siggi. None of those names seemed right. I forced myself to think of names that sounded like her sisters' names. It was limiting and felt like I was giving her leftovers. She'll get plenty of hand-me-downs in her life. She deserves a first-choice name. 

Oswin means "God's friend." If she really wants to be like her sisters, she can go by Winnie. 

Peace

If Daisy Love wasn't hippie enough, we're going to name a kid "Peace"? 

Peace has significant meaning just like Love did. I have been anxious, irritable, and even depressed this year. Acknowledging these negative realities sent me on a journey through counseling and self-evaluation, discovering Godly purpose and seeking peace along the way. 

The thought of three girls caused me anxiety, worrying about dynamics between them, upsetting the harmony between Daisy and Amy, someone feeling left out, etc. I felt God saying, "What if this baby surprises you? What if she is a source of peace?" I latched onto that hopeful thought, probably because it's my deepest desire. 

There are many possibilities for peace in, from, and through Oswin. Maybe she will be a peacemaker. Maybe she'll be the personification of peace. Maybe she won't, but peace will be her gift to the world. Maybe her mother is commissioning her to seek peace throughout her life. Maybe she'll be a reminder to me of my goal to provide a peace-filled home to my family. Or maybe she'll be a reminder that part of God's redemption plan is peace in Him.

Whenever we talk about Daisy's middle name, Love, I tell her about how much God loves us, and it is a reminder to me of His crazy big love. Hopefully Oswin's name can be a teaching moment for us too. 

Zane and his girls and my 20 week baby bump

I'm due May 1, but if she's like her sisters, she'll come sometime after that. 


P.S. I read through this post where we announced our pregnancy with Daisy. I'm filled with a renewed sense of joy and awe as I look back at what God has done in our lives. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pokemon Costume: Bulbasaur


In June, my daughter had a Pokemon birthday party, (which was right BEFORE Pokemon Go came out - just FYI), and since I put so much work into Daddy's Ash shirt, I wanted to repeat some of the costumes for Halloween.

However, I didn't want to force my daughter to be Charmander again, so I asked her who she wanted to be. If she wanted to be a character from XY (she said Bonnie at first), then I would have coordinated our family costumes around that. Luckily she chose Bulbasaur, so we stuck with the Indigo League theme. (See Why Pokemon XY is Better Than Indigo League for more geeky info on that).

The good news was that I only had to make one Halloween costume this year!

The bad news was that it was Bulbasaur:
via http://pokemon.wikia.com/wiki/Bulbasaur

This entire project was me figuring it out as I went, so this isn't a tutorial.

I started with a garage sale backpack that the kids do not use or love and green fabric. 


Added some leafy stuff. 


The casing reminded me of a green jester hat halfway through. 


I used our Charmander hat as a rough estimate for the Bulbasaur hat. The one pictured below was too dark, so I ended up making another one from teal fabric. 


Finished product: 


I'll admit, I am proud of this costumed. I think his face looks more authentic than the Pikachu and Charmander hats we bought from a costume store. 


Here's our group costume for Halloween. 


And a shot of Bulbasaur from the back Trick-or-Treating. 


My favorite part of the night were the kids (all boys incidentally) who recognized Bulbasaur. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Home Reno Before and After: Interior

We bought a major fixer-upper back in March, and with the help of a renovation mortgage (which involves lots of red tape), we were able to renovate it and gain about $40K in equity!! Great investment for us, but LOTS of work too! The professional renovations were accomplished in two months, and the DIY stuff is mostly done now. :) 

This first installment of Home Reno Before and After photos is only our interior. The before shots were taken the day we closed on the house. As I walked through the wasteland, tears filled my eyes. I thought, "What have we gotten ourselves into?!" 

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After


Master Bath Alcove Before and After

Guest Bathroom Before and After 

There are many other beautiful transitions not pictured. The experience of renovating this house was stressful, but so worth it. With the right contractor (we LOVED ours!) and an abundance of patience, a renovation mortgage was wonderful. Each stage of completion revealed that beauty can come from ashes.

Next step: Exterior!






Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stop! Hammond Time


This summer my family had a family reunion at New Smyrna Beach, complete with talent show, and here's my entry. You may recognize the song with a very personal twist. :) 


YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27J80183S_c

And Happy Birthday today to my cousin, Kate!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

10 Things I Hate About Facebook That Led Me To Finally Quit

I was an early-adopter of Facebook, joining back in 2004 when it first launched for college students. I was a young, impressionable, open-to-experience freshman. After college, I started to have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I even wrote this post about breaking an addiction and cutting back.

May 2015 I shut it down all together and don't regret it at all. Here are my 10 Things I Hate About Facebook, in least-aggravating to most-aggravating order, and they don't end up being a cute poem revealing my love and devotion.

10 Things I Hate About Facebook

10. Facebook's ever-changing interface. 

I get that you have to keep with the times. And over my 11 years of life with Facebook, I was usually excited about the updates and new formats, but after a while I started to get frustrated with how complicated it was becoming to do and find simple things.

9. Privacy Settings. 

Every time Facebook changed the format, it seemed like I had to go back and update my privacy settings. I felt very out of control of who was seeing what I posted. I gave it many years of trying to filter and adjust, but ultimately, it seemed like a game of Russian Roulette with who may or may not see my posts.

8. Over-Stimulation. 

Three columns of information! News feed, hot trending topics, updates from my groups, the red notification number in the tab. I couldn't go on Facebook to do one thing. I would ALWAYS get distracted by something else.

7. Too Much Wasted Time. 

Because of these distractions, I often spent more time on Facebook in one sitting than I intended to, which led to too many hours a day on Facebook looking at "news."

6. Over-Sharing. 

When not on Facebook, I would think of status updates or things I could share on Facebook. Eventually, I started to wonder why I was posting things? For likes? For self-gratification?

5. The internet owning my stuff. 

Sometimes get freaked out by what we share on the internet being used against us someday. I read articles about people who never post their kids online to protect their kids' privacy, and I wondered if I was doing myself a disservice by sharing so much, even on this blog. Some things are sacred and meant to be shared with individuals, not the masses.

4. Disliking Others' Posts. 

I got bored and irritated with what I saw on Facebook. In my early FB days, I loved all the sharing, but I eventually started to resent it. Too many baby pics, pregnancy pics, travel pics, complaining, boasting, politics, mommy-shaming, etc. That about covers EVERY post on Facebook, so I realized I didn't like ANY thing I was seeing. Why was I reviewing things I'm not really interested in?

3. Being Responsible for Others' FB Posts. 

Because everyone posts everything on FB, I felt the burden to know what's going on in everyone's lives. If something came up in conversation that I somehow didn't know, I felt dumb that I hadn't found out already on FB, despite checking it so often.

2. Judging People and Feeling Jealous. 

Internet interactions can create unnecessary tension between otherwise happy relationships. All of these posts that I disliked caused me to dislike the people posting them, feelings which I would never have felt if I had learned the information face-to-face. Something about seeing it on Facebook caused me to be judgmental or jealous, instead of happy or compassionate toward my friends.

1. Thinking about people when I wasn't on Facebook. 

My personal mind space was too-often occupied by people that I never see in real life, people that I don't necessarily need to have a relationship with at this point in my life. I let myself be bothered, insulted, or mull over judgmental thoughts toward people that I don't EVER hang out with. I was frustrated by my lack of control over my mind space. I have enough going on in my regular life without all that added information about people I never see.


Bonus Thing I Hate:


Facebook makes it difficult to deactivate. It's hard to find the button to deactivate, then FB asks you about 3-4 times if you "really want to" and they demand you give a reason.



Exit the Freeway

Facebook is like a jam-packed-with-traffic freeway at rush hour. I was always frustrated and felt like there was no other way. But when I exited, I saw that there's a bunch of people living happy, care-free lives on country roads. I didn't know there was another way, but there is, and it's less stressful. 

When I deactivated my account in May 2015, I worried that I would cave in, but I didn't. I have opened my account 2 times since then: once to retrieve a recipe that was in a FB message and once to try video chatting with a friend when Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime weren't working (FB didn't work either that time).

I also tried to make a "ghost account" in July 2015 to do a beach body challenge group one month, and when I became friends with one person, I showed up in everyone's suggested friends. So I quit again. 

Quitting freed my mind space and stopped me from thinking rude thoughts about people. When I see people I haven't seen for a while, I get to talk about lots of things in their lives, because we don't already know from FB. 

The only drawback is that I don't have EVERY single person's contact information, so I can't just FB message some random person from my past, but I can text or email everyone that's important to me, and if someone REALLY needs to find me, they can go through this blog or my husband's FB account. 


It Was A Process

It took me years to quit Facebook. I spent 11 years of my life on Facebook, ALL of my adult life. I didn't know how to live without it. I was afraid of being disconnected. 

In 2013, I tried to cut back by taking the app off my phone and closing the browser when I was done, but like any addiction, I had to quit altogether. Two years later, after talking to multiple people who had successfully and happily quit, proving it was possible, I finally deactivated my account. It's been 18 months, and I'm quite happy. 

I'm on Instagram, which is more simple and I only follow a few people to prevent the judgement/jealousy problem. So far, so good, but if I ever feel like it's creeping into any of those problem areas I listed above, then I'll cut it off too. 


Hope this is helpful to anyone who might be considering making the jump. 


