Alex's First Day of Freedom

It’s September 2nd and summer has flown by in a flash. This year I tried my best to pack our summer with as much fun and adventure as possible while squeezing some contract work in the crevices between travel, camping, hiking, biking, swimming, and sleeping in. We spent a week with family in California. We camped and hiked with friends. We went on bike rides (which are way more fun now that I actually have a bike!). We had a real, week-long vacation in Lake Tahoe (the first in many years). We spent lazy Sundays fishing in high mountain lakes with Daddy. We had shave ice dates, frozen custard dates, gelato dates, and lots of swimming play dates.

Now school is back in session and my youngest and last baby started kindergarten! Since I make a sign for both of my kids every year, I figured that after eight years of being a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) I deserved one for myself. In case you can’t zoom in, it discusses how I would like to be on vacation when I grow up. My favorite foods are anything I don’t have to share and hard lemonade. My hobbies include quiet time, hiking, reading, cooking alone, and anything without an audience. My teachers are Netflix and Amazon and I’m 40 years young. I thought it was fitting to take the photo from my hammock overlooking a beautiful alpine lake… which is where we spent the whole Sunday before the first day of school.

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Next summer I’ll add this sign to my Etsy shop so fellow parents can have a sign of their own.

All summer my youngest has had nothing but positive things to say about how awesome kindergarten would be and I’m so happy that his first full week lived up to the hype. Every day he came home tired, but ready for another day of fun.

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My kindergartener is kind and smart and quick to laugh off scrapes of bumps that might slow him down, but fully admits that a BandAid will take the pain away. He loves Crocs, Lego, Paw Patrol and anything his big brother is into. He often narrates whatever he’s doing or playing with and when asked who he’s talking to, he’ll tell you he’s narrating a YouTube video for his subscribers. He loves taekwondo and his flexibility allows him to kick higher than his own head , much to his brother’s chagrin.

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My oldest started fourth grade and is really excited for what this year will have to offer. He is so smart and wants to know EVERYTHING and show everyone that he knows EVERYTHING. We joke that he’ll be a Jeopardy! champion some day. He continues to train in taekwondo every week and is currently one belt below a black belt. He will be eligible to test for his black belt next year. He loves history and we watch YouTube videos about random history together and discuss the historic places we can visit. He also loves to play soccer and run cross country. He adores fishing and camping and has rather suddenly fallen in love with exotic cars. He is also becoming a foodie and loves to cook and try new foods.

Since my printer is down at the moment, I had all of our signs printed on card stock at my local Office Depot (it was less than $2 total). They did an amazing job and in photos they almost look like real chalkboards. These signs are available in my Etsy shop in the summer and ready to be customized for your kids.

Happy first day!!

Galaxy Dyed Vans

My oldest son finished third grade this past spring and that year was the first time I had been able to volunteer in his class with any regularity. I volunteered once a week when they attended art class and I was able to get to know a few of the students and learn a little about third grade dynamics. This is the gist of what I learned:

  • Third graders are still emotionally sensitive. They want to be cool, but they still suffer from the emotional instability that plagued them at the magical age of seven.

  • Third graders aren’t quite old enough to believe that everything is stupid… yet. But they’re getting close.

  • Third graders can be really mean!

It was so fun to be able to help out when I could and I hope I’m able to join his fourth grade class as often as I can in the fall.

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A while back, my son had it in his head that he needed more expensive shoes. Supposedly, a kid in his class declared that his Keen shoes were “dollar store shoes,” and that cool kids only wear expensive shoes. Ugh.

First, I reminded him that we actually can’t buy him super cheap shoes anymore because he’ll rip through them faster than you can even say the words “Dollar Store.” Second, I explained to him that how much a pair of shoes costs means absolutely squat. What matters is if they fit comfortably, look good to you, and keep your feet dry. And it’s nice if they last a while, or at least until they’re outgrown.

Their teacher reprimanded the kid who tried to make others feel bad if they didn’t have $100+ shoes, but I did my own little passive-aggressive comeback (with my son’s blessing, of course). I made him some custom-dyed Vans.

Vans are ALL the rage among kids from elementary school all through high school. I have to admit that it makes me chuckle to see teenagers wearing the exact same pair of checkerboard Vans I’m wearing. I wear them because I like how they look and they’re slip-on, and I LOVED them when I was a kid.

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We bought some plain white Vans from Journeys earlier this month and I galaxy-dyed them in green and blue, my son’s favorite colors. I used fiber-reactive dye from Dharma Trading and a similar technique that I use for galaxy-dyed clothes and baby carrier. They ended up being quite a pain to rinse, the dye inside the soles was tough to get out. I also did my best to mask off the white rubber to prevent them from being stained by the dye. Lastly, I masked off the rubber and labels when I painted stars with fabric paint.

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I really love how they turned out and so does my son. Apparently a few of his friends want a pair now. #momwin

School Valentines, 2016-2019

We don’t do much to celebrate Valentine’s Day in our family. It’s just not a holiday we celebrate; even back when my husband and I were dating.

With our boys in school now, Valentine’s Day is back on our radar and every year I fully expect my boys to want store-bought, character valentines. It’s been a few years now and they’ve surprised me with wanting something custom-made by their mom. I’m not sure whether to feel used or that I set myself up for it.

The year my oldest was in kindergarten, we missed his party because he only attended school three days a week, and the Valentine’s Day party fell on a day he didn’t attend. I thought I was off the hook with valentines until he went back to school after the weekend and a box of Valentines and treats was waiting for him from his classmates. I felt like a stellar parent.

The next year I knew he would have been happy with character Valentines from Target, but I wanted to do something fun and non-edible since there were a couple of kids in his class with scary allergies. We already had a bunch of bacon bandaids, so I made this little card and printed them onto card stock, then added the bandaid with double-sided tape.

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The following year, my oldest set his expectations high with something fun again and considering the sheer amount of candy he got the year before, I wanted to try and avoid food again. So we went with hand warmers! I took his photo and played with it in an iPhone app called PicsArt. Then I added the background and text in Adobe Illustrator. We stuffed the card and a hand warmer into a some 4-bar envelopes I had left over from a baby shower and done!

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Last year (2018), both kids were now in school and my oldest wanted to use PicsArt again to make some fun photos. I asked both boys to put on a red shirt and they chose the same Manchester United jersey. Then we made their cards with PicsArt, a little Illustrator, and we taped mechanical pencils and Dove chocolate hearts to their cards.

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This year, I was feeling very meh about Valentine’s Day and was all set to hit up Walmart and see what boxed valentines they had left 3 days before their school parties. Then my oldest asked what fun Valentines we were going to make this year and if we could go look on Pinterest for ideas. I couldn’t say no. We searched for non-candy valentines and saw a couple of baggies of Goldfish crackers with a fun, fishing-themed greeting. That was the winner! My boys (especially my oldest) are WAY into fishing right now.

Here’s what we made:

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We already had a box of Ziplock snack-size baggies that we weren’t using much (they’re so small!), so we bought a few big boxes of Goldfish Crackers filled enough for both classes. Then I took photos of each of my kids in good light and re-drew them in Adobe Illustrator, added the cartoon-y fisherman bodies, a less-then-thrilled fish, and Voile! The “Hooked on You” graphic is on one side and the “Fishing you…” graphic is on the other. The only difference is the names and different heads, of course.

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I saved some time (because I created these 2 days before the parties) and had everything printed onto 8.5x11 card stock at my local Office Depot. I trimmed the pages, scored, and then stapled them onto the baggies that my boys filled. I really love how they turned out…. so much that I may add them to my Etsy shop next year that others can customize.

I know there are only a few years where we’ll get to make Valentines for school. I’m pretty sure they stop around middle school. Whether you celebrate or not, have a Happy Valentine’s Day!