Thursday, March 28, 2013

tutorial: add a "pin it" hoover button to your photos

i recently found a super simple tutorial on adding a "pin it" button to your photos. even better? there was a link to some really fun pin buttons that you can customize with.

i went back and forth on if this was a good idea, making my photos so accessible for sharing. but, i blog for you (and for my kids too) and i have learned to be careful with what images i share. since there are so many ways to borrow, steal, or use anyone's content these days i might as well have it set up so linking back to me is foolproof.

check out bloggersentral to see how to do it and even gets tips on how to leave it off certain photos or whole posts. 

are we friends on pinterest? you can follow me here and leave your url in the comments and i will check out your boards too.

i would love to hear if you use this tutorial and what you thought!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

dear stella, you didn't have a pinterest party this year.

stella turned three, she would have been happy if we had celebrated her birthday in hall closet as long as her friends were there and there was ice cream. birthdays are stressful for me, the cost and time usually send me spinning and then when it is all over, the first time i look at pinterest i suddenly am second guessing myself.

this year i looked at other options - i was seconds away from purchasing a package at a local kids boutique that hosts super fun birthdays, any theme you choose, in a room in the back of the shop. best part? they clean up the mess! to justify the price i started adding up what i spent on stella's mermaid party, with the two cakes and custom invites, and realized i would actually save money this year.

then one day after a trip to the children's museum, one of the girls had gotten ahold of a parentmap magazine from our area, and i heard something about yo gabba gabba. i grabbed my phone and googled up some information about this years live show. it was in march and would actually work out to be cheaper then the party package, even after i pieced together the perfect outfits for the girls to wear (cause that part is super important). so it was set, we would have a late lunch with tim's family and then head to the show in seattle. is it sad that i was more excited then the kids?

i'd be lying if i said the day was magical and perfect - lunch at the spaghetti factory was terrible and rowan threw a tantrum in the bathroom because despite the one thousand times i tried to explain what we were seeing, she thought we were just going to see a "dumb" movie.

stella got a stuffed boo the dog, a tiny baby ring, baths crayons and a beautiful tea collection dress from her grammy, auntie, and uncle. after lunch, with the obligatory spaghetti factory ice cream we all sung stella happy birthday - rowan caught her signing along and shouted, "no silly, you just sit there and smile like this (insert cheesy grin)!" after, we rushed off the show, but not without a bloody knee on the way there and a breakdown in the lobby, again, over seeing a "dumb" movie. we got suckered into twenty dollars worth of flashing light things and then we got settled in.

i had picked the girls up tee shirts from the new volcom yo gabba gabba line. super cute stuff for kids and adults, even hoodies that "transform" you into a character i also ordered the girls cute bows on etsy with their favorite character on them, i am seriously in love with the one rowan picked and how cute is her hair bow we did?

it goes without saying that the girls minds literally exploded when they realized exactly what it was that we were seeing! i may or may not have started crying right there over how happy i was to see them that excited. the show was just the right length and rowan cried at the end when toody was crying over the show being over. i'd call that a success!

i don' really mind yo gabba gabba, their songs are catchy and their messages are pretty spot on with things kids should be picking up. have you been to a live show? those guys can seriously dance! it totally blew my mind how good they were. i think we all had a great time!

on her actual birthday we threw together a little family party and she specifically requested a couple of friends, describing them by the toys they have at their house, because she isn't sure of everyones name yet. she asked for pizza for dinner and rootbeer floats then later informed me that cake was most important to her so we went to safeway and i let her pick a miniature personal cake, she chose buzz lightyear. it was the exact party stella wanted, i let her have total control.

so stella didn't have a pinterest party this year but we made memories instead...

Monday, March 25, 2013

kindergarten countdown: sight words!

we just turned in the registration packet for rowan to start kindergarten next year, i repeat k i n d e r g a r t e n. we are pretty excited in these parts but we know there is a lot of work to be done to prepare her for the difference between pre-k and this new world.

my sister and i always excelled in the reading area - we were both reading before or right at the start of kindergarten and my oldest, zoĆ«,  has been no exception. i wanted to start rowan off on the right foot and i knew the best way to do this was have her master her sight words over the summer.

i was a little nervous jumping into it because hers and my "teaching/learning" relationship has always been difficult. sometimes it would blow my mind that she didn't understand what i was showing her, but would pick it up quickly from school no problem. speaking of preschool this year - we just had conferences and i was thrilled to hear that in a matter of words, rowan is at the top of her class. she can follow instructions perfectly, writes great, understands basic concepts, and all of the other tasks listed on the early kindergarten mastery list. meaning, she is thinking and doing like a kindergartner already!

