Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Change of Seasons

I don't like cold weather, but I love the change of the seasons. I like when summer cools off and turns into autumn, and leaves change their colors and fall to the ground. Schools starts, a fresh new year for learning. I like the holidays that autumn brings--first Halloween with all the decorations and costumes and treats, then Thanksgiving with the delicious food and family. I love how it turns colder and the first snows come and then comes Christmas and hot chocolate with marshmallows and sitting by the fire. Then I love how it gradually warms up and buds start popping up everywhere, little blades of grass poking through the snow, and little animals and birds everywhere. Then I love when it turns hot and school gets out for the summer and there is the feel of freedom in the air. The days are longer and the nights are warm with starry skies and fireworks popping. There is swimming and playing outside and Popsicles to eat.

I love autumn, probably because it's synonymous with back-to-school. You know, autumn leaves and school buses, kids playing on the playground, crunching the leaves, wearing jackets to the bus stop in the morning but layering so when the day warms up, they can take the jacket off. I just love the change of the season from summer into autumn, but probably because I love the start of a new school year.

I love buying new school supplies. I love the idea of a fresh start. In fact, I used to teach school, and while I don't really want to be teaching right now, at this time of year, I envy teachers and the fresh start they get. They get to set up their classrooms to greet a whole new batch of students. They get to make new plans and try new ideas and implement the old ones that are successful. I miss that part about teaching and every year as a new school year is getting underway, I wish I could be a part of it.

Welcome, Autumn!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How Much?

How much is enough and how much is too much?

It's a pretty common thing for parents these days (maybe it's always been like this) to pick out something they want their child in and put them in it from a very young age and then add more and more things to their activity list until they are overwhelmed and exhausted.

In a way, it robs a child of an otherwise care-free childhood. But because the world is so competitive, parents want their child to have a leg up. I understand that.

I'm not really attacking other parents here. I just worry that I'm not doing enough for my children in that aspect. We can't afford a whole lot of activities, so often, we have to pick and choose. Our oldest took a community art class in the spring, and because money was tight, he was the only one enrolled in something at the time. This fall, I have signed my daughter up for dance and my older two boys will be doing flag football, but I don't have anything to put my 4-year-old boy in and I worry that I'm shorting him somehow by not.

That's the thing. I don't want to overschedule my kids; I'm kind of against that, actually. My fear is that I will miss something they are good at and they won't have an opportunity to develop their talents. After all, I wouldn't want them to waste a talent (see The Parable of the Talents). I think that childhood is the best time to learn new things. Not that you can't as an adult, but I spend my time and effort right now teaching my children and don't have a lot of time leftover for developing my talents. But I had plenty of time growing up to do that.

So how much is enough? My boys have been able to participate in a variety of different sports--baseball, flag football, basketball, and a little soccer and gymnastics. They've taken art classes and Spanish class. They take piano lessons (from me--it's free). But we don't have the funds, and I'm not sure I want to dedicate that much time away from family life, to have them participate so fully that they become extremely skilled.

What happened to the days where kids learned to play baseball and football by playing with their siblings and the neighbor kids and then if they wanted to pursue the sport, they played in high school?

These days, if your child hasn't been playing since, well, childhood, by the time they are in high school, they won't be good enough to compete with everyone else.

So that presents a dilemma in my mind. I don't know how to give them these opportunities without overscheduling and exhausting them (and my wallet).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New School Year

*image courtesy Google images

Summer is almost over and in a less than a week, my kids will be starting a new school year.

When my oldest started kindergarten, I went a little nuts buying new clothes and other things for school. I bought him a backpack more than one that year), a lunch case, school supplies, and new clothes (no T-shirts, only nice clothes) and shoes. I walked with him to school, took pictures of him lining up with his class, walking into the school, etc.

When he started first grade, he got a new backpack and a few needed new clothes items plus some school supplies that he didn't already have. I forgot the camera and didn't take any pictures.

