Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Week 9

We have a Summer Bucket List, thanks to Kelly over at Little Wonders' Days.  This is simply a list of fun things we want to do or accomplish this summer.  We just completed our ninth full week of summer.  

Our previous weeks can be found here: 
week oneweek twoweek three
week fourweek fiveweek six,
week seven, and week eight.  

Can you believe Monday is the first day of August?  That means I head back to work full time in a couple of weeks.  The two older boys start back to school August 22 and my baby starts preschool a week later.  Summer is coming to a close before we know it and we still have items to check off the bucket list.  Let's see what we did this week...

1.  Visit 10 parks to play and picnic:  It's been a long time since we had rain, so we went to Warren park.  It often floods, but not this week.  We took the easy route and picked up some Lunchables and chips from the grocery store.  Brody got brave and walked across the monkey bar bridge, with my help.  

4.  Swimming at the Pool:  Ron took the boys to the public pool after Tuesday's Farmers' Market.  I have enrolled the older two in swimming lessons starting next week and they are nervous about not remembering some of the skills they learned last year.  So they went to the pool to cool off and to practice.  I think they are more comfortable now.  All three went down the water slide--Braedon on his own, Colby on his own (for the first time) with Ron catching him at the bottom, and Brody with Ron (for the first time).

31.  Eat Chinese:  The boys and I made a trip to the local Chinese Restaurant after Farmers' Market today.  They were quite brave and readily tried lots of new foods.  They all found something they liked, something they didn't care for, and got full.  We visited with their friends Howie and David (the sons of the owners) and actually got a compliment from another family about how cute they were.  The family had just been at the market an hour earlier too.

48.  Look for pictures in the clouds:  We found a rabbit in the clouds this week.  We really have not had very good picture clouds lately.  We'll keep working on this one.

Things that we did that were not on the original list:
*Thursday evening we enjoyed music, food, and kiddie carnival games at Thursday Night at the Park.  Braedon and Ron stayed home, but the younger two boys and I enjoyed ourselves.  They tossed rings and beanbags, got tattoos and balloons, ate 25 cent popcorn and snowcones.  This was followed by an outdoor movie on the square.  We watched Toy Story.  The weather was perfect.  The movie was familiar, but we hadn't watched the first one for awhile, so it was kind of new too.  It was a lot of fun!
*Our Friday Fun Tour took us to 'behind the scenes' at our local HyVee Grocery Store.  The kids enjoyed seeing all the huge refrigerators and freezers and the oven big enough to wheel two carts of baked goods inside.  They also got a sucker and two cookies each.
*We picked up lunch and a movie and played with the toys at my preschool while I got a few things done.  It cracked me up watching the kids enjoy Beatlejuice.  Braedon can't believe they are still selling movies made in the late 80s.  :)
*Ron and the older boys just took an impromptu bike ride with the neighbors.  

This week we have swimming lessons and VBS.  Tomorrow we are going to see the hot air balloons with family in Indianola.  We'll have to see what else we can squeeze in.  What are you doing to make the best of the rest of your summer?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Week 8

We have a Summer Bucket List, thanks to Kelly over at Little Wonders' Days.  This is simply a list of fun things we want to do or accomplish this summer.  We just completed our eighth full week of summer.  

Our previous weeks can be found here: 
week oneweek twoweek three
week fourweek fiveweek six and week seven.  

This week was a busy one.  The county fair was going on and we were busy preparing for Colby's birthday party.  

1.  Visit 10 parks to play and picnic:  It was a hot one (heat indices in the 100s) so I'm counting our trip to the fair.  We ate hot dogs and lemonade (care of American State Bank) and all three boys played on the playground.  We were going to try to picnic, play, and have a scavenger hunt at the upper level (and trails) of East Lake, but it was just plain too hot.  We did enjoy our picnic and play at the fairgrounds and we will have to remember that playground in the future.

14.  Creek stomping at my brother's house:  Well, we didn't hit the creek at Chris's, but Ron and the boys did go creek stomping near Winterset on their way back from retrieving the lawn mower Saturday.  They enjoyed cooling off in the water and discovered a walking stick that had been trimmed by a beaver--very cool!

