Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Florida

Driving to the beach:

Ty: pretending to snore. 

Za: I don't like that! I put you back home!


Za: Where we going? I can't remember. 

Me: Think about what we've said...

Za: The plane!

"In a quarter mile" according to Suri:

Za: I'm cold. Let's go home. 

Me: We can go back to Illinois. 

Za: No!

A few seconds later...

Za: Everyone be quiet!

Merry Christmas from the Moss Monsters.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I started writing this almost a month ago. Every time I start to finish it, I can't. On Christmas Eve, I am going to finish it, no matter what. 

Today is Thanksgiving. I have appreciation for my family, health, and food every year. This year I am especially thankful for my home.

Almost two weeks ago, my town and neighbors' town got hit by numerous tornadoes. Friends have picked through piles of wood, metal, glass, countertop pieces, and insulation (insulation everywhere, in every shred of fabric) for pictures and mementos. 

People sort through debris for baby footprint cards, first-cut locks of hair, baptismal gowns, and first birthday party invitations. 

Kind people on Facebook started a page for other kind people to post lost and found pictures, sometimes hundreds of miles away. That is one positive- when FEMA and Red Cross trucks arrive to your town, you will also witness that giving human spirit that's not always evident:

Good natured people will look for the humor, the slight juxtaposition of ruins and functionality. 


Every time I went to write this post, I kept thinking how I couldn't put into words the smallness I felt. I have a tiny blog, and it can't matter what I write. I felt inconsequential, knowing that I typed in a comfy chair  in my own house with safe belongings that the multicolors of insulation do not clutter, the hidden shards in beloved quilts and clothing, able to poke and remind owners that the tornado still affects them. 

It will take years for Central Illinois to rebuild from the November tornado, and the survivors may open a scrapbook page in fifty years, only to find a pink piece of insulation in the corner. 

My neighbors who survived the tornado will need to talk about their experiences to recover. Writing on my blog about the inconsequential events of life may not help a single one of them. 

This Christmas, I have learned that is fine, but noticing small, every day events in my home is a privilege not everyone has. So, I want to remember my four year old dancing by the tree, 

My six year old learning to cut a tree, 

and my baby riding a zebra. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's hoping we notice the everyday events in our lives. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Disney Live: 3 Princess Tales

Disney holds the secret to magic. 

The kids and I saw Disney Live! this past weekend. Baby girl was only impressed with the fireworks and Ty only cared for the witches (so he says) , but four-year-old Za...

Well, she was inspired, giddy almost. 

Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy narrated the three tales of Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle. My kids have not seen those characters' movies, but have seen the first four's show. Even though the stories were not familiar, they had no problem following along. 

Of course, I got mom memories, like Za waving her toy Minnie Mouse at the Minnie on stage, or Ty grumbling because Lightening McQueen was not present. 

The kids had fun, and the show was just over an hour long- perfect for little ones. 

The Pageantry 

Anything Disney will be well done, and this was no exception. The characters had costume changes, and the famous princess dresses from the three stories were dazzling. 

My favorite part was the kick line during Beauty and the Beast's famous,  "Be Our Guest." The kids commented about the lights and matching wardrobe for the closing- shimmery gold and lights.

The Stories

I'm not a huge princess fan. Za has never had a princess birthday party and she has not seen many of the movies. I feel that the movies are from a different time period and do not apply to today's norms, expectations, and common sense. 

BUT I am aware that aside from the verbal animals, talking mirrors, and carriages via pumpkins, some people take these stories literally, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. 

Women say they want "a Prince Charming" or rescued as princesses are. While I don't believe Belle suffered from Stockholm syndrome, I cannot ignore that these Disney stories are meshed in our American culture and my children will learn about them - from somewhere. 

Like all forms of media learning, discussing ideas with children makes sense. 

Media Learning

Za wanted to know why the witch hated Snow White, the stepsisters enslaved Cinderella, and the Beast jailed Belle. 

Actually, those weren't her words, but she did climb on her dad's lap upset. 

We talked about every story needing a problem, and that in kid stories, really, really bad things wouldn't happen - especially since the characters couldn't exist, like a beast or talking mirror. 

We also discussed that the stories are silly, and that most of those events couldn't happen anyway, to which Za replied, "yeah, people don't like mouses, only Mickey Mouses."  