to get us started i dug through the pinterest trenches for ideas but was quickly overwhelmed. i toyed with the idea of making my own flash cards and other learning materials but had a hard time weighing the costs and time that would take. after talking to a good friend, who i knew was deep into sight words with her almost kindergartener, i decided to take a much more basic and classic approach.

first, i purchased these sight word flashcards from amazon because i loved that they were simple, bright, two sided, inexpensive and came with over one hundred basic and important words.

when they arrived i randomly chose four easy and well known words to start with and taped them to our pantry door, in plain view from the girls table that they eat breakfast and lunch at. then, i just casually started telling rowan what they were and having her repeat them back, once we had done this a few times i would start quizzing her.

starting off was difficult, i will admit. you could tell rowan's mind was somewhere else and words that really should be easy to remember (i say this because rowan can remember what she had for thanksgiving dinner when she was thirteen months old) she would forget after i just told her. a lot of mornings going over these words would go like this:

me: rowan what is this word? (the, a word we have been one for a few days now)
rowan: blank stare...
me: the! this is word is the, it is spelled t-h-e, this word is the. what is this word rowan?
rowan: the
me: spell it
rowan" t-h-e, the
(we'd go through the other words and she would do perfectly)
me: (back at the, thirty seconds later) what is this word?
rowan: ta-ta-ta (trying to sound it out i guess?)...said?

it was frustrating to say the least...

i am guilty of not having a ton of patience, but i knew this was no place to show my frustration, that only discourages rowan and makes her lose total focus. so i would just take a deep breath and go through the steps of spelling and repeating over and over.

eventually things started to pick up and she was getting most of the words down really quick! our system was - once she had a word down for a day or two, no problem, not getting it wrong once, we would either flip the card to the back side or grab a new one if we had done both sides. rowan always got down three out of four immediately but still struggled with words like had or will.

the cards we had removed we kept in a separate pile so i could pull them out and quiz her randomly, she still does really good with them. we mostly work on the ones on the door at meal times and other times i'll randomly call her in for a quick quiz that sometimes earns her a treat if she gets them all. stella is even in on this and will call rowan in for a quiz, even though she has no idea if she is getting them right, haha.

three weeks in and rowan has mastered twenty+ words, even some two word cards, and is going strong picking up new ones every few days. i am so excited that our method is working out, it has really been a lesson in not over complicating things. she didn't need all those work sheets and games to learn. however, i plan on introducing bingo and other simple activities once we have mastered maybe twenty more words.

i get super excited when she knows a word already, like this morning i put up a new card that was on and she shouted that one out right away and the or we did the other day, she was said, "like the beginning of oreo (this kid and her food...). she will even use them correctly in her own sentence from time to time - this reassures me that she easily recognizes and understand the meaning of the words which is just as important as learning the sight of the word.

so, to simplify our approach:
1. bought super simple and easy to read sight word flash cards
2. taped four of them in a easy to see spot
3. go over each word with rowan, one or two times with spellings, at first
4. quiz her at meal times till she has them down, with no mistakes, for a few days then switch
5. randomly quiz her on the words she has already mastered and we have set aside

i get excited at the thought of moving onto the bob books or other first readers that are full of these words she is grasping so quickly. we might just have her reading by kindergarten!

i would love to hear about your sight word journeys! did you come up with a fun method to teaching them? or did you keep it basic like us?

Friday, March 22, 2013

stella, year three.

and then you were three,

happy birthday to my little firecracker who came fierce and star gazing, i knew stella was the perfect name for you all along. you keep us on our toes for sure but i wouldn't have you any other way. you are still a mini daddy and have lost a lot of your curl, i wonder if it will come back like mine did.

you'll start preschool in september and rowan is your best friend, even if you guys don't always agree and she is always playing with the toy you want, you love her so. your blankie and "nino" are still very important to you but the other day you daddy and i noticed that you forget them when you go to bed, more and more.

you informed me the other day that you are "jus stewa now" not mommys baby anymore. your favorite show is mickey mouse or sophia and you love bacon and veggies, especially a 'cado. you are the best big sister to robin and always want to know if his diaper is poo or just pee, you weirdo, and you are the passy police. we can always count on you to know exactly where one is at all times, i think you are reliving your passy days vicariously through your little brother.

you like to play in the sink or would be happy dumping lima beans or marbles from container to container all day long and you always like to have coins in your pockets. rainboots are your favorite shoe and jams are your clothing of choice if i let you.

you got ahold of a harmonica the other day and totally blew us away with how good you were at it! i am so happy that daddy's musical talents were passed down to you.


you are such a little mommy, whether it be to a meerkat or a doll, you are all about rocking and shushing and feeding and putting down for nap. you're a little trickster, sometimes a full on stinker, up to no good but you are always still sweet and silly while you do it.

