Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Organizing the Pantry and Our Movies

I really wanted one of those drool worthy pantries you see on Pinterest, like this one or this one, (really both of these houses are amazing and totally drool- worthy as I imagine mine would be too if money wasn't an object), but after looking at the prices of similar bins on- line I just couldn't do it...



I like an organized space but $12 a bin is just too steep for me!

Plus I think the act of opening all the stuff I buy at the grocery store and pouring them into clear jars and bins just isn't practical at all for me.  I was planning to take a trip to the local dollar store if need be, but I found that just by putting like items together I was able to make the pantry so much nicer looking.

 I did move some materials out of the closet that we weren't using but mostly I just re-arranged the items I had, used bins that I had emptied from previous cleaning sprees this past week and I love the results!

    I think a real key in organizing is grouping like items together, labeling bins you can't see through, and thinking about when and where you use these items.  


When organizing any area there are several questions I ask myself:
  • Do we really need this?
  • When's the last time we used this?
  • (If edible) Is it expired?
  • Where do we use this the most?
  • Who uses this the most?
Then I put it into a pile with like items and move onto the next one.  If there is something I come across that needs to be stored in another place I don't go move it there; I just set it aside to work with later.  I find in the midst of organizing the room usually looks much worse before it gets better but taking everything out and sorting it into piles is a must! 

I place all cleaning and seasonal items on the very top shelf; slightly out of reach, the next two shelves are for our food and the cleaning products we use daily (like dishwasher detergent); within eye sight and perfect reach, and then I saved the bottom few shelves for all our homeschooling supplies; at a good eye level for the boys.

I can't say there was a huge dramatic difference from start to finish but it was enough of a difference that my husband and children noticed.  It's much easier to find the things were looking for now and isn't that really the whole point?  It's not like I'm preparing my house for a magazine shoot or anything, just trying to make it easier for us to live in and find the things we need.  Of course, I live with 4 males so even when the house is completely and totally organized I'm constantly asked "do you know where _______ is?" 

Before

After
My order from Amazon came in and I started organizing our movies.  After talking it over with my husband last night and sharing my concern that it would take us hours to find movies in our new cases (and after discarding the idea of making a master list on the computer) we decided to organize movies by genre.  I spent the morning sorting the movies into piles-- kid, family, action/ adventure, non- fiction, holiday, romance and comedy.

I then went through the lengthy process of taking them all of out of their cases.  I was able to take three shelves worth of movies and condense them down to two.  For some of the movies I kept the original colored tabs they came with and just labeled them but for others I cut new color tabs out of my scrapbooking paper scraps so we can quickly see at a glance what genres we have.  I was bummed that I couldn't fit all three bins across one shelf like I had thought I'd be able to do but ended up keeping a few of the original baskets and used them to hold old VHS tapes we still have, our remotes, and assorted stuff like that. 
the before bins looks pretty good only because I didn't photograph the third
shelf with all the overflowing movies 

After


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Organizing Ideas for Kids Toys, Games and Puzzles

This is the time of year I go crazy cleaning and organizing.  Seriously crazy, uber- organizing, the over the top kind of cleaning and organizing most people do in a year, I do in a week! And I love it!  I love organizing, cleaning, straightening and making the house look nice.  I can't stand clutter and really live the mantra "everything in it's place."


Something about taking down all the Christmas decorations and cleaning up the house makes me go a bit nutty.  I love to decorate for Christmas, but by Christmas day all the decorations start to make the house feel cluttered.  Add to that all the millions of toys and games the kids get and I am chomping at the bit to clean it all up.

I dive in headlong and start cleaning things I previously thought were pretty organized.

Over the last four days I have re-arranged all the furniture in the boys rooms, brought up tables and bins from the playroom and helped them organize all their new Christmas toys.

I have taken out all the board games, puzzles, cards, etc. and organized the closets.

We used to have all of our games stacked up on top of one another almost to the ceiling and when you pulled out one game you were lucky if you could escape a mountain of other games falling onto you... not anymore!

  • I took out every game from every closet
  • I sorted them by size
  • I went through the boxes and threw away that extra packaging they so nicely include in game boards
  • I packed up any small pieces into plastic resealable bags, bought some dollar store headbands and proceeded to stack our board games sideways on our shelves.  
The headbands hold the boxes together, the baggies keep us from loosing any small pieces, and by sorting them according to size I was able to re-arrange our shelves to make them all fit much better.  They are within reach (without needing to use a step stool!), we can pull one game down at a time and yet still see all that we own at a glance.  (I did all this in a morning!)

I didn't take a before photo but his is after... so nice and organized! 

This is our second shelf-- the one in our playroom and it too holds games and toys-- you can't imagine what it looked like "before" but I love the "after!"

I also organized our playroom.


