Monday, June 29, 2009

The post that I forgot to post.

I wrote this weeks ago, but I totally forgot to finish it and post. But we had so much fun that I'm gonna post it anyway.

Every year on the first Saturday in June, Wolf Creek Dam hosts the Catch a Rainbow fishing derby. I wish I had words to describe it. It's just the most awesome event. You go up and register your kids and they give you some tickets for the prize drawings. Every kid who goes gets a prize. Then they give you a goody bag, usually candy an/or small gifts. This year's event had t-shirts, too. They also gave us pop-tarts and chocolate milk as we registered. Then you walk down the road and you'll pass a hatchery. We usually stop and feed the baby fishys. They have gumball machines filled with fish food pellets and the fish swarm up to be fed. Then you walk on down to the creek.

Now if you've ever been fishing you know that it usually means lots of time waiting around and hoping something bites. Not here. They know that there are going to be thousands of kids there so they stock it the night before with thousands and thousands of rainbow trout. It's so full of fish you could almost walk across it without getting wet. Just to give you an idea of how many fish there are, check out this picture. The whole river is like that. That little white thing? And how big are the fish? That little white dot is a one inch bobber.

Every hour a different age group fishes, starting with the youngest. But even so, they let kids age 1 through 4 fish out of a big kiddie pool stocked with huge trout. Some of these are fish that are so big the kids can't lift them. And while you're waiting for your kid's turn to fish, there's free hot dogs and cokes and cotton candy and music and booths to visit and raffles to enter and free candy everywhere.

Quinn didn't like standing in line for his turn to fish at all. So by the time we got to the front of the line he didn't even want to hold the pole. I dipped the line in the water to show him what to do and just then the kid next to us caught a fish. We turned to look and when we turned back there was a fish on our hook. Quinn was so startled. So they put it on a stringer for us, put it in an insulated bag, gave him a new fishing pole, and hung a big medal around his neck. He liked the medal the best.

Meanwhile, Zoe was doing her fishing. Don't ask me why she's pouting in this picture. Because she was having the time of her life. She caught four fish, won a new fishing pole, and had all the cotton candy she could stand. Actually, she caught a lot more than four fish. Scott says she hooked a dozen or more. But when she'd realize that one was hooked she'd get so excited that she couldn't reel it in and it would slip the hook. We ended up giving one of hers away because we met a girl who hadn't caught any.

Then we stopped at an archery booth. Zoe was so proud that she hit the target. She didn't mind that she had help. She was just happy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Too crazy

That's what it is around here. Way, way too crazy. Quinn has decided to eat nothing but french fries. Zoe has decided that she's a cat. Caly has decided to leave town with my mom and dad. And Zaven got the hell out of Dodge already. I have to say I'm a bit jealous.

Other than the usual insanity, the constant mess, and my fight with the phone company, things are going swimmingly. But tomorrow I have to get serious again about gettting organized and cleaning this place up. Wish me luck.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another nice offer.

Avoid Summer Learning Loss. In just 3 hours a week over 12 weeks, your childwill improve one full grade level guaranteed!

If you click on the picture, you'll be able to request free info and a coupon. For those of you with grade school kids (and highschoolers!) this might be nice.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My MIL very graciously offered to take the kids for a while to give me and Scott a break from them. I'm very much enjoying it! But Friday Caly had an orthodontist appointment. My MIL was going to meet me half way to her house (1 hr, 15 min. away) but called to say that she'd hadn't slept well and only got a few hours of sleep. I didn't want to reschedule the appt since she was getting spacers. There needs to be a full week between getting the spacers and getting her braces put on, and if I rescheduled this appt, I'd have to reschedule the other one. So I said I'd just go get her. So I drove to MIL's, then to the appt, then home to let Caly get some ibuprophen, then back to MIL's. On the way there was a traffic jam on the interstate so it added about an hour to the trip. Then I drove home. On the way home I got pulled over. No, I wasn't speeding. But my tags were expired. I couldn't find the current year's proof of insurance when he asked for it either. I found last year's and the year before's... but not the current one. So I got a ticket for the expired tags and not having proof of insurance. I don't know how much it'll be. Some counties will let you bring in your paperwork to show that you're all current and they'll let the matter drop or you have to only pay a small fee for processing. Other places just use it as an opportunity to heap on the fines and make some money. Either way it's in a different county from where I live so I'll have to drive back there next week to deal with it.


