Homemade Holidays: Homemade wrapping paper

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At some point when I was a kid my Mom decided she was tired of buying wrapping paper for it to be ripped up and gone so quickly. It’s expensive and wasteful she said. So, about 4 or 5 months before Christmas we’d start getting our groceries in paper bags, and we’d rip the bags apart and use them to wrap the presents. The presents that were being mailed were wrapped in normal paper.

Then the kids (that would be mainly me because my brother wasn’t really interested in this) would decorate the presents with ribbons and Christmas cards and whatever else we had on hand.

Fast forward a bunch of years and now I have kids. And I LOVE this idea. However, now they look at you funny if you ask for paper bags. Most stores do not have paper bags anymore. Which is super weird considering the big environmental push and the whole idea that plastic is horrible. So I buy 10 yards of butcher paper for about $5.


So, I cut it into lengths that fit my kitchen floor and we paint it. Or stamp it. Or as Superman is apparently doing we draw monsters on it. He drew a whole storyline on this picture.


I can sometimes get them to paint handprints. I think those are some of the cutest.


Here he’s adding in paper cutouts. That wasn’t really what I was intending it for…..


First painting spree’s finished product. We’d used almost every type of painting implement we had. I introduced them to the idea of cookie cutter painting, which looks super cute for making wrapping paper. And all in all lots of fun was had by all, followed by a bath!

Science Sunday: Nature Walk

So, I was very blessed last week to have my in-laws take the kids for most of last week. I was already planning how I was going to write about different places that are great to find science ideas. Then we went to a park yesterday. Here’s what we found.


As we walked around the pond, of course the kids HAD to go check out the trees, how else are they going to find ammunition for whatever they need?


First we discovered a vine. And talked about how a vine is different from a tree, when it’s alive you can move it around kind of like a rope. But, now that it is dead and dried up it is hard and breaks easily. Of course then we had to have our own pieces of vine to walk around with and pretend it’s a gun.



Then we discovered some nuts. They’re very intriguing. They had an outer layer of a slightly gummy green, and when it’s dried it was very easy to peel off. Then we had to explore to see where the nuts came from.


And after much searching found it up in a tree. Then we talked about what the nut is used for, who uses the nuts. We only talked about how the nut is what the tree uses to grow a new tree, but I just realized we could have also talked about how squirrels and other animals eat them.


Then of course we had to throw it in the water and discovered it floats, just like pumpkins!


Then finally Jeff pried one open with his pocket knife and we looked at the insides. We came to the conclusion these must have gone bad or something because they were all nasty and black inside. It was really kind of gross.

So, how about ya’ll, any fun science happenings out there? For more about Science Sunday and participating go here.

Here’s most of our Christmas books or the ones on my list

Amazon.com Widgets

So, I’m a sucker for a Christmas book. Once upon a time I saw an idea to wrap up all of your Christmas books, and of course you had 24 of them. Then each night you would open one and read it together. I love this idea. I’ve never actually wrapped the books, but I probably do have 24 Christmas books. Like I said, I’m a sucker for a Christmas book, last week I ALMOST bought 3 more. Instead I bought 1 more and a Fancy Nancy book.

Gingerbread Pirates– This was one I almost bought in the stores. It’s a super cute story of a boy who makes gingerbread pirates and the captain who tries to save his crew mates from being eaten. Over at Almost Unschoolers they have a great activity to go with it.

If You Take a Mouse to the Moviees- this book combines two things I always buy when I get a chance: Christmas and mouse books. I don’t know why I like mouse books so much, but I do. It follows the usual format of her other books in the series if you’re familiar with it, if you get a chance to get the book on tape it has a couple of really fun Christmas songs on it. I need to see if I can find a copy on CD, because I don’t have a tape player really anymore.

Polar Express– A Christmas classic about a boy who goes to the North Pole and his wish for the first present of Christmas. Get this if you don’t have it.

Froggy’s Best Christmas– We just read this tonight for our first Christmas book of the season. It’s the story of Froggy’s first Christmas with his friends. If you’re teaching writing this is a great book for voice (if you’re doing 6+1 writing traits, huge thing here in Texas recently, or back when I was teaching).

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad– I like Little Critter books. Yes, they’re formulaic, yes, they are silly, but they’re fun. I really like this one because he tries so hard to help his parents, and it doesn’t really work.

