Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Party Decorations: Hand Stenciled Votive Holders

Austin's 16th birthday party went off without a hitch. We finished (well sort of) the bathroom renovation just in time. I even had a chance to make fall party decorations-stenciled votive holders out of repurposed glass candle and food jars. They lined the walkway to the front door and the railings of the deck. We had a house full of friends and families for great company and a menu heavy appetizers including cream cheese stuffed mushrooms, warm Reuben dip, sweet kielbasa and more.

White lights and candles lit the deck.
I was so busy that I let Landon take over the job of making the votive holders. They were very easy to make and are great because they can be customized for any occasion.

What you need:
Glass jars from the recycle bin
Spray adhesive
Spray paint

Landon cut A's (A for Austin) out of newspaper in various sizes. After spraying the back side of one paper A with spray adhesive, he pressed it onto the outside of the jar. On a protected work surface, he sprayed the jar with a light coat of paint. After letting the paint set for two minutes he carefully peeled off the newspaper A. Adding a candle was the finishing touch for an easy, personalized votive holder.

How to Manage Post Trick-or-Treating Halloween Candy

Can you imagine being a kid and getting a day pass to eat as much candy as you want from an endless supply? That's Halloween at our house-the one day of the year that the kids can eat as much candy as they want. The "all you can eat" method of Halloween parenting achieves a few goals.

  • The kids think we are the best parents in the world from the time they get home from trick-or-treating until they go go bed, making a fun holiday even more fun.
  • The more candy the kids eat on Halloween night the less there is the next day or week.
  • When they eat all the good candy on Halloween night the "leftovers" are less appealing, interest wanes and you can toss out or donate the rest without too much opposition.

So let the kids stay out as long as they can stand the cold, let them trade for their favorites, and let them eat to their hearts content so the major sugar high lasts one night instead of every night for weeks. Happy Halloween!

Is It the End of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic?

A Democratic Senator from MA, Katherine Clark, is proposing a bill that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a media skills program in schools for kindergarten through high school. According to NBC News in Boston the program would teach students how to evaluate information from Internet and media sources, analyze how media messages including advertising are constructed and understand media messages, many of which are targeted toward children. It seems that Media Skills would be much more practical for today's students than learning to sew a pillow or bake a cake from scratch. Although I did find it adorable that Cal sewed me a leopard print accent pillow to display on my bed last year, in 7th grade.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Making Guns With His Fingers and Shooting Other Students

Rowan is 5 years old. He is in kindergarten. He is the second youngest and has four brothers. He gets really dirty. He plays rough. He loves to wrestle. He got punished at school for making guns with his fingers and shooting other students. I'm not surprised. I am not surprised that Rowan plays that way, he is very imaginative. I am also not surprised that his teacher, who is a twenty something and pregnant with her first baby, punished him for it.
When I was in my mid 20's, before Austin was 2, I was adamant that he would never play with guns. I remember saying that I would never allow them in my house. I thought that if I just kept toy guns away from him he would never want to play that way; like a delinquent, a violent and angry child. Then reality set in.
One day we were sitting at the table. Austin was eating chicken nuggets. He took little bites out of a nugget in all the right places to form a perfectly shaped pistol that fit right in his tiny little hand. Then he proceeded to shoot me as he said "bang, bang". That is when I realized that playing rough, and hard, getting dirty, and playing with toy guns is just inherent in little boys. I stopped fighting it and embraced it.
Rowan has been brought up with Nerf guns, air soft guns, squirt guns and yes, guns made out of his forefinger and thumb. He shoots his brothers, his sisters and even me and Dave. We hide behind couches and ambush each other. Even Davey has mastered "playing dead". The skills have been passed down by each Dermody boy, and girl. Our weapon bucket in the toy room is overflowing, a collection of favorite bazookas, knives, rifles and light sabers collected over the years.
If the same note had come home from kindergarten when Austin was in school I probably would have panicked. I might have even asked his teacher for advice or her thoughts, "Is he a troubled kid? Where have I gone wrong?" But now I am the one with wisdom. I know that boys who play with guns can turn out to be happy and healthy young adults. So Rowan took his punishment. I signed off on the note from his teacher. I had to refrain myself from adding a little smiley face next to the comment-showing her that I was laughing on the inside. Then I advised him to save imaginary play involving guns, fighting, the military, hunting, God, and Christmas-all permitted at home but taboo in school-for at-home play.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Let Your Baby Chew on Your iPhone

Babies are just as fascinated with iPhones as their parents. Of course they use iPhones, and any Android phone, in different ways than we do. We text, they chew. We talk, they babble into the drool covered mouth piece. I've never lost a cell phone to drool, but I have certainly had to replace my key fob once or twice.

When a mother gets desperate she'll give baby just about anything to keep him quiet, whether it is breastfeeding in the grocery line while unloading the cart (yes, I've done that), providing candy as a peace offering, or handing over the cell phone. Tonight, during a late night run to the store for last minute sugar cubes for a school project, I found what appears to be the greatest invention ever for any mother who has an infant or toddler and has an iPhone.

Fisher Price has come up with the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Aptivity Case, a protective case for the iPhone or iPod Touch that is part toy steering wheel, part rattle, part teether, and it allows babies to play apps too. Assuming that this toy works as well as it is said to, I think this is the coolest Christmas gift ever for mom, or baby. I didn't buy one since Davey is old enough to know that you don't chew on high-end electronics, and I don't have an iPhone. However, if it was made to fit an Android I probably would have spent the money just to try it out. I can tell you one thing. If they come out with an aptivity case for the iPad I'll be first in line.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Boy and His First Car

If you follow my blog you know that Dave and Austin bartered deck-work for a car. A couple of months ago an ad on Craigslist offered a classic car as payment for building a simple deck. We're pretty innovative and resourceful, so we accepted the challenge. What better way to "buy" your kid his first car than to help him earn it, through manual labor supervised by Dad. Between football practices and spending time with his girlfriend, Abby, Austin has worked tirelessly (and Dave too) to earn his car. Two days ago their efforts were rewarded when Freddy, the homeowner, handed over title to the '67 Chevy, Chevelle Malibu.

We immediately called a friend of a friend to replace the brakes in preparation for the inaugural drive. Austin, driving permit in hand, drove the Chevelle home yesterday.

Austin proudly takes the driver's seat.
Without labor nothing prospers.  ~Sophocles

Austin spent today washing and polishing the Chevelle, and taking it for a spin or two. He wiped down the interior, and we talked about paint colors, new wheels and the bigger engine that will transform it into a true muscle car. I drove it home from dropping Austin off at Abby's house this afternoon. As I pulled out of the driveway waving goodbye, I couldn't help but to feel like I was reliving a scene from Thelma and Louise. I have to admit, driving a classic car is pretty cool. Much like decorating with antiques instead of new furniture, classics have character, charm and a story to tell. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blow the Dust Off the Scrapbooking Supplies, It's Time to Make Fall Party Invitations

It's been too long, almost two years, since we entertained a big group in our house, so I'm looking forward to hosting Austin's party and am having fun with party prep. I decided to set the bar high by making handmade fall themed party invitations from heavy card stock and fall embellishments. I dusted off my old scrapbooking supplies that have been stored in the basement waiting to be brought back to life on the pages of a photo album. The kids watched curiously as I cut and trimmed shapes, meticulously attached adhesives and stickers and transformed ideas into a stack of festive fall party invitations.

I realized as I worked that years have passed since I made cards by hand. My girls, who are familiar with Evites and fliers for birthday parties, have missed out on the craft of card making and scrapbooking. When the oldest Dermody's were young I worked until all hours of the night putting together baby books and christening invitations from thousands of sheets of decorative paper. Then life got too hectic I guess, with so many babies. Making Austin's 16th birthday party invitations reminded me of how much I love crafting and proved to me that I can start crafting again, now that the kids are a little older.

I know how much I appreciate receiving something in the mail that is not junk or a bill; there is something special about receiving a handmade invitation.

