Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teaching a Child to Swim

We just finished an exciting series of swimming lessons for our four year old, Ryan. I say exciting because we tried group lessons for him last summer and he wasn't successful. Not only was he not successful, but he actually ended up with (as our new instructor put it) "a very real and intense fear of the water".  Our new teacher, Miss Ginny was very tough but also very supportive. It was a little difficult to watch at times (ok I could barely watch), but the change in him was almost immediate. Here's a very abbreviated version of some of her techniques. Also, she used some great goggles (Fins Brand) and some slip on foot kickers. There were two other things that helped him stay motivated: Sean went to every lesson and Ryan works really hard to impress Daddy and I had a goody bag on the side of the pool that he could see during every lesson. There were 8 lessons and 8 loaded goody bags. I used stuff like, M&M's, bubbles, Spiderman anything, whistles, etc. I made sure the bag wasn't transparent so he never could tell what he was getting until he earned it. Though it's hard, if they don't give all their best effort, whatever you do, stay strong and DO NOT give that goody bag! Next time, they'll try harder and be proud to earn it. And remember, keep your practice sessions light and fun and show him how happy you are with his efforts!

Step 1: Catch a Bubble
Take a big breath and don't let it out.

Step 2: Hold the Bubble and Go Under
Now take a mirror and put it on the step under water. Start by having the child just dip his face in to see himself. Keep having the child go lower until his nose touches the mirror. Then lower the mirror down a step or to a lower level so the child will have to go a bit lower to touch his nose.

Step 3: Use Your Big Kickers
Now put the fins on your child's feet and show how to do a big loose kick. With his face in the water, gently pull him along on a kick board as he uses his "Big Kickers".

Step 4: Dig Like a Doggy, Dig, Dig, Dig...
Show him how to make large arm strokes and repeat that he will "dig like a doggy, dig, dig, dig".
Assist him as he practices this and help support his body.

Step 5: Put it All Together
After he has had a lot of practice with steps 1-4 and you have praised him relentlessly, move a few feet from the top step and support him from the side as he puts all of these new techniques together. You'll want to remind him to catch a bubble, use his big kickers and dig like a doggy. As his comfort level increases, so can his starting distance.

Now Ryan is really excited about swimming. I'm so happy for him that he will really be able to enjoy the pool this summer! Of course there' s a lot more to swimming, but the above will get you started.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Preparing a House to Sell

Sean and I are getting ready to list our Florida home again. The market here is beyond bad but we're pushing forward and determined to get it sold. Preparing a home to sell is a pretty big undertaking but I'm taking it bit by bit, and I'm finally starting to see some progress. The key is to not get too overwhelmed or over-think it. I'm doing it and if you have to move, you can do it too :)

Since the market here is flooded with beautiful homes priced to go, we are going to need to set ours apart somehow. Here is my plan for getting my home ready to sell.

Step 1: Remove about 70% of the excess stuff. 
I am tackling each room, each closet and every corner to pack up and organize anything that is making my home appear cluttered. I find that I naturally feel better when things are overly organized ~ almost to the point of being a little weird (watch "The Amandas"). My brain just works better when I open a closet and see all of my neat little labeled bins.
As I go through all of our things, I find it hard to believe the stuff I've moved from home to home only to realize I've really never used or enjoyed it. Time to part with those things. So I'm donating some things, and I'm piling everything else in my dining room for one MASSIVE garage sale. Hopefully, someone else can use it. The things that I'm keeping, I'm clearly labeling and boxing up and taking to a storage unit. Seems extreme to rent a storage unit to prepare to move, but it serves two purposes: my house will appear less cluttered, and many of my things are already packed and ready for our new home. I have color coded each box so that when I move, I'll lightly tape a matching color of construction paper to the wall of the destination room and we'll know exactly where everything goes (see above pic). Don't get overwhelmed here or too frozen in what to do with each item. Get all of  your boxes and packing tape ready, give yourself an hour and tackle that closet or at the very least, that shelf!

Step 2: Renovate anything that is in need of updating. 
This is a little sad. We're finally doing some of the projects we should have done long ago and then we would have actually lived in the home to enjoy it. But we do need to do it now in order to attract buyers and compete with newer homes on the market. One thing we're doing is finally getting granite counter tops. We're painting bathroom cabinets and painting over the dragon Ryan drew on his wall (he's actually a four year-old muralist).

Step 3: Become a "nobody" or de-personalize my home. 
So I've read that no one wants to see my adorable kids' photos plastered all over the walls. Well, it makes perfect sense ~ they can't picture their treasures in your home if it appears it's strictly "YOUR" home. I'm going to put away the ceramic baby footprint coasters I love and the sea of refrigerator art (though I'm pretty sure buyer's would love it too).

Step 4: Clean like my life depends on it. 
Kids have a way of making an impossible mess, but I'm going to fight the good fight because everyone likes things clean and shiny. Ironically, this actually includes my messy kids. This is where Step 1, removing 70% of my stuff is going to be a HUGE benefit. It's so much easier to keep things clean when there's less of it to clean and less of it to clean around. Everything must be spotless, including bathroom drawers and refrigerator drawers. Buyers look everywhere and they want to know the previous owner of the home was a good caretaker and had pride of ownership. Buyers are really picky so give them less to pick about.

