Leap Day set a record this year. Record high that is. I was pretty sure that this was the warmest it's ever been in February in my life time. I was correct. Today's high tied with the high in 1976, which was before I was born. The day started out with thunderstorms, but cleared up and was a beautiful afternoon. We got to only enjoy a little of it before we had swim lessons. To show how nice it was, here are a couple pics of when we got out of swim lessons, at 5:30.
Both kids love playing with cars. When I saw a DIY parking garage complete with ramps made from file folders on Pinterest, I had to make it. The kids even helped out. Now, I'm all about reusing. It just so happens that Husband and I recently cleaned out the filing cabinet and had a bunch of spare file folders that had things written on the tabs. I gathered 4 of those up. The kids helped me cut the tabs off to form straight lines. Next we taped them together accordion style. Now, the directions used this exact phrase and by the time I made this yesterday, my brain couldn't figure that out, so I just used the steps as a guide and set it up how I wanted and then taped. Sunshine helped with the tape, so we used a lot of it. Since Monster actually saw the nice complicated skyline on the website, he wanted a skyline, too. I'm all about simplicity. I didn't cut stuff out like the person did in the original, I just drew a generic looking skyline and colored it with a crayon. Kids were just as happy as if it looked professionally done. After that was done, I took the other folder and cut it in half on the fold. On the original site, she doesn't tell you to cut the tabs off of this folder, but after messing around with it a bit, I did because it just worked better that way. After that, I cut the half of the folder in half again length wise. I drew a dotted line and arrows. I drew the arrows because I know my kids. They would be fighting for which side to drive their cars on if I didn't give them directions. I then taped on the ramps and drew "parking spaces". Honestly, I didn't use the tutorial after the whole accordion style taping directions. I pretty much just winged it and it turned out fine. I mean, it's not a complicated project, which is what I like. I don't know if it was because I had used folders, but they didn't' stand up well on my steps. I taped the top to the wall and the bottom to the floor. We also have a car mat which we put at the bottom of the steps. The kids loved this. Sunshine added some dinosaurs in later in play to guard the cars on the mat. But of course, right? Fun, simple project. The original poster made hers much nicer, but my kids don't care about fancy, they want fun and I want simple. It took all of 5 minutes. The fighting over who got which cars took longer to sort through than making this. Coolest thing is that I can add on. If I want another level, I'll just add a folder. I also thought about making a second to put higher up the stairs so each child can have their own.
There was a shooting at a high school only about an hour or so away from here this morning. It is no secret I do not like guns. There is a strict no gun policy in my house...sort of like the zero tolerance policies at schools. The only place guns are allowed are in the pool, and even then, they don't look like actual guns. I know I'm a little over the top on this. Most people think I need to let up. Boys play guns. I started to give a little on the gun playing now that Monster is in Kindergarten and all the boys are playing guns, heck even Cars 2 has guns. Then, Little Miss Sunshine said something that brought gun play to a dead stop. Sitting in the car, she calmly says to me, "Mommy, I shoot you. Bang, bang." Might not seem like anything big to most people, but for me, it was a wake up call that I had gotten too lax. We had a big talk about how we do not play guns, we never pretend to point guns at people and shoot them. I know that I can't stop Monster from playing guns when I'm not around, but I reiterated the fact that we do not play guns at home and he may not even make laser guns out of Trio Blocks to be spies. I told him that I know his friends play guns and I'd prefer it if he did not. I also let him know that I trust him to use his best judgement.
There was my mistake. Letting my 5 year old use his best judgement. Just two days ago, Sunshine is begging Monster to build her a gun. Monster tries explaining to me that it's not really a gun, it's just a laser and "how else are we going to kill the bad guys?". We talk about how it's not OK to take a life, even if it's a bad guy (here's where it's not black and white and unfortunately Monster sees all the shades of grey, but I stick to it for now). Monster gets on board and turns the "guns" into flashlights so they can spot the bad guys, but Sunshine is in hysterics because she wants a gun. Monster keeps trying to explain that the flashlight is better, but she's not buying it.
Then we start our day with news of a school shooting. Some people may think this is harsh, but I use this as a teachable moment. I show Monster the article. I explain what happened. I explain that this is why we don't play guns. I explain that guns kill people, innocent people. I explain that police have guns and soldiers have guns, but they are trained how to use them and they don't like having to use them. I talk about how children should NEVER play with a real gun. I tell him that if he ever sees a gun at a friend's house, he must immediately tell an adult. I tell him that if a friend ever tries to show him a real gun, he must immediately tell an adult. I explain that children don't understand how to really use guns and don't understand the dangers so accidents can happen, and the accidents can cost people's lives.
Now some people reading this may be saying, "Guns don't kill, people do". True, but why are we putting guns in the hands of people who will kill? Yes, there are circumstances where guns are needed, but that's the grey area I was talking about. When you're 5, you don't need to know all of the grey area, that will be covered later in life. I believe that we have desensitized our children against violence. Video games have been more violent. Television has become more violent, including cartoons. Even books have become more violent. Yes, maybe all these things are fighting the "bad guy", but the amount of violence used to fight the "bad guy" has increased. It's become graphic bloody. I think back to the books I read as a child. The closest thing to violence was a book where the princess had to fight an evil king, and it wasn't graphic. I showed how she used her intellect to take him down. Then I look at books I read in high school. They were nothing like the books kids are reading now. I'm currently reading The Hunger Games Trilogy. It is meant for high schoolers. It is bloody and graphic. I'm loving it, but when I think about it's target audience, it makes me sad. Why has it come to using violence as entertainment? What kind of values are we instilling in our children? Or is that the problem? Are parents so detached now that they are leaving it up to media to instill values?
There is no easy answer and no easy solution. When it comes down to it, you just need to remember to love your children. Tell them everyday how much they mean to you. Hug them. Never take them for granted because it's a cruel world.
*** I am beyond sad that I have to add to this just two days later....Here is an email I received from the Superintendent's Office of our district this morning.
Today at  Middle School an incident occurred with one of our students in a classroom that resulted in the student being removed from school and the police being notified. The incident involved a verbal threat by the student that was considered serious in nature. The threat referenced the recent incident that unfortunately took place in Chardon, Ohio. In light of that terrible tragedy, the District and the  Police Department decided to error on the side of caution and are in the process of thoroughly investigating the matter. Please understand that due to the age of the student and student confidentiality laws only limited information may be shared with you at this time.
However, we do want to reassure students, parents and families that the  City Schools takes all threats seriously at all times and will not chance the threat of harm to any of our students or faculty within the school system. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to take the time to reiterate to your children that the incident that happened in Chardon is extremely serious. Making jokes, threats or any other inappropriate comments regarding the incident or anything similar are not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
We will continue to work to provide an atmosphere that is safe for all students, staff, and families that enter our doors. If you should have any questions, please feel free to call the Superintendent's office [...]
Like I said before, now that my neck and back are feeling good, I'm starting to exercise again. I really wish I would have found this set of exercises earlier. They are for the core muscles and they make my back feel WONDERFUL! Even though they toning your tummy, they are also stretching your spine. I alternate these with the other set of exercises. I take weekends off since I'm rarely up before the kids. No noticeable difference, but I feel better mentally, and that's half the battle!
Yesterday, I got a phone call from Husband asking me to bring him his passport to work. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, but yesterday Sunshine had Speech. She needed to get a nap in. Driving the hour and half round trip up to Husband's office wasn't on the schedule. We were out and I still had to get Monster from school. Luckily, I'm a very organized person. Even more so since I made up the snack baskets. I was able to run into the house and get lunch on the go for the kids in under 3 minutes. And, it wasn't all junk. In fact, it may have even been a healthier lunch than they eat at home. This has motivated me to get my fridge better organized as well. Looking forward to working on that this morning!
I've been slacking on my Pinterest experiments lately. It's all about finding the right ones. So, I had some free time last night and decided to try another grout experiment. Unfortunately, there weren't a whole lot of directions with this one. That meant I had to experiment with different consistencies.
First, I made the mixture really soupy and brushed it on with a toothbrush. Nothing. Then I made it a little thicker. Again, nothing. When I added more Borax, I thought I'd make a sort of paste, but the Borax has a funny texture and didn't really make a paste, so it kind of just made gritty vinegar. Here are the final results.
Not worth my time, again. I didn't scrub super hard, because I'm still looking for something that doesn't require me to scrub my grout with a toothbrush. A friend of mine gave me a tip, but I haven't had time to try it yet. Pretty disappointed, but not surprised.
Just an update on my health status. Things are looking good. I go back in for x -rays in 2 weeks. In fact, I got the OK from the doctor to move to an every two week schedule! I'm much stronger and in a lot less pain. My iodine is still low, but not near as low as before. My liver function is increasing, but it's a slow process, which we knew it would be. Found out I have a Vitamin D deficiency, so we added that into the regimen of supplements. With so much of my strength back, working out has become easier again. I would love to find the time to add more cardio into my workout, but I'll stick to strength training right now since that's what my body seems to be needing the most of. I am getting Spring Fever since I feel so good. I want to get out and walk and run. A little too cold for that with Sunshine though. I'm still living with pain, but it's more bothersome now than debilitating. I'll probably always live with pain, but it's manageable now, and I'm grateful.
Music is for what words alone can not express. Music is a huge part of our lives. I grew up in a house full of music. My father and mother were always singing and playing music. I was always singing and dancing. My mother played the flute when she was younger. I played the piano and drums when I was younger (and not the cool drums...the snare drum in band). For every moment in my life, there is song to go with it. When I'm happy, I listen to music. When I'm sad, I listen to music. When I'm bored, I listen to music. When I need to decompress, I listen to music. For everyone who watches Grey's Anatomy, you probably know how Meredith and Christina used to just turn on loud music and dance when times got tough. I've done that for YEARS. Way before Grey's Anatomy was ever even a concept in the writers' heads. Actually, I still do that. As for Husband, he, too, grew up with music surrounding him. He, too, always has music in his head. He's the guitar player in the family (because every family needs to have a guitar player).
Needless to say, our house is filled with music as well. From the moment Monster was born, his world has had music. I sang to him every night for the first year of his life. Actually, I've sang to him every day of his life thus far. Just now, the songs are different. Monster has always had an appreciation of all sorts of music. Sunshine loves music, too. She never wanted to be sung to though, which was hard for me. I love singing to my babies. Soft music calmed her, she just didn't want Mommy singing it. Now that she is older, she loves singing and dancing with me. She would still rather me not sing and she sing herself. I know she always has music in her head because she's always singing. She makes up songs for everything and dances around even when there's no music on.
I've said before that my life is like an episode of Glee (which I do not watch amazingly enough). It's not just me who breaks out into song. Well, it is just me who actually sings, but Husband thinks songs in his head when certain things are said, and will occasionally break out into actual song. Funniest thing is that both kids do it, too. They hear something that reminds them of a song and they just start to sing. It doesn't matter where we are, we sing. Monster is getting more self conscience of this. He's asked me not to break out into song in front of his friends. He's OK with me singing to the radio in front of them, but the random singing, he's a bit embarrassed about.
Thinking back, my life has always been an episode of Glee. My parents taught that to me. They would both randomly break out into song when something was said or a situation reminded them of a song....they still do. My mom still jams out in the car while she's driving. They, at 75 and 79 years old, also dance around singing.
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing. Thanks for all the joy they're bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty? What would life be, without a song or a dance, what are we? So I say thank you for the music. For giving it to me. And without further ado, the stylings of my kiddos... (please note Sunshine holding her imaginary microphone)
Nana's birthday is coming up. Normally, I wouldn't post this so early since she reads this blog, but she's on vacation. Since she is on vacation for her birthday, the kids wanted her to know how much they love her and miss her. We made this and are sending it to Nana so that on her birthday, she'll know how much she's loved. (adapted from the idea found here)
Before Monster was born, I was a teacher and in an administrative educational role. I worked with children in an authoritative role for over a decade. Today, I went back to the classroom...as a volunteer. I can't even begin to explain how nervous I was. It was actually quite ridiculous. Thankfully, Monster's teacher is awesome! She knows I was a teacher. She had me doing sight words, alphabet recognition and number ordering with the kids. Basically things I did while teaching. I was completely at ease. After that, I stayed for the Valentine's party. It was very interesting to see Monster in his element. He is definitely not the quietest kid, but he's also not the loudest. He's much more social than I gave him credit for. Two parents actually told me, once they found out whose mother I was, what a sweet kid I had. I'm so thankful I had this experience. I'm thankful I have friends I can rely on to watch Sunshine while I do this for Monster. I'm one lucky girl.
We have been literally snowed in for the past two days, not because of the amount, but how fast it was coming and the insane wind. Makes for some REALLY crazy kids and really tired parents. There has been a plethora of activities going on to make the time cooped up a little less, well, crazy. My children don't watch TV much. In fact, they would rather read or DO something before sitting in front of the television. So, coming up with that much to do is challeging. Keeping things new and different is important for keeping sane. It is amazing the endless amounts of imaginative fun a quilt over some chairs and a table can provide.
Yesterday, this was top secret spy headquarters and a polar bear cave. This morning, it became a reading nook.
Another fun activity we did was play ping pong balloons. We happened to have balloons from a surprise party we had here on Tuesday. I had also just bought a bunch of paper plates, which we normally do not have. The kids each decorated their own paddles, we taped on some craft sticks (the big ones would have been better, I didn't have any) and ran around hitting a balloon. What better time to do this activity? Snowed in fun.
Then there's nothing like baking bread and making glitter playdoh to pass some time.
When all that gets a little boring, it's time to change fort location and add an extra blanket. Plenty of room for the whole family...and some toys!
Late today when the wind stopped and the sun made brief appearance, we were able to venture out and finally have some fun in the snow!