Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Busy, busy, busy

Sigh, I am SOOOO working on trying to organize my life for better time management. I feel like I spend too much time cleaning, doing dishes, and cooking and not enough time teaching, playing, sharing with you, and just enjoying! Isn't that last one what a good life is really all about? Appreciating and enjoying everything you have been blessed with?

So what have we been doing lately? A lot and nothing all at the same time. We abandoned formal curriculum for the year because Baby Monkey is just too crazy right now. Honestly, I don't think Big Monkey has missed it much. Me? Well, it has caused me to have to actually do a little more work than printing out all those printouts and sitting and doing those with Big Monkey. Why? Well, because I'm still trying to teach him skills and life lessons without a formal schedule or any mappped out aids. I'm having to come up with it all on my own!

Recently I found 2 lists that I really find useful. The first is a list of 71 things your child should know before kindergarten. I found this very useful for myself since I had no idea what Big Monkey needed to know for kindergarten vs. what was just an added bonus if he did learn. Now I at least have some guidelines on what to focus on in the next 2 years. I think this list would be a great thing for those of you with kids in a traditional preschool as well. It will allow you to see how your preschool is preforming. Not saying you have to leave them if they aren't, but at least you'll have an idea if you need to supplement with some stuff at home. We all want the best start for our little ones in school, right?

The second list is a life skills by age list. Man, was this helpful! This list let me figure out if I was pushing Big Monkey to do things that really he wasn't ready to do (or didn't need to be doing). Haha! In reality, I mostly wasn't pushing enough. So now we're working on stuff from the age 2 category and starting on the age 3 category. This is mostly what we've been working on lately. The first list is more for my reference as I am planning our "curriculum" for next year.

The boys have been enjoying some fun activities though. Unfortunately, we've missed out on a lot of our fun playdate options lately because of 1)weather, 2) flat tires on the car - blah, or 3) unexpected illnesses in Mama Monkey, Baby Monkey, and extended Monkey family members. Everyone seems to be on the mend now though. Some of our activities though have been:

Painting Mama Monkey's bathtub with shaving cream. For about a week they wanted to do this almost every day for about an hour at a time! Since the tub is right next to my shower (I can see right into the tub) I was able to shower, dress, and dry/style my hair completely guilt free! No TV in order for me to get a shower, no tears from anyone. Woot! Then Baby Monkey got Roseola and didn't want to be in cold in the tub and they just haven't been as excited about it since.

They thought that painting each other (mostly Baby Monkey) was a blast. The added benefit is that they both got clean in the process and didn't need a bath that night.

We've also spent a lot of time building pillow forts or castles as Big Monkey calls them. I'm getting tired of picking up all my couch pillows three times a day though. I'm also afraid they are not going to hold up to the 2 boys. The backside of the couch is already not looking so good - the leather is peeling. Ugh... So I dug out some "play pillows" for them to use instead and put the couch pillows on off limits. Think that one through before you let them do it the first time or it's a fight to get them to switch.

Lastly, we've been doing a lot of gardening! We pulled up tons of weeds from the garden area around the playground and tilled all the dirt to make it soft. Then we're filling the planters with soil and putting up a railing to keep the kids from falling into the garden while they play. This is going to be a fruits, veggie, and herb garden that will hopefully bring down our grocery bill during the growing season! Can't get more organic than home grown. Between our garden and all the stuff my in laws grow and bring over, we may not have to ever buy fresh produce again. Um... well, I guess first I should see if my green thumb is really that good or not.

Here is Baby Monkey helping Daddy Monkey move dirt from the truck to the garden beds. Big Monkey usually catches a ride too. This is too much for me to handle with a load full of dirt. Hmmm.. he sort of looks like a baby chipmunk instead of a monkey here.

 Big Monkey showing off our first plants of the season - strawberry plants and asparagus roots. Not sure if we planted the later correctly or not. Guess we'll find out if they grow. The instructions were a bit confusing. More plants to come!

Our banana tree (or stick). The leaves will come back once the warm weather returns. 

We also spent some time exploring what we found in the front yard this week. A big hit was the small rocks in the front planter. The brought me rocks we different textures, colors, and sizes. We talked about them all and even Baby Monkey was feeling their textures and pointing to the different colors. Now if only we can get him to have some vocabulary...

And soon to come - lessons in the kitchen. Our sourdough starter arrived today and is in the process of being fed! We're going to try out some homemade tortillas and sourdough bread. Yum!

Shutterfly Photobooks and Yearbooks

Every year I create a photo book for each of my little monkeys summarizing the past year. It always seems to take me forever mainly because I have to sort through the hundreds of photos I have for each boy and choose which ones I like the best. I suppose I could make a photo book with every photo I have ever taken, but I can't even begin to imagine how many pages that book would have to be and how much that would cost me! I'm trying to save and budget for a minivan (that's right, I'm converting to a mommy-mobile and giving up the orange creamsicle, *sigh*).

