Friday, December 30, 2011

Meet Marina!

This Christmas I thought very seriously about introducing an American Girl doll to our family.  I know that it can be quite the investment, so I was reluctant to get us started with one of the dolls because my daughter has never been much of a doll kind of girl.  She has an older brother, so she is more of a tomboy.  She loves Beyblades, Pokemon, ninjas, swords, playing battle, video games, her favorite play set is Batman ... you see where we are going here.  She does, however, love her stuffed animals.  She will play pretend with them, cook them meals in her kitchen, feed them plastic meals, organize tea parties with Winnie the Pooh, mend boo-boo's on her Care Bears, and sleeps with her Peaco Ugly Doll every night.  (We love our Ugly Dolls!)  I feel like there is a way to tap into her girly side and find a little doll she will love.  I don't know, I just feel every girl needs a dolly to dress up and love.  I was a tomboy, too, but I had two special dolls, Sally and Patsy that were my mothers dolls and I loved to play pretend with them, be their Mommy, dress them up, put them to bed in their little bunk beds.  I wish I still had those dolls to pass on to her, but sadly they were lost in a fire.  I decided against American Girl, just because more than likely it will be a flop.  I don't mind if she doesn't love something, but not at those prices ;).

One day I was at Joann (I know, big shocker, right?!) and was browsing through eyeballs :) and I came across the sweetest little fabric doll, all naked and alone, nothing but pig tails, shoes, and a sweet little face begging me to give her a home and some CLOTHES, for heavens sake!  She was perfect for Aubrey and at $2, it really didn't matter if it was a flop or not.

I tried very hard to get around to making a cute dress for her doll to be wearing when she opened her, but I was working on getting everything finished in time for Christmas Morning up until 2am, and there just wasn't enough time.  No worry, though.  Aubrey loves to be a bossy betty, so I figured she might enjoy picking out fabric for her dress, and telling me what to make.  It didn't take too long for her to want to cash in on that promise.  Later in the afternoon on Christmas Day I pulled out my bin of felt and told her to pick any colors she wanted for her dress.  She decided she wanted a red and white, so she could have a Christmas dress.  I sketched out a little jumper design on paper and asked her to tell me how she wanted the dress to look, where should it be white, or red, etc.  I got to work cutting and sewing and I have to say, I impressed myself.  I didn't have a pattern and I had no idea if I could even make it happen, but less than an hour later ... Viola!  Our new little doll has a dress!

Now she's looking pretty good and feeling a little more love, but she still needs a name.  I ask Aubrey to give her a name and she tells me to name her.  I tell her I think she should be named Penny.  Penny Lane.  Aubrey gives me a look like - nice try Mom, but that's not it.  I ask her again what she wants to name her and she resends the invitation for me to name her, so again, I say Penny Lane.  And again I receive a look.  I try to ask her to name her, but again, she wants me to do it.  I tell her I need some time to think.  Then she gets the sweetest little smile on her face, with her hands folded under her chin, starts bouncing a little on her toes, and whispers loudly to Pops (who is right next to me), "I hope she picks Marina, I hope, I hope, I hope she picks Marina!"  
Lol ... "How about Marina!" 


Here is my little cutie with her new doll, Marina.  I love the name she picked.  I couldn't figure out how she came up with such a beautiful name on her own.  It wasn't until a few days later we were watching The Fresh Beat Band that it clicked.  Marina is the redhead in the show, who she loves.  I thought that was pretty smart!

(As you can see, Aubrey is sporting her new Pokemon shirt - made by me.  Told you she was a tomboy!  Loves her some Pokemon!)

Aubrey liked her dress, but typical Aubrey - loves to find a negative.  She told me that the dress is too long and it makes her look like a mom.  Well, ok ... you're WELCOME!  As much as her little attitude irritates me, I do love that she has an opinion about what she likes and doesn't like.  She's going to make a great designer someday!  Within a minute of putting her new dress on, Aubrey informed me that she is going to need a summer dress .... that is shorter.  For a little girl.  It has to have rainbow flowers all over it and blue in the background.

I'll get right on it.  

Two days later, I tried to see what fabric I had in my bin that would fit her request.  This was the closest I could get.  It's summery, blue, floral.  No rainbow flowers, but at least I can pinpoint what she will complain about when it is finished, which is helpful for me :).

