Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LeapBand Review {Promotional Post}

Disclosure: I was sent a LeapBand for review after use by my kids.  All opinions below are mine alone.


I love that LeapFrog is expanding beyond handheld video devices for older children.  The idea of making a fitness tracker that includes child friendly challenges and motivation is brilliant.  However, there is room for improvement with this initial model.

I took it out of the package and directly handed it over to my children.  They seemed to figure out how to operate the watch without any problems, even though it is button operated versus the touch screen they are so used to from LeapFrog.

So far their favorite feature of the LeapBand is the stop watch and using it to time each other running different 'out and backs' through my house.  I have encouraged them to take it outside, but so far they have not attempted our 1/4 mi long driveway.

Here is my official list of pros & cons:

Pros:

  • Easy for kids to operate
  • Kid friendly rewards
  • A 'like mom has' fitness tracker
  • Large variety of challenge activities to hold interest.


Cons:

  • No step counter
  • Lacks volume control (even a loud/soft/silent would be nice)
  • Not touch screen (as they are used to)
  • Bulky band that is a bit sweaty on my hot children.


In general, my kids are active on their own, so encouraging movement is not really necessary, but the LeapBand is a fun accessory to promote physical activity combined with learning - healthy choices, telling time, and earning rewards.

{All photos are courtesy of LeapFrog}  A LeapBand giveaway coming soon!
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Remember: happiness is your choice!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kids Jobs {the Ongoing Battle}

Getting kids to participate in the daily household chores is an ongoing battle - at least at my house.  In their own unique way, kids do have a desire to contribute to the household, but they are also kids, so they do not see messes in the same ways that moms see messy rooms.  


Here I will share 8 ways that I keep my sanity while getting my kids to do their fair share.  I am no expert, so take these and apply them in your own way to your household.

  1. Weekly job lists.  Rather than try to come up with daily jobs lists or fixed rotating lists, my kids have set jobs for each week.  This is so much easier for me - I print a list one time with each child listed and the week number listed in a table, so all i have to refer to is the week number and they all know what is their responsibility. Also, weekly jobs allow kids to repeat tasks and in theory master a chore.
  2. Short list of tasks.  Under the table of jobs, I have a task list for them to complete for each job.  The daily items are just normal upkeep - sweeping & straitening.  The scrubbing and dusting are saved for Saturdays (or me during the week).
  3. No Rewards. I have tried to reward for cleaning and contributing to this house.  But I stink at keeping track of these kinds of things.  So, jobs are just part of their daily routine.  My older boys are on a salary every 2 weeks, but they are not directly rewarded for completing cleaning jobs
  4. Jobs for all kids over 3.  My 5 year old, although not in school this year, is part of the job rotation.  I keep all the same jobs for all 6 of my older kids.  Obviously this is with the realization on my part that when the younger end have bathrooms or kitchen duty, that I will need to help pick up the slack in that area.  But often times, the 3 or 4 year old kid WANTS to help - so why not capitalize on that attitude.
  5. Kitchen = Weekly Job.  In past attempts to have job lists, I did not include dishes in the after school jobs, but instead kept that as a daily rotating task - per my kids request.  However, midway through last school year, I decided I wanted to try it as one of the weekly jobs.  The. Best. Decision. Ever.  The minions grumbled about it in the beginning, but they quickly realized that they would have a 5 week break before they were in the rotation for dishes again.
  6. Bedrooms. These rooms are the jobs of the kids to keep tidy.  I truly believe that bedroom doors were invented for a reason - for me to close.  I was not a neat child (and struggle with neatness as an adult), so I tend to give my kids a bit of freedom when it come to their rooms.  It is interesting to see that some kids tend to be more particular and others not so much.  However, to instill some type of routine in their lives, I like to have bedrooms cleaned and vacuumed each Saturday.  There are also other jobs in the basement and outside that are randomly assigned to the Saturday (or weekday) job lists.
  7. Letting Go.  My sister once shared advice from her mother-in-law regarding kids cleaning and not quite getting it done as a mom would like: 'Half a job is better than no job.'  I try to remember this when they speed through with a lick and a promise.  There are days when that is all the attention their jobs get, because we have a list 5 bullet points long to accomplish elsewhere that evening - sports, school, meetings, etc.  If there is something that I notice not up to par, I try to point it out to them so that it can be rectified at that moment or in the future.  Raising a house full of kids (mostly boys), I have learned that not everything is going to be perfectly cleaned (and I really do not require it to be) and that there is not possible way that I can do it all myself.  
  8. Gender neutral job distribution. On the boys note, boys in this house are learning to clean a kitchen, scrub bathroom, bake brownies, make supper, etc.  It is out of necessity - their sisters are only 8 and 2.  As they grow and they girls are able to take more of the 'girly' tasks, I may change my way of doing things, but for now I would like to think that I am raising well rounded young men!
Here is a photo of my list this year.
Each time I institute a new method of job distribution in this house I hope that it will be the last time.  This school year is the first time I have used the same system as the previous school year.  I am thrilled with that.  It means that something is working, and for the kids they are not having to learn a new system at home this year.  Adaptations are sure to come on the future, but I think I may have finally landed on something that works.



