Monday, March 21, 2016

Valentine's Day Party Ideas

It's almost spring party time, which reminded me I had some ideas to share from Valentines.

I quit the classroom party circuit in kindergarten. That was the year I dutifully signed up to bring a "winter party" treat. I had no idea the chaos that awaited me when I drove up to the school that day. Along with dozens of other parents (and grandparents, aunts, siblings, step parents, cousins...) I filed into a crowded classroom where the kids were munching on  a smorgasbord of sugar, just in time for the bus ride home. There were more cookies and cupcakes than you could shake a sugar cane stick at. I believe there was a mind-numbing craft of some kind. Did I mention there was a lot of candy?

Obviously there were plenty of other parents with the time and money to take care of this kind of junk (food). For years I have stayed away, content to pilfer any chocolate leftovers that might survive the trip home. Entertaining (and feeding) 25 schoolchildren has never been a calling for me. 

Until a few weeks ago. I could hardly believe the third grade teacher's repeated pleas for parental oversight of the Valentine's party had gone unanswered. Then I remembered my son complaining that they did not have any treats at their last party. Had the spark for classroom parties fizzled out? Hath hearts frozen over? What a pity. 

So there I was. Pouring over Pinterest, determined to save Valentine's Day for Miss C's class. It was refreshing to have a reason to be Pinterest, and the party ended up being quite fun. There was a reasonable abundance of treats, and the kids were laughing and smiling. Which is the point of a party, after all.

Valentine's Classroom Party for Third Grade

Pretzel rods
Sugar cookies
Capri Sun
Packaged Brownies

Conversation Heart Bingo
Creating Valentines
Love Letter Mad Libs 
Guess the Number of Candies in the Jar 

Conversation Heart Bingo
I found several bingo sets, but it was difficult to find one that made sense for a classroom of 25. For example, there are several that have Valentine-themed pictures on them. Many did not have BINGO or other letters to identify columns, so I'm not sure how the calling would work. 

This is the bingo set I used. The cards printed nicely in black and white, and there are blank templates to fill so you can accommodate the number needed. I had to create call numbers, which I just did on little shreds of paper, and put them in a plastic baggy. For markers, we passed out cupcake wrappers with conversation hearts in them. You could just give each student a box of hearts, but my drugstore was out by the time I picked up supplies. It may or may not have been 9 pm the night before.

We played two rounds and gave out two small prizes in about 15 minutes.  ❤️AMORE

Creating Valentines
Another mom (bless her heart) brought heart cut-outs and peel-and-stick hearts for the kids to decorate. They were able to use markers or crayons from their desk to decorate as well. I didn't get the details but they looked like items you might find in the dollar bins at Target or Michael's. Easy peasy.๐Ÿ’› I'M SURE

Love Letter Mad Libs
This was personally my favorite part. I brought two story sheets as a back up activity and I'm glad, because we needed them. After a brief explanation of the game, the kids took turns giving me verbs, adjectives, etc. to fill in the blanks. They didn't know they were writing a love letter, and the result was hilarious. ๐Ÿ’œ TRUE LOVE

Guess the Number of Candies in the Jar
I bought a small jar with a lid for $1 and filled it with M&M's. The kids wrote their name and their guess on the back of their bingo sheet. They had a great time guessing but the closest guess got to take them home! ๐Ÿ’– THE ONE

Other Ideas for a Class Party
Read a book or story about Valentines
Storybook charades
Watch a video. Or better yet, make a video 
Standup routine -compile kid-friendly jokes

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Recently Read: The Plans I Have For You by Amy Parker, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is one children's book your kids will ask for you to read again and again. You'll happily oblige, because it's a quick read that will fulfill your bedtime routine. And, the message is incredibly important! Every child should feel early on that they have a God-given purpose on Earth, and they should be instilled with the confidence to pursue it. This book would make a great baby shower gift for expecting or new parents, or for a young child's milestone birthday. I could see this being an awesome kindergarten or fifth birthday gift. 

I enjoyed reading The Plans I Have For You with our seven and eight-year-old boys. One of the greatest joys of parenting is watching them blossom into independent, productive and happy young people. This story is a great tool to accompany the journey.

Years ago, I purchased a Dr. Seuss title with a very similar message, albiet without mention of God. I have read it to my son many times. This Plans I Have For You is a similar story to emphasize the importance each child carries with them, but from a Christian perspective. In this book, the child learns God has great things in store for them. A child of any age (Me! Right here!) likes to be reminded of this!

Besides the similarity to the popular Seuss book, the other thing that strikes me right away is the beautiful, bright illustrations. Children from various backgrounds are depicted in vivid, full page illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Between the pictures and the easy-to-follow rhymes written by author Amy Parker, it's a fun, quick read. Tuck the kids into bed filled with inspiration and joy and then relax, because you've done something good for your kids today. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, October 26, 2015

5 Ways to Enjoy Tastykake Mini Cupkakes

When I was young, one of my favorite treats was actually when mom's pantry was empty. That's because it meant a stop at the gas station for breakfast. On those mornings, I'd choose a pair of chocolate cupcakes; you know, the ones with the white squiggles on top. Sweet satisfaction!

Imagine  my delight when my first Influenster VoxBox arrived with a smaller (but more grown up?) version of one of my favorite childhood treats. Yay! Talk about a mini win! Influenster is a community of 1.5 million socially savvy shoppers that test and review products. 

The first thing they asked me to review is food. Eat these, they said. Write about the eating, they said. OK! With a full box at my disposal, I was happy to test and approve the following uses for Tastykake mini cupkakes.

