Saturday, August 17, 2013

Jack and the Beanstalk

Yesterday, I wrote about my first Kindergarten Home Visit. I wanted to share one of the other things I included in the parent package. This adorable story was also given to me each time one of my own children entered Kindergarten, by their teacher, Ms C. Every time I read it I end up crying, so... brace yourself!!

Author Unknown

Thoughts at the Bottom of a Beanstalk

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Jack who was about to climb his very first beanstalk. he had a fresh haircut and a brand-new book bag.

Even though his friends in the neighbourhood had climbed this same beanstalk almost every day last year, this was Jack's first day and he was a little nervous. So was his mother.

Early in the morning she brought him to the foot of the beanstalk. She talked encouragingly to Jack about all the fun he would have that day and how nice his giant would be. She reassured him that she would be back to pick hom up at the end of the day. For a moment they stood together, silently holding hands, gazing up at the beanstalk. To Jack it seemed much bigger than it had when his mother had pointed it out on the way to the store last week. His mother thought it looked big, too. She swallowed. Maybe she should have held Jack out a year...

Jack's mother straightend his shirt one last time, patted his shoulder and smiled down at him. She promised to stay and wave while he started climbing. Jack didn't say a word.

He walked forward, grabbed a low-growing stem and slowly pulled himself up to the first leaf. He balanced there for a moment an then climbed more eagerly to the second leaf, then to the third and soon he had vanished into a high tangle of leaves and stems with never a backward glance at his mother.

She stood alone at the bottom of the beanstalk, gazing up a the spot where Jack had disappeared. There was no rustle, no movement, no sound to indicate that he was anywhere inside.

"Sometimes, " she thought, "it's harder to be the one who waves good-bye than it is to be the one who climbs the beanstalk."

She wondered how Jack would do. Would he miss her? How would he behave? Did his giant understand that little boys sometimes acted silly when they felt unsure? She fought down an urge to spring up the stalk after Jack and maybe duck behind a bean to take a peek at how he was doing.

"I'd better not. What if he saw me?" She knew Jack was really old enough to handle this on his own. She reminded herself that, after all this was thought to be an excellent beanstalk and that everyone said his giant was not only kind but had outstanding qualifications.

"It's not so much that I'm worried about him," she thought, rubbing the back of her neck. "It's just that he's growing up and I'm going to miss him."

Jack's mother turned to leave. "Jack's going to have lots of bigger beanstalks to climb in his life," she told herself. Today's the day he starts practicing for them... And today's the day I start practicing something too: cheering him on and waving good-bye."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Unicorn Sparkle Party

Last night, I hosted a Unicorn Sparkle Party. Unicorn Sparkle is a local soap making company started by Christa Price. They started with liquid laundry detergent, and have branched into all kinds of wonderful things like shampoo and shaving bars, deodorant, stain stick, lotion, and the most wonderful handmade, chemical-free soaps you can imagine!

You can find more info on Christa's facebook site: Unicorn Sparkle on Facebook Why not pop over and give her a "like" if you are on Facebook.
Or, on the website: Unicorn Sparkle on the web!

Here is a sample of what I got at my party... some of these I purchased, and some of them were towards my hostess credits. Each bar is truly an original piece of artwork. But, artwork that you can USE because Christa keeps coming up with new scents and beautiful soaps, so don't hoard them, use them, and then go get more!!! These soaps make such great gifts for teachers, housewarming, hostess, just because, birthday - you name it! There is such a variety with Unicorn Sparkle, that you will literally find something for everyone and anyone you might want to give a little gift to. I also love that these soaps won't break the bank. For the amount of work that obviously goes into these handcrafted soaps, they are very reasonably priced. The cost is only $20.00 for 4 bars. Keep them dry in between uses and they will last a long time.                            

These first 2 pictures are the same bar of soap. There is a rainbow swirl on one side and blue sky and clouds on the other side. I fell in love with this bar, and it smells delightful!

My kids couldn't get enough of this next rainbow bar. When I woke up this morning, my oldest was walking around holding this wedge soap and smelling it! It's the one he picked for himself. They each got to pick one.

These round ones are Energy. They are the ones that Steve (my hubby) loved so much he bought all 3 that Christa had on display last night! Too funny. When he walked in at the end of the party and said, "I like that one" I put one aside to buy for him. Then he came back and said, "I said, I like that one. Buy them all!" haha! So... I bought all 3 of them :) Only 2 are pictured because the other one is already being put to use!

