Thursday, June 23, 2011

In need of a clone

Does running around the grocery store for an hour count as getting out and getting active?
It was the kids running, not me.  I just sent apologetic looks to the people they skittered over or cut off.
I did get in a good walk, though. Somehow, when you are shopping with four kids, you forget more than half of your items and end up walking to both ends of the store twice.

A marble jar update:  we are forgetting to add the marbles.  The kids will say "I made my bed" or I finished my job" and I say "okay, good job" but then never remember to actually add the marbles.
We have modified our goal.  After the first two days, we decided to fill the jars to the 8oz mark, which is about half way.  Currently, Connor and Aubrey have their jars filled to the 4 oz mark, and its been almost two weeks since we started.  I haven't figured out yet if this is fast or slow.  I've rethought the prize too.  I don't want my kids to have to 'earn' one on one time with mom or dad.  That's something they deserve no matter what.  In fact, when they start having bad behavior is when I start thinking they need some one on one time.

I got the sudden feeling last week that I was short changing my kids somehow, by mothering all their siblings at the same time as them.  The difficult child consumes most of my energy, leaving little patience for the others. I started wondering if I'd hear more about my oldest's hopes and dreams if it was just the two of us, or about my daughters real thoughts at starting KinderCamp and Kindergarten.
I love to see the interaction between my kids and their siblings, I love the friendships they are forming, the thoughtfulness they develop.  I love that they will grow up with someone else and experience childhood together.

But as a mom, I wish I could stretch more, do more, be more - so that my kids will receive more.

So I have created summer goal number two for our family: carve out time every 2 weeks to take one child on a "date night" of their choosing. This does not include taking turns going to the grocery store with mom. This is all about them, what they have been wanting to do, and doing it with mom or dad's undivided attention.

It shouldn't be as hard as it is, I'm not even shooting for once a week. There are two parents. They can join Dad for a long lunch break during the week.  There are five weekday evenings, not to mention the weekends, and summer nights are long.
It is difficult nonetheless.
But I think making the effort will be worth it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beauty in the Rough

Sunset Crater
Lava Flow Trail
1 mile loop 

Can you believe that stuff can grow in all the lava rock!?
The Apache Blooms were beautiful and were everywhere.

The kids thought the ice cave was pretty cool (bottom right).

I thought the whole landscape - black, rocky, and rough, but dotted with new growth - was pretty cool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

their Daddy

I remembered to call my Dad yesterday and wish him a happy Father's Day.
I remembered to purchase a gift for my kids to give to their Dad. I remembered to buy his favorite candy.
Best of all, I remembered to take a picture of my hubby and all the kids this year, since I have no photo documentation of last year's Father's Day, and vowed that I would not forget again.
I have a picture of Daddy with all the kids,
but I liked this one better.

Hiking and smelling flowers are so much more fun if Dad is doing it too.
My kids have a wonderful Daddy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A quick post to share my latest accomplishment...
I finished the picnic quilt!!!
I backed this with a medium weight denim for durability, and at 5ft by 6ft its large enough for the whole family.
Don't ask me why I chose a cream colored sashing for a quilt that is sure to bear food and mud stains.
I love how it turned out anyhow.  An added bonus for me - I stuck to my plan and used only scraps for the blocks.

Since I have a tendency to start a quilt, then finish it a year later, this is quite a feat.  I started this quilt less than a month ago!  I am patting myself on the back; I am also smart enough to enjoy this brief stage of no demanding newborn, for soon I know that my sewing machine will sit quietly on the desk as I change, nurse, bounce, change, and nurse again and again.  Don't get me wrong - I am excited to meet this little girl, but I can wait until September to do so.

In the mean time, I have another sewing pattern for some girl's clothes and...

here's proof that we are out and active for the second time this week. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Get Out and Get Active!

I have created a challenge for our family for this summer.  To get out and get active three times a week.
Summer's in Flagstaff are beautiful, we have no excuse not to.

Today was no exception.

This walk included exercise stations.
It was too funny to see Donovan imitating his siblings.

And he doesn't do a bad job at keeping up with the pack.

As hard as it is to haul small children along on outdoor adventures, I don't think there is any other way to teach them to enjoy nature and to cultivate an active lifestyle.  No, we are not going very far.  Yes, we are moving pretty slow. No, it is not a workout for me at all.  
But I enjoy our outings because I am seeing my kids experience the things I enjoy.
Besides, we're heading to some National Parks in couple weeks, and the best way to enjoy them is to hike them.  My kids need to be ready.

And this is how I convert a single stroller into a double one
thereby squeezing an extra 15 minutes into our walk.
Too bad it's too big to bring with us on our trip, not to mention not exactly ideal for canyons.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer = Boredom?

School's Out!
But, geesh, you wouldn't know it by my first gra...I mean second grader's long face.
"I don't want to be bored," he claims.  Bored?
This calls for a party.
(Notice the dress. This is day three of her wearing it. See, I need to sew some more!)
Congratulations on finishing first grade, Connor!  Actually, we had absolutely no worries about him finishing first grade. He is an excellent student, and I'm hoping Aubrey will be the same.

The beginning of summer break also calls for some planning. 
To assure him that we will not sit on our duffs all summer long, we created a summer fun folder.  I first asked them to give me a list of everything they wanted to do this summer. "Go swimming at the Aquaplex!" my oldest two shouted in unison.  Okay, got that down. Next? "Umm, walk to the park".
And there their list ended.  Huh?  You have no place you want to go? Camping? The zoo? The beach? Nothing else you want to do?
They needed some help.  We added road trip, swim lessons, as well as a slew of crafts to the list.
Thanks to my dear friend Denise, we had a whole stack of Family Fun magazines for ideas. We pulled out the instructions for the things we want to try, and placed them in our summer fun folder.
Our goal is to check off every one of the twenty something items on our list before school starts up again.
And look, one of our summer goals is to learn our ABC's. We will start with the first three letters.
 Just kidding!  Each of these jars belongs to one of the kids (except for Donovan, who is too young to participate).  
            Perhaps our next child's name should start with the letter "E"!?
With all of the kids in the house all day long again (I sound like I have more than four kids), I am going to need all my tricks to keep the harmony. Seriously, you wouldn't believe what a difference one child can make.  Especially when they had it all figured out who was boss, until the next oldest started intruding.  
I'm also going to need to get serious about chores once again.
Thus, our jars.
I will create a list of various tasks and assign a point to each one.  Each point equals one marble.  For example, brushing your teeth is worth one point, making your bed one, vaccuuming two, and so on. 
Once the jar is full, the child gets to choose between a night out with mom or dad, or $5 to spend at the store.
But you can lose marbles too. Bad behavior means you have to give up a marble.

I'm hoping this system helps keep the peace in our home this summer.  Hopefully, we'll get to a point where they say "oh, I don't need a marble for that, I'm just doing it to help you out."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Sewing Clothing

I'm about to say that I am hooked...again. Or maybe I should say needled.
This time it's on sewing clothing.
I finally dared to try follow a pattern. With all of the sewing I've done in the past (quilting, curtains, plastic bag holders, pillow cases, you know, the easy stuff), I just make it up as I go. And it works for me.
Sewing clothing seemed so intimidating, I mean you have to follow a pattern.
Okay, well now I know why the pattern is named Simplicity.  It really is easy!

Never mind that it looks like an apron with the dark, small print on the bottom, or that I'd switch the bottom and top fabrics, or that I'd make it shorter if I were to do it again...I actually made a dress! :)
Yes, I am quite proud of my accomplishment.

And she loves it.
I'm already modifying this dress in my mind so the next one is more of what I want. Now that I can sew buttons and button holes on my machine, and know how to read a pattern, I don't want to stop sewing. 

And hey, another cool trick I learned and was able to put to practice again - how to thread a longer length of elastic (or string) through a narrow casing.
With a half inch casing for a 1/4 inch piece of elastic, I knew that using a safety pin would take forever. Instead, I used this little doo-hinky from the kitchen.  I think it's for tying up a bird that you are going to roast.
I just tied my elastic to the end of the stick, taped the sharp point so it wouldn't pierce through my fabric, and it was a breeze to thread that elastic.

I'm beginning to think that I will look like permanent resident of Joann's before long.  I've got to use those weekly coupons after all!

And please bear with me as I learn how to coordinate fabrics for clothing. It's a bit different that quilting.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

just life and some beautiful photography

We are not officially on summer break yet.  Tomorrow is Connor's last day of school.  I will celebrate the fact that I do not have to wake anybody up and do not have to make that 10 minute run to school for the next 2 1/2 months by baking cupcakes. We need a school's out party around here.  Connor's not looking forward to being bored.  I think some summer passports are in order.

Dean made it home in one piece from hiking the Grand Canyon (I don't know why I worry, but I always do).  He was tired from the 5AM mornings, but otherwise completely whole.  He wasn't even sore! How do you manage that one?! I'm afraid that when I finally do hike the Canyon, I'll be walking like a grandpa for weeks. Dean didn't bring a camera along, but his brother Russell has been writing about their hike as well as sharing some beautiful photography over on his blog.

My 22 month old has figured out how to ride a two-wheeler bike with trainer wheels.  
This boy is working hard at keeping up with his older siblings. He has also figured out how to get out of his crib. Sigh. Now what? Bedtime has just gotten 5 times harder.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Photobooks, a comparison

I'm hooked.
On photobooks, that is.
For years, my pictures have remained in digital files, hiding in the depths of our Pictures folder on the hard drive of our computer.  I've enjoyed digitally scrapbooking here and there, but sadly, I just couldn't keep up.
Hence, the photobooks. And I love to display them.
Of our family pictures, I have made two books, one from My Publisher, the other from Shutterfly.

Both books come with 20 pages, and the prices are comparable.
Shutterfly 8x11 book - $34.99  additional pages $1.00
My Publisher 8.25 x 11.75 book - $29.80  additional pages $.99

The Shutterfly book is an 8 x 8 ($30). They seem to always run a free shipping deal on orders over $30 (standard shipping for this one book is $8, for two books it is $12).
The My Publisher book is an 8.25 x 11.75 book and has 65 pages. They run a deal every spring where additional pages are free! Shipping is $9.99 for one book, $4.99 for each additional book.

Shutterfly gives you the choice of choosing the simple path (photos arranged for you, 1-4 photos per page, 20 set page styles, you can rearrange and add captions), or the custom path (1-25 pictures per page, text or no text, you can change the background and layout on each page).  I always choose the custom path.
My Publisher has you choose between 10 book styles and 200 page layouts.
Both books offer full page bleed photos, storyboard page layouts, text or no text, or a lot of text.
 I liked being able to change the color of each page in my most recent book.
However, I ran into some trouble fitting in the text I wanted (right photo).  Also, I had to place my pictures out of order to fit them in My Publisher's set layout of vertical and horizontal pictures for that page.

Shutterfly has a new feature in the custom path that allows you to move and resize your photos and text boxes, and add embellishments anywhere you choose!  I like the added creative freedom that Shutterfly offers.

Both books seem to be holding up fairly well, but the My Publisher book is brand new and I can't vouch yet for its durability. Already, the back of the book is showing wear on the binding.  Perhaps because of the dark background?

A couple years ago, I made an ABC book of sorts for my kids and to give to all their cousins as a gift.
This is a 5 x 7 book from My Publisher, that at the time was only available in paperback.
Do Not order a paperback book for kids in black.  The black has been scraped off, revealing pink, and the binding is not holding up very well.
Thankfully, I noticed this right away in our book, and was able to laminate the front and back covers of the books that I gave as gifts.

I have to say that both hard cover books present very well.  The photo quality isn't bad and the books look nice.  I'd have to say the Shutterfly is a little easier to navigate, thus more user-friendly. With their new features on the custom path, I think that the next book I make will be from Shutterfly.

If you're like me and never make prints or have photo albums in your home that are missing some photos due to kids pulling them out, photobooks are a great way to preserve you memories. I know that some people order duplicates of each book so the kids can freely peruse one of them and not worry about rips. One thing I noticed is that your created book is always on your 'bookshelf' of your account online and you can reorder books whenever you'd like (I'm not sure how long they stay there).

I love to watch the kids looking through our books time and time again.

"Hey, remember when we made these!?"
"That's you, Brant!"
"Remember when we went there?"
"That's Fat Man's Loop!"
I really don't think my three year old remember making gingerbread houses two years ago, or the trip to Scottsdale McCormick Train Park - until he saw the pictures.  Through the pictures they can re-live and remember countless occasions and fun times.  And I have a beautiful looking book holding them all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I want one

I'm supposed to be mopping my floors and baking bars.
For some reason, I'm on the internet instead.

I usually only have so much to do on  the internet - check my email, see what's new on facebook, read two or three blogs, and that's it.  It doesn't take too much time.  Unless, that it, you start blog hopping.
But what fun it is to see other people's art - their photography and crafts, and be inspired to create something of your own!
I've even justified my eye candy browsing - it won't be much longer till I have a demanding newborn, and I have no time to spend on the computer or creating.

Okay, back to today... check out this really cool bracelet I found over at twoandsix...

I want one.  Or two or three.  How cool are these? Can you imagine having a slew of them in different colors and patterns?!  

Apparently, to make this bracelet (and I have no interest in making shawls or blankets, just some bracelets :) ) you use a technique called broomstick lace.
I only have about 5 quilting projects started, and weekly Little Hands Sign classes coming up, but I kind of wonder if I could learn to crochet and knit???
Okay you knitters and crocheters, how hard is it really?