I've explored various photo sites in the past and keep coming back to Shutterfly for my books (as well as holiday cards, birthday invitations, etc...). It seems to me that they have great prices and usually by far have the best selection of products and layouts. Shipping is fast and what you see on the computer is usually what you get in the mail (no worries about if the photos will look as good in print, are the colors to my backgrounds really that pretty, will I really be able to read that font, etc...). I'm always in love when it arrives (and my husband is always amazed and impressed as if I actually have some graphic talents - ha!). It never fails that Shutterfly usually has the best promotions too. Become a loyal customer and they will send you offer codes for free photobooks, picture prints, and cards! Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and more discounts and offers can be found (seriously, I rarely pay full price for things). Become a blogger and they'll even sponsor some of your posts (like this one) and offer you incentives as well. Another reason to love them as a company - they love me too (or at least act like they do). Every penny counts right? (and for those of you without kids - make a photobook of you cat, dog, trips, husband, crafts, etc...).

So anyway, now I've noticed that Shutterfly is offering a sort of "photobook" of a different style - a yearbook. I thought this could be of interest to some people who have chosen not to put their kids in traditional school as well as anyone else who might have connections within a traditional school system. When not bought in bulk the books start at $22.49, but if bought in bulk (say for a school or maybe even a homeschooling group?) they can be as low as $5. Neat! For some of you, sure you could just make a photobook, but I thought a yearbook style would be great for documenting a school year. Maybe you don't want to do a single school year - maybe a yearbook would be a good way to document a series of years of your child(ren). I just may do it once Big Monkey gets to kindergarten. Maybe I'll even make one for him compiling all his preschool years - hmm... guess we better start having "picture day" once a year, huh?

Ooooh, I've got a better idea! Use one of these yearbooks to create a collection of all your kids' artwork and school work that they bring home. I can't even count the number of people that I have recently heard ask what they should do with all the artwork. I say, take a picture of it (or 2), get rid of the actual clutter, and then put it into a book! Then you can look back on all the stuff they have done and it won't take up more room that a small book in your shelf. Genius, especially considering the amount of clutter I already have in my house! Yikes!

Anyway, I promise my blog won't turn into an ad fest. This will only happen from time to time, and only for things I really believe in and enjoy. Of course, I much like Jen from People I want to Punch in the Throat, I would very willingly whore my blog out for a free ride (i.e. minivan). If a car company ever offers me a chance to "spend some time" in a brand new minivan like they did Jen, then I hold the right to fully retract that no ad fest statement!

For good measure, here are the monkeys' having a grand ol' time learning about gardening:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Week of Outside

So we spent a lot of this week outside as well as having visitors. Grandma Monkey came to visit for Mama Monkey's birthday. The boys love having her around. While she was here we spent a lot of time playing in the backyard. One day we loaded up and took the boys to a local regional park with a lake and let them run around the grass and throw little pebbles and shells into the lake. My boys' favorite activity is running around with sticks and watching ducks, so this couldn't have been more perfect. In fact, at soccer this week Big Monkey informed me that he didn't want to play soccer. Ok, so I had him at least sit and watch in hopes that he'd change his mind. He looked at me at one point and said, "Mommy, I just want a stick and want to go to the duck pond." So that is what we did once everyone else was done playing soccer. Sigh, it's going to be a long month of watching soccer one day a week. Thank goodness it's only for 30 minutes. It's just not his thing.

We started preparing the backyard for our spring garden as well. Since we just hardscaped the entire backyard this past year, we need to landscape, but we are also going to have a vegetable garden as well as fruit trees. Big Monkey and I are excited. Baby Monkey is just getting the hang out pulling out weeds, moving rocks around, and getting muddy. He seems thrilled with the idea.

Anyway, while moving large rocks around the yard, we stumbled across what we thought was a snake under a rock. We left Mr. Snake under the rock for several weeks until Daddy Monkey could help us find him. Well, after finding him and making him move, we realized that he had legs and was in fact a very very large and ugly lizard. I'm not sure I've ever seen a lizard that large.

Big Monkey and I started our first round of seedlings for planting soon.

Baby Monkey spent his time pretending to be a fireman. He is too cute in this Melissa and Doug Fire coat that is too big for him. He'll bring it to me and want me to put it on him. It's hard to imagine that he is just barely 15.5 months old. He seems so much older, especially when he's outside swinging on his belly on the swings alongside his big brother. It is so true that the second really does so many things faster.

Big Monkey also tried his hand at candyland. He did pretty good with the game. About halfway through he just wanted to move the pieces around to all the different "places" on the board. I was fine with that as candyland is sort of a slow game for this Mama. I think I like chutes and ladders better - I think we need to get that. Either way, he had a good lesson on things like moving his man to the second blue square in the direction he was going.

At the regional park the boys got a lot of nature lessons. They found a lot of sticks and rocks of course, but we also found other treasures. They collected seashells and we talked about how animals lived in them. Big Monkey happened to find one closed shell that actually had a muscle in it! I pried it open a little (I know, probably not so good for the animal, but we've all done it) and let him take a look and a whiff of the smell. He wasn't so sure about it, but then again he's not sure of anything that is an "animal" no matter how little it moves.

They also found a HUGE pinecone, which Baby Monkey decided to place in the bottom of the stroller to take home. As soon as he put the pinecone in the basket, he began to push the stroller to the car! A big task for a little man through some very rough grass.

Sorry, not sure why blogspot is rotating that last picture. It is not vertical like that on my computer...

They also took apart some seed pods that were stuck to tree branches on the ground. It was all fuzzy inside and it all blew away giving us a chance to talk about how trees can spread their seeds. We had a fantastic day - much more fun and enjoyable for both the boys and myself than a park (we still hit the park from time to time, but not as much as these things).