Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teaching Sight Words to Young Children - Part 1

Before any of you think, who is this lady, and is she just talking out of her butt? I will let you know that I do have a Masters in Education, and spent a number of years teaching children of various age levels so... I am only moderately talking out of my butt.

Anyway, as you will probably figure out over time as you read this blog, I have very strong opinions concerning education, particularly early childhood education. Using a whole word approach when teaching a child to read is something I think is very important.  Not that phonics are unimportant, I just feel phonics are too heavily relied on as the method for teaching children to read. Phonics are a great tool for decoding new words, but that isn't how we read. We read by memorization. If we had to sound out every word, none of us would ever want to read because it would be a huge pain. 

The biggest problem I've found with teaching sight words, is that most of us, parents, don't really know how best to do it, so we either use boring tools like flash cards or just rely on phonics, which seems to be more straight forward. So I thought I would share some techniques for teaching sight words to kids in ways that are fun and meaningful to them.

So for this first entry, I want to focus on my favorite method: Using children's books.

It's something so simple, but it just doesn't occur to most of us. I actually got this idea from my mother in law and had to, begrudgingly, admit that it was a really good one. (Don't you hate that!)
Basically, you look through you child's favorite books for simple words that are repeated. Then you choose one word to focus on with each reading. Begin by showing that word to your child and say it with them. Then point to the word every time it appears and allow your child to read it.

For example, in the book Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss, the word "go" is used a lot. So before beginning the book, I showed my daughter the word, and told her that "g" and "o" spells "go". Then I told her that I wanted her to help me read the word "go' whenever she sees it in the book.  Every time I came to the word "go"  I would cue her by pausing and pointing to the word, and she would say "go" -  with great enthusiasm I might add. It is a lot of fun, and after one or two readings doing this, she pretty well knows the word.

You can do this with all sorts of books. It doesn't matter which ones, as long as you can pick out some highly repeated words. You can use words like "I" and "you," and other high frequency words if you want, but it's more fun if you choose more interesting words that fall at fun spots in a story.  Also, learning one word per reading is best. Trying to teach too many words at once may lead to confusion. Once you've mastered certain words like, "go" and "dog" from Go, Dog, Go for example, you can ask your child to read both words to see how well they can differentiate between the two.

Here are a few books that I like to use for sight words:
  • "Go" from Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss
  • "Sam" and "ham" from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • "Tree" and Boom" from Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • "Bear," "duck," "cat" or "hen" from the  Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik
  • "Bear," "big" "one" and "day" from Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • "Moo" from Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by  Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
  • "See" and "me" from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • "Go" and "dog" from Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman
Have any of you ever used this method to teach you children or students to read?

Do you have any books to add to the list?

I want to hear what you  think.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saving Money on Kids Clothes - Consignment Sales

It's my favorite time of the year!

No, It's not Christmas. It's consignment sales time.  I'm not talking about the consignment stores that are open year round, I'm talking about consignment sales. These are mega sales held twice a year (fall and spring) at convention centers, fairgrounds  and other large venues. And they are awesome for cheap (or broke) parents like me.

 I discovered consignment sales a few years ago when we were having serious money problems. I didn't consign that first time, but I still got a bunch of great clothes for my son that lasted the entire season. Since then, I've gotten more and more into these sales: consigning, volunteering, advertizing. - anything that will get me in the doors sooner. (Most sales are on a system that you get to shop earlier depending on your level of involvement, but more on that later).

Now my cheap butt can dress my children in Gymboree and Gap instead of Faded Glory and George. My kids look good, I save money. It's a win-win.... mostly. But as with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks. You have to decide if it's worth it to you.

Here are some of the benefits of consignment sales vs. traditional consignment stores:
  • The selection is better - There are more clothes to choose from, and the quality is often better.
  • The prices are better. I can usually get t-shirts from one to four dollars at a sale as opposed to five to ten dollars at a consignment store.
  • You can earn more money as a consignor - often as much as 65% of your sales.

Some of the drawbacks of consignment sales are:
  • Consigning is hard work - You have to hang, tag and price every single piece of clothing. It is very labor intensive. Whereas a consignment store will do the work for you.
  • If you don't get there for the early days of a sale, the selection gets pretty poor, especially for boys.
  • The effort of searching through dozens upon dozens of racks to clothe your child for an entire season can be pretty exhausting.
  • You have to guess what your child's size will be for the next 6 months This can be tricky especially for babies and toddlers. (I usually just buy large - better too big than too small)
Despite the downsides, consignment sales are a great option for families looking to save money on children's clothing. Not only will you be getting outrageous prices on quality children's clothes, but you'll be making money to help pay for them.  For instance, last spring I made about $200.00 consigning and spent $225.00 shopping. This included all of my kids summer clothes plus a few toys and a pair of orange crocks for my daughter. Is this typical? I don't know. It depends on how much you have to sell and how crazy you go shopping. I go pretty crazy, but my kids also get a lot of nice stuff from their grandparents that I can later consign, so that helps.

So now that you know the pros and cons to consignment sales, the question is, are you crazy enough to do it? If you're reading this blog, I suspect that you probably are. If so, Consignment Mommies is a good place to start. It is a web site with a database you can search by state and zip code to find sales in your area.

 Once you've chosen a sale, you will need to find out their particular rules about consigning and volunteering. Like I said, in my experience the more involved you are with the sale, the earlier you get to shop. (For example: if you volunteer 4 hours you might get in on the first Saturday of the sale. If you volunteer 8 hours, you might get in on that Friday.) But this is not a hard and fast rule. Every sale is different.

Shopping consignment sales is an art. It takes a certain kind of know-how and stamina to make it through one. I've been doing this twice a year for the past four years, and have made every mistake in the book so here are some tips to help you through that first sale.