15.  Homemade Ice Cream:  As part of Colby's party the boys made their own ice cream using this recipe.  It was so simple and I had nearly all the ingredients on hand (just had to buy ice and rock salt).  Very easy and very tasty!

18.  Wii night with friends:  Again, I'm changing this one from what I had intended when I wrote it.  Colby's friends cooled off inside during the party with a little Wii action.  They played Mario Cart and passed the paddles to give everyone a turn.  This was a great chance to cool off and settle down in between outside activities.

29.  County Fair:  The past few years we have only made it to the county fair during Family Fun Night.  This year I wanted to try to go multiple times, but the hot weather slowed down our outdoor activities.  We did make it for Family Fun Night and enjoyed the free hot dogs and lemonade.  The younger two boys participated in the Pedal Pull (didn't place, but had fun).  All the boys watched the Tae Kwon Do demonstration and then played on the playground.  I wandered through the arts and crafts displays and was so impressed with the talent in the community.  Someday I'm going to get around to entering some of my baking, maybe next year.  We did not go through any of the livestock barns (though, living in a rural community and in a farming family we have seen lots of livestock) because we were getting grumpy by the end of the day.

41.  Colby's Birthday Party:  Colby had five friends over on Saturday evening.  This was our first sleepover and I think it was successful.  We went to my parents' pond to fish and roast hot dogs and marshmallows.  The s'mores were a big hit.  We played Wii games and computer games to cool off.  We made ice cream to eat with the cake.  The boys slept in tents in the front yard.  I slept on the couch.  At about 6 am the boys ran into the house and up the stairs (the wind had picked up) and I heard them say that Chase was in here.  I had a brief moment of panic as I had not heard him come in and he wasn't on the floor in the living room.  However he was on the chair in the living room, fast asleep.  His mom had warned me that he had happened upon a Bigfoot program on Discovery recently and was a little worried about sleeping in the tent.  We had breakfast casserole and monkey bread for breakfast and then before long the boys headed home.  

Other things we did that were not on the original list:
*Family camping trip with Pack 101 at Nine Eagles (last weekend):  It was a hot weekend, but we made it (and I even slept in the tent).  The older two boys participated in the fishing derby and Braedon won a new fishing pole for catching the biggest fish (a ten inch bass).  This was his first event as a scout and he was all smiles.  The boys and Ron swam in the lake.  We had walking tacos for supper and the Webelos made McMuffins for breakfast.
*I took the boys to see Cars 2 in the theater on Wednesday.  Ron ended up getting off of work and joined us right after it started.  Fun movie!  I love our local theater.  It only has one screen and plays movies about 4-6 weeks after release, but it is owned by a local family and the seats ($5) and concessions are reasonable.  
*Friday Fun Tour to Osceola Vision Center.  We toured the local eye doctor's clinic and their staff treated us well.  The boys got to try out some of the machines.  It was a low key tour and I believe it will help the boys be more comfortable with they have to visit the eye doctor someday.  They have two parents and lots of family history of eye conditions that require glasses among other things.  So far the school vision screenings have shown no abnormalities though.  :)

What a busy week!  This week is not quite as busy, but busy enough.  It's also not supposed to be as hot, which will be a relief!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Keeping the House Cool

Let me start out by confessing that we just turned our air conditioner on Sunday afternoon.  Yes, this week.  There are several reasons for this.

We do not have central air.  When we bought the house it had baseboard water heat, powered by propane.  We converted a couple of years ago to a cornstove for heat and electric baseboards for back-up.  We have no ductwork in our house.  Our split foyer home is cooled by one window unit that I would guess to be twenty years old, and a network of box fans.

We live in the country.  It gets windy out here.  Most of the time we can use the breeze and our network of fans to cool the house enough that it is comfortable.  Also since we live in the country, the boys can run around in their undies at home.

Our electric bill nearly doubles in July and August when we run the air.  So my goal is to try to keep from using it until at least the Fourth of July.  We have managed to have a summer that is only peppered by unbearable days of heat, surrounded by more tolerable days.  On those unbearable days we try to go somewhere else, like grandma's house, my work (school), or the grocery store during the hottest part of the day to get a break from the heat.

