Thursday, July 28, 2016

Apprentice Chefs

My master plan is finally coming to fruition! Over two years ago, I said I would steal my friend's brilliant idea of having her son cook one night a week. I can't believe my boys are old enough to start, but pinch me! They are!

We started with a stromboli contest. Each boy seasoned and stuffed their own roll of frozen bread dough. I gave instructions, but the only physical help I gave was flipping Max's dough over onto the pan. They rocked it! And they were so proud of themselves! And so eager to find out who "won" the contest. I made up some lame "everybody gets an award" title for each boy, but I'll tell you who won that contest! This mama did! The boys loved it and immediately begged to do it again. After they made three large pizzas the next week, we decided that contests were not sustainable. We didn't want three days worth of leftovers every time they cooked! So, Calvin suggested that one boy be in charge of the main dish, one could make "side options," and one would tackle dessert. Best. Plan. Ever. Now, once a week, the boys are responsible for picking out and making a meal. They get super excited about it, and they're pretty stinkin' good! It's fun for everyone and they learn a new skill almost every time. The other night I was in a pinch getting an omelette roll ready, so I asked Calvin to fry the bacon and Max to crack a dozen eggs. They didn't need any help at all because they'd been trained the night the boys made "brinner." Fortunately, this time Max picked eggshell out of the bowl so we didn't find it in our food.

Some tips I've learned while training my little chefs:

- Kid cooks are super messy! I try to roll with it. If it isn't fun, they won't want to keep cooking.
- I don't hold a spoon much, but I'm needed for advice and instruction constantly. These aren't nights off, but I'm training them so that some day I have three adept chefs (and three nights totally off from cooking!)
- Macaroni and cheese and carrot sticks are apparently the only acceptable side options to my youngest two. Last week, I told them they had to make a vegetable that wasn't orange. Reed shocked me by suggesting steamed broccoli. Calvin decided that on his main dish night he'd make macaroni and hamburger. Baby steps.
- Nothing is perfect, but it's totally worth it. Biting into a few eggshells in our breakfast casserole is a small price to pay for the boys to develop a sense of pride, ownership in family chores, and to be able to feed themselves something other than pizza when they move out. Plus - THREE NIGHTS A WEEK WITH NO COOKING ARE IN MY NEAR FUTURE!!!!!!

P.S. The friend who inspired this idea isn't the only genius in my life. My high school math teacher's wife wrote a book about the concept! Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner: A Team Approach to Getting Dinner on the Table

Monday, July 4, 2016

Project Photo Dump

Here are a few projects I worked on since I've been "off the grid."

About 20 origami stars. This was my "car craft" on the way to Kansas for Christmas. I used this tutorial from Charming Imperfections. I can't wait until next year, when I get to put them on the Christmas tree!

The notes behind the star are for closet shelves I installed FOR FREE in both of our boys' rooms. I used old trim for supports and old tile boards for shelves. They're not pretty, but let's be honest, the boys' closets are never much to look at anyway, so... I also put in a rod drop so Max can reach hung up clothes. No more dressers in the boys' rooms! They're all mine!

I made a light fixture from an old lampshade. I stripped it down to the frame, then wrapped it in random strips of fabric. I used an Ikea lamp cord and a cool Ikea light bulb.

We got new floors! Goodbye Barney pink carpet! I rearranged the furniture, sewed a table skirt to add storage under a desk, whitewashed the brick around our fireplace, and sprayed the ugly gold away with high heat fireplace spray paint.



I sewed new kitchen curtains. They're exactly like the old ones, but a little larger check. The old ones looked pink from a distance. They'd bugged me for years, until I happened to find a cheap sheet set of larger check gingham at Ikea. The sheet was way cheaper than the fabric would have been, big enough for all new curtains, and bonus! I have a gingham pillow case, too!

Here is last Christmas's car craft: I punched a bajillion circles out of an old book, glued them back to back along thread, then tucked them into a drum shade I got at a garage sale for $2. I used another Ikea light cord to light 'er up. 

I used ping pong balls to make a cute light strand. Reed uses it as a night light.

Our plain red shower curtain finally got an update! I bought a polka dotted sheet at a garage sale for $1, and cut a strip to make sort of a valance at the top. Then, I tied different ribbons around the shower curtain hooks for a little extra somethin' somethin'.

I used the same sheet to make a little curtain for our laundry room window.

Making an Old Dresser Look . . . Older

When Reed was born, my brother bought a dresser for me to use as a changing table/baby clothes storage. I gave it a fresh coat of white paint, swapped out the wooden knobs for porcelain ones, folded a blanket on the top for a changing pad, and changed the heck out of some diapers on it for about seven years. 

When Max was potty trained, I did a happy dance and replaced the changing pad with some books. Soon, the dresser was swapped with a couple of small ones from Reed and Calvin's room and ended up shoved in their closet and topped with dart guns, books, and miscellaneous treasures. Over Christmas break this year, I installed shelves in both of the boys' room closets and they no longer needed dressers. Once again, the old faithful dresser was moved -- this time to the kitchen as a buffet of sorts. Well, a buffet that holds board games and craft supplies, but still. The dresser has lived its many lives well, but it was time for a makeover.