Tips for new consignment sale shoppers:
  • Unless it is stated that carts of some kind will be provided, take something to carry your stuff in. Remember that you're shopping for an entire season and will be carrying a lot. A child's wagon or a laundry basket with a bungee cord attached (so you can drag it) work well.
  • Don't bring the kids. Let me repeat... don't bring the kids! You will lose your mind. I took my 18 month old daughter one year so my husband could watch the Miami game. Never again! She was miserable and crying half the time, and the only thing I could do to entertain her was count to 20 over and over for THREE HOURS! (She was into counting) It was awful, and I came home with a lot of stuff I didn't need because I was running behind, and didn't have time to sort through the clothes. Which brings me to my next tip.
  • Grab now, sort later. There are too many clothes to choose from, and you will find yourself grabbing every cute thing on the shelf. That's fine. What you need to do is, once you are finished searching, find a spot to sit down and sort through the clothes. I usually decide ahead of time how many of a particular item I will be getting (i.e. 7 pairs of shorts, 10 shirts, etc) and use that as a jumping off point. Go through your clothes, choosing the cutest and best priced ones until you meet your desired number and PUT THE REST BACK.
  • Know your brands. It matters. Faded glory makes some cute clothes, but they are also Walmart's brand and poorly made. Not to say you can't purchase them, but the price needs to reflect the quality of the merchandise.
  • Allow yourself a splurge or two on items you really like, but beware of over pricing. The prices at these sales are set by the consignors and can vary greatly.When looking through your items, try to gauge what the average prices are and go from there. For example, I can expect a pair of girls jeans to go for between $3.00 and $5.00 depending on the brand and condition. If a pair of jeans is $5.00, they better be really nice. If they're more, I simple don't get them.
  • Shop the boys clothes first. I don't know if it's because mom's buy more for their daughters, or because boys just damage their clothes more, but the pickings are always slimmer in the boys section.
  • Thoroughly check clothes for stains or rips. Unfortunately, not all consignors are honest. Why someone would want to cheat me for a $2.00 shirt is beyond me, but they do. 
  • Look at the knees of jeans. Those are always the first thing to go. If they look a little light and worn, do not buy them.
  • If you're buying toys or baby items, you have to be especially cautious. Check the item thoroughly for any issues. Try things out and make sure they have all of the pieces. Sometimes consignors lie and sometimes they just miss things, but there is no return policy so if you pay $20.00 for a high chair that's missing the straps, you're stuck. (Of course you can often order replacement parts from the company, but don't count on it).
  • Be wary of certain items like cribs and car seats. I believe that these sorts of things need to be purchased new because of the safety hazards that might arise, but that just isn't feasible for everyone. Cribs are recalled a lot and you want to make sure you're getting something safe. You will also want to make sure it is put together correctly. Some searching on the net should turn up an owners manual. Car seats are even sketchier. It could have been recalled, in a accident, or past the expiration date (Oh yes they do expire). One way to minimize risk is to look at the manufacturers date. If the seat is over six years old, it's expired. Don't buy it. Also, pull back the cover and inspect the safety foam - most car seats come with safety foam these days. Look to see if it looks at all damaged or compressed. Also inspect the straps for wear, and check the base for cracks or other signs of damage. This isn't a fool proof system or anything, but it should help minimize your chances of getting a car seat that's been in an accident.

I hope you've found this information helpful. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section and I will answer them as soon as possible. If you have any tips or consignment information you'd like to share, please post them as well.

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Homemade Dryer Balls

I love the idea of dryer balls. I have terrible allergies and sensitive skin so I prefer not having to use dryer sheets. Not to mention they can get expensive over time. My problem is that I've been trying to minimize the amount of chemicals and toxins in my home, and running my children's clothing around with a bunch of PVC plastic seemed counterproductive. So I just said "screw it," and stopped using anything. Sure my clothes were a little staticy, but it was better than wrapping my kids in a chemical suit every morning.

Then one day I was walking through whole foods and I noticed a package of all natural wool dryer balls! I was very excited about these dryer balls right up to the point when I got up to the register and found out they were $20.00. Did I mention I'm cheap? Well I am, and paying $20.00 for some balls of wool seemed pretty stupid to me.  I thought to myself, "I bet I can make these." So I came home, and ignoring me children, immediately started perusing the internet to see if I could find some information on how to make my own dryer balls, and low and behold... it was everywhere!

So for your entertainment and (hopefully) enlightenment, I have outlined the process I went through to make these dryer balls. Enjoy!

What you'll need:
  • 100% wool
  • A pencil
  • A moment of peace
  • Old panty hose, tights, or socks
  • Essential oils (optional) 
First off you will need to get some 100% wool yarn. Check the label. Some wool can be machine washed - don't use those. You want it to say "hand wash only, lay flat to dry" or something to that effect. I got mine at A.C. Moore with a 40% off coupon bringing the cost down to about $3.50 for one ball of yarn. One standard size ball of yarn will make about three dryer balls. (I had to go back and get a second one so I could finish the fourth dryer ball).

To continue, you will need your moment of peace. I say this because you can't stop rolling yarn to go wipe butts and get water for little people because it will unravel. Pick a time when you won't be pulled away too much and it will make things easier.

To start, wrap the yarn around your fingers like so.

Once you've gone around a number of times (4 or 5), remove the circle of yarn and wrap the yarn around the middle a few times so it looks like a bow.

Then, fold it over and start wrapping the yarn around the center to start the ball.

 Continue wrapping it around and around so you make a ball-like shape about two inches wide. Warning: your hands will get tired and crampy.
I found it helpful to use the multicolored yarn because it made it easier to tell where I had just wrapped the yarn.

