Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Zirrly Super Bead Review

March is not my favorite homeschool month. We're usually all cranky and tired and just not feeling it like we are in the fall and spring. To combat all this negative energy we've been trying to do more arts & crafts, so we were thrilled to try Super Beads from Zirrly.  We choose the Mega Pack to get a good variety of templates to work with.

Both girls ADORE crafts. They will paint, draw, cut, glue, assemble and make lovely, learning messes. I, however, am not a fan of the mess nor the time it takes sometimes for me to be involved. I want them to be independent, but I also don't want chaos or tears. My girls have used bead crafts before. In fact, we went through a few months this past fall where they were downright obsessed and I had an ironing pile that was shockingly large waiting for me daily. These beads were intriguing because they require no ironing - just a spritz of water and a little wait time. The girls, at 6 and 7, could (theoretically) do this project start to finish with no help from me.

Each kit comes with everything you need.
  • beads
  • spray bottle (ours came with two, which is great with two kids)
  • puzzle trays (for laying out your bead creation)
  • plastic alignment tool
  • pattern cards (the mega set came with only four designs with five cards each - better for a class than a family)
  • instruction manual

Super Beads Spinning tops

The girls spent a happy morning with the beads. Madison chose to do the apple, and Reagan, who is loving elephants right now, went for the elephant. Madison finished quickly, but Reagan got frustrated quickly. At six, she's at the low end for the fine motor skills of these beads, and probably would do better with help. Madison said it was pretty easy to make, but the one thing she didn’t like was that all of the beads have to be facing the same direction.  There’s a little lip around one end of each bead, and all of those must be facing up. It's a fine distinction that she didn't always get, and it was a little frustrating for her to place a bead, notice it was "upside down" and have to remove and replace it. The bead kits that use ironing don't have that issue, so it was an adjustment. As the girls get more accustomed to this particular kit, I'm sure that issue will fade away.

4500 beads is a LOT of beads!

We've found that these trays from IKEA are ideal for any bead crafting.

Ready to be sprayed!

Definitely proud of her creation!

There are enough beads for plenty of creations, and the girls loved that the trays could snap together to accommodate bigger creations too. They were planning on a "giant rainbow", but a glance through our beads did show that we'd be a little constrained by how many we had of each color, so they adjusted. There was definitely a surplus of red, blue and white. I'm sure different packs have different colors to create with.

Super Beads

Overall, the girls had fun and are already looking to see which set they'd like next. They are leaning toward the Jewelry Set, but they also loved the idea of the 3D projects (which I'm sure I'd need to help with).

Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}

Other members of the review crew reviewed different sets. It was very cool to see how each family made these craft kits their own!

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 19, 2018

Getting Our Ducks in a Row

Slowly, painfully slowly, Adam and I are chipping away at our "list of things that really needs to get taken care of". We finally replaced our broken family room furniture. We finally got the family room carpet replaced. We've scheduled our new patio door (which is an entirely different story I'll tell another day - probably not until it's finished, since, you know, tempting fate).

And now we're looking at what's coming up next. We need to replace the front door too. The roof needs replacing. The girls' bathroom needs a facelift - badly. The kitchen floor is on the list. I'd love to do the upstairs carpet. The interior needs painting. And my car is on that list in a BIG way. Now that Subaru has FINALLY released the model I've been pining for, I'm ready to send my car shopping liaison to go get me one (only halfway kidding. I am terrible at big purchase shopping and my father in law used to sell Subarus. He is totally my proxy for this experience. I care about the color).

Our list is a lovely thing, but after getting burned a few times, we're being very cautious with how much we do at once and how carefully we do it. We had some beautiful landscaping and stonework done a few years ago, paid for it from our savings, and then got thrown into a really awful situation with Adam's business. A few years after that we'd just started to rebuild that nest egg and got knocked down again. So although we are back on track, I'm very opposed to taking on loans or wiping out savings to do it. It might drive us crazy (and we each have our pet project that we're willing to thrown out the rule book for), but we're being smart. If the past ten years have taught us anything, it's that you truly never know when life is going to knock you down, and you don't want to already be in a vulnerable spot when it does.

Plus, there are the extras. With a new car comes a change in our insurance. Big home improvement projects always seems to include an add on or another project uncovered. With Adam working at home and me homeschooling, any work on the house is a huge disruption that we need to plan for.

And everyone has an opinion about what we should do and who we should use and why we should just do it all at once...and that's fine.

If you're not our duck, get out of our row.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Know Your Strengths

Everyone has their strengths. And everyone has their...let's call them lesser strengths.

Lately, I feel like I am just full of lesser strengths. I'm in a slump. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the time of year, but I'm just a tired mess. I'm behind on everything. My lists have lists. I have clutter everywhere. I'm just lazy and crabby.