I also keep in mind that people have survived the heat for centuries without air-conditioning.  It has only become common over the last fifty years.  As a society, we have become a bit spoiled.

So, the weather folks forecast a week of mid to upper ninety degree days, with heat indices in the 110 degree range and we turned on the air.  We hung a blanket in our stairway and closed off all the bedrooms.  We'll sleep in the living room this week.  We closed all the curtains as well.  It took all of Sunday afternoon and evening to cool the house to what most would still consider a bit warm.

I chuckled to myself yesterday morning as the kids complained about being cold.  I checked out thermostat (leftover from the propane heat days) and it was 75 degrees inside.  So I turned the air down, so it would run less.  The body does adjust to the warmer weather.  My boys being cold at a temp that most people would complain is too hot for an air conditioned house is proof enough for me.

What else do I do to keep the house cool?  I limit the times of day that I use appliances that produce heat (the oven, the dishwasher, and the dryer) to the early morning and late evening hours.  If I didn't have to bake for farmers' market I wouldn't run the oven at all.  I try to run the other two only overnight, although that doesn't always work.  We have been eating a lot of cold sandwiches or cooking in the crockpot since it produces less heat than the oven.  I am trying to teach the kids to keep doors closed so that we are not letting heat in.

When we do work in the garden (it still has to be done, even in the heat) or other strenuous activity, we take frequent breaks and drink lots of water.  We try to limit those activities to early morning and late evening as well.

What do you do to keep cool in the summer heat?

For more frugal ideas head over to Frugal Tuesday.  We'd love for you to share your frugal tips as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Week 7

We have a Summer Bucket List, thanks to Kelly over at Little Wonders' Days.  This is simply a list of fun things we want to do or accomplish this summer.  We just completed our seventh full week of summer.  To review our previous weeks go hereherehereherehere and here.  Seems like this was kind of a slow week.  

1.  Visit 10 parks to play and picnic:  We planned to go with the Clarke County Moms to play and picnic on Tuesday.  However just as we were ready to leave home, it started raining.  We stayed home, much to the dismay of the boys, and finished working on stuff for farmers' market that afternoon.  We did go Wednesday to the county park in Hopeville.  I think it is fascinating that a century ago Hopeville competed with Osceola for the county seat.  It was a hopping town, and has a cemetery to prove it.  Unfortunately the town died as the railroad and highways passed through Osceola rather than Hopeville.  Now there are still a few roads set up in a grid, a handful of house, a little church, and the park, oh and the cemetery (we drove through and most of the stones listed birthdates of the mid 1800s and deaths from a hundred years ago, fascinating).  Each September Hopeville hosts a music reunion the brings in quite a crowd.  Anyway... the park was small and older, but the boys and I set up an obstacle course through the equipment and that entertained them for almost an hour.

11.  Camping:  This one we had already accomplished, but I think Colby and Ron's trip to Cub Scout camp is worth mentioning.  They were to spend two nights at Camp Mitigwa with the den that Colby is in and the den just older than his from our pack.  The day they arrived Colby made a necklace with a disk wood from a tree branch.  That night Colby volunteered to say grace at supper for the group.  The boys walloped their parents in a sponge war.  They slept in tents and were awoken bright and early the next morning.  They swam, made a wooden box with tools, shot BB guns and cross bows, and threw rocks at targets.  The group from here decided to return that night since rain and possible thunderstorms were moving in and they were sleeping in tents on the ground.  It was a great experience for them both.

12.  Library Activities:  Again, already accomplished, but worth mentioning again.  This week a gal from Blank Park Zoo brought five animals to visit us, including a baby alligator.  Braedon learned the word domesticated.  And the older two boys won prizes for reading books, while Brody turned in another list of books to receive a free book.  This was the last week of summer story hour, and we will miss it.

16.  Make Homemade Popsicles:  Yep, another repeat, but I wanted to report that the lemonade popsicles were a hit and the boys are interested in making their own with apple juice or koolaid.