When he started second grade and my second child started kindergarten last year, I bought them both several pairs of new jeans and a couple new T-shirts (yes, I downgraded from nice shirts). I don't remember even buying school supplies.

This year, the school hasn't sent us any sort of a list of supplies that are needed, and I'm not going to buy tons of school supplies in case they're needed if they won't be used. Like last year I sent them both with pencils, crayons, pencil boxes, and folders and neither of them used any of those items. Thankfully, those were things we already had.

They're boys. They don't care if they wear cut-off jeans and an old T-shirt to school. They do need new backpacks since last year's backpacks are pretty worn out. I pulled out and dusted off the lunch cases and they are in good condition, a little dirty, but otherwise functional.

So I hesitate to even bother with school shopping. I don't have a school supply list. I bought new jeans at the end of last school year (it was still cold and they needed them!) and those still fit just fine. I bought them new tennis shoes at the end of last school year. Other than a little dirt from camping once, those shoes are fine, not worn out at all. And they are perfectly happy with the lunch cases we already have.

So do I even bother? I just feel like it's nice to start school with something new, but I don't think boys really care. At least my boys don't. Maybe I should shop the clearance racks at Target or Walmart for some new T-shirts and spend $20 or less for the both of them, just so they can have something new.

So how much do you spend on back-to-school for each child? What do you deem necessary or not necessary?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Church Callings

I have been wondering this for some time now.

Why is it that the same people always seem to get the same types of callings?

Aren't callings supposed to help you grow, stretch you, etc?

If you go from being in the primary presidency, to the Relief Society presidency, to the Young Women's presidency, etc., how is it that you're really doing a different calling? And what about others who go from teaching primary in one ward to teaching it in their next ward? Why aren't they given a chance to serve in other callings?

I have one acquaintance who has lived in several different states in the last ten years but everywhere she's lived, she's been in the Young Women's organization, either as a teacher or in the presidency. She's never been able to go to Relief Society on Sundays. She's never had to teach the 4-year-olds or be in the nursery. She's just always with the Young Women's.

When I was growing up, my ward put the same people in those callings over and over again--they just moved from one presidency to another one. When some of those people finally started moving out of the ward, others were finally called and had the opportunity to grow from those callings.

When you move to a new ward, they always ask what callings you've had in the past. Why is that even relevant? Maybe you were the ward choir director in your old ward because you were the only person in the ward who could read music, but you really don't know how to lead a choir. Maybe in your old ward you were the only active person able to fulfill a calling in a presidency.

I know that we've been taught that callings are from the Lord, but I don't believe He whispers into the ears of the bishopric every time a calling is issued. In college, I was once the Sacrament Meeting prayer coordinator. I had to find people to give the opening and closing prayers for Sacrament Meeting. I think that sometimes, a calling needs to be filled and you're available, so they call you and since it doesn't feel wrong, they go with it. It's not always "inspired", so to speak, not in the way of "so-and-so needs to be the Sacrament Meeting prayer coordinator," but "things might go more smoothly on Sunday morning if we already have people picked out to give the prayers. Who doesn't have a calling that we can assign this to?"

That is what I think about callings.

A Lesson Gleaned from Parenting

I've been thinking lately about how parenthood makes us grow and the thought came to my mind that we become parents because we need to re-learn life lessons as we teach them to our children.

Ever have to tell a child who's looking for a missing puzzle piece, "Don't worry, it will turn up," and then have to tell that to yourself the very next day when you can't find your wedding ring?

Ever tell a child that sometimes you have to make a hard decision, but in the end it will be worth it if you do your best and then you have a hard decision to face but don't want to make it?

Often I find myself giving advice to my children that I still haven't learned to completely follow. It's stuff we all know we should do, know, understand, believe, etc., but it's hard advice to follow ourselves. Yet they are all important lessons to learn.

Sometimes as I'm imparting such wise words to my children, I stop and think to myself about how I can live those words better and be a better example to my children by practicing what I preach.