Using a pencil, push the remaining thread down into the ball as far as possible. Push the threads back over the hole to seal it.  (Others will tell you to use a  crochet needle. This sounds great in theory, if you knit. I don't knit, or sew very well for that matter, and so I didn't want to spend money on something I would never use again. A pencil worked fine.)

I made 4 balls, but you can make anywhere from 3 to 6.

Now cut off the leg of your pantyhose (Don't try to save them. Resistance is futile).  Stuff one ball into the leg pushing it all the way to the toe. Tie a knot above the ball. Then repeat the process until your pantyhose looks like this.

Here's the important part, you need to machine wash the balls in HOT water and dry them on HIGH heat to make them felt. Basically, this means they will shrink a little and the threads will fuse a bit. I put them in with a load of sheets because I worried about towel lint getting all over the pantyhose and causing problems.

Once you take the balls out, they should feel a little tighter and the threads should stick together.

You're not done yet....

Now you have to repeat the whole process again.  This time you will need to wrap your finished ball in more wool until they are about three inches across, push the thread through with a pencil, place them in the panty hose and wash on HOT, dry on HIGH.

Remove the balls from your pantyhose and enjoy. At this point you can add a drop of essential oil to each ball before throwing them in a load to give your clothes a nice cent. Don't add a lot of essential oil. Remember a few drops go a long way.

Here are my final balls. They look more like footballs, but whatever, it really doesn't matter.

They felted nicely and stayed together in the dryer fine. I anticipate they will firm up even more with continued use. I also think they are a little small. I may add another layer of wool in the future, but I'll see how these work first.

Now here's the million dollar question... Do they work? I'm honestly not sure. My clothes came out soft and without static, but it's been a wet summer, and I haven't had much in the way of static problems. The real test will be in the winter. That's when the static is the worst around here.

The essential oils (I used lavender) did make my load smell very nice though. :)


Linked to: Shabby Creek Cottage

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mommy Confessional - I'm a Slob

Okay, here goes. I admit it. I'm a slob. Well, not exactly a slob. More like a recovering slob. You see, I want to clean, I try to clean, I spend what seems like the majority of my life cleaning, but my house is never actually clean. It's like I'm always taking one step forward, two steps back. I clean the counters, someone tracks dirt across the floor. I clean the floor, someone pees all around, but somehow not in, the toilet. I clean around the toilet, someone spits a mouthful of toothpaste all over the mirror and faucet.  It's like a never ending battle of the slobs and I am seriously losing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to put the blame on everybody else. I may clean a lot, but I also make much of the mess. My problem, pretty much the essence of the entire problem, is that I and my family don't put things away. The counters, floor, island, bookshelf - it's all fair game. One thing gets left out, then another, then before you know it the entire house is covered with clutter.

Which leads to my next problem... Crap.

My house is practically splitting at the seams with crap - not literal crap, (though sometimes I wonder) metaphorical crap - i.e. crap. It's gotten so bad, the crap has migrated into the garage and now I can't even park there anymore. More crap is filling up half of our "computer room" (I put that in quotes because "crap room" would be a better description) and don't even get me started on the room above the garage that was supposed to be Don's music room. The poor guy is confined to a 3X3 foot space to play guitar because the rest of the room is full of... you guessed it, CRAP! Now there is a purpose behind all of this crap. I am not a hoarder or anything. I had grand plans for all of the wonderful things I might do with all of  my spare time this summer, and one of those things was to have a garage sale. Unfortunately, I've stalled at the making piles of crap stage and have a very long way to progress before hitting the getting rid of crap stage.

My laundry situation is even worse. If I actually get the clothes into the washer, more likely than not, I will forget about them. Which means I have to wash them over again. Consider that this scenario can, and has, taken place multiple times with a single load, and you can understand my need to make my own laundry detergent. Now if I do, somehow, manage to get the laundry - sans mildew - into the dryer, I will inevitably forget about it. Then, I have to run it through the dryer again to get the wrinkles out. Do you see a pattern developing here? Now, if I pass this stage and pull the clothes out of the dryer, I don't often get around to folding them immediately - hey I'm busy - so they spend a couple days decorating my couch or sitting in a basket. Now of course, they're wrinkled, so they needs to be run through the dryer again. If I, by the grace of god, do fold the laundry, I almost never get around to putting it in the kids drawers. So what happens is that we all route around in the laundry basket making such a mess of things that they end up just needing to be washed again, so hell! That is why, on any given day, the laundry pile is well above, over, around, and every which-way about the hamper. I'm lucky if I can see the damn thing, truthfully.

Now, I know what you're thinking... "Courtney just do the laundry and put things it away." It sounds simple now, but, you see, I haven't finished.. Oh yes, there is more.

Don't forget that I have two kids who seem to have inherited my slob gene. I have toys coming out my wazoo, (yes, it's a word) and I have developed a wonderful system of bins to contain that wealth of playthings, however, nothing actually gets put into the bins. Instead, the toys are often lining the floors directly adjacent to the wonderful bins. And then, I can't put the toys away because they are blocking the damn bins! I have, on more than one occasion, resorted to the "I will throw away every toy on the floor." threat with much success, but it is unfortunately short lived. Five minutes later all of the toys are strewn about the house again, and I'm trying my best not to kill myself tripping on a Barbie doll.

That leaves me with the here and now, and what is my wreck of a house. It's filled with toys, laundry and crap, covered in a thick layer of nastiness and sprinkled with filth. I am completely unable to even begin to contemplate where to start to fix this. I am overwhelmed and understaffed. I have quite frankly given up. And now that the children have gone to bed, and I actually have time to do something about the state of my house, I choose to sit and air my dirty laundry (literally) on this blog.

Why? Because I am a slob.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

My First Award!!!