45.  Play 'Get Lost in the Country':  Okay, let me explain this game.  My friend Paula's in-laws used to play this and she has continued the tradition with her kids.  I thought it sounded fun and have played it a few time with my kids.  However they get a little nervous that we will really get lost.  We played this on our way back from Hopeville.  It works like this:  Start driving in the country; at each intersection a child gets to choose whether to turn left, right, or continue forward; continue, taking turns choosing the direction of travel until you arrive somewhere you recognize or, in our case, mom decides you have wasted enough gas for the day.  We actually took the long way to Murray.  The boys were not as nervous about getting lost this time, and were trying to make it to Creston (the next county over).

Other things we did that were not on the original list:
*Swam in Grandma Onn's pool.
*Friday I got to spend much of the day one on one with Braedon.  He will be ten next month and I know the tough teen years are coming.  Today he had a doctor appointment in Des Moines and my in-laws offered to take the other boys.  So after the ten minutes at the doctors office, we browsed the shelves at Half Price Books and checked out books, toys, cameras, candy, and the dollar bins at two Targets.  We only bought one sack of candy (Braedon) and one book (me), but it was fun hanging out with him.  After we got back to town and delivered some goodies to a friend's house, we took some laminating over to my school.  He played with the Marbleworks (he's quite talented with it) while I began putting up a bulletin board and put away a box of paints.

What do we have going on next week?  Well, we have an overnight family camping trip tomorrow, one of the hottest days of the year, with the cub scout pack.  And then we have an activity-filled week planned, including a trip to our county fair.  I have been looking at the list and thinking I'd better get busy with some of these items...  I have worked on prepping some of them, but we'd better get to it, huh?  Hope you are having a great weekend and stay cool.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Finding the Balance

I really struggle with this.

I find myself lost in work during the school year, finding cool things for my students to experience, following up with parents, going to trainings and meetings, and the almighty paperwork.  I wouldn't call myself a perfectionist, but I do strive to do good work.  I hate to think that I have not held up my end of the job or that I have let someone down.

Now my own kids are not neglected.  Ron has been at his job for twenty years and can get time off fairly easily, if needed.  When I am unable to be home at night, he is.  The few times we need back-up we can count on either set of grandparents, luckily they are all local as well.  And I am involved.  I go to games and practices.  I attend cub scout meetings and activities.  I volunteer as a Sunday school teacher.

But sometimes I do feel like the balance is tipping out of control.

I started my Summer Bucket List so that I did not let this summer get away from us.  It forces me to plan activities with my kids that will become the moments they remember as adults.  Now I must realize that the end of summer is looming nearer each day.  A month from tomorrow I go back to work full time.

And the start of the school year is one of the busiest times.

We do home visits with our families prior to the start of school and this involves working many evenings in order to meet the needs of the families.  Not to mention all the preparation of the classroom and beginning the paperwork.  I will begin the year with a new assistant since my regular assistant is student teaching this fall.  So I will be training her (or him) as well.

<sigh> I do love my job.  I need my job--my husband is not embarrassed to admit that I make more money than he does.  And I love my family.  I will miss spending the days trying to check off the silly things on our bucket list and trying to figure out how we will entertain ourselves.

The world is all about balance.  I am trying to stay upright.

Thank goodness I have lots of helpers to support me.

How do you find the balance?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Week 6

We have a Summer Bucket List, thanks to Kelly over at Little Wonders' Days.  This is simply a list of fun things we want to do or accomplish this summer.  We just completed our sixth full week of summer.  To review our previous weeks go herehereherehere, and here.  This week we were busy celebrating the Fourth of July and then had several activities planned for the end of the week as well.  

1.  Visit 10 parks to play and picnic:  Thursday we had two activities planned with three hours and 35 miles in between.  So we planned a picnic in a park in between.  Our afternoon activity was in Chariton a neighboring town.  We found a city park there and planned a picnic.  Mother Nature tried to throw a wrench into our plans by sending us a rain shower, but by the time we arrived at the park it was down to just sprinkles.  We are not afraid of a little rain and enjoyed our picnic and play at Yokom City Park in Chariton.

9.  Slip and Slide:  Grandma Lewis provided a Slip and Slide for afternoon entertainment on the fourth of July.  All three of my boys enjoyed it, though Brody needed a little help getting across.  He did get the hang of it by the end of the day.