1. Bribe your kids to finish homework/clean their room/eat dinner/etc.
2. After the kids have gone to bed, indulge in Tastykakes Minis + ice cream/milk/pick your pleasure
3. Send a secret snack with a love note in your kids' or in the hubs' lunchbox for them to find later
4. Keep a stash in your desk drawer at work for emergency situations
5. Unwrap, stack and share a plate of Tastykakes Minis with the fam while watching the football game/movie/etc.

And don't forget, cupkakes are always great for breakfast!

Check out Tastykake's fun social media posts and offers:

Thanks to Influenster for the complimentary tasty treats. Opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cold Camping at Red River Gorge

What possesses a grown woman to give up a cozy bed in favor of the cold, hard ground with overnight temperature dipping into the teens?

There may have been moments she thought--while adjusting the glove warmers tucked inside her boots, gloves and cap--just maybe this wasn't a great idea. Layered inside two sleeping bags and a ridiculous amount of clothing, she shivered and prayed for daylight. But she's mostly forgotten that by now. 

There are few things more gratifying than exploring a place you've never been before, a place you may never visit again. If you're open minded, you don't have to travel far to find a decent weekend adventure. 

The Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky has been the scene of many such adventures for me. While I typically prefer my feet planted on the ground (as opposed to say, repelling down a rock face) there are incredible views and amazing rock formations to be seen if you're willing to do the work. 

The work at hand during our March 2015 visit was a relatively short hike (about two miles in) along the Sheltowee Trace, which is a main trail through the Gorge. An unofficial (read: potentially hidden) trail provides a quarter-mile ascent to Cloud Splitter. This is a great blog describing the trail and many others at Red River Gorge .

Here are some of our pictures from the weekend. Happy hiking!

Red River Gorge - Cloud Splitter - March 2015

Monday, June 9, 2014

Keep your eye on the ball

After the weekend baseball game, we were winding down and joking around about things. Every now and then I would weave in a serious question. This is the only way I know how to have meaningful conversation with a seven-year-old boy. You have talk about farts and video games, sometimes. At the right time, I said I noticed he was having trouble hitting the coach's pitches, and asked what he thought we should do to get better. I was not expecting his response. 

"Mom, I see that ball coming and I just close my eyes..."

After a good laugh, I reiterated the same clichรฉ I've heard a million times. 

"You have to keep your eyes open! Keep your eyes on the ball."

 I threw a couple fake punches over his left shoulder and he practiced not flinching. It's going to take a lot more practice and whiffle balls to get this done. 

After correcting or advising my son, it always exposes my own shortcomings.
Stop worrying.
Try harder.
Don't say bad words. 
Keep your eye on the ball. 

Keep your eye on the ball. The pile of things I want to accomplish seems to keep growing meanwhile I'm busy just trying to keep up with my job, some dishes and laundry. It gets more and more difficult to focus on what's important. 

I think I just need to open my eyes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Bachelor Extreme Real World Makeover Edition

had a lot of housework to catch up on over the past weekend and I found myself pondering over some of life’s mysteries while washing five sink-loads of dishes. Inevitably my mind wandered to the impending finale of yet another Bachelor season on ABC.

I don't know why I spend any amount of time watching or wondering about this show, but it is a little escape from my very real life, including all those dishes. I watch The Bachelor and I'm woman enough to admit it.

So I was in the kitchen, in my pajamas and up to my elbows in dishwater. I started thinking to myself, it must be easy to fall in love when you're on an all-expenses paid tropical vacation for two months. The show has been on many seasons and I think it's high time the producers shake things up a bit.

I propose a revised bachelor with the following "real world" scenarios:

1.        Bachelor asks the girls out in person. No more cheesy notes delivered via courier. Picture this: Bachelor walks into a room and says “You, you, and you—not you—you, would you like to come on a group date with four other women?”

2.        Everyone keeps their mobile. Who is the bachelor texting at dinner?

3.        The second date is dinner at Chili’s, not a private picnic overlooking secluded snow-capped bluffs and a rambling river. I love Chili's, but who's paying? While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the chauffeurs. Better take it easy on the cocktails.

4.        Bachelor gets tickets to the Super Bowl, and can choose one of the ladies or his best friend. 

5. (This one from my friend Mrs. Smith) they should suffer through a good bout of flu together. 

What experiences would you like to see?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pinteresting Projects: February

If I didn’t spend so much time on Pinterest, I’d probably have more time to do the stuff I am pinning about. Every now and then, I come across a project that doesn’t take away too much time my beloved boards, usually repurposing things I already have around the house. Here’s two recent examples.

Lego Storage

About halfway through a bulk, economy size can of Folger’s, I started questioning why I purchased such an enormous amount of coffee (that was six months ago). I am the only coffee-drinker in my house. Anyhow, I polished it off and here is the reward: a Lego storage bin for the kiddos.
The original pin for this fantastic idea is here. To complete the project, I only purchased a small can of yellow spray paint. Of course, my version doesn’t look as nice because I cut a few corners. Instead of using vinyl cutouts for the face, I drew it with a black Sharpie.

Collage Bookmark

This was supposed to a Valentine’s project for the kids but they were not interested. That didn’t deter me. I collected a cereal box, yarn and old magazines and started cutting to my heart’s content, slapping the scraps together with Mod Podge. This pin was my inspiration, but I created more of a “play on words” using a quote about reading in a ransom note style.  

Check out my other repurposing projects: