Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Jars

Christmas Jar1

These jars are simple to make and are also a great way to recycle. All you need are some acrylic paints and some empty jars. Let your kids paint the jars any way they want to and then figure out what you want to fill the jars with to turn them into gifts. You can fill them with red and green m&m candies to give them extra festive appeal. Or you can make chocolate spoons to put in them. (I suggest tying a ribbon around the jar to make it even prettier.)

Here are some of the jars that my kids and their friends came up with. They wer elimited by the fact that my supply of acrylic paints was running out, so they didn't have a lot of colors to choose form.

Christmas Jar

Christmas Jar2

Christmas Jar3

Christmas Jar4

Christmas Jar5

Christmas Jar6

Christmas Jar7

Christmas Jar8

Examples of the jars with some ribbon and full of chocolate spoons:

Chocolate Spoons in a Christmas Jar

Chocolate Spoons in a Christmas Jar1

Chocolate Spoons in a Christmas Jar2

Friday, 10 December 2010

Teaching Our Children To Have The Courage To Dream


Very few people have the courage to live life to its fullest. Very few people are willing to take risks in life. Very few people are actively striving to reach for the dreams that they hold deep in their hearts. But there are a few. What is it, exactly, that those few have that makes them different from the rest? What makes them keep trying? What keeps them from settling for less like so many other people do? And if you had to choose whether or not your child would be the type to sit back and settle in life for whatever he was given or would be the type to reach out and take few risks and grab for his dream, which would you choose?

Most of us would say that we want our children to dream and to believe that they can make those dreams come true. Most of us want our children to reach for their dreams. Most of us want our children to set themselves goals and then work towards making those goals a reality. But if we are not living our dream, how are we supposed to teach our children the importance of living their dreams? If we have given up on our dreams, how are we supposed to teach our children not to give up on theirs?

The best way we can teach our children to reach for their dreams, to make goals and achieve them, is by doing so ourselves. Dreams don’t always have to be about careers. Some dreams are very different from that. And how we, as parents, achieve them, teaches our children some important lessons about life.

An overweight mother might dream of losing weight. By taking steps toward being healthier and losing the weight, she would show her child the importance of setting goals and reaching them. If she loses the weight in an unhealthy manner, the weight loss is not likely to be a lasting one, and the child will only learn to go for the quick and easy route or that reaching goals isn’t really all that likely or lasting. But if the mother loses the weight by eating healthily and adding in some moderate exercise to her daily routine, her weight loss will be healthier and more lasting. From this, her child will learn that setting goals can be productive and that it takes time, effort and commitment to meet those goals.

A hard working dad might hate his 9 to 5 job. He might have dreamed about writing a novel ever since he was a child. By continuing to work at his 9 to 5 job, without giving any outlet to his writing dream, he is showing his daughter that it’s better to take what you’re given and accept your lot in life. He will teach her to settle. But if, on the weekends, he writes short stories for magazines and writes a bit more of his novel, he is showing her that it is important not to give up on your dreams. If he actively researches what it will take to find an editor and literary agent, joins writing clubs and continues feeding his dream of writing by taking positive steps towards it, he teaches his daughter that it is worth the effort to work towards your dreams.

A hardworking mom might be unhappy in her current position at work. She might dream of moving higher up the ladder in her profession, but she lacks the education required to do so. If she just accepts that this is as good as it can be for her, then she teaches her child to settle. She teaches her child to give up. But if instead, she starts taking some night courses that will help her eventually get the required education that she needs in order to get a promotion, then her son sees a better example. Her son sees her not giving up. Her child will learn that education is important and that it is important to obtain whatever learning is needed for reaching our dreams.

A dad might have lost his job and be looking for a new one. He might let himself get depressed and mope about the loss of his job. From this, his child would learn about self-pity. If instead, the dad never loses faith in himself and never loses the belief that he will find another job, so he keeps putting himself out there for interviews, then his child learns that it is important to believe in yourself if you want to reach your dreams.