My plans for centerpieces and decorations for Austin's birthday party follow the same homespun theme as the invitations. My mom rescued 30 glass jars from the recycle bin that I plan to repurpose into hand stenciled votive holders for lining the walkways. Unique, my favorite thrift store, will have plenty of supplies to transform into table centerpieces and table dressings. Stay tuned for more pictures as the plans come together.

See pictures of the stenciled votive holders in the October 31 post titled "Fall Party Decorations" 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Every Preschooler Needs an iPad

An Apple - iPad2 (or slightly bigger and less expensive original  iPad) is worth every dollar for the practicality, entertainment and educational value it provides-for me and my 3-year-old. Here's why every preschooler should have one.

Dave bought me an iPad2 for my 40th birthday. Because I am a freelance writer and blogger, in addition to a busy mother, I have to use my time wisely. Some days the only writing that I get done is in the "Kiss and Ride" pick-up line at school (where kids are dropped off and picked up instead of taking the bus) or on the bleachers watching warm-ups before a ball game. With 3G capability, which costs about $30 every couple months or so, I am connected to the web just about anywhere. I can type a quick reminder note on the virtual notebook, check email, write an introduction to an upcoming article that I have put together in my head but not on paper or kill a few pigs playing Angry Birds.

Unlike an android phone which is too small for adult size fingers, or a bigger and bulkier laptop, the iPad is perfectly sized. It slips right into my purse like a small day-planner. It is also very easy for Davey to tote around under his arm. He doesn't leave home without it.

Davison is a 3-year-old iPad pro. The creators at Apple know how to make technology easy to use, for sure. From mastering the simple power button on the outside, to finding Netflix and playing Episode 2 of the old Spider Man cartoons, Davison knows just what buttons to push, where to tap the screen, and how to make the scene bigger by spreading his thumb and forefinger apart. The iPad is a handheld game system, portable TV, digital reader, even an MP3 player. An entire library of movies, downloadable books and educational games is available at the tap of a screen. Pop in a pair of headphones and your little one will be grooving to the tunes of the Bare Naked Ladies Snacktime! CD on download (All of my kids have loved Snacktime!) and drawing on a digital Etch-A-Sketch while waiting at a doctor's office or even at a red light.

I can already see my mother shaking her head in disgust that I would even suggest a $600 toy for a child. She would say that kids don't need $600 computer toys. They need books and a backyard. I agree, those things are very important too.

One goal that Steve Jobs accomplished with his innovative Apple products was easy to use, multi purpose tools to make living easier and technology work for you. Anything that makes a mother's job easier, and keeps the kids happier during not-so-fun errands and appointments, is worth it in my book. The entertainment value and practicality of the iPad make it well worth the investment.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: Writing History

I have to admit, I was saddened at hearing the news that Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder, died today. My first response to the news on the car radio as I drove Cal and Landon home from football practice was anger. Cancer makes me very angry. Cancer has taken too many people that I love, too early. Then I started to feel sad. He was only 56.
Obviously I didn't know Steve Jobs personally, although he was said to have been my father-in-law's neighbor (and Dave's too I suppose) growing up in Northern California-according my kids who had spoken with their grandfather about it before. But losing someone who has been so influential on our world, technology and our children is sad. That one man could be so brilliantly intellectual and business savvy is extraordinary. Someday our kids' kids will learn about Steve Jobs and the Apple empire that he co-founded in history books-digital versions of course. Thanks for Apple, Pixar (I particularly love Toy Story) and for being a leader in innovation for our generation. Rest in peace Steve Jobs.