Disclaimer: I don't think Facebook is bad for everyone. And I see many benefits if you live far away from your family or are moving to a new town and need to make new connections. I use iMessage and Google+ to share photos with my family members. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Pokemon XY is Better Than Indigo League

What? How can XY be better than Indigo League, the show that started all?!
via Amazon.com

Backstory

My four year-old is currently obsessed with Pokemon. My husband and I are old-school Pokemon fans, me from watching the original series and him from playing the first gameboy games.

The next generation fandom started with my husband and I impulse-buying coordinating Pokemon keychains (Squirtle and Bulbasaur). My daughter became obsessed with Squirtle, playing with the keychain whenever she could. We started with showing her some clips of Squirtle on YouTube, but eventually we just dove in with Indigo League, because naturally, you should start at the beginning, right?

We finished Indigo League on Netflix, but not having free access to Johto Journeys, we started Pokemon XY.

At first, I was against XY. Different voice actors! Different Ash outfit! Different Pokemon! Different companions!! What happened to Brock and Misty?! Who are these Clement and Bonnie people!?

via Amazon.com

For Pokemon purists, I say start from the beginning, but for young kids, XY is superior to Indigo League for these reasons: 

1. Ash (Main Character)


Indigo League

In Indigo League Ash is a whiney, arrogant, selfish boy. It is comical in the series that he thinks he's so great and keeps getting put in his place, but for a main character, his personality is kind of annoying and not what I'd hope for my kids. 


XY

Ash is older, more experienced, and more mature. He is kind and considerate to his friends. He still wants to become a better Pokemon trainer, but he's not obsessed with personal greatness and has a much more humble attitude toward the process. In one episode he is rejected from a gym because he doesn't have four badges yet. He accepts the rule and maturely says that he will return when he has four badges. He is a much better role model for little ones. 

2. Companions


Indigo League 

As much as I love Misty (I dressed like her last month), she is very rude. She verbally abuses Ash in every episode. Ash treats her pretty poorly in the beginning too. In the episode where they visit her home town, her three sisters call her ugly. Lots of negativity with her.

Similarly, I loved Brock when I first saw the series in high school. He was hilariously falling in love with every girl they met in each episode. When Brock (and sometimes 10 year-old Ash) drools over a girl, I wonder at his intentions (hooking up?) and am offended at the blatant objectification of women.

Not behaviors or philosophies I want my 4 year-old picking up. 


XY 

Clement and Bonnie are a brother and sister duo. They are kind and take care of each other. Bonnie fills the Brock role of pointing out beautiful women to her brother, but her motive is to find her brother a good wife. Instead of targeting physically attractive women, she says "you seem like a keeper" about nice, smart, and pretty women. It fulfills the comedic part of the show with Clement getting thoroughly embarrassed, but doesn't diminish a woman's worth to looks alone. 

Sarina is the other female companion of Ash (yay for equal numbers of boys and girls in the main group!) and fills the role of beginning trainer. She is like Ash in Indigo league, except sweet naive instead of bloated with amateur arrogance. For people new to Pokemon, you can learn through her eyes. 

They are always encouraging and helpful toward each other. I don't think I've seen an episode with name-calling or arguing yet. 

3. More Pokemon


This actually bothered me at first. I thought, "Come on! I just learned the first 150, now I have to learn more?!" 

[To people who have no clue what Pokemon is, I describe them as animals that people catch and battle with. It's not like dog fighting, because that's what Pokemon exist for and what they like to do. There are plenty of episodes about the evils of mistreating Pokemon. The show promotes environmental awareness and positive care of animals.]

Though it's fictional, if it were a real world, there would be more than 150 types of animals. It makes sense that there are regional types. Once I got over missing Charmander and Bulbasaur, I actually started to like Froakie and Fenneken. 

Now that Pokemon Go is so popular, the Geek in me is actually glad to know some more obscure ones, so I can out-geek the mainstreamers. That sounds extra geeky, but some of you can relate.

4. Hidden Lessons


Indigo League definitely had some hidden lessons, mostly about animal rights and taking care of the environment. XY has up-ed the ante. I recently watched on with a hidden lesson about eating well! That's a win in my household. 

One lesson both series often teach is don't trust strangers to take care of your Pokemon, because they'll probably turn out to be Team Rocket.

5. Fewer Weird Characters


There were a couple Indigo League episodes where I might have laughed as a high schooler, but as a parent, I cringed. The episode where a maniac woman tries to kill all the jelly fish, and her entourage are young guys in speedos? Or the one where a bunch of boy bullies are controlled by one beautiful girl bully? 

So far with XY, the day players are less PG-13 or even PG. It's been a very G-rated show. 

6. Better Battles


XY just has better battles. The trainers call out more attacks. The animation is better.  

I recently watched a battle where Pikachu was blinded by something, and Ash called out detailed moves for Pikachu. I'm 30 years old and was entertained by it, so that's saying something, right? (about the show, not me!) 


Drawbacks of XY


1. The opening song isn't the full Indigo League version (there's no "You teach me and I teach you. Pokemon!!"), which wasn't the full-full version anyways.

2. Different voices. Ash's new voice makes sense, because he's supposed to be older. But Team Rocket's voices are strange to me, especially Meowth. I LOVED James' voice in Indigo League. The new voice is okay, but I keep picturing a voice actor in a studio, whereas the old James was just James. 



I LOVE Indigo League, so don't get me wrong. These opinions are all in the light of my four year-old watching the show and me as a parent watching for subtle (or not-so-subtle) negative influences on her character and the way she views herself. 

Charmander, return!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Pokemon Birthday!

Our oldest turned four this week. Her request was to have a Pokemon-themed birthday party. I did my Pinterest research and added some of my own creative ideas. We had a blast. Here's some photos of the day:

Pokemon Banner

I made this Pokemon banner by printing out pictures of my chosen five. I only have a B&W printer, so I traced, cut out, and glued colored construction paper on the appropriate sections. I outlined everything in sharpie. The Pokeballs are the centers of paper plates with red, black and white paper added. 

Cost: One construction paper pack and several hours of work. 


Pokemon Costumes

Our older daughter loves Charmander, and our younger daughter calls all Pokemon "Pikachu." I opted to purchase their hats and the Charmander tail online, but after they arrived, I realized I could have easily sewn them. I still had to sew a belt onto the Charmander tail, because it came with a pin that would have torn a hole in her shirt. 

I made my husband's Ash costume using this instructables post and purchasing the red trucker hat online, but I'll add my own tutorial here eventually. My Misty shirt is red ribbon sewn on as suspenders. I sewed the Pikachu tail and painted brown stripes on her tank top. 

Cost: About $70, but it would have been more like $50 if I had made the girls' hats. 

Catch the Pokemon Game

You can find more information on my Catch the Pokemon Game post, but I basically painted styrofoam cups and tied Pokemon toys to them. Then the party guests had to try to swing the toy up and catch it in the cup. 

Cost: $1 for cups and $3 for a pack of 24 Pokemon toys on Ebay (it takes like 3 weeks for shipping, so don't wait to the last minute for those). 


Pin the Tail on the Charmander

Another classic game with a Pokemon twist. I saw lots of Pikachu versions online available for purchase, but my daughter likes Charmander best, so I decided to DIY it. 

I practiced drawing Charmander 4 times, then sketched a large version on a poster in pencil. I traced my pencil sketch with a sharpie. I painted it, then re-traced the outline with the sharpie. I thought it needed something extra, so I added orange and yellow triangles for decoration. 


The tail pieces were construction paper cut in the shape of flames. 


Cost: $1 for a poster and $2 for orange and yellow paint. You'll need black, white, and blue for the eyes. $1 for construction paper tails. 

Pokemon Cake

I showed my daughter a few Pokemon cakes on google, expecting her to choose the one shaped like Charmander, but she's 4, and she likes toys on her cake. To my great relief, she chose a rectangle cake with a Pokeball and Pokemon toys. 

I just baked one cake, but baked a portion of the batter in a ramekin dish. I iced the rectangle in pink (per daughter's request), and mixed icing to make red and brown (black is hard to achieve). I iced it with a knife and the handle of a baby spoon, then added some Pokemon toys from the same batch used in the Catch the Pokemon game.

Cost: Cake ingredients $3 and Pokemon toys $3.
 

She loved it! In the photo below, you can also see the table decorations. That was a Pinterest find - two $1 table cloths taped together with black duct tape (2-person job) to look like a pokeball. 



That's about it! We had a great time. I really enjoyed crafting, sewing, painting, and prepping for the party. I'm glad we've finally gotten to the point where she can choose her party theme. Hope this is helpful for anyone planning a Pokemon party!


Pokemon Party Game: Catch That Pokemon!

This game is basically the same as a ball-and-cup game with a Pokemon twist. 

Materials: 

Red, white, and black paint 
Paint brush
White styrofoam cups
Yarn or string
Paper clips
Small Pokemon toys

STEP ONE: Paint the cups to look like Pokeballs. Let the first color dry before adding the next layer. 



STEP TWO: Cut yarn strips about 12'' long. Tie one end to a paper clip: 


STEP THREE: Poke small slit through bottom of styrofoam cup and slide paperclip in. 


STEP FOUR: Pull paper clip through and turn it sideways inside cup. 


STEP SIX: Tie other side of yarn to a Pokemon toy. 




To play the game, hold the cup with the toy hanging off the bottom. Swing the toy up and catch it in the cup. To add more challenge, try using your non-dominant hand. 


Have fun and Catch That Pokemon!!!