Which, is the perfect quote to lead onto the kids' Christmas present: Disney tickets!

They will be surprised in about a month with a Christmas trip to Disney. We are excited, and the trip to Disney Live! hopefully set the tone for more fun to come. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Writing and Drawing

Sometimes the best teaching happens when the child initiates the idea. 

That thought floated around in my head today, as well as the power of imitation. 

Someone in our house is always writing. My husband and I both write for a work (in different ways) and Ty and Za busy themselves with coloring or spelling throughout the day. 

Ty and Za are learning the power of words, and Ty has spelling tests every week. Za asks me to spell approximately fifty words per day, so baby girl sees lots of writing. 

Baby C. J. wants nothing more than to be like big brother and sister, so when I outlined a project today for TpT, she reached for my pencil.  

I was mildly impressed that she tried to grasp her pencil correctly!

Then in true one-year-old form, she crumpled her paper...

made lots of noise...

and tried to eat it. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Parents at School

We had a fun event today - Donuts with Dad.

Our kids' elementary school alternates years; next year will be Muffins with Mom. 

Pretty cool? It's a simple - and somewhat inexpensive - way to encourage parental involvement at school. 

Ty had a blast showing his dad what he does at school every morning. Elementary students seem proud of what they accomplish every day, away from parents. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


In my living room - not the designated playroom - I have the following large toys:

* blue Cookie Monster singing thing
* pink pony
* bouncing zebra
* supermarket scanner (what one-year does not know how to scan groceries?)
* ball popping thing, ironically, with only one ball
* pink caterpillar singing thing
* LULU, the well worn and loved singing octopus
* a green box of books
* a 31 bag of smaller toys (you know those 31 parties? the biggest, stand-alone bag they sell? that one.)

Of all these toys, I purchased none, registered for none, and most certainly love none. (Maybe LULU and some of the books).

I don't think my kids love these toys. Why do I have these toys?

Here is one situation:

Baby C.J. plays with her zebra, bouncing up and down - giggling, really showing off.

Za wants to play but knows not to take her sister off the zebra. She asks, or whines until I suggest, to get another singing/riding/huge toy. She gets the pink pony from the playroom.

Ty comes along and even though he is older, wants a noisy toy of his own. He settles for the large Cookie Monster monstrosity.

In possible answers to such a situation, do I:

a. Make the kids take turns on the one zebra, even though they are all kinda baby-ish and then feel guilty because the older two want the "oos" and "ahhs" that accompany C.J. bouncing on her zebra.
b. Settle them with a book or smaller toy which they cannot hear because of the zebra.
c. Let them figure it out.

I'm sure all choices bring pros and cons to the parenting bit, but my main concern is this:

I am tired of these toys.

Yeah, I know "someday" I'll look at a clean floor and sigh, knowing my kids are no longer kids.

That day just isn't today, and I wonder if I'm the only one.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What I Love About Communication Junction

For the past two months, baby C.J. and I attended the first Sign and Play class through Communication Junction. Official graduates (I have the certificate in the baby book!), we developed together the best parts of the class in a handy top-five list.

A bit of background: my baby is now one. The class had younger kids, and older ones. The class worked well for all the ages. Actually, my four year old has complained multiple times that her sister knows something she does not, and I've thought about taking her, and I don't think she would be out of place.

That's Abbey, with baby C.J. sucking her thumb in the back. 
Abbey teaches the class, and she is a licensed speech language pathologist. She does not always wear that striped hat, and she is very helpful and knowledgeable.

Onto the benefits...

1. An educational setting. I've written before about finding the balance between allowing children to explore, to have downtime, and to learn concepts. The class was 45 minutes long, and it had this balance. C.J. loves stories, toys, and songs. It was educational, and I never planned on introducing a new language to baby, but I am glad I did - she remembers these concepts.

2. One-on-one time. C.J. and I don't get tons of one-on-one time, poor third child. She gets lots of mom time with the other kids, but it isn't the same as what Ty (first baby) and even Za got. This was 45 minutes of snuggle time, our fun activity together, our happy memories. (I'm smiling at her as I type this, just saying).

3. Age-appropriate. I mentioned that C.J. is one year old. The kids pictured above are older and enjoyed playing dress up the day we learned signs for clothes. C.J. did too, from her mom's lap - and all of the activities worked on different levels. For instance, during the final class, we learned the sign for brushing teeth, and all the kids had a blast with new toothbrushes.

