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Category Archives: General Dilemma

Tip of the Momma 2 U: Tired of Flash Cards?

I don’t know how some people do it, how they study for a test with flash cards. Kudos to those who can.

I am not one of those people. And I realize that my child is semi-responsive to that method of learning.

In my son’s third grade class they are starting to learn multiplication facts. Starting soon, those who miss two or less on their test each week will receive a pop. A little drink I still like to refer to as Soda.

My son will just DIE if he doesn’t get a Soda each week. At least that’s how he acts about it. But I’m happy to see that he’s motivated. He doesn’t get to drink soda at home and very rarely at restaurants, so I have no gripes about it, as long as he doesn’t have the opportunity to down it just before I pick him up from school.

So, back to the flash cards. Years ago, before my child was even a twinkle in my eye, I knew that a game of Jenga existed in which the blocks were modified with dares and tasks written on each block for a drinking game. Tsk, tsk, and shame on people for taking such an innocent game and turning it into a beverage consumption game. Heh.

Anyhow, taking that concept (which my children will never hear of… from me) I came up with a fun way to go over the multiplication facts and not lose my mind with the redundancy of flipping cards while my kid answers back dryly and then we shuffle and do it for four more minutes. By the way, bless his teacher’s heart for at least providing the flash cards for us. If I had to make them, I might cry.

Alright, enough whining from me. The bottom line is that, there are adults and children who do not learn well from flash cards.

So here’s my Tip of the Momma 2 U: Any brand of this tower game can be purchased and used as a teaching tool. Our particular tower was for Multiplication facts. Here’s how it works:

Take one tower containing 48 blocks. Write a multiplication question on each of the two widest sides of each block with a sharpie pen. I was able to write all facts of 1’s through 9’s multiplying by 1 – 10. With the remaining blank spots I wrote things such as “Count by 3’s to 30” or “0 X any number” (in which the child would reply “equals zero”).

Have a print up of the Multiplication Facts Table nearby in case there’s a discrepancy about the answer and also so your child can easily test him/herself.

You can play this game like a typical game of Jenga where you try not to topple the tower. My son decided to construct another tower with his correctly answered blocks.

Another idea: Place them in a bag or basket and randomly pick them out to answer.

If you have littler ones who are learning to read or spell, try one of these:

Write common sight word on the blocks

Write tasks such as “Say a word that starts with C” and put the whole alphabet in the game

That’s not all, right? Give me some more ideas!

Love,

Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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A Classic Movie Night: I Still Have Stars In My Eyes

My son’s birthday is in December. This last year he turned 9. If there’s one thing I’ve felt since becoming a parent and and having left the 365 days of sun in California for more seasonal states, it’s that I might never host an outside birthday party for this child.

That’s alright, our other kid has his birthday in the other extreme: August. We usually let our December boy help out with the plans so he can get the best of both worlds.

Having his birthday parties in the past have been hit and miss. There were times where many had to cancel at the last minute due to contagious illness or weather conditions. So I’ve adapted and learned to watch the weather, invite many, and have a back up plan.

This post is not about the hardships of a winter birthday. It’s about STARS (insert mystically music).

This last December, I decided to host a “Classic Movie Night” themed birthday party. My son loved it! I didn’t have to think of any games (which I’m really bad at planning) and we got a chance to invite our grown-up neighbors and get to know them while the kids watched the movie.


This movie night had EVERYTHING. There was crying, shrieking, laughter, spilling, munching and lots of socializing.

We made nifty invitations in the fashion of a movie event gala. I sort of wanted it to have an Oscar Party feel about it. Being that it was a Classic Movie Night for 3 to 12 year olds, we offered these three choices for a feature presentation:

  • A Christmas Story
  • Home Alone
  • Jurassic Park

I don’t know how it happened but, in the midst of a Christmas season, “Jurassic Park” won.

Then it was time to get the party gear…

We chose the colors of Black, Gold, and Red for balloons, plates and platters.

To give it that “Red Carpet” feel we bought, well, a Red Carpet.

And what is a movie theater without a Concession Stand?

I printed up voucher tickets for the kids to turn in for their share of Popcorn (served in popcornesque boxes) and other treats.


My son’s favorite snack to hand out is a little diddy I found in a Rachel Ray magazine year’s ago. They are sushi pieces consisting of the following ingredients:

Fruit Roll Ups (sugar)

Rice Krispies Square Mix (sugar)

&

Twizzlers (more sugar)

Now you know why I came up with vouchers: Management of Sugar

And of course you gotta have chopsticks for those.

We set up the living room as best we could to contain 10 kids as they watched the movie, chatted it up, and shuffled back and forth for goodies.