Apple - when you pick up a bar of soap and you feel like you want to bite into it. That is this bar! Such a delicious scent.

Ocean Rain. A fresh clean scent, reminiscent of the ocean. I love the picture this bar makes - sand on the bottom, the water in the middle and the frothy waves on the top. Beautiful.

Patch. A combination of several of Unicorn Sparkle's soaps. This one is so cool to look at. It will display really nicely, too.

Gold Rush. I just love the look of this one. This photo does not do it justice, it is rugged and regal all in the same bar. This one I am going to sit and look at for awhile before we dig into it because it looks like real gold!

Stripes. Seriously, how cool is this? A bunch of different soaps, combined to make this fun and funky pattern. Underneath you can see a bit of the black bar, that is very manly, and called Midnight.

A bunch of the favourites all shown together.

Have I mentioned how GOOD these smell? Wow. These ones, shown below, all have scents that smell so edible you have to be careful not to mistake them for fudge! Starting from the left, going clockwise, they are Chocolate Chip Mint (an instant favourite of my kids, so we got 2 of these bars!), Cafe Latte, Hot Cocoa, and Monkey Farts. Yep, Monkey Farts!!! My kids got a pretty big kick out of that one. Can you guess what it smells like? Well, what do monkeys like to eat? Bananas!!! And since Christa knew that this one would appeal to kids, she included a fun bubble pattern in the design.

If you want some soap, I really recommend doing a home party. Christa is so easy going and she displays everything so nicely so you and your friends can get a good look before you decide what you want to buy.  The laundry detergent is SO worth it... it goes on forever and for a big bucket it is only $20.00 and then refills of the buckets are only $15 - and it has a slight lemony scent that leaves clothes fresh and clean, and it is pleasant to work with, as well).

Kindergarten Visits

I am so excited about teaching Kindergarten this year. Today was the start of my home visits. Over the next couple weeks, I will pay a visit to each of my 16 precious students. I just went to see one little guy, today, but the bulk of the visits will happen next week.

The visit lasted about 45 minutes and we did some basic things like counting, naming colours, identifying a few numbers and letters. I had him write his name, tell me a bit about his summer and a little bit about himself (family, how old he is, favourite colour, etc). He was most engrossed in the picture he was drawing for me while I talked to him and asked him questions. Before I left, I took a photo of him to use in a classroom book (I'll take photos of all the kids as I visit them) and had him write his name on a piece of cardstock. The last thing we did before I said goodbye was to fill in a "Countdown to Kindergarten" calendar. Every day until September 10th, when I see him again, he will cross one day off the calendar.

I gave his mom a package of things to read before school starts in a couple weeks. One of the things I included is actually something that I received from my kids' teacher when they were in Kindergarten. My kids are now heading into grades 2, 4 and 5.

Twenty Minutes A Day
By Richard Peck

Read to your children
Twenty minutes a day;
You have the time, 
And so do they.
Read while the laundry is in the machine;
Read while the dinner cooks;
Tuck a child in the crook of your arm 
And reach for the library books.
Hide the remote,
Let the computer games cool,
For one day your children will be off to school:
Remedial? Gifted? You have the choice;
Let them hear the first tales
In the sound of your voice.
Read in the morning;
Read over noon;
Read by the light of
Goodnight Moon.
Turn the pages together,
Sitting close as you'll fit,
Till a small voice beside you says,
 Hey, don't quit. 

* Photo of my mom reading to my son. 
She had all her grandkids around the table, at the time, and was
teaching them a Sunday School lesson. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Displaying Kids' Artwork

Kids love to see their artwork displayed... at least MY kids love it! I might not get an award for the most aesthetically pleasing art display in my home, but since I am decorating for my family, and for OUR tastes, then that is all that really matters to me.

A couple months ago, my oldest, Scott, had a few friends over for a sleepover. We had some extra time the next morning, so I pulled out some painting supplies. My middle son, Todd,  did this painting by masking some areas with masking tape before he covered the whole thing in red. I find this painting so striking and I just absolutely love it, so it is hanging in our main hallway.

Another area in our house that is heavily art-ed is the stairwell heading to the basement. Art by my kids, my husband, my mom, me, some photography, and more. It is like a mini gallery. I would love the walls to be completely covered in originals!

Last year, I taught a series of children's art courses. Often, at the end of the class, there would still be acrylic paint leftover, so I would sit for an hour, on my own, and have fun with the paints and a fresh canvas. Canvases are super cheap. Sure, you can get the uber-expensive ones, but you don't need to when these canvases (which you can pick up at a local arts and crafts store for about $1.50 each, on sale) work great. Some of my acrylic paints are student quality (inexpensive) and some of them are artist's quality (not inexpensive! haha!). I let the kids use all my supplies, however, I do NOT let the kids dish out their own paint. That is always my job because we go for minimal waste.

 My daughter did two of these, and I did the other one.

On one artistic evening, my husband jumped in on the fun, as well. His masterpiece is the Tabasco bottle in the middle. If you are paying attention, it is the first thing that will catch your eye as you go down our stairs. I was so impressed that I wanted it to be a focal point. The boys each did one of the paintings beside Steve's.

What about artwork that comes home from school? Well, it needs to be displayed, too. Some people choose the fridge. We do not choose the fridge. In our mainfloor hallway, I have strung some hemp twine between two pins and put a bunch of clothespins on the line. Throughout the year, as masterpieces come home, I get the kids to "put it on the clothesline!" They go and display their art, proudly. From time to time, I remove the artwork. Some gets stored in their school drawers until the end of the school year (a cabinet in our hallway that holds treasures from the current school year). During the first week of summer, we go through these drawers and glue anything worth saving (we don't keep spelling papers, usually... and sometimes not even math sheets!) gets glued into a scrappy scrapbook for safe keeping forever and always. 

Something I would like to try is the revolving art display in picture frames. I've seen amazing examples on Pinterest, like this one. And this one. And even this one that allows you to keep several pieces in one. Very fun, and something that might be a future addition to our artistic home.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Arrrr! It's a Pirate's Life fer me!

My daughter, Elise, recently turned 7. This year, we have not had our parties even close to our actual birthdays, so we finally got around to having her party - yesterday.

For a few weeks, she went back and forth between a few ideas. I was pushing for an Art Party. I even had the canvases purchased for each child to go home with a masterpiece. She was pushing for firetrucks. She really only cared about the cake. Once upon a time, I made a firetruck cake (shown here) for my oldest son. That was the cake my new seven-year-old had her heart set on. But, this mama didn't feel like making and decorating a cake in the heat of summer. So, I had to divert her attention elsewhere. I had just cleaned out my stamping room, and came across the Pirate party kit from Stampin' Up! that I had been holding onto for years. I showed it to Elise and she LOVED the idea of pirates! Good! So, then instead of making a cake, we did the next best thing... we went to Safeway and ordered a cake.

Here's the party in pictures. I figured that if we were to do all the amazing party ideas I have been pinning on Pinterest over the last few weeks, we would need a 10 hour party, so I opted for 3 games and 3 crafts. There was a 4th craft planned, but we didn't get to it.

We started the party with a treasure hunt. We practiced a few rounds of "Arr, me hearty!" and then I handed each child a loot bag and they got to go in search of their treasure. 

Another game we did was "Walk the Plank!" The kids loved this one, and, thankfully, they all stayed away from the nasty piranhas in the ocean below!

Our last game was "Stick the patch on the pirate". One girl said she was the best at this game. I made sure to cover her eyes extra well! But, sure enough, she won! She got some pirate's gold (chocolate) for that!!

Some of the decorations...

And onto the crafts. First off - PARROTS! Everyone knows a pirate needs a parrot. Thanks to Pinterest, I found some pretty cool parrots to make.To check out the source of this craft, click HERE.

Hard at work making a unique parrot.

The Birthday Girl and her parrot friends.

Here's a craft that everyone loved. Shrink art. Stamp in Stazon ink onto the special plastic sheets, colour with chalks and blender pens, or sharpies, and then trim and shrink. I used my Embossing heat tool to shrink them. I didn't let the kids do this part.

The last craft of the day, which ran over our 3 hour time frame, were some quick little boats. I should clarify, they were quick to make, but they weren't quick in the ocean. They took on water, but the kids loved pushing them around in our kiddie pool.


FOOD! When a pirate isn't on his ship, he or she might be on the seashore. Either way, a pirate is always hungry! What better food for pirates than seashells (pasta with white cheese) and octopus (European wieners... cut them in half and then slice 8 legs before putting them into boiling water for a few minutes. These were my favourite part of the meal!). We had different kinds of chips to eat, as well. To drink, the kids got the choice of "Swamp Water" (iced tea) or "Liquid Gold" (orange juice).

The delicious cake from Safeway. It was a white cake and in the middle there were strawberries and custard.  On the top is SpongeBob and Patrick and their pirate treasure. It doesn't show in the photo, but inside the treasure box is a white skull ring and gold doubloons!

At bedtime, Elise gave me a big hug and said, "Thanks for a fun party. I really liked all the Pirate stuff we did!" That made it all worthwhile!

Friday, August 9, 2013

10 Hours in Revelstoke

During the 2nd week in July, while my kids were on the Island at camp, I got to go along on a road trip with Steve. He drives truck during the Spring and Summer, and this is the second year he's had this job. I haven't been able to go along before since we have 3 kids and only 1 person can go with him at a time. The kids all got their turn last summer, and again this summer. When one kid is along, I am at home with the other two.

The first thing Steve said to me, as we packed up and left the house on the first day, was, "Don't call your bag 'luggage' because this is not a holiday. It's just a backpack with your stuff in it and we are on a working trip." I had to laugh at that. For me, 4 days on the road, with no kids, is definitely a holiday! I don't care if I have to sleep in the sleeper of a semi truck, or eat fast food. We left our Province - that's a holiday right there!

Our travels took us to Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. Then, back through Calgary and homeward bound. On our way home, we stopped in Revelstoke, BC. What a beautiful place, right on the river. We had beautiful weather for our short, but sweet, stop. It was only a total of about 10 hours, with approximately 8 of them sleeping, but it was enough for me to feel the town's charm.

Dinner was at Denny's and breakfast the next morning was at McD's. Here is a quick look at this quaint town from my point of view at the edge of the highway.

We parked just West of the town in a large pull-out area. The trucks slowly started pulling in and stopping for the night, but it wasn't even close to being full.

The bridge is over 50 years old and, let me tell you, it SHAKES! After the stories of bridges falling down, in recent months, I was looking for my escape route the whole way over.

Right as we were crossing the bridge, we heard the train. I was able to capture a few pics of the train crossing right in front of us on the tracks parallel to where we were standing. I love the reflection on the water. We had such beautiful weather.

These next pictures almost made me sick to take... looking up while the bridge beneath your feet is swaying is not my idea of fun. But it made for some cool pictures, so I had to go for it!

 The sliver of the moon as we walked back to the truck after dinner. 

In the morning, we followed the trail under the bridge and I got some cool shots of the underside of the structure. Being below, you can really see the bridge moving when large trucks go over it. It is quite loud down there, as well.

The next picture happened right in front of us while we were having breakfast. I put a little news report on Facebook, so I will just copy and paste that...
This is Sarah, reporting LIVE, on the road, for the Kenworth news: Everyone who was anyone, in Revelstoke, was at the local McDonald's this morning and witnessed the chase and arrest of 2 guys. Handcuffs and everything. 2 police vehicles - the first officer called for backup. What could it be? Stolen car? DUI? Drugs? (they kept pulling more stuff out of the car) The old men of the town even took turns doing a walkabout and coming back with more information of what they heard and saw up close! Pretty funny (I guess not for the 2 guys arrested, but from a passer through's point of view, I appreciated the collaborative efforts of the locals to get the story woven together!)

The story of "Woodenhead"! What a fun piece of history right here! The write-up is in the 2nd picture.


This was the sweetest picnic table I think I've ever seen. Heart cutouts in each end.

Finally, while other parts of our trip were sponsored by Tim Horton's, this sunny day, in Revelstoke, was definitely sponsored by McDonald's. They really do have great coffee - no joke, it's our favourite. At the end of the trip, Steve told me that it felt more like a holiday than his other trucking trips. He said that he felt less rushed (he rarely has a sit-down dinner like we did). We knew the kids were safe at my parents' and he had me along... he actually wanted this trip to last longer (his words, honest!).

Next time I am in the Revelstoke area, I would like to explore inside the town, not just the sights at the edge of the highway!