Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas is WHEN?

I haven't written in a while. I've been a tad busy.

Unfortunately, our creative homeschool projects have taken a back-burner to projects I have to complete before Christmas ... which just so happens to be two weeks away. But we DID complete O's much-anticipated teepee (which was the ONLY thing, on our first day of homeschool, he said he was looking forward to ... sigh). Thanks to a tutorial from my poppet, O's dad and I were able to complete the new teepee - to coincide with our study of Native Americans - in just one day.

Here's O, playing in his teepee:

And now I'm told it's time for Christmas. Really?!? I haven't started shopping. And in fact, our elf, Leaky Leon (Tongue-click), has forgotten to fly back to the North Pole TWICE this week. Anyone who knows me just stopped dead in their tracks when they read that. But it's true: I've been so darn busy that my eyes feel crossed!

I'm so appreciative for the busy-ness, though. I've been making some REALLY fun things that put smiles on my friends' faces ... and (will eventually) help me put a Christmas present or two under our tree. Although, ahem, there are NONE wrapped under there right now. Though it's far past Thanksgiving (though I feel silly saying that since I feel it just passed yesterday), I should probably state: I'm very thankful for Amazon right now.

I feel like a Scrooge! But, hey, the temperature here is supposed to reach a balmy 70-degrees tomorrow, which has been commonplace around here so far this fall; I even stepped on a wasp - barefoot, of course - last week (ouch!), so perhaps there's no better year to feel like a Scrooge since it feels FAR from Christmas around here right now. Who, after all, can get into the Christmas spirit when it feels like May?!?

In all seriousness, I miss the years when Christmas was magical. I try to re-create that for my kids. But, alas, I'm watching as my "big" girls - now 15 and 16 - are starting to wrestle with growing up, too; they want Christmas like it used to be. My oldest daughter asked me about a week ago if I would "do fun Christmas things" with all my babies this weekend. We planned it for today. She was excited, even texting me from winter formal last night to make sure it was still on my agenda. So I sewed like a mad-woman today to try to clear off my dining room table for the festivities. But I guess winter formal took its toll on her - she vegetated in bed for about four hours today, so the Christmas festivities didn't happen. She said maybe we could do it another day this week ...


Christmas is a sneaky little thing. It doesn't matter how far in advance we start thinking about it; it still seems to sneak up on us every, single year.

I was, however, able to successfully decorate a cake this weekend that blended a momma's desire for a candy-inspired cake (since the party was at a candy shop) and the almost-5-year-old daughter's desire for a Grinch cake. At least I HOPE I successfully did it; they seemed happy with it, and it helped kick my Christmas spirit into gear just a little:

Add the Grinch (perhaps a little fitting for me right now - lol), and you have the perfect candy-shop Whoville cake):

And with that, I've officially completed my 2012 cake-decorating season. Now, my sewing machines are screaming and smoking, and, boy, do I have a looooooong way to go on Christmas gifts.

Two weeks, two days and counting ...

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Math Monsters ... er Munchers. Whatever.

Tubs of paint make me happy. 

So I was giddy to pull O's out this week when it was time to make a little craft for our upcoming lessons about "greater and less" in math. Who knew math could be such fun? Bleh.

In grade school, I remember making the < > marks, then drawing my own teeth on them. Sometimes, I even added 3/4 of a circle to make the signs look like Pacman. I'm sure I wasn't original in doing so.

It made sense because Pacman would always want to eat the bigger of two numbers, right?!

So would Math Munchers, of course. 

So I took a little of one extra degree's Math Munchers idea and, well, added some teeth. 

Using jumbo popsicle sticks, paint, glue, "googly" eyes and white construction paper (oh, and shipping tape - I'll explain that shortly), O and I set out to make some Math Monsters.

O chose the color schemes and decided to make one red with green polka dots. He said he made it for his baby sister because poppies are red with green stems.

A time-saving tip: Use the eraser-end of a pencil to make polka dots.
For even tinier dots, use the "butt"-end of a small paintbrush
or even the tip of a pencil - just wipe it off if you want to use the pencil again.

I love how O's Math Monsters turned out: 

I cut triangles out of white construction paper for teeth. But knowing everything has to be durable around here, I needed to strengthen them up a little. Flouride wouldn't work. And I don't have laminating sheets on hand. I avoid contact paper whenever possible. Clear shipping tape to the rescue. It's simple: Just lay one piece down, sticky side up, lay down whatever small item you're wanting to protect, then lay another piece of the shipping tape, sticky side down, on top. Smash and rub together, and the tape serves as an instant protector and strengthener. (Is that even a word?) 

The "Equals-to" sign is connected by both halves of a smaller popsicle stick, which O painted white. We glued them to the back and then hid them from the front with (now strong and protected) teeth.

I had to stop for a moment and question if my son is a genius when he insisted on placing the googly eye on the corner of his < and > monsters. I had envisioned the eye a little more toward the center of the top stick, which is the reason we needed two symbols - one for "greater" and one for "less." But his decision to put the eye where the sticks meet means we only needed one because < can flip to >. If you think about it, the way I had envisioned it would not have worked that way. 

Apparently, I'm not smarter than a first-grader. 

Now armed with an extra Math Monster, O gave his poppy-inspired monster to Poppi. She didn't want it. She just wanted her mom. 

I told y'all. I wasn't exaggerating. 

(But please note, for the record, she is wearing clothes.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where are that child's clothes??

It just occurred to me - as I was reviewing this blog post from less than an hour ago - that my sweet daughter is clothes-less in




That would be over the course of three different days.