My total time spent on getting Caly for her appt. and taking her back:
6 hrs, 37 min. in the car.

My total cost:
$37 in gas plus an unknown fine

Her total time in the appt, including the time she was in the waiting room:
12 minutes

Other than that, the week has been good. We got Zaven off to Upward Bound on Sunday and the kids have been gone since Tuesday. I should have been all productive and gotten the house all spiffed up. Instead I've been relaxing. I did a little work each day, but not much. But I've been to the movies and out to eat with Scott, ran errands and things that would have been annoying with kids in tow. I also spent a little time researching some money making ideas on the internet. (Once I have something definitive, I'll post them here.) Mostly I've just enjoyed the lack of noise. It's not exactly quiet. Scott's still here and there's the TV. But there's no screaming or banging or squealing. Sigh. Very, very nice.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Teaching the Solar System

We all grew up with a pretty simple idea of the solar system, right? There were nine planets moving in circles around the sun. Some were big and some were little but in the pictures they were all evenly spaced out and lined up. The problem is, it's not right. They aren't moving in circles (they move in ellipses), they aren't evenly spaced, and it turns out there aren't even nine of them! To top it all off, the solar system has parts most of us haven't even heard of.

Probably the first thing to learn is the distances involved. Distances in space are measured in two different ways. Outside the solar system, we measure the distance between stars in light years (how far light can travel in a year). But inside the solar system, that measurement is too big. It's like trying to measure how big your living room is by using miles. Instead, distances in the solar system are commonly measured in Astronomical Units (AU). An AU is simply the average distance between the Earth and the Sun. The sun is 1 AU from the earth.

A really good way to start learning how far apart things in space are is to map out the solar system. This is a super easy activity for parents, and it'll help your kids (and you) get a real grasp on what the solar system is actually like.

Here's what you need:

1. Planets. No, don't go out and buy styrofoam balls or anything. I've found that pictures work really well. You can order a really nice lithograph set from NASA... or you can just have your kids get out their crayons. Either way works great.
2. A long room or hallway. It needs to be at least 50 feet long.
3. string
4. tape
5. A way to measure the distances. A tape measure is fine (as long as it's a bigger one that will measure the entire 50 feet). Another easy way to measure it is to use a hallway in a public school. Most schools have linoleum tiles on the floor that are one foot squares. Just count the tiles to measure your distance.

And here's what you do:

Step 1.
Have your kids draw a picture of the sun and of each planet. It's OK if they don't know anything about the planets yet. This is part of how they learn. If they don't know any of the planets, tell them the names and let them use their imaginations. "Let's draw Jupiter! It's the biggest!" is fine. Don't worry about it if the planets are the wrong color or size. It'll be fine. Do be sure to include Pluto even though it's not a planet anymore. This is a great way to show how it's not like the other planets.

Step 2.
Have them tape the picture of the sun at one end of the hall. Then tell them to guess where the planet that's closest to the sun is. Have them tape Mercury on the wall where they think it belongs. Next comes Venus, then Earth, Mars, an Asteroid Belt (bet you didn't know we had one!), then Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Most kids (and adults) will naturally space the picures out on the wall instead of clump them together.

Step 3.
Walk back over to the "Sun" and tell your kids that most people (even grown-ups) don't realize how far apart things really are in space. So you guys are going to re-hang their pictures but this time we'll see if we can get them the right distance apart. So you start measuring. And as you measure and move the pictures, you talk:

"Let's just pretend that the Earth is one foot away from the sun. So let's hang it's picture here... So every one foot is an Astronomical Unit. That sounds fancy, but it just means how far it is from the Sun to the Earth. Just like if we measured how far our house is from the road, we could call it a Yard Unit and measure everything that way. So... if the Earth is one AU (Astronomical Unit) from the Sun, then we need to fit a few other planets between the sun and the Earth."