More bubbles! Every child knows the signs for this command. 
4. Support and encouragement. My entire blog is devoted to encouraging parents to teach their children at home (and everywhere) and empower them to become teachers. Learning sign language gave me another tool in my mom-toolkit, another activity to complete with my kids. Because parents attend the signing classes with their children, they are helping teach!

5. Multiple lessons. Children rarely learn one concept at a time. Part of brain-based learning tells parents that the brain is a parallel processor. C.J. remembers signs, but she was also paying attention to my face as I pronounced words, dancing and balancing as we sang, and socializing with other kids.

The kicker? C.J. already has a skill that she will use for life, a skill that is in high demand and expected to grow even more.

It was a wonderful opportunity, and C.J. and I had fun. We bonded together, and I never knew that this program was in Peoria. Please check out Communication Junction's webpage for more information, or contact me with any questions about my experience.

Special thanks to Blissful Images for the fabulous pictures!

I received compensation in the form of a class fee waiver. All opinions posted in my blog, in person, on social media and any other form of communication are my honest and personal ones.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do I Buy the Gloves?

It's cold outside! 

Ty and Za are taking hats and gloves to school for recess time. Not a big deal for adults - huge deal for kids.

 First, WHY can they not take the gloves and hats off together? I have shown them (and seen Za's preschool teacher show her) to take the gloves off, put them in the hat, and put the hat in the coat's hood or arm. Somehow, apparel ends up in different parts of the house, even different levels of the house.

 This raises two parenting questions:

1. Do I stand by the front door, and remind each child to keep their gear together? For how long? I know the kids are young and need reminding and examples, but really, how. long. I am happy to give them instructions, but at what point am I babying them too much? I want to use everyday events as teaching moments. This seems perfect, but it's just not.

2. What is the natural consequence for forgetting hats and gloves? Should it be, you don't have warm hands and a head at school? That bothers me, because I don't want little kids outside uncomfortable, or getting a headache or chapped skin. I want to teach the kids to be responsible, have a natural consequence, and keep their belongings organized.

I thought about this conundrum in the shower. Later as I wrote a grocery list, I added gloves. Our grocery store normally has little seasonal items, like kid gloves. Then I scratched it off the list.

Now I'm writing a blog post about it. Do I buy backup gloves for when we cannot find one, so we always have another pair to grab? Am I reinforcing disorganization by buying the second pair of gloves?

 AND, most of all, am I reading too much into this event?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Which Half Works?

I'm a quote person. I design and sell thinking/inspirational/funny quotes for classrooms. I get a daily quote in my email. Quotes make me think. One of my favorites is about advertising, by John Wanamaker: "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half." It might be a bit tongue in cheek, but he's right: everything a marketing strategist creates and everything a business owner spends money on may not sell something.It's funny and sarcastic. The product might be bad, or the advertising didn't work as intended. Eh, so much for business and consumers - now I've analyzed this quote into parenting. What if only half of what I do sticks? I'm not concerned about wasting my time, I'm worried about messing up this important job. It just that they mean everything and I know that I'll screw up. Some days it overwhelms me, and that maybe only some of it will stick.
Nerve-wracking, really.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has problems. 

The first principal I worked under always had this to say about standardized testing (paraphrased):

If we teach kids how to think, if we teach them how analyze problems and material, they will do well on tests.

I agree largely with this, and not completely because standardized tests drive me crazy, and I think there is a skill or talent to taking them. I do not think standardized tests measure everything.

Most teachers believe standardized testing needs changed, and their passion falls between tweaking it and overhauling it.

I knew all this as a teacher, and thought I knew all about standardized testing.

I did not realize the other emotion I would feel about testing as a parent.

What I am shocked about is the amount of tests my first grader takes, an how he comes home tired. Sits on the couch, stares at the wall. Tired. Doesn't argue about bedtime.


He takes three large tests per year - fall, winter, spring. He is tired when he finishes these tests.

I don't prep him for these. I want to see his true abilities so I know what areas he needs more focus and what is working well.

I know his teachers appreciate this information as well. When we meet for conferences, teachers always explain how they are using the test results to address areas in the classroom.

I don't have the answer for these long tests, and obviously educators don't either.

I feel that as my kids travel though the public education system, I know what to expect.

I did not expect the shock I felt when I saw my son's exhaustion from taking these tests though.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Name Calling

A friend with a baby girl C.J.'s age asked me the other day if it bothered me when people say nonsensical-girl-focused phrases. It does, and we made a verbal list:

* She's got that girl sass down!
* Ooooo confused? You'd better marry well!
* Is that lady-like?
* You don't want to get dirty, do you?

These are the worst offenders that I've had directed at one of my girls. Why is my little girl sassy? Worried about marriage? What does "lady-like" even mean, because I think everyone has a different definition. And getting dirty? What should she do? Sit under a tree with her hands folded?

I've explained to Za that she must be kind and nice, but I try not to name-call in this way, and I don't stick her in a stereotyped box labeled "proper girl behavior."

My friend doesn't have any little boys, but I told her the male-focused phrases are just as offensive: 

* Big boy, crying!
* You can't wear that! 
* Don't play with that. 
* Here, you need to know how to do_____.  (Especially excluding girls on said lesson).
* You don't want to play with yucky boys! (Said to girls). 

I despise these comments. Little kids live up to expectations and if we tell little girls that boys are "yucky," both sexes may believe it. If we tell little girls not to get dirty (and thus minimizing exploration and curiosity), both sexes may believe that females need to act a certain way. 

And where does that lead? Maybe to a society that turns males and females against each other, one that excludes certain people because they don't fit into a gender specific box, one that ignores the beauty both sexes bring to situations, in different forms, in a multitude of ways. 

Do any comments drive you batty? (I particularly dislike referring to my girls as "all sass," for example). 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Don't Want To

Me. Not the kids. 

I don't want to make a meal, do the dishes, or wipe off the table.

I don't want to color Santa Claus, discuss when the Easter Bunny returneth, or address accusations concerning our house's lack of fall decor. 

I don't want to make coffee and tough it out. I want a nap. 

I don't want to explain the numbers- teens and twenties. Again. 

I don't want to tear tape, tape, glue, color, sharpen pencils, or fold paper. I don't want to scrub it off the floor or remove it from the table/floor/mantel later. 

I don't want to bathe anyone or wash uniforms. I do not want to iron anything. 

And I don't want to feel guilty about any of it. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reading and Snuggles

I read snuggled up to the kids. I kiss them, play with their hair, and pat them. We lay together in bed or on the couch, cuddled with a blankie. 

Reading to the baby. 
Does the love and relaxed environment contribute to a positive attitude about reading? What about the physical love ? 

If so, what happens when children primarily learn to read from a teacher who cannot snuggle and brush hair? Does it matter at all?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Ross Giveaway!

I am very fortunate to have another gift card to give to a reader!

Sorry for the two week hiatus. Sometimes a mom needs a break. A going-to-bed-at-a-decent-hour and walking-every-night type of break. I've been staring at my babies more, counting leaves with my kids, and taking in all the new colors fall brings.

Speaking of fall... we need clothes, again!

My kids grow and I never know what they will need in advance. Never. I don't know the system for buying in advance, and now it is chilly and their jeans from last year could be capris. When Ross Dress for Less asked if I would do another giveaway, I didn't hesitate.

Last time Za got tons of back-to-school clothes. This time Ty needed them more. He loves his new outfit, but won't cooperate for the camera though. To get a picture of him in his Ross outfit, I had to settle for a picture of him running away from me:

Anywho, the kiddos and I returned to Ross and had another wonderful experience. I am accustomed to discount stores being messy, but this store is not - which means I can find clothes easily. Clothes are not strewn around or on the wrong rack.

They also have hard to find clothes, like SLIM PANTS for my tall man Ty. I normally have to pay more for special sizes for kids like slim or large. These are his long, slim jeans in his size, name-brand, and at a low price. He normally suffers through with regular jeans because stores don't carry slim or long (let alone together!), but I got to choose between several pairs of slim/long pants.

I didn't stand in line long, and of course had to take Za to the bathroom, which was clean. (This is a parenting bonus- it just is). I did not care for the shoe selection, again, which is a bit of a bummer. I need some discount shoes!

Overall though, we spent our gift card and a little bit more, but Ty got two pairs of pants and a shirt for fall. Every item was name brand, and the jeans were more than 50% off the retail tag.

So... I love making my readers happy like I am, so here's how to enter for your own gift card to Ross:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

I did receive compensation in the form of a gift card from Ross Dress for Less in exchange for sponsoring this giveaway on Switching Classrooms. Opinions stated in this blog and any subsequent blog posts, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, or other social media or personal statements are my own. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Children's Discovery Museum

Children's Discovery Museum - Normal, IL

We live about an hour away from Normal, IL. My kids have been to the Children's Discovery Museum several times, some with us and other times on class trips. They ask to go frequently, but we are members at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. With the gas and time and ticket price, I always tell them no and go to the museum 10 minutes from us. For a treat though, the family went a few days before school started.

We had a blast, and the kids showed me that they are too old for pictures. I also answered my biggest question, "is the Normal or Peoria museum better for kids?"

First, the review.

The Children's Discovery Museum has three floors. Floor one has a section for little kids/babies, a water table, a dentist chair, medical section, restaurant, train tables, and a padded area for babies. (That's a ton of kid-friendly stuff).

Baby playing with blocks.

Sometimes educational places don't have baby areas, but this museum has several.

This is large area has steps and carpeted play areas for toddlers.  

PLUS the museum has a "dirty toy box" for slobbered toys. Fabulous.

Floating demonstration.
While Ty and Za went off to explore messy and open areas with dad, baby C.J. and I had toddler areas to explore.

The elevator... why do kids love the elevator? It must seem magical to them, and they love pressing buttons. Anyway...

Floor two has a combine that the kids put balls in, crank, and then collect. They can also shoot the balls across the room, which I don't need to explain is the coolest thing ever. 

Dumping the balls in the vacuum for them to go across the ceiling.

The floor has interactive computer touch-screens for kids to learn about the food they eat. I do not agree with everything presented in these info-graphics (corn, dairy), but explained what was presented, the sponsors of the area (ahem), and what dad and I believe.

Ty milking the cow.
Sisters driving the tractor.

Much of floor two has information about farming, recycling, and compost. This is my favorite floor and my kids actually spent the majority of the time on it.

Za making music.

It also has a noise machine with cranks that allow the user to change the volume and tone.

Floor three contains large items - a walk-on piano, a drum set, a small room for crafts, a stage, and a painting area.

My kids wanted to spend the most time up here. The encouragement to paint on the walls is too exciting to resist!


This museum is huge. My suggestion is to plan how long your family can stay focused without breakdowns (about an hour for mine) and divide by three. Each floor is worthwhile, but we spent too much time on floor two. The kids were hungry but wanted to keep painting on floor three. We had to drag them out to feed them. A little bit of organization on our part, with five-minute alerts for the kids, would have helped.

I should add that the museum has a party area for food, and vending machines with some decent choices. We staved off hunger for a bit, but eventually had to leave for a pizza.

The kids loved it. I got bored watching them dump those balls in the vacuum, but hey, it happens. Which leads me to my thoughts about the "better" museum in the Central Illinois area.

Second, the decision. 

When we left, I had the Children's Discovery Museum totally sold in my head as the better choice. My kids love it and ran around, jumping from one interactive toy to another. My kids never want to leave the Peoria museum either, but even taking the "newness" of the museum they seldom frequent into account, I still believed they liked Normal better than Peoria. They might still - and it is very educational, well worth the ticket price.

Then as were buckling the kids in for the ride home, we asked the kids what their favorite part was. After they answered, Ty asked me the same thing.

"I don't know," I told him. I love watching my kids at that museum, but it is a kid museum, not catered to me. I have more fun at the Peoria museum. The kids' areas are smack in the middle of the "adult" areas. While I watch them play, I read about fish, area hospitals, or athletics.

That edged the Peoria museum up in my mind. I set the example for my kids by learning while they do - and our areas are not totally separate. My kids explore and learn at both museums, but I also learn in a "mom area" as the kids call it. Showing my kids that I enjoy learning while they explore - that is the best example of lifelong learning I can imagine. I wish Normal would add some parent material so parents can set the same examples there.

I was not compensated in any way for this post. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Financial Friday: Homemade Notes

Writing thank-you notes with your kids teaches SO many concepts.

The finished product.
I always want my children to write. I believe that most parts of what teachers teach in school is valuable. However - if students do not see a real life connection, they typically won't care and they won't do it well. Writing, and using the writing process well, will help all students in and out of school.