12.  Library activities:  Again, already accomplished, but worth mentioning again.  Story hour this week was 'Mad Science of Iowa'.  This must be something that the science department at ISU is in charge of, since last year's presenter was a young man and this year it was a young woman.  Both were good in their own ways.  The kids did enjoy it immensely.  Next week is the last summer story hour and we will miss it.

13.  Hunt down Dan Wardell:  We had three opportunities to see Dan this week within 40 miles from home.  His trip to Chariton fit into our schedule the best and we made the trip to see him Thursday afternoon.  For those of you not local to Iowa, or without young kids, Dan Wardell is the host of the children's programming on Iowa Public Television.  He is a bit hyperactive for many adults' taste, but now that I have a son diagnosed with ADD, I believe Dan is an excellent role model for him.  Dan has spent the last several summer traveling the state, bringing his story (it varies from summer to summer, but usually involves aliens and fictional monsters, but also includes healthy eating and exercise) to libraries ranging from one to three a day.  We caught him when he was in town four years ago and have traveled to neighboring communities for the last three years.  I tried to talk the boys into wearing capes (Dan's attire) this year, but they did not accept this suggestion.  Oh well, we had fun anyway!

35.  Fourth of July parade/carnival/fireworks:  This really deserves a post of its own, but I couldn't do it justice without pictures, and I have not figured out a good way to make pictures work here.  Suffice it to say our small town's big celebration is the Fourth of July.  We have a rinky-dink carnival around the town square for 3 days.  Grandma Feehan always provides plenty of carnival tickets for the boys and they enjoy the rides.  This year all three got to climb the rock wall.  Along with the carnival, local food vendors on the courthouse lawn and other activities planned around the square.  This year's events included fire fighter water fights, a pedal pull, oldly-wed vs newlywed game, and minute to win it.  My little niece got to taste corn on the cob for the first time and loved it!  We have a big parade which includes two marching bands, numerous floats, tractors, horses, and most importantly (for the kids) candy.  Colby got to march with the scouts.  He also got to present the flags at the city-wide church service with the scouts.  Braedon will participate in both activities next year too.  We had a twenty minute fireworks show.  And spent Monday afternoon with family enjoying lots of good food.  This is one of my favorite holidays.  Many friends return to our small town for the fourth and others wish that they could.  

Other things we did that were not on the original list:
*Our Friday Fun Tour this week was the ambulance.  My nine year old was very ho-hum about it until we were inside the ambulance.  I was so impressed with the quantity and quality of his questions for the EMTs.  I don't always get to see that side of him--it was nice to get to see it today.
*Colby and Ron are currently at Cub Scout Camp for three days.  I have had several texts about their activities and got to talk to them both tonight.  Colby, of course, didn't want to talk long, but Ron said they are having a blast.  The plans for Saturday include hiking, swimming, and shooting BB guns.  
*Had cupcakes for breakfast this morning in honor of Colby's birthday.  He had to leave for camp at ten, so cupcakes for breakfast it was!

I know this coming week we have a few doctors' appointments and some other planned activities.  I'm sure we'll be able to work in some fun though.  After the fourth it seems like the summer is nearly over.  And as I was entering plans into my calendar, sure enough, the end of summer is in sight.  I will be back to work full time by August 16, just over a month away.  Yikes!  We still have so many more plans to squeeze in.  We can do it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't be bugged about eating fresh fruit

In the summer we typically have fresh fruit available in our kitchen.  With fresh fruit comes fruit flies, it seems.  A very easy, and very successful, way to take care of the fruit flies is also quite frugal.  Fill a custard dish (or other small container) 3/4 full of apple cider vinegar.  Squirt a dab (just a dab) of dish soap in.  Leave this solution open on your counter.

The apple cider vinegar will attract the flies.  They will settle in for a feast.  The dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar.  Instead of landing and sitting on top of the vinegar, they fall into the solution.  After a few days you will see several flies at the bottom of the dish.  I usually change this out about once a week.  Good luck and enjoy that fresh fruit!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Week 5

We have a Summer Bucket List, thanks to Kelly over at Little Wonders' Days.  This is simply a list of fun things we want to do or accomplish this summer.  We just completed our fifth full week of summer.  To review our previous weeks go hereherehere, and here.  This week we slowed down a bit.  We have a big weekend planned so we stayed close to home more this week than we had in past weeks.  We still got to have some summer fun and check off some bucket list items.