  • We dumped out all the bins of toys
  • We sorted the toys according to use,  cleaned out anything broken, we sprayed everything down with some Lysol and then decided what to put where.  
  • I typed up new labels on the computer and taped them to each of the bins. 
  •  We washed all the dress up clothes, the dress up hamper and anything else that was machine washable.  
labeling our toy bins with pictures and words is something I have always done;
 it really helps the kids keep their stuff cleaned up and organized. 

Our playroom looked huge, mostly due to the fact that my kids are growing up and we just don't have as many toys, but partly due to the fact that we organized and cleaned too.  

The boys love jigsaw puzzles but they were so hard to find in the cabinet that they never played with them.  
We brought a shelf we weren't using down from Ian's room and I displayed all our puzzles on it.  The bottom two shelves hold the large floor puzzles in their original boxes while the top shelf holds large Ziploc bags of smaller jigsaw puzzles (though I did cut the photo off the front of each box and put it in the bag so they knew what they were trying to build). 


our new puzzle shelf
I took all of our video games out of their individual cases, and put them into one large movie case.  This enables me to store the games under the TV right next to the console.  I also have a tiny bin with the remotes and accessories so everything  is all in the same spot.


Our Wii console, games, controllers and accessories all store nicely under our TV. 

Ian needed a newer larger Lego shelf and so we ordered him two of these metal shoe racks like his brothers have.  They came in and I assembled them today and helped Ian fill his shelves with plastic dollar store shoe bins.  My boys don't really like to combine Lego sets at first and we found most of the sets will fit into these shoe bins nicely.   Today I did go through and pull out all the Lego instruction manuals and organize each of the boys manuals into three ring binders.  The booklets fit nicely into page protectors and allows the boys to pull them out whenever they need and yet gives them more room for Lego storage in each bin.

The boys Lego shelves
All the Lego books before

The Lego books all sorted and organized

While washing the carpets this morning we moved our living room rug into the kitchen.  The boys loved having extra space to move around and I suggested they try "ice skating" indoors.  We put wax paper on their feet (held in place with rubber bands and a bit of tape) and they had great fun pretending to skate around the living room.

wax paper ice skates

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Tots and Me

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Looking Back To Move Forward

I find that the end of the year is the perfect time to look back through my old posts and review what we've done in 2013.

 I enjoy looking back to see how much my boys have grown, changed, and learned. It's not always easy to notice all the little day to day changes but when I look back over the past twelve months some obvious areas of growth really stand out to me.   

Of course, looking back over the year I also see lots of ways we can improve too and that helps me formulate new plans.


In reading my first post of 2013 I was reminded of my New Year's resolution to spend more time with the boys outside everyday--oops! I don't think I've been outside with them since October!! 

We'll have to remedy that.  

I also stumbled upon our state studies that we seemed to have stopped altogether in the past few months.  While the boys didn't enjoy all the worksheets that went along with each state study, they did enjoy reading books, watching travel videos and learning about the states so we should start up with that again too.

I want to plan some more fun field trips and we need to get messy with some fun science experiments too. 


For now we'll focus on unschooling and enjoying our winter break.


  • So far the boys are keeping occupied with TV-- they watched a new episode of Wild Kratts (and learning about sea horses), Axe men, Highway Thru Hell, and Alaska the Last Frontier.  
  • The boys also have tons of new Lego sets (seriously I think in the past two days we've come home with at least a dozen or so!) and they have been busily working on all of those.  I have seen Ian and Alec working hard putting very complicated sets together on their own before but this was the first time Evan took it upon himself to open up a set, follow the directions and make a set all by himself!  
  • The boys have been playing new games like Quirkle and fooseball.  
  • Evan has new superhero action figures he's been playing with using expressive language and his imagination. 
  • Alec has been learning new bird sounds with his new bird sound identifier.  
  • They all have new remote control vehicles that they're speeding around, crashing into gifts under the tree and one another.  
  • They have cleaned out the playroom, re-arranged their own rooms and are constantly making room for their new toys.  
  • Of course, my boys have also been playing new video games, Evan got Donkey Kong Country for the Wii, Alec received Kung Fu panda 1 and 2 for his DS and they all came home with some new free apps they wanted to download to my phone and kindle from their cousins.  
It's vacation so it's pretty much anything goes around here.  I've resigned myself to the fact that they'll probably be sitting like zombies for the next week or so but that's OK, we all need our downtime and I figure that is the best motivation for me to get back to teaching/ homeschooling.

I will use this time to reflect and plan and enjoy watching my boys entertain themselves.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our ELF Day Mini Unit.. That We Never Got Around To

I hadn't planned on starting our holiday break yesterday, but that's what ended up happening.   We had a full day of lessons planned around the movie Elf-- a new holiday favorite around here. 



While I'm not a huge Will Farrell fan, I finally gave this movie a real shot last year and found that I enjoyed it quite a bit as did my boys.

Elf : Widescreen Edition

  For school we were reading a chapter book called The Forgotten Helper: A Christmas Story. 


We were going to make Maple Crinkle Cookies (recipe here) to go with our movie.

For our craft today we were going to make paper Christmas chains (using these templates and instructions) and some snowflakes for the windows.

We even had some "elf" themed math planned.  Evan was going to do another roll, add and color sheet with elves on the paper and I had a fun game planned for Ian and Alec called The Great Elf Contest.  It was a free printable multiplication game that I thought would be lots of fun.
   
 Instead we wrapped ALL the boys gifts that they had made over the past month-- I had no idea how many crafts we had put together until we started wrapping them.  I had bought 30 tiny little bags perfect for giving ornaments and other assorted small crafts as gifts.  I figured we'd have plenty of bags, but I was wrong!  We had to run out mid- day and buy 20 more bags!


Before I knew it our day was just about over and we had to get ready for Alec's karate graduation.  He has already earned his next belt!  We got to watch board breaking demonstrations hear new Korean words and phrases and watch some of the junior black belts become apprentice black belts.  It was a great night.
Self- defense demonstrations

Being awarded his orange belt

   
   

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jingle All the Way Day

We've been trying to theme all our homeschooling days this season around fun holiday movies.  I picked the movies first and then picked activities, snack and schoolwork to go with it.



We're watching Jingle All the Way today-- another "new" holiday movie for the kids, but before I would let them watch it they just had a small amount of schoolwork to do.  
Jingle All the Way (Family Fun Edition)

We started by reading Jingle Bells, Homework Smells.  I read to the boys while they were eating breakfast.


 I only had one math worksheet for each of them today.   The older boys had to match trees with three digit number equations on them to the answer bases and then glue them down onto paper.  For some reason getting to match and glue was fun.

 While they worked on those Evan had to color in certain objects on his Owl paper, count them up and write the numbers.  It was good practice for him since he still struggles with the fine motor control to actually write the numbers.
The boys matching answers and equations

Evan coloring and counting

The completed worksheets
Evan read his book 5 little reindeer to me and then the boys settled down to watch the movie.  No one wanted anything to do with any arts or crafts today.  I was kind of bummed since I had found  this awesome (and messy sounding) stained glass window craft.

 It sounded easy enough, though a bit time intensive), but no one wanted to do that.  They didn't even want to make a special snack!

We were going to make Rice Krispie treat Jingle Bell Balls.

I guess they too are feeling a bit tired and burnt out from all the fun we've been having this past month with art, crafts, movies and treats.  We'll take a week off between Christmas and New Year's and hopefully come back raring to go and learn some more.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Olive the other Reindeer

We had a fun day of activities planned around the book Olive the Other Reindeer, including watching the movie.  It was actually quite simple to turn it into a day's worth of activities by deciding to turn the day into another reindeer day.



For language arts the older boys had a worksheet where they put all of Santa's reindeer in ABC order and did a word search for reindeer words (found in the same download as the ABC order sheet).  Evan and I read a mini book called Five Little Reindeer.  I had him point out the sight words he already knew and introduced the new sight word "little."  I then had him go through the book and circle the word little every time he saw it.  To finish up I had him try and read the book back to me and asked him to read the book to dad tonight before bed. 


Hard at work-- he already knew how to do ABC
order.  Told me that he taught himself by reading
the Weird School books! 

For math they all had a roll and color sheet.  Evan's was for adding while the older two boys multiplied their dice together.  I love these nice, quick, review type sheets and the boys don't seem to mind either.  They all thanked me for an easy morning of work.  Thanked me!!  I was floored and so pleased.

 As we settled down to watch our movie the boys were extra excited since they knew they would be able to drink the cream soda we've had in the fridge for quite a while. I had wanted to buy a 6-pack of IBC root beer and make Reinbeer, but since the boys were with me that day at Target they begged me to buy cream soda instead.
Olive the Other Reindeer

We were still able to decorate the glass bottles to look like reindeer and they look adorable but I had no clever name to call them!  Oh well, it's still a wonderful Christmas memory and  so easy to do! We glued on some pom pom noses, googlie eyes and then twisted some brown chenille stems on as antlers.


While we were decorating our bottles we also made a cute pine cone reindeer ornament.  Once again, using our hot glue gun I helped them glue on noses and googlie eyes to the pine cones.  We then tied chenille stems around the top of the pine cone for antlers and finished up by gluing a generous loop of ribbon at the top to hang them by.  Quick, easy and adorable!

My sample

Evan's reindeer

Alec's mommy reindeer

Alec's baby reindeer

Last up on our agenda today was a reindeer portrait painting.  I found the idea and instructions at Artventurous.  The boys are always happy when we break out the paints and paintbrushes.  The instructions were very easy to follow and our results were so darn cute.

After they drew the reindeer, we outlined them with oil pastels and used watercolors to paint the background.  We used tempera paint to paint in their noses and scarves.  Once dry we finished by painting the reindeer in brown watercolors. 

adding our background colors

Drawing the reindeer

Reindeer-- 1/2 way through


completed reindeer portraits

It was such a fun and festive day of learning!

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