Sunday, August 26, 2012

{the simple things} first day of school

This week's simple thing actually isn't all that simple. It's my older son, walking to his new class with his new classmates and new teacher, complete with the new backpack. All by himself.

It was a really nice day, sunny weather, a great church service and a pretty funny show the older kids in school put on for the first grader. He was so proud, carrying his new backpack and the Schultuete. They only had one hour of school the first day, but with all the excitement of the day, that was plenty.

I still can't quite get over the fact that I have a schoolkid now... Especially when the alarm goes off in the morning and I have to make sure he gets to school by 7:45!

Happy Sunday,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Getting ready for school part 3: cards & decorations

Since the Schultüte is such an essential part of the first day of school here, I used it as inspiration for making cards and decorations. That, and I'm just lazy. You see, my son's new school has given out these large name tags for the kids to wear on their first day, and they featured a simple triangle shape with some crepe paper on top, tied with a ribbon.

I can do that. I mean, if the second graders can do that for their new first grade classmates, then I can do that, too. I think.

So I glued some card stock triangles onto plain white greeting cards, added some crepe paper and ribbon and some stamps and... done.

For his best ever girlfriend I added a colorful pencil to the card.

Since that worked nicely, I decided to go larger scale and make a garland. Yeah, a bit crooked maybe, but if you know me at all then this actually turned out pretty well.

I'm thinking they should be nice in orange with green tops for Easter, no?

Now, I only have to pick outfits, make a cake, prepare some salads, charge the camera batteries and oh, go get a haircut. If you'll excuse me...


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Getting ready for school part 2: the "Schultuete"

It's getting ready for school week over here.

Someone pinch me, please. My son is starting school on Thursday.

This Thursday.

My son.

Going to school!

He's gotten so big lately. So grown-up. And he's not even six yet! Half a year ago I thought it would be difficult, sending him to school being one of the youngest in class. But he's made such giant leaps since then. He still doesn't listen, outs his tee on backwards most of the time and can't eat anything without having the entire floor covered in crumbs. But he's gotten so much more confident, even taking the lead and not caring much if the others are older than him. He's gotten better at drawing and crafting, he's got his letters straight and occasionally even remembers where he put his things.

Now, all kids in Germany get a "Schultüte" on their first day of elementary school. It's basically a giant, almost kid-sized cone-shaped thing, filled with candy and little gifts (for more details, see here). A photo of the proud new school kid complete with backpack and Schultüte is absolutely mandatory.

Now, there are really pretty versions you can buy. There are cheap and ugly versions you can buy. And then there are the ones you make yourself. Which can end up either pretty or ugly, depending on your talent.

And then there are preschool teachers. Leaving out these catalogs with all kinds of DIY sets at preschool. Of course the kids pick a design. So of course you end up making your own. In my case from a police helicopter set. And don't even get me started on having to hot glue this giant thing together or cutting out first the template, then tracing the template onto card stock and then cutting that out. Twice. Because little brother wanted one, too. You see, usually, the siblings get a silbling's version, meaning a smaller one. Just so they don't feel left out (and also so they don't fall over backwards trying to hold that giant monster). And of course little brother threw a major tantrum right there in preschool because he wanted just the same one. I did shorten his slightly though. But don't tell him.

Since we all know I don't do well with directions, I ditched the policeman template from the set and instead added some mug shots left over from getting the brothers' passports done a while ago. I think that makes up for a lot, even the crooked clouds and pencil marks left from tracing (yes, I know, you can place the template on the card stock backwards, then trace, cut out and turn back around. I did that the second time...).

Oh, and this is what's inside big brother's Schultüte:

Mostly small toys bought here and there, the DIY counting fish, a Playmobil beach volleyball set because for some reason big brother loved watching that during the Olympics, and a new lunchbox and water bottle I had printed with his name. And gummy bears of course. Nothing is ever complete without gummy bears.

So tell me, did you ever make or get a Schultüte? What was in it?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting ready for school part 1: DIY counting fish

We're pretty busy getting ready for school over here. After setting up the new desk, this week it's about German traditions, decorations and some minor projects. Such as this one: DIY counting fish. I've seen these little guys around the web, mostly as little mice. They have a tail with 20 wooden beads that are supposed to help kids learning math.

Actually, I have no idea if they help learn anything. But I thought they were cute and an easy enough project to try. Besides, I had all the supplies on hand, even the beads.

But mice?

If you've been around here a little, you will know that my boys prefer cats and fish. Now, sewing cats sounded difficult. Fish on the other hand...

Drawing is not one of my strong points, and neither is patience. So I found myself a nice fish template, scaled and printed it and cut it out of the legs of an old pair of jeans, adding some seam allowance. So far, so easy. Then I decided to sew on button eyes before sewing the two parts together, which turned out to be a good idea (provided you place them a little lower than you think they should go, as you have to factor in the seam allowance).