Here is the finished product!  Marina is ready for Hawaii in her short, summer, blue, floral dress!

I just started working on a sleeping bag for her, so she can go on trips and go camping with us this year.  And if she has a sleeping bag, she's going to need some PJ's!  

Their dad is convinced that this is more a present for me, than for her.  

I see it as a fun way for us to play and work together, while nurturing the little designer, artist, visionary in her and giving her a more constructive way to boss me around and voice her opinions, likes, and dislikes.  

If anything, Marina has been really good for practicing my free hand pattern making skills.  I am pretty impressed that I was able to make a jumper without any pattern, just based on my memory and experience making them for Aubrey.  The skill it takes to make a little outfit for her is going to translate into making outfits for me, so I'm pretty happy about all the time and effort put into making her little outfits and accessories for her new doll, Marina.

Periodically, as Aubrey and I design and make new outfits and accessories for Marina, I will share them on here!  

I also wanted to share a little friend I made for my fur baby.  As I mentioned above, we all love our Ugly Dolls.  Everyone in the family has one ... except Mississippi, our dog.  Poor Mississippi misses her cat buddy, Tomas.  I thought it might be nice if Mississippi had an Ugly Cat to keep her company when are away.  Here is Mississippi and her new Ugly Cat doll made by Mom :).  Now someone can stare at her as much as she stares at me.  

Have fun gearing up for the New Year!  I need to start looking for some fun ideas to ring in the New Year with the kids.  This is the first year we are going to see if they can make it to midnight.  In the past years we have been able to fake it by watching the ball drop on the east coast (maniacal laughter), but this year Bayne is too smart for that kind of trickery.  

Does anyone have any fun ideas for the kids for New Years?  Feel free to share!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Fun and New Traditions!

I hope everyone had a very fantastic holiday filled with laughter and love.  We had a great Christmas in our house.  I'm still trying to organize my apartment to accommodate all our new, wonderful additions we were so blessed to receive.  It's been a lot of work, but one by one I am re-organizing all our rooms.  I know it will feel great once it's finished.

I wanted to share a fun little activity we did during our Christmas clean up.  I found this activity on Pinterest.  It is more for younger toddlers, but it looked so fun I couldn't help myself.

It's a "Tunnel of Lights" made by punching a bunch of holes in a cardboard box and inserting the lights through the holes.  I just stabbed the box a bunch of times with a large nail ... think Dexter.  It was a fun little farewell to the last of the big boxes and holiday decor in our house for another year.  I think I had as much fun in the box as they did!

 I know a lot of families out there added the new Elf on a Shelf tradition to their homes.  I thought it was pretty cute and enjoyed watching all the things other people were doing with their elf.  We did not get an elf, but it got my wheels spinning.  I had a bunch of white furry fabric and some plastic eyeballs.  Aubrey also had a dream of throwing snowballs on Christmas morning and my son is completely ninja obsessed at the moment.  And when he is obsessed, so is Aubrey.  It all came together and a new Christmas tradition was born.

Meet the Ninja Snowballs!

These fuzzy little guys are so cute.  We ended up wrapping them each separately with a note that says, "I am a ninja snowball.  Throw me at someone!"  Next year, I doubt they will need a note ;).  I make sure to hand one out to each person in the family, so we all get a chance.  There is one that is bigger than the other three.  It was fun!  There were random snowball fights every day until I packed them up for next year.  No one was too happy about that.  I guess that means they were a success!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Few Fun Festive Crafts! There's still time!

This year we have done a lot of homemade crafts for gifts and decorations.  I always have loved doing homemade crafts for gifts and holiday decor, but this year I've taken it to a whole new level.

I just wanted to share a couple fun decorations the kids and I have done for our home.  I will share a few of the fun gifts we made for the neighbors and friends soon.  I'd show you today, but I might spoil the surprise for someone ;).

Here is a fun craft you can do with the kids that might help them get out of your hair for a few minutes.  It is a printable nativity scene that the kids can color and cut out and then you glue the pieces onto toilet paper rolls.  I have been saving our empty rolls for a while now, but it won't take much more than a paper towel roll and a few toilet paper rolls.

Here is how ours came out:

Here is the link to the printable nativity scene and the instructions - Nativity Scene Printable

For myself, I found this adorable craft, make your own mistletoe kissing ball.  I had all the ingredients laying around, so I had to do it.  I am always looking for an excuse to cover my kids in kisses and I had a feeling this would be fun for both kids to AVOID getting kissed by one another.  Boy, was I right!  Daily, they are either standing under it and taunting the other person to come and kiss them and then running away or one is trying to drag the other underneath it.  Then there are those precious moments when they both find themselves under there together and cover one another with kisses.  Plus, I have been getting so much extra love and kisses from both of them,  I might leave it up all year long. :)  Here is my mistletoe:

Here is the link to the pattern - Mistletoe Kissing Ball Tutorial
The only suggestions I would like to add to the tutorial are:
1) When you cut the wavy lines between the two green rectangles, don't be afraid to go close to the edges.  I would leave only a half and inch to an inch of space.  I didn't cut mine too deep and it left me with a huge center when I glued the two halves together that was hard to fluff out and make it look full.
2) When you glue the two centers together, glue the ribbon in between the two halves of mistletoe.  I glued mine on top and after finishing, I think it would have been best to glue it in the center for extra support.

Then I have a couple special decorations that I have added to our tradition.  My cat of 15 years, Tomas, passed away in August.  I find myself missing her a lot this time of year.  She has always had her own stocking, a Christmas ornament for the tree, a special Christmas frame with a sweet kitten picture of her in her Christmas scarf, her Christmas scarf, and another little Christmas holly piece I used to put on her for "fun" torture.  As I pulled each piece out of the Christmas box it made me miss her that much more.  I am at peace with her parting because she was very ill and had lived a long happy life, and died peacefully and perfectly, but it doesn't stop me from loving her and missing her sweet face, her warmth, and her company on these cold winter nights.  I found a couple ways to honor her memory and keep her alive in spirit in our home each Christmas.

My Tomas statue that my mom bought me for my birthday after Tomas passed away.  Now my "Tomas" can still wear her scarf each and every year :).  This makes me very happy and comforts me.  Even our dog, Mississippi, stopped to take a long sniff ... I think she may miss Tomas the most.

This is a sign I had made for my garden.  I started creating this "safe space" on the patio for Tomas just before she passed away.  She loved being outside, but we are on a very busy road.  The garden is sparse right now because it's winter, but I hope it will be in full bloom with herbs this spring and my "Tomas" will be able to hang in the shade in spirit and enjoy the fresh air.  I decided to hang the other christmas piece I loved to dress her up torture with every year on this sign.

I hope you all are staying warm and are all finished with your shopping and are ready to enjoy the festivities, food, family and fun!!!  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It SNOWED!!!! California Style!

The kids have been dying to visit the snow this year.  Aubrey, my youngest, is convinced that when she wakes up on Christmas Day it will be snowing and she's going to go outside and make a snowman and throw snowballs after opening her presents.  I've been trying to explain to her that, short of a miracle, it's probably not going to happen!  Lucky for her, she has a creative Mom whose mind is always planning the next fun way I can take a shot making her dreams come true.  In this case, I couldn't get her real snow, but here is my fun take on bring some fake snow to her!

In other news .... I cleaned out all my old bill stubs from the last year and got them all nicely shredded and ready for recycling! ;0)

My homies chillin' in the snow!

My Little Snowman :)

I'm trying out a new Ice Princess hair-do

My buddy catching up on some reading in his igloo.

The kids have been having fun all evening throwing snowballs at each other, making snowmen, and snow angels.  I didn't have the heart to sweep it all up tonight.  They can play for one more day, but then I predict a warm front is going to move through sometime tomorrow afternoon and melt the snow away into the recycling bin.  

Hope you all are staying warm and finding ways to keep the kids happy and having fun this vacation!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Easy Way to Personalize Your Stockings

Just a quick fly by post.  I'm in the middle of last minute crafting craziness.  I haven't had much down time, but I wanted to share a cool thing I did to our plain old red and green stockings.

We have had these stockings for years.  Red for girls, green for boys.  I only see them once a year, so I've never felt the need for anything more fancy than that.  This year Bayne requested to have his name put on his.  Well, my little man has been very good this year, so I was happy to make that request happen.

I forgot to take before pictures of the stockings (I really need to get better about that!) and as usual, I only have my iPhone and not the best lighting, so the pictures aren't the best quality.  Here is the finished product!

Aubrey and Bayne

We don't have a fire place and I plan on painting this wall after the holidays, so I just nailed everything up there ... lol.  Gotta make due with what you have.

I messed mine up.  I thought it would be cool to put the names the other direction, since we were hanging them opposite the kids.  It worked for Mom, but when I tried to do Pops in the direction I did Mom I realized it would look backward and wrong.  Oh well, Mom has always been a little odd.

This is so easy to do and it doesn't require any sewing.  Just an iron and some scissors.  I used the computer to make a template for the letters.  I just went into Word and found a cool font and printed the letters I needed in a large size.

Then you trace the letters in reverse on the back of heat bond (pictured below).  Be sure to get the red, no- sew package.  Get a piece of felt, any color you choose (I used white) and iron the heat bond letters to the back of the felt.  After it cools, cut out the letters and peel off the paper backing and iron onto the stocking.
Red package of heat bond - no sew
And there you have it!  I now have a happy little boy and some cool upgraded personalized stockings I can use year after year.  And best of all ... there will be no arguing over whose stocking is whose ... peace on Earth, good will toward men.   Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendar

Everyone sees the Advent Calendars popping up in the stores around this time of year.  I remember them fondly.  Cute little cardboard Santa box with little flaps you can open up for a surprise 20 year old crappy piece of chocolate from God knows where.  Somewhere in the last 30 years the magic of them has worn off and left me with the reality of wondering how long that chocolate has actually been sitting inside those little cardboard flaps.  I mean, some of those Advent Calendars looks incredibly similar to the ones I had when I was a kid ... coincidence ..... maybe, but I'm not about to try it out on my kids.

I started looking for a cute Advent Calandar idea that I could make and stuff myself.  I stumbled upon the most adorable and EASY calendar at All Sorts, an amazing blog - and if you click on the link you will find a tutorial for this cute calendar!  Be warned, though, her sight is serious eye candy!  I got lost on her blog for hours.  Here is her cute little Advent Calendar made from felt, embroidery thread, buttons, and ribbon or fabric scraps.

She has hers hung beautifully in the background over the fireplace
I cannot take a very nice photo of mine with my little iPhone camera and poor lighting, not to mention I have no fireplace or fancy decor in my little humble apartment, but I will share my finished product anyway.  Just believe me when I say the look adorable in person :)!

I had to hang the high and above the sewing table, so little sneaky hands can't get into them when I am distracted.

I didn't want to pass out chocolate every day of the week or spoil them with toys each day and set a precedent for coming years.  I was going to do lego mini figures, but those can be expensive.  I had already purchased a bunch of stocking stuffers for the kids and one of them was these tiny little Pokemon figures I ordered off ebay from Japan.  My kids LOVE Pokemon and little figures seem to be all the rage these days.  I dug them out and they couldn't be more perfect.  There were exactly 48 and 2 fit just perfectly in the small envelopes (which I made a tiny bit wider than she did).  That way each day one kid is the first to stick their hand in the envelope and pick the first mystery Pokemon and then the other kid gets the other one.  It has been a big hit!  They have fun going to and looking up their characters in the Pokedex. 

Bayne's Pokemon

Aubrey's Pokemon
My next fun craft is to make shoe box scenes for the kids to play with their characters on.  I can't wait to see what we come up with.  I will share once we are finished.  

Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Fabric Card

Remember how I said I was going to make another fabric art card for my Mom in my previous post?

Well here it is!!!  

The big dolphin is supposed to be her and her pod is my brother, my children, and me.  

She taught us all how to swim in this big old ocean called life.

I love you Mom!  Happy Birthday!

Thanksgiving in Pictures

Clean up crew and taste tester - Mississippi

Missing my kitty this Thanksgiving.  I kept worrying about the butter.   I hope you got to lick a whole tub of it in heaven, Tomas!

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread with buttercream frosting
Appetizers - olives, pistachios, macadamia nuts, carrots, celery, ranch, and chips

Toasted sourdough with sautéed leeks and blue cheese.  I added bacon crumbles for the meat eaters.

Italian red wine and salad with red leaf lettuce, roasted butternut squash with poppy seeds, pomegranate seeds, scallions, and home made dressing.  Avocado and bacon crumbles for extra toppings.