you have no fear and i can't wait to see you on the skateboard grandpa got you for your birthday - it matches mine. you are all about bombing down the driveway on anything with wheels and you are never afraid of the tallest slides.

you love the water, you are seriously a fish, summer can't come soon enough! your hair is impossible to do anything with then put in a pony right now, i think it needs a cut, but i am dreading it.

we woke you up with presents in bed and mickey mouse pancakes to start our day. we have a little party planned with family and your best friends that you specifically requested. ellie of course and sky, the boy at the house with the trucks and beans.

this morning you woke up and i swore you looked different, older, wiser...

we love you to the stars and back stella jolie, happy birthday!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

stella, year two.

tomorrow my tiniest lady turns three, here is a look back on her second year...

things we love: oompa toys and a giveaway!

oompa is quickly becoming a favorite online toy shop in this house. four kids later i have come to appreciate simpler toys that really get their imaginations turning, extra points if it is wooden or organic. oompa has a little bit of it all, from bikes to dollhouses to felt food to craft sets a little bit of something for all ages, even the kid in me sometimes! browsing through oompa's online catalog i have come to notice they carry a lot of our favorite brands like haba, plan, green toys, automoblox, and many more.
oompa was so sweet to send out one of their toys for stella to try out - the timing was perfect with her birthday just around the corner, it made it that much more special to receive in the mail, open up, and play with. they sent her the plan creative peg board, which encourages dexterity and visual perception. it came with fifty wooden and colorful pegs that you can either use freely or with one of the three patterned cards for matching colors. it leaves opportunities for counting, matching, and sorting.

of course in true stella fashion both the pegs and board have been used for many other things, like a vegetable medley in some lima bean soup that stella was cooking up the other day.
the creative peg board has been a great addition to our house - while stella likes to stick to patterns and comparing the big and small pegs, rowan has gotten more adventurous by creating letters of our names or shapes or rainbows.

plan is one of my favorite brands, right up there with a lot of the other ones that oompa sells. they all seem built to last and are made of quality materials that i can trust, since a lot of toys in the house end up in mouths...

oompa has been so great to work with and i love that they are reachable by so many platforms - feel free to check out oompa toys on facebook, twitter, and pinterest.

now, because we have had so much fun working with oompa, we have teamed up with them to give away a $25 credit OR the plan creative peg board!

open to us resident only, all you have to do to enter is visit the online shop and then leave a comment telling me what your favorite oompa toy is! the giveaway will run until march 31st at 8pm pst at which time the winner will be contacted. thanks and good luck!
*disclaimer: i was provided the creative peg board for play and review and was not otherwise compensated. all text and opinions are my own as we love oompa and plan toys.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

making memories is my job

stella joined me in bed super early the other morning, we were both restless to start the day, but i had other ideas then just some oatmeal and blue berries. she sleepily followed me into the bathroom where we picked out the flat sheets with the best prints and headed down stairs. stella veered off to wake rowan up to join us.

using our tall table and a long skinny board for weight, i constructed a magical fort for my girls. they collected blankets and pillows and sheets while i cut ribbons and tied back the opening. i picked out some white icicle lights that were still easy to reach from christmas and hung them around the inside while they debated over which movie they would watch on my laptop.

when robin woke up, they asked for him to join them...
when their movie started winding down and they were getting restless, i suggested we decorate the fort. i quickly pulled out the supplies for one of my favorite kiddo projects, one i dreamt up when i was the art room coordinator at the boys and girls club, once upon a  time.

coffee filter butterflies: all you need is some coffee filters, markers, clothespins, and a spray bottle filled with water. you flatten out a filter and let your little color it to their hearts content. when they are done, lay them out on a junkie towel and wet down with the spray bottle. when they are dry you carefully pinch them in the middle a clip with the clothes pin. eventually we'll add pipe cleaners and faces and glitter, but you get the idea!
what adventurous spur of the moment things have you done with your kids lately?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

week nineteen

reminds me a lot of week seventeen.

the proof is in the wheat

three year olds, man...

a couple of weeks ago stella realized that her birthday was immanent and went ahead and pushed up the arrival of the three-nager stage. i don't mention "teenager" because she suddenly is independent and strong and lovely and sparkles, i say it because she has been a real asshole lately.

today she gave the stairs a drink of shampoo and wadded up one thousand large and small balls of toilet water paper and threw seventeen temper tantrums about things that were either a. totally out of my control or b. because her sister was sitting quietly playing with a toy she suddenly decided she wanted.