Just talk them through the process of putting the pictures where they belong. Kids get a real kick when they realize that the first few planets are all scrunched together and the others get further and further away.

Here are the measurements for you:

As you rearrange the pictures, be sure to talk about how big each planet is. The sun is huge in comparison to everything else. If the Earth is the size of a marble, the sun is as big as a house. The entire wall that your picture of the sun is hanging on isn't large enough to put it in scale.

When you get to Pluto, there's a big "Huh???" moment. It has a range. So you stare at the wall a few minutes and talk about it. "It could be as close as this. But it could be as far as that!" Eventually, someone (maybe you) will decide to cut a hole in the picture and thread it on a string. Tape one end of the string to the wall at 30 feet from the sun, and the other end at 49 feet. Then the kids can slide Pluto around to all the places it could be. "Holy cow! It can be just as close as Neptune! It can even be a little closer? What the heck?" Want to get even stranger? It's orbit isn't level with the other planets. The other planets orbits are in a disc, kind of like the rings of Saturn. Pluto's orbit is tilted so that it goes above and below the disc. Plus there's a lot of debris in it's orbit. It still bumps into things as it travels around the sun. And it's a lot bumpier than the other planets. Those are the reasons it's no longer considered a planet. (For sentimental reasons I disagree and still count it as a planet, but it's definitely different from the others.)

Step 4.
So now you've hung all of your planets (+1 extra planet and a bonus asteroid belt) on the wall. What's next? The other stuff that you didn't know about.

Just after the planets there's a place called the Kuiper Belt. It overlaps the outermost planets and goes all the way out to 100 AU from the Sun. That's twice as far out as Pluto gets! The string it would take to show it's range is as big as the rest of the solar system. It also contains at least one dwarf planet - Pluto. Pluto is now considered to be a member of the Kuiper Belt - the largest object belonging to it, in fact! But it's not alone out there. There are comets and other icy rocks there, too. And there's more stuff beyond it. There's another dwarf planet calle Eris at 97 AU. It's right at the start of something called The Scattered Disc, which is just a big (huge!) disc with tiny icy planet-y rocks scattered in it. It goes out even further and has a bigger range.

And there might even be more. Scientists think there's something called an Oort Cloud, named for the guy that imagined it. (Imagination is good!) Scientists know that some comets travel far past the planets and even past the Scattered Disc. So we think those long-distance comets come from the Oort cloud that might be 50,000 or more AU from the Sun. Right now it's impossible to know because the comets move so fast and are so small. (Kind of like kids.)

If you were to draw a picture of the Oort cloud and hang it on a wall, it would be 9 and a half miles away. And the nearest star is 271,000 AU from here. That's fifty-one miles away from your picture of the sun!

So now you've taught your kids the basics of the planets. There's more... and it's way cool. But I'll have to dig it all up so it'll be a bit before I post it. If you have questions, let me know. And if you like what I wrote, please let your friends know and share my blog with them. I'm really enjoying meeting new folks via blogging.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On to something fun...

I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to start blogging more regularly and maybe even make a few bucks doing it. And I think I've thought of a good way. You see, I want to write about things that interest me, and I also need to write things that people want to read, and they need to be things that aren't being written about by every other blogger on the planet. Whew! That's a tough bill to fill, isn't it? But I had an inspiration. I know something that you guys might like to read that I'm actually qualified to talk about. And what is this mystery subject? (And more importantly to you, will it be even vaguely interesting?)

I used to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and run a science program. And I can do all kinds of very cool, very easy, and very inexpensive science experiments and art projects. Experiments is probably the wrong word. It's mostly just fun stuff for kids that turns out to be useful in learning stuff. Anyhow, this is stuff that I love to do and that most people who can be talked into trying it really enjoy. So I think that if I can talk some of you guys into doing this stuff at home, you might really like it, too. So... stand back. We are about to make a mess.

I thought I'd start with those t-shirts we made at Caly's birthday party. This is a great art project that is cheap, fun, very simple, and ends up with a great looking shirt. Even the most un-artistic parent can walk their kid through this.