Be Happy!

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Playing with Leather


I got a phone call the other day from a friend giving me a heads up to some leather being on sale at a local store (how can you not love a friend like that?)... well, needless to say, I hustled over there that afternoon.  Maybe, perhaps, I bought more than I needed too.  And then maybe, I told my sister about the great opportunity... I just might have purchased a few more pieces when I brought her to check it out....
Making a long story short, I now have a large quantity of leather in my possession... 
I do have some ideas crashing around in my brain for what I might use it for.  This seat cushion was in need of updating, so I covered it in grey leather - LOVE!  I need a little bit more foam to fill out the cushion, so it is still technically a WIP.
I hit the store for the first time as we were leaving town for a quick night away.  While we were in the city, I used the opportunity to pick up some tools for working with leather - most importantly a punch to help make sewing lines, leather needles, and some polyester thick thread.
My dear had a wallet that was falling apart, so I offered to make him one.  I had a straight edge, but no hard surface... I wanted to try making something while I had some quiet minutes.  For being made in the car I am happy with how it turned out.  There are a few squiggly spots in the sewing, but it lends a bit of character and reminds me of some of the things that I learned while working with a new material.
Leather is a different experience than sewing with cotton/cotton blends. 
  • The edges do not fray, so hemming is not necessary although on the new seat cushion, I did hid the seams inside the cover.
  • Pins are not recommended - I used binder clips to help hold seams.
  • I found I could easily cut with my rotary cutter - at least through the thinner pieces.
  • Marking on leather is tricky - I used permanent marker for my large wallet (below), which was fine because I did not have any places where the marks would be seen.  I think that if you can find a way to make a cutting groove with perhaps a nail or something that would be helpful.
This new material has been a fun change/challenge for me to work with; I am looking forward to creating more items with the leather that I have purchased.  Check out our leather project pin board here!
I am still doing the 100 Happy Days challenge, and will update with pictures again soon.
Remember Happiness is a choice!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Swaddle Blankets {Happiness pictures}

My baby LOVES the swaddle blankets - he pulls it all up around his face and nuzzles in when he goes to sleep.  His whole body relaxes noticeably when he gets his hands on his favorite blanket.  I always like to have a few 'favorite' blankets... for those moments when 'there is absolutely.no.way. that I am putting this nasty thing into your bed.'
In fact I have found on our family trips or camping trips, it is best to have one blanket designated for the crib and a separate one assigned to the more dirty duties - beach afternoons, holding spots on the bleachers in Williamsport, etc.
BUT.... those brand name blankets are very expensive at 4/$50 - they are super nice, but to stock up it is a little expensive.  Believing I could make a set, I did a bit of searching and found this fabric from fabric.com.  Initially, some of the fabric was really coarse feeling, with each washing they become more and more cuddly perfect.
 I pre-washed all of the fabric before attempting to sew these blankets.  I cut out a square of fabric that was as wide as the width of the fabric.  As suggested in several of the on-line posts about sewing with cotton gauze/muslin, I did not pin the edges, but slowly rolled them over and sewed the hems in place.
 I love that the end product is a perfect square - exactly what I need to swaddle my babies.  This particular set was given as a baby shower gift.

Happy Photos for my past week or so:
Day 14: Who does not enjoy to swing?  Even I took a ride on this day!

Day 16: He was explaining to me what smiling and crying meant at the same time 'Happy-Sad"

Day 17: I will stay warm this winter

Day 18: Throwing sand/rocks in the lake.  What a perfect way to pass some time.