So why is this post about STARS???

Well, to enhance the magical, glittery feeling of going to a premiere of a classic movie, I purchased about a million little shiny gold and black STARS! And I sprinkled them all over the red carpet in our wood floored foyer for easy clean up later.

I can still remember what they look like… And that’s because I’m still finding them. EVERYWHERE.

On my socks

On my butt

In the couch


On the dog

On the kids

In the shower

In the Washing Machine

In the Dishwasher

In my Purse??

Upstairs

Downstairs

Under the Rug

In the Basement

Outside

In the Vaccuum (though I’ve emptied it numerous times since then)


So the moral of the story is, Do Not sprinkle cute little shiny stars all over your foyer unless you are prepared to be reminded that you did this for years to come.

It doesn’t bother me one bit, actually. It’s a pleasant reminder of the great time we had. Luckily we don’t have any babies, dogs or cats who like to nibble on the such.

Hey, there’s a party game we can play in August: Find the STARS.


Love,

Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

I GOTTA KNOW:

What are you finding here and there from long ago? Share it in a comment below!

 

Martha Asks Martha: How do I live with a Bunk Bed?

If you’ve read my past blog on bunk beds then you know the daily battles my son and I engaged in with making this bed. Sure, bunk beds are fun for kids, but not fun for the person who has to make them. I told my 8 year old son it was his job to make the bed himself and I actually felt bad for him. He was getting just as hurt and frustrated as I was in this task, and he’s half my size!

Some of my readers (loving family and friends) suggested that I use a sleeping bag instead. This is a great idea! However, we have character comforters out the ying-yang and I’m way to stubborn to let them go. Plus, I dread the sound of zippers clancking around in my dryer. Yes, I’m a stubborn gal!

So if you aren’t as stubborn as I am, start with a sleeping bag. Because I’m so stubborn, I decided to try one more thing before giving in to retiring a brand new Star Wars: The Clone Wars comforter and sheet set.

IMPORTANT! Before reading this and possibly taking my advice, please remember that this solution, similar to a sleeping bag, was tested out on an 8-year-old capable of getting out of a sleeping bag in an emergency. Do not use this solution with a child that would not be able to do so. Thank You.

So, we have tested and approved this method ever since the first blog post of my whining and complaining came out. Since the test, we have kept the method and my son makes his bed every morning without an injury and I am about as happy as a domestic engineer can get each morning (please add coffee).

This is our “Method to Making the Lower Bunk of a Bunk Bed” (dun dun dun!):

What you’ll need –

  • The twin comforter of your choice!
  • The twin sheets of your choice!
  • Zip ties (YES! Zip Ties! Sometimes called Cable Ties)
  • Pair of tough scissors

That’s it! The best thing about zip ties is that they are CHEAP. I bought mine at an unnamed superstore for under $2.50 for a pack of 50. A pack of 50 could last you about 4 months if you change the bedding once a week. Imagine how much money you’ll save in bandaids, antiseptics, ice packs and therapy (from all the emotional damage the old fashioned way will cause you). I won’t disclose how often I change out ours. There’s no judging here!

First thing you want to do is lay out your kid’s bedding on the floor UPSIDE DOWN, preferably next to the bed itself. Lay the Comforter down first, then any extra winter blankets, then your flat sheet (remember, ALL upside down).

Now fold the foot of the bedding sandwich over, only to the length of the twin mattress. This helps preserve the character theme of your comforter, the whole reason you spend $29.99+, right?!

We severed Obi Wan and Anakin's head's off when we did it the old way...

Everytime you do this, you will need only 3 zip ties. Yes, just three. This allows for the child to throw off unwanted layers on warmer nights.

Zip tie the two bottom corners nice and tight so that the blankets never pull free. Yes, this will leave a thicker mound at the foot of the bedding, but your elbows will thank you in the end.

Now the last zip tie goes on the top corner that is used the least for entering the bed. Remember that your bedding is upside down right now, so think about which upper corner will end up on the entrance side. My son’s bed is against the wall and he is forced to enter on the left side. Easy-peasy!

Here’s an important thing to note: Once the ties are pulled tight, you’ll may feel the desire to cut off the excess tie. If you do so (which we do) be sure to cut as close as possible to avoid sharp plastic edges that can scratch. So far, my son has not been scratched whatsoever. Also, turn them in toward the bed and not facing out, if you’re extra worried about little scratches. And please make sure your bedding is out of the cutting zone! I say this because I came close to cutting the bedding fabric. Whoa!