These are just random examples of how people raising families can not just reach for their own dreams but can also be an example of doing so to their children, but there are many different scenarios that will still teach our children to value goal-setting. If we want our children to believe that they can attain their dreams, we have to believe it for ourselves. Children learn from us, not just from what we say but from what we do.

What is it that makes those few people with the courage to take risks and reach for their dreams different from the rest? What is it that makes them keep working towards their dreams? What is it that makes them keep taking step after step towards reaching their dreams no matter what obstacles stand in their way? It’s actually quite simple. They don’t give up. No matter what stands in their way or what seems to be making the task seem impossible, they keep working for it. They believe in themselves and in their dreams. They ignore the people who tell them it can’t be done. They think positively about the outcome of all of their work. They know in their hearts that they will obtain their dreams. They picture themselves reaching their goals. And we have to believe it for ourselves too, if we want to teach it to our children.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What To Do With Left-Over Pumpkin

Pumpkins 29 Oct 2010

Have pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left-over from the jack-o-lanterns you carved for Halloween? Try making roasted pumpkin seeds and making pumpkin puree to use in other recipes.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds1

Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great replacement for crisps/chips and other food you might like to munch on at parties.

Pumpkin puree1

Pumpkin puree is great for using in a variety of other pumpkin recipes such as pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin muffins. You can use it right away, refrigerate it for a few days or even freeze it to use much later.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ghost & Jacko-O-Lantern Candle Lanterns

Ghost & jackolantern candle crafts1 Halloween 2010

Ghost & jackolantern candle crafts Halloween 2010

You will need:
empty jars
acrylic paints - white, orange and black

This craft was very simple to make.

First I saved some jars. I removed the labels on them, washed them and let them dry. Then I got out my acrylic paints. I needed orange, white and black paints.

I painted one of the jars white and the other jar orange. Then I let them dry. Once they were dry, I painted a jack-o-lantern face on the orange one and a ghost face on the white one.

Then all I had to do was put some candles in the and light them.

Jackolantern Candle Lantern Halloween 2010

Ghost Candle Lantern Halloween 2010

Ghost Meringues

Ghost meringues Halloween 2010

I made Ghost Meringues for Halloween. You can find the recipe on Kids Creating Cakes.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Artistic Endeavors Of Children

Fire Engine for Connor by Gabby 7 yrs old 05Jan2010

Children are amazingly creative and full of an abundance of ideas. Drawing, storytelling and other artistic endeavors come naturally to them. It's important to encourage children in their artistic and creative pursuits.

There are many different ways for children to express themselves creatively. Some children like to color with crayons or colored pencils. Some children like to paint. Some children prefer to draw in pencil or ink. Some children love to tell stories or to write them down once they are old enough to do so. Some children love to take photographs. Some children love to cook and make up recipes. Some children love to sculpt and play with playdough. Some children love to dance. Other children love to act and play imaginary games.

It's a good idea to let your child use a variety of different methods to express their creativity. He will naturally be drawn to one or two, sometimes more, but by giving your child a variety of forms for his self expression, you give your child a variety of ways to express his creative side and this helps to keep him open to new ideas.

I have helped my children by creating self-published books from their drawings and stories. I help them by typing up the stories they tell me, and asking them questions as they tell the stories to keep the stories moving. I always show them that I am interested in the stories they tell and proud of them for being storytellers.

I have started blogs for my kids to showcase their different forms of self-expression. Gabriella has her own blog where she decides what to post. It's called Gabby's Art Gallery. Isabella has a blog that showcases some of the fairy stories that she has told. It's called Tangle Fairies. Through Innocent Eyes: Art By Children is a blog that shares artwork and drawings from all of the children. Imaginative Minds: Writing By Children is a blog that shares all of the stories they have told over the years.

In order to encourage them to do more than just tell stories and draw pictures, I have started some other blogs for them. Kids Creating Cakes: Cooking For Kids is a blog of recipes of dishes that they have cooked up. Photography By Kids is where they can share some of the photos that they have taken.