Of course, there are always those things that you can never learn unless you experience it for yourself. Like parenthood.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture and Self-Entertainment

How much of how our children are is because of nature and how much is because of nurture? Are somebody's kids always bored and unimaginative because they were born that way, simply not creative to think up things to do to entertain themselves, or are they that way because since they were little children, they've spent countless hours playing video games or watching television?

I know this is an age-old argument, and I don't really feel like arguing. But often, because I have five children and seem like I have control over my life, other mothers sometimes ask me advice. And often I have no advice to give because my kids are, well, just the way they are. That's how they've been since they were little. They like to entertain themselves. They are creative and spend a lot of their time creating games and engaging in highly imaginative play.

So I wonder if they are that way because I've always encouraged imaginative play over television watching and video game playing? In fact, we didn't even own a video game system until just last Christmas and the only computer games the kids were allowed to play were on the PBS kids website. Or are they that way because it's genetic? I was a very imaginative child who would spend hours doing the same types of activities I find my own children doing, without the encouragement or direction of my parents. If that's true, then why would ALL my children have turned out like me, since my husband was quite the opposite--the only real exercise and outside play he got growing up was from organized sports and in his down-time, he watched TV a lot.

We are now nine weeks into summer, with only three weeks remaining, and yesterday around 4 pm was the first time any one of my children had uttered the dreadful words, "I'm bored." In playgroups, a common discussion is how to beat summer boredom. Although I could list all the things my kids like to do, I can't take credit for it because they do all those things on their own. So I wonder, is it something I've done by example, since I tend to be a pretty creative, imaginative person myself and spend time playing with my kids a lot so they learned how from me (nurture), or is it nature, a gene they inherited from me that gave them a natural knack for coming up with something to do?

What do you think about the activities and things your children take interest in and the whole nature/nurture argument?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is Chivalry Dying?

My friend in Arizona posted on Facebook today of how hot she was sitting her car with no AC waiting to drop her son off at school. The reason she was in a car with no AC was because her husband took her car to work. The family vehicle they have, a minivan, has AC, but the smaller compact car he drives has no AC. Usually, her husband car pools with someone, but because he was planning on leaving work early, he wasn't getting the usual ride, so the plan they came up with was for him to take the car with AC because he drives 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes back and she only had to take the oldest child to school. They have two other younger children and it wasn't specified in her post where the younger children were at the time of the school drop-off. I'd imagine they'd be with her unless she has someone watch them while she drops the older one off. Also, my friend suffers from MS, which is exacerbated by the extreme heat in Arizona. Despite her condition, her husband accepted a job which relocated the family from Utah to Arizona. He did already have a decent-paying job with benefits in Utah, just one he didn't absolutely love.

So that's the situation.

In my opinion, her husband should have let her have the car with the AC. After all, the no AC affects more than just her, since kids will be riding in that car as well AND since she has the health condition which is so adversely affected by the heat, she should have gotten the car with the AC, even though it was only five minutes to the school, she still had to wait in the drop off line.

First of all, I also think it was selfish of him to go out looking for a job in a place that causes her health condition to worsen, accept said job, and move the family there. She was excited for a new adventure, and I can understand that. But he should have thought it through more, and, being a caring husband, considered her health when deciding to move the family to such a hot place.

Secondly, I think it extremely selfish of him to not allow her the car with the AC. Even if it was her idea to have him take that car, he should have been chivalrous and declined, insisting that she, the mother of his children, the woman in his life, and the one suffering from this health condition, should have it. It's only one day, and men should be willing to give up their creature comforts for their women. I think that is being a true gentleman. She, being a true lady, should have been gracious and willing enough to accept it.

But men are not like that anymore. They are simply too selfish to consider putting someone else's needs above their own. It's a pitfall of modern society. It's a result of years of feminism being hounded into them that they shouldn't sacrifice anything for a woman because she is manly enough to take care of herself.