The before:

The inspiration:

Pinned from an etsy listing by The Lacy Peacock 

Black top, white with wax, black pulls:

The process:

- distress edges with a power sander
- spray original wooden knobs (that I saved from the first time I replaced them) with oil-rubbed bronze spray paint
- paint top black
- smear wood stain over sanded spots
- try to wipe stain off; realize it just smears all over the white paint; decide to go for it
- smear stain all over, then decide it just looked dirty and try to wipe off with a wet rag; fail
- scrub and scrub until the dresser is a decent brown (see bottom drawer in picture below)
- accidentally discover that a dry rag rubs off what vigorous elbow grease with a wet rag would not; remove much of the brown (see top drawer in picture below)

The after:

When I showed it to Reed (I can count on a better reaction from him than anyone else in my house), his eyes were drawn above the dresser, to the garland I just made out of "Ninja stars." That's right. Coolest craftin' mom ever!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Coming Out of "Hiding"

It’s been about two years since I’ve regularly blogged. I could blame it on several things:
  • Getting a new job (teaching third grade at the same school as Ryan--I love it!)
  • Coaching track with Ryan and manning the weight room together in the offseason
  • Different technology (camera hit by a basketball, phone hard to get pictures off of, have to log out of one account and into another in order to blog)
  • Boys getting older and being in more activities (3 in baseball, 2 in basketball, 1 in choir and a running book club)
  • Boys getting older and not saying/doing as many cute and/or bloggable things
  • Laziness

The boys have asked to read old blog posts a few times lately, and we’ve all died laughing at their little-kid antics. I’ve been struck by the fact that I have forgotten SO much of our day-to-day life! And so, at the boys insistence (“You need to blog more!!”) and for the sake of preserving memories, I’m going to try to chronicle a bit more of our crazy life. Here’s a jumbled blob containing what I want to remember about our life from the past two years (what I can remember of it) and right now:

  • Reed had a hard time adjusting to his new school. He and I braved third grade at the same time. It was an adjustment for both of us. He liked his teacher, made friends, and did well, but he still would’ve picked returning to his old school if given the choice. A few months into fourth grade, he finally felt like it was “home.” I knew this when he finally told me (with hidden tears) that it was ok to throw away his old school shirt-- It was a monstrosity - ripped like the Hulk.
  • Calvin had a great first year in first grade. He didn’t really play with anyone at recess, but he, in true Calvin style, didn’t care. He said he was friends with a few boys, but they were playing “a stupid zombie game” at recess, and he didn’t want to play, so he just did his own thing. The friendships became tighter somewhere between then and now, and he has tight buddies (who now play basketball instead of stupid zombie games).
  • Max has grown up so fast! I honestly don’t remember what he was like last year, and that makes me super sad. This year, and even these last few months, he has grown up in so many ways. He (sort of) ties his own shoes and has started doing big-boy math and reading. He’s all the time making up math problems (Two biscuits plus two biscuits equals four biscuits!) and he’s just started trying to read words (he sounded out “pause” - “paws-ee” from the treadmill in the weight room yesterday morning). He is super ready for kindergarten - and we are ready for him to be with the whole family (and save us almost 40 minutes of driving a day!)
  • Coaching track with Ryan has been amazing! The first season is a bit of a blur, but it was crazy, stressful, successful, and usually fun. This season started super stressful, but went so well that I really only have fond memories! It’s been really nice to have a shared passion. We don’t always see eye to eye, but overall it has been really good for our marriage! I feel like we are a real team--more so in our community than even at home! This summer, I even started going to his cross country conditioning sessions and running with some of the girls. Distance running is SO not my thing, but I’ve really enjoyed it and gotten to where I can run much longer than I ever could before!
  • We put new flooring in our living room, halls, and one bedroom and have done a few little improvements, but we’re starting to dream about moving--maybe even building--a little closer to work. Just praying and dreaming right now, but it’s fun to imagine the possibilities! The boys like to play a game where we each design (out loud, usually in a car) our dream house or backyard or car. Most recently, we perused Pinterest looking for the ultimate swimming pool. Calvin settled on one in the shape of a foot--with five hot tub toes. There would also be a slide, diving board, sunken trampoline, and nearby fire pit. This is the most realistic dream design we have created to date. Most of the other plans involve robot servants and teleporters.
  • Life is great! I feel like I have arrived as a mother! The boys are self sufficient (they put away their own laundry, make their own breakfast, and have even started cooking supper together one night a week), portable (we take them with us to conditioning every day. They happily read or play at the park while we run and take turns looping around to check on them), and fun (they are creative, genuinely funny [sometimes] and so fun to watch in sports)! They are also loud, annoying, and fight like dogs. I oscillate between thinking I have the smartest, most talented, most wonderful young men on the planet and wanting to lock them all in a sound-proof padded room, not caring who emerges alive. Such is motherhood, I suppose...