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Projects

As you’ll all recall, I’ve been delighted to be designing a study space for the newly-turned 6 year old over the past few weeks. I’m so excited to share my space with you today!

I designed this study space for my kindergartener, so the main thing I wanted was a stimulating, fun area whose tools and supplies were easy to access. Obviously, there isn’t a lot of studying going on in kindergarten; as a parent, what I really want to do with this area is create habits and cultivate a positive attitude. I want the study space to be a place where my son wants to go, a place where he feels comfortable and happy and has everything he needs in front of him.

My other philosophy here and in general is attention to detail. I love seeing a space with lots of little design choices that keep surprising you. Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” I think that’s how I work, in general; my overall theme is often simply attention to detail.

Let’s check out the space!

The focal point here is the grouping I created over the desk. I showed you how I matted and framed the robot prints here; I hung them at the top and then added the magnetic clip board lower so that the 6 year old can reach it to place things on it. Since we live in earthquake country, I earthquaked them all; that’s Southern Californian for “attached velcro strips to the bottoms of the frame and the wall to secure the pictures.” Even if you don’t live in a seismic zone, it’s worth it to secure anything you are hanging over a kid’s desk. I used Command strip fasteners, which are precut.

To round out the group, I added these cute little surfboard signs that the 6 year old got from his cousins. It’s a special gift that reminds him of an amazing day we had this summer with a bunch of cousins all converging on our house.

On the desk itself, the hedgehog bookends hold a few key books; for now, it’s just the junior dictionary and our nightly classic story book. As he grows, though, that space will keep other reference books, like a thesaurus or a language dictionary (the 9 year old had to get his first Spanish-English dictionary for school this year). The rocketship is something he made with me, and the colors were so perfect it made the cut from old space to new.

I filled the lazy susan with all the tools he needs to do homework and “projects,” which he is always creating. He loves to make books and games and various other drawings and such, so I included markers, colored pencils, crayons, regular pencils (some mechanical and some regular), and key tools: scissors, a ruler, and a glue stick. Because I didn’t want the pencils or crayons to mark up the inside of the lazy susan (I’m neurotic like that), and also to prevent the hard surface of the wood from dulling or breaking the pencils, I lined each compartment with padded drawer liner that I cut to size. And, in order to keep the crayons high enough so the colors can be seen easily, I added some tissue paper, scrunched into a little ball, to prop them up a bit.

I made him a desk blotter that is just the right size and matches the mats in the frames above. I’ll do a quick tutorial on how to make it later this week. The blotter adds some color to the desk and also protects it from pencil scratches.

I wanted him to have a place in his room to hang his backpack, and I wanted it close to his desk. I bought one of those handbag hooks–you know, the ones you carry around in your purse so that when you go out to dinner you can hook it over the edge of your table and not have to set your purse on the floor. Unfortunately, though, they were all super girly. I bought the least offensive one, which was simply a flat square with something about “fashionista” on it, and I covered it with 4 Ninjago stickers, one to represent each of the 4 Ninja. (Sorry, Lloyd, you weren’t included.)

Since most of the tools the 6 year old needs are on top of the desk, we didn’t do too much with the drawers. One thing that needed attention, though, were all the cards that have no home. Pokémon cards, Ninjago cards, Skylander cards… they all just lay around the house because we have no system for storing them. Ha! Now I have a place and a system in the top drawer of his desk.

This little organizer has 9 different compartments that fit cards perfectly. I had one other desk organizer that I put a few other essentials in, like a pencil sharpener, some Japanese erasers (!), Post-Its, tissues, and of course, a few finger lights. You gotta have finger lights.

The two storage boxes currently house old preschool art projects. The larger one is perfect for that. We are going to go through it periodically and purge; I’ll probably have another post on that process in the future.

He loves the space. I’ll probably add a cushion to the chair at some point, since he’s a little small for it, but I haven’t gotten around to finding the right fabric and making the thing. It’s good to have something to work towards, no?

So, that’s my A+ study space. Let me know what grade you’d give it. And I’ll be sure to let you know when voting opens up for this challenge! Stay tuned.

Also, some government agency with an acronym I can’t remember wants me to tell you that I received all the furniture and accessories from Pottery Barn Kids for free, although I didn’t get paid to write this post or participate in the challenge. And don’t forget, if I win enough votes, one of you will get a duplicate set of furniture in a giveaway right here.

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Slimed!

I’ve always wanted to make slime with my kids– I guess it’s sometimes also called flubber?– so when I saw “Professor Figgy” demonstrate it on Martha, I decided it was time.  What’s more fun than slime?

Plus, it’s a polymer and a Maxwell solid, so it’s all sciency and stuff.

And, it’s super easy to make.  Here are the instructions from Martha’s show:

First, you mix 1/2 cup of white glue with 1/3 cup of water.  Surprisingly to me, they actually mixed.  Also, if you don’t want to put glue in your measuring cups, you need a 4 ounce bottle of glue (I got mine for $0.69 at Target) and you simply dump in the whole thing.

Or, you let your kids do it.

I did actually use one of my regular mixing bowls because I knew it would be pretty easy to clean up.  We used wooden craft sticks for the stirring, though.

If you want colored slime, which of course we did, add some food coloring here.  I only had gel food coloring, so we added 3 drops to get a pretty bold color.  If you have liquid food coloring, add 6 – 8 drops or until you reach a color you like.

Ours was blue.

Next you have to make another solution of 3/4 cup warm water and 2 tsp Borax.  In case you don’t have any Borax around, you can find it in the laundry detergent aisle of any grocery store.  It’s kind of like old-time Oxyclean.

We did it just like Professor Figgy, putting the water and the Borax in a jar and shaking it, but you could just put them in another bowl and mix until the powder dissolves.

Now for the sciency magic part.  (The 3 year old called RD Husband in from the other room: “Daddy!  Come watch the magic part!”)  When you pour the Borax solution into the glue, it immediately starts to coagulate into the slime.

The water is really just the medium for evenly distributing the glue and the Borax– or the substrate, if you are Professor Figgy– because you end up with slime and a bunch of water that you can discard.

At this point you have to just pick up the slime and start mushing it into a ball.  After you knead it for a minute or two, it becomes pretty solid.  I also left it on a paper plate to kind of ooze together.

At first, the 3 year old was afraid to touch it.  He happened to be chatting with his auntie on the phone when he got his courage up.  Tentatively, at first, with one finger, and then eventually realized he’d be ok if he actually picked it up.

You can store it in a plastic baggy, I guess indefinitely.  If you leave it out and it dries, apparently you can reconstitute it with a little water.  So, kinda indestructible, it seems.  And cheap to make, and FUN.

Have you ever made slime before?

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When my oldest son was born and things started happening fast, I realized I would never, ever remember all the cute things he did, the milestones he reached, or the sweet moments we had.  So I decided to write them down.

I created memory books for both of my kids that essentially amount to a diary about each of their lives.  In each, I write about all those hilarious moments that you know you won’t remember but constitute the ordinary joy of every day.  I wrote/write down everything that doesn’t have a place in a baby book; I put in little keepsakes (for example, a leaf he collected and gave to daddy); I even include little snapshots.

two sample pages from the 6 year old's book

Here are two pages from my eldest’s book.  You can see some examples of different things I do– for example, on his first birthday it was the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, so I cut out this little article and pasted it in.  Random trivia, but maybe fun someday.  For the snapshots, I have a Polaroid i Zone camera that takes little tiny polaroid photos that are actually stickers.  It’s a really fun little thing that gives you super cute tiny photos.

Now, if you are more technologically inclined, my husband has started doing something similar, but from a slightly more 21st century perspective.  Early in their lives, he signed them both up for their own gmail accounts, so that they’d have their full names as their accounts in the future.  (That is, so no one else claimed those identities.)  Now he sends them emails periodically, with little updates about what’s happening in their lives at that time or little trivia.  The other day he sent one with a list of nicknames he calls them right now.  Sometimes he forwards them photos that family or friends have sent us of them.  It’s a pretty cute idea.  I’m not sure what will happen when they get older and want to use those accounts and there are 600 emails in there, but we’ll deal with that as it comes.  For now, I like knowing that their childhoods are being recorded for them.  Because I don’t remember a damn thing from my early childhood.

Do you have any special ways that you record those ordinary, everyday memories?

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Rainy Day Kid Fun

Yeah, it’s rainy here.  I’m not sure it’s at deluge level yet, but it certainly is raining pretty hard.  And steadily.  Check the 365 photo for an image.

The good news is that the gutters seem to be working much, much better now that they are cleaned out.  I know, shocking, right?  I can’t remember ever hearing that much water pouring through the downspouts.  But this is a good thing.  I’d rather have the water going down the spouts than pouring off the roof, that’s a certainty.

But today is a holiday, and the kids are home but RM Husband is at work, so I’m stuck in the house with the 3 year old and 6 year old.  Thankfully, I’d been stockpiling activities for just such an occasion.  And I found one recently that completely took my back to my childhood.

Shrinky Dinks.

Seriously, these things are still around!  I found them at Michaels.  They seem a little less– quality?– than before, which I suppose is saying something significant because it’s not like Shrinky Dinks were the height of craftsmanship in my childhood.  But these worked fine, and now with all the advancements in Shrinky Dink technology, the instructions tell you to use the toaster oven instead of the regular oven.  But do NOT try to use the microwave, folks, they are very emphatic about that.

Now they also come pre-cut, so you don’t have to do all that tedious cutting.  Ah, progress.  We set to work coloring our dinks– I bought the vehicles pack, so we had cars, trucks and airplanes.  (I was really hoping for planes, trains, and automobiles, but no luck.  ”They’ll be able to buff this out, no problem.”)

After coloring, you put them on some foil on a baking sheet and lay them out, and then you stick them in the toaster oven.  Each boy did three.

Yep, we did it in our PJs. Isn't that what school holidays are for?

And then they shrunk!  This video isn’t the greatest, but it’s kind of cool.

[vimeo 8824598]

Listen to the delight of the children!

[vimeo 8824712]

Here’s how they turned out up close.  So much tinier!

So it was a nice little 30 minute activity for a rainy day.  I hope you can get you some shrinky dink fun sometime soon!

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