Homemade cranberry sauce and corn

Momma's yummy stuffing and sweet potato casserole

Tofurky and gravy

My cute little handmade placemats and napkins

My family!

Yummy apple, pear, and cherry fruit crisp

My beloved pumpkin pie cheesecake!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What does a Sticky Genius do on her one and only kid free day off for weeks?

I bet you will never guess.  I can think of several better ways that I could have spent my one day off.  Normally, the kids go to their Dad's house every other weekend, which is fun for everyone!  I get some free time to shop without whining, sew without being interrupted, have a complete thought.  They get some good Pops time in, and of course, Pops gets to have fun with the ones he loves the most.  Win win!  This weekend would have been his weekend, but he is going to visit his family, so the kids are all mine for 3 WHOLE WEEKS!

You think that I would just sit on my behind, drink wine, and stare at the tv with my one day off ... but no .... that is just not my style.  What did I do, then?  Well .... I went a little crazy ...

... and I broke out the paint!

And I painted my work wall!  It went from boring white to a beautiful "fountain sprout" blue.  Blue is my favorite color.  My work wall - where my sewing machines are located and I do most of my work- should be inspiring, not boring.  Here is a before photo of my work wall.

And here it is after:

It's hard to get a good picture with my iPhone, but hopefully you can see the color difference!  I changed the pictures around on the walls, too.  Now this wall has art pieces from members of my family.  My Grandmother painted the photo on the upper left above the heater.  She was an amazing artist.  Next to that on the top is a painting my daughter, Aubrey, did.  Bayne, my son, did the one with no frame and the one above my coat and purse rack is a needlepoint piece done by my Great Grandfather. He did hundreds of these and they are amazing.  I have been looking at these since I was born.  I think that is where my love of texture and appliqué came from.  The other picture of a tree is just a target bought thing that says "believe".  That may move.  I have a plan for the empty space.  Stay tuned for that!  I have a large wave fabric art piece that is normally there, but I am moving that to the wall above the tv.  I don't have any room to move around the furniture (which I love to do from time to time), so it looks like moving photos, pictures and painting walls is how I have to make changes.  I still plan to paint the rest of the living room.  I love the blue so much I think I might paint this wall blue ...

I have another color I plan on using in the living room called Havana Cream.  I think I may use that on the wall where the window is and the wall where the tv is.  That way when you open up the door and walk in you will be greeted by a blue wall - which would be the wall you see above.  What do you think?  Should that wall be blue or cream?  The other blue wall is on the right in this photo.

And if that wasn't productive enough ... I decided since I was already covered in paint and the bathroom had just been cleaned, I may as well paint that, too!  I have been wanting to paint it since I moved in, but there is nothing worse than painting a bathroom.  It's small, there are tons of tight corners.  I always have to pee after I wrap the toilet in plastic, and you are swimming in paint fumes.  I sucked it up and got to work ... regretting my decision about 20 minutes into taping, but there was no turning back.  Here is a before (well during) shot (luckily I remembered to do this before I started painting!)

I had about a half gallon of some yellow paint my friend had given me that she had used in her bathroom.  I always loved her little yellow bathroom.  Here is my yellow bathroom:

It is YELLOW!  I think it's because it is so small and I had to do the ceiling because I ran out of tape - D'oh!  That was my solution to that problem :).

I think it will take a little getting use to, but it's cute and its not white!  That's for sure.

***UPDATE**** The yellow in the bathroom is driving me crazy!  It is way WAY to yellow.  It looks nice in this photo, but when you are surrounded by it in that tight little space and the light is on it has a neon/lime effect going on and I cannot hang.  The kids don't seem bothered by it, though.  I have some off white paint and I think I'm going to repaint the ceiling white and if that doesn't help I'm going to color wash the walls with the off white, too, just to tone it down.  It's killing me!

Now that the kids are home for a full week from school for the holiday break and I'm getting ready to make my Thanksgiving meal list and start my two day cook fest, I'm thinking these walls are nice and pretty, but that couch, wine, and tv are sounding pretty nice right about now.  Maybe in three weeks :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh Behave!

I don't know about your kids, but mine are perfect!


I do think their behavior is better than some kids I see, but perfect?  Oh good goodness, no!

I think I got pretty lucky with my first child.  Bayne has never been much of a problem.  We have our basic back talk issues.  Tantrums here and there.  He can be rude at times.  When it comes to his sister, he is just plain nasty.  Mostly, he is a sweet boy, though.  He has so much love to give and he isn't shy about it if you are lucky enough to be one of those special people in his heart.  Parents at school love him.  He is gentle, not a fighter at all.  Quiet, thoughtful, patient, smart, good in school, and overall a pretty fantastic kid.

My second child, Aubrey, is a whole other story.  As most of you know she was born with some pretty special circumstances, so already her life is challenging.  Which I think makes her poor behavior that much harder on me because I want her to enjoy her life and I don't want it to be any harder than it already is.  I am pretty sure being female alone adds a whole new element of "fun" that I was unaware of having raised only a male.  Aubrey is basically a negative nelly.  Nothing is good enough, always a complaint, finds one bad thing about an otherwise fantastic situation and focuses on it intently ... and dramatically ... always with the drama.  Argumentative.  AttiTUDE.  Willful, doesn't even cover it.  Downright defiant at times.   There is no reasoning with her.  When her mind is set, it is set!  Oddly,  some of these are characteristics of hers that I also am proud of.  You can't ever accuse her of not knowing what she wants or swaying on an issue.  My hope is this will come in handy with peer pressure in the future, but I guess that will all depend on what her opinion is on all the temptations that will lie ahead of her in life.  The flip side of this is something equally as spectacular and big as her nutty side.  She couldn't be more beautiful.  She has a bright light inside that people see.  I have more random people come up and say different nice things about her.  She has an amazing smile that lets that light just reach out and touch you.  She is very bright, has a memory like an elephant, focused, strong, social, wise beyond her little years.  She says the FUNNIEST things.  She has a great sense of humor and whimsical spirit.  She is very creative and artistic.  Thoughtful and sentimental.  She truly does have a beautiful heart full of love and life and she is ready to share it with the world.

Here is a recent photo of my two beautiful children:

My Gentle Giant, Bayne and My Bright Light,  Aubrey
I know, I know .... how could they ever behave poorly?  What a horrible person I must be to even suggest that these kids could be bad!  You are just going to have to take my word for it and trust that most of my energy is going towards proving you right!  I would love to eat crow on this one :)

Lately these sweet little angels you see above have been pushing me to the end of my rope.  I have to admit, it's not all their fault.  I have been slacking in the consistent discipline area and I need to step it up.  We all know the drill ... it still works as an adult sometimes, too ... whine, whine, whine, whine, whine until the person breaks and get what you want.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  It was time for me to put and end the madness, so I broke out their Behavior Charts.  I made these great little reusable sticker charts years ago.


  We were using them for a long time, but sometimes I slack off and it gets forgotten.  This was one of those moments.  The basic idea is you earn a sticker when you do something good like clean up when asked, sharing. etc.  Then you could lose a sticker for bad behavior, like back talk, mean talk, hitting, etc.  If you get all your stickers on your chart you earn a prize.  Something small like hot wheels or ice cream.  This worked fine for us for years, but they are getting older and I felt like they needed to have their expectations written out for them.  I decided to add on to the existing chart and make the stakes much higher ... and the expectations, as well!

I am going to share with you the system that we came up with and at the end I will include a tutorial, so you can make your own.

When I was shopping at Joann I came across a cheap dry erase board (that does not dry erase once dry - FYI!) for $1.49 that was blank, but had a template for a reward chart.  I figured that would work perfectly.  I decided to add myself onto the list and make it a competition - each individual kid against me.  First let me show you an example of our chart, so you know what I am talking about.

Here is the chart in whole

I know my handwriting in horrendous!
Bayne's expectations:
homework, clean up toys, feed dog, no hitting (he only ever hits Aubrey), no mean talk to Aubrey,
read to me or Aubrey, say one nice thing to Aubrey, stretch (kid is do tight!), stay together when shopping,
listen and do!!, eat one veggie

Aubrey's expectations:
one page of homework (work from an abc or 123 workbook), read 10 flashcards, clean up toys,
no mean talk, no back talk, no screaming, drink one bottle of water, say one nice thing to Bayne,
stretching, stay together when shopping, Listen and do!!
I added brush her teeth in the morning to the chart, because she has been giving me grief over that.

Mom's expectations:
work out, drink two mason jars of water, no mean talk (I hate to admit it, but it happens!), walk the dog,
play out doors with the kids, play with Aubrey for 30 minutes uninterrupted any way she wants,
play with Bayne for 30 minutes uninterrupted any way he wants, stretching with the kids,
no drinking alcohol (been great for the waistline), read to the kids.
The last one says go to the beach once per week, but I changed it to floss.
Here is how it works.  Each day is a column and you have to earn a check mark.  If you do what is expected of you, you get a check mark in your column for that day.  Some things we have to wait until the end of the day to see if we are going to earn a check mark or not.  For example, both kids have to "Listen and Do".  I wait until they are going to bed to give them that one.  Other check marks can be given as the expectation is met, like "Stretching".  For each check mark you earn one sticker on your sticker chart (I don't have a sticker chart for myself, just the kids.  I just earn the check marks).

We have had a lot of fighting over the TV and the computer lately.  It drives me crazy.  I decided one way to deal with that is they have to "pay" for their tv and computer time.  10 minutes costs them 1 sticker.  If they don't have any stickers.  Tough cookies snookies!  Gotta earn it.

Then to make the stakes higher, as I mentioned, I decided rather than going all crazy at Christmas and buying them a bunch of toys (don't be sad, they have fabulous grandparents and Santa's still coming!) I am going to buy them a big toy, not just some $5 or less thing, but something substantial if they can beat me.  The goal is to have the least empty spaces on your chart.  I should add that there are some days that we have other plans that keep us from meeting some of the goals and on those special occasions I black out the empty spot, so that it does NOT count against us.  For example, some days I can't work out because of doctor appointments, dance class, etc, so it doesn't count against me.  I just fill in the empty space solid.  For Bayne, he has no homework on the weekends, so that doesn't count against him, fill in the empty space solid.  Some days we don't go shopping, so they can't earn a check mark for staying together - fill in the empty space solid.  Doesn't count against us.  You have to be honest, though ... no cheating!  ;)  I hope that makes sense.  Now that you know all the "rules" here is how the reward system for the expectation chart works:

At the end of the week I add up all of the empty spaces on the chart.  Spaces that are not blocked out and do not have check marks.  I tally the number and write it above their section.  If their number is lower than my number they earn a big prize.  That prize can be nice toy, a trip to Chuck E Cheese, bowling, a movie, a video game ... basically something under $40.  That's my max.  My hope is that this will motivate me to work really hard on my goals.  I think that in the long run this will make us all a happier, stronger family in so many ways.

Now both kids have the opportunity to be rewarded more than once for their behavior.  Immediately by getting a sticker per check mark, they feel proud when they have enough stickers to pay me for their time on the tv and computer, and cumulatively when they do good enough to beat mom and earn a big prize! 

We just completed our first week with the new chart system and there has been a big buzz around the chart at all times. Both really like reading what their expectations are and Aubrey loves to have me read it over and over.  I assume so she can memorize whatever my sloppy writing says. :) I made some new stickers to add to their collection with their new favorite tv characters.  They take a great deal of care deciding who is going to go on their chart.  Aubrey is making a "story" on hers.  Bayne loves paying me for his tv time.  Aubrey needs a little coaxing, but she does it.  It's really cute.  There are so many things I love about this chart.  For one, it makes me accountable.  It's hard!  Don't get me wrong, but laziness is how I got to the end of my rope and I am the adult, so someone has to be accountable and I guess that is me.  That's fine, I love a good challenge.  What's the fun of life with no challenge?  Another thing I love is at the end of the week we can look back and see which areas have the least check marks across the row, so we know which behavior we need to work on the most.  Plus, I cannot afford to be buying $40 worth of stuff every week (or more if they both beat me!), so it forces me to work hard every week to win.  We all have a reason to work and boy those kids REALLY want to beat Mom! 

And in case you were wondering, the kids won this week.  ;)  Gotta give them a taste of sweet victory and .... if I'm honest .... I cannot wait until Christmas and we have a whole week off from school for Bayne, so we need something new to play with.  I probably would have bought something anyway.  Shhhh!  They don't need to know that.  I bought us a nice new Lego set (I love legos!) and a little train for Aubrey.  Everyone seems pretty happy!  Wish ME luck next week!  It's going to be a tough one.

As promised here is my tutorial on how to make your own:

It is really easy.  All you need is:
- access to a computer with internet
- color printer
- photo paper is preferred, but regular paper can be used
- blank template for a reward chart - I got mine at Joann for $1.49
- poster board
- adhesive hook and latch tape
- A trip to Kinko's will also be in store to laminate all the pieces
- one or more crazy child/ren
- parent/s hanging by a string

To make the Sticker Chart:

Cut the poster board to be whatever size you want.  Keep in mind how many stickers you want them to be able to have on their board and the size of the space where you plan to hang it.  I think mine has 18 spaces for stickers.  I just used a random piece of poster board and that is what I ended up having room for.  I think around 20 spaces is adequate.  It costs 3 stickers per tv show or half hour of computer time, you need to allow them room to collect time/stickers.  You can choose to change the amount of time per sticker.  I considered doing 15 minutes per sticker, but that seemed like too much and counting by tens is easier for them to understand.  You can just hand write "Behavior Chart" or print out letters (as I did), cut them from magazines, or even leave it blank.  It's up to you.  Glue the letters onto the poster board if they are cut or printed out.  Set it aside to be taken to Kinko's or any place you can have things laminated.  If it is large like mine you will have to have them laminate it for you.  It cost under $5 for mine. **** AFTER IT IS LAMINATED **** cut squares of the hook and latch tape and stick them to the chart.  I prefer to use the rough side on the chart, so the stickers have the soft fuzzy side on the backs.  Be sure to leave space in between the squares so the stickers fit.  Here is a photo of one of mine:

 Now for the stickers!  Get the kids involved.  They will love picking the pictures.  You can either go to Google and search certain images they like.  For example search "Pokemon images" and then scroll through all the images, click on the ones you like, and drag them to your desk top.  I drop mine into iPhoto from there and then print them out as a contact sheet to get to sticker size.

Searching through Pokemon images on Google.  Be sure to click on the image before you drag it to the desk top,
so you get it from it's original location.

Another great way to find images is to go directly to the website of the show your child loves and use the wallpapers.  I do the same thing:  Save them to my desktop, drag them into iPhoto, print them as a contact sheet and this is what I get after printing the contact sheet:

I cut each image into individual stickers.  Then it's off to Kinko's we go!  You are going to need to use their laminating machine for the stickers.  Don't be afraid.  It is easy, but ask for help if you have never used one before.

I used a large laminate sheet and placed it in the folder needed to pass it through the machine, so I won't have to shift of move my sheet after I line them up.  You may want to start with a smaller 8x10 sheet of laminate and use multiple sheets if necessary.  It might be easier to handle.  Either way, line up all the stickers on the inside of the laminate sheet - face up or down makes no difference.  Make sure to leave plenty of room between stickers, so you can cut them out.  Each sticker needs to have a frame of laminate around the outer edge of the paper after cut, so none of the paper is exposed once cut.  Close the laminate sheet and folder, pass it through the machine.  At this time you can also have your poster board laminated for you by the staff.  Pay for it and head home to finish up!

Cut each piece into it's own sticker making sure to leave a 1/4" border or so of laminate around the edge.  Cut squares of the fuzzy side of the hook and latch tape and adhere them to the backs of the stickers. 

Find a nice little box to store them all in.  The kids just love looking through these!

Then you need to make your Behavior Expectation chart:

You can refer to the the photos I previously posted for ideas for your own chart, but my guess is if you are reading this far down the blog you probably know exactly what you want to add to your chart.  All you need is a blank chart and different colored dry erase markers to get started.  You can find these at any craft, teaching, or office supply store.  

You can reward anyway you choose.  Ours is check mark = sticker on chart.  Sticker on chart = 10 minutes of computer or tv time.  Having less empty spaces (unfulfilled expectations) than Mom on their chart at the end of the week = BIG PRIZE!

Good luck to all the parents out there at the end of their rope!  This is a tough job, but we can do it.  None of us are perfect and we all have bad days.  There is nothing wrong with that.  What is most important is that we become aware, accountable, and always work hard at being the best person we can be.  It never hurts to be recognized and rewarded for our efforts either.  :)