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Category Archives: Tip of the Momma 2 U

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

 

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

 

Tip of the Momma 2 u: Handy Little Sucker

The way I see it, a diamond necklace is a whole lotta expensive little pieces strung together to make one big expensive piece. Okay, so I don’t have a diamond necklace, nor do I want one. Just give me the cash-ola, thank you. We do, however, own something that I consider to be our family diamond necklace. It’s our DS case. It’s a satchel really. It houses about 15 tiny DS games and two DS handheld players. This convenient case with shoulder strap keeps all these pricey pieces together. For sanity’s sake, it comes in handy for those long trips and sometimes very necessary peaceful out-to-eat meals.

I had this tip in mind for a while now, ever since my mother accidentally left our beloved satchel at Famous Dave’s. We searched everywhere for it, blamed the children, and called it good and gone. Now, if you have one of these, you know that each game can run anywhere from $14.99 – $29.99. Multiply that by our 15 games (A minimum of $224.85), the cost of the case itself ($24.99), and the price of two DS players (roughly $300.00), and we’re talking about $550 worth of merchandise. About 9pm on the third day of being gone, my mom made a few phone calls and was off to reclaim it from the wonderful guy at Famous Dave’s that returned her call to tell her he had found it.

I promise I never judged my mother on this incident. But I did think we had learned our lesson about keeping the satchel in sight.

I think it was less than one month later that I had to phone my mother and confess. The first thing I said when she answered was, “You’ll never guess where we’re going.” I had to admit to her that I too had left the same case at a restaurant and we were on our way to reclaim it from the awesome guy who found it shortly after we left the day we forgot it. For some reason we had allowed our son to bring his school backpack to a restaurant one Friday afternoon. After a couple martini’s we went to another restaurant for a fun dinner. Burgers and chili fries… mmmmm. Of course, the DS case was inside the backpack. Three days and two phone calls later, I found we had left it at the second restaurant underneath the table. It was one of those “I thought you grabbed it” moments for my husband and I.

Obviously we had not learned our lesson. And, with two kids and plenty of chaos, I would say the chances of remembering the $550 bundle from here on out are great but not 100%. I’m not willing to risk another 3 day panic session. So I finally came up with a solution. For some reason we own several small carabiner’s. These are those ovaly shaped metal contraptions often associated with rock climbing. These little one’s we have are usually for clipping a water bottle to a backpack or belt loop at our house. Now we have a new job for one.

I have owned a purse for many years. My mommy taught me always to look back for my purse and never to leave it at home. There’s almost always a good reason to bring your purse. So, here’s what I do. Since I automatically feel naked if I don’t have my purse on my shoulder, I keep the carabiner latched to the side of my purse (which is a satchel really) and no matter how many extra backpacks or DS cases we bring into a restaurant, I attach them to my carabiner.

I never take this off.

From arrival to departure they must stay attached. If I even think of walking out of a restaurant without looking back, you can bet I’ll be surprised when I try to throw on my purse to find a buncha crap dangling from it. And, believe me, I’ve already done this. Since I rarely forget to take my kids home with me, I also have the option of carabiner-ing the DS case to the 8 year old.

I hope we’re not the only ones going through this. You know I wanna hear your story…

Love,
Marthaaaaaaaaa

 

I’m going to need a holster for this… 2/22/08

I made pancakes this morning and it reminded me of an old post:

Almost

Not until I became a mom and a home daycare provider did I start to envision ordinary objects becoming new and improved tools. I did learn from my step dad, at a young age, that a skateboard could take out the trash. But since becoming a mother, I have also given birth to a second brain. What I like to call the shortcut sector. The inventor I never knew.

I paid attention to my child and the other children I take care of and I can walk through a super store and tell you exactly which items will become unknown teething tools, which will eventually be imagined as weapons and which will be in the next yard sale. If I don’t already know, I will find out soon enough. A lot of my discoveries come from repeating the phrase “There’s gotta be another way!” and then just trying things that don’t make sense at first…

When my son began eating solid foods I always worried about him choking on pieces that were too big for his little mouth. Oh, the times I missed a hot dinner because I was finger picking pieces for him just as fast as he could eat them. I picked at the sandwiches, the bananas, the slices of pizza. And that’s how it happened. I sliced a thin piece of pizza so I could make it small enough to continue finger picking the small bite size pieces for him to gnaw on. If my fingers weren’t covered with pizza sauce, I could have slapped my own forehead. Why not just continue to cut the pizza horizontally with the pizza cutter and make them even smaller? Slice, slice, slice. Cube, cube, cube.

ready!

These days, I don’t use knives to cut anything but steak anymore. Want your bread cut in half? Let me get the pizza cutter. Bite size chicken for the toddler? Where’s the pizza cutter? Cut the crust off? NO PROBLEM! I have a pizza cutter! I’m am the food slicing cowgirl. I’m gonna need a holster…

My pizza cutter is sharp and it’s big enough to slice a stacked sandwich or a chicken breast. It comes with a blade cover and is the best tool I have in the kitchen. I especially recommend it for those poor parents who are biting off chunks of meat regurgitating pieces for their little birds, and those who are over growing their nails as tools to feed the little two – toothed mouths of children.

Oh Pizza Cutter... How I Love Thee

 

 

 

Love,
Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

UPDATE: My oldest is 8 now and I STILL use the pizza cutter for his food. I’ve had hot meals for over 5 years now! I no longer refer to myself as “Ralphie’s Mom” from A Christmas Story.

 

Why mommy doesn’t save wildlife: A story within a story.

This last summer we did a whole lotta bike riding. With a cement trail system that runs all over our city, we pretty much left the bikes ready to go each night for the next morning. On our rides, my 4 year old was able to discover many new creatures. We had seen foxes, bunnies, hawks, geese, mice, independent cats, dogs on leashes, a TON of grasshoppers, stinky prairie dogs and a muskrat.

Grasshoppers are everywhere on these trails in the summer. They play chicken with the on coming pedestrians each day. I guess it could be a perfect example of natural selection. Many jump away just in time, the other 2000 don’t jump fast enough.
One day, we decided to take a ride on an East bound trail that would eventually bank to the North. It was covered with grasshoppers and I did my best to dodge them. This was the first time I’d been on a trail that was so desolate and long. It went through areas that were mostly open and filled with prairie type grasses. There were a couple spots that went a little woody and scared me a little. But there were a couple times we had to cut off the trail to pass over major cross streets. We must have been on the trail for about an hour before we decided it was time to turn back if we wanted to make it in time for lunch.

As with most first time adventures, the way back always seems to go a lot faster. We were flying. Still the trail was fairly quiet. I only saw one rider or runner for every 15 minutes on the way out. On the way back seemed to be just the same. There’s more, but let’s skip forward…

At dinner time that night, I laughed outloud to myself. My husband, who is used to me doing this, asked what was so funny.

“You’ll never believe what happened today,” I said. I proceeded to tell him about our exploration of the new trail and how it was long and scarcely populated. Then I told him what happened on the way back…

Along one long stretch of trail, my 8 year old spotted a little frog. We had not seen a frog yet in the season so I hit the brakes and decided to go back and show the 4 year old the wittle fwoggie. He sure was cute just minding his own business. I let the 4 year old out of the bike trailer for closer inspection. We were oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over the little amphibian when I saw that bike was coming up behind us. We were sure to move our bikes toward the side of trail, but the little frog was still in the path of this oncoming bike.

“Oh no!” I said. And I herded the frog out of the way to avoid its squashing and also to avoid my boys witnessing a terrible accident. He hippity-hopped out of the way just in time. I dramatically sighed with relief and told the frog, “You’re Welcome.”

Just as I said that, I looked up to find a family of bike riders, just like us, coming from the opposite direction!

I always talk outloud, “Are you KIDDING me?” I quickly began shooing the frog back in the direction from whence he came and before I could get him out of harms way, ANOTHER rider was coming from the other side! This is NOT an exaggeration. That trail had gone from empty to rush hour traffic. As at least two more sets of riders came from each direction and I could no longer tell if I was helping this frog live another day or trying to push him to his certain death. My boys, of course, were cracking up. I must have looked like an idiot. What were these other riders thinking of me shuffling back and forth in the middle of the trail? The frog was so tiny, I might as well have been a mime, because I doubt they ever saw him.

I’m happy to say this story ends well. Once the traffic tapered off, the frog finally got fed up with me and jumped into the prairie grass on the side of the trail.

Now, remember that I was telling the accounts of this story to my husband. He was not laughing like I was. He just shook his head, smiled, and said, “Didn’t you learn your lesson with the bunny?”

This is where the story within this story starts.

He was right! I had not learned my lesson. Now, stare off into space with me, if you will, and let’s go back about 6 years. My oldest son was 2 years old. We decided to go to lunch at a local BBQ spot in Illinois. As we got out of the van, we noticed that there was a wittle tiny bunny. It had to be the smallest bunny I ever saw. Needless to say, it was freekin’ adorable. I showed my son the bunny with excitement. It was sort of hanging out near the parking lot by the cars. I was immediately worried that a car would back over it or hit it head-on. Nearby, we spotted it’s mommy on the grassy area bordering the parking lot. “Oh, look,” I said to the bunny, “There’s your mommy!”