zoe was such an easy kid, is an easy kid. rowan has always been pretty well behaved if you can put aside that her head is always in the clouds and she hysterically cries when toodie from yo gabba gabba leaves the stage of the live show. but stella...

i knew i was in for it the first time i looked over and she was standing on the dining room table and then that was reinforced when she got up in the wee hours of the morning to scale the bathroom counter and take a toothbrush assisted bath still in her pajamas. being stella's mom is really hard sometimes.

she is so sweet and silly and caring and nurturing and adventurous and all this awesome stuff. but equal to all those things? she is naughty and mischievous and too brave and and and.

life has become a game of trying new approaches to parenting stella, making sure her needs are met, that we aren't missing the reasons behind her behavior.

then i had a major light bulb moment today.

starting at the beginning of february, our family started a pale/whole 30 diet. i'd say we were on board about ninety percent. meaning, i didn't make a fuss over the snacks that rowan was consuming at school and i let them have humus and stuff like that. i noticed a change in rowan's behavior almost immediately and felt justified in our decision to make this lifestyle change. then, a week into march we started to fall off the wagon. we got really busy and to be honest eating super healthy is expensive to keep up and we got lazy. i should have known better when i was making stella her first almond butter + jelly sandwich and she asked, "we get bread?"

they slowly were getting more and more bread, cracker, pasta, etc. i knew i was staring to not feel as great but the kids seemed ok so we just kept saying, "we'll start paleo back up next week..."

then today, after i had just pried all of the pieces of pretty pretty princess out of stella's hands while she threw a tantrum and acted like a seventy five pound noodle (what is it about kids being able to make themselves so heavy when they don't want todo something?) because she refused to play nicely, i had to go take a second to catch my breath and regroup in the kitchen. i started thinking - this bad behavior spike lined up perfectly with her gluten intake being on the rise. here i was, so concerned about how this would help rowan's behavior and my weight loss and our families over all health, i didn't even realize the effects it was having on stella.

of course when i brought it up to tim, he immediately agreed and before i got off the phone with him we vowed that even if we weren't able to stick to this plan the kids needed to no matter what.

i love this interview with dr. davis, the writer of wheat belly - here it is, irrefutable proof that wheat is physically bad for us is so so many ways.

"Brain and nervous system effects range from mood disruption, such as depression, to behavioral outbursts in children with ADHD and autism, to triggering of hallucinations in people with schizophrenia and mania in people with bipolar illness."

it seems that so many things can be traced back to our diets, unfortunately even eating whole foods can't solve all issues, since you could easily be allergic to garlic or greens and so on so i encourage you to get an allergy work up if you really want to know!

i am glad we were able to sort this out and get back on track with a healthier and gluten free lifestyle. i would love to hear about your experiences that are similar!

wish me luck, these next couple of years could get interesting...

Monday, March 18, 2013

stella, year one.

i got a little bit of a reality check from my littlest lady the other day. i innocently responded to her call with a, "yes, baby?" where i was promptly shut down when she informed me, "mommy, i jus stewa now. robin is your baby."

i can't believe this tiny girl will be three on friday! she has always been so photogenic and some of my most favorite photos of her are so hidden back in past posts that with her birthday coming up, i wanted to pull some out, dust them off and share them with you.

this is stella, year one...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

google reader and friend connect get the boot!

is anyone else crying real tears over google giving gfc and reader the ax? no? ok, moving on...

google announces that this coming july you'll have to find somewhere else to collect your favorite internet peoples. so what now?

easy solution: follow while it rains on bloglovin', in my opinion a much more genius-ly deigned reader app that lets you have your favorite blogs at your finger tips. there is even a iPhone app!

had to steal this from mama mandolin when i saw it!

bloggers for babies 2013!

it is that time of year again! may is just around the corner and that means a group of pnw bloggers are gearing up to walk for a third time, earning donations for the march of dimes. this is one of my favorite organizations to be a part of - as a mother i can't even imagine the emotion, time, people, and money that go into supporting a tiny life born too soon. each year keeps getting better and better. i can't wait to see what we can do this year. 

this year our team goal is $5000, so this is where we need your help!

the girls, tim, and i will all be participating and we are so excited! our walk is may 18th at 9am in tacoma. want to walk with us? sign up here: wa bloggers for babies.

i have a huge awesome pants raffle starting soon that will have several winners. every person who donates, for each $5 donated (donate more, you get more entries), you will be entered (even if you donate now!). it is my way of showing appreciation for all your generosity for the babies. hint: brands like hello apparel, pleated poppy, amy cornwell, and many more have donated very generous items!

even a small donation can make a big difference - if you have been looking for a way to give back this year, this is it!

thank you in advance to everyone who walks, donates, and puts up with my nagging over the next two months, thanks so much for all of your help!