Now you have to teach your kid to make the bed, because now it’s so easy, you no longer need to do it for them! Leave enough space between the bed and the wall so your kid can throw the far ends over the bed and tuck them down. My kid sleeps in a tornado fashion. If yours does too, he or she may need to tuck under and smooth out that bumpy foot of the bed sometimes. The rest is just smoothing the top so mommy and daddy can say “oooh” and “ahhh” when they walk in.

Oh hi, Obi Wan and Anakin! There you are!

To clean your blankets, simply cut off and discard the zip ties and repeat the whole method again with new ties. Be sure not to cut your blankets when removing the ties!

I hope this helps! My kid loves it. I love it! My 4 year old has a regular twin bed, but if he follows in his brother’s tornado steps, I’ll use the same method to help him keep the blankets in line.

Love,

Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

 

Ho Ho Horror: My life with Santa

Hey! I’ve just been notified that this is my 50th blog post! And to celebrate such another glorious occasion, I am going to complain about something my Mother-in-Law gave to me.

I don’t remember how long ago it was, but I know I had at least one child when my Mother-in-Law gave us something for the Christmas holiday that, to this day, I will never be able to get used to. The worst part about this “thing” is that my husband will not let a year go by without bringing it out for Christmas! The only logical explanation of why my husband would want to keep this thing around? —> Just because I wanted it gone.

This is what the “thing” is:

It’s a four-foot-tall jolly Santa Clause that not only sings and dances, but it doubles as a karaoke machine.

The Jolly Man

Now, I believe my Mother-in-Law when she said she was giving it to us because the kids would love it. They truly do. But after the encounters I have had with this thing, I would have preferred one of the following for my kids:

5 billion Legos

Old school playdough that never comes out of the carpet

A box of Sharpie markers

Cymbals

For the most part, Santa is a docile and harmless Christmas decoration. But, for the most part, I am terrified of animatronics, especially those that are humanesque. I received a large doll when I was little and the thing was as big as me. And when I saw it for the first time, I ran screaming to the bathroom and shut the door.

When I was young, I watched The Twilight Zone. There are two episodes I fear the most:

“Living Doll” – where a guy can’t get a child’s doll to shut up

“The After Hours” – where a lady gets trapped in a department store and all the mannequins come to life

OH, I just Googled it, and apparently I have a slight case of Automatonophobia.

So, let’s go back to Santa. For the most part, I am at home during the day. Although it’s bright and sunny outside, it is also pin drop quiet in the house. Sometimes my kids like to turn Santa on before they go to school and sometimes they forget to shut him off. Did I mention that Santa has a motion activation setting? Did I mention if someone walks by our house, my dog walks to the window (where Santa is standing) and sets Santa off?

There’s nothing more frightening, in the middle of the day, than sitting in a quiet house and then suddenly hearing a VERY deep voice in the house with you. It freaks me out every time. Talk about ‘Fight or Flight’, I’m usually half-way out the back door before I realize where the voice is coming from.

There’s two more things that scare me about our Santa. Let me skip forward to storage time. We keep Santa in a storage box for the year until it’s time to take him out again. And, trust me, not a year goes by that someone doesn’t remember to take him out. He’s not even in a green and red bin. What I put him in (what he fits in) is a long blue bin about 3.5 feet long. Santa can be shortened to half a Santa and he fits perfectly in this bin. Let me tell you, every year I put Santa in this blue, very coffin-like, container and place him in the dark corner of our basement. And every November I am almost certain that, if he should come alive, he will jump out of that coffin and be very angry at me for putting him there. I honestly must admit that it crosses my mind every year when I go to take him out.

Okay, here’s the last reason why Santa is my most unfavorite decoration in the world. If you stand at the sink in the kitchen at my house, turn two notches to the right and look toward the hallway. This is what you see:

He's thinking about eating my brains

This is the first time my Mother-in-Law will read about the terror she has caused me, but I do have to say that good old creepy Santa is probably still here because I’m starting to feel a little attached to him. I mean, he’s been with us for at least 5 years now. I guess you could say he’s just another Christmas Tradition to add to the list.

It's not his fault I'm a wuss

Besides, if I really wanted Santa gone, there are plenty of “accidents” that could have happened by now.

20111216-151401.jpg

Love,

Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

P.S. No Mother-in-Laws were hurt in the writing of this blog. I warned her before posting and she said we can still keep Santa.

 

All I want for Christmas… Are some cards

The thing I love about the months of November and December, which make up the Holiday Season, is checking the mail.

If you love getting holiday cards, you know what I’m talking about. This is that time of year that I have more than a 50% chance of getting something other than bills, ads, and one of the two magazine subscriptions that I never read. (Yes, I donate or recycle)

So, if I expect to look forward to all of these envelopes of joy at the end of each year, I had better reciprocate.

