Category Archives: Family

DIY Kids Jewelry—Waaay Better than Claire’s!

My daughter and her friends love jewelry but I do not love the tacky junk marketed to their age group.  With a bit of time and patience, I’ve found it’s easy to make necklaces and bracelets for girls and these make perfect, unique gifts.

Over the past year (and with those 40% off coupons), I collected the tools and findings needed for these kinds of projects, so I have two pairs of flat nose pliers, wire cutters, and a crimp tool.  I also have assorted charms and wire.

For the nerdy birthday girl (see yesterday’s post), my daughter decided on a color scheme and picked out these blue beads at a local bead store ($.40 each):

Then she created a pattern for a necklace and a bracelet incorporating some pink and silver seed beads that we had left over from another necklace.  I strung the beads and attached the findings, including a wire guard, crimp tube and crimp cover.  I haven’t mastered the art of photographing the process, so all I can share are before and after pics.

I love this because everyone benefits—my daughter uses her creativity, she and I do a fun project together, I spend less than I would at a jewelry store in the mall, and the birthday girl gets a one-of-a-kind gift.

Since I had all the supplies out, we went ahead and made another gift for an upcoming birthday.

And I even made the gift boxes.


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My Daughter’s Take on “Dress in Your Nerdy Best”

My daughter received an invitation that read, You’re invited to J’s Nerdy 7th Birthday Party!  Come dressed in your nerdy best.  Be there and be square!

Confused, my daughter asked, “Dressed in your nerdy best?” What does that mean?  Do I dress up like one of those nerd candy things?

After we googled Pee-Wee Herman, Paul Pfeiffer (of the Wonder Years), Revenge of the Nerds, and generic nerd costumes for kids, my daughter was wholly unimpressed.  She told me, I don’t want to dress like that!  Once when we were in a store, I saw a Nerds t-shirt

More googling led us to this picture and my daughter’s declaration:  I want to wear that shirt!

[Image source:]

Well, this shirt is $16 and doesn’t come in my daughter’s size.  Luckily for her I had a few things on hand:

1) plain t-shirts in her size that I scooped up on clearance at the NEX

2) Avery Iron-on Inkjet transfer paper from a previous project

3) a Wacom Bamboo tablet

I cropped the photo of the pink nerd shirt and printed a copy to reference.  Then, I drew the purple nerd in Corel Painter Essentials 4, which was included in the free software bundle that came with the tablet.  I am sure there’s a newer, slicker version by now, but this worked fine for me.  After inserting my drawing into a Word doc, adding the heading, and flipping the images, I printed it out on the transfer paper and ironed it onto the plain white shirt.


My daughter loves how her shirt came out and the party was a blast.

Next time I’ll share the present we made for the birthday girl.



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Reading in the Dark

The region-wide blackout last night brought back so many childhood memories!  I was one of those kids who complied easily at bedtime because I always had my pink Ever-Ready flashlight stashed under my pillow.   

So I didn’t let the power outage interfere with my daughter’s storytime and it was actually so fun that I think we’ll have do this again every once in a while!

I have to admit, I’ve never read by candlelight.  A few years ago my mom gave me these clever, rechargeable tealights that are constantly repositioned around my house.  I just love them.  They give off a flickery, orange glow that’s quite similar to real fire—a nice alternative when you want to go all Smokey the Bear /Don’t Play with Matches on your kid.  (Of course my daughter has seen me dangle satin ribbons in candle flames when I’m crafting, so I’m probably confusing her with my mixed messages).

The tealights do not offer good reading light, but Halloween is coming and they create a perfectly creepy effect, don’t you think?

And I do have a booklight which my husband gave me in hopes I’d use it instead of my bedside lamp when I’m reading at night.  But I don’t really like it.

Now, does reading in dim light really hurt your eyes? According to this article, not necessarily, though eye strain–as most avid readers already know–is hardly desirable.

Wherever and whenever you’re reading, be kind to your eyes!

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Back to School Picnic

The purpose of this get-together was for the children in my daughter’s first grade class to have some fun and get reacquainted prior to the first day of school.  As a former teacher I know how crazy things can be on the first day in the classroom.  As a parent I wanted to do something to help the back-to-school experience go well.  Several of the children, my daughter included, were quite anxious about the new school year so this event helped ease some of their nerves.  It was also an opportunity for families new to the school to meet returning families and the new students were able to make some friends.

My husband and I sponsored the event at a nearby military recreation spot.  Since we paid the reservation fee, I wanted to keep all of our other costs at a minimum, which allowed me to be creative with the decorations.

With a school year theme in mind and the school colors as my starting point, I rooted around in our garage, gathering up anything blue or yellow and school related.  I also collected things that could work as picnic/playground games.

Things I repurposed:  plastic water bottles, toilet paper tubes, stop signs, scrap wood, tin cans, alphabet magnets, alphabet flash cards, blue valences from our first apartment

Things I had on hand:  several white tablecloths and sheets, plastic cones, white & colored paper, river pebbles, paper napkins, small clear cellophane bags with twist ties, tissue paper, ribbon, mini clothespins and regular clothespins, paper bags, chenille stems, felt, wooden dowels, paint, paint chips (well, okay, I got to make a trip to Lowe’s and Home Depot for those, but they were free)

Things I bought:  bag of Navy beans, black chalkboard spray paint, white plastic IKEA picture frames, white IKEA vases, 3 white sheets from the IKEA As-Is bin (yes, I’m kinda obsessed with IKEA)

Things I made:  2 welcome banners that hung from trees around our picnic site, 3 chalkboard signs to direct people where to park, 12 centerpieces including pennant flags featuring the school uniform plaid and 5 dozen paper bag flowers, 48 tablecloth weights that turned out to be the most important items I brought, a whiffle ball toss game, 8 paint chip garlands and two “Happy School Year” paint chip banners.  (I shared a few pictures of the process in this post.)

Some confessions:  It was windy at the picnic site, so basically all of the decorations ended up being pointless.  I didn’t get to hang any banners or garlands except for the welcome ones.  The parking lot was extremely crowded because so many events were going on all around the park that day.  At one point, the lot was closed and people were turned away at the gate, so the chalkboard signs were essentially useless.  Despite my best intentions, I took only about six pictures at the event.  This must be why event organizers and event photographers are not one in the same person.  Most of the pictures featured here were taken at my home, after the fact.

On the up side, more than 60 people attended the event and everyone had a blast!

I don’t think I’ll be taking on another project like this anytime soon.  For the Fall, I’ll stick with decorating my own house where I have greater control over the elements.  Here’s a preview of what I’m working on:

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My First Time…

…and I’m nervous!  Tomorrow my husband and I are “sponsoring” a back-to-school picnic for our daughter’s class.  I’m not sure if “hosting” is quite the right word for our role.  I’m the event organizer/coordinator but it’s a BYO event at the park.   More than 60 adults and kids are attending, which is why I’m a bit anxious—it seems like a huge group!  A far cry from the small birthday or dinner parties I’ve had in my home for family and close friends.

Yes, this is a huge departure from my usual subject matter here, though it does reflect my recent reading habits.  Pretty much all summer, I’ve been wandering the web in search of ideas and inspiration for party ideas and decorations.  There are so many amazing ideas out there and I’m excited to share what I pulled together for this event.

Here are some “before” pictures.  Please bear with me when it comes to the quality of the pictures—a better camera and better photography skills are on my wish list.  This is also my first time blogging something like this…

The picnic area, a playground is adjacent

Some decorations in progress

All the stuff we have to haul to the site, including welcome banners, garland, games, table décor, etc., etc.

I plan to take plenty of pictures tomorrow so you can see how it all turns out.

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A Memorable Valentine’s Day

Yesterday morning my daughter was half an hour late for school because I could barely drag myself out of bed.  Once I’d dropped her off I sprawled listlessly on the living room sofa vaguely concerned about how I’d summon the energy to go collect my little love midafternoon.  I also thought I had an appointment or something but hadn’t gotten any reminder calls so I shrugged it off.

When my husband came home for lunch, he told me I looked like crap and called in to work to say that he needed a few hours before he could get back to the ship.  He brought me water, scarfed some food, and headed off to our daughter’s school to help with the Valentine’s Day cookie party.  (Ooops—I knew there was something I was supposed to do!)

He brought our daughter back covered in frosting and probably with a cavity, changed back into his uniform and headed back to work.  And when he came home from work he brought me more water and proceeded to fold the mountain of clean laundry I’d piled up.

Eight years ago, my husband surprised me with a classically romantic Valentine’s Day complete with jewelry, dinner, and tickets to the ballet yet it’s this Valentine’s Day that I’m utterly overwhelmed with his love and devotion.

“Love is the only gold.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson


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Can I cry too?

I had a completely different post all set up for this morning but I preempted it to make a cry for help from fellow parents, teachers and military families.  My pediatrician friends could chime in too.  And child psychologists or family therapists.  Priests and other religious.  Yes, I’m desparate.

My daughter is going through serious separation anxiety.  Every morning she cries and clings to me when I drop her off at school.  Today was especially difficult.

Okay, so to some that may not seem like a big deal and I may sound like a whiny mom.  Maybe it’s not and I am.  Believe me, I’ve been reading up on separation anxiety so I know it’s normal and that it’s a phase that will eventually pass and all that.  Every morning I’m cheerful and calm and consistent.  I’m sweet yet firm as I wipe her tears and pry her fingers loose.  And I’ve learned not to wear knit sweaters as they don’t fare well against small fingers with an iron grip.

What I need is a plan for coping when, in about a month, my husband will be away and my daughter’s teacher will be on medical leave.  I am not optimistic that my daughter will be okay with these changes.

We’ve read The Kissing Hand (multiple times) and we have plenty of quality time after school and on weekends.  I coax her through little morning rituals.  Grammie tried bribing her, I’ve talked to her, my husband has lost his patience and gotten mad at her.  None of these has made the slightest impact.

Her teacher and I have ruled out anything like bullying or some other uncomfortable issue.  Her teacher assures me that she’s fine within five minutes of drop off.  When I pick her up she is usually happy and chatters about her day.  I’ve spoken with her pediatrician and gleaned no new insight.

This has been going on since around Thanksgiving and it is wearing me out.  Now with my husband set to enter the pre-deployment phase and a long-term sub set to take over my daughter’s class, I feel like all my efforts toward consistency and stability are about to be undermined.

I’d really like to eliminate this terrible start to each day, so please—offer advice, point me toward additional resources, suggest books or other materials my daughter and/or I can read.  And just pray for us.  Thanks.




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