Anyway, I'm still mad from reading her post. I even wrote that her husband should have taken the car with the no AC and she said he couldn't have because of his longer drive, but I still disagree. He would have been fine. Yet now she is unable to do anything for the rest of the day because she had to sit in that heat.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Grammar Tip #1: Plural nouns, possessive nouns, contractions

I have written about this before, but I decided that every once in a while, I will write a grammar tip. Grammar and mechanics skills are starting to really go downhill and I get really tired of seeing the same mistakes over and over again. Not that I'm perfect, but I try to always look over my writing before I post to make sure the grammar and mechanics are correct. My 7th grade grammar teacher ground those grammar rules into our heads and always emphasized the importance of grammar and mechanics in literacy.

So, here is the tip of the day.

When making a word plural, the usual way is to add the letter "s" at the end. You do not ever add an apostrophe before the "s" to make it plural. This is a very common mistake I see in blogs and all over Facebook and it drives me positively bonkers.


"I can't wait for my kid's to go back to school."

should be

"I can't wait for my kids to go back to school."

The time that you actually use the apostrophe is when it's a possessive noun or a contraction:

My kid's bike (one kid, one bike)
My kids' bikes (more than one kid, more than one bike)

does not=doesn't
will not=won't
you all=y'all (This one is commonly wrong--you all is contracted y'all, not ya'll. If it was ya'll then it would be a contraction for ya all, not you all.)

And there you have it. Plural nouns, possessive nouns and contractions all rolled into one short lesson.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Thoughts on Preschool

We become enamored with men's theories such as the idea of preschool training outside the home for young children. Not only does this put added pressure on the budget, but it places young children in an environment away from mother's influence. It is mother's influence during the crucial formative years that forms a child's basic character. Home is the place where a child learns faith, feels love, and thereby learns from mother's loving example to choose righteousness. How vital are mother's influence and teaching in the home--and how apparent when neglected!
--Ezra Taft Benson

I have very strong opinions on preschool. Although there are probably a myriad of reasons to put your child in preschool, I think the general population has been duped into believing it is a necessary step for a child's education. Even if kindergarten has become the new first grade, as it has in some places, I still don't buy into this notion.

When I hear someone talking about putting their young 3-year-old in preschool, I cringe. I'm a firm believer that a child's own play is a great learning tool to help them make sense of their world and interrupting that play while they are too young to shove academics at them is wasting their precious early childhood years. It robs them of some great learning they can do on their own. A great resource on how important of a role that play has in early childhood is the book "Piggyback Rides and Slippery Slides" by Lynnae W. Allred.

Even though I don't put my own kids in preschool, I do teach them the basics at home starting at the age of 4, or the year before they will be starting school. Some basic academic teaching before starting school isn't a bad thing. The issue is how much is too much and what is necessary and what isn't?

I've had people comment to me when I bring up my opinions on this that not everyone can teach their own kids how to read or write or do math, etc. Generations of people have done it before this day and age when we can just pop our kid in the nearest preschool. And they've been successful. So why can't we be?

It's mostly about reading to them. You read to them every day. When they start showing more interest in actually reading, you teach them that words are made up of letters and individual letters have sounds. How do you teach that? You point to an easy word and point out each letter and tell them the sound each letter makes. Then you start teaching the ABC's. The most basic way to do that would be to write a letter, say the letter B, on a piece of paper. Have them trace it with their finger. Then say, "This is B. B makes this sound /b/." Then you name anything you see from where you are that starts with letter B. You do this for about a week and then you move on to another letter. That would be the most basic way. If you want to go more advanced, then you come up with activities for each letter. For B, you could go into a bounce house and bounce. You could go bowling. You could make an outline of a big letter B and get some buttons and let them glue the buttons onto the letter B. You see where this is going.

I think that any parent who knows how to read (and therefore knows letter sounds), knows how to count, knows how to distinguish between the basic colors of the rainbow and the basic shapes (triangle, square, circle, rectangle) can teach their kids the basics that will give them a leg up in kindergarten. If they don't make it a stressful "sit-down-and-learn" situation, they just go with the learning flow, it is something that is as natural as teaching your child to pray or even just play.