Oh My Aching Head

Thankfully Landon is a go to kind of guy. I have a raging head cold that hit from out of nowhere. I conveniently left a crowbar on the bathroom floor, and today as I was running kids all over creation with a throbbing head ache, Landon tore up two of the four layers of nasty vinyl flooring in the bathroom. He even cleaned up the mess! Ladies get in line. He is only 12 now but someday he is going to make a great husband.
Tomorrow's job is to tear out the remaining flooring; adhesive, staples and all and framing a small built-in magazine holder in the wall, to keep the magazines organized. This tiny bathroom has no extra space so I am going into the walls to find some. Then the fun begins with choosing floor tile, wall color, fixtures and putting the bathroom back together.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another Day of Sports and Bathroom Remodeling

The first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning was my throbbing foot, which reminded me of the bathroom project waiting downstairs. I stepped right on a nail while trying to remove the baseboard trim-long story. I guess that's what I get for wearing flip flops and redoing bathrooms. Here is a picture of the project just as we started stripping the wall paper.

In case you are wondering, yes, that is paint over the paper. When we moved in I couldn't tolerate the circa 1983 country printed wall paper so I painted over it. It was a temporary fix and worried about how difficult it would be to strip off later, but I did it anyway.

Stripping wall paper is simple if you know how to do it. I used a spray bottle of water on this bathroom and in the past have used a 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water mixture on other projects. The key, getting the paper wet enough that it scrapes off easily. I peeled off the top layer but the bottom layer was more stubborn. I sprayed it until it was fairly soaked. Waited about two minutes, and then scraped it off with a handy little paper scraper from Lowes. (It comes with a scorer too. Very useful if the water just can't penetrate the layers of paper. Scoring little holes allows water to penetrate behind the paper.)

Removing the toilet and sink with vanity was not as hard as I thought it would be. Luckily Landon helped by reading tutorials online and following the steps. He has issues with textures so there was no way he was touching anything gross. I got to do those parts. Removing the toilet exposed the grossest stuff by far. The wax ring was horrifying and I was appalled by the gross stuff around the toilet and what had absorbed into the floor and sub-floor over the years.
The floor is all cleaned up now and I stuffed an old hand towel down the hole temporarily.

I would like to get the layers of floor (two layers of vinyl over two different layers of sub-floor) but Cal and Landon have a football game today and Evi and Lily have swim team, so I have to get moving. I have to admit that I am a little stressed about getting the floor out easily. I better find the big crowbar for the job.

Oh yeah, I have to call a plumber too. It looks like I kind of broke the plastic drain pipe while ripping the sink and vanity from the wall at 4:00am. Don't tell Dave.

Renovate the Bathroom in Time for the Party

Whenever Dave travels with the military I redo a room. Sometimes I just clean and organize from top to bottom, maybe rearrange furniture. I don't plan the projects. I just seem to get inspired when he goes away. Maybe it's something to pass the time.
Today Dave left for Turkey. It's a rainy day so I was looking forward to a day at home, getting ready for the busy week ahead of managing things on my own. I started cleaning the foyer and then my nice room. I like those two places to be neat and, well, perfect.
My self diagnosed ADD kicked in next. I cleaned the craft room and pulled out the supplies I bought to make Austin's 16th birthday party invitations. The party is just around the corner. I started thinking about my house and how much I hate that it is old and ugly. I decided that I better get cleaning and decorating for fall in time for the party to make the house look a little better. I don't know what came over me next but I started pulling the old, dingy, smelly wallpaper off the walls in the half bathroom. Just like that. Within minutes I decided I was going to do a remodel. That was about 12 hours ago and I didn't stop once until now. I even put the little kids to work with water bottles and scrapers and let them enjoy themselves stripping wallpaper for me. They were great at it!
In just 12 short hours I stripped all the paper, removed the toilet, sink and vanity and put them at the curb. (I'll post them on Freecycle in the morning.) I removed all trim, crown molding, and chair rail. Chair rail is at the curb too. I filled all the holes in the walls from the kids getting a little overzealous with their scrapers and sanded the spackle once it was dry. I started an attempt at pulling up the old vinyl floor to reveal another older layer of sub-floor and vinyl underneath. That's when I threw in the towel.
I didn't get the invitations started but I did get lots of cleaning done and a remodel started. Now I am one step closer to being prepared for the party. Of course the invitations might have been a better project to get started with. I guess I'll get to that once the bathroom is presentable. I took pictures to share. I'll post them tomorrow.