They always seem more inspired when they get comments from others about things that they have posted on the blogs. (I moderate the comments myself.) In order to get their blogs more notice, I have started Facebook pages for all of their blogs. There is a Facebook page for Gabby's Art Gallery, Tangle Fairies, Through Innocent Eyes, Imaginative Minds, Kids Creating Cakes and Photography By Kids. I even started a blog and Facebook page for them to review toys, books and other children-oriented things in order to encourage them to think critically about what makes something have value to them; it's called Children Review.

My kids also earn a bit of money from their creativity. Every time they make a sale of one of their pieces of art or photography or from one of their books, it inspires them enough that they suddenly get a burst of renewed creativity and they create more in a few days than they have done in the previous month. For this reason, I have spread their shops into various places to give them more chances of making sales.

They sell things through Printfection. They sell things through a section in my main store. They have stores at Zazzle too: Tangle Fairies, Imaginative Minds, Through Innocent Eyes, Kids Creating Cakes, Photography By Kids, Angelica's Designs, Kayla's Art and Spirit Of Imagination.

These are just some ways that I have used technology to help encourage and inspire my children. However, one of the best ways I have found to inspire my children to embrace their creativity is to let them see me embracing my own. I tell them stories that I make up on the spur of the moment. I try and draw pictures (even though I am not very good at it). I try and act out different roles in the stories I read to them by changing my voice for each character. I turn on the radio and dance with them in the middle of the living room. I write stories for them to read. I design artwork and practice my photography and sell both in my on-line shops. I blog on my favorite topics (and there are many).

We haven't practiced every form of self expression yet. Gabby recently bought herself a little Hello Kitty sewing machine. It's not professinal enough for her to make much using it, but it is giving her practice at sewing that she may be able to eventually transfer over to using my sewing machine. I want to learn to knit, and I think it would be something that the kids might like to learn too. Gabby used to take dance lessons, and I think Bella and Connor would enjoy taking dance lessons too. I'm still coming up with ideas and ways to help them continue to use their minds in imaginative and various ways. Because it's important.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

10 Ways To Show You Love Your Kids

I am working on writing "100 Ways To Show You Love Your Kids," and I thought I'd share the first ten with you here.

Fathers Love

1. Tell your child you love him. Nothing means more to a child than hearing those words from you and hearing them repeatedly. Even if you believe that your child already knows that you love him, your child needs to hear it. Knowing it and hearing it said are two completely different things.

2. Listen to your child. You can give your child a sense of being important and valuable to you just by the simple act of listening to what she has to say. And you will be amazed by what you can learn from your child when you listen.

3. Play with your child. At the end of a hard day at work, sometimes the last thing you feel like doing is running around with your child or getting out a board game, but your child has just spent a whole day at school without you and spending that tiny bit of “fun time” with you will mean the world to him.

4. Help your child with homework. Your child may not appreciate it at the time, but you are doing something worthwhile for your child by helping her with her homework. In years to come, she will look back on the time you spent helping and learn to appreciate it. Plus, it gives your child the added benefit of seeing you place importance on the act of learning.

5. Prepare healthy, nutritious meals for your child. Eating well is important for your child’s health and well-being, and it is important that your child learn early how to eat healthily. You will be saving your child from future health problems or eating disorders by teaching him through your example and with good, wholesome food, how to take care of his body.

6. Exercise with your child. Take your child for a run around the local park or a nice nature walk. Go for a family bike ride. Doing physical activities that involve healthy and fun forms of exercise are a great way to help your child stay fit and healthy. You will be teaching your child that it is important and fun to maintain an active lifestyle.

7. Hug your child. Physical cuddling is important for children. Hugs are simply the best way for a child to feel safe and loved and special to you all at once. A hug can comfort and lift your child’s mood when she is feeling down or just let a child know that she is loved and appreciated.

8. Tell your child you are proud of him, and mean it. Every child has an ability or a personality trait or something else about him to be proud of. One child may have a sweet and generous nature. Another child may do really well at multiplication. Another child may be really creative at drawing or writing stories. One child might be good at making friends. Maybe your child is willing to stick up for others. Maybe your child is good at making others feel special. There are numerous things you can find to be proud of your child. So tell him.