There are so many cute cards out there! I love them all. The sincere. The giggle. The prayer. Santa with his head stuck in the chimney. The family photo. The photo collage. Once in a while I get The cashola!

But it’s that feeling I get on my way to the mailbox that keeps me sending out our own cards out each year. It took a while, but I finally have a system for sending out cards. I always purchase our photo collage cards from Walgreens when they bust out a great online coupon code. I usually try to include a photo that shows each of my boys in his individuality, whether it be goofy or sweet. Then I find a picture or two that shows my boys not strangling each other. And finally, we include a family portrait that shows the children have not taken over and the grown-ups are still in control. When I bring the cards home, I use my nifty Christmas card address database to fill out all the envelopes. Then I line the envelopes up with my little assembly line of stamps, photo collage cards, and school pictures (for the grandparents, aunts and uncles).

This organized approach makes it easy for me to complete the task of sending out Christmas cards and then I can run to the mailbox each day as the cards to us start pouring in.

Only, there was a problem this year. Although we have tons of photos of all the places we have been this year, we somehow managed to take zero pictures that contain all four of us. And we sure as heck didn’t get a chance to have professional portraits taken. I tell you, it’s been a crazy-busy year.

So what was I to do? Just let it go, right? Suck it up and work with what I have right?

Right.

And

that’s

exactly

what

I did.

20111215-064008.jpg

My 9 year old decided he would have been unruly during family photos this year. Nice touch!

Love,
Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Should I show the outtakes from this photo shoot?

 

What I Told Judy Blume

Dancing a *Happy Dance* for @Scholastic wasn’t too terrible. Especially since I only surrendered still photos. But if you’re wondering what my deal was with Judy Blume, I’m about to confess it now. When I was a kid, I read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”, “Superfudge”, and “Fudge-a-mania”. These are books that, of course, I can’t get rid of and my 8 year old has already enjoyed them as well. When @rachelvailbooks tweeted that she’d be having a live phone conversation with Judy Blume via Book Talk Nation, I was intrigued. What happened next can only be blamed on my sentimental attachment to literature.

@rachelvailbooks then asked this question on Twitter: “What did you learn from @judyblume’s books?”

And for some insane reason I answered with this: “lol, many things + where to pee when the bathroom was occupied!”

This started a short series of me explaining to Rachel Vail and, for some crazy reason including, @judyblume about how one of her books gave me the idea to pee in my grandma’s kitchen sink.

Yes, it’s true. But this is my blog, so I get to explain myself.

20111211-092215.jpg

First of all, I told Rachel Vail that I thought the book I read it in was “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” but I double checked, and it was actually “Superfudge”.

In the book, protagonist Peter Hatcher comes home from school with the strong need to use the restroom. His little brother, Fudge, is already occupying the toilet in a slow manner, causing Peter to actually consider peeing in a house plant.

The difference between Peter and I? Fudge finishes just in time and Peter doesn’t have to pee in an undesignated receptacle.

So here’s my side of my story. The same one I had to tell my 8 year old when he could not BELIEVE I would ever pee in a kitchen sink.

When I was young, I spent summer days at my grandparents house while my mother was at work. On one particular day, I had been playing at my friend’s house but was sent home when she had to leave with her mother to run errands. I casually walked across the street to my grandparents mobile home with all intentions to use the restroom. As I walked into the house, I could see the bathroom door was closed and I knew that my grandpa was already in there. Here’s the thing, my poor grandpa had suffered from a stroke years before and, since I can remember, he had always had difficulty walking and he moved slowly. If he had to use the restroom, he would usually give you a warning so you could hit the head before he got there, because he knew he’d be a while. Well, I had no idea when he had gone in because I just got there and I had no idea how long he would be in there. I decided not to bother him and simply hold it in till he was done. I never had the heart to knock and rush him. But usually, when you have it in your head that you have to go, it’s impossible to think about anything else. I started pacing the house and crossing my legs as I walked. I began to sweat. And then panic set in. It was then that I thought of, my hero, Peter Hatcher and his brilliant idea. My worry was that the small plants in the house would never contain enough room for how much I had to go. I really just needed somewhere to sit. And then I thought of the sink! I mean, it’s similar to a toilet bowl, it has a drain, it can be “flushed” in a sense, and it goes to the sewer. I was a kid! It was all very clear then.

Here’s what I knew. My grandmother was out at the grocery store and, if my grandpa finished up in the restroom, I would still have plenty of time between the sound of the flush and the time it would take him to wash his hands. So, YES, I did climb up on the sink, use it as a potty, and YES I ran scalding hot water and squirted half the dish soap down with it. I even ran the disposal which, looking back, wasn’t necessary.