Writing notes, like thank-you notes, helps kids learn appreciation and compassion. We write notes throughout the school year to people who help at school, and for Christmas and birthday gifts.

This also teaching the writing process, which is simple. It will be used throughout your child's schooling, and teaching it now is simple.

Brainstorming ideas about what to write, and then writing a rough draft are the first two steps. Revising/proofreading (with help from mom) is the next step:
Writing it neatly and delivering it are the final steps. We added decorations to the card, and Ty was happy when he returned from school. He said that his recipients were happy!

The writing process and kindness are inexpensive lessons with homemade notes.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Christmas Pinecones: Spray Them Now!

We make tons of Christmas crafts using pinecones. The possibilities are endless, really. 

Pinecones are on the ground now. My kids have gathered them.

I have an idea of how to think ahead, and make my life easier.

I am spraying these cones now, while the weather is nice.

That way, I have cones dry when I need them in a few months. I do not have to spray them in the snow, on the kitchen table, or in the garage and either freeze or clean up messy paint later.

Not that I've ever made a mess before.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Types of Intelligences

One idea I strongly believe is that when parents understand why teachers do activities in the classroom, everyone involved is happier.

Explaining the "secrets" behind teaching and lesson planning has always been one of my goals with this blog - to encourage parents to teach and to create a bridge from the classroom to the home.

Lots of my writings on this blog deal with ways for parents to incorporate the eight intelligences into their children's lives. Completing a variety of activities with young children helps parents understand how their children learn, which then leads to parents helping their children more successfully with school work, and parents having confidence to speak to teachers concerning their child's strengths.

One idea I always stress is that parents should not pigeonhole their children into an intelligence. For instance, parents may want a little engineer. Working with math skills is fabulous, but only doing math skills may backfire. Work with your child in a variety of ways.

My mathematical-logical oriented child, camping and fishing.

Additionally, children will build connections between the intelligences parents won't see. A child presented with many learning opportunities (not necessarily costly ones!) will learn in different ways - an important part of life.

Teachers know this. A large portion of a teaching training program is studying different ways that children learn, and how to incorporate those ways into a classroom.

That is why your child may not care for every assignment. A teacher may assign work that you and your child groan over. It was hopefully assigned with a purpose, hopefully to teach a concept a different way, to hit different kinds of learners.

For instance, Ty would rather read a nonfiction book than a fictional book. He does not thrive on imaginative play like Za does.

This is rare for Ty to play pretend.
His teacher does assign him creative writing and drawing projects. He needs to develop those skills, and for other students, those projects are addressing their strong suites.

What I can do as a parent is to support his teacher, and encourage him to do these assignments well. Ty takes no probing to finish math homework, but he does draw out writing projects.

I understand that he has a preference, but it is detrimental for a child's parents to explain away an assignment or belittle the teacher.

Aside from building a skill he may not voluntarily concentrate on, he is learning that a part of any job requires completing assignments you may not love. (Ever have a job where you loved every bit of your assigned duties? I have not).

What do you think? Do you work to incorporate all intelligences in your child's life? Do you see this in your child's school work?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Financial Friday Failures: Beach-Gingerbread Houses

Activities I did with the kids, that they hated. 

I try to do inexpensive yet memorable activities with the kids. You know, happy childhood memories and such. I fail sometimes though, and the kids have no problem telling me about it.

I thought that I would light candles in the bathroom while Za soaked in the tub - nice and relaxing. She wanted the candle off and the light on, because you only use candles when the lights go off in a storm. It was not raining and she was not taking a bath until that candle was out. 

I tried to make colored starch for a science experiment with the kids. Either the recipe was wrong, or I can't measure. It smelled funny too. 

I found this cute little file-folder activity online for free. I printed it out, took lots of time gluing and cutting neatly, put the velcro on, and got Za all excited to practice it. We started and even though I had purposely ignored the direction to laminate it, was shocked when the paper tore apart with the velcro. I'll reprint and assemble it again, and follow the assembly directions. 

Another time, I bought a gingerbread house on clearance. It was early spring, and the kids were weary about making a Christmas decoration. I told them to imagine it was a beach house. They played along for about five minutes and did add some decorations. I ran to grab a laundry basket and just as I was thinking to grab my camera, I heard the television. 

I went downstairs to see why they had stopped decorating, and couldn't find the house. When I found Ty and Za, they told me that project "was no fun" and had fed it to the dog.  