9. Be patient with your child. Children don’t always learn as quickly as we might want them to, and sometimes they do things more slowly than we would like. But that’s okay. Let your child learn things and do things at her own pace.

10. Believe in your child. No matter what, you have to believe that your child is capable of great and wonderful things and that someday he will achieve them. Your belief in your child is one of the most important ways you can help him to believe in himself.

Friday, 24 September 2010

A Very Special Teddy Bear


On my fifth birthday, my grandma gave me a teddy bear. I promptly named him "Teddy," and from that moment on, he was my favorite stuffed toy. He slept with me every night and I even took him with me when I slept over at friends' houses. I talked to him when I was lonely, and I could often be seen cradling this very special teddy bear in my arms.

Many years later, as an adult, I finally gave in and boxed him up with a few other stuffed toys from my childhood. By then, he was dirty from years of being played with and loved and his fur was no longer fluffy, but it just gave him the look of a well-loved teddy bear.

Shortly after my fifth child, Gabriella, was born, I found Teddy as I was going through some old boxes of mine. I put him in her crib that night. To this day (Gabby is now 7 years old), Teddy is her favorite stuffed toy. He's still dirty and worn looking, but he is still loved immensely by a little girl.

As of my last birthday, assuming Teddy was made in the year he was bought and presented to me, Teddy was a 33 year old teddy bear.

From Gabriella's love for Teddy, I have come to two conclusions:

Like mother, like daughter!

That really is one very special teddy bear!

Do you have anything from your childhood that now belongs to your kids and is as special to them as it was to you?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Purple Crayon Imagination

Purple Crayon

Over at The Redhead Riter, the Tell The Truth Thursday question posed today is "If you were a crayon, what color would you be?"

This got me thinking. Of course, my first thought was of the color blue. Blue is my favorite color. Deep aqua blue is the color of the sea; it's the color of swimming. Light blue is the color of the sky; it is the color of flying. Clear blue is the color of my five year old daughter's eyes; it is the color of innocence. Dark blue is the color of the night sky, lit by stars and the moon; it is the color of eternity. Blue is the color of freedom.

But my thinking on this subject went further. Yes, blue has a lot going for it, but this year, my life has been full of learning new things, trying out new adventures and having the courage to dream. And having the courage to dream means I am creating the world I want to live in, one step at a time. I really believe that if I can imagine it and dream it, then I can make it happen. And I really want my kids to believe this too. I want them to grow up knowing that they can create their own reality if they strive for what they want, and I want them to know that they are capable of great things. I want them to value their imaginations. So what color could possibly encompass all of these things?

That's when a children's story came to my mind, "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson. In the story, the little boy creates whatever he wants by drawing it with his purple crayon. The purple crayon represents his imagination which has the power to bring things into Harold's reality.

So that is the color I would have to be - purple. And I hope my children have the courage to be purple crayons too.

Tell The Truth Thursday

Tell The Truth Thursday

Where to buy "Harold and the Purple Crayon":
In the U.S.

In the UK:

Free Swatch Day at Spoonflower!

Spoonflower is having a "free swatch day" today. You can order a swatch of fabric (buy a design from their marketplace or make one with your own art) and it's free including shipping. I didn't have to pay shipping and I'm in the UK! (I had worried that shipping would only be free in the US, but that wasn't the case.) So it's completely free ($5 value) through noon tomorrow. It's a great way to get some quilt squares if you quilt or to get fabric for making pillows, but even better, it gives you an idea of how well your art or photography will print on one of the fabrics at Spoonflower.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Making A Princess Castle Cake

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake6

Our daughter's 5th birthday party was upon us and she wanted a princess party, complete with a princess cake. My husband and I decided to make a castle cake. Neither of us had a concrete plan on how we were going to make the cake. We both intended to make a practice one sometime before the day of the party to make sure we would have a plan in place for it, but, as often happens in large families, time got away from us and we wound up making the cake on the day of the actual party. (Actually, Robert started the night before the party, but the first cake he baked didn't come out right, so we let the kids just munch on it plain and scrapped the idea of using it for the castle cake.)

Fortunately, I had another cake mix in the cupboard. (It was a strawberry cake mix, one that we can't find in the UK unless we buy it online from American Soda.) Robert was about to bake the cake when he realized that we didn't have enough vegetable oil, so I made a quick run to the local shops and bought some vegetable oil. While I was there, I decided to buy three raspberry and vanilla cake rolls with the vague idea that they might make good towers for the castle.

Robert baked the cake in two round pans. While it was baking, he rolled out the ready-to-roll icing (I helped with this, because no matter how much icing sugar we put on the counter to keep it from sticking, it still kept sticking to the counter in places). Once it was rolled out, we rolled it around the raspberry and vanilla cake rolls and spent some time smoothing it.

Once the two round cakes were out of the oven and had cooled, Robert frosted & layered them with Betty Crocker's Vanilla Frosting. We could have also used ready-to-roll icing on this part of the cake to maintain a smoother surface, but some kids don't like ready-to-roll icing, so we thought that having different types of frosting on different parts of the cake would be best.

The "towers" were too tall, so we cut them into two, one piece 2/3 of the roll and one piece 1/3 of the roll. Using the frosting, we stuck the larger pieces to the sides of the frosted cake in four places. Then we also stuck three of the shorter pieces on top of the castle. We frosted the tops of the towers and added mini marshmallows around the edges by sticking them in the frosting (to make turrets).

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake

Robert kneaded some blue food coloring into the leftover ready-to-roll icing until the icing became light blue. Then he rolled it out and cut out windows and a door for the castle. We stuck them onto the "castle" using a very thin layer of the vanilla frosting.

I added two toadstool-shaped soft candies to the front of the castle and we put it in the fridge until it was time to bring it out so our little girl could blow out the candles.

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake1

We topped the cake with some princess candles.

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake2

Then it was time to take the princess castle cake to the table.

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake3

We had bought a little princess cake decoration to use, so we added it to the cake by standing her just outside the "castle" right after we set the cake onto the table.

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake5

Then we sang "Happy Birthday," and our little five year old blew out the candles.

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake4

The cake was a hit and our daughter was very pleased!

Bellas 5th Birthday Party Princess Castle Cake7

Bella smiles at her 5th Birthday Party

The only change I would have made, had I thought of it ahead of time, is that, to make the cake even more "princessy," I would have bought some pointy sugar cones and set them upside down on the tops of the towers and then "painted" them pink with some vanilla frosting that I would have mixed with red food coloring.

Another twist on this cake would be to buy some light blue cotton candy and bunch it around the bottom of the cake (as clouds) and then use little fairy cake decorations to make it a fairy castle in the clouds.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Buzz Lightyear Space Party

I met Marissa Reedhead many years ago on one of the forums I frequent at DelphiForums. She is not a mom of many, but she is a mom. She lives in a small northern town in Ontario with her husband and two children where she says they "pretty much have to make" their "own fun since there isn't much to do." She also lives with two cats Gabe and Jeremiah and a guinea pig named Norm. Marissa recently posted some photos on Facebook of her daughter's birthday party. When I saw all of the effort she put into creating such a great Toy Story Buzz Lightyear "Space" party for her daughter's birthday, I asked her if she would mind guest posting about it here. She graciously agreed.

I can't quite remember when I decided to forsake the ballerina theme for my daughter's third birthday but I believe it was around the time she really took a liking to Toy Story. Because this is the year the 3rd movie in the series was released, I figured it would be a perfect idea for a 3rd birthday. I always seem to go overboard when it comes to party or event planning and I usually stress myself right out before the party but I do enjoy getting everything ready.

For the invitation, a friend of mine showed me a Toy Story movie poster she had modified and had added her son's name to it as well as the date of his birthday. She is doing the same theme herself and her son was born soon after Olivia. I imported the poster into Adobe Photoshop and downloaded a Pixar font and added her name and her birth date to the poster. Then I took a picture of her and cut her out and added her in amongst the toys, trying to make it look like she was one of them. She actually asked me if she was in the movie after seeing the picture. I narrowed down the theme further to a Space Ranger party in light of the fact that she loves Buzz Lightyear and had asked for a cake topper of him instead of Woody.

Toy Story Birthday Party Invitation

The invitation read:
On August 2nd, Olivia the space ranger is turning 3 years old and wants to invite fellow space rangers to join her for a galactic pool party. Space dock is at ***** and Docking will begin at 2 pm with food and fun to follow. Please send a subspace message to her mom at email or call on the old fashioned telephone to let us know if you can attend. Make sure to bring your space (bathing) suits towels and space chairs to insure your comfort on the journey.

After the invitations were sent out, it was time to start on planning the cake, cupcakes, loot bags and games. For loot bags I shopped at the dollar store, it's called Dollarama in our area and found lots of little stickers, tattoos, little toys and a candy. I did buy the more expensive official Toy Story loot bags but that's one of the only extravagant purchases I made. Most of her presents themselves were dollar store or thrift store purchases.

I also started on a piñata. I blew up a 12 inch balloon and used paper mache to cover it with newspapers. I used a mixture of 1 part flour to 2 parts water and cut the strips of newspaper into 2x3 inches. It took about 5 layers of newspaper before the piñata was solid enough to pop the balloon inside. It was quite easy to remove the balloon after cutting a hole in the top to add the candy. Then I painted it gray to coincide with the Space Ranger idea and drew craters on it and voila, we had an asteroid piñata. We also used silver duct tape to add the strings to the piñata so that we could hang it. Unfortunately the strings didn't hold, I'm not sure what would have been a better idea. Then we added tons of candy bought at a bulk store and taped the hole shut.

Toy Story Birthday Party Pinata

As for the cake, I consulted with a friend whom I consider to be a cake expert. She sent me a picture of a Buzz cake topper on a meteor and gave me some tips as to how to make it. I borrowed the Wilton 3D ball cake pan from her and used my favorite cream cheese butter cream icing from I also got my Wilton food coloring gel from her in black and green. The gel color is the best to use that I've found because it produces a vivid color without using much of the gel itself which can dilute the icing. I baked the cake using a boxed mix and iced it first with a thin coat of butter cream as a crumb coat. I let that set in the refrigerator for a few hours and then iced it again with a thicker coat. Then I sprayed a spoon with cooking spray and lightly pressed in the craters. I then dipped my fingers in cornstarch and smoothed the craters out.

Toy Story Birthday Party Cake

I also made Little Green Men cupcakes to surround the cake following the ideas of

Toy Story Birthday Party Martian Cakes

I couldn't have asked for better weather on the day of the party. It was hot and sunny and the kids loved playing in the pool and running around the backyard. In order to be accommodating to all my guests small and not as small (the age range was from 15 months to 6 or 7 years old), as well as to be fair to my special guest Emma who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, I had games that everyone could play. We had hot potato and a treasure hunt to look for aliens hidden in the back yard. For those, I printed a coloring page of the little green men, colored it and glued it to a piece of cardboard glued to a popsicle stick. I figured these could double as puppets. Along with the piñata, hot dogs, cake, cupcakes, watermelon and juice I think everyone had a blast including Miss Olivia who got many wonderful gifts.

Toy Story Party Birthday Girl

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Looking Into My Future

"Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future."
~Gail Lumet Buckley


The reason I used this photo with the quote is because the little redhead looking into the mirror is me as a child, and the child looking back from within the mirror is my oldest child (back when she was about that age).

I created this photo manipulation years ago, and I thought other moms might like to try and make one of their own, so I decided to share it. It doesn't take a huge amount of photo editing skill. (I know it doesn't
because I am not particularly skilled.)

It does, however, mean you have to have a photo of yourself as a child looking into a mirror so that your face is showing. Not everyone will have a photo like this, but for those that do, they can make one of these generation pictures too! It also helps if you have a dress that your child can wear that is at least similar to the one you wore in the photo as a child and you'll need a mirror to take the photo of your child looking into.

I was fortunate in that my mom had saved the dress I wore in the photo as a child, and my sister took photos of my daughter in a similar pose at a similar age in the same dress.

The only cropping I had to do was of my daughter's face in the mirror in her photo. I then pasted it into the mirror in my photo and smoothed the edges to make it blend. I had previously tried this with a regular, non-mirrored image of my daughter and it didn't look right; it made the image in the frame look more like a photograph the child-me was looking at than a mirror. It had to be a reflected image of her that I used to paste into the mirror.

I then bordered the image and added the text.

I did use a little bit more skill in this than is needed to do this successfully. I actually cropped my daughter's image out, and before I pasted it, I added a photograph I had taken of a sunset sky to the background within the mirror. This isn't necessary for this picture, but it was an added touch I wanted to make. And there was also a lot of touching up that had to be done to the original scan of the photo of me as a child because it was a scan of a photograph that was old and had some of the fading and discoloration that can happen with age in photos.

The photography part of this might take a bit of effort and ingenuity, but once you've got the right photos, the rest is easy.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Teaching Our Children To Be Honest

Well, it's happened. My 7 year old and almost-five year old daughters have started lying to me.

I knew it would someday happen, though I still managed to hope it wouldn't. I knew that, despite my attempts to raise them to be honest, the lessons I tried to teach them about the importance of honesty, the example of honesty I tried to be for them, the church lessons they heard about lying being a sin, yes, I knew, this day would eventually come.

This is the second day this week I have caught them in a lie. The first time, I took the kids out for a walk and noticed that they all had paint on the backs of their legs. They tried to insist that they had been nowhere NEAR my paints, but the proof was in front of my eyes. And after I gave them a talk about how much more disappointed I was in the fact that they were lying to me and how much lying to me just made their transgression worse, they confessed.

And we had our first big after-the-lies talk about being honest and how horrible it is to lie to your parents. I really thought I got through to them as the tears of shame streamed down their faces and they apologized.

And then today happened. Even though I find it important to feed my kids in a healthy manner, occasionally, I allow them sweets or chocolate. (Having lost a lot of weight myself, I know that healthy food is important but that the occasional sweet is okay in moderation.) I bought some very low calories dessert sticks called Mikado Sticks as a treat for myself. It was a new flavor - dark chocolate, and the little box of cookie sticks dipped in chocolate contained 22 of these 10 calories sticks.

I have had two this week. I decided to have two more sticks today as it is a certain time of month and I was craving chocolate. I thought 20 calories of something sweet and chocolatey would be a safe way to feed my craving without losing control of my diet.

That's when I found out that the Mikado sticks were gone. They were nowhere to be found. Knowing that they ALL were under suspicion, my teenagers decided to help me look for the Mikado sticks. One of them remembered seeing my 7 year old acting suspiciously while being in the kitchen. I asked my 7 year old if she'd eaten my Mikado sticks and got a vehement denial that she had done any such thing. I asked the four year old with the same results.

One of my other teenagers decided to go investigate the seven year old's and four year old's room. That was where the empty Mikado stick box was found. Despite our discovery pointing to the two girls as the culprits, they still insisted they had not eaten my Mikado sticks. (My admittedly sarcastic thought to this was, so what? They built a playhouse out of them?)

I explained that I knew they were lying; that I was very disappointed to find them lying to me AGAIN, and that I thought they knew better than to lie to me ever again. I told them that they were grounded from having any sweets this week at all because they stole my Mikado sticks and that they were grounded from playing with their friends this week because they lied to me. I told them that lying was the worse of the two things they had done and that they were eroding any trust I had in the things they said every time they lied to me.

After realizing that she was caught and there was no way out of it, my seven year old admitted to having eaten the Mikado sticks, and the 4 year old admitted it too.

This time, the lies were also told to my husband, their daddy. He will have his own talk with them later. (He had been insisting to me that they couldn't have eaten the Mikado sticks because they had "never lied to" him before. Of course, he stopped insisting that once the box was found in their room.)

I am really sad that they have chosen to lie to me rather than face up to what they'd done. It's bad enough that they were sneaking food that didn't belong to them, but it is just so much worse that they then lied about it.