It’s not my proudest moment but I knew, from then on out, what my Plan B was for the summer. Luckily for me, I never had to do it again.

Did I ever tell my grandma? NO!

Did I ever tell my mom? NO!

Did I tell Judy Blume and Rachel Vail? YES!

So after spilling the beans to two complete strangers and the world of Twitter, there was only one thing I could do:

I took advantage of an opportunity. I asked Rachel Vail if she could ask Judy Blume if the Peter Hatcher-Plant-Pee incident was based on true events.

Why not?
I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Love,
Marthaaaaaaa

 

Ask Marthaaa: He’s A Keeper

Via my facebook page Robin asked me this question:

Marthaa- are you still giving advice??? I have a 4 year old who wrote the things he was thankful for… One being GIRLS? Already at age 4? Am I in trouble or what? 🙂 He also drew a picture. We won’t go into that on Facebook. HELP!

Dear Robin,

Of course I’m still giving advice! If you ask me a question, it’s like lighting a fuse. So let’s get started before I explode.

There are several things that we can credit with making our little boys adore little girls at the age of 4. I hope you took my temporary advice to avoid letting your 4 year old watch The Lifetime Movie Channel, Soap Operas and the feature film “The Little Rascals”.

Another great reason you shouldn’t let kids come across The Lifetime Movie Channel? They will think every future roomate will want to steal their life and therefore may never go to college or move out of your house.

I was surprised that you mentioned this to me:

His Grandpa Phil loves the Lifetime Channel; so could it be hereditary? True Story. (Phil really watches it all the time- which is really funny if you know Phil to think he watches Lifetime….) But that is a whole other family issue. 🙂

I absolutely feel that the cause of your troubles could be hereditary. However, in the tradition of Nature vs. Nurture, you and your husband must be prepared to take some responsibility. Don’t try to pawn it all off on the sappy, innocent Grandpa.

So, instead of just assuming I know what’s going on in the head of your sweet little Don Juan of a child. I’m going to give you a few options. Then you pick the one you think applies to you. Then you can try out some counter tactics and see if we can get Romeo back on track until the next round hits. Which, believe it or not, is just around the corner.

Scenario 1: You and your husband are too loveable in front of your impressionable son.

Try This: You and your husband stage a loving hug and kiss when you greet eachother each evening. After you leave the room, Daddy should go to the kitchen sink and wash his hands and face. He then says to your son, “Where does mommy keep the cootie syrup?” Then he should gargle with Listerine.

Scenario 2: If your son is in the stage where he is competing with your husband to become Alpha Male, he may be looking to sublty let your husband know that there’s a new Rooster in the Coop.

Try This: This is when your husband surrenders, tells your son he’s the man in charge, and then hands him the pooper scooper. He says to your son, “Part of being the man of the house is doing what the woman tells you to.” Reverse Psychology is an amazing tactic. Then see how many girls your son can’t wait to marry.

Scenario 3: I’m curious to know if talk of Santa came just before this letter. If your son has a sister, the number one rule to staying on Santa’s good side is being nice to your siblings. Just until Christmas is over. Have you considered that maybe your son is a Seasonal Santa Brown-Noser by declaring love for ALL little girls? There’s no doubt my 4 year old son is a SSBN. Every time he fights with his brother, then has to say sorry and give him a hug, he then asks in a desperate voice, “When is CHRISTMAS already?”

Try This: There’s no solution here. Take advantage of his pretend adoration for little girls for the next 20-something days.

Scenario 4: Your son thinks girls are the bees knees. His favorite girls remind him of mommy. He already knows who he wants to take to prom. He would get married today if you let him.

Try This: Give your son a dollar in the form of a hundred pennies. When he holds it in his hands and his eyes light up, take 99 of those pennies away and stick it in a jar labeled, “GIRLS”. Then tell him to be thankful for the 1 penny that he gets to keep. Be careful, this could be a traumatic experience for him. If he starts hiding his allowance you may have to confess that you were only using scare tactics.

Don’t worry, Robin, your son will fall in love with his new favorite girl(s) at the beginning of every school year. We are a powerful force. Soon enough, he will deny thinking any girl is pretty, maybe start a “no girls allowed” club, and ask for his own bottle of “cootie syrup” to keep by his toothbrush (blue gatorade works well for this). In the meantime, you can try these entertaining (and often ineffective) tips to try and avoid a Preschool Marriage Proposal.

And someday, when he’s all growed up and proposes to one very lucky young woman, you can finally run to your scrapbook and show her the things he was thankful for when he was 4. Illustrations and all…

Love,

Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa