Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm nesting

So I'm trying to get rid of stuff and make way for a new baby. And what better way to get rid of stuff than to give it to you?

First lot on the table: Grace's baby decor.

Check out my other blog if you're interested.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Lots of Fun Stuff

Summer is short in Buffalo. The weather is one thing -- we often get snow until April and frost until May. And the kids don't get out of school until the end of June. So looking at the calendar today (dude! July is so last month!) (and school starts next month!), I had a moment of panic. What have we done with our more-than-half-gone summer?

Turns out, we've been busy. I decided before school let out that I needed to come up with a plan so that we wouldn't end up watching TV and playing X-Box for two months straight. I wanted to keep the kids on a fairly normal sleeping schedule, keep Sam in the habit of doing school work, and maybe help push him over the edge from pre-reading to reading. The plan was to work on sight words every morning at breakfast, spend time on his workbooks before bed, and read lots and lots of books together. Plus, I had a lot of my own projects to get done. And maybe we needed clean clothes to wear every now and then. So I came up with a schedule of weekly activities, and so far we've been pretty good at sticking to it: On Mondays we do a craft project. On Tuesdays we go to the library and/or to a free kids movie at Regal Cinemas. On Wednesdays we have playgroup. Thursdays is for laundry, chores and projects at home. Friday is field trip day, sponsored by our family membership to Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, in Dayton Ohio.*

I haven't been very good at sticking to the early bedtime plan, or at getting any of our regular chores done. And the sight words for breakfast and workbooks for bedtime plan hasn't really flown either, so Sam still can't read. And it's all my fault.

But on the other hand, my kids are tan and (mostly) happy**, and have enjoyed lots of fun stuff. Like crayon day.

First we took our bucket of broken crayons outside and traced different textures. Then we pulled off all the wrappers and sorted them by color in a cupcake pan. After about 30 minutes in warm oven, the crayon bits melted into colorful crayon patties in the shape of reese's peanut butter cups. Oh, wait. But before we got to the solid patties, the kids painted with the liquid wax. This was a step I was not very excited about. It was messy, and I was sure someone was going to get burned. But I caved to the pressure, and we ended up with some wonderfully weird designs.

Here's Grace showing you her creation.

She also wants to show you her froggie purse, complete with disembodied doll limbs. My apologies to sensitive viewers.
The next week we made salt art, an idea stolen from this clever lady. There was some trial and error involved in this project. I had gel food coloring, not liquid, and it kept making little clumps of brightly colored salt instead of distributing evenly throughout the mixture. After dirtying half a dozen bowls, I discovered that the best solution was to dissolve the gel in a tiny bit of water, and then use my kitchen aid to mix the colored water in with a cup or two of salt.

Despite his unenthusiastic mug shots, Sam was really quite happy with this project. I'm not sure what to do with all those jars of colorful sand now . Maybe homemade play dough for some future week. Would that work?

Another week we painted some little benches for our new backyard patio.

The foot painting was Grace's idea, and not one that I was particularly excited about. I doubted my own sanity at several points during this project. But in the end, all the paint came off their bodies and stayed on the stools, and that was the whole objective.

I'll admit to doing some paint smoothing and redistribution while the kids worked. And sometimes I pointed out spots they missed. But other than that, it was all them. And look how great they turned out.

(I need to write a whole post about the patio, and all of its associated projects one of these days. I made sweet Coach work like a dog this spring to get it in, but we sure have enjoyed it!)

As for field trips, we've been on lots, but somehow I always leave the camera behind. We've been to the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo Botanical Garden, the Strong Museum of Play, and the Buffalo Museum of Science. A couple weeks ago, some Frogmorton aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents came to town, and we got to enjoy the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

It was interesting, trying to expain the pageant to Sam as it was performed. He kept asking "Is that real?" I hadn't thought before about how confusing that kind of thing must be to a child -- fictional portrayals of real events. He was really worried about people being burned and stabbed and thrown off of cliffs. If it hadn't been for all the candy and snacks and cousins, he might have been disturbed by the whole thing.

(Sorry about cutting off everybody's heads (not literally) in these shots. I swear they were there when I uploaded the photo! Anyway, the important thing is that you can see that everyone is smiling and having a great time.)

Speaking of having a great time, grace got her hands on the camera, and took some shots of her own. (And she's not at all sorry about cutting off heads.)

That same weekend as pageant, we also visited the Erie Zoo and the Strong Museum of Play (again) with cousins. Sam was beyond thrilled to have so much time to spend with that fun bunch of boys. If only they lived closer!

I have a few more things planned before we say goodbye to summer completely, but I feel pretty good about what we've done so far. If we could just figure out that early bedtime thing, I think everything would be just about perfect.

*We've never actually been to Boonshoft, but we learned about it when we lived in Akron. Several of our friends had memberships there, and used the reciprocal membership benefits to get into local zoos and museums. It's a great deal because for the price of family membership (about $100), you get reciprocal benefits at zoos & aquariums, science centers, and children's museums across the country. Check it out if you're interested.

**I should note that Sam might not agree with my description of him as "mostly happy," on account of how I hardly ever say yes when he asks if we can catch the ice cream truck. And we haven't had nearly as many parties, or ventured off as many camping trips as he had planned for the summer. And we always leave his favorite destinations before he's ready. In fact, he'll probably tell you he never gets to have any fun at all. But don't believe him.

"Cheese me!"

That's what Grace says when she sees me with the camera. And with that face, she usually gets what she wants.
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