Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Preschool subscription smack down

I wasn't too impressed with day 1 of our "Berry Best Preschool" subscription.  I haven't looked ahead at all so I can only judge day by day....and today, day 2, was another bust.

It starts out so exciting, two activities organized into a little pouch with a theme...

Unfortunately,  the activities are just kinda dumb. The instructions say to have the adults cut out all the pieces - now I'm understanding why they sell a "pre cut" set for more $$$. I suppose I could try to have TC cut her own,  but scissors haven't gone well so far and I'm spooked. The learning activity was a worksheet - count the items and glue the number in the box. The cutting and gluing felt like unnecessary complications to make it a bigger activity. ..but it wasn't real educational or much fun. The artwork so far looks just like the mimeographed worksheets of my youth, these are NOT computer assisted I guess. Maybe that's whimsical.  It feels kinda slipshod.

Activity #2, the craft, was embellishing a snowy owl. Worksheet, 3 feathers, and a stick + feet to cut out and paste on. Eh. Meh. 

I felt like again this was more work for me than my preschooler, didn't occupy much time, and was very low quality.  It's not refrigerator gallery work. It came with just a couple facts about owls,  not enough to teach anything from, so I can't even really give it credit for being more educational. Carefree Crafts includes a set of facts about the month that are much more interesting and we'll curated.
and speaking of Carefree Crafts, they are KILLING IT this month. So much win. We're gonna do everything the first week and then be sad to wait for more. 
First up we stuffed a little teddy bear!  We were sent a bear "skin", fiberfill, and a little heart to stuff inside (like at build-a-bear workshop).  That went pretty smooth, then we didn't even have to stitch her up, it was velcro! Finally there was a little scrap of felt and a pattern to cut a vest, I did that and let TC color on it with markers for some additional mileage out of this craft. Her name is Pinky and she was a a hit:

2nd craft was to decorate a ladybug mailbox for Valentines.  This is exactly what I prefer in crafts right now for TC - stickers she can independently take the backing off (small motor skills + phenomenal practice with patience) nothing messy, no scissors or glue - and again TC loved it. Neither of these are projects we will keep forever but they will be played with some and ready to go once next month's projects come. 

If you are keeping track, Carefree Crafts is winning by a mile. I should be rationing the projects better since we only get 1-1.5 per week, but they are WAY more fun and interesting so far than the 6 per week we are doing with BBP. 

My Ipsy Glam Bag and Bijoux Box should arrive mid month, so we are just starting our subscription box odyssey.  Gotta do something to pass this long crazy winter! 

Monday, February 03, 2014

Berry Best Preschool Subscription + Other Crafting Meltdowns...

We had an utter craft-tastrophe this morning with at least a dozen mega meltdowns and a river of snot and tears, all caused by various craft frustration. Egads. It actually started with milk on the cheerios (I want it! No I don't! Now it's there! World is ending!) Three year olds are far from sensible (or maybe it's just mine who thinks the world is ending if I ask her to slow down, pause, or listen at any point), but this was a bit over the top. Scissors, stickers, coloring - it all just fueled the fire. Ugh.

Now that we've all calmed down (chocolate milk for her, Dr. Pepper for me, chocolate chunk cookies for all), here's a look back:

We're trying out a new monthly subscription sorta like our crafting one, this is from Berry Best Preschool and includes art + curriculum, supposedly a learning activity and a craft for each day. We ordered the 3 day a week subscription for February, and started it today. The "learning activity" was a worksheet to trace and practice making #9s. Sounds easy enough, and I'm pretty sure they do similar things at TC's daycare, so I didn't think twice.

Cue first meltdown.

I'm not sure what I did wrong here, but TC didn't want to follow directions, listen to directions, or allow me to demonstrate. It pushed her well over the edge into toddler tantrum territory. Not awesome. Also, she's terrible at making #9s, so I feel like I kinda failed too. Hmmm....

