Party in the Sky

Want to add some whimsy in a snap?  
These tissue paper pom poms are just the thing.  They are perfect for any party or just for fun!  

I'm thinking Labor Day weekend, cheering up some back-to-school blues, or decorating a many possibilities!

We're celebrating fun in the playroom and back to school too with them.

They are super easy to make, and for all the fun these are, they're inexpensive to create.

Here is a quick tutorial.  I tried them in a few different sizes and I cut the ends like a spike/triangle instead of rounded.

We also made some tissue paper pom poms to celebrate the 4th of July.  My kids think they look like fireworks!  Really, they are great for many events!

Kinda makes you want to make up an excuse for a party, huh?

Spanish Popcorn

Do you ever feel like your kids need an incentive to accomplish something?

{This Little Project} is not about "bribing," (because we moms never do that--hehe) it's about celebrating a good behavior.

The behavior we are celebrating at our house right now is speaking Spanish, though I think this idea would work for a lot of other things.

Here is how our Spanish Popcorn set-up started out:

We've been working on learning Spanish as a family for awhile.  
The problem is: it can feel like work!

  Kay especially has not quite "caught the spirit" of trying to speak spanish.  Rather than memorize words she likes to just make her own up and tells me that she's speaking Spanish!  We all needed a reason to work a little harder.

So I came up with {This Little Project} to encourage us all:
A popcorn seed for every spanish word we speak.

And what do all those popcorn seeds add up to?

A Popcorn Party!

You need quite a few seeds to have a good party so it's good motivation for us.

{This Little Project} started out with a trip to the invention box for some plastic bottles, and then some monogrammed paper punches for Jay, Kay, and Mom.  Ellie doesn't say much in any language that we can understand so we'll add her later.

Each morning at the end of our morning devotional we learn a few words to try and say throughout the day.  One day we had the word, "abajo" which means down.  The kids said it for every step they took going down the stairs and coming down from every jump on the trampoline.  That was more enthusiasm than I expected! 

Here's our progress after our first day:

I'm looking forward to {This Little Project} being a fun ongoing project that will let us try lots of yummy popcorn recipes-yay!  
Oh, and learning Spanish is good too.

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The 10-minute Challenge

A friend invited our family to join theirs this summer in some exercising goals with a fun reward together at the end of the summer for our families.  It led me to give myself a 10-minute challenge.  Who knew 10 minutes could make such a difference?  {This Little Project} made exercise manageable and more fun!

I used to be the director and owner of a dance studio for 13 years.  I was a dance student for 7 years before that, so moving and exercising were well-built into my lifestyle.  

That started to change when I closed my dance studio when Jay was born.  I had seen a lot of "dance moms" with their kids at competitions and travel performances and knew I didn't want that life for my kids.  I thought I would continue to dance though and teach on the side a little.  But my body didn't agree.  I broke my feet 3 times and finally had to accept that what I loved and had done for as long as I could remember was not going to be a part of my life right now.

It was hard.  
It felt like a complete lifestyle change not to spend hours in the dance studio each day.  Plus I had a new baby!
Since I also loved to run and now I wouldn't be able to do that either, I really didn't know what exercising would be for me now.  The things I loved to do I couldn't do anymore :(

Fast-forward 6 feet still can't take much impact: no running, jumping, etc.  Even though so much time has passed, I haven't found something I love to do for exercise to replace what I did before.  The truth: I don't spend much time consciously exercising--even though I know I should be!

That's where the 10-minute Challenge comes in. I decided to challenge myself to fit 10 minutes of exercise into each day. With three kids, finding time for myself can be a challenge.  But I was confident that I could find 10 minutes consistently each day.

Everyone has different experiences with exercising.  Some love it.  Some really don't.  But I would guess that a lot of people are like me:
 simply trying to figure how to get the pattern of exercise into their life.

Who knew that 10 minutes could be so transformational?  It's been so fun for me that I usually go for more like 15 minutes  :)

Experts recommend that you get  at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week.  That's a total of 90 minutes in a week.  Well, 10 minutes 6 days a week gets you 60 minutes.  If you move up to 15 minutes 6 days a week you get those 90 minutes a week. 

Now, I know that prolonged exercise has it's place.  
But doing Some is better than None, right?
 For me, 10-15 minutes a day = No more guilt.
And there are benefits I wasn't expecting too, like how my kids are more exercise conscious. 

A friend recently said told me, "If you are going to exercise you may as well do something you like!" which I totally agree with.  That's why these past six years have been so hard.
But I've also learned to remember that even if I don't love's only 10-15 minutes!