The key is to use the world around you to help your kids learn. Every moment is a learning moment in the life of a preschool-age child. If you use that and answer your child's questions and are reading to them every day, there is no need to pay money for preschool.

I just get so tired of listening to parents who think they don't have the ability to teach their own children the basics of academics. I don't think parents need to make sure their kids are reading before they go to school and I could see how the thought of teaching them to be reading completely would be overwhelming. But if the child has a basic knowledge of the letters and counting, they will be successful at school. Are they more successful than peers who didn't do any preschool? I doubt it. Are they less successful than their peers whose parents paid premium amounts for a highly academic preschool? I doubt that too.

I realize too that many parents put their kids in preschool to get a break from them. I agree that a break from your kids is something that is needed, but I think there are a number of ways to accomplish this without having to entrust them to someone else for learning during their most formative years.

If you want some home preschool teaching ideas, you can check out my preschool blog here. I will be adding some more basic teaching ideas like the one I discussed above and perhaps start keeping more of a record of those teaching moments that just happen upon us during the day to give ideas for that.

I realize everyone is entitled to their own opinion and may have their own valid reasons for putting their child in preschool. But don't expect sympathy if you whine to me about the cost of preschool as a factor in the high cost of raising kids. Early learning is so natural to just do at home that the cost of preschool is something you can easily forgo.

Putting together our alphabet train floor puzzle. As he does this, I have him say the letters and their sounds by looking at the picture. When he's done, we sing the alphabet song, pointing to each letter.

We studied the skeletal system. We put together this poster that I got out of one of my supplemental science workbooks I bought when I was a teacher. He also put the fridge letters in alphabetical order, practicing each letter sound as he went along.
Playing with a popular math manipulative--pattern blocks. I purchased a set of math manipulatives to do with my kids at home.

We made cookies in the shapes of items that begin with the letter "C". Cat, candy cane, car.
I always teach the letters of my child's name as the first letters they learn. Something a preschool teacher with more than one student couldn't do, but it really helps solidify those letters in their brain because they can immediately relate those letters to something very familiar.

Tutorial: Making a T-shirt Dress

As I have spent quite a chunk of time the last week making twelve of these T-shirt dresses, I thought I'd share my method.

Materials needed:
a T-shirt
3/4 yard of 45" fabric to 1-1/3 yard (depending on shirt size)
sewing machine
measuring tape
iron & ironing board

Step One:
Measure your fabric. These were all made from children's size T-shirts. Two large, two medium, one small, one extra small, then 4T, (two) 24 M, 12 M and two different sized onesies--3-6 month and 0-3 month. Here are the measurements I used:

Large T-shirts--made from 1-1/3 yard (4 feet). Cut two pieces of 4 feet of fabric that are 10" and 12". If your girl is a little taller, go one or two inches longer on each piece.
Medium T-shirts--made from 1-1/3 yard. 9" and 11" pieces.
Small T-shirt--made from 1 yard. 8" and 10" pieces.
Extra small T-shirt--made from 1 yard. 7" and 9" pieces.
4T Shirt--made from 1 yard. 7" and 9" pieces.
24 M shirts--made from 30 inches, 5/6 yard. 6" and 8" pieces
12 M shirt--made from 30 inches, 5/6 yard. 5" and 7" pieces
3-6 M onesie (the one demonstrated)--made from 27 inches, 3/4 yard. 4" and 6" pieces
0-3 M onesie--same as the 3-6 M onesie

Step Two:
Cut the fabric. I measured all the way down and drew a line to cut along with a pencil. If you have a cutting mat, you won't have to draw the line with a pencil.

Step Three: Fold fabric so right sides are together and sew at the end 5/8" from edge. Then press the seam.

Step Four:
Press hemline by folding over and then folding it under the first fold and pressing.

Step Five:
Sew the hemline.

Step Six:
Layer the two pieces with the shorter piece on the inside. Right sides are both facing the inside. Line up at the seam with raw , unhemmed edges lined up.