So this is where I am right now:  cleaning, donating, organizing, packing. I'm just doing it and not thinking about it!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Easy Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

I bought these little cordial glasses at a garage sale for $.10 each. I actually use them all the time.
It's funny, but my kids will eat anything out of them because they're smaller than actual glasses and they make everything a little fancier. I made them these Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfaits. Took about 10 minutes and they turned out pretty good and pretty colorful!

Here's how I made them:

Step 1: You'll need a flavored yogurt, fruit and fat free Cool Whip. I used drained crushed pineapple and low fat strawberry yogurt. You can use any kind of yogurt and fruit or even a few different types depending on how large your glass is. You can add granola, graham crackers, pretty much whatever sounds good.

Step 2: Get 2 regular sandwich baggies. Fill one halfway with yogurt and tie off with a rubber band. Do the same with your Cool Whip. Now you have a way to get the yogurt and Cool Whip in your glass without making a big mess.

Step 3: Start with the fruit and fill your glass 1/3 of the way. Now trim the tip of your Cool Whip baggy and squeeze in another 1/3 of the way up with your Cool Whip. Repeat with your yogurt baggy. 

Step 4: I finished with Fat Free Redi Whip and sprinkles. I tied a bow on the stem and added just a tiny strip of tape to keep it in place. 

Enjoy your parfait!!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

5 Easy Ways to Encourage Young Readers

Emerson is in Kindergarten now and these are 5 simple things I've done with her to make reading more fun. I try to keep her daily reading short and successful. I was really stressing out over her reading progress mid-year, but after getting creative, she's really becoming a pretty great reader!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Little Frog Spring Jewelry

Welcome Spring! I love this time of year here in Florida. It's warm enough to swim but not too hot that you just want to stay inside in the air conditioning. As I was going through our Kate&Macy collection, I selected our "Little Frog" set as my Spring pick. I love the bright cheery colors and happy green frogs. It's hard to believe, but each tiny frog and polka dot is delicately hand painted on glass beads. The rhinestone rhondelles really make set sparkle.

I hope you enjoy this "Little Frog" as part of your Spring too!

Monday, April 9, 2012

No Sew Sock Bunny

Oh my gosh, Easter is over and my Easter crafts are officially finished! I spent the weekend dyeing eggs, dipping marshmallows, decorating Easter egg cupcakes and making this fun little no sew sock bunny. The one above is the one I made with my little boy, Ryan. He didn't want anything too colorful, so we made his brown and added a black bow. I don't sew but boy can I glue!

Here's how I made it:

Step 1: Fill your sock with dried beans. You'll want to fill it just above the heel.

Step 2: Tie off your sock with a rubber band. You'll want to pick a color that blends with your sock.

Step 3: Cut the cuff down to the rubber band. Hot glue the side seams (see where my white dots are)    but leave the top seam open. Pull apart a few cotton balls and stuff down into the bunny ears. Seal the tips of the ears with hot glue. Oh, I didn't do this, but you could put a pipe cleaner in each ear to make it bendable.

Step 4: Now add eyes and a nose and tie a bow around the neck (you'll have to push around the beans a little). I used scrapbook brads with the stems cut off for his buttons, but you can use anything. I painted on the whiskers with white acrylic paint. You could add silk flowers to the ears, real buttons, ric rac ~ pretty much anything. Oh, don't forget the tail! If you want a smaller bunny, just use a pair of kid's socks.

These are really easy to do!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fried Egg Candy

I made this with the kids as an Easter activity. It is so simple and pretty cute!

Step 1: Get white chocolate chips or white chocolate bark (look in the baking section,
the bark comes in trays in the shape of cubes). Melt it according to directions.

Step 2: You'll need a little drizzling bottle or a plastic baggy. Fill the bottle with the melted
bark or chips. If you are using a baggy, fill it and trim the one corner so the contents
will drizzle out.

Step 3: Lay out a piece of wax paper on a plate or cookie sheet. Using your baggy or bottle,
drizzle a random fried egg shape. Carefully drop on a yellow M&M solid colored
side up.

Put in the fridge for one hour and peel off the wax paper.
The Peanuts loved these!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Fish Bowl Fun

Fish Bowl Fun is my newest and easiest baby! It's an elastic band loaded with charms and faceted acrylic beads. It stretches and fits around a fish bowl ~ pretty much any size. I came up with this as a way to get my kids excited about getting a fish and not a puppy. They didn't think a fish was a "real" pet but after making some home-made charmed accessories, they were "hooked" (sorry, that was awful). I made my daughter a mermaid theme and my son a pirate theme and the rest was history. We have 6 designs, 2 for boys, 2 for girls and 2 more for adults (though let's face it,  I can appreciate a whimsical mermaid too).

Are Fish Bowl Fun really "fun"?? If you like pretty, cute and colorful ways to decorate ordinary boring fish bowls, I say "Yes!"