I am so excited to have been nominated for my first award! Thank you to Daily Messes for this nomination. Please check out her blog. It's full of super-cool ideas and activities to do with kids. 

The Liebster Blog Award is given to bloggers by bloggers. It is a way to acknowledge each other and say "you're doing a great job". It is for blogs with 200 or less followers, so it's also a great way to spread the word about smaller blogs and get them more readers and followers! When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person(s) who nominated you. You pass the Award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions. You're not allowed to nominate the blog(s) who nominated you! (To get the button, right click the picture on my page and save the picture to your computer. You can then upload to your blog.)

All about me:
  1. I stick my tongue out  - Michael Jordan style - whenever I put on makeup.
  2. I am not a geek, but I have geekish tendencies. For example: I love Star Trek (Next Generation thank you), but you won't find me at some convention dressed up like Diana Troy.
  3. I took singing lessons for 4 years, sung in theater productions (youth theater) and even some competitions  - though I never won anything. And now, I sing a mean twinkle, twinkle little star.
  4. I hate personalized license plates, I hate personalized license plates, and let me repeat I freaking hate personalized license plates.  If you have a personalized license plate, I'm sorry, but you're lame. 
  5. I love both cats and dogs, but hate pretty-much all other pets: rabbits, ferrets, birds, hamsters, snakes, you name it! If I can't let it outside to poop, I don't want it in my house. (Unless it's toilet trained, of course).
  6. I think I'm funny. My husband disagrees. He's wrong.
  7. I own probably 30 pairs of nice shoes, but all I ever wear are Birkenstocks. In the winter, I wear them with socks.
  8. I am a Pepsi junkie. I know it's awful for my teeth. I know it's unhealthy, I know it will make me fat.. but it tastes so good!
  9. I've been with my husband for 14 years and I still think he's hot. 
  10. I write dark fantasy fiction. I'm pretty sure the reason my mom doesn't like to read my stories is because they make her worry that I might be mentally deranged.
  11. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
These are the questions I was asked:
1.   What is your favorite holiday? Halloween. Not because of the candy, but for the costumes.
2.   What is your favorite dessert? Tiramisu - Italian for "Holy crap that's good!"
3.   What is your favorite animal? Elephants. Cause they're just cool.
4.   Summer, Spring, Fall or Winter? Spring! I love the flowers although my allergies do not.
5.   Tube tops or cardigans? Neither. I'm a t-shirt kind of girl.
6.   Twilight or Shades of Grey? I haven't read Shades of Grey yet, but will vote for it after reading Twilight
7.   What motivates you? My self-loathing
8.   What book are you reading? I am taking a very long hiatus from Dance of Dragons (George R.R. Martin) I've just been too busy to read.
9.   Can blogging save the world, stop global warming and ... ? teach me how to make cute little hair barrettes for my daughter
10. If 'can't' and 'have to' get into a fight who wins? "Have to."
11. Warm and fuzzy or sleek and shiny? Warm and Fuzzy. Definitely!

Here are my Nominees (Please check them out!):
Oh So Amelia - Here baby girl is adorable and she makes the cutest stuff
A Mrs. in the Making - I love her pinterest experiments
An Organic Wife - Great blog about living green and healthy
The Unlikely Homeschool - This blog has so many awesome educational activities
Wine and Glue - She is funny and comes up with great activities to do with kids
What's Cooking in the Burbs  - Wonderful recipe blog
Hello Paper Moon - Great crafts and recipes
The Anon Bloggers - Soooo funny
The Green House - Everything related to living green and frugal
Christina's Emporium - Great crafts and recipes for kids
Children's Book Review - Great blog where books are reviewed by both the parent and the child

Alright nominees... so here are my questions:
  1. Beatles or Elvis?
  2. What kind of blogs do you enjoy reading?
  3. What is your favorite book?
  4. Name a pet peeve of yours
  5. Why did you start blogging?
  6. Cats or dogs?
  7. What motivates you?
  8. Tea or coffee?
  9. If you could meet any famous person (artist, writer, actor etc.) who would you choose?
  10. Do you do any other writing outside of your blog (i.e articles, stories books)?
  11. Does it annoy you that I'm asking yo to answer all of these questions? :)


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Duh Moment: No More Chip Clips!

I love chip clips! I would have hundreds of them clipping everything in my house if I could, but they can be really expensive. Even at the dollar store you can only get about 6 for a dollar and then they fall apart almost immediately. Oh, and they have those wonderful little death-magnets on the back. You know, the ones that are perfectly shaped and sized for children to swallow when they inevitably fall off. As for the expensive ones... they're just expensive. So until recently I made do with the handful of chip clips I possessed, replacing them frequently as they fell apart. (I'm too cheap to get the good ones).

Then, one day my husband and I were at Walmart and we saw a pack of 100 clothespins for $1.88! Let me repeat... 100 clothespins for $1.88! This was my duh moment. I grabbed the pack of clothespins and haven’t looked back. It’s been six months and I haven’t had to buy any more. Now, I have pins keeping everything in my house fresh – cereal, chips, snacks, and even stuff in the freezer. They work perfectly. Sure, sometimes they come apart, but less so than the dollar store ones, and they're wooden so it’s actually better for the environment… if you’re into that.

I can’t believe I paid so much money for chip clips for so long. It’s just another marketing gimmick that has become a part of our culture, and I refuse to buy into it any longer.

You want something cuter? Something you can hang on the refrigerator? Easy peasy! Just hot glue magnets to the back of them, add ribbons or buttons. The possibilities are endless!
And if you make any cute clips, send them to me and I'll post them on the blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012

DIY - Montessori Dressing Boards

I am obsessed with Montessori. Not the woman, the toys! (i.e. learning materials). This stuff is so brilliant, but it is also super expensive. Fortunately, a lot of the materials aren't that hard to make with a little ingenuity and some elbow grease. One of my favorite diy Montessori Materials are the dressing boards. Dressing boards are a great way for little ones to work on their hand-eye coordination skills. They're usually for children around 2 and up who are learning to dress themselves, but my daughter was playing with the zipper frame at 13 months old .

These are pretty expensive new, and really easy to make, so it just makes sense to do it yourself. Dollar store wooden frames work great! I used one of my daughters old sweaters, but the other two I got for really cheap at a consignment store.

What you'll need:
  • 5X7 wood frames
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Infant clothing - 3 or 6 months - with zippers, buttons and/or snaps
  • Chip clips or clothespins
  • Staple gun and staples (approx 1/4 inch)

  1. Remove the glass and backing from the frames.
  2. Using the pliers, carefully remove the metal tabs from the frames.
  3. Fit the clothing over the frames and lay them button side down.
  4. Bunch up the excess clothing in the back, and secure it with chip clips or clothes pins. (Don't pull to tight or the buttons will be difficult to manipulate)
  5. Staple the clothing onto the frame leaving at least and 1 to 1 1/2 inches between staples.
  6. Remove the chip clips and fold the excess material so it lays flat. Staple it to the frame using the spaces between the first set of staples.

Here are the ones I made. There is a button frame, zipper frame, and snap frame. Next I need to figure out how to make a lacing frame. They just don't seem to make bustiers for infants. ;)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

30 Days to Lose Weight - Week 1

Image Courtesy
Well a week has passed and not only have I not lost weight, I actually gained a pound. A week of working out, watching what I'm eating, and drinking nasty lemon water, and I gained a freaking pound. This is so unfair! I think that little gremlin bastard in my scale is getting a real kick out of this right now.

Don (my husband) says I am probably just gaining muscle since I've been working out and muscle "weights more than fat." While I certainly appreciate the sentiment, I just don't buy it. You see, my waist hasn't gotten any smaller either, and muscle certainly isn't more fat than fat.

I haven't been perfect, I'll admit. I had a coke and some chips the other day, but come on. I can't be perfect all the time!  And, I was doing really well with the Jillian Michaels' DVD too. At least until I hurt my foot. Yes, my foot. I actually pulled a muscle on the top of my foot. I din't even know I had a muscle there. It's all the damn jumping jack, jump rope, but kick cardio that did me in. So now I'm doing my jumping jacks  hopping on one foot and looking like a moron, but I'm still doing it!

I'm not giving up, just venting little. Hopefully, in another week I'll have good news. But as things are looking right now, I'll be wearing a tankini on the beach.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Things My Husband Just Doesn't Understand

Image Courtesy
It all started with my bra. Now my bras are not particularly large. They are not made of satin, or silk, or lace. They do however contain underwire to restrict my post-baby breasts to the chest area, and up away from my tummy, as they should be. But as I went through the back breaking process of removing my bra’s from the washer and hanging them on the rack to dry the other day, it dawned on me. This is something that my husband just doesn’t get. Ask most women and they will tell you that you have to hang a bra to dry or you take the chance that it will get tangled, ripped or otherwise damaged if run through the dryer. If you asked my husband (or any man for that matter) why I’m hanging my bras he would probably say “Because women’s clothes are stupid.” In that respect, he would be right, but explaining the why of this would be pointless since as soon as the word “bra” comes out of my mouth his eyes glaze over and he starts running through the theme song from “Suits” in his head. 

This got me thinking about the other things my husband just doesn’t get so I thought I would make a list. 

      The top 10 things my husband just doesn’t understand: 

10.My need to suck in my stomach when he sees me naked.
9.    That going shopping with my friends is a social activity.
8.    Why I get angry when he asks for the one thing I forgot at the grocery store.
7.    That chocolate is one of the six food groups and therefore essential for my (and his)  survival. 
6.    Shirts don’t stink, people stink. Take a bath.
5.    Why I get so irritated when he leaves his dirty socks on the couch, floor, bed, nightstand, stairs, counter, or a foot away from the laundry basket.
4.   Starting the dishwasher is an essential part of the dish-washing process.
3.    Why I get pissed off when he complains about how he's too skinny.
2.    If I ask him if he likes an outfit, hair-do, wall color or any sort of decorative item for the house, the appropriate response is always “Yes.”

And the number one thing my husband simply doesn’t understand...

          1. How I always forget to eat lunch and still gain weight.
              (Oh, wait. That was me. Crap!)

So now that this is officially a bitch session, I want to hear from you. What are some of the things your man just doesn't understand? 

FYI: Man-ripping and dirty secrets are always welcome.  

**I'd like to give special thanks to my hubby for reading this and laughing instead of divorcing me. I love you, babe!**

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Making Beeswax Candles with Kids

I have wonderful memories of making candles when I was a kid. It's something I've wanted to do with my own kids for a while, but I didn't want to deal with all of the chemical laden candle making products, and was a little daunted by the idea of going old school and not using some pre-made kit. Turns out, there was nothing to be scared of.  Candle making with beeswax is a ton of fun!

I had to do a lot of research to figure out how to go about making these darn things, so I'm going to do my best to lay it all out for you so you don't have to do the same. Please place any questions you have in the comments section, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Here goes....


To make real beeswax candles you will need:
  • Beeswax (1-2 lbs)
  • Wicks
  • Double boiler or makeshift one
  • A big, sharp knife
  • Fork
  • Wax paper
  • News paper
  • Paper plate (wax coated)
  • Something to hang the candles from to cool
In the interest of saving you time and money, I will discuss the most important items separately. If you already have everything you need, skip to the following section: Making Your Candles.

 - If you can get it from a local bee keeper, great! That's the best way to go. But since most of us don't have bee keepers living next door (thank goodness!) I thought I should mention some other places you can find beeswax.  Mountain Rose Herbs is a good online source for beeswax. Their wax varies in price depending on what you're looking for, and can be bought in bulk. Your local craft store is also good place to look, especially since many of them give out such good coupons. 

 - You can spend a ton of money on wicks. They are super expensive! Especially if you want to make sure that they are all natural and don't contain any metals. Lead in wicks has been outlawed in the U.S. but many companies still use zinc and tin. If you are going to buy your wicks make sure they are 100% natural fibers with no metal core. If you're cheap like me, you can actually make your own using cotton twine. There are two ways you can do this:
  1. Take the twine and soak it for at least 12 hours in a solution of 1 1/2 cups of water, 4 tbsp. of borax and 2 tbsp. salt. This solution is basically boric acid. It is very dangerous.  Keep it up and away from children and pets. Leave the wicks to dry 2-3 days.
  2. Or just use the cotton thread. 
 - Using the boric acid solution will work better. If you're like me and not super comfortable with that process, or the toxins that it might produce when burned, then the cotton wicks works too. Here is a great article showing how these different wicks burn.

Double Broiler
 - Unless you are planning to make a lot of candles, I would advise against spending the money to get a double broiler. It is unnecessary, and you will probably want a much larger pot to melt the wax in anyway.  Making your own makeshift double broiler is easy. Use any saucepan and fill it up a few inches with water. Place a cookie cutter or tuna can in the center of the pot like so.
Merry Christmas!

Then place the pot for melting the wax on top. A coffee can works well, but I am anal and constantly worried about releasing toxins into the air, so I used a glass Pyrex measuring cup.  You can also by a special candle making pot at most crafting stores for around $20.00.

The rest of the items you need are fairly self-explanatory so let's move on to the actual candle making, shall we?

Making Your Candles

First you will need to cut your block of beeswax so you can fit it in your melting container. That's where the really big knife comes in. This is a real pain in the a**. To make it easier, you can cut the wax about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch on all sides, then  smack it on the edge of a table to break off what you need.

Next, set your water to boil and reduce to medium heat. Place your melting pot into your saucepan (on top of the cookie cutter). Here is where I'm going to tell you to do something wrong. Most people say to set your pot above the water so the wax is heated by the steam. Yeah, I tried that. 3 hours later, the damn thing was still hardly melted. So I kept the melting pot on top of the cookie cutter, but added more water to the saucepan so it came up the sides of my pot a little. This worked much better. Just be careful to watch it so the wax doesn't start to boil and smoke.

While you're waiting for your wax to melt, you can make the wicks. It is important to note that beeswax burns much more slowly than regular, paraffin wax so you need much thicker wicks. Most people recommend square braided wicks. These are basically 4 strands braided together. I am not very girly, and therefore stink at braiding, so this was a bit above my pay grade - so to speak. I just did a normal 3 string braid instead. You can do whatever you feel comfortable with. I tied one end, braided the strings together tightly, then tied a knot on the other end so it wouldn't unravel.

Before you can actually make your candles, you have to prime the wicks. You do this by placing them in the wax (one at a time so they don't tangle) for about 2 minutes so they can soak up the wax.  You can tell it's working because you'll see the wax bubbling. Use your fork to remove the wicks, (hold a paper plate underneath the wicks to catch the drippings as you transfer them) and lay them flat and straight on a piece of wax paper.

Once you have your wicks primed, and the wax completely melted, you're ready to go.  This is the time to add a little essential oil to the wax if you so choose. Remember that wax has a sweet smell so choose a scent like lavender or rosemary that will compliment it, or don't add anything. Beeswax smells great as is. Just remember that with essential oils, a little goes a long way - keep it to 1 tablespoon or less per pound.

Now it is time to dip. Cut the knots off the ends of your wicks. Fold them over to form a U. This will allow you to make two candles at once. If you're working with young children, just turn off the stove, remove the cookie cutter from the sauce pan, and place the melting pot directly into the hot water (add more water if you need to). This will keep the wax warm, but is much safer than working on a hot stove.

Place a big pot, bucket or cup full of water on newspaper next to the pot.  I used two cups - one for each candle.

Depending on your child's age, he or she may need more or less help, but you'll probably want to hold their hand for at least the first few dippings. I advise that you count with them, "Dip 1  and up, dip 2 and up, dip 3 and up and into the water." Make sure they dip quickly (without banging the side of the pot) and pull the candle completely out of the wax each time. If you leave the candle in the wax too long, it will start to burn off the under-layer of wax. (The water helps cool it down more quickly and prepares the candle for the next dipping).

Keep doing this until you get the size you want, then hang the candles to dry. I used a broom stuck between two chairs.

Don't forget the newspaper!

Once dry, you can trim the wicks to about a half inch high, and cut the bottoms to flatten them. I  dipped the bottoms of the candles into the wax then pressed them onto the paper plate to make sure they would stand. I also trimmed back the wax at the tops of the wicks a little since the children hadn't dipped very consistently. They're a little funny looking, but the kids really loved them.

Clean up

Clean up is a huge pain. Here are a few tips to hopefully make it easier.
  •  Utensils - Place them in very hot water and let them soak for about 5 or so minutes, then wipe clean with a paper towel.
  • Countertops / stovetops - Scrape off with a plastic putty knife. Pour hot water on any remaining wax and scrub with rough side of sponge.
  • Fabric - Place item in the freezer, and once frozen, pick off. Or place the item between paper towels and rub it with a hot iron until the wax comes off onto the towels. 

Burning Your Candles

  • A beeswax candle needs at least 24 hours to cure before burning so no lighting for at least one day.
  • Beeswax candles are a harder to burn than paraffin so you may need to hold the lighter to the wick longer to get it going.
  • The wicks will smoke a bit if blown out. To avoid this happening, just push the wicks back into the melted wax (using a knife or something metal) to snuff them out. Remember to remove the wick right after so it doesn't get stuck. Or you can be super-cool by licking your fingers and pinching the wick to put it out.
Here are our beautiful candles. Made with natural beeswax and not treated with any chemicals. They burn great and smell wonderful!

Points of Caution 

  • Always keep baking soda or a (chemical) fire extinguisher on hand in case the wax begins to burn. Water will not put out a wax fire, it will spread it. 
  • Do not leave your candles unattended.
  • Never pour beeswax down your drain. It will clog your pipes.

I hope you enjoy your candles! Write me and let me know how they work for you. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Are American Kids Spoiled? - Uh, yeah!

There's been a lot of talk in the media lately about American kids being spoiled. I find it hilarious that people are treating this as news. Of course American kids are spoiled! Any parent knows that!  I wonder on a daily basis what I have done to make my children so spoiled and unappreciative of the things they have. Most moms I talk to feel the same way. It's a major contributor to our perceived failures as parents because we all feel we are to blame, and we probably are. And although I accept that my kids are spoiled rotten, and feel I do need to make changes as far as how I am raising them, it really pisses me off the way the media is constantly trying to tell me how much I suck as a parent. I know I suck, but at least I care that I suck, right? It's the guilt and self-loathing that makes us strive to be better. If I didn't care, I wouldn't try. Does this article in the  New Yorker make a valid point? Absolutely. But it really is nothing new. Actually, I don't even think it started with this generation of kids. It started with ours.

I was totally spoiled as a child. Not necessarily by the amount of toys I had, though that is a small part of it. I think it was the fact that I never had to do much of anything for myself. In our mother's generation, it was considered part of your job as a mom, particularly if you stayed home, to do all of the cleaning and cooking and whatever else needed to be done so your children could play and be kids. While that sounds nice in theory, and it was nice, it left my mother overworked and me under-prepared for when I left home.

Now that mentality has evolved and mutated with our generation.

Now we have to deal with the onslaught of advertizing infecting our children's (and our) minds with a need for useless things. And even if we try to avoid the pitfalls of over-buying for our children, we still have friends and family to contend with.

We are so much more fearful as well. How could we not be with the media flooding us with information on everything from stranger danger, to peanut allergies, to BPA, to cell phone usage causing brain damage. We are terrified  that any little misstep is going to irreparably harm our children - enter "helicopter parenting." This is absolutely my biggest issue, I admit. I try not to be a helicopter parent" but I probably am. I want so badly to keep my kids safe that I'm afraid to let them fart sideways for fear they might strain themselves.

On that same note, we are also much more permissive than our parents generation. I'm sure guilt over working so much has something to do with it, but I think the real culprit is our need to go against the corporal punishment that many of us grew up with.  We don't want to physically discipline our kids, but we don't really know how else to do it, and we are afraid that if we do punish them, they may be emotionally scarred or something.This is less my issue as I am not afraid to punish my children, however, I'm not always consistent and that's just as bad.

So now we are left with the perfect storm of  no responsibility, no discipline and too much stuff. Yeah. Our kids are spoiled. So what now?

I have given this a great deal of thought and feel the answer is actually quite simple - we need to be lazier parents. This sounds easy, but it is actually very difficult to accomplish since it goes against everything we've been told makes a good parent.

This means:
  • Making them do their own laundry and dishes, and having them help out around the house. 
  • Allowing them to go outside in the freezing cold without a jacket or socks or whatever else they forgot  so they learn to take care of themselves. 
  • Keeping score at their little league games so they learn to accept failure.
  • Expecting the older children to help watch out for the younger ones so they learn some responsibility.   
  • Punishing them when they do something wrong - not hitting - but punishing so they learn that their behavior has consequences. 
  • And most of all, we need to make them do things for themselves whether it be buttoning their shirt or pouring their own cereal.  Because a time will come, eventually, when we just aren't there anymore to do it for them. 

This is my goal, to be a lazy mom. Who's with me?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

30 Days to Lose Weight - Day 3

Well, surprisingly I don't feel that bad. Not that I feel great,  I still hurt a lot, but the pain is actually less than it was yesterday. I was able to do the DVD again  - though I had to pause some because my calves were on fire. I haven't really lost any weight, but that extra 1 1/2 lbs seems to have magically dissapeared according to my scale. It likes to mess with me, I've noticed. One day it will tease me into thinking I've lost weight and then others it says I've gained. I'm convinced there is a very tiny, cruel man in there getting a kick out of tormenting me.

Anyway, I did fall off the wagon a bit. I went to McDonald's - the root of all evil, I  know - for lunch. I blame my friend Heather. She is a terrible influence (he-he). I did stick with water thought, and I got a chicken sandwich. I did get french fries, but it is McDonald's. You can't go into McDonald's and not get the fries.  I swear I didn't like it. (I'm totally lying. They were wonderful!)

I'll keep the updates coming. Though at this point, I may just put them out at the end of the week.

Have a nice weekend.

Friday, July 6, 2012

30 Days to Lose Weight - Day 2

Oh my God! I think I might die.  I am completely stunned by how a little 20 minute workout could so thoroughly kick my butt. Every muscle in my body hurts, but my legs are the worst! Every step up to the second floor of my house kills, I am completely unable to squat down for anything, and trying to use the toilet is an act of torture. I knew I was out of shape, but this is ridiculous. 

Even so, I somehow managed to do the video again today though I had to take breaks here and there. I actually did better than I expected. My fear now is what tomorrow will bring. If I feel this bad today, I'm afraid that I may not be able to walk tomorrow. I guess we'll have to see.