Step Seven:
Using a longer stitch selection on your machine, sew 5/8" from edge. It might help to pin these edges together. I did that on some dresses and others I didn't.

Step Eight:
Stitch another gathering stitch with a longer stitch length just 1/4" from the first one, closer to the edge. (1/2" or 4/8" from edge). I find it's easier to gather the fabric if you use two gathering stitches instead of only one.

Step Nine:
With right sides together, pin seam of skirt at seam of shirt. On the onesies, do this right above the leg hole opening. On the T-shirts, do it at the lower edge of shirt. Then gather the skirt until it matches the T-shirt/onesie width.

Step Ten:
Pin the gathered skirt to the T-shirt all the way around. Make your stitch length smaller again on your machine and stitch 5/8" (to match where the 5/8" gathering stitch is) all the way around.

Finally, turn it right side out and you have a T-shirt dress!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Always There

Today I got to go on a special mommy-son date with my oldest son. As we were walking to our destination and he was talking my ear off, it occurred to me that I can barely remember what it was like to not have this person in my life.

That's kind of how it is with all my kids, even my new baby. It just seems like they've always been a part of my life. Even when I think back to my childhood, my teen years, my college days, I can't seem to picture it without them. In fact, I've had many, many dreams since having kids where I am back walking those halls of those schools, participating in all the things I did, but my children are all there with me.

I just can't seem to remember what my life was like without my kids. It's like I've always known them.

I'm so grateful for them. They might make my days hard, even unbearable sometimes, but they are still so sweet and wonderful, with their little personalities shining through and we have so much fun together.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Hobby: Making Cakes

I can't exactly call what I do "cake decorating" because I really am quite inexperienced and all that I do, I just do for fun.

When I was a kid, my mom always made fun cakes for our birthdays. When I turned three, I got a cake made in the shape of a house decorated with candy. When I turned seven, my mom made a princess cake, using a Barbie doll and making the cake as the skirt. That was before that became a common type of cake. There were quite a few others, but those two really stick out in my memory.

So I decided to borrow a page from her book (I seem to do that a lot!) and started making fun cakes for my kids for their birthdays. Now it's the big thing around here on birthdays. We pretty much plan the birthday around the cake!

Turtle cakes: I used a Wilton ball cake pan for the shells and made mini cupcakes for the feet and heads and tail. I used milk chocolate icing for the main shell and body, green buttercream icing for the shell and dark chocolate buttercream for the shell design.
Monkey Tree Cake: I drew the cake shape on paper before cutting it out. It's made from one chocolate 9 X 13 rectangular cake. The monkeys are from a Monkey Barrel game. Buttercream frosting. All my cakes are buttercream frosting.

Train cake: I used mini bread pans for this cake. The coal car has crushed Oreos for coal. The logs are Twix bars. The red you see on the coal car and lumber car are licorice.

Football and Baseball Cakes: I used the Wilton football cake pan and the Wilton ball cake pan for these cakes and basically just followed the instructions that came with the pans.

Football Field Cake: I should have used a metal pan but didn't, that's why I didn't take the cake out of the pan because it wouldn't come out. We found the football players at Hobby Lobby in the cake decorating section.

Baseball Mitt and Ball Cake: This is a two-layer round cake with a cupcake as the baseball. I used two types of chocolate icing for the mitt and then set the cupcake decorated like a baseball on top for the picture. The baseball was then given to my son for his first birthday cake to get all over his face.

Ariel cake: I used my daughter's Ariel doll. I wrapped her legs in plastic and inserted her into the cake. I used a pyrex mixing bowl to bake the cake in. Then I used buttercream icing dyed green, blue and gray to make the fin, rocks, and water.

Butterfly cake: I used the Wilton butterfly cake pan for this cake. It's chocolate with chocolate icing. To make the designs, I put cookie cutters on the wings and sprinkled sprinkles into the cookie cutters for the shapes.