Next, I strung 20 wooden beads on some thin satin ribbon, using always five beads in the same color. Placing the two fish right sides together, with the beads sandwiched in-between, I sewed around as close to the edge as I could. Word of advice: if you end up sewing a fish, don't leave the tail end open. I did the first time, and since the fish is at its smallest right before the tail, it was a nightmare to turn and even worse, close that opening. The next two I left the lower part of the belly open, which worked much better.

Still nowhere near a professional result and no, I don't have any good explanation of why fish would be  pulling 20 beads behind them, but hey. They're cute, they're sort of educational and they make nice enough gifts for the first day of school.

At least if you package them with cellophane bags, some fish stamped paper and leftover streamers from little brother's last birthday party. Oh, and did I mention they were free?

Happy sewing,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

{the simple things} more tractors

What can I say, little boys love tractors. At least mine do. Little brother is very excited about "the red trailer that can drive backwards, all by itself, mommy!". He's referring to the weight that the tractors have to pull over the distance of 100 meters, the weight moving forward on the trailer as they go so it gets harder towards the end. The brothers discussing the driving style and chances of winning of the next tractor... They're quite the experts these days.

Then we had an attraction special to this particular event. Little monster trucks, ready to ride for the brothers (for a fairly steep price if you ask mommy...).

Funny little red cars with three wheels...

And some historic tractors to look at. They know all the brands. Maybe I am taking them to these events a little too often? Hmmm...

Oh, and no, I don't always dress my kids in matching clothes. But I do prefer them wearing the same and brightly colored tees when I'm out alone with them - makes it easier to spot them among all the people. I have to be careful though, little brother threw a tantrum last week when he couldn't wear the same tee as big brother, since they obviously don't have all matching clothes.

Happy Sunday,

Sunday, August 12, 2012

{the simple things} caterpillar

"Mommy! MOMMY!!!!! Look, we found a snake!!!!!" big brother races through the yard, excited. Turns out the found a caterpillar on the lawn. Not quite a snake, but most definitely the largest caterpillar I have ever seen.

We watched him for quite a bit. He was pretty fast, but since he wasn't really sure what to make of the two boys staring at him, he decided he's better not move at all and test their patience.

Needless to say, he won. So the boys got a bit braver, trying to touch him gently to make him move. I only let each one touch him once, and then we decided to leave the poor thing alone. Or at least watch from a safe distance.

Eventually he was gone.

Any critters you encountered this week?

Happy Sunday,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kids' room update: a desk for big brother & a kids' library

Sometimes, home projects just come together easily. You start with an idea and things just seem to fall into place from there. We recently did some re-arranging in the brother's rooms, reason being that big brother starts school in two weeks.

Wait, did I just say two weeks?


(Note to self: get organized for school. Urgent!)

Where was I?

Right. We needed a desk for big brother's room. Yes, I know, everyone keeps telling me they're going to end up doing their homework on the kitchen table anyway. That is fine with me, but I can't have all school material, papers, books and such on the kitchen table all the time. That would simply drive me insane. So, he needed a place to put things.

And perhaps a place to do homework should little brother start to bother him at the kitchen table. Not that the most charming 3-year-old ever would do that. Ha.

I knew we wouldn't have much space available, so the little pretend shop they have had to move to little brother's room, who is the one mostly playing with it these days anyway. Here's a before shot of that corner of the room:

So far, so good. But the part I kept struggling with was the desk itself. These days everything has to be ergonomic and adjustable in height and such. Might be a good idea, but... I just happen to dislike most of these desks. And the ones I do like are crazy expensive. Besides, I also refuse to buy a swivel chair. I don't even want to picture what little brother would do with that. Nope, no swivel chairs and adjustable desks for me.

One day I happened to look at the two Stokke chairs we have. Then it hit me. Of course! Who needs an adjustable desk when you can adjust the chair? And the best part: it doesn't swivel. No wheels. Perfect.

From there it just came together perfectly.

We ended up getting one Alex drawer unit and two legs as a base for the table. The drawers should provide plenty of storage for school supplies, at least for the next few years.  For the tabletop, I didn't want one of those white ones, or more precisely, I didn't want to be wiping off pencil marks every day. Because I know that they'd drive me crazy.

For my office I have a large white countertop as desktop, which is really easy to care for. But still white. Instead, we went with a solid wooden kitchen countertop for desk, and it just so happened that the smallest width sold fit perfectly without having to be trimmed. We have wooden countertops in the kitchen, and they are pretty indestructible. Perfect for big brother!