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus– this is the letter printed in the newspapers with WONDERFUL illustration. I loved reading this to my students when I was teaching because it has such wonderfully rich and vivid text. Of course, it’s not really a book for pre-schoolers, a lot of the vocabulary is above their heads, but still….

Tale of the Christmas Mouse– when I was in high school and was an intern in a kindergarten class the teacher read this to the kids, and then as their present they got a candy cane mouse. It’s the cutest thing. I love this book.

new ones I bought at last years Christmas sales, that I haven’t had a chance to explore much yet

Auntie Claus– I’ve heard lots of great things about this book.

When Santa Lost His Ho Ho Ho!- I’m planning on using this as well as several others to start working on beginning middle and end. It’s one of the reading features that kinders are supposed to learn in Texas, and I thought it’d be good to start working on those somewhat.

Santa’s Sick– I’ll probably use this for beginning, middle, and end also; and I think I might have them use this for predicting how to solve the problem.

I’m still not 100% so the other part of my post, the religious books will have to wait for later (I couldn’t remember the names of all of them off hand).

Go see what everyone else is reading over at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Now head over to ABC and 123 for more great Christmas books.

I am very thankful for

a husband and mother-in-law who take all the kids off to a park so I can sleep all day while I get over this silly cold. I remember them taking the kids off, and then next thing I remember it’s 3:30 in the afternoon. I don’t nap in the middle of the day, that’s how horrid I was feeling.

On a slightly less silly note (I’m still rather loopy from nowhere near enough food today, it’s just hard to eat much when you’re asleep all day and it hurts to look at food). Here’s other things I’m thankful for (I”d include pictures, but I’m lazy and sleepy, and well it’s difficult on my lap top, those are my excuses, but really I’m lazy).

My husband, he is really very good to me
My family, I have a wonderful family, and am very blessed to have them
My kids, they’re sweet as can be, and sometimes manage to be quiet when Mommy’s sleeping.
A wonderful church family who have been supportive through all sorts of things
Great friends, I’m blessed to have some really great friends
A GREAT country, the best nation on this earth (and I of course believe that someone living in MExico or Spain, or any other country believes their is the best, so hear that when I say best), and believe I’m truly blessed to live in a nation where we can speak our minds and disagree with each other in a peaceful manner.

you know truthfully there are way too many to list them out, because if I did this post would be too long, because it gets down to the level of I”m thankful for my very comfy bed (I’ve been listing what I’m thankful for each day over on Facebook, and some of those have gotten pretty silly, things like nice weather).

So, I’ll be back home tomorrow, and hopefully will get a chance to write some more normal posts. It’s been one of those crazy weeks, where I felt lucky to know where my head was some days.

My Little Princess turned 3!

I can’t believe she’s getting so big!


We started off by making crowns. Now, if I’d been smart I would have sized it to their heads before they put all the stickers and designs on, but I didn’t think of that in time…… Sigh.


Isn’t she just the cutest thing? I think that’s one of the best pictures I’ve gotten of her.


After everyone had their crowns properly made, we went over and did some pumpkin bowling. For ease of judging we divided them into a couple of age groups: little guys, big guys, and grandparents. Grandparents are very violent when bowling.


As you can see the game was a big hit with the kids. And you can also see that Batman dressed himself that morning.


Like I said, Grandparnts are apparently very violent. They destroyed these poor innocent pumpkins. One got chunks flying out of it, another got horribly dented, and I think the third got a huge crack around it. We figured out your best bet for knocking over the pins is to lob it, not roll it.


And of course in between activities we have to take a break and play with all the toys. What’s the fun in going to someone else’s house if you can’t play with their toys? Oh, and explore. I got to play find the stray child from time to time.


Then we sat down and drank lots of tea, and ate lots of cookies, cheese, and apples.


And more of it. I probably could have floated those kids down a river with all they drank. The part that cracked me up is after their first cup of tea most of them wanted water (probably because they got to pour the water).


I think this is the most I’ve seen a nonstop grin on her face. I kept trying and trying to remove the red eye from this picture, but it just wasn’t going to cooperate. All it did was turn her beautiful blue eyes black.


I just realized I never got a picture of the whole cake. Oops. Well, it’s a butter cake with chocolate frosting and lots of pink swoopy things. Oh, and pink M&Ms to make the 3. I decided to go for simple, not complicated. I think she picked her cake choice solely by the picture on the cover.


Then the kids started arguing over who got the pieces with M&Ms, so I solved this by giving everyone a small pile of them to put where they wanted on their cake. Hey, I’m sending most of those kids home to their parents in an hour. They’ll be hyper with them (especially since they “won” the candy from the game).


Followed by more playing. I love this Melissa and Doug castle set. It was the boys’ birthday present this year from their Mimi, it gets played with all the time. I think one of the most hilarious parts of the party was when the boys went upstairs with a friend and came down with their Batcave and all of the assorted Batman figures all set to play Batman with the castle.


Then came the opening of presents. At previous parties I’ve tried saying no presents, but no one really listens, so I’ve given up on that. That, and I’ve discovered there is no good angle for taking pictures of people opening presents. Someone always moves to get in the way.


Like this, and that’s my own son doing it this time (they were in charge of bringing Princess her presents. Which meant she’d get them thrust at her, “open it sister.”) Then they’d start helping her open if she wasn’t fast enough.


Nana got her new pink Mary Jane shoes. I don’t think she’s willingly taken these off since she got them. We’re blessed by such wonderful friends and family, truly we are. Everyone brought such wonderful presents that she’s going to love playing with (including her very own Batman doll).


And then of course we had to play more. Don’t you just love the pairing of the knight’s helmet with the tutu?


And the kids happily finished off the day playing outside with Princess’ new toys, and just generally running around.


Yes, that is a real bow and arrow, but it’s a bungee cord string. The only way he could ever hurt anyone is if he managed to shoot them straight in the eye, and even then it’d probably only give them a bad bruise. Besides think of the great coordination he’s working on.


And we finished with Daddy rolling the ball to the kiddos. All in all a nearly perfect day.

Creating a wonderful tea party

I figured I’d post the background information, and then give you the fun party pictures.



1. Make tutu party favors. Here’s how:

a. Cut a piece of 1/2 inch elastic about 1 inch larger than the waist of the recipient. All of the girls got one that would fit Princess. Sew the elastic together with the sewing machine in a loop.

b. Get about a half yard of tulle per tutu (more makes a fuller tutu). And, ummm….. don’t make my mistake of accidentally buying nylon netting, that’s scratchy. Cut it into 24 inch length about 1-2 inch width (I think 1 inch would be just about perfect). Great time to use your rotary cutter, makes it MUCH faster.

c. tie the strips onto your elastic. I did the old double it up and slip the tulle through itself knot (does that make sense?).

Most of this can and was done while watching TV.


2. Make capes for the boys to attend.

a. Find a knit fabric, so you don’t have to worry about fraying (a fat quarter works great for this, but they don’t make those in knits). Cut out a rectangle that is 18 by 24 inches. Then trim the long sides slightly to make a trapezoid.

b. Cut a piece of ribbon that is less than a foot long (my best guess 9 inches?). I cut mine too long in my opinion, but I was making it up as I went along. Also cut a piece of velcro about 2 inches long.

c. Fold over one end of the ribbon and sew that to the corner of the fabric on the narrow end. Fold over the other end of the ribbon and sew on the soft side of the velcro.

d. Sew the hook part of the velcro to the other corner of the narrow end of the fabric.

Voila you have your cape. Total time for 3 capes: maybe 15 minutes.


3. Cut out crowns. Super simple you can get I think 4 to a piece of poster board. You cut out a rectangle down the long direction of the poster board, and roughly in the middle of the rectangle cut a zig zag pattern. Also gather crayons, markers, and stickers.

4. Collect your food. We had cheese, scones, earl grey cookies, crackers, apples, and tea.

As a side not, that’s kind of funny, every time I make those two recipes I end up searching my blog to find the recipe again because I keep losing my hard copy of the recipe. Really silly, isn’t it? That, and my scones never look anywhere near as pretty as the ones you buy.


5. For a party game we bowled. I got the idea from Shannon over at Mommy’s Wise Little Bookworms. I only filled my water bottles a little, but I wonder if it might have worked better if I’d filled them more. Oh, and grandparents are very destructive to pumpkin bowling balls…….

And a preview of a later post (how to make the dress and where to buy the doll pattern):


Science Sunday

For more about Science Sunday and participating go here.

We learned about water this week, and did an experiment seeing what we do to make water safe to drink.

Materials needed: rocks or small objects, dirt, a couple of glasses, colander, coffee filter, rubber band, and water

1. Get everything together, put all of the rocks, dirt, and such stuff in the glass. My kids had a blast searching the back yard for the stuff to put in. Later I found out they grabbed the dirt from my garden……


2. Pour the water from the cup into the colander (with a bowl underneath). This will sift out the large objects and some of the dirt. The kids loved this step.


3. Pour the water SLOWLY into the cup with the filter. I discovered the hard way this step drips a lot, and it is very slow. So, we just did a little of the cup and let them see how the filter works.

We followed this up with talking about how after these steps the scientists at the water treatment plant use chemicals to get rid of more stuff, and to make the water taste good.

We got this experiment (and there’s a few more in the book we didn’t try) from the book: Drip Drop How Water Gets to Your Tap!. We read this book about 5 times last week because the kids liked it that much. I’d say it’s appropriate for about through second grade. There’s a Magic School Bus book that talks about the same topic for older kids.

So, how about you? Anyone else have some great science stuff this week?

I’ll be back in a few days

So, I’ve been taking a couple of day break from blogging to make sure I have my priorities straight. I kind of feel like it’s become more important than it should be, and rather than my doing it because I enjoy it. I’m doing it because I want others to say you’re doing a good job or recognize how hard I work. That’s not a good motivation, and so I’m taking a few days away to get my head straight.

This is a good week to take a break, Friday is Princess’ birthday and the next day is her party. I have so much to do for it, it’s not even funny. So, I think this is God’s way of making me slow down and reprioritize.

I hope everyone has a good week.

Science Sunday: Dinosuar Digging

We are lucky enough to be able to do this activity writ large, but if you’re not lucky enough to have a dinosaur park nearby here’s how you can do this:

Find a sand box, bury some dinosaurs in the sand. And have fun digging them up. You can talk about how the dinosaur scientists dig for a long time to find any dinosaur bones and they have to be very careful with them because they are VERY breakable.


Here in Austin there was a discovery a few years ago of dinosaur footprints in the area. Since then a couple of the local playgrounds have created a dinosaur dig for the kids to try their hand at being paleontologists. This one is the Austin Science and Nature Center. Great place to do nature studies if you’re ever in the area.


We also compared the size of dinosaur bones to our bones. Notice this dinosaur’s ribcage is bigger than my kids. They get a huge kick out of this every time we go.


After digging up dinosaurs we went over and checked out the various animals they are trying to rehabilitate here. Most of the animals on exhibit are not able to go back into the wild because of an injury, or they’ve been too humanized (not the right word, but it’s what I’m thinking of now).


We then had to check out the birds and it’s always fun to look for the birds in their cages because they’re good at hiding.

As a side note, for those of you who do believe in evolution, you could use this as a chance to draw similarities and see if you can see an evolutionary path, for those who believe in Creationism this is a great chance to talk about how God created such a wonderful world where so many things are interconnected.


And we end the trip by wading in the water and getting the worst of the dirt off.

Over all, this was a very fun way to talk about dinosaur scientists. A great book to go with this field trip is Aliki’s Digging Up Dinosaurs. It’s a little on the high end for pre-schoolers, but it has all the stuff they’re interested in.

Here are some other great dinosaur resources that I forgot to put on my preschool week last week, and I wanted to put them up now, because I know a bunch of you are talking about dinosaur units:

Orange Juice– fun ideas of many different activities, she’s where I first saw the dinosaur dig in a sand box.

Confessions of a Homeschooler– lots of great printouts and games you can make that focus on math and alphabet sklls

1+1+1=1– her dinosaur Tot Pack, has some fun ideas, and I used one as my basis for the open-ended art

Preschool Finger Plays– lots of really fun preschool plays to choose from

Our Homeschool Fun– cute dinosaur puppet, I wish I had enough boxes to make it

Our Homeschool Fun– make dinosaur fossils. I really wanted to do this, I guess I still have some cool ideas for when we study dinosaurs again.

Harris Family– some fun game ideas, including a feed the dinosaur game, I didn’t get the carton I wanted to use empty in time to make a dinosaur, but I’m sure I can think of somethign else

No Time for Flashcards– fun stegosaur dinosaur craft

Our Crafts-N-Things– make a dinosaur skeleton out of popsicle sticks

4 Crazy Kings– another way to make a dinosaur fossil, this one with coffee grounds

That’s most of my ideas, I’m actually fighting a flu bug, so I’m off to take a nice HOT bath!

For more information on what Science Sunday is go here.