I make great plans to get out of it, but then I don't follow through. I talk myself out of things. I'm super tired tonight, so I'll just get up early tomorrow and be ready to go after a good night's sleep. And then...can you figure out what happens?

I'm getting done what needs to be done. The girls have been ready for their dance competitions, and we're arriving, on time, neatly packed and ready to go. I might be behind on laundry, but (not counting the sock basket), that's getting finished too. Our house is untidy, but it's not in a state of disrepair.

I'm making myself feel a little bit better by employing the "just one thing" method. I am choosing one thing to tackle (theoretically, my plan was one "paper" thing and one "cleaning" thing, but I promised myself I'd be ok if I got one thing entirely). Instead of looking at my lists and panicking, I do one thing. I update the calendar. I clip the stack of coupons. I get the schoolwork piled up organized into weekly assignments.

It's helping. I am nowhere near caught up with everything, but I'm caught up with some things.

Still, even after the worst of my slump, I know my limits. Right now, in this mental state, I should not be making major decisions. That's one of my biggest reasons why I'm basically sending my father in law off with Adam to get the new car, when the time comes. I don't care about the details, they're better negotiators than I am, and it's a giant weight off my shoulders. Vin is really good at this stuff, and he likes doing it. I'm terrible at it and it's a stressful chore.

I'm sure as we crawl toward spring (and I mean weather, not calendar, since the weather is the one who isn't cooperating), I'll get more and more of my mojo back. And hopefully, my "one thing" strategy will leave me in decent shape.

But I'm still sending the boys to Subaru. Knowing my weakness? That's my strength.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Made Practical Review

Have you ever wondered if you're teaching your children what they should know at the various stages of life? For me, it's so hard to get a yardstick against where we "should" be.  For any parent who isn't quite sure, like me, Parenting Made Practical may be just what you need. The goal of Parenting Made Practical is to “Encourage and equip parents to practically raise obedient, respectful, and responsible children in today’s world.”

I reviewed the book What Every Child Should Know Along the Way  and I was also able to check out the DVD Navigating the Rapids of Parenting.  I think every parent could use a bit of encouragement when it comes to raising children so I was looking forward to watching and reviewing Navigating the Rapids of Parenting from Parenting Made Practical.

parenting made practical

This book is intended for parents of preschoolers through college (there's a spread!), and it's written by a homeschooling mom.

To be honest, it was a little...heavy...on the Biblical side for me. I'm sure I'm just encouraging people to worry about my family by saying that, so please know that it's not necessary. I certainly wouldn't classify myself as someone who eschews anything Biblical. We attend church and Sunday school and are bringing the girls up in a Christian way. But it was a bit too much for me and I don't know that I'd be totally comfortable recommending it to my homeschooling friends who are less religious. They may be off put and give up early. In addition, although it's just a general idea, the pages and pages and pages of rules and don'ts were overwhelming. Personally, that kind of list isn't the most helpful for our family. We're more likely to say "you CAN play here" and "these are the things you ARE allowed to use" than give them endless "don't this" and "you can't" that.

However, once I wrapped my head around that and distilled the ideas down to the big picture, the big picture is a good one, and the charts and suggestions for each age are very helpful. I'll keep this book around as a reference.

What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

Although I thought I would only get the book, I was surprised by getting a DVD surprise in my package! Always fun.

In the opening scene Carla says: "During transitions our children are changing and so are we, because they are moving through a phase that for them they are growing into new things that they don't know how to handle." This is exactly the heart of parenting.  It's a road of transitions for you and for your child. I've written about this before - every time you feel like you've confidently figured out how to work through a hard stage, they're out of it and onto the next hard stage. They can't yet make sense of where they've grown into.

I'm running into this with my almost 8 year old. She's growing from little kid to big kid and there are plenty of struggles in there. She wants so desperately to be independent, but she's not quite there yet - but I also know that keeping her down isn't the right choice.

The DVD is about an hour and a half long, but it's broken into four phases. I watched phase one and two, since that's where my kids are, which is the first 40 minutes. We're just out of the birth - 5 phase (very rule focused) and are now completely in the elementary stage (training). The goal is to anticipate these "rapids" before the kids hit them, so we can guide them through, rather than fight our way through with them.

I wasn't shocked to see that it is just as religiously driven as the the book. Again, this isn't a BAD thing. It's just for a very specific audience. Would I share it with our friends in town who are Jewish? Our co-op friends who are non-religious? Probably not, which is a shame, because it's good overall information. It's just a little much.

Navigating the Rapids of Parenting DVD

Other Crew members reviewed different products so be sure to read the other reviews to learn more about the other products available from Parenting Made Practical. When the girls are older I'll be interested in the book and DVD of Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lurking Underneath

Such a pretty surface, such a mess underneath.