Why can't we use our imaginations and pretend that a green and red gingerbread house with snow is a beach house? 

Any kid-project failures you care to share?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Organized SAHM: Mommy Napping

You can take a nap, but there will be consequences.

Recap: My friend J wrote me an email, asking for advice because she's a new SAHM and wanted advice. This is my third attempt at sharing my wisdom. Previously I've confessed that I lack wisdom, but have a few ideas about saving money in the kitchen

But napping - I understand that. Here is what J wrote:

I thought I would have time to clean, to cook, to engage/teach/discipline the children, take a nap, fit in some work, maybe even exercise, and sleep - boy was I wrong!!

My friend J has what I like to call overly high expectations with a combination of supermom-itis and disillusionment. It happens.  

(Let me stop here and explain that this is my experience- I am in no way a trained counselor or therapist or medical person. I have never been diagnosed with ppd and am not an expert on mental health. If you struggle to get out of bed, struggle to stay awake, please speak to a doctor. This post is not for mental health issues). 

Back to napping: napping with a baby curled against your chest, or a sick toddler who needs snuggles; napping after drinking hot chocolate and falling asleep with a book. It's picturesque and romantic. It's what I envisioned when I planned to be a SAHM. 

It's also nonsensical when applied to motherhood.

Cuteness overload: chubby hands attached to a sleeping child. She has dimples on her chubs.

You will have moments of precious napping - staring at chubby fingers and long eyelashes. Kissing cheeks that beg for smooches.

If you fall asleep though, you will have consequences.

For one, you might not be tired later. I am the queen of this: I nap because my eyes cannot stay open at two o'clock in the afternoon, but end up staring at the ceiling at midnight. My kids still wake up at six, and I have created a nasty cycle.

Two, this is prime dinner making time. Throw chicken in the crockpot or defrost a lasagna. Plan something or succumb to the idea that you will serve cereal for dinner. Otherwise you might be making dinner while the kids use you as a jungle gym.

Three, you will be overwhelmed. This partly depends on your personality, but I need alone moments during the day. Do something alone - read a blog, journal, stare out the window. My alone time today might be a shower. I may splurge and shave my legs.

Of course every rule has an exception. If you stayed up late cleaning puke or stripping a wet bed, take a nap. If you have been sick, take a nap. If you have a newborn, please take a nap.

This late-night baby is awake because she and her momma napped at about six o'clock at night. Bad idea. 

Sleeping needs some sort of a schedule in my SAHM life. I am loose with the nap-time of my babies, because that works for me. My older two don't nap, but the baby gets a morning nap and an afternoon nap. If she doesn't, she's grumpy. She can nap at nine in the morning, or eleven.

Like so much with a SAHM life, find out what works for you and your kiddos. I doubt that you will get to nap every day, but you might.

Again, the expectation of what the SAHM thought she could do, is bringing her down. Expectations met with real life?

That is what one Organized SAHM has learned to overcome, to think about.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Goodreads and kids.

I love reading. Aside from kissing and loving on my kids and hubs, reading is probably my favorite activity- closely followed by writing.

Alas, I am on Goodreads. I really am having fun reading other reviews and meeting readers who like the same books I do. My to-read list is growing terribly long.

Such pride in reading!

Because I have so much fun, I started letting Ty and Za record their books. They give me their reviews, and I write them. They also debate about how many stars to assign a book. (They give way more 5 stars than I do).

It is wonderful, really. They are analyzing what books they like and why. They are discussing the merits of books. Plus, we are recording what books we have read together. I imagine in a few years, it will be a fun activity to review them together.

The biggest benefit might be that the kids see that I take their opinions about books seriously. I value what they say about reading, and put their remarks on my account.

It is a free app, and a fun one for adults. If you have an account, feel free to friend request me!

This was not a paid review.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Pretend Image of It All

I sit here, melted chocolate chips and peanut butter swirled together, wondering about life.

Sure, it is 11:30 and I need to be in bed. I have a huge day tomorrow. Ty has "meet the teacher night" for first grade. The van needs an alignment. The children will want me to care for them. Here I am though, thinking about SAHM-life.

I got up early today. I cleaned tons of the house - window screens, curtains, vacuumed. I sold some maternity clothes online. Ty and I purchased, labeled, and stuffed a book bag with school supplies. I read books, talked about shapes, and intervened in fights. I also prepared meals and snacks. My kitchen is pretty clean right now.