I proceeded to shoo the baby bunny towards its mommy. “Go to your mommy little bunny!” I said aloud, as usual. My 2 year old and my husband watched as I attempted to save the bunny from certain death. Of course the skittish little bunny ran away from giant me and towards its mother.

The moment the little bunny began to run for its life, a behemoth crow dove down from a large wooden post and SWOOPED the baby bunny up from the ground…

The sounds heard next can never be erased from ones mind. I had never heard a baby bunny scream before. What’s worse is, neither had my 2 year old son. It was an excruciatingly sad moment. I’m cringing at the memory of it.

Soooo, let’s go back to the froggie…

I shoulda known better than to help that froggie. I almost traumatized our second child with my attempt to rescue a weaker species. What was I thinking?

So, I hearby officially retire from saving tiny wildlife and I leave it in nature’s hands. I don’t even dodge grasshoppers with my bike anymore.  I think most animals stand a better chance with Natural Selection than with my help. My contribution to wildlife is to mind my own business, or just send in a donation.

 

Ask Martha: Potty-Time Predicament

Dear Martha,
I just met you at the grocery store the other day and you handed me your card. I’m writing for two reasons: 1. Technically, I was closer to the checkout lane and you had more groceries so you should have let me through still. 2. Your card says you give advice so I have a question. Which public restroom stall is, statistically, the cleanest to use?

Sincerely,
Still Waiting in the Checkout Line

Dear Still Waiting,

I’m glad you wrote me. You’re taking the first step toward anger and curiosity management. I’ll address all of your concerns but start by saying:
Numbering your concerns is such a considerate technique of writing.

True, I had more items in my basket than you, meaning I probably had been at the grocery store much longer than you therefore, with my last ounce of energy, I had to maneuver my overloaded cart into the small space you left me while trying to decide which lane was the least busy. If it makes you feel better, they screwed up and charged me twice for bananas and I spent another half hour at customer service.

I can sympathize with your concern about the public toilets. I remember the day when the statisticians or psychologists or whoever decides to study this kind of business… I remember when they announced that, indeed, the first stall of public restrooms was the cleanest. This of course, as you probably realize, caused mass hysteria and long lines for the first stall, even when the other stalls were vacant. Some people even misunderstood the information and began sitting directly on the toilet seat thinking the “cleanest” meant “in the whole world”. Shortly after, we began to realize that the first stall, after being used so much, was no longer the cleanest stall. In fact, it was becoming the stinkiest of the stalls.

So, you ask, which is the cleanest stall now? Good luck, until the experts come out with the new results. Here’s how I reason which stall to go into: DO NOT use the first stall UNLESS you have been on the road for 6 hours straight and have had one bottled water for every hour and the first stall happens to be the only stall.

Using the Wheelchair Accessible stall is against the rules unless, of course, you have three or more children all under age 6. Let’s say there are three more stalls to choose from. Don’t use the one closest to the first stall because chances are those who avoid the first stall go for the most convenient next choice. I wouldn’t use the stall closest to the Wheelchair Accessible stall either. That one is used often because there are so many people out there that try to get away with using the spacious Wheelchair Accessible stall and right before they go in, someone else walks into the restroom. The rule breaker says aloud, “I almost used the wrong stall, that wouldn’t be right!” and they escape into the nearest stall right next to it. The middle one is not the safest answer either; it’s the happy-medium toilet. When those in despair about which of the five to use finally decide, they either flip a mental coin or just pick somewhere in the middle. Now I’m no statistician, but I would say wait till you get home if you can without damaging your bladder.

But you’re in the restroom asking yourself this question for a reason, right? YOU HAVE TO GO NOW! Here’s my simple advice. Do The Hover. Use all the strength in your legs to keep your bottom from touching that toilet seat no matter which stall you go in. Do not touch anything! Especially not the toilet paper roll, it might fall out and you’ll be forced to sit on the seat to keep from falling over.

“I’m too short,” you might say, or “My legs are too weak.” Well then you need to build a barrier of toilet paper around every centimeter of that toilet seat. If you have to become a barrier builder make sure you go to the restroom earlier and without urgency, you don’t want to pee your pants standing right next to the toilet with paper in your hands.

Again, I sympathize with your dilemma. I’ve been there. I’ve done the leg lifts and lunges for strength and wore platforms for height and to this day I do The Hover, whatever it takes to avoid the contact with whatever is living on that toilet seat. It’s all I can do to see another day. I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Marthaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

P.S. If it’s your kid that has to use the potty, work those arms. It’s time for hover-assistance!