I'm running into this a lot lately. Things look clean in our bedroom, but I'm pretending I don't know what's stuffed in our spare closet. The girls claimed they've cleaned their rooms, but their drawers and shelves are a mess.

A friend of mine did a remodel on her house a little while ago and basically got every homeowner's worst fear. When they pulled off the old siding to re-do, they found massive structural damage. Mold, water damage, rotting wood. Yes, it was good that they found it. It all got taken care of, and the final product is beautiful. But it was a massive increase in time and money, and had them terrified, for a long time, of what else might be lurking underneath.

Frankly, it had - has - me scared too. Doing home improvement is terrifying. When the carpet people came to replace our family room carpet, I was thinking all too clearly about the fact that this carpet had been laid down in 1994 and not touched since. We had no idea what the floor underneath looked like. The company we'd purchased from warned us that their people couldn't do any structural repair, nor could they lay new flooring on a damaged sub floor. If something was wrong, we'd need to deal with it. I stood there as they scored and removed the old carpet and pad thinking please be ok, please be ok, please be ok. 

It was ok. Super dusty, but ok. And now it's lovely.

But you just never know. And it's not limited to home improvement. It could be anything. You hear about couples who fall apart and think "what? Them? Really?" They were great! They were fine! But there was mess underneath.

You can be a health mess underneath.

A financial mess underneath.

An emotional mess underneath.

And until you pull back the surface (or someone forces it back) you might never know. If our friends hadn't decided they wanted new siding - which was more an esthetic choice than an upkeep one - they might have lived with problems festering away in their walls for years, getting worse and worse.

So take the cover off every now and then, if you can, and know exactly what you're dealing with.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

When Your Memory Slips

I'm in a slump lately. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's just that March is my least favorite month of the year. Maybe it's that the weather has reverted back to January, with raw cold and weekly snowstorms. Maybe it's that I've hit that point in our school year where I feel like we've somehow gotten hopelessly behind and will never catch up again.

I've been in slumps before. I know I'll get out of it. I have a few strategies cooking, and as soon as I get the energy to implement them, I'll have a foot up to get out.

Because the big thing that's killing me now is my memory. I have always had a ridiculously good memory, but it has been letting me down more and more lately. I know, I'm getting to 40. I won't have my crazy "look at it once and remember it always" memory forever. But I'm starting to drop the ball, and that needs to stop.

Like the other week. I dropped Madison off at dance, and instead of killing time at that end of town, I decided to bring Reagan home and try to get some cleaning done. I knew I had limited time, so I was watching the clock like crazy.

All of a sudden, I looked at the clock and panicked! We were going to be late! It was 7:00, dance ended at 7:15, and it was a good 20 minute drive. Why weren't we in the car yet?? I hustled Reagan out of the house, yelling about shoes and coats and panicking that Madison was going to end up worrying and waiting.

About halfway there I realized that dance doesn't end at 7:15. In fact, NO activity that my children do has ever ended at 7:15. Not this year, not last year, not dance, not gymnastics, not cooking, not either child. Ever. Dance ended at 7:30, and has all year long. Why 7:15 popped into my brain...I have no idea. But we did make there for 7:15, and then killed a good twenty minutes waiting for Madison, who takes her time getting her shoes changed.

OK, so that's one brain fart. Then, I had another one. Madison was invited to a birthday party.  First, I wasn't sure if it was Saturday or Sunday. Reagan had been invited to a party too and I was unclear as to whether or not there was a conflict. Finally, figured all that out. Then, I was confused about the time. I couldn't remember if it was 3:00 or 3:30. I checked the invite. 3:00. I put that time in my planner and in my phone. I wasn't sure about the location. Checked the invite, put the address in my maps, noted the time again.

Then, my brain decided to override all these notes I'd written. I was suddenly 100% confident that the party was at 3:30. We left the house and arrived at 3:15 and I made Madison sit in the car. She begged to go in and check it out at 3:20. And...yeah, she was late and missed the first game of laser tag. She still had fun and was fine with it, but I was mourning the loss of my mind.

We very nearly missed an appointment I'd set up. I completely forgot that a guy was coming to measure the door and was still in my pjs when he showed up.

So what do I do now?

Well, for the time being, I stop trusting myself that I won't forget. As far as I'm concerned, I will forget, so I set up checks for myself. I write it down. I tell other people. Madison is exceptionally good at remembering this stuff, and Reagan, when she chooses to, also has an elephant memory. I trust the two of them to help. I set alarms that I can't ignore because "oh, yeah, I know that's coming".

There might be shame in forgetfulness, but there's not shame in using every tool at your disposal to help you remember!

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