Friday, August 22, 2014

I Promised...You'll Be Sorry

Well, I promised a series, so here it is...Installment Number 2 of Kids' Activities that Aren't the Worst!

Today's feature: Tempera Paint Ice Cubes!

I know, I know.  I just wrote half a post about how much I hate paint.  Well, color me a sucker I guess.  I read about this idea on that thing called the world wide web and I thought I might not hate it.  So here it is, Burns Family Edition:

Step 1: Freeze tempera paint in ice cube trays.  **Hugest money saving tip ever: Water down the paint!**  Okay, well that is probably obvious to the rest you smarty pants, but I haven't ever done that and it was great!  So much more bang for your proverbial buck.  I popped these babies in the freezer before lunch and they were ready after nap!  (That's about four hours...)  Also you could put popsicle sticks in the cubes so that they can have a handle, but we didn't have any.  And lets be honest, they're going to get it all over them anyway.  So just skip that step if you ask me.

Step 2: Spread out the work spaces and let them get to it!  We went outdoors (highly recommended) and went with cardboard and paper on the grass. 

Results: I give this one an A+ also.  The prep time was su-u-u-per short and it kept them busy for almost an hour!  Even the big kids played, although they lost interest much more quickly.  It's a real sensory experience for the little ones because of the ice.  And *bonus*--because the paint is frozen, they can't use it all up in 3.5 seconds like they usually do!  Amen to that! 

But--don't expect zero mess.  I was mentally prepared for the mess, so it was totally okay.  We wore paint shirts and I filled a baby pool with water for washing off whenever they needed/wanted to.  I think that was half the fun...paint, wash, paint, wash, rinse, repeat.  And, as all good/horrible pre-k activities go, they eventually decided to paint themselves with the cubes.  No harm, no foul since we were out in God's Great Art Room (Isn't that what some people call it?  No?  Ok.) 

The way my driveway looks (messy and adorned by weeds) drives me crazy.
Why?  Who knows, since I don't seem to be bothered by it indoors, in my actual house. 

So there you have it.  Give it a try if you're feeling like throwing caution (or paint) to the wind!  Stay tuned for the next time when we do something else ridiculous with paint cubes (cue ominous music) or when I give you my tips for mediocre photo taking/non-editing with an iphone.  You're welcome in advance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kid Activities That Aren't the Worst

Greetings.  This blogging stuff is tricky.  I never have time for it, or much to say.  So you'll just have to deal with an on-again, off-again blogging relationship with me.

Since summer happened, I've been compiling a list of kids' activities that I secretly hate.  Not so secret anymore, internet!  Here they are in no particular order of loathing:

1. Paint
 I always think this is a good idea.  The artsy mom/teacher in me wants to like it and wants to expose my little Picassos to all manner of art ed.  But it's basically a free-for-all around here.  And the results are mostly questionable.  Once this summer I thought it would be fun to roll out some butcher paper in the great outdoors and let them paint to their hearts' content.  It could have been fun, I guess.  But I put the paper on the sidewalk instead of the grass like a dummy.  So not only were the children messy, but also the sidewalk.  Eventually that tempera paint will fade away...probably faster than the memory.  Also, when tiny people paint, they don't make anything.  The goal is just to use as much expensive liquid as possible on the tiniest square inch of paper.  Paint in the same spot until there is a hole in the paper--that's art, right?  

I am vowing to leave all non-watercolor paint experiences to the experts at school. 

2. Easy Bake Oven
For serious.  I hate it.  It is not easy, nor does it really "bake" properly.  The only thing we have ever successfully made by following the instructions is a mini-sheet cake.  Bought a box of Easy Bake Cake Pops?  Sorry,'ll have to be a plain ol' cake.  Truffles?  Sheet cake.  Whoopie Pies?  Sheet Cake.   The last thing we made we actually had to cook in the real oven because it was so terrible in the Easy Bake.  Maybe I'll sue for false advertising.  They should just call it "Oven."  Or "Buy This Terrible Toy and Your Parents Will Be Forced to Just Make You Cookies."  I don't know.  Maybe I have a future in product naming.  

3. Dying Easter Eggs
I just dislike this holiday tradition.  I can't really say why.  I think it stems from trying to do it with tiny people who really have no business playing with eggs and/or dye.  Now that some of the kids are bigger it's not so bad, but I still dread it every year.  Last year I tried to be all Pinteresting and do the shaving cream egg dye.  Basically you swirl food coloring in shaving cream then roll the egg around in it.  Oh boy!  Our hands were super dyed after this fun activity so I thought the eggs would look awesome.  After letting the stuff sit on the eggs for at least 15 minutes (longer than the recommended amount, I might add) we washed it off to reveal...nothing.  Basically a white egg that smelled like somebody's husband.  So obviously that one's a keeper.

Onward and upward, my friends.  Today I did an activity with 4 kids from ages 2-4 that I did not hate!  And they liked it, too, so bonus!  I just may start a series of posts with this theme of "Kids Activities That Aren't the Worst."  It had just the perfect ratio of prep time (low) to keeping kids occupied and engaged time (decent) and was low on the mess-o-meter.  Plus we can pretend they were learning something all the while.

Here we have the photo "tutorial"...

Write the kids' names REALLY BIG on some paper

Cut some up some little squares of construction paper

Let them glue them to the lines of their name

End Tutorial.
As you can see, it works for kids of all ages...might just look a little different!

And here is my number one tip of all time:

When working with glue, use a tiny paintbrush.  This is the best thing ever to avoid globs of glue everywhere.  Plus it hones their fine motor skills like writing.  The kids could paint the lines of the letters with glue just as if they were writing or tracing them.  I just dumped some glue on a paper plate for each kiddo and let them go to town.  You could also do this with Q-tips.  (We actually sometimes use Q-tips to paint, so it just occurred to me that that is the only way I don't hate painting.)  I suppose you could also use glue sticks, but whatev.

This project kept the animals darling children busy for 30 whole minutes!  And we talked about the letters and all that kind of learning stuff in the process.  It gets an A+ from me.

Tune in next time for more "Kids' Crap That Doesn't Suck."  Now isn't that inspiring!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I had a stroke of brilliance the other day, which is the inspiration for this post. We've all seen those "5,000 DIY Hacks to Make Your Life Amazing and Perfect" posts floating around the web.  This is one of those.  Except there are only 5 of them.  And they won't make your life amazing and perfect.  But you might be able to temporarily remove the "Asylum" nameplate from your front door.

Let's get to it.

1. Loom Bracelet Cup IDs: This was my little minute of genius.  I'm sure that you will be amazed and that Mensa will be knocking down my door as soon as I publish this.  Because we are very fancy, we stock our kitchen with those free cups that you get from local restaurants.  The down side to this life of glitz and glamour is that all the cups look alike.  And my kids use 25 cups per day because they can't remember which one was theirs.

Enter the loom bracelets.  We also have 75 million of these beauties laying around the house.  So find you a cool pattern, slide it on your cup, and now you know which cup to pour the vodka juice in.  The kids also know that if it doesn't have a band on it, it's going in the dishwasher because you are obviously done with it, thus helping with the daily accumulation on the counter. 

Ok.  So obviously those three cups all look different, but you get the idea.

2. Laundry Baskets For Stuff That Isn't Laundry: We have a lot of people in our family.  Plus I babysit another little person.  So I am usually packing paraphernalia for at least 6 people.  We have a laundry basket that I keep packed for things we do on the regular: pool, soccer games/practice, etc.  We spend less time tracking down swimsuits, pool toys, and soccer cleats and more time beating the other people there so we can get to the good chairs.  Also you look super cool toting a laundry basket around, so there's that.

3. Sock Bags: I made a bold Facebook pronouncement the other day that I was finished matching socks for all eternity.  So far, this remains true.  I labeled plain old grocery bags with each family member's name (one for each person.)  When I do laundry, if socks are easily matchable I match them, otherwise I just determine the owner and stick them in the corresponding bag.  If you want to match your own socks, be my guest--they're in the bag.  The only exception to this is Luke, since he is not quite 6 months old.  But we'll be working on his sock ID skills soon.  The kid's gotta earn his keep.  You could get all fancy and use real mesh laundry bags for this, or a basket or something.  But we reserve all our fancy for our free tableware.  Also I know some people advise throwing all the socks out and starting over with all one kind.  And I want to.  I really do.  But the one frugal bone in my body cries out against wasting perfectly good socks.

4. Van Supplies: I keep stuff in my van all the time, kind of like the laundry baskets idea.  I have a box up front with tissues, baby wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and snacks.  I also always keep a lawn blanket in the back.  This allows us to take spur of the moment park trips or go on play dates or what have you without worrying.  And my kids are monsters in the car, so snacks are a must.  I have already opened that Pandora's box, so there's no going back now.  I try to buy things that are easy to distribute quickly and without mess.  And by that I mean beef sticks that I can throw into their cages car seats to stop them from shouting, fighting, and foaming at the mouth. 

5. Crib TV: In a desperate move, I bought a TV for Luke's crib.  Calm down.  It's not really a TV.  It's just a thing that you strap on the side that lights up and plays music for 20 minutes or so...he can't tune in to Fallon or The Walking Dead or anything.  Too bad. appears to be working.  I can't type that too loud or he'll hear it and make me pay.  Today he actually put himself to sleep in his crib twice with minimal work on my part.  We will see.  I blogged about it, so the fates have officially been tested.  

So there you have it, folks.  If you want real hacks that help you hide unsightly cords in your living room or turn old jeans into shoes or something, you'll have to ask someone else.  

**UPDATE** No sooner did I type this post then Luke woke up.  Fates, you win.