Did I handle the situation correctly? Despite the fact that I have seven kids and have been through this type of situation before with my older children, I can honestly say that I don't know.

How would you have handled it?

Thursday, 29 July 2010


A friend of mine, Redhead Writer, asked the question:

What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?

This is a tough question to answer. I have had to learn so many lessons in my life. They are all equally important. Maybe I should just grab onto one of them and share it here.

It’s really a two part lesson. One is the importance of being true to yourself and who you are, and the other is about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in and for others who don’t have the strength to stand up for themselves.

This lesson was learned when I was about twelve years old. I was in junior high, and I was waiting for the school bus after school. There was a small group of children with mental disabilities who were also waiting for their school bus a little ways away from me. Two other students, rather large boys, started picking on one of the small group. They were really brutal, yelling at him, shoving him, calling him names like “retard” and “stupid.” And he looked really afraid. He didn’t seem to know what was going on or why they were doing that to him.

I was shocked and horrified by what was happening, but I was too timid and unsure of myself to go over and do anything to stop what was happening. I was afraid, and I was weak. Even sadder was the fact that there were so many other students around me who also were just standing and watching and not doing anything to put a stop to what was going on.

A girl who had been walking past from the high school over the road from us came over to the two bullies and started really telling them off. She shouted at them and let them know how little they looked in her eyes because of what they were doing. And like true bullies, they scurried off rather than standing up to her.

I was so relieved and glad that she had stopped them. I also felt ashamed. I knew, watching her, that I should have done what she did. I should have stood up to them. The boy they were picking on was confused and unable to help himself in the situation. I knew what they were doing was wrong, and I should have stopped them. My very nature told me to put a stop to it, but my fear and lack of self-confidence prevented me from helping.

I knew then that I would never stand back again. I would stand up for others who couldn’t stand up for themselves, and I would stand up for myself too.

My parents taught me right from wrong and that being kind to others was a good thing. They taught me empathy. I was a confident child. It wasn't until my preteen years that peer pressure and other influences started to erode that confidence.

I don't want that same confidence-erosion to occur with my own children. I want them to be strong and to stand up for themselves and for their beliefs.

So what can we, as parents, do to help our children maintain their confidence despite all of the hormonal changes they will go through when they reach a certain age, despite the often negative influences from their peers, and despite all of the other pitfalls and obstacles that can be foound in the world outside of our families?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Inexpensive & Easy To Make Teacher Gifts

Teacher gift 21 July 2010

Today was the last day of school for my 7 year old and my 4 year old daughters. I wanted them to have a special gift to give their teachers as a “Thank you” before they left school for Summer vacation, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

I found some plain wooden frames at the craft store for 99 pence each and bought two. I then used some acrylic paints that I already had on hand to paint them. First, I painted the frames white. I let them dry and then painted another coat of white paint onto them.

After they dried again, I used some stencils that I already had on hand of flowers and hearts. I got some green acrylic paint out, and then I mixed some red and white acrylic paint to make a pink paint. I held the stencil in place across the top of the first frame while my daughter dabbed the paint onto the stencil, and then I did the same for the bottom of the frame. Then I repeated this for the other daughter.

The painting did not come out perfectly. On one frame, I held the stencil a little too high when doing the bottom of the frame so it wound up not being centered properly, but it was still cute. Also, I should have let the kids paint with proper stencil paints, as the acrylic paints were a bit too moist and there was a bit of smudging that occurred as a result.

While those dried, I sat down at the computer and let my four year old list ten reasons why teachers are great, and I typed it up in a pretty font. I let the seven year old write a poem about teachers and specifically for her current teacher, and then I typed it up for her.

I printed these in the sizes needed to fit into the frames and placed them into the frames.

The result was that my girls each had a pretty framed piece of writing to give to their teachers that was unique and personal. And it cost me very little to make.

Teacher gift1 21 July 2010

Note: If I had needed a stencil, the craft store actually sold decorative stencils made specifically to fit with the wooden frames for a mere 99 pence each.