Heart cake: I used heart cake pans to make this two-layer heart cake. The sprinkles are done the same way as the butterfly cake and the sides are edged with marshmallows.

Black widow cake: I used the Wilton ball cake pan for this cake and a cupcake for the head of the spider. Black licorice is used for the legs. If anyone has tips on making black icing taste good, please share. This cake was a hit but it didn't taste very good because of the black dye. Also, after I baked it, I thought that maybe I should have made it out of red velvet, so when it was cut into, it would be like the insides of a spider.

Spider-man on a Building Cake: I made two 9 X 13 rectangular cakes and cut them up to make the building. The Spider-man on top is just a candle.

Firetruck Cake: I made a 9 X 13 cake and cut it in half lengthwise to layer it. I used gum drops for headlights and tail lights, licorice for the ladder, and Oreo cookies for the wheels.

Spider-man Cake: This is just a round two-layer cake decorated to look like Spider-man's face.

Car Cake: I used the Wilton car cake pan for this cake. I actually made a car cake for each of my three boys. Instead of using the wheels that are baked as part of the shape of the cake, I added wheels that were little chocolate donuts and used Life Savers for headlights and tail lights.

Light Saber Cake: I used a 9 X 13 cake pan and cut the pieces up from that, shaping them into the light sabers. The handles are black licorice with red light sabers for the buttons.

This is a Dinotrux Claw Tire Cake. If you haven't read the book Dinotrux by Chris Gall and you have boys, you should. It's great. I made a round two-layer cake and shaped the tire from that. The hubcap is sour green apple licorice, green sprinkles, and green Gobstoppers. The claw on the end is a white Good & Plenty.

Phineas and Ferb Cake: This is from the Disney cartoon, Phineas and Ferb, which my children love. I just made a two-layer 9 X 13 cake with chocolate frosting. Then I made green buttercream frosting. I dyed coconut flakes green for the grass. The figures are little action figures that can be purchased at The Disney Store or The Disney Store online. The tree is made out of Tootsie rolls and green fruity marshmallows.

Ladybug Cake: I used half of a Wilton ball cake pan to make the ladybug. The legs are black licorice. The ladybug sits on a one-layer 9 X 13 cake with chocolate icing.

These are the cakes I've made my kids and others. I'd like to make cakes for special occasions for a little business, but I think I need to hone my skills first and learn to make tastier cakes as well. So far, I only use cake mixes. If I'm going to market them, I ought to learn some good "from scratch" recipes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Chore System

At our house, we have a system for chores. It's not very complex and so far, it works. There are four chores and I have this circular chore chart.

We rotate the chores on a weekly basis. Each chore has a Saturday chore attached to it that the kids do on Saturdays.

This person gathers up the trash from all the trashcans in the house on trash day (once a week) and empties them into the bigger kitchen trash can. They help us take it out to the big trash can and take that trash can to the curb. On laundry days (Monday and Thursday), they move loads from washer to dryer and then take them out of the dryer when it's done.
On Saturday, they vacuum all the carpets, minus the baby's room and our room.

Table Setter:
This person sets the table at each meal and helps clear away serving dishes after the meal. They also get anything we need during the meal that we may have forgotten to put on the table. Each child clears their own place from the table at the end of the meal, that is not part of this job.
On Saturday, they sweep and mop all hard floors (three bathrooms, front landing, kitchen floor).

This person clears out the dishwasher each morning. They also help load it after the meal or, if they are old enough, load it by themselves.
On Saturday, they clean the half bathroom and the kids' bathroom.

Dog Duty:
This person feeds the dog every night.
On Saturday, they pick up the dog poop in the backyard.

The kids also rotate where they sit at the table according to their job. It's just easier to do it this way to avoid fights at the table, since where they sit is always changing. It's the way my mom did it.

The kids earn tokens for doing their chores that are used for playing video games.

That is how we do chores in our family. No matter what, they still have to do them, but if they do them with a positive attitude and do them when I ask them to, they will earn tokens. If they run out of tokens, they don't get to play the Wii.


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