Oh, and as for my weight... Well, It seems that I actually gained a pound and a half when I visited my parents this weekend so now I have 8 1/2 lbs to lose - lovely. 

But I'm staying positive. 

Can't you tell. 

Here's a picture of us working out:

I got both of the kids to do it with me today. They were really cute. See their dumbbells, they're actually tinkertoys my husband made to look like my dumbbells.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

If I Don't Laugh, I Might Cry

I think, as moms, we are conditioned to pay attention to the little things, whereas, the men in our lives are more "big picture" so to speak. Case in point: I found out today that my husband's been bathing our children using dog shampoo. The funny part is... we don't have a dog. Actually, we haven't had a dog for 3 years.

When our dog died, I just left the shampoo under the sink in case we got another dog, and forgot about it. Somehow, in recent months, it migrated its way into the basket holding the children's bath products, and my husband's been using it off and on since. In his defense, it says "For Dogs" in really tiny letters on the bottle. I just find it hilarious that I drive myself crazy making my own cleaning products, reading product labels, scouring the internet for ways to keep these kids healthy, and my husband bathes them with dog shampoo - cheap dog shampoo at that.

Oh well, at least we can rest assured that they are flea free.



Can you see where it says 
"For Dogs"?



How about now?

30 Days to Lose Weight - Day 1

I'm not super overweight or anything. Like many of you, I am just not where I want to be as far as my weight and appearance go. When I was younger, I could drink and eat anything I wanted and remain thin. As I got older that started to change somewhat, but it wasn't until after having my two kids that my body seemed to just give up. The thing that kills me is the belly fat. If you have belly fat you know what I mean when I tell you how nasty it is when you sit down and your stomach touches your boobs. Sooo gross!  The thing that pisses me off the most is that I eat a heck of a lot better now than I did in my twenties, but my body doesn't seem to care.

To make matters worse, I'm going with my husband to visit his family in Miami in exactly one month. If you've ever been to Miami, Fl you know it petty much only contains only 2 types of women: ridiculously beautiful and troll. It is my goal to NOT be a part of the troll group when I visit. Unfortunately this is made more difficult by all of the ridiculously beautiful women in my husband's family - one of which was a Hawaiian Tropic model. Seriously, I'm not making this up. As you can imagine, standing next to these 5'9" goddesses, I really do feel like a troll. Not one of the Lord of the Rings types, more like the troll pencil toppers. You know, the ones with frizzy hair and boobs hanging over their bellies. Yep. That's me! Except with clothes, of course.

Anyway,  I started trying to work out earlier this summer, but then I hurt my back and subsequently fell of the wagon. Now I only have 30 days left to get my butt into shape so I am going to do it over this blog. Why? Peer pressure. If I put it out there that I am doing this then I actually have to do it, right?

So here's my plan:
  1. Drink water. I have been drinking diet for a while, but recently discovered research showing that diet drinks may lead to more abdominal fat. I have to, unfortunately, admit this might be true since this is the worst belly fat I've ever had. So I am forced to drink water - and coffee, of course.
  2. Eat more fruit and salads. I actually eat a fairly healthy diet already so I'm just going to try to step it up a notch.
  3. Less crappy late night snacks. (FYI: I am eating Ramen as I write this. Oh...the hypocrisy)
  4. Do the Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred DVD everyday (at least every day I can walk). It's a 20 minute video which is about all I have time for, but it really kicks your ass. I was shaking after doing it today. 

Here are my goals:
I would like to lose about 7lbs and 4 inches off my waist. I realize this is unrealistic for one month, but it is my ultimate goal. We'll just have to see how close I come to it.

Here's a picture of me exercising with my daughter today. It was soo cute. I wanted to upload a video, but couldn't get it to work. I'll try tomorrow.
Yes. My house is a mess. I'll get to that tomorrow too...maybe.

Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Canadian Mommy Blog Reviews and Giveaways

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Duh Moment: Children’s Detangling Spray

I try to use all natural products for my children including their shampoo and conditioner, but all natural detangling sprays are quite expensive so I was using a cheaper brand. It worked well, but smelled awful, and I worried about all the toxic chemicals I was potentially spraying on my daughter's head.  

Then one day I had an epiphany… detangler is just watered down conditioner. Duh! I got a regular spray bottle, filled it with water, added a few squirts of herbal conditioner, shook well  and voila - all natural detangling spray for pennies. And it works great!
****Just make sure you clearly mark the bottle or you might find your significant other cleaning the countertops with it.****

Monday, July 2, 2012

Awesome Product: The Tick Key

I suck at removing ticks. 99.999% of the time I will end up just decimating the body while leaving the head perfectly intact and still attached. It was after one such incident that resulted in me having to take my little girl to the doctor, that my friend Heather shared this super cool product with me.  It's called the Tick Key. Like you, I was a bit skeptical at first whether it would actually work, but given my track record with ticks, I figured it was worth a try. I am so glad I did. This thing really does work! I've used it twice and it worked like a charm both times. The first time, My son got a tick on his chest and my husband got it off super-easily. This was not a new tick either because it had been a number of hours since he'd been outside. The second time, I got the tick on the back of my leg - behind my knee - and I took it off myself. Now considering I can hardly get a tick off of an area I can see properly, this was pretty awesome.

This is how it works:

Images taken from the Tick Key website.

You can get these for about $3.00 at most outdoor stores like REI or directly from their web site:

And if you were wondering.... No, I have not been paid by the company to say these things. No one is going to pay a brand new blog with zero followers to review their product. (However, if they would like to throw a little money my way, I would happily accept.) I'm sharing this because I thought other moms would appreciate learning about it.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Share the love!!


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