To meet my exercising goal I knew I needed to be able to exercise at any time at home.  And I didn't want to spend a lot of money to exercise.  Those things may be different for you.

Here are some ideas for {This Little Project}
that have helped me:

Yoga Today has a weekly class online that is free.  If you do it once at the beginning of the week and then again on Saturday you will find that you are better the second time too.  It's longer than 10 minutes, so you can do however much of it you want.  I love the stretching aspect of yoga!


Make a list:  When you get your free 10 minutes you don't want to spend the time thinking of something to do!  Have a list of ideas ready that you can do with little prep time so you can make the most of your precious minutes.

Exercise DVD's:  There are so many great DVD's on the market that you can do at home.  Many can be checked out from your local library so you don't get sick of doing the same thing.  Rotate to try different things too and find something you enjoy.  It's yard sale time and I've picked up some good ones there too.  You could also trade with a friend.

Get outside: It's nice to be able to have a change of scenery.  A brisk stroller walk (pushing 50 pounds of kids!), or a bike ride with the kids in a bike trailer, or a hike in a local area (with baby riding on my back!) will be fun family memories as well as some good exercise for everyone.

Exercising year-round can be a challenge when it's cold.  I found an exercise bike on craigslist and put it in our playroom right where I can see the kids if they are playing outside too.  You might be more likely to exercise if life doesn't have to stop to fit it in.  The kids just play while I take a little ride  :)

Tell someone: Having our summer challenge gave me just the motivation I needed to finally make a cosistent change.  Sometimes having a friend along or letting a family member know about what you are doing makes it more real to you.

Reward yourself:  It's fun to have a goal to work towards, but I think my friend had it right with a reward at the end of the summer.  
You really need to celebrate your success!

Will you be taking the 10-minute challenge?

Money Math

A few months ago Jay saw a coinstar machine and it kind of turned a light on for him as far as interest in learning about money.  For the past few weeks he's been earning his pennies with a little summer job and dreaming about what he should save them for and all the fun things he could do with them.  

I love it when learning like this happens naturally.  So, naturally I had to make some fun money games for us to play! 

Below you will find ideas for preschool-3rd grade money play/learning.

These coin dice have been so fun for us.  When I looked around the web thinking I would just purchase them I found these but I decided to make them instead.  I like them even better! (how-to below.)

Some games we play:
Just coin dice: roll one die, write the amount of cents, roll the plus/ minus die (or just decide which you will be doing for the game), roll another coin die, write the amount down.  Add or subtract them.  Write it down.

Coin or Dollar dice: Roll one die and then another.  Is the second coin/dollar rolled greater/less than/or equal to the first coin rolled?

Coin die and Dollar die:  roll the coin die, write the amount of cents, roll the plus/ minus die (or just decide which you will be doing for the game), roll the dollar die, write the amount down.  Add them together.  Write it down.  You can do this with subtraction if you start with the dollar die first.  This is great practice for making change.

Dollar and Dollar dice: roll one dollar die, write the amount down, roll the plus/ minus die (or just decide which you will be doing for the game), roll the other dollar die, write the amount down.  Add them together.  Write it down.

It's even more fun if you get your play money out (or real!) and get the right one out when you roll it.  When I got real money out for this game my kids were even more interested in learning about money (and practicing their math!)

Want to make {This Little Project} too?

You need:
 money stickers from Dollar Tree (in their ed. materials)--these stickers are just a picture of each coin and dollar with their amounts written underneath.

Five 1 inch wooden cubes (from craft store or Here)

Modge Podge

(total cost: about $2.00)

You will want 2 coin, 2 dollar, and 1 plus/minus/greater/=/less than cube.

Just cut the coin stickers apart because they come on one big sticker.  I made these tally sheets for Kay to use from the left-over parts of the stickers.  She's not quite ready to do a lot of math with money yet but she's interested in learning coin recognition.  So she rolls the dice and marks a line for each kind.

The $1,5,10,20,50 dollar stickers don't quite fit on the cubes (unless you have bigger wood cubes too) so I just cut enough to make it obvious which dollar bill it was.

After your stickers are cut out, put a layer of modge podge on, lay the sticker on top, let it dry.  Then put a layer of modge podge over the top of the sticker too and let it dry.  Easy and quick!

Now you are ready for lots of fun!

And if you have older money savvy kids you will like this simple online game of making change.  Jay played this a few times over a couple of weeks and still really enjoys it.  Find it Here.

Want one more fun idea?  Make your own store! 
 If you need a cash register (we did) 
this one is inexpensive ($10) and works great.

Learning is always more fun when it's more like playing 
(be it a game or a store!)  Have fun!

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Music at my House: Organizing the Music

Have you ever lost a music book at your house?  I've taught music lessons for about 15 years.  And it seems to be a common problem.  

At our house I like to use "Montessori-Inspired" organization.  In other words: accessible to my kids so they can practice taking responsibility for themselves in addition to practicing their music.  

Right now I am loving these:

I recently got these bins from the Target dollar spot (for $2.50) with the back-to-school things.  The tag on them says they are "locker bins" but when I saw them I thought, "Wow-those would be perfect for our music books!"  

So I bought 3 to try them out.  They are the perfect size and since they are longer than they are tall, they don't tip over like regular magazine box storage--which would be very frustrating for kids.  Also, they are heavy duty plastic and will hold up to daily use.  I went back and got three more-one of every color!

To label them I just punched paper, stickered on a monogram and did lazy laminating (packaging tape covering the paper punch) and they were ready to go. 

 Ellie likes taking her tag on and off.  These are kid friendly  :)  
Ellie doesn't take lessons yet.  Her book and bin is to remind me to play and sing to her!

These bins keep everything in one place: lesson assignments, practice records, music magazine, theory exercises, listening CDs, history reading, manuscript paper, as well as their books of music.   It's  also very easy for the kids to see what is inside these kinds of boxes so they like using them.

To give you some more ideas, I also love my steel and black leather magazine holder.  I've had this for about 7 years and it is my favorite thing to keep right next to the piano for all the books that I use most.

This is the other bin that I keep near the piano.  It's metal and cloth.  It's the perfect size for music books.  I like it because the books can either stand up in it or lay flat.  

It's from IKEA--about a year ago.  I looked on their website and couldn't find a link though.  So I'm not sure if they still carry this.  If you live close to an IKEA store, now you have a good excuse to go shopping and find out  ;)

It's nice to have a clear place for everybody's things.  Here's to no more lost music books and fewer music books stacked all over the piano!

Friday Favorites and Freebies

Happy Friday! 

I have some favorites and freebies to share with you today to help you enjoy your weekend!

The first is a free download of the Chronicles of Narnia.  The recordings are down by Chrissi Hart and have a wonderful British accent too!  Lots of great listening--I'm thinking perfect for a road trip.  You can find all the details at HomeSchoolFreebieOfTheDay.  This resource may really only be available today-FRIDAY-so go check it out now so you don't miss out.  Sometimes these last longer than a day, sometimes not...

The Chronicles of Narnia

We have a favorite video channel on YouTube recently.  We've spent hours watching these fascinating stop-photography videos of plants growing and changing.  My kids love these and so do my husband and I!  They really are great for any age.  Try out a few of them by Neil Bromhall.  He also has a neat website for gardening questions.

Oenothera fruticosa~cu 07.jpg

Ok ruffle lovers: this is for you.   Take a look at this darling ruffle idea for a party--so darling!  Get the details at GritsAndGiggles.

And if you have been going blueberry picking every week like us or making some yummies to share, you will love these free printables from BrownPaperPackages.

Are you getting your kids ready to go back to school?  You will enjoy these sweet lunch printables--such a fun way to send some love in their lunch!  See them at FreshPickedWhimsy.

Lunchbox downloads

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
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Remembering the Joy

"Through all of living have much joy and laughter, life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." 
 Gordon B. Hinckley

I'm a very visual person.  My sweet hubby was surprised to see just how visual when he came home from work to find this on our stairs this past week:

How many times do I climb these stairs? 

 Every time I change a diaper.  Or put away toys.  And of course for laundry.  The list goes on and on.  

It's a really good place to have a nice reminder.

Especially on days like yesterday.  The abbreviated version is: 1 roll of toilet paper all over the place, 1 box of kleenex all over in another room, and 1 call to poison control.

Did I mention that my sweet little monster is also teething (thus the reason for the call to poison control) and wants to eat and bite everything?

There's a bit of grumpiness around here.  I can tell she's not herself when she gets her binki and blanket out of her bed and needs to carry them all over the house.

Poor baby.

“Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey and share our love with friends and family. One day, each of us will run out of tomorrows. Let us not put off what is most important.”
Thomas S. Monson

And one other quote I remind myself of, and it is one of things I think of whenever I climb my stairs now:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”  Gordon B. Hinckley quoting Jenkin Loyd Jones

Most of the time I feel like I am having the time of my life: three little blessings who are learning and growing and I get to love them through their journey of becoming their own person with an amazing husband helping us all along. 
 Lucky mama. 

Here's to finding joy in each of our journeys.

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