The "craft activity" was much more benign and one of the few things we accomplished today without tears (ahh, parenting....). It was a "puppet" to celebrate groundhog's day (which was yesterday, so kinda odd to make it today...). The package contained the groundhog printed on brown paper, and a paper bag. The instructions said to pre-cut the head and body of the groundhog, and allow kids to affix the pieces to the paper bag. I used some leftover glue dots (which I still hate, but were easier to use/cleaner than actual glue) and it didn't really feel like TC did much for this. Also, here's what it looked like:

Um....isn't the point of a puppet that the MOUTH looks like it is moving? this "puppet" splits head from body...WHY WOULD WE WANT TO DO THAT?!?!?! It makes no sense, and wasn't real fun to put together.

So, it's pretty early to judge this subscription, but day 1 was kind of a bust. I would guess we'll have a lot more tracing worksheets for the "learning activity" and I'm okay with that since it is a good thing to learn, but we'll have to come to a better working relationship with them (and each other). As for the crafts...very dubious so far. This one was sorta a dumb product AND not real kid-involved to make, so I give it pretty low marks.

Fingers crossed it gets better!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Carefree Crafts - subscription box update

Well I think we might be officially hooked on crafts. TC has become militant on getting at least one craft each day. Her policy is enforced with tears, temper tantrums, and what amount to toddler sit-ins. While a huge part of me LOVES that she took an interest in creative stuff, it's often not the most convenient. So I think the Carefree Crafts subscription is here to stay, since it means we have more easy projects on hand.

We have almost finished our January projects, and I'm bummed because it was really convenient to just grab a pre-packaged craft from the pile and jump in. Nothing required set up, or much clean up. I'm not sure if this happens every month, but everything also color-coordinated, so our little "gallery" was even cute. Here's a quick review:

Project #1 was a snowman "coaster." The coaster was silly, but it's fine as a wall hanging. We actually mailed it off to help decorate Lucy's hospital room, a little Midwest scene setting to go along with the hearts and princesses. Next we did the "stained glass" mitten sun catcher, which was the messiest because it involved glue, but not too bad overall. The snowflake lacing mobile was kind of over TC's head, but she colored the snowflakes and I did the lacing and she was not bothered by my contributions.

This little guy (well, below is a stock photo - ours is already missing in the tidal wave of toy mess that is our livingroom during this polar vortex) we assembled and were supposed to use to play "Huckle Buckle Beanstalk" which is a form of hide and seek where you hide an object, or sort of like "hot and cold." My favorite part has been listening to TC try to say Huckle Buckle Beanstalk, which she thinks is his name. Totally worth the price of the subscription. It comes out something like "hickle hickle beanpot" usually.
Polar BearPenguin

Then we did what was probably my favorite project because it was mostly peel & stick foam (no glue dots!), a little penguin measuring stick. This was also fun because we worked on counting when deciding which number to stick on which line, and TC decided that Huckle Buckle is the penguin's mom. So now they have earnest conversations and live together in a princess suitcase.

We have one more project that involves water colors, so I've saved that for when I feel particularly caffeinated and patient, though TC LOVES to paint, so I'm sure it will be a hit. We actually did the first step - coloring on coffee filters - and it was a bit of a mess, since TC decided she was going to give herself a "cat-too" and the so-called "washable" markers have decided not to wash off even after a soak and scrub in the tub. Oh well.

We went ahead and signed up for February's box, and I can't wait till it arrives! With the harsh cold we've had this month indoor activities have been particularly appreciated, I wish we had them today. We burned through several slapped together craft projects and could have used many more.

Verdict: feeling pretty good about Carefree Crafts, can't wait to get the next shipment!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

way too much about my water...

I am slowly but surely getting some big things off my home "to do" list, though they seem to get added almost as quickly. This week I think I've changed at least half a dozen lightbulbs (each one a different kind, of course), a ton of laundry and dishes (call me Sisyphus on those tasks), and I finally switched out our shower head.

We have a little shower in the master bath, and I was quite excited to see it had a fancy looking rain disc showerhead when we moved in. It seemed so fancy. Seemed. SEEMED.

The one major disappointment I have had in our new home is the water. Something is wrong. I'm still not sure what it is. Maybe I'm not used to soft water, maybe it was a flow restrictor in that shower head, who knows - but the result was super traumatic goopy hair for me. I developed some sort of sticky build up almost immediately after we moved in, and tried EVERYTHING to get rid of it - clarifying shampoos, stripping shampoos, REALLY EXPENSIVE DUMB NOT WORKING SHAMPOOS, and even Dawn dish soap. That actually worked - for a while. So did getting a couple blow outs at a salon - though it was mortifying to go in and explain that my hair was disgusting and yes I do bathe and sorry you have to touch this but please please fix me...