I might want to work on that.

Creative? Who, me?

Still a few days away from when my "big girls" start back to public school, homeschool for my first grader is in full swing. We started back Monday.

The lazy days of summer - watching Spongebob Squarepants and "Good Luck, Charlie" from sun-up to sun-down - have (thankfully) given way to reviews about how nine is the highest possible number that can be placed in the "ones" column of a place-value chart ... and how biologists are sometimes stumped to sort and categorize things by features. We're chatting about common and proper nouns, and O-dawg is facing his first-ever memorization challenge - well, his first teacher-led one; he's, unfortunately, well-versed in the department of, ahem, LMFAO songs.

We also started writing O's "autobiography" today. I was pleased that he listed "Chronicles of Narnia" as his favorite book!

Definitely the hardest part of homeschooling so far has been finding ways to keep Poppi C. entertained while O and I are studying. Last year was hard. She was only a couple months old when we started Kindergarten. But at least she slept. A little. As a toddler, the child literally doesn't sit still.

Just as an example, when I was preparing Monday morning to make O's special back-to-school breakfast - a healthy heaping of chocolate gravy atop buttermilk biscuits with colorful candy sprinkles and, of course, a candle - this is how I discovered Poppi C.:

The week hasn't improved much. 

I've tried letting Poppi play with paint containers, construction paper, magazines and, yes, even food. Over the weekend, I even made homemade finger paint for her using this recipe from Easie Peasie:

Here's Poppi, working on her mess masterpiece: 

But today, neither of my "big girls" were home, so this morning was a good trial run of how the school year is going to be once they start back to school next week. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I had to get really creative to keep Poppi C. entertained. 

Enter my stash of fuzzy pom-pom balls:

Eureka! It worked! 

For 15 minutes. 

... But it worked! 

The only dilemma is that Poppi is one of those children who puts everything in her mouth. And I mean everything. For instance, the mud that's caked on the bottom of her dad's work boots. Yeah, even that.  Thankfully, the fuzziness of the balls appeared to act as a deterrent. 

O and I were able to wrap-up our "Greater-than, More-than and Equal-to" monster craft (more on that later), and all is well with the world. 

Until tomorrow. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

What am I *thinking*?

That's a question I ask myself many times a day.

I have four children. My oldest, Daisy, will be 16 next month. Just 10 days later, my Piper will turn 15. (She's in her last class of Driver's Ed - and I feel worry-lines wrinkling on my face - as I type this very post). My one and only little boy, Oliver (also known as Ollie, O-dawg and/or O) is 6, and my spoiled-rotten little princess, Poppi Clementine, is just 14 months old.

I graduated with a bachelors degree in English - and, interestingly, a minor in Women's Studies - in 2001. I quit my decade-long job as an award-winning newspaper reporter in 2006, just after my son was born. And then my adventures as a stay-at-home mom began. And I guess you could say I've enjoyed being a domestic goddess ... because when it came time for O to start school, I couldn't bear the idea of parting company with him. So I decided to become a "teacher," too; we just completed our first year of homeschooling in June.

But, alas, I began to miss my career after leaving it in 2006, and in 2008, I created The Gatton Report, a blog that serves as a "conduit" between the people of my community and our local government. The focus has been on government corruption, and the blog aims to foster open, uncensored dialogue among residents of my county. It has been wildly successful, growing legs almost immediately with the exposure of our town's police chief for wrongdoing. The chief was fired and later indicted. Four years later, he still hasn't had his day in court, but I digress ...

I still work on the Report from time to time, but it's on an as-needed basis; when government needs to be held accountable, I post. When it seems to be behaving, I don't.

So if I can't don't regularly contribute to my existing, wildly successful local-government blog, what in the world am I thinking by starting another one?

Enter the creative side of me - a side that most of my friends see and interact with regularly ... on Facebook. :)

I'm a jack of all trades ... master of none. I sew. I paint. I make hair bows. Oh, and tutus. I mosaic. I bake. And then I decorate what I bake. I've dabbled in art collages. And even in clay. I CANNOT draw. Or run marathons. That's what I tell people when they ask: "Is there anything you CAN'T do??"

Some people compare me to Martha Stewart. I'm quick to point out I've never been charged or convicted of a felony. (And I plan to keep it that way.) Others have compared me to the "Cake Boss." But I'll let him keep that title, thank you very much.

I'm just little old me, trying to raise my kids in a crazy world ... and keep my blood-pressure intact as I go.

Sometimes, my artsy-fartsy side helps with that. When I allow it to feel like "work," though, I'm afraid it has the opposite effect.

That's why I can't promise this blog will be regularly updated. But I've considered for a year starting it so I can share with people different projects I'm working on and, hopefully, help spark your own creativity. People tell me all the time, "I wish I was as creative as you." The fact is, though, there's nothing I do that hasn't been done before. I learn from other people, too. And I'm a firm believer that *everybody* has "creative" in them; it just may not look like *my* creative. My hope is that in some small way, this blog can help you find your inner artist/craftster.

People have also expressed curiosity from time to time about how I make some of the things I make. So I will attempt to post some picture-filled tutorials explanations from time to time.

Other times, this blog may be my virtual diary, where I talk to myself (and hopefully you) about the joys and pitfalls of being a mom. Or the successes and failures I meet in homeschool. I've always said my life is an open book; I don't hold much back. All in all, this blog will be a dumpster of all the sides of me that *aren't* necessarily "professional." And I'll make the rules up as I go. As everything else in my life, it will likely take on a life of its own. I invite you to join me on the ride. Just make sure you buckle up. ;)