Here's what you need:

1. A plain white t-shirt or pillowcase
2. Colored permanent markers
3. A spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol (the higher concentrations work better so look for some that's 91% alcohol)
4. Cardboard (optional)
5. A few plastic cups (optional)
6. Rubber bands (optional)
7. A well ventilated place to work. Outside is better since it means fewer things to accidentally color plus less chance of inhaling the fumes.

There are a two different types of designs you can make with this and I'll walk you through each one. The first (and simplest) is to make a design and then create an effect. Here's what you do:

Step 1.
If you want your shirt or pillowcase to have the design on only one side, you'll need to put a piece of cardboard between the front and the back. This stuff WILL bleed through unless you stop it.

Step 2.
Draw on the shirt. It doesn't matter what you draw, or how well you draw it. Honestly it doesn't. Here's what does matter: use a lot of ink. The more ink the merrier. Because the whole point of this is that the ink will spread. For the best effect go over the picture/pattern/blob-of-color several times so that there's a lot of ink. You can draw with several colors or just one. And you can make a fancy intricate design or a simple one. But remember that the colors are going to bleed into each other some. For this example, I did a simple rainbow pattern, but you can do anything and it usually comes out really well. I know the kids at the party did all kinds of crazy stuff and all of it came out great.

Step 3.
Fill up the spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and start spraying. If you mist your design lightly, you'll get a nice dreamy watercolor effect but you'll still be able to see the design. If you spray it on heavily and saturate the area, the color will spread wildly. If you hold it up while spraying, it will mostly run downward. If you lay it flay it will spread out in every direction.

Step 4.
Let it dry all the way. You can do this by sticking it in a dryer or just letting it air dry.

Step 5.
Add any details you like. Once your original picture is smeared beyond recognition, you can add details to make it more interesting. You can write your name on top of a cool swirl of color. Or you can add eyes, a nose, and a mouth and make it a face. Think that flower you drew now looks more like a cat? Add whiskers and ears. And if you don't like the finished product, spray it again.

I mentioned that there are two techniques you can try. This second one is a bit more complicated, and to be honest I don't like the results quite as well, but if you'd like your pattern to be a bit more orderly here's a second approach.

Step 1.
Take a plastic cup and put it inside your shirt. Pull a bit of material over the cup so that it's stretched tight. Then use a rubber band to secure it in place.

Step 2.
Draw several dots of color in the center of the fabric that's pulled tight. Draw them nice and dark and use 2 or 3 colors.

Step 3.
Open up the bottle of alcohol and drip just a little bit right on top of the dots you drew. Hold the cup level so that the alcohol spreads the color out from the center of the dots. This should make the color run outward until it reaches the rim of the cup. It should stop there on it's own if the fabric is tight and you don't use lots of rubbing alcohol. So you end up with circles of color that are more concentrated in the center.

Step 4.
This is the same step as above. Let it dry all the way, either in a dryer or airdrying.

Step 5.
Add the details. You can use those circles to make faces, or you can use a green sharpie to make stems and let them be flowers. Whatever you like.

What you end up with is a shirt that can go in the laundry with all your other clothes. It won't bleed or fade (unless you go crazy with the bleach or the oxy-clean like I've been known to do), and it won't dye your other clothes. This is SO much easier than tie-dye (which I love but know from experience is messy and expensive).

I hope you enjoy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The after party

After Caly's party I ended up taking Zaven to the emergency room. He'd been sick all week with a low grade fever and GI problems. The day before the party he broke out in hives. Benadryl seemed to help but after the party we noticed that the benadryl wasn't working as well and he had some welts on his face and lip. That's considered the danger zone, since if he gets them in his throat it can interfere with his breathing. So I had to take him in for a shot of steroids. Fortunately there was no line at all and we were in and out in less than a half hour. They think that the symptoms he's had all week were his body trying to deal with an allergen he'd had a heavy exposure to. Since everything in the state is blooming right now, it's kind of impossible to determine exactly what caused the reaction. But they have him on steroids plus three different types of over the counter antihistimines. He started feeling much better within hours. Which is handy since he left for Upward Bound the next morning.