1.  Visit 10 parks to play and picnic:  Thursday for lunch we ventured to the big town of Weldon (population 145) to see the caboose a friend has been painting, to picnic, and to play at the park.  The full-sized, authentic caboose was fun.  I got to tell some stories about how cabooses were used in the past.  I wish I knew a bit more about the history of Weldon, because the older two boys were curious.  We did see a mural of the town painted on the side of a building near the park while we were playing.  I didn't realize the mural was there and that was fun to admire and try to figure out what the buildings depicted had once been.

8.  Water Fight:  Colby and Brody participated in a water fight with water balloons at the park after we painted our shirts on Thursday.  Braedon opted out.  He and I kept working on his shirt.  We'll probably have another water fight later on this summer at home.

12.  Library Activities:  We had already accomplished this.  But we had the best time at story hour this week and the next two weeks also look like fun times, so I'm going to continue to write about them.  This week our presenter was a young man (college-aged) who is a balloon artist.  He opened the show by making an alien out of balloons while blind-folded.  My little buddy, Cal, was an excellent assistant (Hi Peggy!).  Then he told three stories using audience members as actors.  The actors wore hats, masks, or carried props made of balloon art.  Braedon got to be 'Tom' in a story and repeated his lines and did some pantomimes.  Colby was 'Drink-Well' in the same story and also repeated some lines.  It was fun to see them open up on 'stage' and the show was so funny.  This young man is quite talented.  We actually ran into him four years ago at the Des Moines Farmers' Market and he made detailed balloon hats for Braedon and Colby then.  I look forward to seeing him again someday.  (Next week our presenter is Mad Science of Iowa--we saw a presentation of this last year and it was fantastic.  Then the following week Blank Park Zoo will bring some animals down to visit story hour.)  

16.  Homemade Popsicles:  I attempted to throw together some stuff and make popsicles.  Due to the leftover bit of ice cream (I think) they did not set up.  Braedon also did not like them.  So maybe this week we will just do regular homemade popsicles with either juice or kool-aid.

19:  Make Milkshakes:  We had milkshakes for breakfast Saturday.  I make them with ice cream, a banana, and some strawberries.  I'm not sure where my blender ended up, so I just made them in my mixer.

26.  Tie Dye:  Well, we didn't actually tie dye yet (we may still do that), but we decorated tee shirts two times this week.  Thursday afternoon we met with some Clarke County Moms at East Lake Park.  The boys each brought a white tee shirt to decorate.  The plan was to make firework tee shirts by doing straw painting with watered down fabric paint.  We did that and then found that splatter painting with straws worked a little better.  So the front of their shirts are red, white, and blue splatters.  Then on Friday we met with a different group of folks and used puffy paint to decorate the backs of the shirts.  So if we don't get to tie dye, I think we did get to make our own designs on shirts (and we are wearing them up to the carnival today).

Other things we did that were not on the original list:
*The boys were going to slip and slide Friday, but we can't find our slip and slide, so they played in the sprinkler.  This led to finding several big buckets, a wheel barrow, and other various holders-of-water, filling them up, and trying out their 'pools'.
*We saw the space station.  We do this fairly frequently as Ron is a space geek.  I think this is the first time I saw it though.  It was really cool.  It looks like a bright airplane, moving in a straight line across the sky.
*We participated in another Friday tour.  This time a child care provider opened up her yard to the group and we climbed, bounced, blew bubbles, had watermelon, painted shirts, and just had fun.

This coming week is another busy one.  The Fourth of July is our small town's big celebration.  We are off today to see the water fights, do the pedal pull, ride the small carnival rides, and just have fun on the square.  Tomorrow is the parade and then going to Grandma Lewis's for delicious food.  Hopefully we will get to meet our new cousin.  We are also planning to attend two story hours this week, including one with our hero Dan Wardell, of Iowa Public Television fame (he'll be in Chariton on Thursday--also in Indianola and Creston at other times this week).  Then Ron and Colby leave for Cub Scout camp on Friday (which is also Colby's birthday).  Lots of fun in store!

Happy Fourth of July!!