An overall accomplished day. Why do I feel like I did nothing?

Is it because I don't get a paycheck? Is it because I grew up with an image of Clair Huxtable and Angela Bower? Did I form some weird super-human-mom-worker image in my mind, sometime during my impressionable youth or worse, the inspirational college years?

Where did this image of a mom come from? This mom must be pretend. The mom who comes down the stairs with perfect hair, body, and makeup, grabs a cup of coffee, tousles the kids' hair, kisses her husband, and leaves for work. The mom who has such a high-paying job she can leave for her kids' school activities early and grab dinner on the way home. The mom who stays up late but gets up early and starts all over and still looks great.

It's a bogus image of motherhood. Why do women think that can exist? When does this pretend image exercise? spend time with her husband? do laundry? scrub floors?

I guess she has a maid, or a live-in nanny like Angela.

This pretend image of it all, the image that my fellow moms and I strive for and lament because we can never chase her down, did we make her up? We must have. Can we disregard her? Can we erase this formulation we concocted in our heads?

Can we please just forget her?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ross Back To School Giveaway

We are clothes shopping for back to school!

The higher-ups at Ross Dress for Less emailed me a bit ago and asked if I was interested in hosting a giveaway for their new store in my hometown and neighboring town.

Gift card for clothes shopping? Yes, please. Tell my honest opinion of their stores? Easy. 

Ty and Za are prepping for school. Za is entering her last year of preschool, and Ty is a seasoned elementary student. They know the drill for school supplies and new clothes. They had never been to a Ross store before, and I had not either.

I knew where the new one was in East Peoria - in our new Levee District. It is sparkling new with a distinct atmosphere.

The kids and I spent about thirty minutes inside the store. It was easy to navigate and checkout (three open registers for four paying customers!). It was also clean and organized. The kids wanted luggage, jewelry (Za), and new bedding. I skirted them away from the extras, promising them another time, and steered over to the clothes and shoes.

Ty wanted shorts, and Ross did have a nice selection, but I wanted him to think longterm into the school year. I spotted jeans, sweats, and matching two-piece jogging suits. One (with a favorite character) caught Ty's eye and he was sold.

Za wanted everything - skirts, dresses, shirts, pants, shorts, socks, and a frog necklace. She left with a pair of comfortable pants and a matching shirt, and a denim dress. The dress has a special place in her closet, she is planning to wear it for school picture day, and she wore it to church today. Showing it off:

I washed the clothes and they washed well, and they are name brand - I recognize the tags from Ty's selection. A quick calculation shows that I saved about 30% on his outfit.

I wanted to get my kids shoes, but could not find any that were kid- acceptable and the right size at the store. I honestly felt the shoe selection was the only drawback. I know that inventory changes, and hope that will not always be the case.

Overall, my kids can wear these clothes for a long time, if not all winter. Za got two outfits and Ty got one two-piece outfit. Ross gave me $25 to spend, and I spent just a bit more over that gift card. So...

I would love for one of my readers to get a $25 gift card to Ross to help with back to school shopping!

Entering is easy. Comment below about what back to school clothes item you will need. The link is also on my Facebook page, under "Ross Giveaway." Good luck!

I did receive compensation in the form of a gift card from Ross Dress for Less in exchange for sponsoring this giveaway on Switching Classrooms. Opinions stated in this blog post and any subsequent blog posts, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, or other social media are my own. 

I've also joined Bloglovin!  Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, August 9, 2013

Financial Friday: Broken Toys

Tearing up broken toys!

I saw this on Pinterest months ago: giving your kids broken toys and a screwdriver. We had a garage sale a bit ago, and we cleaned out the house for old toys and nonworking. I tried putting new batteries in this ABC game, and nothing. I declared it toast, and gave it to Ty and Za to "fix." They were thrilled.

Ty really thought he could fix it. He was very methodical in taking it apart, and separated the pieces.

He tried to reassemble, but never could figure out why the toy stopped working. I couldn't either - nothing was too obvious.

They spent the large part of an afternoon working on it and then threw it in the trash. It was broken, so I consider this a free project!

Note: I suggest spreading a tarp or old blanket down for the kids to work on. We spent lots of time finding tiny screws and pieces of plastic.