Meanwhile Caly had a few of her friends spend the night after the party and I had one of my friends spend the night too. The girls went to the dive-in movie at the pool (a free monthly event) while my friend and I visited. We all stayed up way too late and as a result I pretty much crashed the next afternoon. Staying up late is no problem, but when you follow that by getting up early to change diapers, fill prescriptions, and take your son to his new dorm room.... So I slept the afternoon away. Today I'll be starting to clean up after the party. I was too exhausted to do it yesterday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

13 o'clock

This is what my house looked like yesterday at 13 o'clock. They had a great time and I don't even have good pictures of everything. The smoke coming out of the volcano cake was much more impressive in person, and I didn't get any pictures of them making the t-shirts. They also made oobleck but it's not impressive at all in pictures. I should have shot some video but it's hard to remember things like that when you're dodging shaving cream.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The cake and the presents

Caly's party is tomorrow. I'm not exactly ready... but I'm not freaking out either. I've got all the supplies and I did go ahead and buy t-shirts to give to the kids to decorate. They were on sale this week at Walgreens for $2 each plus the weather forecast is iffy. I don't want to invite them and then have it start storming and them all in the house with nothing to do. Caly gave out the invites at school without remembering to tell them to bring an old t-shirt, so I figured I'd rather spend the extra $30 to get them shirts than have the party suck. And I saved so much on Caly's presents at Penny's that I'm still OK on the budget.

Caly came home from her trip last night and she'd had a great time. I went ahead and gave her all her presents. Well... sort of. I'd bought her an mp3 player that had been on sale, some CD-R's to back up her music on, and the clothes. But it turns out that her grandma had given her a better mp3 player on her actual birthday. So I'm saving mine for Zoe. It's hot pink and will be a good present for her birthday. We spend a lot of time in the car and both she and Quinn are loud. So some tunes might be a great distraction that will keep her occupied and hopefully mean that she's not "playing" with him in a way that makes him scream his head off in frustration. I'd give him a player too but he's got pica. Pica is where you eat things that are non-food items. All babies do it, but they outgrow it. Quinn hasn't. What he has done is eat through the wires on at least two sets of earbuds. So no mp3 player for him until he at stops chewing the wires.

But I devolve. I was saying that I gave Caly her presents. She tried on the clothes and the dressy shirts fit perfectly, as did the tie-dyed skirts. The jeans are too loose and the t-shirt and tank tops are too tight. I'm hoping there are some left at the store and we can exchange them for the right size. If not, I'm saving them for Zoe. I may try to put tucks in the jeans for Caly, but they may be too big for that.

Meanwhile, I made her cake.

We'll be putting dry ice in the crater so that the volcano smokes, LOL. She loves it. The water is jello (with a few gummy fish) and it'll say Happy Birthday Caly around the edges. We got some candles at Hobby Lobby that have colored flames so she wants to put red ones down in the crater with the dry ice to make it look even more like lava. I'm just glad I didn't destroy it while working on it. I am NOT a good cook and even working with cake mixes and canned frosting I was pretty sure I'd ruin something. But so far, so good.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

JC Penny's

If you aren't on their mailing list, go sign up. They send you a $10 off any $10 or more purchase every month. I just got back and I'm so happy with my trip. They had a bunch of stuff marked down on clearance -- the green ticket clearance which is supposedly the final markdown. Only all clearance stuff was 20% off. And then I had my $10 coupon which works on clearance stuff. And I had a 15% coupon because I filled out the online survey about my last purchase there. Sooooo... I bought $248 worth of clothes (at their original highly marked up price) and my total was $15.18. That's including tax. That's 94% off, folks!

So what did I get? Clothes for Caly. Her birthday is this week so I got her two tanktops, two tie-dye skirts, a t-shirt, two dressy tops that would be perfect for a school dance, and a pair of boot cut jeans. The tank tops were $1.19 each. Everything else (including the jeans!) was $1.99 each after all the discounts. Whoo-hoo!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Free magazine

Here's a free subscription to Popular Science magazine. No credit card is required.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A horrible thing.

I don't even have words for this post. I am beyond them. But I am going to try.

We have a family friend who we've known for more than a decade. He's a young boy, Caly's age, who has some disabilities. I'm not going to name him, and in order to protect his privacy I'm not even going to be very detailed about his condition. Here's what I will tell you. He's got some mild retardation and some physical problems as well. He can walk (with a limp) and talk (with some slurred words), and he has some issues with his bodily functions. But he can also drive a tractor like nobody's business. He helps his family on their farm and raises miniature horses. He goes to school, can read, has a girlfriend who's one of Caly's mainstream classmates, and enjoys life. He comes to Caly's birthday party every year and all the kids know him and treat him well. I am incredibly proud of both Caly and her friends that his condition has never been an issue.

Last week he got sick. Very, very sick. His kidneys shut down.

And then his doctor told his family that they could treat the kidneys with a stop-gap measure, but wouldn't it be better to just let him die? He was already unconcious so there wouldn't be any more pain.

Holy fucking crap! If this boy were not disabled, would anyone seriously ever have considered letting him die when they could treat him? Yes, he is disabled. But in his day to day life he is healthy and happy. He drives that tractor better than my husband drives ours, and so what if they had to special order one that didn't need as much pressure on the pedals. He's GOOD at it. He already has paying jobs with it lined up for his summer vacation. He is NOT a burden on his family, not any more than any child is a burden. They all need fed and clothed and cared for, don't they? And he is certainly not so sick that his care is overwhelming them. I know that sometimes a person will get so sick that keeping them alive is slowly killing the ones caring for them. I saw that happening to Scott's mom when his dad was so sick after his strokes. But that is not at all the case here. It's not even close to being the case.

And his doctor tells the family that everyone has to die someday? He's 12, not 70! So they don't know why his kidneys shut down? So they say it'll happen again and again unless they figure it out? Well then get off your lazy asses and figure it out!!! What the fuck are they thinking?

Thank God, this boy's family are not idiots. They made the doctors treat him and now he's home from the hospital and seems to be OK for now. There's still trouble on the horizon. The treatment is temporary and not free of risks. But he's alive and happy and back to raising baby horses. Right now I can't even stand to think of where he'd be if it had been up to his doctor.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day before yesterday's amazing shopping.

I've got a week left before Caly's party and I'm mostly caught up on housecleaning. I need to do a bunch of laundry and pick back up after a few lazy days, but I don't have any big overhaul to do like we did before Zaven's party. I'm planning on spending this weekend knee-deep in coupons because I haven't paid any attention to them in weeks. My nice neat binder is filled with expireds and my curren coupons are all in a ziploc. I've done some couponing... but for the most part I've been too busy. But the nice thing about taking a break from major couponing is that most of the sales and freebies that I missed were for items that I already have a nice stockpile of. I didn't get any free toothpaste for the last few weeks. But then I already had about two dozen tubes.

I DID get to do some awesome bargain hunting day before yesterday. I started by going to my favorite second hand store. I found Zaven a great Hawaiian shirt (his fave) for $2.50 and got Caly a T that says "I'm NOT with stupid. We broke up." (Sam, if you're reading this, sorry but you had that coming.)

Then I stopped by a factory outlet for American Greetings and picked up several spools of ribbon, a ton of colored tissue paper, some gift bags, and the cutest party favors for Zoe's party. They're little plastic picture frames shaped like flowers and they're magnetic and come in hot pink, purple, lime green, and orange. I spent $11 and got at least $75 worth of stuff.

Later that night Scott and I stopped by Goodwill JUST as someone was unloading some brand new insullated glass patio doors. These were name brand doors with the manufacturer stickers still on them. I made Scott go directly inside to pay for them before anyone could snatch them up. We spent $98 on six doors (each worth at least $250) and we're planning on using them to make solar panels. This is the joy of having a science teacher for a husband. He knows exactly how to do it and it will make a huge cut in our electric bill each month. Whoo-hoo! Plus I got a few more deals when I went inside to shop.

Finally, I stopped by Kroger's to pick up some of their whole boneless sirloin tips that are on sale for $1.99 a pound. Their butcher shop will cut them into steaks or roasts or even grind them into hamburger for you. I had one cut into inch-and-a-half steaks for grilling outside, and another cut into half-inch steaks for frying inside this winter. I was going to buy a third one and have it cut into an extra large roast for Christmas and some minute steaks, but they were out. I got a rain check, though. I'm planning on using my rain check to buy several since Scott will have two paychecks this month instead of one. It's a sweet deal because the sirloin is the same price that regular old ground beef has been. Steak for the price of a hamburger is my kind of deal. (*** We had one of the steaks last night and they are SO good. Sale's still on so stop by and see if you can pick some up.)

So even though I've fallen way behind on my coupon organizing, I'm still ahead of the game. And if Zaven will babysit for me over the weekend (and he kind of has to since I just threw him a party) I'll have my coupons sorted and put away in no time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Birthday parties on a budget

So you all know I have four kids. What you might not realize is that three of those kids have birthdays in a 6 week period. Having a birthday party every two or three weeks can get expensive fast, but I've always felt that it was important to celebrate each child. So that leaves me needing to either be remarkably organized and set aside money on a regular schedule throughout the year (HA!) or I have to be creative and find a way to celebrate without spending a lot of money.

You know the basics of Zaven's party. We paid for invitations, a movie, the flashlights and batteries, glow-in-the-dark ballons and helium, the ingredients for the pizzas and the cake, sodas, paper plates, and plastic forks. It's hard to put an actual price tag on all of it, since I didn't buy it in one shopping trip, but I think we ended up spending about $125 on all of it. The balloons and helium were about half of that expense, but considering that the ballons are re-usable for future parties (we'd just need more helium), and that there are plates and forks left for Caly's party, I think we did OK. I still have to buy him his gift, but his actual birthday isn't for almost a month so I'm holding off for a bit.

Caly will be having her party a week from Saturday. And actually her party has become quite notorious for being THE event to attend every summer. She's got a ton of friends and every year somewhere between 10 and 20 of them come over for a "Messy Party" where they cover each other in shaving cream and make all kinds of messy art projects. It's actually a pretty inexpensive affair. The shaving cream runs about a dollar a can, and the "art" supplies are cheap since we mostly do things like make oobleck (corn starch, water, and food coloring). This year we're considering asking kids to bring an old white t-shirt or pillow case so we can decorate them with sharpies and rubbing alcohol. (If I can find some cheap I'll just buy them and let that be the party favors.) My goal is to keep the cost under $75 not counting her gift. In fact, since I already have the shaving cream and corn starch (bought on sale a few weeks ago)and paper plates and forks left from Zaven's party, I should be able to only spend about $25 more dollars (for cake, drinks, and sharpies). This is a good thing as I'm broke after paying for Zaven's party.

Party #3 is Zoe's. She is SO excited to be having a real party this year. We always have a small family celebration, but this year she has friends from school that she wants to invite. Right now, I'm thinking we'll still make it kind of small. 4 or 5 friends over would be plenty big enough to make it feel like a major event for her. We have a swingset, a huge sandbox, and lots of cats. I'm thinking that if we just add a few balloons and streamers, some juice, and a cake we'll be set. The only problem? Her teacher was supposed to provide a list of kids who'd agreed to be on a summer playdate list. The school can't share private info like phone numbers or addresses without permission, but they can ask if people want to be included. However, the teacher forgot to send the list home on the last day. I've e-mailed her and I'm hoping she's not gone for the summer. If not, I have a lot of tracking down to do.

Thankfully, Quinn's birthday isn't until September and he's not old enough to even notice that his party is going to be much smaller than the others. I'm planning on using the glow-in-the-dark balloons for him, though. He had way too much fun with them during Zaven's party. Those and a small cake should be plenty enough to make him feel special.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The good cows, the bad chicken.

About a week and a half ago, I took a large chicken out of the freezer to defrost. I put it in the fridge, then I promptly forgot about it. With all the extra food in the fridge for the party, it kind of got pushed to the back and covered up.

Meanwhile, we woke up Sunday morning to a cow in our yard. When walking around the farm during his party, Zaven had opened up all the gates as he went assuming that the last person through them would close them. Umm... maybe we need to go back over that ass-you-me thing. But when we all got up to look for the rest of the cows we realized that they were all just hanging out in the field they were supposed to be in. Good cows!

Monday we remembered the chicken. Scott got it out to see if it was worth bothering to cook after so long and discovered that it was frozen solid. Then Caly discovers that the milk is half frozen too. Scott thought that if the fridge was that cold that it probably never defrosted and is fine. But the day is really, really hot and we don't have the A/C put back in the window yet. So we decided to let it defrost in a pan of water in the sink that evening and then cook it that night after it had started to cool off. Only we forgot and just left it in that pan of water overnight. So Tuesday morning as Scott is getting up I remembered and asked him to check it and if he thought it was OK to put it in to cook before it got hot and I'd set my alarm clock to make sure I woke up in time to take it out. I was heading back to bed because Zoe and Quinn were still asleep.

Sooooo... I woke up a couple of hours later, went in the kitchen and almost puked because of the smell. That thing was bad. And not just a little bad. And of course once I opened the kitchen door the smell went all over the house.

So why am I telling you all this? I have no idea. But maybe you can learn from our dumbass mistakes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another offer

I actually should sign up for this. We did it when Zaven and Caly were little and they loved it. But they were rough on the books so some of them are gone.

The details

The party was amazing. Zaven had invited 10 kids. 6 boys and 4 girls. None of the girls came, which was a good thing in a way. If it had been co-ed, I'd have had to supervise more. They are teens, after all. As it was, 5 of the boys he invited came and one of them brought a friend who'd been at his house when he was getting ready to come. He called to ask first and since there was plenty of food we said yes. The extra friend was someone Zaven knew from school, but didn't know well. Anyhow, a total of six teenaged boys came over. Zaven let Caly stay for the party if she promised not to talk the whole time. She promised and was actually able to keep her promise. It looked like it was going to kill her, but she did great.

So when they all had arrived we shooed them off and told them to go walk around the farm. Then Zoe left to go spend the night at grandma's. (She really, really wanted to stay for the party, but she wasn't about to agree to not talk much, LOL.) The boys (and Caly) were gone for an hour, then showed up hungry and thirsty and excited. They'd found some of the more interesting bits of junk on the place, including a laser cannon that Scott had bought at a salvage auction. It doen't work or anything, but they were very impressed. They'd also found the cars that Scott was getting ready to sell as scrap metal. Zaven and Caly told them they were allowed to break out the windows (they were, since the glass doesn't add to the scrap value) so they threw rocks at them. So we fed them pizza and Jones sodas (no caffiene) and then we brought out the cake.
And he got to cut it with a machete. A real one. They seemed very impressed with that. Then he opened his gifts. He got mostly cash, which pleased him to no end. He also got a new 4 Gig mp3 player which he was very, very happy with.

By that time it was dark out, so we gave them all flashlights and sent them back outside to explore some more. And while they were gone we filled up the glow-in-the-dark balloons and put them all over the yard. There was a light breeze and they moved around as they flashed on and off, so my pictures all look strange, but this is kind of what it looked like.
When they got back from exploring and saw the balloons they were so impressed. Then they took one of the red ones and one of the blue ones and went off in the fields to play capture the flag in the dark. They all had on black t-shirts and the moon was out so they didn't use the flashlights. Meanwhile Quinn was having so much fun walking around the dark yard and looking at the balloons. He was just in heaven.

When the bigger kids finally dragged themselves in at around 10:30, they were worn out. They just kind of collapsed. Most of them went inside to watch a movie (the terminator) but a couple of them had seen it several times so just hung out and talked on the porch. Slowly moms and dads started showing up to get them. The last one left just after midnight.

The whole time they were at the house they couldn't stop talking about how much fun they'd had. In fact, one of their mom's is my best friend and she told me that the minute her son got in the car when she picked him up he asked to borrow her phone. He was going to call all the kids who didn't come and tell them how they missed the best party ever. She also told me that he was so sore from playing all night that the next day that he could barely walk.

And just as importantly, Scott, Quinn and I had a great time while they were playing. My sister stayed for the party rather than just drop her son off, so we hung out on the porch and talked and relaxed and enjoyed the breeze and the balloons. The boys weren't in the house much so there wasn't even a lot of cleaning to be done the next day. All in all, it was the perfect party.