Day 19 - biggest boy giving the other a ride into town 
Day 21: Saying good-bye to our friend, in a very great party!

Day 22: We celebrated our 14 year anniversary.  And took an overnighter in Minneapolis

Day 23: I filled my cart and emptied my wallet at IKEA.

Day 24: My almost 5 year old can ride a bike... He was taught by his much younger cousin...

Day 25: The 3rd one from the left side is mine - the others are his birthday buddies.

Day 26: Mostly was a sewing mess... oh well, Life will continue.

Day 27: They thought it was kind of funny that he is taller than his auntie.

Remember friends, it is a choice - choose to find happiness in the little things!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Curling Ribbon

I hosted a baby shower last week, and rather than buy a traditional corsage for the mamma -to-be, I embellished a small wrist rattle.
The only curling ribbon in my house was red or green - not what I wanted for a baby shower.  But... I did have a plethora of very skinny satin ribbon that was perfect.  The problem was... how to get perfect spiral curls.
Instead of looking around online (which I am sure you can find somewhere out there), I called my mom because I knew she had done something like this before - back in her hair bow making stage of life.  I was even a luck recipient of a spirally curled pom-pom for the top of my ever present ponytail!
I had a 1/4" wooden dowel that I was going to use, but after talking to my mom, she suggested a metal knitting needle.  I happen to have a few of those laying around my supplies (although they have been hibernating lately).
I tried different methods of wrapping - most ribbons were neatly wrapped on top itself in a sort of layered/concentric fashion.  The last 2 lengths I wrapped in a spiral.  There was not much of a difference in how they turned out - the spirally wrapped ones, maybe had a more uniform curl than the layered ones.
There were 10 lengths of ribbon 8" long each.  After I wrapped them on the needle I needed to secure them somehow - I did not want stick residue on them, and I was afraid that tape would do that after baking in the oven.  I ended up using small metal pins with out plastic heads.
The top 2 unfurled ribbons in this picture were spirally wrapped on the needle.
The next 2 were wrapped onto of themselves - you can see the larger curl on the pink ribbon.
Directions: 

  • Preheat to 250 degrees.  
  • Wrap ribbon around a metal knitting needle (I used size 10) - or other metal cylinder, secure with small metal pins.
  • Place knitting needle with the wrapped ribbon directly on the middle oven rack
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the needle and set on counter to cool completely.  This is important, for the curls to stay tight leave them wrapped on the needle until they have cooled off completely - about 1 hour.
  • Carefully pull ribbon off needle
  • Add to your project - you can shape and fix ribbon curls as needed.

To attach the newly curled ribbons to the rattle toy, I stuck a safety pin through the wrist band of the toy and then added the ribbons to the right side of the toy.  Once all 10 ribbons were added, I put the pin back through the wrist band and closed it.
The pin in the top of this picture has the curled ribbon fastened to the toy.
The lower pin was what I used to pin it to the guest of honor.
I was pleased with the result - a beautiful corsage for the shower that was not too big and bulky.  Then once the little honey arrives, it can be used as a toy.




Remember: Happiness is a Choice!




 





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Monday, August 18, 2014

Menu on Monday {Crock Pot: Beef Bourguignon}

Everything in my house runs more smoothly when the 'what's for dinner?' question is answered before lunch time.  That means that meal planning should just be a given, however it is one of the first things that slips in this house when life gets a bit crazy.  It makes absolutely no sense that this should happen, because I KNOW that it not only helps my sanity, but also our budget. 
By creating a meal plan, I shop from a list and generally for 5 or 6 meals in one shot.  The largest struggle for me is coming up with a varied menu that will please the largest number of people in my house.  
I have a few picky eaters...  The eldest will. not. mix corn in with anything - he likes corn and eats it, but only after he has eaten everything else.  He also does not like stuffing (neither does the second child) or cheese except on pizza because apparently it belongs in pizza.  But he is not even my worst - I have a couple kids who do not generally like ground beef - meat balls, meat loaf, spaghetti, but will eat hamburgers and tacos - go figure. Another one who does not eat potatoes or ketchup.  
And salads.... lets just say that goes over best if I clean a bowl of lettuce and keep all the veggies separate so that each person can add only the things that they like to eat.
I know that consistency is key in raising a family, but who does not have days where they feel like they are on top of things and ready for the battles that matter - like food into their little bodies.  And other days when whatever is easiest is what happens.  Poor kids are really subjected to the ever changing hormones in their mammas, good thing they are pretty resilient and forgiving! 
To sum it up - no casseroles, no spaghetti, minimal soups.  But occasionally I sneak these things into my meals because most of us will eat them.
I grocery shopped on Friday for meals for the next week.  I have a general meal plan sketched out, but we have already eaten Monday's meal on Sunday, so obviously I am not very great at sticking to my menu.  It will all be ok because I have the needed ingredients for the following meals in my house:

My Monday Sunday meal was Crock Pot Beef Bourguignon adapted from this delicious recipe from Aggie's Kitchen.  I used the wine one time while I was cooking, but did not care for the taste.  Here is my changes - and larger quantities:


5 pounds sirloin tip roast
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
 beef broth
1/4 c tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon dried marjoram leaves
1 small bag of baby carrots
1 bag fresh pearl onions

I just put all of this into my crockpot (sometimes I will brown the roast, but often times I just dump and go about my day) and cook it on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  I boiled some red skin potatoes to serve the meat and veggies over - it was delicious.  Ten of us (2 adults, 1 teenager, 6 kids, and 1 baby) ate until we were full, and I have enough left overs to make a stew later this week - just boil more potatoes and mix it all up for an easy meal.


Remember Happiness is a Choice!  Have a great day.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Happiness Update

I am 13 days into the 100 days of Happiness Challenge.  It was interesting to me that roughly 2 days after my previous post, this post by Becoming Minimalist was in my news feed on Facebook.  I love the list that is given for helping to find happiness - especially the one about holding back a complaint.  At times just biting our tongue and not saying something is the best option in moving forward.  I am not advocating internalizing all of our feelings, but minor complaints are so much better when they are not verbalized.  I so love the Becoming Minimalist site for the straightforward perspective they give on what life is truly about - NOT THINGS!

Day 5: Fairy lights on my trailer.
I will be honest.... I am enjoying this project.  There was one night as I was heading to my bed in my camper last night that I almost panicked that I did not take a picture.  It was not because I did not have moments of happiness through the day, but that I just had not grabbed my phone and photographed them.  Thus the photos of my fairy lights on my camper, and they do make me happy.  My dearest made some comment about rednecks and Christmas while I was putting them up.  :)

But in almost 2 weeks, I have only scrambled 1 time, and I think that was pretty great.  I realize that it is so often the little things in my life that makes me happy - getting out for a run, visiting family, christmas lights on my awning, cousins celebrating birthdays, my right to vote, Lake Superior...
Day 6: Sample ballots at my polling location.
And really most of these things have one thing in common - they cost absolutely nothing!  I did not even think about that until I wrote this post.  Of course our camping trip cost us some money - for the site, the camper, the supplies, but the actual cousin time is not a paid for activity.  There is so much focus in our generation on creating magic for our families that we miss the happiness that can be found in the enjoyment of life's small moments.
Day 10: Our final evening at the campground - {that guy makes me happy, too!}
Sitting by the shores of this absolutely stunning lake reminds me of why I put up with our nonexistent spring weather.  The fresh clear water is not easily matched anywhere else.
Day 12: Towels ready for the next beach day. {And yes - I always roll my beach towels like this!}
I am a transplant to this area.  I could mope and groan about being 500+ miles from my childhood home and parents, however, I have chosen to embrace the life we have here.  The small town is a great place to raise a family - and although there is times I crave the anonymity of a large city (grocery shopping can be an all day affair if you let it), I enjoy the community and atmosphere of the small town.
Day 13: Baby rolls fresh from the bath.
 And then of course it comes back to the fact that where my family is - my heart will also be.  This baby is our largest so far, but at baby boy #6, he needs all the advantages he can get if he ever starts to try keeping up with his brothers.

Oh the happiness I even feel in my heart as I blog about these photos reminds me again that my life is pretty terrific ...8 babies who love me, and I get to be a mom to ...a husband who completes my missing pieces and smoothes out my rough edges ...extended family who loves me for me ...in-laws I feel grateful for giving me my best friend ...a home in a location with positives that far outweigh the negatives ...our health - mine, my children, my husband, our parents, my grand parents.  I really am so lucky.

Again my friends... Happiness is a choice.

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