We hung two Ribba picture ledges over the desk for display and also to alleviate some of the differences in height between the desk and the dresser next to it. Now I have to resist the urge to go and put these ledges everywhere in my house, I love them so much. Even the smallest things look like treasures displayed here.

It took me well over a month to find a chair on eBay. Buying a new one was not in the budget, but we ended up really lucky with a blue one for 35 EUR - yes, it has lots of scratches, but I am sure it'll get a few more soon.

We set the rooms up when the kids were away with their grandparents for a week (a week!!! Oh, bliss...). Big brother was so so so excited to come back to his new room. He's been sitting down at his new desk, practicing letters every day.

Since we were moving things around anyway, we also ended up getting a library for the brothers. I keep losing track of who has which book and where it belongs, so we took all the books out of their rooms, except for the stash they have next to their beds. All others go into the hall between their rooms.

I've actually stolen the idea from one of my favorite bloggers, go see her schoolroom here.

Holding all the books are two narrow Stuva frames that are hung directly on the wall (no legs required, which makes cleaning in the narrow hall much easier).

On the wall so far are Laura Knight's International Phonetic Alphabet and an old alphabet poster from my husband's elementary school that my mother in law had bought a while ago. There is still some space left in between and I can't wait to add some more prints.

Now I only need to get organized for the first day of school!

Any advice?


Sunday, August 5, 2012

{the simple things} fat cat

This is a snapshot from yesterday. My big fat black cat fighting with a very dangerous piece of grass. Looking at that photo, I'd prefer not to be a mouse. Or even a piece of grass. I mean, I knew that cat was a little, uhm, different, but oh my. She's one crazy cat.

Not that she would ever go and catch a mouse. Nope. After all that would mean she would have to get herself over the fence. And I don't see that happening. If you don't believe me you should try picking her up. Not that she likes that. But then again there are not so many things she likes.

She does like my husband. She obviously likes to eat. Every day around 9:30am she waddles around the house meowing, looking for some attention and cuddles. Then she goes off again, sleeping. She sleeps on her back, with all four paws in the air. She's a pretty cat, but the word graceful does not necessarily come to mind. Oh well. There is something to be said for cats with personality, don't you think?

Happy Sunday & meow...


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Reminding myself why I blog

There is hardly a day where you don't see a post of a blogger apologizing for being absent and not blogging. It's sort of funny if you think about it. Many of us do this in addition to our everyday lives. We juggle family, work, household chores and just plain relaxing on the couch (or getting the sleep we would need if we were honest) with blogging. So why do we feel we have to apologize when it's the one ball we happen to drop for a while?

I could tell you that I've been busy lately. Everyone is busy these days, right? Work can be demanding, chores have this unpleasant way of recurring every day or week and don't even get me started on little kids. And that is just the general life maintenance thing. I'm not even talking about birthdays, preschool summer parties or the million other things that pop up everyday.

But it's not really true.

I mean, yes, life goes on and there is always something to do. Especially if you're me. If my husband asks what my plans for the day are, I usually start a long list of things I absolutely need to do. Which usually results in him rolling his eyes, mumbling something about me always having something to do. (He might have a point there. But don't tell him I said that.)

But sometimes it's more than just being busy. We seem to all be busy these days, and always. Yet there somehow is always time for the things we really want to do.

I'm not sure I really wanted to blog.

Yes, I kept putting up posts, especially the simple things sunday ones. But it started to feel like another thing on my list. A chore. A to do.

But I don't have to do this. I chose to do this.

Because I love writing. And because as much as my sweet husband tries, he really does not get all that excited about a cleaned out closet, the kids' latest craft project or a mustard yellow scarf named Noelle. But I get excited about that. And if you know me at all, you will have noticed that I like to communicate, to share these things.

This month it will be one year of blogging for me. And it's all I ever hoped it would be. And more. It's amazing to see so many creative ideas and connect with so many creative people. Most of all it's just amazing to know that I am not the only one who can walk around with a huge grin on her face all day just because she had the perfect idea for a kids party, made a delicious cake, finally cleaned out that closet or managed to sew a gift for a friend.

I think I hit some sort of a dry spell for this little tiny blog of mine.

I realized I lost the connection with why I write when a friend of mine commented that I am so descriptive and should be a writer. Now, we know this is greatly exaggerated, but it did spark something. I am at my best writing when I really connect with what I feel and describe my world around me.

So if I start to see it as another to do, if I just upload photos and write a few quick sentences then yes, that is something I might get done in-between everything else. But it's usually not when I am at my best writing. It doesn't really feel right.

I am not going to apologize for not blogging more frequently. But I will promise to make sure what I write comes from my heart, be it a long post or a few short thoughts on a photo.

What is your secret for staying connected to your creativity, your inspiration and your reason to blog?

Do share.