It's been emotionally painful. Embarrassing. I cut my hair to try and take some of the bulk off and hope that made a difference. It did not. I tried all of the other faucets in the house, including scrunching under the spout in the bathtub. Still sticky.

So next step in my quest was to try a high pressure fixture (and hope and pray and bargain with the universe). The "Thunderhead" had great reviews on Amazon, so I ordered it. Then I let it sit in a drawer for a few months while I thought about whether or not it was something I could do without causing more problems (home maintenance is not in my wheelhouse - at least not comfortably). Then one day I got super fed up with slime head, and decided to give it a whack. Got old shower head off, and upon reading directions found that THUNDERHEAD still was required by law to come pre loaded with a flow restrictor. All the online reviews mentioned to definitely toss it out (otherwise, WHAT'S THE POINT?) but I couldn't get the damn thing to budge. Even with tools. And a lot of googling. So finally I took a hammer and a pointy screwdriver and just bashed it in, which totally worked, and removed the pieces with a tweezers. Game on.

After that it went on pretty easy, and other than my guilt over using 5 gallons of water per minute (I'm cashing in my credits from years of not watering my lawn) it's working fine. I've only used it once or twice so can't tell yet if it will fix my goopy hair (pleasepleasepleaseplease) but here's hoping.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

easy crafted hair bow organizer

I made something! Something that didn't require glue dots! It came together so quickly I forgot to take real photos,  so here are just a couple from my phone.  I present to you TC'S new wall hanging hair bow organizer:

 It took less than a half hour to make and and under $20. For the base I used a 17" square canvas from the craft store, I think it was $12 regular so less with the ubiquitous coupons.  The fabric has bright little monsters on it and was $7.99 a yard, I used slightly over half of it.
I pulled it tight and used a staple gun to secure it to the frame. Then I ran three strip of ribbon across the front and stapled them to the frame in back. For extra security I stitched through the canvas and fabric and ribbon in a few places and adorned the stitches with a few beads I had lying around. This keeps the ribbon from bowing under the weight of the clips. Voila!
I'm so pleased! I actually might add more ribbon rows since we filled this up pretty quick, but I love that it is bright, organized, lightweight,  and basically makes functional things into art. Cheap and easy is also a bonus! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bucket List #161: Officiate a legal same sex wedding

August 1, 2013 - Marriage Equality took effect in Minnesota. At 12:01am I solemnized the first same-sex wedding in the city of St. Paul:

I did five more over the next 24 hours. Each ceremony was completely different, and personalized to the couple - and each couple was wonderful and inspiring. After years in catering I've learned how awful weddings can make some people act - but on this day (night/day/night) there was nothing but joy. I was honored to be part of this historic day for Minnesota, and for each of the couples I worked with. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Cupcake's First Haircut

TC's pigtails had gotten so long, they sometimes dipped in her lunch. Her PIGTAILS! That's some long hair! It was baby fine and a little scraggly around the edges, so it seemed like a good time to clean it up a little with her first haircut. I didn't know how she'd take it, but it all went well! Here is the before:

I thought we were going to one of the fancy kid salons with chairs shaped like dinosaurs and unicorns, but it turned out to be pretty plain. I hesitated for a moment, but it was completely empty and that seemed like a bonus, so we just went for it. They did have monitors at each station showing videos - TC's was playing Tangled, which is a favorite!

The stylist was patient and clearly used to dealing with toddlers, though TC was unusually stoic. She sat very still and quiet, and followed directions for the most part, it was completely out of character :) She only blanched for a moment when the hair dryer came out, but she let out nary a peep during the whole production!

They took off four whole inches, and it looks GREAT!

Happy little goon.

 They even gave her a bonus braid, and it stayed in the whole rest of the day, including a celebratory trip to McDonald's and a rowdy afternoon in Playland! I might have to try that one again, I'm stumped for styles that can last all day at preschool - she often comes home with her hair clips in a baggie when I try something new. Fresh look for a fresh year!